Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!!

Happy Halloween!!!  

I hope your little ghosts and goblins have a fun, safe evening.  Our kids managed to recycle some costumes, and alter them, borrow some clothes, and use regular clothes we already had into some cute costumes.  I've rarely bought a complete store bought costume (once I bought a bat like costume, and here and there a few props like Harry Potter's glasses, striped witch socks), but I prefer to sew something unique (my sewing skills are basic, not pattern worthy!), and be creative with what we have around the house and in the craft closet.   

This year, my little witch (recycled costume that has been worn repeatedly), camouflage army dude (borrowed all camo stuff from a friend), lifeguard (borrowed a lifeguard sweatshirt, whistle, sunglasses, and we had white makeup for the nose plus some bronzer), and Dorothy (altered the white portion of a previous costume, sewed her own gingham skirt, reused gingham hair ties, and glitterfied an old pair of my shoes with red paint and sparkles) look fabulous without breaking the bank, and I loved that we incorporated my green ethic into the fun by recycling and altering old costumes, borrowing, and being creative with what we already had.  

Happy Haunting from the Green Goblin...
I mean, Green Goddess ;) 

O is for odor eaters

Let's admit it.  The popular boots such as Uggs, Beachfeet, etc, the scuff slippers, sneakers, hiking boots, soccer cleats, and soon enough the snow boots, get awfully sweaty and stinky!   When several pair of these funky  locker room-like shoes and boots are stored in a closet, shoe bag, or basket, put it bluntly...PHEWWWW!!!

Odor eaters made from scrap fabric
The other day, Sweet Pea inadvertently helped come up with a solution to the problem :)  She came home from her sewing lessons with a small cute quilted pouch she'd made after finishing her main project.  She'd quilted the pouch from some fabric scraps, and asked what I thought she could do with it.  A light bulb went off in my head immediately since I'd just written the blog "N is for non-toxic".  My bright idea was to add non-toxic, odor absorbing baking soda to her cute little pouch, sew it shut, and add them to her boots.  She loved the idea and proceeded to recycle some more fabric scraps to make a second pouch.  Once she was done sewing them shut, she proudly took them and put them in her boots.  She tells me they already smells better :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

N is for non-toxic

Today, there are so many non-toxic choices for cleaning supplies, that it just makes sense to switch to products that are safer, non-toxic, and therefore healthier for humans, pets, and the environment. 

Because we do so much laundry, I began looking for a cost-effective yet eco-friendly alternative for laundry detergent.  One of the first things I tried was, soapnuts from LaundryTree  The outer shell of the soap"nuts", which are actually the fruit of the Sapindus Mukorossi tree, contains saponin.  Saponins are a natural substance known for its ability to cleanse.  According to LaundryTree the soapnuts are also antiimicrobial and biodegradable.  I was able to use the soapnuts by placing several in a cotton drawstring bag, or by making a liquid laundry detergent from them.  The spent "nuts" were added to our compost and the packaging was much more eco-friendly than commerically available detergent which comes in plastic containers.  I used essential oils to add a pleasant scent the laundry, and as far as I could tell, the laundry was as clean as usual, but I still met with quite a bit of resistance from my family.

LaundryTree's website also suggests soapnuts for non-toxic window cleaner, liquid hand soap, floor cleaner, kitchen and bathroom cleaner, and even as a shampoo!  Although I admit I didn't try the soapnut soak for these other applications, I still may.  It was worth a try as our laundry detergent, however, to keep the peace, I switched to a eco-friendlier laundry detergent than I had been using.  Although I don't think it can be classified as non-toxic, it's still better than what I was using, and sometimes you have to make trade-offs to achieve harmony.   

Now we're using, Natural Elements Ultra Purex linens and lilies laundry detergent as a compromise.  The packaging indicates that the detergent is a naturally sourced cleaning power, made from plant-based surfactants and natural fragrance extracts, that it is a biodegradable formula with no phosphates, safe for the septic, and it's affordable considering all the laundry we do.  The plastic bottle is recyclable, and there is also an EPA stamp, "designed for the environment" 

I am working on slowly switching to other non-toxic versions of cleaners such as Green Works Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner, and "natural biodegradable" cleaning wipes with coconut-based cleaners and essential oils (and even though they are disposable I ease my conscience with the fact that they are compostable!).

Recently, after refilling my dishwashing pump with the last of the usual dishwashing liquid, I added it to my grocery list, and made a conscious decision to look for a non-toxic version to try.  I took the opportunity to buy ECOVER's ecological dishwashing liquid with lemon and aloe vera.  I'm very excited to try ECOVER's formula.  There are several reasons I decided to try ECOVER's dishwashing liquid: it's made with plant and mineral ingredients, is biodegradable, safe for septic systems, and made at their eco-friendly factory.  I'll be sure to let you know about the product once we use up the current dishwashing liquid :)

Besides non-toxic cleaning products available at the store from companies such as Ecover, Greenworks, Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, and J.R. Watkins, other options include natural cleaners that can be made with ingredients probably found in your fridge or cabinets: such as apple cider vinegar, white vinegar (a weak form of acetic acid), baking soda (sodium bicarbonate or NaHCO3), and lemons.

There are many recipes to make simple general purpose cleaners:
Mix 2 tbs baking soda + 16oz water in a spray bottle, or 
mix a solution of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar, or
mix ½ c apple cider vinegar with 1c water (clean tiles, disinfecting, windows, microwave, glass, mirrors)

Other cleaners that can be made easily:
Window cleaner:  Mix 1 tsp distilled white vinegar + 16oz
Disinfecting cleaner: Mix 10-20 drops tea tree oil  + 16oz water
Floor cleaner: Mix 16 oz water + ½ tsp liq soap, ½ tsp borax, , splash vinegar or lemon (spray floor, mop)
Furniture polish:  Mix 1 cup olive oil with ½ cup lemon juice
Fabric softener: Add ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle in place of store bought fabric softener.
Deodorizer:  baking soda is a natural deodorizer for closets, refrigerator, lockers, shoes, carpet, etc.
Mold and Mildew:  White vinegar or lemon juice full strength, apply with sponge and scrub.
Microwave Cleaner: Mix 2 Tbsp baking soda or lemon juice with 1c water in a microwave-safe bowl until boil.  Wipe down condensation and insides of microwave.  
Bathroom:   Use pure vinegar in the toilet bowl to get rid of rings and eat away soap scum and hard water stains, or use lemon juice to dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits (mix with vinegar or baking soda to make a paste).

Whichever non-toxic product or recipe you choose, you'll feel great knowing you are using products that are healthier for you, your family, and the environment.  Happy Cleaning!
Green This! by Deirdre Imus

Monday, October 25, 2010

Green Time

I absolutely love the SPROUT watch line that I found, and it will most likely end up on my Christmas Wish List!   Not only are the watches stylish, reasonably priced at $30-$65, available at large retailers such as Kohls, Sears, Kmart, and Nordstrom, but they are also eco-friendly and offer many colorful options to suit your moods. 

One of the things I really like about the line of watches is that the cases and buckles are made of corn resin, which is a renewable resource.  It is also 100% biodegradable in the proper compostable environment, but will not degrade from everyday wear and tear since the corn resin is similar to synthetic plastics.

The watch straps are also made from 100% organic cotton, which means no damaging environmental pesticides used to make the cotton for their straps.  Sprout reports that non-organic cotton, "is one of the
most environmentally damaging crops to grow, as about 84 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed on US cotton crops alone in one year."  Their commitment to detail about the parts of these watches is truly inspiring, and should serve as a terrific example of what companies can provide to their customers.  

The natural bamboo dial is also a plus since bamboo is considered to be eco-friendly.  Bamboo is a quick-growth plant that helps absorb greenhouse gasses, is renewable within a short period of time, and is grown with little or no pesticides and fertilizers.

Finally, Sprout watches have mercury-free batteries, and are packaged with at least 80% post consumer fibers!

I love the philosophy of this company, and I hope Santa will slip one of these eco-friendly watches into my stocking this year!!!   Hint, hint, Santa, I've been a good, eco-conscious, green goddess this year!  Winks and kisses Santa!!!


Thursday, October 21, 2010

One step forward, two steps back

I'm REALLY disappointed that Frito-Lay caved in on their compostable SunChips bags!

So what if the bag is a bit noisier than what people are used to?  What??? The bag wakes up a roommate?  Ummm maybe they shouldn't be eating that late at night, it's not all that healthy to begin with!  So stop sneaking snacks in the middle of the night...problem solved! OR pour some chips into a bowl and then eat them!  Do roommates also complain about the FZZSTTTT of the soda or beer can being popped open?   Do we need silencers for cans?  Or the clickety clickety of the laptop keyboard or texting? 

Consumers are so fickle, that they won't buy a product they like due to packaging?  Well, it's too bad because Frito-Lay WAS at the forefront of changing consumer's thoughts and attitudes towards packaging.  And just think, they had responded to consumer demand for more eco-friendly sustainable packaging!  I for one, was a huge fan of the compostable bags.  I didn't care one bit that they were noisier because I knew that after we'd finished the yummy, crunchy chips, the bag would not litter a landfill, and to me that's more important than the crunch of the bag.  In fact, I got a kick out of adding it to our compost, crinkle and all!

Wasteful, landfill clogging packaging in general drives me CRAZY,  which was why I was so happy to be able to compost the Sun Chips bag.  It's time that companies become more responsible for more sustainable packaging, more eco-friendly processing, and become environmental stewards and good examples for consumers.

Personally, I believe laws are needed to push companies to create sustainable packaging.  Without a push, most companies take the cheaper, easier, petroleum-dependent-plastic way out.  If Frito-Lay hadn't caved in, would consumers get used to the bag?  I think their products could stand up to the complaints and they'd still profit because it's the product that consumers are buying to eat, and their products are good.

To their credit, Frito-Lay says they are developing the next generation of biodegradable bags.   And I'll be sure to let you know what I think of it when it finally arrives on the market!  Until then, I'll still be pushing for more responsible, eco-friendly, sustainable packaging and buying the original Sun Chips which will still have the compostable bag  :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

M is for Mycobacterium vaccae...

Over Columbus Day weekend, I was able to get outside and do some gardening, and reconnect with the Earth.  I collected some hot peppers, green beans, some tomatoes, the last of the cucumbers from the garden, and did some cleanup too.  
I also was able to plant a few perennials that my mother and sister shared with me, mowed some of the lawn, did a little bit of pruning, and dug up and replanted some perennials that were crowded.  It felt so good to be digging in the dirt!  Working in the garden always makes me happy; I love the exercise, I love the results, and I love the DIY factor.  And, I feel better when I work in the garden for good reason.

As mentioned previously in my blog, I read about 
research at Bristol University and University College London.  Researchers there 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."  Mycobacterium vaccae, may also be able to alleviate depression, and activate serotonin-releasing neurons in the brain.   

So, gardening does lift my mood, and 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 because scientists believe that simply inhaling the bacteria results in a healthy dose.  Lowry indicates, “you can also ingest mycobacteria either through water sources or through eating plants—lettuce that you pick from the garden, or 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.