27 January 2011

The Uncluttered Life

Any items that you do not value and things that do not fit are no longer relevant.  They may be appropriate for someone else.  We are consumers, stockpilers, collectors and hoarders.   Many of us hold on to stuff for little reason or absolute necessity.  We have filled closets, cupboards, garages and sheds.  We hold on to things for years without setting eyeball on them, yet refuse to listen to the call to spring clean.  We should use our precious space for required or essential items.

If it doesn’t fit, you need to quit. If it has a lump… dump.  If it makes you pout, throw it out.  If it makes you itch, you have to ditch.  If it has a spot, it should be dropped.  If it has a tear, don’t repair; just get it out of your lair. 

Green living is re-using, reducing and refusing waste.  Let someone else re-use your stuff; reduce the amount of stuff you bring into your home; and refuse to purchase stuff that not needed.   If you have an item that you have not seen or used in the past six months, apparently, you don’t need it. 

Start your journey to cut chaos in your home.  Spend time slashing stuff now and save time with less loads of laundry; dishes; and general cleaning in the near future.  You may be surprised that you have less stress; more moments to read a book, newspaper, this blog or other favorite pursuits; and extra money in your accounts.

Over the last few months, I got rid of about 40% of my stuff; 20% of the children’s things; and my husband is working on his items.  I re-used boxes and filled them with items in all the desk or table drawers; got rid of just about all the plastic cups and containers and replaced them with the glass items that were stored in boxes in the basement; donated clothes, shoes and display stuff; took some framed items to work to decorate my office; and I’m now going through all the boxes of collected paper and junk drawer stuff for disposal, donation or organization.  There is no rush to complete the task since it is tough and time consuming.

I have no regrets and I find it much easier to get dressed in the morning and clean up the kitchen.  We are only shopping for food and we do not stockpile.  We find that we have less leftovers and tossed food and meals are a little more creative.  I feel a whole lot better about the house and we stepped back from consumerism.  Green is good.

Thanks: publicdomainpictures.net

22 January 2011

Trash Talk: Influence of Affluence on Environmental Impacts

I did a search on the list of solid waste facilities in the State of Maryland.  Most Counties had one to four municipal solid waste; rubble/construction and demolition; or industrial landfills and various incinerator and processing facilities.  Baltimore, Calvert and Prince Georges County have 7 each and Baltimore City has 11 permitted facilities.  Please see: http://www.mde.maryland.gov/programs/Land/SolidWaste/PermittedFacilities/Documents/www.mde.state.md.us/assets/document/PERMITTED_SW_ACCEPTANCE_FACILITIES.pdf
If you are familiar with population trends in the State, you can make your own assumptions about that list.   My search was further narrowed down to Prince Georges County, which has about a 65% black population with a median household income of about $71K.   In looking at the addresses for the disposal sites, most are in Upper Marlboro and the others are in Capital Heights, Fairmont Heights and Hyattsville.  None of these are located in the most affluent areas of those jurisdictions or the County as a whole; no assumptions necessary.   
Landfills cause environmental damage by leaking pollutants into groundwater and waterways and emitting hazardous air.  There have been many studies on the connection between these facilities and human health.  Impacts may include stunted growth; low birth weight; birth defects; organ function abnormalities; skin irritations; neurologic issues; and cancers.   
The private and government decision makers ensure that these facilities are not in their own back yards and they also follow the path of least resistance when planning site locations.  In general, the communities that do not have influence in local development processes are the ones that get stuck with the undesirable outcomes.  Consequently, those populations suffer from inferior health simply based upon the least wealth and the least political activity.
People need to step up and defend themselves, but the people do not have the funds to do so.    The least among us need help.   The non-profit environmental sector makes a difference, but the focus on bigger issues (to them) drives dollars beyond financially disadvantaged communities.  Of course, I do not have all the answers, but I do have a few suggestions.
·         Business  funded buyouts of properties in the vicinity of existing or proposed facilities, not just those directly impacted by the footprint of facilities
·         Middle and upper class support to push proposed facilities out to less populated areas
·         Business/government liaison for communities to provide outreach and education to help translate industry and science into meaningful terms to ensure understanding of potential impacts and to help communities develop a response to proposals
·         Business/government pollution mitigation including providing bottled water and/or whole-house  water filter systems; contaminated soil removal and replacement; home retrofits to reduce impacts from odors and noise;  and regular health check-ups and natural preventive remedies
·         Extensive tree planting around facilities
As our population increases and produces more waste, it will be necessary to construct new facilities.  These facilities may come to a place near you because there may be no other suitable location or the moneyed interests will guarantee they will not come near them in Potomac, Bethesda, Clarksville, Davidsonville, Cape St. Clair, Rockville or any other wealthy community in the State.  So, what are you going to do about it?    

Thanks: publicdomainpictures.net

16 January 2011

Contemporary Green

Can we give up modern conveniences for a sustainable lifestyle? Yes, no, maybe so?  We have cellphones, televisions, computers, home appliances, vehicles and a whole lot more.  What did we do before the inventions of some of these items?  Oh, please, so archaic.  Must we go back?  Which of these should we give up to go green?   Absolutely none… right now.  There are many in the world who do not have any of these items, gadgets, necessities for the American way of life; however, that does not make their practices any greener than ours.  American services, amenities and regulations make labor and recreation more efficient and allow for corrections of some environmental damages caused by our footprint on this earth.  A community may have little or no amenities and regulations.  Even with less generated usage, waste and pollution per capita, their local environment may not be able to absorb what little is generated and therefore, not provide a healthy environment for people, animals and plants.  In other words, a community of 80 may have 1 pot to piss in and it will fill up and stink fast, but here, we have 10 pots per person.  Therefore, we can stay in place longer and live our lives with less concern about lack of potable water or usable soil to grow food.   That other community may have to move on sooner rather than later to seek better conditions and cleaner water.  For some, that less tolerable situation may be a haven for the next group that settles.  I cannot imagine.
Just because we have those powerful energy using things, does not make us inconsiderate of others.  It would just be courteous if we did not use them in excess.  I’m not even saying, “Throw out your stuff”.  It’s bought and not broken.  Use it until it breaks (we all know that gadgets are designed for a short lifespan); recycle it (if possible); get a less impactful reclaimed or new version; or don’t replace it at all.  I do not advocate an all or nothing approach to going green.  That approach is not realistic and can be wasteful and expensive.  Not all of us have the financial green to start all over and the U.S. is not set up to be green.  One day at a time, within your budget and within your comfort level.  Going slow will help develop the buy-in and support you will need from your family and circle of friends.  Soon enough, they may give deference to your desires; may help you accomplish your goals; and may eventually convert themselves.  If anything, a simpler lifestyle saves time, money, space and is a whole lot less stressful.
For the big picture outlook, time and space is on our side.  We have not reached the point of no return in America.   But, that day may come.  We can push the date out for the sake of our descendants.  If the corporate world and greedy people in general choose not to think beyond themselves, we should because it is the right thing to do and there are a whole lot more of us with good intentions than them.  Soon enough, it will be cool enough to simplify and the companies and government will follow us.  I started in easy mode.  It was easy to recycle paper.   Since my neighborhood had a recycling program, I split up paper and other stuff.  Next thing I knew, my County made it easier for me by taking mixed recyclables.   It was even easier to let the grass grow a little bit longer before I cut it and when I did, left the cuttings.  No commercial fertilizer; real easy.  Here are a few other easy things:
Shopping: yeah, right; I’ve been donating as much stuff as I can as fast as I can
Car: dirty!
Yard: diverse plant life (weeds); solar powered vibrator to scare away the rascals
Washing machine: cold water on 6-10 minutes setting
Small appliances: unplugged ‘til needed
Body: Quick shower, no baths (choice, but I do not knock the spa)
Television: off most of the time
Lights: off (kids go to bed early)
Cellphone: really old version; no internet, limited texting
Computer:  unplugged when not in use; power saver mode when on.
Home: little chilly in here, but we will survive the 60° night setting and 62°-65° day setting; kids still running around in shorts/t-shirts
Lunch: made at home for work and school


I’ll blog the harder stuff later ‘cause you can’t be green and be lazy. J
What are you doing??

Thanks: publicdomainpictures.net

14 January 2011

Apples and Olives

I get pimples and I have the blemishes to prove it.  Sometimes they are minor and other times, they get ugly.  I tried all sorts of soaps, astringents, scrubs, masks, lotions and potions sold in stores.  I even tried the products designed for women of hue.  Nothing worked and my skin usually ended up crazy itchy and irritated.  Dry peeling facial skin is not cute.  None of that stuff helped the typical pimples or monthly facial breakouts.  I understand that acne has many causes including, but not limited to, hormones, bacteria, environment and stress.  Since I can’t control everything (dang), I just have to deal.
About two months ago, I started using organic raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar with the ‘mother’ as an astringent and organic olive oil as a moisturizer twice daily.  After washing my face with soap, I wet a cotton ball with water and squirt a few drops of vinegar into the cotton ball.  I wipe my face with the cotton ball.  Ahhh!  After I pat or air-dry my face, I pour a small amount of olive oil into the palm of my hand. I slather it onto my arms and hands.  Then, I spread the oil left on my hands onto my face.  My face smells like vinegar and olive oil for a few minutes.  The combination is charming and the scent fades in a short time period.  I also smell the vinegar aroma the first minute of a warm shower or when my face begins to warm (okay… sweat) from activity. 
About once a month when the hormones kick in, I use a natural calcium bentonite clay mask mixed with water or the apple cider vinegar in a non-metal bowl.  I follow it up with the apple-olive drill.
My skin has improved and I get less severe and a smaller amount of ‘spots’.  My face does not dry out at all.  Many days, I go apple without the olive and my skin still does not dry.  My face is healing and I am less stressed about my appearance.  I expect that over the next several months my skin will continue to mend with no more monster breakouts.  Sweet smell and money saved.

10 January 2011

Pollution Diet

The Environmental Protection Agency pollution diet calls for a reduction in nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment runoff by 2025 in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and the District of Columbia; areas whose waterways drain to the Chesapeake Bay, a national treasure and America’s largest estuary.  The Bay is a victim of our human habits.  We develop the land; dump chemicals into the air and water; and over harvest wildlife.  We can be narrowed down to the moneyed interests in the building, chemical, pharmaceutical and food industries.  But, we the people are casualties as well.  We the people support those industries and we suffer the consequences in our wallets and health.  We live and work in those buildings; we purchase cleaning supplies and medicines; and we eat food produced on large factory farms.
We need to go on a pollution diet. We need to reduce our desires for big homes and big cars; wishes for floors clean enough to eat off; craving for drugs to alleviate the slightest of discomfort; and want for platefuls of inexpensive food. If we do so in huge numbers, the market will notice and adjust.  If we push our legislators, the adjustment may happen sooner.
Start your own pollution diet and spread the news.  Ask how you contribute to the disaster that is our environment.  Ask if you can live without certain cleaning supplies and medicines. Answer with your habits and how you can regulate yourself and reduce your contribution to pollution.   How about trying a nap or glass of water instead of taking a headache drug?  What about vinegar to wash windows instead of commercial window cleaner?  Why not buy organic vegetables instead of vegetables from the food industry giants?  There are so many things you can do to reduce your footprint on the world. In doing so, you may improve your health; lose weight; and beautify your surroundings. You are the consumer and you have a choice whether or not to pollute your body and your environment.  Here are a few diets to consider:
House Diet
No lawn fertilizer
Smaller grass-only lawns (plant shrubs and trees)
No watering grass

Home Diet

Homemade or natural cleaning supplies
Cold water for laundry
Donate unwanted goods instead of trash
Reduce use of electricity, gas, oil

Body Diet

Avoid or minimize use of medicine (unless severe medical condition)
Avoid enhancement or boutique drugs, chemicals, hormones, cosmetics
Go natural hair
Intake less food and exercise more
Drink more water
Eat organic as much as feasible and buy from local sources
Avoid processed foods
Eat chemical and hormone free meat

I’m on a diet and I’m looking forward to losing the weight of clutter and chubbiness from my life.  Tell me what diet works for you.    

08 January 2011

Chirp, Cheep, Cheap!

Everybody’s all a-twitter about the cost of groceries these days.   Have you seen the prices of cleaning products lately?  We sure spend a lot of money to poison ourselves.  Stop already!  With a few ingredients listed in my earlier post Shrewd Shopping List, you can make dish detergent, laundry detergent, shampoo and more. My latest adventure in the kitchen was dishwasher detergent.  I grabbed a glass jar and mixed a small batch of dishwasher powder. 

½ cup borax
½ cup washing soda
¼ cup coarse sea salt
¼ cup food grade citric acid

My first attempt was double the recipe.  Don't do that.  My mix compacted and hardened in the glass jar and it was hard to scrape it out as I got closer to the bottom.  I got out what I could and then added water.  It fizzed up and once dissolved, I used it as liquid soap for general cleaning. 

With the smaller amount, it should be easier to manage; especially if you store the jar on its side.  I use a spoon to chunk it up and loosen it.  I put one tablespoon into the detergent receptacle.  The rinse agent is a mix of lemon juice and white vinegar.  The dishes came out clean.   I still have water spots because I do not run the dry cycle on the dishwasher to save energy.  There may be a small amount of caked detergent left; chunk it up and leave in the dishwasher for the next cycle.  They key to any dishwashing success is to avoid greasy dishes.  I hand wash (castile soap and water) the greasy cooking dishes.   If grease gets in the dishwasher and leaves a film, I’ll put vinegar in and re-run the wash. I will test my next batch with additional citric acid and see if that works. 

My stash of shrewd shopping ingredients cost me less than $75.00, including shipping and handling for the citric acid.  I have enough ingredients to make over a year’s worth of dish detergent, laundry detergent, body soap, shampoo, general cleaners and whatever else I can find through research.   I used to spend over $50 per month on just a few of my cleaning and body supplies.  No more! 

Some readers may find homemade extreme, but I tried the eco-friendly online dishwasher liquid and it left my dishwasher with regular and recurring mold that I had to constantly scrub and clean.  The big company eco-friendly liquid from the big box store left a thick film on the dishes and the dishwasher smelled like bleach.  The homemade batch cleans the dishes; sometime leaves a film or oil; and I no longer have issues with mold.  At least I recognize the ingredients in my homemade batch and I can tweak the formula to fit my family’s needs.   

The only drawback with homemade items is finding the ingredients.  I was persistent and patient.  I did not go out of my way to find the ingredients, just found them along my normal shopping route.  I found the borax at Target, washing soda at Wegmans, and I ordered the citric acid online.  Do not try to buy citric acid from stores because it is hard to find and may be sold for $4-10 for a 4 oz bottle.  I searched online and found a 5 pound bag for $13 at a biodiesel supply company, which is so much less expensive than the online candy, nut or health food shops. 

Try it and let me know how this works out for you.  If you need citric acid, let me know and I’ll help you find some.

Thanks: publicdomainpictures.net