06 April 2013

10 Resolutions for Going Green with Your Family This Year

1. Non-Toxic Cleaning

One of the very first changes I made on my journey towards more green living was to switch to homemade and non-toxic cleaners for my home, so it's one of the first things I recommend to anyone who is interested in making green changes in their family's life.

2. Green Your Personal Care Products

It's really important to be aware of the products we use on our skin and our children's skin. Unfortunately, there are lot of nasty chemicals in most conventional brands of personal care products, so you'll need to read labels and choose products that are safe and non-toxic.

3. Ditch the Disposables

Reducing the amount of garbage your family creates is a great way to have a big impact on the environment. This could be anything from switching to cloth napkins and rags instead of paper napkins and towels, to using cloth diapers instead of disposables.

4. Buy Used

Making a commitment to buying things used instead of new saves money and saves the environment at the same time. Before you run to store to purchase things this year, try to find what you're looking for used - at garage sales, thrift stores or online from sites like Craigslist or Ebay.

5. Make Recycling Easy

If your family doesn't already recycle regularly, this is an important step to take to reduce the impact of the waste your family creates on the planet. Set up a recycling system that everyone in your family can easily use, and begin to teach your children what is recyclable and what is not — and try to use recyclable things more than disposable ones!

6. Turn Off the Lights

This is a really easy one that you can even get your toddler involved in. Make sure you turn off the lights when you leave a room, and don't leave lights on in areas of the house that you aren't using. Have your kids help you remember to turn of the lights, and if they're anything like my kids, they'll want to go ahead and turn the lights off themselves!

7. Plant a Garden

I think it's really important to teach our kids where food comes from, not just that we buy it at the grocery store. One great way to do this is to plant your own garden and have your kids help you with it. There are lots of ways to grow your own food, even if you have limited space.

8. Simplify Your Stuff

Simplifying your stuff may not really seem like a way to live green, but less stuff means you save money and earthly resources needed to produce and buy that stuff, and gives your family the space and time to enjoy the truly important things in life. Getting away from materialism and back to basics is one easy way to live a little greener.

9. Buy Local and Organic Food

The food we eat has a major impact on our environment, but choosing local and organic food can help to decrease that impact. Resolve to shop your local farmer's market and buy more food directly from the farm this year.

10. Conserve Water

There are lots of little ways you can conserve water and make a dent in your overall water use this year. Start with turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth, taking shorter showers, making sure you don't have any leaky or dripping faucets around your house, installing a low flow shower head, and even following the "If it's yellow, let it mellow" rule in the bathroom.

28 October 2010

6 Extremely Weird Plants

1. Rafflesia arnoldii: this parasitic plant develops the world’s largest bloom that can grow over three feet across. The flower is a vibrant red-pink, with bumpy white spots. It has an offensive odor and has a hole in the center that holds six or seven quarts of water. The plant has no leaves, stems, or roots.

2. Hydnora africana: an unusual melon-colored, parasitic flower that attacks the nearby roots of shrubbery in the arid deserts of South Africa. The putrid-smelling blossom attracts herds of carrion beetles.

3. Dracunculus vulgaris: smells like rotting flesh, and has a burgundy-colored, leaf-like flower that projects a slender, black appendage.

4. Welwitschia mirabilis: consists of only two leaves and a stem with roots. Its two leaves continue to grow until they resemble an alien life form. The stem gets thicker rather than higher, although this plant can grow to be almost six feet high and twenty-four feet wide. Its estimated lifespan is 400 to 1500 years. Mirabilis grows in Namibia, and is thought to be a relic of the Jurassic period.

5. Drakaea glyptodon: an orchid. It is the color of, and smells like, raw meat. Pollinated by male wasps.

6. Wolffia angusta: the world’s smallest flower. A dozen plants would easily fit on the head of a pin and two plants in full bloom will fit inside a small printed letter “o.

20 September 2010

10 tips to avoid bedbugs

10 tips on how to spot the blood-suckers and what to do if you find them.

1. When sleeping in a new bed, check for signs of their feces: small, black or dark brown dots on sheets or the mattress. (If you are in a hotel and find potential bedbug fecal matter, ask for a new room far from the original.)
2. While bedbugs mostly hide out during the day, you may be able to spot the actual bug at night (using a flashlight may be helpful). Baby bedbugs are nearly invisible, but their older relatives are brown to red-brown and oval-shaped (see image above).
3. Regularly inspect places where pets sleep for signs of bedbugs.
4. In some heavily infested areas, a coriander-like odor may be present.
5. If you suspect you've been exposed to bedbugs when traveling, clean out everything you traveled with. Vacuum out your suitcase and wash all clothes in hot water if possible, whether they are dirty or not. When traveling, leave your suitcases on hard surfaces if possible (rather than carpet or upholstered furniture).
6. If you suspect there are bedbugs in your home, do not jump directly to pesticide application. Many pesticides, especially over-the-counter treatments, are ineffective in killing bedbugs and their eggs, and only add unnecessary chemicals to your living space. Professional steam or heat treatments kill eggs and adults.
7. Make sure it is indeed bedbugs that are causing your bites before treating the problem. Fleas, ticks, mites, mosquitoes, or allergic reactions may be the cause of the skin lesions. IdentifyUS suggests a variety of trapping methods you can use to find and identify a bedbug.
8. If you cannot find a bedbug, but suspect they are present, a bedbug-sniffing dog may help sniff-out the culprits.
9. Do not put infested furniture on the street or in common areas, as that may spread the problem to other homes. If you do move infested furniture out of your house, place in a locked dumpster and label it as bedbug-infested. If you have infested furniture that is useful, you do not need to dispose of it; it can be cleaned and treated.
10. Clear your clutter. Having a non-cluttered home also makes treatment easier, as there are less objects to clean.

Five ways to get rid of bedbugs

1. Steve Tvedten, author of a nontoxic pest control website, suggests using a steam cleaner on cracks and mattresses weekly, if you suspect bedbugs. Bedbugs are very sensitive to heat and cannot stand temperatures above 111 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit. An hour of high heat exposure should eliminate most infestations, according to Tvedten.
2. Low temperatures (32 to 48 degrees Fahrenheit) for longer periods of time (30 to 50 days) can also eradicate bedbug infestations.
3. Vacuum anything you can. Put other items in sealed plastic bags.
4. Wash any fabric you can in hot water.
5. You may want to use a nontoxic spray for controlling bedbugs.

11 September 2010

20 ways to detox your house


There are many things you can do to "detox" your home, some more practical than others. Here are my 20 suggestions:


No shoes in the house.
Most household dirt, pesticides, and lead come in on your shoes. Go barefoot or wear slippers. Place floor mats vertically by your entryways to wipe your shoes. This way more dirt and residue from your shoes stays outside on the mat.

Keep the air clean.
Keep your windows and doors open as much as possible to ventilate. Use green plants as natural air detoxifiers. Remove odors with baking soda. Use fresh flowers or bowls of herbs like rosemary and sage to add a pleasant fragrance to rooms. Have your air ducts and vents cleaned with nontoxic cleaners. Get a portable air cleaner/purifier, especially for the bedrooms.

Switch from the standard household cleaning products to cleaner and greener ones.
These don't damage your health or the environment's as much and work as well as the mass marketed ones. You can also use basic ingredients you have around the house, for instance, vinegar in place of bleach, baking soda to scrub your tiles, and hydrogen peroxide to remove stains. According to Annie Bond, the author of "Better Basics for the Home," she can clean anything with water and these five basic ingredients:Baking soda, washing soda, distilled white vinegar, vegetable-based liquid Soap (e.g., Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap), and tea tree oil.

Replace your skin care and personal products with less toxic and chemical-free options.
Deodorant, toothpaste, cosmetics, hair products, nail polish, and perfumes are often loaded with toxins. Learn how to identify them and avoid them.

Use plastics wisely
Some plastics contain Bisphenol A (BPA), which is linked to cancer, and phtalates, which are linked to endocrine and developmental problems. Avoid plastic food packaging (when you can). Don't wrap food in plastic. Don't microwave food in plastic containers. Choose baby bottles made from glass or BPA-free plastic. Avoid vinyl teethers for your baby. Stay away from children's toys marked with a "3" or "PVC." Avoid plastic shower curtains.

Hand with frying pan

Avoid nonstick pans, pots, bakeware and utensils.
Teflon contains perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) which have been linked to cancer and developmental problems.

Keep house dust to a minimum.
More dust means more toxins. Mop all surfaces at least once a week. Use a vacuum cleaner (with a HEPA filter, preferably) for your carpets. HEPA-filter vacuums capture the widest range of particles and get rid of allergens.

Avoid excess moisture.
It encourages the growth of mold and mildew. Check areas for moisture accumulation or leaks (particularly basements). Regularly clean surfaces where mold usually grows - around showers and tubs and beneath sinks.

Get a shower filter.
Many of the contaminants in tap water become gases at room temperature. A shower filter can help keep these toxins from becoming airborne.

Get a water filter.
More than 700 chemicals have been identified in drinking water. Filtering your tap water is better than drinking bottled water.

Avoid stain-guarded clothing, furniture and carpets.
These may contain PFCs. Wrinkle free and permanent press fabrics used for clothing and bedding commonly contain formaldehyde -- use untreated fabrics where possible.

Be conscious of toxins in carpeting.
Avoid products made from synthetic materials. Use natural fiber wool & cotton rugs. If possible, replace wall-to-wall carpeting with hardwood floors, all natural linoleum or ceramic tiles. Use nontoxic glues, adhesives, stains, or sealers for installation.

Seal (with a nontoxic sealer) or replace particleboard walls, floors or cabinets.
These often contain formaldehyde, which can emit irritating and unhealthy fumes for decades. Avoid plywood, fiberglass, fiberboard and paneling.

Avoid harmful pet-care products.
Avoid toxic pest control (including traditional termite exterminators).

Replace toxic lawn and garden pesticides and herbicides.
Use with less harmful natural ones.

dry cleaning

Tell the dry cleaner not to use the plastic wrap.
Or remove it as soon as possible because the plastic traps the dry cleaning chemicals on clothes and in your closet. Let your dry cleaning air out (preferably outside) before storing it. Use "wet cleaning" if you are lucky enough to have it in your area.

Use low VOC, low-odor latex (water-based) paint.
Open all windows to ventilate properly when painting indoors.

Have your house checked for carbon monoxide leaks.
These are most commonly found in leaking gas stoves, gas fireplaces, furnaces and chimneys and gas water heaters).

Check Radon levels.
Inspect poorly ventilated basements that have cracked walls and or floors. Radon is an odorless gas that forms as uranium in rocks and soil breaks down. Radon is linked to lung cancer.

We can reduce our risk of chronic illness.
Limit exposure to these toxins but don't let this become an obsession which can cause so much stress that it creates more of a negative impact on your health than the toxins themselves.

And finally, no amount of environmental toxins are as important as emotional toxicity. You can do all the above, but if your house is full of anger, resentment, jealousy, unhappiness and a lack of love, compassion, and forgiveness, the house will remain toxic.

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