Robot Vacuuming with Roomba

 By Michele Kadison

Ok, ok, so I can’t stop talking about these robotic vacuums!  Its just hard to get over the fact that I don’t have to do it myself anymore… that I can have my own personal cleaning device to do all the work more thoroughly than I ever could.

I’ve just checked out the Roomba vacuum, which is a state of the art cleaning “angel”invented by the geniuses at IRobot.  This is the future looking us square in the face saying, rest… relax… enjoy life… let me do the work!

The Roomba is made with patented technology that makes this state-of-the-art vacuum cleaner one of the best around.  Picking up hair, dirt, and debris from any type of surface, the Roomba comes with a special anti-tangle technology that allows it to vacuum even fringed rugs and electrical cords.  Imagine all that dust accumulating in that fringe and around those cords… effortlessly and finally gone!  The Roomba includes a spinning brush that cleans corners, edges, and along walls, and also incorporates two counter-rotating brushes that whip away large debris.  Because it is so compact, the unit easily glides underneath furniture, going where any man or woman might fear to tread.  And to top it off, the Roomba has an infrared sensor that keeps it from falling off stairs and ledges along with two sensors designed to direct the vacuum cleaner towards especially dirty areas in a room.

And just when you think you’re jaw can’t drop any further, here’s the best part: the Roomba has 15 sounds that speak to you, advising you on the tasks it has accomplished and are about to do like “done,” “back up,” and “found charger.”  Found charger just threw me for a loop because this means that the unit goes back home on its own to recharge once the battery is low.  Some of the newest Roomba models are now created to clean up to four rooms on a single charge, making this mighty household appliance a true force.

The Roomba has a memory.  It will remember the layout of a room for all cleaning moments to come.  Newer models even allow you to program the unit to turn on every day at a specific time so that you can return home to immaculately clean floors.  There is even a special ‘pet series’ which is specifically designed to pick up hair balls, dander, and any other type of pet debris.

This time saving wonder is not expensive, and well worth looking into if, like me, you would rather delegate floor cleaning to something that is infinitely more talented at it than you can ever be!

Save Your Energy with a Remote Vacuum Cleaner

Some people like to vacuum the house, some people don’t.  But the inevitable truth is that vacuuming is really the only way to get the dust and dirt cleaned up without having to revert to the broom and dustpan, which has never been ideal.

For people like me who can’t always find the time to keep my home as clean as I like, a remote control vacuum can really become a woman’s or man’s best friend.

In my mind, a remote control vacuum is a gift from the cleaning gods.  It automatically maps and navigates a room, sweeps it and cleans it, and automatically turns off when it is finished.  It has an input jack that allows it to recharge a sensor detector to mine the fields where stairs and drop offs are concerned, a bagless dust box, an excellent filter system, and wheels that stay in contact with the floor, no matter what the surface. Additionally, most will shut down automatically if they stall or become jammed. And oh, I forgot to mention, remote vacuum cleaners are wireless.  Who could ask for more?

One of the best remote control vacuum cleaners I’ve come across is the CleanMate 365 QQ-2, which runs for 60 minutes on a single charge and then returns to home base for recharging.  After the charge is complete, there it goes, back to cleaning until the job is done.  The CleanMate is made in a very manageable compact size.  It comes with bristles and a flexible blade with beater bars that allows it to be used on almost any surface, including hard wood, tile, and ceramic floors as well as long pile or loop pile carpeting.  It also includes an ultraviolet light accessory that both deodorizes and kills household bacteria, which is especially great if you have pets or kids, or both.   And if this isn’t enough, it costs no more than a high-end conventional vacuum cleaner.

When you don’t have the time to vacuum your home, when you feel lazy but still want the house to be spotless, a remote vacuum cleaner will become your saving grace, your favorite appliance, and a purchase you will never regret.  Take it from me… I’m hooked!

Don’t Throw Out the Eggshells!

By Michele Kadison

Fresh farm eggs make for a wonderful, nutritious breakfast any way you cook them.  But rather than tossing the shells, take a look at this constructive list of how you can use them well:

Household Abrasive

Crush eggshells into fine pieces and add them to soapy water.  This non-toxic abrasive can be used to scour pots, pans thermoses, and other hard-to-clean items.

Drain Cleaner

Crush eggshells and place them in your sink strainer to trap debris.  The shells will eventually crumble and help to clean the sink pipes as they filter through the drain.

Seedling Pot

Use eggshell halves for starting your seedlings instead of conventional peat pots.  Simply fill the halves with potting soil and then plant your seeds.  Place the shells in your egg carton on a windowsill and watch the seeds grow until they are ready for transplanting.

Compost

Add eggshells to your compost pile where they add calcium and other nutrients as they decompose.

Pest Control

Crushed eggshells are excellent deterrents for cutworms, snails, and slugs.  Instead of using toxic pesticides, sprinkling the shells around you plants will help keep these pests away.  If you are plagued by deer, they will run for the hills and away from your garden as they seem to hate the smell of eggs.

Brewing Coffee

Eggshells take the bitterness out of coffee.  Place a crushed eggshell in your biodegradable coffee filter and brew away.  Afterwards you can throw the shells, filter, and grounds into your compost heap.

Facial Treatment

Crush eggshells with a mortar and pestle and add an egg white to the powder. Place the goo on your face and let it dry.  Your skin will be tight and glistening after you rinse with warm water.

Home Remedies

Place an eggshell in a jar of apple cider vinegar where it will dissolve after two days.  Use the liquid for itchy skin and other types of minor skin irritations.

Scrape out the inner membrane from an eggshell to heal minor cuts and to sooth the pain from ingrown toenails.

Arts and Crafts

Make a small puncture in both ends of an egg and blow out the egg.  Delicately paint the shell with watercolors to create your own personal work of art.

Fill a blown-out eggshell with chocolate and let chill.  Peel away the shell or serve as is as your friends scoop out the inner treasure.

The Growing Controversy over Antibacterial Soap

By Michele Kadison

Most commercial antibacterial soaps contain a substance called Triclosan, a chemical that kills bacteria. Recent studies are revealing that Triclosan may disrupt the endocrine system in both humans and animals, which directly corresponds to hormone health. Because so much antibacterial soap is being flushed down drains through constant use, even dolphins are now showing extensive amounts of Triclosan in their systems.

Triclosan is also found in other types of commercially sold items. Toothpaste, deodorant, detergents, fabric softeners, facial tissues, antiseptics, fabrics, and toys often incorporate the chemical to provide the antibacterial element that catches consumers’ attention. Researchers are finding that the more we are exposed to Triclosan, the more it has the potential to build up in our blood. Additionally, as this chemical is absorbed into our environment, the greater the potential for reacting with other chemicals where it can become even more toxic as it takes the form of chloroform and dioxin, contaminating our water and affecting ecosystems and marine life.

According to Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of the Food & Water Watch, “Numerous scientific studies and reports clearly indicate that in addition to its human health and environmental dangers, Triclosan is not effective for many of its intended benefits and may actually be doing consumers more harm than good.”

Recent petitions filed by Beyond Pesticides and the Food and Water Watch, along with support from groups such as the Sierra Club, the American Bird Conservancy and the Breast Cancer Fund, are claiming that Triclosan should not be approved for use in consumer products. These petitions claim that not only does it pose both a health and environmental danger, it is also ineffective.

There are a plethora of Green products on the market that are healthy and conscious replacements for antibacterial soaps as well as other products that contain Triclosan. Cleanwell All-Natural Hand Sanitizer makes an excellent alternative to chemically-based hand cleansers. Clean Well products are made with plant oils that kill germs and contain no harsh chemicals. As such, Clean Well’s products are not harmful to our water supply, food supply, or to our bodies.

Its time to disregard the hype and go back to the old tried and true, mom and pop method of cleaning our hands. A good dose of soap and water has been effective for killing bacteria for centuries, and that should be good enough for us all.

Raising Your Baby the Greener Way

By Michele Kadison

Babies don’t need much: food, shelter, and most importantly, your love, care, and attention.  Too often babies are inundated with toys, quantities of clothing, and all sorts of miscellanea that pile up unused.  If you’re thinking of reducing your baby’s carbon footprint, there are a number of things you can do to give your child an early start in eco-friendly practices.

Diapers.  This is a major issue as it is far too easy to buy disposables, which create a huge landfill problem.  Instead, buy reusable cloth diapers.  Many can now be found with elastic inserts and Velcro closures.  They are easy to clean and can be used over and over again.  If you don’t have time to do all that laundering, diaper cleaning services are available and are not expensive.

Clothing.  Babies grow quickly and so their clothes are discarded at a high rate.  Why not consider buying second hand clothes for your child?  Instead of paying up to $20 or even $30 for an organic cotton T-shirt, you can buy a simple cotton one at a used clothing store for maybe $2.  Usually used clothing has been washed enough to wash away any remaining pesticides in the fibers, and the carbon load has already been calculated on cloths that are not new.  If you prefer new cloths for your child, look for those made with sustainable fibers such as organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and wool.

Feeding.  In your search to create a minimal impact on the environment, opting to breast feed your baby is the most eco-friendly thing you can do.  No formula cans or baby bottles are needed, and if you do need a bottle for pumping milk, you can buy glass bottles that are easily recycled.  Remember that plastic often contains the chemical BPA, which can leach into the milk and disrupt your baby’s hormones.  Once your child graduates to solids, you can make your own baby food from organic vegetables and fruits using your blender or food processor.  Delicious, healthy, and much more inexpensive than buying what is on the market.

Parties. Parties for your child can be celebrations of green if you forgo the wrapping paper and plastic.  Find creative ways to make decorations from discarded materials around the house.  Remember the by-now famous premise:  reduce, reuse, recycle – and be proud that you and your baby are doing your part to heal the planet.

Vodka: A Non-Toxic Cleaner, Disinfectant, and More!

By Michele Kadison

Forget the martinis! Vodka has an excellent reputation for a myriad of uses that have nothing to do with imbibing. As a perfect non-toxic alternative for many chemical solutions, take a look at this list to see some of the interesting uses this popular social lubricant has over and beyond the obvious:

1. A sparkling cleanser.

Vodka is an excellent substance for shining chandeliers. Mix one part vodka to five parts water in a spray bottle. Place a towel on the floor underneath your chandelier, spray the crystals, let dry, and enjoy.

Shine your diamonds and other hard stones by placing them in a dish of vodka. If they are very dirty, soak them for a few minutes and then lightly scrub them with a soft toothbrush. Otherwise, just swish in the liquid to watch your gems shine.

Clean your watches by rubbing the face with a cloth saturated with vodka. Spritz vodka on your sunglasses and then buff with a soft cloth to clean the lenses. Only use on uncoated lenses.

Polish your mirrors and chrome fixtures with a soft towel saturated with vodka.

You can also use vodka to remove sticky substances from ceramic tiles.

2. Remove mold and mildew.

If your caulking suffers from mold and mildew, fill a spray bottle with vodka, spray the area and let the liquid sit for fifteen minutes. Then scrub with a toothbrush to clean.

3. Remove stains.

Remove grass stains by rubbing vodka on the area before laundering. Other types of stains can also be treated, whether on your clothing or carpeting, saturate with vodka, scrub gently with a brush, and then blot the area with water to remove them.

4. Treat your razors.

Place your razor in a cup of vodka to keep the blade clean and rust-free.

5. Disinfect brushes.

Place your hairbrush and toothbrush in a glass of vodka for a few minutes and then rinse to keep them disinfected.

6. Use for bug bites and poison ivy.

Because of its high alcohol content, vodka is great for keeping the bugs away or for removing the sting of their bites. Simply spritz the bugs away, and rub your bites with a bit of vodka placed on a soft cloth.

Vodka is also ideal for reducing the itch of poison ivy while preventing it from spreading by removing the oil left on the skin.

Jellyfish stings can be treated with vodka, which sterilizes the area and reduces the pain.

7. Remove sticky bandages.

Soak a bandage in vodka and watch how it peels right off without hurting your skin.

8. Use for various beauty treatments.

Add vodka to your favorite shampoo to help remove build-up and residue from your hair while thoroughly cleaning your scalp.

Place 30 drops of your favorite essential oil in an ounce of vodka. Place in a tightly sealed container and wait for a few weeks to have your own homemade perfume.

9. Use for flowers and on weeds.

Place 30 ml of vodka in a cup of water and mix in liquid soap. Use the solution in full sunlight to spray on unwanted weeds. Add a teaspoon of sugar along with a few drops of vodka to a vase of fresh flowers. They will stay in bloom much longer, as long as you change the water and the solution regularly.

Obama’s White House: Turning Green

By Michele Kadison

In an early interview with Barbara Walters, President Obama spoke of his desire to set a strong example for Americans on ecologically-friendly living by doing as much as he can to convert the White House to a greener habitat. First Lady Michelle Obama almost immediately created an organic vegetable and herb garden on the South lawn, and a swing set was installed made of all recycled materials.

Drinking fountains in the White House are being retro-fit so that water bottles can be refilled from them, and automatic light sensors have been added throughout so that lights are automatically turned off when no one is in a room. Additionally low-flow water valves are being installed, low or no volatile paints and sealers are being used, and window film has been installed that lowers UV ray penetration and saves energy. White House cleaning staff is using biodegradable cleaners, and all leftover materials from renovations are being donated to local reused centers.

President Obama’s commitment to earning LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) in order to make the White House as green as it can be, is moving forward. White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Christine Glunz, says that the administration’s mission is to reduce the White House’s carbon footprint and that it is well on its way to achieving it’s goal.

Our current president is not the only one who has made efforts to make the White House greener. In 1979, then President Carter installed a solar water heater on the roof of the West wing and years later George W. Bush installed a small photovoltaic system, along with two eco-friendly water heating systems. But no one before President Obama has done as much research into green alternatives, paving the way to a more conscious America where everyone can see that these alternatives are not only viable, but easy to follow.

The Sustainability of Green Architecture

By Michele Kadison

The new generation of architects-to-be seem to be much more interested in the advancement of Green architecture than their counterparts of yesteryear.  As corporations seek ways to reduce their carbon footprint through more conscious attitudes towards design, the future looks promising for new attitudes towards architecture that supports sustainability.

With sustainability as the goal, it is important to understand what this really means.  The idea of something being “green” does not necessarily mean a carbon neutral design.  On the other hand, a sustainable situation is one that survives within the positive contributions of the environment, meaning it does not rely on non-renewable materials and cannot pollute.

Many universities are now offering sustainable design courses within their architectural programs.  More and more, students are demanding these courses as they look to change the old paradigm and help move the world forward towards an ecologically sound future.  At the Art Institute of Chicago, courses that fall into a category called “The Green Zone” are being offered to architectural students, with focus on energy efficient design.  Some architectural schools are also offering LEED courses (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which allow students to become certified in this category once they graduate.

Green architecture is not necessarily a new phenomenon.  Back in the 1970′s a small group of architects were already creating passive solar buildings using natural sunlight and ventilation.  This approach is no longer considered radical or fringe as clients become more interested in finding a connection to the natural world by including such elements as green roofs in their architectural specifications.

Historic preservation programs are also becoming more prevalent as existing structures are being retrofit to comply with a reduced carbon footprint.  The famed Empire State Building in New York City has recently been converted to a more energy-efficient model, which certainly sets a precedent for future green makeovers all over the world.

The Greening of Your Office

By Michele Kadison

By now we are all aware of how important it is to do our part in reducing waste.  And this is not only at home, but also in the office where there are many alternatives for saving money and helping the environment.  A few shifts in habit, and we can make a huge difference.

One of the most obvious areas to attend to is our use of paper.  According to recent statistics, Americans throw away more than 4.5 million tons of paper per year.  We can greatly reduce this number by making sure our electronic filing systems are up to date and by using email as the main source of both inter-office and out of office communication.  Rather than discarding printed paper, use the blank side for printing out memos and drafts.  Encourage your employees to recycle paper for scrap and make it available at copy stations and on all desks.  If we are responsible for reducing paper use, we can significantly reduce the rampant destruction of trees while at the same time reducing our office costs.
This holds true for paper towel and toilet tissue use in office bathrooms.  According to the WWF, Americans flush approximately 270,000 trees down the toilet…. per day!  By installing hand dryers and using recycled toilet paper we can significantly lower this statistic.

And what about all those disposable coffee cups?  Starbucks is reported to use 1.9 billion cups per year, which results in a shocking buildup in landfill.  Buy a coffee or espresso maker and make ceramic cups available for your employees or encourage them to bring their own.
Plastic water bottles are also huge environmental culprits, with 2.5 million of them thrown away in the United States each hour, according to the Clean Air Council.  Require your employees to purchase stainless steel water bottles and then install a water filtration system that fits easily on a kitchen faucet, which costs a mere $150 to $250.00 per year.
Use non-toxic whiteboard markers such as Auspen.  This brand is an excellent alternative to conventional markers, as it does not contain Xylene, a neurotoxin that also causes that noxious smell!  Auspen markers last a long time and are refillable, making them infinitely more cost effective.

Make sure you communicate all your environmental efforts with your employees so that they will comply with these changes and get on board with their own Green ideas for a more eco-productive office environment.

Green Chemistry: Cleaning Up Our World

By Michele Kadison

With every pollution, there is a solution.  Or so it is beginning to seem.  As predictions for our environment become more dire, many scientists are heading for greener pastures as they discover ways to decontaminate ubiquitous toxins in our water, soil, and air.

One of the foremost areas in innovative research is known as Green Chemistry.  Heralded by Dr. Terrance Collins, the Thomas Lord Professor of Chemistry and Director at Carnegie Mellon’s Institute for Green Science, this area is fast becoming a competitive solution for eliminating hazardous chemicals from our environment.

Winning the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award in 1998, Dr. Collins is an internationally recognized chemist and lecturer. A leader in the discovery of oxidation catalysts that convert harmful pollutants into less toxic materials, his work is helping to turn the tide on contaminated water, air, and soil. Dr. Collins and his team have developed certain chemical catalysts that activate hydrogen peroxide and other oxidizing agents in order to neutralize substances that are normally extremely harmful to the endocrine system and cellular development in humans and animals.

According to Dr. Collins, “Understanding how some chemicals alter cellular development to better avoid these properties in new chemicals is a vital frontier for preventing disease and improving human health.”

Green Chemistry is now proving that oxidation catalysts provide a viable alternative to bad industrial practices by decontaminating water that contains estrogenic compounds, various types of drugs, pesticides, and the like.  Additionally these catalysts are proving to reduce or eliminate hazardous substances from industrial wastewater produced by the textile and fuel production industries, among many others. By disinfecting water of pathogens, Green Chemistry is raising the bar for manufacturers that wish to stay competitive in an environment where more companies are becoming eco-conscious.

Finding more holistic solutions through the introduction of sustainable chemistry is helping to solve a range of problems.  Among them are the reduction of waste in general, the elimination of post treatment costs, the reduction of resource and energy overload, and the creation of safer products.  Supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Green Chemistry solutions are fast becoming the hope of the future. VeruTEk, an FDA approved environmental cleanup technology that dissolves and destroys pollutants in both water and soil by converting contaminants into CO2 and water, is at the top of the list.  Able to clean even sub-surface soil under buildings, this technology is the first of its kind in the environmental market.  Winning Brands Corporation (Pink Sheets) is another Green solution that manufactures environ friendly replacements for hazardous chemicals. According to the company’s CEO, Eric Lehner, their mission is to provide people with positive alternatives to toxic practices..