Commercial Green Cleaning Products: Don’t’ Assume, Read The Labels

 by Michele Kadison 

Now more than ever it is essential to read the labels on your cleaning products.  Even supposedly “green” cleaning agents can contain toxic substances.  So before you assume that the product advertising its contents as eco-friendly means all is well, look at the ingredients before you buy.

Here are some of the common substances found in many green cleaning products on the market:

Glycerin
A moisturizer used to prevent the loss of moisture from a product
•    Helps to condition skin
•    Decreases thickness of the product
•    Safe, biodegradable in water and soil
•    Does not build up in living organisms
•    Use vegetable based only

Glyceryl Oleate
Used in washing machine cleansers
A plant-based compound to prevent excess foaming
•    Low acute oral toxicity (the adverse effects from single exposure)
•    Biodegradable

Glycol Ether
A solvent and  thinner that prevents moisture loss
Used in hand surface cleaners
•    Dissolves other substances
•    Decreases thickness of the product
•    Non toxic
•    Biodegrades rapidly in  soil and water
•    No build up in living organisms

Hexahydro – 1,3,5-Tris (2-Hudroxyethyl)-S-Triazine

Prevents growth of bacteria, yeast, and fungi
•    Maintains a product’s integrity by preventing contamination and growth
•    Is a known carcinogen
•    Affects the neurological and reproductive systems
•    Toxic to humans and aquatic organisms in high doses

Hydrogen Peroxide
•    Removes stains
•    Oxidizes and bleaches
•    If used at 3-4% levels, there is no toxidity
•    Can irritates the eyes and skin
•    Not harmful to the environment

Hydroxyethylcellulose
A plant derived cleaning agent
•    Helps water to mix with oil and dirt for rinsing
•    Low acute oral toxicity
•    Non irritating
•    Biodegradable

Inert ingredients
Ingredients that do not contribute to the function of product
•    Used to add bulk
•    No requirement by the EPA to state their components on the label

Lactic Acid
Found in all purpose cleansers
A naturally derived alpha-hydroxy acid
•    Used for exfoliation, adjusting  pH, conditioning skin, prevent moisture loss
•    Removes lime scale and soap scum
•    Maintain a product’s pH and kills microbes,
•    Low toxicity
•    Can irritate skin and eyes
•    Biodegradable

Lauaminopropylamine oxide
A synthetic chemical
Used in cleaning, laundry, and dishwashing products
•    A preservative, antimicrobial, and anti-static agent
•    Helps water mix w oil and dirt for rinsing
•    Toxic to aquatic life

Lauryl polyglucose
A plant derived cleaning agent
•    Helps water mix w oil and dirt for rinsing
•    Low acute oral toxicity
•    Bio-degradeable

The Pesticide Blues

by Michele Kadison

Pesticides have been around for decades. Many have been banned over the years, and many are still in use, even though aproximately 165 pesticide compounds have been labeled as probable and possible carcinogens by the Environmental Protection Agency. Used to kill home, lawn, and garden pests such as fleas, cockroaches, ants, lice, and ticks, pesticides have now been discovered to last for years beyond their last application. With children and pets spending time on floors as well as all of us inhaling dust and other particles within our homes, this presents an especially serious problem.

According to a recent study by the EPA, many pesticides that have not been in use due to bans still remain in our homes. Many pesticides have been linked to diseases such as leukemia and Parkinson’s as well as to interference in early child development, obesity, and reproductive problems. Some of the most common banned pesticides that still remain on floors are:

Chlordane
Used on lawns and gardens, this substance was banned in 1984 and has been found in 74% of homes.

Chlorpyrifos
Also called Dursban and used in the home as an insecticide, it was banned in 2001 and has been found in 78% of homes.

Cypermethrin
An insecticide found in ant and roach killers, including Raid, it has been found in 46% of homes.

DDT
Banned in 1972, this was used to kill mosquitos and other annoying insects. It has been found in 42% of homes to date, in addition to DDE, a byproduct, which has been found in 33% of homes.

Diazinon
An insecticide used to kill ants, roaches, and other similar creatures, including outdoor pests, this was banned in 2004 and has been found in 35% of homes.

Fipronil
An insecticide used in products such as Frontline, Maxforce, Over’nOut, and TopChoice, this was found in 40% of homes.

Permethrin
Used to treat head lice, fleas and ticks, and other insects, this formula has been found in 89% of homes.

Piperonyl Butoxide
This chemical us used to kill ants, fleas, ticks, lice, wasps, and other pests. Used with pyrethrin, another toxic substance, the subtance was found in 52% of homes.

For information on how to apply eco-friendly methods of pest control: Eco Friendly Pest Control and Green Termite Control.

Dehumidifying Your Home

by Michele Kadison 

If you live in an area where the humidity is high during the summer months, you may want to invest in a dehumidifier.  High humidity leads to musty odors in bathrooms and basements as well as the proliferation of dust mites, mold, and bacteria that can give way to respiratory problems, nasal irritation, and asthma attacks.

The ideal level of humidity in a home is around 45%.  Anything over 50% is a recipe for attracting unwanted creatures like rats, mice, carpenter ants, and termites who love to munch on damp, warped, and rotten wood.

High humidity makes us feel hotter.  This is because it is difficult for water to evaporate from our skin when there is no assistance from dry air.  Air-conditioners are cranked up when we feel the discomfort from heat and humidity, and when the electricity bill comes we wonder what we can do to bring those prices down.  Unwanted gasses are also emitted from over use of air-conditioning, which is an obvious hazard for the environment.

Before you invest in a humidifier, try the following things to see if your high humidity problem is solved:

•    Install a fan in your bathroom.

•    Use a range hood fan in your kitchen when cooking.

•    Check your plumbing for leaks.  If you see condensation around pipes, wrap them with plastic foam pipe wrap.  Seal all the openings where your pipes come through walls and flooring with good caulking material.

•    Seal any cracks in your walls and foundation with a good concrete sealer.  If the area is just damp, coat with a waterproofing solution.

•    Clean and seal your gutters and downspouts to make sure ground water does not seep into your basement.  Make sure excess water is routed away from your home by at least three feet.

•    If you have underground drains, make sure they are open by running water through them.  If you do not have these drains, think about getting them as an investment against water damage.
Once you have looked into all the above and still find that your humidity levels are high, it is time to buy a dehumidifier.   Make sure you purchase one that has an Environmental Protection Agency “Energy Star” label, which guarantees the machines efficiency.   Other factors to look for are:

•    Easy to read and easy to set controls.  Those that come with digital displays are the simplest.  You can also purchase a hygrometer to measure humidity.  These generally sell for around $20.00.

•    Easy maintenance.  Most humidifiers come with internal water tanks.  Some are emptied automatically, and some need emptying manually.  If you buy a manual model, make sure the tank is easy to remove for draining.

•    A model with a washable air filter.

•    The right size for the area you wish to dehumidify.  Ask the store specialist what capacity the machine must have to function properly in a given room.  For example:  a 2,000 square foot basement that is slightly damp will need a dehumidifier with a capacity of 22 pints a day.  The same size basement that is extremely damp will need a capacity of 40 pints.

•    A model that shuts down automatically if temperatures in your home fall below 65 degrees F or a model that can handle a lower temperature.  Most models are designed for temperatures of 65 and above and will collect frost on the coils if it becomes cooler.

Common sense note:  When using your dehumidifier, make sure you close the doors and windows of your home to ensure the greatest efficiency.

Shipping Green

 by Michele Kadison

Shipping packages creates enormous impact on the climate, as so much energy can be spent getting even just one package from point A to point B.  Imagine what happens in December, which is generally the busiest month of the year for shipping as consumers send out holiday packages by the dozen.  Literally billions of packages are shipped, with UPS alone reporting that on December 19th it generally ships upwards of 22 million packages.

In this regard it is important to identify which shipping companies are doing their part to counteract global warming by reducing their carbon footprint throughout their business practices.

Climate Counts Scores the Shipping Industry
Climate Counts is an organization dedicated to reporting how businesses are doing in regards to climate consciousness.   They have created, with the help of a panel of business and climate experts gleaned from academia and non-governmental agencies, a scorecard that measures the efforts of a wide range of businesses.  The annual scorecard for the shipping industry is a viable ranking system that allows climate-conscious consumers to decide where to put their money when shipping their goods.

With scores ranging from 1 to 100, with 100 being the perfect rank, Climate Counts rates shipping companies based on 22 criteria.  The criteria includes information on each company’s efforts to assess its own carbon footprint, to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, to support viable legislature dealing with climate control, and to exhibit transparency in its business practices.

Here are some of the rankings for 2008:

DHL: 67 pts (up from 45 in 2007)
Fedex : 53 pts (up from 28 in 2007)
US Postal Service: 50 pts (up from 43 in 2007)
UPS: 40 pts (up from 39 in 2007)

With the improvements made in 2008, we can easily expect even greater improvements in 2009 as businesses learn how to create better paradigms for reducing their carbon footprint.

Improving the Air Quality in Your Home

by Michele Kadison
We all realize how important it is to breathe clean air, whether it be outdoors or in.  When it comes to our homes, which are our sanctuaries, clean air is essential. If you have pets, allergies, asthma, or are adverse to constant cleaning, a little help from some effective resources can make all the difference to your sense of well-being.
The most natural way to improve air quality is incorporating houseplants into your décor.  These lovely living air purifiers help to absorb many airborne pollutants such as smoke, carpet residue, and fumes from commercial cleaning supplies (if you still are using them!)  According to a study made by NASA, houseplants are ideal for filtering out toxins such as benzene and formaldehyde.  Because plants undergo photosynthesis even in low light conditions, they are constantly cleaning the air around them.

Besides filtering your air, plants play a big part in enhancing the look of your home as well as helping to lift the spirits of everyone in your household.  Even if your thumb refuses to go green, there are many plants that can grow quite easily with just a minimum of care.

Here is a list of my favorites for some of you non-gardening types:

•    Tillandsia: doesn’t need soil to grow as it feeds on the air.  Once a week immerse the plant in water or give it a thorough misting and you’re done.
•    Ivy: an extremely low maintenance plant that is great for softening the look of hard edges in hour home or for making a topiary.
•    Kentia Palm:  grows up to 12 feet indoors, so is great for homes with high ceilings.
•    Dracaena: comes in a wide range of colors including light green, dark green, and green and white stripes.
•    Rubber Plant: has lush, thick, dark green leaves that remind you of a verdant jungle.
•    Bamboo:  needs no soil and looks great when placed in big vase full of water.
•    Cactus: place it near bright sunlight and water once a week or less.
•    Philodendron: lovely trailing plants that endure with very little care.
•    African violets: with their soft fuzzy leaves and beautiful flower clusters, they are wonderful additions for brightening your home.
Whatever type of plants you choose, follow the directions on the tags that are attached when you buy them and you will have thriving natural air fresheners working 24/7.

Along with houseplants, actual air purifying units are excellent choices for cleaning up airborne toxins, no matter how miniscule.  Choosing a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter will keep your home free of harmful irritants.

Some of the best commercial air purifying units includeionizers that help boost their performance or come with charcoal or carbon filters to help control household odors.

By combining houseplants with a good commercial air purifying system you are guaranteeing that your home will maintain the best air quality possible.  What a great guarantee to give your loved ones.

Eastman Kodak Company Thinks Green

by Michele Kadison 

Yet another big corporation is on the green bus driving towards greater sustainability and eco-consciousness.  Eastman Kodak Company has created a new set of goals to expand the company’s green mandate in its product line, operational practices, and social awareness. Though the company set up “responsible growth goals” in 2006, it has decided to go even further than its former expectations to reduce emissions while increasing its efforts towards greater responsibility in the marketplace.

So far, Kodak has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions and energy output by 40% since 2002.  This number has prevented 1.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from penetrating the atmosphere.  Kodak now intends to lower this percentage another 10% by 2012, which amounts to a 50% reduction since it began thinking about the repercussions of its ecological footprint.

Kodak also plans to ensure that all of its new products are qualified under Energy Star guidelines.  This would improve the life cycle of these products from inception to eventual reuse or recycling.  The company also is working towards assuring that all of its suppliers are assessed by the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition to make sure that their standards meet the same rigorous expectations that Kodak has set for itself.

The company’s progress is indebted to its use of energy-efficient equipment along with green-minded technicians, allowing for more sustainable design and manufacturing.  Because of Kodak’s new methods of industry, the company was able to retire a 67-megawatt power plant in 2007, which earned Kodak a U.S. Department of Energy “Energy Champion Award.”  Additionally, Kodak’s world headquarters in Rochester, New York was certified by Energy Star in 2008.

Digital transformation is also responsible for Kodak’s hefty transformation to a business others can look to as a model.  Other examples of its growing awareness in the green marketplace is its commitment to a 70% reduction in occupational injury rate by 2012, as well as continuing to fulfill its employee’s expectations as a forward-thinking, sustainable, and consciously eco-aware company.

Looking For a Better Trash Bag? EZ Bagz to the Rescue!

by Michele Kadison

In my constant search for eco-friendly products, I’ve recently come upon EZ Bagz, a great product that makes filling my kitchen trash can an actual pleasure. The bags come nested inside each other, with one bag containing the other eleven. Rather than removing a bag and then finding another and having to bend down to put it in, all you have to do with these is pull out the filled bag and voila! another is already in place. There are just too many times where I unconsciously throw kitchen scraps in a bag-less trash can having forgotten to refill it. Now this becomes impossible as there is always a fresh bag waiting its turn.

But that’s not the best part. EZ Bagz are 100% oxo-biodegradable, which means that they breakdown totally, leaving no harmful residue. Whether they are tossed in a landfill or elsewhere, these bags just disappear completely. I’ve noticed that they are also much more resistant to punctures than other plastic garbage bags and because they are made with a non-toxic polymer, they are not affected by moisture. Their strength and resistance means that they are very unlikely to tear or to leak, which means no slick spills on the kitchen floor once they are out of the can.

EZ Bagz have won a “product of the year” award from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Show, which is a testament to their brilliant design and construction.

Statistics claim that every six months the planet could be covered in plastic bags due to human use. This is an appalling fact that we need to attend to. As for me, I’m now doing my part by purchasing EZ Bagz for my trash cans and taking a re-usable bag for all of my grocery purchases. EZ Bagz for kitchen use are large enough to fit into a 13 gallon round or rectangular bin, which makes them extremely practical. And as if this wasn’t all excellent news, EZ Bagz are not at all expensive, despite their evolutionary construction.

Eco-Friendly Bulbs Get the Green Light

by Michele Kadison

Not that long ago the implication behind using a florescent fixture was that you would get that hard white light so endearing to jails, schools, hospitals, low-rent apartment hallways, government offices, and other similar spaces. Well, the florescent has had a makeover and now not only gives off a lovely warm light that imitates incandescent bulbs, but also comes in a plethora of shapes and sizes. But that is not the really good news about the new fluorescents.

Otherwise called Compact Fluorescent Lights or CFLs, these are the green lighting bulbs of choice as they produce less heat, save on energy, have a long life, and reduce costs considerably. CFLs use a lower wattage than traditional bulbs. Because of this they save on cooling costs while they maintain a lifespan of up to10,000 hours. While they may be more costly to buy than incandescent bulbs, they obviously save heaps of money in the long run. Additionally, CFLs are 4 to 6 times more efficient than traditional bulbs due to using ¼ of the energy that an incandescent bulb produces to give off the same amount of light. It takes only 15 watts from a CFL to replace a 60 watt traditional bulb. And what’s more, CFLs reduce carbon dioxide and sulpher dioxide emissions as well as lowering landfill content due to their longevity. CFLs actually keep a half ton of CO2 out of the atmosphere throughout the life of the bulb, which is an enormous boon to our planet. Imagine, if every person in the United States used energy efficient lighting, 90 average size power plants could retire! And, with 25% of the average home’s energy budget occupied with burning electricity, imagine how low your electric bills could be. And as if this isn’t enough, CFLs generate negative ions, which remove positive ions, thus cleaning the air while they illuminate your world!

Today’s CFLs are made to disseminate a warm, inviting glow. They don’t hum or flicker and can be used in every single way that a conventional light bulb can be used:

• Table lamps

• Recessed fixtures

• Porch lights

• Ceiling fixtures • Track lighting

• 3 way lights

• Dimmable lights

• Globe lights for vanity mirrors or open hanging lamps

• Flood lamps for recessed and track lighting

• Candelabra style for sconces and chandeliers

Notes About CFLs:

• They do not turn on as quickly as an incandescent bulb

• They can interfere with radios, computers, and other electronic equipment so keep them away from devices

• They contain trace amounts of mercury, which is toxic. When disposing of them, make sure you do so properly.

Another “Green” Light Product

For those of you who use holiday lighting, LEDs are the ideal substitute for conventional lighting strands. Where a traditional holiday bulb (an incandescent C7) uses 6 watts per bulb, a LED uses .08 watts per bulb. Multiply this by the amount of bulbs there are per strand and how many strands you use and for how long, and you will see what kind of contribution you are making to the planet.

Controlling Outdoor Pests Naturally

By Michele Kadison

Its summertime, and with the hot weather comes the pesky creatures who love to dine on your plants, flowers, and garden veggies. Instead of using conventional pest control solutions, you can make some really effective recipes of your own that will keep harmful insects and diseases away without releasing a single toxin to harm the environment.

For Aphids, Spider Mites, and Whiteflies

Recipe 1.

2 tsp mineral oil 15 garlic cloves 1 tsp neutral liquid dish soap 600 ml water Soak the garlic cloves in mineral oil overnight. Strain out the garlic and add water and dish soap. Mix and place in a spray bottle. Mist any plants that are suffering from visits from the above pests.

Recipe 2.

2 tbs soap flakes 2 liters of warm water Dissolve the soap flakes in the water. Dip a small sponge in the fluid and apply to the infested areas once a week.

For Black Spot and Mildew

1 tsp. baking soda 1 tsp. soap flakes 1 liter of warm water Remove all infected leaves from the plant. Dissolve the baking soda water and then add soap flakes. Place solution in a spray bottle and apply to the entire plant.

For Powdery Mildew

½ cup of water ½ cup of milk Mix together and add to a spray bottle. Spray on your infected plants three times a week until the mildew is gone.

For Flying Pests

2 tbs non-petroleum jelly 4”x8” pieces of cardboard Waterproof yellow paint Paint both sides of the cards and let dry. Spread the jelly on both sides of the cards. Place the cards above your plants to trap any flying pest that might be tempted to do harm.

For Sow Bugs

1 small plastic container and cover 2 tbsp. cornmeal Make a small hole in the bottom of the container. Put cornmeal in the container. Cover the container and place it in the area of infestation. Once the sow bugs eat the cornmeal they will be thirsty. Once they drink, they will explode!

The Best Insect Repellant

One of the most effective ways to keep insects away is to make sure you have no standing water in your yard as this provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other annoying insects. Keep your eves and overhangs dry as well as any playground equipment so that insects don’t have a chance to build their nests in them. Old fashioned citronella candles are a great way to keep pesky flying creatures from bothering you. Tiki torches are another option as the flame, heat, and smoke work to turn insects away.

The Consequences of Warmer Oceans

By Michele Kadison

Even with the ongoing debate regarding the cause of so many recent hurricanes and typhoons, more and more scientists and professors are agreeing that global warming is a major contributor to these phenomena.

According to research recently published in Nature Magazine, there have been more hurricanes and typhoons in recent years than in the past 1,000.  The most notable increase has actually been in the last 30 years, which as reported by the National Hurricane Center, are ” well above normal activity” and “correspond to the rise in sea surface temperatures.”

When the air is sufficiently warm, it heats the ocean’s surface, causing the water to evaporate. As this moisture rises, it creates stormy weather, including clouds, rain, and thunder.  With thunderstorms comes a lower pressure system, which then has the potential to increase to a tropical depression. As winds accelerate due to earth’s rotation, they gather in the center of the lower pressure area, forming an ‘eye’, which then can increase in intensity to become a violent storm such as a hurricane.

According to National Geographic News, the strength and duration of hurricanes has increased over the past 30 years by approximately 50%.  Kerry Emanuel, a professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT says that as global temperatures rise, hurricane activity will increase accordingly, as it is heat that drives these storms.

The current typhoon action in the Philippines, China, and Japan is a perfect example of how global warming may be triggering these catastrophes. The China Meteorological Administration’s head, Qin Dahe, corroborates by saying that typhoons are increasing in strength due to unusual climactic and atmospheric events.  Lester Brown, the president of Earth Policy Institute, commenting on the weather in China and elsewhere around the world, agrees with this prognostication.

The United Nations International Panel on Climate Change believes that we can expect a significant rise in global temperature as this century moves forward.  How we combat and deal with the effects of global warming and the storms that ensue will be determined by a variety of strategies such as intelligent community planning, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and managing our resources with greater care.