Of course, there’s nothing new about going to flea markets and thrift stores to find treasures to decorate your house, but the current emphasis on recycling and green lifestyle make the old hobby of shopping secondhand seem hip again. Restore Recycle Repurpose by Randy Florke is just the book to inspire you.

Arranged by area (entryways, kitchens, home office, bathroom, outdoor) Florke gives you tips on what to look for – how to determine the quality of a piece and whether it might be salvageable as well as fun and unique ways to use items in new ways. While the majority of the rooms would be considered “country” or “cottage”, they are all refreshingly open and clutter-free; it is not hard to imagine the same rustic pitcher or chair fitting in comfortably in many modern or eclectic rooms. Throughout, Florke effortlessly combines practicality, comfort, eco-friendly options all while honoring the past.

Can you believe that we’ve been celebrating Earth Day for 40 years?  I remember the first one, so I guess that dates me!

Anyway, while reading my Mid American Energy bill last month, I picked up an easy tip to help save water — and thus save energy, which in turns helps preserve our beautiful planet.  Did you realize that a leaky toilet can waste up to 7,000 gallons of water a month?  I didn’t.   Plus, this is so easy!   All you do is just put a little food coloring (about a teaspoon) in the tank part of your toilet — then check it about 15 minutes later.  If you then find colored water in the the bowl,  you have a slow leak!  (Remember to flush it a few times afterwards, so you don’t end up with any permanent stains.)

I didn’t have any reason to suspect that any of our loos were leaky, but apparently, one was — the fancy one  (a so-called “quiet flush” in the powder room).  So now I just needed to replace the flapper valve.  And I found out how to do it myself  at this website: www.doityourself.com/stry/replacetoilettank

One small leak stopped — one very small step closer to a healthier earth.  What small step can you take?  Share your solutions with us and help others to help save our planet, too.

In celebration of Earth Day this month, below are a sampling of books that focus on different ways that you can contribute to a green planet right in your own home!  These books, along with countless others in the library, can help you make your home and your life more environmentally friendly.

The simple “green manual,” Easy Green Living is based on the author’s TV series dealing with green home and garden care issues.  The author provides basic tips to make healthy living affordable and not time consuming.  By not overwhelming the reader with too many suggestions, Loux breaks down and gives examples of small daily differences that you can make to be more environmentally friendly and peppers each chapter with a “5 Step List” of products that can be easily found in your home.

Super Natural Home by Beth Greer is a fantastic resource for the environmentally conscious family with its easy to use format with helpful quizzes that identify a home’s “toxic hot zones.”  Chapters include tips on healthy tap water, indoor air quality and safer alternatives to household cleaners.

Green Goes with Everything Transform your home into a “safe sanctuary” free of harsh chemicals with this book by author Sloan Barnett.  The author advises on the best ways to make healthy and safe choices for your family.  Topics featured in the book include healthy food preparation, cleaning solutions and safe water tips.

Green Housekeeping is an extensive resource by Ellen Sandbeck and includes chapters such as: clearing clutter and organizing your belongings in an environmentally sound way and learning to live without some toxins that could be found in homes, as a few examples.  Green Housekeeping contains numerous ancedotes that are authoritative and useful to help families save money and time – something we all can use!

dreaming-greenInterested in making your home more “green” and eco-friendly? Afraid that that means that you’ll have to live in a cave or a tiny, windowless shack far from civilization? Then you need to turn to Dreaming Green by Lisa Sharkey and Paul Gleicher – you’ll be amazed at just how beautiful, modern and stylish being ecologically responsible can be!

The 15 featured houses range in location from urban to suburban to rural,  and are scattered throughout the country. While the house styles are mostly modern, they also include a cozy farmhouse, a traditional southern manor and a classic saltbox with a twist. While all of the houses are gorgeous, they are not merely for show – these are family homes that are loved and lived in.

While many of these homes are new-built, many are also renovations showing that being eco-friendly doesn’t require starting from scratch. Beautifully photographed, each house includes a list of “green features” that will inspire you on just how much can be done and there is an extensive list of resources at the back of the book to help you with your own quest for green. There is an emphasis on details – small changes can make a big difference – and going local both with labor and materials. All of the homes take advantage of location and make strong connections to the outside environment. All of it is beautifully done, with style and sophistication.

sewing-greenThe eco-movement has reached the crafts department – although sewers, quilters and crafters have always been experts at recycling. Sewing Green by Betz White will help you take this tradition even further with patterns, tips and fresh ideas for making the most of found materials.

Not sure what to do with those mis-matched but still lovely sheets and pillowcases? White suggests making lounge pants or a cute summer top. Turn a vintage tablecloth into a charming wrap skirt or placemats into a practical tote bag. Old cashmere sweaters get new life as a luxurious – but simple – patchwork throw. Even empty Mylar juice pouches can be stitched into an auto sunshade!

White gives lots of tips on what to look for at flea markets and thrift stores – what can be fixed and what to avoid. She also profiles several “eco-innovators”, people who have embraced the green movement with style, creating organic and eco-friendly materials and products for the public.

There’s a good dash of fun and whimsy in all of the projects – a draft dodger shaped like a log, a tote bag made out of Tyvek envelopes – but they’re also practical and made with basic skills anyone can master. It’s repurposing made fun!