Green's blog

Go Bananas!

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I am a firm believer in local, seasonal eating. But, I do have some exceptions, one of which is bananas. I could never give up bananas and they certainly don’t grow in New England! I start everyday with a nutrition-packed smoothie and banana is the mainstay ingredient.

Bananas are actually a super food in their own right! Here’s how………

Banana’s natural sugars – sucrose, fructose and glucose – combined with fiber are a sustained energy boost; they are the number one fruit with leading athletes. The potassium-packed fruit can also help boost brain power and keep students alert.

Bananas contain tryptophan, a natural protein that the body converts to serotonin, the feel good hormone, and helps people suffering from depression, PMS, stress or SAD (seasonal affect disorder). The tryptophan also helps with insomnia, so have a banana before bed for the perfect bedtime snack. 

Bananas are high in potassium, which reduces the adverse effects of sodium on blood pressure. The fact that they are also low in salt makes it the perfect food to lower blood pressure. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, a regular diet of bananas can cut the risk of death by strokes by as much as 40%!

No need for a laxative when bananas are a part of your diet. The fiber in bananas can help overcome constipation and restore normal bowel function. They also have a natural antacid effect in the body and offer relief from heartburn and intestinal disorders. Bananas keep blood sugar levels up and snacking on them helps pregnant women avoid morning sickness.

For those occasions when you over imbibe, a milkshake made with bananas and honey calms the stomach, builds up depleted blood sugar levels and rehydrates the body.

I tried this remedy yesterday. I rubbed the affected area from a mosquito bite with the inside of the banana skin to reduce swelling and irritation. I’m so allergic to bites that I’ll try anything and surprisingly the bite is much better today! Banana skins can also help kill off warts!

These are just a few of the many benefits of this exotic fruit. While eating locally is the best way, nutrition-packed bananas are an important exception to the rule. Make them apart of your daily diet.

Information compiled from a physiological psychology lecture at CCNY and FDA.com.
For more green tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.
 

Clever Uses For Spent Spices

I have many more spices in my spice cabinet than I actually use, and most have been there for years. Ground spices lose their volatile oils after a time and shouldn’t be kept longer than a year or two. I’ve even heard 6 months. Many of mine are way past their potency and won’t add much flavoring to food; yet, I can’t just throw them away. I recently read an article with some clever uses for old spices, a few of which I want to share with you.

To freshen your carpet (and your vacuum), you can sprinkle old spices like cinnamon, thyme, cloves or nutmeg directly on your carpet and then vacuum up. I’d rather do that than spray a toxic room freshener! Try a small area first to make sure the spice colors won’t stain your carpet before applying to the entire rug.

Strong-smelling spices are often used in insect repellents, and the same theory holds true in the garden. Sprinkle your old pepper, oregano, sage, peppermint, cayenne, chili powder, etc. around your rows of plants to keep insect pests away. It won’t hurt your plant and is definitely worth a try. Gardening is often a battle between mother nature and man, especially on our farm where we have at least 25 geese and goslings, as well as rabbits, hedgehogs and even a fox who all seem to eat the vegetables as quickly as they come up. Chili powder, red pepper and cayenne apparently keep squirrels, rabbits and other animals away as well. I just spread old pepper flakes around our corn – I’ll keep you posted about its effectiveness.

Here’s an unlikely tip. According to Organic Authority, adding a few teaspoons of black pepper to your laundry load will keep colors bright and prevent fading. Why not? It’s certainly not toxic and may prolong the life of your clothes.

Enhance your summer cookout by adding your old spices to the charcoal. Cooking them helps to release the remaining volatile oils. You’ll love the extra boost of flavor and the aroma. You can also toss freshly picked herbs right into the charcoal. I especially like rosemary.

The pigment from nutmeg, paprika, cinnamon and turmeric make safe, natural paints when mixed with water. Or place old spices in sachets to freshen your dresser drawers.

Specialty tea and spice stores selling small jars of spices or spices in bulk are gaining popularity. Farmers’ markets sometimes sell spices too. I prefer to buy them in smaller containers so I know that I can use them up before they lose their potency. But if not, I really like the idea of reusing old spices in fun ways.

Information compiled from Earth911.com, Kathryn Sukalich, 10 Ways to Use Up Old Spices.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.
 

Farmer’s Markets Are Back!

It’s that time of year again; farmer’s markets are back! Lettuces, kale, swiss chard, pea greens, radishes, strawberries – plenty of early spring produce, especially with greenhouse grown vegetables. You can also get locally raised eggs, meat, and poultry, fresh baked goods, locally produced cheeses, potted plants and herbs, handcrafted soaps and lotions, and artisanal items. Every week it’s something different.

I’m thrilled that the farmer’s market concept has caught on. The average food travels 1500 miles from farm to plate, consuming large quantities of fossil fuels and generating major CO2 emissions. Produce is picked unripe, then gassed to ripen, or processed using preservatives or irradiation, losing important nutritional value. With farmer’s markets, food is grown locally using organic or sustainable farming practices and picked at peak ripeness. Fresh and nutritious, there is nothing tastier than a vegetable or fruit straight from the farm.

There are many other advantages. When you shop at a farmer’s market, you are supporting local farmers and the local economy. The farmer sells directly to the customer; middlemen are eliminated and the farmer gets to keep more of his profits.

In this era of prepackaged foods, there is little direct connection to our food. At a farmer’s market, you meet and get to know the people who grow your food and they get to know the people who are eating the food they grow. Today’s children will grow up understanding that their food doesn’t just come in a plastic bag from a giant supermarket, instead someone actually plants the seeds, cares for the tender plant and then harvests the fruit or vegetable.

Farmer’s markets bring the community together; they are a place for neighbors and friends to connect. Participating local musicians, food trucks, art shows, and children’s activities make food shopping a real event.

Local farms help preserve open space, protect the land and promote healthy ecosystems. With sustainable farming, the soil isn’t contaminated with toxic chemicals, keeping our waterways safe.

I participated in the Mashpee farmer’s market on Cape Cod last weekend answering green living questions. Shoppers and vendors were happy, enjoying the warm summer day. Customers chatted with the farmers and admired the fruits of their labor. One vendor even sings opera! Farmer’s markets provide an old-fashioned respite from our fast-paced, wired lives.

So, take a break and visit the farmer’s market in your town. You’ll enjoy more than the delicious and nutritious produce grown in your area, you’ll enjoy the whole experience.

Some information compiled from winchesterfarmersmarket.org.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

 


 

Jade Yoga Mats

I started doing yoga a couple of years ago and love it. I’ve discovered though, that there are just about as many different styles of yoga mats as there are different styles of yoga! My daughter was raving recently about the eco-friendly Jade yoga mat and wondered if I knew anything about them. I hadn’t heard of them and decided to do some research. I was impressed by their website and their philosophy. Yade yoga mats are made with natural renewable and sustainable rubber tapped from rubber trees and contain no PVC or synthetic rubber. JadeYoga is committed to producing their mats in the U.S. in compliance with all U.S. environmental laws even though they could be produced cheaper in China. Because their mats come from the rubber tree, they thank the trees by planting a tree for every mat sold. They also offer a reuse program bringing used yoga mats to people who can’t afford them, thereby helping those in need and reducing the number of yoga mats going into the landfill.

I was sold on their philosophy, so now I wanted to try one. The company sent me a demo mat and I’ve tried it a few times. I have to say it is completely different from my other eco-friendly yoga mat or any other mat I have used. The Jade yoga mat has unbelievable grip! I noticed I could hold my downward dog and pyramid pose better and longer. With a strenuous workout, my feet and hands get sweaty, but even so, I didn’t slip. Apparently the open cell natural rubber guarantees optimum grip. There is also better cushion and more resilience than other mats. You really can feel the difference! Jade yoga mats are also great for pilates and other exercise routines.

Yoga offers tremendous health benefits at any age, but especially as we grow older. It helps with relaxation, flexibility, strength, and balance. If you aren’t already doing yoga, give it a try and consider using the Jade yoga mat. It feels good supporting an eco-friendly company with a quality product genuinely doing the right thing for the earth, even if it means paying a little more.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com
  

Our Tainted Meat Supply

I want to share with you this important article about our meat supply published by the Environmental Working Group. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Environmental Working Group, or EWG, they are the leading environmental health research and watchdog organization. Their mission is to “see that Americans get straight facts, unfiltered and unspun, so they can make healthier choices and enjoy a cleaner environment.” They offer extensive consumer guides to safe cosmetics, healthy cleaning products, pesticides in produce and safe sunscreens, to name a few.

Below is a portion of their report.

Superbugs Invade American Supermarkets

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are now common in the meat aisles of American supermarkets. These so-called superbugs can trigger foodborne illness and infections that are hard to treat.
An analysis by the Environmental Working Group has determined that government tests of raw supermarket meat published last February 5 detected antibiotic-resistant bacteria in:


81% ground beef   69% port chops   55% ground beef   39% breasts, wings, thighs


These little-noticed tests, the most recent in a series conducted by the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, a joint project of the federal Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Agriculture, found that supermarket meat samples collected in 2011 harbored significant amounts of the superbug versions of salmonella and Campylobacter, which together cause 3.6 million cases of food poisoning a year.

Moreover, the researchers found that some 53 percent of raw chicken samples collected in 2011 were tainted with an antibiotic-resistant form of Escherichia coli, or E. coli, a microbe that normally inhabits feces. Certain strains of E. coli can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections and pneumonia. The extent of antibiotic-resistant E. coli on chicken is alarming because bacteria readily share antibiotic-resistance genes.

Not surprisingly, superbugs spawned by antibiotic misuse -- and now pervasive in the meat Americans buy -- have become a direct source of foodborne illness. Even more ominously, antibiotic misuse threatens to make important antibiotics ineffective in treating human disease. In the past, people who became ill because of contact with harmful microbes on raw meat usually recovered quickly when treated with antibiotics. But today, the chances are increasing that a person can suffer serious illness, complications or death because of a bacterial infection that doctors must struggle to control.

The proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria poses special dangers to young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

This is scary stuff! I’m not suggesting you have to become vegetarian to avoid these foodborne illnesses – after all vegetables can be contaminated too, especially coming from long distances. Instead, be a smart meat consumer and opt for organic or grass fed, grass finished meats. They are usually raised without unnecessary antibiotics and in a more humane and sanitary environment. Ask your butcher or supermarket how the meat was raised and buy local meat when you can. And always make sure you meat is cooked thoroughly.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Information compiled from ewg.org.

 

LED Lightbulbs – Their Time Has Come

 

Just as we all have made the switch to compact fluorescent bulbs (I hope!), along come LED light bulbs, which are now the most energy efficient, eco-friendly, long lasting and affordable bulb!

LED bulbs last about 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs and 3 times longer than CFLs. LED bulbs and diodes have a life time operational expectation of about 30,000 hours, or 11 years of continuous operation or 22 years of 50% operation. Imagine not changing a light bulb but once every 20 years or more!

What’s more, you can cut your electric bill by 80 – 90%. With a LED bulb, at least 60% of the electrical energy is converted to light. Conventional incandescent bulbs convert 20% or less into light and the rest is lost as heat, which is why they are so hot to touch.

There are also more advantages. CFL bulbs take a few minutes to brighten. LEDs are bright immediately. The color of the LED lights has improved immensely too - you can choose either whiter or warmer bulbs. And they are durable and are dimmable.

Unlike CFLs, which contain toxic mercury, LED lights are free of toxic chemicals with zero UV emissions.

I just bought the CREE home LED bulb from Home Depot. It looks almost exactly like a conventional bulb and only cost $10. CFL bulbs were a great interim energy saving bulb, but now it’s time to make the switch to the eco-friendly LED light bulb. You will pollute less and save money - you and the earth have everything to gain!

 

Information compiled from The New York Times New Reasons to Change Light Bulbs,By DAVID POGUE Published: March 20, 2013,
http://www.ledluxor.com/top-10-benefits-of-led-lighting,
http://www.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-tech/sustainable/led-light-bulb2.htm

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Greener Garden Accessories

 

We’ve spent the last few days happily planting vegetable seeds on our farm. As every gardener does, we are hoping for a prolific harvest. To achieve that of course you need sun and rain; in dry spells you have to water.

Traditional garden hoses use a lot of water and are manufactured with toxic materials. Fortunately manufacturers understand the importance of and the growing market for “green” household products and are now making eco-friendly hoses with patented water restrictors. The restrictors control pressure and use at least 50% less water; they also help with puddling and soil erosion. Earth friendly hoses are made from at least 50% recycled material, usually polyurethane, rubber or a combination, and are generally much lighter than the common rubber hose. (It is important to choose a hose with UV protective coating to prevent cracking from direct sun exposure.) And on those hot days when you need a drink of water, you can safely drink from an eco-friendly garden hose. They can be found on line at greenhome.com.
 

Conserving water is always a concern and using a rain barrel to capture rainwater makes good sense. The spouts can easily be attached to your garden hose and you can put two or more barrels together for more water! Check out these rain barrels from Gardener’s Supply

Here’s an upcycling tip for a garden accessory - If you have some old venetian blinds hidden in your attic, cut them in pieces for garden stakes and label them with a sharpie. It keeps the blinds out of the landfill and saves you a few dollars.

To show off the fruits of your hard labor, spotlight some of your plantings or light up a garden path with solar lighting. They last for years and work just as well as conventional lighting.

Gardening is naturally a green activity, but make it even more so by using greener garden accessories.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.
 

Recipes for Safe Weed Control

Happily spring is here - trees are flowering, flowers and shrubs are blooming and lawns are turning green. Oh lawns, we love them and we hate them. They add beauty to the landscape and are a playground for our kids and pets, but to maintain a “picture-perfect” lawn requires a lot of time, money, energy, and usually toxic chemicals. A conventional lawn is the largest irrigated “crop” in the country. With an organic lawn you mow less, water less, thatch less and skip high nitrogen-based fertilizers and herbicides. Organic lawns are clearly the safer alternative, but you have to be able to tolerate a few weeds as your lawn transitions from a chemical free lawn to an organic one.

What can you do about those dreaded weeds? First of all, realize that a monoculture, like a lawn, is not usual in nature. With the more natural approach, there will be some weeds. Change your perspective about them. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." Weeds are a messenger of problems in your soil and will grow where nothing else will. Many are an edible and nutritious food. If you really can’t stand them, try the simple and safe recipes for weed control I’ve listed below using ingredients right from your kitchen.

VINAIGRETTE “DRESSING” FOR DANDELIONS

A well-placed shot of vinegar right on the plant can thwart dandelions or other broad-leaved weeds. Be careful not to splash it on the turf or any plants you want to keep, because vinegar will kill grassy plants as well. A section of newspaper or cardboard can act as a shield for desirable plants.

Ingredients

Vinegar (as close to 10% acidity as possible); Dishwashing Liquid (optional); Pump Spray Bottle

Directions

Fill the spray bottle with undiluted vinegar (or mix 3 parts vinegar to 1 part dishwashing liquid). Spray a narrow stream, dousing the weed’s leaves and crown (the area at the base of the plant). Rinse the sprayer well with water, especially if it has metal parts because vinegar is corrosive. This is a spot spray only!

ALCOHOL ATTACK

Rubbing alcohol is a simple way to kill a weed. Mix it with water and it will dehydrate almost any weed. This also works against spider mites, aphids, and scale, but may require some experimentation to find the right level of effectiveness. Test spray on one leaf to check for burning.

Ingredients

1-quart water; 1 (or more) tablespoons rubbing alcohol; Pump spray bottle

Directions

Mix water and alcohol in the spray bottle. (Use 1 tablespoon of alcohol for weed seedlings or thin-leaved weeds and 2 tablespoons or more for tougher weeds.) Spray weed leaves thoroughly but lightly. (Avoid surrounding plants.)

SORRY, CHARLIE

Creeping Charlie is a low-growing, yellow-flowered perennial weed that can be a real nuisance in lawns. If you have noticed it in yours, borax can be a very effective weed-killer, particularly in late spring or early summer when weeds are growing most actively.

Ingredients

5 Teaspoons borax, like 20 mule Team Borax, for every 25 square feet of lawn; 1-quart water; Pump spray bottle

Directions

Mix borax in water. Measure exactly: Too little and it won’t kill the weeds, too much and you could kill the grass too. Spray to cover a 25-square foot area. Water and fertilize your turf after the treatment so that it rapidly fills in the space left by the dead weeds.

SPRAY AWAY BROWN PATCH IN LAWNS

Brown or yellow rings that die out in your lawn, caused by rhizoctonia fungi, which comes from poor drainage, too much rain and/or too much nitrogen fertilizer, can be treated with this simple solution.

Ingredients

1 rounded tablespoon baking soda or potassium bicarbonate (a better choice since it has less salt); 1-tablespoon horticultural oil; 1-gallon water

Directions

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Spray lightly on your lawn. Avoid overuse or drenching the soil.

DELUXE BAKING SODA SPRAY

For a very effective disease and insect fighter, go no further than your kitchen. This concoction works best as a preventative, so spray susceptible plants before disease symptoms start and continue at weekly intervals.

Ingredients

1 ½ tablespoons baking soda; 1-tablespoon canola oil; 1 cup plus 1 gallon water; 1-tablespoon vinegar; Backpack or pump sprayer

Directions

Mix the baking soda, soap and oil with 1 cup of water. Add the vinegar. Don’t mix the vinegar in until last or the mixture may bubble over. Pour the mixture into the sprayer and add 1 gallon of water. Shake or stir to combine the ingredients. Spray plants, covering the bottoms and tops of the leaves.

PLAIN AND SIMPLE GARLIC JUICE

If you are a garlic lover, you may want to use this simple recipe to fight diseases and insects on your plants.

Ingredients

3 garlic cloves; A blender; Pump Spray Bottle; Molasses (optional)

Directions

Liquefy 3 garlic cloves in a blender that is half-filled with water. Strain out the garlic, then mix the remaining liquid with enough water to make 1 gallon of spicy concentrate. Two tablespoons of molasses will help the mixture adhere to the leaves.

CITRUS KILLER FOR APHIDS

Aphids and other leaf-sucking insects can cause considerable damage if you don’t control them. This mixture neutralizes aphids and can also act as a deterrent to ants!

Ingredients

1-pint water; Rind from 1 lemon, grated (or orange or grapefruit rind); Cheesecloth; Pump Spray Bottle

Directions

Bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the grated lemon rind. Allow the mixture to steep overnight. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth, and pour into the spray bottle. Apply the mixture to plant leaves that are under attack. (This mixture must come in contact with the insects’ bodies to be effective.)

WEEDS IN HOT WATER

Use boiling water to eliminate weeds from sidewalk or driveway cracks. Be careful not to splash it on to neighboring plants or turf.

Ingredients

Teakettle or pan

Directions

Boil a full kettle of water. Pour slowly and carefully, dousing both the weeds and the soil immediately surrounding them.

For more recipes, email me at greenwithbetsy.com.

Recipes for organic weed, insect pests and disease controls compiled from Great Garden Formulas, 1998 Rodale Press, Inc.

Some Information compiled from: lawncare.about.com/od/lawncarebasics/a/historyoflawn.htm

 

Green Candles (and I don’t mean the color)

An aside: On a quintessential Patriot’s day, the face of the historic and prestigious Boston Marathon was changed by a horrific act of terrorism. My heart goes out to the three people who were killed, those who were wounded, their families and all the runners who trained so hard and long and were unable to finish the race. This tragedy, this shock, will not break the spirit of the hearty and resilient New England people.

I love candles – the light they cast, the ambiance they create, their ability to make an ordinary event special. But – conventional paraffin wax candles contain toxic chemicals. Paraffin is actually a petroleum byproduct, the sludge from the bottom of an oil barrel. It’s then bleached with 100% industrial grade bleach, dyed, and often scented with synthetic fragrances, all of which contain microscopic particles that can cause cancer and respiratory problems when inhaled. What’s more, 40% of candles on the market contain lead wires inside their wicks. According to the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, “a candle with a lead-core wick releases five times the amount of lead considered hazardous for children and exceeds EPA pollution standards for outdoor air. ” We all are aware of the problems associated with high levels of lead exposure – hormone disruption, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and health problems. Additionally, soot from paraffin wax candles can damage computers, electrical appliances and your home.

As with most things, there are safer and healthier alternatives. Vegetable-based wax candles with cotton wicks, like soy-based candles, are a non-toxic alternative to paraffin candles. So are 100% beeswax candles, which are not only non-toxic, but are actually healthy for you. I recently learned from a bee farmer that beeswax candles release negative ions as they burn. Negative ions are nature’s air purifiers and are commonly produced in waterfalls, electrical storms and mountain regions. They attract positive ions, particles that are positively charged like dust, pollen, mold and airborne germs. The negative ions neutralize the positive ions so they no longer circulate in the air. People with allergies, sinus problems and asthma have reported significant improvement in their symptoms after burning 100% beeswax candles. Seems crazy, but honey is an ancient, nutrient-rich, natural healer; therefore it makes sense that beeswax is a healer too.

Get some toxin free candles today – you’ll breathe easier!

Information compiled from http://www.greenamerica.org/livinggreen/candles.cfm, http://www.babybellies.ca, and www,queenbeehoney.com

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Earth Day 2013

 

April 22 is the 43rd annual Earth Day. According to earthday.org, more than one billion people take part in Earth Day – individuals, communities, organizations and governments from around the world. This year, earthday.org is collecting and displaying images of people, animals and places directly affected by climate change as well as those helping to do something about it.

I hope you will participate too! There are lots of easy and meaningful things you can do. You can:

• Plant a tree
• Sow some seeds for your garden
• Visit a local farm
• Change a conventional light bulb to an energy-saving compact fluorescent or LED one
• Pick up litter on the beach
• Take part in a trash pick-up
• Use a travel mug rather than a paper cup for your coffee-to-go
• Drink from a reusable water bottle rather than a plastic one
• Recycle newspapers, bottles and cans
• Start a compost bin in your backyard for kitchen waste
• Make a commitment to drive less and carpool or walk more
• Take public transportation
• Shorten your shower by one minute
• Shut down your computer for one hour
• Attend an Earth Day event in your area or volunteer
• Include your kids and grandkids and open their eyes about protecting the earth

End the day with an Earth Day Dinner Celebration with foods that are grown locally if possible and are gentler to the earth - organic vegetables and fruits, grass-fed, grass finished beef, free-range chicken or sustainably harvested fish and raise awareness about the origins of our food at the same time. You could host a potluck dinner with regional specialties, plan an earth dinner fundraiser for your favorite local organization, and have an earth day party for kids or a simple supper with your family or friends. If the weather is warm, try an earth day picnic. Use real cutlery, not plastic, real plates, not paper and cloth napkins. Seed packets make great place cards. Eat by candlelight to save energy and wash the dishes with non-toxic detergent.

Check your local newspaper or go online for Earth Day events in your town. Make Earth Day and Earth Dinner celebrations your new tradition. Never forget that simple steps really do make a difference!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.
 

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