I’m sure you may have heard about Bitcoin in recent news, especially in the world of investing. Bitcoin is known as a cryptocurrency, a digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operation independently of a central bank. For those of you that aren’t tech savvy, it essentially means that currency will not be controlled a central authority such as federal banks or the government.
Imagine being able to transfer money or making payments without having to deal with transaction fees, with guaranteed anonymity for payments, and secure transfers. That is the goal of cryptocurrencies, to decentralize wealth and give individuals more control over their money. We have seen several market crashes in the past decade such as the Dot Com bubble in 2000 and the recession in 2008. There has been movements to bring attention to this like the “We are the 99%” Occupy Wall Street. People are tired of having the economy controlled by huge corporations and want alternatives.
That is where Blockchain technology come into play, which is a digitized, decentralized, public ledger of all cryptocurrency transactions. Transactions are recorded and added to ledger and allow market participant to keep track of digital currency transactions without central recordkeeping. This is primarily used to verify transactions within the global network and then verified by the network using nodes (computer connected to the network). The most popular cryptocurrency is Bitcoin, however there are thousands of different cryptocurrencies developed in the past few years.
I encourage you to learn more about this because it will eventually be used for a variety of practical applications. Here is the website for Bitcoin: https://bitcoin.org/en/
In keeping with my theme of the environment and my earlier blog with tips to save money and the Earth. I thought I’d share another low-cost tip for living green.
I recently came across a really cool new cleaning product. Except that it isn’t new, and it’s not exactly a product, but there are products made from it and you can buy it?
This is starting to sound like a riddle, so I’ll get to the point. SOAP NUTS!!
What is a soap nut?
Soap Nuts, which are actually berries, grow on trees and have actual soap in them!
The berries contain saponin, which functions as a surfactant a.k.a. soap. They work to release dirt from fabric and other surfaces, then suspend the dirt in the water to be rinsed away. Some species of soap nut have also been found to be anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.
Soap nuts have been in use for literal ages, in the subtropic Asia, in countries such as India, China, Taiwan, and Nepal. There is also a western soapberry tree that was used historically for the same purposes by Native Americans.
What can I do with a soap nut?
Soap nuts can be used to make an array of cleaning products.
Dish detergent for use in a dishwasher or handwashing
Face and body wash
How to use them
There is more than one method for using soap nuts, and the exact measurements may vary based on the exact species you are using. So I advise testing out a few methods to see what gets the best results with the nuts that you have available. That’s what I’ll be doing! But for this blog, I will cover some of the ideas and recipes I have found during my research.
Use the whole nut
Put 4-5 nuts in a mesh bag, tie it off and toss it in with your laundry. Reuse the same bag for approximately 10 loads of laundry, or until the soap nuts seem mushy. To test if the nuts are still good, run the bag under hot water and give it a squeeze, you should see some suds come out.
Note that this works best when using warm water to wash clothes. If you are washing in cold water, then you should steep the bag in hot water for a few minutes to activate the saponin for best results.
Another use for the whole nut is to take 10-12 nuts and let them soak in a bucket of hot water for about 30 minutes. Then use this water to wash your car, your floors, or anything else that you might need a bucket of water to clean. Since the wash is all natural and biodegradable the water can be reused to water your trees or plants. It may even keep pests out of the area watered. If anyone does try watering plants with the leftover water, I’d love to hear how it goes! (I don’t have any plants or yeard to test this out myself).
Make a concentrated liquid cleaner
I have found a number of recipes for a liquid concentrate, ranging from 2 nuts per cup of water to 15 nuts per cup. I went with a middle ground of about 10 nuts per cup of water.
Boil the soap nuts in the water, occasionally smashing them down with a bamboo spoon or something similar, for about 30 minutes. You can add essential oils if you want a scented product. Strain the liquid into a jar, and store in the fridge. Will last about 2 weeks. Another idea is that you can freeze it into cubes and just throw a cube into the laundry machine, dishwasher, or bucket of water.
The concentrated product can be used for multiple purposes
Mix 1 TBSP into a bucket of water for mopping floors
Mix 1 TBSP into dishwater for dishes
Add concentrate directly to dishwasher, or laundry machines (low sud product perfect for machine washing)
Mix 1 TBSP concentrate with 1 TBSP white vinegar into a spray bottle and fill with water for glass and multi-purpose cleaners
Apply a dab to your cleansing cloth for face or body cleansing. The antibacterial properties of the berry make this an excellent wash for acne prone skin, but it is also not drying and is very gentle for sensitive skin.
Mix .5-1 oz into 12 oz water in a jar and pour over your scalp for shampoo (follow up with an apple cider vinegar rinse as your conditioner!)
Mix 1 TBSP into a gallon bucket of water for another way to get floor and car wash
For a jewelry cleaner, use either the straight concentrate or about a 50/50 mix with water, let jewelry soak in it for a bit and then scrub it with a toothbrush.
This list could go on and on, get creative and post your ideas in the comments below!
Make and use as a paste
To make a paste you would take the leftover skins that you boiled to make your concentrate (you would want to remove the hard seeds at this point if you did not buy seedless) and put them in your food processor to create a mash. Then add coconut oil, or olive oil, or grapeseed oil (or whatever type of oil you prefer to use on your skin) and blend it down into a more liquid state. Once you apply to wet skin it will suds up and you can shave away!
The paste of the skins can also be used as a concentrated cleaner and degreaser for tough messes.
Make a powder
You can just buy soap nut powder (and many of the other cleaners listed above), but if you are a DIY sort of person, take the dry nuts and just throw them in your blender, coffee grinder or food processor. I think you would want to use just the skins as the seeds don’t contain any saponin and are rather hard, so they would wear down your blades with no added benefit.
The powder can then be used in basically the same ways as the liquid by putting a scoop into your laundry or into your dishwasher or dishwater.
The possibilities seem rather endless at this point. I have read that insects are naturally repelled by the plant, which means that no pesticides are needed to grow them. It also means that it has the potential for use as mosquito repellent! Although everything I have read indicates the results are not in as to how effective it might be or the best way to apply it.
It is all natural and very mild so you can use it for your children’s laundry, or for someone with a skin condition such as eczema. You can also use it to shampoo your pet, and supposedly it will help discourage fleas and ticks from them.
It has taken me exactly 1 hour and 3 minutes to come up with the next topic for my blog (yes–I kept track). For some reason, finding a worthwhile resource on the web is a lot harder than it sounds. You would think that with millions and millions of links, it would take me five minutes to get this blog done.
Well, I finally came up with an idea–
The library. No, I am not just talking about the physical building, although that is also a terrific resource. But, instead, I am referring to the online version of the library, which can be just as important as the physical library–especially for students.
The library is underrated and overlooked. As a community, we should value what the library provides for us: free knowledge.
For me, I live in Woodbury, so I use the Washington Country library. This website is so useful that I am baffled when I realize that most people don’t even own a library card. When I went to the Washington County library, it took me exactly four minutes to get a library card and to start checking out books. It is arguably the easiest thing that you’ll ever do.
It’s not just about checking out books, it is about the homework help centers, the free databases, the audiobooks, and the classes. All of these things can be found on the website and has the potential to be useful for every student.
I typically agree with T.S. Eliot’s opinion of libraries.
The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man
Everything in the library is free, but it is up to us to use the resources. We need to take the intuitive and learn. This will not only help our grades, but it will help our brains and will help us become better critical thinkers.
Who doesn’t want to be considered a critical thinker? As the old platitude goes: readers are leaders.
So turn off the TV, and grab a book. It doesn’t have to be long–25 minutes a day is a good place to start. You’ll be surprised how much reading can affect your life, your outlook, and your empathy.
Don’t take my word for it–Albert Einstein once said,
The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.
We take libraries for granted, but we really shouldn’t. Many historical cultures and civilizations would envy us for our immense storage of knowledge.
So don’t take it for granted. Appreciate libraries and use them regularly.
Since we’re talking about books, I figured I’d add a picture of one of my personal favorites:
The Longhairs is a group of men who have a simple mission: to provide a community for guys with, you guessed it, long hair. This group spoke to me immediately, not because I am a guy with long hair, but because this group’s motivation and way of spreading their mission aligns with Sprout MSP‘s. Like the Longhairs, Sprout MSP is meant to build a community through shared vision. Both groups spread the word about their cause without including harsh consequences that apply when one doesn’t follow in the community belief. Seeing the Longhairs method of outreach helped me understand the path that, perhaps, Sprout MSP should be following.
The Longhairs use multiple channels to reach their audience including their website, blog, subscription newsletters, Facebook, and even their own line of products. (I know what you are thinking ladies, do it! Don’t worry you won’t be alone, I totally signed up for the haircare tips and purchases some ties myself.) By having multiple channels this group is opening themselves up to more exposure and therefore are spreading their mission one internet user at a time. Two inventive channels they focus on are their products and newsletters. By having their own products, The Longhairs are able to bring the attention back to their goal every time an onlooker asked about the logo on the front of someone’s shirt or another “bro-dude” with long hair asks to borrow a ponytail binder. In addition, by having a daily newsletter, The Longhairs are able to reach their community members directly, encouraging them to share the mission with others.
Now while I do not have any motivation to create a line of products for this group mission, I did appreciate the inspiration The Longhairs brought me. Now I am refocused on Sprout MSP’s mission, and am standing for my first newsletter about hair care!
If you know anyone that has been effected by cancer or any horrible blood disease, you know that it is a very sad and painful process that a person has to go through. Years ago, I personally went through a situation of losing a nephew at 9 months old because he was diagnosed with leukemia and there wasn’t much that anyone could do about it. I know that I am not the only one who has gone through this situation and all you can do is move forward and think of what else you can do.
If you ever wondered if there was something that you can do, you can make a difference and potentially save someone’s life. If you are from the ages of 18 to 44, you have a high chance in being a match to donate your bone marrow to save a baby, child, adult, or anyone with this life-threatening disease. All it takes is to be registered on a national bone marrow registry like, Be the Match and DKMS, and to be listed for patients that are in need.
When you first join, you take a buccal swab test so that your HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen) is listed on the registry for patients and their physicians to access. Once you are a match, there are two ways to donate and that is through PBSC (Peripheral Blood Stem Cell) and bone marrow donation. Both processes are harmless to the donor and an extensive examination is done before donation.
Here is a story about 22-year-old college student, Brett from Wisconsin who saved a 10-year-old girl from Indiana. This wonderful story details the experience of these two people and their journey to a successful transplant. This and many stories has been successfully shared online and with joining and supporting a bone marrow registry, you can also make a difference in someone’s life.