Friday, March 28, 2008
Do check out the rest of the ecoresources/blogs we've listed and tell us those you think belong in the list too.
2. Tea Tree Oil Grout Spray - using the same formula as in #1, spray grout to repel mold and mildew. While this formula won't take away the mold discoloration, it will kill the mold.
3. Musty Mold Remover - the must will be removed from anything using the above formula. Just don't rinse.
4. Household Antiseptic Spray - use the above formula to spray areas that need antiseptic attention, such as after someone has vomited. >> Agy - hmmm... I wonder whether this can replace Dettol?
Thursday, March 27, 2008
This article is a pretty sad case of how plastic is affecting wildlife. On the coral atoll of Midway, the albatrosses there are seriously affected by the plastic, which many of them ingest to their great detriment. I heard once that plastic (bags) are not the ones polluting the environment, it's humans. Since we are the problem, we also will need to create the solutions. Hopefully they'll be enough and not too little too late.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
This cute little clip is quite an entertaining introduction to PVC. Once again from Freerangestudios.
Speaking of BPA and other toxins at home or common use items (as in previous post on baby bottles). There are two posts with some tips on avoidance at EWG's enviroblog.
"Unfortunately, BPA is so widely used and manufactured that you're not likely to eliminate it from your system altogether. There are some steps you can take to minimize your exposure, though:
- When possible, and especially if you're pregnant and when feeding a young child, limit the amount of canned food in your diet.
- Avoid using old or scratched polycarbonate bottles. If you're in the market for a new water bottle, look for stainless steel water bottles that do not have a plastic liner.
- Don't use plastic containers to heat food in the microwave. Opt for ceramic, glass, or other microwavable dishware.
- Soft or cloudy-colored plastic does not contain BPA.
- If you're formula feeding your infant, consider using powdered formulas packaged in non-steel cans. Also, choose baby bottles made from glass or plastics that don't leach BPA (like polypropylene or polyethylene). "
"Luckily, there are steps you can take to limit your exposure. Here are
1. Nail polish: Dibutyl phthalate is often used to make nail polish chip-resistant. Look for it on the ingredients list, where it may be shortened to DBP.
2. Plastics in the kitchen: Take a critical eye to your cupboards. Phthalates may be more likely to leach out of plastic when it's heated, so avoid cooking or microwaving in plastic.
3. Vinyl toys: Phthalates are what make vinyl (PVC) toys soft, so don't give them to children. Opt instead for wooden and other phthalate-free toys, especially during that age when they put everything in their mouths!
4. Paint: Paints and other hobby products may contain phthalates as solvents, so be sure to use them in a well-ventilated space.
5. Fragrance: Diethyl phthalate (DEP) is often used as part of the "fragrance" in some products. Since DEP won't be listed separately, you're better off choosing personal care products, detergents, and cleansers that don't have the word "fragrance" on the ingredients list.
6. Vinyl: Vinyl shows up in a lot of different products; lawn furniture, garden hoses, building materials, and items of clothing (like some raincoats) are often sources. Aside from carefully choosing materials when you're making purchases, there is one easy change you can make: switch to a non-vinyl shower curtain. That "new shower curtain" smell (you know the one) is a result of chemical off-gassing, and it means your shower curtain is a source of phthalates in your home.
7. Air Fresheners: New research from the NRDC demonstrates that, just like fragrances in personal care products, most air fresheners contain phthalates. That even goes for the ones labeled "fragrance free." NRDC suggests that you open your windows and use fans to circulate air and keep it fresh."
Monday, March 24, 2008
I then removed the sleeves and traced the outline (with seam allowance of about 1/2 inch) of one of my fitting T-shirts onto the wrong side of my T-shirt (ie turned inside out). Then I basted it and sewed it up (see left). I cut the extra fabric away as I don't want something sticking my ribs :-)
Would you be participating in Earth Hour? If not, why? It's ok to be honest, whether you think it won't work or whether it may not be practical for you.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
This one is not news, as it was published in August 2007, and you might have already seen it before, but it is just such a turn on regular eco thinking that I thought I'd include it for today's morning post. It's called, "Walking to the shops 'damages planet more than going by car". Yep, you read that right.
Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk to the shops than a car would emit over the same distance. The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes. Provided, of course, they remembered to switch off the TV rather than leaving it on standby.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Following up on my cloth nappies post, I’d also like to tell you that I’m also using cloth pads! It didn’t occur to me to blog about them (not that time of month yet!) until I came across this blogger's entry in coboypb
There’s actually someone else who wears cloth pads (I only know 2 pple who use them)! There are probably more out there who do enjoy using them but if you don’t ask I don’t think people will tell you up front J !
I’m using lunapads but there are many brands out there on the internet, and there are organic cotton types as well. The reason why I started using them was because the disposables made me all itchy in the hot weather plus they're not green. I later found out that the itchiness was due to the reduced air circulation caused by the glue and plastic backing in the disposables.
Did you know?
1. Women use approximately 11,000-13,000 menstrual pads or tampons each, during their menstruating years?
2. Disposable pads, panty liners, and incontinence garments are almost exclusively made from wood products.
3. Almost every single menstrual pad and incontinence garment has a plastic backing and a layer of adhesive?
Here are my FAQs for the reusables:
Q: Are they bulky ?
A: No. In fact, they come in different sizes to suit your flow. In fact, most brands have inserts so you can wear the same pad the whole day but change the inserts. So easy!
Q: Easy to wash?
A: I think so, it’s the same as washing cloth nappies except they’re smaller and easier to handle. As soon as I remove the inserts I soak them and then put them in a washing bag before chucking them in the wash. If I’m in the office, I just rinse them under the tap. No! I’m not squeamish. My colleagues have actually come up to me and asked me about them. One actually commented why my towel was running a red stain! :-p
Q: Can you make your own?
A: Yes! Lots of patterns on the internet including : http://www.bloodsisters.org/bloodsisters/pads.html
You can put your old terry cloths to good use here!
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
The SF Chronicle article, Feb 13, 2006 says:
"They call themselves the Compact. They have a blog, a Yahoo group and monthly meetings to reaffirm their commitment to the rule, which is to never buy anything new. "I didn't buy a pair of shoes today," said Compacter Shawn Rosenmoss, an engineer and a San Francisco resident of the Bernal Heights neighborhood. "They were basically a $300 pair of clodhoppers. But they were really nice and really comfortable, and I haven't bought new shoes for a while. But I didn't buy them. That's a big part of the Compact -- we show that we're not powerless over our purchasing."
Compacters can get as much as they want from thrift shops, Craigslist, freecycle.org, eBay and flea markets, as long as the items are secondhand. And when they're in doubt, they turn to their fellow Compacters for guidance"
The principles have been laid out here, in the Yahoogroup, of currently more than 8900 members:
"The Compact has several aims (more or less prioritized below):
· To go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of disposable consumer culture and to support local businesses, farms, etc. -- a step that, we hope, inherits the revolutionary impulse of the Mayflower Compact.
· To reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er).
· To simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact)
We've agreed to follow two principles (see exceptions etc. on our blog).
#1 Don't buy new products of any kind (from stores, web sites, etc.)
#2 Borrow, barter, or buy used."
Found a few examples of people who are trying the Compact, like this one, who says:
"The Compact is less of a game to me now, I'm not as into the challenge of it. I guess one can only maintain that level of enthusiasm for so long. I'm more interested in developing my understanding of how these simplicity movements intersect and complement each other.
The Compact itself doesn't provide many solutions or alternatives, it's more a personal challenge to those who wish to change their over-consumptive habits. I'd have given up on it by now if it weren't for the other networks that I've learned of in my pursuit of the Compact. When people write to me, that's usually what they ask: Do you know anyone in cityX or stateY? Or, how do I get folks to do this with me. Most of those answers are very place specific."
and this one (Oneearth.org), who tried instead of a year, a month of "buy nothing" but found it terribly hard:
"A few days into a vow of shopping celibacy, I visit a Hallmark store with my kids. The 75-percent-off rack draws me in. I've forgotten that I'm supposed to be living according to the Compact, an agreement to avoid all new purchases in favor of used goods in an attempt to reduce my impact on the environment.
"Look at these cute penguins," I say, showing them to my kids.
My 10-year-old son, Sam, picks one up. "Cool. They poop candy."
I pay and leave the store before realizing what I've done. I stop short. "I am not supposed to buy anything new!" I yelp. My kids glare at me. "Well," I say, taking a deep breath, "I will just have to start again tomorrow.""
Other examples are here in this article in GOOD Magazine, titled just "The Compact".
I think the difficulty is not staying away from luxury goods, extravagance/decadance and "wants" (which will be difficult already) but procuring the things that you really need. For this you need to really trawl the internet forums and thrift shops, ask friends, join swaptree, neighborrow, freecycle and whatever else nots to find the things you need secondhand. I think these ideas attract me because it means less waste, less space used/clutter, less money spent (and thus required) and is environmentally friendly but I've found another difficult part crucial in this exercise - the acceptance of preloved/used goods (once you manage to find them), as at least two people have shared with me that they still don't feel comfortable with the idea of using something that others' have used/worn, etc.
I think it's good to start "small", as there's no point in overwhelming oneself and getting discouraged. However, I think it might just take 10 days itself to find the items you want secondhand! ;p As the lady in the previous article said of the item she was trying to get secondhand: "...it took two weeks and 55 e-mail, text, and voice messages before I got my basketball net."
And of course, this movement is not without its critics. It'll be interesting if someone does do a study on the effects of the movement.
Another article about them from the Washington Post.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Saturday, March 15, 2008
I read that in the US alone, 18 billion disposable nappies are disposed in U.S. landfills (EPA, 2000), and take as many as 500 years to decompose (have you seen the gel like substance inside the disposables?). On top of that, just imagine the amount of resources and energy used to make the disposables. OK, I must admit that the cloth nappies do not have zero impact on the environment but weighed against the manufacture and disposal of the disposables, I think the cloth nappies wins hands down.
Let’s look at some of the facts (check out this great report)
a) 3-6 dozen cloth nappies for 1 baby over a 2.5 year period
b) Requires 30lb of cotton to make
c) Cloth nappies can be manufactured in a “green” way, using non-bleaching methods
d) Wraps (synthetic or natural) are used to prevent leaking. Fleece is one of the environmentally friendly types.
e) These can be re-used for more than 1 child
f) Washing them = use about 10,000 gallons (front-loading washers) over 2.5 years.
g) Can be re-used as rags, household cloths, menstrual pads!
h) Will decompose in 6 months if disposed to landfill.
a) 1 baby uses >6,000 disposable nappies over 2.5 years
b) Disposables are made of waterproof polyethylene outer layer, with an inner layer of wood pulp, super-absorbent crystals (turn into jelly when wet), a water-repellant liner. Some put fragrances and perfumes as well.
c) Lots of chemicals are used to bleach the wood pulp, generating organochlorines.
d) Takes 500 yrs to decompose!
I have been using Napisan to soak the cloth nappies and washed them every 3 days (in other words a full load; that’s about 36 cloth nappies for a 1 – 3 month baby), which gradually went to once a week as my son got older and pooped less often. Then I would dry them out in the sun (provided it didn’t rain).
I was told that Napisan contains chlorine bleach. I checked out its MSDS (that’s a chemical safety data sheet) and it doesn’t have chlorine bleach but has sodium percarbonate. That basically means that once added to water, it will turn into sodium bicarbonate (the one used in baking) and hydrogen peroxide, our active agents! The latter will turn into water and oxygen when it reacts with the nappies. I still think it's not the most environmentally option to use Napisan. Plus, I'm intoxicated when I'm taking the wet nappies from the bucket to the washing machine.
I think once I’ve finished my Napisan, I’ll switch to using sodium bicarbonate or tea tree oil to soak and see how the nappies turn out. My brother has successfully tried soaking nappy wraps (not prefolds) using a few drops of tea tree or eucalyptus oil.
Here are some tips for soaking:
White distilled vinegar (2-3 tbs); or
Sodium bicarbonate (1tbs); or
I keep coming across overseas websites (even podcasts), such in DC Audobon Society's webpage, Planetsave's blog and viropop's latest podcast, that Singapore is one of the countries moving towards a ban of plastic bags. I have been looking and looking and perhaps I've been doing so in the wrong places cos I can't find any news/announcements/indication that this is so. Perhaps it's only that we're moving towards discouraging the use, as stated in this rather old (2002) BBC article. Then, I thought, I'm looking in all the wrong places! I should be going to the horse's mouth, which in this case, is NEA's erm, website. Perhaps, they are getting confused with the Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) initiative, which is what I could find there.
Perhaps I've completely missed the news on this issue, if you know where I could find the announcement/news that this is happening, tell me about it, yah?
Friday, March 14, 2008
I take a deep breath before writing this post as there are just so many twists and turns to this story. For a good starting introduction to BPA, the wiki entry is actually not too bad but it does sort of slant towards the anti-BPA camp.
OK, what is Bisphenol A and what's the concern?
The EWG website states:
BPA is a component of epoxy resins that are used to line food cans and to make hard plastic polycarbonate bottles and containers, popularized by Nalgene and others. It leaches into food, water, and infant formula and has been detected in 93 percent of all Americans tested by the Centers for Disease Control. BPA raises special concerns because numerous studies have found it to be toxic at exposure levels equivalent to or even below the amounts detected in people. BPA is linked to breast and prostate cancer and neurobehavioral changes in offspring exposed in the womb.
Thus, if it's leaching into liquids from baby bottles, it can be quite a concern for all parents. However, whether the levels present are really high enough to affect us adversely seems to be still anyone's guess. This article sums up the dilemma we're in when there seems to be research supporting both camps. This rather long detailed article, "The Bisphenol-A Debate: A Suspect Chemical in Plastic Bottles and Cans" from Green Guide (National Geographic) also gives a rather balanced discussion and at least doesn't want to make you run to junk all your reusable water bottles.
The pro BPA crowd, including Bisphenol-A.org (which btw, is supported by the plastics industry) doesn't seem to deny that we are getting the stuff into our bodies but say that the levels are too low for concern.
These two documents, "Toxic Baby Bottles" by Environment California and "Bisphenol A, A known endocrine distruptor" by World Wildlife Fund, suggest that you should not be using anything, especially bottles, with BPA.
While the debate rages and we're waiting for definitive answers, perhaps it may be a good thing to err on the side of caution for baby bottles, especially if it only means switching to glass bottles. Of course, the latter aren't perfect and if you do switch, do be careful of the little 'uns shattering them which may be just as dangerous...
We may also find some of the answers we're looking for from the Health Canana study that is set to be completed in these few months, so this report says.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
So, here are the recipes from the Guardian; I haven't tried them personally, but would love to hear from someone who will be or has! Hmmm...not sure about the one with vodka in it tho!
Citrus tooth powder
1 tbsp dried lemon or orange peel - for whitening and is natural unlike hydrogen peroxide!
6 tsp baking soda; 1 tsp sea salt - abrasives (not harsh like SLS)
Place peel in food processor, grind until it becomes a fine powder. Add baking soda and salt, then process for a few seconds more until you have a fine powder. Store in an airtight jar.
6 tsps baking soda (abrasive); 1/3 tsp salt 4 tsps glycerine; 15 drops peppermint oil (breath freshner!)
Mix ingredients together thoroughly until a paste forms. Store in an airtight jar.
250ml distilled or mineral water
1 tsp of fresh mint leaves; 1 tsp of rosemary leaves; 1 tsp of anise seeds (freshen the breath)
Boil the water, add the herbs and seeds, infuse for 20 minutes. Cool, strain and use as a gargle/mouthwash.
4 tsps liquid glycerine
1 tsp aloe vera gel; 10-15 drops Spearmint essential oil
Boil the water and vodka, add the glycerine and aloe vera gel. Remove from the heat, leave to cool slightly. Add the spearmint oil, shake well. Pour into a bottle, cap tightly.
Monday, March 10, 2008
The plastic bags issue is gaining momentum with China banning free plastic bags by June 2008 and South Australia by 2009 and of course various retailers deciding not to offer them. In the previous post on plastic bags, there was an article that eluded to the fact that there weren't actually so many sea mammals and wildlife killed/affected by plastic bags and here's a March 8 article, "Series of blunders turned the plastic bag into global villain" which goes into greater detail on this issue. Also, remember what we learnt from the articles in the previous post is that plastic bags only make up 2% or so of landfills. Which helps us progress to thinking about what's in this article, "Getting our priorities right", which suggests that maybe we have better things to think about and that plastic bags are the target only because it's an easy one. So what can be more important that giving up plastic bags? Well, the article has four, not so easy (understatement?) tasks for you: "don't have children; don't eat meat; don't drive a car; and reduce your energy consumption at home".
Was reading something else which reminded me of this iniative called "The Story of Stuff". This part in on how things just aren't made to last anymore, sort of "purposely" (?)fueling our need to get new ones to replace them, like a new laptop, a new fridge, a new tv...etc. Personally I like free range studios videos and find them all rather interesting. I'll post up a few more with discussions later. I don't find the story of stuff (the actual videos) presentation that interesting and it is a bit dry, but guess it still presents a rather digestible case against consumerism.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Friday, March 7, 2008
This short article is just as depressing (or maybe the other one wasn't considering Lovelock was so cheery), but it seems there are warnings that a world food crisis can be expected due to factors of economy and climate change (use of biofuels too).
Thursday, March 6, 2008
I think I'm going to be a bit of a pessimist and say that he might be right, but at least we're doing something now (and hopefully it will sustain itself) rather than 20 years on. There's a lot of buzz on whether the "use fewer plastic bags" campaigns, changing to energy efficient light bulbs, switching off your appliances etc will contribute to improving our environment. Shouldn't we be targeting the big boys like the planes and the shipping companies? These emit more CO2 and SO2 than our cars.... It's all a vicious circle and it's all money driven - if we weren't demanding strawberries all year round and Norwegian salmon that has been deboned in
China, then maybe ........ Oh well, it seems like economics rules these days. With
all the talk about a recession this year, maybe the environment will have a little bit of a break.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
I plan to do a bit more research on this issue of the ills of plastic bags, which we've heard so much of these days, but here's a very interesting Australian article on the other side of the debate. Basically, the title goes, "Ban on bags can't carry weight". The reasons they give for not jumping on the bandwagon:
1. The claims of what plastic bags do to marine animals and other wildlife may not exactly be so true
2. The people who make plastic bags will go out of business and the stuff (ethylene gas) he makes the bags out of would have otherwise been burnt off into the atmosphere anyway
3. The people who recycle plastic bags would have nothing to recycle and therefore also go out of biz. Apparently, to quote that recycling company's national marketing manager, "It's 100 per cent recoverable, 100 per cent recyclable, cheap, practical. It would have to be one of the best products ever invented … The public is being hoodwinked into thinking plastic bags are bad … when the problem is [some people] are not disposing of them properly."
4. The "ecobags", which is described in the article as "canvas" (not sure which ones they are talking about) actually take 1000 polyethylene bags to make.
More articles to whet your appetite:
- And strangely, to get you back into feeling good about your reusable bag...here's one written about the same day (5-6 March), The question: Paper or plastic, which I find is a more of a true discussion on the differences between the two in terms of eco payload, then some of the other articles which have the same title but ultimately tell you neither is good, get a resusable, end of story.
- Australian site to tell you to say no to plastic bags (where you can find the poster in this entry). Hmmm..ok, maybe it's just me, but I didn't think I learnt much from this site, which seems to ask me to go find out the things myself. And strangely advises people to make and sell their own reusable bags.
- Now, this one is I don't know, tongue in cheek, or maybe really serious. But here are some reasons to like the plastic bag, from BBC, 1 November 2007. A friend I spoke to today was just telling me she felt No. 10 might be a reason some people don't refuse plastic bags. Another friend told me she experienced what I thought was a joke or urban legend - one cashier actually refused not to give her a bag.
- Ok, now this also from the BBC...is something I'm not quite sure you'd like to try with a plastic bag. Tell me if you do. For me, no. 1 I don't follow craft instructions very properly so it might not turn out to do the right, erm, job.
- More on M an S's recent ban of plastic bags, and titled something maybe some of us are still wondering..."Plastic bags have become the subject of huge debate in early 2008. Why is everyone suddenly so interested?"
Everything is recycled stuff:
a) the buttons (from a jacket that went moldy)
b) the lining (from a batik top when I was doing touristy stuff when I first arrived in Spore)
c) the interfacing (well, not really interfacing but a clear plastic folder which I found at home)
Okay, the thread used to sew the bag is not recycled (that would be impossible!).
I now use it to carry my wallet, mobile and tissues when I go out to lunch at work.
And yes, thank you peeps for emailing me that I'm a bad speller. Can you spot where...??
....It should be sponsor, not sponser. :P I'll get that changed. Keeping me on my toes, eh?
But I wonder about the usefulness of these kits. This one has a watersaver, lightbulbs, radiator panels, and thermometer. I would say that it's not very useful for this region of the world, unless we wanna know how cold it is when we turn our aircons full blast. And I don't know of anyone with a radiator. For lightbulbs, your lights would have to match the size and whether it's the same screw type or pop in type. Wondering if there were such a kit targetted towards us, what could be inside and would we find the items useful or would they eventually be just another goodie bag that we dump somewhere? (and at a price of nearly 10 pounds, ouch!)
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Monday, March 3, 2008
On the E-day's website, the organiser wrote: "E-Day did not succeed in cutting the UK's electricity demand. The drop in temperature between Wed 27 Feb and Thurs 28 Feb days probably caused this, as a result of more lights and heating being left on than were originally predicted. The National Grid refined their assessments, based on actual weather data, during Thursday afternoon but I am afraid that E-Day did not achieve the scale of public awareness or participation needed to have a measurable effect."
Sounds quite sad. I hope that it won't discourage others from efforts to get people to change their energy usage habits.
Well, let's see if the Earth Hour will have more success, though any success would probably be more in terms of awareness than actual usage.
I vaguely remember our "No Car Day" wasn't very well participated either. And there was a bit of unhappiness when people couldn't get plastic bags at the supermarket.
Videos at National Geographic's site, Six Degrees Could Change the World are also interesting (and scary). Have a look.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Food prices are going up.
I've read many arguments about why food prices are increasing. A lot people say it is because farmers are increasingly turning to biodiesel crops (e.g. palm, sugar cane) at the expense of food crops. Biodiesel is the new green fuel and, when used in your cars, does not produce the toxic pollutants that diesel or petrol does. It is also climate change-friendly. Recently, however, we've found that it's not so green afterall, farmers are slashing and burning forests just to expand their farm land for biodiesel crops. Many are jumping on the bandwagon.
Others say that it is the result of climate change. Many regions has experienced extreme weather e.g. Australia had drier than usual weather, while China was frozen over CNY. Meat prices and vegetables have skyrocketed.
I think both, and also there's the China factor. China's economy has been booming so much that there are a lot of ultra rich who are now consuming like nobodies business.
Be prepared for more increases!