Verda Vivo

Verda Vivo means “Green Life” in the universal language of Esperanto.

Book Review: Shift Your Habit March 7, 2010

I recently received a review copy of the book, Shift Your Habit: Easy Ways to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet. It will be available for sale on March 9. The author, Elizabeth Rogers, an environmental consultant, is also the co-author of the New York Times best seller, “The Green Book”.

The book is packed with practical and easy ways to reduce your impact on the environment and save money at the same time. The book is organized into categories, such as home and garden, kids, pets, work, travel and transportation as well as holidays and celebrations. Each shift is explained in terms of what habit you can shift, how much money you can save, the impact to the planet and how it’s good for you too. If you adopted all of the shifts in the book, an average family of four with a pet would save $48,000. That should make anyone sit up and take notice! The shifts that the author proposes are easy to do and inexpensive. It all adds up!

Since I am a cleaning fanatic, I was very excited to see the easy to use chart of homemade cleaners, including everything from glass and toilet cleaners to wood furniture polish and fabric softener. My copy of the book is already looking well-loved as I have picked it up numerous times to read and re-read sections as I continue to shift my own habits and paradigms. You can pre-order Shift Your Habit: Easy Ways to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet today at Amazon.

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What’s in Your Drain Cleaner? June 10, 2009

bathroom sink
Image by santellij via Flickr

I have long hair so that means I frequently have to clean out the shower and bathroom sink drains. Otherwise I end up standing in a pool of water or brushing my teeth over a bowl full of standing water. As luck would have it, I ended up having to clean both drains within the last week.

I could use a  caustic liquid or solid drain cleaner such as Drano Crystals or Liquid Plumr and pour these chemicals down my drain:

  • Sodium hypochlorite – A chemical compound with the formula NaClO. Sodium hypochlorite solution, commonly known as bleach, is frequently used as a disinfectant or a bleaching agent.
  • Sodium hydroxide – A strongly alkaline compound, NaOH, used in the manufacture of chemicals and soaps and in petroleum refining. Also called caustic soda or lye.
  • Sodium silicate – A white solid that is readily soluble in water, producing an alkaline solution. Can be dissolved in water to form a syrupy liquid.

According to the Material Safety Data Sheets on The Clorox Company’s website for both Drano Crystals and Professional Stength Liquid Plumr Clog Remover, the ingredients are corrosive to the eyes. Injures eyes, skin and mucous membranes on contact. Harmful if swallowed; nausea, vomiting, and burning sensation of the mouth and throat may occur. No adverse health effects are expected with recommended use. Especially if I don’t use them.

Or I could opt for an acid drain cleaner containing sulfuric acid and risk a chemical burn or damage to our plumbing. Acid chemical cleaners should be used as a last result and by a professional. Although available to the general public, there is decades-long debate about whether or not they should be. The recent death of a 22 month old toddler from drinking sulfuric acid drain cleaner should be enough to convince you that this chemical should not be in your house. It’s certainly not in mine.

Enzymatic biological drain cleaners, such as Earth Friendly Products’ Enzyme Drain Cleaner or Bi-O-Kleen’s BacOut are primarily for routine maintenance rather than clearing a completely clogged drain. Enzymatic drain cleaners react with organic material. They are non corrosive and contain bacterial cultures which break down fats and greasy deposits in the drainage system. These types of drain cleaners were originally used in septic tanks before their wider use as an effective and less environmentally damaging way of drain clearance or prevention from blockages. This might work (but maybe not for hair) and then again I don’t want to spend money unnecessarily.

My drain cleaner of choice is either a plunger for totally clogged drains (please consider having one specifically for toilets, the other only for sinks) or baking soda and vinegar for drains that are slow.

Since baking soda and vinegar isn’t going to dissolve a clump of hair, the first step is to clean the drain. For the bathroom sink, I first remove the drain stopper by disconnecting the pivot rod that sits behind the drain tail pipe under the sink. It usually comes out with a hank of hair and disgusting gunk clinging to it. Once I clean that off (with rubber gloves, of course!), I also remove the J-Trap, letting it drain into a bucket and then clean that out as well. I don’t remove the bucket until I put the J-Trap and pivot rod back together and test the connection by running water through the drain.

The shower stall drain is easier yet. Remove the drain cover by loosening the screw in the center or placing the flat end of a screwdriver under the edge of the drain cover and popping it off. There is my lovely long hair dangling from the drain cover loaded with soap and gunk. Once the drain cover is clean off, I scrape out any hair and gunk from the pipe itself.

Once the hair is removed, I pour 1/4 cup baking soda down the drain, followed by 1/2 cup white vinegar. After the foaming reaction subsides, I follow it up by pouring boiling water slowly down the drain.

For more suggestions and an excellent video, click on Tips For Clogged Drains & Homemade Drain Cleaner Recipe.

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5 Ways to Clean Your Toilet Naturally April 7, 2009

Filed under: environment,green,home — Daryl Laux @ 6:00 am
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NATURAL LAUNDRY PRODUCTS
Image by live w mcs via Flickr

I don’t know about you but I hate cleaning the toilet. In the past, I’ve used all sorts of harsh chemicals, thinking it was necessary to get rid of, well, you know, germs.

Chemical companies have led us down a merry path. You really don’t need to pour caustic chemicals down the drain to get the job done. All you need is vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and/or borax. It’s cheaper, safer for the environment and safer for you and your children.

Below are 5 different natural recipes to clean your potty:

Vinegar - howstuffworks Uses for Vinegar: Cleaning Your House

Pour white vinegar into the toilet and let it sit for 30 minutes. Next sprinkle baking soda on a toilet-bowl brush and scour any remaining stained areas. Flush.

Baking Soda - eHow How to Clean Your Toilet Bowl Naturally

  1. Pour 1/2 box of baking soda into the toilet bowl.
  2. Let the baking soda stand overnight in the bowl. Try to do this the last thing before bed so you don’t accidentally flush the toilet before the baking soda has a chance to work.
  3. Flush the toilet several times in the morning.
  4. Run a brush around the bowl to fully remove any loosened grime.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  1. Pour the vinegar into the toilet bowl.
  2. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Return to the toilet, grab your toilet brush and dip it into the toilet.
  4. Take it out, and sprinkle some baking soda onto the brush.
  5. Scour the inside of the toilet with the brush repeating the sprinkle procedure until the baking soda is gone…..voila! Clean Toilet!

Borax and Lemon JuiceeHow How to make Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaners

  1. Pour 1 cup of Borax into a small bowl.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup of lemon juice over the Borax and gently stir with a spoon into a paste.
  3. Flush the toilet to wet the sides, then rub the paste onto the toilet with a sponge.
  4. Let it sit for 2 hours before scrubbing thoroughly. This is great for removing a stubborn stain, like a toilet bowl ring.

Borax and VinegareHow How to make Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaners

  1. Flush the toilet to wet the sides of the bowl.
  2. Sprinkle a cup of Borax around the rim and sides of toilet.
  3. Spray 1/2 cup of vinegar over the Borax.
  4. Allow to sit for several hours or overnight.
  5. Scrub thoroughly with a toilet brush until the bowl gleams.

Sometimes, hard water just leaves a stubborn ring that no amount of scrubbing or rubbing can eliminate. That’s when I grab a pumice stone and rub lightly on the stain.

Related Post: Flapper Failure Flushes Dollars Down the Toilet

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Flapper Failure Flushes Dollars Down the Toilet April 6, 2009

Close coupled cistern type flushing toilet.
Image via Wikipedia

I’m a clean freak. So years ago, before I knew better, I plopped one of those in-tank automatic toilet bowl cleaners into the tank of my toilet. You know, the kind that turns the toilet water blue. It didn’t take long before the toilet starting leaking. We could hear the water running all night.

We called the plumber who replaced the flapper, the piece of rubber that seals water into the tank and allows it to leave when you flush. A part which costs all of about $10. His service call, oh so much more. He told us the reason the flapper had deteriorated and started to leak was the in-tank automatic bowl cleaner. In-tank bowl cleaners that contain chlorine corrode vinyl and rubber parts. For this reason, most toilet manufacturers will not warranty any tank parts if these cleaners are use.

Wired took a look inside an in-tank automatic toilet bowl cleaner: What’s Inside: 2000 Flushes — a Nonstop Potty. What they found follows below. Decide for yourself whether you want to be exposed to these corrosive chemicals and whether they belong in our water system. When the MSDS for a product says “DANGER!”, I’m taking them at their word.

Chlorinated hydantoins
Ironically, you can clean a toilet with urine. No, not by aiming at the stains, but by using hydantoins — organic compounds sometimes employed as anticonvulsants and that can be made from a mixture of amino acids and urea. Chlorinate the hydantoins and they become a magical ingredient — bleach. But watch for “vacation drip”: If you don’t flush for a while (say, while off camping or when you give in to those comfy adult diapers), the chlorine can eat away older rubber valve flappers. And then your toilet might end up running constantly.

Hydrated alumina
Also known as aluminum hydroxide, this is a solid formed when alumina reacts with water. Here it’s one of the salts that helps control the rate at which the puck dissolves, so the bleaching action can last for up to four months — giving you 16 2/3 flushes per day.

Sodium chloride
Table salt also helps control how fast the tablet dissolves. As a side benefit it may reduce germs by turning the water slightly briny. Unless, that is, you’ve got a salt-loving extremophile in your bowl, in which case you’re gonna need a stronger toilet sanitizer.

Sodium lauryl sulfate
Found in hundreds of bathroom products, SLS is a great foam and lather producer. It is made by combining sulfonic acid with lauryl alcohol and sodium carbonate; the resulting soap-like compound traps greasy particles, which can then be rinsed away.

Cocamide MEA
Cocamide is derived from the acids in coconut oil. MEA stands for monoethanolamine, which is in everything from hair dye to oven cleaner. Together they work as a powerful detergent and another dissolution retardant. Most of the stains in your toilet are going to be from, well, natural organic residues, and MEA is a master at cutting through caked-on organics. It loosens the material so it can be easily washed off with the next flush.

Sodium citrate
The nonorganic stains in your toilet likely come from hard water deposits. These can grow there like rock candy, eventually needing to be acid-washed or chiseled away. Sodium citrate softens the water by locking up (chelating!) calcium, magnesium, iron, and other metals that might be found in your water supply.

Acid blue 9
The full name of this colorant: N-Ethyl-N-(4[(4-(ethyl[(3-sulfophenyl)methyl]amino) phenyl)-(2-sulfophenyl)methylene]-2, 5-cyclohexadien-1-ylidene)3-sulfobenzenemethanaminium hydroxide inner salt, disodium salt. Whew! So why add blue to a cleaning agent? It’s actually just a marker — when it’s gone, your 2000 Flushes are up.

I don’t remember this warning on the package “WARNING: Do NOT actually use this product in your toilet tank. It will eat the hell out of your plumbing.”

But there it is, an expensive lesson.

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7 Reasons Not to Drink Bottled Water March 3, 2009

bottled.waterStill drinking bottled water? Here are 7 reasons not to:

  1. Money - For the $2 you spend on a liter of bottled water you can get about 1,000 gallons of tap water. (EPA – Drinking Water Costs and Federal Funding)
  2. Contaminants - Testing of 10 brands of bottled water revealed a wide range of pollutants, including not only disinfection byproducts, but also common urban wastewater pollutants like caffeine and pharmaceuticals (Tylenol); heavy metals and minerals including arsenic and radioactive isotopes; fertilizer residue (nitrate and ammonia); and a broad range of other, tentatively identified industrial chemicals used as solvents, plasticizers, viscosity decreasing agents, and propellants. (Environmental Working Group – Bottled Water contains disinfection byproducts, fertilizer residue, and pain medication)
  3. Regulation and Safety – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates tap water.  The EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water has issued extensive regulations on the production, distribution and quality of drinking water, including regulations on source water protection, operation of drinking water systems, contaminant levels and reporting requirements. The FDA regulates bottled water as a food. Under current FDA regulations, consumers are not receiving uniform quality and purity from bottled water. (Environmental Working Group – FDA should adopt EPA tap water health goals as enforceable limits for bottled water)
  4. Garbage - Where do all those empty plastic bottles go? About 86 percent of empty plastic water bottles in the United States land in the garbage instead of being recycled. That amounts to about two million tons of PET plastic bottles piling up in U.S. landfills each year. (TakeBacktheTap.org – Bottled Water)
  5. Oil - Making bottles to meet Americans’ demand for bottled water required the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil last year – enough fuel for more than 1 million U.S. cars for a year – and generated more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide. (Think Outside the Bottle)
  6. Taste - People say they drink bottled water because it tastes better than tap. However, in blind taste tests, people can’t tell the difference. In fact, one taster in a 20/20 taste test said Evian “…tasted like toilet water”. That sounds pretty dee-lish. (ABC News – Is Bottled Water Better than Tap?)
  7. Water privatization - In the United States, 24 percent of bottled water sold is either Pepsi’s Aquafina (13 percent of the market) or Coke’s Dasani (11 percent of the market). Both brands are bottled, purified municipal water. Water bottlers deplete aquifers and other groundwater sources, and harm local economies by paying too little for the water it takes. Contracts often also give preference to water bottlers over the town’s ratepayers because the company can draw the maximum amount of water it wants, regardless of drought or water shortage. We need to address the question, is water a basic human right or a commodity to be bought, sold, and traded in a global marketplace? How much do you think your food is going to cost when farmers have to pay private corporations for water to grow crops? (Sierra Club – Corporate Water Privatization)

Watch: A World Without Water

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Putting a Price on Nature February 10, 2009

Mwamanongu Village water source, Tanzania. &qu...
Image via Wikipedia

With the world’s economy in a shambles, there is a strong temptation to focus on immediate economic needs and shove environmental concerns to the background. Some would argue that addressing climate change has to wait until the economy recovers. Issues such as biodiversity conservation, shortages of clean water, losses in soil fertility, and imperiled ecosystems aren’t even on the radar screen.

Humans have a huge impact on the world’s resources. There are huge masses of plastic swirling in our oceans, enormous dead zones in coastal areas caused by nutrient pollution, and growing shortages of food and water. We still behave as though nature’s bounty is infinite. Because we do not put a value on them they are valueless in our decision making, with no recognition of how much we need them, or what it would cost us if they were not there. We need to go beyond the emotional arguments for nature conversation. We need a way to connect the dots between nature and our survival to find practical solutions.

The Natural Capital Project has created an online tool called inVEST, a new tool that can model and map the delivery, distribution, and economic value of life-support systems (ecosystem services), well into the future. The tool will help users visualize the impacts of potential decisions, identifying trade offs and compatibilities between environmental, economic, and social benefits.

What are ecosystem services?

The Natural Capital Project describes them as the conditions and processes through which ecosystems, and the species that make them up, sustain and fulfill human life. Examples include production of goods (seafood, crops, and timber); life-support benefits (clean water, climate stability, flood control, pollination); life-fulfilling benefits (aesthetic and other cultural inspiration); and preservation of options.

Reporter’s Notes: Putting a Price on NatureListen to the Putting a Price on Nature radio report on-line.

You can also listen to Peter Kareiva explain the importance of “ecosystem services”. He describes how “value” may be assigned to them, and reveals what he would like President Obama to know about them…Beyond the Frontier – Ecosystems at Your Service.

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Top Green Stories of 2008 January 27, 2009

the 44th President of the United States...Bara...
Image by jmtimages via Flickr

Time has issued the Top Ten Everything of 2008, from Albums to Worst Biz Deals.

Included in the Top 10 Green Stories:

  1. Election of Barack Obama - Obama has pledged to put energy at the forefront of his agenda.
  2. Congress Passes Renewable Energy Credits - Tacked onto the $700 billion economic bailout bill in October but at least it was there.
  3. Offshore Drilling Debate - “Drill, baby, drill” is not a given – the debate goes on.
  4. Failure of Warner-Lieberman – Cap and trade legislation may have a chance during Obama’s presidency.
  5. New Rules Put a Freeze on Coal Plants – Nov. 13, 2008, an obscure appeals board at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled that the EPA had no grounds to refuse to regulate the CO2 emitted by new coal plants. Result: the EPA can’t certify any new plants, freezing development.
  6. Ethanol Bubble Bursts - The U.S. would replace oil fields with cornfields.
  7. Polar Bear Listed – May 14, 2008, the polar bear was as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), making it the first animal to be listed due to global warming.
  8. Indonesia Warms to Avoided Deforestation – At California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s climate summit in November, Indonesian officials announced their government would set up a regulatory framework for carbon forestry programs, and signed an agreement with California to help shepherd those projects.
  9. First CO2 Auction - In  the first carbon auction in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — a pact by 10 northeastern states to cut carbon emissions jointly — utilities in the region bid $38.5 million for the right for emit 12.5 million tons of CO2, generating revenue that the states will be able to put toward climate change action.
  10. Word of the Year: ‘Hypermiling’ – The Oxford American Dictionary named “hypermiling” the 2008 word of the year. The growing popularity of hybrids and smaller cars shows that fuel efficiency is no passing trend.

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