Green's blog

Mass Save at the Plymouth Waterfront Festival

If you are in the Boston/Cape Cod area, check out the Plymouth Waterfront Festival on Saturday, August 29th from 10:30am-7pm.  It’s sure to be a good time for the entire family.

While you are there, stop by the Mass Save booth and take advantage of their great offer on energy efficient products.   There will be fun for the kids too with multiple flavors of Stonyfield Farm squeezable yogurt tubes to sample and seeds to plant in recycled Stonyfield Farm yogurt containers.

While the kids are learning about growing and recycling, mom and dad can visit their trivia wheel for a chance to win fun Mass Save products. MassSave will be offering  Energy Efficient home kits, consisting of 3 LED’s, an advanced power strip and evolve shower adapter, for $10. This promotional price is only available for those who visit our booth during the festival.

It’s never too early to get your kids involved in energy saving awareness!  For more information about other vendors, parking and the events planned please visit:http://www.plymouthwaterfrontfestival.com/

A Greener Way To Start School

Summer’s end is fast approaching and school is about to start.  As you and your kids get ready, think greener this year. Here’s how.

For young kids:

I loved my trips to Staples with my kids to get new pencils and pens, fresh, clean notebooks, binders and folders for the first day of school, but buying everything new can be wasteful and expensive.  Instead….

  • Reuse last year’s unfinished notebooks. Just tear out (and recycle) the used papers and they are as good as new.   For new, buy notebooks with recycled paper or paper made from natural fibers like banana or coffee.
  • If last year’s binders aren’t in good shape, buy those made from postconsumer waste and water-based glue.  Fill them with recycled binder paper.
  • Reuse last year’s pencils and pens; if you need more, opt for pencils made from reforested wood or recycled newspapers. For young elementary age kids, get nontoxic, phthalate-free crayons.
  • Pack a healthy lunch in a reusable lunch bag;  buy bulk size wholesome snacks and put them in reusable containers rather than snack-size, throwaway plastic baggies. A piece of fruit is the most beneficial snack option.
  • Walk, carpool or take a bus to school to cut down on carbon emissions.
  • For after school sports, don’t forget your BPA-free, reusable water bottle.

 

 

 

For older students:

Follow the above tips and…..

  • Be ahead of the curve; try a solar-powered bamboo calculator.
  • Fun, eco-chic backpacks made from 100% recycled cotton canvas oother recycled materials and messenger bags made from recycled rice sacks with printed graphics are the new look.  They are a lot more environmentally friendly than the traditional polyester or nylon ones.

For college students:

Moving in and out of dorms creates a lot of waste.  The amount of cardboard and plastic packaging for the new bedding, bath and personal care products, school supplies, etc. is overwhelming and recycling bins are often not available.

  • Instead of always buying new, reuse some things from home and try not to bring so much stuff.  Dorm rooms are small and you can get away with less.  When you do buy new things, buy them at school and avoid shipping.  Target stores are everywhere and even sell organic towels and sheets! For futons and other furniture, graduating students often donate their old furniture or look on-line at craigslist.com or freecycle.com.
  • Use low energy certified microfridges, computers and tv’s.
  • Share appliances with friends – not everyone needs every appliance.
  • Use power strips instead of extension cords to save energy and keep air conditioning to a minimum.
  • Install CFL or LED light bulbs and turn off the lights when you leave the room.  Make sure to unplug your phone charger when not in use to eliminate vampire energy.
  • Skip disposable water bottles and get a reusable BPA-free water bottle instead.
  • For the late night munchies, eat organic fruits and snacks and compost the waste.
  • Choose green cleaning supplies like Seventh Generation for washing your dishes or cleaning your dorm room.
  • Decorate your dorm room with air purifying houseplants like spider plants that are easy to grow. 
  • Get involved with on campus environmental groups, or start your own.  Several colleges now have local raised bed gardens – volunteer to work in them.  Working with the soil is a great stress reducer and you’ll learn a lot.
  • Solo cups are “the” party cups, but they take hundreds of years to decompose and some recycling centers don’t take them.  Solo has a new product line of products that are made using recycled, recyclable or compostable materials called Bare® by Solo.  Set an example and go for those!  
  • Always use recycled paper and don’t forget to recycle used paper, bottles and those ubiquitous beer cans!

You are never too young or too old to start making a difference by living greener!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

 

 

Break The Plastic Wrap Habit!

Plastic wrap is convenient, inexpensive and deeply ingrained as the way to cover and store food. According to Earth911.com, “we use enough plastic wrap every year to shrink-wrap the entire state of Texas.”  Yikes! Plastic wrap is also non-biodegradable, rarely recycled, a derivative of petroleum, and can leach chemicals into the food especially when heated. With a little knowledge and some imagination, you can cover and store your food far more safely and just as conveniently without plastic. Here are some ideas:

  • Glass storage containers like Pyrex, which are stackable, sturdy and microwave safe are a good solution. You can buy them new at any kitchen or home goods store, or take a trip down memory lane and look for the colored pyrex dishes from the 1950’s found at flea markets or consignment shops.  
  • Reusable silicone lids that fit most bowls are another good solution.  They are 100% airtight and are dishwasher and microwave safe.  They come in a variety of sizes and are even sold in the shape of lily pads. You can find them at most kitchen shops.  
  • Bee’s Wrap is a clever new product 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. Bee’s Wrap comes in 5 sizes and can be found at most specialty kitchen stores or on line.  
  • If you need to cover food after preparing but before serving, why not simply place a dishcloth over it? No need to waste plastic wrap.
  • When transporting a salad or a dish to a friend’s house, cover the bowl with a lovely dinner plate. It makes a much more impressive presentation than plastic wrap!

The challenge is breaking the plastic wrap habit! It’s easy if you remember that food and plastic don’t go together. I’d love to know your ideas for alternatives to plastic wrap. Email me!

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 Some information compiled from http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA401234/Is-Plastic-Wrap-Safe.html, earth911.com.

 

 

Unusual Ways to Use Cucumbers

I harvested my first cucumber yesterday and several more are on the way! If you have an overabundance in your garden, be glad. Below are some clever, “green” uses for them.

My cucumber plant

  • Cucumbers are loaded with vitamins and minerals and make a great energy-boosting snack. They contain most of the vitamins you need every day – Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.
  • Rubbing a cucumber slice on a fogged up mirror will eliminate the fog and provide aromatherapy at the same time.
  • Cucumber slices in an aluminum pie tin will repel grubs and slugs from your garden.  The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off an undetectable scent to humans but not to garden pests.
  • Cucumber is especially beneficial for the skin.  Rub a slice of cucumber on your cellulite and wrinkles to tighten the skin. Cucumber also reduces eye puffiness.Image by Betsy Wild
  • Eating a few cucumber slices after over imbibing and before going to bed helps to eliminate a hangover.  The sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes in the cucumber replenish essential nutrients.
  • Shine your shoes with cucumber – the chemicals provide a quick shine that also repels water.
  • A cucumber slice pressed on the roof of your mouth for 30 seconds kills bad breath germs. The phytochemicals kill the bacteria.
  • Next time you are out of WD 40, take a cucumber slice and rub it along the problem hinge and the squeak will be gone!
  • No time for a stress-reducing massage or facial?  Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water.  The chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber with react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown to reduce stress.
  • A slice of cucumber is a great, non-toxic way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel. Simply rub it on the surface and it will safely remove tarnish and bring back the shine!

Have fun trying some of these versatile tips with your extra cucumbers.  Email me and let me know which ones you especially like!

Information compiled from: www.cropking.com/cucumberbenefit

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Have You Heard of the Precautionary Principle?

Are you familiar with the Precautionary Principle? Many people aren’t, but it’s an important principle to know. “Be careful”, “Better safe than sorry”, “Look before you leap”, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, “First Do No Harm” are adages that sum up the meaning of the Precautionary Principle.  The official definition is “… the introduction of a new product or process whose ultimate effects are disputed or unknown should be resisted. “ Regarding the Precautionary Principle, Wikipedia states, “When the health of humans and the environment is at stake, it may not be necessary to wait for scientific certainty to take protective action.”

Smoking is a good example of the Precautionary Principle at work. It was strongly suspected that smoking caused lung cancer and emphysema, and as a result many people quit smoking before it was actually proven scientifically.

The Precautionary Principle is widely practiced in the European Union and in fact is a statutory requirement in some areas of law.   The European Union is forming a comprehensive policy, which would require all chemicals to be tested for their effects on health and the environment and puts the burden on chemical manufacturers to demonstrate their products are safe.  There are of course situations where precaution is applied here as well. The Food and Drug Administration requires testing of all drugs before they reach the market for example.   But there are also plenty of situations where precaution is not applied, as with many of the ingredients in personal care products or lawn chemicals.

Naturally there is opposition. Some see the Precautionary Principle as a barrier to technological development and economic growth. But as cancer, obesity, autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, asthma, infertility, diabetes, allergies and other diseases, which might partially be attributed to chemicals in food and in the environment, become so prevalent in our society, we have no choice but to adopt the Precautionary Principle. Perhaps it’s time to follow the European Union’s lead.

For more information, visit the Science and Environmental Health Network.org.

 

Information compiled from: https://www.aei.org/publication/the-problems-with-precaution-a-principle-without-principle/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle, andhttp://www.sehn.org/ppfaqs.html

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com

 

Safe Cosmetics

You might not realize that the make up we put on our faces or the hair and body products, sunscreens, and nail polish we use on a daily basis have a host of dangerous chemicals, endocrine disruptors and allergens like mercury, lead, parabans, pthalates, and others.   According to watchdog organization, Environmental Working Group, “On average, a woman puts 168 chemicals on her body each day.” In addition to the many known hazardous chemicals, there are many other synthetic compounds, like fragrances, without enough information to know whether they are safe or not because federal legislation regarding product safety hasn’t been updated in 75 years. The Environmental Working Group estimates that of the more than 10,000 chemical ingredients in personal care products, 89 percent have not undergone safety testing.

Are these chemicals necessary?

Given the known and unknown dangers of all these chemical additives, I think not! Who needs cherry-scented rubbing alcohol? Some American cosmetic companies sell the same products in Europe without the chemical additives. That’s because the European Union strictly regulates the extremely hazardous chemicals found in everyday products in the United States and has banned about 1,100 chemicals, while the FDA has banned only ten!

Safe Alternatives? Of course!

The average woman “eats” more than 6 pounds of lipstick over a lifetime, just one of many cosmetics used.  Fortunately now there are many lines of organic personal care products. Whole Foods Markets and independent natural food stores carry several, like Dr. Hauschka, Mychelle, Badger, Burt’s Bees.  Local farmer’s markets often sell homemade and all natural insect repellant, body scrubs and soaps.  CVS also carries Burt’s Bees.

Be sure to read the labels however, some products are “cleaner” than others and be wary of names too long to pronounce.  A knowledgeable sales person will be able to help you find the safest products.

Organic cosmetics and personal care products are not only better for your health, but better for the earth too!  When discarding them, fewer chemicals will go down the drain or in the trash, seeping into our valuable water supply and landfills.

For more information or to rate the toxicity of your personal care products, visit www.safecosmetics.org, which does an online safety assessment of 75,223 products.

 

Information from ewg.org and ecosalon.com.  

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Controlling Mosquitos Naturally

Along with the cookouts, volleyball games, hiking, camping and other glories of summer come mosquitoes and ticks.  But pesticides or products containing DEET, are associated with a variety of health problems ranging from dizziness to seizures with children being particularly susceptible. There are several safer and effective alternatives.

Natural Repellents

A garlic spray in your yard provides excellent control.  Garlic has natural sulfur which repels insects, including mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and even black flies, yet does not harm humans, pets, bees, butterflies or plants. Mosquitoes are soft-bodied insects and garlic juice is toxic to them in increased concentrations. Mosquitoes are also extremely odor sensitive and garlic can repel them for up to a month or more, as long as they can still detect an odor. Farmers have been using garlic for generations. Organic based landscaping or pest control companies often offer a garlic spray or you can buy a product called Garlic Barrier and do it yourself.

For small areas like patios or decks, certain aromatic plants keep mosquitoes away.  Marigolds planted with pungent herbs like catnip (nearly 10 times more effective than DEET) and rosemary are effective and attractive in containers.  I planted a “mosquito plant”, really a wild scented geranium, which grows fast and seems to work.  It was specifically grown to keep pests away. Citronella candles can be helpful, as well as all natural insect repellent incense sticks.

Cultural Practices

Two important and effective cultural practices are: 1) Don’t keep standing or stagnate water around where mosquitoes can breed and 2) consider putting up a bat house.  Mosquitoes are the primary food source for bats and some species eat up to 1000 of them an hour!

Personal Repellents

For personal repellents sprayed directly onto your skin, soybean-oil-based products have been shown to provide protection for a period of time similar to a product with a low concentration of DEET (4.75%).  Other ingredients usually include pure plant extracts like citronella, cedarwood, eucalyptus, geranium, lemongrass and peppermint, which are natural, effective and have a nice aroma.  Buzz Away and Bite Blocker are good brands that are potent and long-lasting.  You can find them at Whole Foods. In areas heavily infested with deer tick, a DEET product may be needed.  Just spray directly onto your clothes, not your skin!  For more information on deer ticks,click here.

Ticks and mosquitos don’t have to ruin your summer!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Appreciate Your Trees!

I love watching the trees take turns blooming this time of year. First the magnolia with its lovely pale pink flowers, followed by the cherries with their brighter pink and fuchsia blooms, then the apples and their tufts of white flowers. Coming along is the golden chain tree with its delicate, dangling yellow flowers. The oaks are also flowering with their tender green leaves slowly emerging. (Did you know that all trees flower, some less conspicuously than others?) The majestic upright horse chestnut flowers are peaking and the fragrant purple lilacs are everywhere. Take a walk in your yard or around your neighborhood and appreciate the gift of trees.

Horse Chestnut Tree

 

Trees Need Care Too

Trees like humans, need preventative care to ward off disease, especially as they suffer from environmental stresses like air pollution, soil contamination and compaction, exotic invasive insect pests, temperature extremes, devastating storms and drought.

There are several organic approaches to prolong the life of a tree and maintain its good health and vigor.

  • Fix the soil with compost and organic supplements. Raking leaves in the fall removes vital organic matter, and toxic chemicals and high nitrogen based fertilizers deplete the soil of important nutrients.  It is imperative to replenish the soil with amendments or compost.  Healthy, nutrient rich soil determines how well your trees grow.
  • Consult a local arborist – a tree needs to be periodically inspected for structural defects, insect pests and disease.
  • Trees should be pruned properly and focus on removing dead, dying, diseased and broken branches.
  • Proper irrigation and mulching, especially in times of drought, are essential to maintain a tree’s good health.

Trees play a critical role in the health of the planet. They are not living statues – they need care and protection just like any other living thing.  Please help preserve these majestic beauties.

Some information compiled from bostontreepreservation.com.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Controlling Weeds in Your Garden Organically

You can live with a few weeds in your lawn, but in a vegetable garden, weeds are a problem. They quickly spread; compete with the plants for moisture and nutrients; and impact productivity.   If you are growing vegetables organically, then obviously your weed control should be non-toxic as well.

Cultural Practices

Try to smother weed seeds in your vegetable garden before they develop using organic mulches such as hardwood mulch or wood chips, newspaper, cardboard, cocoa mats or straw, which degrade in a few months plus add nutrients to the soil. Synthetic mulches like landscaping paper or plastic don’t breakdown and last several seasons, but I prefer not to use them in an organic garden.

When designing your garden, choose large, leafy shade plants that hide the weeds from the sun, which causes them to proliferate. Include plants like squash, pumpkin, melons, tomatoes and potatoes.

Inevitably weeds will sneak in. Even though pulling weeds is like eating peanuts, you can’t stop my mother used to say, you will still need to spot spray them. Listed below are simple recipes using basic kitchen ingredients to help you manage your garden.

Recipes 

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.

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 insecticidal soap; 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.

 

Don’t forget – weeds are a messenger of problems in your soil and will grow where nothing else will. Try and analyze them and find out what your soil needs. How do you control your weeds?

 

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

 

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

http://www.wikihow.com/Prevent-Vegetable-Garden-Weeds

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com. 

Green Your Bedroom!

If you want to seriously reduce chemical exposure in your home, then switching to an organic bedroom is the most effective place to start.  We spend approximately one-third of our life sleeping – that’s 33. 3 years spent sleeping if you live to be 100 (and leading an organic lifestyle you have a better shot at it), so it clearly makes sense to start there.

The Problem?

Conventional mattresses, blankets, sheets and pillowcases contain a lot of chemicals.  Cotton accounts for up to 25% of the insecticides used worldwide and many are classified as possible human carcinogens.  Cotton is also usually bleached and treated with chemical dyes and color fixers.  Synthetic fabrics such as polyurethane foam and polyester are made from petroleum and can cause allergic reactions and even initiate cancer.  Mattresses and pads must be treated with fire retardants, which emit formaldehyde and pose additional health risks.  Less expensive bed frames use plywood and particle board containing formaldehyde that is off gassed into our bedrooms, also contributing to allergies and potentially other illnesses.

The solution?

Buy untreated or natural bedding such as organic cotton, linen, hemp or bamboo.   Often more expensive, but definitely healthier, you can transition slowly.  First buy a chemical free pillow, ideal for allergy sufferers.  Next try organic cotton sheets and mattress pads.  Finally make the switch to an organic mattress made from natural rubber and covered in organic cotton and wool. Wool has superior insulating qualities and believe it or not is comfortable all year-long.  It is also naturally dust mite and fire resistant. Latex mattresses are:

  • resistant to moisture buildup
  • naturally antibacterial and hypoallergenic
  • mold and dust free
  • with little or no toxic substances or ozone-depleting agents used in the manufacture of the mattress

 

You will find many choices in organic mattresses and bedding online, designed for all preferences and all budgets. Retail outlets are also beginning to carry organic bedding.  Target has an attractive line of organic sheets, and with the demand for organic everything increasing, many local mattress stores now carry natural latex mattresses.  Make the switch and have a safe night’s sleep!

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

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