Green 2.0: Unusual Pleasures

27 09 2010


Rain drops on a pyracantha leaf

Image via Wikipedia


I am in the midst of swirling changes. On days like today, when my nerves feel wracked by many questions, I look for the unusual pleasures to be found, indoors and out.

Today, that pleasure is the slow, soaking rain. It was badly needed here in the Mid-Atlantic after a terribly hot and dry summer. But the unusual part is my particular pleasure in it, not for its utility but for the reassurance its steady dripping brings. While my world feels chaotic, the rain is predictable. It’s also soothing that the sky and the earth meet in a peaceful water-world; every problem has a solution, and every road will end with a peace such as this.

What is your unusual pleasure?

Studies Show: Dirt Really Doesn’t Hurt

28 01 2009

A New York Times article demonstrates what the best moms already know: playing in dirt, making mud pies, and getting a little filthy are healthy habits for developing children. Ongoing studies of the hygiene hypothesis–that our clean-obsessed culture is related to the rise in certain diseases–suggest that coming in contact with the microbes and even worms in soil and other natural environments (like pets) is essential to developing a hearty immune system and warding off autoimmune diseases and allergies down the line.

With the alarming rise in illnesses caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as what led to the death of a Brazilian model recently, I think we need no further reasons to drop the anti-bacterial soaps, dishwashing liquids, and hand sanitizers. In the article, Dr. Mary Ruebush, author of “Why Dirt is Good,” advises alcohol-based sanitizers, which are widely available. She adds, however, that the best thing to do is to wash less!

“The typical human probably harbors some 90 trillion microbes,” she wrote. “The very fact that you have so many microbes of so many different kinds is what keeps you healthy most of the time.”

Potential Pet Problems

17 01 2009

I may be embarking on a highly controversial topic here, but have you considered the most eco-friendly ways to approach pet ownership? In our consumer culture, we are often suprised to find that certain problems even exist as a result of common behaviors. Take your pet’s poop, for instance; I never thought that having too many pets could contribute to landfill and water contamination issues–until I read this article by Sheryl Eisenberg of the Natural Resources Defense Council. She explores the delicate issue of poop disposal for dogs and cats. The bottom line? Trash disposal is best, but if you leave the waste on the ground, it’s best to keep it to your own yard–and to keep the pet population to a minimum.

BPA Update

20 11 2008

New information is out on BPA and its potential dangers. Read the linked blog post and decide for yourself. Also in the post: a good alternative to hard plastic bottles (although it’s not a new idea).

Going the extra mile: two web resources

28 10 2008

In contrast to those things that veterans of the environmental movement consider essential actions of the green life, there are new issues arising all the time, and each one tests our determination to be eco-friendly. Today I have two ideas for those wanting a new challenge.

I have to admit, there are few environmental concerns more disturbing to me than increasing levels of pharmaceuticals in our lakes and rivers. I know I defer to them so often that I should have stake in the company, but Ideal Bite has a wonderful article and set of links for those wanting to dispose of their used prescriptions in a responsible way. I’m inspired to ask at my pharmacy if they have a recycling program.

Another issue requiring extra effort, depending on where you shop anyway, is that of virgin hardwoods being used for many tissue paper products on the mass market. I admit to being a Kleenex user; I guess I have to up the ante after reading the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Bird Friendly Shopper’s Guide to common paper goods that are and aren’t friendly to forests. Check for your brands–and their greener alternatives–if you dare!

Green Cleaning for Way Less (of Everything)

9 09 2008

First of all, a shout-out goes to Ecollo for linking to my post on small habits with big consequences. It’s my first “official” link, and I’m stoked!

Now, to the topic at hand. Much as I love them, all of the green and supposedly-green cleaning products introduced or made popular recently can’t compare in economy to those made with multi-purpose household ingredients. Although I don’t clean as much as I should, I have for some years taken notice of the easily available materials that far surpass purchased products in simple, wholesome effectiveness. Despite the claims of all green cleaners, the simpler the product, the fewer the possibilities for allergic reactions and other harmful consequences from the ingredients. Natural, homemade cleaners have the potential to be better for indoor air quality and the health of our bodies and planet, if we do a little research first.

The heavyweight champion for general cleaning is white vinegar. It can be bought on the cheap, diluted, and used in countless ways (though some have tried to count them). Click here to go to Ideal Bite‘s great post on the subject. Also, Heifer International‘s World Ark magazine (September/October 2008) recently featured this tidbit on vinegar’s power as an antibacterial alternative:

A Simple Solution for Clean Produce

Those pricey bottles of produce wash aren’t the only way to make sure your fruits and veggies are bacteria-free. Good, old-fashioned white vinegar kills 98 percent of bacteria [emphasis mine], according to researchers at Cooks Illustrated and the Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Tennessee State University. Simply mix one part vinegar to three parts water. Keep the solution in a spray bottle and use on smooth-skinned produce. Coat thoroughly–five or six squirts should do it–then rinse under cold water.

Be advised that some household cleaning standbys, like ammonia and chlorine bleach, may be traditional but not most desirable; gentler products are available, such as baking soda, tea tree oil, lemon juice and more. EarthEasy‘s page has good starter information on safe and natural cleaning materials and formulas for specific jobs. As always, the web is an abundant resource, but use caution when following advice, and never mix products containing ammonia and bleach.

Finally, many books have been written for those on the quest for a cleaner, greener home; a classic is Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond. If you have any must-use formulas, feel free to share!

Hooray for Big Corporations

6 07 2008

. . . Okay, maybe not all of them, but some consumer product giants like Deer Park, Kraft, and others are making their plastic containers sleeker to deliver the same amount of product in less packaging. They have even anticipated the fears of consumers and printed “Still 8 ounces!” or similar encouragements right on the package. It warms my heart to see even such a small step by the companies that, like it or not, control the majority of the product stream for the majority of the American public.

Another supermarket development you may have noticed is the introduction, and even T.V. promotion, of concentrated dish and laundry detergents. Buying liquids in concentrate saves money and packaging, as penny-pinchers have known for decades with their (admittedly sometimes scary) concentrated juice drinks. We all remember those from school. Now, it seems, concentrate is cool again, as long as you remember to use the amount on the package.

There are, of course, still corporations that need a push from their voters–the consumers–to make some needed changes to products millions use frequently. If you’d like to help, go here to sign a petition for safe cleaning products and disclosed ingredients from leading companies (with thanks to the Audubon Naturalist Society for promoting this opportunity).

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