Archive for the ‘Everyday Tips’ Category

Food Waste/Food Loss/Solutions

As a child, I was required to clean my plate. “Think about all the starving children in Africa.” my mother repeatedly said. And so I gobbled up my dinner. Even though that philosophy changed when I was raising my kids, “Keep mealtime happy; they take what they need.”, I still hated wasting food.

According to a National Geographic article, “One-Third of Our Food is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done”, more than 30 percent of the food we grow, valued at $162 billion annually, isn’t eaten. Globally it is rising to 50% as developing nations struggle with spoilage and Western nations simply throw food away. In general, “the richer the nation, the higher its per capita rate of waste.”

Think about your restaurant dining experiences. Restaurants usually serve overly large portions, which most people don’t eat. They either leave the food or ask for a doggy bag. Doggy bags make sense except the food, along with other leftovers, is often thrown away. So then is the doggy bag packaging, usually made from non-biodegradable Styrofoam. With elaborate buffets in restaurants and on cruises, consumers help themselves to excessive and unhealthy portions often not eaten. At the end of the buffet, the leftover food is dumped.

The National Geographic article states that food retailers usually have in-store losses of 43 billion pounds of food a year. They over order to avoid running out of a particular product and potentially losing customers. Consumers over buy because food is relatively cheap and designed to be seductively packaged.

Consumers also take the “use by” date literally (brainwashed?), even though the stamps were “designed to communicate peak freshness and have nothing to do with food safety.” Again, out goes the food and back to the store to buy more.

Uneaten food goes beyond the obvious waste.  It also wastes exorbitant amounts of fuel, agricultural chemicals, water, land, and labor needed to produce and transport the uneaten food. Those wasted toxic chemicals used to produce food seep into our waterways and deplete the soil of beneficial nutrients. And if that’s not bad enough, food waste is the number one material taking up landfill space where it generates methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide.

Yikes – It’s time to go back to the era of cleaning our plates!

Next week’s blog – Food Loss/Solutions

 

Information compiled from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/One-Third of Food Is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done” and http://modernfarmer.com/2013/09/next-food-revolution-youre-eating/

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Thieves Oil To The Rescue!

After speaking with one of my teacher friends who was frustrated at getting one cold after another from her students despite taking every precaution to keep germs from spreading, including Clorox wipes, I decided to repost my entry about Thieves Oil, an amazing non-toxic germ-killing spray! It is that time of year!     

Thieves Oil is a powerful blend of germ-killing essential oils – clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus and rosemary – that help eliminate airborne bacteria and boost the immune system. Research conducted at Weber State University, as well as other documented research, shows that most viruses, fungi, and bacteria cannot live in the presence of many essential oils. When bacteria cultures were sprayed in an enclosed area, Thieves Oil had a 99.96% success rate against airborne bacteria.

The name comes from the legend of four thieves who were captured and charged with robbing dead and dying victims during the bubonic plague, which killed millions of people in Europe and Asia for about 600 years. In exchange for leniency, the magistrate wanted to know how the thieves escaped from contracting the plague.  They confessed to rubbing themselves with a special concoction of aromatic herbs, including garlic, cloves and rosemary.  Hence, the name Thieves Oil.

There are a variety of Thieves® antiseptic products such as household cleaners, soaps, hand sanitizers, toothpaste, and mouthwash. All are formulated from the essential oils mentioned in the legend that help fight against bacteria, fungi and viruses and ward off disease.

As germs become more virulent and antibiotic resistant, it’s more important than ever to support your immune system and ward off bugs, and anything is worth a try! Do so with Thieves® products, especially during cold and flu season. Keep some in your natural medicine cabinet, at your office, in your car, and at school. I use it, my kids use it, and I can tell you it works. And the spray smells great…….

Information compiled http://www.secretofthieves.com.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Sustainable Food Storage

I’ve just discovered the most wonderful product called Bee’s Wrap. Handmade in Vermont by a young mother and her team, it’s the perfect alternative to plastic wrap for food storage. Bee’s Wrap is 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.

Use Bee’s Wrap to wrap sandwiches, cheese, baked goods, bread, a half avocado, cucumber or lemon, or to cover a bowl of leftovers. It is not recommended for meat. With the warmth and pressure of your hand, the malleable sheet easily molds around the food to create a seal. To reuse, clean with a mild soap and air dry. With proper care and usage, it should last up to a year.

Bee’s Wrap comes in five sizes – small, medium, large, bread, baguette, and an assorted 3 pack.

Not only do food and plastic not go together, plastic wrap is not easily recycled. Here is at last a clever, easy, reusable and safe alternative for food storage. Congratulations to this creative young entrepreneur!

Minimally and attractively packaged, Bee’s Wrap can be found on line at beeswrap.com and at natural food stores and specialty shops all over, even internationally. For you readers on Cape Cod, Farm Fare Market at 68 Tupper Road in Sandwich carries them.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

What is Your Carbon Footprint?

Image by net_efekt

I’m resurrecting some of my earlier posts which I want to call attention to.  “What is your carbon footprint?” is one of them. 

Relating to that topic, I have another perspective as the price of oil continues to drop and gasoline prices become so much cheaper.  My concern is that we will be more complacent and less careful about our energy usage with such low prices. The news rarely if ever talks about the the environmental impact of oil.   No matter the price of gasoline, driving and flying still are major culprits of climate change and the resulting intensifying storms and droughts.  I drive an electric car and only occasionally have to fill up with gasoline, but I too am enjoying lower prices.  I’m afraid we have to be hit in the pocketbook for necessary change to happen.

Carbon Footprint is a measurement of greenhouse gas emissions an individual produces from energy consumed in their day to day activities, emissions that cause pollution and climate change.  The US accounts for 26% of the world’s energy use despite that we are less than 5% of the human population. Driving, flying, heating, air conditioning, electricity, the size of your home, the type foods you eat, and the products you buy all require the use of fossil fuels and make up your carbon footprint.  It’s important to be aware of how much energy you use, a first step in reducing your carbon footprint.   To find out yours, click here.

Below are simple changes you can make to lessen your footprint.

  • walk or bike more
  • combine errands
  • take public transportation when possible
  • carpool
  • drive more slowly
  • keep your tires inflated
  • consider buying a hybrid or electric car when you need a new one
  • turn off lights when not in use
  • unplug appliances when not in use
  • run your dishwasher and washing machine only when full
  • turn down the heat
  • check for air leaks
  • eat meat less often
  • eat local foods
  • compost
  • reduce consumption
  • recycle paper, cans, bottles, newspapers and buy recycled products

While you enjoy lower gasoline prices, continue to be mindful of your energy usage.  Each little step will reduce your carbon footprint, lower your energy costs and make you a bit healthier!  Calculate your footprint, you will be surprised at how much energy you consume.

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Is There Still A Quandary Over Plastic Bags?

As I finished up a telephone call in my car in the Stop and Shop parking lot the other day, I observed a young woman unload her cart, filled to the brim with groceries, all bagged, maybe even double bagged, in plastic.  I was really taken aback! With that many groceries, wouldn’t larger paper ones be better if you didn’t have reusable ones?

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I mistakenly think everyone is aware of the problems with plastic bags.  Change in attitude is happening for sure, but we are clearly not there yet.  Below are some startling facts about plastic bags compiled from a previous post.

  • The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store, just one of many stores we frequent.
  • According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil or natural gas, both non-renewable resources, are used to make these bags.
  • Somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. At this time roughly only 5 or 6% of them are recycled.  Millions end up in the litter stream outside of the landfills, either in the oceans or on land where aquatic life and animals, mistaking them for food, are poisoned. The rest end up in landfills. It can take centuries for them to decompose.

Though they are inexpensive to produce (therein lies the problem), easily reused as trashcan liners or lunch bags, and can be recycled, there are still too many plastic (and paper) bags. They seem to multiply – a direct correlation to the amount of stuff we consume!

Each high quality reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime. Fortunately, the movement to bring reusable bags to the grocery store is catching on and many stores now give a $.05/bag rebate. Whole Foods stores no longer carry plastic bags -100% biodegradable bags are now available.

Alternatives are there.  It’s time for all companies and consumers to get on board!

List of towns in the US that banned plastic bags:

  • San Francisco
  • Portland, OR
  • Falmouth, MA
  • Provincetown, MA
  • a few other towns in MA
  • Austin, TX
  • towns in the outer banks of North Carolina

List of countries with cities that banned plastic bags:

  • England
  • Mexico (Mexico City)
  • India
  • Burma
  • Bangladesh
  • Rwanda (reputed to be one of the cleanest nations in the world)
  • Australia

Countries where plastic bags are taxed, but not banned:

  • Italy
  • Belgium
  • Ireland (where plastic bag use dropped by 94 percent within weeks of the 2002 ban.)

Countries where plastic bags come with a fee:

  • Switzerland
  • Germany
  • Holland

Check out these other posts I wrote on plastics and ideas for reducing plastic usage

Some information compiled from: http://people.howstuffworks.com/how-many-cities-have-a-ban-on-plastic-bags.htm

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

The Safety of Plastic Dental Appliances

A reader asked me about the safety of the plastic used in mouth guards, retainers and other dental appliances.

It seems like dentists tell everyone to wear a mouth guard, even my 25-year-old son, because they grind their teeth, which is either a testament to our high stress society or a dentist up sell. I use one because I clench my teeth and it was affecting my bottom teeth. It helps, but I too get concerned about the safety of the material used.

A wide variety of materials is used to manufacture dental devices and it’s hard to find information about the exact materials and their safety. According to the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center, or PPRC, a nonprofit organization that is a leading source of high quality, unbiased pollution prevention, “Sealants, fillings, mouth guards and other dental appliances can and may contain bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates and other chemicals of concern.”

The BPA chemical is a synthetic hormone and endocrine disruptor used in plastics, and has been linked to everything from breast and others cancers to reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty and heart disease. It has been under scrutiny and has now been removed from many plastic products including baby bottles, water bottles, and plastic toys. The FDA does not require testing for BPA exposure however, for dental materials. New federal regulations have required that manufacturers also stop using phthalates (Chemicals used in plastic household and personal care products linked to hormone changes, lower sperm count, birth defects in the male reproductive system, obesity, diabetes and thyroid irregularities) in children’s toys, but again, it is unclear whether these new regulations pertain to mouth guards. The PPRC states “ The ADA (American Dental Association) and other authorities suggest that the risk of contamination from dental materials is low compared with other sources of BPA in the environment and food supply.” I hope so!

I did read that the store-bought boil and bite guards like the ones used for sports protection are problematic since BPA is more likely to leach from plastic when it is heated.  Amazon FYI, sells a BPA-free, FDA-approved soft material tooth grinding and athletic mouth guard.

The solution?  Ask your dentist about the materials used in his/her dental appliances, about the effectiveness of store-bought guards, and request BPA-free ones. As with anything, you have to outweigh the risks vs. the benefits.

Information compiled from: http://pprc.org/research/rapidresDocs/Dental_Guard_BPA_RR_FINAL.pdf and ewg.org.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Have You Made Any Eco-Friendly New Year’s Resolutions?

The New Year is a time for starting fresh and making resolutions, some of which we keep and most of which we don’t.  This year go beyond the “lose weight, exercise more” typical resolutions and add some “green” ones.

Think back over the year to your newly acquired green habits and add to them.   For example, add one new item to your recycling that you have previously not recycled, like printer cartridges. (Staples recycles old printer cartridges and you can download mailing labels from HP to send back used ones.)  Recycle plastic bags or better yet, eliminate them whenever possible. If you are not already bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, start doing so.  If you are, add reusable produce bags, or bring reusable shopping bags on other errands as well.

Lower your carbon footprint one day a week by walking, biking or taking public transportation instead of driving.  Replace your light bulbs with energy-efficient CFL or LED lights.  Incorporate “meatless Mondays” into your week and try some new vegetarian recipes. Go technology-free for a day and read a book instead.

Replace one of your conventional cleaning products with a non-toxic one.  Check out greenwithbetsy.com for simple recipes to make at home.  They work just as well and you will feel good knowing you are not breathing in toxins!

It only takes three weeks to make or break a habit, so start  your green resolutions now and they will soon become part of your daily routine. You may find you lose weight and exercise more simply by being more green!

Happy 2015!!!

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