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

Feng Shui and Pregnancy.jpg

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!


The Benefits of Orange Essential Oil

The Benefits of Orange Essential Oil.jpg

On a typical day, I start with five drops of orange and one drop of frankincense essential oils in my diffuser. This is my favorite way to clear my work space to begin to create. In feng shui, oranges and orange peels represent vibrant, life affirming yang energy. Yang energy is like the energy at high noon – bright and strong.

It is good practice to clear your space at least once a year. The most auspicious time to do this is on Chinese New Year.  The Lunar new year is symbolically a great time to clear out the old stagnant energy in your home to make space for new positive energy. Changing seasons can also be a great time to practice space clearing!

Fresh orange peels work the best to bring out the good, but you can also use 27 drops of orange essential oil. Place the orange peels (or essential oil) in a spray bottle and fill it with water. Walk around your home and spray this citrus essence all around, paying special attention to dead corners and closets. Orange peel carries with it vibrant life energy to clear space and, in turn, rejuvenates you and your home. This is excellent to do on an annual, or even monthly basis. 

Besides its feng shui applications, the benefits of orange essential oil range from internal to external, from mental to physical. Many of us are looking for a heal-all for modern struggles, and we may all be overlooking the immense benefits of orange essential oil. 

Orange essential oil is almost a miracle substance! It is an organic anti-depressant to some degree. When treating mild depression, orange essential oil works to lighten the mood and reduce anxiety by increasing circulation and cleansing the liver. While orange oil is also safe to use with severe depression requiring medication, it should not be used in place of medication. Some research also supports the use of orange essential oil as an aphrodisiac, as it works to reduce stress and promote relaxation in the body, which is often the cause of sexual issues and frustration. In this same function, orange oil can serve as a natural, non-toxic sedative following a long day.

Physically, orange essential oil goes a long way as well. On a surface level, orange oil can help to reduce inflammation, no matter what the cause. It can also be effective against inflammation for everything from excessive consumption (of food or drink) causing gas or pain to fever, infections and more. In addition, orange oil not only alleviates pain, but also acts a regulator for the body and its functions. Orange essential oil rids the body of excess gas and flushes bodily toxins through urination, which in turn promotes healthier digestion.

Other uses for orange oil are almost endless, from relaxing spasms to acting as a disinfectant to promoting healthy menstruation and alleviating acne. The list goes on, and it’s worth taking a peek. You have little to lose except negative thoughts and unwanted gas!

by Anjie Cho


5 Green Living Changes for Earth Day

Today is Earth Day, and the start of Earth Week. I encourage each of you to incorporate one green living change into your daily life. Below are five simple, yet impactful changes you can make.

5 Green Living Changes for Earth Day - 1.jpg

1.  Adopt or Donate an Indoor Plant

I have a Golden Pothos from when I first moved to New York City in 2003. I can't even remember who gave it to me, but it was a housewarming gift. This plant is so hardy, it's survived and flourished through weeks of forgetful watering and even a dark ground floor apartment. In feng shui, house plants bring life energy into a indoor space. They can create a softer and more vibrant energy in a home or office.  Living plants are wonderful for improving overall indoor air quality. The Goldon Pothos is said to be particularly good for removing formaldehyde and carbon monoxide.  

What I love about the Golden Pothos is that they are easy to propagate. Simply cut off a 3" or longer piece, just below a leaf or a node (or joint). I like to take cuttings and place them in a glass of water. Alternatively, you can plant them, or you can wrap them in a wet paper towel and give them as gifts.

Orchids are also very common houseplants. What most people don't know is that after the flowers die, the remaining plant is still alive! The plant is dormant, and you can keep it. It's such a reward to see my orchids bloom every year.  

5 Green Living Changes for Earth Day - 2.jpg

2.  Switch to a Renewable Energy Provider

An easy way to minimize your carbon footprint is to switch to a renewable energy provider. There are many different companies, and it really depends on where you live. It can be overwhelming to weed through all the companies, but it's worth it. The EPA gives some information on where you can find renewable energy companies for residential and commercial locations.  

Switching to Green Power does not typically mean that you need to install solar panels or a windmill on your roof. Although that is sometimes an option, in most urban areas this simply means that you can call your electricity provider and request you switch to a Green or Renewable energy source. In New York City, there are a handful of Energy Supply Companies (ESCOs) that provide a green option. You may see a small increase in your monthly bill, but in my experience it's very minimal. Probably around $10/month for a one bedroom apartment. You can also look into Renewable Energy Certificates RECS to offset your DIRTY electricity usage.

5 Green Living Changes for Earth Day - 3.jpg

3.  Reduce Bottled Water Usage

Contrary to popular belief, the National Resources Defense Council NRDC says that bottled water is “subject to less rigorous testing and purity standards than those which apply to city tap water.”  If health is a concern, plastics are terrible to eat and drink from.  There may be Bisphenol A (BPA)s or other toxic chemicals and substances in plastic containers that will affect water quality.

In New York City, we have excellent quality tap water. I recommend those outside of NYC use a high quality water filter and drink tap water whenever possible. I use reusable glass bottles and my Soda Stream seltzer machine as much as possible at home.

5 Green Living Changes for Earth Day - 4.jpg

4.  Buy Post Consumer Recycled Products

Most of us know by now, we need to recycle.  Reduce, reuse and recycle!  Note, recycle is last on that list.  

We put our glass bottles, metal cans, plastic bottles and paper/cardboard in the bins and out on the curb.  But what happens when we recycle? Sadly, not everything gets recycled. The recycling carter or your municipal recycler picks up the waste-- but if no one wants to buy the recyclables, they can put the unsellable material into the landfill. Glass, metals, cardboard and paper are typically easy to recycle. There is a market for these materials. Plastic is another story. Not all plastics are recyclable. The plastics that can be recycled have a shorter lifecycle, require more energy to recycle, and are not as valuable.

So.. what can we do? Purchase more Post Consumer Recycled products! "Recycled" typically means that the content is made from pre-consumer materials, such as the leftover waste from manufacturing. It's good, but not the same as Post Consumer. "Post Consumer Recycled" indicates that the recycled portion is from the recycled waste that you and I have put into our recycling bins. If we make an effort to purchase more post consumer recycled plastics, we in turn create a demand for the recyclable plastics. This will also cut down the creation of new plastics. 

5 Green Living Changes for Earth Day - 5.jpg

5.  DIY Water Saving Toilet

My final tip is for those of us with a tank toilet. This is a toilet where there is a tank behind, rather than in the wall or with a flush-o-meter. It's super simple to make your own water saving toilet. Take an old plastic bottle (the ones you're no longer using!), and fill it up with water. Open the toilet tank cover, and place the plastic bottle inside. Be sure to avoid and not obstruct the toilet flap, ball, handles, etc., inside the tank. Voila! The water filled bottle will displace water in the toilet tank and reduce the water usage each time you flush.

As a final feng shui tip - be sure to keep your toilet bowl cover shut. The bathroom is a place where water is always coming in and out of the home. In feng shui, water represents wealth and money flow. Make sure you keep the toilet seat closed, as well as the bathroom door. This will keep the wealth from flowing away from you!

by Anjie Cho 


Swap Out Commercial Cleaners for DIY All-Natural Alternatives

Before you roll-up your sleeves and get down to a good, deep cleanse around the house, let’s talk about the type of cleaners you’re using. When you walk down the cleaning products aisle, the labels call out with powerful statements about killing bacteria and viruses. Other bottles claim to root out mold and demolish mildew or give your windows a streak-free shine. Sounds good, right? 

What if I told you there’s something better? Something safer. Something that will deep clean and leave behind a fresh scent without chemical components. Even better, what if I told you that it’s something you could make on your own? Here are 5 do-it-yourself cleaners that will be good for the environment, good for you, and good for your wallet

The basics: 

When you’re making out your shopping list, you’re going to want to stock up on white vinegar, baking soda, tea-tree oil, and lemons. These simple ingredients are powerhouse natural cleaners. As you dig into the recipes here or find others to experiment with online, you’ll quickly learn that at least one of these basics is a component you’re going to need. 

1. Glass cleaner

Grab a spray bottle and add two cups of water to it. Combine ½ cup of white vinegar, ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol, and a few drops of your favorite scented essential oil. I recommend trying a citrus scented oil or peppermint. Shake the spray bottle gently to combine the ingredients. Spray the solution on a microfiber cloth and apply it to your window or mirror to clean. 

2. All-purpose cleaner

You’re not going to want to use this one on your windows, but everything else is fair game. Combine ¾ cup of water with ½ cup of rubbing alcohol and a squirt of natural dish soap. Add the same essential oil you used to clean your windows. You can combine these in another squirt bottle for easy application. 

3. Removing mold and mildew

Tea-tree oil is a natural disinfectant and one you ought to keep around the house for a myriad of uses. One task ideal for tea-tree oil is banishing mold and mildew. Add a couple of teaspoons of the oil to 2 cups of water and spray the mixture on the area you wish to clean. You’re going to want to let it sit – the more deeply rooted the mold and mildew, the longer you want to leave it. When you’re ready to remove the cleaner, apply some baking soda. If you’re working on a vertical surface, you may need to make the baking soda into a thick paste with a bit of water. If you’ve cleaned a horizontal service and the tea-tree treated water is still pooled there, just sprinkle enough baking soda to form a paste. Using a small brush, scrub the area gently and then rinse. For tougher stained grout and tile, try using some peroxide, either on its own or in a paste with baking soda. Apply, let sit, and then scrub as needed.

4. Garbage disposal

If you’ve got a garage disposal that smells a little funky, there’s a natural freshen-up for that, too. The next time you’re enjoying an orange or using lemon in a dish, save the peels. Fill an ice cube tray with them and top each cube off with white vinegar. For an added aromatic boost, throw in sprigs of fresh herbs like rosemary or lavender. When you want to freshen things up, toss in a frozen cube and turn on the garbage disposal.

5. Wood polish

Treat your wooden furniture to a natural clean with a few items from your kitchen. Combine the juice of one lemon with a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of grapeseed or olive oil in a small jar. Seal the jar tightly and shake the ingredients until they emulsify. Using a clean cloth, apply the mixture to your furniture.

by Anjie Cho