Friday, July 30, 2010

Common Items Containing Oil

If its possible for there to be something good that has come from the Gulf Oil Spill, it has to be that it has brought our oil addiction to the forefront. People who were previously unconcerned with our outrageous dependence on oil are now taking notice. And many people forget that oil goes into much more than just our automobiles. Two-thirds of oil consumption is used for transportation, however thousands of the products that we use everyday also contain oil and we are using over a million barrels of oil daily to make these products. Thankfully, the idea of really utilizing alternative energy is catching on and big companies are on board, but we, as consumers, have to take responsibility and we have to vote with our dollars. Take a look at the list below, the image and the link to more products. There are environmentally friendly alternatives to many of these products and many of these items can be just be eliminated from your home or routine. Of course every time we choose to walk or ride a bike instead of drive, car pool or take public transportation, we are making a positive impact. Every little bit helps!

Dyes                                         Panty Hose
AntifreezeElectronicsPetroleum Jelly
Art SuppliesFishing LineRecords
Artificial LimbsFloor WaxRefrigerant
Aspirin                       Foam                        Roofing
AwningsGlueShaving Cream
Cleaning ProductsGuitar StringsShower Curtains
CandlesHeart ValvesSkis
InsulationSports Equipment
Nail PolishTrash Bags
Paint BrushesVitamin Capsules

To see more products made with oil, click here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

DIY: Healthy Homemade Popsicles

Its been a scorcher lately! Time to cool down with some homemade popsicles! They're easy and fun to make and the best part is that they're not only delicious but healthy for you and the planet! By making them at home, you can assure that there will no added sugar or preservatives, you can choose to purchase local and organic ingredients or use ingredients from your garden, reduce packaging waste and save money! You can either use store bought popsicle molds or ice cube trays and toothpicks (just like mom used to make!) Here are a few flavor ideas:

  • Freeze any fruit or vegetable juice, mix them together or choose one flavor
  • Add sparkling water to any juice for an extra refreshing treat
  • Freeze PLAIN WATER, its not as boring as it sounds and great for hydration needs
  • Try freezing plain of flavored coconut water, also great for replenishing fluids
  • Use plain or fruit "flavored" yogurt (or kefir) or add fresh fruit to plain yogurt
  • Freeze applesauce, if its thick, try mixing in a little water
  • Cook sweet potatoes, mash, mix smooth, sprinkle in a little nutmeg and freeze
  • Make sun tea or green tea and add chamomile and lemon, freeze
  • Puree any fresh fruits or vegetables that you desire for a power packed treat
  • Make popsicles with Emergen-C and water
  • Try freezing fresh fruit in nut milk
  • Blend bananas, dark chocolate and any nut butter, freeze
  • Add fresh ginger to any popsicle to ease nausea or indigestion
  • Add fresh herbs to any of your creations, they can be used for flavoring or as a great way to take herbs medicinally, a particularly good method for kids
These are just a few ideas; the sky is the limit when it comes to making popsicles! Let your imagination run wild, experiment frequently and enjoy your creations!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Easy Steps to Reduce Your Paper Waste

Paper waste is a major problem worldwide. An estimated seven trees are cut down. per person, per year in the United States to provide the amount of paper that person uses in one year. And the worst part is most of the paper is ending up in a landfill rather than being recycled. Fortunately, there are simple steps that we can all take to greatly reduce our paper consumption.

  1. Get Off of Direct Mail Lists - 100 million trees and 28 million gallons of water are being used to make junk mail annually. The US has an estimated 4.6 million tons of junk mail per year and it is estimated that nearly 50% of it is not recycled, but is thrown in the trash. has an easy to follow, 5 step guide to help greatly reduce the amount of junk mail that you receive. Check it out here! You can remove yourself from catalog lists here and credit card and insurance solicitations here. For a small fee will contact dozens of direct marketers on your behalf.
  2. Request to Not Receive a Telephone Book - If you are like most people these days and look up telephone numbers online or with your phone, request to stop receiving them and recycle any old ones that you have lying around. You can also ask your telephone book company to start using recycled paper and other eco-friendly practices.
  3. Cancel Newspaper and Magazine Subscriptions - Read your paper online or visit the library to read the newspaper or your favorite magazine. Many libraries have a place where you can pick up free magazines, and they are often that months issue too.
  4. Practice Green Gift Wrapping - Imagine how much wrapping paper ends up in the landfills each Christmas and that's only one holiday. Always reuse gift bags and even gift wrap. Try wrapping gifts in old newspapers, magazines, telephone book pages, paper grocery bags or scrap material.
  5. Reduce Home Paper Use - Make the switch to cloth napkins and cloth towels, always use both sides of paper, buy in bulk when possible to reduce packaging waste, request e-mail statements for your bills and recycle, recycle, recycle!
  6. Reduce Office Paper Use - Never print anything unless it is absolutely necessary, always print on both sides of the paper, cut used paper to use as scratch paper, make computer files rather than paper files whenever possible, encourage employees to bring in their own coffee mugs instead of using paper cups, use recycled paper in your printers and once again, recycle, recycle, recycle! For more information on reducing office waste, check out this site.
  7. Plant Trees - Plant at least seven trees per year to make up for the average seven that we are all using. You can plant locally or support reforestation projects in other countries where clear cutting has greatly affected their eco-system.
For more paper saving tips, check out this list from the CalRecycle Program.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Southern Summer Classic: Fried Green Tomatoes

As it turns out, Fried Green Tomatoes actually got their start up North in the early 19th century. But this dish is almost always credited to the South, as it has been widely enjoyed here for generations. There are many ways to make them, but the recipe below is tried and true! And as with any recipe, it can be changed to suit your needs. If you don't have a garden, you can use red (ripe) tomatoes instead, just make sure that they are not too ripe or they will turn out soggy. If you're vegan or have dietary restrictions, the eggs and milk can be eliminated. And if you prefer not to eat fried foods, try baking them instead. However you prepare them, they're sure to be delicious! For dipping, we recommend Horseradish Dill Sauce and have listed the recipe below. Grab a glass of tea or lemonade and head out to the porch for a true Southern delight!

Fried Green Tomatoes

Oil (Canola or Peanut)
4 green tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch rings
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon garlic powder
4 free-range eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs (or cornmeal)
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch paprika

In a deep-fryer, preheat oil to 350 degrees F.
First, allow the tomatoes to sit for 15 minutes to drain off excess liquid. Next, season tomatoes, on both sides, with salt and pepper. Place flour and garlic powder in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish, beat eggs with the milk. In another dish, mix bread crumbs (or cornmeal) with cayenne and paprika. Dredge tomatoes through the flour, then the eggs, and then through the bread crumbs. Add only a few pieces to the fryer at a time, so they can cook evenly, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Horseradish Dill Sauce

1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion (or chives)

1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
pepper to taste

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

15 Houseplants to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Now that school is out and Summer is here, you would think we would all be outside playing, but with the temperature being nearly 100° for the last few weeks and the air quality being very poor, especially in our area (Charlotte ranks #10 on the list of Most Polluted Cities by Ozone), many have been opting to stay indoors more often. But be careful, you don’t want to escape the poor air quality outside only to sit in an enclosed space with equally poor, or often worse, air quality. With that in mind, here are 15 houseplants that will not only add aesthetic appeal, but will also help improve the air quality inside your home.

  1. Aloe (Aloe Vera) - This succulent helps clean formaldehyde and benzene, byproducts of chemical-based cleaners, paints and more, from the air. But beyond its abilities to cleanse the air, of course the gel inside can be used to heal burns and abrasions.
  2. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Comosum) - The very resilient plant takes care of benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene, a solvent used in the leather, rubber and printing industries.
  3. Heart Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron oxycardium) - Warning: if you have kids or pets, Philodendrons are poisonous when eaten. If this is not a concern for you, they are fantastic for removing all types of VOCs, particularly formaldehyde from particle board.
  4. Azalea (Rhododendron Simsii) - This lovely flowering shrub helps to eliminate formaldehyde off-gasses from plywood or foam insulation. You should place them in the coolest area of your home, but make sure it still has receives ample sunlight.
  5. English Ivy (Hedera Helix) - This plant is for those with inside pets, particularly if they sometimes do their business in the house. This plant has been shown to reduce airborne fecal-matter particles. And as with the others, it also reduces formaldehyde.
  6. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema Crispum 'Deborah') - This plant filters out a variety of pollutants and its efficiency actually increases with time. It is easy to care for and will bloom even in low light.
  7. Gerber Daisy (Gerbera Jamesonii) - This colorful, flowering plant is effective in removing trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent used in dry cleaning and some food production. It also cleanses benzene from inks.
  8. Golden Pothos (Scindapsus Aures) - Another excellent plant for clearing formaldehyde. Plus, its a fast grower and does not require a lot of light.
  9. Red-edged Dracaena (Dracaena Marginata) - This plant is best for removing xylene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde, which can be introduced to indoor air through lacquers, varnishes and gasoline.
  10. Warneck Dracaena (Dracaena Deremensis 'Warneckii') - This hardy plant combats pollutants from varnishes and oils and it can potentially reach 12 feet in height.
  11. Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea Sefritzii) - Also known as a reed palm, its the top performer for filtering out benzene and trichloroethylene. Its also helpful for cleansing the formaldehyde which off-gasses from furniture.
  12. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa') - This easy to keep plant topped NASA’s list for removing all three of most common VOCs — formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. It can also combat toluene and xylene.
  13. Snake Plant (Sansevieria Trifasciata 'Laurentii') - This is one of the best plants for filtering out formaldehyde commonly found in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues and personal care products. It will thrive in the bathroom with low-light and steamy conditions.
  14. Chrysanthemum (Chrysantheium Morifolium) - The blooms of this mum help clean benzene, which is commonly found in glue, paint, plastics and detergent.
  15. Weeping Fig (Ficus Benjamina) - Ficus trees clean out pollutants that typically accompany carpeting and furniture such as formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene.
This information comes from a study conducted by NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America and has been further tested with findings published in the Journal of American Society of Horticultural Science. If you don't recognize some of the plant names, rest assured, these are all common plants which should be easily found at your local nursery. If you have pets, make sure to check out this website first to see which ones can be toxic for animals: Also, consider placing some of these plants in your work place if possible. Commercial buildings have notoriously poor air quality and with so many of us spending the majority of our lives at work, it only makes sense. Plus, it will brighten your days! Happy Cleansing!