Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Specific Acts of Weatherization

We've just had our crawl space and basement (cellar, if you're not fancy) treated with foam spray. The foam spray should retain heat and cut our energy usage while reducing our energy bills and delivering a tax credit.

The process did not take long. The contractors showed at about 8 AM as expected. At 11 AM, I asked if they minded if I took the dog for a walk around the block. They replied that they were already done.

Our old house is drafty and rather cold in the winter. Even when wearing slippers and socks, our feet feel cold. We know we suffer immense heat loss. The foam treatment should reduce our heat loss and make us more comfortable.

The best factor is that we get a tax credit for our act of weatherization. We not only hope to see a longterm reduction in our heating costs but we will see additional savings on our tax bill. The money comes later but winter is soon. Hurry to stay warm and save!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Erase Your Trace


What's your annual carbon dioxide emission? You can find out at Erase Your Trace, a new tool from the City of Philadelphia. Erase Your Trace is a carbon calculator that estimates carbon dioxide usage by asking questions about your habits and behavior.

Whatever your usage is, Erase Your Trace aims to nullify it while increasing tree coverage. The project uses the CarbonPlus Calculator, developed by the U.S. Forest Service, to estimate carbon production. Using a carbon price at 20 dollars per ton, the price currently used by the Obama Administration, Erase Your Trace assigns a dollar value to your own carbon emissions. Users then donate part of that cost to The Fairmount Park Conservancy, which in turn will donate the combine money to neighborhoods for tree planting.

Trees help reduce carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas linked to global warming, and they reduce other pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone and particulate matter. Philadelphia currently has approximately 2.1 million trees that sequester 16,100 tons of carbon per year. Philadelphia’s trees also reduce urban heat island effect, decrease stormwater runoff, and increase property values.

While Ms. Philly Organic knows we can't live without an impact and we can't simply erase our carbon emissions, we can plant trees, benefit the city and parks, and minimize the effect of our carbon output with a few clicks of the mouse. Why not learn more and reduce the effect of your personal carbon production?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Carrotmobs: Coming to Philadelphia

Carrotmobs, similar to flashmobs but completely different from protests and boycotts, are coming to Philadelphia. What is a Carrotmob? Carrotmobs encourage business to implement more environmentally sound policies by directing customers and sales to the business during a targeted time. The aim is to show the strength of green movement and to show how much money we have to spend, thereby encouraging targeted businesses to go greener.

The organizers work to identify businesses that are open to the message and that may have existing plans to become more environmentally sound. The Carrotmob organizers and the business arrange a time and date, then ask supporters to come and shop. It's been so successful in some cities that Carrotmobbers form long queues just to make a purchase!

Carrotmobs started in San Francisco and are spreading around the country. Philadelphia is one of the earlier growth sights! There are also offshoots in Europe. To participate, you just have to shop at the right time and place. To learn the right place and time, you have to visit their blog or follow them on Twitter.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Recycling More Than Ever: way to recycle, Philly!

Single stream recycling has increased Philadelphia's recycling rates by 46%. Our beautiful recycling trucks have collected 75,060 tons of household waste between June 2008 and June 2009. Philadelphians now recycle approximately 12.4% of their household garbage.

While this is exciting news, it's still too low. It's below the national average and is significantly lower than the 25% target rate established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the 1980s. In other words, although we've improved, we're still behind.

How can we continue to boost our recycling rates? Recycle bank pays citizens to recycle in the form of coupons and cash. Philadelphia has not joined this popular program. Fines, unpopular sources of revenue in this tight economy, are proven ways to increase participation. There is anecdotal evidence of stepped-up enforcement but the truth is that Licenses and Inspections inexplicably laid off enforcement agents to meet Mayor Nutter's budget.

While Philadelphia's recycling participation has improved, we still have miles to go. Recycle Bank and enforcement can help increase participation city-wide and should be used to expand participation. Keep up the great work and keep moving forward, Philly!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July Potato Harvest

After I heard rumors that in some US climates, gardeners can plant potatoes in the fall, Ms. Philly Organic decided to try. We dug a nice deep row and planted potatoes, each one separated by the length of Mr. Philly Organic's foot. Underneath the potatoes, we left a little leaf litter to create warmth for the spuds, then we immediately hilled them.

The idea is that the potatoes will begin to develop a healthy root system in the fall, which will be warmed and protected in the winter by the decomposing leaf litter. No green shoots will appear until spring but they will appear much earlier than they would if you waited for the ground to warm up before planting. The root system will begin to grow potatoes right away, instead of needing time in the spring to develop and grow.


We saw our potato flowers early and Mr. Philly Organic tasted a couple, pronouncing them unbelievably delicious. This week, Ms. Philly Organic noted that the tops of the plant were dieing and so it was time to harvest! The above picture shows our yield from our lightly amended, compacted, clay soil.


The beauty of growing potatoes in the winter is that it allows for a dual harvest each year. After digging the potatoes, Ms. Philly Organic planted some beans and onions. A row of corn is growing in nicely behind the location for the row of potatoes. Potatoes are economic and easy to grow, even for beginners. Simply plant whole, partial, or even peels (tested years ago by Ms. Philly Organic and her mom). This fall, give up a flower bed to grow a few potatoes!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Calling All Hands: Wissahickon Restoration Volunteers

Wissahickon Restoration Volunteers needs 5 to 10 volunteers this Sunday, June 28 from 10 AM to noon. Remove invasive plants, plant trees and shrubs, rescue trees from vines, and perform trail maintenance in Wissahickon Park. All tools, gloves, and supplies are provided.

Contact Project Leader, Ron Ayres, at 215-653-0421 (h) or 215-483-4348 (c) for more information or to sign up.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

First Step of Going Green

Recently Mr. Philly Organic and I had a slight plumbing problem: A small clog caused a slight back up into our utility sink. Gross!

We avoided using any harsh chemical clog dissolvers. This is especially important when a plumber might snake your lines because splash back could burn his face or hands.

We tried to reduce the clog with a technique that keeps our pipes clean and removed clogs in the past: baking soda, salt, and boiling water. There was a slight improvement but ultimately the plumber came out for a mechanical repair.

Unfortunately we've had this problem more than once but the baking soda, salt, boiling water technique has kept the pipes clear for two years. After the plumber's visit, Mr. Philly Organic bought pipes and sewer plumber so he can mechanically fix the problem in the future. We also decided to perform more regular maintenance with baking soda.

What's the recipe for the baking soda flush? Dump a cup of salt into your drain. Follow that with a cup of baking soda. Then wash it all away with a quart of boiling water. For smaller vanity sinks, reduce the amounts by one quarter or one half.

Sadly we had to clean out our utility sink. We still had old pine disinfectant in the house. Ms. Philly Organic has relied on natural cleaning techniques like baking soda for many years and assumes this is an old product from before we combined households. Why not throw it away and replace it with a green product? Simply, that's not a green behavior. The first step of going green is not throwing away anything; it's using up the toxic items first.

Throwing out toxic products does not prevent them from joining the water cycle. In fact, many chemicals are removed from treated waste water that comes out of drain pipes. They are not removed from the garbage dump but leech slowling into the ground water. So this time the green choice was to use what we found in our cabinet and to plan a replacement. In the future we'll rely on vinegar, which has anti-microbial properties.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Congressional Energy Bill: Good Enough?

What do the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and New York Governer David Patterson have in common? They all believe that the Waxman-Markey Climate bill, referred to as "the most ambitious energy and global warming legislation ever debated in Congress" by the New York Times, is inadequate.

The Washington Post notes that "Democrats turned to a coalition of business and environmental groups to help draft their own sweeping climate bill. And one little-noticed provision of the draft bill would give one of the coalition's co-founders a lucrative exemption on a coal-fired project it is building. "

The New York Times also reports that "In weeks of closed-door negotiations...Mr. Waxman doled out billions of dollars worth of free pollution permits, known as allowances, to cushion any price shock caused by imposing a cap on emissions of heat-trapping gases. In the end, 85 percent of all pollution allowances were given at no cost for various purposes, including compensating energy-intensive industries, state governments, oil refiners and low-income households..."

The same permits could have been auctioned, especially in a time of decreasing governmental income. Worse are suggestions that the process is being rushed so that President Obama can tackle healthcare. While healthcare restructuring is an urgent matter, many studies prove that environmental degradation increases the health problems of all, especially the poorest people in our country and on the planet. These increased health problems increase healthcare costs and demands.

MoveOn.org is sponsoring a petition urging the strengthening of a bill that wasn't necessarily written to improve our environment and energy, but rather with the suspect input of energy companies who also have received free allowances. Sign to Moveon.org petition at http://pol.moveon.org/cleanenergy/

Other environmental groups do support this legislation. In fact the legislation is hotly contested across party lines and many affiliations and creeds. Whenever an issue is in so much contention, it's essential that we educate ourselves and express our opinions. With that goal in mind, Ms Philly Organic provides an additional reading list and encourages you to search Google for more information. Then speak up!

Additional reading

1. "Bill Needs Strengthening to Guarantee Necessary Carbon Reductions, New Green Jobs and Consumer Benefits, Science Group Says," Union of Concerned Scientists, May 14, 2009 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51475&id=16315-783803-slkOllx&t=6

2. "EPA urged to act on climate, not wait for Congress," Associated Press, May 18, 2009 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51479&id=16315-783803-slkOllx&t=7

3. "American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009," Library of Congress, May 15, 2009 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51482&id=16315-783803-slkOllx&t=8

4. "Green Recovery: A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy," Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, September 2008 http://www.peri.umass.edu/green_recovery/

5. "Bill Needs Strengthening to Guarantee Necessary Carbon Reductions, New Green Jobs and Consumer Benefits, Science Group Says," Union of Concerned Scientists, May 14, 2009 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51475&id=16315-783803-slkOllx&t=9

6. "Stopping the Coal Rush," Sierra Club http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51483&id=16315-783803-slkOllx&t=10

7. "So How Good Is This Climate Bill, Anyhow?" Sierra Club, May 22, 2009 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51478&id=16315-783803-slkOllx&t=11

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mural Arts Paints the Trucks Floral



If this doesn't make you want to recycle, nothing will. On Earth Day, Philadelphia launched 10 new trucks covered in art. The design is the handiwork of Desiree Bender, who worked with students at rec centers. The project was a joint effort between the Streets Department, the Design Center at Philadelphia University and the Mural Arts Project. The trucks are intended to draw attention and compliance to the curbside single stream recycling program.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Need a Composter, Find a Composter

Find a Composter locates nearby composting facilities. The Pennsylvania search yields results in suburban Philadelphia, a state corrections facility, and a few others. Philly, represent! Area composters can add themselves to the site's database. Why turn down free advertising? Get on the list.

The Resources page includes links to non-governmental and governmental agencies and initiatives that support composting. Find the contact information for the EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental protection. Find a Composter is a service of BioCycle Magazine and is sponsored by the Biodegradable Products Institute.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Lazy Environmentalist Reads and Signs


Josh Dorfman, author of The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget will discuss and sign his book, The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget: Save Money. Save Time. Save the Planet. In The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget, Josh Dorfman takes you inside the latest developments in green living to demonstrate how you can easily and affordably save your planet. From raising eco-conscious kids to greening your daily commute, Dorfman provides insights into the next wave of green innovation and the products and services that will lighten your planetary impact and lower your expenses.

Josh Dorfman is the author of The Lazy Environmentalist: Your Guide to Easy, Stylish, Green Living (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and host of The Lazy Environmentalist television series on the Sundance Channel. Dorfman is also the founder and CEO of Lazyenvironmentalist.com, a resource for consumers seeking the best green products and services, and of Vivavi, a retailer of modern, green furnishings. He lives in New York City.


The discussion and signing takes place at 7 PM in the University of Pennsylvania Bookstore, 3601 Walnut St. Philadelphia , PA 19104. Call (215) 898-7595 or visit the bookstore web site for more information.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Run for Air

During the past 28 years more than 50,000 people have celebrated Earth Day by participating in the Clean Air Council's 5K Run for Clean Air. The 5k run is the largest Earth Day celebration of its kind in the Greater Philadelphia area. Set on a beautiful spring morning, the Run brings out more than 3000 people to celebrate Philadelphia-area communities, clean air, and healthy living.

The run takes place Saturday, April 18, 2009 from 9 AM to Noon at Martin Luther King Drive. The Run features a pre-race group stretch by Dhyana Yoga, Run bags and t-shirts, and post-race massages! Online registration is available until April 15th. For more information contact Ryan Schneider, Run Director at 215-567-4004 x 110 or send him an email.

Friends of Wissahickon: Two Free Lectures

Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW) is offering two free lectures at the Chestnut Hill Library this spring. The lectures are about reducing global warming and the disconnection between children and nature.

On April 29, Janet Milkman will present No Child Left Inside. "Children spend less time outdoors now than in any time in history," says Milkman, "a trend could have serious implications for childhood behavioral, physical, and intellectual development." Milkman will lead a discussion of the growing disconnection between children and nature, its causes and implications, and potential local and national solutions. She will also explore what this problem means for the environment and for the Wissahickon. Milkman is President of ERTHNXT, a national non-profit based in Philadelphia that helps children and youth learn about and protect their environment. She is former President and CEO of 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania.

On May 27, Julie Lalo will present Doing Nothing Doesn't Do Anything! Lalo notes that scientists recomend reducing global warming 80% by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. "They have set the goal, now we have to set the pace. And each of us has a pace we can set for ourselves."

The lectures are part Friends of Wissachikon's Protect Our Watershed program. Protect Our Watershed aims to resolve erosion problems in the Wissahickon by identifying sources of stormwater runoff, developing educational programs for property owners, and providing conservation easements. Both lectures will take place at the Chestnut Hill Library ( 8711 Germantown Ave. ) at 7:30 p.m. For more information on FOW or the Protect Our Watershed program, visit http://www.fow.org/ or call (215) 247-0417.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Five Steps Back: the difficulty in recycling other plastics

For a while, some kindly neighbors arranged supplemental plastics recycling and collected plastics that are not part of the city's curbside collection. With much relief I began to collect plastic numbered 3, 4, 5, and up. The first Saturday collection arrived and I rose early and walked to a nearby park with a bag of plastics.

I went home and continued to collect plastics and waited for an announcement of the next collection day. After a couple months, I posted a query about the next collection date on a neighborhood environmental discussion board but no one had any information. Sadly our program seems to have died, which threw me into a sad state. Also by that time, I had another kitchen trash bag full of recycling.

Many neighborhood collection programs ended when the city began collecting some plastics. Others stopped when single steam started. A few have continued, however, so the easiest and best way to find that source may be to ask around your neighborhood. Isn't that a good way to meet your neighbors?

Weavers Way Coop also hosts "Gimme 5!'' a plastics recycling program that accepts clean and dry number 5 plastics. Deliver them to 610 Carpenter Lane (next to the pet store) from 10am to 1pm on the Saturday, April 18, May 16, and June 10. A small donation is requested with each drop-off of recyclables. Read more about the program on page 5 of the Shuttle, the Weavers Way Newsletter.

Preserve announced a program to recycle plastic number 5 with Whole Foods, Stonyfield Farms, and Organic Valley. However the Philadelphia and Wynnewood Whole Foods do not participate. The Jenkintown Whole Foods has a special collection planned for Earth Day on April 22, 2009. Recyclables must be clean, dry, and marked 1 through 7. Drop-off time is from 8 AM to 9 PM.

Most plastics recycling programs require the removal of lids. Lids and containers are not usually made from the same type of plastic. The Aveda salon in Manayunk accept plastic lids. They must be clean.

I still have that garbage bag of plastics which the city won't accept. I hope to travel to Weaver's Way soon. The only other option is to throw them in the trash, where they will remain for a few thousand years.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Better World Books: Not From Trees

Looking for an eco-friendly bookstore? "Believing that education and access to books are basic human rights," Better World Books sells new and used books. They also collect books through book drives. They sell the collected books and use the profit to fund literacy programs around the world, including in the United States.
No books are simply tossed. They are either resold, donated, or recyled. To date, Better World Books saved 8000 tons of books from the trash heap and have sold 16 million donated books, earning $5.2 million in funding for literacy and education. They also have donated 1 million books to literacy programs.
Better World Books offers free shipping to any location within the United States (or $3.97 worldwide). They describe their shipping as carbon neutral because they purchase offsets from Carbonfund.org, if you believe in that sort of thing.
Give your Amazon account a break and pick up a tome or two from Better World Books. Your purchase will spead literacy and education while reducing waste. The person you educate may be your next door neighbor or your future business partner in India.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Eco-friendly Fitness Gear


Most gyms and fitness equipment are far from ecologically sound. Television units on ellipticals play whether or not the elliptical is in use. Power usage for the ellipticals and treadmills are huge. Shoes and equipment are made from petroleum, plastic, and other synthetic compounds. New products with biodegradable and that have more natural sources are arriving.

Sneakers have a large environmental impact with plastic, leather, and petroleum sources. Worse is that fitness buffs use them so heavily that it's easy to wear a pair out in a few months and add them to overflowing landfills. Fortunately shoe companies are stepping up their game by introducing sneakers with more recycled and biodegradable parts. The Keen Coronado Lace Shoe is made from cork and canvas and donates $1 to the National Wildlife Federation for each pair of kids shoes sold. New Balance now offers the New Balance 1224 with a liner that is made from coconut shells. Adidas uses hemp in the adi GrĂ¼n series and the Brook Trance 8 for running claims to use a nontoxic substance in the sole that breaks down that sole, decreasing mass in landfills. For the sneaker snob, Veja offers exclusive productions runs of 500 sneakers made with Amazonian wild latex and organic cotton grown by small producers in North-eastern Brazil (Do they contribute to deforestation?).

Bottled water costs more than gasoline on average and is extremely wasteful. Common tap water in the U.S. is tested frequently for safety and flavor. Tap water is safe and pleasant. Bottled water is often tap water that has been trucked all over the world. Sometimes it is moved from countries that lack adequate sanitation and drinking sources. Discarded water bottles hit our landfills, where they require generations to degrade. Plastic bottles also include chemicals that can affect human hormones. Plastic is petroleum-based and the US wastes 1.5 million barrels of oil per year producing plastic water bottles.

Instead of buying bottled water, buy a bottle and reuse it. Kleen Kanteen offers a metal bottle that is completely recyclable and is free from plastic. BioGreen bottles are plastic bottles, but they're 100% biodegradable, recyclable and reusable. On the positive reusable plastic bottles are long lasting and are not designed to join the trash heap when empty.

With a little planning and some help from manufacturers, fitness can be more environmentally friendly. Changing just a couple products like your water bottle and your sneaker can improve the earth while you get fit. We each only have one body and one earth so let’s care for both simultaneously.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Radiator Love or Bounce Back the Heat

Take a minute to look around your house. Where are your heat sources? The fast majority of radiators and heat vents are placed less than optimally for efficiency. Radiators are often placed below windows. Hot air vents are usually placed in the ceiling and baseboards run along external walls. This means that a lot of valuable heat rises up to the ceiling or slowly passes out of our walls and never heats our homes and bodies. Remodeling and moving your heat sources is not my recommendation but we can take some small actions to deflect that heat where we want and need it.

The photo with this post shows tin foil taped to the back of our radiators. The tinfoil deflects heat that would pass into our plaster walls, which probably aren't insulated, and through the stone and stucco to the outdoors. Skeptical? When Mr. Philly Organic added the tinfoil to our radiators, we felt the heat standing further from our radiators than we had previously.
Will this result in large savings? No but for a very small expenditure, you can conserve energy and add up small savings. Plus you can be a little more comfortable at home.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Closing the Veil: Curtains and Energy Use

Remember all that snow a week and a half ago? It was such a beautiful occurrence in Philadelphia that I kept my curtains opened so I could gaze out at the winter landscape while I worked. Part-way through the day, I realized that the study was much chillier than usual. I literally paid for my beautiful view because heat was escaping through our windows. Curtains reduce energy usage, regardless of the season.

In the summer, I keep the curtains closed and block out the sun. I've lived without central air most of my life and usually could keep my apartments substantially cooler by closing the curtains during the day and opening them at night. I kept the windows open day and night (do not do this if it risks your personal security and safety).

In the winter, curtains create one more barrier between your house and the cold outdoors. They hold heat while blocking drafts. Currently we have thick, long faux velvet curtains in our bedroom. The temperature difference between our bedroom and the rest of the house is remarkable. The room does face southeast but within minutes of opening the door, the temperature drops as heat leaves the room. Closing the door increases the temperature.

Finally we have created one new use for "curtains" in the last few weeks. We own a French-door type refrigerator. Each time we open the door to get milk or condiments, cool air rushes out of the gaping French doors, even if we only opened one. Worse is the design flaw: the cold water dispenser is inside the refrigerator, which requires standing with the door open while pushing a button to fill the glass. The picture below shows our solution: plastic sheets taped to the top of the refrigerator to create the type of curtain that walk-in freezers sport. Our curtain is not cut into multiple strips but we are able to access items from the center cut or the sides. We immediately knew the curtains worked: the milk was cold enough but not as cold as the items on the other side of the curtain.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ten Ways to Go Green and Save Green

The Worldwatch Institute has posted 10 Ways to Go Green and Save Green. Desperate economic times don't require you to sacrifice your environmental living. Living green should support your economic goals!



http://www.worldwatch.org/resources/go_green_save_green

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Don't Wear Your Silver to the Sea: Green Silver Polish

Silver tarnishes fast. Silver in August in Philadelphia is not pretty as it quickly builds up tarnish in a matter of days. Even in January the necklace that I wear daily tarnishes quickly. While a simple hand polish is green and cheap, it requires frequent polishing and the tarnish may still defeat your efforts. That's a time commitment and there are three easier, faster methods that are safe to use on silverware or silver jewelry.

Most silver polishes do not divulge their ingredients. On the one hand, many have existed for a century and it's tempting to think that during 100 years of producing cleaners for silverware, which comes in contact with food and mouths, the manufacturers would only use safe ingredients. Without labels and full disclosure, it's better to protect yourself.

Method One: the power of foam

With all of the fun of a kitchen chemistry experiment, this method cleans your silver jewelry simply and safely.

What you need (to clean a small pieces):
  • Tin foil and bowl or a tin pie plate
  • 1 Tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon salt (I use sea salt)
  • A few drops of dish soap (generally recognized as safe)
  • A small jewelry cleaning tray or drain cover.

If using tin foil and a bowl, line the bowl with tin foil. Tin foil is more attractive to tarnish than silver is, so it helps draw the tarnish away from your silver. Place jewelry in bowl. Add baking soda, salt, soap, and boiling water. The combination of baking soda and water will produce an instantaneous foam. You may smell a slight odor, which is only sulfur, produced by the release of the tarnish from the silver. Stir around the silver pieces so they come into full contact with the mix.

This only takes a few minutes but if a piece is heavily tarnished, let it sit longer. After completing the soak, drain the liquid and rinse all of the pieces with warm water. Failure to rinse may leave behind a white, powdery residue. Dry the silver and polish it with a soft cloth, simply wiping it down a couple times.

Method Two: more foam, more hands-on

What you need:

  • Plain toothpaste
  • Water faucet

Rub a cover of toothpaste on the jewelry. Run warm water over the silver piece, working up a foam, then rinse clear. Dry and polish with a soft cloth.

Method Three: Baking Soda Solo

What you need:
  • Damp cloth
  • Baking soda
  • Water (optional)

For especially tough tarnish, create a paste of baking soda and water and apply it directly to the silver piece. Use the cloth to rub gently in circles until the tarnish disappears. Rinse well and dry. Finish up with a minute or two of polishing with a soft, dry cloth.

Your silver should be sparkling like new without any negative environmental or health side affects. Some special concerns to keep in mind: do not use any of these methods on semi-precious stones because it may damage them. Do not use hot water on lacquered pieces. Consult a professional for help with special finishes and intricate or carved designs. When in doubt, with very expensive pieces or items of great sentimentality, consult a professional. Proper storage and care (don't wear your silver sea, where salt air and water increase tarnish) avoids excessive tarnish.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Increased Mortality Rate for Forests

"Tree death rates have more than doubled over the last few decades in old-growth forests across the Western United States," said U.S. Geological Survey scientist Phillip van Mantgem, coauthor of a paper published in today's issue of the journal Science and released Thursday. Read the full story in the L.A. Times. Take a class about tree care or volunteer to help trees.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Caulking Is an Act of Conservation

Energy prices, especially in Philadelphia, are high and our coldest weather has arrived. A friend of Mr. Philly Organic said her gas bill was $350 this month. Our own gas bill was a hundred bucks less, although our house is older and larger. Mr. Philly Organic often gets frustrated with our 102-year-old house. It requires a lot of attention, love, and money. He has spent a lot of time weatherizing the house with everything from reusable acrylic window shields to foam to caulk. While we can’t make an across the board comparison between the two houses, the gas bill is a good indication that his weatherization efforts have lowered our energy usage and made our house warmer. When it comes to living green, we must reduce what we use and waste less. Weatherization is one the most green acts and can be done by anyone: homeowner or renter, wealthy or poor, handyman or the repair inept.

Friday, January 9, 2009

End Transmission

February 17, 2009, is when television broadcasts transition to digital. You don't have to throw away your television! One option is to buy a converter box. Buying a converter box is probably the more economic and sustainable choice but if you chose to buy a new television, please recycle your old set!

Weekly Curbside Pick-up Is On!

No more blue and green weeks! City-wide weekly curbside pick-up started this week. So long biweekly pick-up and hello increased participation and smaller piles of recyclables. Now get those buckets filled!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Cleaning Up, Greening Up or Is It Greenwashing?

Msphillyorganic just applied a little shea butter with ginger from Juju Salon. It's a small sample after the pedicure I had on Friday and it's much needed after today's housework. Housework...it's filthy. House cleaning products are filled with chemicals that are dangerous for humans and pets and horrible for the environment. There are alternative products but how many of them are actually safe and environmentally sound? There are cheaper and safer ways to clean your home.

First, it's important not to throw out the cleaning products you have in your cabinets and replace them with other products. This is not fiscally sound and it doesn't protect the natural world. Once in the trash, the products will travel to a landfill and leak into the soil and groundwater. You could turn them in on hazardous waste day or you can start fresh after you use them up.

How do you start fresh? We'll visit this topic a lot. The green and environmental debate about Clorox's Greenworks still rages. I looked at their label and everything listed is plant-derived, but so was the poison administered to Socrates. I've not found a single review of the line that was written by a scientist with the education necessary to determine the safety of the products.

There are older green products out there but many of them, like Simple Green, are not as safe or green as advertised. Others are heavily criticized for reluctantly or partially revealing ingredients. Finally a lot of environmentally sound companies charge more for the privilege. Clean with baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, and vegetable oil cheaply and environmentally!