Looking to make a difference this Earth Day? There are many ways you can Do Your Part to make our planet healthier. It could be volunteering, supporting local farmers, or even planting a tree. Here are Terri’s Top 5 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day to inspire you today and everyday.
Do you wince when you fill up your gas tank? Don’t expect the pain at the pump to end anytime soon. That makes it the right time to grab your bike and use it to get to work and run errands. You’ll save money and Do Your Part for the planet at the same time. Here are my ‘Top 7 Secrets to Commuting by Bike.’
1) Ride the Right Bike
The right bike will make all the difference in the world. There are simple mountain bikes or ones made with commuting in mind. You can find ones which will have everything from chain guards to fenders to hardwired lights. There are even bikes with skirt guards so you can wear your favorite dress or skirt without worry.
2) Ride Responsibly
In places where there are no designated bike lanes, position yourself as far to the right as is practical. And, be on the watch for the so called “door zone” with cars parked on the street. That’s the space where drivers open up their doors which can cause serious injury to cyclists. Try not to ride on sidewalks which are for pedestrians or on the left side of the street where drivers may not see you until.
3) Select Safety Accessories
A bike mirror mounted on your left handlebar will be your best friend. You can use it to scan traffic behind you. Another good idea is a set of lights for the front and rear. If you’re going to be riding early in the morning, at dusk or at night, lights are mandatory as it is almost impossible to see a bike clearly during these times. You’ll also want to invest in a bike lock.
4) Research Your Route
Your usual way of getting someplace by car may not be the safest way to go by bike. A higher level of comfort will only come with time and experience so if you are new to commuting by bike, plan your route carefully. Google maps offers a fantastic tool for this that factors in your mode of transportation and will filter out bike unfriendly roads.
5) Stash Your Stuff
You’ll also need some way to carry your stuff. Backpacks or messenger bags are good options especially ones with a waist strap. You could also use a basket or rear racks. You might be surprised to see how much you can actually transport with the right equipment.
6) Use Your Helmet
Make sure your helmet fits properly. It should be snug but comfortable and the bottom edge of the helmet should be two finger widths above your eyebrow. And remember, ones with more vents are better in the summer and less vents will make you more comfortable in winter.
7) Stay Strong
At some point, somebody is going to tell you that you are crazy for using a bike to get around. Keep in mind that they are the ones paying those shocking gas prices. You, on the other hand, are Doing Your Part by reducing your dependence on foreign oil and contributing less pollution to our planet.
Getting a deep, green clean means a healthier home and a healthier family. Terri shares her ‘Top 7 Green Cleaning Secrets’ to help you Do Your Part today!
1) White Vinegar Works Wonders
White vinegar is a natural disinfectant that works just about everywhere. Mix a half-and-half solution of white vinegar and water for a germ-busting disinfectant to clean kitchen counters, bathrooms, and even most floors. Add 1 cup of vinegar to your dishwasher to clean out its inner workings. Or cook ½ cup of vinegar with 1 cup of water in your microwave to loosen stuck on food and grease. One warning, don’t use vinegar on marble or other porous surfaces.
2) Baking Soda Solutions
Baking soda works well on most things in the kitchen because it doesn’t scratch. That makes it a good choice for countertops, oven tops, stainless steel, and the sink. If you have stubborn stains, make a baking soda paste. Just use 3 parts baking soda and one part water. Let it sit for awhile, scrub the area, and then wipe clean. And baking soda is also an excellent deodorizer for carpet. Sprinkle with baking soda, let stand for at least fifteen minutes, then vacuum.
3) Tackle Bathroom Blues with Borax
Borax is an effective mold killer and works well on hard water deposits. Use a paste to scrub the sides of the tub to a sparkling white, or mix a solution of 1 cup of borax with 1 gallon of warm water to eat away at mold in tile grout. Let 1 cup of borax sit in the toilet bowl overnight, and swipe it clean with a toilet brush the next morning.
4) Chose Air Fresheners Which Don’t Pollute
Most popular air fresheners contain dangerous ingredients like formaldehyde. Many times, they will also contain VOCs which can slowly emit toxic chemicals for years. Fresh air, baking soda (sprinkled in everything from garbage cans to tennis shoes), and soy candles are healthier options.
5) Green Your Laundry Routine
Green up laundry day by switching to a phosphate-free plant-based detergent. For softer clothes add ¼ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle as a natural fabric softener. For a more efficient use of energy and water, only wash full loads and set the water temperature to cold.
6) Break the Paper Towel Habit
Paper towels are made from the trees. Wean your family off of paper towels by keeping a drawer of reusable clothes. You can make your own by cutting up old t-shirts and towels, or invest in new sustainable bamboo dish clothes. Whatever you choose, the key is in quantity. Make sure you have plenty of options on hand for wiping down the counters or cleaning up a unexpected coffee spill.
7) Safely Dispose of Household Hazardous Waste
Household Hazardous Waste includes common household items like old paints, used motor oil, batteries and more. These items should never be thrown in the trash where they can contaminate the land and water. Do Your Part and take your household hazardous waste to a proper recycling facility in your area. To find one near you, search for “Household Hazardous Waste” at Earth911.com.
Being fashionably green is about more than just what you wear. It’s also about the other things we put on our bodies such as sunscreen and even shampoo. Terri helps you be fashionably forward thinking as she runs down her ‘Top 7 Ways to be Green from Head to Toe.”
1) Pick Safer Personal Care Products
Many personal care products we use contain toxic chemicals and preservatives. Preservatives usually contain dangerous parabens. And some ingredients won’t be found on the ingredient list because they’re hidden under the term “fragrance.” That term is used to avoid listing things like phthalates which can alter hormones. CosmeticDatabase.org is an easy to use resource to easily find what’s in all the products so you can choose ones with the safest ingredients. Another good bet is to avoid products which contain the ingredients: quaternium-15, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea formalin and methylene oxide.
2) Buy Better Make-Up
There’s nothing pretty about what could be lurking in your favorite blush, lipstick, or eyeliner. Some brands actually contain mercury, lead, or chemicals which are known to cause everything from cancer to reproductive problems. Again, CosmeticDatabase.org is a good place to start researching the products you use. You can search by specific brands and product names.
3) Be a Resale Shop Regular
Resale shops are the perfect places to get a steal of a deal on gently used clothing, shoes, and accessories. There are resale chains that specialize in all kids’ clothing. Not only can you buy fashions for less, you can also sell what your kids have outgrown. Check out consignment shops where you live to get deals and unique finds for the grown ups in the family. And don’t forget your local Goodwill. Many locations now look like department stores and you could put together a complete look for an unbelievable price.
4) Rent High Fashion Clothes & Accessories
You know the problem with trendy clothes and accessories. One day they’re in…and they next day they’re out. Consider renting instead of spending top dollar for items that will be used occasionally. WearTodayGoneTomorrow.com is a fashion lover’s paradise. And, BagBorrowOrSteal.com rents everything from handbags to sunglasses.
5) Opt for Organic Cotton
Make a fashion statement by opting for organic cotton. 25 percent of all insecticides and 10 percent of all pesticides are used on conventionally grown cotton. That doesn’t even account for all the chemicals used in the manufacturing process. Organic cotton clothing may cost you a little bit more than conventionally produced cotton but it is almost always softer and it tends to last longer. It’s also becoming easier to find; just look for the 100% organic cotton label.
6) Shop for Safer Sunscreen
Your best bet when picking sunscreens is to buy ones which contain zinc and titanium. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends avoiding the controversial ingredient oxybenzone because it is thought to alter hormonal systems. It’s also recommended to avoid spray on or powdery sunscreens because the potentially harmful ingredients can be easily inhaled. The EWG has an online sunscreen guide that rates hundreds of sunscreens by safety and tells you what’s the best and what’s the worst. They also have a free smart phone app that allows you to look up sunscreens by name while you’re shopping.
7) Give Back
When you’re no longer wearing that favorite look or those must have shoes – do something good with them instead of letting them sit in your closet for ages. Soles4Souls is a charity desperate to give those gently used shoes to people in need around the world. Goodwill takes all kinds of clothing to sell in order to raise money for job training programs. And, another worthy organization is Dress For Success which wants business appropriate clothing for women in need who are going out for job interviews.
Who really wants to contribute to our growing landfills? There are things we toss away everyday that make up the bulk of our trash and they don’t even belong in our garbage bins. Here are Terri’s Top 7 Ways to Be Less Trashy so you can get started today.
1) Recycle That Paperboard!
Paperboard one of the biggest problems when it comes to our landfills. It’s the thin cardboard packaging that holds so many of the items we buy – think cereal boxes, packaging for toys, and even tissue boxes. Nearly all curbside recycling programs accept paperboard. There is one major exception. Paperboard with food waste (think pizza boxes!) usually aren’t.
2) Paper is Valuable
Do you recycle all the paper that comes into your home? You know – school work, junk mail, magazines and the like? Remember, ALL paper is recyclable and that includes those envelopes with the plastic window that many of us don’t know what to do with. The general rule for paper is that if it’s free of food waste, it can go in the recycling bin.
3) Don’t Waste the Leftovers
It might shock you to find out that a third of what goes in our trash bags is food. It could be food that’s gone bad in the fridge or leftovers we scrape off our plates. Instead of letting it go to rot in a landfill, consider composting it instead. Click here to see how you can start your own composting routine and create the perfect free food for your lawn and garden.
4) Give Electronics a Second Life
E-waste is the fastest growing disposal problem in this country. Electronics contain dangerous heavy metals that should never be sent to the landfill. Click here to see how to give working items a second life by selling or donating them. Non-working items should be taken to a qualified recycling center near you.
5) Reuse, Reuse, Reuse!
Don’t trash what you can reuse. Whether you turn baby food jars into paint containers, milk cartons into bird feeders, or this year’s holiday cards into next year’s gift tags – there are plenty of ways to get creative with things that might ordinarily wind up in the trash. This goes for sporting equipment, too. There are many shops that specialize in selling gently worn and used items and you can also sell everything from old cleats to soccer balls to treadmills.
6) What Are You (Not) Wearing?
Well cared for clothes hold a lot of value and can be sold to other parents in consignment shops or online sites such as eBay. If you’re looking to donate them, consider Goodwill, Salvation Army, battered women’s shelters, or Dress for Success programs. And get this, clothes that may be torn or unwearable but not contaminated with chemicals, can still be donated to Goodwill. They are sold to recyclers to be used for things like sofa stuffing.
7) Don’t Shop For Trash
Think twice before buying items such as paper plates, bottles of water, and food in individual serving sizes. There are less trashy options such as renting extra party supplies, buying in bulk, and using reusable containers. That way, those items don’t spend decades waiting to decompose in our landfills.
2012 is here and Do Your Part is kicking off a year of green challenges! January is ‘Detox Your Life’ month. We’re focusing on finding and eliminating the hidden chemicals that could be polluting your home and your family. To get you started, here are my ‘Top 7 Ways to Detox Your Life.’
1) Clean Green
Many popular household cleaners can hide toxic chemicals in their list of ingredients. Those ingredients stay behind when you clean and contribute to indoor air pollution. Better choices include using homemade cleaners made from natural products like vinegar, baking soda, and borax. Click here for green cleaning recipes. You can also opt for store bought cleaners which are plant based and biodegradable.
2) Free Yourself of Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde is linked to a number of health issues, including asthma and cancer. It’s often emitted over many years from certain pressed wood furniture pieces, carpet adhesives, and paint. It is also found in hair straightening treatments, kids’ dishware made of melamine resin, air fresheners, wrinkle-free bedding, dry cleaned clothes, and nail polishes. It’s important to seek out formaldehyde-free products and to ask your beautician about the products your using. Here’s our video on other surprising sources of formaldehyde.
3) Ban VOCs From Your Home
Formaldehyde is one of the most notorious volatile organic compounds – or VOCs – out there but there are others to worry about, too. They include benzene, toluene, methylene, and chloride. Many times, the VOCs are found in paint, personal care products, furniture, carpets, and adhesives. You can specifically seek out low VOC paints and you’ll want to do a little research to see what’s really in the products you use at home.
4) Choose Better Personal Care Products
There may be more VOCs in your personal care products. There is a good chance that other toxic chemicals are hiding under the term ‘fragrance.’ Watch this Do Your Part video about safer personal care products. An easy way to find out exactly what’s in the products check out the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Safety Database.
5) Know What You’re Eating
When possible, opt for organic foods. They are grown and processed without using synthetic chemicals, sewage sludge, or radiation. Familiarize yourself with the so called “Dirty Dozen” list to find out which pieces of produce typically contain the highest amount of pesticide residue. This Do Your Part video shows you all about the “Clean 15.”
6) Give BPA the Boot
Several studies have linked bisphenol-A or BPA to developmental problems, cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and infertility. BPA is used in polycarbonate (PC) containers that are often marked #7. Plastics with the recycling numbers #1, #2, and #4 are safer choices. BPA is also found in the lining of canned food and juices. Look for cans labeled “BPA-free” and choose food items packaged in glass or other safer containers.
7) Choose Natural Pest Control Products
Chemical pesticides can block the absorption of nutrients and can even cause permanent biological changes. Natural alternatives include vinegar, borax, or diatomaceous earth. Spraying vinegar will keep ants away. Borax will kill roaches. And diatomaceous earth can kill all sorts of bugs, including bed bugs. Be careful around children and pets with borax and diatomaceous earth because it can be poisonous if ingested.
Next month, take part in our trash challenge. We want you to commit to cutting your trash amount in half! Don’t worry, we help you along the way! Do Your Part in 2012 to reduce, reuse, and recycle your way into a greener, healthier lifestyle.
Winters can take a big bite out of our bank accounts. We all have heard winterizing our homes is an effective way to keep utility bills down. Want to know where to start? Here are Terri’s “Top 5 Ways to Slash Winter Utility Bills.”
1) Attack the Attic
There are lots of escape routes for warm air inside your home. One biggie is your attic area. Make sure the attic door is insulated and seals when shut. As for the actual attic space, if you can see the ceiling joists, you probably need more insulation.
2) Keep Money from Flying out the Window
Windows and doors are the easiest places where warm air can slip outside. Use a match or lit candle to search for leaks. If the flame blows out when held next to windowsills or door frames there’s a problem. One alternative to upgrading to more efficient windows is to put up insulating storm windows and doors to act as a barrier. Or, try window insulating kits or heavy drapery to keep winter drafts from entering your home through windows. And, rubber weatherstripping is an inexpensive solution to fill gaps in door frames.
3) Help Keep Heating Units In Shape
Don’t forget to keep up with the maintenance of central heating units. Furnaces should be checked each year to make sure they are operating at maximum efficiency and with clean filters. A clogged filter makes the unit work harder, costing more to operate and creating a fire hazard. Another good idea is to check the duct work in your home to make sure there aren’t any leaks. You can easily fix any that you find with metal-backed tape found at any hardware store.
4) Keep Hot Air Down
If your fireplace is more ornamental rather than functional use a chimney plug to prevent warm air from rising right up and out of your house. And one of the simplest ways to keep warm air moving inside your home is to reverse the direction of your ceiling fans. In the colder months, your fan blades should turn in the clockwise direction to force warmer air collecting at the ceiling down toward the floor.
5) Show Your Hot Water Heater Some Love
And finally if your hot water heater is located in a cold garage or closet, invest in a water heater insulating blanket. This keeps your unit from having to work so hard to heat the water.
1) Trade-In For Cash or Gift Cards
Don’t let your electronics go to rust in a landfill. They not only contaminate our soil but they’re also still quite valuable! There are many websites devoted to giving you cash or gift cards for your unwanted gadgets. EBay’s Instant Sale program allows users to instantly sell or recycle their old electronic devices like laptops, camcorders, PDAs and more. They and other sites such as NextWorth and Gazzelle do the same thing and offer pre-paid shipping labels. And, you won’t have to guess how much it’s worth, the websites give you that information in seconds.
2) Donate to Goodwill’s ReConnect Program
If you have a computer, hard drive, or printer you are willing to donate, Goodwill’s ‘Reconnect’ program is ideal. The non-profit and Dell partner on ‘Reconnect’ where nearly 2,000 participating Goodwill locations across the US will accept any brand of computer equipment. Goodwill either sells or responsibly recycles the products and all the money made is used to create job training and employment opportunities for people in your community. Goodwill will also take care of wiping all of the personal information off of working hard drives.
3) Give Cell Phones to Soldiers & Other Good Causes
Cell Phones for Soldiers is another non-profit organization about which I am passionate. It provides prepaid calling cards for U.S. troops stationed overseas with every donated cell phone they receive. March of Dimes, Keep America Beautiful and Call To Protect are other non-profits which collect cell phones for their missions.
4) Reconsider Your Upgrade
Before you upgrade to a new cell phone or other device, take a good look at the item you are about to stop using. Do you really need the latest model or does the one you have now do the job? Curbing some of our electronic impulse buys will help keep even more e-waste out of our landfills since most of the gadgets we all buy do not get recycled correctly.
5) Get Involved
Take action where you live to help people responsibly recycle e-waste. Every state and community have different rules on regulating e-waste. The Electronics Take Back Coalition tracks e-waste laws state-by-state and promotes manufacturer responsibility.
Make your child’s Halloween costume a bit eeek-o-friendly this year. There are plenty of ways to come up with a creative get-up without buying a brand new costume. Plus, there are a few popular Halloween accessories that you may just want to consider avoiding this season. Here are Terri’s ‘Top 5 Ways to Green Your Halloween Costume.”
1) Take Part in A Costume Swap
Costume swaps are taking place all over the country this year. You can host your own swap party with family and friends or click here to find out how to participate in National Costume Swap Day. You’ll not only give once-used costumes a longer life, you’ll also be saving a whole lot of money by not buying a new one.
2) Go to Goodwill
Goodwill is a Halloween enthusiast’s playground. Whether you’re looking for an outrageous outfit, costume jewelry, or fancy dress shoes to complete your Halloween vision, you’re sure to find it here and all for a steal!
3) Seek Out Non-Toxic Make-Up
Ban toxic Halloween make-up from your costume. The FDA recommends checking the products ingredient list. Specifically, look to see if any of the color additives in the make-up kit are not approved for use by the FDA. Click here to see the entire list. The Environmental Working Group suggests making your own colored make-up to ensure there is no dangerous lead in it. Here’s a link to their make-up recipes. And one last note, at the end of the night make sure to wash your face to get all that ghoulish make-up off.
4) Watch the Teeth!
We’ve all heard plenty about the potential dangers of certain kinds of flexible plastic which contain hormone disrupting phthalates. Some of the plastic considered dangerous is actually used to make Halloween masks and those fake teeth you see so many people putting in their mouths. The Environmental Working Group suggests doing without those accessories since they are not always labeled properly.
5) Don’t Buy Another Plastic Pumpkin
We see them on the arm of so many cute kids – that plastic pumpkin to collect trick or treat goodies. Instead of buying yet another plastic pumpkin, have your child bring along something reusable instead. It could be a pillowcase or a reusable shopping bag.