Green Homes
Building for the future, today – combining the best of historical wisdom and modern technology.

5 Ways to Make Your Home More Comfortable with Energy-Efficiency Upgrades

Evenly distributed temperatures using construction, systems, and technology make a home more comfortable to live in. Here are five ways to utilize energy-efficiency and other home upgrades to make your home more comfortable to live in.

Smart Thermostat

1. Install a Programmable Thermostat or a Smart and Automated Thermostat to regulate your home’s temperature.  A programmable thermostat is designed to adjust the temperature according to a series of programmed settings to automatically reduce heating and cooling in your home when you don’t need as much, delivering savings without sacrificing comfort.  A Smart thermostat performs the same function, but it allows you to adjust the settings from internet connected devices, such as your smartphone. 


2. Install Window and Door Weatherstripping. Weatherizing your drafty windows and doors will reduce uncomfortable drafts, protect your home’s interior from the elements, particularly from sunlight, precipitation and wind, reduce energy consumption and optimize energy efficiency.


3. Improve your home’s ventilation to keep mold spores, mildew, smoke, dust, dust mite feces, pet dander, pollen, food odors, and other contaminants out of your home.  

An air purifier or air cleaner is a device which removes contaminants from the air in a room. These devices are beneficial to allergy sufferers and asthmatics, and at reducing or eliminating second-hand tobacco smoke, dust, pollen, pet dander, mold spores, and dust mite feces, that act as allergens, triggering allergies in sensitive people.  Smoke particles and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can pose a risk to health.  Active air purifiers use ionisation for cleaning the air.  Passive air purification units use air filters to remove pollutants, and are more efficient since all dust and particulate matter is permanently removed from the air and collected in the filters.  

Energy-efficient and tight envelope homes--both new and existing--require mechanical ventilation to maintain indoor air quality.  All of the fans, vents, and ventilation equipment in a home work together as a "ventilation system" to exchange indoor and outdoor air without wasting energy. (There are four basic mechanical whole-house ventilation systems--exhaust, supply, balanced, and energy or heat recovery).  

Make sure that your kitchen has a kitchen hood ventilation fan that has earned the ENERGY STAR rating.These use 70% less energy than standard models, improve comfort, and remove odors and moisture with less noise.  

Install window screens on all of your home’s windows. Windows provide the primary means to control air flow in most homes. People open windows to provide fresh air, ventilate odors and smoke, dissipate heat and moisture, and create air movement on hot days. While exhaust fans and central air systems can mechanically ventilate a room, opening a room to the outdoors is perceived as more direct and natural.  

Dry, well-ventilated bathrooms are important in preventing mold growth in bathrooms. ENERGY STAR certified bathroom ventilation fans provide better efficiency and comfort with less noise, and feature high performance motors and improved blade design, providing better performance and longer life.


4. When renovating your home, look for paints, sealants and adhesives with low off-gassing to maintain, or improve, your air quality. These are labelled Low VOC, No VOC, or Zero VOC.  A VOC is a  “Volatile Organic Compound.”  The way a chemist uses that phrase, the word “volatile” describes a liquid that evaporates at room temperature, and the word “organic” means it is a compound that contains carbon. 

Thousands of different VOCs, some natural and some man-made, can be found in the air.  In caulks and sealants, VOCs are used as solvents, or thinners, that work with the resin–the part that binds together all the ingredients of the sealant and allows it to adhere to the building materials.  The phrase “Low VOC” is used to describe a sealant product with a VOC content at or below 150 g/L. The number generally accepted for a low VOC paint is less than 50 grams per liter; a zero-VOC paint has fewer than 5 grams per liter.


5. One of the most important things about feeling comfortable at home is having good lighting.  Consider changing out the bulbs in the light fixtures you use most often, such as in a kitchen or in an entryway, for energy-efficient models.

LED (light-emitting diode) lights are up to 80% more efficient than traditional lighting such as fluorescent and incandescent lights. Ninety-five percent of the energy in LEDs is converted into light and only 5% is wasted as heat.  Quality LED light bulbs last longer, are more durable, and offer comparable or better light quality than other types of lighting.  

Smart and Automated Lighting is a lighting technology designed for energy efficiency. This may include high efficiency fixtures and automated controls that make adjustments based on conditions such as occupancy and daylight availability.

With wireless options (usually operated with wireless remotes), you can control light from around the room or elsewhere in the house. Being able to control lighting with a remote is a smart solution if you’re looking for how to improve lighting in a bedroom.  Once you’re cozy in bed, you don’t even need to get up to turn off or adjust the lights.    

Replace dated lighting fixtures with energy efficient ones.  LED is a highly energy efficient lighting technology. ENERGY STAR rated LED products use at least 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting.   

Lighting manufacturers have made it easier than ever to replace energy-hogging fixtures and bulbs with those that last longer and trim utility bills. When you're at your lighting showroom, simply look for products with the Energy Star label. Plus, old light fixtures can quickly date a space.  Replacing old chandeliers and light fixtures with fresh models can take years off your home’s looks.  

Dimmers and lighting controls save energy and the environment, increase safety, extend the lighting system life, increase productivity,  and allow individuals to adjust light levels for specific entertainment options, enhance ambience, and take advantage of daylight to reduce energy use.

Dimming reduces the amount of electricity a light uses and increases the life of low-voltage lighting such as halogen downlights. When you buy bulbs, check that they will work with a dimmer.  

Solar lights are versatile, lower energy costs, require little maintenance, continue working even if there is a power outage, install easily, give off no emissions so they are better for the environment, are safer for pets and children as they are cooler to the touch and there is no risk of electrocution, and use the sun--a renewable resource.  Many have darkness sensors, so they turn on and off automatically, saving energy and money.

Consider installing Solar tubes and skylights to provide natural light.  Natural light is better for your health, for the environment, and for your electric bill--daylight is free.  Once installed, your dependence on electricity is reduced.

Install skylights in darker rooms or as natural downlights in work rooms such as kitchens.  If you’re buying or building a new house or apartment, or are undertaking a renovation, position the rooms and spaces where you spend most time during the day to the north or northeast so they capture the lion’s share of daylight.  

Realty Sage uses Livability Categories that show how homeowners can potentially benefit from a property’s features, certifications and technology.  One of these Livability Categories is Comfort.

Find local real estate agents using RealtySagePros. We use data about agent's experience and knowledge to match you to your ideal local real estate professional.  No fees and no contracts to see who your local agent matches are!

Written by Halina Mantyja, Realty Sage



All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Sustainability and Smart Home Technology: What New Buyers Expect of the Real Estate Market

This guest post is proved to MOTHER EARTH NEWS by Syd Ulrich-Dogonniuck, Sustainability Content Writer for Realty Sage. Note: This article contains affiliate links. Which means at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, Realty Sage may earn revenue.

Millennials have changed nearly every aspect of life as we know it, so why wouldn’t the Real Estate market feel those changes, too? Here’s a look at what new home buyers want and how the housing market needs to change to meet those demands.

Online Accessibility

online working

Millennials are constantly online. It doesn’t matter if they’re on a laptop, on their phones, using Bluetooth headphones, or doing something with the intention of putting it on some social media platform later. No matter how you look at it, online is the only place to be.

While I understand you can’t compress a whole house into a zip file, everything other than the actual house needs to online and easily accessible. Millennials are a very do-it-yourself demographic, so instead of giving you a call or setting up a face-to-face meeting, they will do almost all their research on their own. They will look up everything they can on any homes that interest them—all the data, info on the neighborhood, even the street view on Google Maps—and come to you when they have already decided the house they’ve researched is a potential option.

This means that having accurate, up-to-date listings is a must. If a Millennial can’t find the information they are looking for or reach you online, they will likely bypass you for someone else who offers all the data they are looking for on a digital platform.

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews

computer reviews

Millennials are a cautious bunch. I know that’s probably not the first adjective you’d use with the Millennial generation, but Millennials base so much of what they do on what other people say worked for them (or didn’t) in reviews. The Real Estate market is no exception.

While it may not be possible to look up a review of a specific house, that will not stop Millennials from looking up reviews on absolutely everything else. Millennials will read reviews for the types of appliances in the house, they will compare reviews for a variety of real estate platforms, and you can bet your bottom dollar they will thoroughly research any real estate agents they are considering. If there is a review out there, it will be read.

Move-In Ready

new kitchen

Millennials value experiences more than any other generation—traveling, spending time with friends, going to events. All these things require time and money. Since putting down a mortgage is already very difficult for many Millennials, they do not want to spend any more money, or time, in fixing up a home they just purchased.

This also goes for updated appliances— Millennials do not have the money to do upgrades, especially after putting a down payment on a mortgage. This means that fixer-uppers are not appealing to most Millennials, although they are typically cheaper than a move-in ready home.

That isn’t to say that Millennials are cheap, however! Millennials continue to take on larger mortgages as compared to the Baby Boomer generation and research shows that Millennials are willing to pay premium rates for a move-in ready home.

Livability, Low Maintenance and Smart Home Tech

smart home

Some examples of this include a Smart Thermostat that can be controlled with an app, a Smart Water Sprinkler that makes decisions based on the weather forecast, or a load-sensing washing machine. Basically, appliances or systems that increase the livability of a home are highly sought after.

Sustainable Eco-Homes

solar home

Not only should the house be smart, it should be environmentally-friendly! 47% of Millennials say they want solar panels and with energy efficient storage on their house.

Green features are one of the few things that young buyers are willing to pay out of pocket, however they will be even more likely to consider purchasing a home that already has eco-conscious items integrated into the home. Additionally, younger buyers are aware that there is a very positive return on eco-investments, making Millennials more likely to make decisions based on eco-friendly aspects of a home.

As a result many Millennials are turning to more innovative real estate engines that not only compare the cost, square footage and commute time, but dig deeper. Realty Sage does just this: it compares all the standard categories and an additional 12 livability categories, including an Eco-Friendly rating, information on how the construction of the home affects Resident Health, what Smart Tech has been installed, and if there are any benefits from Low Maintenance aspects.  

Additional Resources

For more Millennial Real Estate Insights check out Busting the Millennial Real Estate Myth. Connect to local expert real estate agents who have experience and knowledge with eco-friendly homes with

Kari Klaus is the founder of, a data-driven real estate platform which overlays sustainability intelligence onto home listings. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Dry Clothes Naturally

use an outdoor clothesline 

An inexpensive way to dry your laundry.

When my grandmothers were young women, they hand-scrubbed clothes outdoors in tubs of water heated over an open flame—in all kinds of weather. Men may have built the fire on occasion, but, yes, doing the laundry fell to the womenfolk.

In her youth, my mom used a portable washing machine which sat on the back porch (kitchens weren’t built to hold any appliance other than a wood cookstove) and required the user to run each piece of laundry through a hand wringer. It also regularly delivered electric shocks. Both generations, as well as all who had gone before, hung wet clothes outdoors to dry.

By the time I entered my teens, my homemaker mom owned a brand new washer plus an electric clothes dryer. The new, widely-hailed conveniences flooding the post World War II market seemed miraculous to people like her. She rarely used a clothesline again.

Today, some of us are rethinking the value of line drying and returning to the ‘old ways.’

Why Line Dry?

Yes, hanging clothes outdoors takes a little longer, though not much, than tossing them in the dryer. But the many benefits of line drying offset that inconvenience, in my opinion. I find the whole experience a time for quiet reflection. The so-called mindlessness of repeatedly lifting items from the basket, reaching for clothespins, and clipping fabric on the line is calming and meditative. The extra minutes I spend outdoors let me soak up extra vitamin D and take in the sights, sounds, and scents of nature, undisturbed. I always return indoors refreshed and ready for the next task at hand.

Sometimes, I even play little laundry games, hanging like with like: sheets followed by pillowcases, then bath towels, then washcloths. Pants side by side, then shirts. Black socks together, followed by blue, then tan, and, finally, white.. It isn’t that I’m obsessive—I can be as willy-nilly in my clothes-hanging habits as anyone. I just find the challenge entertaining. Besides, I like the aesthetics of it.

Letting air and sun dry one’s laundry provides other benefits. Sunshine is a natural bleach for yellowed objects as well as for stains, including urine. The sun’s ultraviolet rays are an effective disinfectant, destroying most bacteria. (On the downside, line drying, especially of pillowcases, is contraindicated for individuals with severe airborne allergies.)

Budgetary and Environmental Concerns

And let’s not forget the all-important budget-friendly and ecological reasons for natural drying.

Did you know clothes dryers use as much energy as new energy-efficient refrigerators, dishwashers, and washing machines combined? Or that Americans spend nine billion dollars a year operating dryers? That’s according to the National Resources Defense Council. Other sources are in agreement.

The average U. S. household spends about $100 a year in electricity drying clothes (though cost varies widely depending on the local price of electricity and the number of loads a family racks up each week). There are other costs associated with modern-day clothes drying: the financial and environmental costs of fabric softeners and the wear and tear on both clothing and dryers themselves, for instance. If you rely on air conditioning in summer months, running a clothes dryer escalates your cooling cost, too. If, like me, you don’t have air conditioning, you swelter from the rising indoor temperatures a dryer causes.

The Battle of Community Restrictions

If you’re affected by a clothesline ban from your homeowners’ association, condo board, or apartment management, I may have good news for you.

According to the American Bar Association and the Sightline Institute,  at least 19 states have laws overriding HOA clothesline restrictions, thus protecting your ‘right to dry.’ Sightline even lists the states with links to their statutes. So does the Certified Manager of Community Organizations, an organization that says it "sets the standards for community association managers worldwide."

Of course, you still have to issue the challenge to your association, but being able to cite state law might just cause your governing board to reverse its stand. It may be worth your while to try.

Types of Clotheslines

There are many options for outdoor drying, some of which may depend upon available space. You can purchase retractable clotheslines for as little as $15.00. The unit attaches to your exterior wall. You still have to install a post at the far end, unless you have an outbuilding at a convenient distance. The line itself neatly stows away when not in use.

Space-saving umbrella-style outfits can be either portable or permanent and can be had for sixty dollars or so. Or you can build your own traditional clothesline.

Check out this site for some creative outdoor and indoor clotheslines. 

Clothes Drying Tips

Back when Mom line dried, she overlapped the edges of items so she could use a single clothespin on adjoining pieces. This practice saved line space as well as the number of pins needed. However, your

It’s smart to wash and hang as early in the day as feasible. By washing in the morning, you avoid peak grid usage. Hanging laundry early gives it plenty of time to try, takes advantage of midday sun, and lets you bring it in before a late afternoon shower pops up—a frequent occurrence in my neck of the woods.

Keep a bench or outdoor chair near your line to hold your laundry basket. Your back will thank you. A bench also provides a handy spot for sorting and stacking as you remove dried items.

Why not give outdoor line drying a try? You’ll breathe easier—literally.

Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts here. You can also find Carole at Living On the Diagonal where she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Unlocking Your Home’s Value With Sustainability

Value of Eco
Image Nattanan Kanchanaprat from Pixabay

Whether you are a homeowner looking to sell your house soon or live in it for years to come, sustainability is a proven method to increase the value of your home and have a positive environmental impact!

In a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors, over 61% of home-buyers said they were interested in homes that had sustainable features—such as smart features, lighting efficiency, and lowered utility costs—and energy efficiency and “low-maintenance” features are within the top 5 selling points for most first-time home buyers.

While there are hundreds of factors that go into the value of a home, Realty Sage has compiled 12 Livability Categories that show how the features of a property can benefit a homeowner both while they are living in the home and if they plan to put the home on the market. These categories range from Comfort and Health, to Cost Savings and Unique Features, but all of them can be positively enhanced to increase the value of your home. Another perk of these categories is that many of them are related, so renovations in one area may have additional bonus benefits in another!

For example, let’s say you upgrade your thermostat to a newer, smart model to try and save money on your electric bill—not only does this fall into the Cost Saving category (which all homeowners and buyers prioritize), but it is also an Eco-Friendly upgrade, it allows for Low Maintenance living, and can positively impact the Market Resale Value. So that one improvement you made actually makes a mark in 4 different livability categories!

Eco-Friendly Ideas To Increase the Value Of Your Home

There are so many ways you can increase the value of your home, from a complete remodel to new appliances to simply swapping out your lightbulbs; thus you can effectively make a positive environmental impact and earn brownie points with potential buyers regardless of how much you can financially invest right now.

Don’t Flush Away Your Savings!

Water is one of our most precious, natural resources, yet on average each American uses 80-100 gallons of water daily!! That being said, other nations with a comparable standard of living use less than half that amount, thus it is clear there are water-saving solutions and we simply need to adopt them!

Personally, I think that cutting back on water usage is one of the easiest, most budget-friendly ways to have an eco-friendly home and also save money. While you can invest in a smart washing machine or dish washer and drastically cut back on water usage, you can also spend under $100 for a low-flow shower head or water recirculation kit and start saving immediately, with a relatively low up-front cost. The EPA calculates that 17% of most people’s entire water bill is simply due to showering—so this quick fix is really a great option for homeowners looking to make a change that is good for the environment and the wallet!

Check out more water-saving hacks here!

Energy-Saving, Smart Home Ideas

Saving energy is another great way to save money, lessen your footprint on the environment, and make your house as competitive as possible in the housing market! As almost a third of the electricity used in a home goes into space heating and cooling, targeting how the temperature is controlled in your home is a great place to start. There are many smart thermostats currently on the market that actually recognize patterns in your living habits and can suggest more efficient ways to heat and cool your home!

Upgrading your appliances to Energy Star appliances is also a fabulous way to cut back on those energy bills! The Energy Star program was created by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the goal of reducing nation-wide energy consumption, and as a result any products that bear the Energy Star symbol are held to a much higher standard of efficiency and are certified by the EPA to save you save you both on energy usage and on monthly bills!

Check out this article to learn more about what Energy Star appliances can do for you, and this comprehensive list of energy-saving appliances!

Looking on the Bright Side—Solar Solutions!

Installing solar panels, while it does require more of an investment up-front, is one of the best decisions a homeowner can make, regardless of if you are planning on staying for years to come or looking to sell soon! Solar panels really do pay for themselves, however research has also shown that the addition of solar panels to a home means that home is typically on the market for fewer days than conventionally powered homes and solar homes sell at premium prices—additionally adding $15,000 or more to the selling price!! Not only that, but having a solar system means that Real Estate Agents have even more marketing options at their fingertips to highlight just how eco-friendly your house is!

While calculating the wattage, capacity and power output you might need in a solar array for your home may be daunting, don’t worry! Here are a few resources to help you on your journey to a more eco-friendly home:

Here’s an article to help you with the math of the matter—what size panels you need, what output power makes sense, how many panels makes sense, and more!

Pick My Solar

Here's a platform, Pick My Solar, that allows you to discuss your electrical needs with a Solar Professional and compare offers from top solar providers in your area!

Capitalize On Your Eco-Friendly Upgrades—Get The Sage Score

  The Sage Score

Last, but certainly not least, you need to make sure all your time and hard work is recognized!! Just as other areas of life get more tech-savvy, the real estate market is going from basic home-hunting to intelligent real estate search engines, databases that can accurately compare how sustainable features can positively impact your lifestyle and save you money.

Realty Sage is one such search engine and is refreshingly data-driven—each house featured on the site is scored based on the 12 Livability Categories that matter most to home-buyers and this rating can automatically elevate a home’s listing by providing easily-understood, accurate data to seller, buyers, and real estate agents. 

By calculating a Sage Score for your house, you will be able to actually quantify how “green” your home is and truly showcase how the special features of your property positively impact the quality of living in your home!

To check out the process of listing your house on Realty Sage, click here! By Syd Ulrich-Dogonniuck, Sustainability Content Writer for Realty Sage

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Reflections on Living Without a Fridge

Hometead House In Colombia

I live in a quilted home of brick walls, mosquito screens, windowless spaces, and a palm leaf roof in northeast Colombia. You may see an iguana munching a mango on my porch. Once you transcend the sheer weirdness and come inside, you may realize something else strange: I have no refrigerator.

I have been living without a fridge (freezer and air conditioning) for six months now. This is even funkier because my house leans on a sub-tropical mountain–essentially the opposite of the cool climates conducive to natural refrigeration.

Why did I do this? First, most 24-hour refrigerators use an enormous amount of electricity, draining power and dollars.

Second, the environmental impact: most use coolants called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping greenhouse emissions and contributing to global warming.  Refrigeration essentially enables our insane global food system, allowing fruits in southern Mexico to unnaturally land in the northern U.S., instead of relying on locally grown produce. Packaged food is an epidemic, one that would be significantly less possible without conventional refrigeration. Third, I wanted to experience daily life more like my ancestors.  And finally, I just wanted to see what would happen!

Using a Zeer Pot for Simple Refrigeration

Because of the tropical climate, I was unable to implement more traditional refrigeration alternatives like a root cellar, cold room, or ice house. My first attempt at alternative refrigeration was a Zeer Pot. An ingeniously simple system with pan-cultural roots invented by a rural Nigerian to keep food cooler in hot climates.

Basically, you fit one clay pot inside another, fill it with wet sand, place your food inside, cover with a wet cloth, and place it a cool dry area. As the water evaporates, the pot will cool. You need to keep the sand moist, which requires some watering each day. There are some great Zeer Pot tutorials.

I used my Zeer Pot for 3 months before throwing in the wet cloth. While it helped some, the excessive humidity, despite the heavy breeze, prevented the necessary evaporation for significant cooling. My pot is now home to basil and moringa.

Hanging Basket Of Fresh Food

What else I learned from six months without a fridge:

The Pros

1. Reduced electricity, waste, and muscular compost. I realized significantly reduced electricity use and cost, along with less non-organic waste (one full 16-inch trashcan weekly). My compost also grew like a well-fed teenager!

2. Hyper-local, hyper-fresh. Fresh produce can’t survive forever, and there are few nearby restaurants, so I needed to rely on local markets more, thus supporting the local economy and building community. I have the advantage of living near a family-owned store that sells most of my basic food needs. I buy fresh bread from my neighbor weekly, and other goodies from neighbors to support them and diversify my diet.

3. Develop greater attunement to food life cycles. For example, refrigerating bread can help it last a few days longer, but will actually make it go stale much quicker. Fruits like apples, mangos, bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe, and pineapple will last many days without refrigeration. Vegetables like garlic, ginger, onions, potatoes, certain squash, turmeric, and leeks all do well out of the fridge for long periods of time. Your nose begins to learn what is good and what isn’t.

Think about where the produce is grown as a helpful indicator for how it will fair in your climate. Broccoli and strawberries could never grow in my climate, and indeed they don’t last 24 hours’ sans-refrigeration.

4. Creative storage. Hanging baskets are a wonderful and stylish way to store food where creatures can’t reach. Tying up herbs to dry will prevent them from rotting and give a rustic aestheticism to the kitchen.

After many, “What, they eat that too!” moments, I’ve learned to just put anything I can into jars and containers: coffee, nuts, rice, pasta, flours, seeds, spices, etc., which also helps maintain freshness.

Making jams and marmalades are great options I didn’t do enough of– though I did make a lot of homemade chocolate peanut butter!

Drying and dehydrating fruits is crazy fun, delicious, and storage friendly.

5. A more natural diet. The no-refrigeration diet is more natural. You eat fresh everyday and rely much more on dried foods like seeds, nuts, and dried fruit that are nutrient rich and more aligned with our ancestors’ foraging diet.

I was also inspired to do more wild fermentations like kombucha, wild sourdough bread, and honey mead.

The Cons

1. It’s a ton of work. More work than most modern folk can sanely tolerate. Constant cooking, cleaning, storing, frequent market trips, and trial and errors are a major time suck. If you live in cooler climates or have a community/family, that will certainly help significantly.

2. Food limitations. Forget about delicious soft cheeses, most undried meat, dairy milks, and most nut milks won’t last long once opened or homemade. I make mostly oat milk (just some oats, water, and blend) each day.

3. Practicality. Besides the joy of saving leftovers, my homesteading neighbors intelligently freeze their seasonal abundance for harsher upcoming seasons. While this can be done more naturally like in cold rooms, having refrigeration really opens up a lot of positive practical possibilities.

4. Bugs and critters. When your food lives out there with you, the critters do, too. There will be multiple skirmishes, if not epic battles, with fruit flies, ants, cockroaches, mice, etc. Ants of several varieties have been my biggest foes.

To not use toxins, I experimented with many natural deterrents. Ants don’t like cinnamon or coffee, and I use a vinegar essential oil spray that works to keep bugs away (until the next day), and makes the place smell nice Many of these are also effective in the garden.

In conclusion, life without a fridge is very hard and very rewarding. I have decided to purchase a very small fridge for select items, and maintain most of my non-refrigeration practices to maintain a more natural balance while still enjoying some benefits of technology.

Chris Ponzi was once afraid of ants. Now he is an award-winning writer and poet whose work and life focus on healing and regenerating our connection to the earth. He holds an English Literature degree from UCLA, and is certified in permaculture design, nature-based practices, and is a trained meditator-mindfulness practitioner. Connect with Chris at and read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Tips for Minimizing Mold

cleaning mold

Shortly after we moved into our current house, we realized we were facing a mold problem of a magnitude we had never seen before. At the first signs of dampness, mold would spring up everywhere - on the ceiling and walls, in every nook and cranny behind furniture, on our bath mats, etc.

It didn't help that our first winter here was especially rainy, more so than most years I can remember. I had left a throw pillow in a corner for two days, and when I picked it up I discovered that an aggressive growth of mold kicked off in the corner behind that pillow during those 48 hours!

Mold isn't just unsightly and nasty-smelling. It can have potentially serious health consequences such as respiratory problems or symptoms akin to allergy and asthma. Treat it promptly and uncompromisingly as you would a dangerous enemy.

We don't know for sure, but we believe that the previous owner of this house didn't really fight mold. He merely painted over it now and then (and not with mold-resistant paint, either), which was a big mistake, because this doesn't kill the mold and it kept growing and emerging again and again.

The best strategy in dealing with mold is prevention. Mold thrives in damp, airless spaces, so open your windows as frequently as possible and thoroughly air rooms out, especially the bathroom after you use the shower.

Do your best not to push furniture against the walls, but leave a little space to allow for air circulation. Don't put damp clothes in the laundry basket and don't leave the washing to sit before you hang it or put it in the dryer.

Cleaning Mold

We have tried natural solutions such as vinegar, baking soda and a combination of the two, and I'm sorry to say that we found out nothing really works against our particular strain of mold other than chlorine bleach. I hate the smell of bleach and its potential hazards, but I hate mold even more, so...

Bleach fumes are harmful, so open your windows wide whenever you work with it. For mold in the corners, dip a painting brush in bleach and spread it over the infected spots. If you have mold growing in the lining between floor tiles, dip a scrubbing brush in bleach and work your way between the tiles, then wash the floor with a bleach and water solution and dry it thoroughly. Be careful to avoid the bleach touching your hands or clothes.

I have read that bleach doesn't really kill mold, that is, it can reappear very quickly, which means that the roots are still there. I have observed that if an area is thoroughly and repeatedly treated, mold will eventually stop reappearing, though any place can become re-infected if it isn't kept dry and well-aired.

It's very difficult to get rid of persistent mold that had permeated the whole house, especially if there are mold colonies in the foundation, inside hollow walls, and in other places you can never treat. However, with the right maintenance, you can still have a pleasant, healthy home.

Image source: Creative Commons

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna, her husband, and their four children live on the outskirts of a small town in northern Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna's books are on her Author PageConnect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blogRead all Anna's Mother Earth News posts here.

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How to Make Clay Paint

Clay painted wall 

We have experimented with various natural paints over the years. Most looked good, but had some negative points such as the requirement for too many layers (such as with some lime paints) or the issue with the clay dusting off the walls when you touch it.

We wanted a paint we could apply once, would not dust, and would have a nice consistent matt finish (and of course be made using natural materials). We have at last found our recipe, and with the help of the street artist no less. We knew that wheat paste could be added to a clay paint, or even just pasted over the top to make the wall durable, a little waterproof and stop dusting. So who better to ask for a strong wheat paste recipe than the fly-poster community?

We mixed a poster paste recipe with our own clay paint. The paint we made, when dry was incredibly durable, gave a beautiful consistent colour and barely dusted even right after drying. So without further ado, here is the recipe:


  • 6 parts cold water
  • 6 parts white wheat flour
  • 12 parts boiling water


  • 2 parts sugar combined with…
  • 18 parts cold water
  • 20 parts fine filtered clay
  • (add colour pigment here if you like)


Mix all of them together and you have your paint.

We found that around 1 litre covered about 2 square metres on a clay wall, painted with a brush. Only one coat was necessary for a smooth consistent finish. Using the measurements above, with one ‘part’ equalling about one cup, we made around 14 litres of paint.

Here are the steps for making a mix...

1. Firstly, take your 12 parts of water and set it on the fire to boil.

2. Take another pan and add you 6 parts of cold water

3. Slowly add to the cold water 6 parts of flour. You can alter the measurements if you like depending on your desired consistency. We wanted quite a thick paint to cover the small cracks and bumps so we stayed with 6 water, 6 flour. More flour = thicker paint

4. Mix well!

5. Hopefully your 12 parts of water are nearly boiling. When they are, add them to the flour/cold water, and keep stirring over the heat. The longer you keep it on the heat the thicker it will get so be careful.

6. Now add your sugar, keep stirring, on the heat if you want it to thicken. We had taken it off the heat by this point.

And there you have your flour and sugar component....

fine filtered clay

If you are lucky, whilst you were busy making the flour mixture, your assistant was filtering the clay. We start with a large filter to take out gravel and rocks.

Next we use a filter made for flour to take out the larger sand particles, and leave only the finest most beautiful clay. And then you are left with an incredibly wonderful, soft clay.

Next we poured 18 cups of water into a wheelbarrow. Then we add the clay, stirring well.

Now you can add your flour sugar mix, making sure to get all the lumpy stuff from the bottom. This paint will always sink and separate so whenever decanting and using this paint, make sure to mix and shake it first or you will lose all the solids at the bottom. I stirred it with the paintbrush before each use..

You should use this paint as soon as possible! The paint we had left over was fermenting after a couple of weeks and although we were able to use it on a different project, it probably wouldn´t be so nice to use in the house due to the awful smell.

Good luck, and if you have any questions about the mix you can reach me at

Tom Keeling is based in Portugal and has traveled throughout Brazil and Eastern Europe learning about natural building and farming. He’s working on a two-story stone barn renovation using clay and wood, and including a shower and toilet block built using rammed earth and adobe bricks. Connect with Tom at Fazenda Tomati and on Facebook and Instagram.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

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