Thursday, November 17, 2011

Recycling Facts

Recycling Facts [Infographic]

Re-blog posted by ecokaren on October 10, 2011 · 9 comments
We talk about recycling to death. We know which plastic number should be recycled and which numbers don’t. Although recycling is a way of life in most cities, there are communities that still don’t recycle. So then, it’s no surprise that the U.S. is not the recycling nation in the world.
Did you know that:
-Glass can be recycled over and over without ever losing its purity
–70% less energy is used to manufacture recycled paper
–The energy conserved from recycling one bottle can power a light bulb for one hour
–One recycled can of aluminum contains enough energy to power a Sony TV for three hours

All About Recycling
Source:Reusable Bags

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More On Water

Nearly half of all bottled water sold in the United States is tap water, which companies put in plastic bottles and sell at huge profits, according to a new report by Food & Water Watch. Tap water's share of the bottled water market grew from 32.7% in 2000 to 47.8% in 2009 (the rest is spring water), according to the group, which based its analysis on of the bottled water industry's own data. In all, 2.5 billion gallons of municipal tap water, which taxpayers pay to treat, is bottled and sold for $1 (or often much more) per gallon, when the same municipal tap water typically costs a penny or less per gallon ... and is conveniently delivered to your home.
"These are the numbers the bottled water industry doesn't want you to see," said Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter. "These figures reveal that more and more bottled water is basically the same product the flows from consumer taps, subsidized by taxpayer dollars—then poured into an environmentally destructive package, and sold for thousands of times its actual value."
According to Food & Water Watch, the increase in the use of tap water comes down, primarily, to Nestle's decision to switch its Pure Life brand from spring to tap water in 2005 ... and it's subsequent advertising campaign, which boosted sales nearly 20% (for an arguably less desirable product).
This all reminds us of our piece on the problems with bottled water, which we reprise here:
For years, advocacy groups have been raising concerns about bottled water: Not only do bottles end up littering the landscape, and not only are those plastic bottles derived from fossil fuels, but they also may leach chemicals into water and the quality of the water is not stringently monitored.
But many Americans have a healthy distrust of advocacy groups. If you're one of them, then consider this. The Government Accountability Office, the well-respected and nonpartisan research organization that serves Congress, has concluded a yearlong investigation, and come up with basically the same conclusions. Here's a summary:

Water Quality

Surveys have shown that perceived health benefits are behind the staggering increase in the consumption of bottled water -- from 13.4 gallons per person in 1997 to 29.3 gallons per person in 2007. While on paper, the Food and Drug Administration limits on contaminants in bottled water mirror the Environmental Protection Agency's strict limits on contaminants in tap water supplied by community water systems, that doesn't mean bottled water is as closely watched or as safe as tap water. Here's why:
  • Phthalates
    Unlike the EPA, which has set limits on phthalates in water, the FDA has stalled for more than 15 years in publishing a limit on the phthalate DEHP in bottled water. DEHP is an ingredient in plastic, and (the GAO report does not detail the chemical's potential health effects as we do here) laboratory studies have linked some phthalates to problems with male fertility -- including decreased sperm counts and penis and testes sizes -- with obesity, and with other health problems related to hormonal imbalances. Several phthalates have been banned in children's products for this same reason: They inhibit the normal function of testosterone, the male hormone.
  • Testing
    While the EPA requires drinking water suppliers to use certified labs to test their water, the FDA does not have this authority. Further, test results don't have to be reported to the FDA -- even if the test results show violations of drinking water quality standards. Even those states that have rules that exceed FDA requirements typically don't match EPA requirements.
  • Labeling
    While the EPA requires public drinking water systems to annually publish the results of water quality testing, along with information about the drinking water source and known threats, the FDA does not require this of bottled water companies. The GAO reports: "In 2000, the FDA concluded that it was feasible for the bottled water industry to provide the same types of information to consumers that public water systems must provide. However, the agency was not required to conduct a rulemaking requiring that manufacturers provide such information to consumers, and has yet to do so."
  • "High Risk" Regulation
    The GAO has repeatedly warned that the FDA is not up to the task -- lacking staff, funding and regulatory authority (while seeing staffing drop 19%, the facilities it was charged with inspecting increased 28% between about 2001 and 2007) -- to adequately police the nation's food supply. In January 2007, the GAO noted that the nation's food safety is a "high risk" area, in great part because it is policed by 15 separate agencies. Drinking water is only one more example.

Environmental Impact

  • Waste
    While recycling of carbonated beverages, like soda and beer, is encouraged in many states with deposit laws, these bottle bills are much less common for bottled water. As a result, about 75% of water bottles are thrown in the trash, rather than recycled.
  • Energy
    "Regarding the impact on U.S. energy demands, a recent peer-reviewed article noted that while the production and consumption of bottled water comprises a small share of total U.S. energy demand, it is much more energy-intensive than the production of public drinking water."
There are reasons to keep bottled water around: It's handy in case of an emergency, for instance. In most everyday cases, however, it's better for you and the environment to use a reusable water bottle and tap water (filtered if you think it improves the taste). Many of the issues with bottled water that the GAO identified can be solved with changes in regulation: Water quality could be assured if it matches EPA standards; labeling could provide full disclosure of source, testing contaminants detected; the nation's food safety regulatory structure could be totally overhauled; and recycling rates could be improved with new bottled deposit laws. However, bottled water will remain an item that lacks commonsense as long as U.S. tap water remains among the safest and most rigorously tested in the world.
The Daily Green previously summarized the problems with the bottled water industry like this:

The 7 Sins of Bottled Water

  1. Plastic bottles are made from petroleum.
  2. The bottles often go into the trash, rather than the recycle bin (in part because many states don't offer five-cent deposits to encourage recycling, as they do on soda and beer cans and bottles).
  3. The water is pumped far from where it is sold, creating needless pollution as trucks and barges transport it across the country or around the world.
  4. Some local communities have objected to the sale of their water, arguing that the water underground or flowing from natural springs is publicly owned and should not be exploited for profit.
  5. Bottled water is rarely as closely monitored as tap water.
  6. Tap water in the United States, when provided by a municipal system, is the most highly monitored and safe supply in the world.
  7. Fifty percent of the water sold in little plastic bottles is tap water, but it costs an awful lot more per gallon.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

We Are Water

glass of water
 We are water. Literally. So we need to be drinking a fair amount of it daily. Try to drink tap water in reusable bottles. Unless there is something very wrong with your municipal water or you know your well water is contaminated, there is no reason to drink bottled water. Bottled water is a farce. It usually is the very municipal water you think you're avoiding by buying tap. So you're spending several dollars on something that is free – and less regulated than municipal water, I might add. A total rip off. And then there are all of the eco-implications and repercussions of the actual bottles. Think of the energy used to make those bottles, fill them with water, and then transport them all around. Sure, most places recycle the plastic most water bottles come in (PET #1) but many of those bottles wind up in the trash or in the gutter, not in the recycling bin. And they take 1,000 years to break down in a landfill. Spending money on something that is free and then drinking out of virgin plastic for maybe an hour that will then sit in a landfill for 1,000 years doesn't sound like good common conscious. So we don't do it.

 Everything else is a pretty huge category. Think about what you drink over the course of a day. Green the items you drink the most of to make the biggest impact. For me that's coffee, some tea, and wine. I don't drink much hard alcohol or beer but there are certain local/organic or just organic versions of both. Choose these. It's amazing to me how many people  who eat a very conscious diet but forget somehow to drink sustainable coffee, tea, and wine. These, like your veggies, are plants. They can be highly sprayed or unsprayed. There are considerable labor issues when it comes to both – always look for Fair Trade coffee and tea. Depending on where you live, these can be local or from very far away. When it comes to coffee, shade-grown is another label to look for. The choices for organic/biodynamic/natural/sustainably grown grapes abound. Organic wine used to have a bad reputation but these taste great. Depending on where in the country you live, American wine might be less green than French. It has to do with transportation miles and economies of scale, not to mention irrigation.
roger doiron
What I don't delve into in the book is the sort of drinks that line the beverage aisle and drinks cases in most supermarkets. Soda isn't a conscious choice. If you want bubbles with flavor, buy a home seltzer maker, use it, and add some home squeezed juice. If you choose to drink it, do so knowing how much water is involved and how the sugar that is processed into high fructose corn syrup affects both you, the farmers that raise it, and the earth. Juice is an odd middle ground territory. If you don't live near an organic orange grove but do live near a low spray apple orchard, drinking the latter for breakfast can have considerable conscious impact. Besides, so much that is sold in bright plastic bottles as juice is mainly water and sugar, with flavor and maybe some juice mixed in. A good way to drink real juice is to buy a juicer and make it yourself.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Health Dangers of Styrofam Cups

Cons of Styrofoam Cups

Polystyrene cups, though cheap, are not without their negative traits.

Polystyrene foam, commonly referred to as Styrofoam, a popular brand of polystyrene, is used in a variety of products, ranging from packing to culinary elements. While the foam is light and cheap to purchase, there are downsides to using polystyrene foam cups, from environmental hazards to personal health risks.


Polystyrene is a non-biodegradable substance, and while it is possible to recycle the product, the majority of polystyrene ends up as trash. While it poses only a minimal imminent problem when properly disposed of at a dump where decomposition is slow, polystyrene disposed of as litter is much more damaging. Polystyrene which is thrown out on the streets will sit in a gutter or on a sidewalk without degrading until properly disposed of.

Production of polystyrene creates pollution in the air, as well as in the form of liquid waste, and is one of the world's largest industries in terms of pollution created. In addition to pollution from the creation of the polystyrene, an EPA study found that when burned, polystyrene gives off 57 chemical byproducts, making it a toxic hazard in the event of a fire.
Natural Resources Consumption

In order to create polystyrene for use as cups, the industry requires the use of non-renewable resources. Polystyrene is created using byproducts of petroleum which are heated, then infused with gases to generate the foam. An increase in consumption of polystyrene products like cups requires an increased demand for the petroleum, resulting in faster depletion of the world's oil supply.

Polystyrene cups are commonly used for beverages which are served hot, as the insulation helps to protect the hand of the drinker. Unfortunately, putting heated drinks into a polystyrene cup poses a potential health risk to the drinker. As the hot liquids begin to heat the container, the cup leaches trace elements of polystyrene into the liquid within. As the consumer drinks the contents, he in turn takes in the chemicals. While trace amounts from sporadic consumption are not harmful, there's a risk of neurotoxins in high concentrations.
Health Risks from Styrene

If excessive ingestion of sytrene occurs and allows the chemical to build up to unhealthy levels within your body, you will be exposed to several health risks. In addition to being a possible carcinogen, studies have shown that styrene can lead to neurotoxic damage, which results in such symptoms as fatigue and difficulty sleeping. Styrene buildup has the potential to lower platelet counts and hemoglobin levels, and increases the risk of lymphatic or chromosomal abnormalities.

Read more: Cons of Styrofoam Cups | ://

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Earth 911 - polystyrene

I do not feel that cost is in any way a viable  factor when NGOs such as churches, social groups,  etc, buy Styrofoam cups rather than containers such as ecotainer or even paper cups  and plates that biodegrade. If we are going talk the talk, we totally need to walk the walk.  I am personally zeroing in on several organizations to which I belong. 

Read it, please....and think  about the message we are sending to guests, potential members and our community.

Recycling polystyrene - aka Styrofoam
Styrofoam is a trademark of the Dow company, but the material itself is called polystyrene. Like so many other plastics, it's all around us - very commonly used in packing material as peanuts or expanded foam, in food trays and a wide variety of other products - even explosives such as napalm and hydrogen bombs!

The bad news is (aside from its use in WMD); polystyrene is manufactured from petroleum. It's highly flammable and a chemical called benzene, which is a known human carcinogen, is used in its production.

Polystyrene in the environment
Polystyrene foam, used commonly as padding in appliance packaging, takes an incredibly long time to break down in the environment and additionally, animals may ingest it which blocks their digestive tracts and ultimately causes starvation. This foam is also abundant in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Given the nature of polystyrene, it's surprising that such an energy intensive, oil sucking and toxic substance is allowed to be use as packaging for food; particularly for items such as meat where the food has direct contact with it. Nearly two dozen cities in the USA have banned the use of polystyrene for this purpose.
Packaging and products containing polystyrene can usually be identified by a recycling triangle logo with the number 6 inside it stamped on the item.
It's likely to be a very long time before the use of polystyrene is totally discontinued, and while we can try to buy products that don't utilize the stuff, we need to deal with the styrofoam that winds up in our hands instead of it heading straight to landfill.
Unfortunately many  recycling programs don't accept polystyrene and given its bulk, it can be difficult to store. Also, polystyrene is often recycled to be used in single use products; such as more packing material, so it's really important to get the word out about recycling this form of packaging.
Burning polystyrene
Some people choose to burn polystyrene in order to be rid of the stuff, believing that as chloro-fluoro hydrocarbons were eliminated from expanded polystyrene over a decade ago, it was safe to do so.
The burning of polystyrene releases styrene gas which can effect the nervous system. Also, as it usually burns with a  sooty flame, this indicates combustion isn't complete and a complex mixture of toxic chemicals can produced by the relatively low temperature of a backyard burn.
Keeping polystyrene out of the waste stream
A pound of polystyrene recycled is a pound of new polystyrene that doesn't have to be created. Currently in the USA expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam packaging is being recycled at a rate of approximately 10-12% each year.
Here's a few tips as to what you can do with polystyrene to keep it out of the waste stream for as long as possible.
Keep it as packing - how many times have you needed to pack something for shipping and found you had nothing on hand? Break down large lumps of styrofoam into smaller chunks and keep a bag of it handy
Craft shops - I've read that craft shops are often a good place to take styrofoam as their customers use it in their craft projects. - If you're in the USA, there's a search function at the top of the Earth911 web site where you can enter the term "polystyrene" and then in the box on the right, enter your location. The search results will provide listings of companies and organizations in your local area that will take polystyrene.Note: be sure to enter "polystyrene" rather than "styrofoam" as the latter, being just a brand name, is unlikely to return any results.

Planters - I've seen it used in pot plants to assist with drainage and as a filler - however, I'm not sure about the possibility of contamination when used in this way.
Mail back initiative - The Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers offers a mailback program to USA residents; whereby you send the polystyrene in via the US mail service. There's a cost involved (postage), but this may prove more economical to you that carting it somewhere by car. You can learn more about this option here.
Sell it! - If polystyrene is something you get a lot of; you might be able to make a few bucks from it. The Recycled Plastic Markets Database allows you to search for buyers of a wide variety of plastics.
I was aiming for 10 tips; so I'm a few short :). If you have your own tips for polystyrene recycling, please add them below!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fertilizer Affecting Our Water Quality

Nothing says Spring and Summer like the color green appearing everywhere.  The massive use of phosphorus fertilizers is a common  ritual and is currently drawing a lot of attention.  Phosphorus use worldwide is affecting our quality of life.  The countdown to Summer correlates with the smell of lawn fertilizers in many places.  Are they helpful, necessary and healthy?
The Feb. 14 edition of the journal Environmental Research Letters featured an article written by Stephen Carpenter of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Elena Bennett of McGill University.  They have discovered that the human use of phosphorous, primarily in the industrialized world, is causing the widespread eutrophication of fresh surface water. Add to that he discovery that global stocks of usable phosphorous are concentrated in just a few countries and are running out, posing the risk of global shortages within the next 20 years.  You can read the article here.

The overuse affects the quality of our water.  ”Phosphorous stimulates the growth of algae and weeds near shore and some of the algae can contain cyanobacteria, which are toxic. You lose fish. You lose water quality for drinking.” says Carpenter.  North American soils are already loaded with the mineral, yet more is added in what seems to be a waste of a mineral that could be put to better use somewhere where the soil is deficient, like Africa and Australia.
Deposits of phosphorus take millions of years to form.  Some statess have taken the water quality issue seriously enough to propose and or pass a ban on using lawn fertilizers for established lawns.  Read about it here and here.  So before you spread fertilizer this Spring, research this issue and consider using phosphorus free fertilizer to keep our water clean and healthy for ourselves and for future generations.

This article is reblogged from

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ginger  Hendrix from Wiener Dog Tricks shared this with Sew Mama Sew over a year ago.  I made using it up in no time using  voile from Anna Maria Horner.

This lovely little number flies together with just a few pieces and not all that much measuring.
TL10GSSN1.jpg title=
1. Gather the Goods.
spacer Nice soft cotton is wonderful for this nightie–you’ll want right around a yard and a half of fabric. In terms of extras, it’s begging for some trim and a few buttons to give it extra hoopla.
And then get to cutting:
  • Chest piece: Two strips.
    Width = Your Bra Size + 1 inch
    Height = 5 inches
    A note about piecing fabric together: If you need to scrap pieces together for these strips, just make sure you don’t have any funky seams running up the middle of the front. That’s just not pretty. Hide your piecing in the back. I’m just saying.
  • Body piece: One big chunk.
    Width = 1 ½ times the width of the chest piece (For example, if you use a Chest piece that’s 40 inches wide, your Body piece will be 40 + 20 = 60 inches wide.)
    Height = 30 inches X Your Hoochie Girl Factor (Take your willingness to show your backside and divide it by 12.)
    Just joking.
    The 30” number is a decent starting place, but hold up the fabric chunk right up to your chest and see what you think. Make it longer if you’re not that kind of girl; shorter if you are. Also—it’s always easier to hem than it is to add some weird trim to cover what you don’t want showing. Just a thought.
  • Straps: Two little strips
    Width = 1 inch
    Height = 18 inches
    (Throw a piece of fabric over your shoulder to get a sense of the length from the top of your shoulder blade over to the top of your, um, upper self. Again: better to start long and adjust.)
  • Trims
    You may want a few buttons, a length of ric rac and some hem tape if you’re inclined to fancify your nightie—but they’re not strictly necessary.
2. Ruffle your Body piece.
spacer Take your big Body piece and baste a nice, wide stitch with loose tension down the length of the fabric–about ¼ inch from the long edge. Then run another one along next to it. Make sure you let some thread hang loose from the ends—you’re going to skrinch the fabric up with that thread. (And before you start pulling, mark the center of the fabric—this will help you eyeball whether or not the gathers are mostly even and keep you from having a wonked nightie with 1000 gathers on one side and all flat on the other.)
spacer Take two threads and hold them lightly and pull so that the fabric gathers. Then skootch the gather toward the center. Keep doing this gently. (If you bust the thread you have to start over and that’s a mega-drag, so go slow here.)

Gather the fabric along the full length of the body piece so that it matches the width of your chest piece. (Just keep skrinching and un-skrinching until they match.)
3. Attach the Chest pieces.
spacer Start with a little handy ironing work: on one long side of each Chest piece, fold the edge over ½ inch and iron it down toward the backside of the fabric. (This will help later.) Like this…
Now put it all together: make a sandwich with your Body piece and your two Chest pieces (right-side-facing-in-with-ironed-edges-facing-down Chest pieces = bread; ruffled-edge-up Body piece = bologna).
spacer If you want to add in a little ric-racy trim, now’s your moment. I’m not a big fan of perfect pinning, so I like to sneak it in as I go. Line it up like this inside your sandwich on top of the right side of the chest piece– Just lay it along the bottom stitch…
spacer Your sandwich will look like this (with another chest piece hiding beneath and the ric rac hiding inside…).
spacer Now sew it all together along the pinned edge with a nice, sturdy stitch. (A note about the ric rac–shoot to sew right smack down the middle of the ric rac and it’ll give you a lovely little edging.) When you fold the chest pieces up, it’ll look like this.
spacer Now lay down a little topstitch. Lovely.
4. Add the straps.
spacer Before you start trying to sew up the dainty little straps, fold up the two chest pieces to meet at the top, and pin them together.
spacer Now to assemble your straps: take your one-inch strips and pretend like you’re making skinny little bias tape– Fold the edges to meet in the middle, then fold the whole thing in half longways. And sew it up…
spacer Your finished straps will be longer than you need them to be so that there’s room to adjust them to fit just right.
spacer Time to find the center point of your nightie and attach the straps, so find the middle and pin it.
spacer Measure 5 inches in both directions out from the center point to attach one end of each strap. Then measure 5 inches in from both outside edges to attach the remaining end of each strap.
Once you’ve got it all pinned in place, run a basting stitch along that top edge to hold your straps in place. Basting stitch? Yes. We’re working with fit-as-we-go here, so baste it and try it on like a painter’s smock; this is a crucial step, because if your straps are too long or in the wrong spot, you can accidentally look like you’re wearing a feedbag with pretty strings attached. This is not the look we’re going for.
Now it’s all just adjust-it-to-fit-you-honey and some gussying up and you’re done. Figure out how long your straps should be (you’ll be trimming your strap pieces–get that chest piece to sit right up under your armpits so that you can avoid the aforementioned feedsack/pretty strings scenario.) If you need to skootch the straps a little to the left or a little to the right, get that done too.
Once you’re sure of where the straps should live, run a nice, clean topstitch close to the top edge. Good work.
spacer 5. Sew it all up.
Once you close the main back seam together, you’re just about home. So do that. Fold the thing in half (with the wrong side facing out) and sew it up.
spacer 6. Give it a little hem.
My favorite way to do this is the old ‘The Iron It Over 1/4″ Then Fold It Over Again As You Sew’ method. You can’t beat it.
spacer 7. Fancy it up if you feel like it.
This is a completely optional step for Nightie Overachievers. Add a couple of little buttons and some hem tape to cover your inside seams to give your little number a truly finished look.
High five. You’re a Bona fide Nightie Maker. (Put it on your resume.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Baking Soda Rocks?

Just a few uses for ordinary, inexpensive, non-toxic baking soda:

- A bowl of baking soda in your fridge will help remove excess moisture and absorb odors.
- Sprinkle some in your veggies crisper and cover with a cloth or paper towel for crisper veggies that last longer.
- Sprinkle baking soda onto a damp sponge for cleaning out your refrigerator and benchtops without scratching.
- Dissolve a couple of tablespoons of baking soda in water in a microwave safe bowl, then bring to the boil in your microwave. Allow to sit for a minute or two, then you should easily be able to wipe out any baked on stains, plus your oven will microwave will smell fresher too.
- Sprinkling baking soda in the bottom of rubbish bags will help to control odors as you add trash.
- To give your dishwasher a good clean, run it through a cycle and use baking soda instead of detergent.
- Baking soda can be thrown on stove fires to extinguish the flames. The carbon dioxide generated when the powder burns starves the fire of oxygen.
- Wash chemicals and pesticides off fruits and vegetables in a pot filled with water and 3 - 4 tablespoons of baking soda added.
On a somewhat related note, here's something interesting I came across. Baking soda is sometimes used when boiling vegetables to preserve their color. That practice is not recommended as it destroys the vitamin C content of vegetables.
General home - Anywhere that moisture is a problem, such as cupboards under sinks, place a bowl of baking soda to help control humidity. You'll need to occasionally stir the powder for maximum effective life.
- Crayon or texta marks on walls? Try applying baking soda/water paste on an old toothbrush and lightly brush the affected area.
- Water stains on wooden floors can be removed with a sponge dampened in a solution of baking soda dissolved in water.
- Sprinkle some baking soda into your vacuum bag to help reduce musty/pet smells being spread throughout your house when vacuuming.
- Sprinkle baking soda on rugs and carpets before vacuuming as a deodorising treatment. Most carpet powders you buy are baking soda based! Just a brief note on this - not recommended for areas that are very humid as the baking soda may stay in the carpet.
- Mops can really stink out areas where they are stored. If your mop is getting on the nose, don't throw it out, try soaking it in a mixture of 4 tablespoons baking soda and a gallon of water for a while.
- Stains on porcelain sinks, toilets and plastics can be removed by applying a layer of baking soda and then using a damp sponge . I found this to work particularly well on a water stain in a sink that couldn't be shifted otherwise without the use of heavy duty chemicals and scratching the surface.
- As an alternative to caustic soda for clearing blocked drains, throw a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a couple of jugs of boiling water.

- Baking soda can deter ants - pour a solid line in areas of activity and they won't cross it.
- Mix a tablespoon of baking soda, a teaspoon of (earth friendly) dish detergentent and a gallon of water to make a spray for treating roses against black spot fungus.
- Work a baking soda and water paste onto stains prior to washing to help remove them from the fabric
- Half a cup of baking soda added to a full load of washing will help brighten your wash and remove odors.
- Mix a paste of baking soda and vinegar and apply with a pot scourer to remove light rusting
- A baking-soda/water paste applied to chrome surfaces, allowed to dry then buffed off will leave chrome shining!
- Baking soda applied to fresh grease and oil spills on your garage floor will draw away the oil, which can then be scraped off.
- Baking soda lightly sprinkled and mixed into cat litter will help control odor.
- Eliminate odor after you've cleaned up pet accidents by sprinkling over the dampened area with baking soda; allow to dry and then vacuum.
- Whoofy shoes getting you down? Get a couple of old socks, fill up the toe secitions with baking soda, place into the offending shoes and leave overnight to help remove odors.
- A thick paste of baking soda and water applied to bug bites can provide relief.
- A half teaspoon of baking soda mixed into a glass of water can act as mouthwash.
- Sprinkle baking soda onto regular toothpaste to create a whitening toothpaste
- To clean jewelry, use a paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water, apply the mixture the piece, allow to sit for a couple of minutes, rinse off and then polish with a soft cloth.
- Sprinkle your Christmas tree with baking soda to mimick snow - a much more environmentally friendly alternative to some of those chemical snow sprays!
With so many uses you'll likely use a lot and buying baking soda in small boxes probably won't be too economical. Have a chat to your local baker who may be able to supply you with larger quantities or try contacting a bakery supplies company as some sell direct to the public.
You can also save money on baking soda by re-using it. For example, once it has served its purpose as a fridge deodoriser you can put it down your sink to help keep your drains clear.
Phew, that's quite a list of baking soda tips - it's such a versatile substance and certainly a greener way to get many jobs around the house done. My list is by no means exhaustive and I'm sure I've missed a bundle of ideas and applications! Please add your own tips below!

With thanks to Michael Bloch from Green Living Green Living Tips is an online resource powered by renewable energy offering a wide variety of earth friendly tips, green guides, advice and environment related news to help consumers and business reduce costs, consumption and environmental impact .  Please take a good look at his site and think about subscribing to the newsletter.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Do You Really Need.....?

Do you really need that specialized power tool forever, or just for the day? Should you invest in a full set of camping equipment, even if you’re not sure your family will enjoy it? Isn’t there someone out there who wants to trade those size 8 ice skates for a size 9?
If you ever find yourself pondering questions like this, welcome to collaborative consumption–a concept of organized sharing and swapping. Although peer-to-peer sharing may have been a tenet in communities of lore, our modern this-is-mine culture has taken us away from what seems like such practical common sense. But times, they are a-changin’.

Privately-held clothing and book swaps have become a very practical social pastime among freinds, but now the premise is spreading into more official capacities. Sites and services are popping up to facilitate the simple concept: You can get what you need without buying it.  The arrangements are manifested in a number of ways. SnapGoods, for instance, helps to connect people with stuff to lend with people who wish to borrow; while Neighborhood Fruit lets people swap garden bounty or distribute fruit harvested from public trees. Some places arrange rentals, some create swaps, while others create communities of sharers.

It’s a brilliant model of sustainability–no new stuff to clutter the landfill, yay!–but according to an article in Time magazine, there is a beneficial emotional aspect as well. Not only in the community-building, but in that the lending element requires trust, and being trusted feels good. Paul Zak, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, has shown that people get a spike of the pleasant neurotransmitter oxytocin when they’re entrusted with another person’s goods. “We’re gregariously social creatures, and one way we can exhibit that sociability is by sharing our things,” he says.

With a little research, you can find pretty much anything, there are even sites that allow you to borrow cars. But perhaps my favorite are those that are charity-inspired, such as Swap for Good.  This site helps people  set up clothing swaps and collect donations from participants  (who are saving money by swapping not shopping) to give to domestic-violence shelters and other organizations.
Collaborative consumption is at once so simple, yet so revolutionary. It replaces “beg, steal and borrow” with “lend, share and swap.” It’s green, the sense of community feels great, and that little rush of oxytocin doesn’t hurt either.

With thanks to:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It's Me With the Soap Again!

Soap - the deal with castile.  I have talked about this before and put out some recipes, but trust me, I am using:  castile soap (shampoo, body wash, dish soap, hand soap, mixed with water and vinegar for counter cleaner.  Vinegar is a can spray it on food, the sink, toilet, mix it with baking soda and/or cornstarch to clean windows).
If you've been dabbling into going green, you're likely to have seen castile soap mentioned in books and various web sites.

What is castile soap?
Castile soap isn't a brand but a type of soap made exclusively from vegetable oil rather than animal fat or synthetic substances. The purists feel it should be made from olive oil but there's a wide variety of castile variants that use oil from plants such as coconut and jojoba. The simple nature of the soap means a lesser enviromental impact due to reduced waste stream during manufacture and also faster biodegradability.
While castile soaps can have additional synthetic ingredients, usually you'll find if it's marketed under that name, it's a fairly natural sort of product.

Castile soap - so versatile
Castile soap has many uses aside from washing your skin - it's also known as seafarer's soap due to its versatility.
I use an olive oil based one in place of shampoo - works great for me and I don't need to use a conditioner. I also don't have to wade through the dozens of shampoo brands at the local supermarket trying to translate what all the darned chemicals they use are any more - I tried that once and gave up in total confusion. As the soap I use comes in a simple paper based box, that also saves on packaging. Another benefit is that castile soap is far cheaper than other fancy label soaps and shampoos!
If you've ever tried using normal soap to wash your hair, you would have likely found your hair very dry afterwards, but for some reason I haven't experienced that with castile soap - it's likely because the glycerin content is retained, whereaas in normal soaps much of the glycerin is removed and sold separately in moisturizers.

Liquid castile soap uses
While bar castile soap is pretty amazing stuff, in a liquid form it's even more versatile.
- Liquid castille soap can be used for a shaving lather
- It can be used as a pet shampoo
- Great for washing clothes and diapers
- General cleaning, diluted and used in a spray bottle
- Heavy duty degreasing
- I've heard that pure liquid castile soap can even be used for brushing your teeth! But of course, don't swallow the stuff. I don't think it would kill you in small doses but I'm sure it would taste pretty yuk.
- It can also be used in place of dishwashing detergent and even in your automatic dishwasher! "Green" automatic dishwasher detergents are hard to come by, but a Green Living Tips reader, Kathy Stevens, contributed this recipe (Thanks Kathy!):
1/2 cup liquid castile soap
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3 drops tea tree oil
1/2 cup white vinegar
stir all ingredients together until blended. Store in a squirt top bottle. Use 2 tablespoons per load of dishes, shake well before use.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

3 Easy Ways to Help Your Body and the Environment

The following is from a post by Beth Greer, Super Natural Mom®, who is a syndicated radio talk show host, former president and co-owner of The Learning Annex, Certified Build It Green® healthy home makeover specialist and author of Super Natural Home: Improve Your Health, Home, and Planet--One Room at a Time
by Beth Greer

If you're like most people, a little voice inside your head has probably been telling you for a while that it's time to get back to a more natural way of living and take a more serious look at the toxins in your everyday life. Even so, you may feel confused about the simple, practical things you can do to minimize your exposure and maximize not only your health, but your contribution to a cleaner planet.
What if I told you that making small, simple changes in your everyday routine could make a huge impact on your health and well-being, as well as the health of our planet?
Studies are coming out frequently about how everyday chemicals in our bodies are resulting in health problems like learning disabilities, autism, cancer and infertility. Often, the impact chemicals have doesn't show up for decades, like with tobacco, for example. What is also unclear is what happens inside our bodies when we come into contact with different chemicals from lots of different sources. What are the risks for us and our children? Don't wait to find out! You can do something today, right in your own home. Become aware of what goes IN you, what goes ON you, and what SURROUNDS you.

IN YOU: Your drinking water
If you think the water coming out of your tap is clean and health-giving ... you'd be mistaken. In 2008, an investigation by the Associated Press showed that America's tap water is contaminated with prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including antibiotics, pain medications, antidepressants and sex hormones "in significant quantities." Scientists are concerned that, even in small concentrations, these drugs could harm us over time because water is consumed in such large amounts every day. Our bodies may be able to deal with a big one-time dose of a chemical, but if a small amount is consumed continuously over years ... no one really knows what can happen to our health.

Green Tip #1:
Play it safe: Buy a water filter and fill up your own reusable metal or glass water bottles at home. Get off plastic bottles. 8 out of 10 plastic water bottles used in the U.S. become garbage or end up in a landfill, contributing to global warming.
(To check your local water quality, go to the Natural Resources Defense Council's site at and then go to "What's on Tap"? You should be able to access your community's Annual Quality Report, or you can ask your water utility company for a copy of its annual water quality report.)
ON You: Your personal care products
Most of us use at least 10 cosmetic and personal care products a day and according to the Environmental Working Group, people apply an average of 126 unique ingredients to their skin daily. No one really knows what happens in our bodies when we repeatedly expose ourselves to minute amounts of synthetic chemicals from a variety sources. Another way to absorb chemicals in our personal care products is through the mouth. When a drug like nitroglycerine is administered for a heart condition, it is given under the tongue for fast absorption. So are natural homeopathic remedies. So what happens with your toothpaste?

Green Tip #2:
Switch one thing you use most often in your bathroom. Your toothpaste, for example.
Chemicals like fluoride, saccharin, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), triclosan and acetylpyridium chloride are in there. Switch to a natural brand that doesn't contain these chemicals.

SURROUNDS You: Your household cleaners

If you've ever walked down the household-cleanser aisle at the market and your eyes began to burn or your nose became irritated, it's because common cleaning products contain chemicals that can be more dangerous than the germs themselves. Every time your children roll around on the carpet or your pets lick crumbs off the floor, they are being exposed to noxious chemicals. Don't make the assumption that if it's on the grocery shelf it's been tested and is safe. Most of us, unwittingly, buy products for our home with ingredients that are either poorly studied, not studied at all, or are known to pose potentially serious health risks. Of the roughly 17,000 chemicals found in common household products, only 3 in 10 have been tested for their effects on human health. Why? Because the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission does not require manufacturers to test household cleaning products before they appear on store shelves.
Green Tip #3:
Use hydrogen peroxide, vinegar and baking soda to clean your home. Fill one spray bottle with a 3 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide and a second one with vinegar. Spray one right after the other. Use it to wipe kill salmonella and bacteria on counter tops, appliances, and cutting boards. Do the same for the shower to kill bacteria and viruses. Use baking soda instead of commercial abrasive cleaners. Put it in a grated cheese container made of glass with a stainless steel top that has holes in it, and just sprinkle it on the surfaces and scrub.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Eating with a Conscience

Organic Food
choose a cropEating with a Conscience
to protect health and the environment

Our food choices have a direct effect on the health of our environment and those who grow and harvest what we eat.  That’s why food labeled organic is the right choice. In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, protection of farmworkers and farm families, and stewardship of the earth.
The Organic Choice is Clear
It is important to eat organic food –nurtured in a system of food production, handling and certification that rejects hazardous synthetic chemicals. USDA organic certification is the only system of food labeling that is subject to independent public review and oversight, assuring consumers that toxic, synthetic pesticides used in conventional agriculture are replaced by management practices focused on soil biology, biodiversity, and plant health. This eliminates commonly used toxic chemicals in the production and processing of food that is not labeled organic--pesticides that contaminate our water and air, hurt biodiversity, harm farmworkers, and kill bees, birds, fish and other wildlife.
Food Choices Based Only on Pesticide Residues Fall Short
To help explain the urgent need for a major shift to organic food consumption, Beyond Pesticides has begun the Eating with a Conscience database which evaluates the impacts on the environment and farmworkers of the toxic chemicals allowed for use on major food crops, grown domestically and internationally. We have started with those foods that have been identified widely in the media as “clean.” While the Clean 15/Dirty Dozen list generated by Environmental Working Group is helpful in alerting consumers to hazardous residues on food, food residues are only part of the story. It turns out that those very same “clean” food commodities may be grown with hazardous pesticides that get into waterways and groundwater, contaminate nearby communities, poison farmworkers, and kill wildlife, while not all showing up at detectable levels on our food.
Choosing Organic: For you, the environment and workers
Eating with a Conscience looks at the toxic chemicals that are allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use.
For more information, read the Eating with a Conscience press release or download the print brochure.

Friday, April 29, 2011

“GMO” foods? What's the big deal, anyway?

RePosted courtesy of the Sentinel Source, Keene, NH
by Rebecca Montrone  Submitted by Rebecca Montrone,

I am as sick as you are of all of the “health scares” out there!  I wish I could just ignore it all and go on my merry way, don’t you?  It seems everyday, however, our environment closes in a bit more, leaving even those of us among the most vigilant with fewer choices for promoting truly optimal health.  As a health practitioner, I am confronted too often with the sobering reality that we simply can’t just ignore it all.
The most recent big scare has been nuclear radiation fallout in Japan and its potential threat to health due to radiotoxicity and around the globe to the safety of the food supply.  I’m actually having difficulty locating sources for one of the supplements I have regularly recommended to my clients for years, a combination of iodine and potassium iodide!  I’ll be talking about all of this soon, but first…
An unsettling concern that has been in the nutritional headlines for a longer period of time is that of “genetically modified organisms,” commonly referred to GMOs or GM foods.  Vaguely, we all get the idea that they aren’t good for us for one reason or another, but when it comes time to buy groceries, we tend to simply rely on our usual purchasing habits and hope for the best.
Genetically modified foods are foods that have been changed in their genetic structure for the sole purpose of making them more capable of tolerating higher doses of pesticides.  The big name in all of this is Monsanto, the company that makes the pesticide RoundUp.  With crops able to live and thrive in spite of gross contamination with pesticide application, Monsanto is able to enjoy financial gain not only through the sale of RoundUp but through the sale of its genetically modified seed.
Unfortunately, Monsanto hasn’t figured out a way to make genetically modified people yet!  We – who consume their GM foods – have not been altered in our genetic structure to be able to withstand the heavy pesticide contamination of RoundUp!
THE “ROOT” OF THE PROBLEMThe active ingredient in RoundUp is isopropylamine salt of glyphosate.  This ingredient contains dioxane, which is carcinogenic and known to damage the liver, kidneys, brain, and lungs.  Dioxane is an estrogen “mimic” known as a xenobiotic.  It is the agent all the fuss is about when we talk about shampoo and sodium laurel sulfate and cancer, etc.  Herbicides and pesticides are a significant source of hormonal disruption, with all of the health issues that come with it, including the increase of hormonally-driven cancers.
Eating foods that are xenobiotic rich contributes to the growing problem of widespread obesity we observe in our country, affecting insulin resistance and blood sugar regulation.  Synthetic estrogens abundant in our entire food supply are being attributed to many health problems, from precocious puberty, to polycystic ovarian disease, fibroids and fibrocystic breasts, infertility in both men and women, and cancers of many kinds, including colon cancer and the more predictable hormonal cancers of the prostate, ovaries, and breasts.
Compounding the problem and multiplying our consumption of GMO foods is the fact that most of the nations poultry, meat, and dairy supply is from animals raised on GMO foods.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF AND FAMILY?• Purchase as “clean” as you can, choosing organic produce and “clean” meat, dairy, fish, and poultry products.  Of course, by now the ground water of our agricultural regions are polluted from years and years of toxic pesticides, it isn’t a perfect world.  But, we can at least try for as pure a food supply as possible.
• Avoid the most heavily GMO-influenced crops:  corn, soy, and sugar beets (unless organic, of course).
• Wash produce well.  There are a number of suggestions for helping better get rid of the toxins; one is to soak in a 50/50 percent vinegar/water solution for ten minutes then rinse.
• Avoid packaged, processed foods entirely.  This will be a boon to your health for many more reasons than simply avoiding GMOs; you will also be avoiding hidden sweeteners, modern soy additives that impede thyroid function, inflammatory polyunsaturated oils, “excitotoxic” food additives (hidden sources of MSG), and more.
• Boost your glutathione levels.  Glutathione is a peptide made by all of our cells and found to be low in virtually every disease process.  Glutathione detoxifies the body of mercury and other heavy metals, but it also detoxifies PCBs and other hormonally-based contaminants such as dioxane.  Further, once our cells are glutathione rich, they resist further intoxication.
Until quite recently our only significant resources for raising glutathione levels were N-acetyl-cysteine as a precursor to glutathione, or IV or nebulized glutathione.  N-acetyl-cysteine as a precursor has problems of its own and doesn’t sustain higher glutathione levels for long.
Simply taking a glutathione capsule is worthless as it is destroyed by the acid in the stomach and never makes it into the cells.  Milk thistle contains Silymarin and is known for its liver-health promoting properties.  It works by modestly raising glutathione levels.  One of the primary functions of lipoic acid is to boost glutathione.  Methylating nutrients, such as vitamins B6, B12, folic acid; MSM (methylsulfonylmethane); trimethylglycine (betaine), and SaME also help boost glutathione levels.  Whey protein also helps with this.
I know of nothing more powerful, however, than the recently “invented” acetyl form of glutathione known as acetyl-glutathione.  This is taken in capsule form and passes through the stomach acid just fine, is easily taken up by the cells throughout the body, and has a very long half-life of action.  I have used high-dose acetyl-glutathione in serious disease and witnessed a sharp reduction in inflammatory markers and improved health.  Glutathione is the master anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifier.  I take 200 mg daily myself as part of my own wellness program.
HOW CAN I MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE “BIG PICTURE?”Sign up for the Organic Consumers Association newsletter (  Get involved with their grassroots effort to oppose Monsanto and others of their ilk; a very powerful force.  The big push from Monsanto right now is to protect food suppliers from having to indicate that their foods are genetically modified and/or that their foods were fed genetically modified foods on their labels.