Thursday, May 27, 2010

B is for bottles

B is for Bottles....                                                                  
Billions of plastic bottles......
  • It is estimated that  Americans buy about 25 billion single serve plastic water bottles
  • about 22 billion (about 8 out of 10 water bottles) are NOT recycled
  • “The United States ranks first among countries in soft drink consumption. The per-capita consumption of soft drinks is in excess of 150 quarts per year, or about three quarts per week.”James A Howenstine M.D.     A Physician’s Guide to Natural Health Products That Work  (We won't even get going on the health impacts of soda!!!!)    
  • Oil is used to produce plastic; it takes 1.5 million barrels of oil to make water bottles for Americans
  • Plastic does not biodegrade
  • The water, soda, and juice bottle are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
  • Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as burning it in an incinerator
  • Plastic bottles made of PET can be recycled into many useful things including carpet, fleece, bottles, kayaks, school lunch trays, and much more
  •  Only ELEVEN states have bottle bills, but no two are alike
  • Only THREE states, California, Hawaii and Maine, include plastic water bottles in their laws for deposits on bottles
I would love it if a national "bottle bill" or "producer responsibility bill" were enacted.  Shifting costs from the government and taxpayers to consumers and producers is what the country needs; if only lobbyists could be stifled and politicians would do the right thing and put a national bill in place.  There would be less litter, less resources used, and energy savings.  

The Container Recycling Institute has put together a handy " bottle bill tool kit" to help anyone interested in getting a bottle bill in their state. 39 more states need to take advantage of the tool kit to get a bottle bill in place, and 8 states need to take a look at the tool kit to get water bottles incorporated into their current bottle deposit bills.

B is for bottles....and's time we had a National Bottle Bill/Producer Responsibility Bill!!!


Massachusetts Push to Expand State's Bottle Bill

Massachusetts Push to Expand State's Bottle Bill

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Indoor Air Quality - plants are natural air scrubbers!

OHHHHH,  lest I neglect to point out that nature provides us with some great natural air purifiers!!!  Plants!  

House plants are not just pleasing to look at!  Besides brighten up a room with color and living energy, plants can provide real health benefits.   Complaints about headaches, stress, heart/circulation-symptoms and colds decrease when indoor plants are present, according to Dr. Leona Rogler.  In 1989,  NASA did a study to find out which plants were best to filter the air of the space station, and their findings are available to all.  They found that plants can remove a variety of toxic air emissions including ammonia, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, benzene, xylene and trichloroethytene, and decrease "sick building syndrome". 

Check out the following list of plants that were found to be great air purifiers, and don't worry if you aren't a "green thumb"...some are really easy to grow and care for.  They are also easy to find at local Home Depot and Lowe's stores.  Click on each below to see Wikipedia's info about each plant.  Personally, I find the spider plant, golden pothos (found in many offices), peace lily (can thrive even with low light), the snake plant (also called Mother-in-law's tongue, and can take low light and minimal watering), and philodendrons are easy to grow.  I've grown some of the other plants as well, but unfortunately my cats liked them so much that I had to relocate them to catless homes :)  The peace lily is pictured below....I couldn't resist....get it?  PEACE love planet?  :)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A is for Air Quality

A is for Air Quality...

Indoor Air Quality can actually be more polluted than the air outdoors.  Most people have heard about the indoor allergen type pollutants such as mold, dust, and dander.  But smoke from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, and fragrances from perfume, incense, air fresheners, and candles are often forgotten and overlooked.  Cleaning supplies can also contribute to indoor air pollution. 

According to the EPA, Radon is an odorless, "naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Air pressure inside your home is usually lower than pressure in the soil around your home's foundation. Because of this difference in pressure, your home acts like a vacuum, drawing radon in through foundation cracks and other openings."  

Other less obvious indoor air pollutants include "off-gasers" from things we bring into our homes like vinyl shower curtains, furniture, carpet, cabinets, and paints.  Chemicals that off-gas from these items are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and  formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen.

So what can be done to improve indoor air quality?

To help with mold issues, visit for more info.  Tackling the moisture problem that allows mold to grow will be key.  Smaller mold problems can be scrubbed off with a hot water and bleach solution (depending on the surface).  Porous materials will probably need to be thrown out.  

Dust and dander are omnipresent.  Even the act of cleaning -- dusting or vacuuming can lead to the release of particles into the air.  When vacuuming and dusting, wearing a dust mask; de-cluttering and minimizing stuffed animals and excessive chotchkes can also be helpful.  Vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters and air purifiers are also recommended.  To protect against dust mites that live in pillows, mattresses, and bedding, use protective covers, and wash linens weekly in hot water.  

Some love the "fresh aromas" of a candle, room "fresheners", and can't live without their cologne or perfume.  However, fragrances can irritate the nose, eyes, and throats of those with chemical sensitivities or allergies.  So think twice before adding these "fresheners" to your indoor pollutant load.  
For a more information about testing for and remediating radon, check the EPA site 

Low VOC paints are now available, as well as carpet with silver particles that have anti-bacterial properties, and eco-foam padding. Material shower curtain liners are also readily available, last longer, and are washable.  

On the bright side, simply opening the windows, and airing out the house can be beneficial.  Easy to make green cleaners or green cleaners such as Greenworks, Ecover, Seventh Generation, and Mrs. Meyers will also help you to green your indoor air quality.  

So make a few green changes to your indoor air quality and breathe a little bit easier :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Closet Philanthropist

I just LOVE this slogan from Planet Aid!!!!!

"Spring Cleaning can make anyone a “Closet Philanthropist”"

Planet Aid is, "Dedicated to protecting the environment and creating sustainable development", and you can do 2 good things at once by decluttering unused items, and helping someone else in need. 

So what are  you waiting for?     To locate a donation bin near you, go to their link


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Let there be LIGHT!

Let there be LIGHT!...Light research or solar research that is...MIT has a new research center called the  Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Center where 21 faculty members are working to bring us clean energy sources that are affordable!  The goal of the center is to "fundamentally transform how the world produces and consumes energy", which in my humble opinion is long overdue.   Any chance for clean energy that reduces our use of fossil fuels while meeting the energy demands,  protects the planet from further degradation and climate change, AND is affordable is a no-brainer, a win-win, and much needed!

The Center is being funded largely by the Italian energy company Eni.  Eni's chief executive Paolo Scaroni has invested because current technology is too inefficient and expensive, and his company is looking to the future.  The MIT Center's scientists will work to make solar cells that are less expensive, and with materials that are more flexible.  Plants will provide inspiration to the scientists, as they model their work on the way plants use photosynthesis to convert sunlight to fuel by using water to store collected sunlight and convert it to energy.  Another promising engineering advancement is a parabolic solar panel inspired by the Mars rover which increases efficiency by reducing dust from settling on panels.  

In addition, the Center is working on other groundbreaking technology such as light bulbs with nanoscale crystals and experimenting with solar cells on paper.  Imagine if their research results in affordable solar for all, and extremely efficient bulbs?  That would be solar "flare" we'd all be happy about.  I can't wait to see how the "light at the end of this tunnel" turns out :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Everyone loves suprises

Everyone loves surprises, right? 

Well, my compost has provided me with some fun surprises over the years.  How did the compost give back this time?  Recently I composted directly under a tree that was in need of some organic TLC, and then added some grass clippings on top of it.  Later I added bark mulch on top to pretty it up.  The other day, as I walked by the tree I notice some dark green seedlings and chuckled to myself.  A few days later, there was a strange mound under the tree, and when I took a closer look, I saw that more seedlings were pushing up on the mulch creating the mound.  I dug down and found the cast off seed pods.  I'm pretty sure they are butternut squash seeds.  If I am correct about the seeds,  it looks like the yummiest butternut squash soup scraps have resulted in a bunch of healthy seedlings, and hopefully more yummy squash.  

It's not the first time that the compost has given back either!  In the past, I composted into a corner of the garden, and we ended up with a cantaloupe plant that yielded some small but tasty melons.  Since the garden was reconfigured I can't compost into the corner, but this year I already found some tomato seedlings from some cherry tomatoes that fell to the ground last year.  It's always fun to get surprises, and I'm excited to find out if the surprise seedlings will really be squash.  Stay tuned! 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

It's Official

It's Official!  I'm an eco-geek :)  We were out running some errands and we ended up eating dinner out at Panera; our lemonades came in plastic cups...sigh...At the end of the meal as we prepared to leave, I realized that the 6 plastic cups would end up in the trash.  So....I poured the ice into the bowls, and took the plastic cups home and put them in our recycle bins. Funny thing is, the kids didn't bat an eyelash!  I guess they've come to expect my zany eco-idiosyncrasies.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Getting down and DIRTY!

Yeah, I like getting down and DIRTY, and who knew it, it's good for me!  

I've blogged several times about working in my veggie and flower gardens.  Working in the garden always makes me happy; I love the exercise, I love the results, and I love the DIY factor.  Well, my body already knew what my brain just learned today!  I DO feel better when I work in the garden, and for good reason.

Today I read about researchers at Bristol University and University College London have discovered that the harmless, naturally occurring soil bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae helps elevate your mood.   Christopher Lowry, a neuroscientist at the University of Bristol in England, thinks that "the bacteria activate immune cells, which release chemicals called cytokines that then act on receptors on the sensory nerves to increase their activity."  

Researchers believe that Mycobacterium vaccae, may be able to alleviate depression.  Lung cancer patientswho were injected with killed M. vaccae reported better quality of life and less nausea and pain. A team of neuroscientists and immunologists injected mice with the bacteria, and think that it activates a set of serotonin-releasing neurons in the brain—the same nerves targeted by Prozac.

So, how does gardening lift my mood?  Besides the enjoyment I get from gardening, the endorphins released because I am actively using my muscles, and the joy I get from the yummy and beautiful results, scientists say that the results indicate that simply inhaling the bacteria gives a healthy dose.  So weeding, digging in the garden, planting, etc. could help get you in a good mood too.  Even a walk in the woods may do the trick.  According to Lowry, “you can also ingest mycobacteria either through water sources or through eating plants—lettuce that you pick from the garden, or carrots."  Now I really can't wait to munch on our homegrown lettuce and carrots! 

So what are you waiting for?  Get out there and get down and DIRTY and in the process enjoy some natural prozac in the form of a small bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae. 

Lowry's Study “Identification of an Immune-Responsive Mesolimbocortical Serotonergic System: Potential Role in Regulation of Emotional Behavior,” by Christopher Lowry et al., published online on March 28 in Neuroscience.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

bamboo or bambooooozled? you hear all about how "green" it is; it's categorized as a grass, literally it's green, and it's the environmentally friendly kinda "green" as well.

In terms of "green", bamboo is extremely sustainable because it can grow between 1-2 feet a day.  It does not need to be replanted after harvesting because it has an extensive network of roots, and spouts new shoots continually.  Bamboo perpetually converts greenhouses gases as it grows, filters the air while making oxygen, and doesn't need pesticides or fertilizers to grow at amazing rates.  This is one rugged, useful, rigid, sustainable grass! 

Bamboo is used for many things;  for flooring, cutting boards and other kitchen items, and fabric to name a few.  I recently purchased a Scotch-Brite cleaning cloth made from 60% rayon from bamboo,  and 40% cotton.  The cloth is very soft and works well.  I've also seen clothing made from bamboo fabric that is marketed as green and sustainable, and that got me thinking....bamboo almost seems too good to be I did a bit more research specifically on fabric made from bamboo and sadly  it is not as sustainable as it may seem due to the processing.  The processing to make bamboo into fabric can be accomplished in two ways, either mechanically or chemically. 

"The mechanical way is by crushing the woody parts of the bamboo plant and then use natural enzymes to break the bamboo walls into a mushy mass so that the natural fibers can be mechanically combed out and spun into yarn." Fabric made with the mechanical process may be called bamboo linen, but it is a very labor intensive and costly process.  

"Chemically manufactured bamboo fiber is a regenerated cellulose fiber similar to rayon or modal. Chemically manufactured bamboo is sometimes called bamboo rayon because of the many similarities in the way it is chemically manufactured and similarities in its feel and hand.  Most bamboo fabric that is the current eco-fashion rage is chemically manufactured by “cooking” the bamboo leaves and woody shoots in strong chemical solvents."  The solvents can be harmful to the workers, causing neurological and breathing problems, and because of the potential health risks and damage to the environment adjacent to manufacturing facilities, bamboo fabric manufactured in this way should not be considered sustainable or environmentally supportable.


After researching the process of bamboo fabric manufacturing I felt a bit bamboozled because I took it for granted that bamboo rayon/fabric was that I know the processing is not green due to the chemicals, I still think that bamboo has great potential as a sustainable resource for several types of products, and in the end is more sustainable than many other options even in light of the processing.  

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ecstatic over "Ecomat"

I needed a new rug in the mudroom and I found a really neat "ecomat".  Of course the name caught my attention, but it looks wicked cool because it looks like river rocks, and is a multi-level surface that traps dirt.  The durable base is made recycled rubber that is reclaimed from scrap tires!  The mission of the company, Apache Mills is a "cleaner environment through the use of recycled materials in their products".   I love the look of the rug, the function of the rug, and I especially LOVE that is made using reclaimed scrap tires.  The more companies that figure out uses for recyclable materials the better.  I smile every time I wipe my feet on it.  

Potato, Po-ta-toe, Tomato, To-ma-to

You say potato, I say po-ta-toe, tomato, to-ma-to....let's call the whole thing off...or not!

So I've blogged several times about one of my pet peeves, packaging, and the amount of packaging that ends up in the trash.... and

and I've shared how some packaging can be recycled and also benefit a charity such as Nature Conservancy, via Terracycle, .  When I contacted our local recycling company, and was told that frozen food bags could not be recycled, and many other types of packaging, I didn't want to take "NO" for an I took it one step further and contacted Ore Ida, which is owned by the Heinz Company (clever since you need ketchup with your french fries!!!) to ask if their packaging was recyclable or not.  They did get back to me, and here is an excerpt from their response to me, 

     "The packaging of the Ore-Ida Potatoes is not recyclable. It is made of composite plastic to allow it to be strong and flexible in the freezer environment.
    We support the use of recyclable materials.  Unfortunately, there are currently few acceptable materials available that meet the stringent requirements of food packaging and still fewer systems in place to utilize the end recycled material."
I was happy to hear back from them, yet their materials are not recyclable?  Why can't a composite material be recycled, that makes no sense to me.  What is in it that can't be recycled?  I mean our recycling is plastics 1-7...I hope I can get additional information.  I'll keep you posted. 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day :)

Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms, grandmothers, and stepmoms!  And I guess we should include Mother Earth too, without Mother Earth, none of us would be here.  I wish you all a great day, peace, harmony, and love.  

I had a really nice Mother's Day doing what I like best with the people I like best :)  I got out in the veggie garden, and with the help of Rosebud, Tiger Lily, Sweet Pea, and Rhody, got the veggies in!  Today we did a little weeding, rock picking, and added to the lettuce, onions, carrots, broccoli, and snap peas that are already growing.  We planted 12 Tomatoes, 6 eggplant, 6 hot peppers (for Hubby), 6 green peppers, 6 zucchini, 3 yellow squash. Rosebud also planted a bunch of cucumber and green bean seeds for me. Can't wait for the yummy food to come. 

We also created a huge new bed of perennials that should liven things up as you drive into our driveway.  Rhody helped me dig out a bunch of weeds and prepare the bed with Hubby.  Rhody and I recycled some newspaper by laying it down to help kill the weeds underneath, then Hubby added some topsoil on top of the newspaper.  Sweet Pea brought me a much needed drink, and  I planted the perennials.  Helpful, strong Hubby brought a bunch of wheel barrels full of mulch to finish it all off.  Rosebud helped give the all the plants a nice long drink.  It looks really nice, and I got to spend my Mother's Day with my helpers and digging in the dirt, enjoying Mother Earth, and beautifying our yard.  I'm looking forward to watching them all bloom  :) 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

So I got to thinking...

So I got to thinking about yesterday's blog and how my family is doing on the list of 15 Totally Recyclable Materials That Most Of Us Keep Forgetting About (yesterday's blog).  How are you doing with the 15 materials?  Here's how we stack up so far...

✔✔ We already recycle aerosol and aluminum items.  And we have been good about recycling crayons too.  Crayons can be reused by melting them down and making multicolored crayons using molds, but my favorite use for them is as fire starters for a campfire (I know, I know, campfires add to global warming, but I justify my campfires as a small vice that help me achieve serenity in an otherwise chaotic word, and offset it with the other green choices!) 

As for asphalt shingles, I haven't had the need to recycle them, but hopefully roofers know about this option :)

✔We've always been good about recycling or passing along VHS and DVD to the library, cousins, or schools.   CDs have been used in many craft projects along the way for scouts and schools.  If you need some craft ideas for CDs check out this cute fish craft:  We've done this one several times and it comes out very cute.  Other craft ideas for reusing CDs in crafts can be found at this link  What I learned from the 15 Totally Recyclable Materials Link is that Best Buy has  in-store recycling kiosks for VHS, DVDs and CDs!  

✔Check, we also recycle eyeglasses OR just the lenses via the Lions Club.  The Lions Club has boxes at many libraries and eye Dr's offices to make it easy for everyone to recycle eyeglasses and help out others in the process.

✔Check on recycling metal AND plastic hangers.  Either we recycle them and use them for our clothes, or they get recycled in our bins.  

Hmm, as for fishing nets, we don't have reason to recycle those, but it is cool that there is a resource to do so! 

✔As for hotel soaps, we don't spend much time in hotels, but when we do, I do slip them into our luggage and finish them up at home, so we don't leave them behind as trash, so I think we get a check mark for that too! I do think is great that the
nonprofit group Clean the World offers the unique recycling service by sanitizing leftover soap bars from 80 Orlando, Florida hotel rooms!  Now for other states to jump on that bandwagon!  

✔Around here, household paints also get recycled into projects such as Cubscout pushmobiles, and Destination Imagination projects as well as other school projects.  But I also like the idea of helping out others and donating to Habitat for Humanity and high schools!   

✔Check! Our automobile oil is recycled when we have an oil change, and the fee to do so is included :)

✔Styrene packing peanuts...well I've already blogged about these babies, I hate them!!!  BUT, I do my part and they are recycled into outgoing packages, and I've also been known to use them in the bottom of flower pots to use less soil in a larger pot.  The downside of that is if you go to reuse the pot and need to empty it, then you have dirty packing peanuts that can't be recycled, so I stopped doing that.  If you ask me they should be outlawed, as I've already indicated I'm in favor of the biodegradable type, NOT styrene packing peanuts!!! In my opinion, they make a mess, they come from petroleum, and there are other eco-friendly alternatives. 

We don't surf, so I guess that is one less item for us to recycle!!!!  But, I'm glad to know that those that do surf have options for recycling :)

✔Tyvek envelopes...well, I'd have to give myself a check on this one because I recycle them by reusing them.  I did not know they are made of flashspun high-density polyethylene fibers.  If this is the case I wonder if they could go in the recycle bin?  But I did think it was VERY cool that there is a group that recycles them, who would have guessed!  However, to encourage recycling, I think they should provide mailing labels at no cost like Terracycle does :) 

✔ WOW, I had no idea that 52,000 tons of wine and champagne corks were generated and go into landfills!!!  No WAY I'm gonna give up my wine, another vice that keeps me sane....BUT, I've been recycling my own corks, and those of family and friend for awhile.  I have made them into beautiful wreaths and corkboard strips under my desk cabinets, and my sister-in-law has made some very nice trivets (which will be a future project for me).  They can also be used for craft projects like this cute santa and reindeer, It is also a handy way to use a razorblade to clean off cooktops and paint off windows; if you make a slit in the cork, you can use it to hold the razorblad during your task, then turn the blade around when you are done so that the sharp blade is in the cork (to prevent yourself from getting cut unexpectedly). I did know about Terracycle's cork Brigade too, but so far I've found too many uses of my own to send them into Terracycle :)  

So let's see how my family is doing with these 15 things... Out of the 15 totally recyclable things, my family uses 11, and out of those 11 we either reuse or recycle the items...WOWZA, not too shabby!!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Glug Glug Glug, GUSH....

The explosion of the British Petroleum oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010 and the resulting oil "spill" should make Americans think harder about the sources of energy that we use.  Oil is currently spewing  from a 5”-6” diameter pipe under nearly 20,000 psi at a rate of 200,000 gallons a day and may get much larger if the ocean floor wellhead fails. Some are saying as much as 100,000 barrels a day. The current Administration's energy agenda seems to be hell bent on drilling for domestic oil, but at what cost?  Obviously there was no "what if plan" in place, because if there was much of the current oil "spill" would have been cleaned up instead of continuing to glug, glug, glug into the Gulf of Mexico.

This spill has not been contained thus far, and hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of gallons of crude may wash ashore polluting marshes and estuaries, and killing plants, animals, fish and birds in it's path.   The Gulf of Mexico and the Louisiana coast are special biomes, and it is horrific, and unthinkable that there is no plan in place to protect these important natural treasures.  Not only is there an impact on wildlife, but also on the fishing industry and tourism.

When will our country put time, energy, and resources into CLEAN energy?  When will lobbyists lobby for things that are economically wise and good for our country AND the Earth?  When will the public DEMAND clean technologies, and sources of energy?

When I saw the following link, and this "breaking news story", I shook my head and chuckled to myself...if ONLY we could replace the oil rigs with "leaking" wind farms!

Would a wind farm spew millions of gallons of oil and cause such destruction and damage?  NO.  Would solar power result in the destruction of marshes, fish, plants, and animals?  NO.  It is time that our Administration comes CLEAN and GREEN with our National Energy Policies and Agenda.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I finally watched the movie Avatar, and it was much different than I had imagined.  I actually liked it!!! Not for the animation or cinematic reasons (but I did find it neat how the actors and animations were combined, and appreciated the anti-war message), but for the deeper message about Mother Earth, how all organisms are connected, how we need to protect the planet we inhabit, and work together to keep our planet healthy.  

Can you imagine if those who rape the rainforests and natural resources of the world felt those actions acutely in their own souls?  

Can you imagine if each and every individual had to stop and think before using resources, and think about the impact it has on the common good?  

For example, can you imagine if and when a person decided to use a papercup, or tissue that the pain and sorrow of the tree that was sacrificed to make the items was felt by the human race?  If oil that is sucked from the Earth to make various plastics, styrofoam coffee cups, plastic grocery bags, gasoline, oil to heat our homes, etc. was felt as though we were giving our own blood?  If we were connected to our planet as intimately as the Navi people are to Pandora, we would defend and protect our planet, and consciously make good decisions instead of wasteful ones.   Our decisions would lead to peace, serenity, and a healthy planet and World. 

I applaud director James Cameron for the messages he has woven throughout Avatar.  To quote Cameron, "Avatar asks us all to be warriors for the Earth. This beautiful, fragile, miracle of a planet that we have right here is our land. Not ours to own, but ours to defend and protect."  Here's to Peace, Love, and our Planet!  Bravo! 

Green mulch?

So spring is here, and you hear the lawn mowers buzzing and keeping the lawns looking presentable.  Now I wish I could say that we use a push reel mower, but with 1.5 acres it would be quite a workout.  We do however, collect our grass clippings and use them as mulch under trees, in areas that need weed control, and in our compost.  It's the perfect use for grass clippings instead of trashing them (people really do pay to throw away good mulch?!) 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Eco Friendlier Bubbles!

Today when we open a pack of Wrigley's gum, we discovered that they have switched to paper wrappers.  This saves about 850 metric tons of foil from going into landfills each year, which is equal to 60 millions cans each year!  That's wicked cool that a small change, such as a tiny foil gum wrapper vs. a tiny gum wrapper, can add up to be such a major impact.  Babysteps all around and congrats to Wrigley's for making the change!

I'm smiling thinking that we are chewing gum that has eco-friendlier bubbles....and yes, I recycled the tiny paper wrapper as did Rosebud :)