A Merry and Green Holiday

It’s the holiday season! I don’t know about you, but I for one LOVE the holidays. Admittedly saying I like wearing big sweaters, drinking warm drinks, spending time with friends and family, and enjoying holiday lights isn’t anything abnormal. However, no matter how much I love them, the holidays can’t just be about the fun. Amidst all the twinkling and cheer, there is an environmental cost that is often forgotten but significant. Back in 2010 the EPA reported that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Americans create 25% more trash than any other period. While that number is 8 years old, the reality is American waste around the holidays – in both trash and energy – is still bleak.

Rather than miring the holidays in can’t and waste, though, here are some ways to redirect the traditions we love into greener holiday practices.


1. Reuse gift wrap and packaging

This is a no brainer to start with. Single use gift wrap is a huge source of waste during the holiday. Luckily many places are wising up to the benefits of multi-use or recyclable gift wrap. With the variety of cool bags, boxes, recyclable and natural papers, and creative ways to make your own, there’s really no excuse not to start converting to more sustainable methods of wrapping presents. In fact, by reusing two feet of ribbon, we could save enough ribbon to tie a bow around Earth..


2. DIY natural decorations

Festive holly, wreaths, and trees don’t have to be store-bought or fake. There are so many ways to create naturally beautiful decorations out of the winter trees and plants in your own yard. If you don’t have an evergreen handy, you can always see what your local nursery to build your own. A simple search on Pinterest or Google will give you a flood of creative ideas, or you can just build straight out of your own imagination. And just think, this could be the start of beautiful and green new family tradition.


3. LED all the way

Everyone has heard this by now, but it’s true: LED is better for the environment, cheaper for your electric bill, and safer to leave on. If you haven’t switched yet, go do it.


4. Share the food, not the trash

Holiday parties and dinners are super fun, but they can also be a big source of waste. Even if disposable cups and plates make for easier cleanup, it’s not really worth the environmental impact. Consider putting in the extra work to use the real stuff, or at least buy disposables that are recyclable or compostable and put out bins accordingly.


5. Recycle!

Another no-brainer is recycling. The thing is, people don’t realize how many things can and should be recycled. Lights? Yep. Trees? For sure. Wrapping paper? Yes (but confirm it’s the right kind!). A little focus and research on recycling this year will go a long way.

And of course, as we always like to tell you, shopping locally is a great way to reduce environmental impact. Shopping locally reduces travel emissions, plus it introduces you to the amazing creativity and quality in your own town. Consider making your holidays a little brighter and greener this year and share the local love.


For other eco-friendly holiday suggestions, check out:

“10 Ways to Have a GREENER Christmas This Year” from Botanical Paperworks

“How to Have a ‘Green’ Christmas” by Eartheasy

3 Things About the Straw Ban

By now you are probably aware of the push for a straw ban. Groups such as The Last Plastic Straw and StrawFree are among many organizations and activists working to enact national or international straw bans. The initiatives have had mixed reactions, with cities such as Seattle and New York immediately looking into (and in Seattle’s case, passing) bans while others resist the change and proposed measures. Some states, including Michigan, have gone so far as enacting preemptive laws to make it difficult for individual cities or counties to pass their own bans. For many proponents of the bans, this is understandably concerning, however, it is important to examine a couple angles of the straw ban. So, instead of listing more facts about the environmental impact of straws —which are numerous and now easily researchable — I’m going to cut to the chase with three important things to think about.


  1. Straw bans could have unintentional consequences

It’s pretty agreed upon by environmentalists and scientists that limiting plastic waste is essential for the health of wildlife and the planet. Alongside things like plastic bags and single use utensils, plastic straws seem like a no-brainer; they are used regularly and easily replaceable by more sustainable options such as metal, paper, and silicone. However, as with most things, it’s not as black and white as straws=bad. One of the biggest arguments against straw bans is coming from the disability community. Though there are a range of sustainable alternatives that work for able-bodied individuals, for those with disabilities, plastic and bendable straws are often essential. At the moment, there are no sustainable substitutes that are both as durable and malleable as plastic straws and many disabilities rights activists are worries that straw bans, while well-intentioned, will unintentionally and severely disadvantage a large subset of people.


  1. Straws can’t be the only solution

As the hot-button issue of 2018, straw bans are receiving tons of attention and everyone from cities to Starbucks are promising rapid action. While immediate action is great and limiting straws certainly targets a large source of plastic waste, there is worry that straw bans can give a false sense of accomplishment. Many experts and activists are worried that once a ban is achieved people will move on rather than forward, making a modest impact on only one section of the much larger issue of plastic waste.


  1. Straws are a good starting point

Despite the last two points sounding a bit doom and gloom for straw bans, don’t get discouraged! Whether through outright bans or more individual efforts of counties, cities, consumers, and corporations, limiting plastic straws is a good step for the environment. As these issues come up in your area, it’s important to look at them as a nuanced but also a chance for collaborative change and forward momentum in the fight to save the environment.


For more information on straw bans, check out any of the organizations, national or local, working to limit plastic waste and think about skipping the straw next time you’re out.

Myths About the Paper vs. Plastic Question

You’re at the grocery store and you get asked, “paper or plastic?” Most people have a standby option they believe is better, whether that’s thinking paper is more recyclable or plastic can be reused for garbage bags. But, is one actually better than the other? To settle this debate, I debunked two myths about the plastic vs. paper debate to help you decide, once and for all, which way to go.


MYTH: Paper is better than plastic

Over time, paper bags have garnered the reputation of being the better alternative when asked the perennial question “paper or plastic?” However, the reality is that paper bags really aren’t much better. While paper bags are easier to recycle and have about 50% more capacity than a plastic bag, the energy it takes to make a paper bag is more than the energy required for plastic bag. Just making the paper alone consumes huge amounts of energy (including fossil fuel based energy) before it even gets to the stage of becoming an actual bag, outweighing some of the benefits of recycling.


MYTH: Plastic bags aren’t recyclable

Luckily this myth is false! There is nothing in plastic bags that prevents them from being recycled. However, before you get too excited, recycling plastic bags is an arduous process that requires re-melting and re-casting the bags. This process uses less energy than making new bags, but the quality of the plastic is “downcycled,” meaning the plastic is not as viable and is therefore rarely made into new bags. Just because the bags do not turn into new bags does not make them entirely useless, as they can be turned into raw materials for other plastic-based products, but recycling plastic bags is not a perfect fix.


Ultimately, experts almost unanimously agree that reusable canvas bags are the way to go over plastic or paper! Beyond the obvious that they can be used again and again, reusable bags are stronger, sturdier, and carry more than paper or plastic, meaning less trips to get all the groceries in from the car. Reusable bags are not the solution to all plastic waste, but using them can be a small step in reducing the nearly 380 billion plastic bags we use every year in this country.


For more information on the “plastic versus paper” debate, check out:

"Paper of Plastic? A Look at the Facts, Myths and Numbers of Shopping Bags" by Collin Dunn, Huffington Post, July 16, 2008


Ditching the Softener

For most people, soft laundry is a must; I mean who really wants crunchy, static-y clothes? Plus, if you’re like me, that warm, fresh laundry smell is heaven. That is, until you learn that fabric softeners and dryer sheets can have tons of toxic chemicals including ethanol and chloroform. Because fabric softeners work by coating fabrics in a thin layer of chemicals, those chemicals then rest on your clothes and are vented out with dryer exhaust which isn’t good for you or the environment. While some people have little adverse reaction to the chemicals in fabric softeners, many of the chemicals are classified as carcinogens and allergens, and that isn’t including the massive amount of fragrance used in softeners which are enough of an allergy trigger on their own.


Luckily avoiding fabric softeners and their possible issues is pretty easy. For many people, just skipping the softener altogether is fine with the added benefit of less waste and less money spent on boxes of dryer sheets. However, if you don’t like the idea of risking crunchy or static-y clothes, there are plenty of alternatives such as:


  • Using felt wool balls in the dryer: they’re reusable and easy to make or cheap to buy!
  • Adding baking soda or white vinegar to your wash: they act as natural softeners and won’t leave your clothes smelling like vinegar
  • Finding natural ingredient or reusable dryer sheets
  • Drying your clothes on the low heat setting: it might take longer but it definitely works


If you’re still worried about losing out on the scents of fresh laundry, try a few drops of your favorite essential oil on the wool dryer balls. Most people who ditch the softener never look back and even find their clothes are softer than before. With such painless alternatives, consider doing yourself, your wallet, and the environment a favor and ditching the fabric softener.


For more information on fabric softener toxins and alternatives, check out:


"Don't Get Slimed: Skip the Fabric Softener" by Rebecca Sutton, Enviroblog


"Fabric Softener Alternatives and Other Safe Approaches to Laundry" by Robin Konie, Thank Your Body


Mallory McClure

Mallory is a part-time writer and Kalamazoo College graduate native to the Pacific Northwest. When not writing blogs and small business articles, she enjoys spending time with her pets, reading Victorian literature, and supporting the Seattle Sounders.


The Bees and the P’s

The honeybees are struggling. Populations have been dying at an alarming rate with Bee Informed Partnership reporting national beekeepers lost 33% of their colonies between 2016 and 2017. Considering pollination from bees is responsible for approximately one in every three bites of food we take, this is a serious issue. But what’s really responsible? And what can we actually do?

The “Four P’s”

A recent Costco Connection article, “Bees in Peril,” explains the downturn in bee populations stems from the “four P’s”: pests, pathogens, pesticides, and poor nutrition. On their own, each of these factors is difficult, but combined, they’re devastating. At the same time that bees are being killed by pests like the Asian Varroa mite, they are battling fewer food sources due to farming practices and development. Almond farmers, for instance, were among the first to notice the problem of declining bee populations and have since realized planting a single crop limits the local bee diet. When it comes to nutrition, bees are like humans in wanting and needing a diverse diet and not just almond trees (or other singular crops). As a result, many almond farmers have begun to plant more bee-friendly plants and flowers among their trees to encourage healthy bee diets.


Our Impact

Before we go blaming farmers for killing the bees’ food, however, we need to take a look at our everyday practices. Urban development is killing much of the bees’ habitat, but our habits of weeding and spraying for the perfect garden aren’t doing any favors either. Plants like the clover, for instance, are actually favored sources of food for bees but we rip many of them out in the name of weeding.


So, the perennial question in this situation is what can we actually do? For starters, if you’re a gardener, read up on plants and flowers that are bee friendly. Maybe let the clovers grow or plant some new flowers specifically to attract some bees. Second, buy honey products! Beekeepers don’t rely solely on honey profit, as pollination practices make up a significant portion of their income now, but a robust honey market can only help. Revenue from honey products can go to funding research to take care of bee colonies and their future. While we can’t solve all the P’s, we can at least help with reversing poor nutrition and protecting the bees.


To learn more about the bees’ struggle and how to help, check out:


"Bees in Peril" Costco Connection, July 2017 or The Bee Informed Partnership



Mallory McClure

Mallory is a part-time writer and Kalamazoo College graduate native to the Pacific Northwest. When not writing blogs and small business articles, she enjoys spending time with her pets, reading Victorian literature, and supporting the Seattle Sounders.

Cool Morning Has us Thinking.

Woke up and the temperature was in the 50's. Not ready for summer to be over, but know that fall will soon be here. How long before we break out our Stormy Kromers? To get us in the mood here are some of our favorite Kromerisms.

Marshall District Library Programs

Thank you to the Marshall District Library for letting us come in to lead a program called Household Essentials. Kate Samra and I had the pleasure of talking about natural household cleaning products, some items we stock and shared some recipes to make your own. There were many great questions and we are so encouraged that people are willing to take the steps necessary to live just a little greener! Here are the recipes we shared. We have several resource books available here if you want to look at something we didn’t cover.

Gardener’s Hand Scrub*


  • 5 oz (42 gm) pink Himalayan salt
  • 1 oz (28 gm) coconut oil
  • 1 oz (30 ml) Jojoba wax
  • 25 drops Lavender essential oil
  • 15 drops Lemon essential oil



Blend salt, coconut oil and jojoba in a 4 oz (120 ml) jar, then add your essential oils.


This is a very oily recipe so you may want to shake the jar before using it to mix the salt which will act as an abrasive.




Sticky Residue Remover*


  • 1 oz (28 gm) baking soda
  • 1 oz (28 gm) coconut oil



Coconut oil may be in liquid or solid form, just melt if in solid form. Pour coconut oil into a jar and slowly stir in baking soda. To use it, just put a little on an abrasive sponge and rub. The baking soda offers a nice gentle abrasive action while the coconut oil helps the residue slide off. Add sweet orange essential oil for fragrance.




Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner


  • ¼ cup liquid castile soap
  • 1 ¾ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 8-10 drops of essential oils to kill bacteria and freshen (lemon, tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, orange, Thieves or Purification)


Mix all ingredients in a 16 oz or larger squirt bottle or swish. Squirt in the toiler bowl and use a brush to scrub it clean



Daily Sponge Spray


  • 5 oz (150 ml) water
  • 2 oz (60 ml) hydrosol of choice
  • 1 tablespoon castile soap
  • 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide
  • ¼ teaspoon white vinegar
  • 10 drops Peppermint essential oil
  • 10 drops Eucalyptus essential oil
  • 40 drops White Pine essential oil
  • 20 drops Lemon essential oil


Add all ingredients to an 8 oz spray bottle


May be used as a surface cleaner and keeps kitchen sponges smelling fresh!


Antifungal Cleaning Spray*


  • 15 oz water
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 40 drops Tea Tree essential oil
  • 30 drops Geranium essential oil
  • 40 drops Palmarosa or Lemon essential oil


Mix in a 16 oz spray bottle and shake vigorously before using


Grout Scrub*


  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons castile soap
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 10 drops White Pine essential oil
  • 10 drops Tea Tree essential oil
  • 10 drops Lemongrass essential oil




In a 10 or 12 oz wide mouth plastic container with a fitted top pour the baking soda. Add the castile soap to baking soda and mix. Add the white vinegar and mix (it will bubble a little). Add all the essential oils and mix, put the cover on to store.


Place a small handful of the scrub on an abrasive sponge and clean the grout.


Notes: Although essential oils are very safe some can irritate your skin, cleaning gloves are recommended with this scrub.







Furniture Polish


  • 1 fluid oz (30 ml) jojoba oil
  • 10 drops ylang-ylang essential oil


Combine ingredients and gently polish .


Wood Polish*


Makes one 4 oz bottle of hard polish for wood floors


  • 1 oz beeswax
  • 3 oz jojoba oil
  • 30 drops Siberian Fir essential oil



Kitchen scale

Pyrex style large measuring bowl

Medium stovetop pot

Glass stirring rod

One 4 oz glass jar with lid




Use the stovetop melting method to liquefy and combine the beeswax and jojoba oil.


After removing from the heat, add the essential oils and stir.


Pour into jar, add lid and allow to fully cool and harden before using. This should take at least an hour.


Notes: Use a clean cloth or rag to spread a small amount of the polish vigorously over wood. Use a second clean cloth to remove all excess polish. There should be no excess greasiness.


Outdoor Furniture Scrub Spray*


  • 5 oz water
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 20 drops White Pine essential oil
  • 20 drops Lemon essential oil
  • 20 drops Juniper essential oil


Pour the water and vinegar into an 8 oz spray bottle. Add the essential oils and shake well to mix. Note: Shake before using. Spray patio furniture liberally. Clean and scrub with a heavy rag. Avoid spraying directly onto the skin.


Cloth Diaper Laundry Booster*


  • 4 drops Tea Tree essential oil
  • 4 drops Lavender essential oil




Add the tea tree and lavender essential oils to the soaking cycle of your washing machine. Notes: Tea tree oil helps to disinfect dirty diapers as they soak. Lavender gives the diapers a subtle, fresh aroma as they rinse.


Diaper Pail Spray*


  • 4 oz water
  • 15 drops White Pine essential oil
  • 15 drops Lemon essential oil


Add oils to the water in a 4 oz PET plastic spray bottle, shake gently to mix.


Notes: Shake before using. Spray liberally onto the diaper pail and onto any plastic surfaces around the diaper changing area. This spray is not for use on the skin. Avoid spraying directly onto the changing pad as baby’s bare skin may come in contact with it. If you prefer, you can use 30 drops of peppermint instead of the blend of white pine and lemon oils







*Recipes courtesy of the Aromahead Institute



We Love the Ocean!

One of the things that we love in this world is the ocean. Some of our fondest memories are of time tide pooling in Alaska. The memories of observing the fascinating creatures will stay with us forever. We were reminded of those memories while listening to NPR's radio program, Science Friday. Below, you will see two videos of some amazing creatures. We may never have the opportunity to observe these animals in their natural settings it brings us joy just knowing that they are there.

Enjoy the videos.

How long these animals will be able to survive is in question. Every decision made while shopping for consumer goods for ourselves and homes has the potential to negatively impact the worlds oceans. Laundry products are among the most critical when thinking about the environment. At the Green Scene we are pleased to sell and use at our home, Zum Clean Laundry Soap, among the fine products from Indigo Wild. If you are not sure about the soap please ask for a free sample and give it a try.

In addition the plastic containers that laundry soap comes in is creating a major problem for the oceans and The Great Lakes. One of the most important steps we as consumers can take to help keep plastics out of the environment is to make sure we are recycling. At the Green Scene we take recycling serious. Bring your empty Zum laundry soap bottle back and we will refill it with the same great soap, and you will save $1.00 just for bringing in the bottle.

Sunny Saturday

It has been another glorious spring day here in Marshall, Michigan. A couple of hours ago we experienced a minor earthquake which is very unusual for our area. At the same time there was a loud crash so I thought a truck hit something and didn’t realize until an hour later what happened. Fortunately it only measured 4.2 and had it’s epicenter about 30 miles from us. We are so grateful that it was small, making us wonder what it is like to be in the center of a 7 or 8.

On a completely unrelated topic I just had my inspiration for next years Kentucky Derby Day Sale. Check out the lovely couple on our Facebook page, she is sporting a fabulous hat in honor of Derby Day.

Have a lovely weekend!

Get out in the cold!

YEP! It's cold outside.

We live in Michigan and it gets cold in the winter. At The Green Scene we believe in getting outside, no matter what the weather. Barkley will not let us hole up for the winter, he likes it. We like it too. The only time not to go outside is when you are not dressed for it. Fortunately we have what you need to get outside.

Stormy Kromer and Smartwool are companies that believe winter is a great time to be outside. When your head and feet are warm you have a great chance of having fun outdoors.

Don't be afraid, get outside.