Archive for December, 2010

end of year giving for good

December 30, 2010

The closing of one year signals opportunities for the next. This is especially the case for non-profit organizations who depend on the generosity of the public to ensure they can keep doing good. Here are some worthy causes that I like to support and the hard-working orgs that fight for them. If you’ve got some dough to spare, please consider giving to them as well.

End mountaintop removal coal mining


Support a new, sustainable economy while ensuring real food security

Slow Money

Protect yourself and all citizens from dangerous chemicals in the air, water, soil, and all the materials we surround ourselves with

Center for Environmental Health

Move America beyond fossil fuels to efficiency and renewable energy

Rocky Mountain Institute

Help small farms in Brooklyn thrive and educate our future leaders

BK Farmyards

Get inspirational news that’s advertisement-free

YES! Magazine (subscribe or donate, the online content is free and is under Creative Commons license)

Happy (soon-to-be) New Year!

holiday greetings (+ last minute gift ideas)

December 19, 2010

Happy Holidays!

(Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Solstice, New Year, or whichever holiday you choose to celebrate)

The closing of a year is a time for reflection, a time to gather with friends and family, a time to enjoy a quieter and more dormant world (especially in northern climes). For some, it’s also a time to celebrate loved ones through the act of gift exchange. If you get into the spirit of giving this year (and perhaps are a last-minute shopper), here are some unique gifts that will leave you and your givee warm and fuzzy.

a donation or symbolic gift

  • Heifer International provides people around the world the gift of self-sufficiency and independence through donation of livestock, seeds, and training. Some of my favorites are the goat (of course), the flock of chicks, and the gardener’s basket.
  • Kiva gives people the opportunity to lend small amounts of seed money to help launch small business endeavors globally. When you give a Kiva gift card, the recipient can choose the project that is most meaningful to them.
  • With GlobalGiving, you can donate to a wide-range of projects – from education to environment to disaster relief. They offer gift cards if you want to let the recipient choose, or you can give to a cause you know they’ll love, like helping kids in Guatemala attend high school.

something homemade

Making something homemade can be easier than you think (if you think it’s not easy, that is). Whip up a batch of granola, some applesauce, or these super simple yet decadent chocolate truffles (I like to add a bit of sea salt to the cocoa, and maybe a splash of bourbon to the chocolate mix; organic and fair trade ingredients, please!).

Spoiler alert! This year, I’m making lotions, facial cleanser, body scrubs, and lavender eye pillows for friends and family. Here’s a good guide for making lotion at home. Most ingredients can be found in the grocery store.

a service

Who doesn’t love a massage? Or perhaps you’ve got a locavore or foodie in your life who’d appreciate being part of a CSA or organic produce of the month club. Or maybe a loved one is into fitness – last year, I got my boyfriend an Intro to Boxing package. Yoga class cards also make a great gift (if you’re recipient is in NYC and they like to try new methods and studios, the NY Yoga Passbook is a good deal).

How about the gift of a healthy home? Shameless plug alert! You can get your friends or family a gift certificate for my services. Gift certificates are good towards one-on-one consultations, workshops, and make-it-yourself parties.

your time or space

This is where you can get really creative. Look for opportunities in your loved one’s schedule or activities. If your friend has a dog, you could offer to walk her (or him) for a month. If someone you know is too busy to cook for themselves, maybe you could offer to make them dinner once a week. Offer friends with children the gift of a night out by babysitting. Maybe you’ve got a yard or rooftop and can offer a friend without one a place to garden. There are so many possibilities here.

However you decide to celebrate the year’s end, may it be happy and healthy!

make it yourself!

December 17, 2010

I want to let you in on a little secret. Making your own cleaning products is ridiculously simple. And fun. So simple and fun that, I guarantee that once you start, you won’t go back to buying the stuff off the shelf anymore. Even the good ones (Seventh Generation, Ecover, Simple Green) you’ll probably end up leaving behind. Here are just some of the benefits of making your own: you’ll save money, you can reuse the bottles (no wasted packaging), you can customize them to your liking, the ingredients are recognizable and non-toxic, and you’ll feel good about creating (instead of consuming). Same goes for making your own body care products. Plus, they make great gifts.

So how does one get started making their own products? Well, you can look up some recipes or pick up a good recipe book like Better Basics for the Home or Earthly Bodies & Heavenly Hair. Or if you live in NYC, I can teach you how in the comfort of your own home. Better yet, invite a few friends over and make it a party. A make-it-yourself party. You choose whether you want to make cleaning products or body care products and I’ll provide everything you need to create. Everyone walks away with 3 customized products, plus additional recipes and info on where to find ingredients. All that for only $30 per person. Book both a cleaning and body care party and your fee (as the host) for one of the parties is free.

Here’s a little sneak peak of what we might make at a party:

The labels on your jars might be a little different, but the contents will look very similar to something you’ll make. I made these products as a promotion for Green Mountain Energy, a wind energy company based in NYC (and Texas). You might run into one of the Green Mountain reps out on the sidewalk in front of your favorite health food store or at a craft or eco fair in the near future. And maybe you’ll see some of these little products there, too.

Here are some photos from a recent body care making get-together:

So grab some friends and pick some dates and give me a shout and we’ll work it out: liz (at) raganella (dot) com.

expounding on hot grease

December 5, 2010

In a shipping container in the backyard of Roberta’s restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn is the home of Heritage Radio Network – an internet radio station dedicated to spreading the good food gospel. My friend Nicole Taylor (aka Food Culturist) hosts a show on said station. It’s called Hot Grease (knowing she’s from Georgia, it’s apropos).

A few weeks ago, I was on her show, with an air date TBD. Well, while I was off on my digital detox, the program aired. I only found out after sifting through my emails last night. You can listen to the interview from the Heritage Radio Network site or via podcast on iTunes.

Expounding on Hot Grease

Since it’s only about a 15 minute interview, we didn’t dig too deeply into some of the subjects. So after you give it a listen, see below for more info on some of the stuff we discussed.

Natural Living Skills

For more on the Eco Libris Green Books Campaign, check out the review I wrote of Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.

No New Clothes

Read all about the Brooklyn Green Team’s No New Clothing Challenge here.


An entire radio station could be dedicated to all things permaculture, let alone an entire show. Here are a few places to start:

Permaculture Principles (the site is inspired by one of the founders of Permaculture, David Holmgren)

Permaculture Institute

Permaculture Activist Magazine (one of my very favorite publications)

The New York Permaculture Meetup Group. Anyone can go to one of their meetings, held the first Tuesday of every month. Meet some great people and learn about the cool ecological projects happening in and around NYC.

To see my design project for the Permaculture Design Certification, check out this post.

Healthy Home Consulting

This is what I do.

Make-it-yourself Parties

Okay, I don’t think we discussed these, but we should have. 😉 I’m now offering make-it-yourself beauty and cleaning product parties. You supply the people and place and I’ll supply the rest ($30 per person). Everyone walks away with 3 customized products and recipes to try at home. Email me for more info: liz (at) raganella (dot) com.

The Hot Five

Five simple things you can do to lead a healthier, more ecological lifestyle.

5. Take off your shoes as you enter your home. Easy enough.

4. Bring in plants. Learn more about the amazing filtering ability of plants.

3. Swap out your cleaning products. Check out the Berkeley Ecology Center’s simple cleaning recipes or try these botanically based formulas from the Herb Companion.

2. Swap out your beauty/hygiene products.Earthly Bodies & Heavenly Hair by master herbalist Dina Falconi is a book I constantly refer to for inspiration in making my own beauty products.

1. Compost. Check out the NYC Compost Project for tips on composting. Find all the places to compost in Manhattan on the Compost Green Map. This site isn’t quite populated with enough data yet, but FindAComposter has potential to offer people across the country with a go-to source for finding a place to compost.