Things You Might Not Know About Coconut Oil

As a holistic designer and architect, I'm all about finding ways to incorporate natural, less-toxic substances into my daily life in place of those harmful chemicals we normally keep beneath the kitchen sink or in the medicine cabinet. One of my most recent discoveries is coconut oil. The holistic perks of this natural oil are incredible, and of course I want to share them with you. Some of my favorite uses are below!

In the Bathroom

Coconut oil is awesome as a natural hair serum. Adding just a small bit to your hair can reduce the frizz we so often deal with as ladies. Be careful here, as you don't want to overuse any sort of oil in your hair. Just rub a dab onto your palms, then distribute evenly throughout your locks!

Try mixing coconut oil with equal parts sugar to create your own simple exfoliating scrub for those long, nourishing showers. 

Coconut oil makes an easy lip balm too! Especially in colder, dryer months, our lips are susceptible to weather and have the tendency to chap and crack. Anyone who's ever experienced this knows it isn't fun! Next time your lips start acting up, try rubbing a bit of coconut oil on as a lubricating balm and soothing agent.

One of the most common beauty products containing toxic materials is deodorant. Unfortunately, this isn't a product we can really do without, unless we're all willing to deal with each others' body odor. Coconut oil can provide a natural remedy for this issue. Using the oil by itself as deodorant is very effective and eliminates the need for harsh chemicals that you may find in other store-bought products. 

Around the House

Aside from its numerous uses for the body, coconut oil also makes a super stain remover and furniture polish. You can rub the oil alone on a tough-to-conquer stain for some help, or mix the oil with baking soda for a non-toxic stain removal option. 

Back in the bathroom, coconut oil works wonders on soap scum, which is great, since bathroom cleaners can be some of the most toxic on the market. Instead of exposing yourself, and ultimately your family, to the toxic chemicals and VOCs in bathroom cleaning chemicals, try using natural coconut oil on a rag instead! 

There are literally hundreds of uses for coconut oil outside the most common uses in cooking. With an increasing number of cautious dieters and, thankfully, individuals concerned for the environment, coconut oil is becoming more and more popular, and with good reason! Next time you're near a natural market, stop in and get some coconut oil to get started on the many things you can do!

by Anjie Cho


Q&A Sunday: Feng Shui and Pregnancy

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Is there any sort of feng shui I should pay special attention to if I'm pregnant?

Stephanie C., Washington D.C.

Hi Stephanie,

First of all, congratulations on your pregnancy! 

There are a few things to consider when we look at feng shui and pregnancy. For one, I would encourage you not to do any kind of house renovations during your pregnancy. Your home represents your body, so during a pregnancy, you don’t want to do any renovations or move things around or rebuild things. Not only does this disturb your body's natural chi, any chemicals or substances that become airborne during a renovation can be harmful to an unborn baby. 

Since your body, for the next nine months, is your baby's only space, do your best to keep this space healthy, both emotionally and physically. Avoid high-stress situations and instances where you might come into contact with anything physically harmful for your baby's growth. Check out my recipes for DIY non-toxic cleaners and laundry detergent, and if you feel the need to nest (which you most likely will!) aim for a green cleaning approach, natural space clearing and the like. And don't do any painting yourself, but check out how to create a relaxing atmosphere, use the color wheel and incorporate other feng shui aspects into your baby's space

Don't forget to take time out for yourself to eliminate stress too! Meditate, use essential oils or do any other activities you can to calm down without changing the overall chi of your baby's temporary space. 

In feng shui, there are also some important factors to consider before you get pregnant, when you are trying to have a baby. One of the most important is to avoid cleaning out from under your bed during this time. Though feng shui recommends keeping space beneath your bed clear, it is important to understand the concept of "ling particles" as it relates to pregnancy. 

Feng shui practitioners believe that there are what we call "ling particles" in the air that help create and support life. When a baby is conceived, a ling particle gives the embryo life, and these particles are said to collect under the bed. For this reason, if you're hoping to become pregnant, you don’t want to clean under your bed. I would also encourage you not to do any renovations when you’re trying to get pregnant.

For the most part, feng shui advocates creating a healthy, positive space for your baby. This means not making any drastic changes to the environment you've already created, and doing what you can to maintain a stress-free, healthy lifestyle. This will also help to create a holistic space in which for you to welcome your baby to the world!  

by Anjie Cho


Thanks for reading our "Q&A Sunday".  We will be answering questions submitted by our readers. Click here to submit any Feng Shui or Green Design questions!


Common Sources of VOCs in the Home

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are chemicals that easily convert to gases and enter the air we breathe, whether indoor or out. Many studies have linked excessive VOC intake to diseases and disorders ranging from headaches to respiratory issues to certain cancers and everything in between. It shouldn't be difficult to conclude that these chemicals have no place in our homes, but surprisingly, that's where they are found more often than not.

An average household, not one that is highly organic or raw, can be a veritable plethora of substances emitting VOCs. The most obvious of these is the paint with which we decorate. The VOCs released from traditional paint are of the class that humans can smell, which is evident in how offensive paint fumes are to most individuals. In this case, the VOCs are easy to identify, and the non-appealing smell often motivates homeowners to turn toward healthier options.

Paint, however, is not the only substance in the home that gives off VOCs, and it isn't even the most common. The list of chemicals and items in an average home that contain harmful VOCs includes new carpet and furnishings, many types of pressed wood and/or boards, new electronics and plastics. On a more alarming note, many personal care and hygiene products also produce VOCs including, but certainly not limited to, many kinds of makeup, shampoos, deodorants, etc. Harmful VOCs are even present in most cleaning materials found in an average home. 

With the number of sources of volatile organic compounds in today's society, it comes as no surprise that most humans have a number of chemicals in their bodies ranging into the hundreds and risk developing any number of health problems as a result. Take a moment and research how to reduce these chemicals in your home and keep your family as healthy as possible

See more articles on VOCs

by Anjie Cho


Why Compost?

The benefits of composting, combining a variety of kitchen scraps and organic materials, are numerous, whether or not you garden or have a yard. From enriching the soil without harmful chemicals to reducing a trash collection bill, time looking into composting is not time wasted. See below for a few examples of how composting can benefit you, no matter where you are.

Enriches Soil

Composting creates humus. The process required to transform scraps and other materials into organic fertilizer involves the production of positive “micro-organisms.” These guys make a job out of creating humus from broken down organic matter. In this case, humus is, rather than a savory dip for celery and pita, a gardening material filled with nutrients that add to soil and assist in retaining moisture.

Adding compost to soil also balances PH and improves soil CEC, which makes it easier for the earth to hold tight to nutrients. These nutrients are vital for growth of many plants, from food plants to pretty plants. Essentially, when soil isn't an ideal consistency and texture, it will be difficult to grow any kind of plant. Compost helps to ensure that soil is crumbly and open enough for water and nutrients to move through.

Cleans Up Contaminated Soil

Not only does it absorb odors, composting counteracts VOCs and other semivolatile compounds. Examples? Heating fuels, PAHs, and explosives. Yup, explosives. Not impressed yet? Composting also prevents heavy metals in soil from being absorbed by plants or other water sources, thus helping to keep our water sources cleaner. Plus, composting actually degrades lots of chemicals that have no business in our earthy soil anyway, including pesticides and wood preservatives.

Helps Prevent Pollution and Save the Planet

When you compost organic materials, instead of dooming them to landfills or other trash collections, you prevent production of harmful gases like methane and leachate formulation.

Composting is among the top options for reducing your carbon footprint, thus doing your part to save our planet.

It's sustainable too! Instead of using precious natural resources that we will not have forever, composting uses scraps from already eaten food and other natural products to produce the same effect without depleting our supply of non-sustainable materials.

Saves Money!

There is tons of energy in organic waste like vegetable scraps. Composting easily collects that energy and directs it back into the ecosystem, whether you apply it directly to the soil or donate it for application.

If you apply directly, this in turn also saves on gardening expenses like fertilizer, pesticides and the like, as you can use the scraps of food your family has already eaten as repurposed compost.

Using chemical fertilizers often leaves behind a wealth of  heavy metals (lead, arsenic?! and cadmium) that can build up over time. Overuse of chemical fertilizers can actually bring death to the very soil itself, which only requires dependent use of these same fertilizers, thus costing even more money over time. Composting skirts this issue entirely, as it is composed only of organic materials.

If you pay for disposal of garbage, especially by weight, composting will immediately reduce that bill, as you'll be using a significant amount of previously dubbed "garbage" to garden and enrich your soil.

Supports Our Economy

Composting reduces our dependence on oil from overseas, as it reduces the need to purchase chemical fertilizer often made using petroleum.

by Anjie Cho


Spring Clean Your Bedroom, Any Time of the Year

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When our homes were heated solely by coal, oil and/or wood and we lit our nights by candle and lantern, the first hint of spring’s warmer days marked a time to air things out and clean things up. Today our climate-controlled homes don’t require a sunny day to flush out the dirt and soot accumulated throughout the winter. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should skip the tradition of spring cleaning. In fact, a good, thorough cleaning doesn’t even have to wait for spring! Here are helpful tips to freshen up your bedroom any time of the year.

Bedding

Start your spring-inspired cleaning by stripping the bed. Nearly everything except foam pillows can be laundered. Read labels, of course, before you start the wash and be sure to follow the directions. To lightly scent and soften the fabrics of your bedding, combine a drop of tea tree oil with a cup of white vinegar or ½ cup of Epsom salt. Add that the mixture to the wash. If the weather cooperates, dry your quilts, blankets, and pillows outside. As long as it’s not too damp or too cold, using Mother Nature’s drying system is the way to go! If you like to switch up your bedding to match the season, give your seasonal blankets and sheets some outdoor air time also. 

Flip it

If you have a coil mattress, this is a good time to flip it. These mattresses can wear unevenly, so flipping and/or rotating your mattress can help prolong its life. Bring in the vacuum cleaner too. Before you get busy cleaning the floor, run the vacuum’s brush over your mattress. 

Weed your drawers

Clutter can make even the cleanest of spaces look untidy. Your spring cleaning day is a good time to cut the excess. Go through your closets and dresser with a fair and even hand. If you haven’t worn something this season, it’s time to let it go. Donate your discarded items or hit up Pinterest for crafting ideas. You’d be amazed at the beautiful rugs, throws and other crafts you can make with that old, well-worn t-shirt you’re about to toss!

Go bare bones

If your nightstand boasts more covered space than visible table top, it’s time to organize. Grab a funky basket and create your pamper station. This is the place to keep your hand lotion, the book you're currently reading, and anything else you want in close reach to your bed. This basket, a lamp, a clock if you’ve got one, and a box of tissues is all your nightstand needs. 

Let the sunshine in

You probably already have an attack plan for the windows. You’re going to grab your favorite natural cleaner and wipe down the panes of glass with a soft cloth (inside and out!). Your deep clean isn’t done, though. Dust and vacuum the blinds and drapes. Read the cleaning instruction on those curtains. If you can, toss those in the wash too, and add them to the laundry air drying outside! 

Shake it out

If your bedroom features area rugs, take them outdoors and shake them out. Let them air outdoors while you put the vacuum through its paces back inside. Make sure you get under the bed and in the corners. 

Bonus boost

Seasonal changes and deep cleaning days are ideal to swap out your accessories for a new look. Change up throw pillows, switch the pictures hanging on your walls and roll in a new area rug for a different take on accent color.

by Anjie Cho