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Grades of Green Tips
Green gift idea for Dad. It’s almost Father’s Day, which means Dads everywhere will soon be treated to breakfast in bed, a lovingly hand-made card or two, and perhaps some exciting new socks and underwear. You can honor both Dad and Mother Earth by choosing items made of organic cotton, or better yet, bamboo or hemp. Conventional cotton is farmed using water and chemical-intensive methods which are unsafe for the environment and human health. Bamboo and hemp are eco-sensible natural fibers from sustainable resources that do not require pesticides. Organic cotton, bamboo and hemp will cost a bit more than that multi-pack of Hanes, but isn’t Dad worth it?
Better know your sunscreen. With the summer months fast-approaching, it’s time to stock up on sunscreen. Many of these products have potentially hazardous ingredients, including vitamin A which has recently been found to accelerate the grown of skin cancers and lesions. The Environmental Working Group has evaluated over 500 sunscreen products on the market and rated them for safety and effectiveness. Surprisingly, only 39 of these are recommended for use by the EWG. Learn more and see how your favorite rates at http://www.ewg.org/2010sunscreen/.
CSA, all the way! If you’re not already participating in this eco-trend, you may have heard the acronym CSA and wondered what it means. Community Supported Agriculture allows consumers to “subscribe” directly to local farms to receive boxes of seasonal, fresh, often organically-grown fruits, vegetables and herbs. Many CSA farms will drop your order off at a local farmers’ market, including the Tuesday market in Manhattan Beach. Prices and produce range greatly, so do your research at http://www.localharvest.org before choosing the CSA that is right for you. In addition to supporting local farmers, you will most likely be introduced to produce you haven’t purchased before. Not sure what to do with kohlrabi? CSA websites offer cooking tips and recipes for the items they provide each week. Produce boxes can be generous, so bi-weekly orders may suffice. Better yet, ask a friend or neighbor to share in the bounty, expense and adventure!
Making Sense and Saving Cents. Available in bookstores, Green Sense for the Home takes a look at 50 green home projects, evaluates which ones are truly worth doing, guides you in finding available rebates and credits, and reports what kind of savings each one will yield. Authors Eric Corey Freed and Kevin Daum rate the real environmental and monetary payoff of each project, while simplifying each one to help motivate you to take action. It’s a unique and valuable reference guide for anyone looking to save resources and money while creating a more sustainable home.
What’s in a number? Did you know that the stickers found on produce sold in markets can tell you a little something about what you’re buying? A four-digit number indicates a fruit or vegetable was grown conventionally. Organically-grown produce will have a five-digit number beginning with a 9. If you see a 5-digit number beginning with an 8, however, it means it has been genetically modified. So, whether you are looking to eat organic produce, or trying to avoid genetically-modified foods, check out the numbers on the stickers to help guide you.
Follow your nose. Many of the household items we use every day contain artificial fragrances. Laundry detergent, hair products, cosmetics, candles. In many cases, the appealing scent is the result of toxic chemicals. As most of these items go to market without being tested for safety, you may wish to take matters into your own hands. Here's how to avoid toxic fragrances:
- Avoid air fresheners. Open windows will help keep the air fresh, while tuber roses, gardenias and stargazer lilies are all fragrant flowers that can help scent your home.
- Use water, white vinegar and baking soda for routine cleaning jobs.
- Look up fragrance-free products and homemade alternatives in the Guide to Less Toxic Products.
- Check Skin Deep, the Environmental Working Group's cosmetic safety database, to see if your favorite personal care products are safe.
- Make sure the words "fragrance" or "parfum" do not appear in the ingredient list of cosmetics.
- Use fewer cosmetics and reduce or eliminate your use of perfume.
Unpacking lunches. Do your kids throw their backpacks and jackets on the couch when they get home, knowing that you will pull out the papers, clean out their lunchboxes and hang their clothing? Certainly not! By now, they have learned to be responsible for their schoolwork and belongings. How about that lunchbox, though? Why not have your children use the water left in their reusable bottles to water the house plants or garden rather than pouring it down the drain. Sandwich crusts, banana peels, apple cores and cracker crumbs are all compostable. If you have a compost bin, ask your child to return their lunch remnants in the reusable containers or plastic baggies you used to pack their meal, and together you can add the items to your bin. Make sure there aren’t any animal products hiding in there, like a slice of sandwich meat. It’s an easy way to keep your kids thinking about how to better use what they don’t consume.
Homegrown vegetables without a garden! Would you like to try your hand at growing fresh vegetables? Afraid you don’t have the right soil to be successful? Or perhaps you haven’t any yard to speak of. The Earth Box provides everything you need to create a fertile environment for the herbs or vegetables of your choosing. Earth Boxes use less water and fertilizer than a conventional garden, and each box has casters so it can be moved indoors during cold spells, or around your patio to find optimal sunlight. Because the growing conditions are so ideal, the yield of a single plant can be multiple times that of a seedling planted in the ground. Learn more at http://www.earthbox.com/index.php.
Safe disposal of medication. You may find that you have unused pharmaceuticals in your medicine cabinet that have expired. These items should be disposed of in an environmentally-safe manner, preferably through a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection Program. The City of Manhattan Beach offers residents a convenient option for disposing of unwanted controlled substances. You may take expired or unwanted prescription medications and over-the-counter remedies to the Manhattan Beach Police Department's Drug Disposal Drop box, located in the Manhattan Beach Civic Center parking lot.
Scientists are finding traces of prescription drugs in our ground water, soil, waterways and even our drinking water. You have the power to reduce pharmaceutical pollution by purchasing as few medications as possible and by disposing of expired medications properly.
Too much stuff. We’ve all heard the Earth-friendly mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” but do we live it? The reuse and recycle components are readily supported by our schools, communities and workplaces. Recycle bins are conveniently located everywhere, and we all make an effort to repurpose items that would otherwise be headed to the landfills. How about the reduce part of the triumvirate? Do we try hard enough to buy only what we need? Do we teach our children that more is not necessarily better? By setting aside twenty minutes with your family to watch the entertaining and educational “Story of Stuff,” you may find yourself thinking twice about your next purchase, however big or small. http://www.storyofstuff.com
Are you plugged in? Considering electric transportation the next time you’re in the market for a new car? Perhaps you are eagerly awaiting the availability of the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf at the end of the year. If so, make sure you discuss your intended purchase with Southern California Edison. It is important that they evaluate your home’s electrical system to confirm it is capable of supporting your new battery-charging needs. In some cases, modifications will need to be made, the cost of which should be factored into your buying decision. Even if your home is ready to handle the new wheels, you have different billing options from SCE. To learn more about the decisions you will need to make, visit http://www.sce.com/PowerandEnvironment/ElectricTransportation/PEV/steps.htm.
Let’s clear the air. The next time you’re in the market for a new shower curtain, consider this. Vinyl curtains, widely available at major retailers, emit toxic chemicals that have been linked to serious health problems. That new-shower-curtain smell is the result of high concentrations of phthalates and organotins which can persist for a full month after you hang your new purchase. Seven of the chemicals found in vinyl shower curtains have been identified by the EPA as hazardous air pollutants, and they are not chemically bonded to the curtain itself so they are free to cling to household surfaces and dust. You can breathe easy when you hang a shower curtain made of cotton or hemp, or check out the non-toxic, PVC-free PEVA curtains at IKEA.
Area animal shelters currently have an overabundance of dogs and cats. If you’re thinking of giving your family a pet for the holidays, consider adopting from a shelter rather than buying from a breeder. If you have a specific breed in mind, check on-line for a rescue organization. Some examples include Boston terriers at www.bostonbuddies.org, golden retriever rescue www.grcglarescue.org, Labrador retriever www.sclrr.org, pugs at www.pugdogrescue.com and the rescue for retired racing greyhounds www.socalgal.org, to name just a few.
As you decorate your home for the holidays, why not consider LED Christmas lights? LED bulbs use 90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. Plus, they last about 6 times as long as CFL bulbs, and 60 times longer than the old incandescents! Unlike CFLs, LEDs contain no mercury, so they are safer if the bulbs break. Have an old incandescent line that no longer works? Don’t trash it! You can mail it in to be recycled–details here. They’ll even send you a coupon for new LED lights if you do so. Happy decorating!
Recycle Your CDs, DVDs and Jewel Cases: If your Fine Young Cannibals CD annoys rather than drives you crazy, you can swap it for a disk from another music lover at www.zunafish.com. If you just want to get rid of it along with other disks, DVDs and jewel cases, send them to www.greendisk.com for recycling. You will be doing your part by keeping them out of the landfill.
Going Green involves three important steps:
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For more information about Grades of Green, please contact Nicole Sevier 310 938-0974