Thursday, November 17, 2011

Green and Frugal: Methods for Dealing with Bed Bugs

Green Methods for Dealing with Bed Bugs
Bed bugs have received some renewed attention in the last several years and complaints about them seem to have risen. In addition, a more mobile society has allowed the pests to spread more easily. Pesticides once were seen as the solution but there are now concerns about their effects on human health and the environment. Thankfully, for those of us that try to reduce our exposure to toxic chemicals, there are “green” ways to prevent a bed bug infestation or to deal with one if it occurs.

Preventing an Infestation
The easiest way to eliminate an infestation of bed bugs is to take measures to prevent one from happening in the first place.

*Clothes – When returning from a trip immediately place all clothing and linens in the dryer and run for 30 minutes. Sustained heat will kill bed bugs and their eggs.

*Vacuum – Maintain a regular schedule of vacuuming carpets and mattresses. Be sure to run the vacuum after overnight guests leave to be sure they did not inadvertently bring some pest with them in their luggage.

*Bed space – Bed bugs like to hide in the baseboards of walls and any other cracks they can find. Keep beds away from walls and place pest strips around the bottoms of the legs. Be sure to calk and seal all cracks around the house.

*Remove clutter – Bed bugs will use clutter as a hiding space so eliminating it can go a long way toward preventing an infestation.

*Inspections – Create and maintain a schedule of checking mattresses, furniture cushions and curtains, all of which can be hiding places for the pests. Look for dark red stains or other specks. Be sure to inspect any seams in the mattresses or bedding.

Battling an Infestation
Once bed bugs have made their way into a house it can be difficult to extract them. Professional pest removal services may be necessary, but there are some less expensive, more environmentally-friendly methods to try first.

*Bag them – A mattress bag can be used to encase the mattress and smother the bugs. It will also prevent future infestations.

*Take a steam – Temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit are deadly to bed bugs. Steam cleaning mattresses, carpets, furniture and drapes will destroy them.

*Use some alcohol – A mist of at least 70 percent rubbing alcohol to 30 percent water will also be effective, though it may need to be done more than once.

*Wash and dry – Any linen or clothing that has shown signs of bed bugs should be washed and dried while removal methods are being used. Run a vacuum over areas where evidence of bed bugs has been found.

Using green methods to battle bed bugs will require more effort than simply calling in a specialist, especially after they have made an appearance in a residence. The benefit is that it can be much healthier for those living in the home, and less expensive. Knowing how to keep the pests out is the best defense, but there are simple, non-toxic ways to eradicate them if they find their way inside.

This is a guest post from Karen Barnes, who encourages people to look at bed bug bite pictures to confirm bed bugs are the actual pests they’re dealing with. She believes it’s possible to get rid of bed bugs using inexpensive, eco-friendly methods that won’t expose families to harmful pesticides.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Buy Local for a No-Guilt Thanksgiving

Depending on where you live, this time of year it can be a real challenge to buy locally grown or raised food. But it's important, especially as we approach our most foodcentric holidays.

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture compared what it takes to haul food from other states into Iowa with semi-trailer trucks versus hauling by small light trucks within the state. Simply upping the in-state number by 10% would result in an annual fuel savings ranging from 294,000 to 348,000 gallons and annual emissions reductions ranging from 7 million to 7.9 million pounds.

And two years ago, the University of Washington predicted that if half of all King County's (WA), approximately 1.8 million residents ate a locally grown Thanksgiving dinner instead of an "imported" one, they could avoid contributing to emissions equal to 2.4 million vehicle miles.

So homegrown or neaby-grown food can have an environmental impact even greater than what the big meal has on our waistlines!

Of course, most of us are aware that the grapes we use to garnish our Thanksgiving dessert may have spent two weeks traveling to get to us before being placed on display where they might languish another few days before we bring them home. Fresh, they're not.

Unfortunately, the main constraint on shopping at your local farmer's homestead is the time of year. Unless you live in a temperate climate or are blessed with a heated greenhouse, obtaining fruits and vegetables locally year around means that at some point in the summer you may be inundated by zucchini and by January you're beginning to dislike turnips with a passion usually reserved for politicians. 

But just because our consciences won't allow us to enjoy oranges in November if we live in New York doesn't mean our Thanksgiving tables will look barren.

Here are some ideas for finding locally grown foods and other Thanksgiving goodies.

1. Check for what's in season and available in your neck of the woods. 

2. While most farmers markets are closed for the season, some sell year round. Do a search for "year around farmers market+your city" and see what you find. (Local Harvest also may list them.)

3. Check local farms. Again, do an online search, i.e. "organic farm near Seattle," then if you find some, call and see what they will be offering prior to Thanksgiving. 

4. Your natural market or co-op is the most obvious source of local fare.

Now that you've discovered some great places to buy, how do you afford it? Here are some ideas for saving green when buying green.

1. Group buy. Get together with friends/neighbors/schools and propose to purchase in bulk. Let your friendly neighborhood farmer know that you are willing to buy 50 pounds of her organic sweet potatoes and she's more likely to give you a good price. Why not approach your local natural food store with the same offer−it never hurts to ask.

2. Seriously consider how much food you need too pull of the best Thanksgiving ever. Will serving six dishes instead of ten make the holiday any less successful? Eliminate the dishes with the most expensive ingredients, substitute less costly alternatives or leave them out. 

3. Vow not to purchase anything but food. No décor (borrow from nature), flowers (ditto), tablecloths, napkins, plates, glasses or silverware (borrow or have guests bring their own place settings and tell them you're having "an old-fashioned Thanksgiving," because that's what people did before there were paper plates and plastic flatware). You also could rent or purchase for very little at a thrift store.

4. Put together a potluck Thanksgiving where you provide only the main item, usually the turkey, unless you're going vegetarian. Assign all other dishes to guests.

5. Forage. No kidding. You may find everything from seafood to mushrooms and greens out your backdoor. But be sure to know what you're doing before you try this one. You don't want to kill anyone off as a result of eating at your house! If you hurry, there may be time to sign up for a foraging class before the holidays.

6. Trade. Know a local farmer, but can't afford to purchase what you want to feed your party? Ask what he needs. Maybe he'll trade six months of haircuts or carwashes, babysitting or weeding for a big bird.

Aim for a 100% local meal, but if you can't reach it, know that you tried. And in doing so, surely you've most likely impoved. Next thing you know, you'll be thinking about Thanksgiving 2012 in July and freeze veggies in anticipation!

This guest post is brought to you by Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and co-authors of Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at

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Friday, November 11, 2011

A Green and Frugal Way to Bring Back Memories

Have you ever noticed how powerful scents can be? They can relax, inspire or transport us back to another time and place. Best of all, the scents and smells of nature don't cost a dime and have no impact on the environment, making it a green and frugal way to take a stroll down memory lane.

Fresh-cut Grass
Aside from the allergy-prone, who doesn't love that first dose of fresh-cut grass on a sunny spring day? For me, it takes me back to high school when I used to play field hockey. During our Saturday morning practice, you could smell the cut grass of the field we would play on. To this day, I still find that scent invigorating. It makes me want to pick up a field hockey stick and run!

Ocean Air
Being a Jersey girl, it's not unusual to take a day trip to the shore. You know you've arrived, when you roll down your window and take a deep inhale of that ocean air. There's no smell like it in the world. It reminds me of days at the beach with my my husband when he was a lifeguard...and my wedding day since we were married at the shore and had our wedding photos on the beach. Regardless of the emotion, it always evokes incredibly happy memories. That's probably why going to the shore is one of my favorite places to go -- and one of my favorite scents!

Pine Trees
Mind you, I'm not talking about the car deodorizer pine scent. When I smell fresh pine trees, it reminds me of Christmas and all the December festivities. It makes me want to decorate a tree and start wrapping presents. The smell of pine trees is so natural and makes me want to get rid of our artificial Christmas tree and chop down a pine!

When I get a whiff of eucalyptus, I immediately want a massage. This scent is so often used in spas and by massage therapists that just the scent of it can put me at ease. It's invigorating and calming all at the same time. Whenever I'm given aromatherapy options during a spa visit, I always opt for eucalyptus. It's my calming scent of choice!

Scents are so incredibly powerful in how they can transport us to a different place and time. It's no wonder they can be used therapeutically to relax, calm and energize your spirits.

What scents bring back memories for you? What is your favorite smell and what does it remind you of?
Note: I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Seventh Generation blogging program, for a gift card worth $50. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to Be Green and Save Money While Driving

Car makers have embraced the call to produce new vehicles that get better gas mileage and have fewer emissions. Those cars are still out of the price range of many customers, though. However, there are ways drivers of traditional vehicles can reduce their impact on the environment and save money while getting day to day activities accomplished.

While Driving

By changing a few driving habits, better gas mileage can be achieved, meaning less fuel will be required.
*Watch the speed – Everybody gets in a rush now and then, but driving at excessive speeds can cause the vehicle to use more gasoline. Gas mileage begins to drop off considerably when speeds reach more than 60 miles per hour.
*Go easy on the brake – Constantly braking and accelerating is not only hard on the car, it can use more gas. Try coasting to stops when possible and accelerate gently.

*Drive fewer miles – It’s a simple equation – driving more miles increases the amount of gas used and pollution released into the air. Find ways to get tasks done with less driving. When running errands, plan stops out ahead of time to avoid doubling back. Use the highway whenever possible to avoid city driving, which lowers gas mileage. Create a car pool to work so several passengers can ride in one vehicle.

*Unload – Empty the vehicle of any excess baggage. The more weight the car has to push around the more gas it will be forced to use. Avoid hauling anything on top of the vehicle unless necessary because doing so reduces its aerodynamics, forcing it to work harder.

*Refuel wisely – There are certain times of the day when it can be advantageous to fill the tank. During warm days, try to gas up in the morning or in the evening when it is cooler. This will reduce how much gasoline evaporates into the air during refueling. Try to avoid gassing up at all on Ozone Action Days.

A well-maintained vehicle will perform better and pollute less. Stick to a regular maintenance schedule but also periodically check these items.

*Tires – Properly inflated tires can increase gas mileage and will also lead to less wear and tear on them, meaning they will not need as replaced as often. Check the owner’s manual to find what the proper pressure should be.

*Tune the engine – An improperly tuned engine will produce more air pollution and require more fuel. A faulty oxygen sensor can reduce mileage by as much as 40 percent.

*Air filters – A clogged air filter can reduce gas mileage by up to 10 percent, so check it regularly and replace when it becomes dirty.

Buying a new, environmentally-friendly vehicle may be the ultimate goal to help the planet while driving, but it might not be achievable for a couple of years. In the meantime, there are several ways to get the most out of a current car while saving money and polluting less.

This is a guest post from Jane Simpson, who has adapted the eco-friendly driving habits outlined above and now spends less on gas each month. She used a calculate car payment website to help plan her budget before she bought a more fuel efficient used car.

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