Thursday, October 29, 2009

Natural Pest Control: Bug Brigade is Central Florida's Green Pest Control Provider

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Going greener in my lifestyle has led me down many unexpected paths. Beginning with organic foods, I soon moved toward Eco-friendly personal care and cleaning products. Later, we added organic lawn care, and next up was pest control. This one was a little scarier for me, yet I quickly learned that help was out there. While DIY (Do it yourself) is an option, I'm not very dilligent about bug stuff, so that reduces the success rate.

I interviewed 3 companies in my area, all of whom were advertising natural pest control, using some of the usual terminology:
  • Organic
  • All-natural
  • Eco-friendly
  • Holistic
  • Non-toxic
Each company had various versions of non-toxic pest control, as well as providing traditional pest control to those customers who prefer it. I found one company whose idea of “natural” was far from my own comfort zone and quickly ruled them out.

The company I ultimately ended up with uses mostly “botanical pesticides”, which are merely plant extracts that have a negative effect on insects. Most of these do lack the residual effect needed for outdoor use, but a couple of  products with a bit more of a punch, work as barriers on the outside, without being highly toxic to the environment or my pets.

Finally, after researching the meaning of “Eco-Exempt”, a term found on many of Bug Brigade’s product labels, I found the reason that cinched our deal. Pest control products that contain active ingredients with no known (or minimal) toxic effects to humans, animals or the environment, generally bear this label. I was sold. Bug Brigade was hired.

Bug Brigade also earned my business when they willingly agreed to provide me with copies of the labels from their product arsenal. More on those labels later in the post. Additionally, the owner, Scott Milliron, was willing to modify his use of any products, at my option. It is great to work with a business that will customize their usual service to your particular preferences or needs; this was key to my decision.

Bug Brigade also offers rodent control, a service I learned about when a family of rats moved into my attic. I hadn’t realized what a science it is to eliminate critters from an attic. Bug Brigade’s staff visited every few days, diligently dealing with all the issues of home invasion. These critters can chew (and did!) through dry wall and air conditioner ductwork, as well as crawling through the tiniest of holes around piping, finding their way into garage and attic spaces. Locating these entries was Bug Brigade’s primary approach to catching the feisty rodents. They were ultimately successful, again earning kudos from me.
A year later I can happily report I have found only one or two roaches inside my home (truly a feat in Florida!). Bug Brigade’s dedicated service and Eco approach, coupled with their willingness to consider my personal needs and preferences has continued to solidify our relationship.

I certainly have kept Bug Brigade busy. Just last week we had a talk about the ticks that followed us home from our camping trip. It seems we may have inadvertantly brought whole families into the house, so a plan was formulated to move them out. Scott's patient, willing ways continued through our discussions, again reinforcing my decision to patronize this hard working company.

A multi-faceted program will attack the critters from every direction, hopefully getting control as quickly as possible, without using toxic chemicals:
  • Daily grooming and removal of any parasites found
  • Containing the dogs to one section of the house, to keeping them from transporting the ticks around the home continuously. With a large, screened porch included in their space, and nicer weather finally here, this plan is quite doable.
  • Plant oils and other non toxic products will be used to treat the yard and home, paying particular attention to the cracks and crevices that ticks like to lay their eggs in. Weekly treatments will be required for a while to eliminate all the new families that hatch, as well.
  • After a discussion about the issues with traditional top spot type treatments, we decided on using a non-toxic plant oil spray on the dogs, found to be quite effective.  The day we had our initial treatment, I was fascinated to watch the little critters crawl out of their hiding spaces and die, all the while my home was smelling like a holiday candy cane. This stuff was clearly doing the Ghostbuster thing on the ticks, that I have feverishly vacuumed up.
  • Scott also suggested a product with a bit more residual staying power, if I have continued trouble after our treatments are through. A derivative of the Chrysanthemum plant, Pyrethrin has been found highly effective. You can get more information on this at Doctor's Foster and Smith at this link. Hopefully I won't need this, as Scott generously left me a suppy of the wonderful-smelling peppermint oil to create a household spray (with water) and a pet spray (with mineral oil).
I suppose I should decorate for Halloween with ticks this year. I have quite a bottle of ones I have collected--Eeek! With my yard and home smelling like peppermint, the children will probably all think they are getting candy canes for treats. I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, if you're in the Central Florida area, you may want to check out Bug Brigade, or look them up on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How Green is Your Hallowed Home this Halloween? One Woofing Wednesday Tip You May not have Heard...

Cleaning up our yards after Halloween can sometimes be a daunting task. Those who Trick, instead of Treat, sometimes leave us with toilet-papered trees, spooned yards, decorations of silly string and the like. As if removing our own fun decorations was not enough, now we have others' to clean up, as well.

But that's not all. Think about your Trick-or-Treaters and their families on Saturday, and do everyone a favor. Go over your yard with a poo bag or scooper in hand, collecting your own or other doggies' droppings that have been deposited in your yard.

Once dark, children often run across our yards to beat their friends to our doors. We can welcome these youngsters without leaving their sneakers smelly--our own version of a Trick! So, treat your visitors with a clean lawn, as well as your chosen treats that go into their pumpkins and pillow cases. Your neighbors will be thankful for your efforts. Happy Halloween!

Got poop? We got a scooper:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Halloween Goodies: Sourcing Your Organic or All-Natural Treats

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(c) photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2009
Oliver Tests out his Costume at Naptime

Locating a wide assortment of Halloween goodies that are organic or all-natural may take some effort. I find that even with the 4 or 5 stores in my area, I still want more choices. That's why I added printed Halloween coloring pages for the young ones, Halloween word searches and crossword puzzles, to help round out the selection. You can find these at Green Halloween; just remember to use sustainable paper (recycled or bamboo are good).

Before checking out the links to sites where you might want to pick up some goodies, checK out Green Halloween's Ten Easy Steps to Making Halloween Eek-o-Friendly. This site is a virtual smorgasbord of ideas, products and sources. Try these for a good start to your shopping:
Happy hunting!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Breakfast Foods: Your Healthiest Processed Food Options for Breakfast in a Hurry

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Fruit Filled Muffins
 are an Acceptable Breakfast-on-the-Go

In a recent post, I ranted about my frustration with food labeling guidelines, or perhaps I should say the lack of them. With manufacturers and grocers all adding their own rating labels to packaged and processed foods, consumers may as well throw up their hands in total confusion.

You may find this post more helpful if you take a minute to read the first post at the link above.Then you'll understand why the labels on your favorite cereals are so confusing. In an effort to help you find ways around the confusion, I highly recommend working toward eating fewer packaged foods, and using more lesser-processed basics. Unfortunately, in our convenience-driven society, we all want and need certain basics in order to speed up our meal preparation; time is not a commodity.

In this post, I will review some of your better processed food options for breakfast. Later, I'll do the same with lunch and dinner choices, so be sure to check back.

When seeking healthy breakfast choices that don’t break the bank, oatmeal is by far your best option. Oatmeal is high in fiber and protein, and has an infinite number of variations, giving you plenty of ways to serve it. Let's be clear. I'm not recommending instant oatmeal, but the real thing.  You can make it bowl by bowl, if you are comfortable with using a microwave, or put on a pot with a couple of days’ worth and reheat them bowl by bowl. It doesn’t have to take a chunk out of your morning. We all know that weekday breakfasts are the hardest to find time for, so get creative and you’ll be able to work oatmeal in. Adding different goodies to each day’s bowl can really make breakfast a new surprise each day. To avoid boredom, consider raisins, peaches, strawberries, Walnuts, granola, and other nuts or berries, along with the usual honey, cinnamon and brown sugar, if desired.

Cold Cereal is the most touted of the quick breakfast foods, and probably the most popular with youngsters. I have to admit that there is one plus with serving cereal. Can you guess? Most children who are not vegan or lactose-intolerant eat their cereal with milk, and many will enjoy a banana or berries sliced into the bowl, as well. While milk adds Calcium and protein, the fruit brings vitamins and fiber. This is where cereal makes the A list for breakfast. After eating this, they may want a drink, and juice can be served to top off the vitamin splurge. While cereal alone is not my favorite choice, when served this way, it has a fairly decent nutritional punch. One last thing. Choose the right cereal and you'll also be adding fiber. Don't forget you can also stir a little fiber powder into the milk before pouring it onto their cereal, or add the powder to their juice. There's all sorts of sneaky ways to get more fiber into your child's diet.

Fruit —When fresh fruit is not available or is too time consuming to prepare, sometimes dried fruits can fill the bill. My favorites are dates, raisins and dried mango; my hubby loves dried cranberries. Whatever works, dried fruits are a quick nutritional boost and a good take-along snack. Most natural foods stores sell these in bulk, so you can buy just the amount you need. These also make great additions to a healthy lunch. Another perk is the shelf life, which extends far beyond that of fresh fruit.

Eggs—Sometimes our workday mornings are the worst. We can't seem to find time to make a hot breakfast, even when it actually takes less time to scramble an egg than to prepare a frozen waffle. Products like Egg Beaters take the messy preparation out of the problem, minimizing time spent a bit. Boiled eggs can also be purchased in most delis, which make a quick breakfast on the go, when paired with a muffin or breakfast bread. Another option is to boil a half dozen eggs while you prepare dinner, then refrigerate for breakfasts throughout the week. These are also a good finger food for on-the-go noshing.

Pancakes—The healthiest of pancakes are the ones with extra fiber and fruit added. Check your dairy case for the new Organic Pancake Blaster, an organic pancake batter in an aerosol can, with no CFCs. Just add berries as you squirt the batter onto the pan and you’re in business. If you make your own batter, be sure to stir in some extra fiber, using Benefiber, or a similar product.

Fruit juices – Look for organic apple, grapefruit, grape, orange and tomato juices, even in your local supermarket. If they’re still too pricey for your budget, try diluting them slightly. Most family members will never know the difference if you add 25% water (well, maybe the tomato?).

Toppings for pancakes – Fruit compotes can be purchased in the jelly aisle at your store. If you choose maple syrup--the traditional pancake topping--go for the real thing to avoid the high-fructose corn syrup. This nasty stuff has been linked to far too many health problems; it's time to take a stand for your family's health. Finally, flavored yogurts go over well with many and are worth a shot—much healthier than sugary syrup.

Packaged Crepes – Not even close to being a staple, these babies make a special-occasion breakfast really quick, when you have company, or simply want to spoil your family. Filled with fresh fruit and topped with fruit yogurt, this is a favorite breakfast of my daughter, and an attractive choice for company.

Bagels and English Muffins – While hardly a necessity, these too are a nice choice and especially healthy if you choose a whole-grain variety. Whole Foods has organic brands that we find delicious. Top with your choice of low fat cream cheese (add smoked salmon for an extra punch of healthy omega fats and protein) or low-sugar, organic jam.

Toaster pastries of all sorts are also available in organic form in many flavors. Give them a try and you're sure to find something your kids will all like.

Finally, Breakfast breads, made with a blend of dried fruits and nuts, add fiber and vitamins to your quick breakfast, and are available in many bakeries.

While natural, unprocessed foods are still your best choice, the above options are the best of the processed versions, with Oatmeal being your most nutritious and budget-conscious on this list. As often as possible, try to give your family the benefit of fresh fruits, homemade breads and muffins, and a variety of eggs, if you choose to add these to your diet.

Join me soon for a lunch version of this post, where I will help you select the better processed foods from your supermarket.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Making a Greener Halloween Easier: Woofing Wednesday Brings You Ideas

(c) photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2008
Oliver and Tanner
 are Ready for Halloween

Halloween is almost here. Moms and Dads are hitting the stores in droves, seeking the perfect costume for each kid, while their closets hold the remnants of past years' costumes that may still be useful.

Trading costumes with other moms works well for many families. Some neighborhood associations organize and facilitate this money-saving, Eco-friendly Halloween activity. It's even fun for the older kids to get involved in helping the younger ones select from available costumes. They can often provide added insight on missing elements that can be created with a dab of creativity.

As for treats, I would enourage you to create your selection with a little less sugar and food coloring. Try including a few stickers, marbles, silly straws and the like in your selection of natural lollipops and other treats that are available at stores like Whole Foods Market.

Check out my post at Happy Green Halloween, where you will find lots of ideas such as these to save you money and still give out a healthier stash.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Breast vs. Bottle: Part II-- Tips

If you read Part I (13 Reasons to Breast Feed) of this 2-part series, you already know why it is important to breast feed your infant. Keep in mind that if YOU eat healthy, so too will baby, if you choose to nurse her. Now let's talk a little about how--some tips to make it a bit easier for the first timer.

We've all heard the stories about moms being asked to leave restaurants because someone noticed they were breast feeding their infant. It was bound to happen. Some people simply do not view breast feeding as the natural way to feed a baby. I sometimes wonder what these individuals would do if stranded on a remote island like Claire, in the hit TV series, LOST.

It is not that I begrudge these people their opinion. And perhaps some of these mothers are not as modest as they might be. The trick is to feed your infant so subtly that no one even notices what you are doing. Yes! It can be done.

When I was breast feeding my 3 babies, back in the dark ages if you ask them, a plan fell into place that worked its magic to allow me to avoid these problems. This is no big secret, mind you. There are plenty of other women who use these techniques to nurse in public. Just this weekend I witnessed two moms nursing in a restaurant, that I quickly figured out were not noticed by my companions.  Here's a few tips to make it work for you:
  • Always carry a large baby blanket or scarf in your bag, to be used to cover you and baby during baby’s mealtime.
  • Request a table in the back corner of the restaurant. In this way, you will be able to sit with your back to the rest of the patrons, while nursing. 
  • Wearing a loose-fitting top or one that easily opens in the front will make preparation easy, once the baby blanket and your infant are in position. 
  • One final tip. If you concentrate your eye contact on something other than the baby, your line of sight toward a book, TV or neighborly conversation will give the impression that baby is simply sleeping with a blanket over him. 
I cannot tell you how many times I gave an order to a waiter or had a conversation with someone on an airplane, all the while nursing my child. The person with whom I was talking hardly seemed to know what I was doing.

I still remember a gentleman on one flight saying something about how nice it was that I could keep the reading light out of the baby’s eyes while she slept. I did not tell him my secret, but merely nodded and returned to my reading.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Organic Chow and Camping: A Guide to Staying Your Course

(c) photo copyright Carrie Boyko
Lunch and a Gin Rummy Game
Both Work Well in an RV

Going into this camping trip, I knew there was little possibility of staying on organic foods 24/7. That's okay, though, because that really is not my goal. I'm happy to eat 2 out of 3 meals organic at home, but realize that on the road is a very different matter. Not knowing where healthy food stores are when traveling in unfamiliar areas means it would be much more time consuming to try to shop along the way.

Our trip was only 5 days--a road test for the dogs and an RV in unison. Five days is fairly easy to plan ahead for without having to shop during a trip. We knew there would be meals out, and these are fine. I simply tried (I say that loosely) to eat relatively healthy. Again, I'm not a purist.

Enough of that, here's the grub we packed for the trip, which is representative of an all-natural and organic diet that is simple and travels well:
  • Travel beverages (in individual travel cups stored in a cooler near the in the driver’s compartment)
    • Organic lemonade(my homemade, organic recipe at the link, and a great oatmeal raisin cookie recipe also)
    • Organic apple juice
    • Water, lots of it
  • Breakfasts:
    • Organic Banana Muffins in freezer can be thawed out 1 or 2 at a time for breakfasts and snacks. (recipe at link)
    • Purely O’s organic cereal with organic milk 
    • Organic eggs for scrambling 
    • Organic shredded cheese for eggs or melting on all-natural tortilla chip 
    • Organic Orange Juice 
    • Choice brand Organic English Breakfast teabags 
    • Coffee bags: Surprise--Just before we left for this trip, Starbucks released their vew Via, instant coffee in individual serving packets which can be stirred into hot or cold milk or water, for coffee or a Latte. Lots of choices with this new product make it a good choice, although it is not organic. If any of you find organic coffee bags, I'd sure like to hear from you. The comment link is always there...waiting for you at the bottom of EVERY post.
  • Snacks on the Road: 

  • Lunches:
    • All natural turkey and swiss cheese on rye or wheat bread
    • All All natural corn chips and salsa
    • Organic apples and bananas
    • Organic carrots
    • Freshly brewed organic iced tea
    • Leftover chicken and rice from home

  • Dinners:
    • Pasta dish (leftover from home)
    • Turkey and swiss sandwiches
    • Large Garden salads: Organic Romaine lettuce laden with onions, tomatoes, shredded cheese, shredded carrots and organic vinaigrette dressing
    • Organic apples and bananas
In the interest of full disclosure, we also enjoyed a few meals out with each our two sons and a special friend. Like I’ve always said, “I’m not a purist; variety is the spice of life.” While eating organic is part of my life (and cancer preventive) strategies, I choose it when available, but when it is not, I’ll always find something to eat.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Green Life 101 Starts Today: Learn about the Magic Number 350

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The climate action summit that is coming on October 24 needs to be much bigger than it appears to be now. We need stronger guidelines for climate change and improving our collective carbon footprint to save our mother ship--Earth. You will see many activities and events related to this big day. It doesn't matter what you choose to do, as long as DO SOMETHING.

As Nike put it, "Just Do It!"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Go Greener with Your Active Fitness Options: Woofing Wednesday Has Your Plan

Eco-friendly folks looking to stay active and healthy have long known that our most successful options for getting and staying in shape come through FUN, CHALLENGING fitness activities. In other words, the old mantra “Feel the Burn” doesn’t necessarily have to fit your choice. More and more people who maintain a slim and toned body through activity find that their best route to this goal is through activities that involve the concept of FLOW, as written about by the author, Csikszentmihalyi, in his book by the same name. According to WikipediaFlow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. 

I’ve done a little analysis of many of the popular activities that evoke this state of mind. Following is a chart that shows an estimate of the cost of each and three levels of Eco-friendliness.

Legend of cost symbols:
$ = Free to minimal cost
$$ = $10-$50 per session
$$$ = (Considerable expense in equipment, lessons, gasoline or travel)

Greenest Options
$ - Walk, bike, rollerblade or jog
$ - Video or TV exercise classes to do at home

Less Green, More Costly Choices
$$ - Step and other aerobics classes
$$ - Wall Climbing, in nature or on an inside wall; also classes
$$ - Martial arts classes
$$ - Yoga and pilates classes
$$ - Ballet, tap, jazz, Jazzercise classes
$$ - Pole dancing, belly dancing, and other exotic dancing classes
$$ - Ballroom dancing and classes
$$ - Conditioning classes: weights, abs, bands, etc.
$$ - Dog agility and other dog activity classes and competitions
$$ - Team sports: softball, tennis, baseball, bowling, football, etc. (some could be $$+)

Ouch! Neither Green Nor Cheap
$$$ - Dirt biking
$$$ - Water Skiing (club or team makes this more affordable; boat ownership is much more expensive)
$$$ - Snow Skiing: Travel, lift tickets,  and equipment rental or purchase all add up to considerable expense unless you live in a ski resort area and/or work for a ski resort.
$$$ - Hockey team competitions (equipment and ice time is quite costly)
$$$ - Competing in most $$ and $$$ categories adds to the expense.
$$$ - Sky Diving

I suppose it is no surprise that your greenest and least expensive options for exercise are walking, jogging, rollerblading and biking.

One final note about motivation…Unless you are naturally driven to exercise daily, owning a dog is a wonderful way to add dimension to your life and give yourself a reason to walk, jog or bike. Dogs need daily exercise to maintain a calm energy level and healthy mental and physical condition. When you bond with a dog that depends on you for his care and support, you will find it enjoyable to give him some of that fabulous unconditional love in return for his devotion. Can you tell I like dogs?

If you, too, are a dog lover, I invite you to read my other blog, All Things Dog Blog, where I focus on helping dog owners fulfill their dogs’ and their own happiness with many ways of bonding and enjoying one another, which often leads to flow during pleasurable joint activities.

For more tips on green living, visit Central Florida Green Guide, where my new guest post has just been released, LIVING LIKE ED: A BOOK REVIEW.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Food Labeling: Grocers Further Confuse the Chaotic Nutrition Info on Packaged Foods

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A handful of new programs have appeared on the labels of the food industry's bigger conglomerates, attempting to single out healthy foods. Are they marketing major nutritional assets of the foods or trying to inflate the perceived value of the smaller, healthy ingredients? You decide:

Labels that can already be found on most packaged foods include:
  • Nutrition facts box
  • Ingredients list (in descending order by volume)
  • American Heart Association's Check mark (indicating higher fiber and whole grain content)
  • At least 5 major food companies use their own healthy choice icons, further confusing consumers (notably Kraft, PepsiCo, Kellog's, General Mills, Unilever)
  • Questionable labels on many convenience and junk foods tout the benefits of minimal healthy components to help sell such sugar, fat or salt-laden foods to parents of clamboring children.
The newest programs, such as Nutrition IQ, NuVal ratings and Smart Choice ratings are each based on different criteria and may exclude snacks, desserts and condiments. As a result, one system may give a food a low rating, while it receives a much higher rank from another system.

One example is Kellog's Frosted Flakes cereal, which receives low scores by two rating systems and yet qualified as a "Smart Choice" by the American Dietetic Association. Go figure how Tony the Tiger was able to get nutritional kudos.

Given all this confusion, how is a smart shopper supposed to sort through all the propaganda? Start by asking yourself three important questions:
  1. Is it real or artificial?
  2. What chemicals, preservatives, food coloring, herbicides, and artificial ingredients are present?
  3. Is it a fresh, unprocessed food? (No ingredient label usually equals fresh and unprocessed. An example would be a vegetable)
Remember, processed foods lose much of their natural nutritional value. If optimum health is your goal, try to purchase most of your foods from the outside edges of the supermarket: produce, dairy, meat, fish, poultry, bread (better yet, make your own). It's also good to own and use a guide to food additives--something like the one I've highlighted below. You can purchase it by clicking through here, right to Amazon. I do try to make healthy living easier for you.

Of course, you'll need staples from the interior of the store. Think "The Basics" and check my posts at Saving Money on Organic Meals and Saving with CSAs, Coops and Buying Clubs, for ways to save on your food budget.

Check back for an upcoming post on grocery staples. I'll evaluate my list of staples: fresh vs. processed and we'll see how it stacks up.

Sources: FDA, NYU, Orlando Sentinel

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Breast vs. Bottle Feeding: Part I--Thirteen Reasons Moms Should Breast Feed

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  1. The baby will be receiving many of your immunities to diseases and allergies, via your breast milk.
  2. The meal will always be ready and always be the right temperature.
  3. No bottles to wash, sterilize or drag along.
  4. No formula to mix and warm.
  5. No worries about the quality of the water you add from other sources.
  6. No formula allergies to worry about.
  7. Baby-Mom bonding is quickly in place when sharing their special time, regularly throughout the day.
  8. Breast pumps allow for an occasional outing without baby, so Mom and Dad can get some couple's time.
  9. Moms can also pump and freeze breast milk to preserve for their ultimate return to work.
  10. Breast feeding moms burn extra calories and get their figures back quicker (Yes! This has been substantiated in many studies).
  11. The stools of breast fed babies do not have as objectionable an odor as formula-fed infants. Now, there's a selling point!
  12. Breast milk is a sustainable product. The sucking action of a baby's nursing stimulates more milk production, so supply meets demand. Mom simply needs to assure that she is drinking plenty of fluids. Water, organic juices, and milk are her best choices.
  13. Finally, add up the cost of infant formula for a typical year of feeding and you'll understand just how very much money saving opportunity you will pass up if you choose to bottle feed with formula.
I hope these thoughts on the importance of breast feeding will help a few new moms in their big decision. Part II of this series will take a look at some tips for breast feeding while out and about. New moms should not have to spend their lives indoors. Join me for an upcoming post on how to feed your infant in most any atmosphere, with hardly a notice from the nosiest of passersby.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Greener RV Vacation?

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It's time to fess us I suppose. I'm doing a little research that might not be considered totally green. Who am I kidding? Kindergarteners probably know that an RV is not the greenest way to travel. Well, I'm here to tell you that there is hope.

Wanting to travel with our 3 dogs brought us to the doorstep of an RV rental company. It seems that taking a longer trip with 3 dogs is not exactly designed for Delta Airlines, for instance. What other options does a dog owner have?

Our rental RV is a basic model, the smallest C-class available (bed over the cab), without all the bells and whistles that make an RV luxurious. For instance, it is lighter weight, has fewer electric and breakable specialty gadgets (no electric shade awnings with lights along the edges, no electric slide out compartments, small holding tanks for heavy stuff like water, etc.), little furniture, lightweight flooring and cabinetry and more. On second look, I realize that all these things may mean this RV won't outlive its more upscale models, but by nature of its lesser weight, gas mileage is supposed to approach double digits. We'll see.

As we travel, I'm working on ways to make an RV trip a bit more tolerable for my somewhat greener lifestyle. I've started a list of the things that can be done to an RV and its travel that would give it a leg up in the color spectrum. Before I start, though, I'm pleased to announce that this baby does have a solar water heater, which is backed up by propane, when sun is not available. Cool, huh?

First and foremost, TerraPass will gladly sell me a offset for the gasoline we're using. Basically, they put our money back into things that clean up the pollution caused by our gasoline usage. While that would take care of the lion's share, I feel there is much more I can do.

Fortunately, this RV uses regular gas, the cheapest available. And cheap it is here in North Carolina where we're camping in a rural area--$2.29 a gallon. I haven't seen it that cheap back home in, well, I don't remember.

So, what else can I do to feel I'm not sucking the planet of all its resources? With a little thought, quite a bit, actually. Check out my list:
  • It has been quite a while since I've camped, and I'm revisiting the "military shower" concept (or is it Navy?). By nature of having the water off while I lather up, I'm actually saving water on this trip by a ton over what I would use at home. That actually makes me feel good.
  • While camping, showers are less frequent, as activities like hiking with the dogs don't necessitate the perfect aroma of say, a wedding.
  • Likewise, clothes generally are worn twice before washing, unless they get particularly soiled or sweaty. It's cool and beautiful here and sweaty has not been an issue. I was glad to leave hot and humid back in Florida for a few days.
  • I find I'm also saving electricity. With only 2 electrical outlets in the RV, how much can one use at once? Sure, we're plugged into electric to suppport the interior lighting, but there's only a handful of those, so we're way below the electrical use we'd have at home. (Pat myself on the back; I'm feeling better already).
  • There are 3 systems on this RV that operate off of propane (as I understand it, a wee bit better than gasoline): refrigeration (minimal, it's very small), stove (nope, haven't used it and probably won't--I'm on vacation, after all!), and the hot water tank. It's a whopping 6 gallon tank that works off solar and propane, as needed.
  • I brought along three 10" X 10", battery operated (rechargeable, of course) fans to keep us cool, if needed. I even packed the recharger. So far, it doesn't look like we'll be needing them, but if we were camping in Florida I know they'd be working hard.
  • All four flashlights I packed (a little over kill, I'll admit) are powered by rechargeable batteries, and I'm armed with the recharger, too. Oh yeah, I already mentioned that.
  • Rather than toting along all manner of cleaners, I simply packed vegetable soap (useful for dishes, floors, dogs, showers, you name it), vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice. These will take care of most anything we need to clean up.
  • Planning in advance, I avoided buying plastic tableware by collecitng the take-out containers and extra flatware given to me at various take out restaurant visits over the past few months. I'm washing them as I use them, so there's no waste involved. The landfills are not going to suffer as a result of this trip.
  • Closing the drapes on the windows of the RV where the sun hits, helps to keep it cooler during the warmer afternoon hours, as does opening the windows and the 3 rooftop vents. Those are actually quite ingenious. One even has a little fan to draw heat up and out.
  • While most campgrounds are wooded, this affords shade to keep cool in during the summer months. I suppose if we were camping during colder weather, we'd request a site in full sun to help warm up the camper with natural solar heat. I'll remember that tip if we decide to go all out and take one of these trips to Canada and Alaska.
  • One tip to save propane that the rental official gave us has definitely worked well; he suggested placing our beverages for our "on-the-road" days in a cooler near the cab area to allow for (1) fewer refrigerator openings and (2) no trips back and forth to get drinks.
  • Traveling with the dogs means planning for their needs, as well. I packed biodegradable poop collection bags, as always, along with a couple of pop-up nylon crates for when we stop at other's homes. These are lighter weight, by far than the metals ones most of us use at home. Everything I can do to limit the onboard weight means better gas mileage. Lucky Oliver got to bring his usual crate. He's so small he could sleep ina shoe box, so I just packed his regular one.
  • We're not towing a vehicle, but I did put a bicycle in the large storage area for running nearby errands or simply to exercise the dogs. That came in handly one evening when the pups were itching to get out and explore. We took a brisk run up to the highway and back, and the boys slept like babies.
  • Now for some of the surprises we are learning on our RV adventure: (1) Our "bare bones" RV has no TV or video player like many of the posh ones do. That means we're taking advantage of nature's entertainment--hiking, exploring, etc. This is good exercise for all of us and assures a better night's sleep.
  • Camping is a good lesson in simpler living--less clutter, just the necessities means that you learn to made do, and you enjoy the simple pleasures of reading, nature and good conversation. A deck of cards comes in handy, as well. My son won the Gin Rummy tournament.
  • Simpler meals, less cooking, less power and water usage. It all adds up to an RV vacation that's closer to green than even I thought it could be.
Be sure to check back, as my time off definitely fueled the creativity. I'll be bringing you a post soon on how we managed to continue to eat largely all-natural while on our camping adventure. Other upcoming posts will include a food labeling update, tips on limiting processed foods in your diet with shopping strategies, green fitness options and their costs, an all-natural pest control review, Breast vs. Bottle, Diapers: Cloth vs Disposable, and a review of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Whew! That was a mouthful.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Air Filtering Plants to Beautify and Clean Your Home Environment

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© photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2009

Foyer Garden
Has Many Air Filtering Plants

Purifying your air does not always mean spending hundreds on ionic air cleaning machines for every room in your house. Think green and you'll get your answer here: many house plants have the ability to filter and clean the air in your inside environment. Plant Care's site has a nice description of the top-performing plants and a brief touch on the research done by NASA research scientist, Dr. Bill Wolverton, to teach us some of the many values of houseplants.

According to their sources, plants are "a sophisticated pollution-absorbing device; the common indoor plant may provide a natural way of helping combat "Sick Building Syndrome".

Plant Care Recommends these Top Performers:
  1. Bamboo Palm
  2. Chinese Evergreen
  3. English Ivy
  4. Gerbera Daisy
  5. Janet Craig (Dracaena family)
  6. Marginata (Dracaena family)
  7. Corn Plant
  8. Mother in Laws Tongue (Sansevieria Laurentii)
  9. Pot Mum
  10. Peace Lily
  11. Warnecki (Dracaena family)
  12. Golden Pothos
I've been testing some of these myself and thought perhaps you'd like to see the results of my less-than-scientific investigation--for what it's worth: First, let me clarify, that my environment here in Central Florida's humidity capital of the world, may differ from your own. Keep that in mind.

First, allow me to mention that the Golden Pothos was added to the above list by me, when I discovered that Dr. Wolverton found it to have superior ability to absorb Formaldehyde from its environment, along with philodendrons and spider plants. These all do fairly well indoors, yet the Pothos is easiest to care for and requires little light.

Working from the above list, the clear winner in my home-test for the easiest-to-grow, indoor plant is the Peace Lily or Spathiphylium (I've found it spelled several ways--you pick!). It seems to require only water to survive and bloom bountifully twice a year, and the ones I have managed to kill were either under- or over-watered.

While the Chinese Evergreen has spectacularly beautiful fluffy foliage, it apparently needed much more humidity than my indoor foyer provided. However, after I planted the suffering specimens in my outdoor, covered porch garden, they began to thrive. Second place in hardiness went to the Corn Plant, which requires less water than the Peace Lily. Of the 10 floor plants in my foyer garden (photo above), currently 5 are Peace Lilies (various types) and 1 is a corn plant.

Pothos plants placed in my bathrooms have been exceptionally well and seem to love the humidity they receive from shower steam. Perhaps I should have tried the Chinese Evergreen there.

My luck with the other flowering plants, even when placed in southern windows was less than satisfactory, although I was eager to have it work. Dr. Wolverton's research also found that flowering plants on this list were the best at filtering Benzene from the air, a feat I was keen to accomplish.

The plants in the Dracaena family were all utter failures in my home, lasting only a few months and then losing their long, thin leaves. Ivy survived only when misted vigorously and watered rigidly on a schedule. I found it beautiful, yet too much work to keep alive. Perhaps some of you will have time to help these elegant plants to reach their potential.

Unable to find a small Bamboo Palm or Mother in Laws Tongue, forgive me if I cannot give you my own assessment of these two. Let me know your results with these, as indoor plants. I'll admit I did not find ANY of the latter, and am eager to know what this cleverly-named plant looks like.

While maintaining indoor houseplants does require a bit of maintenance, a cup or two of water once a week usually will do it. Some may require extra humidity that you can provide with a daily misting from a spray bottle. But think of the added beauty they provide, giving you the feel of a tropical forest when you create a small garden area in larger rooms.

Bedrooms and bathrooms may only handle one floor plant or a small counter top model, but the effect is similar. There is something healthy about lush greenery, alive and growing.

I'm adding Dr. Wolverton's book to my Wish List. What a great resource to know which houseplants to look for. You can buy it right here, if you like. Five minutes and it will be on its way to your mailbox. Ya gotta love Amazon!

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