Click Here to Join Race for the RainForest!


Natural Thangs

Monday, May 5, 2008

Clean Green

Green Cleaning Arsenal

• Ammonia – Ammonia is ammonium hydroxide dissolved in water. When it evaporates, it becomes nitrogen gas again. Since nitrogen gas displaces oxygen out of the air, NEVER use ammonia without proper ventilation, you will suffocate to death. The smell alone will be enough to cause you to throw open the nearest window. NEVER mix ammonia with other chemicals, especially chlorine bleach, you will create a toxic gas chamber. A friend of mine did it by mistake and ended up sending seven people to the hospital. Ammonia diluted in water is a powerful grease cutter and straight ammonia is the active ingredient in a lot of household cleaners. Why buy the cleaner emblazoned with the “Now with ammonia” banner when you could just buy the ammonia for ½ or even ¼ of the price?

For periodic cleaning of oven build-up, preheat the oven to 200 degrees, then turn it off. Open a window or turn on a fan. Place 2 cups straight ammonia in a shallow, non-aluminum pan on the middle rack. Close the oven door tight and leave overnight. The hot ammonia gas will attack the grease film and turn it into a soapy sludge while you sleep. In the morning, wipe away the sludge. For multi-taskers: place stained Pyrex dishes in the oven before you go to bed, the ammonia will do double duty and clean your dishes at the same time.

For a Multi-Purpose Deep Cleaner, combine ½ c ammonia, 1/3 c white vinegar, 2 Tbsp baking soda in 1 gallon of warm water. Mix well.

To clean gunky grills and oven racks, place them in a black plastic trash bag. Pour 1 c ammonia into the bag, seal with a twist tie and leave to cook in the sun. Hose with water at the end of the day.

• Baking Soda – Technically called sodium bicarbonate, the very same stuff you add to cakes and breads can also act as a deodorizer and mild abrasive. Since baking soda is slightly alkaline (its pH is 8.1), it neutralizes acid based odors in water and absorbs odors from the air.

Carpet fresheners/deodorizers often tout that they contain baking soda and indeed this is the active, odor absorbing ingredient, so why not use the real thing. For clean smelling carpets, simply sprinkle them with baking soda and leave for as long as possible (overnight is good) then vacuum it up. No smells will be left behind. If you would like a pleasant smell of your own creation, add crushed herbs that you enjoy before sprinkling. An open box of baking soda in the fridge is a time honor trick to absorb all refrigerator odors, even onion. One cup of baking soda added to one load of laundry will leave clothes smelling fresh and chemical free.

Use baking soda as a mild abrasive to clean everything from stove tops to sinks to floors and anything fiberglass. For tougher problems, such as grease on top of the stove, sprinkle it with baking soda then spray on a bit of vinegar or lemon juice. The acid will react with the baking soda. Add a bit of elbow grease and presto . . . a clean stove top! The same combination and method can be used to get a sparkling clean toilet bowl, sink, bathtub and shower. For those with microwaves, baking soda will do the trick there too. Mix 2 Tbsp baking soda and 1 c water in a microwave safe bowl. Nuke for 5 minutes or until the liquid boils and condensation builds up on the inside of the microwave, then just wipe away the residue.

Baking soda unclogs drains too. Pour 1 c baking soda into the drain, follow this with 1 c vinegar or 1 c lemon juice. Pour a pot of boiling water down the drain. Boiling water may need to be repeated twice.

• Bleach – Laundry bleach 5% sodium hypochlorite and it’s a double-edged sword. While it is an incredible oxidizer, germ killer and disinfectant and it plays an important role in stopping the spread of contagious disease, it is also an environmental hazard. When chlorine enters lakes and streams, it combines with organic matter to create methane gas, which then transforms into numerous carcinogenic agents called trichalomethanes. Chlorine bleach is already added to our drinking water, albeit in small amounts, because it is a powerful bacteriostatic, that is to say that it inhibits the growth or reproduction of bacteria but doesn’t kill them. Use bleach only when a very powerful disinfectant is absolutely necessary, don’t use it just to get things like clothes, tubs, or tile grout whiter. Do remember that deadly chlorine gas is created when bleach is mixed with acids or with ammonia. Always open a window or provide more than adequate ventilation when working with bleach.

• Borax – Like bleach, sodium borate borax is a double-edge sword. It does make for a good phosphate-free water softener and is an effective mild abrasive but it contains low levels of arsenic and lead. It also contains boron; the environmental and physiological effects of boron are unknown. Baking soda will do the same job as an abrasive and doesn’t pose the possible risks that borax does.

If you would like to use borax, this recipe makes for a great all purpose cleaner: Combine 1 tsp. borax, ½ tsp washing soda, 2 Tbsp lemon juice with 1 c hot water in a spray bottle and shake.

• Corn Starch – Corn starch is extracted from, surprise…corn and is used in cooking as a thickening agent in gravies, soups, sweet and sour port, etc. As a cleaning agent, corn starch can be used as an extra fine polish that gives surfaces such as glass and wood a mirror-like sheen.

• Essential Oils – Many essential oils, such as lavender, clove, tea tree oil, grapefruit seed extract, etc are antiseptics. Use one teaspoon essential oil per 2 c water in a spray bottle. (for grapefruit seed extract, use 20 d per 1 qt water).

• Lemon – Everything from dish liquid to all-purpose cleaners scream “Lemon Scent”. Well, lemon’s have lemon scent too and what’s more, they have cleaning power. As an acid, lemon eats away gummy build-up and tarnish, neutralizes hard water residue and removes dirt. The active ingredient is citric acid, the same can be found in oranges, grapefruits and other citrus fruits. If you find the smell of vinegar offensive, substitute lemon juice in place of white vinegar in cleaning solutions.

To clean a sink, cut an old lemon in half, wipe down the sink with lemon juice and leave for 10 minutes. Return with a bit of baking soda and a sponge, scrub and revel in your new sparkling sink. For everyday odors and slight stains on sinks and tubs rub directly with a lemon half, the juice will eat away stains and leave your sink sparkling and smelling fresh. To do away with garbage disposal odors, toss in a lemon, orange, lime or grapefruit rind, turn on the disposal and grind away the smell.

As a furniture polish, mix 1 c vegetable or olive oil and ½ c lemon juice in a spray bottle, use as you would Pledge or Endust.

No matter how grimy the tub is (assume you moved into a new place, not that you don’t clean often) the following method will work to get it white and bright. First, wet the surface of the tub, sprinkle it with cream of tartar (found in the spice aisle), then rub with a cut lemon. Apply some elbow grease. You may need to use 1 or 2 lemons and will take about 20 minutes, but you don’t have to do it very often.

• Mineral Oil - Mineral oil, which is available at the drug store, is a refined petroleum product. However its toxicity is low, it is economical and versatile. Its primary function is as a lubricant but it can also be used as a furniture polish. Melt 1 Tbsp carnauba wax into 2 c mineral oil and 1 tsp lemon oil. Apply a light coating with a soft cloth, wipe off excess and polish with a different, clean cloth.

• Salt – Lowly sodium chloride is for much more than making good popcorn. It is a mild antiseptic and mild disinfectant with abrasive qualities. Salt plus lemon juice will do wonders for a stained sink. Salt sprinkled in the bottom of the oven will absorb grease and turn to ash when the oven is on that can be easily swept out.

• Washing Soda – Hydrated sodium carbonate, commonly called washing soda, is a chemical cousin of baking soda but it is much more alkaline (with a pH of 11). It can usually be found in the detergent aisle of the grocery store. While it doesn’t release toxic fumes when used and is much safer than commercial options, it is caustic so do wear gloves when using it. Washing soda cuts through grease and petroleum based stains such as lipstick, wax and crayon. It also neutralizes odor just as baking soda does. It is a mild abrasive, but do not use it on fiberglass, aluminum or wax floors where it will remove the wax.

• White Vinegar – Almost the most natural substance you can find, white vinegar is both cheap and highly effective. The active ingredient is acetic acid. Acids neutralize alkaline substances such as hard water scale and dissolve gummy build up, eat away tarnish and remove dirt from wood surfaces. Vinegar is also a fantastic glass and window cleaner.

My mother cleaned our windows inside and out twice a year using vinegar diluted with water in a spray bottle, now I do too. It is much, much cheaper than Windex and works even better. Vinegar can also be used to get your dishes sparking clean, simply add it to the rinse compartment of your dishwasher or add vinegar to the rinse cycle of your washing machine where it will act as a fabric softener. Spray straight vinegar on a cutting board and leave for at least one half hour then rinse to deodorize the cutting board. You can clean wood floors with vinegar too, just combine even parts white vinegar and vegetable oil and clean as usual. Vinegar will also remove mildew in the shower, dilute 2 Tbsp vinegar in 1 qt warm water, apply with a soft cloth and dry.

We heard that vinegar will also kill poison ivy, but didn’t believe it. We were proven wrong last year. Not only does it work, it works great!

For more ideas about green cleaning and green cleaning products, visit:

Healthy Home -How to Make an Healthy, Environmentally Safe Home
Bio Pac
Seventh Generation
Better Basics for the Home : Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living (

Source: Activ8

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blogging for a Cause and Cash

Hey Changemakers,

We're excited to announce that as of today we are starting to hire bloggers for's forthcoming social action blog network!

If you're interested in blogging on an issue you're passionate about for an audience of hundreds of thousands and becoming a leading voice for social action, we strongly encourage you to apply.

Each blogger will lead an online community focusing on a different social, political, or environmental issue, maintain a daily blog covering news and offering commentary, convene leading nonprofits and activists working on the issue, and help people translate their interests and passions into concrete action.

Positions are part-time and paid. For more information, go to We hope to hear from you!

Here's the featured activity around this week:
  1. Featured News: Oil Prices to Double by 2012
    The price of oil is likely to soar to $225 a barrel by 2012 as supply becomes increasingly tight, a Canadian bank reported last week. This is more than double the current all-time high of more than $100. The report noted accelerating depletion rates in many of the world's largest and most mature oil fields. "Whether we have already seen the peak in world oil production remains to be seen, but it is increasingly clear that the outlook for oil supply signals a period of unprecedented scarcity," said Analyst Jeff Rubin. "Despite the recent record jump in oil prices, oil prices will continue to rise steadily over the next five years, almost doubling from current levels."

  2. Featured Changemaker: Amy Sample Ward
    Our Changemaker of the Week is Amy Sample Ward, a blogger, activist, and new media consultant dedicated to supporting and educating nonprofits about evolving web technologies. Amy is a community organizer and event coordinator for Portland Net2 and the Portland 501 Tech Club, through which she brings together social changemakers interested in social technology and trains nonprofit technology staff on new resources. Her personal blog is at

  3. Featured Action: Tell Congress to End "Abstinence-Only" Sex Education
    The Center for Disease Control just released a national study revealing that one in four girls and young women in this country are infected with an STD. This is the result of spending 10 years and $1.5 billion on "abstinence-only" sex education rather than investing in comprehensive sex education. Experts in every relevant field have overwhelmingly declared these programs to be a total failure, and now the infection rates are proving it. Political and religious agendas have no place in the classroom. Tell congress to stop recklessly funding these discredited programs and to provide teens with comprehensive sex education.

  4. Featured Nonprofit: Oceana
    Oceana is the largest international group focused solely on ocean conservation. Oceans cover 71 percent of the globe, but pollution, habitat degradation, overfishing and global warming are threatening this indispensable natural resource. At risk is not just a food supply, but also a wealth of magnificent species and the prime controller of our climate. Oceana's worldwide team of scientists, economists, lawyers and advocates work together with governments, corporations and fishermen around the world to create and enforce laws and policies that will help restore the health of our oceans. Join their efforts by making a donation today.

  5. Featured Change: End Global Poverty
    Over 1 billion people worldwide live on less than $1 a day, and nearly half the world's population lives on less than $2 a day. This epidemic of poverty spans across the globe - from Haiti to Ethiopia to Bangladesh - and touches all the world's cultures, ethnicities and religions. Although overwhelming in scope, there are concrete steps we can take to reduce poverty and signs that current efforts are having an impact. These steps go far beyond simply dumping aid on a country, and instead focus on addressing the many interwoven elements that can together help curb chronic poverty - including children's education, women's rights, improved healthcare, access to clean water and sanitation, and job creation. Join this community today to help do your part to stop global poverty.
Have a great week!

- The Team

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How to Erase your Carbon Footprint

By Kelly Magill, publisher, Positively Green

Once you’ve been on the green train for a while, you’ve got the basics; recycling, sustainable energy, canvas bags, fuel efficient vehicles, and all the little energy and water saving ideas that you can apply daily. Unfortunately, even with all of these eco-friendly practices, you still leave a carbon “footprint”. Admittedly, it is significantly smaller than if you didn’t make green choices, but you’re still creating carbon dioxide, which is intensifying the climate problem. How can you “erase” the remainder of your carbon footprint? Purchasing carbon offsets is one possible solution.

When you purchase carbon offsets, you’re essentially donating money to a group that will fund projects that actively decrease the amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere. These projects mainly focus on sustainable energy programs, energy efficiency programs and reforestation programs.

Most of the carbon offset companies have a feature on their websites where you can input information about your energy and water use at home and your fuel consumption on the road. You can even include air travel if you fly consistently. It then calculates how many tons of greenhouse gasses you add to the atmosphere annually. It also suggests an amount that you can donate on line that will fund enough carbon reductions to negate your footprint and leave you carbon neutral.

Theoretically, carbon offsets are a great idea, but the actual results achieved by carbon offset companies varies, so it is important if you really want to make a difference, to donate to carbon offset companies that are effectively achieving their goals.

Look for companies that are non-profits like

In countries that have already signed the Kyoto Treaty, many carbon reduction and sequestration programs are already in the works and have government funding. Look for carbon offset companies that are donating to programs in countries that haven’t signed the Kyoto Treaty since they have less support for these greener measures.

A Greener Gift
Philanthropist Ruth Ann Harnisch helps spread the green message by purchasing carbon offsets from Carbon Fund (a not-for profit organization) and offering to offset the carbon footprints of events and conferences she attends.

Fast Facts
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that 11 of the past 12 years are among the dozen warmest since 1850.

The Arctic is more effected than other areas of the planet. According to the multinational Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report compiled between 2000 and 2004, average temperatures in Alaska, western Canada, and eastern Russia have risen at twice the global average.

The USA contributes 24.8 percent of the world’s emissions from fossil fuels. China is second at 10.9 percent and Russia is third at 6.5 percent.

It is estimated that 1,150 billion tons of carbon is stored in the Earth’s forests.

For more information or to subscribe at the introductory price of $10 a year, go to . Positively Green magazine launches in 2008. This quarterly women’s magazine will cover every aspect of green from eco-friendly vacations to green fashion to green health. With articles that don’t just explain the problems, they outline solutions for busy people who want to make the change but don’t have the time to research solutions.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Environmentally responsible tires

A greener tire from a special kind of tire manufacturer

Note from Michael: Tires are a vital component of any vehicle, we just have to have them. After reading a comment and email from Rich Gostenik of the Green Diamond Tire Company relating to my article Tires And The Environment; I invited him to write a piece about his company and products as I thought these tires were rather unique in an industry that contributes significantly to our environmental woes.

While it is certainly in vogue to proclaim a company’s product as being ‘green’, Green Diamond Tire is a company that has produced a more environmentally ‘green’ tire for nearly a decade and is only now beginning to… [sic] gain traction :-)

Truly, an environmentally responsible tire.

While major tire manufacturers have recently been jumping on the ‘green’ bandwagon, it is still a fact that the construction of the tire casing, bead bundles and belt assemblies require significant fossil fuel consumption and energy waste. While these same major firms presumably strive to reduce their carbon footprint for the benefit of our planet, there is simply no avoiding the environmental and economic impact of having to produce a quality tire from scratch.

What a shame and economic waste it is when end consumers of tires must discard a very serviceable tire casing when only the tread is worn away. Why not reconstruct and remold these casings? The Green Diamond Tire company is doing just that… here in the USA!

The Green Diamond Icelander Tire

A Green Diamond Tire (GDT) is a remolded passenger or light truck-class tire that employs a patented Icelandic traction tire technology that embeds 1,000s of silicon carbide (think: industrial diamond) granules throughout the tread depth. It can be accurately stated that each GDT manufactured represents one less tire casing clogging a landfill and… once remolded into a GDT, it actually out-performs the original tire from which it is built. A GDT may be driven year-round for a mileage expectancy of approximately 45,000 miles. More environmental benefits of the GDT:

• Each typical passenger-class GDT requires 3 – 5 gallons LESS of petroleum product to produce… a light truck-class GDT SAVES 6 – 9 gallons per tire. These savings are derived from not having to scratch-build casings… the structural foundation of every tire. The range variance is attributable to actual tire size.

• All manufacturing operation co-product and by-product is recycled into other post-consumer products such as highway bedding substrate, decking, fence, playground and athletic track material.

A GDT is an all-climate, year-round tire. Therefore, there is an additional economic and environmental savings of not needing a set of ‘summer’ tires and wheels and the associated carbon footprint negative overhead.

A GDT is NOT a retreaded or recapped tire.

To be fair, retreaded tires unduly get a bad rap and, truth be known, most of the tread material often found alongside the highways today are not remnants of a retreaded tire… rather these ‘road gators’, as truckers refer to them, are most often the product of end-consumer carelessness in maintaining those tires. Whether from improper inflation or overloading, a tire can and will self-destruct when so abused. However, this is a topic for another time and one that deserves careful attention and detail. I stated that a GDT is not a retread or recap and that requires some explaining.

• A retreaded or recapped tire uses proven technology to apply an already-cured and embossed ribbon of tire tread material to a prepared casing with an adhesive and is then cured in an autoclave type chamber to exacting standards… not a bad way to save a tire from a landfill while deriving the additional usage benefits of recycling a perfectly usable tire casing.

• The GDT differs significantly in that the process of remolding is more akin to actual new tire manufacturing. Once a tire casing has been vigorously inspected and accepted for remolding into a GDT, it is literally handled with sterile gloves throughout the preparation phases of buffing, tread spooling, sidewall veneering, and finally molding and curing using segmented molds and presses that rival the technological sophistication of new tire manufacturers.

It is during the tread material spooling phase that the GDT gains its’ diamond namesake. As the tread material builds up the computer-controlled and specified depth, 1,000s of the silicon carbide granules are added to the 45,000 mile tread compound. It is these granules that give the GDT exceptional ice, snow, and wet pavement traction. In fact this feature of the tire carries numerous international patents and is what makes the GDT coveted as a year-round, all climate tire.

David vs. Goliath… sort of :-)

Today, Green Diamond Tire (obviously, the ‘David’) is a small, niche, environmentally-aware company. Current annual output is approximately 100,000 GDTs and production is 100% American-made. By contrast, any of the ‘Goliath’ tire manufacturers can literally produce that quantity in a week… and they do… and their newest mega-plants are NOT in the US of A.

When the Icelandic inventors ‘shopped’ the GDT technology to several of the US ‘Goliaths’, they were unceremoniously met with the ‘not invented here syndrome’ and an arrogance that the environment did not matter as much as new tire profit and earnings.

From that initial encounter with the US tire Goliaths, Green Diamond Tire – North America vowed to remain a special company… one that can ‘talk the talk’ because we proudly ‘walk the environmental walk’ because it is crucial for the planet… not because it is suddenly in vogue and marketable.

Learn more about Green Diamond Tires, or feel free to ask Rich a question below - I'm sure he'd be pleased to answer any queries you have as he's quite passionate about his company and tires :)

Source: GreenLiving Tips