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Month: January 2013 (page 1 of 2)

Keeping Our Indoor Environment Healthy

Everyone needs to live in a clean dust free place. It is important for us to have our homes look nice but even more important to our health. Dust contributes to creating allergies, our eyes, nose, throat and even skin is affected. Vacuuming has become a regular routine for almost all households and businesses. We have adapted to using an electrical vacuum cleaner, and throughout the years the machine itself has been upgraded many times over. A vacuum cleaner is an appliance that cleans the surface where it is operated on, it sucks the dust and dust particles into the machine. It gathers the dust into the attached bag, which can be emptied or discarded. Newer models have HEPA filters and even bagless machines. By absorbing the dust, it does not allow it to be expelled into the atmosphere which would create more pollution. Vacuum cleaning is still the most efficient way to maintain a healthy indoor environment.
HEPA Vacuum Cleaners are so far the best for our environment. They can get rid of almost 99.97% of airborne elements that measure over one micrometer in diameter.

These devices have the facility to filter the dust through a highly adept filtration system. HEPA filter vacuum cleaners are also best for maintaining a green environment. Stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air, a type of air filter that makes use of diminutive glass fibers to abolish air particles such as contaminants, pollutants and dust mite feces. As the filter becomes more soiled it becomes more effective as it slowly builds a concrete obstruction, preventing even the smallest particles from escaping via the vacuum’s exhaust. It does not need to be replaced until completely clogged. Another plus of the HEPA vacuum cleaning system is that it can suppress the vacuum motor noise, which provides a more serene sound environment.

Vacuum cleaners are also divided into bag and bagless, each has advantages to the consumer and the environment. The bagged machines simply have the bags discarded when they become full, jeopardizing the environment by adding more to our already filled up garbage landfills. The bagless vacuum cleaner works by cyclonic technology, where the larger dirt is separated from the fine dirt. The finer dirt is trapped in a filter and the larger dirt ends up in the container that you empty when full. Creating a little less trash to have to deal with. The bagless vacuum cleaners tend to be a bit more expensive.

We have options when we choose our cleaning equipment. Personally I feel the HEPA filter vacuum cleaner sounds the most beneficial to our health and environment. We have to decide what is most important to our basic cleaning needs and the budget we can be comfortable with.

When in Doubt, Don’t Automatically Throw It Out

By: Lee Ann Rush

A quick perusal of my most recent property tax bill revealed that I’m paying roughly ten dollars each week for municipal trash removal.  This includes two pickups of household garbage per week, along with once-a-week recycling (paper and cardboard alternates weeks with glass, plastic and metal), occasional yard waste and fall leaf pickup, and large-item pickup as necessary, whether I choose to take advantage of these services or not.   Now, I don’t always put my trash can out twice a week so I may not be getting my money’s worth, but  I have neighbors whose curbside accumulations of junk for each and every garbage pickup day resemble the volume of contents of those storage units seen on the Storage Wars reality series.  What is all this stuff that these people are throwing out, and is so much waste necessary?

Unfortunately, despite the Green movement and increased emphasis on the need for everyone to do more to protect the environment, we still live in a largely disposable society.   After 2012’s record high temperatures and severe weather events in the United States most will agree that global warming is all but incontrovertible, and it’s no secret that the methane and other greenhouse gasses that emanate from landfills contribute significantly to the problem.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American contributes 4.5 pounds of trash per day to the waste stream, and most of it ends up in the local landfill.  Yes, landfills are a necessary evil, but there’s actually a lot each of us can do to reduce our own impact on the environmental chaos they create.

You’re probably familiar with the Green movement credo:  recycle, re-purpose, reuse.  I’ll leave recycling and re-purposing for another blog and deal here with some easy and practical ways to reuse a common household item:  the lowly plastic bag dispensed by virtually all big box stores and most grocery and drug stores can be reused to hold purchases several times.  Some grocery stores will even pay you to reuse their bags; you won’t get rich (stores in my area credit two or three cents per reused bag to your order) but when you reuse your plastic grocery bags you’re saving a bit of money and also doing your part to decrease the number of bags that end up in landfills.  You can also use regular grocery store bags to line your wastebaskets; smaller bags such as those from drugstore chains will work perfectly in powder room wastebaskets.  The larger bags from retailers such as big box, home and electronics stores are the right size to line kitchen garbage containers.  This saves you from buying kitchen bags and, again, reduces the number of plastic bags that find their way into our landfills.

You can also use crumpled-up plastic grocery bags as filler when shipping packages, eliminating the need for those annoying and indestructible plastic peanuts.  Opaque black plastic bags commonly used by package stores are excellent to bring along when walking your dog; just the right size for a pick-up.  If you have more “reuses” for plastic bags from stores, please share them!

Let’s Keep Talking

In today’s day and age, almost everyone, everywhere has a cellphone right beside them. We use it all day long and are in touch in an instant with their friends and family. Cellphones have been noted to have an effect on our health due to the radiation omitted. This is an environmental issue in itself as well. However, the device itself is a major threat to our environment.

According to the World Watch Institute, users of cellphones in the United States discard their phones after an average of just 18 months. This is a very rapid turnover, leaving the environment vulnerable to the impact of the disposal of these electronic devices which we choose to replace every time a new and more exciting one is pushed out on the market for sale. Usually at a very affordable cost as well. Just leading to more issues with the methods of disposal.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has observed that lead, mercury and cadmium found in personal electronic devices can “release dangerous toxins into our air and water when burned or deposited in landfills improperly”. Cellphones are made of plastic, which in fact has a hard impact on the environment. The battery consists of lead and these devices even contain arsenic which is in the printed circuit boards. Most of the components of the cellphone are not biodegradable, harmful to humans and animals.

Our wildlife and animals are also subject to our love of cellphones. Migrating birds navigate using the Earth’s electromagnetic field on cloudy days. Cellphone towers can disrupt the electromagnetic field and cause birds to fly into the ground. Farmers also are tending to move their cows away from cellphone towers. They believe that when the cows are too close to these towers it can increase the incidence of spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, behavioral problems, and over all poor health to their livestock.

Research is continually being done on the effects of radiation to humans and cellphone use. The possible risks from radiation exposure to our brain and other human body parts. There is also the toxic side that has an impact on human health. The Environmental Protection Agency has noted that lead taken into the body through the air, contaminated ground water or lead-contaminated food can accumulate in human bones. It affects the nervous system, kidney function, immune system, reproductive and the cardiovascular systems as well in a negative way. At low levels it can cause significant risk to young children and infants, contributing to learning deficits and lowered I.Q.

Manufacturers and policy makers should work together to ensure the reuse, proper disposal , and recycling of lead-containing hand held devices. A better effort for the protection of our health and environment.

Our Spotted Little Friends

Ladybugs are cute and colorful. From the time I was a child, I always admired them. I was taught that they bring luck, perhaps a German folktale. They are lucky though, lucky to the environment in several different ways. Ladybugs are one of the most common beetles in the world with about 5,000 species in total. North America alone has about 300 different ladybug types. Ladybugs are actually beetles that come from the Coccinellidae family of beetles. They prey on tiny insects that can destroy crops and gardens. Most ladybugs in the United States have red, orange or yellow wing covers with black spots. They are quite small but powerful in their attempt to rid us of unwanted creatures.

Ladybugs are beneficial to farmers because they help eliminate pests in a safe and inexpensive way. Ladybugs eat other insects and larvae including scales, mealy bugs, leaf hoppers, mites and other soft-bodied insects. They are natural enemies of many garden pests. A single ladybug may consume as many as 5,000 aphids throughout its lifetime. Aphids are tiny insects that feed on plant juices and destroy crops. The hundreds of eggs that ladybugs lay in aphid colonies become larvae when they hatch and feed on aphids immediately.

According to the Ohio State University Extension, both the adult ladybug and its larvae are major consumers of aphids, soft scaled insects and spider mites, mealy bugs as well as the eggs of the Colorado potatoe beetle and European corn borer. Ladybugs are also fast reproducers (about one month from egg to adult) and have big appetites, making them extremely useful to farmers in protecting their crops from harmful insects. They are capable of most definitely reducing if not eliminating the need for chemical pesticides.

Our little colorful friends also protect our forests. Many ladybugs have adapted to living in trees and feed on aphids and other tree dwelling insects. The larvae of ladybugs are often found eating twig aphids. Many tree farmers use ladybugs by releasing them into their tree fields in the springtime to help control twig aphids. In the 1880’s, ladybugs were brought over from Australia to attempt to save orange trees in California from unwanted pests. This has turned out to be a success with over 100 different species being sent to North America to aid in pest control.

Ladybugs should be encouraged to remain in our gardens. Some plants that attract them to the home garden are dill, catnip, thyme, daisies, cornflower, yarrow, bee balm, alyssum, marigolds and salvia. They can also be purchased commercially for release into the garden. Let’s make ladybugs the best friend our gardens ever had.

Do Us All a Favor: Turn Off that Idling Engine

By:  Lee Ann Rush

We see it every day at fast food restaurants; in snaking lines at drive-through banking windows; at schools, school bus stops and train stations; even on gasoline lines where “Turn Off Ignition” signs are routinely posted — drivers leaving their vehicles running while waiting for their lunch, their turn, their child or passenger, or for no apparent reason at all.   While many state and municipal vehicle codes and environmental regulations proscribe lengthy engine idling (for example, New York State sets forth a 5-minute limit; New York City and New Jersey permit only three minutes), enforcement is lax and, as a result, these rules are routinely ignored.

But doesn’t restarting a vehicle burn more fuel than leaving it running?  Actually, no.  According to the Environmental Defense Fund, idling a car for any longer than 10 seconds wastes more fuel than turning off and restarting the engine.   Today’s automobiles will suffer more wear from excess idling than from frequent starts because their engines are running longer while idling.  Modern electronic engine components have eliminated the need to “warm up” newer cars before driving them, and starting the ignition will no longer harm the engine or battery.

On the other hand, unnecessary and/or excessive idling not only wastes fuel and money (depending on the vehicle, idling will burn anywhere from 20-70% of a gallon of gas per hour), it drastically increases pollution in the form of carbon dioxide and other chemical emissions in the vehicle exhaust.  Carbon dioxide is the main contributor to global warming, and we’ve all seen the recent news:  2012 was officially the hottest year on record in the United States.  Coincidence?  Perhaps not, when you consider that idling one motor vehicle for only 10 minutes releases a pound of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.   Do the math; the results are staggering.

The impact upon our environment caused by unnecessary vehicle idling is bad enough, but worse still is the devastation all these exhaust emissions are causing to our health.  Besides carbon dioxide, gasoline-engine vehicle exhaust contains carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, various particulate matter and volatile organic compounds; diesel exhaust releases over 40 different hazardous pollutants into the atmosphere.  None of these emissions are healthy, whether one is breathing them while walking past an idling car or sitting inside that idling car.  Vehicle exhaust has been shown to contribute to increases in asthma, cancers, chronic bronchitis and heart disease, with children, asthmatics and the elderly most likely to suffer the most severe effects.

We can’t avoid idling our cars in heavy traffic or at stoplights, but we certainly can do more to minimize the unnecessary release of vehicle exhaust caused by the mindless idling that many of us engage in multiple times each day.  Is your health and the health of your family worth the “convenience” of leaving your car running?

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