The greenest lawn, the green way.

Not long ago I talked about an encounter with a TruGreen (ChemLawn) truck and feeling as though we were going to be asphyxiated as we drove by the chemical spray being applied to a neighborhood lawn.
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I simultaneously felt a sense of guilt that I used to have a lawn service and those same chemicals were once sprayed on my yard.  I still gasp at the thought.  Those chemicals are pollutants that contaminate ground and surface water, as well as pose a threat to wildlife and beneficial insects.  Plus they create serious health risks for humans, with children being the most vulnerable.

But those precious little feet can still have a healthy, green lawn. And if you just adopt some simple practices, you can have a nice, clear conscience too:

  • Go easy on the watering – lawns only need an inch of water per week so this means about ONCE a week.  And if mother nature is helping (via rain), even less frequently. Too many shallow waterings also bring roots to the surface and burn out the lawn faster.
  • Don’t “mow low” – the optimal length is 3”, so don’t over-mow or mow too short.  Taller grass grows a deeper root system, grows slower, requires less water and helps prevent weeds.
  • Don’t “ bag it” – mulching mowers actually cut grass and chop it so it can act like mulch to hold moisture, but if you do have a bagging mower, consider composting the clippings.kids-in-grass
  • Consider timing – don’t mow in the heat of the day (grass loses moisture) and water in the early morning or evenings to prevent evaporation.
  • Water wisely – actually water the lawn (not sidewalks and drives!), use timers or pay attention not to overwater and prevent waste.
  • If you must control a few weeds – use white vinegar in a spray bottle and spot treat.
  • Go crazy – sell your lawn mower and buy a push mower (although my husband’s not “buying that one” just yet!).
  • Skip the fertilizers – even the organic kind. Honestly, do you really need them?

I think all we really want is a lawn that is healthy and green… a place where our kids can run, play and roll around without worry, and a sense that we aren’t doing more harm than good “in pursuit of the most pristine lawn on the block”.  I assure you, your kids don’t care about that, but the environment surely does.

Toxic mattresses… are you being poisoned while you sleep?

We’ve long been in the market for a mattress since our son is growing like a weed and, much to my dismay, he’s outgrown his toddler bed.  I’d never given much thought to mattresses aside from finding the most comforpoisontable choice, but I’m quickly learning that there is a whole lot more to the story.

I first recollected my dear friend, Kev, telling me how he began to feel sick and even experienced hallucinations the very first night he began sleeping on his Memory Foam mattress cover.  He described it as an all-over “un-well” feeling.  After a few days and nights of being sick, he removed the cover and all symptoms disappeared.  Needless to say, the mattress cover met the trash.

So I’ve been researching mattresses and the results are not good.  I’ve learned that beginning July 1, 2007, Federal Fire Retardant Regulations mandated mattress manufacturers to INCREASE the levels of toxic fire retardants, but DO NOT require them to list the ingredients in the contents! THAT is absurd… and certainly not without questions.

And what do these fire retardants contain?… boric acid, melamine, antimony and formaldehyde… all chemicals linked to cancer, and they just “upped our dosage!”.  Antimony alone causes heart muscle damage and a single dermal application has killed rabbits in laboratory tests.  (I don’t like animal testing, but that speaks volumes.)  Additional tests on Memory Foam mattresses even detected 61 chemical emissions and off-gassing from a single mattress.  All I can think about is my son’s precious body laying on these chemicals, night after night, and his little lungs inhaling those dangerous toxins.  Rest is supposed to rejuvenate us, not poison us!  But take a look.

I quickly realized that our only option was an organic mattress.  They’re made of pure organic wool, 100% organic cotton covers and 100% natural latex cores, providing even better fire retardancy than the chemicals… naturally!  We selected a mattress from Healthy Home Sleep Gallery, and although we paid more than the common mattress store brands, I have never second guessed this choice for the health and safety of our son. (They can ship anywhere in the US and if you mention Mom Goes Green, they offered to give an additional discount.)

My days with baby beds have sadly come and gone, but there are also great options for crib mattresses. The Natural Mat Company offers mattresses, as well as bedding and linensthenaturalmattcompany-135205-2, and their products are made with all natural and organic materials. They’re washable, breathable, anti-dust mite and naturally fire retardant too.  They are truly the most important and best products for baby when you consider how much time they actually spend sleeping (… you hope!)  And if I had that choice to make all over again, I would undoubtedly choose organic.  (Natural Mat products are available through Goore’s and you can also enter code: mggnm for a 10% discount!)

It’s shocking, maddening and ultimately very sad that we aren’t being protected from harsh and toxic chemicals that are literally being shoved under our noses as we sleep, so I made the choice to do what I can to protect our son by choosing organic.

Now, when our “big boy” is getting a good night’s rest, I can get a good night’s rest too.

Lawn care chemicals are the wrong “shade” of green.

Just the other day I was driving through the neighborhood with our kids and a smell started to fill the car (and it wasn’t “compliments” of either of the kids because there were no “accompanying giggles!”).

grassWe rounded the corner and I immediately spotted the TruGreen (ChemLawn) truck.  It was sitting in front of a house and idling(!) while the “lawn tech” doused the yard in streams of harsh, nasty, polluting chemical fertilizers and weed killers.  My first reaction was (sincerely) “my god, I used to let that happen in my yard”.  And then I felt ashamed that I ever let it happen.  Next, I wanted to tell my kids to briefly stop breathing.  Then I envisioned screaming at the lawn guy to “turn off his truck!” … followed by knocking on the door and vigorously shaking the homeowner.

Why such the obsession for having the greenest, most pristine lawn on the block?  Do they think the weeds will crawl in the window late some night?  Or someone will pass “judgment” based on their lawn? The reality is that these chemicals are pollutants.  The runoff works its way to ground water, pollutes surface water through the soil and causes major contamination.  It also threatens wildlife and the beneficial insects.

I think about walking through the lawn and then walking into our homes, WITH our shoes, and I shudder.  Every chemical you just walked through spreads itself all over your home and into the indoor air.  And what about those precious LITTLE BARE FEET that touch the lawn?  It’s like walking into a chemical field.  I could never dream of subjecting our kids to such dangerous conditions.  Research has shown that chemical lawn fertilizers and pesticides can present numerous symptoms, including respiratory problems, nervous system disorders, and aggravation of pre-existing conditions (such as asthma) and our children happen to be the most vulnerable.grass-lawn

Now consider this: Each year, in the US, over 103 million pounds of toxic chemicals are applied to lawns in our pursuit of “visual appeal”. That’s all it really is… an aesthetically pleasing look.  This post could go on forever (and in the very near future, I will give more information about regular practices you can adopt to have a healthier lawn) but for now, if you feel you MUST pamper your lawn, at least consider greener solutions.

Check out NaturaLawn of America or (if you’re in Ohio) GoodNature, provider of lawn care for our beloved Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.  This hasn’t even scratched the surface, but there are great do-it-yourself solutions that I promise to provide… soon!

But, for now, to top things off, the very next day there was a ‘hanger’ dangling from a door knob on the front of my house.  TruGreen’s “Anthony” was offering me a monthly estimate of $53 to contaminate my yard… and family… and the environment.  Thanks, but no thanks, Anthony.  Move on.

Bottled water: the bad, the bad and the badder!

Water is essential for a healthy body.  (In fact, 60-70% of our bodies are made up of water.)  plastic-bottles2

So when my husband recently announced that the landlord of his studio space had decided to get rid of the water cooler and buy bottled water instead, I  GASPED!  Then I immediately emailed him some of my objections and begged him to reconsider.

First, bottled water is both wasteful and harmful if their containers are not properly recycled and they wind up as trash in a landfill – and every year 38 billion bottles, valued at $1 billion, DO end up in landfills. It even takes approximately 1.5 million barrels of oil to meet America’s $22 billion(!) annual demand of bottled water! Add to that the cardboard bases they use, the plastic wrap that goes around the case and the carbon footprint of transportation… more waste, more trash, more CO2!  Not very environmental or economical.

I also have afaucet-running1n on-going concern with the BPA content in the bottles themselves.  Research has shown links to side effects that include behavioral problems, brain development issues, cancers and a whole slew of other debated conditions, especially when consumed by children.  That alone should be enough to scare anyone away.  Not very healthy.

But now I have a crazy idea… tap water anyone?!  I know there will be some groans at this suggestion and objections about the taste, as well as questions about whether tap water is really safe, but in most cases, yes, it is absolutely safe.  If you have concerns or just want more assurance, install a water filter… simple as that.

We were raised on tap water, right?  But marketers have “gotten” to some of us by glamorizing bottled water (as if it “says” something about us) or claiming some health benefit.  Don’t buy it or cynergreen-bottles“buy it!” And despite some companies trying to make a more environmental product (like boxed water), I can’t be swayed! Bottled water is convenient, but the best, most environmental, healthiest choice is investing in a good, reusable, stainless steel or aluminum bottle, and “tap into your tap”!

Next time someone asks if you’d like a bottle of water, be prepared to hold it high and say proudly “no thanks… I have my own!”

“Green” dry cleaning that won’t leave your head spinning.

I used to have a dry cleaning bill the size of Mount Everest.  Fortunately, with my departure from a professional job (although I am now a “professional mom” and should earn about $132K a year, but a paycheck never arrives!) the dry cdry-cleaningleaning bill is much, much smaller.

I never gave much thought to the chemicals and solvents used in dry cleaning –  namely Tetrachloroethylene, also known as Perchloroethylene or “Perc”.  It’s considered a carcinogen and is a danger for the workers cleaning the clothes and for us, once we bring our clothes home and they “off-gas.”  Just like that ‘new car smell’, you know the smell of dry cleaned clothes, right?  Well, it’s perc and known side effects include confusion, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, nausea and difficulty speaking and walking.  Well, all that for crisp, clean(?) clothes… I don’t think so!

Since my husband still has some occasional dry cleaning, it’s time to look for a green dry cleaner!  Start with Green Earth to help you locate one in your area.  They skip the harsh chemicals and use an environmentally safe process that replaces petroleum-based (harmful) solvents with liquid silicone.  Another process that is catching on is carbon dioxide cleaning.  When put under high pressure, it can carry biodegradable soap, just like water in our washing machine, and then is reused without harmful effects.  Just make sure your dry cleaner is actually using one of these processes.  There are plenty of “green impostors” out there!green_earth_logo

And if you do dry clean, here are a few more tips:

  1. Don’t throw the hangers away.  Remove the paper and recycle it, and whether they are plastic or metal, return them to the dry cleaner (since 85% of them wind up in landfills!).  You can also ask your cleaner about using paper hangers or EcoHangers too.
  2. Not all “dry clean only” garments truly require dry cleaning… it’s just a way for clothing manufacturers to protect themselves in case you do a shoddy wash job!  Give it some thought before you send it off for dry cleaning.
  3. Go less frequently – wait until you have a bunch of clothes to clean.  This will save some of those horrible plastic bags they place over our garments, because whether you have one item or six, they all get hung together with one bag.

Just remember, you CAN have crispy, clean, fashionable clothes without walking into walls and slurring your words, and worrying about what was left in the wake.