Archive for the ‘Household 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.

 

 

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.

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

The only way to insure that your food is safer – no pesticides, artificial colorants, preservatives, or GMO’s – is to eat organically. (Organic produce may contain more natural antioxidants and nutrients, and taste better too! ) The biggest obstacle to eating organically however, is the cost. And while I still maintain eating organically is cheaper than the doctor, I understand. That’s where the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen guidelines from the Environmental Working Group come in.

The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen are the 12 fruits and vegetables most heavily sprayed with pesticides – they contain 47 to 67 pesticides per serving – and the ones you should always buy organic. These foods are most susceptible because they have soft skin that tends to absorb more pesticides.  They are, starting with the worst first:

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Snap Peas – Imported
  • Potatoes

     + 2 more

  • Hot Peppers
  • Kale/Collard Greens

The Clean Fifteen

The Clean 15 are the fifteen fruits and vegetables lowest in pesticides and not necessary to buy organic.  They are, starting with the best:

  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn*
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet peas – frozen
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papaya*
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet Potatoes

*A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from GE seedstock. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid GE produce.

It’s easier than ever to buy organic produce, which are now found in conventional grocery store chains as well as natural food markets.  To be sure the produce you choose is organic, check the sticker on the fruit or vegetable. The code number should start with a 9.

Visit the Environmental Working Group to download the EWG Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce and to see their full list of all 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue data. Their website also contains shopper’s guides to safe cleaning products, safe cosmetics, safe sunscreen and a variety of other important topics.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

One Year in American Junk Mail

This is a reprint from  , an online newspaper that encourages readers to take part and take action and is one of a series on “shrinking your waste”.

 

Written by Shaya Tayefe Mohajer,  TakePart’s News Editor.

It arrives in the mailbox and often goes straight to the garbage. Here’s why it’s worth stopping the endless cycle.

The mailbox ritual goes something like this—open the box, and out spills a slew of envelopes and catalogs. Bills get separated from coupon mailers. Holiday cards and invitations get dug out of a tangle of credit-card offers and other solicitations.

No one loves it, but everyone gets junk mail. It’s a relentless tide of paper that comes to your doorstep unbidden and often ends up in a garbage can moments after entering the house.

The production, distribution, and disposal of all that junk mail creates more than 51 million metric tons of greenhouses gases annually, the emissions equivalent of more than 9.3 million cars. That’s more than all the cars registered in Los Angeles and New York City combined.

MORE WAYS YOU CAN: Shrink Your Waste

There are ways to cut back on mailbox clutter. CatalogChoice.org allows users to search for the catalogs that come to an address and opt to stop getting them or reduce the frequency. For example, if you only want to see the Crate and Barrel catalog for holiday shopping, you can opt to get only the seasonal publications. You will need to enter the customer number or key source code from a copy of the mailer at the website page.   Doing a little paperwork there and on sites such as dmachoice.org and optoutprescreen.com can reduce a lot of future paper clutter.

Besides, the trees are more worth keeping around than the flood of marketing materials. Yale researchers estimate that since the dawn of humanity we have cut down half the trees on the planet, and there are about 3 trillion left—which leaves us with about 400 trees a person.


(Infographic: Lauren Wade)

For more information, visit http://www.takepart.com/

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Preserve!

Have you ever heard of Preserve recycled toothbrushes? I’ve been using them for years and wouldn’t use any other kind. Not only are they made from recycled yogurt cups (the bristles are new!), but Preserve worked closely with dental professionals to develop a toothbrush with an ergonomic handle for hard-to-reach places and a three-level bristle arrangement for thorough cleaning. Unlike most toothbrushes, Preserve’s minimize your impact on the environment.

Preserve’s high quality products are made from 100% recycled, BPA-free plastic, are dishwasher safe, and made in the US. Preserve is a company truly walking the walk, totally dedicated to doing the right thing by the earth, including conducting tests to ensure the safety of the recycled plastic. Preserve’s product line includes sleek new razors and a stylish, functional and durable line of reusable tableware and kitchenware like colanders, food containers, measuring cups, and cutting boards.  

Recycling is also a priority of Preserve. In addition to their toothbrush take back program, Preserve collaborates with Whole Foods, Stonyfield Farms, Plum Organics, Keurig and others in the “Gimme 5” recycling program. Gimme 5 bins are placed at 250 Whole Food locations across the county where anyone can drop of #5 plastics including caps from Plum Organics and other similar products, which so often don’t make it into the recycling stream.  Or you can take advantage of their mail back programs.

Preserve has recycled more than half a million pounds of plastic, thereby decreasing waste sent to landfills, reducing use of non-renewable resources like natural gas and oil, and decreasing energy use and carbon dioxide emissions.

What a difference it would make if more companies approached business like Preserve! Support companies doing the right thing without comprising quality. For more information, click here.

 

Special Offer

Take advantage of Preserve’s generous 6-month offer for a 10% discount off any order placed on line before July 15. Simply use the promo code “BWILD” at checkout.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zen Decluttering!!!

A good friend gave me the most wonderful book recently called The life-changing magic of tidying up, the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.  This easy-to-read book by Marie Kondo, a Japanese cleaning consultant, takes a whole new approach to decluttering the author calls the KonMari Method. Basically, it guides you in determining those items in your home that “spark joy” and discarding those that don’t, leading to a house without clutter and with lasting results.  She recommends a specific order to follow when decluttering, which enables you to make those hard discarding decisions, and the proper way to fold to solve your storage problems.  By surrounding yourself with only things that spark joy, you will naturally be happier, Marie says.

I like things orderly, but I am by no means a neat freak, and I have to be really motivated to clean out drawers and closets. After reading Marie’s book however, I could hardly wait to get started.  I’ve finished my clothes and am now ready to do books and papers. Even my husband is reorganizing his things!  Marie maintains, “a dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective….. and is life transforming.”   I’m beginning to understand why. Don’t wait for spring cleaning to start to declutter – do it now!  With this new approach, it’s actually fun.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

A Non-Toxic Approach to Shower Mold

I noticed some mold spots growing on my brand new pebble shower floor and of course didn’t want to clean it up with a harsh, toxic commercial moldicide. Even the word is scary! So I consulted The Naturally Clean Home – 150 Super-easy Herbal Formulas for Green Cleaning book and tried the following recipe. The mold wiped right off!

Here it is:

Mold Deterrent

1 1/4 cups white vinegar

3/4 cup water

4 drops cinnamon essential oil

6 drops patchouli essential oil

2 teaspoons tea tree essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a plastic bottle.  Spray surface well.  If you have mold buildup, allow the spray to rest on the surface for a few hours.  Wipe off with a soft cloth, then respray and let dry without rinsing.  You can use this recipe as the name suggests as a mold deterrent and spray surfaces without rinsing.

I used peppermint essential oil in place of the cinnamon and patchouli since I didn’t have the others.

A Little Information About Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil comes from the Australian paperbark tree and is an all-around remedy long valued for its anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.

Some Common Uses:

Around the house tea tree oil can be used as a toothbrush cleaner, mold treatment, natural pest control (the strong smell naturally repels ants and other insects), and laundry freshener.  For body care, tea tree oil helps control acne, fights fungal and bacterial infections, treats athlete’s foot, dandruff, lice, and gingivitis.  In aromatherapy, tea tree oil can be helpful in alleviating chest and head congestion, stuffy nose, and other symptoms of colds and flu, especially when used in steam inhalation.

unnamed-3A bottle of this little household wonder can be found at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods or other natural food stores.

Vinegar

White vinegar (and apple cider vinegar) besides its obvious uses in cooking, is a completely safe all around cleaner, disinfectant, weed killer, pet cleaner, odor neutralizer, clothes whitener, glass cleaner and many more.  No pantry should be without a huge container of vinegar!  

For more green cleaning tips, click here.

Some information compiled from: http://articles.mercola.com/herbal-oils/tea-tree-oil.aspx

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

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