Monthly Archives: April 2012

“Plant a Garden at School or Home”

A month of Earth Day inspired posts…visit http://act.earthday.org to make your pledge!

Planting a garden at a school or at home is recognized universally as one of the best ways to teach children of every age the life sciences, to inspire a greater desire for whole foods and generally to reconnect them with Nature.

Since 2007, Earth Day Network has helped green over 100 schools, including many school gardens.

How to start (Information from http://urbanext.illinois.edu/firstgarden/)

Part of gardening is making a list of what you will need. Are there tools you need to get? Will you borrow or buy them? What seeds and plants do you want? Make a list of the items you need. Check whether you have them or need to get them. Then you can figure how much money you will need to plant a garden. Click here for a printable PDF version.

Not everybody starts planting all on the same day. If you live in Northern California you might start planting some time in March or April. But if you live in Florida or Southern California you might be able to plant things all year round. So, what guides us in knowing when it’s safe to start planting certain plants? The clue is called climate zones and it is based on frost-free dates for the area of the country or state where you live.

There is a frost-free date in the spring that tells you when it’s safe to start planting tender vegetables or plants that do not like frost. There is also a first-frost date for fall that tells you when it’s going to get too cold for a lot of things to grow well. The number of days between these two is called the growing season.

Some plants really like the cold and do well. Other plants are real warm weather lovers and don’t even like a slight chill. With more experience, you’ll soon get to know which plants like it cold and which ones like it warm.

To find out the frost-free dates for your part of the country or state, visit a library, garden center or Extension office and look up or ask about the frost-free dates in your area. You may also see large maps with bright colors and numbers from 1 – 11 on them. These are hardiness zone maps. You’ll see that zone 1 is the coldest (shortest growing season) up to zone 11 (longest growing season).

Another thing to keep in mind is that a date on the calendar does not always give you the green light to start gardening. Don’t forget to always get to know your soil up close and personal by giving it the squeeze test. This will tell you when you can work your soil safely.

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Non-Toxic Cleaning Remedies for the Home

A month of Earth Day inspired posts…visit http://act.earthday.org to make your pledge!

Basil will deter flies and mosquitoes. Feverfew attracts aphids away from roses, while garlic, coriander and nasturtiums deter them as well. Tomato worms don’t like borage or pot marigolds. By choosing the right companion herbs in your garden of flowers or vegetables, you can avoid the bad effects of spraying pesticides.

Simple, effective non-toxic cleaning solutions also can be made using vinegar and vegetable soaps.

Homemade Substitutions

There are many inexpensive, easy-to-use natural alternatives which can safely be used in place of commercial household products. Here is a list of common, environmentally safe products which can be used alone or in combination for a wealth of household applications.

  • Baking Soda – cleans, deodorizes, softens water, scours.
  • Soap – unscented soap in liquid form, flakes, powders or bars is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. Avoid using soaps which contain petroleum distillates.
  • Lemon – one of the strongest food-acids, effective against most household bacteria.
  • Borax – (sodium borate) cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors.
  • White Vinegar – cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, some stains and wax build-up.
  • Washing Soda – or SAL Soda is sodium carbonate decahydrate, a mineral. Washing soda cuts grease, removes stains, softens water, cleans wall, tiles, sinks and tubs. Use care, as washing soda can irritate mucous membranes. Do not use on aluminum.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol – is an excellent disinfectant. (It has been suggested to replace this with ethanol or 100 proof alcohol in solution with water. There is some indication that isopropyl alcohol buildup contributes to illness in the body. See http://drclark.ch/g)
  • Cornstarch – can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs.
  • Citrus Solvent – cleans paint brushes, oil and grease, some stains. (Citrus solvent may cause skin, lung or eye irritations for people with multiple chemical sensitivities.)

Healthy Home Cleaning Habits
Exchange Indoor Air

Many modern homes are so tight there’s little new air coming in. Open the windows from time to time or run any installed exhaust fans. In cold weather, the most efficient way to exchange room air is to open the room wide – windows and doors, and let fresh air in quickly for about 5 minutes. The furnishings in the room, and the walls, act as ‘heat sinks’, and by exchanging air quickly, this heat is retained.
Minimize Dust
Remove clutter which collects dust, such as old newspapers and magazines. Try to initiate a ‘no-shoes-indoors’ policy. If you’re building or remodelling a home, consider a central vacuum system; this eliminates the fine dust which portable vacuum cleaners recirculate.

Use Cellulose Sponges
Most household sponges are made of polyester or plastic which are slow to break down in landfills, and many are treated with triclosan, a chemical that can produce chloroform (a suspected carcinogen) when it interacts with the chlorine found in tap water. Instead try cellulose sponges, available at natural foods stores, which are biodegradable and will soak up spills faster since they’re naturally more absorbent. For general household cleaning, try Skoy Eco-Cleaning Cloths. These cleaning cloths are non-toxic, extremely absorbent (15x paper towels), reusable, and biodegradable.
Keep Bedrooms Clean
Most time at home is spent in the bedrooms. Keep pets out of these rooms, especially if they spend time outdoors.
Use Gentle Cleaning Products
Of the various commercial home cleaning products, drain cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners and oven cleaners are the most toxic. Use the formulas described above or purchase ‘green’ commercial alternatives
. Avoid products containing ammonia or chlorine, or petroleum-based chemicals; these contribute to respiratory irritation, headaches and other complaints.
Clean from the Top Down:
When house cleaning, save the floor or carpet for last. Clean window blinds and shelves first and then work downwards. Allow time for the dust to settle before vacuuming.

“Eat more local food.”

A month of Earth Day inspired posts…visit http://act.earthday.org to make your pledge!

Here are some resources that can help you eat better, locally:

Checking out your local Farmer’s Market is a great first step. Joining a CSA is an even better one. Last year, I didn’t join a CSA for the first time in a few years and I really missed it. I’m not going to make the same mistake again.

Plan an Earth Day event in your town!

A month of Earth Day inspired posts…visit http://act.earthday.org to make your pledge!

From beach cleanups to recycling initiatives to meetings with local officials or school administrators about improving environmental policies, potential Earth Day events are limited only by your imagination.

Do neighborhoods in your area lack access to fresh vegetables and fruits?  Start a community garden on Earth Day.  Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, work with local growers and government to start a farmer’s market and launch it on Earth Day.

Does your office lack a recycling program or still use incandescent light bulbs?  Make Earth Day the occasion to launch a recycling program and install CFL lights.

Call your local Parks Department and offer to plan a park clean-up, invasive plant removal or tree planting.

Around the world, individuals and organizations craft Earth Day events every year that correspond to the environmental needs of their communities. In New Delhi last year, India, people organized a Save Water rally and cycling rallies, among many other events in 17 cities.  In 2010, Morocco held the first national celebration of Earth Day in an Islamic state that included school festivals, tree plantings, park openings, student art exhibits and competitions, meetings of architects and a huge concert with Seal and Senegalese music legend Doudou N’Diaye Rose.

If you are at a loss for how to even begin organizing an event, don’t worry.  We have been putting together grassroots environmental events for over 40 years, so we published our collective wisdom about how to organize a successful event in our Basic Organizer’s Guide and Campus Organizer’s Guide.

Celebrate Earth Month!

A month of Earth Day inspired posts…visit http://act.earthday.org to make your pledge!

Growing out of the first Earth Day, Earth Day Network (EDN) works with over 22,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.  Visit  http://act.earthday.org/ to contribute your pledge to A Billion Acts of Green.

Ideas

Happy Earth Day!

    1. Plant a tree in your back yard: Besides being a fun activity for your family, planting trees help to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and they provide a habitat for a variety of other plants and animals. Go to your local nursery, and pick out the perfect tree for your yard. Lifetime trailers make it easy to haul the tree home. More trees in your yard can actually lower your cooling bill by providing shade over your house.
    2. Make pine cone birdfeeders- Bring birds right to your yard and watch them as they enjoy a healthy snack. Making pine cone bird feeders is a fun and easy activity for children, click here for instructions.
    3. Visit a nearby recycling facility- Recycling processes are fascinating and fun to watch. If you save up recyclable materials to drop off during the visit, you’ll earn some extra change you can use to pick up ice cream cones afterward.
    4. Sit with the family and set specific goals to recycle and save energy- It’s often as easy as changing your light bulbs, adjusting the setting on your fridge, or making a routine trip to a nearby recycling bin.
    5. Plant or renew your vegetable garden– April is the perfect time to plan your garden. Section off an area of your yard or use a Lifetime Raised Garden Bed Kit, and decide what you’d like to grow this year. If you don’t have a yard, window boxes and large pots work just as well. Home grown vegetables are pesticide-free and help you save money. You can also nourish them with recycled kitchen scraps and grass clippings, using a Lifetime Composter. Let the children choose new types of fruits or vegetables to try out each year, and give them responsibilities in the garden.

Planting Flowers

  1. Plant flowers at a local non-profit organization or church- Contact the organization prior to planting. Most are thrilled when someone offers to beautify their grounds.
  2. Go on a nature hike- Nature hikes are a great way to appreciate the details of our beautiful earth. Pick a park or nearby trail, or visit a new place every year on Earth Day.
  3. Clean up litter at a local park- Parks provide places for everyone in the community to enjoy nature. Unfortunately, litter detracts from their beauty, and can be dangerous to people and animals. Bring some large bags or a Lifetime Yard Cart and gather up trash to revive your park. Use sticks to pick up the litter you don’t want to touch.
  4. Attend an Earth Day event- Earth Day events are held across the nation, and are full of fun activities for both you and the kids. Pick a place close to you, events can be seen at http://www.earthday.net.
  5. Cook a special Earth Day meal using all non-processed foods- Invite the friends and family over to share a healthy, home-cooked meal. If you have many guests, set up extra tables and chairs to accommodate them. Get creative and decorate in an ‘earth day’ theme using leaves or potted plants, and let each guest take a plant home to add to their garden. See table decorating tips at “Eco-Friendly Dinner Party”.
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