Green's blog

Friday Is Arbor Day!

This Friday is Arbor Day – always the last Friday in April – a tradition that began nationwide in 1872 and continues today with individuals and groups celebrating trees and nature.

 

 

Planting new trees and caring for existing ones is more important than ever as we battle exoticinvasive insect pests, air pollution, soil compaction and contamination, limited water and nutrient availability and the overall effects of extreme weather conditions and climate change.  Trees are much more than just a beautiful big plant; their social, communal, and environmental benefits are numerous.

  • They manufacture oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.
  • They provide shade in summer and windbreak in winter.
  • The beauty and serenity of trees have been shown to help hospital patients recover more quickly.
  • Trees reduce crime in low-income urban areas and increase home property values.
  • Trees save energy, improve air quality, conserve water and provide homes to wildlife.
  • Trees offset our carbon footprints.
  • Large and majestic trees are a major asset to any community.

 

 

This Arbor Day, plant a tree seedling, learn how to care for the trees in your yard or neighborhood, read a tree identification book, or simply take a walk and appreciate not only their beauty but what they do for our health and for the health of the planet.

For group activity ideas, go to arborday.org.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Preventing Lyme Disease

Mark your calendars for an engaging evening with Captain Richard Phillips presented by Lyme Awareness of Cape Cod on April 18 @ 6:00pm.  He’ll be speaking at the Barnstable High School Performing Arts Center on Cape Cod about his life experiences and the dangers he faced on the high seas with Somali pirates.  Following the talk is a dinner at the Yarmouth House along with a meet and greet and book signing by Capt. Phillips of his book “A Captains Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS,and Dangerous Days at Sea”.  Tickets for talk only are $25.00 and available on-line at www.lymeticks.org or at the Brewster Book Store, $30.00 at the door.  

 

Watch out -deer ticks are here!  My cousins and I were enjoying a beautiful Easter walk in the woods and near the marshes on Cape Cod when we discovered several deer ticks.  Already? Yes!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease is one of the fastest spreading infectious diseases in the United States.

English: National Lyme disease risk map with 4...

English: National Lyme disease risk map with 4 categories of risk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Deer ticks in the Northeast carry the illness, where 90% of all US cases are reported.  Lyme disease has become more prevalent partly because suburban neighborhoods have expanded into wooded areas where ticks thrive.  Deer, mice and pets carry deer ticks, about the size of a poppy seed. If a tick bites you, remove it right away, identify it and have it tested if you suspect a deer tick. One in four nymphal deer ticks can infect you with some kind of disease if they feed for more than 24 hours.  (Some sources say ticks attached for as little as two hours can transmit the disease.)

Ticks

Ticks (Photo credit: Kriatyrr)

 

I had Lyme disease a few year ago and was the sickest I had ever been with a severe headache, joint pain, high fever and flu-like symptoms.  I was one of the lucky ones however, with a defining bull’s eye rash and was able to get on antibiotics right away, which cured it.  But many people don’t get the rash and it’s easy to confuse body aches and fevers with other diseases. The blood tests are often inaccurate too; you can still have Lyme disease even with a negative blood test.

English: Erythematous rash in the pattern of a...

English: Erythematous rash in the pattern of a “bull’s-eye” from Lyme disease (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

As with anything else, prevention is your best medicine.

What you can do to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease:

  • Avoid being bitten by a tick, which is most plentiful where woodlands transition into fields, meadows or yards.
  • Avoid tall grasses.
  • Avoid deer paths in the woods, which are usually loaded with ticks.
  • Avoid places where mice are abundant like leaf litter, woodpiles, mulch beds, gardens, rock walls.
  • When you are in high tick area, wear light-colored clothing to spot them easier.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants with your pants tucked into your socks when working outside or hiking in tick-infested areas.
  • Use insect repellant; clothes can be sprayed directly.
  • Walk in the center of trails.
  • Always do tick checks after being outside in a high deer tick area.  Magnifying glasses help with spotting deer ticks.
  • Shower after being in a tick-infested area.
  • Putting your clothes in a dryer at high heat for 35 minutes will kill ticks.  Most ticks are very sensitive to heat.
  • Take garlic supplements daily to help repel insects and ticks.
  • Treat pets to minimize risk. Pets can get Lyme disease too and bring ticks into the house.

 

Cultural Practices you can do in your yard to help eliminate ticks:

  • Mow along boundary lines of your yard.
  • Treat your yard with a professional spray or do it yourself.
  • Keep grass mowed regularly.
  • Install a low brick wall where your yard ends and woods begin.
  • In high tick areas, get guinea hens – they eat deer tick.

Visit Lyme Awareness of Cape Cod for more detailed information.  The University of Rhode Island has a comprehensive website as well.   tickencounter.org

Lyme disease is a dreadful disease which left untreated can cause chronic major problems seriously affecting your health.  Early diagnosis and proper treatment can help cure you.

Be vigilant and don’t let ticks ruin your summer!

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Straws and Waste....

One doesn’t think of straws as particularly wasteful. After all, they don’t take up much space in the trash. In fact, they actually are because of the sheer volume used every day. According to ecocycle.org, the average person sips through 38,000 or more straws in their lifetime. We use 500 million straws every day, or enough disposable straws to fill over 46,400 large school buses per year. Rarely do they get recycled or reused, so all these straws, plus their plastic or paper wrap, end up in the landfill.

One also doesn’t think of straws as unhealthy either, but as I always say, food (or drink) and plastic don’t go together, and the majority of straws are plastic.

Some people prefer using a straw in restaurants to insure cleanliness. And some states require restaurants to serve straws with open beverages. But when you don’t want a straw, simply asking a server not to give you one will help reduce waste as well as send a message to the restaurant.

As with most products, there are several eco-friendly alternatives you might not know about. Reusable glass straws that come with a cleaning brush, biodegradeable and compostable ones made from plant-based plastic, and paper straws are much healthier choices for you and the environment.

Simple steps that make a difference……..


Straw manufacturers provided the estimates above. Some environmental groups think these statistics are low since they don’t include straws attached to juice boxes and milk cartons.


For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.


Information compiled from: http://www.ecocycle.org/bestrawfree and http://www.simplystraws.com.

Food Waste/Food Loss/Solutions - Part 2

Food Loss

Food loss occurs during the production, post harvest and processing of food. I was shocked to learn that in California’s Salinas Valley where so much of our produce is grown, improperly filled, labeled, sealed or damaged food containers are thrown into the landfill, even though the food itself is fine. According to the National Geographic article, One Third of Food is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done?, “Between April and November, the Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority landfills between four and eight million pounds of vegetables fresh from the fields. And that's just one transfer station out of the many that serve California's agricultural valleys.”

In developing nations, often without adequate food storage facilities and transportation, food loss is even greater. The National Geographic article states that in Africa, they lose 10 to 20 percent of the continent’s sub-Saharan grains, which is about four billion dollars’ worth of food or enough to feed 48 million people for a year. India loses an estimated 35 to 40 percent of its fruits and vegetables. Similar loss exists in other developing nations.

Solutions

When you think about all the hungry people in the world, these facts are all the more shocking, but governmental agencies, environmental and service organizations are working to solve this staggering problem. The Food Waste Reduction Alliance for one is working with supermarket chains to reduce waste by clarifying expiration dates, donating more food and making changes in manufacturing processes to reduce the amount of wasted food. These groups also work with large restaurant chains to reduce portion size; many small restaurants already offer small and large portions. Orchardists are working with juice companies and packers to develop more secondary markets for ugly or less-than-perfect fruit. One group called The Pig Idea is pressing the EU to allow feeding food waste to swine and other livestock.

These are good solutions, but as with most problems, the best solution is to prevent food waste and food loss in the first place.

Information compiled from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/One-Third of Food Is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done and http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/26/us/food-waste-is-becoming-serious-economic-and-environmental-issue-report-says.html?mabReward=A4&action=clic

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Food Waste/Food Loss/Solutions

As a child, I was required to clean my plate. “Think about all the starving children in Africa.” my mother repeatedly said. And so I gobbled up my dinner. Even though that philosophy changed when I was raising my kids, “Keep mealtime happy; they take what they need.”, I still hated wasting food.

According to a National Geographic article, “One-Third of Our Food is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done”, more than 30 percent of the food we grow, valued at $162 billion annually, isn’t eaten. Globally it is rising to 50% as developing nations struggle with spoilage and Western nations simply throw food away. In general, “the richer the nation, the higher its per capita rate of waste.”

Think about your restaurant dining experiences. Restaurants usually serve overly large portions, which most people don’t eat. They either leave the food or ask for a doggy bag. Doggy bags make sense except the food, along with other leftovers, is often thrown away. So then is the doggy bag packaging, usually made from non-biodegradable Styrofoam. With elaborate buffets in restaurants and on cruises, consumers help themselves to excessive and unhealthy portions often not eaten. At the end of the buffet, the leftover food is dumped.

The National Geographic article states that food retailers usually have in-store losses of 43 billion pounds of food a year. They over order to avoid running out of a particular product and potentially losing customers. Consumers over buy because food is relatively cheap and designed to be seductively packaged.

Consumers also take the “use by” date literally (brainwashed?), even though the stamps were “designed to communicate peak freshness and have nothing to do with food safety.” Again, out goes the food and back to the store to buy more.

Uneaten food goes beyond the obvious waste. It also wastes exorbitant amounts of fuel, agricultural chemicals, water, land, and labor needed to produce and transport the uneaten food. Those wasted toxic chemicals used to produce food seep into our waterways and deplete the soil of beneficial nutrients. And if that’s not bad enough, food waste is the number one material taking up landfill space where it generates methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide.

Yikes – It’s time to go back to the era of cleaning our plates!


Next week’s blog – Food Loss/Solutions

Information compiled from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/One-Third of Food Is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done” and http://modernfarmer.com/2013/09/next-food-revolution-youre-eating/


For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Thieves Oil To The Rescue!

After speaking with one of my teacher friends who was frustrated at getting one cold after another from her students despite taking every precaution to keep germs from spreading, including Clorox wipes, I decided to repost my entry about Thieves Oil, an amazing non-toxic germ-killing spray! It is that time of year!


Thieves Oil is a powerful blend of germ-killing essential oils – clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus and rosemary – that help 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 millions of people in Europe and Asia for about 600 years. 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.


There are a variety of Thieves® antiseptic products such as household cleaners, soaps, hand sanitizers, toothpaste, and mouthwash. All are formulated from the essential oils mentioned in the legend that help fight against bacteria, fungi and viruses and ward off disease.


As germs become more virulent and antibiotic resistant, it’s more important than ever to support your immune system and ward off bugs, and anything is worth a try! Do so with Thieves® products, especially during cold and flu season. Keep some in your natural medicine cabinet, at your office, in your car, and at school. I use it, my kids use it, and I can tell you it works. And the spray smells great…….


Information compiled http://www.secretofthieves.com.
For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.    

Indulge in a Bit of Nutrient-Dense Chocolate on Valentine's Day!


This Valentine’s Day, indulge in a bit of nutrient-dense chocolate. Hailed as a super food as scientists begin to identify all the benefits of the cacao bean, it’s loaded with minerals, vitamins and antioxidants that can help ward off many common lifestyle diseases. The key is consuming the right chocolate – raw, unprocessed cacoa beans or nibs, or at least 70% cocoa dark chocolate. Not your typical candy bar loaded with fat, sugar and other fillers!


Some of the potential benefits of eating chocolate are:

 

  • Lowering cholesterol levels and relaxing blood pressure
  • Preventing cognitive decline – Scientists at Harvard Medical School suggest that drinking two cups of hot chocolate “can help preserve blood flow in working areas of the brain”. Compounds in chocolate may reduce or block damage to nerve pathways in the brain.
  • Reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems
  • Protecting against type-2 diabetes – due to the high levels of flavonoids in chocolate (also found in tea, berries and wine)
  • Preventing obesity – certain antioxidants in chocolate are said to lower blood sugar levels and possibly prevent weight gain

As most people instinctively realize, chocolate also releases certain feel good chemicals, or endorphins naturally produced by the brain “that generate feelings of pleasure and promote a sense of well being.”

On Valentine’s Day, promote well-being and buy your loved ones some healthy chocolates! And, when you next crave a cup of steaming hot chocolate on a snowy day or a piece of chocolate to boost your mood, go for it. Your body knows what it needs. Just make sure it’s a moderate amount of the right kind. Moderate amount? That’s not always easy for chocoholics like me!


Watch this short video on the amazing benefits of eating a little chocolate everyday!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-3yXokTuEw

Information compiled from: http://www.medicalwellnessassociation.com/, http://www.organicauthority.com/, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com
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Sustainable Food Storage

I’ve just discovered the most wonderful product called Bee’s Wrap. Handmade in Vermont by a young mother and her team, it’s the perfect alternative to plastic wrap for food storage. Bee’s Wrap is made from organic cotton muslin infused with beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin. The anti-bacterial properties of beeswax and jojoba oil keep the food fresh and allow the wraps to be used over and over.

Use Bee’s Wrap to wrap sandwiches, cheese, baked goods, bread, a half avocado, cucumber or lemon, or to cover a bowl of leftovers. It is not recommended for meat. With the warmth and pressure of your hand, the malleable sheet easily molds around the food to create a seal. To reuse, clean with a mild soap and air dry. With proper care and usage, it should last up to a year.

Bee’s Wrap comes in five sizes – small, medium, large, bread, baguette, and an assorted 3 pack.

Not only do food and plastic not go together, plastic wrap is not easily recycled. Here is at last a clever, easy, reusable and safe alternative for food storage. Congratulations to this creative young entrepreneur!

Minimally and attractively packaged, Bee’s Wrap can be found on line at beeswrap.com and at natural food stores and specialty shops all over, even internationally. For you readers on Cape Cod, Farm Fare Market at 68 Tupper Road in Sandwich carries them.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

What is Your Carbon Footprint?

I’m resurrecting some of my earlier posts which I want to call attention to. “What is your carbon footprint?” is one of them.


Relating to that topic, I have another perspective as the price of oil continues to drop and gasoline prices become so much cheaper. My concern is that we will be more complacent and less careful about our energy usage with such low prices. The news rarely if ever talks about the the environmental impact of oil. No matter the price of gasoline, driving and flying still are major culprits of climate change and the resulting intensifying storms and droughts. I drive an electric car and only occasionally have to fill up with gasoline, but I too am enjoying lower prices. I’m afraid we have to be hit in the pocketbook for necessary change to happen.


Carbon Footprint is a measurement of greenhouse gas emissions an individual produces from energy consumed in their day to day activities, emissions that cause pollution and climate change. The US accounts for 26% of the world’s energy use despite that we are less than 5% of the human population. Driving, flying, heating, air conditioning, electricity, the size of your home, the type foods you eat, and the products you buy all require the use of fossil fuels and make up your carbon footprint. It’s important to be aware of how much energy you use, a first step in reducing your carbon footprint. To find out yours, click here.
Below are simple changes you can make to lessen your footprint.

 

  • walk or bike more
  • combine errands
  • take public transportation when possible
  • carpool
  • drive more slowly
  • keep your tires inflated
  • consider buying a hybrid or electric car when you need a new one
  • turn off lights when not in use
  • unplug appliances when not in use
  • run your dishwasher and washing machine only when full
  • turn down the heat
  • check for air leaks
  • eat meat less often
  • eat local foods
  • compost
  • reduce consumption
  • recycle paper, cans, bottles, newspapers and buy recycled products

While you are enjoying the lower gasoline prices, continue to be mindful of your energy usage. Each little step will reduce your carbon footprint, lower your energy costs and make you a bit healthier! Calculate your footprint, you will be surprised at how much energy you consume.

“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. ” Margaret Mead 

Is There Still A Quandary Over Plastic Bags?

As I finished up a telephone call in my car in the Stop and Shop parking lot the other day, I observed a young woman unload her cart, filled to the brim with groceries, all bagged, maybe even double bagged, in plastic. I was really taken aback! With that many groceries, wouldn’t larger paper ones be better if you didn’t have reusable ones?

I mistakenly think everyone is aware of the problems with plastic bags. Change in attitude is happening for sure, but we are clearly not there yet. Below are some startling facts about plastic bags compiled from a previous post.

  • The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store, just one of many stores we frequent.
  • According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil or natural gas, both non-renewable resources, are used to make these bags.
  • Somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. At this time roughly only 5 or 6% of them are recycled. Millions end up in the litter stream outside of the landfills, either in the oceans or on land where aquatic life and animals, mistaking them for food, are poisoned. The rest end up in landfills. It can take centuries for them to decompose.

Though they are inexpensive to produce (therein lies the problem), easily reused as trash can liners or lunch bags, and can be recycled, there are still too many plastic (and paper) bags. They seem to multiply – a direct correlation to the amount of stuff we consume!


Each high quality reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime. Fortunately, the movement to bring reusable bags to the grocery store is catching on and many stores now give a $.05/bag rebate. Whole Foods stores no longer carry plastic bags -100% biodegradable bags are now available.


Alternatives are there. It’s time for all companies and consumers to get on board!


List of towns in the US that banned plastic bags:

  • San Francisco
  • Portland, OR
  • Falmouth, MA
  • Provincetown, MA
  • a few other towns in MA
  • towns in the outer banks of North Carolina

List of countries with cities that banned plastic bags:

  • England
  • Mexico (Mexico City)
  • India
  • Burma
  • Bangladesh
  • Rwanda (reputed to be one of the cleanest nations in the world)
  • Australia

Countries where plastic bags are taxed, but not banned:

  • Italy
  • Belgium
  • Ireland (where plastic bag use dropped by 94 percent within weeks of the 2002 ban.)

Countries where plastic bags come with a fee:

  • Switzerland
  • Germany
  • Holland

Check out these other posts I wrote on plastics and ideas for reducing plastic usage.


Some information compiled from: http://people.howstuffworks.com/how-many-cities-have-a-ban-on-plastic-bags.htm


For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com

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