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All About Wool Dryer Balls 0

Wool Dryer Balls at www.theecotopia.com

 

We get so many questions about wool dryer balls. Just what are they? How do they work? Are they really eco-friendly? We interviewed the owner of Ovella Wool, Justen Murray, who creates exclusive dryer ball lines for Ecotopia, in order to answer all of your questions and more!


Just what is a wool dryer ball? Wool dryer balls are a natural replacement for fabric softener sheets. You toss them in the dryer with your damp laundry to eliminate static, reduce drying time, and soften your clothes. So, what’s wrong with conventional dryer sheets? Murray explains, “They are loaded with chemicals! Over 29 different chemicals can be found in dryer sheets. These chemicals will build up in your clothes over time causing your towels to repel water, flame retardant clothing to lose their effectiveness, sensitive skin will react to them, and cloth diapers will lose absorbency. Some newer dryers advise against using fabric softener in them as well.”


Each dryer ball made by Ovella Wool is meticulously hand-crafted. They are felted, which means they will never fall apart. She starts with virgin wool, which she sources locally. “The sheep wool that I use comes from a local processor, which buys most of its wool right here in Michigan. The alpaca fiber comes from a small alpaca farm in Ashley, Michigan. The only fiber that I use is from Lucas the Alpaca. He is a fluffy white creature with a laid back personality.” We are proud to feature exclusive alpaca sets from Lucas! They are perfect for people with sensitive skin, as alpaca wool does not contain the natural lanolin oil that occurs in dryer balls made from sheep’s wool.

Wool Dryer Balls at www.theecotopia.com

Wool Dryer Balls at www.theecotopia.com


Murray is also passionate about using only natural dyes, which she creates from a variety of plant and herb sources. “These dyes range from sticks and berries found in our yard to different teas and extracts found online. Elderberries, birch bark, hibiscus, logwood, madder root, cochineal, and alkanet are a few of the different dyes that I use.” We often get questions about whether or not the dyes from wool dryer balls will bleed onto fabrics, and Murray told us, “My process is this: wool is soaked in dye bath for 24-48 hours and then removed and rinsed in the sink until the water runs clear. After that the wool is dried and stored until ready for use. Once a color is placed on a ball, the ball is felted in the washer on a warm wash cycle with natural laundry soap, followed by a cool rinse. The colors will not run onto your clothing!”

Wool Dryer Balls at www.theecotopia.com

Wool Dryer Balls at www.theecotopia.com

Wool Dryer Balls at www.theecotopia.com


So, just how do they work? “They work in a lot of ways actually,” says Murray. “The first is that they are a natural fabric softener by rubbing on clothes. The next is that they decrease your dry time. They do this by absorbing moisture throughout your dry cycle, also helping your clothes to dry evenly. When your clothes are dry, the wool still has some moisture in it, and the balls can then release the moisture back into your clothes helping to control wrinkles. Most experience a decrease of 10-25% of dry time.”


Another concern for many first time users is the possibility that wool dryer balls can catch on fire when in use. Wool, by nature, is flame retardant. Not only will they not catch fire, but they will not cause a fire either. Wool is a favorite material used by first responders, firefighters and rescue teams due to its fire-retardant properties.


And if you love scented laundry, wool dryer balls are an excellent choice, especially if you want to create custom scents. Murray suggests, “Essential oils are not only great for our own well-being, but for our wool dryer balls as well! You can use any essential oil you would like on them. Your clothes, as well as your house, will smell amazing! Essential oils evaporate quickly, so the scent will only last a couple of cycles. This means you can change your scent as often as you would like!”

Wool Dryer Balls at www.theecotopia.com


After falling in love with Ovella Wool’s creative designs and excellent craftsmanship, we knew that her dryer balls would be a perfect fit for Ecotopia. We asked her why she was inspired to start making wool dryer balls. “I made myself my first set of dryer balls,” she answered. “We use cloth diapers so I had to ditch the dryer sheets. I am frugal by nature so I try to make most things myself. I then made a set for a friend, and another friend, and another……It turned into a business when I had made a set for a friend at our local wellness store. The owner saw them and wanted to carry them in her store. Ovella Wool was born. Having made the switch from dryer sheets for a couple of years now, I will not go back. I recently went on vacation with my husband and did a load of laundry, having forgotten to bring my dryer balls, I added a dryer sheet. I could feel the difference as soon as I touched the clothes. They almost had a sticky feel to them. When I use wool dryer balls, I know that this is one small step I am making for my family to become more independent from chemicals that we relied on for so long."


Still have questions about making the switch to natural wool dryer balls? We’d love to hear from you! You can find all of Ovella Wool’s dryer ball sets here.

Wool Dryer Balls at www.theecotopia.com

Photos courtesy of Ovella Wool.

What Happens After You Throw Away that Plastic Bottle? 0

Why bother to recycle your plastic? This fantastic short video illustrates the life cycle of a plastic bottle, and just how important it is to make an easy choice... toss it into a recycling bin rather than a trash can!

 

Fun Summertime Eco-Crafts for Kids 0

 

Summer is in full swing, we wanted to share some of our favorite ideas for fun and earth-friendly kid's crafts. Using recycled and upcycled materials is a great way to save money while teaching your little "greenies"  how to re-purpose items and cut down on waste.  With a bit of creativity they can truly turn trash into treasure!
Simply click the photos for DIY instructions.

 

Do-It-Yourself Moss Terrarium

 

 

We just love this eco-craft from Parent Pretty! It's a great way to teach kids about how an ecosystem works, and half the fun is going out together in nature (or even your own backyard) to gather the "ingredients."  Use an old candle jar, mason jar, or any glass container with a lid.

 

 

Key Wind Chime

 

 

We all have that one junk drawer filled with whatnots, and there's usually a handful of old keys lurking at the bottom. Inner Child Giving shared this neat idea for reusing old keys and turning them in a cool wind chime. Got other stuff hiding in that junk drawer? We think that spoons and forks, non-refillable plastic pens, dice and dominoes, and even bottle-caps would all make fabulous wind chimes!

 

Recycled Egg Carton Flower Fairies

 

 

How sweet are these little fairies? All you need is a wooden bead, some egg cartons, a bit of paint, and a little bit of creative magic! We think these would also make lovely Christmas tree ornaments.  Find the full tutorial here from Cucicucicoo.

 

 Egg Carton Animal Noses

 

 

Here's another great egg carton idea from Baby Jungle. You can use all of the sections of an egg carton to create different animal noses, or even comical human noses. They would also be a great starting point for this year's Halloween costume.

 

Paper Pulp Pendants

 

 

Don't throw away those crepe paper streamers and wads of tissue paper from your little greenie's birthday party. Turn them into little pieces of wearable art instead! Babble Dabble Do shared this neat tutorial that is both easy to make and also incredibly durable.  You can make all kinds of fun shapes from reusable ice cube molds from your local craft store.

 

Cardboard Box Airplane

 

 

How much fun is this? PBS shared detailed instructions and a video about how to construct this super eco-friendly airplane! And with some markers and paint, your little aviator could have hours of fun customizing it.

 

Cardboard Box Dollhouse

 

Here's another great idea for upcycling cardboard boxes. This dollhouse could be fully customizable, with colorful drawings inside and out. Each room could be illustrated with beds and couches and tables, or your little greenie could craft some furniture out of recycled paper, egg cartons, plastic jugs, and more! A big thanks to Mycakies for this wonderful set of instructions.

 

Popsicle Stick Bird Feeder

 

 

 

The Creative Cubby shared this super easy nature craft made from popsicle sticks, and summer is the perfect time to save up those sticks and reuse them for a great project! It could even be customized with soy-based paints and stains.

 

Homemade Play Dough

 

 

Did you know that you can create your own play dough with just a few simple ingredients from your kitchen? With just some flour, salt, water and food coloring, you and your greenie can share hours of fun cooking up some eco-friendly dough. Best of all, it stays good for months! Check out this simple recipe at Jamie Cooks It Up.

 

Milk Jug Sun Catchers and Butterflies

 

 

 

Milk jugs are so versatile, and can be used to make an array of eco-friendly kid's crafts. One of our favorite ideas is from Alpha Mom, who offers ingenious step-by-step instructions for creating lovely sun catchers. You can help your little ones cut out shapes (or let them do it with safety scissors) and then they can create their own window art, or even trace their favorite images from a book and color it in. So many possibilities!

 

Milk Jug Garden

 

 

There are tons of super cute variations all over the internet for crafting your own milk jug planters, but we are just in love with these clever foxes! Milk jug planters are a super-easy project... all you need is an empty milk jug (you can also use empty laundry detergent or vinegar bottles) and some markers or paint.  It's easy to punch holes through the plastic if you'd like hanging pots, or you could leave the handles attached and hollow out the front for planting, and then slip a heavy dowel rod or thin board through the handles. (We've included extra pics below for more ideas.)  To craft these fox planters, check out this DIY from Green Villages.

 

More Planters:

 

We hope these ideas have inspired you as much as they inspire us. We'd love to hear about your eco-friendly kid's crafts, or see photos of their creations.  Happy green crafting!

 

 

20 Everyday Ways to Use Less Oil 1

Oil and petroleum products dominate our day-to-day lives, often in ways that may not be obvious. Although it is tough to eliminate that daily car commute (unless you happily live close enough to be able to ride a bicycle to work), there are small but effective changes you can make you reduce your oil dependence. Every little bit helps, and we've compiled some of our favorite tips for rethinking your everyday oil usage.

 

1.  Start a Carpool

Even two people commuting together on the daily ride to work is a great idea for using less oil (and saving money). You can also search online for ride sharing opportunities that already exist in your city.

 

2. Buy Organic and/or Local Seasonal Produce

 

Commercial fertilizers and pesticides rely heavily on petrochemicals for their production. Switching to organic can dramatically reduce oil usage. Similarly, even conventional produce that is locally grown and sold eliminates the hundreds (and even thousands) of miles of transportation that grocery store produce travels before making its way to your table. And to further reduce your oil usage, you can...

 

3.  Grow a Garden

Even the smallest spaces can yield a surprising number of vegetables and herbs!  For apartments and balconies, container gardens can supplement your local produce shopping, and raised beds are an excellent way to convert small backyards into lush, high-yield garden spaces. Use natural fertilizers, such as organic fish emulsion, and check the internet for a wealth of DIY organic pesticide sprays, made from botanicals and safe household ingredients.

 

4. Use a Manual Push Mower

Save gas, save money, and get a great workout all at the same time! It's a win-win for you and the Earth!

 

5. Ditch Those Disposables

Invest in a set of reusable plates and cutlery for all of your picnics, parties and outdoor events. Disposable paper products and, even worse, disposable plastic products are not only an unnecessary waste of oil (in production and creation) but they add to our already brimming landfills. You can find great alternatives made from glass, bamboo and even recycled BPA free plastic that are lively and festive while reducing waste, oil use, and saving you money!

 
 6. Stop Using Bottled Water

Besides all of the ethical and ecological repercussions of purchasing bottled water (which we will discuss in a future blog post), production of these disposable bottles requires a vast amount of oil. In the United States alone, the production of one year's worth of bottles consumes over 17 million barrels of oil! Instead, take along a reusable container, and fill your bottle from water fountains, municipal water sources, or take advantage of free water at restaurants and fast food establishments. You can find our favorite reusable glass bottles HERE

 

7. Download Music, Games and Movies

Besides the fact that it's usually cheaper, faster and easier to download your favorite movies, music and games, it's better for the planet! CDs and DVDs are made almost entirely from pure polycarbonate plastic, are usually sold in a plastic case, and then shirk wrapped in, you guessed it, plastic! Save time, money and oil with instant downloads.

 

8. Bring Your Own Bags to Shop

(Photo credit:Bruno and Betty. Click the picture for product information)
Many cities have recognized the unnecessary waste of disposable plastic bags and the detrimental effect they have on our land and oceans, and have put bans into place. Happily, it's easy to bring your own bags with you when you shop by storing a few in your trunk, or even keeping a little pouch bag in your purse. Many stores offer their own branded shopping bags for purchase at a nominal price, and there are countless artisans and businesses that create amazing reusable bags to fit every need and individual taste. Reusable cloth bags are multi-functional and also great for picnics, the gym, a trip to the beach, and more!

 

 9. Avoid Synthetic Fabrics in Clothing

Fabrics like polyester, acrylic and nylon are all made from petroleum products. A better solution? Choose clothing made from natural fiber, such as organic cotton, hemp, and wool. And don't forget about those plastic jewelry accessories! Try mixing it up with natural stones, sustainable wood or recycled glass jewelry.

 

10. Use Natural Beauty Products

(Photo credit: Little Seed Farm. Click the picture for product information)
With the recent outrage and potential bans of plastic microbeads in cosmetics, folks are starting to examine just what they are putting on their skin and into our lakes and oceans. A surprising number of petrochemicals and oil byproducts lurk in your bathroom, including shampoos, lotions, lipstick, perfumes, makeup and even baby skin care products.  The simple solution? Switch to natural bath and beauty products. Most companies that boast a truly all-natural or organic label will happily provide (if not brag about) their ingredient lists, and you can rest easy knowing that you are not adding unwanted petroleum products into your beauty regimen. Want to see how your current favorite products measure up? Check their ingredient lists and safety rating HERE.

 

11. Switch to Beeswax or Soy Candles

Most commercial candles are made from paraffin wax, which is derived from petroleum, coal and oil byproducts. Make the switch to natural soy or beeswax candles to beautify your home while reducing your oil usage!

 

12.  Buy Fewer Plastic Toys

In a marketplace saturated with plastic toys, it's hard to go completely green when your kids get excited about the next big toy craze. By limiting plastic toys and adding in eco-friendly alternatives, such as toys made from sustainable wood, you can reduce your oil dependence in the playroom. Wooden toys may be a slightly larger investment, but the great news is that they are durable and long lasting, and often become family heirlooms that can be passed down for generations.

 

13.  Change Your Home Energy Habits

You don't need to invest in expensive equipment or remodeling to reduce oil dependence in your home. Starting new habits, like dropping the thermostat by a few degrees, turning off lights and computers, and checking your air ducts can significantly "greenify" your home. Check out this great article that busts some common myths about energy conservation at home:  Myth Busters: 8 Ideas About Energy Debunked!

 

14.  Regularly Maintain Your Vehicle
Keeping your vehicle in top shape will improve your gas mileage, reducing the amount of petroleum you use. Schedule regular tune-ups, keep tires inflated, use your manufacturer's suggested oil grade, and replace clogged filters.

 

15. Buy Used
With second-hand stores, garage sales, and internet sites like Craigslist, there couldn't be a better time to thrift! Buying pre-owned greatly reduces the demand for new production and saves raw materials and petroleum-fueled energy costs.  Plus, you can save money on fantastic finds.

 

16.  Shop From Grocery Bulk Bins
Plastic packaging is hard to avoid at the grocery store. You can greatly reduce the waste by shopping from bulk bins. You can even bring your own reusable cotton sacks or glass jars (many stores will let you weigh these at the register in advance so that you only pay for food weight). Many commonly used kitchen items can be purchased in bulk, such as salt, flour, nuts, spices, beans, cereals and even oatmeal. As a bonus, it's a great economical idea as well, as bulk pricing in general costs less per pound than conventionally packaged dry goods.

 

17.  Compost Your Food Waste
By combining home recycling and composting, you can quickly and permanently reduce the amount of plastic garbage bags your family uses, and contribute far less to landfills. Home composting is easier than ever, with tons of new books and free information on the internet. Best of all, you have a rich, fertile and free compost for your backyard garden!

 

18.  Switch to Safety Razors
Remember that cool shaving set your grandpa had, complete with a bristle brush and metal bowl? Safety razors are reusable, eco-friendly, and best of all, they work better than plastic!  Those disposable plastic razors can quickly add up, both economically and environmentally. Classic safety razors can be reused indefinitely, and you only have to change the metal blade. They are making a comeback (and rightfully so) and you can find fantastic styles online, from simple to ornate!

 

19. Opt for Non-Plastic Food Storage
With so many fantastic food storage options, who needs plastic? Instead choose glass, ceramic and clay crockery, or stainless steel. Glass allows for easy visibility, and tempered glass allows you to go from the oven to the fridge to the dishwasher with ease. Ceramic is great for both cooking and storage, and stainless is ideal for keeping sunlight away from stored dry baking goods. Best of all, no icky chemicals leeching into your food!
 
20.  Say "No Thanks"
The easiest way to reduce your oil dependence may be to remain mindful of the small unnecessary conveniences offered to you throughout your week. Picking up takeout on the way home? Just say, "No thanks" to the staples you already have at the house, like sauces and condiments in plastic packages or plastic utensils. Got to the produce section and you forgot your reusable produce bags? Opt out of bagging your produce and simply add them as is to your grocery basket. Individually bagging each type of produce is wasteful and unnecessary... you can simply wash it when you get home. Do you even need a bag at the checkout counter? Why waste plastic on a few items that could easily be carried out in your hands? And at outdoor events that don't allow you to bring in your own water bottle, ask if the plastic cups are refillable, even if at full price. By staying aware of the unneeded plastic items we are offered every day, we can politely say "No thanks" to waste.

 

 

Do you have any oil reduction tips to share? We'd love to hear how you have made simple changes that reduce your oil and petroleum dependence!

10 Eco-Friendly Ways to Upcycle Your Favorite T Shirt 0

We love t-shirts. They are our go-to comfort clothes.

They remind us of that amazing trip to the beach we took years ago, or the night our favorite band kept us on our feet for hours.

Well-worn and well-loved tshirts are hard to part with, even after we accidentally shrink them in the laundry, ruin them with unsightly mustard stains, or wear holes straight through them.

It's because we cherish that summer at camp, and that local record shop that went out of business years ago, and the outdoor food and wine festival where we met our significant other. No matter what we put them through, we just can't part with them.

Here are 10 great ideas for "upcycling" those old shirts into something new and saving those incredible memories. (And upcycling is earth-friendly, too!) Click on the images below for DIY tutorials.

Turn your favorite tees into a lightweight scarf.

 

 

Make a T Shirt Quilt.

 

 

Turn your favorite T Shirts into fabulous throw pillows!

 

 

Easily transform a shirt into bike shorts...

 

Or into a fab new skirt...

 

Or even an amazing maxi-dress!

 

Change the style of an over-sized tee into a cute Peplum top.

 

 

 

 

How about a funky ruffled bag?

Or a no-sew grocery tote?

 

 We just love this tote bag tutorial.

Do you have a clever way to upcycle or reuse favorite t-shirts? We'd love to hear about it!

Happy upcycling!