a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Archive for December, 2009

Clean Death? – replace your toxic cleaners!

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

by Tao, Carrboro, NC

Did you hear the one about the Cleaning professional who blew up her car by lighting a cigarette?

I wish this was a joke, but it’s true and not all that surprising – It was full of popular, but toxic, cleaning supplies. (Fortunately, she survived the mishap, though suffered burns.)

New Year’s Resolution time – protect yourself and your environment by switching to GREEN CLEANING SUPPLIES. There’s lots of convenient choices for every need in stores and online – even drain cleaner, furniture polish, and more. If this isn’t where you want to spend your dollars, you can also make your own cleaners for just about anything with inexpensive, safe ingredients like vinegar, salt, and baking soda. You know the scoop.

A new one for me: If Winter dryness is causing you static and you are tempted to buy dryer sheets, don’t, just add about 1/2 cup of vinegar to the wash cycle.

Contact your local hazardous waste facility by using the phone book or checking their website. To get a headstart on your options, you can also visit Earth911.

Most importantly, don’t wait – those chemicals sitting under your sink, in the attic or garage are not doing anyone or anything any good. Start CLEAN in the New Year!

My Tree skeleton out of the closet

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

by Tao, Carrboro, NC

I’ve done many creative alternatives to a traditionally cut Yule tree over recent years. I’ve mostly gone w/o any “tree” at all and just wrapped lights around something in the house – like a chair. It’s been creatively fun and I didn’t miss the real thing much at all. But, this year, in honor of our new living situation, we brought home a cut tree and decorated it. Sure, it came from a local spot down the street, delivered from a nearby tree farmer, but it’s still a cut tree and I swear I saw a little red flag waving in the air as we brought it home. For awhile, it was wonderfully nostalgic to look at. But, over the weeks, as I noticed it asking for less and less water, I’ve felt sorrowful —-because in reality, I have a living thing in my house that is slowly dying. yep. the truth is darn painful and I’ve already decided I won’t do this again.

On a more merry note, there is another really really smart alternative showing up on the holiday scene. Living Trees for Rent! Read on from the LA Times, Home & Garden:

The Living Christmas Co. isn’t the first to rent trees. This West Coast phenomena cropped up in 1992, when The Original Living Christmas Tree Co. set up shop in Portland, Ore. That firm, which only operates in Portland, now rents Sequoias and Nordmann firs for $80, shipping them out and picking them up in hybrid Zipcars. San Francisco’s Friends of the Urban Forest offers full-size but non-traditional varieties of rentable trees, such as magnolias, for $95; the trees are later planted throughout the city. And San Diego’s Adopt A Christmas Tree delivers its $79-$189 live trees with singing and dancing elves in tow, then after the holidays donates them to families with fire-damaged homes and yards.

Cheers for Change!

More on the Goodness of Germs

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

By Greg Gillette, Denver, CO

Point well taken, but I still hold to my point that germs, etc. do help to remove toxins from our bodies. I refer you to Aajonus Vonderplanitz, PHd in nutrition and the creator of the primal diet. He states the “janitor” role very clearly and he is one of the top nutritionist in the world.
I also refer you to “probiotics”, the friendly bacteria. Countless books have stated how friendly bacteria play on role in building out immune systems and removing toxins, etc. from our bodies.

Should We Worry About Bacteria?
Bacterial concern is a phobia that has swept the “civilized”
world. Our natural food-supply is being annihilated because of it.
We must look rationally at the bacterial issue. Consider the fact
that many tribes ate primarily unsalted raw meat, unsalted raw
fats and/or unsalted raw dairy products from the beginning. They
did not wash their hands or sterilize their food before eating.
Every form of natural bacteria, including salmonella, E. coli and
campylobacter1 were eaten with their food, abundantly and
constantly. Why were they vibrant, healthy and disease-free if
microbes are the culprits?

From the time babies are born, they put everything in their
mouths, dirt and microbes. It is believed that babies build
immunity through small benign doses of bacteria, allergens, and
pathogens. Some scientists call this “auto-immune inoculation”.
Rather than accept the inoculation-theory, I believe that for
millions of years animals, including humans, formed working
relationships with bacteria,  including “pathogens”.  Those
microbes have a janitorial role in nature and we benefit from
them. When parents stop babies from putting stuff in their
mouths, they hinder the relationship with microbes and the
environment, unless of course the objects are poisonous, such as
manmade chemicals and most toys.

Parades – Old and New

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto,

Because it felt almost like a civic duty, I attended the annual “Christmas Parade” in my town last weekend. There was the usual cuteness going on – lots of smiling and waving. There were also lots of BIG vehicles pulling floats that carried all these smiling faces, moving very, very slowly down Main Street. Remember, idling engines are running at their most inefficient and pollute MORE than when driving at higher speeds. Although I tried to push this out of my mind, the fact that my eyes were burning from the exhaust really rubbed it in. I didn’t stay long and the whole experience made me start thinking….

Did parades exist before automobiles? Did horses pull then versions of “floats”? When did we decide to change all of this despite the fact that these events still move at a walking pace? That dangerous idea of “bigger is better” is, of course, partly to blame – even horses couldn’t pull some of the contraptions that move through NYC on Thanksgiving Day.

Yet, isn’t it time to see the fun being missed through the veil of smoky exhaust trailing all that beauty? Could we team up bicycles to pull things? And what about pedicabs? Then there is dedicating this event to veggie-deisel vehicles, because I prefer the smell of french fries to petroleum any day.

Who’s the Fairest Germ of All?

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Sometimes I think we really are losin’ it. Whenever we (the proverbial one) come up with a good idea, we immediately jump on the more is better wagon and usually end up screwing things up. For instance: If soybeans are good for us, then let’s concentrate them into a powder that we can coveniently drink down with fruit juice instead of making breakfast, right? Actually, soy, in it’s natural (and traditionally fermented) state, IS good for us, but soy protein powders? Nope. We just changed it into a phytochemical overload. Fruit is good for us, but fruit juice – not so much. Movies, cell phones, TV? We all know the answer to that one.

So, when we figured out that washing our hands more frequently helped reduce colds and viruses, we were on to something valuable. But when we started to go berserk over anti-bacterial formulas and devices, we depleted our immune response, increased bacterial resistance, killed the good bacteria that we need, contaminated our bodies and environment with chemicals and overall, started messing with nature’s plan. (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)

The voice that saw the light against anti-bacterial products has been slowly getting stronger, but unfortunately, so has the paranoia about germs in general. Keep in mind, the anti-bacterial craze is fueled by industry! Antibacterial wipes just popped up outside of supermarkets so you can wipe the handle of your grocery cart before shopping. Soaps are getting stronger, hand-sanitizers are sold as an accessory, fast-food places are now wrapping plastic silverware in more plastic, and dental floss is packaged by single use. There’s a new toothbrush sold with a santizing holder that sits in your bathroom. Many people now shun hand-shaking.

Are we any healthier from all of this ? Studies show not. If you look at the bigger picture, the same people who won’t use an open bottle of ketchup on the table are eating that burger and fries packed with transfats, pesticides and other chemicals. The more our immune system is challenged by our daily habits like food intake and lifestyle, the less resistance we have to bad bacterias. Simple as that.

If we could put the same amount of obsession into eating and drinking organic and healthy as we do to smearing our world with chemicals to kill bacteria (both the good and bad kind)….well, we could all relax a little and act more sane.

I’m not exaggerating. There are people who wash their hands 25 times a day, and/or wipe down everything with sanitizer before touching – even in their own homes and cars. It’s becoming a form of collective obession. And it’s not doing any of us any good.

Let’s get a grip, guys. Because there’s nothing like a good handshake.

A People Towel to call your own – No more paper towel use.

Friday, December 4th, 2009

By Tao, Carrboro, NC

Remember my post about alternatives to using paper towels for hand drying? These 3 ideas are still echoed throughout the green community – nothing high tech or complicated: First, businesses can install hand dryers – they have an energy cost (solar options should be forthcoming??) but do save a lot of waste.

For those of us out on the street, the simple solutions are cost-free: my personal favorite is to shake well, then use the seat of your pants. Of course, the third choice is much more civilized – carry with you one of the many cloths you have at home – doesn’t everyone have a bandana tucked away somewhere? Or an old, soft t-shirt to cut up? Everyone uses backpacks, fanny packs and handbags to carry around a lot of stuff anyway – including a reusable shopping bag and water bottle, right? So throw in your cloth and, and voila, no more paper towel use. (I throw in two and have a reusable napkin, too.)

If you’re the type who likes things “official”, then check out PeopleTowels – a big square cloth that you can keep with you for drying your hands after washing! They are made from 100% organic cotton and come in some nifty colors and designs, so hanging it outside your bag is like an accessory.

Can I now say, I told you so? We don’t have to buy anything new to take up this eco-habit, but hey, I’m not going to argue with a great idea. So, whether you decide to go cowboy style, t-shirt, or are dying to fly your eco-freak flag on your bag, just say no to paper towels and napkins.

(photo from

Water Saving Shower Head – for chump change!

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

by Tao, Carrboro

Since we’re back on the subject of satisfying and simple water conservation, put a shower head on your stocking-stuffer holiday gift list because it’s the most simple way to save water and still enjoy a warm shower. And this one requires only chump change.

This tried and true version is available on one of my favorite eco-resource sites, Real Goods for a mere 10 bucks, but so popular and inexpensive that you can find them at hardware stores everywhere. This beyond easy-to-install shower head cuts water use by 50% to 70% while delivering a vigorous flow. It uses only 1.5 gpm in most homes depending on water pressure. What I like best is the shut-off option that keeps the water warm while you soap up (or whatever extra-curricular activities you like to do in the shower).

If you’ve procrastinated about this quick and simple water-saving device, no more excuses! It can be used with a carbon chlorine filter, too. No tools necessary – just screw it on.

Thanks for taking care of the planet with me. Namaste.


Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

by Tao, Carrboro

Just days after moving in to our 40+ yo house, Jerry and I shared a look – one that said, “This inefficient toilet is driving me crazy!”. Sure, it worked fine, and we had done the brick thing, and we were “letting it mellow”. Even so,  waiting for that tank to fill back up after flushing seemed endless and made me cringe every time. And, I literally lay awake at night, certain that it just had to also be leaking.

I started my research with Umbra on Grist (my fave eco-guru). First, I found out that toilets consume up to 30 percent of household use. And traditional toilets can use up to 7 gallons of water per flush – eek! Then I learned that the newer High Efficiency Toilets have kept improving – they work better and cost less. I searched the Watersense EPA site for a list of choices and found a supply store in my area.

I chose a low-end model that uses only 1.7 gal (they will go as low as 1.2) and has the newer powerful flushing mechanism needed for solid waste. I learned from the shop owner that the problem in the old version was not about amount of water, but about the flush action being insufficient. That has now changed – in fact, this new toilet “whooshes” like nobody’s business!

I spent $350 on my new toilet – an expense not factored into the reno budget, but as they say, the feel-good factor is “priceless”. We still mellow yellow and pee on the earth, but flushing when necessary is now something I can handle.

$350 is not exactly chump change, but worth cutting back somewhere to save enough to do it. In the meantime, check for leaks — you don’t always hear them (my old toilet did indeed leak), use a method of displacing. YOU are making a difference in water conservation. And you’ll enjoy it, I promise.

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