Bacteria and your reusable bags…

Did I just sense some of you cringing?  Yes, I’ll admit… the latest news reports had me a little squeamish too, but let’s keep it in perspective and DO NOT let ourselves be led to think that reusable bags aren’t the right choice (it still IS absolutely the right choice!).

If you haven’t heard the buzz:  “A study from the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University in California found that most people who bring their own bags to the grocery store don’t wash or clean them regularly – and the researchers also discovered a large number of bacteria present in the reusable bags.”  Take a look at the study but you can also read more about the topic at Earth 911.

Admittedly, I’m not a frequent-reusable-bag-washer either. But I do have a fairly simple plan for combatting these cooties!  First of all, I have a set of bags dedicated to grocery shopping.  I tied a red ribbon on the handle of the bag meant for only meat products.  On the handle of the produce-dedicated bag, you guested it… a green ribbon.  It’s easy to just let the cashier know where you need your items placed (sure, sometimes they aren’t thrilled, but oh well!).

I have a whole second set of bags especially for all of my non-grocery purchases.  That absolutely eliminates the concern since there isn’t anything that goes inside to cause the contamination.

If this still leaves you a bit unsettled, well, there’s another simple way to ease your mind… (hold onto your hats!)… wash… your… bags. :) 

And in all reality, even the EPA admits that most of the bacteria doesn’t even pose a health threat.  Afterall, there’s more bacteria on the handle of the gas pump you just used to fill-up your car!

So, my green friends, do NOT be deterred.  Reusable bags are, and always will be, the way to go. (The harm plastic bags create is much greater!)  Just periodically let them go for a little swim in your washing machine and, I promise you, all will be well.

Say NO to Black Friday… say YES to 3/50!

Black Friday… I NEVER shop Black Friday! Instead, I celebrateBuy Nothing Day.  Every year.  Period.

Yeeeeess, I know… the bargains, the excitement, the tradition… I simply choose to spend the day NOT spending.  It’s a great reminder that we don’t need to spend obscene amounts of money, rise in the wee hours of the morning and push & shove our way to luxury items that aren’t even needed, if we really think about it.

First, let’s support “Buy Nothing Day” with a little “farewell-to-excess-spending” tribute:

Next, I want to tell you what I AM supporting this year.  It’s called The 3/50 Project… and I love it!  The whole idea is to pick three independently-owned local businesses and spend $50 with each of them (thus the 3/50 concept!).  If we did this each month, it would generate $42.6 BILLION in revenue. Can you even imagine that?  I think it sounds amazing.

So, I don’t want to rain on your parade (I know some of you may love Black Friday) but somewhere along the line, let’s give some ‘locally-owned-love’….

… as the figures tell us, it can make quite a difference.

Houseplants to purify your indoor air!

areca plm pltIndoor plants are a fantastic way to bring the outdoors inside, no matter what time of year it is (and, with temperatures starting to drop, windows and doors will likely be spending more time closed!).  Not only can plants breathe life into a room, but did you know they can also, literally, breathe fresh clean air into your home as well?!?

Sadly, our indoor air can become even more polluted than outdoor air(!) due in part to everything from VOCs in paint to all of the horrible things we track in on our shoes and then send airborne!

Just take a look at what some of the most common household plants can “do” for your home!:

  • Areca palm – this one is the top purifier and also humidifies the air as it cleans!  (Lady palm and bamboo palm also do an amazing job!)peace lly plt
  • Peace lilies – also a great all-around air purifier, and incredibly easy to maintain.
  • English ivy – fantastic for removing airborne mold (up to 60% of airborne mold in just six hours, by the way!).
  • Spider plants – great at removing 100% of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide from the air in only 24 hours.
  • Boston ferns – another great over-all air purifier but especially for removing formaldehyde from the air.
  • Rubber plants – great for cleaning out those VOCs.

To reach maximum effectiveness, it’s recommended to have at least one 6” plant per 100 feet of living space.

Amazing, isn’t it? Actually, it’s exactly what I would expect Mother Nature to provide… something to clean-up our dirty work (and dirty air!).

10 simple steps for a green Thanksgiving…

thanksgvg tblTo me, Thanksgiving has always felt like the holiday with the greatest “green potential”. There are no gifts, costumes, candy or extra, elaborate frills.  It’s simply about family gatherings, feasting on the bounty of the season and giving thanks for everything we have.  There are so many ways to avoid over-abundance… (well, with the exception of over-eating!)

Everything from the decorations, to the food, to the clean-up can be exceptionally green.

Here are the things to keep in mind:

  1. Invitations – forgo the paper invitations and send Evites instead.  You’ve probably already handled this task, but this rule goes for any gathering!  And if you do need to mail invitations, look for those made of recycled paper.
  2. Decorations – in many cases, you need only walk into your own backyard: leaves, acorns and twigs can be turned into amazing arrangements. Combine them with colorful gourds, Indian corn, squash and apples and you’ve just captured the season!  Afterward, compost or add them back to nature.
  3. Food – visit your local farmer’s market for all of the most amazing produce.  Go organic.  Think acorn squash, sweet potatoes, corn, green beans, apple and pumpkin pie! And seek out an organic, hormone-free, steroid-free turkey (if it will be a part of your feast).
  4. Drinks – serve organic drinks or consider a local brew… or, if you’re lucky (like me!) and surrounded by local wineries, a local wine!
  5. Tableware and serveware – stop saving “the good dishes” and silverware!  Use them!  Glasses, cups and stemware?  Get them out! Forget the disposable “anything”.  You can even score inexpensive cloth napkins and table coverings at any dollar store.crncopia
  6. Consider the temperature – ovens heat a house quite quickly… and so do lots of people… so turn down the thermostat or, in warmer climates, keep ceiling fans circulating or windows open to keep the indoors comfortable.
  7. Recycle – that should go without saying, but just remember to make it happen.  Cans, jars, containers, bottles, anything and everything possible.
  8. Don’t waste leftovers – keep only what you know your family will eat.  Send the rest home with your guests.  Start thinking about containers now (no styrofoam plates or plastic-wrap, please!).  You can even ask guests to bring their own glass or ceramic dishware… why not?! And if you compost, toss in those food scraps.
  9. Clean-up – use your dishwasher, but make sure you fill it first.  For the big jobs, you’ll need to use some elbow-grease, but be sure not to leave the tap running endlessly.  And get out your green cleaners.  You can get back to “shiny & clean” without harsh chemicals.
  10. Although it has nothing to do with being green… give thanks. Ask everyone at your table to share a thought. It will certainly put happiness in the air, and that’s absolutely free!

Now, if you need some of those ‘leaf, acorn and twig’ decorations I mentioned, email me… and then back up a truck… I have enough in my own backyard to supply your whole neighborhood!

Even MORE labeling terms you should know about!

organic slYes, friends… once again I’m working on understanding labels and knowing exactly what they mean (or in many cases, DON’T mean!).

I’ve talked about pesticide-free & chlorine-free, non-toxic labeling, fragrance-free vs. unscented, PLU produce labels and certified-organic vs. organic ingredients.

Now I have a few more that you should know about:  “Green”, “Renewable” and “Certified Organic”.  (Have a guess about which ones actually mean something?)

Well, it appears that “Certified Organic” is the only trustworthy label in this group.  Certified Organic is stgrn labelrictly defined and regulated by the USDA.  “Green” and “Renewable”, on the other hand, mean NOTHING! They are undefined and, once again, completely unregulated.

Like some of the other terms I mentioned, any manufacturer can place these words on their label to give you peace of mind about what you’re purchasing.  And ONCE AGAIN they can do it, just because the terms aren’t regulated.  That doesn’t mean that ALL products that use these terms aren’t legitimate, but the problems is that it’s sometimes difficult to really know.

renwable labelThere’s so much greenwashing happening… the best thing to do is to only select products that have legitimate, regulated terms associated with them.  Otherwise, like that box of chocolates, ‘you never know what you’re gonna get’!

So, it’s time again to break out that notepad, just to keep it straight since, sadly, we can’t always believe what the labels are attempting to tell us.