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Napkins and the Environment

One of the simplest ways to go green is to avoid paper napkins and use cloth ones.  A few years ago, we made the switch in my home to use cloth napkins as much as possible.  All in all, we prefer them.  They're much more effective than a paper napkin when eating something sloppy.  I'm a messy eater, and I find that when I use paper napkins, sometimes I go through more than two or three in a meal!  But with cloth napkins, one napkin is more than enough!... read more

The Dangers of Styrofoam

The Dangers of StyrofoamI think Styrofoam is disgusting.  In fact, I'm surprised it's even in use.  It's been almost twenty years since McDonald's (of all places!) stopped using Styrofoam for their Big Macs...why have so few other places followed suit?  Even Jamba Juice, which promotes itself as a healthy place, and Dunkin Donuts, which even uses fair trade coffee in their espresso drinks, are still clinging on to the Styrofoam.  It's really disheartening to see places continue to use it.

Styrofoam was created in the 1970s by Dow Chemical.  It's made of polystyrene, which is a type of petroleum-based plastic.   Styrofoam is actually a trademark of Dow for extruded polystyrene foam, but people in the U.S. use it as a generic term for expanded polystyrene foam.

Did you take home a doggie bag from your favorite restaurant last night?  And did it come in Styrofoam?  Well, don't microwave that spaghetti and meatballs in the Styrofoam container!  Because of the heating and cooling process, if it gets hot enough, it's been believed that Styrofoam can break down when put in the microwave, with all sorts of toxins entering your food.

There has also been concern about the trace presence of Styrofoam's production chemicals remaining in the final product which can be toxic. (i.e., benzene is carcinogenic).  ... read more

Boxed Wine: Not Just for the Cheap Anymore

I am an avid red wine drinker.  Lately I've been thinking about taking my wine drinking to a greener level, but it's a bit overwhelming as there are a lot of factors to consider.

To start with, what's the difference between USDA certified organic and plain old organic on the labels?  To be USDA certified organic, a vineyard must grow its grapes without using any chemicals or artificial fertilizers.  Also USDA certified organic wine cannot have any sulfites added.  (Don't misinterpret this, though.  These wines will still contain some sulfites, as they naturally occur in wine.)  A wine labelled simply organic means that at least 70% of its contents are organic.

However, being a greener wine consumer is not necessarily synonomous with being an organic wine drinker.  Sustainability is another factor to consider.  What is the vineyard doing to make a less significant impact on the earth?  Are they taking measures to reduce erosion?  How about water consumption?  Do they only run sprinklers when absolutely necessary or is their system automatic?  What methods do they use of reducing pests?

Another way to green your wine consumption is to take a look at where your wine originates. identifies and explains a "green line" that runs down the center of Ohio.  The Green Line


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What is PVC?

PVC - Problesms with PVCEarlier this week, I wrote about how to keep your back to school shopping eco-friendly.  One of the things I mentioned was to avoid backpacks made of PVC.  But what is PVC and why should it be avoided?

PVC, or Polyvinyl chloride, is known more commonly as vinyl.    It can be found in items from building materials to clothing to backpacks.   A lot of times products made of PVC have a distinct smell.  You can smell it in things like vinyl shower curtains.  I also feel like stores such as Target and Walmart smell like PVC all over!

The EPA has recognized that the emissions from PVC plants cause air pollution "that may reasonably be anticipated to result in an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible illness."

Greenpeace has been advocating a global phase-out of PVC.  They have claimed that dioxin is a byproduct of vinyl chloride manufacture and from incineration of waste PVC in domestic garbage. Dioxins are considered a serious health threat because they can remain in the environment and can travel long distances. It's been also claimed that even at low levels, dioxins have been linked to immune system suppression, reproductive disorders, endometriosis, and cancer when the general population is exposed. ... read more

Eating Local Foods Saves the Environment

I've been a food snob for about the past 10 years.

I still vividly remember the Wednesday (I think?) mornings I'd go to the outdoor farmer's market with my grandmother and mother in the days before I started preschool.  It was those memories that drove me, nearly 17 years later, back to Soulard Market.  I was immediately taken with the chaotic, dim, random atmosphere; it was only after I got back home and started cooking that I was taken with the absolute taste difference between the fresh spinach I'd gotten there and the "fresh" spinach I'd been buying at the local grocery store.  Since that day, I've never looked back.... read more

What is BPA and why is it bad?

BPA, Bisphenol A, Toxic chemicalBPA, or Bisphenol A,  is a chemical used in polycarbonate plastic food and beverage containers.  It's common in baby bottles and water bottles.  It's also used in compact discs, safety equipment, and medical devices.   There have also been trace amounts in dental sealants and beverage cans.  The toxins can leach into your food and drink.  It's been suspected to b... read more

Kill Slugs with Beer

Kill slugs With Beer, Beer Kill slugs, Eco-Use of Beer Ewww!  Are there slugs all over your garden?  They're everywhere in mine, especially after the damp early summer we had here in the Northeast.

But don't worry...there's one way to at least reduce the amount of slugs in your garden.  Drown those suckers in beer!... read more

Some People Trading Lawns for Veggie Gardens

A great piece of video journalism by the Associated Press dealing with the rise edible gardens.  Even though the piece is a year old, it highlights the great reasons why people should get involved.

"An increasing, albeit small, number of people are trying edible landscaping: growing fruits and vegetables mixed in with traditional, ornamental flowers, to save money on food, eat healthier and ensure their fresh food is safe."


Using Vinegar to Kill Weeds

A few weeks ago, I wrote about all the great things you can do with vinegar.   I hadn't tried using vinegar to kill weeds until this week, and it worked so well that I wanted to share some pictures!

We had weeds like this all over the sidewalk cracks in the front of our house:

Vinegar Kills Weed, Green Weed Killer Vinegar

Then on Saturday morning, I poured plain old white vinegar and within a few very hot, sunny days, the weeds shriveled into this:

Non-Toxic Weed Killer, Vinnegar... read more

Recycling Old Toys, Games and Puzzles

You're torn.  You're trying to declutter your home, but you don't know what to do with all those puzzles, toys, and games missing crucial pieces.  You don't want to toss them in the trash to take up precious landfill space for the next few centuries, but who will want them?

You will, that's who!

Remember those popsicle stick picture frames you used to make in Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts/elementary school?  You glued four sticks together, taped a picture on the back, and proudly presented it to a parent or grandparent who smiled kindly and put it away with all the other "special crafts" so it wouldn't get damaged. You can take the same concept and make a frame with the kids that you'll actually want to display.

I've made a few different versions of the popsicle stick frames with the kids I work with.  In one, we've covered the sticks with puzzle pieces.   I recommend doing two layers of puzzle pieces, just so there's more dimension to the frame.  Recycle Old Puzzles, Ideas to Recylce Old Puzzles

... read more

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