Monday, May 16, 2011
I am loving the freedoms and openness that the Internet and online learning has brought to education. This blog is a case in point. Students decided what they wanted to blog about given that they were taking a course on Ecological Citizenship. They engaged in deciding the statement they wanted to put on the blog site; they set up the schedule and outlined for themselves what they wanted the blog to consist of. Me, the teacher, had only to invite the learning, allow it to be a major part of the course this semester, and participate with the students in exploring the topics they agreed to examine and experiment with in their lives. I got to join them in the exploration. I was mindful that if I witnessed that they weren't putting the effort into their work, it was my job to remind them and find out what the barriers were to doing more engaged learning. In the process hopefully coming up with new strategies to help.
In this way education becomes a very transparent process. Not only am I, the teacher, allowing a different kind of learning to emerge, I am also learning myself. I was excited week after week by the quality of the blog stories that outlined the experiments with their lifestyle changes. I posted mine which paled in comparison. And the public got to witness them as well - as they were posted to facebook and list serve groups. So different than one teacher reading a student's work and one teacher determining whether this student was showing growth and learning. Energy wasted. In this process on the other hand, many got educated as well the professor and the students amongst themselves. They were teachers to each other. I don't know about you, but this sounds alot more fun and certainly more educational.
At every level of education, we need to make our learning real and relevant to making our world a better place to live for all. Blogging is such a great educational opportunity. And in keeping with our Ecological Citizenship course, I believe it was quite energy efficient. YES!
|Organic cotton sacks for packaging flour, sugar, nuts, etc. in bulk store|
|Glass jars, which come in a variety of sizes, for storing items in pantry|
Sunday, May 8, 2011
OK, back to my two dogs. I guess since my children are older and I cannot control what they say or do I have to try and control what I can, and that is with what my dogs eat, the shampoo that is used on them and the medications used on them.
I have used many dog foods over the years, often going with one for a while and then changing my mind. I used to use Science Diet but felt that left their stool to lose. Then Eucanuba was tried, but the price seemed high and they did not care for it.
I recently tried the Rachel Ray Naturals dog food that donates profits to humane societies. They seemed to like this but I think it has some fillers or something I don't understand in the ingredients.
My husband picked up the last bag of dog food, knowing what I was trying to do, no filler and natural ingredients that is not outrageously priced. He brought home a brand I don't think I would have chose, called "Lassie Naturals" which has lamb and beef main ingredients and seems to have other good ingredients and no filler. However, he paid almost twice what some of the other foods cost and the dogs are not very excited with it.
Since we have had this brand about a week, I will wait a little longer before I make any other decisions about it, my initial feeling is the search goes on for a good dog food with natural ingredients and no fillers that does not cost a lot. I did recently read about about a different brand on line, but have not checked to see if our pet food store carries it. If anyone has any suggestions please let me know!
I found a new mop with a refillable container that I can fill myself with what cleaning solution I want. Additionally, the cloth micro fibers on the mop can be washed and used over and over again. I have used this once on my kitchen floor and was very happy with the mop and my cleaning solution (hot water, vinegar and lemon and a touch of dish soap). Our bedrooms have wood floors and I am still searching for what I want to use to clean them (someday I hope to have the entire house have bamboo or wood floors only).
Not only did the mop do a good job on the floors, with the container for cleaning solution attached I find it much easier to spot clean or quickly spruce up my floor, without having to get a bucket and all the stuff I used to need to clean the floor.
I only wish I had found this sooner since all winter I complained about people tracking in snow and mud. If I had this back then, I just would have had to spray a little and mop it up and done! Or teach my son and his friends who track the snow in to do it!
Friday, May 6, 2011
So I finally got around to planting my community garden plot. I still have some starter plants inside, but I planted some carrots, lettuce, and chives from seed to get things going.
First there was some prep work to do. I needed to remove the remaining leaves and rake the bed. Even though I did this with gloves on, I still managed to get poison ivy/oak/sumac. I am not sure which. Which I realized when I got to work and was about to embark upon a long test-run for the Ted Talks that Brown was filming.
The Dr. in my life suggested I take Benadryl right away, since I am the sensitive type and the rash was likely to spread (which it did). I went to CVS and procured the sleeping pills. If I can only drink half of a beer before I am tipsy, you can only imagine what Benadryl does to me :)
Normally I might try oatmeal, but there was no time, so I searched for Calamine lotion. When I located the lotion, I discovered that it contained two kinds of parabens among the ingredients and decided to stay away. I had heard that vinegar might do the trick, so I decided to risk the smell and go for that option. It worked for my sunburns this summer, so why not?
I found that within a day my rashes had shrunk. Excellent! I will soon be ready to go back into the garden and chance another exposure. I feel better about that now, knowing I have a remedy at the ready on my desk at work.
If it happens again I will try to tough it out without the Benadryl. I can't imagine a pill that pink is very healthy for me, but who knows? Only the active ingredient is listed on the bottle. Other home remedies for poison ivy include baking soda, banana peel and aloe vera gel. For more info go here.
In other news, I'm on the hunt for a new futon mattress. Mattresses often contain petroleum-based synthetics and fire retardants (which also often contain parabens) that emit toxic chemicals. I usually use a firm futon mattress. I figure I will go with organic cotton rather than a cotton foam mix in order to prevent the petroleum factor. This sounds great, right? It is easy enough to find a futon cover that doesn't have flame-retardants. The great thing is I can find an organic cotton flame-retardant free mattress in Rhode Island. But how do I know that the cotton inside my mattress is fair-trade? How many futon stores advertise whether or not their cotton is fair trade? Perhaps in Portlandia?
Sunday, May 1, 2011
The father of a friend of mine is a chemist working for Terracycle, a company that was founded 10 years ago by a Princeton freshman who started making organic fertilizer out of worm castings (poop) and packaging it in used soda bottles. My friend kindly supplied me with an array of Terracycle products, and I love them! While Terracycle manufactures all kinds of products and packaging (lunch bags, backpacks, accessories) out of traditionally non-recyclable materials, like juice boxes and potato chip bags, I use the worm casting plant food. I don’t use the product often, mostly when planting perennial bulbs in the fall, but this product does wonders for new or struggling plantings.
The only thing still in need of attention in our yard is grubs. I hate them! I’m not someone who needs a weed free lawn, but I also don’t want to see my small yard destroyed by these pests. In the past, we’ve used a pretty nasty chemical to treat a few intense grub infestation, but I was not about to do that again! After doing a just a bit of research, I found an organic product, Monterey’s All Natural Turf Grub Control, which can be applied as a preventative treatment and/or mitigation measure for grubs. The active ingredients include clove oil, peppermint oil, garlic oil, and malic acid. The other ingredients are various clays and acids, all of which register as low threats on the Skin Deep website. I will consider using this product at the first sign of grubs later in the summer and early fall.
In the meantime, I have already implemented some simple, safe preventative measures for grubs as suggested on the organiclawncare101 website. The website suggests letting the lawn dry between watering, because grubs love moisture. I already don’t water the lawn, and in the past few years at least, we’ve received ample rainfall. As a result, our soil is usually very moist. Because grubs winter in the deep soil and surface to eat grass roots in the spring before burrowing back down to a depth of 6-8 inches, I decided to do what I could to keep the top few inches of soil dry. First, I raked up all the thatch (dead grass) from the lawn. Thatch not only holds moisture but it acts as a barrier between birds and grubs. Sadly, I don’t have chickens, so I added a bird feeder to the tree close to where grubs have been a problem in the past. My hope is that dry surface soil and an abundance of birds will keep grubs at bay. In the event that grubs do appear, I vow to not use nasty chemical treatments but will consider using the organic product.
Spring is one of my favorite seasons, and I feel good about keeping my yard beautiful AND safe.
Rays from the sun are becoming increasingly harmful to our skin from the depletion of the ozone layer. According to the EPA: "Reductions in stratospheric ozone levels will lead to higher levels of UVB reaching the Earth's surface. The sun's output of UVB does not change; rather, less ozone means less protection, and hence more UVB reaches the Earth. Studies have shown that in the Antarctic, the amount of UVB measured at the surface can double during the annual ozone hole. Another study confirmed the relationship between reduced ozone and increased UVB levels in Canada during the past several years."
I'm well aware the sun can have damaging effects on my skin, but I have been a little bit naive as to how much it can effect my health. I always surmised that since I don't burn too much, I am at a low risk for skin cancers. However, the American Academy of Dermatology pushes sunscreen on everybody – no matter your skin type since any sunburn increases your risk of melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer. Year around everyone should use broad spectrum, water proof sunscreen even on days that are cloudy. Broad spectrum means that it covers both harmful UVA and UVB rays. In short the UVA rays cause you to age, can penetrate glass and suppress your immune system, making it harder for you to prevent the development of cancer. UVB rays are the burning rays (B is for burning, A is for aging), and cause sunburn. Both UV types can cause cancer with excessive exposure.
Ok now that the cancer talk is over, let’s take a look at some of the ingredients the Academy of Dermatology says for you to look out for when choosing a brand that has broad spectrum coverage. I cross referenced their list against the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database and found some scary ingredients.
Octyl methoxycinnamate – or octinoxate rates level 6 out of 10 for toxicity. It is the most widely used ingredient for UV absorption and filter. It has been known as an endocrine disrupter, targeting the thyroid, and estrogenic effects are noted in lab animals.
Oxybenzone: This one is frightening, and is registered as 8 out of 10 for toxicity. I’m pulling this info from Skin Deep, “Oxybenzone is a sunscreen ingredient associated with photoallergic reactions. This chemical absorbs through the skin in significant amounts. It contaminates the bodies of 97% of Americans according to Centers for Disease Control research.” Even the CDC doesn’t like it. Reading through the horror of this accumulative ingredient, Skin Deep references many studies, but one in particular stood out. One 2007 study showed where biomonitoring indicated 96% of 6 to 8 year old girls had detectable amounts of oxybenzone in their urine! This ingredient is restricted in Japan, but it gets the greenlight here.
So effectively, by using many of the leading brands of broad spectrum, water proof sunscreens, I'm trading one environmental hazard for the other. Either I get skin cancer from the sun, or I risk bioaccumulation and a compromised thyroid from suggested sunscreen brands recommended by the Academy of Dermatology. Tough choice right? Imagine how many people lather their babies with these harmful chemicals? I encourage you to look at the studies on many of the chemicals listed on Skin Deep.
I started to research the best sunscreen, and am delighted to report on Kabana Skin Care. This is like the Dr. Bronners soap line without the Godliness. Aside from getting Skin Deeps seal of approval, glowing testimonials, this skincare line is 100% all natural, organic, with a deep commitment to fair trade and sustainable resource extraction for all their products.
They also have a section on their website devoted to helping consumers pick safer sunscreens by exposing many of the origins in leading brands of sunscreens. I thought I would expand more on what I found in Skin Deep here, as it is important for people to know what their skin, the largest organ on the human body is absorbing!
Taken from their sunscreen safety page:
"The FDA approved petrochemical sunscreens are the following: Avobenzone, also known as Parsol 1789, Octylmethoxycinnamate, oxybenzone, p-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), Cinoxate, Dioxybenzone, Ensulizole, Homosalate, Menthyl anthranilate, Octocrylene, Octyl dimethyl PABA, Octyl salicylate, Sulisobenzone, trolamine salicylate and recently approved terephthalylidene dicamphor sulfonic acid, which is also known as Mexoryl SX and marketed exclusively by L’Oreal under the Anthelios brand. L’Oreal owns the patent on Mexoryl.
Consumers should know that all of the petrochemical sunscreens can be absorbed through your skin and into your blood in quantities higher than any other petrochemical contaminant found in our environment, air or food. Petrochemical sunscreens have significant side effects as many mimic estrogen’s effects in our bodies. They often don’t biodegrade, accumulate in the watershed and can damage coral reef ecosystems. All are toxic, and by using these petrochemicals UV damage is traded for a measure of chemical damage instead.
Parents need to know the NONE of the petrochemical sunscreen active ingredients listed above are FDA approved for use on children and babies. In fact, none of these compounds are tested for SPF on children’s skin, so products that use these ingredients and are marketed as ‘baby’ formulas are misleading you."
I personally have no interest in slathering up to a summer of petrochemicals, and am disgusted that many dermatologists approve of their patients putting this on their skin. Shouldn't they know how these chemicals are absorbed into peoples skin, and what they do? Petrochemicals come from petroleum, which comes from OIL! Who wants to put the same chemical compound on their skin as the stuff they put in their car? This is insanity.
I haven't been able to try any of their stuff out just yet, but am definitely going to do so as their product line is incredibly inexpensive. You can buy online, or at a few retail markets. I will most certainly report back to this blog to my findings on this one. I highly encourage people to research what goes into their skincare. Hope I didn't scare everyone from the sun, and Happy Summer!