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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12 Food Additives to Avoid July 16, 2009

Potato Chips

Thanks to Jean Wiess, regular contributor to MSN Health & Fitness, for compiling the following list of food additives that should be avoided. Seven of the twelve additives have been linked to an increased risk in cancer.

The best way to avoid these food additives is to avoid packaged foods and make it yourself. Prepared foods provide Questionable Convenience at best. They are more costly and do not provide significant time savings for the money. In addition, you could be exposing yourself and your family to these beauties:

  1. Sodium nitrite * – Commonly added to bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, smoked fish, and corned beef to stabilize the red color and add flavor. Sodium nitrite is used primarily in fatty, salty foods. Without nitrite, hot dogs and bacon would look gray. Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it?
  2. BHA & BHT * –  Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT) are antioxidants used to preserve common household foods by preventing them from oxidizing. Both keep fats and oils from going rancid and are found in cereals, chewing gum, potato chips, and vegetable oils. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers BHA to be “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Nevertheless, the Food and Drug Administration still permits BHA to be used in foods. This synthetic chemical can be replaced by safer chemicals (e.g., vitamin E), safer processes (e.g., packing foods under nitrogen instead of air), or can simply be left out (many brands of oily foods, such as potato chips, don’t use any antioxidant).
  3. Propyl gallate * – Prevents fats and oils from spoiling and is often used in conjunction with BHA and BHT. This additive is sometimes found in meat products, chicken soup base, and chewing gum.
  4. Monosodium glutamate – An amino acid used as a flavor enhancer in soups, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, and restaurant food. It is commonly associated with Asian foods and flavorings. The use of MSG allows companies to reduce the amount of real ingredients in their foods, such as chicken in chicken soup. Ingredients listed as “hydrolyzed soy protein” and “autolyzed yeast” may also contain MSG. Causes headaches and nausea in some people, and animal studies link it to damaging nerve cells in the brains of infant mice.
  5. Trans fats – Trans fats are created when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil. These “partially hydrogenated oils” are used most often for deep-frying food, and in baked goods. Margarine and vegetable shortening may also be made with partially hydrogenated oil. Manufacturers have modified processed products to reduce trans fats. Restaurants, particularly fast food chains, still serve foods loaded with trans fats. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Ruby Tuesday, and Red Lobster are some of the large chains that have largely eliminated trans fat or soon will. Trans fats are believed to increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  6. Aspartame * – Additive found in low-calorie desserts, gelatins, drink mixes, and soft drinks. Also known by the brand names Nutrasweet and Equal. Controversial since it was initially approved by the FDA in 1974. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest “lifelong consumption of aspartame probably increases the risk of cancer. People—especially young children—should not consume foods and beverages sweetened with aspartame”.
  7. Acesulfame-K * – Artificial sweetener found in soft drinks, baked goods, chewing gum, and gelatin desserts. The Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends that people avoid use of acesulfame-K due to lack of testing concerns.
  8. Food colorings (Blue, Red, Green, Yellow) *Blue 1 and 2, found in beverages, candy, baked goods and pet food, are considered low risk but have been linked to cancer in mice. Red 3, used to dye cherries, fruit cocktail, candy, and baked goods, has been shown to cause thyroid tumors in rats. Green 3, added to candy and beverages, though rarely used, has been linked to bladder cancer. Studies have linked the widely used yellow 6—added to beverages, sausage, gelatin, baked goods, and candy—to tumors of the adrenal gland and kidney. Artificial food color is also suspected of causing increased hyperactivity in children.
  9. Olestra – A synthetic fat that blocks absorption of fat in your digestive system. It also blocks the absorption of vitamins while in your system. Olestra enables manufacturers to offer greasy-feeling low-fat snacks, but consumers would be better off with baked snacks, which are safe and just as low in calories. Found in some brands of potato chips. Be prepared to wear a diaper if you eat a whole bag.
  10. Potassium bromate * – Additive to increase volume in white flour, breads, and rolls. Bromate has been banned virtually worldwide except in Japan and the United States.
  11. White sugar – Too much sugar leads to problems with weight control, tooth decay and blood sugar levels in diabetics. It also replaces good nutrition.
  12. Sodium chloride (salt) – Excessive amounts of salt can affect cardiovascular function, leading to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure.

* Linked to an increased risk of cancer.


  1. Center for Science in the Public Interest: Food Additives
  2. 12 Food Additives to Remove From Your Diet
  3. WebMD: The Truth About 7 Common Food Additives

Related Posts:

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Mend It Yourself June 25, 2009

Filed under: beauty and fashion,green,home,recycling — Daryl Laux @ 9:37 am
Tags: , , , , ,
sewing at the dining room table

Last week we had drywall and painting crews in to repair multiple cracks in our walls. As a result I ended up stuck in the house with time on my hands. Since I normally like to spend my days outdoors, this made me a bit stir-crazy. What else could I do besides fiddle about on the internet? I scoured my closet for clothes to repurpose or repair.

  • First, I found several items that needed buttons sewn back on. Easy enough.
  • Then I finally hemmed the pair of pants that were about a foot longer than necessary. I have been known to roll the waistband on a pair of pants rather than hem them. This doesn’t give you the most girlish waistline, however.
  • Next, I found three long dresses that I haven’t worn in several years. I thought about putting them in the donation pile but then decided that was wasteful. So I cut them to a length I will wear and hemmed them up. I wore one yesterday!
  • Last but not least, I tackled a pair of pants with a waist that was so big the pants threatened to slip off. Why do clothes manufacturers make waists the same size as the hips? Don’t women have curves anymore? Thankfully, these were stretchy lounge pants so I could just sew through the waistband and down the pant leg. Now they fit!

Once that was done, I found some unfinished Christmas ornament projects – many small pins and beads – lots of glue. Enough to keep this big kid busy for a while.

Need a little inspiration? Check out the folks at Threadbanger for Do It Yourself ideas. They were my muse for my recent sewing frenzy.
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The Big Bread Lie June 22, 2009

Filed under: food,health — Daryl Laux @ 6:00 am
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Oats, barley, and some products made from cereal
Image via Wikipedia

I just looked at the bread I have in my pantry and realize I have white bread in disguise. Try as hard as I might, I still get tricked.

After watching the video The Big Bread Lie, The Whole Truth, Nutrition by Natalie, I discovered how I’d been duped.

Natalie’s Bread buzzwords:

  1. Whole grain white – White bread that’s been dyed brown or contains a small percentage of wheat flour. This is white bread in disguise.
  2. 7-grain, 9-grain, 12-grain – This can mean the grains you see sprinkled on top of the loaf of bread, not the flour the bread is made with.
  3. Made with whole grain – The majority is white flour, the rest is whole grain flour. The percentage of white flour may be 95%. Unless the label says 100%, it’s not worth choosing.
  4. Good source of whole grain – This claim is meaningless.
  5. Wheat flour – This means the bread is made from 75% white flour, 25% wheat flour.

Regardless of the marketing claims on the bread packaging, the first ingredient list should be 100% whole grain, such as wheat, rye, oat.

I’m no bread baker but if i get ambitious, I’ll try the Amazingly easy, incredible bread on Cheap Like Me. I think she’s got a winner!

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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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What’s in Your Shampoo? April 14, 2009

A bottle of TRESemmé shampoo.
Image via Wikipedia

Ever shampoo your hair and then get a skin rash or hives? How about pimples, dry scalp, dandruff or contact dermatitis? Maybe you’re allergic to the chemicals in your shampoo. In addition to an allergic reaction, you may be exposing yourself, unnecessarily, to chemicals that can do far more damage.

Preservatives (Parabens)

One of the most common cause of negative reactions are the preservatives used to protect against product contamination and bacterial growth. In addition to allergic reactions, parabens can disrupt the hormone (endocrine) system and were found in the breast cancer tumors of 19 of 20 women studied. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tested urine from 100 adults and found parabens in nearly all.  (Environmental Working Group – Parabens)

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to believe that at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens, they in fact, do NOT regulate parabens in cosmetics. In the meantime, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently funded a case study on the toxicity of parabens in wastewater to fish. Considering the FDA’s glorious record in safeguarding our food supply, I’m not convinced they’re guarding our best interests as far as the cosmetics industry is concerned.

Parabens can be listed as:

  • benzylparaben
  • butylparaben
  • ethylparaben
  • isobutylparaben
  • isopropylparaben
  • methylparaben
  • parabens
  • propylparaben
  • sodium methylparaben
  • sodium propylparaben

Organic products may use the natural form of preservatives such as citric acid or a derivative.

For more information, see Healthy Child, Healthy World – Use Precaution with Parabens.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

One of the most common ingredients in shampoo is a common detergent: sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). SLS is used in shampoo because it strips out oils and, despite its name, has a low sodium content. However, SLS can cause contact dermatitis by irritating the skin. Some companies have tried to link SLS and cancer but TreeHugger did their own research in this article: Common Eco-Myth: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) Causes Cancer. So, while, you can dry your hair and scalp to a fare-thee-well, there is no hard evidence linking SLS to cancer. Depending on how greasy your hair is, choose your surfactant accordingly.

Gentle Surfactants

This list of surfactants are gentle but don’t cleanse as well.

  • cocamidopropyl betaine
  • cocamphocarboxyglycinate-propionate
  • sodium lauraminodipropionate
  • disodium monococamido sulfosuccinate
  • disodium cocamphodipropionate
  • disodium capryloamhodiacetate
  • cocoyl sarcosine
  • sodium lauryl sarcosinate

Harsh Surfactants

The following list could cause an irritated scalp or be drying to hair.

  • sodium lauryl sulfate
  • TEA-lauryl sulfate
  • sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate
  • TEA-dodecylbenzene

For more information, see Healthy Child, Healthy World


Diethanolamine, more commonly called DEA, is not only a suspected carcinogen, it has been shown to negatively affect the development of memory cells, making it a particularly dangerous ingredient for pregnant women to use. One of its derivatives, triethanolamine (TEA) has also been shown to be carcinogenic.

Diethanolamine appears as:

  • Cocamide DEA
  • Cocamide MEA
  • DEA-Cetyl Phosphate
  • DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate
  • Lauramide DEA
  • Linoleamide MEA
  • Myristamide DEA
  • Oleamide DEA
  • Stearamide MEA
  • TEA-Lauryl Sulfate
  • Triethanolamine

For more information, see Healthy Child, Healthy World – Diethanolamine and U.S Food and Drug Administration: Diethanolamine and Cosmetic Products.


Methylisothiazoline, or MIT, limits the potential for microbial contamination in water based solutions. It has been shown to cause neurological damage, potentially putting a fetus at risk for brain damage. The chemical might also be a factor in the development of Alzheimer’s and other nervous system disorders.

For more information see Medical News Today: Shampoos with Methylisothiazoline May Pose Risk for Unborn Babies.


Most hair care products have some form of added fragrance. Fragrance is considered a trade secret and does not have to be revealed. Fragrances are considered to be among the top five known allergens and are known to both cause and trigger asthma attacks. All I have to do is walk by a perfume counter to trigger a reaction.

Natural Shampoos

You can find “organic” or “natural shampoos” on the market. Bypass the marketing on the label and go straight to the list of ingredients to make sure you’re getting a product without synthetic chemicals. They are likely to be more expensive than the drugstore brands that contain potentially harmful chemicals. However, what many people don’t know is that you don’t have to wash your hair more than once or twice a week. In fact, it’s healthier for your hair to wash it less frequently, as it gives the natural oils (which is what really creates shine) a chance to replenish themselves. I know, I know. When I was much younger, I washed and dried my hair every day thinking I needed to. These days, I usually skip the shampoo and wash my hair with conditioner. Then I let my hair dry naturally. My hair has never been in better shape.

If you have dandruff, give yourself a natural hot oil or deep conditioning treatment, which is far better for your scalp than dandruff shampoos.

You can also make your own shampoo:



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5 Ways to Clean Your Toilet Naturally April 7, 2009

Filed under: environment,green,home — Daryl Laux @ 6:00 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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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