Green's blog

Prevention Is The Best Medicine

It’s that time of year again – cold and flu season. With a little prevention, however, hopefully you will stay well. Below are my two “go to” preventative remedies, which I find work wonders!

unnamedThieves Oil Spray…..

A powerful blend of germ-killing essential oils – clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus and rosemary – Thieves Oil helps eliminate airborne bacteria and boost the immune system. Research conducted at Weber State University, as well as other documented research, shows that most viruses, fungi, and bacteria cannot live in the presence of many essential oils. When bacteria cultures were sprayed in an enclosed area, Thieves Oil had a 99.96% success rate against airborne bacteria.

The name comes from the legend of four thieves who were captured and charged with robbing dead and dying victims during the bubonic plague, which killed 25 million people over a five-year period from 1347 to 1352. In exchange for leniency, the magistrate wanted to know how the thieves escaped from contracting the plague.  They confessed to rubbing themselves with a special concoction of aromatic herbs, including garlic, cloves and rosemary.   Hence, the name Thieves Oil. You can buy Thieves Oil on-line.

I spray it on surfaces or in the air especially when someone in the house is sick. Keep some in your car, purse, at your office, wherever! It works and smells great too!

 

unnamedFire Cider…

This potent and fiery tonic contains “powerful immune boosting, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, decongestant and spicy circulatory movers….” and has been used as a daily supplement by New Englanders for generations. Herbalists recommend it to help prevent colds and flu symptoms or shorten their duration if you already have one. The basic ingredients are apple cider vinegar, garlic, onion, ginger, horseradish, and hot peppers, fresh herbs and spices, but folk remedy recipes vary depending on what’s growing in the garden and you can add whatever you like.

I take a spoonful a day straight up during cold season or whenever I feel like I’m getting sick, but if you don’t like the intense taste, here are some serving suggestions.

  • Mix with lemonade or orange juice
  • Mix with hot water and extra honey to make a tea
  • Use in place of vinegar in salad dressings and condiments
  • Drizzle on steamed vegetables or sautéed greens
  • Use in marinades for meat, tofu, and tempeh
  • Add to soups and chilis
  • Try a couple of dashes in a cocktail, such as a Bloody Mary

You can buy Fire Cider on-line or make your own.

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, frequent hand washing, getting enough sleep, exercising and drinking lots of water are obvious ways of keeping your immune system at peak. But with more virulent and antibiotic resistant bugs around, you sometimes need a little extra boost.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

A Greener Thanksgiving

As we give thanks for family, friends and delicious and abundant food this Thanksgiving, take a moment to appreciate this beautiful earth we live on too.  Why not make your Thanksgiving a “green” one and try the ideas below.

Image by Ilrena Flickr.com

  • For your holiday dinner, support local farmers and organic produce. The average food travels 1500 miles from farm to plate, consuming large quantities of fossil fuels and generating major CO2 emissions. Local food by contrast is usually transported 100 – 200 miles, has fewer pesticides and can be picked when ripe.  It is obviously fresher and better.  Farm stands and supermarkets have an abundance of local winter squash, carrots, potatoes, greens, herbs, apples, and pumpkin. Don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bags.
  • Try a locally grown, free range organic turkey available at local farms and Whole Foods.  Fresh turkeys are not treated with antibiotics and growth hormones and are moist and delicious.  You won’t believe the difference.  For the vegetarians at your table, try a Tofurkey (available from Trader Joe’s).  It come with its own vegetarian gravy and is really good!  If you can find them, use organic cranberries for your cranberry sauce –  cranberries (and other thin-skinned fruits) are grown with a lot of pesticides.
  • Consider serving organic wine along with your meal. Organic wine is made from certified organically grown grapes, meaning grown without pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. Conventionally grown grapes are another heavily sprayed crop, and the chemical residues can end up in the wine.  Organically grown grapes are better for the soil, the plant and the wine drinker.
  • China, silver and cloth napkins are obviously better for the environment than throwaway paper plates and plastic utensils.  They look better too!  If you are expecting a big crowd and need to opt for disposable, get the biodegradable and compostable plates and utensils.
  • We eat way too many sweets from Halloween through Christmas.  Try using less sugar in your pies and cakes or substituting with honey or maple syrup.
  • Thanksgiving dinner generates a lot of leftovers and food waste.   According to earth911.com, “at least 28 billion pounds of edible food is wasted each year – more than 100 pounds per person.” Careful planning and portion control is a good way to avoid waste. With what leftovers you do have, donate them to a local food pantry or homeless shelter.                                         Use Less Stuff created the handy guide below of approximate food portions per person for Thanksgiving dinner:
    • Turkey- 1 pound
    • Stuffing- ¼ pound
    • Sweet potato casserole- ¼ pound
    • Green beans- ¼ pound
    • Cranberry relish- 3 tablespoons
    • Pumpkin pie- 1/8 of a 9 inch pie
  • After the big feast, don’t forget to recycle cans, cartons, plastics and bottles and compost kitchen scraps.

With your healthy and “green” holiday feast, you won’t feel so badly about overindulging!  Happy Thanksgiving!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Simple Steps That Make A Difference

My husband and I recently attended a fascinating lecture on climate change given by a scientist and director of the Woods Hole Research Center in Woods Hole, MA on Cape Cod. The center, ranked the #1 climate think tank in the world, researches the causes and effects of climate change and creates opportunities for restoration, conservation, and economic development around the world. Tesla cosponsored the event, which as the speaker pointed out, is not a usual practice for a center such as theirs. They do not typically align themselves with a car company. Tesla’s new mission however, “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”, is more in line with the Center’s goals. Their cosponsorship is an example of business and scientists working together.

There were some space-age, very cool electric Tesla cars to test drive, followed by the talk, which focused on the main contributing factors to climate change – deforestation in the Amazon and the Congo, the warming Arctic, “occurring twice as fast in this region than anywhere else”, and the consequences which are already occurring though global sea level rise, widespread wildfires, permafrost thaw, and extreme weather.

When the speaker was asked if there was any one thing people could do to help reverse the effects of climate change, he immediately said plant a tree. Trees are the earth’s lungs absorbing carbon dioxide and other pollutant gasses. He elaborated saying that each individual can make an impact on reversing the effects of climate change by doing simple things in their daily life to conserve water and energy.

The tag line to “What’s Green With Betsy” is “Simple Steps That Make A Difference…” To hear a renowned scientist from such an important institution say basically the same thing gives me great hope. Keep going greener – we can make a difference! As Margaret Mead said, "A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 http://whrc.org/

Eco-Friendly Approach to Fall Clean Up

There is nothing more beautiful than fall foliage, but what do you do with the fallen leaves? According to the EPA, yard waste is the second-largest component of our trash stream (behind paper and corrugated boxes) and makes up roughly 20 percent of most communities’ haul. Additionally, trucking the bulky bags to the dump requires a lot of fuel.

Americans can be obsessive about fallen leaves on the lawn.  Below are some eco-friendly approaches to dealing with them.

Image by dasmant Flickr.com

Fallen Leaves Are Food

Dead leaves are actually Mother Nature’s food, rich in minerals, falling right where they are needed.  With a good mulching mower you can leave a large number of leaves on the lawn to add nutrition, but don’t leave so much that they smother the lawn and cause snow mold.

Fallen Leaves Make Super Compost

Fallen leaves can be composted into nutrient-rich soil for your spring garden. The leaves of one large shade tree can be worth as much as $50 of plant food and humus, according to CompostGuide.com. Leaves are a great soil conditioner and can also be added to your perennial beds for nutrients and as protective mulch.

If you prefer to get rid of them, check and see if your community has garden waste recycling programs, or offer them to neighbors, garden clubs or local farmers for composting.

Rakes Are Greener Than Leaf Blowers

When gathering your leaves, rakes are more effective, cheaper and certainly “greener” than a leaf blower!  And – it’s great exercise!  When using a leaf blower, try a quiet, energy-efficient electric one.

Use Biodegradable Bags For Leaf Bagging

If you do bag your leaves, use biodegradable ones. Green Genius makes bags that are the same strength and price of regular trash bags, but biodegrade within 1 to 15 years.  You can purchase them at Whole Foods or Hannafords.

Fallen leaves are part of nature’s perfect system, so please don’t interfere and throw them away.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Natural Teeth Whiteners

One of my readers contacted me about natural teeth whiteners.   Great question!

We all want whiter teeth, especially as we age, and teeth whitening has become big business. According the ADA, bleaching is the most requested procedure among patients ages 40 to 60. Americans spend billions on over the counter whiteners too. For those of us who want an alternative to chemical whiteners, there are several do-it-yourself options.

  1. Baking Soda – Or sodium bicarbonate has been around for a long time and as been accepted by the American Dental Association since 1931. It reduces stains and plaque through its gentle polishing action, as well as deodorizes the mouth leaving a clean feeling.  Here’s how: Put a little baking soda on a wet toothbrush and brush normally; for extra whitening make a paste of 1 tablespoon of baking soda with 1 teaspoon of food grade hydrogen peroxide.
  1. Strawberry Tooth Brightener – Strawberries have a slight bleaching action and if used daily can help get rid of stains from tea, coffee or cigarettes.  Here’s how: Remove the stem and mash the strawberry into a pulp, dip your toothbrush into the pulp, brush normally, then rinse.
  1. Oil Pulling – Oil pulling is an Ayurveda remedy started in India thousands of years ago that uses oil to clean, detoxify, and nourish teeth and gums. Oil pulling removes excessive and bad bacteria from your mouth, which also helps with detoxification of the entire body. And it whitens teeth and makes your mouth feel clean.  Here’s how: swish a teaspoon or two of coconut oil (sesame oil or olive oil) for approximately 20 minutes. Spit it out and rinse with warm water.
  1. Activated Charcoal – I haven’t tried this remedy yet, but charcoal is being used in everything now from soaps to toothbrushes to towels due to its antimicrobial benefits. Activated charcoal is a highly absorbent porous substance that binds to tannins that stain and yellow teeth and pulls the toxins from the mouth to remove the stains.  Here’s how: Dip a clean wet toothbrush into the powdered charcoal and brush in small, gentle circles for 2 minutes. Spit and rinse well. (Be careful not to stain your sink!)
  1. Turmeric – Turmeric spice is one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories available and along with its numerous health benefits is reducing gum inflammation and teeth whitening.  Here’s how: Dip a wet toothbrush in 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder and brush as normal. Allow the turmeric to sit on your teeth for 3-5 minutes, then spit and rinse. Brush your teeth again using your regular toothpaste.  (It also can stain your sink.)

It’s important to remember that natural remedies take longer to work. So, give it a few weeks – you’ll be pleased with the results. Email me with which remedy (ies ) you like.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Information compiled from: http://wellnessmama.com/35837/natural-teeth-whitening/Baking Soda Bonanza, Peter A. Ciullo, Organic Body Care Recipes, Stephanie Tourles

What's Old Is New Again

Reducing plastic usage and conserving water are two imperative things we must do to help the environment. Reusable shopping bags help eliminate non-biodegradable plastic bags from ending up in the ocean, and taking shorter showers and turning off the water when brushing your teeth helps conserve water. Bar shampoo is another simple idea that eliminates plastic and conserves water.

Bar shampoo is a solid bar of soap made specifically for hair using natural ingredients. It has been around for a long time and was commonly used before the invention of shampoo and conditioners in plastic bottles. J.R. Liggett,'s a producer of old-fashioned bar shampoo, has been in operation for over 30 years.

According to ethiquebeauty.com, a New Zealand eco-conscious bar shampoo manufacturer, shampoo, bodywash and conditioner can be made up of up to 80% water. It doesn’t make sense to pay for water, and package it in plastic, when there already is water in the shower. So far, Ethique has prevented 50,000 bottles, jars and tubes from being made and disposed of. With their "Give Up the Bottle" program, they hope to reach 1 million by 2020.  

Natural bar shampoos don’t contain harsh chemicals, which are not only bad for you and your hair, but for the earth too. Many people find increased volume, faster growing hair, reduced dandruff and less frizz using bar shampoo. My daughter recently switched to bar shampoo and loves the experience of using it. “With my long hair, I can get a more accurate and even spread of the lather throughout my hair, and with the 100% natural ingredients, my hair has never been shinier. I feel really good about my impact on the environment.“

Bar shampoo is usually cheaper than bottle shampoo with some bars lasting 2 -3 months. It’s convenient for traveling or camping too!

Much of the country has been experiencing extended severe drought; scientists estimate by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. We must act now to help reverse these devastating trends.  While this seems daunting and nearly impossible, reducing your plastic and water usage with bar shampoo is a simple yet impactful step towards that goal. What’s old is new again, and often better.

Bar shampoos can be found on line and in natural food markets.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Information compiled from https://ethiquebeauty.com/give-up-the-bottle/ and http://www.overthrowmartha.com/.

Caring for Your Reusable Shopping Bags

I volunteer at my local farmers’ market where I’ve gotten to know many of the farmers. One farmer told me about the rules and regulations for vending at the market, all designed to keep food clean and safe. That’s reassuring, but he also expressed his frustration that no matter what he does to keep food clean, there is always someone who touches the produce with dirty hands or who sneezes on it. It is obviously important to wash your produce before eating or cooking with it, but he also thinks that reusable shopping bags are actually part of the problem with food contamination. Our conversation inspired me to write this post.

Green wtih Betsy Market Bag

It’s exciting to see the reusable bag movement catching on, but it is imperative to wash the bags just like anything else when it gets dirty. Canvas bags can be washed in the washing machine on hot and then dried in the dryer. Recycled plastic bags should be washed by hand with warm soapy water (don’t forget the seams where grime can collect). Nylon bags should be washed inside out by hand in warm soapy water and air-dried.  Occasionally you probably need to replace the bags with new ones.

Two more important points

  • Use separate reusable bags for meats and produce.
  • Never keep your bags in your car or trunk. Heat can cause the bacteria to breed even faster.

Do you wash your bags? If so, good. If not, don’t let the idea of washing your reusable bags deter you from continuing your new eco-conscious habit. It’s as easy as washing your dirty clothes!

Some information compiled from http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

 

 

Thoughtful Back-to-School Clothes Shopping

 

 

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I recently bought a dress with the above tag.  Handmade in India and Nepal by Mata Traders, a “design-driven, fair trade brand helping to end global poverty”,  I thought why can’t more clothes be manufactured under these much more humane and fair conditions? Why aren’t more clothing manufacturers motivated with these values rather than greed and quick profit at whatever cost? Part of the problem is that there is a huge demand for inexpensive everyday clothes, usually manufactured in China and often under horrible conditions.  And who pays the price for cheap? The workers and the environment.

Fair trade clothes aren’t necessarily a lot more expensive than mass produced clothes.  I prefer buying better quality, thoughtfully made clothes that cost a bit more than cheap, mass produced ones. I just buy fewer.  Thankfully as the organic and sustainability movement grows, consumers are more conscious of how their clothes are manufactured and under what conditions.  As a result there are increasingly more fair trade companies from abroad and here in the U.S.

As you start your back-to-school clothes shopping for your kids or your fall shopping for yourself, look for stores that are likely to carry fair trade clothes with this Fair Trade USA label or a comparable label like the one above.

Fair Trade USA “enables sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth.”

Wherever you shop, even chain stores with “fast fashion”, ask the sales clerk about responsibly made clothes.  It’s all about educating, voting with your pocketbook, and thoughtful purchasing.   In other words, create the demand.  As the demand increases, so will the supply and that’s how change happens.

Click here for a list of fair trade and ethical clothing companies available on line.

For general back-to school green tips for kids of all ages, click here.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Some information compiled from http://fairtradeusa.org/.

Conserve Water This Summer!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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We are having a beautiful summer in Massachusetts – clear blue skies, dry air, not too hot.  Ideal, but we need some rain! Though we have had some rain the past few days, we haven’t had nearly enough.  Several towns are facing mandatory water restrictions and many have voluntary water bans from the Department of Environmental Protection.  Much of the Northeast, parts of the Southeast, and scattered areas in the Midwest are abnormally dry. The West continues to be in serious drought conditions.  Conserving water is a must!

Here are two major areas where you can conserve water.

Watering Your Lawn

A lush green lawn is lovely, but turf grass is our largest irrigated “crop”, using as much as half of all fresh water used in urban areas each year. Typically, at least half of all water consumed by households is used outdoors. Lawns require two-and-a-half to four times more water than trees and shrubs, and a typical suburban lawn uses 10,000 gallons of water over and above that provided by rainfall in a single year. Wow! Here are a few suggestions to conserve water with your lawn.

  • Mow high.  Longer grass encourages longer roots, which require less water and food. It also holds moisture better.
  • Avoid mowing during the hottest part of the day.
  • Don’t mow if you don’t have to.  Save the gas instead.
  • When you do water, water deeply and infrequently.
  • Water between 4 and 6am when the demand is low.  After 10 am much of the water evaporates.
  • Check your automatic sprinkler system periodically to make sure the heads are actually watering the lawn and not the sidewalk or your house.
  • Since there seems to be a trend towards hot, dry summers, consider re-landscaping to minimize grass areas in your lawn, lowering your demand for water.  Think about “Edible Landscapes” – they make good sense!
  • If you can, let your lawn go dormant during this drought period.  Lawns are supposed to go dormant in the summer – we just keep them artificially green by watering.  If your lawn has a good root system established, it won’t die and will bounce back during the cooler temperatures of fall.

Washing Your Car

When we wash our car at home,  try to avoid washing near the storm drain. Water run off  goes right into storm drains and eventually into rivers, streams, creeks and wetlands.  You can cover the drain with a rubber mat or wash the car on grass or gravel and let water seep into the ground.  If you do this, make sure to use non-toxic, biodegradable detergents.

To cut down on the amount of water you use when washing your car, try rinsing with rainwater collected  in a bucket or rain barrel.  Use a bucket instead of a hose for washing and use the hose only on the final rinse.

Other Ideas

Turning the water off when you brush your teeth or shave, running the dishwasher and washing machine only when full, shortening your shower are a few other easy ways to save water.  Click here for more ideas.

Water is a precious resource – let’s all do what we can to conserve!

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Don't Let Mosquitos Bother You This 4th of July!

Fourth of July is around the corner – fireworks, barbeques, games, swimming, camping and all those other wonderful outside summertime activities, and mosquitos. For those of us who are mosquito magnets and looking for a safer alternative to DEET, there are personal insect repellents containing botanicals like citronella, basil, lavender, geranium, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary, cedarwood, and tea tree. While these are mildly effective, the longest lasting and most effective botanical is Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, according to the Environmental Working Group. (The Environmental Working Group is a consumer watchdog organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.) In fact, the CDC recently confirmed that Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus can be as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes.

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is a plant-based repellent oil made from the leaves of the Eucalyptus Citriodora tree from tropical northeastern Australia. A 30% concentration of Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (with 19% PMD, a naturally occurring substance) provides up to 6 hours of protection against mosquitoes and ticks.

Repel makes a Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent Pump Spray and is available on-line. I prefer to support local cottage businesses selling insect repellents at my local Farmers’ Market. Check yours to buy some too.  When buying a mosquito repellent, always read the ingredients to make sure they include Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (not to be confused with eucalyptus).

Insect repellent sold at my Farmers' Market

Insect repellent sold at my Farmers’ Market

 

For more ideas for mosquito control, click here.

Summer goes by quickly – don’t let mosquitos and ticks keep you inside!

 

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is not for use on children 3 and younger, can possibly irritate lungs and has possible allergens.

Information compiled from ewg.org. and treehugger.com

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

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