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Archive for the ‘Eco-News’ Category

Dog Waste DYI Composter – super E-Z

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

I’ve written here before about the Doggie Dooley composting system, but now that I’ve moved, I’m back to poop-scooping (in gmo-corn-free biobags) and throwing poop out with the trash. Yes, that’s better than allowing it to wash into streams or storm-drains, but still not an optimal environmental choice. I’m thrilled that I came across the super easy dog waste compost system on  Dig a hole ! Yep, simple as that – here’s how to do it – or go to the site for more detailed instructions.

Sharon Slack’s Dog Waste Composter

About 15 years ago, I dug a hole in the back of my ornamental garden, away from my food crops. The hole is about 3 feet wide and 3 feet deep, and is covered with a plastic lid from an old compost bin. I empty my dog’s waste in the pit every day so that it will break down as compost.

Occasionally I add Septo-Bac, an enzyme-active biological compound formulated to increase the digestion rate of sewage.

I haven’t had to empty the hole for over 6 years. When I did empty it, I dug a hole under some nearby shrubs, put the nearly composted waste in and covered it with soil.

Next time I empty it, I will line the sides of the pit with 1/2 inch hardware cloth because my soil is very sandy and tends to cave in a bit.

I am also starting to add some chopped yard waste (green and brown) to hasten the process. The finished dog waste compost can be used on ornamentals, but not on food crops. Dog waste is not allowed in garbage bins, so this alternative has served me well.

Thanks for the tip, Sharon. I’ll be out in my yard with a shovel this weekend! Tao

Not a Creature was stirring…..NEW GREEN PEST CONTROL!

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

A friend of mine has mice in her house – a lot of them. Her landlord’s only suggestion was traps, which she declined. Besides being cruel, poison and traps don’t control an ongoing issue. But mice in your house, those scurrying noises at night, finding bites taken out of the fruit on your counter can all be very disconcerting. So, I was really feeling for her, yet had absolutely no ideas for solving the problem.

As it often happens, the next day, my latest edition of Living Green online magazine newsletter arrived in my mailbox with a new, effective and humane technology for keeping pests and rodents away from your living space.

It turns out that, “Sound and ultrasound devices can drive off small rodents like mice, squirrels and raccoons, and common nuisance birds such as gulls, crows and pigeons. A variety of electronic repellers are available, both sonic and ultrasonic, that target specific pests.” How cool! There’s also the Bugchaser and bird control for balconies/roofs. Some sounds are silent to humans while others are natural sounds that blend into the environment.

For gardens, they also pictured a 3D image of a stalking coyote, but I’m afraid that’s a little too spooky for me – and most likely my pets – I’ll stick with a scarecrow!

Global Warming is Weird

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

by Tao

Back in the day, scientists noticed abruptly changing weather patterns over the planet. Since much of it had to do with warming temperatures, the phrase “global warming” was born. This was unfortunate because as time passed and studies continued, the trends began to look a lot more weird than warm. Cold when it was supposed to be warm, warm where it’s supposed to be cold. Extreme temperature shifts, droughts in wet areas, then flooding. We started referring to the problem mmore accurately as “global climate change”.

But out there in the mainstream, it didn’t fully stick. Many people, when asked about climate change issues think of warming. So, when many parts of the world experience below normal temps, above normal snowfall – as in the U.S. this year – there is a false sense of security – a hope that we were wrong, a unjustified sigh of relief. I know because I’m tempted to feel the same way.

After a several years of variations of drought and heat, we’ve been soaked with rain and freezing our butts off here in NC this Winter. I wish I could let myself believe we bought some time when it comes to the consequences we are facing, but I would be giving into our favorite human coping mechanism, denial. And denial is a powerful tool, as I pointed out here.

Johnathan Hiskes, on, asks us to consider the smart and scientific explanations on his post here.

Stay warm everyone. I hope it snows in Vancouver. Most of all, don’t get fearful. Get forceful. Make change happen.

First Suburbs Come First

Friday, February 5th, 2010

by Tao, Carrboro, NC

I love my neighborhood – it is quiet, but close to the action and amenities of town. I grew up this way, and I’ve continued to be drawn to these familiar, convenient and vibrant areas. I live in an “inner-ring” suburb, also referred to as “first” suburbs, or “early” suburbs.

These are the first areas developed at the fringes of inner cities several decades ago. The inner suburbs were the quieter but connected neighborhoods of the working class – the places our newly wed parents and grandparents went to raise their children. These areas provided escape from the grime of the city, but proximity to jobs, schools, stores, entertainment, and, each other.

The evolution of these areas made a lot of sense – allowing public transportation to flourish, more parks and recreation, as well as a convenient pedestrian lifestyle – where more people were more fit (really – look at the old black ‘n whites in your grandmother’s attic).

But we somehow lost some of that common sense when we began to focus our time, energy, money and attention on these lavish developments in the outer suburbs fueled by economic interest of developers, highway builders, oil companies and the auto industry who all, of course, feed on a more car-dependent lifestyle. Unfortunately, despite what we’ve learned – or relearned – about the benefits of urban life, sprawl continues at an alarming rate.

As a result, the inner-suburbs are deteriorating both by age and neglect with outmoded housing and commercial buildings. As neighborhoods decay, pockets of poverty soon follow, marring the image and desirability of once thriving communities.

Some areas manage to adopt a “cool” factor, attracting a hip crowd of well-to-dos, but also bringing a gentrification which quickly eliminates both diversity and affordability. Many other inner-surburban areas suffer from lack of political support, considered to be in a policy blind spot as local governments compete for the spotlight.

Alex Steffen, futurist, founder and editor of, (interviewed by Johnathan Hiskes on says that this political conflict will define the next decade, becoming a critical factor in the future of urban life. He also regrets being at war with the ‘burbs: “But there are so many more winners than losers in this fight that it’s a smart fight to take on…When you add together cities and inner-ring suburbs and allied small towns, it’s a solid majority of Americans.”

Hostel In The Forest

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

by Tao, Carrboro, NC

There are many reasons I don’t enjoy staying at hotels while traveling, so I’m happy to see Hostels are making a comeback in the U.S. (read my previous post). So, I’m thanking my friend, Jo Jo for introducing me to Hostel in the Forest – to my surprise, it’s been operating in Brunswick, GA for 32 years! Get a load of this:

Hostel in the Forest began with Tom Dennard and consists of geodesic domes and 9 tree houses on 130 acres of forest and wetlands. Everything has been built and maintained entirely by volunteers. Over the years, the center has evolved into a spiritual retreat and educational facility which promotes and teaches environmental sustainability, teaching a “hands-on approach to a sustainable lifestyle through activities such as alternative building and organic gardening while complementing the processes of nature.”

The “rooms” are really up in the trees! How cool is that? Down below, there are composting toilets and outdoor showers. They serve nightly vegetarian dinners and a kitchen is available for guests to prepare other meals. The lists of events and workshops include all yoga, Tai Chi, fermentation, cobb building, and one that especially intrigued me – a presentation on “Optimism and Fortitude”.

Learning, sharing, nature, peace and quiet. You can’t find that at The Holiday Inn. ahhh. Georgia on my mind……

Here’s a link to some great photos.

Hidden BPA – canned foods

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

by Tao, Carrboro, NC

While the case against BPA plastics keeps growing, the many sources of it continue to be revealed. While many of us have stopped storing or heating leftovers in plastic containers, switched to stainless steel drinking bottles, not many have considered the plastic lining in canned foods. Yep, the same stuff in our plastic water bottles – BPA – a hormone-disrupting chemical that has been shown to damage our cardiovascular system, reproductive system, cause cancer, diabetes, obesity, and disrupt fetal development.

Unfortunately, even reputable companies offering organic products have not yet addressed this issue. There are only 3 known companies to have eliminated BPA from their cans – Vital Choice, EcoFish and Native Forest Organic. That leaves a LOT of this toxic chemical out there in our food supply, in our bodies and in the environment.

While the evidence mounts, showing especially dire effects from BPA on infants and children, companies making related products are scrambling to take out the BPA of their bottles, cups, and pacifiers (pacifiers???! – ouch). CA legislature is considering a bill to officially ban this chemical in kids products. Progress on this matter is encouraging, yet there is the inevitable stall-out in the food industry, both in the search for alternatives and the fact that companies like CocaCola are lobbying hard against any interference in their manufacturing process.

Once again, it’s up to us as consumers to call the shots and turn the tide. Eating fresh is best, but when you can’t avoid otherwise, buy only canned goods labeled BPA-free, contact your favorite food companies and request their compliance. You can keep up on news and info. at Bisphenol A Free Portal.

Sad Stats

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Did you know :

7 in 10 deaths in the U.S. are from chronic illness

1 in 2 people in the U.S. live with chronic illness

50% of the U.S. diet consists of processed food

Another 42% consists of meat and dairy (from factory farms??)

Only 7% consists of fruits and vegetables (mostly not organic or local??)

Then it gets worse:

40% of the 7% of the above vegetables are potatoes….and 50% 0f that 40% are – you guessed it – in the form of french fries.

If you are getting nauseous just reading this and a little afraid of chronic illness in your life, then take charge of your life through your body and the planet in 2010. Get educated. Get well. Get going.

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!

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