Current Affairs

Do Just Five Things

October 11th, 2013

HAPPY FRIDAY!

In a few weeks, I’ll be flying to Seoul, Korea with my parents to celebrate the 70th birthday.   Very much looking forward to spending the Fall weeks in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

But until then, here are 5 tips from my syndicated column Do Just One Thing.

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

  1. Are mineral deposits in your showerhead and faucets causing clogs that force them to not function like the first day you installed them?   There’s no need to uninstall them or replace them—reach for a freezer bag, rubber band and white vinegar instead.     Fill the bag half full with white vinegar and submerge the showerhead in the bag; use the rubber band to secure it to the neck of the showerhead.   Leave it for two hours, remove and reuse that same bag filled with vinegar for other showerheads or sink faucets.    The mineral deposits will dissolve because the natural acids in vinegar work as a solvent and it’s a non-toxic way to keep them clean.
  2. Recent reports indicate nearly up to 40% of perfectly fresh and delicious fruits and vegetables are simply thrown away because they are too ugly.    Instead of perfectly delicious produce being used to help feed people, it ends up landfilled and totally wasted.  Do this one thing: overlook aesthetic beauty when choosing produce and look for the freshest and highest quality instead.  When looking at irregularly shaped fruits and veggies, rely on scent to determine if it’s ripe and ready to eat.  And touch your produce for skin that is firm and taut to find the tastiest of the ugliest bunch.   By buying the ugliest in the bunch, produce won’t go wasted at the supermarket.
  3. More than $32 billion dollars worth of flower arrangements from over 15,000 local florists are sold every year in the form of congratulatory, thank you or holiday bouquets.   From billions of dollars worth of arrangements come millions of glass and ceramic vases that end up stashed under the kitchen sink, in Goodwill donation bins or right into the trash can once the flowers have wilted away.    If you want to find a home for your unwanted vessels, think about contacting the local florist who brought you the arrangement.   Often they’ll take back the vase and reuse them to create new arrangements.   It’s an easy way to reduce waste and support a local business.
  4. Ever wonder what to do with old metal keys you no longer need?   The good news is that they are 100% recyclable since most household keys are comprised of brass with a nickel coating.   All you have to do is remove any plastic covers you might have on the key and bring them to any scrap metal or recycling facility in your community and deposit them into the mixed metals bin.   Old keys are recycled and melted down to make new metal products.   And here’s another idea on what to do with lots of old keys: have a key fundraising drive.  Ask everyone to bring old keys from their junk drawer and sell the whole lot of keys to a scrap metal dealer.       Local businesses like car dealers and realtors could also done tons of keys to help you raise money, too.
  5. While antique and vintage furniture is the greenest way to furnish a home, sometimes you can’t find the right piece and want something new.  One type of sustainable wood furniture new to market is called mango wood and it’s from the fruit bearing trees of the same name.   Mango trees are fast-growing (can grow up to 100 feet in height quickly) and bear fruit for about 15 years.  Once the trees stop producing fruit, they are cut down and replaced with new trees by the farmers who cultivate them.   In addition to being sustainable, mango wood is stylish: it comes in beautiful natural colors ranging from blonde to a dark brown.   And since they come from mango farms that quickly replenish the trees over time, mango wood furniture is affordable, too.

Do Just Five Things

October 4th, 2013

HAPPY FRIDAY!

Here are five easy ways to go green from my syndicated column Do Just One Thing.

Have a wonderful weekend.

 

  1. A flurry of fruit flies in the kitchen can be annoying and they can be hard to get rid of.   Instead of reaching for chemical insecticides to spray around the kitchen (because spraying poison where you prepare food is not a good idea), head to your bathroom medicine cabinet instead.    Reuse a plastic misting bottle and fill it with rubbing alcohol and mist the air where the fruit flies are flying around.   The drying effects of the alcohol will effectively kill them on the spot.
  2. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the average American throws away about 70 pounds of textiles every year.   While many of us know lightly worn clothes can be easily donated to charities like Goodwill and The Salvation Army, what do you do with old bath towels, worn sheets and blankets?    Give them a good wash in the washing machine and donate them to your local animal shelter.  Since many pound puppies and cats have to sleep on concrete floors or cold metal cages, any warmth from old bedding, blankets and towels will be put to good use.   And while you’re at it, pick up some meat-based baby food at the supermarket: shelters use this food to feed highly malnourished animals in an effort to nurse them back to health.
  3. USB flash drives have become ubiquitous at the office and at home as a convenient way to carry lots of data on a small device that can work on any computer with a USB port.   For many people, flash drives have become a common staple in the at-home junk drawer.   Instead of throwing them away, recycle them instead.    RecycleUSB (www.recycleusb.com) has partnered with Sugar Labs to collect used flash drives and reprogram them into free portable and interactive learning environments as if they become a full functioning mobile classroom on a small easy-to-carry thumb drive.   All you do is send them your old flash drives and they do the rest; children in Peru, Africa and Asia receive the drives that they use on portable computers to learn.
  4. Thrift stores can be a green way to reuse something old and save money, too.   But according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, there are commonly found items at these stores that should be avoided at all costs from coming into your home.   These items include children’s clothing with drawstring, which can cause a choking hazard; outdated hair dryers that do not have adequate protection from electrocution; halogen lamps that can become a fire hazard in the home; and cribs that fail to meet current standards for safety.   Use common sense when shopping for thrift store bargains and check cpsc.gov for updated lists on recalled items.
  5. Instead of reaching for chemical chlorine bleach to kill mold spores in your home, reach for something just as effective but less toxic: hydrogen peroxide.    Insert a clean spray nozzle into a bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide and saturate the moldy surface completely.  Allow to sit for around 10-15 minutes and scrub the surface clean and wipe away using a microfiber towel.    The natural anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties of hydrogen peroxide are an effective way to kill mold and can work on a variety of surfaces in almost any room of the house.    Added tip: add a little baking soda for stubborn mold as an abrasive and then saturate with the hydrogen peroxide spray.

Do Just Five Things

September 27th, 2013

Happy Friday!   Here are five easy and—-seasonal—ways to go green from my syndicated column Do Just One Thing!

Have a wonderful weekend.

 

  1. We all know that spending too much time outside on a sunny day can be bad for our health.   But the ultraviolet radiation from the sun can be a natural and effective way to deodorize and kill smelly bacteria in hard-to-wash household items.  On a sunny day, bring items like area rugs, yoga and workout mats and throw pillows outside.  Place them on a clean tarp away from animals and cars emitting fumes into the air.   Allow them to absorb the sun’s rays for several hours to fully deodorize before bringing them back inside the house.
  2. With the Summer season behind us, now is a good time to clean your gardening tools so they’ll be pristine and ready to use in the Spring.   If rust has encrusted trowels, shoves and shears, reach for this common item in your kitchen pantry: black tea bags.     Brew a pot of strong black tea (about 4 bags) and allow to cool.   Pour into a bucket and fill with cold water.   Soak the tools for about 1-8 hours, depending how rusty they are.    As the rusty tools soak, the tannic acid in the tea is gently attacking the rust and makes them easy to scrub clean.     Remove the tools and scour with a coarse brush or sponge and dry off with a soft towel.
  3. Many of us volunteer our time with non-profit organizations as a way of giving back to the community.   Whether it’s cleaning up parks, planting trees or walking dogs at the animal shelter, we know giving time can make a difference.  But did you know your actions are also tax-deductible from your personal income taxes?   If you drive to volunteer, you can deduct 14 cents a mile and include tolls and parking.   Using public transportation?  Your fare is also fully tax-deductible.    Photo copies, treats for shelter dogs, postage and art supplies are also deductible.  Just make sure the charity is a registered 501(c)3 charity in order to take advantage of the savings.
  4. Know the difference between storm drains and public septic systems?  Public sewage systems collect waste water from household drains and toilets and sends the contaminated matter to treatment facilities to clean and properly dispose of.    Storm drains are the opposite: they collect excess rain water and dispose of it directly into natural water sources.    In the Fall months, be careful to not dispose of grass clippings and leaves into storm drains.  Not only can they create blockage and cause flooding, but grass clippings from chemically-treated lawns can end up polluting natural waterways, ultimately contaminating public water supplies.    Instead, either compost leaves and grass at home or bring them to a commercial composter to be made into beneficial mulch.
  5. As the air outside gets cooler and we’re working to keep our homes inside warmer, consider if you actually use your fireplace at all during the Fall and Winter months.   If you never ever use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.     Warm air rises up and out of the house and one of the #1 places is through a chimney.  By plugging the flue and closing it up, it prevents air from escaping and will help reduce heating costs in the long run.    Plus, it’s not permanent: if you ever want to use the fireplace again, the plug can easily be removed in the future.

Do Just Five Things

September 20th, 2013

Happy Friday!

Here are five ways to go green from my syndicated column “Do Just One Thing.”   Enjoy and have a wonderful weekend!

  1. If wearing perfumes triggers headaches or makes you feel ill, there are two options for you.   One is to look for USDA certified organic scents, which use food-grade natural oils free of any synthetic chemicals; just like how produce with the USDA certified organic mark must be proven to the US government to be grown without chemical pesticides or herbicides, the same rules also apply to organic fragrances.    But if you can’t find an organic scent you like, consider wearing single note scents or absolutes.   Traditional perfumes use about 200 chemicals to create their complicated scents; a single note—like Sandalwood or Rose—uses significantly less and may be a calmer alternative to help you smell delicious and fresh.
  2. One way to conserve water when watering your lawn is to water early in the morning or at night when the sun’s rays are not at their hottest and won’t quickly evaporate the water droplets.    But one other consideration to keep in mind before turning on the sprinklers is if it’s windy outside or not.   A windy day can disperse water away from its intended area and onto areas that don’t need watering like driveways, sidewalks and the sides of your house.   And wind can also speed up evaporation causing very inefficient watering.
  3. Many beachfront vacation destinations are also home to delicate habitats including nesting grounds for endangered sea turtles.   Newly born sea turtle hatchlings use the light and reflections from the moon to find their way to the water at night.    But artificial light from hotel rooms can cause confusion for them, forcing them to crawl inland instead of into the ocean.   Plus, lights from lamps and other light fixtures reflecting onto the beach discourages adult female turtles from nesting on the beach.   One easy way to help is to make sure your drapes and blinds in your hotel room are fully closed to block all light from reaching the beach.   This will help keep the natural cycle intact and protect Sea Turtles.
  4. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 15% of Americans rely on private drinking water wells as their source of water at home.   While public water is routinely tested and regulated for safety, private water is often not and not subject to strict EPA rules for drinking water.   If you use a private well at home, have your water tested for coliform bacteria and nitrates by a private water testing lab.  It will cost about $10-$20 and will give you peace of mind if your well water is safe or not.   You can learn more and get a list of certification officers in your state at water.epa.gov.
  5. Ink cartridges for at-home inkjet printers can be very expensive.   One way to conserve ink is to automatically set your printer default to “draft mode” whenever you need to print something where the overall quality of the printing really doesn’t matter; this uses less ink and will help extend the life longer.    Another way to go green and save money is to replace your inkjet cartridges with remanufactured cartridges.    These are recycled cartridges that are recycled, refilled and resold at up to 60% less than new ones.    Try the online site carrotink.com to see the savings yourself.

 

Do Just Five Things

September 13th, 2013

Happy Friday!

Here are five easy ways to go green from my syndicated column “Do Just One Thing.”   Have a wonderful weekend.

  1. So is it greener to drink instant iced tea or brew it the old fashioned way from tea bags?   While powdered tea may seem greener since there’s virtually no waste, there is a significant amount of energy used to turn regular tea into instant tea at the factory.  Plus, the process also removes up to 90% of the healthy antioxidants found in traditional brewed tea.     The best bet?  Brew from tea bags (organic, whenever possible) and compost the used bags in your backyard.
  2. How many times have you purchased a new lipstick or foundation and it came with a whole bag of “gift with purchase” freebies?  Or are your drawers and cabinets in the bathroom stuffed with unopened bottles of body lotion, shampoo and other grooming essentials?    You can unload the hoarded goodies and help someone in need by donating makeup, moisturizers and other grooming essentials to a local women’s shelter.   These shelters will pass them on to people in need and you’ll make sure these unopened and unused items find a good repurpose.   To find your closest shelter, visit womenshelters.org.
  3. Have you witnessed an environmental crime like illegal dumping or see containers of chemicals hazardously leaking into the ground?   And do you want to report it anonymously and get action done to stop it and clean it up?   You can report environmental crimes through the Internet by simply visiting epa.gov/tips.      Your report will be forwarded to the appropriate officials  anonymously for investigating and following up.   But if you happen to see an oil and chemical spill that appears to have a direct threat to public health, you can call 1-800-424-8802 to reach the National Response Center for immediate action.
  4. While many of us are replacing burnt out light bulbs with more energy efficient compact fluorescents or LED bulbs, the question still remains: What do you do with old incandescent light bulbs?    When an old incandescent bulb burns out, the greenest thing is to actually throw it away in the trash.    While it may seem that the majority of the bulb is glass and could be recycled in the curbside bin, the reality is the glass used to make light bulbs melts at a much different temperature than the glass used to make jars and bottles. By mixing old light bulbs with recyclable glass containers, you risk contaminating the recycling load.
  5. Are your dishtowels and hand towels smelling a little musky?    Instead of reaching for chlorine bleach to clean them, use your microwave instead.   After wiping off pots and pans with a dishtowel, place the damp towel in the microwave and “cook” it on high for about one minute; this should neutralize the bacteria that causes the mildew smell.     And your toothbrush—which should be replaced every 3 months—can be disinfected in the microwave right after use.  Just microwave on high for 10 seconds to kill any germs or bacteria that may be living on it.   Just be sure there are no metal parts on the brush before disinfecting.