Thursday, June 25, 2009

Update: Tonight on Fox News 13

It sounds like they are going to run our natural cleaners story tonight on Fox 13! Watch for it at either 6:00 or 10:00. If we get a link to it, we'll post it here.

Zero waste furniture - locally designed too?

My buddy Mickey is an architect and I like to rib him about taking real "furniture classes". I build furniture and design things, but most of what I've learned comes from trying things and reading. I am happy to experiment and have had some really great ones and some that never saw the daylight. Mickey has had some really great designs and I still remember when I told him months ago about this contest to make furniture from one sheet of plywood - no glue - no fasteners. We quickly imposed upon ourselves the idea that it should be zero waste. I had heard of other zero waste designs and I believe it is not only a better challenge but also much more responsible to not waste material when making things.

We worked on our own designs, and I had a few I liked, but nothing I was really happy with. Mickey on the other hand, showed up one night to a cookout with an MDF prototype in tow of a child-size chair. I wanted to offer advice, but it was pretty nice the way it was. Time got away from me and as I entered a busy and stressful part of my year, the deadline passed without my entry. Mickey however, entered two and kept it quiet. After seeing the designs and all the other entries, I wish more people could see it. There were all sorts of crazy designs in there with an honorable mention even going to a plywood bird's nest. It looked cool, but come on, seriously? Some of these things look like alien spacecraft not furniture. Anyhow, Mickey's designs didn't win, but he did build them both and photographed the assembly. He even did it with zero waste which I didn't honestly see another design attempt to do. I'll publish his shots here and hopefully we can get them in the shop soon so you can see them in person.

The desk is called Dorma and the table and chairs make up Ella's Party. When you see how cool these are, keep in mind these are one sheet of plywood, no glue, no screws, and built and designed by one guy.
If you want to see the other entries go to

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Home Detox article in UC Tampa Magazine

Here's the text (as printed) from my article this month in UC Tampa. I've been writing a regular Green and Earth article for the last few months for Jay. It's been interesting and publicity is good. I'm still not that used to having my writing edited, but I'm getting over myself. The other good news, besides getting published, is that we are going to be on the news this week because they spotted this article! Fox 13 came by the shop and we did a demo last week that hopefully will be on tomorrow... I will post any details if I get any.

Home Detox: Homemade Natural Cleaning Products - Reprinted from UC Tampa Magazine

By Charles Haynie, Columnist

Like many families, during these shaky economic times, my wife (Amy) and I are cutting back on unnecessary spending. Part of our cost-cutting strategy has us hosting dinners at our home for friends and family, instead of meeting them out at restaurants. But while entertaining guests in our home has helped us save a few bucks, it’s also created a problem: Home Cleanliness (or lack there of) Awareness.
Before we decided to be stay-at-home socialites, it was pretty easy for us to casually overlook the breeding dust bunnies and the “Leaning Tower of Dishes.” Instead, we would accept our homeowner guilt; each do five “hail Marthas;” and promise ourselves we’d clean the house soon.But once people began to come over regularly – and we realized Martha Stewart wasn’t one of them – Amy and I developed an instinctual habit to get our hands dirty and keep our house clean. Or so we thought …It didn’t take many cleanings for me to realize the so-called “cleaners” we used, made our grout white and our furniture shiny … AND were being inhaled into our lungs and soaked into the skin of our hands.
It was an alarming revelation that spurred me to find out just what was in those store-bought products. What I discovered was that although they made our house look clean, using them actually made our house – and our bodies – toxic.Worse yet, when certain cleaners are combined they can create super toxins that dramatically increase health risks for those who come in contact with them.
To see how easily these cleaning concoction combos can occur, just watch the many commercials on TV; each pitching a different product for what we used to consider one job – like cleaning a shower for example. Today, pitchmen insist we buy and use shower pre-cleaner, shower grout cleaner, shower drain cleaner, shower tile cleaner and shower head cleaner. (And, of course, they’re all chemical-based.) You get the picture.
The fact is that Mother Nature did a pretty good job at making cleaning products for us; some of which – used alone or in combination – have been proven effective and eco- and health-friendly for hundreds of years. Among the most commonly used is a mixture of baking soda and white vinegar; although you have many options from which to choose, including: borax, salt, lemon juice, tea tree oil, olive oil and more.
The beauty of these is that not only can they probably already be found under your kitchen sink; they’re so safe to use, they can be poured down it.So which ones are used for which jobs? To answer that and to help you actually clean your home, instead of contaminate it, I’ve compiled an abridged list (below) of some of my new favorite homemade formulas.

Make Your Own Cleaners
A mixture of coarse salt and olive oil will help scrub away grill grime, while leaving the seasoning on it. (When done, apply a light coat of oil to the grill – while it’s hot – to keep food from sticking to it.)
Dilute two tablespoons of distilled white vinegar with a gallon of warm water. Pour it into a repurposed spray bottle for ease of use. (Note: You can use old newspapers to wipe glass, instead of paper towels.)
Combine equal parts of borax and baking soda and use it (with water) as a scrubbing powder. For extra cleaning power, dip the moist side of a half of a lemon into the residue and use the fruit as a natural Brillo Pad.
If you have a pan with burnt-on residue, put it on the stove and fill it with white vinegar, baking soda and water. Bring the liquid to a boil, then place the full pan into your kitchen sink. Once it cools, cleaning is a breeze.
When allowed to set and dry, pure distilled white vinegar (applied with a spray bottle) will kill most incidents of mold. If you don’t like the smell of vinegar, an effective alternative is a combination of two teaspoons of tea tree oil mixed with two cups of water.
Combine two parts olive oil and one part lemon juice. Apply it with a clean cloth. This formula has a pretty good shelf life and can be stored in repurposed glass receptacles, like spaghetti sauce or pickle jars.

Here's the link to the UC Tampa site -


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Water update

(Photo - stolen outright from Asher Castillo's blog)
While the petition for the Water for the World gets closer to enough signatures, there are projects that continue to move forward with private funding. I said that I would pass along stories from the front lines and this one is very close to home. My cousin, Asher, is heading to El Salvador this year to build wells for churches. The company that he is going with is called Living Water International. I'm not a religious person, but these guys are doing good work around the world and deserve to be commended. 16% of the population in El Salvador has no access to clean drinking water. Asher has recently tossed his old corporate job and is heading out to apply his talents to help people. That takes guts and I'm so proud to know that one of my relatives is out there making a difference for people. If you want to hear about his travels, check out his blog at

Monday, June 22, 2009

Serve Yourself

It's summer time now and to kick it off in style, our new Prez has a little plan he calls United We Serve. Remember that part in the inauguration where he said something about everybody doing their part... If you go to the website you can read all about it. This guy is serious about it too. He's even got our new Energy Secretary Chu out putting together energy efficiency kits in Michigan!

If you're ready to find some way you can help, hit the site and see what is in your skill set and time frame. I checked it out and saw everything from reading to kids (maybe not for me) to replanting natives on spoils islands (that's more like it). There are even volunteer listings for Lowry Park Zoo and the Rays baseball games. I think you'll be surprised by what you can do. Let us know if you get into something and we'll post the stories.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father Earth

It seems we mostly refer to our little blue ball of a planet as Mother Earth. On Father's Day though, I often recall that it was my dad that dragged us out on nature hikes and campouts. Amy's father taught her all about the birds and how to identify them.

Some days it is easy to lose sight of what exactly set us on the path of becoming a nature-loving treehugger. Today I'll thank my dad for introducing me to Mother Earth. Thanks for making me curious and answering all those questions as best you could. Here's a recent shot of my dad doing his best to dazzle me with an explanation of how the weather in Mexico can make a door look like this.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Water for the World

Has it really been a month since I've been on the blog?! Summer is here and we've packed in a lot of activities so far. Hopefully you have too!

One thing that is always associated with summer in my book is water. Water parks, swimming pools, slip and slides, and cold cool clean water to drink. Before you head out to drink out of the hose this summer, please take a minute to check out this short video about the water problems we face. This might help you consider getting involved, as we have, with some of the groups and the legislation that are working to get clean water to everyone in the world.

Statistics from the Water for the World campaign...

"4100 -
The number of children that die every day from diarrheal diseases spread through poor sanitation and hygiene. "

"The benefits of improving access to water and sanitation go beyond any one sector, and it is estimated that every $1 spent on water and sanitation generates returns of $8 in saved time, increased productivity and reduced health costs."