Wednesday, July 31, 2013

13 natural remedies for the ant invasion

Mar 27 2012

Ants are making their way into homes this time of year. Thankfully there are natural pest control methods to help you cope with and eliminate the problem. Plus, many of the solutions use what you already have in your cupboard!

Little tiny ants have been spotted in our new home, and many people are suffering the same fate across the country. As much as I love spring, I don't like bugs — especially bugs that can infest a house. Last week I asked for some advice in how to deal with ants naturally as I hadn't time to research it myself since I moved this last weekend. I got such good advice, I had to share it with the readers here at MNN as well. 

Some of these measures are deterrents. That is, they deter the ants from coming in your house. This seems to work well for those with a mild problem. Others found that they needed to use a method that kills the whole colony of ants. I've compiled the comments and suggestions by category, allowing you to compare the different methods a little more easily. 

1. Lemon juice 
Teresa: We just spray around the openings with pure lemon juice … and it always works for us … something about the acid messes up their sense of tracking…

2. Cinnamon 
Shayla:We use ground cinnamon around where there are coming it. It works really well.
Peggy: We spray cinnamon essential oil all around the doors, windowsills, floors, etc. keeps them from coming in. I put the sugar water and borax OUTSIDE!
Letia: Another vote for ground cinnamon. Easy to clean up afterwards and worked great for us!!!
Jean: Cinnamon and cloves. Makes your house smell nice and the ants just hate it sprinkled right in their path.
Patricia: We also use cinnamon oil. We draw borders around everything with a Q-tip dipped in it. They won’t cross it.

3. Peppermint 
Heather: My mother-in-law has success with peppermint essential oil around windows and doors (any entries). Plus her house then smells awesome.
Julie: Dr. Bonner’s liquid soap in the mint aroma. Mix 1 to 1 with water in a spray bottle. Spray on the ant invasion and watch them suffer.

4. Borax, water and sugar 
Kristi: We use borax, sugar, water and a touch of peanut butter. It takes a couple of weeks but really works. We used it last year in our old house and are implementing it again this spring in our new house. Pesky ants! Here is the site where I found the recipe:
Christy: I second Diana’s comment about borax and sugar. I’ve made a thin paste before with water, sugar and borax, then spread it on little pieces of thin cardboard or stiff cardstock and placed them near where it seems they are coming into the house. They’ll eat it and take it back to their colony (just like the Terro liquid you can buy). The paste will dry up in a couple days, so you’ll have to make more. But I think I only had to do it twice before they were gone.
Chookie: What worked for us was a mixture of borax and sugar in water. Several years ago, we lived in a house where there was an ants nest in the walls. Removing it would have meant virtually demolishing the entire front wall of the house (not practical!), so instead, after a year or two of having flying ants swarm into our bedroom every year we decided to go on an ant killing spree. Conventional ant killers didn’t work. Borax and powdered sugar didn’t work. But adding water to the borax and sugar mix to make a thick sugary borax-y syrup DID work…. the worker ants took it back into the nest and it positioned the queen – result = no more flying ants. OK, so borax does need to be kept away from pets and small children, but it is relatively safe beyond that as it is only toxic if you eat it. my solution was to put it somewhere where the kids and the cats would not reach it but the ants could.
BeverlyC: We live in China and had a HORRIBLE ant problem in our house. Tried cinnamon, black pepper, vinegar, etc. etc. We were concerned about the borax because we have guests in and out regularly and the little children are often, well, naughty and undisciplined. When someone suggested Terro liquid ant bait and we found it was just Borax and sugar, we asked someone to bring us some. We could pick the traps up and put them away when company came and put them back out after they left. They worked wonders!!

5. Boiling water and dish soap 
Jennie: We make sure all of our food is sealed up. The honey jar is usually the biggest ant magnet, so it gets a thorough washing and then is placed on a small water-filled saucer in the cupboard. We use a spray bottle filled with water and a squirt of liquid dish soap (I use Seventh Generation) to kill any visible ants. I also look around outside to try to find their hill; pouring a kettle of boiling water on it solves the problem.
Christy:  I’ve done what Jennie mentioned too – boiling water will destroy an ant colony, or weeds popping up between sidewalk cracks or in mulch. It’s an easy, purely natural way to kill things that we don’t often think about.

6. Diatomaceous earth 
Karen: Yes … diatomaceous earth (DE) works well … use food-grade not swimming pool DE. It should be sprinkled around the perimeter of your new home and you can also safely sprinkle it inside where you see them. Do not wet the DE or it will not work. DE isn’t an instant kill but should resolve the problem within a week or so.
Jami: I have a pretty serious any invasion at my house too. When I moved in last April they had already made themselves at home. I did the cinnamon thing last year and worked ok, but they just kept finding new ways in. My ants weren’t attracted to sugary things, but protein, especially the dog food. This year I made some borax cookies and put them in the old fireplace where I noticed the ants returning a week ago. I also sprinkled DE around the perimeter of my kitchen and that seems to have worked better than anything so far for immediate results.

7. Chalk  
Natalie: Oh! And they will not cross a line drawn in chalk. I drew a line around my window where they were coming in and it kept them at bay. 
Anali: My grandparents has really good results with the line of chalk, they used powder that you can get at home improvement stores. It comes in a squeezey bottle so it’s easy to lay down a line with.

8. Baking soda and powdered sugar 
Jennifer: Ants carry an acidic substance with them always for protection. I do a mix of baking soda and powdered sugar in a plastic lid set in strategic places. I think a little volcanic science experiment happens inside their bodies. Over the course of several days it has made a huge difference.

9. Coffee grounds
Lea: I have had success with used coffee grounds, I did know where their entry was, after putting it in the cracks they never returned. I also do know it doesn’t kill them, it just makes them move homes, (we have put them on beds outside and we just see them pop up a small distance away.

10. Cornmeal
Jill: One more thing to add to this. I saw somewhere to use corn meal. Well, it worked out since some moths got into my cornmeal, and I felt bad wasting it. That’s when I saw the idea and tried it. I sprinkled a little bit just off the back porch. Every day I would check and every day the same trail of ants was still there. Then I forgot about it. My daughter found another ant nest further out in the yard, and it made me remember to check the last trail. It was gone, completely gone. So, I sprinkled it on the new nest, and less than a week later, it is gone. If you google it there are a ton of places where it mentions it. Here’s just one link, and if you scroll to the Tip there is still another idea using molasses. Although if cornmeal will work I think it’s cheaper, and safer around kids and pets.

11. Cream of Wheat 
Rebecca: Cream of wheat! They eat it & it expands & they explode! Ha! I used it in my garden for ant problems. Kind of makes you wonder what it does to our insides when we eat it too

12. Vinegar 
Kristie: Vinegar! Since we switched to using a vinegar/water solution for mopping the floors and cleaning the counters, our ant problem has vanished.
Mysty: Vinegar is the one sure solution, but you need to pour it where the ants have their nest, not just to where they walk around. If you find their nest just pour about 0.5-1 L of white (cheap) vinegar. I never had ant problems but my grandparents sometimes has as they has a big farm and there is always an ant problem is some corner of the farm 
Cath: We used a mixture of vinegar, washing up liquid (ecover) and peppermint oil last year. Tracked them back to their nest and syringed it into the cracks. They never came back.

13. Equal 
Tea Leaf: We killed our ants by mixing Equal packets with apple juice. It is a neurotoxin to the ants. Scary that people put these in their coffee.

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

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A New App Will Let You Share Your Leftovers With Strangers

July 29, 2013

Startups have made it so much easier for peer-to-peer buying and bartering these days. Need a place to stay? Swap houses. Want to fill out your wardrobe? Swap clothing. And coming soon is Leftover Swap, a smartphone app to help you barter or give away your leftovers.
This is either ingenious or cringe-worthy, depending on your penchant for other people's unfinished meals.
"It's obviously not for everybody," says Leftover Swap co-founder Dan Newman. "But for as many people who seemingly have a problem with it, there's people who love the idea."
The basic gist is this: Let's say you have some leftover pizza. Snap a photo of it and post it to the app's database. Strangers in the same geographic market then have an option of trading you for the food — or just taking it off your hands.
Newman says he and co-founder Bryan Summersett, a Seattle-based programmer, came up with this "ridiculous" notion while college roommates at the University of Michigan three years ago. "It was an outrageous joke in 2010, but in 2013, it's very plausible and something that people would use today," Newman says.
The founders aren't sure how to actually make money from Leftover Swap. For now, they see it as an effort to do good.
"We're not gonna make millions," Newman says. "[The environmental concern] is a big part of it. There's a bunch of studies about how much more food we need to produce for the world population by 2050, and how fertilizers are less effective and our current rate of producing food isn't going to suffice. Meanwhile, in the US we produce so much more food than we consume and so much is going to waste."
Leftover Swap is expected to launch by the end of August and will be available to download for free. Newman said he and Summersett are considering marketing in a few test markets to allow experimentation of the community-building around the leftover share, but haven't decided which ones they'll be. Either way, San Francisco health officials are already sounding warnings that users there could be breaking the law since leftovers pose a health hazard. Per SF Weekly:

"In San Francisco, it's illegal to sell food to the public without a permit, said Richard Lee, director of the Health Department's environmental regulatory program, and it could result in expensive citations — potentially a couple thousand dollars, or three times the original permitting fee. It could also lead to a much stiffer crackdown than the ones on Uber and Lyft for operating without state-issued livery licenses.
"Leftover food is, in fact, a huge source of food-borne illnesses and other pestilence, Lee said. And in this case, there would be no way for officials to trace the source — they wouldn't know who originally produced the food and under what conditions. Even if it came from the cleanest, best-inspected restaurant in San Francisco, it could still have been handled by some grubby hipster with no hygiene standards."

Newman says that they won't be allowing users to formally sell their leftovers, rather, individuals can offer to donate for particularly tasty or premium grub. He's also studying up on liability concerns and regulations surrounding individual food sharing. The bottom line is, this thing is for real, and it's happening.
To the haters, Newman says this: "People seem to have a huge lack of trust in their fellow man, thinking that leftovers would be diseased somehow. It goes back to the couch-surfing thing. You're staying at a random person's place and you have to trust they aren't going to do something weird. It's the same with leftovers."

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ever wonder what happens to used hotel soap?

By Roger Yu, USA TODAY
Updated 5/2/2011

Ever wonder what happens to leftover soap and shampoo at hotels? Most are thrown away. About 1 million partly used bars of soap are tossed out daily by U.S. hotels, according to Clean the World Foundation, a non-profit organization that recycles used soap for distribution to developing nations and homeless shelters.
But recycling organizations such as Clean the World, based in Orlando, and Global Soap Project, based in Atlanta, are starting to get more attention from large hotel companies.
Clean the World said last week that it reached an agreement with Starwood Hotels to recycle soap, shampoo and lotion. They estimate about 1.6 million pounds of soap may be recycled each year because Starwood has about 176,000 rooms in North America. Starwood runs Westin, Sheraton and other hotel chains.
Clean the World has had collection deals with about 1,000 individual hotels, including about 100 Marriotts and 80 Hiltons. Some properties run by Carlson, Wyndham, Hyatt and Joie de Vivre Hotels also donate to the organization. But the Starwood partnership is its first corporate wide agreement with a large hotel company.
Clean the World charges hotels 65 cents a room to clean and redistribute soap and shampoo bottles. Its business has been growing so fast that it's creating a for-profit operation to raise money. The foundation will retain its non-profit status and continue to distribute reprocessed soap. But its for-profit Clean the World Global arm will sell its services to hotels. "It will allow us to get the capital we need to open local (recycling) centers. We really need that capital to grow," says Shawn Seipler, founder of Clean the World.
Since its founding two years ago, Clean the World says it has distributed more than 8 million bars of soap in the U.S. and more than 40 countries, including Haiti, Japan, Zimbabwe, Uganda, India and Mexico. It estimates its efforts have diverted about 550 tons of waste from polluting landfills in the U.S. and Canada. Each day, 9,000 children die from diseases that can be prevented by washing with soap, the organization says.
Seipler and co-founder Paul Till were corporate salesmen before quitting their jobs to embrace the cause. "I was staying at hotels four nights a week," Seipler says. "I started asking, 'What's going on with soap and bottles?' "
They started collecting soap from 80 Orlando hotels and have since built recycling centers in Orlando, Las Vegas, Vancouver and Toronto.
Clean the World provides bins for housekeeping staff to deposit soap, shampoo and lotion bottles. The bottles are taken to a recycling plant, where soap is sterilized and reformed into 2-ounce bars.

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

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tree Thursday - White Frangipani

White Frangipani

Plumeria pudica a “evergreen” plumeria known as White Frangipani.  The most commonly known species of frangipani trees in South Florida lose their leaves in the winter time, the P. pudica, does not.   The White Frangipani is a large shrub or small tree that grows to about 15 feet.  In South Florida, you can expect flowers at least 9 to 10 months of the year and if we have a very mild winter, it might bloom year-round.  Younger plants will shed leaves during the winter months but as it matures it should retain the leaves year-round.  The photographs below were taken on July 23, 2013 in SW Fort Lauderdale. 

Plumerias are easy to grow, requiring little care but do need the right amount of sun and water to flower.  You can start a new plant by cutting off a branch tip, letting it dry out and then planting in well-drain soil.  I’ve heard February is the best time to do this in South Florida.  For more information on growing Plumeria trees see .

In Hawaii, plumeria flowers are used to make the traditional leis.   

For more information, check out:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Salt Water Pools System vs. Chlorine Pools

Which system is healthier?
July 2013

There are so many opinions when it comes to salt water pool systems verses chlorine pool treatment. Most of the focus is on cost and maintenance. However, for me, it was the health benefits.

Chlorine is the chemical most often used to keep swimming pools and jacuzzi's free of bacteria that can be hazardous to humans. 
Chlorine kills bacteria through a fairly simple chemical reaction. The chlorine solution you add to the pool water breaks down into many different chemicals, including hypochlorousacid (HOCl) and hypochlorite ion (OCl-). Both kill microorganisms and bacteria by attacking the lipids in the cell walls and destroying the enzymes and structures inside the cell, rendering them oxidized and harmless. In the effort to kill bacteria using chlorine in pools, there are health concerns such as gasses that are inhaled and the damage it does to skin, hair and eyes. Most green parents are concerned about over exposure to high levels of chlorine absorbed through the skin.

Many people don't know the human body has 0.15 percent chlorine by weight, but overexposure is toxic.

There is a slight misconception about salt water pools systems: they do actually have chlorine. When the salt is electronically zapped through electrolysis, it naturally turns the salt into chlorine. So, one might ask, why then the debate?

Chlorine you purchase to add to your pool is far more concentrated and is chemically produced through various methods. It is more harsh than the chlorine produced by a salt water generator. Ever notice when swimming in a public pool the harsh chemical smell on your skin  lingers on long after leaving the pool? That is due to higher levels of chlorine as well as other components from the chloramines that are produced. Chloramines aren’t produced with a salt water pool system.

One really great reason I chose a salt water pool system for my pool is the salt generated-chlorine is so much milder. The initial salt added to the pool was food grade salt (pickling salt) and therefore wasn't harsh on my child's eyes and skin.  Actually, when swimming in the pool, one can barely detect any salt in the water at all, and cannot detect any chlorine in the water by taste or smell. Our skin feels softer after swimming in our salt water pool. Swimming in an all chemically produced chlorine pool, we come out smelling of chlorine, burning red eyes and skin irritation and having to shower to get the smell off.

Our salt water pool system has one-tenth of the salt that the ocean has and yet the pool stays clean and clear. Depending on what system you have, you may still have to add other products for pH balancing. Because salt does not evaporate, you do not have to continuously add salt, unlike chlorine. The salt water generator continuously uses the salt in the pool and electrically turns it into chlorine. This cuts the cost to you and the impact on the environment from packaging materials when buying chemically produced chlorine. 

Once the system was in place, there really was a huge difference compared to the chlorine pools we have used, and it felt great. For me, I can say it was well worth the switch.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dry your clothes on the clothesline

Save money, cut carbon emissions, and extend the life of your clothing — all with a few bucks' worth of rope.  Please check local ordinances and homeowner association’s before installing your lines!
June 2011  

Photo: martcatnoc/Flickr
By Rodale News

Line drying is back! True, electric clothes dryers aren’t going to disappear anytime soon. But, as you may find simply by strolling around your neighborhood on the next sunny Saturday, it seems like more people than ever are returning to the tried-and-true combination of sun, wind, and clothesline to dry their clothing and linens. Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times reported that the trend was becoming popular among celebrities, even as some ordinary folks had to battle with local home owner associations that banned the practice as “unattractive.” Hanging your laundry out to dry instead of firing up your dryer reduces your electric or gas bill, lowers carbon emissions, helps your clothing and linens last longer by eliminating some wear and tear on the fabric (saving you more money), is a great excuse to get outside, and gives your fabrics that natural, fresh outdoor smell (no need to use chemical fragrances that claim to mimic it). Even if you don’t hang every wash load, each time you do, you save yourself money and help protect the environment.

The line
There are all sorts of drying line setups, but all you really need is a length of clean, strong rope that you can tie between two trees or poles. Having a tightening mechanism of some sort is a good idea, as every type of line I’ve used has stretched over time. You can buy tighteners at a hardware or home improvement store; they attach to the line and make it easy to take up any slack without having to untie and retie the rope. Be sure you hang your line high enough so heavy washed items won’t brush the ground. Pick a site where no one will run into the drying laundry and also consider how far you will need to carry your laundry. Avoid putting your line under trees that drip sap or where birds tend to perch. If you are short on space, you can buy a retractable clothesline, which attaches to a wall and lets you extend the line when needed, or an umbrella-style clothesline, which is like a patio umbrella but has clotheslines in place of umbrella fabric. These options require a bigger up-front investment, but you’ll recoup the costs.

The clothespins
Once you have a line, you’ll need some clothespins to hold your wash on it. I prefer the spring clip type, and I’m partial to the wooden kind. Buy the sturdiest ones you can find—in my experience, the cheap ones lose their grip in even the lightest breeze and fall apart easily. Keep your pins in a portable bag or other container that you can hang on the line while pinning up your laundry. But store the bag inside when not in service; if your pins are left outside, they will get dirty and may stain your wash. Plus they won’t last as long. You can make a very serviceable clothespin container out of a stiff plastic milk or water jug: Cut off the bottom of the handle to make a hanging hook and cut away some of the jug’s top for easy access to your clothespins inside.

Hang ’em high!
If you want to speed up the drying process, you can run your laundry through an extra spin cycle in your washer. (When I have plenty of drying time, I actually prefer to reduce the spin time and let the clothes hang outside longer, to save even more electricity.) When your laundry’s been spun, grab your clothespins and tote your wash out to the line. Give each item a good snap to minimize wrinkles and attach it firmly to the line with the pins. I like to gently stretch collars, the strips down the front of buttoned shirts, and seams that are prone to shrinking, pulling them to their normal lengths before I hang them. But be careful not to overstretch anything. Fold the top edge of each item of clothing over the clothesline and clip the fold to the line. Clothing dries fastest if it’s hung a single layer, with nothing folded in half over itself. If space is limited, you can scrunch things closer together; it will all just take a little longer to dry. Hang small, thin items like dress socks together in pairs to save on pins and space and overlap the corners of larger items so one pin can hold both. On windy days, use extra clips to make sure everything’s especially secure. 

Here are some other tips to help you become a line-drying believer:

Watch the skies (and the weather forecast).
Line drying does require some weather awareness and forward planning. If you have a covered outdoor area, such as a porch, where you can hang a rainy-day line that will expand your options. If you use an umbrella clothesline and the weather won’t get worse than a gentle shower, you can hang your clothes on the inner lines, toss an old shower curtain or sheet of plastic over the hung washing, and clip this cover to the outside lines to hold it in place.

Know your fabrics. 
Sunshine is a natural germ- and odor-killer and can help bleach out stains. But it can also fade bright clothing. Hang sun-sensitive laundry inside out, or in the shade if possible, and bring those articles in promptly as soon as they are dry. Certain fabrics are prone to stretching, or will show puckers where clothespins were clipped to them, so hang those on plastic coat hangers (metal ones are likely to rust and stain) and then clip the hangers to the line.

Tumble your towels. 
Line dried clothes and towels don’t feel the same as those that have been tumbled dry in a dryer. I grew up without a dryer and much prefer the feel of a line-dried towel on my bare back when stepping out of the shower. But you or your family members may find crunchy towels or stiff jeans a turnoff. Hanging out wash on a windy day can reduce stiffness, and so can filling the fabric softener dispenser in your washer with white vinegar. If those measures aren’t enough, dry everything on the line and then toss problem items into the dryer for a few minutes — set on air fluff — with a couple of clean tennis balls or sneakers to soften them.

Eliminate lint. 
While line drying does lengthen the life of your clothes by not sucking bits of them into the lint trap, it doesn’t remove loose lint and pet hair (a big deal in our multi-pet household). You can toss any line dried but “furry” items into the dryer set on air fluff, with an all-natural dryer sheet, to loosen and remove offending fibers. I don’t have a dryer anymore (it gave up the ghost last year, and not replacing it was part of my 2008 carbon footprint reduction effort), but I do have a secret weapon: A damp hand rubbed firmly over the surface of hairy or linty items picks up the offending fibers better than any lint or pet hair remover I’ve ever tried.

Extend the drying season. 
Drying laundry indoors can be an option, though in humid weather it will take a long time, boost indoor humidity levels, make your AC work harder, and perhaps exacerbate any mildew problems. In dry climates and in the heating season when indoor air tends to be too dry anyway, drying lines or wooden racks in the house are a great option. I have wash lines in my basement for winter use, and I use a box fan to move air gently through the drying laundry to speed up the process. In spring and fall, you can hang wash outside on cold days; try wearing rubber dishwashing gloves (or a larger size of rubber gloves over a thin pair of winter gloves) to keep your hands warm while handling the wet items.

For more great ways to save money and energy, check out

Think before you print!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Hot and bothered: 8 AC-less ways to beat the heat this summer

I’m not so sure about the third one but it would work!  J

Worried about the impact running your AC will have on your utility bills? I certainly am. Check out these low-tech, renter-friendly ways to keep your cool this summer.
June 2010

I don’t know what the weather’s like where you live but here in Brooklyn it’s hot as blazes … only three days into summer and the sauna-like temps have me in a total panic about spikes in my electric bills.

Naturally, this has me thinking about creative ways that I can avoid using my two window-unit air conditioners (as much) over the coming weeks. As a renter living in a fourth-floor walk-up, home improvement projects like installing ceiling fans and replacing windows are out of the question so I thought I’d share some easy, low-tech tactics I plan on trying out to stay cool, keep my fossil fuel usage to a minimum, and, perhaps most importantly, save a few bucks as I sweat it out at home. 

• H 2 the O: I do this all the time anyways — I'm a thirsty kind of guy — but to keep me from having total freak outs when the ConEd bill arrives, I'll be making sure that my Britta pitcher is always full of ice-cold water and my body is naturally hydrated. Adding a sprig of mint to a glass of cold water helps, too. 

• Giving the oven a rest: The past couple of nights I must have been wearing my bad idea jeans (I should have been wearing nothing ... see tip below) because I used the oven to prepare dinner. After eating, I thought I'd pass out. And not because the food was that good ... my apartment felt like an oven. I think I'll be nuking meals in the microwave a bit more and keeping the oven and other heat sources like lamps off as much as possible. 

  Going au natural: I'm not sure if my roommate or the neighbors across the way are mentally prepared for "free shows" but this blogger will be wearing next to nothing while at home. 

• The blind side: The blinds in my apartment will remain shut and not just because I don't want my neighbors to catch a peek of me shuffling around in my underpants. For an apartment in NYC, my building gets awesome light which is a bit of burden in the summer when the sun is streaming in from all directions. 

• Fan club: Part of the reason I have such great light in my place is because I'm up high (a big drawback during the summer) and have multiple windows on three sides of my unit. As night, I'll be opening windows and using a couple of small fans to get a nice cross-breeze going. 

• Deep freeze: While we're on the topic of fans, here's a trick I've yet to try out: Put a handful of ice cubes or a couple of frozen water bottles in a chilled bowl and place it front of a fan. It's a super-effective way to cool down quick without cranking up the AC. 

• Cold showers and wet sheets: The first part of this tip is self-explanatory but wet sheets? Rumor is that placing a damp sheet in front of an open window or even sleeping with cold, damp sheets or bath towels provides relief. I'm willing to give it a shot. 

• Mr. Misty: It's high time that I invest in a spray bottle and fill it with cool water for instant refreshment. Adding a couple drops of tea tree oil supposedly works wonders. Maybe I'll multi-task and mist myself while my feet are plunged into a bucket of cold water and I suck on Otter Pops with cucumber slices placed over my eyes ( yet another good reason to have my blinds drawn). 

These are just a few easy, little or no-cost ways I plan on keeping my cool and not going broke this summer. Any tips you'd like to share? Also, be sure to check out Lighter Footstep's list of 20 ways for renters to stay cool and save money this summer and MNN advice columnist Chanie's words of wisdom on summertime energy savings

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Don't Dump, Donate

Instead of tossing out those gently used items, why not make sure they find their way to someone in need?

The next time you upgrade something, can no longer stand the sight of something hideous, or simply need to downsize, think "donate" instead of "dump."
America has long been ridiculed around the world for being a throwaway society. On average, each one of us tosses out four and a half pounds of garbage every day, adding up to a whopping total of 245 million tons per year. A lot of that material is perfectly serviceable stuff, and could be readily used by the less fortunate.
Most towns have collection centers for used clothing, books, toys, durable goods and even canned foods. Check with your local government, or stop by a Salvation Army, Goodwill or independent thrift store. Shelters for women and families will often accept almost anything in decent shape.
Many churches and other religious organizations often hold community garage sales, and solicit items from the area for donation. Finally, don't forget the easiest, and greenest, option of all: share with your friends, family and neighbors! That way you won't even have to get in a car or transit to pass something on, and you can share stories as well as goods.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

7 Ways To Improve Indoor Air Quality at Home

There is a common belief that the air outside your front door is much worse to breathe than the air inside your home. But, as studies show, the air inside your home may also come with health implications. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor levels of pollutants may be 2 to 5 times higher than levels outside1.
How did your indoor air get dirtier than your laundry? Think fumes off-gassed by furniture, paint and building materials, chemicals from household cleaning products and fragrances, combustion devises, dust, bacteria and mold. These are all common culprits of poor home air quality.
When you consider that we spend 90 percent of our time indoors, this is a big problem. But it can be especially debilitating for those who suffer from allergies or asthma. Here are some simple solutions to improve your home air quality—many of which are quick, easy and affordable.
Tip#1: Air it out
Open a window to air out harmful chemicals and let cleaner, healthier air in! Even if it’s for a few minutes a day, it’s one of the simplest (and most affordable) things you can do to improve your home air quality. You can also turn on a ceiling or portable fan while windows are open to recirculate household air and push out stale air2.
Tip #2: Use non-toxic household cleaning products
Traditional household cleaning products are one of the leading contributors to poor home air quality. In fact, the average home contains 62 harmful chemicals—more than a chemistry laboratory 100 years ago!3 Your home is not a science experiment.
Rather than spend money on household cleaning products, look no further than your pantry for ingredients that possess natural cleaning prowess. Ingredients such as baking soda, white distilled vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, tea tree oil, hot water, coarse salt, and plain ‘ole castile soap all do a bang-up job without spewing harmful chemicals in your home. (Look for easy-to-do recipes online!)
If you prefer something in a bottle, don’t just trust what they tell you on the label. Do some research before you buy. Look for products that tap into plant-based ingredients for cleaning power without artificial dyes and/or fragrances to better your home air quality. And remember, traditionally, the fewer ingredients on the label, the better.
Tip #3: Invest in healthy houseplants
Believe it or not, there are some plants that act as renegade air filters by sucking up harmful chemicals that rest in your air and pumping out fresh oxygen. Not just any plant will do. A study conducted in part by NASA found that a handful of plants are particularly skilled at eating up some of the more harmful chemicals: formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide to name a few. Here are a few of the top plants that proved to be most effective at removing harmful chemicals4:
·         Bamboo Palm
·         English Ivy Hedera Helix
·         Gerbera Daisy Gerbera Jamesonii
·         Janet Craig - Dracaena “Janet Craig”
·         Marginata - Dracaena Marginata
·         Mass cane/Corn Plant - Dracaena Massangeana
·         Mother-in-Law’s Tongue Sansevieria Laurentii
·         Pot Mum – Chrysantheium morifolium
·         Peace Lily - Spathiphyllum
·         Warneckii - Dracaena “Warneckii”
Tip #4: Skip the scent
We are all guilty of associating fresh, aromatic scents with a clean home, but synthetic fragrance found in air fresheners, household cleaning products, detergents and candles infuses your air with harmful chemicals. Since the actual components of a fragrance are considered a “trade secret,” companies are only required to list the catch-all term “fragrance” on the label—but they are not required to disclose what they actually are5. In this case, the devil is in the details. A study conducted by Washington University found that nearly 100 volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) were emitted from six popular air fresheners. Of the 100 VOCs emitted, none were listed on the label and five of them released at least one (or more!) cancer-causing chemicals6. Many fragrances have not been tested for human safety, and a group of plasticizers known as phthalates are commonly used to make the scent last longer. Phthalates have been linked to hormone disruption7, cancer8, and reproductive and developmental issues9.
To protect your home air quality, look for household cleaning products, detergents and aerosol sprays that are fragrance-free or scented with 100 percent natural ingredients. You can also use essential oils, lemons, or baking soda to freshen up your home.
Tip #5: Buy safer furniture
Your furniture can off-gas VOCs, which can be highly toxic to human health10. Conventional woods in furniture such as plywood and particleboard are fused with toxic glues that can contain formaldehyde and harmful chemicals, and are finished with paints, lacquers, and varnishes that contain even more harmful chemicals. These chemicals can be detrimental to those with allergies and asthma, while contributing to serious diseases like cancer11. If you can, avoid buying furniture made from woods that have been treated with formaldehyde and look for furniture that was assembled with non-toxic glues and water-based or low to no-VOC finishes12. Certifications like GREENGUARD also serve as a great guide by identifying products that have lower chemical emissions for better home air quality13. Since healthier furniture can be more expensive, you can always buy second-hand—a good indication that the furniture has already done most of its off-gassing. You can also open a window for better air ventilation (See Tip #1).
Tip #6: Be picky about paint
Are you familiar with that funny odor that fills the room after you have freshly painted the walls? It makes you dizzy for a reason. Conventional paints can emit toxic fumes into your home over its life cycle . Look for safer paints that are labeled “Zero VOC or “Low-VOC.” The most ideal option is “Zero VOC, no toxics and no solvents,” which states that canister of wall color does not contain any of the harmful chemicals found in traditional paints14.
Tip #7: Invest in a HEPA filter vacuum
Carpets and floors can harbor chemicals and commons allergens, which accumulate in household dust. Vacuuming a few times a week is key, but cheap vacuums can just make matters worse. The problem with cheap vacuums is that they suction chemicals in, and then spew them back out in the exhaust to exacerbate poor home air quality. Purchase a vacuum with a true HEPA filter, which is capable of suctioning up dust, dirt and even the smallest irritants15.


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

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

National Moth Week

I had never heard of National Moth Week until I got a notice of local activities.  National Moth Week is a global celebration of moths and biodiversity, being held on the last week of July, which is July 20-28 this year.  Here’s some information from the National Moth Week website:

Why moths?
  • Moths are among the most diverse and successful organisms on earth.
  • Scientists estimate there are 150,000 to more than 500,000 moth species.
  • Their colors and patterns are either dazzling or so cryptic that they define camouflage. Shapes and sizes span the gamut from as small as a pinhead to as large as an adult’s hand.
  • Most moths are nocturnal, and need to be sought at night to be seen – others fly like butterflies during the day.
  • Finding moths can be as simple as leaving a porch light on and checking it after dark. Serious moth aficionados use special lights and baits to attract them.

National Moth Week provides a much-needed spotlight on moths and their ecological importance as well as their incredible biodiversity.  National Moth Week offers everyone, everywhere a unique opportunity to become a Citizen Scientist and contribute scientific data about moths. Numerous organizations around the world have partnered with National Moth Week and are supporting the event. Through partnerships with major online biological data depositories, National Moth Week participants can help map moth distribution and provide needed information on other life history aspects around the globe.

In Broward County, National Moth Week will be celebrated with activities at Long Key Nature Center at 3501 S.W. 130th Avenue in Davie.  Events include:
Moth Day • July 21
12 p.m. to 5 p.m.• All Ages • Free
Presented in cooperation with the Broward Butterfly Chapter and the Miami Blue Chapter of the North
American Butterfly Association.

Moth Night • July 26
8:00 p.m. • All Ages • $5/person
Presented in cooperation with the Broward Butterflies Chapter and the Miami Blue Chapter of the North
American Butterfly Association.

Magical Moths for Kids • July 27 and 28
10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. • Ages 3-12 yrs. • $5/child

For more information go to or call the Long Key Nature Center Office at 954.357.8797.