My little buddy

Friday, March 07, 2008

Going Green Part 3

Cleaning

Many cleaning products leave not only a sparkle but also a toxic souvenir of petrochemical volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and the synthetic fragrances used to give that "just cleaned" smell. Our homes have worse indoor air quality than the parking lot at the mall. What are we going to do?

} Free and easy
* Take you shoes off: To avoid tracking pesticides, mites, and other unwelcome guests into the home (where they can become embedded in the carpets) remove shoes at the door.
Savings: cleaner floors with no toxic outdoor residue.

} Spend some, save some
* Make-your-own: You really only need about 4 ingredients to clean just about anything in your home: baking soda, white vinegar, castile soap and hot water. Oh yeah, perhaps elbow grease. You can find some great cleaning recipes online by searching "natural cleaning recipes." Or try www.care2.com/greenliving/healthy-home/nontoxic-cleaning . Try a half and half vinegar/water solution that is great for cutting boards, sinks, and windows.
Savings: up to about $30 per month.

} Worth the money
* Greener cleaners: They cost a bit more but are inifinitely safer for your family and the environment.Look for EcoEthic, Nature's Clean, Dr. Bronner's, Seventh Generation and others at your grocery or health-food stores. [Insert Shameless Plug: Victorian Epicure's line of non-toxic, environmentally-friendly Home and Body Care Cleaners]
Savings: better indoor air quality from reduced VOCs.

*******

Here I have to depart from Canadian Livings guide to mention plastic bags. Can you answer the following?

True or False: About one million plastic bags are consummed every day around the world.

Reusable bags are this month's Trend Watch in CL ... their plug: Reduce your comsumption of plastic bags without skimping on style with a fashionable eco-friendly shopping bag. They feature 15 different bags from various companies, such as American Eagle ($24.50), Sparrow Handbags ($115) or my fave(it's really cute!), Danica Imports ($6). They also have some great ones at Chapters for ($19.99). Or you could simply go with one of the many offerings at the grocery and discount store chains .... all at the low, low price of .99 cents!

I will admit that I have been a horrible eco-slayer when it comes to plastic bags. But no more. I will begin making a more concerted effort to reduce my plastic bag consumption. Why? Well, it was the answer to the question that jolted me out of my stupor regarding this issue.

The answer: FALSE

Approximately one million plastic bags are consummed every minute worldwide, not every day.

When I read that little tidbit, I almost fell over. No more plastic bags for this girl! It's reusable all the way!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Going Green Part 2

Around the House

} Free and easy
*Find the perfect spot: Place your fridge where it's not competing with heat - away from the stove, dishwasher or vent. Keep the condenser coils clean and free of dust by pulling the fridge out from the wall and cleaning them once every three months. I know - yuck - but your fridge will work more efficiently.
Savings: up to $10 per year.
* Beware the phantom: All those freaky appliances with that one blinking red eye really are sinister. So sinister that they're sucking 75% of the power you electronics use - when they're not even on! Either unplug your appliances or plug them into a power bar that can be turned off. You'll save about 225 kilograms annually of carbon dioxide emissions.
Savings: up to $200 per year.

} Spend some, save some
* Low-flush toilet: If you're looking to install a new toilet, rebates are available (check out federal, provincial, and municipal sources at http://www.toiletrebate.ca/ ). Create your own lower-flush toilet by placing a plastic container filled with water or pebbles in the toilet tank. Close to 4L of water can be saved per flush. Leaking toilets can waste as much as 200,000L of water per year. To find out if yours is leaking, add a few drops of food colouring into the tank. Wait about 15 minutes, then check the colour of the toilet water. If it needs fixing, either do it yourself or hire a plumber.
Savings: up to $150 per year.
* Weather-proofing windows and doors: Windows account for about 25% of total heat loss. If you aren't ready for the financial plunge that new windows entail - or your windows can be repaired or require caulking, sealant or weather-stripping - you can make them more efficient with relative ease.
Savings: about $75 per year.
* Programmable thermostat: Purchase one of these for less than $100, then program it to lower the heat by a few degrees at night and when you're away, or turn off the air conditioner when you're out. Your savings will pay for the thermostat in the first year.
Savings: at least $100 per year.

} Worth the money
* Energy Star: Appliances have come a long way from the inefficient energy wasters of yesteryear. Appliances and electronics can be awarded Energy Star status only if they exceed the federally mandated efficiency standard in their categories. Keep in mind, however, that an appliance needs at least 5 years to work off the energy debt created in its manufacturing. "Better" isn't always better, and bigger isn't always better, either. Resist the urge to supersize your appliances. Choose those that meet your current or anticipated needs. There are also rebates and some tax exemptions on Energy Star appliances.
Savings: varies widely on the type of appliance. You'll use at least 10% less energy to run an Energy Star refrigerator and up to 50% less energy on a washing machine.
*Insulate: If you're planning any major projects, include proper insulation. By insulating your walls and ceilings, you can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by just over 900 kilograms a year and save about 25% in your home heating bills. You may even find that there are tax incentives to any renovation you're planning.
Savings: up tp $500 per year.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Ways To Go Green

The following eco-friendly tips from Canadian Living can help you reduce your impact on the environment and save as much as $11,174 in one year.

HOUSEHOLD ENERGY
Did you know that North Americans use 2.4 times as much energy as Europeans?

} Free and easy
* Turn off the lights: Lights account for up to 20% of a home's energy use. Using a compact fluorescent lightbulb(CFL) requires about 75% less energy than incandescents, but lights that are turned off save the most energy of all.
Savings: about $15 to $35 per CFL over the lifetime of the bulb.
* Cold water wash: 85 to 90% of the energy used by a washing machine goes into heating the water. The higher the temperature, the higher the cost to you - and the planet.
Savings: up to $217 per year.
* Clean the lint filter: This simple task will decrease your dryer's energy usage by up to 30%. Since the average household spends up to $135 per year using their dryer, simply cleaning the filter could save enough for a Friday night pizza.
Savings: up to $40 per year.

} Spend more, save some
* Low-flow showerhead: Save water (about 50-70%) and money and still have plenty of water pressure. Prices start at about $10. A cheap change that will add more green to your wallet.
Savings: almost $45 per person annually.
*Clothesline: Harness the power of the sun to dry your clothes. A clothesline can cost from $20 for an indoor drying rack to $60 for an outdoor umbrella-style clothesline. Tip: To get rid of that "crunchy" feel of line-dried clothes, add 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle.
Savings: up to $135 per year.

} Worth the money
*Green energy: green energy essentially replaces the amount of energy your home uses with that from renewable sources, such as wind, solar and low-impact hydroelectric. The more people that purchase it, the "greener" the grid and the less we need to rely on coal-fired power plants and nuclear energy.
Savings: The cost can be considerable - about $1 per day more - but the benefits to our planet are considerably greater, such as cleaner air, including reduced nitric oxide, sulphur dioxide, mercury and particulates. Find out more at www.pollutionprobe.org/whatwedo/greenpower/index.html

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Pesticides and Contamination Scores

And the Eco Issue continues. Today is about pesticides. I will admit that I never really worried about it much. I usually clean my fruits and veggies and don't spare a thought for what goes on them before they are harvested. But suddenly pesticides are becoming a bigger issue. Specially with the influx of information we are receiving about where our foods are actually coming from and the organic debate.

If you don't want to worry about pesticides, you can buy organic. In fact, 34% of Canadians have switched to buying organic produce. That's a massive increase to the year before. Not only will your produce be pesticide free, but a lot of it will be local. But it is marginally more expensive. And there are many fruits and veggies that you just don't have to worry about pesticide contamination. Like bananas and oranges .... unless you're a freak and you like to eat the skins. There is no concrete information on the effects of pesticide ingestion from foods. So, it all comes down to health vs risk. Many experts say that the healthy aspect of eating a variety of fruits and veggies outweighs the risks of pesticide use.

The following is a list of fruits and vegetables that have been given 1) a contamination score, 2) % with pesticides, and 3) % with 2 or more pesticides. It's kinda scary.

WHAT'S IN YOUR FRUITS & VEGETABLES?

THE DIRTY DOZEN
Peaches - 100-96.6-86.6 (The dirtiest)
Apples - 96-93.6-82.3
Sweet Bell Peppers - 86
Celery - 85-94.1-79.8
Nectarines - 84-97.3-85.3
Strawberries - 83-92.3-69.2
Cherries - 75-91.4-75.8
Lettuce - 69-68.2-44.2
Grapes(imported) - 68-84.2-53.2
Pears - 65-86.2-45.7
Spinach - 60-70-31.2
Potatoes - 58-81-18

THE CONSISTENTLY CLEAN
Onions - 1-0.2-0 (The cleanest)
Avocado - 1-1.4-0
Sweet Corn - 2-3.8-0
Pineapples - 7-7.7-0.6
Mango - 9-7.1-0.5
Sweet Peas - 11-.22.9-2.3
Asparagus - 11-6.7-0.6
Kiwi - 14-15.3-3.4
Bananas - 16-41.7-2.0
Cabbage - 17-17.9-4.8
Broccoli - 18-28.1-3.2
Eggplant - 19-23.4-6.9

For more info: http://www.foodnews.org/

Monday, March 03, 2008

Eco-Friendly

So I got this month's issue of Canadian Living and it's all about being environmentally friendly. And lucky you! I am going to share it! And a few observations.

5 Steps To Eco-Friendly Laundering
1. Wash clothes in cold water. [Seriously, theres a huge energy savings in using cold instead of warm or hot. And it cleans your clothes just as well.]

2. Hang clothes to dry instead of throwing them in the dryer. [I hang a lot of my clothes up all year long. In the summer, I use the line in the backyard. In the winter, I have a clothes line and a drying rack in my washing room in the basement. Basically, I use the dryer for towels, sheets and undies, and only in the winter. ]

3. Use biodegradale laundry detergent. [At the very least, use detergents that are phosphate-free.]

4. Use hydrogen peroxide instead of bleach to remove stains on whites. [I know there are a lot bleach fanatics out there(not just for laundry either), but it's very toxic to the environment .. there are alternatives that we can all easily use.]

5. Don't just throw an item in the washer just because you've worn it once. Give it the sniff test first - you may be able to wear it a few more times. [This is great advice ... some people may be wrinkling their noses, but it's true. Not every peice of clothing needs to be washed after being worn once. And it's hard on your clothes - it wears them out before their time. This is particularly true of towels. THIS IS ONE OF MY BIGGEST PET PEEVES. It's a towel, for Pete's sake! You bathe. You're clean. You towel dry. You do not immediately throw the towel in the hamper to be washed! You use it more than one day! ]