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 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, and http://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.

 

 

 

 

 

Do Your Personal Care Products Contain Microbeads?

Have you heard of microbeads?

Microbeads are tiny balls of plastic used as exfoliants and for texture in face washes, soaps, make-up and toothpastes. Most are petroleum-based plastics, like polyethylene and polypropylene and are not biodegradeable. I can’t imagine why companies manufacture personal care products with these toxic plastic beads, which then go down the bathroom drain straight into the sewer system. The problem is they are so small they cannot be filtered out of household wastewater by most water treatment facilities and as a result end up in our rivers, lakes, streams and oceans to be ingested by fish and other sea creatures. And when we eat fish, there is a good possibility we are ingesting them too! Due to their minute size, once they enter the marine environment, they are extremely difficult to remove and are likely to stay, contributing to the “plastic soup swirling around the world’s oceans”, as beatthemicrobead.org states.

The good news is that Illinois and a few other states have already banned microbeads, and federal legislation was introduced to ban them on the national level as well. Other countries already have.

Are there safer exfoliant alternatives?

Of course! Microbeads are an unnecessary additive to personal care products. Sugar, coffee grounds, sea salt, ground stone fruit pits, ground walnut shells or a natural body brush work even better as exfoliants. You can easily find natural and organic body care products using real ingredients at Whole Foods, other natural food stores and even CVS.

 Or exfoliants are easy to make yourself. Below are recipes for a body and foot exfoliant using simple kitchen ingredients.

Exfoliant Recipes

Coconut and Vanilla Brown Sugar Body Buff

1 ¼ cups brown or raw sugar, 6-8 tablespoons extra virgin, unrefined coconut oil, 15-20 drops vanilla essential oil

In a medium size bowl, combine sugar and coconut oil. If the coconut oil is solid, warm it over a low heat until it’s just melted, then blend with the sugar using a small whisk and making sure to break up any lumps of sugar. Add the vanilla drop-by-drop, blending after each addition. Spoon into a container with a tight-fitting lid. Massage ¼ to ½ cup of scrub onto premoistened skin using gentle circular motions. Rinse. Use 1 to 2 times per week. No refrigeration is required; for maximum freshness use within 6 months.

Recommended for all skin types except acneic. (Use with care on sensitive or environmentally damaged skin.)

Orange Ginger Warming Foot Scrub

This warming foot scrub is great for the winter, and leaves your feet feeling soft and relaxed.  1/4 cup sugar (white or brown), 1/4 cup sweet almond oil,  6 drops orange essential oil, 2 drops ginger essential oil, 1 level teaspoon powdered cayenne pepper In a plastic bowl, mix together the sugar and oil. Add the essential oils and stir. Add the cayenne pepper last and stir well to mix. To use, sit comfortably in the tub or over a pan of water and/or a large towel to catch the sugar scrub as it is applied. Scoop up a handful of the scrub for each foot and massage vigorously yet with care over heels, ankles, toes, arches and the balls of your feet. Be sure to scrub any rough areas especially well. Don’t forget to rinse the tub well when finished.

Check the Labels

Read the labels carefully on your personal care products. If they list microbeads or names you can’t pronounce, consider switching.

Visit safecosmetics.org for specific details about your products.  Ban the bead!  Who wants unsafe additives in their personal care products?  Check out the brief video below further explaining the problems with microbeads.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAiIGd_JqZc

Information compiled from: treehugger.com, beatthemicrobead.org, Organic Body Care Reipes, by Stephanie Tourles For more more body care recipes, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Pause and Think…..

 

Today is World Environment Day, celebrated every year on June 5, and run by the United Nations “to raise global awareness to take positive environmental action to protect nature and the planet Earth.”  World Environment Day is a day when the United Nations invites each of the seven billion people on the planet to make one change towards more responsible consumption of resources.  Whether you refuse a plastic bag, have a vegetarian dinner, take public transportation, or recycle your trash, each little step can make a big difference.

Make every day World Environment Day and take the time to read about climate change and its effects around the globe.  Think about your impact and what you can do help protect the earth.  Make it a goal to add new “green” habits to your lifestyle to lessen your carbon footprint.  Share your ideas with family and friends.

Appreciate the beauty of the earth and its many gifts………

 

For more ideas and 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!

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 blossoms, 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. 

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