Busting the Green vs Clean Mentality

  | Saturday 7 August 2010   So I have this dear friend who just won’t give up the bottled water habit. I have told her about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, about the fact that it takes 700 years for a plastic bottle to begin to decompose, and yet, when I was visiting with her recently, she and her family went through bottle after plastic bottle of water. Since I was a guest in her house, I felt it was not my place to question her or lecture her for the millionth time. I know she cares deeply about the planet’s future, so why the disconnect? We were sitting outside in the hot sun, and my friend mentioned she was thirsty. I asked her if she wanted some water and she said she did. I pulled out my reusable stainless steel water bottle filled with ice cold tap water and she looked at it and politely declined. Another friend pulled out a store bought bottled water and she immediately accepted that offer and rushed to quench her thirst. I’m pretty sure she thought my water bottle was not clean – not to mention what she thought of the tap water inside. I’m wondering how many people have not given up some of their most wasteful habits not because of the small inconveniences involved, but because they like things nice and new and clean. I know I had to suppress many of my obsessive compulsive tendencies when I began my journey to go green. So I’ve put together a Green vs. Clean list with some myth busters: 1) Bottled Water vs. Tap Water. Myth: Bottled water is better for you. Fact: Bottled water is less regulated than tap water, and in a 2008 study by the Environmental Working Group, 38 contaminants were found in 10 of the top brands of bottled water. Also, plastic bottles leach harmful chemicals into the water. Finally, if you like things clean, then why add to the huge amount of plastic that exists in our oceans and landfills? That stuff is not going anywhere, and eventually it will show up on your beach and in your backyard. That’s pretty gross. 2) The Disinfection Obsession. Myth: Green cleaning products aren’t as effective as antibacterials. Fact: Unless you are a surgeon requiring a sterile environment, good old soap and water or even home made concoctions like vinegar and baking soda are just as effective cleaning agents as antibacterials – sans the side effects of toxic chemicals, indoor air pollution, and water pollution. These don’t sound so very clean to me. 3) Use and Toss. Myth: Single use products are more hygienic than reusable ones. Actually, you can get a better clean from cloth towel than a paper towel, without the paper waste and mess. Cloth towels are more absorbent and stronger and therefore are more effective at getting the grime out of your kitchen. Use and wash is still better than use and toss, and if your… Continue reading Busting the Green vs Clean Mentality

Natural Pesticides

   | Thursday 5 August 2010   This year, we planted a vegetable garden and have been in constant amazement at the miracle of life happening in our back yard. I was so enthralled with my first full-grown snow pea, that I had to take a picture of it to share with you. However, in addition to the life that is our plants, there is other not-as-welcome life: the inevitable garden pests. Critters with teeth have been nibbling and insects have added decorative holes to our greens. Wanting to keep to our commitment of maintaining a natural garden, we refuse to buy pesticides, and have planted thing like marigolds and hot peppers, which are supposed to deter interlopers. However, it became apparent that we had to take a bit more aggressive action, so I pulled out the neem oil, which I keep in stock for the production of some of my bath and body products. Neem oil is extracted from the tropical neem tree. I had read a while ago that it is a very effective insecticide, miticide and fungicide, and is listed as okay for use in organic production. According to Plant-care.com, neem oil has the following features: Broad spectrum insecticide/fungicide/miticide controls insects and mites including whitefly, aphid and scale, Controls fungal diseases including black spot, rust, mildew and scab. For indoor/outdoor use on ornamental plants, flowers, vegetables, trees, shrubs and fruit and nut crops. Mountain Rose Herbs says that it biodegrades rapidly in sunlight and within a few weeks in the soil. Neem oil has very low toxicity to humans and pets, but it is not recommended for internal use. I had also read that rosemary and lavender are effective pesticides, plus they smell better than neem, so I decided to include the in my natural pesticide. Here is my recipe: Mix 1 gallon of water with 2 tablespoons of neem, and 1 teaspoon each rosemary and lavender essential oils (I used organic version of all the oils). You can also add a couple of tablespoons of phosphate-free liquid dishwashing soap. Mix thoroughly and pour into a spray bottle. Spray over every part of your plants, mixing frequently to keep the oils and water from separating. By the way, these Sprayco spray bottles, which I buy at my local family-owned hardware store, are made in the US from recycled materials and provide jobs for handicapped individuals.