Saturday, January 26, 2013

20 Ways to Reuse Coffee Grounds and Tea Leaves

People love their caffeine. I myself have a relationship with tea that is borderline addiction. So when I came across an article the other day about how to reuse tea leaves and coffee grounds, I had to share it on my blog. Besides the inherent "eco-friendliness" that comes with reusing something, coffee grounds and tea leaves can be used to replace many harmful chemicals (for example, using them instead of insecticides to control ants, as you'll see below). Here are some ways to love coffee and tea a little more...

What to do with coffee grounds
1. Soften skin
Exfoliate with a body scrub made of coffee grounds, coconut oil and a little brown sugar. Gently massage it on in the shower, rinse, be soft.
2. Please the flowers
Use coffee grounds as mulch for acid-loving plants — roses, azaleas, rhododendrons, evergreens, hydrangeas and camellias. They like coffee grounds for the natural acidity and nutrients they add to the soil.
3. Sadden the ants
Sprinkle coffee grounds around areas of ant infestation to deter them.
4. Deter gastropods
Used grounds are said to repel snails and slugs, so sprinkle them in problem areas.
5. Simplify fireplace cleaning
Before cleaning the fireplace, sprinkle with dampened used coffee grounds, which will weigh down the ash and thus eliminate clouds of smoke-flavored dust.
6. Make a sepia dye
Soak used grounds in hot water and use as a dye bath for Easter eggs, fabric and paper for a lovely, soft brown tinge.
7. Keep cats at bay
Keep kitties out of the garden with a mixture of orange peels and used coffee grounds distributed around plants.
8. Encourage the carrots
To boost a carrot harvest, mix seeds with dried coffee grounds before sowing. The extra bulk makes the wee seeds easier to manage, while the coffee aroma can nourish the soil and help repel pests.

What to do with tea leaves and tea bags

Some tips call for dried leaves, here’s how. When you’re finished brewing tea, place the leaves into a large strainer or colander. Press out as much moisture as possible, and then spread the leaves on paper. Let the leaves dry thoroughly, turning over several times in the process. Also note that wet tea leaves stain, so if you are using wet tea leaves on or near a porous surface, be sure to test in an inconspicuous place first.
9. Tame stings and burns
Cool tea bags can bring relief when applied to bug bites and minor burns, including sunburn. For overall skin irritation, put spent tea leaves in a bath and soak.
10. Soothe your eyes
The tannins in tea have anti-inflammatory effects, which is why cool ones are often employed on puffy eyes. (The chill also helps with swelling.)
11. Feed the garden
Use tea leaves as food for garden plants — green tea is high in nitrogen, and as a bonus, the leaves can ward off pests and insects. This is also good for houseplants, so add old tea leaves to their water.
12. Boost potted plants
When potting plants, place a few used tea bags on top of the drainage layer at the bottom of the planter before adding soil. The tea bags will help to retain water and will also leach some nutrients into the potting medium.
13. Quell the cat box smell
Sprinkle used, dried tea leaves in litter boxes to help reduce the smell.
14. Eliminate other pet odors
Sprinkle dried, used green tea leaves on your pet’s pillow, bed, in the doghouse, or other smelly spots to eliminate odor.
15. Freshen the carpet
Sprinkle dry tea leaves onto the carpet, crush them lightly and let sit for 10 minutes, then vacuum. This will refresh the carpet and deodorize your vacuum cleaner and bag. (Especially helpful if you have pets.)
16. Treat the dog
As an extravagance, loose leaf gunpowder tea is a treat for dogs to roll around in. It’s great for the aroma and luster it adds to the coat.
17. Freshen mats and beds 
It is common in Southeast Asia to wash straw sleeping mats in tubs of water to which tea has been added. The tea works as a deodorizer, so you can apply this method to yoga mats and air mattresses.
18. Save the fridge
If you’re out of baking soda, place dried, used green tea bags or leaves in a small open bowl in your refrigerator to help absorb odors.
19. Wash your hands
Rid your hands of food odors (garlic, onions, etc.) by rubbing them with wet green tea leaves, an instant deodorizer.
20. Deodorize kitchen surfaces
Rub wet tea leaves on cutting boards and counters to remove food odors.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

President Obama Addresses Climate Change

As I have mentioned in previous posts, politics had been bringing little attention to the threat of climate change lately. So yesterday, I was happy to hear President Obama finally address it as part of his inauguration speech. Hopefully this means significant steps will be taken to help the environment and that the proposed climate change summit will take place.
I for one am glad to have a president that actually listens to the science behind climate change and realizes the importance of protecting the environment. Hopefully he, scientists, and Congress can work together to pass some important legislation on this matter.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Art and Nature: How the Natural World Boosts Creativity

Here's something interesting a friend shared with me... an article that presents an argument against deforestation from an artistic point of view. Edinburgh University's Iain Woodhouse, who maps forests using satellites, photo-shopped the trees out of some famous paintings to show the aesthetic value they have. Below is van Gogh's "Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun" with and without trees.

The second one is pretty boring. Unfortunately, deforestation is happening more and more as the human population grows. More room is needed for us to live, grow crops, and raise livestock. Everyone knows that trees are important in carbon sequestration, soil integrity, and providing habitats for wildlife. But I also believe that preserving forests is essential in preserving our happiness and peace of mind. How depressing would it be if there were no more places where you could go hiking and camping, or just go for a walk? Of course there will always be national parks and such, but I wouldn't want to have to travel far to enjoy nature. I'd rather have it right outside my door. Maybe that's just a result of where I'm from, which is surrounded by woods. But I lived in a city while going to college and I can honestly say I was not as happy there simply due to the surroundings. Nature provides us with inspiration... how many great works of art are landscapes or seascapes, or portray animals or flowers? Without inspiration from nature, the work of artists like van Gogh, O'Keeffe, and Monet would be virtually non-existent. As an artist myself, I wouldn't know what to paint if nature were eliminated as subject matter and inspiration. An article from Psychology Today states:

The study of the relationships between mental acuity, creativity, and time spent outdoors remains a scientific frontier, but the latest research suggests that exposure to the living world can enhance intelligence for some people. This probably happens in at least two ways: first, our senses and sensibilities are improved through our direct interaction with nature (and practical knowledge of natural systems is still applicable in our everyday lives); second, a more natural environment seems to stimulate our ability to pay attention, think clearly, and be more creative, whether we live in suburbs or urban neighborhoods.

The article states that one study from the University of Illinois found a reduction in ADD symptoms in children exposed to nature. Another article from Psychology Today states that a 2012 study from the University of Kansas concluded that "people from all walks of life show startling cognitive improvement — for instance, a 50 percent boost in creativity — after living for a few days steeped in nature." Not really sure how they measure "creativity" though. A 2006 study from Denmark found that 58 percent of children who were in close touch with nature often invented new games to play, but just 16 percent of indoor kindergarten children did.

One of my paintings... sans trees, this would be an empty field with a rock. Super exciting.

I think the most fun times I've had were outdoors... kayaking, hiking mountains, exploring underground caves, etc.. I've had more fun going to log cabins in the middle of nowhere than going into cities. Maybe that just means I'm a sociopath. Whatever the case, nature is fun... try to spend more time outdoors. You will feel better and apparently be a more creative person. The more people that appreciate trees and the environment, the more people will take steps to save them.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Time for a Plan

Today I'd like to share an article from The Guardian sent to me by my friend, Alex Palombo. The article states that President Obama is considering hosting a climate summit to come up with a strategy to combat climate change. This is exciting news considering climate change was barely mentioned during the campaigns, and has not been a majorly discussed issue since Obama was re-elected, even in the wake of hurricane Sandy. The summit would not just address what Congress can do on a national level, but what can be done at all levels of government. It is important to get the American public involved in mitigating global warming, and by targeting local governments, it will be possible to do so.

Environmental leaders, such as Jeremy Symons, the senior vice-president for conservation and education at the National Wildlife Federation, say that Obama needs to come up with a plan before the State of the Union address so he can outline his agenda. The proposal for this summit is apparently under "very serious consideration" by the White House. Environmental groups say Obama needs to come up with a clear plan and take "concrete steps" forward. We can only hope he does so. The State of the Union is scheduled for February 12th, so tune in to see if the proposed climate change summit is among the important issued discussed.

To read the full article, click here.