Cleaning Detergents that Are Kind to the Environment (and Your Pocket)

 

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Over ten years ago Berkeley, the University of California released an article that detailed the harmful effect cleaning detergents have on the environment. Not only are these toxic to the surroundings, the ingredients consist of petroleum and other non-sustainable items. This places a lot of pressure on the environment, but will also push up prices as these ingredients become more valuable. An alternative for cleaning products will have a positive effect on the household, whether the household is mindful of the environment or not. With the use of just a few simple ingredients, consumers will have a multitude of cleaning detergents. These ingredients are coconut oil, vinegar, borax, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), and fresh lemon juice.

Homemade Cleaners for Bathrooms and Kitchensavoid_toxic_deodorant

Although these are areas that require a thorough clean, chemicals and bleaches may not always be the solution. In fact, bleach can be far more harmful than good.

The Tub and Toilet

These two areas tend to suffer from brown stains and rings. This recipe should blot those stains out.

Mix the following ingredients for an overall cleaning solution:

  • 1 cup bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 1 tablespoon borax
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Water as needed to form a paste as desired

Follow this up with a wipe-down using a cloth dabbed in a fragrance oil of your choosing. Homemade cleaners work the best and leave surfaces smelling fresh and inviting.

For areas that are a bit grimier and stained, use two tablespoons vinegar to two tablespoons bicarb and two tablespoons borax. This should form a thick paste. Add a bit more vinegar if not pasty enough, or bicarb if too runny. Put it on the grimy area for a few minutes before cleaning. Although favorites for these jobs, ammonia and formaldehyde are linked to allergies so should be avoided at all costs.

 clean_with_coconut_oilTaps and Mirrors

Although a vigorous rub with a microfiber cloth will make a world of difference, stubborn water stains and marks can be tough to deal with. For taps and other chrome or steel fittings, dab the cloth in a bit of coconut oil. Solid oil works better as this ensures there isn’t too much on the cloth. Keep a bit in the fridge for this purpose if it has a liquid state. There should be enough on the cloth to form a thin coat on the items, but not enough to be noticeable.

Mirrors can be a bit tricky to keep clean. Keep the following in a jar for mirrors that are easy to maintain.

After cleaning the mirror with this mixture, use a newspaper to remove any oily residue. If the oil seems a bit thick, use vinegar on its own.

Stainless Steel, Brushed Steel, or Chrome Appliances

After wiping appliances with a damp cloth and waiting for it to dry, use the microfiber and coconut oil combinations for the bathroom taps and fittings. This will prevent water marks and finger marks. Also, it will keep the exterior of the appliances rust-free, especially in coastal areas.

 

Beat Mosquitos Without Killing The Planet

Mercola_Natural_Bug_Spray

More and more people are changing their lifestyles and eliminating as many chemicals and toxins around them as possible. But, since chemicals are all around us from the beauty products and cleaning supplies we use to the food we consume and the air we breathe, it is not that easy to do. Every little bit helps, and some changes are easier than others, like using naturally-made DEET-free mosquito control and repelling products over chemical ones.

Pest control products like bug sprays, mosquito fogger systems and insecticides are very toxic, especially to the environment. So by switching to the more natural versions of these products, you will be able to decrease the amount of chemicals that are polluting our rivers, lakes and even air. Let’s look at the some of the main differences between natural and synthetic mosquito repellents and also how to properly use natural bug spray to get the most out of the products.

Chemical vs. Natural Mosquito Repellents

Fresh Citronella Leaves On Wooden BackgroundAs you might guess, the main difference between natural and artificial insect repellents is the ingredients that are used to produce each type of product. If in chemical sprays the main active ingredients often are either DEET or Picaridin, then in green bug sprays the mosquito repelling abilities of the products come from different essential oils, usually oil of lemon eucalyptus, citronella oil or lemongrass oil.

How do Natural Mosquito Repellents Work?

Now, you might be wondering, how can these natural plant oils deter mosquitoes? Well they do that thanks to their aroma. All of the most common essential oils used in natural mosquito repellents have distinct scents. They usually smell citrus-like and fresh. And, since mosquitoes distaste these types of aromas, and would much rather go for flowery, sweet scents, once you apply the natural insect repellent on your skin or clothing, mosquitoes will keep away from you.

DEET: Not good for People or the Planet

The second difference of the two types of repellents is how healthy they are in regards to human health as well as the environment. As we already established, synthetic insect repellents usually contain laboratory-made chemicals. DEET is a member of the tuolene chemical family which are solvents used in plastic and rubber cements as well as paint removers. They can pass through the skin and into the bloodstream, getting all the way natural_bugspraysto the gut. It is also harmful if inhaled or consumed, or sprayed on other living creatures, like cats and dogs. The most troubling concern is the adverse effects it can have on the nervous system. The combination of DEET and permethrin, another common mosquito spray ingredient, has been shown to lead to motor deficits, and learning and memory disorders. Is this something we want to spray on our children? Of course, sprays made of natural ingredients may have an adverse effect on some people. Those with sensitivities may get a skin rash or experience other reactions if they are allergic to one or more of the ingredients in the natural bug sprays. However, the likeliness of that happening is much smaller than when you use insect repellent based on DEET or any other chemically-made bug deterring ingredient. Which I think is a reason enough to go for natural insecticide.

Natural Bug Sprays Can Be Just As Effective, If Used Properly

And the third big difference when it comes to chemical and natural pest control is how efficient each type of product is and for how long it will be able to repel mosquitoes. Although, chemical bug sprays may last longer than natural ones, their efficiency is a different story. Many natural bug sprays are just as efficient as chemical sprays, but they don’t last as long and have to be reapplied more often than their synthetic counterparts. To me, the fact that I’ll have to reapply the repellent a bit more frequently doesn’t bother me compared to the damaging effects of chemical bug sprays on my family and the environment. But how do you make sure that you are using your natural repellent to its full potential?

First and foremost, read the label of the product. There should be information about how you should apply the product, how often it needs to be reapplied, if it is waterproof or not and other important bits of knowledge that will help you get the most out of your spray. Secondly, don’t forget to reapply the mosquito repellent, because, you will probably only get a few hours of efficiency after which the mosquitoes will start bugging you again. And thirdly, don’t overdo it with the application of the repellent – it won’t make it magically work better. All it will do is create an unnecessary layer of repellent on your skin which can start to irritate it.

Which Brand Of Natural Bug Spray Do We Recommend?

We love the Mercola Bug Spray for the whole family, including our pets! I use it daily on my dogs to keep ticks off them. I still find a tick on them here and there, but certainly not daily anymore. My sister uses it on her cat for the same reasons with equally good results. There are only four ingredients, oil of citronella, lemongrass oil, peppermint oil and vanillin. It has a pleasant lemony scent.  The best news is it beat DEET in a lab test Mercola_Bugsprayperformed by BassFan Lab. The results are below:

  • Unprotected group: 16 bites per hour
  • DEET group: 2.78 bites per hour
  • Mercola Bug Spray group: < 1 bite per hour (1/5 bite per hour)

Mercola Bug Spray was the clear winner and is an excellent choice for you and your family and pets. But, as stated, it does need to be applied every 2-3 hours for best results.

Overall, choosing to use natural bug sprays over chemical ones does have more pros than cons to you as well as to the environment and everyone around you. But, of course, ultimately it is your decision.  And no matter if you do decide on organic bug spray or stick to a synthetic one, wearing any type of pest control in the spring and summer is much better and safer than not using any at all.

Guest blog by Insect Cop

Earth Day Essentials (Part II)

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by Lynn Gamwell

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The mantra of the environmental movement is to “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.” One can think of these categories as naturally flowing from one to the next, from the macro to the micro level. The big picture and most important need is for humans to reduce consumption. After that we should find ways to reuse or repurpose. Finally, we make the effort to recycle as much as possible of what is left over.

Reduce

In our previous Earth Day blog post we focused on “reduce. “ On the macro level humans need to reduce their dependence on materials and energy that deplete the planet and contribute to pollution of the air, water, and soil. To reduce the amount of stuff we have or need is an important shift in mindset, which can have far reaching consequences. The less we buy, the less materials need to be mined, harvested, extracted, and transported. The less energy we use to make unnecessary products, the fewer harmful emissions are released into the atmosphere causing “the greenhouse effect”. (1) The rise in temperature that results from extraction, manufacturing, and disposal can destroy habitats for plants and animals as well as destroying human communities that depend on their natural environments. Hence there is critical need for reducing our energy consumption. See our previous Earth Day blog for specifics suggestions on ways to reduce including our reusable shopping bags and stainless steel and reusable lunch containers.

Reuse and Recycle

We shift to thinking about “reuse” and “recycle” with products that are already here, and which have outgrown their usefulness. This can be because they have lost some function, aesthetic appeal, or are just out of fashion. “Reuse” and “recycle” are two sides of the same coin. They each describe a way that an item can be repurposed. If an item can be used in it’s entirety it may be possible to find a new use for it either for oneself or by passing it on to someone else who can use it.   Recycling generally involves some degree of taking a product apart or reconfiguring it for its materials or parts.

Simple Strategies to Reuse

  • Donate your used furniture, and household appliances to to a charity organization that resells them at low cost. Habitat for Humanity is a great example of a charity which takes all kinds of household items from building materials and old appliances, to furniture and vehicles which can be sold or taken apart and sold as parts. Look for your local Habitat Restore here.
  • Used clothing can be resold at consignment stores allowing it to be reused and make you money at the same time!  Check your local consignment store for policies, but you can often get at least 40% of the resale price back.  This is especially great when kids are small and changing sizes frequently. Rarely do they wear out their clothing before they are ready for the next size. I clothed my daughter almost exclusively in fun yet inexpensive clothes from a children’s consignment store in my area when she was little. What a bargain!
  • Have a yard sale! Clear out your clutter, make some spending money, and give items a new lease on life!  By keeping stuff out of the landfill you will be reducing harmful emissions released into the atmosphere. Your junk is another person’s treasure!
  • Apply a little effort and many things such as plastic sandwich bags can be washed and used again. Reuse plastic salad and take out containers for leftovers or as storage containers for kid’s art supplies and small toys. I save plastic as a way to transport food to friends in need without having to retrieve the dish. Or I pack leftovers in them for family members after a party. Hopefully they find another way to reuse it after that!
  • Use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones. Rechargeable will cost a bit more to buy but on average they last about 800 times the disposable kind.(2)   Now that is effective reuse!
  • Old furniture, lamps, and decorations can find new uses in our own homes with a little care. Rather than purchase a new item consider painting or reupholstering to get a great new, decorator look!

Responsible Recycling

  • Most communities have some form of recycling program whether it is curbside pick up or taking it to a central collection facility. Find out what your community offers and make your voice heard for easier and more complete recycling programs if needed.
  • Explain the recycling rules to your household and try to make it as easy as possible for all to comply. Have your recycling bin as accessible as the trash and they won’t have any reason not to throw it away in the right spot!
  • Electronics are easily recycled these days. Many dumps have electronics areas for drop off. Electronics stores often recycle regardless of where the item was purchased. Staples accepts all electronics donations for free!
  • Some of the most commonly thrown away items can actually be recycled. Did you know that pens, razor blades, tires, and aluminum can all be recycled?
  • Pay attention to packaging and purchase items with less excess material. One way to do this is to buy items in bulk and cut down on individually wrapped products.
  • Purchase products with recycled content. Money is power. If more people choose products that are made with recycled materials, from companies with environmentally conscious standards( like Peaceful Planet ) the more businesses will strive to fulfill the demand. Your purchase is your vote for cleaner, greener choices!

Go Green for Earth Day and Beyond!

It may seem like each of our choices are small and insignificant. But small green choices add up to a greener, healthier planet. That means a healthier place for us to live and for our children to grow up. Take the Earth Day challenge and get creative with ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle in your home and community. We all can contribute to keeping the planet peaceful, prosperous, and protected!

  1. epa.gov
  2. Boston Museum of Science (Household Energy Section)