Mopping Up The Mess From Irene

“Barn’s washed away. Now I can see the moon.” – paraphrase of a quote by Mizuta Masahide (Barn’s burnt down…)

Sitting here in sunny California, it is almost incomprehensible to see and hear of  the devastation left by Hurricane Irene. In fact, I feel humbled and even a little foolish to have thought that I could write about environmentally friendly ways to cleanup after the waters and winds are gone. People on the East Coast are fast becoming experts in dealing with the aftermath, and I can only imagine what they are going through.

Even the people who just lost power for a few days. I say even, but to lose power is no small thing. It can have people feeling even more isolated because our whole world revolves on our dependence for electricity. No power means no phones, internet, etc. A friend posted that in her town the Trader Joe’s just regained power. And for some reason, this, more than the horrific stories I have heard all week, really put it into perspective for me. No Trader Joe’s to pop into for this or that? The things we all take for granted take on new meaning.

If you are returning home, please stay safe. Only go into buildings that officials have declared safe – there may be electrical hazards, cracks in the foundation, and other things that make structures unsafe, and you might not be able to see them yourself.   Remember that the water may be contaminated.

When the water goes down, one of the biggest hazards is mold. Take everything you can outside to air out, and remove any wet wallpaper, drywall or insulation if possible. Some sites recommend using a diluted bleach solution to wash down walls and hard objects, such as wooden tables. Other sites recommend any number of more environmentally safe ones, such as Moldoff or Seventh Generation. Also recommended is good old Apple Cider Vinegar, and perhaps even diluted hydrogen peroxide. If you have a de-humidifier, use it. Not all mold is toxic, although it may bother some people with allergies or asthma. The key is to act quickly. If the project is too big or too daunting, you may want to call in a Professional Environmentally Friendly Mold Remediation service.

Looking at all of the felled trees, and the plant refuse, it is hard to see the sliver lining. But, several years ago, after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, this was collected and used to make bio fuel and new building materials. We hear of many eco-friendly housing projects that are being built. If you have to rebuild, or even replace, why not do it sustainably?

In the meantime, my heart is with you, and I am inspired by the courage and grace under pressure you have shown. I am grateful for each and every one of you. You are true heroes…

Easy, Peasy – NO More Febreze

Over the Thanksgiving weekend my home was filled with family and friends, and  we had a wonderful, warm, Norman Rockwell kind of holiday. One of the visitors, a college freshman away from home for the first time, was a bright, delightful addition to the mix, and we were so grateful that she joined us. Kind of like a breath of fresh air. Which brings me to the reason I am telling you this. From the moment she breezed in with her suitcase in tow, I was overwhelmed with a strong and too-familiar fragrance. What was it? Febreze, the air freshener and fabric spray. Or, as the Proctor and Gamble Co. likes to call their product, “A breath of fresh air” which of course it is anything but. We endured the toxic fumes emittimg from her suitcase and her clothes in good spirits, and tried to do a little eco-educating in a kind, hopefully non-judgmental way. The thing is, after she left, it took about 4 days of airing out rooms, and plenty of patience before the Febreze smell was just a memory. And, during that time, if anyone sat on the couch where she had often been, THEY walked away coated with, and smelling like Febreze.

About now, some of you may be asking what Febreze really is. It is a brand of household and fabric odor eliminator, usually in a spray, that basically coats the fabric with chemicals. Wikipedia further explains:  “The product’s active ingredient is hydroxypropyl beta-cylodextrin. or HPßCD, a naturally occurring molecule with a “doughnut-like” molecular shape. The manufacturer claims that these molecules bind hydrocarbons   within the donut shape, thus retaining malodorous molecules so that they are no longer detected as a scent. The MSDS sheet cautions us that use of these chemicals:

  • May cause possible mild gastrointestinal irritation with nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.
  • Inhalation of high concentrations of ethanol vapor may cause irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract, drowsiness, and fatigue.
  • Use chemical goggles and protective gloves (rubber, neoprene) during spill clean-up.”

Having worked backstage in the theater for many years, I am very familiar with Frebreze. When if first came out in the mid ’90s we first thought it was the be-all, end-all way to make stinky costumes not be stinky anymore. Interestingly enough, while we were enchanted for a while, people began having all kinds of adverse reactions to the product. Skin rashes and itchiness, trouble   breathing, headaches, dizziness and other allergic reactions to name a few. What if there could be a better, more natural way to bring in that ‘breath of fresh air?”

A few ideas to freshen things up the natural way:

  • Use the tried and true theater solution that has been around forever: a mixture of 50% water and 50% VODKA (yes, you DID read that correctly) sprayed on liberally
  • a natural spray from Pure Ayre or another eco-friendly company
  • baking soda
  • a mixture of water and a good-smelling essential oil (perhaps orange or lavendar)
  • Open a window, or air clothes outside
  • Use a diffuser with essential oils
  • Soy candles either unscented or with essential oils (NO synthetic fragrances)
  • Apple cider vinegar and water with essential oils sin a spray (the ACV smell dissipates as it dries)
  • Keep things clean, and wash clothes more often if they are stinky
  • What are your solutions?? Comment – we’d love to know!!!

Mid Year’s Greener Dream

Here we are at the midyear point of My Green Adventure! My 26th Thursday post in 26 weeks.Whoo Hoo!! I can hardly believe it. While on the one hand it feels like I am learning so much about being Green, on the other, it still feels like there is SO far to go. What are the subjects I keep pushing off because they feel too big, too confusing or just plain too daunting? (Hello lightbulb dilema!)

So, maybe let’s take a little break while we look back to April 22 (Earth Day 2010) and beyond to see how far we have already come. As I read over old posts, there is a definite pattern, on a weekly basis, of going off the charted course to wherever the adventure took me. Whether it was recycling 101, what to do with old pills, or the Eco-Angels that surround us, each post was a moment of discovery for me. Some were about Grudgement (green-judgement) and a sense that nobody cares. That’s just not true, and I am seeing more and more people who really DO care about being greener.

One of the most surprising things was the popularity of the August 27, 2010 post: NOT Stinky in Sacramento. This one had the most comments and buzz by far…who knew Apple Cider Vinegar and Lavendar could be so popular?

While we’re at it…who knew it was illegal to throw away any kind of batteries in California? And that every time I use my favorite aerosol hairspray, I am actually offsetting the impact through Native Energy? Or that one could buy a book and plant a tree?

OK, now that I’ve caught my breath and am feeling reenergized and enthusiastic, let’s get back on the trail leading to My Green Adventure. Lots of places to explore, ideas to ponder, people to be inspired by.

What’s next?? Looking for new adventures, challenges, ideas and epiphanies from everyone around me. Join in – I’m looking for ideas to explore from each of you…

NOT Stinky in Sacramento

From the moment I began thinking about this post several months ago, I was convinced I would have to title it “Stinky in Sacramento” because I just couldn’t find a natural deodorant that worked as well as the chemically-laden mainstream brands. I felt like a warrior doing battle with – well – “stinky” pits. But all that has changed recently, thanks to Eco-Angel Karyn, who wisely shares this advice: “…while I’m slathering the 50/50 Apple Cider Vinegar(ACV)/water mixture over my face, I do the same for my underarms. The acidity in the ACV raises your pH so bacteria can’t grow. No body odor. No chemicals giving me breast cancer. I still sweat (it’s not an anti-perspirant), it’s just not stinky.”

And guess what? It’s a miracle!! Try it – it works!! You have to really slather and it works best on clean underarms, with a refresher after 12 or so hours if needed. Eco-Angel Bridget tweaked the ACV mixture to add a few drops of tea tree oil and some lavender essential oil to make it smell less vinegar-y.

So, here I am, with the defeated soldiers of the armpit battle lined up to march off the battlefield with as much dignity as they can muster. You gave it the good fight, but now it is time to say goodbye to:

  1. Dry Idea Clear Gel Antiperspirant & Deodorant (my tried and true – lots of chemicals, darn it!)
  2. Ban Roll-On (mildest of the traditional drug store brands, not long lasting)
  3. Arm & Hammer Essentials Natural Deodorant (Minimally effective, best of the natural-ish bunch)
  4. Origin’s No Offense Alcohol-Free Deodorant (Pricey, almost useless, smells wonderful in the tube)
  5. Alba Botanica Clear Enzyme Deodorant Stick (Useless)
  6. Tom’s of Maine Alumium Free Deodorant Stick (Useless)

Who knew that bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar sitting in my pantry was such a powerhouse? And don’t you just love the word SLATHER??