September 2012 - Our Daily Green

Friday, September 28, 2012

Green Cleaning for Fall

As the weather turns colder, and we button up our homes for the fall and winter, many homeowners clean their carpets. An ongoing concern of Our Daily Green's has been the affect on the indoor air of all the toxins and chemicals in traditional carpet cleaners, especially with closed windows and less air circulation.

wool carpet cleaner nyc
wool rug cleaner nyc
Even a mild exposure to the usual industrial carpet cleaners can cause eye irritation and skin sensitivities for family and pets.

But many companies are responding to consumer concern about such chemicals and now clean with naturally occurring enzyme-based cleansers including common table salt, antimicrobial salts, citric acid, and soda ash. Enzymes are a protein molecule that speed up the reactions of other chemicals. Enzymatic cleaners break down the chemical bonds in the stain. Many stains found in carpets are organically based, such as food, grass, soil, pet accidents, blood, even cigarette smoke. An enzyme based cleaner is a safe alternative without the side effects of typical cleaners.

Enzyme based cleaners have no corrosive or toxic side effects which makes them a preferred choice for homeowners. The environmental impact is lower, they do not affect indoor air quality.

Before you do your fall cleaning, take some time to research and find out your different options when you clean your carpets.

This post has been brought to you by wool rug cleaner nyc sponsor. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How green actually is solar power?

‘Going solar’ is seen by many of my friends as the ultimate eco-commitment. Everyone likes to be seen to be doing the right thing and, short of showing your friends your recycling bin or following every offer of a cup of tea with “It’s fair trade and organic!”, it can be hard to demonstrate publicly just how much good you are doing the planet.

But with solar panel installation, you are literally shouting your green credentials from the rooftops. And no one questions that, right? I mean, there aren’t any downsides to solar - are there?

In fact, the ‘eco math’ that applies to all your other decisions as an ethical consumer needs to extend to your energy, too. You should think about solar the same way you think about food or clothes: where has it come from? How far has it traveled? What conditions was it made under?

So, before you start tweeting smugly about your installation date, do your research carefully and ask your chosen solar company if they can answer these questions…

Are your installers independent?

solar panel greenSolar is like any purchasing decision: you can go big and cheap, or small and personal. Ok, that’s a generalization. But you will find major national companies with sparkling price packages – and impersonal customer service, a lack of specialist experience and small print that quickly undermines the so-called ‘great deal’.

There there are the independents – added value, added expertise and eager to make you happy. These are people who are mad about solar, know everything there is to know about their panels and who will see their relationship with you as long-term. After all, your panels will last more than 20 years!

Are the fitters local?

Ask how far the fitting team will travel. You may be surprised to find out they have been contracted from hundreds of miles away! Think about the carbon footprint of your installation and make sure either the company itself is local, or that it uses a team close to your location.

Where have the panels come from?

This is a big issue and one you really need to think about. One major reason behind the recent explosion in home solar is the drop in installation costs, making it more accessible for more people. On the one hand, this is great news for the planet! But this is where the eco math comes in…

The primary reason behind the price drop is an influx of cheaper Chinese panels into the US and European markets. China’s solar take-over has badly hit domestic US panel manufacturing, with some companies folding. This has become a political hot potato; you may have heard about the erupting trade war between China and America as a result.

solar panel installationPolitics aside, choosing a Chinese panel over an American one will obviously inflate the carbon footprint of your purchase. Why buy panels from thousands of miles away when you go to great lengths to source food and other products as locally as possible?

But what if I can only afford cheaper panels?

Darn those ethical maths! Of course, if the price difference between Chinese and other panels prevents you from making the switch then, on balance, getting solar is better than not getting solar at all. But with the right company you might not have to compromise.

Southern Solar  for instance, took the provenance of their panels very seriously. They took time to find a Chinese supplier that aligned with their own standards and ethos, so they could feel confident offering the panels to their customers. They chose a supplier that had been around since 1997 – not one of the many new, state-subsidised companies that jumped on the solar bandwagon last year – and checked that they complied with the ISO14001 environmental management system. They also checked the quality was approved by independent testing. These are the kind of criteria you can ask your installer about, too.

Has anything or anyone been badly affected to produce your solar?

Even solar has a dark side. The rapid growth and massive scale of Chinese panel production has led to question marks over workers’ conditions and the environmental impact. They do not have to comply with the comprehensive environmental legislation America and Europe use to make sure manufacturing is safe, sustainable and accountable. There have been reports of pollution spills and increased cancer rates around solar factories, although they remain unsubstantiated by the state.

Don’t be in the dark. All good solar panel installers should be able to answer these questions and offer you a package that meets your principles as well as your pocket. Make sure that the only regret you feel is that you didn’t make the switch sooner!

In accordance with FTC regulations, we are disclosing that this article was brought to us by a  sponsor.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Green ways to light up your world

quoizel pendant lighting
It's human nature to want aesthetically pleasuing surroundings. We want to fill our space with beauty. In the past, that was a challenge for green minded folks who eschew consumption. But the desire and need for beauty can also co-exist with our values. We can embrace environmentally friendly choices at the same time we embrace beauty.

With new energy regulations in place, more and more consumers are switching to compact fluorescent bulbs (CPB) or light emitting diodes(LED).  As more and more consumers green the type of light bulbs they choose, there also are increasingly green choices in the light fixtures.  Many companies are utilizing recycled materials in the production of their fixtures. In an era where many folks complain that the lightbulbs are ugly, there are multiple options to conceal them.

Fixtures are inspired by the earth, with the use of natural materials, such as the agate embedded pendant in the picture. Other lighting fixtures, manufactured from repurposed or recycled materials are other options. The number of environmentally friendly options are only as limited as your research.

The opportunities to choose decor that not only reflects light, but also our personal values has never been greater.

This post has been brought to you by a sponsor. Regardless, we appreciate having lovely indoor lighting. 
For more information how to sponsor a post on one of our blogs, please click here

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Gross-out green week - Day six: Cloth diapers

After yesterday's post about nursing, it only seems natural that a discussion of what happens after should take place. Babies poop and pee. Parents have to deal with that. Since babies don't walk and using the toilet involves a number of fine motor skills they haven't mastered, they require diapers. There is no way anyone will get through the baby stage without having dirty diapers, whether we encase it in plastic and throw it into the garbage, or rinse the waste down the toilet and reuse the diapers over and over

dirty disposable diapers
I made an early decision to use cloth diapers. My impetus was primarily a financial decision. I just couldn't make peace with the price of disposable diapers. Then I found my own "gross out" place when I learned how many disposable diapers go into landfills indefinitely. (Admittedly, my own personal threshold for gross is probably higher than average. Growing up on a farm and having to clean animal stalls made rinsing cloth diapers seem like a breeze.)

And so it was, I decided to use cloth diapers for our babies. They had come a long long way since the days of folding and pinning. I actually had thick cotton diapers with elastic legs and Velcro waistbands. I covered them with old fashioned waterproof pants (the kind that look sort of like a showercap with leg holes). I also would use disposable diapers when I was away from the house for any amount of time.

Some of the concerns folks have regarding cloth diapers was the constant source of moisture against our babies' skin and if that would cause diaper rash. I personally can say my kids never had any diaper rashes, but we also made liberal use of A & D ointment to create a barrier between their skin and the diaper.

We had a diaper pail next to the bathroom, and each time we changed a diaper we rinsed it in the toilet, squeezed it out and put it in the pail. The lid was tight fitting and we did not have an odor problem. Rinsing diapers that are wet also is important or they will generate an ammonia smell. We laundered the diapers in hot water and gentle detergent. About once a month, we would run the diapers with through the load with bleach then double rinse them.

We estimate that we saved approximately 5000 diapers/annually, times two children, times 3 years each. (it took a full 3 years to potty train our kids). Factoring in the initial cost of the cloth diapers and the additional water bill, we still feel we came out several thousand dollars ahead. That extra money offset the "gross-out" factor tremendously.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Hybrid Car Green

As gas prices continue to rise, consumers look for more fuel efficient cars. One of the early pioneers in the realm of fuel efficiency was the Toyota line of hybrid vehicles. Their Prius model was the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle in the world, and it was available for worldwide purchase in 2000. They quickly became the "poster car" for fuel conservation, as they achieved as much as 50-60 miles per gallon of gasoline.

hybrid prius c
Prius c special offers
Hybrid cars are interesting. They utilize both gasoline and electricity to power them. They don't fire up like a traditional vehicle, and in fact there is no ignition sound at all when they are started, much like an electric golf cart. Hybrids are as the name suggests, a hybrid combination between a gasoline powered vehicle and an electric powered one.

Electric batteries generally store enough energy to give the vehicle a range of 50-100 miles, depending on the size of the batter. They are recharged through regenerative braking. What happens is that when the car is slowing down with the use of brakes, the kinetic energy is converted and stored in the battery. Hybrid cars do not need to be plugged in to recharge. But because electric batteries have a limited amount of energy storage, the cars also utilize a gasoline engine to create a farther range for the vehicle.

Hybrid vehicles are more efficient in city driving than their plain gasoline counterparts exactly because there is more braking in stop and start traffic. Every time a hybrid car has to use brakes to stop, it converts and stores that kinetic energy in the battery, allowing more time for the car to operate with electric versus gasoline power.

Hybrids are an excellent compromise in a vehicle between efficiency and convenience. Until there are better solutions for charging electric cars, a hybrid offers an great solution for the driver who wants to save fuel in a reliable vehicle.

disclaimer: This post was brought to you by a sponsor. Nonetheless, we only publish information that we believe is useful to our readers and all opinions are 100% our own. 

Gross-out green week - Day five: Nursing

It's been a long time since my babies were little (17 years ago as of yesterday), but in the day, once I got past pushing their stroller 5 miles uphill in the snow to get to the store, I chose to breastfeed. I can remember my peers looking at me like I was nuts.

For the baby shower I was given bottles galore, a bottle sterilizer, but no breast pump. At the hospital, I was  sent home with piles of free formula and coupons for formula. I had a few friends swear cringe when I told them my plans and actually had one person say "as long as you don't nurse in front of me, you should do your own thing, but I'm just too modest for that". The invitation to spend time together was there as long as my baby wasn't hungry.

In a world where we are increasingly modest about our bodily functions, the thought of leaking and exposed breasts did give me pause. I'm here to testify that we survived, and it wasn't nearly as unpleasant as some of our sensibilities would indicate. There are a number of benefits to breastfeeding that set off any "gross" factors and actually prevent a few.

Have you ever smelled baby formula? It is nasty smelling stuff, based on modified cow's milk or soy. Not only is it nasty smelling, it's really unsettling the things that are put into it. From a 2010 Mother Jones report:
Infant formula has come a long way since chemist Justus von Liebig first patented a commercial cocktail of cow's milk, wheat flour, malt flour, and potassium bicarbonate in 1865. Today, Similac, Enfamil, Earth's Best, and other brands are fortified with everything from iron to the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, and most brands attempt to chemically match human milk as closely as possible. But even though artificial human milk is regulated by the FDA, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found last year that a thyroid-affecting chemical used in rocket fuel contaminates 15 brands of powdered infant formula, including two that accounted for 87 percent of market share in 2000. The CDC study omits the names of the top offenders, but a little sleuthing reveals (PDF) that they are referring to Similac and Enfamil, produced by Ross (now Abbott Nutrition) and Mead Johnson Nutrition respectively. (The Environmental Working Group handily includes phone numbers here for those and other infant formula companies if you're interested in questioning the makers of your child's brand.)
Janet Tamaro Breastfeeding book
Breastmilk is exactly what a baby needs to grow properly without any of the dangerous chemicals associated with infant formulas. Additionally, cow's milk based formula has been linked to type 1 diabetes, lactose intolerance and milk allergies. Keep in mind that cow's milk is designed to make calves grow 1000 lbs in a year. It's completely biologically different from human milk. Humans have a more difficult time digesting the proteins in cows milk  which can lead to life long sensitivities.
Evidence of a pathogenic role of cow's milk in many disorders has been presented - asthma, rhinitis, eczema, urticaria, serous otitis media, pulmonary alveolitis (hemosiderosis), milk-induced enteropathy in infants, eosinophilic gastroenteritis, gastrointestinal bleeding with iron deficiency anemia, migraine headaches, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and insulin dependent diabetes mellitus.

Soy based formulas also have their complications. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences,

The safety of soy infant formula has been debated because it typically contains a class of compounds called isoflavones. Isoflavones are naturally occurring compounds found primarily in beans and other legumes, including soybeans, peanuts, and chickpeas.

... These isoflavones are referred to as phytoestrogens because they are found in plants (phyto) and because of their ability to act like the hormone estrogen in the body.

... it is recognized that infants go through developmental stages that are sensitive to estrogens. Therefore, infants are more likely than adults to be vulnerable to the estrogen-like effects of the phytoestrogens in soy. In some cases, the health effects resulting from a soy-based diet may not be apparent until years later.

It is Our Daily Green's opinion that the conditions above are a lot more gross than a leaking breast.  I've included a link to a book that was one of my favorite resources when I was nursing. It was published when my second child was born but it reassured me and helped me understand a bit more about our choices.

Stay tuned for tomorrow when I wrap up gross-out week with a discussion about cloth diapering.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Gross-out green week - Day four: Cigarette butt recycling

cigarette butt recycling
photo by: Chris Sanderson/wikipedia
One of the most pervasive types of litter is cigarette butts. And contrary to popular belief, they are not biodegradable. Most cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a synthetic plastic-like substance used commonly for photographic film. Thousands of cigarette butts litter our roadsides, sidewalks, parking lots, and beaches. In fact, according to Ocean, they are the number one litter item found.

A couple of companies are working on solutions that range from recycling the butts into plastic (TerraCycle now has a fundraising brigade for butts), which uses the butts to manufacture coatings and adhesives.

Another company, Greenbutts, has created a cigarette butt not of plastic, but biodegradable blend of all-natural flax, hemp and cotton. The butts also contain non-invasive wildflower seeds in the filter wrapper to aid in the breakdown of the filter body when discarded.

In San Diego,Curtis Baffico, a stock trader who moonlights as an environmentalist, decided to create a recycling system for them.  He raises money on his website,, then pays $3/pound for whatever cigarette ends people collect and turn in at monthly collection events.

While Our Daily Green thinks smoking is truly a gross habit, and cigarette butts even more gross, it's exciting to see the ways that something so gross can be turned into something so green.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Gross-out green week - Day three: Feminine Products

Wow, talk about an awkward, and yes, slightly gross conversation. But I promised "gross out green" and here you have it. (gentlemen readers? you're invited to go play poker or watch football until this post is done, but ladies, I know you'll get it). 

If you think this discussion topic is gross, I understand your pain. I've lived it. Our first home was a lovely Tudor home in an older city. We had hardwood floors, built-in china cabinets, 6 inch wood molding... and old pipes. We lived there seven years. About year 5.5, we decided to re-activate our basement bathroom, which had all the "equipment" but nothing was turned on or functional. We were planning a family and thought a second bathroom would be nice.

We remodeled, replaced a toilet and shower stall, opened the laundry chute, and were ready to go. Within a few weeks, we had pests (drain flies and the sort) in our basement bathroom. After a few attempts to figure the problem, we called the local Rotorooter sort of guy.

He arrived and went to work. After about an hour, he called me into the basement where he was holding a half filled 5 gallon bucket. Of "supposedly" flushable feminine products. I quickly did the math. Yeah, about 6 years worth of female products had clogged our waterflow.

This humiliation was enough for me to reconsider how I handled that monthly time. I spent about a month swaddling and hiding my personal care products in the depths of the nearest wastebasket. It was really inconvenient, and the additional paper used to pretend to camouflage the fact that I am a female also rubbed me wrong.

I wondered what women did in the past. The pre-flush, the pre-disposable world days. Menstrual cycles have existed as long as humanity. What did our sisters in previous decades do?

After a great deal of research, I learned about a number of contemporary solutions for "our time of the month". I'm modest enough to tell you that one of them works very well for me but I draw the line at sharing more detail. Just know that there are a number of options in the eco-friendly realm.

We've pictured a few solutions that may work for you. I encourage all the ladies out there to consider one of these ways to handle their monthly cycle. If you're reading this, you've likely had children (since Our Daily Green's primary demographic base is moms) which automatically reduces your squeamish factor. Ladies, we've been poked prodded and operated on in the presence of  family and medical professionals. I gave birth the first time in a teaching hospital, and had a class of interns looking on. If I was modest or squeamish, I quickly got over it. As parents we have wiped up, cleaned out, and taken care of every possible bodily discharge. All this to remind us that this isn't gross, it's natural. And we're dealing with it in a natural way. And a way that never ever ever will have the Rotorooter guy holding a bucketful of what we thought was a discreet way to handle our monthly cycle. 

*If you ever need to launder fabric that has blood stains on it, hydrogen peroxide works wonders. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gross-out green week - Day two: Skipping Soap

No More Dirty Looks 
Back in January of 2011, Our Daily Green embarked on a "No Soap" for a week challenge as proposed by the writers over at No More Dirty Looks (who've also published the featured book of the same name). They challenged us to go five days without soap. Not being one to put my perceptions about personal hygiene before the potential to win a prize, I took the bait.

Contrary to predictions, I did not come down with an incurable disease, I did not smell like a sewer, and in fact, there was no noticeable difference. I spent a week in midwinter using soap only on my hands and "private" areas. Everything else was washed with water and a good washcloth.

Before you're tempted to ask what could possibly be green (besides the potential for growth of scum) about skipping soap, let me explain a little bit about how soap works and how soap is made. From a purely chemical  perspective:
Nearly all compounds fall into one of two categories: hydrophilic ('water-loving') and hydrophobic ('water-hating'). Water and anything that will mix with water are hydrophilic. Oil and anything that will mix with oil are hydrophobic. When water and oil are mixed they separate. Hydrophilic and hydrophobic compounds just don't mix.
The cleansing action of soap is determined by its polar and non-polar structures in conjunction with an application of solubility principles. The long hydrocarbon chain is non-polar and hydrophobic (repelled by water). The "salt" end of the soap molecule is ionic and hydrophilic (water soluble). 
When grease or oil (non-polar hydrocarbons) are mixed with a soap- water solution, the soap molecules work as a bridge between polar water molecules and non-polar oil molecules.
Since soap molecules have both properties of non-polar and polar molecules the soap can act as an emulsifier. An emulsifier is capable of dispersing one liquid into another immiscible liquid. This means that while oil (which attracts dirt) doesn't naturally mix with water, soap can suspend oil/dirt in such a way that it can be removed. The soap will form micelles and trap the fats within the micelle. Since the micelle is soluble in water, it can easily be washed away.
Soap carries germs away by surrounding the oily dirt, germs and bacteria with water and rinsing them away.

To make soapanimal or vegetable oils (acid)  are mixed with either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide (base) to make a salt. Depending on the proportions, the salts are basic or alkaline in nature with a pH value of about 9-10 while our skin has an acidic nature with a pH between 5.6 and 5.8. Using soap on your skin increases the pH of our skin harming it.

Again, to simplify, the ingredients in soap strongly affect our skin's natural pH. An addendum to the "No Soap" challenge was that using soap for handwashing is an absolute must. Our hands touch things that need to be removed from our skin's surface. Same goes for the private areas of our body that are also exposed to bacteria. However, we do not roll our bodies in germy substances on a regular basis and therefore most of our skin does not require that intense level of germ removal. In fact, that level of removal is actually damaging to our skin's pH balance.

The skin is our largest organ. Skin is a living breathing organ of the body and absorbs anything that is put on it or next to it through the pores. The caustic chemicals that make soap effective also can be absorbed into the body. Last month, in fact, a University of California Davis study showed that triclosan (a common germ killing ingredient in soap and hand sanitizers) reduces muscle strength in mice and fish, and researchers theorize it may also be a problem for humans. Many soaps also contain chemical additives for fragrance and dyes.

In the year plus since my no soap for a week experiment, I have used less and less soap. My typical shower routine is soap only for my feet, armpits, and personal areas, to remove germs and bacteria. The rest of my body just gets a vigorous scrub with water and a washcloth. My skin's natural pH stays balanced, I am clean and I'm not absorbing as many chemicals through my skin into my body.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Gross-out green week - Day one: Composting

We have been rolling this idea around in our green brain for a while now. A lot of the things we do when we go green elicits a gag reflex. This week, we're going to write about a few of the "gross" things we green folks do and some ideas and suggestions how to get around the yucky aspect.

The first time I explained that I wanted to begin composting our yard and kitchen scraps, a certain member of my family strongly objected. Mr. UltraSafe, SuperClean, FarFromGreen spouse thought it was simply an excuse not to clean as much and that we now would be inviting filth and critters to invade our home by leaving a convenient pile of accessible food.

To say he was not on board with composting is an understatement.

How to overcome the "ick" factor and why start composting?

We started composting over 10 years ago. While Mr. Daily Green still calls my compost container the slop bucket and casts disparaging looks my way, he also will finely chop melon rinds so they compost sooner. We have managed to undo years of simply grinding up the waste in our food disposal. One weapon in my arsenal was when the kitchen trap began to breed drain flies as a result of fine food particles that accumulated. When you compost organic scraps, there is nothing accumulating in the drain.

Truthfully, we hated washing those valuable minerals down the drain when they could be improving our soil. Our ground is impacted clay, which according to Wise Geek,
... clay soil is usually easy to identify. It tends to be almost gluey when wet, in addition to very clumpy. When it dries out, it cracks, and the soil has a dense, heavy feeling when felt in the hands. Clay soils are also known as heavy soils, a reference to their density. The problem with clay soil is that the density creates poor drainage, which can be bad for many plants. In addition, it is prone to compaction, and it is often highly alkaline. 
One of the best ways to improve clay soil is by adding a variety of compost materials which includes:
  • Kitchen scraps that are not meat or dairy based (no bones, fat or cheese)
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds (and filters!)
  • Shredded newspaper (but not more than 10% of the total material)
  • Vegetable peels
  • Apple cores
  • Citrus skin
  • Banana peels
  • Plant trimmings
  • Dead headed flowers
  • Grass clippings
  • Leaves
  • NO pet waste from animals that eat meat. (Horse manure is fine, for example, as is cow manure or rabbit droppings) Dog or cat waste is not acceptable. 
By carefully choosing the material that goes into the compost, the smell is eliminated. We must warn however, that different folks have different thresholds for smell. I grew up on a farm and so anything less than a pig pen or cow pasture smell isn't "bad at all" to me. My city family does beg to differ. 

Compare Various Compost Tumblers at CompostMania.comAir circulation is also an important factor in proper composting. The scraps need to decompose, versus spoil. By rotating the composting materials, there will be enough aeration to help the material break down properly. The absence of oxygen is what causes material to break down more slowly and smell foul.  Another way to hasten the breakdown of the organic materials (and therefore minimize the smell) is either by using lime powder which holds nitrogen and generates heat or by using red worms to eat and digest the material which also breaks it down faster. A caveat about lime is that it often disrupts the pH of the soil and then the soil needs adjustment.

One more factor to consider is moisture. A compost pile can neither be too dry or too wet. Both extremes will slow the process. If it is too wet, it compacts and doesn't allow for aeration, while if it's too dry, the microorganisms will not break down the material quickly at all. A good gauge is that the compost should feel as moist as a wrung out sponge.

From our sponsor: is a comprehensive online destination for all things composting, encouraging people to reduce their ecological footprint and reconnect with their local ecosystem through composting, organic gardening, and promoting the Earth’s natural lifecycle. 

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post, where we revisit going without soap

Monday, September 10, 2012

Connections between poverty, obesity and diabetes (guest author)

Make the Connections: Poverty, Obesity, and Diabetes
How to fight diabetes with better policy—and cut your own diabetes risk by 93 percent.

posted Sep 04, 2012
Just the Facts 63

How to fight diabetes with better policy:

  1. Combat poverty

    People who make $15,000 or less are three times more likely to have diabetes than people who make $50,000 or more, regardless of race.

  2. End junk food subsidies

    Between 1985 and 2010 the price of beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup dropped 24%, while the price  of fresh fruits and vegetables rose 39%.

Do 4 things to cut your risk of diabetes by 93%:

  1. Eat healthy

    The lowest rates of Type 2 diabetes in the world occur in populations consuming a whole foods, plant-based diet.
  2. Lose weight

  3. Exercise

    Overweight people walking 150 minutes a week can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by nearly 60%.
  4. Stop smoking

Click here for more articles from It's Your Body, the Fall 2012 issue of YES! Magazine.
  • The Good Food Cure
    What happens when the Motor City transforms itself into the capital of grow-your-own food?
  • Your Body, of Water
    A storyteller asks what you'd do if you knew your body was part of the water web.
  • Why Your Health Is Bigger Than Your Body
    The new science that explains how politics, economics, and ecology can help or hurt our bodies, and how we can fix an unhealthy world.
YES! Magazine encourages you to make free use of this article by taking these easy steps. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License

Friday, September 7, 2012

Gingerly Made: Guest Post: Broccoli Rolls

Our Daily Green's Broccoli RollsToday we have a guest posting on Gingerly Made. Check out our recipe for Broccoli Rolls. The photo is from our garden.
Gingerly Made: Guest Post: Broccoli Rolls  

Thanks again, Ginger, for sharing your space!

Children's Book Review: Love is the Color of a Rainbow

A few weeks ago, Our Daily Green was contacted by the author of a children's book to gauge our interest in reviewing her book. Author Kathy Parra thought it would be a good fit with this blog as it was published by Eco-Friendly Printer and a portion of the proceeds from the book sales supports nature and environmental organizations.

After a few exchanges back and forth, much to our delight, the Kathy also agreed to autograph her book for us to donate to our annual local Junior Achievement auction

But enough about the goodwill that the author and blogger have established, what about the book? 

As a parent, aunt, and all around lover of children, the book enchants me. Kathy's lovely rendition of seeing a rainbow with more than our eyes through the mother of a blind child is spectacular.

For example, as the mother wants her child to "see" green, she takes her to a willow tree and the daughter exclaims, "Mama, Nature is speaking to me! Green feels gentle."

The beautiful illustrations by Candace Keach capture the rainbow and child delight in beautiful watercolor prints.

This book is definitely the sort of book a parent reads to a child. With the soft cover and recycled paper pages, it's lovely, but not necessarily durable. Additionally, the vocabulary is an adult one expressing childlike joy. The font also is not the typical over-sized font of children's books. I can easily imagine curling up night after night and enjoying reading time.

Kathy Parra is not just a children's book author, but a true humanitarian. Through her website, she has established a very special project to commemorate the one year anniversary of Love is the Color of a Rainbow. From the website:

The idea behind the project is that truly love is the thread that links us all and continues to be so through out our lives and all life, while rainbow has been a treasure to share, it is the celebrated feedback from each of you that has touched my heart in ways that will forever be imprinted to all that which is love. Although Rainbow gives back regularly to environmental/nature organization, I felt/heard it time to share on a universal plane, by collectively creating a heart shaped fabric piece of art with various cloths thus it will then share the message of the love that links us all. So here’s how rainbow heart wishes creation to grow to be in design.

If you have any questions or you know for sure you wish to contribute to the project email me at or by visiting her Facebook Page or blog.

Rainbow Heart will require 6 inch in length by 2-inch wide strips of fabric. Send to Kathy. (she will share her address when you e-mail her.)

Questions you might have:  

  • Who can participate? Anyone, everyone and anywhere in the world who wishes to share  in and of Love is the Thread that Links Us Project, individuals, groups etc.  
  • Does it matter what color or kind of fabric? Yes and No, yes it will want to be the size shared and preferably cotton, nothing that will rip or shred too easily, as we want it to tie and hold together, and no as it can be any color you wish with any design, does not have to be fancy, but sturdy, if you have questions e-mail me. If you would like you might gather the children, cut strips from an old white sheet and have the children design there own! Fun.  
  • Is it okay if I send more then one strip? Yes! We want/need 888, so the more the better and as I shared there is rumor this is to be on going, so yes.  
  • What if I don't have time to cut the strips, or just want to donate fabric to the project, can I just send fabric? YES! if you do not have the time or do not wish to cut the strips just send whatever fabric you wish to share in participating! 
  • When will the project be complete? Rainbow Heart will collect 888 strips of fabric and connect them to form a heart shaped art piece. Once these are collected and connected and display location determined, mission accomplished! However there are rumors in the works that this will be an on-going project each year!  
  • Where will it be displayed? Where the actual artwork piece will be displayed is still under discussion with more than a few people at the moment.  
  • Why 888? The number 8 represents many things for many people, for me personally, it is about perfect rhythm, regeneration, and renewal, a sacred number to all that opens to that which is love. 
When we look through the eyes of a child the world becomes what it always is and has been, 
Love, Kathy Parra

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sorry, You Can't Get There From Here (guest post)

The United States has invested big time in roads, but not rails.

William A. Collins
"Take the train,"
We used to say;
But now that train
Has gone away.
Riding the London Underground from downtown to Heathrow Airport can awaken you to just how archaic America's transportation system is. Most U.S. cities make heading to the airport a hassle.
And once there, where can you fly? Airlines are dropping routes to small cities like hot potatoes, having declared the likes of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Sioux Falls, South Dakota not profitable enough for non-stop flights.
Changing planes multiple times can make your trip take longer than it would if you traveled by train. So, why not board the train instead? In most cases, you can't do that. The United States has invested big time in roads, but not rails. Practical intercity train travel is confined to very few places, mostly in the Northeast corridor that stretches between Boston and Washington, D.C., and parts of California. And even in those cases, your train fare can cost far more than a discount plane ticket. And all that periodic gab about a high-speed rail system that would rival its counterparts in Europe and Asia lacks both money and political support.
Jeramey Jannene/Flickr
Jeramey Jannene/Flickr
That leaves us with highways. Having driven to Alaska and back this summer, I can say with authority that they're pretty good. I think it's part of why we Americans regularly drive much farther than our European or Asian brethren.
U.S. highways are just too convenient, especially when our public transit is just too abysmal. Further, gas prices are so low compared to Europe that many of us (though not me, not even on my way to Fairbanks) still drive SUVs. Even when gas flirts with the $4-per-gallon mark, we're still paying only 60 percent of the European rate. We're also filling oil mogul coffers and pushing our leaders into a string of never-ending Middle East misadventures.
The good news for rail believers these days lies in freight, not passengers. The private sector has ramped up its reliance on train travel for trans-oceanic shipping containers. All the rail lines have now invested in intermodal terminals, serious maintenance, and specialized freight cars.
Except in New England. Since the Poughkeepsie Bridge over the Hudson burned 40 years ago, trains have no convenient route to get there. Consequently, trucks rule. The railroads are not about to invest their own money in a new crossing, and no single government is in charge. Here, then, is one big downside of privatization: neither the public nor private sector is able to perform when a really major task rears its head.
And often they can't even get together to tackle much smaller challenges. Take buses. With the defection of airlines from small cities, the decay of intercity passenger rail service, and the metastatic growth of highway traffic, a new alternative has sprung from its own long-cold ashes — the bus. As the media is beginning to notice, the intercity bus business is booming. Rather than viewing this popular new phenomenon as a blessing, local governments see it as a bother, and the states scarcely see it at all.
What a shame. With our population growing inexorably, oil prices spiraling, the public unwilling to pay for train lines, and ever more air routes shutting down, intercity buses could be a godsend. But no one is willing to pay for them either, no matter how economical they may be. No subsidies, no terminals, and no one's priority.
Buses still appeal mostly to lower-income Americans, who lack political clout. However, if buses were gussied up, given a chance to operate out of attractive terminals, and treated at least as well as trains, the private sector might again bail a segment of our ailing transportation infrastructure.
Unfortunately neither the bus companies nor their riders possess the political muscle to make that happen. Further, the automakers and oil companies have the clout to keep serious federal money out of mass transit of any kind.
Indeed, for long-distance mass transit, the end of the tunnel remains disappointingly dark.
OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Good Clean Fun

bathtime fun
It is nearly impossible to go into a public place without being bombarded with hand sanitizer, warnings to wash our hands, and the clean patrol on duty at all times. Getting dirty is a rarity but getting and staying clean is a constant.

Our Daily Green is reluctant (for a whole minute) to haul out proclamations how it wasn't that way when we were kids. We got good and dirty and getting clean was half the fun. Bubbles, shampoo hair designs, washing the dirt down the drain and leaving behind a ring, all part of our bathtime ritual.

Over the years, the fun has literally been drained out of getting clean. Getting clean is a duty and obligation, even in a world where no kid seems to truly get dirty.

Then Washy Squashy soap debuted. It's even fun to say! It's up there with splish splash in the fun department of words. This whimsical product takes the dirge out of getting clean and makes it fun. Washy Squashy sculpting soap is moldable and pliable made from organic ingredients, free of toxins, triclosan, or artificial scents or dyes.

washy squashyWhen Sunfeather asked Our Daily Green to test their product, we were delighted, imagining the joy it would bring to our visiting niece and nephew. Unfortunately, the product didn't arrive in time for our visit, but we asked our teenagers to have some fun with the soap, and we passed along the package to our little ones, whose mother reports they are very excited to play with it!

The sculptures pictured were crafted by my teenagers, and include a giraffe, turtle, snail, alligator, and hot dog. Yes, soap that looks like a hot dog. But smells much different! Washy Squashy is scented with organic botanical oils, and comes in lemon, vanilla, berry, orange, apple and mint.

It lathers nicely and smells incredible. The soap was a bit sticky, but it washed right off, as it is supposed to! Did we mention how much fun it was? Made me want to go make mudpies just so I could get clean.

ingredient list: 

Saponified Oils of Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil*, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Oil*. May Contain: Citrus Limonium (Lemon) Oil, Citrus Sinensis (Sweet Orange) Oil, Cinnamomum Zeylanicum (Cinnamon) Leaf Oil, Menthe Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Menthe Spicata (Spearmint) Oil, Gaultheria Procumbens (Wintergreen) Oil,  Cranberry, Vanilla & Apple All Natural Aromatics, Lavandula Hybrida (Lavandin) Oil, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil, Litsea Cubeba (Litsea) Oil, Annatto Extract, Paprika Oleoresin, Titianium Dioxide, Chromium Oxide (Natural Colors) and Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract*.  *Certified-organic oils

Something Corny?

Big Bad Corn

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Keep Windmills Turning in 2013 (op/ed guest post)

This opinion piece originally ran in local newspapers around the country starting August 13, under the headline “How Romney Could Blow Iowa”.  

By: Andrew Korfhage, online editor at Green America.

Should Congress renew the wind-energy production tax credit that’s scheduled to expire at the end of 2012?
It depends on whom you ask — a Democrat, a Republican, or another Republican.
On August 1, Mitt Romney declared his strong opposition to this tax credit. The next day, both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee voted in favor of it.
“He will allow the wind credit to expire…and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits,” Romney’s spokesperson in Iowa told the Des Moines Register, one day before Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who sponsored the tax-credit legislation, cast a key committee vote in favor of renewal.
Kathy Mackey/Flickr
Kathy Mackey/Flickr
But there’s no “level playing field” for the energy industry. Even fossil-fuel giants like ExxonMobil and Chevron enjoy permanent government subsidies. So far, Romney hasn’t called for trimming the highly profitable coal, oil, and national gas industries’ massive subsidies. All told, these global companies vacuum up to $1 trillion per year in governmental support.
The wind industry has boomed since the credits were first introduced in the 1990s. In 2010, according to the Federation of American Scientists, around 400 manufacturers employed 20,000 U.S. workers to produce wind turbines and components — up from as few as 30 manufacturers six years before. That’s in addition to thousands of jobs in wind-energy installation and maintenance in local communities nationwide.
By threatening to cut off support for wind energy, Romney is directly jeopardizing these workers. Even House Republicans get the calamity of Romney’s stance when they examine the effect that killing wind credits would have on workers in their districts.
For example, Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) told the House Small Business Subcommittee about a major wind employer in his district that would lay off as many as 1,600 workers if the credits lapse. And Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) warned that cutting the credits could imperil Iowa’s 7,000 wind jobs, as well as harm farmers who rent their land for wind. A December 2011 study by the Navigant consulting firm showed that preserving the wind-power tax credit would save or create 54,000 jobs nationwide next year.
What’s more, there are significant health reasons to support the growth of wind energy over fossil fuels. The Clean Air Task Force reports that fine particle pollution from burning coal in America’s power plants causes more than 200,000 asthma attacks, 20,000 heart attacks, and 13,000 premature deaths per year. Factor in the air and groundwater pollution of mountaintop-removal mining and the picture gets even worse. According to a Harvard Medical School study, coal’s health and environmental costs amount to around $345 billion per year in the United States. The cost of renewing the wind-energy tax credit is far smaller — between $3 and $4 billion.

When Congress has allowed this tax credit to expire before, the wind industry has contracted as it struggled to compete with highly subsidized fossil fuels. Congress let the credits lapse in 1999, for example, and new wind-energy projects fell by nearly 90 percent in 2000.
In a shaky economy, we can’t afford a repeat of that implosion in 2013.
With probable support from the Democratic-controlled Senate, the wind-power industry’s fate now likely depends upon support from the House’s Republican majority. Those lawmakers should listen to their pro-wind colleagues, like Grassley, Tipton, and Latham — not Romney. If they do, they’ll preserve American jobs and protect our health.
And the GOP hopeful himself should heed key wind-energy supporters. Some of them, such as Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, are furious. The swing state’s Republican governor recently said Romney needs to stop relying on guidance from a “bunch of East Coast people that need to get out here in the real world to find out what’s really going on.”

Monday, September 3, 2012

Saving energy with insulation

Ottowa spray foam insulation
As summer wraps up around the nation and cooler evenings hint that fall is coming, homeowners begin to dread the winter heating bills. One of the easiest and best returns on investment is additional insulation.

Older homes with irregular spaces are sometimes tricky to insulate, but spray foam insulation is a great way to get around the nooks and crannies in an older home that has shifted and settled. The foam expands to fill the otherwise bare areas. There are three types of foam insulation.

  • Open cell spray foam insulation foam is made of millions of microscopic cells that simultaneously insulate and make an air seal. This insulation absorbs sound vibrations, reduces sound transmission and stops airborne sound leakage.
  • Injection foam insulation is primarily used for used in older homes with uninsulated wall cavities.  Injection foam is a hybrid of original foam technology with today's durability.  This blown foam system has a very low in-place density while providing an an excellent air-seal barrier and sound vibration absorption.
  • spray foam insulation Ottowa
  • Closed cell spray foam insulation is a two component formula that reduces moisture intrusion and energy loss in homes. By tightly bonding with beams and surfaces in ceilings and walls, it delivers an air barrier that surpasses conventional insulation materials. Closed cell spray foam offers a much higher R-value than traditional types of insulation and provides a great thermal barrier as well as also an excellent vapor barrier.

Look into the types of insulation available in your area. You can reduce your bills and be more comfortable before the cold weather starts.
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