Green's blog

Bag it

 

If you are in the Plymouth area next Thursday, April 11, come to the Plimoth Cinema where the Plymouth Network of Open Space Friends, the League of Women Voters, Goldenrod Foundation, and Plymouth Farmers Market are co-sponsoring the local premiere of the nationally acclaimed movie, bag it.

This wry and educational film follows Jeb, an average guy, as he tries to make sense of our dependence on single use plastic bags and evolves into a complete investigation into plastic and its effects on our waterways, oceans and even our bodies. It’s touching, funny and informative. Following the film will be a panel discussion moderated by Bruce Gellerman, a well-known environmental journalist and former senior correspondent and host of Public Radio International’s Living on Earth. Participating on the panel are Betsy Dewitt, a selectwoman from the town of Brookline where they have limited the use of plastic bags, Jesse Mechling, Marine Education Director at the Provinceton Center for Coastal Studies, and I, a homeowner and blogger with a strong environmental consciousness.

It promises to be a fun evening and I guarantee your eyes will be opened about plastic!

Join me at Plimoth Cinema located at Plimoth Plantation, 137 Warren Avenue, Plymouth on April 11, 2013 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $7.50. You can purchase by calling 508-746-1622, ext. 8346 or go to www.eventbrite.com/event/5443804566#

Hope to see you there!

Turn Off Your Lights!

This Saturday, March 23 marks the 7th annual Earth Hour when people from around the world turn their lights out for one hour from 8:30pm – 9:30pm. Earth Hour started with one city and has grown to over 7000, with one country to seven continents, and with two million people to hundreds of millions of people.

Earth Hour was created to:

· “To unite people and show our desire to protect the planet.
· To encourage and empower people to take action beyond the hour itself
· Create an interconnected global community and build on the momentum and action for a sustainable future.”

Earth Hour “has grown to become the largest mass participation event in history.”

This Saturday, why don’t you turn off your lights and encourage your family, friends, coworkers and neighbors to as well. It’s a small step with a big impact. Visit www.earthhour.org for information, challenges, suggestions, kids’ activities and more on helping to build a sustainable future.

Lights out!

Information compiled from earthhour.org

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.
 

Treat Your Pet Organically!

We have the same concerns for our pets about good health, proper nutrition and chemical exposure as we do for ourselves; they are vulnerable to many of the same illnesses such as cancer and diabetes. As with humans, there are fortunately now many organic products and accessories for pets, as well as alternative therapies like aromatherapy, homeopathy and botanical supplements. For example, conventional flea control products contain pyrethroids and pesticides, which can cause health problems and cancer risks. They also pose risks to humans who touch their pet after a treatment. I sprinkle a yeast and garlic supplement on my dog’s food to repel fleas from the inside out which seems to work with no risk. (Don't give your pet straight garlic however.) Flea combs, non-toxic powders, organic sprays and shampoos also work. Here is a natural, easy-to-do flea spray you can make yourself:

Natural Flea and Tick Repellant:

6 drops lavender oil; 6 drops cedar oil; 6 drops peppermint oil; 1 cup witch hazel; Combine all the ingredients and place in a spray bottle. Shake until mixed thoroughly. Shake bottle before using. This does not need to be worked into the skin. The smell will repel fleas and ticks.

Conventional pet food has preservatives, additives with little nutritional benefit, substitutes for more expensive meats, artificial colors, thickeners and sweeteners. Many of these fillers are contaminants and potentially carcinogenic, but you can find healthier alternatives at most pet stores and supermarkets.

Most dogs spend a lot of time outside on the lawn, rolling around on, digging, and sniffing. If you are not already doing so, consider switching to organic lawn care instead of conventional which uses unnecessary chemicals and nitrogen based fertilizers, many of which are known carcinogens linked to health problems in children, pets and adults. Lawns actually use 20 times more pesticides per acre than farms.

Organic bedding, toys and clothing made using organic catnip and organic cotton help to keep your pets healthy and keep our planet free of pollutants. Bark your dog (and cat) up the right tree!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Single Use Products


 If you think about it, single use products make no sense at all. That’s part of the problem. In our throwaway society, we don’t think about it. Continuing the theme of my recent post about eliminating aluminum foil and plastic wrap, I’ve listed below other products you can try cutting out (or at least cutting back on).

1. Plastic bags – the movement to bring reusable bags food shopping is becoming well established. In fact, some cities and towns have eliminated them all together or charge for plastic bags. Start bringing reusable bags on your other errands as well. Make it a challenge to always bring them with you. Earmark some for food, some for clothes, etc. (Don’t forget to occasionally wash your reusable bags too.)

2. Plastic food baggies – they are hard to live without, but you can wash and reuse them a couple of times. Reusable cloth sandwich and biocompostable baggies are more available now as well.

3. Paper Napkins – cloth napkins are prettier, more durable, and certainly more eco-friendly than paper ones. Aim to use cloth napkins at most meals and keep recycled paper ones only as backup.

4. Paper Plates and Paper Cups – There is no doubt about their convenience, but they are totally wasteful, especially the plastic ones. For outdoor (or indoor) dining, consider dishwasher and oven safe enamelware. Lightweight and unbreakable, enamelware is perfect for camping or picnics too and comes in fun designs.

5. Plastic Water Bottles – There really is no reason to buy plastic water bottles. They shouldn’t be reused and they don’t biodegrade. Use glasses at home and stainless steel or BPA-free water bottles for transporting.

6. Facial Tissues – this is one of those single use items you probably just want to cut back on rather than eliminate. I gave my husband some old-fashioned handkerchiefs and he loves them. Use them a few times, throw them in the wash and then reuse!

7. Dryer Sheets – There are lots of alternatives to conventional dryer sheets that aren’t made with chemical fabric softeners and soaked in toxic fragrances. Several natural brands use vegetable derived softening agents and essential oils instead. Reusable dryer balls made with PVC-free plastic or felt make the most sense to me – they soften clothes without chemicals, reduce drying time and save energy.

Cutting back on or eliminating single use products helps not only the earth, but your pocketbook as well. What single use products have you eliminated from your daily life? Email me - I’d love to know.


For more ideas or green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

SodaStream

As a follow up to my post, “Is Carbonation Good or Bad?” I want to tell you about the SodaStream home soda maker. Tired of lugging home, storing and recycling cases of heavy seltzer bottles, I thought I would give one a try.

Tall and sleek, it fits nicely on my countertop and under the overhead cabinets.
I had heard that they are easy to use and they really are! Once you set up the carbonator in the drinksmaker, you simply fill the carbonating bottle with cold water (I use filtered water.), screw it in to the carbonator, press the button on top three times (4 for more carbonation) and seconds later you have delicious seltzer water. If you want flavored seltzer or soda, you add the flavoring afterwards. Just slowly pour it into the tilted soda bottle, close and gently shake. I tried the cola flavoring and the lemon line. Both were good - the cola flavoring tasted just like coke. While I avoid foods with artificial flavorings, I was glad to know they are made without high-fructose corn syrup or aspartame.

I noticed that the fizziness stays for a couple of days, though you’ll definitely finish the bottle of seltzer long before it goes flat. Another plus, the carbonator bottles never need washing, only a quick rinse with warm water, if that.

When the carbonator is empty, you can take it to any participating retailer where they will sell you a full one for the price of the gas contents only. Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, the Bon-Ton family of stores, Crate and Barrel, Kohl's, Macy's, Staples, Sur La Table, Target, Wal-Mart, and Williams-Sonoma are some national retailers that carry exchange carbonators.

I try not to clutter my kitchen with extraneous gadgets, but SodaStream I highly recommend. It’s practical, simple-to-use, no-fuss and good for the environment - no energy is wasted by transporting billions of gallons of soda and seltzer every day, nor is there any empty bottles thrown into the landfill. Give one a try – Starter kits start at $129.00 and include a home soda maker, 1 reusable BPA-free carbonating bottle with fizz-preserving cap, 1 60L CO2 carbonator which makes up to 60 liters or 50 cans, and a sodamix taste sampler with 6 flavors (they have over 50!)

As their marketing materials say, “it just makes good sense”. It really does.

For more green tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.
 

You’re Kidding - Eliminate Aluminum Foil and Plastic Wrap?


I try to avoid single use products like plastic wrap and aluminum foil and rarely use them, but when I do, I cringe when I have to throw them away knowing they won’t biodegrade. If it’s not too dirty, aluminum foil is easy to wash and reuse, but eventually it has to be thrown away. If it isn’t too soiled, you can recycle it (wash it first). The same is true for plastic wrap, although many curbside-recycling programs won’t accept it.

According to Earth911.com, “more than 1.3 billion pounds of aluminum foil is produced in the U.S. annually….we also use enough plastic wrap every year to shrink-wrap the entire state of Texas.” That’s a lot! It’s true, aluminum foil and plastic wrap are convenient kitchen staples you almost can’t live without, but happily there are alternatives.

Plastic wrap and foil are regularly used to cover food, but it’s better to store leftovers in microwave safe glass pyrex dishes. Look at flea markets for the colored pyrex dishes with a glass top from the 50’s - they are fun, stackable and sturdy. I don’t know why they quit making them. Reusable one-size silicone lids that stretch to fit most containers are another perfect solution. They are 100% airtight and are dishwasher and microwave safe. A set of three lids costs $14.95 and can be ordered from reuseit.com.

Aluminum foil is convenient for keeping food hot at a buffet or while you wait for everyone to come to dinner, but it’s wasteful. Chef’s Planet makes a reusable, silicone thermal food cover that can withstand heat up to 475 degrees and is machine washable. Bed, Bath and Beyond sells them.

I usually line my cookie sheets with unbleached, totally chlorine-free, FSC-certified parchment paper, but it’s still single use. Many people use aluminum foil to line a cookie sheet, but a better choice is a reusable parchment baking mat that can be cut to any size for a perfect fit. It doesn’t absorb flavors or odors and can withstand temperatures up to 500 degrees. Reusable silicone-coated baking sheet liners developed for French pastries are another great alternative. There is no need to grease them and they roll up for compact storage. Both can be found at Williams-Sonoma.

The above are just a sampling of the reusable alternatives to aluminum foil and plastic wrap. It really is possible to eliminate single-use products. Give these cool, eco-practical alternatives a try – I am!

Information compiled from Earth911.com.

For more green tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.
 

Is Carbonation Good or Bad?

Seltzer water is a popular and healthy alternative to sodas offering the same fizzy satisfaction. A reader contacted me recently concerned about carbonation in sodas and in water having heard that it’s bad for you. There are some concerns about tooth enamel erosion and low bone mineral density associated with carbonation - carbonated water is thought to prevent calcium absorption, thereby, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. The problem however, does not lie with the carbonation itself.

When carbon dioxide is dissolved in water, carbonic acid is formed making the water a little more acidic. Most water, tap water included, contains small amounts of calcium, magnesium and other minerals that not only strengthen your bones and teeth, but also buffer the effects of the carbonic acid and protect tooth enamel. According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no evidence that carbonated water causes harm to bones or teeth. Drinking carbonated water has the same benefits as drinking still water. Research has found a connection however, with low bone mineral density and carbonated cola drinks. The acid in soft drinks like coke and pepsi will erode tooth enamel over time. The flavoring agents in flavored seltzer water increase the acidity and can possibly contribute to tooth erosion as well. You are better off drinking plain seltzer and adding a lemon or lime slice. You get extra Vitamin C that way too. The high amounts of sugar in soft drinks of course contribute further to their negative effects; artificial sweeteners in diet drinks are risky too.

What to do? As with everything in life, moderation is key. If you drink carbonated cola and other carbonated beverages, cut back the amount you drink and give seltzer water a try. I think you’ll find it just as refreshing.

In my effort to reduce, not just recycle and reuse, I’m considering getting a home soda maker. A good one starts around $100.00 and it’s easy (and fun) to do. Now that’s a good way to reduce carbon emissions and keep bottles out of the landfill.

Information compiled from www.mayoclinic.com and Monica Reinagel, M.S., L.D./N, nutritiondiva.quickanddirtytips.com.

For more green tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.
 

Organic Flowers and Chocolates for Valentine's Day!

Before you send your sweetheart a romantic bouquet of flowers, think about sending organic flowers instead. Most flowers are grown with highly toxic chemicals. Even the floral foam used in floral arrangements contains toxic elements; there is an appalling lack of toxicity regulation in the flower industry. Colombia, the world’s second largest flower exporter after the Netherlands, douses the plants in pesticides to prevent diseases and blemishes. During peak season, the workers (many of whom are single mothers and even children) work long hours with low wages and a steady exposure to herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. Many suffer work related health issues as a result. The soil and the ground water are contaminated and the soil is depleted of biology. Flowers grown in the US are partially regulated by the EPA, mostly concerning the safety issues for the growers. The possible dangers, including allergic reactions, from chemical residues on flowers passed onto consumers however, are not addressed.

The market is growing for organic flowers – the more the demand, of course the more available they will become. With each purchase, you know you are helping the life of a floral farm worker. Visit organicbouquet.com, which according to the Sierra Club, is a carbon-neutral company that not only sells pesticide-free flowers but also gives their workers in underdeveloped countries zero-interest loans, healthcare, and education. Another option, if possible, buy seasonal flowers from a farmer’s market, pick them from your garden or consider a potted plant. Potted orchids are a lovely Valentine’s Day gift.

My favorite Valentine’s gift is chocolate and happily the health benefits of dark chocolate are becoming well-known. Besides tasting delicious, dark chocolate, which is at least 65% cocoa, contains a large number of antioxidants, nearly 8 times the number found in strawberries. The flavonoids help relax blood pressure, have been shown to lower cholesterol by up to 10%, may protect arteries from damage and fend off heart disease. Dark chocolate stimulates endorphin production, or the feel good hormones, and contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant. It may even help with tooth decay. Like coffee, it contains caffeine, a natural stimulant.

This year, get your Valentines organic, fair trade chocolate… Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods carry lots of varieties, and I noticed CVS carries some too. Dark chocolate still contains sugar and fat, so indulge moderately! (Unfortunately, milk and white chocolate do not contain the same benefits.) Yes, even Valentine’s Day can be green!

For more green tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.
 

Fight A Cold Naturally and Win!

Exposure to cold germs is inevitable and most people get at least one or two colds per year. My husband and I recently felt the symptoms of the common cold coming on – scratchy throat, sneezing, slight headache, runny nose – and we stopped it dead in its tracks! Besides following a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables to maintain a strong immune system, the key is to attack it with natural remedies the minute you feel those initial symptoms. The first thing I do is take Coldcalm, a homeopathic medicine you can buy at CVS. Follow the directions exactly. I also take extra Vitamin C (from supplements and Vitamin C rich foods) and Echinacea to boost my immune system. American Indians chewed Echinacea root for centuries to treat colds and flu. I drink several cups of hot water with a couple of tablespoons of fresh ginger (or powdered), cinnamon, lemon, and honey, which helps wash the virus right out. Ginger contains nearly a dozen anti-viral compounds and has several chemicals that are particularly effective against common cold viruses. The lemon is rich in Vitamin C and the cinnamon and honey add healthy flavor. Adequate rest is important too.

Sometimes however, your body just succumbs to a cold and the symptoms worsen. To the above remedies, add the tried and true cure of chicken soup with lots of garlic and onion, which contain several helpful anti-viral compounds including allicin, a potent, broad-spectrum natural antibiotic. If you don’t mind the taste and smell of garlic, a soup made only with garlic, broth and parsley is especially effective in lessening the duration of a cold. Elderberry contains compounds that are active against flu viruses and offers relief from fever and muscle aches. You can find elderberry syrup in the wellness section at Whole Foods and natural food stores. Slippery elm is a safe and effective throat soother and cough suppressant. It has actually been used for over 150 years and the FDA has now declared it to be effective in fighting throat and respiratory symptoms related to colds. I also take Coldeze, a zinc product sold at CVS, which seems to shorten the length of a cold.

The above remedies are only suggestions that have worked for my family and me. If you take medication and/or have severe or persistent symptoms, always consult a doctor.

Some information compiled from The Green Pharmacy by James A. Duke, Ph.D.

 

Green Moving

My husband and I are selling our house where we have spent 28 happy, very important years. We raised our family here, expanding and changing the house as our family grew. Now that the kids have gone, it’s time for another loving family. We will move to a smaller place where we can lessen our carbon footprint.

I am sorting through years and years of accumulated “stuff”, making piles for giveaway, piles for recycling, piles for storage, piles for the kids. Vietnam Veterans, Big Brother/Big Sister, the Epilepsy Foundation and other service organizations gladly come to your home for unwanted items still in good shape. They also have donation bins around. Freecycle.org is another way to get rid of things. Our town dump recycles electronics, appliances, books, metal, and clothes. They also have a “dumptique” where you can dispose of discarded items – you barely get out of the car before someone grabs something!

I curse all the technology around the house that is obsolete almost immediately and comes with way too much packaging and the ubiquitous wires, plugs, and chargers that go with only one device. I can’t believe all the CDs that no one listens to and cameras that no one uses now that we all have smart phones. It’s shocking how quickly video games, players, and VHS tapes are outdated. They can be donated thankfully to thrift stores and freecycle.org.

Then, there are those things that can’t be donated or recycled and that I just can’t throw into the landfill, like dried-up make-up, half used personal care products, old partially used paint cans, spent markers and pens, half-burned petroleum based candles, the countless samples doctors give out that definitely shouldn’t end up in the water table – the list goes on and on. These items pose a real challenge. There are websites that offer lots of ideas for reusing and crafting items like torn blue jeans, but unfortunately some items have to be thrown away.

It’s a lot of work to dispose of things properly, but it feels good, it’s cathartic. I keep coming back to the thought however, that we all have way too much stuff! Recycle, yes, reuse yes, but let’s reduce too! Now, in my next phase the key is not to re-accumulate! Who needs anything anyway?

If you aren’t familiar with Annie Leonard’s “The Story of Stuff”, it’s really worth watching this clever 20-minute animated documentary about the lifecycle of material goods. Click here to visit her website.

For more green tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 


 

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