August 30, 2008

Recycling Electronics

If your family is similar to mine, you have a lot of electronic equipment. What are you supposed to do with them when it is time to upgrade or they stop working? Find a local electronics recycling drop off site. The items will be reused or recycled, and not placed in our landfills where they leach toxic chemicals into the earth and our water supply. Check with your county or local recycling centers for drop off sites.

Some electronics that can be recycled are computers, keyboards, and monitors, laptops and their accessories, televisions, stereos, cameras, camcorders, power cables, cell phones, fax machines, and photocopiers.

Dryer Sheets

I know, you hate it when you put on a really cool shirt and it immediately clings to your skin. For me, placing toxic dryer sheets in with my clean clothes is not an option. This clinging can be helped or eliminated by removing the clothes before they are completely dry and hanging them on a line or putting them on a drying rack. If this doesn't work or you are pressed for time, try misting the air in front of you with water and walk through it to prevent you from zapping yourself and others.

Carbon Footprint

What is a carbon footprint, you ask? It is a measure of the impact all of your activities have on the environment-a measurement of greenhouse gasses that we produce as individuals.

The primary footprint measures our direct emissions of CO2 from burning fossil fuels - using domestic energy and transportation, for example.

The secondary footprint measures indirect CO2 emmissions from the lifecycle of the products we use - both manufacturing and breakdown.

To calculate your carbon footprint and learn how to reduce it, go to the following website: Even small changes make a difference, and can add up to have a tremendous impact on the environment!

August 24, 2008

Linoleum Cleaner

Do you have areas in your home covered with linoleum that you just can't ever get quite clean enough? Or they just need a little extra shine?

Try club soda!

Pour 2 cups of club soda into a spray bottle, spray onto the linoleum and mop dry. Don't have a spray bottle or a mop? Have stubborn dirt? No worries. Just pour the club soda onto the floor and scrub with a rag or scrub brush.

The alkaline minerals in the club soda work great against dirt!

Recycling Plastic

We know that we need to recycle plastic, but then we hear that some can leach toxic chemicals into our earth and water. Use the following list of numbers found inside the triangles on the plastic as a guideline:

#1, PET or PETE(polyethylene terephthalate): easily recycled. Used in water, soda and juice bottles.

#2, HDPE(high density polyethylene): easily recycled. Used in milk jugs, shampoo bottles, and liquid detergent bottles.

#3, PVC or Vinyl(polyvinyl chloride) : NOT recyclable. Soft PVC is known to leach toxic phthalates. Used in some cling wraps, detergent bottles, meat wraps, rain gear, cooking oil bottles, and spray bottles.

#4, LDPE(low density polyethylene) : recyclable at recycling centers. Used in plastic shopping bags, some baby bottles, and sandwich bags.

#5, PP(polypropylene) : sometimes recyclable. Used in most yogurt and deli takeout containers and reusable food containers.

#6, PS(polystyrene) : mostly not recyclable. They can leach styrene, a neurotoxin. Found in foam cups, takeout containers and egg containers.

#7, all other plastics, like PC(polycarbonate) : mostly, no.

Air Conditioners vs. Fans

I don't know anyone who likes to be hot and sticky when the weather gets warmer. You should not be sweating if you are just sitting or walking around in your home. Most people keep their air-conditioners running to keep their homes cool all the time. Chances are that they are unaware that central air typically relies on ozone-damaging fluorocarbons. If you must run you air-contitioner, try to keep the temperature high enough to just take the stickiness and heat out of the home, and turn it off when it has cooled. If you can get one, use a programmable thermostat and adjust the temperature higher when you are not home. You can save about one percent on your electric bill for every degree warmer you keep your thermostat(the opposite is true with heating - keeping it lower and put on a sweatshirt!)

Portable and ceiling fans use 90 percent less energy than central air, and can make rooms feel seven to ten degrees cooler due to the process of evaporation. Energy star-rated fans are 50 percent more efficient than conventional models and will save you some money on your utility bills.

The winner - FANS!!!

Air Fresheners

I love when I walk into my home and get a refreshing whiff of my favorite scents. Why waste electricity and money on those artificial plug-in air fresheners? I have two better options:

1. Douse some cotton balls with your favorite essential oils and place them in the air vents of your home.

2. Place a damp cloth with a few drops of essential oil on or near the intake duct of you homes heating and cooling system.

Save Water!

Most people I talk to assume we will always have access to plenty of good water. What if we don't? The following are a few ways to cut down on your water usage and start getting smaller water bills as well.

1. Make sure your faucets and toilets don't leak. According to NRDC, a leaky faucet can waste up to 20 gallons of water per day. To check for toilet leaks, add food coloring to the tank. If there is a leak, the bowl will have color within 30 minutes.

2. Take shorter showers. A five-minute shower uses about 13 gallons of water. You can also turn the water off when you soap up or shave.

3. Install low-flow showerheads. This small change will save 2.5 gallons per minute.

4. Turn the water off while you scrub dishes, brush your teeth, shave, and wash your face. You will save five gallons of water per day.

5. Keep a pitcher or two in your bathroom. Fill them with the cold water that runs down the drain while you wait for the water to warm. Use the water for cooking, watering plants, filtered water pitchers, and animal bowls. You can also install a tank-less water heater which is hot immediately.

August 19, 2008

Push (reel) mowers

I know I'm not the only person who finds gas powered mowers smelly, heavy, and very loud. Who likes to wake up on the weekend to hear their neighbors power mower at 8 in the morning? Not me. Even worse, they are bad for the environment. Gas mowers use two-stroke engines that don't burn gas efficiently. They wind up being far more polluting than your car. Do we really need to use our precious fossil fuels to cut grass? I say, no. Don't we already spend enough money on gas for our cars and other forms of transportation? I say, yes.

Try getting a little exercise with a good old-fashioned push mower. They are better for your health, and for the environment. Leave the clippings on the lawn as cut grass is a natural and nutritious fertilizer for your lawn. Some can be found at garage sales or in newspaper ads. For a great place to find information about them and to purchase a new one, try the website

Cleaning sinks

Is your kitchen sink draining rather slowly these days? Do you smell something a little funky when you walk near the sink? Forget about those drain cleaners with all the harsh chemicals in them.

Try this: gather 1/2 cup of baking soda, 1 cup of vinegar and 1 pot of boiling water. Pour the baking soda down the drain and chase it with 1 cup of vinegar. When the fizzing stops, pour the boiling water down the drain. The sink will drain faster and smell much better.

August 17, 2008

Again, plastic bags

I know, I've already talked about recycling plastic bags, not accepting them at stores, and using re-usable shopping bags - this article is to discuss WHY we need to stop using them and keep them out of our landfills and environment. The EPA says that we use between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags worldwide each year. Only one percent of these are recycled.

These bags are made from polyethylene: a thermoplastic made from oil. Reducing the manufacturing of plastic bags will decrease our dependence on foreign oil. Plastic bags photo-degrade. Over time, they break down into smaller, more toxic petro-polymers. These toxins contaminate our soils and waterways and enter the food chain.

Nearly 200 species of sea-life die from plastic bags - either by being entangled in them along our coastlines or eating them.

San francisco was the first U.S. city to ban them on March 27th 2007. If you can help your town or state follow in their footsteps, please do as soon as possible. Many other countries are banning them, why don't we?

August 11, 2008

Clean windows

I don't know about you, but I have a rather large dislike for cleaning windows. I also have an even larger dislike for the ingredients that are in most window cleaners. For non-toxic and clean windows, try this: fill a spray bottle with 2+ cups of water and either 1/4 cup vinegar or 1 tbsp. lemon juice. Spray the glass. Using a newspaper or old rag, wipe the glass clean and watch it sparkle!

August 10, 2008

Recycle Ink Cartridges

Looking for a way to be a little more "green" to the environment and also keep a little more "green" in your pocket? I have a way you can do both at the same time. Take your empty ink cartridges to office supply stores, such as Office Max or Office Depot. They will recycle or refurbish the cartridge and give you some money off of future purchases(they used to do it immediately, but I just found out they changed the way they do it). Many office supply stores now also have machines that will refill your empty cartridges for quite a bit less money than a new one.

Environmentally speaking, it can take at least 1,000 years for the plastic the cartridges are made of to decompose in our landfills. It takes about 80% less energy to remanufacture plastic than to make it new.

Clean your yoga mat

If you are a yogi, you will need to wash your yoga mat from time to time. To do this, apply a solution of two cups of water and four drops of dishsoap to a terrycloth rag and rub the soiled areas. Wipe the mat with clean water, then dry with a terrycloth towel. Hang to dry. If your mat is heavily soiled, soak it in the solution, rinse it with clean water and roll it up in a dry towel. Squeeze ouy water, then hang to dry.

Yoga Gear

So, you've decided to become a yogi. Now what? For starters, get some yoga clothes and a yoga mat. Your clothes should be comfortable and move with you(and cover all parts). Try clothes made from bamboo, hemp or organic cotton which are grown and produced in ways that are gentler on the planet.

As far as mats go, buy one that doesn't contain polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. The manufacturing of these mats releases harmful dioxins into the air and water, and the phthalates used to soften them may mess with your hormones. Who needs that?

Stop Idling!

Waiting in your car is not only boring, and sometimes a little sweaty, but if you leave your car running you are wasting your way to expensive gas and damaging the environment you live in. According to Texas A & M, idling Americans burn 2.9 billion gallons of gas a year, worth about $78.2 billion. Some states, and many counties, have idling restrictions for large diesel engines. Some great places to turn off the car are:

1. While waiting in line to pick up your child at school(this should be a no idling zone!).

2. In line at the bank.

3. When waiting for a train to pass at a railroad crossing.

4. Anywhere else you will be stopped for more than 30 seconds.

Fruit and veggie stickers

Do you ever wonder what the annoying little stickers on your fruits and vegies are for? They let you know whether they have been conventionally grown, or if they have been genetically modified (GM).

1. A four-digit number means that it is conventionally grown.

2. A five-digit number starting with a 9 is organic.

3. A five-digit number starting with an 8 means it has been genetically modified.

GM foods started arriving in the 1990's, not allowing us enough time to study long-term health risks. Many of them have pesticides on them. Not so annoying now, are they?

Fresh air!!

Open up some windows!!! Indoor air can be more than twice as polluted than outdoor air because it doesn't circulate. Also, the products that you bring into your home can create pollutants. If you can smell a strong odor from your cleanser, it may be releasing toxins. Use fragrance-free products. If you like the fragrance, use an essential oil instead.

August 9, 2008

Green cleaning

Green Home - Recipe

Have you ever looked at the ingredients in your cleaning supplies? Do you even know what any of them are? Many of them are toxic, and some are even poisonous! Not sure where to start your changes? Buy some white vinegar and baking soda. You may alreay have some. To clean your toilets: sprinkle some baking soda into the bowl, then drizzle with some vinegar and scrub with a toilet brush. This combination both cleans and deodorizes.

Recycle Your Plastic Bags

Instead of letting your unwanted plastic bags sit in a garbage dump forever, recycle them! Some stores, such as Jewel and Walmart, have a drop-off bin for plastic bags to be recycled. Save them for a few weeks, then bring them in. Another, and even better, earth-friendly option is to purchase re-usable shopping bags. Bring them with you whenever you shop and give them to the baggers when you get to the checkout line. I've seen them at Woodmans, Target, Walgreens and Meijer. You can use them in any store!

Plastic Water Bottles

Do you go to the store every week and buy one of those huge packages of bottled water? Did you know that it takes 1.5 barrels of oil every year to make those plastic water bottles? Do you really need to spend all that money on them, and then recycle the bottle? I say, no you don't. If you buy them, you can reuse them. Wash a few and use them over and over. Get a PUR water filter for your faucet or buy a filtered pitcher to keep in the refrigerator.

Even better, ditch the plastics(in your recycling bin, of course). Whole Foods has some biodegradable water bottles, or try PVC free stainless steel bottles. Fill up a few with filtered water and put them in your refrigerator so they will be ready when you need one.