Archive for the ‘Everyday Tips’ Category

Conserve Water This Summer!

 

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.

“Eat Your Vegetables Day” on Friday!

According to my calendar, Friday, June 17 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 skin when 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.

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 the proper 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.

Image and some information compiled from earthday.org.

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.

 

 

Greener, Cleaner Spring Cleaning

Spring is here! Whether it feels like it or not, there is a psychological lift to just spotting a crocus or a daffodil and knowing that winter is officially over.  It may be too early to start gardening, but it’s not too early to start a thorough spring-cleaning!

Non-Toxic Cleaners

If you don’t already use non-toxic cleaners, now is the time to switch!  Indoor air pollution, partially caused by the use of chemical based cleaners, is a much more serious problem than people realize and one of the reasons for increased cases of asthma and allergies, among other diseases. Fortunately you can find several brands of greener, ‘‘cleaner” cleaning supplies at your local grocery store; many of the conventional brands are now making a less toxic product as well.  Be sure to read the ingredients though; some products claim to be “natural” when they really aren’t. Visit Environmental Working Group’s Cleaners  database to check the toxicity of your brand and for the lowest toxicity cleaners.  Seventh Generation, Mrs. Myers, Ecover, are a few good ones.  Remember, you really don’t need a different product for each surface in your home.  That’s just marketing.

Make Your Own Cleaners

Making your own cleaning supplies using baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice is a fun and easy option too!  Baking soda cleans nearly everything from stained kitchen sinks to mildewed showers to tea stained coffee mugs to flatware to fruit or even teeth, and it’s cheap!  White vinegar works great on hardwood floors.  Easy, long-lasting microfiber cloths lift off dirt, dust and grime with no need for additional products.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that if there is no “clean” smell, then it’s not effective – fragrances are part of the chemical danger. (Organic cleaners with safe, natural essential oils are an exception.)

Recipe for All-Purpose Cleaner

All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Store and keep. Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, countertops etc.  Keep out of reach of children.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Thoughtful Purchasing

Now more than ever acquiring possessions, and lots of them, is convenient and cheap. We are bombarded with advertisements, on average about 3000 per day, telling us we need to buy new furniture, clothes, electronics, appliances, personal care products, sports equipment, etc., which can be bought for incredibly low prices online or at megastores like Walmart, Costco or Marshalls, to name a few.

There are hidden costs though for purchasing things so cheaply.  The accessibility of such affordable items makes accumulating “stuff” so easy that we often end up with things we don’t need, that have to be managed, and thrown away into the landfill.  In order to keep prices down, manufacturers often employ underage workers overseas who are poorly paid and work in unsafe conditions.  Quality is usually compromised and manufactured with planned obsolescence so that we are constantly replacing things, creating more waste for the landfill.

BuyMeOnce      

A reader referred me to a new website called buymeonce.com, which finds and promotes durable, reasonably priced, quality products which last. Started in January by a young British entrepreneur with a mission to “throw away our throw away culture”, BuyMeOnce doesn’t sell directly to the consumer, but rather provides links to the manufacturer or retail sites.  BuyMeOnce encourages people to buy just a few great things, to take care of the things they have, and challenges manufacturers to make products that last.

While consumerism is good for the economy, it’s time to purchase more responsibly.  Ask yourself some questions before you buy something. Where was the product manufactured and under what conditions? How will my purchase impact the environment? Do I really need the high impulse item at the checkout counter? Am I better off spending a little more for a quality item that lasts longer? The average person makes 4 ½ pounds of garbage a day and America creates 30% of the world’s waste. Make it a goal to lessen your waste with more thoughtful purchasing. Check out buymeonce.com.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

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