Wednesday, June 23, 2010

NRDC: Bug Spray -- DEET vs. Newer and Natural Repellents

Dengue MosquitoeImage by Zac Declerck via Flickr
The recently published NRDC: Bug Spray -- DEET vs. Newer and Natural Repellents is a great addition to my previous article/post Take Precautions Against Mosquitoes.  As we enter the summer months, I encourage you to review the information presented in these posts.

What do you do to avoid mosquito bites?

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As I see oil pouring into the Gulf, I can't help but think of ways to reduce my reliance on petroleum. I already have taken a major step by not owning a car. I still however buy things with plastics, but have been trying to avoid them. What are some ways that you are trying to break your dependence on oil? How has the current spill in the Golf effected your life?
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Staying Cool This Summer

Series of air conditioners at UNC-CH.Image via Wikipedia
As summer approaches my mind turns to ways to keep cool. Humans are ingenious creatures and have come up with a variety of ways to stay cool. Of course, some of these are better for ourselves and the planet than others.

"Air conditioning takes indoor heat and pushes it outdoors. To do this, it uses energy, which increases production of greenhouse gases, which warm the atmosphere. From a cooling standpoint, the first transaction is a wash, and the second is a loss. We're cooking our planet to refrigerate the diminishing part that's still habitable."

So, how do you stay cool without A/C? Here's a list of my favorites:

  • Drink plenty of cool water
  • Wear light weight light colored natural fabrics (or nothing at all when possible)
  • Keep your hair off your neck
  • Get a hair cut
  • Wear a wide brimmed hat when in the sun
  • Soak a bandana in cool water then place around your neck or head
  • Play in water
  • Plant deciduous tress around your house. The leaves will keep it cool in summer, while in winter the bare branches will allow the sun to warm your home.
  • Air-dry your dishes
  • Avoid using your oven
  • Keep your windows open to the cool air at night and close them during the heat of the day
  • Relax in the shade of a tree at a park
  • Hang out in your basement
  • Use ceiling fans. Please note that they don't actually cool the room, so please turn them off if no one is around to enjoy the breeze.

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Dirty Hairbrush? A Step-by-Step Cleaning Guide

Flat hairbrushImage via Wikipedia
How often do you buy a new hairbrush? Why do you get a new one? If you're buying new brushes because of lint build-up, stop! There's no need to create more trash simply because your brush is dirty. Cleaning a hairbrush is a rather simple process that doesn't take much time.

I've had the same hairbrush since at least 2000. I remove loose hair from it, when it builds up, probably every 1-2 weeks. I know other people who clean out the hair after every use, but you don't have to. Many people recommend thoroughly cleaning your brush every 1-2 weeks, but I didn't do it until this week after a decade of use.

  1. Remove all the loose hair from the brush. A wide tooth comb is useful for this step, but not necessary.
  2. Fill your bathroom sink with hot water and add a squeeze of your shampoo to it.
  3. Place your hairbrush, bristles down, into the sudsy water.
  4. Sleep! :)
  5. In the morning drain the water and remove build-up from the brush with a wide-tooth comb, nail brush, or fingers.
  6. If there's still build up, repeat the next night.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

What clothes should we buy?

Almost all of us wear clothing at some point in the day. For most people its a lifelong expense that can have a huge impact on our health and the environment. What are the best clothing choices that we can make?

I was raised on second hand clothing. Panties, bras, and socks were the only things that were purchased new. My parents did this because they couldn't afford to buy me new clothes, however I feel it was the best thing they could have done. Very little waste was generated in me getting the clothing.

By the time something is ready to be given away, most of the chemical burden is removed from the fabric making it healthier for the wearer. Of course, this system does rely on someone getting new clothing, but several people can wear clothes before they become scraps. One of my favorite examples of clothing reuse is Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback. I highly recommend this children's book to everyone!
What are the best choices when buying new clothes? There are so many choices now. Should we buy conventional clothing from small independent stores, or organic fair-trade clothes from a website? What materials should we buy? Organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, etc? I debate these decisions every time I buy something new. 

The newest material that has come to my attention is made from beech trees. Ellen at Thrifty and Chic Mom is currently running a Body Bark Ecofriendly Style Giveaway. Body Bark seems like an interesting company, but I always wonder about greenwashing.

Body Bark claim that wearing  their products under dry clean only clothing will allow you to go longer between visits to the dry cleaners, thus saving you money and helping the environment. Nice idea, but how many of us dry clean our clothes? I haven't been to a dry cleaners in over 8 years, and the only things I've ever had dry cleaned were second hand gowns.

I also wonder how sustainable is it to grow beech trees? I'm sure they're being grown on monocultured tree farms. How much water do they require? Fertilizer? I love the idea of the material, but must question what the true impact is.

I would love to hear your opinions on what types of clothes to buy. If you have experience with any of the eco-friendly materials out there, please share it with us!
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