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Thoughtful Back-to-School Clothes Shopping

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

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

Conserve Water This Summer!

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

Here are two major areas where you can conserve water.

Watering Your Lawn

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

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

Washing Your Car

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

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

Other Ideas

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

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

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

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

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

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

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

Insect repellent sold at my Farmers' Market

Insect repellent sold at my Farmers’ Market

 

For more ideas for mosquito control, click here.

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

 

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

Information compiled from ewg.org. and treehugger.com

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Today is "Eat Your Vegetables Day"

According to my calendar, today is “Eat Your Vegetables Day” (who designates these days?!) While everyday should be “eat your vegetables (and fruit) day”, it’s always good to bring awareness to the importance of healthy, seasonal eating.

By eating with the rhythms of the season, Mother Nature provides us with just about everything we need. Take watermelon, tomatoes and strawberries for example. Their high water content helps to keep us hydrated and protects and preserves skin cells so the skin is tighter, smoother and better able to retain moisture.  Their high lycopene content is a powerful antioxidant and helps ward off sunburn. A health and wellness coach I know calls these fruits “edible sunscreen”. When are watermelons, strawberries, and tomatoes in season?  In summer, when we need it most!

Nectarines and cherries are also summer fruits, which contain nutrients that help correct sun damage from the inside out.  They contain vitamins and minerals that control inflammation and free radical damage. Cherries contain inflammation-fighting anthocyanins and melatonin, which may boost UV protection and encourage cell growth.

Cucumbers are 96% water and contain most of the vitamins and minerals you need everyday. Take them along on your kayak or bicycle outing – they make a great energy boosting snack and help keep you hydrated even better than sports drinks. Cucumber is especially beneficial for the skinwhen eaten or put directly on your skin.  (Rub a slice of cucumber on your cellulite and wrinkles to tighten the skin.) Celery is another nutrient rich summer vegetable high in water content.  Green leafy vegetables are full of powerful beneficial nutrients that are good for just about everything! Loaded with potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory proprieties, it’s important to eat them everyday.

In this abundant time of year, summer fruits and vegetables are the perfect way to stay hydrated and cool and maybe ward off a sunburn! And nothing tastes better or is better for you than fresh, local fruits and vegetables. Make everyday “eat your vegetables day”.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Happy Green Memorial Day!

This Memorial Day weekend, make your cookout eco-correct.  How?  It’s easy….

Think outside the burgers/hot dogs/potato chips box and focus on healthier options instead – turkey tips, wild fish, grilled tofu, grilled veggies, grass-fed beef, free range chicken, sweet potato chips and lots of different salads made with organic fruits and vegetables.  Farmers’ markets aren’t up and running yet, but you can still buy fresh, seasonal, and somewhat local fruits and vegetables. Perhaps you have lettuce ready for harvesting from your own garden.  Add delicious and nutritious vine ripened tomatoes and watermelon to your meal – they contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, which also wards off sunburn!

When it comes to grilling, a charcoal chimney is an easy way to start your grill and much safer than lighter fluid if you don’t have a gas grill.  Make sure you use natural, hardwood charcoal instead of the conventional briquettes.  Try filling at least half your grill with produce.  Produce is not only healthy and low-calorie, but also doesn’t produce the carcinogens that can form on grilled meats.  Always cook over a low-to-medium flame and avoid over-charring; flare-ups and smoking oil create carcinogens.  Marinating or basting with oil, honey or a barbeque sauce will provide a barrier and help prevent charring.

I prefer reusable dinner plates and utensils, but if you are having a crowd disposable is easier; just make sure they are compostable or made from recycled, BPA-free plastic.  Whole Foods carries a good selection of biodegradable disposable plates, cups and utensils.  Cloth tablecloths and napkins are a nice touch, but you can easily find recycled paper napkins and cloths at most supermarkets.

Organic, chemical free sunscreen and insect repellents are a much healthier and safer alternative to conventional products.  Consider spraying your yard in advance with a garlic spray to ward off mosquitoes. Start your cookout after peak sun time, between 10 and 2, and provide shade for your guests.

Compost leftover fruits and vegetables, and, don’t forget to recycle cans, bottles and other recyclable items!

Whatever you do to honor the start of summer, make sure you are good to the earth.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Growing Food in Small Spaces

Once you start eating freshly picked vegetables, you realize that’s the only way to go. Fortunately, growing your own food, or at least some of your own, is easy to do, even in small spaces.

Last night's dinner of fresh-picked asparagus

Last night’s dinner of fresh-picked asparagus

 

There are as many ways to garden in small spaces as your imagination will allow, but listed below are a few ideas.

Container Gardening

Containers range from traditional clay pots to self-watering ones to antique ice chests and even old work boots. All are perfect for growing herbs or small vegetables, just make sure there is sufficient drainage and good soil.

Raised Beds

A raised bed garden is a garden built on top of your native soil.  The basic idea of a raised bed is that instead of battling against poor soil conditions, you build above ground where you have absolute control over the soil texture and ingredients. You can make a raised bed garden any size you want and any height. They are easy to weed and easier on your back. Check out the advantageshere.

Vertical Growing

Vertical growing is also ideal for small spaces, allowing you to actually grow a lot as long as you have enough sun. The idea is to grow up, not out, like with beans, tomatoes, peas and cucumbers, on trellises for example.

Though garden catalogs are filled with expensive vertical growing containers, you can also upcycle things you already have or invest in cheaper things like shoe pockets, a great idea for lettuces and herbs, old pallets or gutters mounted on a fence. Check out this website for fun ideas.

Sunny Kitchen Windows

Don’t forget sunny window sills, which are perfect for growing herbs, microgreens, and some vegetables like spring onions, even all year long.

 

Whether you are an apartment dweller with a sunny balcony or a new gardener with a tiny yard, discover the joy and satisfaction of growing your own food.  All it takes is sun, good soil, adequate water and a little time.  Bon appetit!

 

Some information compiled from bostontreepreservation.com and inhabitat.com.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

Recipes for Safe Weed, Insect Pests and Disease Control in Your Landscape

After six years of writing “What’s Green With Betsy?”, my blog post Recipes for Safe Weed, Insect Pests and Disease Control in Your Landscape continues to be my most popularFor those of you who missed it, I am reposting them.

An organic lawn

An organic lawn

A word about lawns first. Monocultures, like lawns, are not typical in nature and only invite problems. A picture-perfect, weed free lawn has come to symbolize a lawn treated with toxic chemicals. Weeds actually are messengers for what’s wrong with the soil. Dandelions, for example, are an indication of a lack of calcium. I say learn to live with a few weeds in the lawn – dandelions actually add a bit of color for a few days and attract honeybees – and throw down some extra grass seed to keep grass lush. But if weeds really bother you or before they overtake a vegetable or flower garden, try some of the solutions  listed below.

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

 

 

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 orthin-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.  You may have to repeat a couple of times.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Celebrate Earth Day!

Tomorrow is Earth Day – This year’s theme is planting trees, the first of five major initiatives earthday.org is undertaking to make a significant impact towards a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable planet.  As Earth Day approaches its 50th anniversary, help earthday.org reach its ambitious goal of planting 7.8 billion trees!

In addition to planting a tree (see recent blog posts about the importance of planting a tree and theproper way to do so), also consider the following.

In the morning,

  • Take an extra short shower
  • Turn off the water as you brush your teeth or shave
  • Make a green smoothie for breakfast

In the afternoon,

  • Walk, ride a bike or take public transportation to do your errands; if you drive, go the speed limit to conserve energy
  • Take a reusable water bottle or mug with you
  • Pick up any litter you see and recycle what can be recycled
  • Sow some seeds

In the evening,

  • Have a meatless “Earth Dinner” by candlelight with local, organic produce; use real cutlery and cloth napkins
  • Turn off your computer for one hour
  • Unplug your appliances when you go to bed

While everyday is really earth day, make a special effort tomorrow to honor our beautiful planet.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Some information compiled from earthday.org.

Dig a Five-dollar Hole for a Fifty-cent Plant

“It’s better to dig a five-dollar hole for a fifty-cent plant than to dig a fifty-cent hole for a five-dollar plant.” goes the old garden adage and how true that is. A good plant won’t grow in poor soil, but a poor plant will grow in good soil.

Spring means planting and after a long winter, nothing is more exciting than preparing your vegetable garden or potting pansies to liven up your front porch. The key to a healthy and thriving garden is a rich, nutritious soil with the right mix of organic amendments.

What’s the right mix?

Organic amendments vary depending on the need of the soil and the plant. For example, the soil pH may need fixing, or certain plants like roses, azaleas or tomatoes may require specific minerals. Fish, blood or bone meal, charcoal, kelp, humic acids, earthworm castings are some. Or, you can simply supplement your soil with compost, or decomposed organic matter, the most important and beneficial soil amendment. Compost builds soil structure and improves drainage; it helps with water/nutrient retention and air exchange; it introduces beneficial biology; it is vital for healthy roots, and healthy roots produce healthy plants.

Using compost made from your decomposed kitchen waste is gratifying, but if you haven’t started composting yet, you can buy good quality compost from a garden center. There are many different types of compost like manure, worm castings or decomposed leaf and wood litter. All are good, just make sure the compost is 3-year finished.

Digging the Hole

Dig the hole twice the diameter of the root ball of the tree, shrub or plant and then mix the existing soil with the amendments. Don’t plant too deep – “plant it high it won’t die, plant it low, it won’t grow.” With extra soil, make a well around the plant to hold water.

 

It’s easy to just throw the plants in the ground without much thought to the soil, but by taking the time to improve your soil, you will get a higher yield from your vegetables, more blooms on your flowers and a better start for your shrubs or trees. Last year, one heirloom tomato plant produced more than 100 tomatoes in my raised bed garden filled with super soil.

 

So, go play in the dirt with some compost and watch your plants thrive!

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 Information compiled from bostontreepreservation.com.

Plant A Tree

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

 

The social, aesthetic, and environmental benefits of trees 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.
  • Trees increase property values.
  • Trees help us save energy.
  • Trees improve air quality.
  • Trees conserve water.
  • Trees provide homes to wildlife.
  • Trees provide a beautiful backdrop to outdoor recreational activities.
  • Large and majestic trees are an important part of the community.

According to American Forests, the national urban tree deficit now stands at more than 634 million trees.  Alarmingly, up to 57% of all Amazonian trees, the planet’s lungs, may already fit the criteria of being globally threatened. Unprecedented environmental stresses – warmer temperatures, changes in precipitation, increased droughts – and global trade are making trees more susceptible to insect infestation and disease and therefore more difficult to grow and flourish in today’s world.

Because trees sequester carbon and offset our carbon footprint, the amount of energy a person consumes in their day-to-day activities, it is more important than ever to plant trees.  The average person produces 26 tons of CO2 per year.  6 twenty-five year old pine trees absorb 1 ton of CO2.  36 twenty-five year old maple trees absorb 1 ton of CO2.

 

stock-photo-seeding-seedling-male-hand-watering-young-tree-over-green-background-seed-planting-225149986Planting trees is a way to give back to the environment for future generations and to offset our carbon footprint. Spring is the perfect time to plant.  Plant a tree for a new grandchild, in memory of a parent or a beloved pet, or to honor a special anniversary. If you have no place to plant a tree,americanforests.org will plant a tree in your name with a small donation. Makes a great gift too!


Some information compiled from www.americanforests.org and http://www.bbc.com

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

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