Pollinators in trouble

Scientists continue to warn us about how pollinators are in trouble, and how our food supply is in danger too. Some species of bees have declined by 96% in some areas.

In California alone, researchers reported last year in the journal Rangelands [sub. req.] that native species pollinate more than one-third of the state’s crops, making them a multi-billion-dollar contributor to its rural economy.

Garden

The problem

Colony collapse is a real problem, and supposedly still mysterious. There are a few potential problems, and they’re all preventable. We all know that pesticides are affecting the bees. Most pesticides that kill bad bugs kill the good ones too. Certainly, it’s a challenge to keep a vegetable garden from getting destroyed by insects, but without bees, there is no garden. Pesticides are causing a bigger problem than they’re solving. The other potential cause is that bees need to eat their honey throughout the winter. Well, instead of letting them eat the honey, beekeepers are harvesting the honey and feeding the bees high fructose corn syrup. What?! Yes, they’re taking the bee’s natural honey and giving them a processed food instead.

How we can help

I don’t like all the doom and gloom… I want to know how to help. Check out this TED Talk about urban and city bee farmers and how they can help solve the problem. If you don’t have room for a beehive (which, regrettably, I don’t), you can plant a pollinator garden to give the bees and their friends lots of options and variety. Additionally, some countries have banned the use of the pesticides that are killing bees. Maybe we could encourage our country to do the same.

bees

Sources

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Palm oil vs. Coconut oil

Coconut TreeMany of us are aware of the destruction caused by palm oil. But what about coconut oil? Coconut oil seems to be the new trend among the vegan / vegetarian / environmental / health blogs. I’ve started using coconut oil as lotion and sometimes in baking, so I had to find out if coconut oil is as destructive as palm oil.

Unfortunately, I can’t find a lot of information about coconut oil. That could be good news – it’s not causing a lot of destruction; or bad news – the destruction hasn’t been noticed yet. I found one source, Mongabay, that describes the coconut oil market and lists articles related to forest destruction. It does not point to coconut oil as a source of forest destruction. It does, however mention palm oil; so I know it’s aware of the problem. Pretty good.

I really couldn’t find anything else. It seems that more research needs to be done about the sustainability of coconut oil. I’ll keep looking, and I hope you’ll post anything you find too!

Good things about coconut oil

Palm oil

OrangutanP.S. I never use palm oil. Ever. I’m stricter about palm oil than I am about hfcs or sugar! The good news is, palm oil is not in anything that I need. It’s only in processed food. And it’s unhealthy. Read up on the dangers of palm oil.

Your actions mean something! One company has promised to stop rainforest destruction due to palm oil.

Don’t you want to adopt that cute orangutan?

Moneysaver Monday: Bring back the hankies!

Tissues were introduced to the American consumer (and marketed to women) around 1910 by Kleenex. In “1927, Kleenex advertisements used the phrase ‘for colds, never again use handkerchiefs.'” I say, let’s bring back the handkerchiefs!

Hankies

Handkerchiefs

My husband had seasonal allergies and used to go through tissues like water. It’s hard to find precise numbers on tissues, but the typical American family uses 2,460 lbs of paper each year, including tissues. Only 10% of that is recycled. When we noticed this wastefulness, we decided to change. We bought handkerchiefs. They cut down on purchases (saved us money!) and reduced the trash pile to almost nil. They’re great for traveling too!

You can find handkerchiefs at any big box store. But the real gems can be found at antique stores or estate sales. I found the pictured hankies at an estate sale this weekend. Oh, there were more. All equally beautiful. They may even be hand embroidered. These will be so cute in my purse. Better than a bulky tissue paper pack. Definitely helpful for watching Harry Potter 7.2. When you’ve used one, just throw it in the wash. I hung these to dry, to preserve their lovely stitching. Husband uses about 1 a day and always has one with him. They get softer over time and he doesn’t miss the tissues at all.

So, won’t you ditch the tissues and try handkerchiefs? You could even make your own with old bandannas or pillowcases.

P.s. Disposable Kleenex hand towels? No, thank you. See 3 wasteful products and their eco alternatives.

Lavender oil = mosquito repellent

Lavender spray

Lavender spray in a patch of lavender

Mosquitoes are back in full force! I’m sticking with my favorite mosquito repellent, lavender oil. Check out these past posts about lavender oil spray, and how to prevent mosquitoes.

We have found lavender oil to be the safest and best mosquito repellent. Just last weekend, we sprayed some on and watched the mosquitoes fly around us and then leave! No kidding! It really works.

Bonus: if you forget to put on the lavender oil mosquito repellent, and you get bit, just dab a drop of lavender oil on your bite. It will relieve the itch.

Recipe:

10 drops of lavender oil
2 oz. water

Put it in a small spray bottle and spray whenever you go outside. Or if you just want to freshen up.

Low VOC paint

Spiced Sugar (aka white) in the living room

We’ve been doing a lot of painting lately, and since we’re more conscious of our environment and it’s winter, we decided to use low VOC paint. VOC, or volatile organic compounds,are found in paint, aerosol air fresheners, carpets, and furniture. Once released into the air, they interact with other elements to contribute to ozone and smog formation and are linked to respiratory illnesses, cancer, memory impairment, and more. No thanks!

For the living room, we got low-VOC Harmony paint from Sherwin Williams. It took 1+ coats to cover a pretty deep gold color. (The first coat went on so thoroughly that we just needed to quickly brush over it to cover any show-through spots.) I’m painting all the trim too, and I liked the Harmony paint so much that I got it again for that project.

Light French Gray in the bedroom

The bedroom was most impressive. We got Behr Premium Plus Ultra super to the max paint (couldn’t they fit any more superlatives? lol). It is primer and paint in one, AND low VOC… a plus since we were painting over our Merlot walls with Light French Gray. The premium plus ultra really did the trick. Again, it took 1+ coat. There was still a bit of a smell, probably because  of the primer, but overall, not as much odor as any other paint job.

I highly recommend low VOC paint for your next paint job. It’s worth the price to keep your lungs clear on paint day and for years after. (p.s. The green Frog tape is worth the extra price over the blue tape. It really makes a difference!)

TLC does a nice job explaining the benefits of low VOC paint.

Girl Scout Cookies and Palm Oil

This morning I came across a fabulous article in the Huffington Post that discusses girl scout cookies and the use of palm oil in them. The makers of girl scout cookies in Britain have omitted palm oil from their cookie recipe and have replaced it with a much healthier and earth friendly option, olive oil.  Girl scouts across our country who have learned of how they’re clear-cutting orangutan habitats for palOil for ape scandal - report imagesm oil are urging  America’s Girl Scout bakers to do the same.

For those of you not aware of palm oil and its harmful effects on orangutan’s please see the excerpt from terra’s previous post on terra, not terror:

“Orangutans are truly beautiful apes that live in SE Asia, and we share 96.4% of our DNA with them. Their habitat is threatened by clear cutting and other sprawl. One reason their rain forests are being destroyed is to plant palm plantations for use in food, etc.”

Please support the Girl Scouts of America in making this change. Not only will it save some orangutans, it may even help your waistline! They will be cookies you can feel good about.. now how often can you say that? 🙂

Nothing is disposable

“About 80 percent of U.S. products are used once and then discarded.”
from Gone Tomorrow by Heather Rogers

I found this statistic while doing research for a paper. This is so sad. We need to change our outlook and realize that nothing is disposable. It goes somewhere. You may not see it anymore, but it’s still here, especially plastics. It can take plastic 1,000 years to biodegrade. Next time you throw something away, think about where it might end up.

Metro Building Tour

IMG_1091I toured the Metro Parks Green Building on Saturday. The building is brilliant, but not many people came. That was unfortunate because people should see how easy it is to save on energy. Plus, they had really great cookies!

The new Metro Parks Rangers building features just some of these features:

  • Outside: Rain barrels, solar panels, solar film, green roof, rain garden, smart pavers which allow rain drainage, and native greenery.
  • Inside: Recycled materials for countertops, reclaimed lumber for furniture and structure, recycled carpet, recyclable office furniture, waterless urinals, low VOC paints, motion sensors for lights, bamboo floors, reused technology, original bricks and floor tiles.
  • Basement: Composting toilet machine, geothermal heat system, and Hybrid car.

This building demonstrates how easy it is to reduce our impact on the planet, be healthier, and save money on energy costs. And live comfortably at the same time. The lockers were made from recycled milk jugs and the marble-looking kitchen counter top was made from newspapers!

The tour was well-staffed with cheerful and helpful volunteers. I look forward to the next Metro Parks event. They are truly leaders in our community, setting an example for all of us to leave a light footprint.

We love bats

After a side discussion in Comments about bats, I’ve been searching the Bat Conservation International site for more information about how great bats are, how they help us, and how we can help them. Essentially, bats are pretty harmless to humans, but they eat a lot of bugs that make us sick, eat our food, or kill us (think West Nile Virus). So, bats are great! They eat what we want them to eat, and otherwise leave us alone.

Bat Trivia

Baby bats are called pups. Females have one pup per year – that’s a pretty low reproductive rate.
Bats live over 30 years, making them the longest living mammal for their size.
Bats and birds are not related.

Bat houses

One way to help bats is to build or put up a bat house to provide them shelter during the day so they can eat bugs at night. The best place to put a bat house is on a building or a pole, not on a tree.

Bat Benefits

In the United States, little brown bats often eat mosquitos and can catch up to 1,200 tiny insects in an hour. An average-sized colony of big brown bats can eat enough cucumber beetles to protect farmers from tens of millions of the beetle’s rootworm larva each summer. Large colonies of Mexican free-tailed bats eat hundreds of tons of moth pests weekly.

Problems

The biggest problem is human fear.

Another big problem for bats involves some of the things we do to the places where bats live. We spray a lot of chemicals, which are dangerous. Bugs are sprayed by the chemicals, and then the bats eat the chemical-coated bugs.

And, windmills are posing a problem for bats. As we strive to find renewable energy, we must remember to not harm other species in the process. (remember though, pollution from our gas-cars harm uncountable numbers of animals) The Bats and Wind Energy Consortium has joined together with energy innovators to find solutions. The Oregon Wind Turbine (below) is safe for birds and bats.

Recently, scientists have discovered White Nose Syndrome among bats in the North East. They don’t know the cause, but the mortality rate is 95%.

We should do what we can to help animals like bats. Without knowing, we depend on others for our survival, so it’s in our interest to keep them safe.

LEED Metro Building Open for Tours

The Metro Parks, Serving Summit County building is having an open house June 21-22 from 1-4 p.m. each day. This building was recently renovated, and includes these wonderful, sustainable features:

  • geothermal heating
  • waterless toilets
  • solar panels
  • a green roof
  • lumber from downed trees
  • recycled carpet, furniture and cabinetry
  • porous pavement to let rainwater through
  • a rain garden
  • rain barrels
  • and native landscaping.

If you want to tour the Metro building, you can pick up a shuttle at the Metro RTA Park-and-Ride lot at 530 Ghent Road, or you can park along the path and walk. The building is located on the corner of Sand Run and Revere Road.

The cost of the environmentally sustainable features cost an extra 15%, but that will be recouped by energy savings throughout the year, as the building won’t have to pay for their energy use. Most of that extra cost is also paid for through grants and donations. It really makes a lot of sense for public buildings (including college and university) to become more environmentally sustainable.

Akron Beacon Journal