Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Natural Nail Polish (and Remover)

So this thought won’t be for everyone but everyone needs to think about the products we are putting on our skin, nails and hair. 

Buying Tips: Natural Nail Polish (and Remover)

How to find non-toxic, water-based nail polishes in bright trendy colors, and the acetone-free nail polish remover you need for an odor- and chemical-free manicure or pedicure.

By Emma Grady & Starre Vartan

Nail Polish "Toxic Trio"

A coat of nail polish can brighten a mood, complement an outfit or mask an unsightly nail. After a long week at work, a manicure and pedicure can be a special treat, but you could be exposing yourself and others to potentially harmful chemicals while treating your tootsies to some TLC. Nail polish is typically made with ingredients you might expect to find in a factory, even though nasty chemicals aren’t necessary for sparkly toes or fingernails.
The chemical aroma of nail polish should be a red flag for potential toxicity; the odor comes from a group of ingredients that have come to be known as the “toxic trio” by certain health advocates, like Alexandra Scranton, director of science and research for Women's Voices for the Earth, and Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group, two nonprofit environmental and health watchdogs. Each of the "toxic trio" chemicals is classified as the most toxic by the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, maintained by the Environmental Working Group as a repository for the science behind the chemicals in our personal care products. (The studies don't necessarily link these chemicals to harm from occasional short-term use at the levels present in nail polish.)
“Skip the nail salon when you’re pregnant,” Lunder cautions, and always steer clear of the "toxic trio."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

For South Florida Summer Vegetable Gardens

Summer Edibles

By Donna Torrey, owner of The Garden Gate, located at Citi Centre in Pompano Beach

Gardening during the South Florida summer is quite different than anywhere else in the continental US.  Our summer climate is much more like the Caribbean in nature:  hot humid days AND nights, which is the tipping point for some plants, making them unable to sustain themselves.  To survive a South Florida summer, a plant must be able to withstand both the humid days and the hot humid nights, without much temperature variation. 

By drawing our plant palette from the Caribbean and other hot, humid lowland habitats, we can grow an interesting array of material that is both edible and beautiful.  The following are lists of some of those plants which I consider to be especially noteworthy.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, “try everything, keep what works” is a good gardening philosophy in general, but is especially key during the summer months.

PAPAYA- Really a vegetable/herb, and shouldn’t be overlooked in the home garden. It’s easy to grow and produces literally pounds of delicious and nutritious fruit, which can either be eaten green or ripe.  Buy one in the grocery store and plant the seeds.

CALABAZA- You can find this squash in the grocery aisle as well; it’s the bright orange one cut into pieces with the seeds intact; a gift to you, the astute gardener! Plant them now for an amazing, delicious and nutritious harvest this fall.  Give them plenty of room to grow and a good organic fertilizer such as Black Hen.  Other hard shelled squashes can be planted as well, such as pumpkin, Luffa, and others.

BANANAS/PLANTAINS- Again, mostly thought of as a fruit, but is actually an herb. These plants relish the heat and humidity, so don’t neglect to have some of these.  They can multiply quickly, so you will always have plenty to give to friends.  Nothing can compare to the taste of home grown bananas; they are so superior!

PINEAPPLES-  Another freebie from the grocery store.  Buy one, eat the fruit and plant the top.  If you keep doing this, year after year, you will have your very own pineapple grove!  The tops take more than a year to fruit the first time, but less time after that.

BEANS/PEAS- One of the easiest vegetables to grow and loves the summer heat.  Pigeon Peas are a Caribbean staple and that is because they make a sturdy 5 foot bush that produces year round and can last up to 5 years of production.  Plant them during the heat of summer.  Need a quick hedge?  They’re your edible solution.  Pole beans are another good grower; they are delicious and being a vertical crop, save space.  Got a chain link fence? They’re another edible solution. Jicama is another lesser known legume grown for its starchy tuber, which tastes similar to a water chestnut.

AMARANTHUS- This is a South American crop that produces either greens or seeds.  It is one of the few vegetable greens that grow during the summer season.  It’s hearty and delicious, also known as Calalloo.  Other lesser known tropical greens to check out:  Katuk, Moringa,  Okinawa Spinach and Malabar Spinach.

PURSLANE- Known for its beautiful flowers, it is also a delicious green eaten either raw or cooked. One of the few vegetable sources of Omega 3 fatty acids.

OKRA- There are several seed varieties to choose from; all do well during the summer in full sun and an enriched nematode free soil.

SWEET POTATOES- These can be sprouted whole and the growths, called “slips” planted.  They make a great ground cover.

CHAYOTE SQUASH- This squash can be purchased for less than a dollar at the grocery and planted whole.  It will become a beautiful edible vine perfect for a pergola or other large trellised area.

JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE (Helianthus tuberosus) - Actually native to North America and used by the American Indians, this Sunflower relative is grown for its tubers which look like knobby potatoes.  It is dug up and planted each year, similar to potatoes.  Its tubers are rich in inulin which doesn’t raise blood sugar. 

HERBS - Some herbs resent the heat of our summers, but many of them actually thrive.  Basil, Rosemary, Oregano, Lemon Grass and Culantro actually prefer the summer weather, and grow prolifically.  Just be sure to keep them moist during dry spells.
For more great information about growing some of the lesser known veggies that do especially well in South Florida, check out the website below from The University of Florida

For more information on The Garden Gate, go to:

Monday, June 24, 2013

Water Plants in the Morning

Save water, and make plants stronger and healthier, by watering in the morning.

By Brian Clark Howard

The best time to water plants is usually in the early morning, both to maximize the efficiency of water used and to promote healthy flora.
Mornings tend to be cool and without strong winds, so the amount of water lost to evaporation is much less than during the middle of the day. Yes, evenings are typically similar, but if plants stay damp overnight they are more likely to be damaged by fungal and bacterial diseases. Ideally, use a drip or soak system instead of a regular sprinkler, which wastes a lot of water and drenches the leaves, which are prone to damage as well as disease.
Most experts recommend substantial, infrequent watering for established plants, typically a total of about one inch of water per week (including rain). One or two applications a week encourages deeper rooting, which promotes stronger plants. To avoid shocking tender greenery, try to use water at or near air temperature (collected rainwater is best).
With population growth and climate change putting increasing pressure on freshwater supplies, it is becoming more important than ever to save water.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sonic Fabric Neckties Made From Recycled Cassette Tape Play Sweet Music

Cassette tape? How positively antiquarian! Conceptual artist Alyce Santoro brings this data-recording throwback (and mix-tape mainstay) into the 21st century, not only by spinning it into fabric, but also by rendering it “playable” when you run a tape head across its surface. Santoro’s limited-edition neckties, made in collaboration with Julio Cesar from 50 percent recorded audio-cassette tape and 50 percent colored polyester, are a testament to Sonic Fabric’s versatility—as well as its ability to transform even the stuffiest of suits into what Santoro dubs stealth “superhero garb.”

“The wearer becomes a beacon for other-dimensional, intangible, subtle forces of good,” says Santoro, “…much in the manner of a superhero, only this part of the superhero garb can be worn on the outside in the most conservative environment without detection!”
The “sound collages” she recorded onto the tape used in this batch of ties comes from her CD Between Stations, which comprises looped and layered samples captured on (and beneath) the streets of New York City. Available in cobalt blue, dark brown (woven with brown tape and black thread), and light gray (gray thread, black tape), these eco-friendly ties can be purchased in your choice of “skinny” or regular-size versions.
Up, up, and away!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Thinking of Going Solar?

Are you looking for more sustainable energy sources to use in the home? Solar power is a viable way to reduce your carbon foot print and your monthly energy bills! So, how does one get started? Follow these simple steps on how to go solar. Whether you live in an apartment or a sprawling mansion, there is something for every budding environmentalist.

What is solar energy?
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, solar energy is defined as the use of the sun as fuel to create heat or electricity. Solar energy is deemed renewable and environmentally sound since the sun will always shine and there is no need to burn fossil fuels to harness it. However, since the sun is not always available as on rainy days or at night, it is called an intermittent source of energy.

Learn about solar energy
How is it harnessed? Go to The US Department of Energy to learn all about energy sources-including solar energy. You can peruse the information on the latest projects and initiatives going on around the United States in regards to sustainable energy. There is an excellent section on resources and links for more information

Conduct an energy audit
Second step is to find out how you can save energy in general. You can hire a contractor or learn more about energy saving tips for appliances and such in the home. Once you’ve shaved off some kilowatts of power, you can then assess how much energy you’d need powered by solar energy. These calculations would help you determine the use of solar panels and other devices in the home.

Decide the proper size and location
This is where you determine what is best for your situation. There are roof top solar panels that receive the most direct sunlight and therefore harness the most power or other options, such as stand-alone units for the back yard.

Speak to a professional
Find a qualified contractor who is part of a local affiliation, such as the Better Business Bureau, licensed and legitimate and preferably part of the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. They will help you figure out the installation plan for your home.

Budgetary concerns
If you want to do something but don’t have the budget for a large undertaking, check out these inexpensive ideas for a do it yourself solar kit for $600. Or read this interesting blog from someone harnessing solar power in their own apartment using a windowsill! The Build It Solar website is for the tried and true do-it-your-selfer.

Financial Incentives
There are numerous financial incentives and programs put forth by government agencies. Check your state for local programs that will save you money and help you through the process of using solar energy. The Community Environmental Council has resources and information on how to tap into the financial support. You can also read about how the CEC is helping to “solarize” different states.
Armed with this information you can decide whether you’d like to go full tilt into alternative energy sourcing or whether you’d like to experiment a few kilowatts at a time.

(Eleanor Healy is a writer with a passion for holistic health. As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), Reiki Master/Teacher and former Child and Youth Care worker)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday Funny

I’m going to have to do some research to get the full impact of some of these jokes but a few of them are pretty funny and I can relate to them! - Gene

Green humor

As I believe I’ve mentioned, environmentalism is never funny.
Environmentalists, however, are the source of endless amusement. To wit: here’s a set of jokes that’s been making the eco-rounds:
How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb at a Sierra Club meeting?
Five to talk about in committee, one to argue that we shouldn’t be wasting the electricity, and one to screw the thing in!
How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb at Greenpeace?
Four to hang a banner at the General Electric plant, one to screw in the bulb made from recycled ketchup bottles.
How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb at a PIRG office?
One, but you have to buy your own light bulb and get the ladder donated.
How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb at Union of Concerned Scientists?
Forget the bulb, let’s get a new lamp and give the old one to the PIRG office.
How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb at the Nature Conservancy?
How many does Chevron think it should take?
How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb at the Audubon Society?
Actually we’ve found birds fly into light bulbs and get cut on the broken glass, so we prefer candles.
How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb at League of Conservation Voters?
Both Democrats and Republicans can screw in light bulbs, but Lincoln Chafee is the only Republican who ever does.
How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb at the SEAC office?
One woman screwing in a black light.
How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb at NRDC?
If you want the light bulb to appeal to middle aged women, Robert Redford will do it; if you want the light bulb to appeal to youth, Leonardo DiCaprio will do it; if you want a really expensive light bulb, Laurie David will do it.
How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb at Defenders of Wildlife?
One, but after striking a compromise with Richard Pombo, it’ll only be a 10 watt bulb.
How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb at Green Corps?
Don’t ask questions, just screw in 400 light bulbs by the end of the week.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tree Thursday - Firebush

Hamelia patens

Okay, technically not a tree but firebush can grow to be the size of a small tree.  I have one in my backyard that is about 14 feet tall and has a 6 inch trunk (see photos below). I’m even able to hang orchids in it.   Firebush provides color year-round and if you want zebra butterflies in your yard there is no better plant.   It is suppose to be good for hummingbirds, too, but I’ve only seen one around mine in the last 10 years.  Firebush is native to Central and South Florida.  In South Florida, when we have that rare cold night, firebush will defoliate but soon flushes back out.  Branches will break during strong wind storms but even then, the plant recovers very quickly.      

There are dwarf varieties (photo 5) that grow well in South Florida, also.  There is the fear that the non-native dwarf firebush has cross-pollinated with the native firebush to create a new variety.  I do know I have many volunteer plants from both varieties in my backyard.  Firebush is easy to grow and requires very little care.   It is a wonderful addition to any landscape.   It can be maintained as a specimen tree or shrub or even sheared as a hedge.   

Growth Rate – Fast
Salt Tolerance – Medium
Drought Tolerance – High

Photos from top left to right – Native firebush, flowers and stems, trunk, branches and Dwarf firebush . Photos taken June 6, 2013. 

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Office of Sustainability
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

7 Green Things Our Grandparents Did

Green wisdom
Our grandparents (or great-grandparents) — children of the Great Depression — could teach us a thing or two about going green on a budget. "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without," recalled one elderly woman when asked about what she learned as a child during the Great Depression.

Their carbon footprint was uber-small — they used less water, less fuel, created less waste and imported fewer goods than we do. They took these actions out of necessity as opposed to our modern-day desire to help the planet, but the ecological impact is just as powerful.

Here are seven lessons we can borrow from our elders that are easy on the wallet, and have significant environmental impact. Perhaps more importantly, they are easy to implement and relevant to our modern lifestyles — no extolling the virtues of riding a horse to work! (Text: Heather Gunther)

Kick the bottle
“Why in the world would I pay money for water in a bottle when there is perfectly good water coming out of my kitchen tap ... for free?” I can just hear my late grandfather, whose frugality was legendary in my family, asking that question with confused sincerity.

Let it all hang it out
Before the clothes dryer became a standard appliance in every American household, your grandmother simply took advantage of a sunny day, some rope or cord, clothespins, and voila! No cost, no maintenance, no carbon footprint. Clothes dryers have come a long way in energy efficiency over recent years, but the average home clothes dryer has a carbon footprint of about 4.4 lbs. of carbon dioxide per load of laundry. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, “the biggest way to cut the environmental impact of cleaning clothes is to stop using a clothes dryer.”
Grow local
Last spring, the Obama family's decision to plant a kitchen garden at the White House garnered so much attention that you would have thought it was an off-the-wall publicity stunt. But the house garden concept has been around for many years, and local food had a reserved spot on our grandparents' menu. The benefits of growing your own fruits and veggies are numerous, and you can't get more local than your own backyard.

'Rain, rain, don’t go away'
Here's another commonsense green lesson to take away from our grandparents' time. Rain is free. We pay for water. Why not collect free rainwater and slash the water bill? A rain barrel will save most homeowners about 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer months. Also, diverting water from storm drains can alleviate stressed water systems and conserve limited resources, especially if you live in an arid climate. For an easy primer on rain barrels and how to make your own, check this out.

Brown bag it
Eating out used to be an occasional event for older generations, often reserved for birthdays or anniversaries. Nowadays, the average American eats out about four times a week and spends nearly $3,000 yearly in take-out food, according to The waste created by take-out packaging alone is enough to make you think twice, but when you factor in the money you can save by eating at home or by bringing your own lunch to work or school — in a reusable container, of course — you can see why your grandma eschewed eating out on a regular basis.

Game time
When our grandparents were younger, playing card games or board games was a popular form of entertainment. As a little girl, I remember spending hours playing gin rummy in my grandmother's kitchen, with my handful of cards tucked in an aluminum foil box because I couldn't hold all my cards. In comparison to electronic gaming systems like Wii, Nintendo or Xbox, cards and board games provided hours of entertainment with little on the environment or the wallet.

Buy less
Anytime you buy something, you (and the environment) are paying way more for it than just the sticker price. There is the cost of resources used to make it, advertise it, transport it, maintain it, and inevitably, to dispose of it. The amount of stuff our grandparents bought on a regular basis pales in comparison to the overindulgent spending habits of our generation.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Green Hotels

Green Initiatives In Hotels Create Superior Stays

By Sam Marquit, Independent ‘green’ contractor and co-author of Fair Marquit Value 

Summer time is vacation time for many of us.  As you are making your reservations, it would be worth your while to see if there are any green hotels in the area at your destination.  Green hotels are usually the same price as non-green hotels but you can feel better about staying there!   Green America Program is one organization working towards an environmentally sustainable society by collectively demanding an end to corporate thoughtlessness and irresponsibility. Hotels, with their economic buying power and community-like atmosphere, are increasingly adopting the initiatives of green programs. Green America Program clients are open to new ideas and eager to gain the advantages offered by using green technology.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in North Carolina routinely operates with eco-friendly practices. The hotel conserves precious water resources by using low flowing toilets and showerheads. A linen reuse policy further reduces water consumption. Additionally, those same linens come from recycled materials. The hotel also extends an opportunity to be green to their guests by offering bikes for local transportation and free valet parking for hybrid and electric vehicles. The seamless integration of eco-friendly advances within the hotel has earned them the LEED Gold certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for the healthy living environment within the hotel. As well as it’s reduced environmental impact. The cherry on top of this hotel is actually a roof garden with more than 60,000 honeybees. Not only are these bees necessary for pollination, but they also produce the honey used to make tasty treats in the facility's kitchens.

Another green hotel resides in the western part of the U.S. The Palazzo Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas is the largest structure in the United States with LEED certification. Named the "Most Eco-Friendly Hotel in America," it uses the best practices counseled by organizations such as Eco-Innovation-Europe and the Green America Program. Solar panels provide heat and efficient water and waste-recycling process dramatically reduces consumption. Each year, more than 41.6 million gallons of water are conserved. The use of environmentally sound paints, sealants, and adhesives creates a healthier interior.

In addition to these green facilities, green programs and initiatives exist throughout the world. Eco-Innovation-Europe enables exciting green research ideas to enter the market. Rapid commercialization of products, processes, and services engineered to protect the environment is the goal of this group. This initiative boosts environmentally sound business practices while spurring economic growth. A product or service that reduces CO2 emissions, promotes recycling efforts, or uses resources efficiently is eligible for assistance. The focus is on helping business adopt green practices, distributing and treating water resources more efficiently, increasing the amount of recycling by upgrades to the recycling process, supporting sustainable building products, and working with producers of food and drink.

Building with sustainable practices makes sense for the world and the bottom-line. Green Las Vegas hotels are especially thriving due to lowered operating costs and the welcoming environment a sustainable hotel creates. It is important for other businesses to continue to follow suit.
For more articles like these, check out