Monday, April 5, 2010

DIY-Carpet Freshner

I love this carpet freshner mix, its easy, effective, and most importantly inexpensive. I also use this in my cat's litter box. I loved carpet freshner, especially being a cat owner, but most mixes gave me a headache. Once I found this recipe, I never looked back, and my friends love getting it as a gift.

Baking Soda is a great natural deodorizer, and tea tree oil helps with anti-bacteria.

1 box Baking Soda (a naturally absorbs odor)
5 drops Tea Tree Oil (has antiseptic and antifungal)
20 drops Essential Oil

I store the mix in an airtight container. Typically I'll mix 10 drops of Eucalyptus Oil and 10 drops of Peppermint Oil. Of course you can add what ever scent you want. I've also used Lemon and Orange Oil, as well as lavender oil.

Its best to shake up the mix, then let it sit for a day so the oils can mix appropriately. Once ready, sprinkle the mix on your carpet, let sit for at least 10 minutes and vacuum away.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Earth Hour

This Saturday, March 27th, is Earth Hour. For one hour turn off your lights to show that you want action taken against climate change. people around the world will turn their lights off from 8:30-9:30pm (local time).

Get involved, show support, and who doesn't like to have fun in the dark. Sign up at My Earth Hour.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Why Pay to Water Your Lawn

I live in a VERY dry area. You think it never rains in Southern California....try living in Waikoloa. Today though, is a great day, lots of rain falling, and I'm happy to not have to water my plants for a day...maybe two.

Days like this I wish I had a rain barrel. Most people think I'm silly wanting to put a rain barrel up when it rarely rains here. My thought is that when it does, I can harvest the rain and have a few days where I can use free water for my yard.

Consider this...less than a half an inch can easily fill up a 50 gallon rain barrel. A rain barrel can save approximately 1,300 gallons of water during peak summer months.

So, what is a rain barrel? Its an easy attachment that you can either buy or DIY which attaches to your gutters. When it rains, the water runs down the gutter and into your rain barrel. Pretty simple concept. There's a hose attachment at the bottom that you can use to then water your plants.

There are several different styles of barrels, from simple drums to nice looking planters. Its up to you on how you want it styled.

I found a site which will ship for free; you can find rain barrels starting at $136 at Grow and Make. Learn how to make your own rain barrel here.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Expanding On Water

In a previous blog, Plastic Palace of Doom, I spoke briefly about the hazards of plastic bottles. My friend asked me to expand on the regulations of water, so here we go.

The big differences between bottled water and tap water is the regulation. Tap water must follow the guidelines of the EPA while bottled water is classified as food, and must follow the FDA.

The EPA's Clean Water Act regulates quality standards with consideration to pollutants and discharges into waters of the United States. The EPA requires water treatment plants to provide residents with a yearly detailed report of their tap water's source, testing results, and contaminant levels if applicable. Some plants post their results online, you can check your local water results by accessing the Consumer Confidence Reports. I checked out Honolulu's site, Board of Watter Supply, and found links to download 2009's report. Honolulu tests for more than 100 different kinds of chemical "contaminants" deemed by Federal and State Law, and conducts over 18,500 tests. They also analyze around 10,000 water samples a year for bacterial contaminants.

Standards are set for maximum allowable contaminants. The maximum level is set where no significant health effects would occur after a lifetime of drinking. All states must follow the EPA guidelines but may also choose to increase the standards for a State level. If you're unsure about your water quality, check to see if your report is listed. If your report is not posted online, you may choose to have your water tested by a certified officer. The EPA lists certified officers on their site by state.

Now how does this differ from the FDA? The FFDCA (Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act) regulates how a company labels its product. It ensures that companies are truthful about what ingredients are in the product as well as where the product is from (i.e. spring or mineral water). The FDA also requires water to be safe, and processed in a sanitary environment. They have set their own regulations on what is considered an allowable level of contaminants. Because the FDA considers water bottle companies as having a good record, they are considered low priority for testing.

The NDRC (Natural Resources Defense Council) conducted a four year study on bottled water. They had an independent company test over 1,000 bottles and found there is no assurance that bottled water is not only safer than tap water, but that it wasn't tap water. They estimated 25% or more bottled water was just tap water (sometimes treated). 22% of the brands contained "at least one sample, chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits." These chemicals are known to cause cancer if consumed over a long period of time. Beyond the water, there's the container itself....leaching.

"Recent research suggests that there could be cause for concern, and that the issue should be studied closely. Studies have shown that chemicals called phthalates, which are known to disrupt testosterone and other hormones, can leach into bottled water over time. One study found that water that had been stored for 10 weeks in plastic and in glass bottles contained phthalates, suggesting that the chemicals could be coming from the plastic cap or liner. Although there are regulatory standards limiting phthalates in tap water, there are no legal limits for phthalates in bottled water -- the bottled water industry waged a successful campaign opposing the FDA proposal to set a legal limit for these chemicals."

So - take things into consideration, and moderation. For me, I mostly used filtered water from a pitcher. Previously I had a filter on my tap which I used to fill up a water pitcher filter. There are different types of filters you can use, and based on your water report and pocket book, would determine the best type for your home. You can find out more about the different types of water filter systems at Consumer Reports.

And remember - its also recommended you drink 8 glasses of water a day. Cheers!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

How Many Styrofoam Packing Peanuts Does it Take to Get to the Center of a Box?

I'm at a crossroads on this one. On one hand, the company I'm about to talk about does do some great strides for the environment, and I have used their products before and loved them. On the other hand, I have to give them a thumbs down on their shipping methods.

Frontier Natural Products Co-Op, which also does Aura Cacia, and Simply Organic is for the most part a wonderful eco-friendly company. I love their essential oils from Aura Cacia, and their spices from Simply Organic. They do a lot of carbon offsetting,are certified organic, use non-toxic cleaning solutions at their company, is a part of Co-Op America, water conservation, I mean the good qualities go on and on with these companies. But this is where their shipping puzzles me.

My friend bought bath gel from them online. Along with the bath gel, the company provided her with a free gift...nothing wrong with fact another bonus for the company. She was anxiously awaiting her lovely smelling gel, just a regular size bottle, not bulk, probably about 10-13 fluid ounces.

Here's what she received in the mail:
1. Cute branding (nothing wrong here)

2.Some Sustainable facts (still good, a little cheesy, but good)

3.What's inside? A lot of packing peanuts

4. Followed by....ANOTHER BOX!

5. Which also has packing peanuts!

6. Followed by a plastic bag containing the contents

7. And finally...the products:

Now when my friend first told me about this, I had to ask...well were they in glass jars? I could almost excuse them if the products were in glass jars, but no, they're in plastic containers. It seems to me that the smaller box inside the big box would have been sufficient packaging for their products to be shipped. Again, I still think this company makes great products, but am saddened by their shipping methods. Its hard to say that you reduce paper, and promote sustainable aspects when the first thing some customers encounter is your shipping method.

Here's what to consider when either A. dealing with receiving something like this in the mail, or B. having to ship something out:

1. Styrofoam peanuts are not recyclable, however they are reusable. Try asking a local mail store if they would like to reuse them. I know our local mail/copy store will accept styrofoam peanuts that they'll use for shipping.

2. Most recycling centers accept cardboard boxes, break them down, and make sure to have them recycled.

3. If shipping, consider alternatives to styrofoam peanuts or bubble wrap. I've shredded my junk mail and filled boxes with the shredded paper. I was able to ship many breakable items this way. Just make sure to pack in the shredded paper. I've also used Jelly Belly jelly beans...not only does this help with keeping things safe, but is an added treat for the recipient.

4. If you're moving, consider Rent A Green Box. This company is based in Orange County. They create green boxes for packing made from recycled plastics. They also offer biodegradable and compostable packing materials which replace peanuts, bubble wrap, and a twist on wrapping tissue and labels.

-Thanks AJ for the story and pics. I still love their products, just wish they would be as smart with their packing.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Adopt A Highway

The Fairmont Orchid has adopted a 3 mile stretch of the highway near our hotel. Now most companies who adopt a highway typically pay a company to do the quarterly clean up. Not Us!

I was able to participate in this month's clean up session. We had about 30 people volunteer their time after work to pick up rubbish along the highway. Some of the challenges is that this stretch of highway is actually on the route to the rubbish dump. You can imagine some of the rubbish that flies off people's trucks as they are headed toward the dump. There's also lovely kiawe bushes which love to attack people with their thorns.

Instead of just bagging up everything, we made sure to separate rubbish from recycle items. My goal was to make sure the recycle bag was more full than my rubbish bag...and mission accomplished.

Besides finding the usual suspects: cigarette butts, bottles, cans; we also found tires, lots of road reflectors, doors, and huge planks of wood. One thing that was new to me was the plastic containers and Styrofoam. Because these items had been subjected to the sun, they seemed to be in tack, but as soon as I tried to pick it up, it would disintegrate. Not in a full sense that it completely disappeared, but disintegrated into small unmanageable pieces. Unmanageable for me to collect, but easily to be digested by animals.

You don't need to be a part of an official Adopt A Highway crew to do your part in helping. Its as easy as picking up some rubbish when you're out and about. I make a point while I'm at the beach to check my area for any rubbish that can be removed. Again, every little bit counts.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Plastic Palace of Doom

I'm always amazed at the amount of plastic I end up going through within a month, it seems to be everywhere. Where I live I have access to recycle plastics 1,2 & 5 as well as plastic bags. I try to reduce the amount of plastic in my life by using glass containers, stainless steel water bottles, and cloth bags for shopping and bulk items.

My household fills one yard size garbage bag a month of plastic recyclables...which I think is pretty good. Most of our plastics consist of packaging from food items or products.

According to the Clean Air Council, Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. Not Day or Month...HOUR. It seems silly to think that we have to keep reminding people to recycle and reduce, but I still see people throwing these bottles away all the time. These plastic bottles end up not only overflowing our landfills but flowing into our oceans. Plastic never fully goes away, it ends up in tiny particles which our fish think are plankton - their food.

Beyond just using the bottle, I wonder why people even buy them. There are typically more standards placed on your tap water than on bottled water. Plus the cost alone is enough to make you want to change your mind.

Consider this Let's say you drink 2 -16 oz bottles of water a day for a year:
24 Pack of Generic Target Bottled Water $3.50
2 bottles per day = 730 bottles
730 bottles/24 pack = 30.4 Cases
TOTAL = $106.46/YR

1 Brita Pitcher $23
1 Stainless Steel Water bottle $10
4 pack of Filters $ 20
TOTAL = $53/YR

What have you learned? Hopefully that its not only economical to stop using plastic bottles, but its also environmentally friendly. I could go on for hours on how much plastic ends up in the ocean and what it does to our sea life, but instead I'll leave you this link to watch about the Toxic Garbage Island.

For now, try giving up those plastic bottles. Every little bit adds up. If you want to check on your local drinking water, check out the EPA site.

Monday, January 25, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow

I've always been envious of people who knew how to garden. I remember the first time I tried to grow plants from seeds, and failed. Then I figured, well maybe I'll try from a starter still died.

For many years I became known to my friends as the person to kill or pull out unwanted items in the yard. Cutting, trimming, removal, mowing...totally had that down; trying to produce life form from plants.... C-.

When I first moved to Waikoloa I knew I wanted to attempt a garden. I live on approximately a quarter acre of land, and although its dry here, the warm weather lends to being able to plant year round.

I went through a few trials and error. I learned that I'm not that good at planting seeds directly into the ground. I began planting seeds into starter pots. I've used both regular plastic ones (I reuse pots from plants I've bought from the store, jiffy biodegradeble pots, and made my own from newspaper. Using starter pots as been the most successful process for me. I found that due to the dry weather and soil conditions the plants need a strong root base before planting into the ground.

My first plants were bought from the store, and I make sure to speak to someone who's knowledgeable about plants. Since I'm still in my learning phase I'm not sure about the needs of certain plants. I also want to make sure that I'm using plants which don't need a lot of water and withstand the lack of rain fall (Waikoloa averages 4 inches a year).

Gardening has become a sense of pride for me. Something that I use to fear, and envy, is now an accomplishment. I soon will have fresh tomatoes, green beans, various herbs, and much more. I don't use any fertilizers or pesticides, and have a calming feeling about eating fresh, very local, chemical free produce.

So, even if you don't have a huge yard, or think you don't have a green thumb, think again. Start a herb garden, they also double as great home decor. I was even able to plant tomatoes in a large pot, and they have great products to grow tomatoes in small spaces.

Get out your Green Thumb, and start growing. Happy Planting!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Painting Without the Pains

Indoor air is typically more polluted than outdoor air; paints and finishes being one of the leading causes. Regular paint contains VOC, Volatile Organic Compound. What is VOC? VOC are organic chemical compounds that have high enough vapor pressure under normal conditions to significantly vaporize and enter the atmosphere, and are harmful and toxic. VOC is what your nose detects when you're painting a room.

I love to change the look and feel of my own, and when first venturing on being green I was disappointed to discover the harmful affects of paint. When I first heard of non-VOC paint, I knew I wanted some. The problem at the time....cost! The first time I saw Non-VOC paint at Home Depot it cost approximately $38/gallon. Compared to $19 for a regular gallon of paint, and a thin budget I had to put the decorating bug to bed.

Recently, as more people are becoming earth conscious the prices are dropping considerably. More companies are coming out with one or more Non-VOC or Low-VOC varieties of paint. Don't think that just cause its green that your color choices are limited. New styles are emerging each year, and I was finally able to bring out the paint rollers.

I purchased Olympic Non-VOC paint at Lowes for only $20. They had a vast choice of color and I was pleased with the outcome. For the first time I was able to paint without getting a headache, no mask needed, and didn't care if the windows were open or closed.

So get creative, get painting, and get a good night sleep without breathing in toxic fumes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hawai'i Has the Goods on Events

I love Hawai'i, from the beaches, the weather, to the beloved family parties. As much as I love the huge family gatherings it pains me to see all the paper plates, disposable utensils, and numerous unsustainable items being thrown in the rubbish. Granted its hard to through parties for hundreds of people when on a "limited" budget, and until the price of biodegradable products comes down; I'm afraid this trend will continue.

While researching I found that the county of Hawai'i offers free green event planning tips. The county of Hawai'i will provide H-5 beverage container recycle bins free of charge. You can reserve bins for your party so your guests know where to throw their recyclable containers. Free bins, and you get to profit from turning in 100s of cans and bottles. Visit the Hawai'i Department of Environmental Management website for the reservation forms for your next party. If you don't live in Hawai'i check your county's Waste Management website for recycle information and tips.

Here's a few tips you can follow to help green your next event:
*Send an E-Vite: I love this site! A nice quick way to email your invitees, keep track of who's coming, add voter boxes, and lists on what to bring. Save on paper and send an electronic invitation.

*If you the party is small enough use real dinnerware. I know its easy to go the paper plate route, but real dinnerware not only looks better, it saves on trees.

*Save your hands and use your dishwasher (if you have one). A misconception is that hand washing dishing is more environmentally friendly. In fact your dishwasher uses less water than hand washing. Dishwashers use 5.8 gallons of water, when rinsing dishes alone takes 20 gallons of water. So scrape, don't rinse, and save your hands and let the machine do the work.

*Compost your scraps: Bury your waste. You can compost veggies, fruits, and egg shells. No dairy or meat products. Burying your waste creates great soil for gardening and reducing waste in the landfills.

*Get a Brita water filter! Come on people, the amount of plastic bottles that end up in the landfill, which then end up in the ocean is ridiculous! Plus, there are more regulations for county water than there are on bottled water companies. This will not only save waste, but save your green.

*Smile and have a blast! Hey a great attitude is also great for the planet. Happiness is infectious, so make it a great party!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Its the Little Things

I recently started a new job (woohoo!) at the Fairmont Orchid in Hawai'i. On my first day I was glad to hear that I will be a part of their Green Committee. I'm not sure what that exactly entails, but am looking forward to learning and contributing.

There were little things I noticed at the resort which add up to huge savings on the earth! Its the first office I've been in where there were actually designated recycling boxes for paper. This seems like a small task, but considering its the first time I've seen it...its a big plus.

Another great find was in the restroom. Instead of paper towels, the hotel provides actual cloth towels. It was beautiful! Can you imagine how much paper they are saving by having fresh towels in the restrooms. If all hotels did this, it would add up. Kudos to the Fairmont Orchid!