May 2010

May is Clean Air Month

Did you know that nearly 60% of Americans live in areas where their health is jeopardized just by the air they breathe? And the air in your home is generally two to three times more polluted than the air outside! With numbers like that, it’s almost hard to give a damn whether or not you’re buying organic or keeping flame retardants out of the house, isn’t it? But there are still many things we can do to help protect us from air pollution. Here’s a list of things you might want to do in order to help clean up the air in your home.

"Climate Culture" Calculators Break New Ground

Recently as I was checking out the Treehugger site, I noticed a bar on the side for Climate Culture Calculators.  Intrigued, I clicked through to check them out.  What I found really blew me away.

I love the idea of lifestyle carbon footprint calculators, but they always have the same set of problems:

1.    They aren't configurable enough.  I heat exclusively with a wood stove.  (Which is carbon neutral, by the way!)  That's never been an option on any carbon footprint calculator I've found so far.

2.    The numbers vary widely from one calculator to another.  Most calculators lack transparency.  Where are these numbers coming from?  Who knows!

3.    You quickly get the feeling that the entire exercise is just to make you feel bad, or smug, rather than to provide valuable feedback.
There's no good answer on a carbon footprint calculator.  Either you are shocked and horrified at the amount of carbon your lifestyle produces a year, or you feel smug about how small your footprint is compared to most people's.  

McDonald's In Britain Is All Organic And Stuff!

Did you know this?  I didn't know this!  This is the second time I've run headlong into the fact that the United Kingdom is a lot better about advocating for better quality food than we are here in the United States.  

The Daily Mail has a typically tawdry article about the source of McDonald's chicken in Britain.  The author is all up in arms about how it comes from massive factory farms in South America.  Which I agree is a bad thing.  

Reuse It: Facial Tissue Boxes

After you’re finished with a box of facial tissues, you likely recycle it, right? I bet you didn’t know that facial tissue boxes have a plethora of different uses once they’re out of tissues! Here are some things you might want to do with that box before you throw it away.

First, cut off the top—the part with the plastic, where the tissues come out. You can either recycle it or use it for scraps in your cardboard projects. My daughter likes to glue them in with collages, paint them and add them to masks for added details, and sometimes even have me draw animals on them that she can cut out and play with. Then you have an open box that you can use for…

Sometimes You Just Have to Recycle It

We have become huge re-users in our home. Most things get at least one chance at rebirth in our house, if not more. Most food scraps go to the compost bin to become fresh nutrients for our garden. Cereal boxes become paper holders and book dividers. Drink pouch boxes become toy or craft holders, play “houses,” or musical instruments. Milk jugs have limitless lives, from bird feeders to science experiments to scoops to games. Our crayons are currently housed in an old facial tissue box, while our paper Dominos set is in a Carnation Instant Breakfast box. Though we spend a bit of time, energy, and resources decorating many of these items (though not all of them), they are saved from becoming a part of a landfill—or worse, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Borax: Is It Safe?

I wanted to address some responses to my last post, and a lot of people's reactions when I tell them about my awesome new laundry detergent.

(Quick backtrack: it IS awesome, bee tee doubleyew!  I had a grungy old cotton pillowcase that came out of the laundry looking brand new.  And it whisked away a cherry Kool-Aid stain on a white cotton dishtowel like it had never happened.  All this for about $1.65 for 2.5 gallons!)

Greenpeace's Report on Green Electronics

Since 2005, Greenpeace has been surveying the field of consumer electronics and rating their environmental friendliness.  The news in the first report was dire.  Five years later, even though "companies have made increasingly stronger commitments to eliminate toxic chemicals, increase their products; energy efficiency and improve their recycling efforts by embracing financial responsibility for their electronic waste" the situation has improved only marginally over previous years. [PDF]

Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

There are a lot of reasons to make your own laundry detergent!  From a health perspective, homemade laundry detergent lacks irritating chemicals like perfumes, petroleum distillates, and my personal enemy SLS and SLES.  From an environmental standpoint, homemade laundry detergent isn't made with toxic chemicals and byproducts from the industrial process, and it doesn't result in an endless supply of empty plastic detergent containers having to be recycled or thrown away.  And from a crafty perspective, it's fun to make, and you can give it any smell you like!

Best of all, from a frugal perspective, Trent at The Simple Dollar calculated that homemade laundry detergent is about 1/20th the cost!

The basic recipe for making your own laundry detergent is: 2 parts soap flakes, 1 part borax, and 1 part washing soda.

A Better Soap

I recently found a great reason to switch from commercial detergents containing sulfates like SLS, SLES, and other irritating surfactants.  I'm loving life free of adult acne and dandruff, don't get me wrong!  But it can be a mind-bender to shift away from standard over-the-counter detergents for shampoo, toothpaste, laundry, and other uses.

Luckily, making the switch to better cleaning products isn't just good for you and your skin: it's good for the environment, and your budget too!  Traditional detergents are made with petroleum products.  (Hello, Gulf of Mexico, nice knowing ya.)  And they don't biodegrade, which means that their toxic ingredients seep into our ground water and the ecosystem at large.

Check out the Microsoft Hohm Web-site for Personalized Energy-Saving Tips

I recently came across an unusual online community that enables individuals to get specific cost-cutting, energy-saving advice for their homes and businesses, which I am hopeful will save me money on my next electricity bill. The Microsoft Hohm community is an online resource that allows users to compare relative energy costs in their communities and find ways to save on their electricity bill.

The Hohm website asks for your zip code and information about your home including the date it was built and the size.