Simple gardening tip: “plant native” for a truly green garden

Every spring my family and I spend a weekend cleaning the yard (an activity that can be made fun if you just try!) and planting flowers to make everything nice and cheery.

xeriscapeI’ve never given much thought to what I plant other than selecting what I think is “cute” and my “color choice” for the season, but I’ve also made some poor selections when they’ve required a lot of water to keep them bright, cheery… and alive!

Whether you’re planting flowers, trees, shrubbery or an entire lawn, make sure that your choices are native to your area. Despite having favorites that you’d like to see in your own yard, it’s wiser to choose something that will naturally thrive without watering and excess water use, and will eliminate your need for nasty fertilizers and pesticides.

This concept even has its own term, known as xeriscaping… (make sure you throw that one into a sentence today, to impress your family and friends! And oooh… I need to make an addition to my A to Z list, don’t I?).  Check out PlantNative.org for lists of native plantflowrs by state, local nurseries and organizations too!  All of them can help you make the smartest choices.  Eartheasy also has great tricks, tips and ideas that get as green as they come.

Remember that vinegar and water is a great natural weed killer too.  Just be sure to have good aim and a quality sprayer because vinegar is NOT selective and will destroy whatever it comes in contact with.

You may not think you have a green thumb, but with a little effort you CAN have the “greenest” garden on the block!

Skipping steps in dish washing = lots of conservation

Like you, I cook and prepare meals… a lot. Often “three squares” a day for the health and wellness of my family so I know we’re all getting good, nutritious food.  But I’m often amazed at the amount of plates, bowls, glasses and utensils that are left in the wake!

dishwash by handI’ve evaluated hand washing vs. using the dishwasher and found, overwhelmingly, that (if you have one) the dishwasher is the route to go to clean the aftermath and conserve water, but here’s my misstep… I always felt it was necessary to do a little bit of pre-rinsing before everything went into the dishwasher… boy was I wrong.

According to Consumer Reports, up to 20 GALLONS of water can be consumed to pre-rinse what goes into our dishwasher.  Ouch!… that’s not conservation!  All you need to do is scrape off everything you can and load ’em up! The other fact I’ve learned is that we really shouldn’t pre-rinse since detergents actually work better when there IS some “food soil” left. Well, my husband is going to be VERY happy about that after tonight’s dinner mess.dishwshr dr open

Besides skipping the pre-rinsing and the pre-wash cycle you should also skip the heated drying cycle.  This actually saves 50% of the energy used for the load.  The better option:  OPEN the door as soon as the dishwasher shuts off. The contents are at their hottest and will evaporate the remaining water and moisture quickly, and in no time everything will be dry… and you’ve really, REALLY conserved!

So there you have it… skip a few little dishwashing steps but make one big step for conservation!

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: words from its “founder”…

Through all 292 posts from Mom Goes Green my most popular post (by far!) discussed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch… the sickening, swirling area of approximately seven million tons of plastic debris and waste floating in the Pacific Ocean that is roughly twice the size of Texas (and some say, twice the size of the entire U.S.).  Some even believe it is worse than we originally expected.

It troubles me to no end.  Recently Charles Moore, the unfortunate “founder” of this garbage patch, was a guest on David Letterman.  While this isn’t the most scientific forum I can think of, if it gets the message out to millions of viewers, well, that works for me!  Take a look at the interview, including Part II.

He also shares some of his heartbreaking discoveries in this presentationhow can we turn a blind eye to this undeniable destruction?

So what do we do about all of this? We need, I repeat, NEED to decrease our dependence on plastics. While we can’t un-do the damage that has been done, we can help slow the ongoing contribution of this disgusting, harmful garbage that is polluting our oceans, waterways, wildlife, fish and, ultimately… US!

Recently our family also visited a beach on Lake Erie.  While the kids were playing on the beach and I looked for sea glass (okay… in this case, LAKE glass) I was also heartbroken to find more plastics than anything else washed ashore.  Sadly, what I encountered was bottles, bottle caps, lighters, pens, tampon applicators, plastic bags, combs, brushes, and plastic toys… this isn’t a narrative on Cleveland, this is an example of human neglect for our planet… everyday, everywhere.

Please, think about what you are buying. Think about where it goes when it is discarded.  Think about the irreversible damage that is created.  We can do better… a lot better.

“Superbugs”, antibiotics and drugs… oh my!

sup bug virMy recent post about avoiding antibacterial products actually got me thinking more about the issues of antibiotics, medications and even “superbugs”, as well as the proper disposal of unused medications. While we certainly want to avoid the products containing Triclosan (that can accumulate in our bodies and decrease the effectiveness of antibiotics), there are other important points about using antibiotics and medications that I want to be sure to share, so here goes…

When antibiotics ARE needed, it is very important to complete the dosage prescribed by your physician because failing to do so can also help create “superbugs”.  New term to you?  Well, by stopping antibiotic use BEFORE you have completed the full course means that the “stronger” of the bacteria can remain present in your body and they have the potential to rapidly multiply and cause you the same symptoms again.  This “survival” means they are more likely to become resistant to the drug and these “superbugs” are created.  (Kinda gives you the chills, huh?… me too!)

Along with this discussion it seems logical for us to remember about the proper disposal of unused drugs and medications.  In a post quite some time ago I talked about all the dangers of the common “flush factor”… those of us who flush medications down the toilet.  Baaaad practice!  This means they end up in our water sources since most water treatment facilities don’t have the ability to remove them.

That original post offered suggestions including contacting your local pharmacy to see if they have a program to properly dispose of medications or checking Earth911 to locate a drop-off in your community.

But, if you MUST dispose of them yourself, consider the greener, safer way to do it… to keep drugs out of our water sources and prevent soil contamination from landfills too:druggz

  • Keep them in the original container so they can be identified if they are found (but remove your personal information and identification).
  • Add water to pills to start dissolving them.
  • Add coffee grounds, sand or kitty litter to liquids to help absorb them.
  • Put the original container in a secondary container and securely tape the lid closed.
  • Put them deep in your trash.

The absolute best option is to find a safe disposal option, and as much as I dislike the idea of adding this trash to a landfill, it is certainly the option safer than adding them to the drinking water of you, me and… our kids!

Simple conservation tip: Put your “greywater” to work…

Greywater may be a new term to you… once again, this one was recently a new one for me too!

buckt grnGreywater is defined as the “waste water generated from bathing, showering, dishwashing and laundry”.  Initial thoughts might sound something like “well… ick.”  Sure, I certainly don’t recommend you grab a glass(!), but there are plenty of household uses for this water (as long as you aren’t using harsh cleansers and detergents).

Think about watering your indoor plants, outdoor plants and shrubbery, or washing your car.  This water is ideal.

All you need to do is add a handled bucket to your shower, scoop out a bucket or watering can full from your bath, or add the bucket to your utility tub when your washer is draining.  Plants will actually thrive from the content of this water and your car happens not to care if the water has a bit of added body wash or laundry detergent.

Considering this greywater accounts for somewhere between 50%-80% of residential water waste, conserving and using it will certainly amount to a lot more than just “a drop in the bucket”.