Tweenie’s Greenies


Go to fullsize imageIf you are like me, you are trying to be a “greenie” type person.  You do your best to buy mostly organic foods (minus the donut and pastry weakness) and you attempt to buy all natural or organic products whenever you can.  I have been doing pretty well with this overall.  I still have my “issues” and so does everybody else.  I try to think of it as a balancing act.  Such as, “if I put this donut laden with processed sugars into my cart/body, I will balance it by drinking 2 cups of all natural pomegranate juice today AND I will reuse my son’s ziploc snack baggies for tomorrow’s snack”.  Usually that works for me.

One area in my life that I have made virtually no attempt to “greenify” is my wardrobe.  Honestly, have you looked at the prices of organic cotton or ecofriendly clothes?  It’s ridiculous.  Plus, I can never find eco-friendly or clothes made with organic cotton at Goodwill or Salvation Army (which at least I am still regularly shopping at for quality used clothes to put a little dent in my fashion eco-world).  How else am I going to afford clothes made from organically grown cotton?  Heck, the tutoring business is really slow in the fall and the bedrest for the past month has not been helpful to the budget.  (Not that we have trillions to spend normally).

Why buy organic clothing anyway?  I don’t have a skin sensitivities and I am not taking bites out of my shirt when I get hungry.  So, it’s not like this non-organic stuff is getting into my body to damage organs.  Well, in doing a little bit of reading I found that it’s not just about putting something directly into my big mouth.  It’s about affecting the world around me, which in turn affects my health and the health of everything around me, including my kids.

Buying organic cotton makes a big environmental impact.  Less than 3% of the world’s agricultural land is used to grow cotton.  But 25% of the world’s pesticides (many of those are known to cause cancer) are used on that 3% of land.  Not quite balanced is it?  Besides the pesticides that end up on the cotton, think of the pesticides that go into the ground, into the water, on the workers, and into the air to be inhaled.  Oh, and let’s not forget the pesticides that can remain on the cotton fiber and rub on your skin all day.

Just think, if millions of people switched to buying mostly organic cotton items, we could do some great things.  Here’s a short list of 5 great things you would be doing:

1. Protect our fisheries
Runoff containing pesticides from cotton fields killed 240,000 fish in Alabama in 1995.
 
2. Prevent chronic health problems in Egyptian cotton workers
In the 1990s, fifty percent of Egyptian cotton workers suffered from chronic pesticide poisoning, including neurological and vision disorders.
 
3. Prevent health disorders in some of the poorest workers in the world
Chances are that famous-label tee shirt you’re wearing was made in Bangladesh where ninety-one percent of Indian men working in cotton eight plus hours/day suffered illnesses related to chromosonal aberrations and cell death.
 
4. Save American lives
Each year, more than ten thousand Americans die from cancer associated with pesticides.
 
5. The life you save may be your own
A third of a pound of fertilizers and pesticides are used in the growth and production of every cotton t-shirt you pull over your head.

Hmmm…maybe I should be making more of an effort to buy organic cotton.  I did also find some pretty reasonable sources for organic cotton clothing, once I started to really look.  Walmart is now carrying some organic cotton clothing.  Victoria’s Secret has some lovely organic cotton underthings.  I know that many major clothing brands are trying to incorporate something organic to jump on the green wagon.  Granted, you may not be able to buy an entirely new organically grown cotton wardrobe.  But, you could replace items little by little, and lots of little steps can lead to big change.  If you have any suggestions of where to buy affordable organic cotton clothing, let us know!

Go to fullsize imageThe topic of bottle water amazes me.  I can’t believe that we all spend so much money on water in a bottle.  I I understand it when people are travelling and have no other convenient water source or if people have really bad well water at home and don’t want to drink rotten egg water for ever.  But for most people I know, bottled water is pure luxury.  So what’s the draw?  Most people who I know who drink lots of bottle water, claim it is “more pure” and healthier than regular tap water.  Hmmm…I am not so sure about that.

Have you heard about the bottled “spring water” that actually came from a well located near a hazardous waste site?  Or the “pure glacier water” that came from a public water system in Alaska (a.k.a. “the tap”)?  Did you know that 25% of all bottled water comes from a public water source, the same as our tap water?  Why are we paying oodles of dollars over time for tap water in a plastic bottle?

Like I said, some people feel that bottled water is healthier.  While most bottle water is free and clear of contaminants there has been instances where harmful bacteria and chemicals were found in bottle water.  Just because it’s in a bottle doesn’t mean it’s sterile and safer than tap water.  Tap water is processed and regularly tested for bacteria and chemical levels.  The last major study investigating bottled water was in 1999.  Due to some regulatory inconsistencies, about 60-70% of bottled water is free of FDA oversight and regulations.  This includes those big water cooler jugs.  What happens is that the FDA does require regular testing but bottle water is considered a low risk item and often deadlines for inspection are stretched to make time for more pressing contamination issues.

In fact, you may not even be aware that bottled water has been contaminated.  Often, the bottling company simply has that batch pulled from store shelves.  They are not required to report mold, benzene, coliform, and microbes detection directly to the consumer.  This happened about 100 times in the past 10 years.  Granted, it’s not a major statistic but if you are concerned, you should know the facts.

If you are starting to think that maybe just maybe that bottle water is a little bit of a rip-off join the club.  Save that $1-$2 you would normally and put it into your gas tank.  Don’t contribute to petroluem product dependency and avoid buying those plastic bottle filled with tap water.  Let’s face it, not everybody is as great at recycling plastic as we are!  Go the “Biggest Loser” way and filter your own water into a reusable container.  Keep a jug of filtered tap water (or just tap water) in your refrigerator.  You will save yourself from having to buy bottled water and also save water by not waiting for the blue stuff to get cold as it runs from your tap.

Wait!  There’s more!  A couple friends of mine and I have a running joke that Meijer brand bottled water was simply water that they got from the drinking fountain in the back of the store and put in bottles.  I am not sure about that particular brand’s source yet, but you should not be fooled by words thrown on labels such as “pristine” and “pure”.  Aquafina has started to indicate (in small type I am sure) that their water is from a public water source (tap water from Wichita, Kansas).  Dasani acknowledges on it’s website that it’s bottled water comes from a local source such as tap water from Queens, New York or Jacksonville, FL (with minerals added of course).  Nestle Pure Life water indicates on the bottle if the water is from public, private or deep well resources.

All in all, you will find a lot of he said/she said about tap versus bottled water.  I have simply chosen to drink filtered tap water whenever I can.  I rarely buy bottled water unless I am travelling and it’s all that seems to be available.  I do always start off my trip with 2 reusable water bottles filled with tap water.  I also will frequent a drinking fountain now and again if I am on short jaunts and find myself thirsty.  Remember those things?  I know, they can be a little germy and sometimes taste funny.  But they will work in a pinch.  Also, when I am at my favorite restaurant and they ask if I want “bottled or tapped”, I will always reply, “I’d like to tap that”. 

Bottled water resources:  Aquafina is tapBottle Water Terms/Info$8 million business

Go to fullsize imageWell, well, well….I am back from my 4th of July hiatus only to see that blog stats/visits have dropped 3 fold over the holiday.  I hope that’s a temporary thing and not a sign that the bloggy world has suffered some strange alien capture. 

Our vacation was great!  It’s always nice to reconnect with each as a family and see new sites.  I didn’t tell anybody in the bloggy world that we were leaving because I get a little weird about mass numbers of people knowing that my house was empty for any certain length of time.  So, Suprise!  I went on vacation and now I am back!  Ready to rock your world.  I was ready to write a novel last night but a huge power surge ripped through our neighborhood and started the power lines on fire.  Which in turn snapped and started lawns on fire.  Nice toxic smoke filled our ‘hood.  I think we almost died.  Okay, that’s exaggerating but still there’s nothing like some dramatic acts of nature to bring the neighborhood together.  It was a regular block party out on the street.

Speaking of toxic smoke…..if you didn’t catch it, this is my handy intro line to my official post topic.  How often don’t we use that word “toxic”?  Seriously, this word drives Tomas and me crazy.  The media uses it nonstop.  Marketing agencies have clung to it like stink on poop.  It’s used to describe everything from chemicals, to medicines, to chidren’s toys, to band names,  and don’t forget the almighty toxic relationship.  Say it 15 times and see if it makes any sense anymore.  “Toxic, Toxic, Toxic, etc”.  If you say it with the Jan Brady “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” twang it’s more fun. 

The word “toxic” has been so used and misused, that it’s confusing to much of the general population.  If something says “non-toxic”, can we eat it?  If you read something that’s not labelled  “non-toxic”, should you avoid all contact and purchase hazmat gear if you come in a 15 mile radius of it?  Let’s think about this for just a minute.  Come along and join one of the weekly debates at my house. Yes, we are nerds.  But I have always been taught that,  “Nerds will always win in the end.  Nerds rule the world”.

Our trusted resource Mirriam Webster says that the word toxic means: 

1. containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation <toxic waste> <a toxic radioactive gas> <an insecticide highly toxic to birds> 2 : exhibiting symptoms of infection or toxicosis <the patient became toxic two days later> 3 : extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful <toxic sarcasm>

If you go by the first definition anything could be toxic.  Crystal clear spring water could be toxic if consumed in large amounts.  Even to the point of causing death.  If you take into consideration the number of people that die every year from drowning, water is very toxic.  Food is toxic.  Especially any food containing additives or artificial ingredients.  People get cancer, bowel obstructions, and die from choking all the time.  Would we avoid all these the same way we would toys from China covered with lead paint?  Granted that’s an extreme argument, but you get the point. 

So what does it mean for an item to be “non-toxic”?  Since the lead in toy scare this past holiday, mothers especially are desparately concerned with labels and anything indicating that a child’s item could be toxic.  It may come as a surprise to you that many items are labelled non-toxic simply because there is no negative information or safety testing completed for it at the time.  No data could mean “non-toxic”.

What you really need to consider is, that it’s all in the amount of toxic material present in the item.  For example, there is no way to avoid lead completely in your life.  It’s everywhere in small amounts and the same is true for many of the toxic chemicals/minerals that we come into contact with every day.  However, it’s only at a certain level that it becomes dangerous to human health (or the length and frequency of exposure).

And thus we are back to the study of labels that I have talked about previously.  Be warned that just because something is labelled as “non-toxic”, doesn’t mean it is completely safe.  It’s probably safer  than other some other alternatives but you’re not free and clear to bathe in it or eat it in entirety.  From my very limited studies on this, it simply means that if used according to instructions, it is not known to cause any harmful effects on humans or the environment at that exposure/amount.  However, don’t be suckered into thinking that just because going green is the next best thing to sliced bread right now that testing and labelling requirements have tightened.  They have not and probably will not any time soon.  It’s still a fuzzy gray toxic crazy world out there.

Remember, common sense is key.  Moderation and appropriate use and limited exposure to anything is crucial to your overall health.   Also, be sure to read.  Read those labels.  Become familiar with buzz words that are covering up actual ingredients.  Look for short lists of ingredients and avoid the long sonnets of additives.  Research companies and stick with those that have proven non-toxic track records. 

I know I probably mushed your brain if you made it this far.  Nothing in the labelling world is clear cut or straight forward when it comes to this.  If you have suffered an electrical short in the firing of your neurons from taking in this post, have fallen off of your chair, hit your head on the wall and fell into your waiting bubble bath made with all natual, non-toxic soap, only to wake up on the other side, remember this my friend…everything can be toxic.  Even this post.  It’s just how much you absorb that makes the difference. 

“My Home Sweet Home”

Tweenie’s Greenie’s: Monday Edition

Go to fullsize image

I dare you, oh pesky mosquito, to try and bite me!  I double dare you to bite my children!

How I hate that blasted mosquito!  Forget the hornets, forget earwigs, and forget those little ants that seem to sneak into my house this time of year.  They can go about their business in relative peace.  But, those mosquitoes need to die!  Yes, I said it…die.  And I mean it too.  I would squish every one of those skinny little devils if I could.

Today was the first day that I really noticed that the mosquitos were out.  I fear that this year is going to be a horrible mosquito season for us.  The reason I think this is that the house next door has a literal West Nile breeding ground.  The house is in foreclosure.  Yes, I was so excited at first because the twenty something boys who bought it were a raucous bunch.  But now, they have left and they have left a huge mess for the world to see. 

To start with, the grass has not been trimmed/mowed all spring/summer.  I called the city but nothing has happened so far.  The front lawn is about 1foot high and the back areas are about 2feet right now.  There are weeds everywhere!  Tomas sprayed weed killer on part of it but to no avail.  The weeds…are….much…too…powerful. 

Then there is the pile of trash (yes, literal trash) that they left on the front driveway.  They were nice enough to cover it with a bright blue tarp.  How thoughtful.  So nice of them to think of covering that trash heap because they left a huge pile of crap on the side of the house too.  That is all uncovered and includes an unused giant hot tub that is filled with water. 

If the piles of trash and the mile high weeds weren’t enough to attract thousands of mosquitos, the uncovered algae ridden inground pool and hot tub in the back should do it.  This pool is so green and disgusting that even a family of ducks left it in a couple days for better pondage.  There is just a film of slime everywhere.  You can’t even see through it.

Anyway, you can see why this will be the mosquito season to beat all mosquito seasons over here.  Normally, I would just smear on a little “Off” Mosquito Repellent and call it good.  But every since I have had kids, I have been leary about covering them with bug repellents, even if they say they’re for the family.  It just seems a little wrong to be giving little absorbant bodies a chemical sponge bath. 

So, I set about to find some “natural” bug repellents.  Here’s what I found.

To help make your body or your little one’s body less attractive to those @#%$#@ mosquitos try the following:

  1. Wear loose clothing.  Mosquitos can easily bite through tight clothing, so forget the hip huggers and tube top.
  2. Avoid sugar and caffeine.  What!???  I think this is a conspiracy against me to nix my vices.  I guess that mosquitos are attracted to carbon dioxide release and lactic acid build up.  That’s how they find their targets.  Sugar and caffeine will make your body produce more of both of these.  I think I will still eat my donuts and coffee but just breathe less instead.  I’ll let you know how that works.
  3. Remove standing water around your yard/home.  Exactly!!  I am going to call the city and tell them the neighbors home is affecting the health and well being of my children.  I am sure they will love another call. 
  4. Avoid perfumes and scented lotions.  Mosquitos will just think you smell prettier and much more attractive.
  5. Use mint.  Crush up some fresh mint and rub it on your skin.  Uugh!  I just pulled out all of my mint from my garden because it was growing everywhere.  Maybe I can just roll in the compost pile where I tossed it.
  6. Burn something.  Either a campfire or candles.  If you have a little fire pit or something you could burn lavendar (I guess?) to ward off the bugs.  If you use a candle made to repel the bugs, they usually only work if you are within 3 feet of them.  Maybe I could put a candelabra on my head, walk around and wave burning lavendar sprigs around the edge of my yard.
  7. Turn on a fan.  Mosquitos can only fly about 8 miles an hour, so wind will keep them away.  Great! One gigantic yard sized fan should be easy to find.

If those don’t do the trick or you miss smothering your body in something to keep the bugs away, try this essential oil mixture:

These ingredients can be easily found at your local health store. Be sure you get Essential Oils and not simply fragrance oil. You will not get the benefits Essential Oils will give you.

What you will need:

A 4 ounce dark bottle

A carrier oil such as: olive, avocado, or sweet almond oil.

Lavender essential oil

Geranium essential oil

Cedar wood essential oil

Vitamin E oil

Fill the 4 ounce bottle to ¾ full with the carrier oil of your choice.

Add 5 drops each of the lavender and geranium essential oils and 3 drops of cedar wood and vitamin E oil. Top off the 4 ounce bottle with carrier oil, shake the bottle to blend and you’re set.

If you use the heavier olive oil as your carrier this blend will be better suited to a bath oil. If you use a lighter carrier, after your shower but before you towel off, massage into your wet skin. Lightly pat dry with a towel.

Always keep your Essential Oils covered. Essential Oils lose potency when exposed to air.

And finally, if you do get a bug bite from those little unbuzzworthy bugs, dab essential lavendar oil or peppermint oil on them.  Or use our old stand by, baking soda (3 parts mixed with 1 part water).  That will help to neutralize the bite.  I have used this remedy before and it really works.  However, I warn you that if you have a bunch of bites, you will look a little strange walking around with white baking soda polka dots all over your body.

 

I found the essential oil recipe here.  So don’t come banging on my door expecting me to fix it if you turn purple.  Even though I love to use essential oils,  I just follow essential oil recipes and hope for the best myself 🙂

 

“Tons of Change Thursday”

Tweenie’s Greenies: Thursday Edition

Look at that title in beautiful green “heading 2” font!  I am using it again.  Well, at least for today.  It’s that schedule that I set up for blogging that I think I ditched after a couple weeks.  Things came up, my fingers were gnawed off…whatever other excuse I could come up with at the time.

Well, I just remembered this lovely idea to save money on your water bill this summer.  If you live in a potentially high humidity area, such as Michigan in the summer, you probably have a dehumidifier.  Ours is running at full tilt since Noah floated by last week.  Sidenote: taking all the old musty carpet out of our basement last year and replacing it with hard flooring, was one of the best ideas we ever had.  My mold allergies are basically non-existent now. 

Anyway, if you have a dehumidifier you know that you have to empty that collection tank of all the condensated water every so often.  Why not put that water to good use?  Heck, you burned all that fossil fuel running it, might as well make it worth something!  I have been using that water to water my flower gardens, my potted plants, anything that needs some nice condensated water gets a little treat from my humidifier tank.  The nice part is, my tank also has a wonderful little spout for pouring out the water, so “no muss, no fuss”!

Here’s another idea for saving water in the summer.  Fill up your little kids swimming pool in the morning with water so that it warms in the afternoon sun.  They can play in it, do what ever, a little grass in there only makes this grand idea a little greener.  When they are finished in there for the day, you can either use that water to water any gardens OR you can take some eco-friendly soap, bath/wash your children in it, and then use that graywater to water your plants.  The eco-friendly soap won’t harm your grass or plants (or children for that matter).  Now you just accomplished three things and recycled your water for 3 important uses:  entertaining the children all day outside of your house, bathing your children, and watering your organic gardens.  You should hear trumpets as you complete this task.

I can’t get more savings to come out of my head at the moment.  Except for this thought of somehow collecting the condensation off of my families cups/glasses.  That’s another untapped water resource (get it..untapped…as in not from the tap!  Ha!).  Maybe I can design a little collection tray that attaches to the glasses.  You could collect the condensation from several cups throughout the day and use it for all of the before mentioned activities as well.  I will get back to you on that.  I have to work on the design of this little gem of an invention.  I think it will be a HUGE hit because of the “green” buzz everybody has going right now.  I could probably sell it for $50 a pop in water restricted areas.  Off to my research lab!!

Go to fullsize imageThis weather in the Midwest is driving me bonkers and has us trapped inside for days on end.  Just long enough to make me disgusted of my house.  Looking around I notice all the cobwebs and black dust from the furnace running all winter.  Why do we have that dust anyway??  We have good filters and we have had our ducts cleaned recently (last year). 

What else can I do but start cleaning.  I haven’t even dared keep the computer plugged in for too long because of the lightening.  I have had bad experiences of computer frying even with a surge protector in the past.  So yesterday, I cleaned and cleaned.  One thing led to another and I did accomplish a lot but I had a huge backslide with the green cleaning thing.

For one, I used a TON of papertowel.  I was cleaning my windows and no matter how hard I try, I can find nothing that is as fast and efficient as premade window cleaner and papertowel.  If I was just doing a couple windows, I would use the vinegar solution and newspaper.  However when I have a whole house to do, time is of the essence.  That movie the kids are watching is less than 2 hours and that’s how much time I have to get things done (if I’m lucky).  At the end of the day, about 1 1/2 rolls of paper towel gone.  Thanks to a house of windows/sliding doors needing to be cleaned inside and out.  It was so much paper towel, but when I can look outside through a crystal clear window, I have to think it was worth it.

I will say that my new favorite window cleaner is Mrs. Meyer’s aromatherapeutic Window Cleaner in Geranium Scent.  It may seem a little pricey at $4.99 a bottle but it goes a long way.  (look for it on sale. I originally got this bottle for $2.50 at a local health store)  No streaks, an awesome scent and best of all, no toxic fumes/byproducts.  I guess I can be glad that my gigantic pile of used paper towel, was aromatherapeutic and helped my mood during cleaning.  I highly recommend Mrs. Meyer’s stuff.  So far, I have not been disappointed.

After I cleaned the windows, I was sure to take down the draperies and was them.  Of course, since everything is drenched from rain and storms, I put them in the dryer.  The clothesline challenge is a bust for me this weekend.  I have mountains of laundry and no place to hang them all.  My dehumidifier is running at capacity and the basement is still dampish.  I have to dry it using even more energy than ever.  (include my air conditioner running 24/7 and we are going to have a heck of a bill for June)

On the upside, I did find some fabric that I bought a year ago and never used.  It was intended for curtains.  I finally took a couple hours while the laundry was going and whipped up 4 curtain panels.  I love them and they look beautiful on my sparkly clean windows.  I guess that was kind of green.  Actually using what you have instead of letting it waste in a closet.

Today, I continue my laundry quest and hope that our power doesn’t go out as we are to get more storms today.  Although if the power goes out for a while, it might off set my energy bill from using my dryer and air conditioning so much.  **Sigh…**  I can only hope!

Go to fullsize image  Honey bees = Honey.  Yes, that’s true and I have to admit that I love that honey.  I could go on and on about it’s benefits and time honored reputation.  However, we should think about this: Honey Bees = Our Food Supply.  We need honey bees to pollinate our crops in order to produce fruits, vegetables, and grains.

A Cornell University study has estimated that honeybees annually pollinate more than $14 billion worth of seeds and crops in the United States, mostly fruits, vegetables and nuts. Every third bite we consume in our diet is dependent on a honeybee to pollinate that food.  In other words, 30% of our necessary diet is dependent on these mighty little workers.  One would be naive to think that this was a little issue.  It is a world wide issue.  It is estimated that Italy’s 50 million Euro a year honey industry, has lost 50% of it’s honey bees.  When the pollinators are gone, humans are gone.

They are calling it colony collapse disorder.  What happens is the hives inhabitants are affected by an infectios disease often leaving only the queen, some eggs and a couple workers.  The rest disappear.  Colony Collapse Disorder has been reported in 24 states and 70% (possibly up to 90%) of the managed colonies have been affected by it. 

Although no one is absolutely sure why this is happening, there is speculation that chemicals (from pesticides, contaminated water supplies and household run-off), habitat destruction, invasive species, microbes, and global warming all may be playing a role.  Another lesser talked about suspect is genetically modified crops.  Some suspect that the chemicals used to create the modified seeds is passed on to the bees affecting their immune systems.

Honey bees are a biological indicator.  If the honey bees aren’t happy, than nobodies happy.  Scientists can use the honey bees health to gain clues to the environment’s overall health.  So, that environment thing isn’t looking so good right now, is it??

What are you supposed to do, oh little reader about this enormous mystical problem?  Thankfully, there’s a few things you can do to help the honey bee, help you.  You can support chemical free farming practices by purchasing organic products and nongenetically modified foods.  You can spread the word that honey bees are in trouble and impress upon others how important honey bees are to our life.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if our presidential candidates discussed the declining supply of honey bees along with oil supplies?  If people thought fuel prices were causing economic problems, wait until there’s a problem with the pollinators.  Our food prices will be astronomical!!  Attract honey bees to that little place you call home by following some of these or these VERY simple steps.  Here’s a list of “Honey Plants’ from Purdue University Extension you can place in your yard (or weeds to keep in your yard:)):

  • apple blossom (and other fruit trees)
  • asters (in fall, especially the small, white frostweed aster)
  • basswood
  • black locust
  • blackberry
  • blueberry (bees are very important for blueberry pollination)
  • box elder
  • clover: small white (dutch), yellow sweet, and white sweet (major honey source)
  • currant and gooseberry
  • dandelion (important in the spring because it blooms early)
  • goldenrod (late summer to fall, different kinds)
  • ground ivy
  • mint
  • raspberry
  • silver maple, red maple (maples mostly important for pollen, not honey)
  • tulip poplar (tulip tree)

Bee a friend.  Bee kind.  Bee aware.

  •  

Next Page »