Archive | Healthy Living

A Day in the Life of This Eco-Mom

Day in the life of this eco-friendly mom

This random thought came to my head the other day – how is my life different from other friends that aren’t as green?  How many things do I do in a day to help the Earth?  I started to think of all the seemingly little things I have adopted over the years and there were quite a few.  Obviously, I don’t do ALL of these things in ONE SINGLE day, but you get the idea.

I wake at 6am and jump in the shower. If it’s Monday, Wednesday or Friday I wash my hair with an environmentally safe shampoo that I checked out using the Environmental Working Guide’s Safe Cosmetics database.  On the other days I just rinse it with water.  Really no need to wash your hair EVERY day and use more products with toxins.  I tried the no-poo method and it just wasn’t for me.  I grab this awesome scrubbie thing that holds a bar of soap in it instead of using bath gel -less packaging and I’m not paying for the water in the gel.

Despite being on the, shall we say natural side of things, I do wear some makeup.  Most of my makeup and my facial cleansers, moisturizers, etc come from the Whole Body spa, because I know the owner well and she only creates or sells items that are safe. I also use some whipped coconut oil on my legs as moisturizer and eye makeup remover at night.

As I head downstairs, I throw in a load of laundry, on cold.

I start to make breakfast for my children.  On Tuesdays we have pancakes – made from scratch with half whole wheat flour, coconut oil and some flax seed meal on a cast iron griddle, served with real maple syrup.

Next I pack lunches and snacks in reusable lunch bags, snack bags, containers and water bottles creating waste-free lunches.   The kids fill their own snacks and usually complain that “There isn’t anything good!”  Sorry, no chips or candy for snack.  Other moms who torture their children this way, please contact me!  I need to find a “support group” for my deprived children. 😉  Can you hear the sarcasm??

We walk to the bus stop on most days.  If it’s too cold, we drive, but I shut off the car – no idling.   We live less than 2 miles from the school so I have to pay for the bus.  Honestly, I do this because it’s easier for me to get them to the bus stop than all the way to school.  Plus the bus goes right by our street regardless of whether they get on or not so this saves me gas.

Before we head out the door, the kids’ are responsible for taking the recycling to the garage.  Our recycling bin fills in a day!

I make more granola and granola bars – don’t want the ingredients in the store bought ones or the extra packaging waste.

We are running low on lotion and lip balm, so I get all the ingredients out.  While I’m at it, I mix up some more of my cleaners and check to see how the citrus infused vinegar under the kitchen sink is coming along.

I run all of my errands on one day to reduce my miles.  I am dying for a coffee.  So I stop at Dunkin’ Donuts, no reusable mug in sight, but I get the coffee in Styrofoam anyway – can’t do it all!  I hit the library to pick up a new book or return others.  Pick up the Upcycle It! items, then head to the grocery store, park the car and grab my reusable shopping and produce bags – they are always in the center console next to my seat.  While I’m in the produce aisle, I try to buy as many of the Clean 15 as I can, where I can’t I opt for organic.  The organic strawberries are so pricey and don’t look great today, conventional it is.

Lunch time.  It’s cold and I really want some soup.  Grabbed a mason jar from the freezer filled with homemade pea soup.  It took 30 minutes to defrost and re-heat.  Much more time than a can of soup, but hands down this soup was way better than any can!  And no BPA.

I read some online environmental articles and freak out about yet another thing that causes some sort of disease or defect.  I get upset that companies are allowed to put out products like cleaning supplies and personal care products (shampoo, soap, etc) without any safety testing!   Then I calm down and just try to do my best.

Time for the kids to come home.  My son loves getting the mail on his way in from school.  Not too much since most of our bills come electronically and I get very little junk mail.

My girls and I head to the mall for a little shopping.  I smile as they run to grab their reusable shopping bags without me even saying a word.

We have leftovers at least one night a week to reduce food waste.  And homemade pizza always includes some sort of leftover to make an interesting topping.  Lots of our food is stored in various glass jars/containers.  While making dinner, most of the scraps either go to the compost or in the freezer to make stock with at a later  time.

At times it does seem overwhelming.  More so when I am at someone else’s home for an extended period of time and not in my own surroundings with all of my “gear”.  Over Christmas, there were 12 family members in one house for 4 days.  We used paper plates on occasion.  My Mom does not have many glass containers, so I had to use plastic wrap to cover leftovers.  I could still recycle, but others didn’t and I was too tired to pick through the trash – although I did once.

We can’t do it all, but I feel good about what I am able to do.  I also hope that since my children are growing up this way, it will just be second nature for them to compost and recycle and they won’t have to remember to bring their reusable bags.  It will just be how it’s done.

6

Why I Am Going Meat-less

eat less meat



Meat-less = Less meat, not necessarily no meat.

I have been trying, for a long time, to incorporate more vegetarian meals and less meat in general into my family’s diet.  Why?  Honestly, the first reason – I’m sick of meat!  How many different ways can you cook a chicken?!  I would love to find some alternatives to the standard american dinner -some sort of meat, starch and a veggie.  There are so many cultures around the world that have really tasty vegetable main dishes – Indian, Armenian, Greek, Italian…

Eating less meat – and I mean all kinds of meat, poultry, fish, pork and red meat  – is consider green.  Why is eating less meat green?

Environmental Reasons

  1. Raising cows contributes to the thinning ozone layer.  Cattle release a significant amount of methane.  Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.  Livestock production is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.  This represents more than transportation emissions.
  2. Animals require large amounts of water.  It is estimated that 2 to 5 times the amount of water is needed to raise a cow than to raise the equivalent amount of food in plant form.
  3. Anywhere from 50 – 70% of antibiotics used in the US is used on animals.  Antibiotics are routinely given to the animals to keep them healthy while they are raised for our consumption.  This is a possible cause for the rise of antibiotic resistant germs.
  4. Huge amounts of food are grown for the animals to eat so we can eat them.  Seems so inefficient!  Just use the land to grow plants for us to eat and eliminate the “middle-man”.



As I learned more, there are so many other important reasons to limit meat.

Personal Reasons

  1. Alternative proteins are really good for you.  Beans are a great low-fat source of fiber, which can lower cholesterol, combat heart disease, stabilize blood sugar, and protect against some cancers.  
  2. Reduce the risk of some cancers. The Cancer Project discusses how eating meat can affect a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.  Others say meat can increase chances of developing other cancers such as colon and prostate. 
  3. Reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes  After watching the film Forks Over Knives, I was even more convinced that we should be eating more veggies and less meat.  
  4. Meatless meals are less expensive.  It is a lot cheaper to buy beans, whether you cook them yourself or buy in cans.

How To Actually Do It 

I have tried vegetarian meals.  The kids are not too fond of them.  My husband, bless his heart, will eat anything I put in front of him.  He is just glad he didn’t have to cook!  Most of the time I enjoy the meal, but end up feeling hungry later.

So instead of cutting out meat entirely for one or 2 meals per week, I reduce the amount at most meals.  Here are few examples:

If I make lasagna, I really like the flavor ground beef adds to it.  I only use about a 1/2 pound for the entire lasagna.  Just enough to get the flavor, but no where near the almost 2 pounds of meat a lot of recipes call for.  

When I make taco filling, I start with ground beef or turkey and add beans (black beans, black-eyed peas or even re-fried beans), onions, corn and any other veggies I have chopped very small.  It about doubles the filling so we are probably only eating half the meat.  Plus it tastes great!

At the same time I am exploring alternatives.  So far falafel, eggplant, and pizza with veggies has worked.

I think it’s important to remember that our bodies don’t need as much protein as we may think and that meat is not the only source of protein.

I posed this question on the Facebook page about a month ago: 

To all my vegetarian or vegan friends out there: How can I add some protein to a stir fry without using meat? Not crazy about tofu either. Ideas????”


I received the greatest suggestions!  Nuts, beans, eggs, tempeh, quinoa, lentils, nut butters, edamame.   Someone also posted this great chart with an explanation on how much protein we actually need and how much is in all other sorts of foods.  

 


What are you favorite recipes that include little or no meat?

3

Thieves Oil Concentrate: What a Steal!

 

 
 

Homemade Thieves Oil Concentrate

Cold and flu season is upon us.  Runny noses, germs, viruses…  It’s not enough for me to pull out the bleach, but I do like a little extra protection.
 
Have you heard of Thieves Oil?   Legend has it that back in the 15th century, 4 thieves used a secret formula to protect themselves from the plague so they could rob the dying and dead.
 
And of course, you can make this yourself with simple, inexpensive, easy to find ingredients.  Recipes vary, but the common mixture is cinnamon, cloves, lemon, eucalyptus and rosemary.  We can’t be sure that thieves actually used this mixture to protect themselves from the plague, but these ingredients are antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial and anti-infectious. So give it a go!  It smells great.
 

Thieves Oil Concentrate (Cost: approximately $1.25 per batch)

 
Zest of 1 large lemon (cut the peel off to make it easier to use again)
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 cinnamon sticks (buy in bulk at Whole Foods)
¼ cup whole cloves (buy in bulk at Whole Foods)
5 drops eucalyptus essential oil (GNC or online)
 

 

Homemade Thieves Oil Concentrate {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}

  1. Fill a pot with a quart of water and add the first four ingredients.
  2. Heat on the stove top to boiling, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Or, once the mixture has boiled, turn off the heat and let it sit for 2 hours.
  3. Strain the mixture and pour the remaining liquid into a glass jar.  Glass is better than plastic for many reasons!  But in this case, the essential oils can react with plastic.
  4. Add the five drops of eucalyptus oil.

 

You can re-use the ingredients for another 2-3 batches. I store mine in the freezer for later use.
 
This concentrate can be mixed with equal parts of water and kept in a spray bottle.  I use mine as a quick disinfectant for the bathroom.  I really like the smell too.
 

A Quick Note On The Ingredients

 
Whole cloves can be super expensive in grocery stores.  Anywhere from $3 – 4 for a small bottle.  Here is where the bulk spices at Whole Foods comes in.  I purchased 2 cups of whole cloves for $6.65.  Which comes out to be about $0.83 for the ¼ cup you’ll need for this recipe.
 
Cinnamon sticks can be expensive too – I bought 10 good quality cinnamon sticks for $0.99 at Whole foods.  That would have cost me $5 prepackaged – maybe more.

Make sure to cut your lemon peel and not zest (grate it).  I learned this the hard way!   See my lemon zest in the picture?  It’s really difficult to get the zest back after straining to use again.

 

How To Use Your Thieves Oil Concentrate

 
Fill a spray bottle with equal amounts of Thieves Of Concentrate and water.
Spray on surfaces or in the air as a disinfectant.
 
 
It love the smell as it simmers on the stove. 
 
This quart of concentrate will cost you about $1.25.  From this you can make 2 quarts or 2 full sized bottles of disinfectant!  Talk about saving money!  And you can trust these ingredients.
 

Do You Use Any Homemade Cleaners?


This post is shared at Tiny Tip Tuesday, Your Green Resource, Simple Lives Thursday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Penny Pinching Party, Simply Natural Saturdays, Seasonal Celebration Sunday

20

Personal Care Products Primer

 
 
safer personal care products
As winter approaches, out comes the lip balm!  Not just for me, but the whole family.  We have it everywhere – bathrooms, backpacks, purses, cars.
 
Lip balms are just one of several personal care products each of us uses daily.  These include shampoo, conditioner, soap, makeup, deodorant, moisturizers and the like.  They get us clean, make us smell and feel good.  

Now for the bad news

  • There are no real regulations for personal care products.  Companies are NOT required to test for safety before they hit the shelves. 
  • All ingredients do NOT need to be disclosed.  This is especially the case with fragrance and flavorings.  You just don’t know what is in there.
  • Three common ingredients used in many personal care products have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and hormone disruption to name just a few.  These are parabens, phthalates, and triclosan.
  • Our skin is the largest organ on our bodies and is really good at absorbing stuff.  How many medicines now come in “patch” form?
 
Especially disturbing with lip balms as they are applied to our lips!  How much do you think you eat in a day? The more I learn about conventional products, the more I don’t like.  Bottom line for me – they have not been proven safe so I would rather be safe than sorry.  There are so many great alternatives that are easily obtained and very affordable.
 

How To Find Safe Alternatives    

So, how do I find these alternatives?  I go to Skin Deep and GoodGuide.  The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database rates more than 69,000 personal care products for safety.  GoodGuide rates over 175,000 items including toys, food, electronics and personal care products.
There are sooo many products out there and it can be very frustrating and confusing to weed through everything, finally pick a product only to get to the store and not find it on the shelves.  Take it one product at a time.  I also recommend downloading good guide’s app to your smart phone.  You can scan the bar code of the product while you are at the store and instantly obtain the safety data.  Not all products are in the app, but it helps.
 
If you are at the store trying to decide, keep these in mind when looking for any personal care product: 
1) opt for no flavoring/scent
2) Look for a short ingredient list you can read.
3) Avoid -parabens, phthalates, and triclosan for starters
 
Another thing you can do – use fewer products and/or use them less frequently.  Many hairdressers and dermatologists recommend washing your hair every other day (or less) so as not to strip your hair.
 

Homemade Options

There are also loads of homemade recipes online and here.  Try them out.  I am all about simple and easy DIY so no need for super special ingredients or lengthy methods in these.
 

Take Action

Do you think it’s unfair that you have to research personal care products yourself?  Feeling at times like you need a chemical engineering degree to make the decision on which soap to purchase?!  I do!  If products are being sold on store shelves, there should be some level of testing done to ensure they are safe.
 
Several groups are trying to shift the burden of proof to the companies that make the products.  To make the manufacturers prove their products are safe BEFORE they can appear on store shelves, instead of consumers having to prove they are harmful to get them OFF the shelves.
 
  1. Get educated at The Campaign For Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Database.
  2. Tell your Senators you want them to support the Safe Chemicals Act
  3. Switch or eliminate ONE product you currently use.
 

Have you switched to safer personal care products?  Any you haven’t been able to switch?

This post has been shared at Tiny Tip TuesdaySmall Footprint Friday

2

Beaches, Butts and Straws

litter on beaches

Last weekend brought beautiful weather to Massachusetts.  It was warm with just a hint of fall peeking through.   I love these days!  Best of all, I was able to spend Sunday afternoon with my daughter and her Girl Scout troop on a beautiful beach in Gloucester, MA called Wingaersheek.  I had never been here before.  It is so picturesque and the sand is as fine and soft as powder.  It even has the stereotypical New England light house in the distance!

Now, remember, I was there with girl scouts.  We weren’t there to just have fun.  We were there, along with about 50 other girl scouts, to clean up the beach.  Honestly, we all thought “Really, they picked this beach for us to clean up?  I don’t see anything.”


But we started looking.  And we found trash.  The 2 most found items:  cigarette butts and straws!  It was amazing how many we found. 

litter found on beach cigarette buttsI recently learned that cigarette butts take anywhere from 18 months to 10 years to break down.  The filter is actually a form of plastic called cellulose acetate.  It is very slow to break down and contains tar – a toxin. Yet another source for ground and water pollution. It is estimated that trillions of cigarette butts litter the world each year. Cigarettelitter.org estimates they are the most littered item worldwide!  During the Coastal Cleanup Day in 2000, 230,000 cigarette butts were found on California beaches.  TerraCycle is attempting to upcycle cigarette butts in Canada.  The cigarette butts will be turned into plastic pallets for industrial use.
After cleaning up the beach I can totally see how cigarette butts can be the most littered item.  They were everywhere.  They are so small I’m guessing smokers don’t think it’s such a big deal.  But boy does it add up!

Straws and the waste they generate have been a topic for many environmentalists.  Milo Cress started the Be Straw Free Campaignat age 9 to reduce the 500 million straws used each day.  Do you really need a straw?  Think about it.  At a restaurant, you could probably do without one.  Refusing a single straw may not seem like you are making a big dent in the 500 million, but you might just prompt a conversation with someone else and get them to refuse a straw next time.  Just like that old shampoo commercial, “And they’ll tell 2 friends, and so on and so on and so on….” 

Now there are times when I really like a straw.  Did you know there are reusable straws?  We have stainless steel straws, others are madeof glass and are available online.  Beth Terry, author of Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You CanToo, carries one in her purse to use when in restaurants.  By the way, I totally recommend reading Beth’s book.  Lots of great information and plenty of do-able actions.


If you live in Westford, the Highway Department in conjunction with the Litter League Green Team has cleanup kits you can borrow to clean up areas of Westford.

0

Cheesy Spinach with Quinoa

Cheesy Spinach with quinoa recipe


I was fascinated when I discovered quinoa (keen-wah).  A grain that has protein.  Cool!  It tastes great too. Not a strong flavor so you can put it with almost anything.

I found a recipe for Cheesy Quinoa Pilaf with Spinach.  This was more of a quinoa pilaf with some spinach added.  I was (and am still) trying to add more vegetables to my meals, so I adjusted this recipe to be more of a spinach side dish with some quinoa.  It has now become one of my favorites.  The ingredients are easy and most can be kept on hand.



Cheesy Spinach with Qunioa

½ cup quinoa


1 cup of water (to cook the quinoa)

2 TBSP olive oil

¼ cup pine nuts, toasted

4 cloves garlic, minced

5 -6 cups spinach, organic if possible

1 TBSP lemon juice, or more to taste

2/3 cup grated parmesan

1.  Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the quinoa, and cook until the quinoa is tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

2.  Heat oil.  Stir in the garlic, and cook until the garlic softens and the aroma mellows, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cooled quinoa and spinach; cook and stir until the quinoa is hot, and the spinach has wilted. Stir in the lemon juice, and all but a pinch of the cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted. Serve sprinkled with the remaining cheese.


I love this as a side dish or all by itself for dinner or lunch!  It been a great way for me to go meatless a bit more.

You can really use any combination of cheese and nuts that you like.  I have also tried feta with pine nuts. Very tasty as well, but Parmesan is my favorite so far.  I would suggest a relatively strong tasting cheese.  Hmmmm  I wonder how blue cheese and walnuts would be.

Have you tried Quinoa?

This post is shared at Your Green Resource , Healthy 2Day WednesdayFrugal Days Sustainable WaysTiny Tip TuesdaySeasonal Celebration Sunday and Whip It Up Wednesday.

10

Very Inspiring Blog Award





I was so excited when I saw my blog’s name on a list from What’s Green With Betsy?!? nominating me for a Very Inspiring Blog Award! Her blog is informative and I love that she is local to me (about 2 hours away). 

This nomination came a few weeks ago.  It has taken me a long time to fulfill the requirements.  Especially the list of other blogs to nominate.  So difficult to choose!

Here are the requirements for this award:
1)      Display the award logo on your blog.
2)      Link back to the person who nominated you.
3)      State 7 things about yourself.
4)      Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them.
5)      Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

Seven Things About Myself:
1.  My first language as a child was Armenian. My Mother claims I could understand everything and she had to make an effort to teach me English at around 3-4 yo. Although I don’t remember any of it now. 

2. After surviving infant twins, my husband and I vowed to help anyone we could with twins. I was able to help my friend with her one month old twins a couple of years ago so she and her husband could sleep.
3.  I would love to have a huge vegetable garden, except that I am a total black thumb!

4. I love to cook and bake. I watch foodnetwork all the time and love looking through new cookbooks. 


5. I spent 5 weeks backpacking through Europe when I was 20, after spending a semester abroad in England.  

6. I have a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Electrical Engineering and worked for 14 years as a software engineer in the defense industry.

7.  I need coffee in the morning.  It has to be hot, even in the summer.

My Nominations for the Very Inspiring Blog Award:
This was a very difficult list to put together.  It took me a couple of weeks.  I truly enjoy all of these blogs, and others, and look forward to their new posts.  They always teach me something or make me think.  I arranged these alphabetically because I didn’t want to imply a “like” order 🙂

1. Crunchy Betty  This is my go-to blog for any DIY beauty recipe.

2Crunchy Farm Baby I recently “met” Leah through an online green mom blogger group.  I love her blog because it it filled with relevant, practical tips and tricks anyone can do!

3. Eco-Novice Filled with great information for anyone going green.
4. Green 4U This one is a recent discovery and is quickly becoming a favorite.

5. Green Talk Anna has loads of experience, especially with building green houses and working with businesses going green, but also tons of information for the average person. Also a great place to discuss and start conversations about green issues.

6. Groovy Green Livin’  Lori is the go-to woman for green issues!  Did you see her on ABC World News?  I have had the pleasure of meeting her in person and having a great chat with her at a local Whole Foods.
7. Kelley’s Passion for Nutrition Kelley is a new online friend who gives great recipes and great information.
8. Kitchen Stewardship Katie focuses on good healthy food and great recipes!
9. My Plastic-free Life  Great resources and inspiration for reducing plastic in your life.
10. My Zero Waste I love hearing about Mrs. Green’s efforts to get to zero waste.  I especially like it that she is in the UK.  It is very interesting to hear about other countries.
11. Reduce Footprints – This is a wonderful site for meeting other “greenies”.  The weekly challenges really make you think.

12. The Good Human My favorite from the Green human is a new series called “Buy Once, Buy For Life” and the weekend news roundups.

13. Wachusett Region Recycling Resource  Local resource for ALL recycling.
14. Wellness Mama Another go-to for DIY recipes and great information on being healthy.
Congratulations to you all and thank you for what you do!

4

Friday Film Fest Series Announcement

 

There are so many environmental resources – blogs, books, magazines, and films.  I have spent lots of time reading blogs, books and magazines.  Haven’t seen many films though.  I have been hearing about so many “must see’s” lately that I decided to make a list and start checking them off.  So, here is the beginning of a new series on The Greening Of Westford – Friday Film Fest.

Each Friday, I will write my thoughts on one of these films.  If you have any to share, please do!  I have also created a  pinterest board – Films to See – listing these films.  Most of these are recommendations from The Good Human.

  1. Bag It (August 10) – Suggested by a wonderful fan of The Greening Of Westford – Patty Neary.  It is also suggested by Beth Terry, author of the book Plastic Free: How I kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too and the blog My Plastic-free Life.  Fantastic book BTW.
  2. Forks Over Knives  (August 17) “Focusing on research by two food scientists, this documentary reveals that despite broad advances in medical technology, the popularity of animal-based and modern processed foods have led to epidemic rates of obesity, diabetes and other diseases.”
  3. Fresh (September 14)”This absorbing documentary surveys American farmers’ and researchers’ pioneering efforts to develop efficient systems for growing food. All of those profiled share a common goal of limiting pollution while creating healthier products.”
  4. Plastic PlanetThis documentary examines the ways in which plastic saturates our modern lives, and how our dependency on this petroleum product harms ourselves and our planet. See how plastic’s toxic chemicals enter the food chain and other disturbing secrets.”
  5. Food, IncDrawing on Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, director Robert Kenner’s provocative, Oscar-nominated documentary explores the food industry’s detrimental effects on our health and environment.”
  6. The Story Of Stuff  “From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.”
  7. The Future Of Food “Before compiling your next grocery list, you might want to watch filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia’s eye-opening documentary, which sheds light on a shadowy relationship between agriculture, big business and government. By examining the effects of biotechnology on the nation’s smallest farmers, the film reveals the unappetizing truth about genetically modified foods: You could unknowingly be serving them for dinner.”
  8. Dirt: the Movie “Dirt takes center stage in this entertaining yet poignant documentary from Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow, which unearths our cosmic connection to soil and explores how diverse groups of people are uniting to save the natural resource. Drawing inspiration from William Bryant Logan’s book Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, the filmmakers combine lively animations with personal accounts from farmers, scientists, activists and more.”
  9. King Corn “In Aaron Woolf’s thought-provoking documentary, friends Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis move back to America’s Corn Belt to plant an acre of the nation’s most-grown and most-subsidized grain and follow their crop into the U.S. food supply.”
  10. The Story of Bottled Water “The Story of Bottled Water, released on March 22, 2010 (World Water Day) employs the Story of Stuff style to tell the story of manufactured demand—how you get Americans to buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week when it already flows from the tap. Over five minutes, the film explores the bottled water industrys attacks on tap water and its use of seductive, environmental-themed advertising to cover up the mountains of plastic waste it produces.”
  11. No Impact Man: The Documentary “In this engaging documentary, a Fifth Avenue family goes green when writer Colin Beavan leads his wife, Michelle Conlin, and their baby daughter on a yearlong crusade to generate no trash and otherwise make no net impact on the environment.
  12. GasHole “An unsettling wake-up call to all Americans, this documentary dissects the country’s dependence on foreign pipelines, exposes rich oil companies’ devious dealings, and explores alternative fuels as a viable solution to our global energy crisis. Narrated by actor Peter Gallagher, the film includes interviews with government officials, scientific experts, academics and politicians from both sides of the aisle.”
  13. Tapped “The high cost — to both the environment and our health — of bottled water is the subject of this documentary that enlists activists, environmentalists, community leaders and others to expose the dark side of the bottled water industry. Americans may rethink their obsession with bottled H20 when they learn of the unregulated industry’s willingness to ignore environmental and health concerns, and the problems that arise as a result.”
  14. A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash “In this straight-from-the-headlines documentary, award-winning filmmakers Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack examine the world’s dependency on oil and the impending chaos that’s sure to follow when the resource finally runs dry.”
  15. The Story Of Change “Can shopping save the world? The Story of Change urges viewers to put down their credit cards and start exercising their citizen muscles to build a more sustainable, just and fulfilling world.”
Care to join me?  Most of these movies can be found on Netflix.  I’ll be streaming these to my TV or computer.  All of “The Story of…” films can be found on The Story Of Stuff Project under the Movies tab.  
 
To make things easy, I’ll go in this order.  So we’ll start with Bag It on Friday August 10.

The descriptions of the films in quotes are taken from Netflix or the films website.

10

Eco-Friendly Laundry Series Coming

Crunchy Farm Baby Laundry Series

I am happy to be participating in an Eco-Friendly Laundry Series hosted by Crunchy Farm Baby.  Lots of product info, giveaways, and laundry tips and tricks!  

I’ll remind you August 5th and throughout the series.  Here are some of the topics:

  • Natural stain removal
  • Cloth diaper care
  • Energy saving tips
  • Homemade laundry deteregent
  • Organization tips

See you there!

0

Making the Switch to Glass Storage


As you might know, as convenient as plastic is, it is harmful to us and the environment.  If you aren’t already convinced of this, take a look here.

Reduce Footprints current challenge is

This week refuse to use plastic wrap (aka cling film, cling wrap, glad wrap, etc). Instead, choose Eco-friendly, safe ways to store food. And, as always, we’d like to hear all about your efforts.
Or …

If you’ve already banned plastic wrap from your life, please review your food storage methods to see if there’s any room for improvement. For example, if you’re reusing plastic containers to store food consider glass, ceramic or stainless steel containers instead (old plastic containers may leach harmful toxins into your food). If you use aluminum foil to cover your food, consider covering food with an inverted plate, a lid from a casserole or pan, etc. And, please tell us about your efforts.

But replacing all the plastic storage items you have collected over the years could be daunting and expensive!  It doesn’t have to be!

I stopped buying plastic wrap a few years ago.  It wasn’t as difficult as I thought.  But as I think back, I took this step several years into my green journey.  I was LOOKING for things to reduce and change.  So, depending on where you are, this may be easy or difficult.
 

Before I made this step, I made sure to set myself up for success.  I stocked up on plenty of other storage containers (with lids) so I wouldn’t be looking for the plastic wrap.  At first I used my stand-by plastic containers.  Then I slowly converted to glass. I watched for sales and bought 2 sets of  Pyrex glass storage containers with lids (affiliate link).  I still kept foil in the house for those rare occasions.  Foil is expensive!  So I reached for it sparingly.


Inexpensive Glass Options

 CheapGlassFoodStorage
 
 
Reuse glass jars you buy food in!!!! My best discovery.  Total light bulb moment.  Like spaghetti sauce, salsa, pickles, applesauce.  They are free and come in so many shapes and sizes.  I figured I would do this until I stocked up enough on “real” containers from sales or yard sales.  After a while, I didn’t want to give up my free jars!  Why should I?  They worked great and they were “free”.  I learned from my trip to the recycling plant, that glass gets crushed and sits for a long time before it can be reused.  So, to reuse it at my home was a much better option.  I keep them all in the basement.  I save them ALL! At some point or another I am looking for a particular size and there is it.

 

 
Where to find cheap glass storage for food
 
 

Where Else To Find Them  Yard sales and thrift stores are great places to look.  I found these babies at our thrift store Savers for about $2 each.  Don’t pass them up because the rubber ring is dried out or missing.  You can buy replacement rubber rings at kitchen stores and hardware stores (during canning season) for about $3 for 4.  I even saw them 4 for $1 at The Christmas Tree Shop this past spring.

 Glass storage for food - CHEAP! Mason jars are another inexpensive glass storage option.  A case of pint jars are about $11 – less than $1 a piece.  I use them in the fridge and the freezer.  They come in a wide variety of sizes and are plentiful during spring and summer.  You can find them at hardware stores, Target, Walmart, or online (affiliate).  I saw them sold singly at The Christmas Tree Shops this past spring as well.  Update 7/20/12:  I was at Bed, Bath and Beyond yesterday and they sell cases of mason jars at about the same price as elsewhere, BUT you will use your 20% off coupon to get them even cheaper!

 BigPickleJar

 

I saw this HUGE beauty of a  pickle jar at the grocery store.  It stands about 14 inches tall.   We like pickles, but not enough to eat almost 2 lbs of them.  I keep thinking of when I would possibly use all those pickles JUST so I can have the jar!  Anyone know any pickle recipes?

 

So Many Uses

I like to store as much of my food in glass as possible.  So I use these glass options for both cold and pantry storage.  They look so cute too!

In the freezer for stock, soup, homemade baked beans and cooked dried beans are just a few ideas.  Make sure you leave plenty of head room – I usually leave at least an inch to be on the safe side.  Just like the plastic storage, make sure you label them.

 

how to reuse glass jars
 
 
For the pantry, I put all of my dried fruits, homemade granola, various chocolate chips, dried beans….
 
how to reuse glass storage
 
 

Now I certainly have not cast plastic out of my house for good.  I still have plastic baggies for certain uses.  We do have reusable cloth bags that we use a lot, but there are certain things I just can’t seem to get away from.  So there’s my plastic confession.


What is your favorite non-plastic storage?  Do you still have some plastic?

 
 

35

The Modern Lawn: A Conversation With God



I grew up with the perfect American lawn.  My Dad is crazy about his lawn.  As I have grown and greened, I now see the perfect American lawn in a different light.

I have no idea where this originated, but someone posted it to MassRecycle‘s news group recently.  I thought it was so on-point!

GOD :  “Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.” 

ST. FRANCIS:
It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers ‘weeds’ and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with   grass. 


GOD:
Grass? But, it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It’s sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there? 


ST. FRANCIS:
Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn. 


GOD:
The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy. 


ST. FRANCIS:
Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week. 


GOD

They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay? 

ST. FRANCIS:
Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags. 


GOD:
They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it? 


ST. FRANCIS:
No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away. 


GOD:
Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away? 


ST. FRANCIS:
Yes, Sir. 


GOD:
These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work. 


ST. FRANCIS:
You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it. 


GOD:
What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It’s a natural cycle of life. 


ST. FRANCIS:
You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away. 


GOD:
No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose? 


ST. FRANCIS:
After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves. 


GOD:
And where do they get this mulch? 


ST. FRANCIS:
They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch. 


GOD:
Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight? 


ST. CATHERINE:
‘Dumb and Dumber’, Lord. It’s a story about…. 


GOD:  Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis. 



How’s your lawn?

4

15 Tips to Live Green




 

As part of Going Green With the Grizls Summer Blog Challenge, today’s topic is “15 Tips to Get Through Life”.


Putting my “green” spin on things, my top 15 are easy ways to go green.  These are low impact on you, but can add up to big impact for your wallet, your health and the earth.  In no particular order…..

Newsweek Ad in March 2012

 

  1. Get Informed  I cannot stress this one enough.  It amazes, infuriates and frustrates me to no end how little information is in the main stream media on, what I will call, green issues.  There are many people that believe we greenies go over board.  We make mountains out of molehills.  When my son was 3, his favorite snack was an apple. I thought I was doing such a good thing for him, giving him an apple each day.  Then I found out that apples are one of the fruits with the highest levels of pesticides.  REALLY!  I just want to give my son a @#$%^# apple!  Now we buy organic apples and applesauce.  Without reading, I would not have know that.  Find a source you like and just start.
  2. Get Rid of Junk Mail  I despise wasting my time with junk mail.  I’m never going to order whatever it is you are trying to sell me!  Stop wasting all the paper.  The US Post office will NOT help you with this.  They are trying to bail themselves out of bankruptcy by selling companies access to your mail box.   Try these tips to reduce your junk mail or these.  If you are crafty, make art with your junk mail.
  3. Recycle All You Can Curbside  Figure out your curbside recycling rules.  Look here if you live in Westford.  Trash costs municipalities huge dollars.  Recycling is much cheaper.  Towns/cities WANT you to recycle and compost.  They will help you reduce your trash. Find your town’s recycling website, Facebook page, flyer, or person to ask.  There is something I guarantee it!
  4. Recycle More Once you master what can go into your curbside bin, expand what you regularly recycle to include other items.  Did you know plastic grocery bags, bread bags,and cereal bags among other flimsy plastic items can most likely be recycled at your grocery store.
  5. Reduce Your Food Waste  In 2009, the EPA estimated that food scraps accounted for 14.1% of our national waste.   When you throw out food you are wasting money, costing more in trash disposal fees, not to mention all the resources that were wasted growing and getting the food to your house.  There are so many websites out there to help reduce food waste.  Menu planning helps, but once you have the food, other sites help you make something delicious with it or let you know how to make it last longer.
  6. Use Reusable Bags For the grocery store definitely, but other places as well.  The Mall, Warehouse store, pharmacy, anywhere.  If you routinely forget them, take a look here for some suggestions.
  7. Stop Buying Bottle Water  I’m sure there are times when this might be necessary, but not a regular basis.  Get yourself and your family a good reusable water bottle.  They are everywhere now!  If it’s plastic, make sure it is BPA-free.
  8. Switch ONE cleaner for a safer alternative Next time you find yourself needing window cleaner or an all-purpose cleaner, refill that bottle with stuff from your cupboards!
  9. Receive ONE bill electronically You will save the paper and, if you combine this with paying electronically too, the stamp.  Many bills can be paid automatically with a credit card or from your checking account.  I have done this with many bills and it saves me so much time each month and my bills aren’t late!
  10. Switch ONE personal care product Next time you run out of soap or shampoo, take a look at the skindeep database and pick one that doesn’t have parabens, sodium laurel sulfate or anything else potentially yucky.
  11. Replace ONE plastic food storage container with glass Next time you empty a jar of salsa, jelly or pickles, keep the jar and use it to store leftovers.  They are the perfect size for small amounts.   I now keep ALL glass jars and usually find uses for them – leftover in the fridge, dry beans, dried fruits, rice, chocolate chips, sugar….
  12. Add to your reusables Do you have a water bottle, travel mug for hot drinks, lunch bag, reusable snack bag, glass or metal straw ….  Look at all the items you use once, and try to replace just one.
  13. Open your windows as often as possible Indoor air quality can be 2 – 5 times worse that outdoor air.  Opening your windows once in a while to let new air in. For more ways to improve your indoor air, take a look here.
  14. Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water  Most of the energy used to wash your clothes goes into heating the water.  Take a look at this website to figure out how much you could save.
  15. Don’t Buy Antibacterial Soap Most of these contain Triclosan.  According to Dr. Frank Lipman, Triclosan is A synthetic antibacterial ingredient that has been compared to Agent Orange.”  Save some money and your health and buy regular old soap.  It is JUST as effective against germs as long as you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.

Have any others to add?

 

3

Take the Bite Out of Summer


A Greene Westford column reposted.  This was originally posted in July 2011.



DEET vs. Disease: You may not need to choose.

Mosquitoes, ticks and other biting insects are not a favorite come summer.  With the threat of West Nile virus and Lyme disease, not to mention the annoying itching, bug sprays are a must.  But the danger of some of the chemicals used in bug repellents may not be too comforting either. 
DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) is the most common ingredient in conventional insect repellents. According to research by Duke University, DEET can affect the nervous system and is linked with brain cell damage, behavioral changes and harmful interactions with some medications in laboratory animals.   
West Nile Virus and Lyme disease can be very harmful.  Although, according to the CDC, no cases of West Nile have been reported in New England this year, there have been cases in the past. Lyme is all too common unfortunately and can be dangerous if left untreated.
Adverse effects from DEET are rare while cases of West Nile and Lyme are much more common. That may lead you to think that the risk of DEET is worth the prevention of West Nile and Lyme. However,we still don’t know enough about the long term effects of DEET. Information is the key.  If you know your options and the risks associated with each, you can decide what is best for you and your family. At the very least you are aware and can reduce, if not eliminate, any dangers you fear.
When using a DEET product:
  • Mosquitoes do not like the smell of DEET.  Put it on clothes, not skin, to limit your exposure but still prevent mosquitoes.
  • Look for a pump instead of a spray to lessen the chance you will inhale the product.
  • Higher concentrations of DEET will allow the product to work for longer periods of time.  You can use a lower concentration and reapply more frequently, if needed.
  • Read the directions and follow them! The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes that as long as you use products with DEET appropriately, the there is no harm.
Natural Repellents
  • Lemon Eucalyptus oil has been shown to be as effective against mosquitoes and ticks as DEET with the added benefit of being a natural product. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Consumer Reports recommend lemon eucalyptus. A July 2010 Consumer Reports study rated Repel Plant Based Lemon Eucalyptus just as high as others with DEET. Lemon Eucalyptus should not be used on children under 3 years of age. You may need to reapply more frequently. 
  • The Whole Body Spa in Westford offers Keep Away Bug Spray which contains mix of essential oils. I have been using this with much success.

How do you keep insects away?

[Photo used under Creative Commons license by Adriadna]



7

Mason Jar Blender


For a while now I have wanted to make my own moisturizing lotion.  The recipe I found needs to be blended in a blender.  OK, I have a blender, no problem right?  But the recipe includes beeswax.  Problem.  I know from making my own lip balm that beeswax is difficult to clean out.  I didn’t want my kids’ next smoothies to be waxy!  So I waited….

Then I started to see rumors on the internet about using a regular mason jar with your blender.  Really?  I have to admit I was nervous to try but this would solve the waxy blender problem.

Today I made my lotion AND used a mason jar with my blender!  

I’m going to say now that I am no blender expert.  This worked with my blender.  While looking into this, I did see references to broken mason jars, tipping blenders, and lost fingers!  
IF you decide to try this, please use your best judgement and be careful!



I used a regular pint sized mason jar.  The wide mouth jars are too wide.  My blender is an Osterizer 12 speed blender that is about 14 years old.

Mason jar blender


Step 1:  Remove the blade assembly from the blender pitcher.
Step 2:  Place whatever you wish to blend in the mason jar.



Step 3: Screw the blade assembly – gasket, blades and base – onto the mason jar.  Make sure it is secure.



Step 4: Put the mason jar onto the blender base.



At this point, I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous.  To be on the safe side, I covered the whole blender with towels.  In case it broke, I figured this would contain the glass somewhat.


Step 5: Blend.  I pulsed it a few times and ONLY blended on the lowest speed.  I also held onto the mason jar lightly just to make sure it stayed balanced.



Basically work in reserve to get everything out of the jar when done blending.

 
Take the mason jar and blade assembly off the blender base.



Unscrew the blade assembly.


This worked out REALLY well!

I love this method, since you could actually make something then store it in the same mason jar!
Have you ever done this?  Would you even try?


This post is part of Crunchy Betty’s Tuesdays Outside the BoxFrugally Sustainable, and Seasonal Celebration Sunday.

17

Go Practically Green!



Reposted from Greene Westford




Do you ever wonder how green you really are?  Do you want to do better for your family and the environment but don’t really know where to start?  Well, aside from reading this column, a Boston-based website can help point you in the right direction. Practically Green is a free online service that provides you with knowledge, resources and recommendations for making future green choices and changes.  Through this tool, you can set goals, track your progress and share with friends.
To begin, you take a quick quiz to evaluate your “green-ness”.  I have to say that my initial score was pretty unimpressive.   There are only so many questions on the initial quiz.  To get a better, more accurate picture, go through the actions and check off what you already do.  Your score will improve.
Now you are ready to track your progress and advance on your green journey.  The actions are broken into 4 categories – Energy, Health, Stuff and Water.   Within the categories are specific actions you can take which earn you points toward your green score.  For example, “Turn off the lights when you leave a room” gets you 10 points, “Wash laundry in cold water” is worth 50 points, while “Add insulation to your roof” gets you 100 points. 
For each action, there is an explanation on why it’s consider green, information on how to accomplish it and, if appropriate, recommendations on products and services that will help with this action.  As a user, you have the ability to rate recommended services and products and suggest new ones.
As you make your way through the actions, you earn badges.  Badges measure how you are doing in a particular area, similar to Girl Scout or Boy Scout badges.  Some of these are “The Back to school” badge which “rewards you for greening your school year prep” , “The Frugalista” badge “rewards you for taking actions that save money while promoting a healthy green life”, and  “The Recycle 5” badge “rewards you for choosing to recycle plastic or purchase items made from recycled materials.”
I was drawn to the website because of its practicality – guess that’s why it’s called “Practically Green”.  I like knowing why I should do this or that, what’s in it for me, and then how to actually do it.  I also like the way the website breaks actions into different categories and gives you a measureable way to track how you are doing.  Plus it’s fun! 
Part of the fun is seeing what everyone else participating in Practically Green is up to.  You can see who is on top in the country, across Massachusetts or just Westford.  It is interesting to see what other Westford residents are doing and figure out what our collective impact is on the environment.  
Currently, I am at Level 8 – Impressively Green. What’s your score?

0

Idling Your Car: Illegal And Costly

 
 
 
Idling your engine for more than 5 minutes is not only illegal but causes health and climate problems.
 
Do you see cars idling while in the pickup line at school, in the driveway warming up in the winter, or waiting for someone to run into a store?   It’s actually against Massachusetts state law to idle a vehicle for more than 5 minutes.  It is punishable by a fine of up to $100 for the first offense and up to $500 for a second offense. 
We need to drive our cars to get places.  We don’t need to idle the engines.  
 
 
A typical vehicle produces more pollution when idling longer than 10 seconds than it will restarting the engine.  If you plan to be stopped for more than 10 seconds, shut off your car.
 

Unnecessary idling causes the following:

Air Quality Issues
Vehicles emit carbon dioxide while running.  An hour of idling can release almost 4 pounds of needless carbon dioxide into the air.  As we know, carbon dioxide adds to greenhouse gases in the environment.  These greenhouse gases contribute to climate change. 
 
Health Effects
Many other gases are released while a car runs.  Carbon monoxide can reduce the blood’s ability to carry oxygen throughout the body.  Nitrogen oxide, another component of vehicle exhaust, can irritate air passages and lungs.  Car exhaust can cause headaches, aggravate asthma and allergies and impair learning.  Children are particularly vulnerable.  Their lungs are immature and since they are shorter, their breathing space is closer to the emissions. 
 
Wasted fuel
Depending on the size of the engine, idling can use ¼ to ½ gallon of fuel per hour. Many experts agree that warming your car for 30 seconds is sufficient in cold weather.
School buses have diesel engines.  While they are durable and economical, the pollution from diesel engines is a growing concern.  Some studies indicate that over time, exposure to diesel exhaust can cause cancer and other health problems.  MassDEP is working with schools to reduce children’s exposure to diesel exhaust.
I have noticed that school buses in Westford do not idle while waiting.  Yeah bus drivers!
 
Are there “No Idling” signs at Westford schools?   I haven’t noticed any at my children’s schools.  Although the few times I am in the car line, no one seems to be idling.  At least not in good weather.  So good for you Westford-ians!
 
As the weather gets colder, remember to bundle up if you will be sitting in your car and shut off the engine.
 
[Above photo used under Creative Commons from Eutrophication/Flickr]

1

10 Simple Ways to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

10 Simple Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality {thegreeningofwestford.com}
 
Your  home is your castle.  You feel most comfortable and safe in your home.
Did you know that indoor air quality can be 2 to 5 times worse than outdoor air, according to the EPA?
 
When we use air fresheners, perfume or hair spray inside, they release particles that stay in the air.  Other materials in our homes can let off harmful gases for years.  Things such as carpets, shower curtains, paints, fabric, particle board, cabinets, and mattresses. Dust also contains harmful particles such as lead which can be inhaled.  Newer homes are being built more airtight to reduce energy costs.  However, without proper ventilation, these gases are trapped inside.
 
 Even if you just have a normal build up of household dust, it can cause problems.  Poor indoor air quality has been linked to symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs.  With more of us spending more time indoors, it is especially important to improve our indoor air quality.
 

Reduce The Sources

The best way to improve your indoor air is to reduce what comes into your home.
 
  1. Don’t use air fresheners or other synthetic fragrances.
  2. Remove your shoes at the door to keep out a whole host of chemicals along with the dirt.
  3.  Switch to non-toxic cleaners.
  4. Do not smoke in your home.
Remove What is Already Here
There are other steps to remove what may already be here.
  1. Vacuum often to eliminate allergens like pollen, pet dander, dust mites and dust.  Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter is very helpful.  Don’t forget vacuum those corners and under the sofa and beds.
  2. Wipe down baseboards and walls to remove dust.
  3. Take area rugs and sofa cushions outside to air out.  Beat them to release extra dust.
  4. Open the windows and doors, daily if possible, to let new air in.
  5. NASA discovered that having plenty of plants can reduce up to 85% of the toxins.  Palms, Boston fern, English Ivy, Peace Lily and Spider plants are good choices as they absorb the common toxins.  Plants should be spread throughout your home, roughly 1 plant per 100 sq feet of space is recommended.
  6. Change your furnace/AC filter according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
Recently I started having allergy-like symptoms, especially at night sitting on my sofa.  I don’t have allergies.   After just one day of opening the windows, vacuuming every nook and cranny,  and airing out area rugs and my sofa cushions, I feel much better.
 
Have any other suggestions?  Please share them.
 
This post was in response to Reduce Footprints Change the World Wednesday Challenge regarding indoor air quality.

6

15 Ways to Reduce Common Plastics

15 Ways To Reduce Common Plastic

We use plastic every day of our lives. You can’t go far without seeing some form of plastic. The problem – plastic never goes away! If it ends up in a landfill, it can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. Even then, it actually photo degrades which releases toxins into the soil, air, and water. Lots of plastic makes it way to the oceans (heard of the Pacific Garbage Patch). In the oceans, plastic bags can strangle animals or they mistake plastic bits for food. Not such a healthy meal.

For us humans, plastics contain 2 chemicals that are of particular interest – bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. Both of these chemicals mimic estrogen and can disrupt our hormones.

Here are some ways to replace common plastics.
1. Plastic water bottles => Buy a reusable BPA-free or stainless steel bottle. They are available online and in many stores at reasonable prices. If you are currently spending $2 per week on bottled water the savings are $104 per yr.

2. Coffee cups => Carry a reusable mug with you for coffee. There is often a plastic lid or plastic lining the cup. If you are staying at Starbucks, ask for a ceramic mug.

3. Plastic grocery bags => Reusable bags. Many stores give discounts – Target, Whole Foods, Stop and Shop give you 5 cents per bag. Roche Brothers give 5 cents for their bags to Children’s Hospital. If you currently don’t have enough, build up your supply slowly. When you forget your bag, consider buying one at the check out if it’s a quality bag you will use.

4. Store bags => Reusable bags. They are not just for the grocery store. Keep a compact one in your purse. Bring your reusable bags to the Mall, Target, any store!

5. Any plastic bag => Say “No Thanks”. You don’t always NEED a bag. Throw that lemon straight into your shopping cart. Carry your one or 2 items out of the store in your hands or another bag you are already carrying.

6. Produce bags => Use reusable produce bags. Many online and retail stores are now carrying produce bags. I purchased mesh bags at the Dollar Tree at 4 for $1. Or reuse the same produce bag a few times.

7. Plastic food storage containers => Reuse glass food jars. The spagetti jars are great for beans, grains, coffee beans, and soups. I love the shape and size of salsa jars. They are perfect for a small amount of leftovers since they have a wide opening.

8. Plastic food containers #2 => Replace with glass ones. Use #3 above as much as you can, then look for sales or at yard sales this spring.

9. Plastic shampoo bottles => Buy bar shampoo. I haven’t tried it myself but a friend swears by it and gets it at Whole Foods.

10. Plastic milk bottles => Buy your milk from a local Dairy in glass bottles. Shaw Dairy is at the Winter Farmers Market until March 19 They also offer home delivery.

11. Plastic wrap => Use aluminum foil or wax paper. I stopped buying plastic wrap a couple of years ago, opting for aluminum foil and natural wax paper instead. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought.

12. Bread bags => Buy bread from the bakery section or make your own. I am still experimenting with this one. We have gotten into the habit of having bagels with breakfast. I am testing out recipes with my bread maker to replace the store bought bagels for homemade bread. I’ll let you know when I succeed.

13. Plastic bottles for cleaning products => Make your own cleaners, refilling the same bottles. See my post on Homemade cleaners.

14. Plastic Straws => Purchase Stainless steel or glass straws. Did you know you could do that? I didn’t until recently, very cool!

15. Zip top plastic bags for lunches => Reusable snack and sandwich containers. There are loads of reusable sandwich bags and containers out there. Take a look on Etsy for some really cute reusable snack bags. We use reusable fabric snack bags made my my Mom.

While this Good Housekeeping test found that BPA and phthalates do not leach into foods when heated in the microwave, I still don’t. I’d rather not find out they were wrong, or didn’t test my particular form of plastic.

I have not suggested that you stop buying/using anything that is wrapped in plastic. Some people will stop using something if they can’t get it without plastic. I am not ready to do that. My kids love bananas, if I am at a store that sells their bananas packaged in a plastic bag, I note how silly it is and buy them anyway. Of course I do recycle the plastic bag at Hannaford.

Look around at the amount of plastic in your home. See what you can eliminate or replace.

Need help? Search the internet or ask here. Please post any ideas you have.

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