Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wellness Wednesday


According to this article, studies have linked cholesterol lowering drugs like Lipitor and Crestor to diabetes and memory loss and have added yet more warnings to those drugs.  Lipitor is the biggest selling prescription drug of all time and its generic is the second most widely prescribed drug.  

Cholesterol is only found in animal products, not plants.  Statins (like Lipitor and Crestor) have been proven to prevent heart disease, but so have vegetarian and vegan diets.  In 2002, a study at the University of Toronto and St. Michael's Hospital concluded that a "diet combining a handful of known cholesterol-lowering plant components cut bad cholesterol by close to 30 per cent....The reduction is similar to that achieved by some drug treatments for high cholesterol, suggesting a possible drug-free alternative for combating the condition."

Additionally, in studies of the "placebo effect," placebos are as effective as prescription drugs in one-third of patients.  In fact, it has been found that the placebo effect is strengthening.  Something to think about.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sustainable Living 17

Continuing with my series, I introduce my new countertop cleaner.  Making this cleaner using my old countertop cleaner bottle eliminates all the plastic bottles that are created each time I purchase a new bottle, plus no nasty chemicals and it's extremely economical.  Another win-win recipe.

Countertop Cleaner

Take a spray bottle fill it about 1/8th full with rubbing alcohol, add a drop of Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds (or similar soap), a few drops of lemon essential oil, and fill the rest of the way with water.  Shake it together and clean your countertop.  (Adapted from recipe at www.

Another Look at the Cost of Beauty

This post is in honor of Debbie, a woman who, until she moved a few months ago, was a member of my women's interfaith group.  She was just diagnosed with breast cancer and so now has a tough journey ahead of her. 

I doubt that the FDA is the answer to responsible regulation of the cosmetics industry since we've seen what they've done in their current realm of influence.  However, it is time to recognize and address the environmental causes of cancer.  It's time to do away with pink (and other colored) ribbons that only make carcinogenic-producing companies richer and lead to yet more devastating chemical treatments (which are not cures) and really investigate the root of the problem.  So, here's some food for thought: 


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Quote for the Day

"Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction."

~Erich Fromm

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Cost of Beauty

When we buy the latest beauty and personal care products, we're buying more than we bargained for.  This chart shows the average number of chemicals and possible side effects from those chemicals for products used by most women:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sustainable Living 16

This is yet another installment in my sustainable living series.  I didn't realize how many I would come up with so didn't plan this well.  A blogger friend suggested I put a link on the blog to connect all of the sustainable tips but I haven't gotten around to it - and I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to do it.

In the meantime, here's my latest sustainable living action:  homemade glass cleaner.  On Wednesday, I ran out of the commercial, but supposedly "green," glass cleaner that I've been using.   I've always been suspicious of it since it had a strong chemical-like odor.  So it was the perfect opportunity to try the glass cleaner recipe that I found on Crunchy Betty's site.  I had all the supplies on hand and it was super easy.  I mixed it up and poured it into the rinsed out spray bottle that had contained the commercial product.  I tried it on the mirror over my dresser and it did a good job.  This cleaner is not only green, it is extremely economical as it only costs pennies to make.

Glass Cleaner

1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 TBSP cornstarch
2 cups warm water.
Combine everything in a clean spray bottle and shake well.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Coffee, K-Cups, and the Environment

k-Cup Single Cup Brewer
I don't drink coffee, although sometimes I wish I did as it is so much easier to get a cup of coffee than iced tea or even hot tea when away from home.  However, my husband is a coffee drinker and a few months ago the coffee machine at our place in Florida died after many years of faithful service and needed to be replaced.  Looking at the various options at various stores, I stumbled upon the Keurig, a coffee machine that makes single servings of coffee from individual packages.  I didn't think much of it, even though it seemed to me a tremendous waste of resources, because I assumed it was a "gourmet" item.  

Since my discovery of the Keurig, I've had to do some research on coffee.  After some discussion among friends about the coffee trade, I became a bit more aware of the different kinds of coffee while search for fair trade coffee.  Before my husband switched over to fair trade coffee (and tea and chocolate), I bought one kind of coffee for him that was readily available at the grocery store.  So, needless to say, I didn't look beyond that one can on the grocery store shelves.  However, it was in getting out of my usual coffee purchasing rut that I realized the Keurig machine is becoming the norm.  Everywhere I looked, I found packages of "K-Cup" coffee. 

Seems that the Keurig has become a common household appliance.  According to this article in the New York Times, about 4 million of these brewers were sold in the 13 week period prior to this past Christmas.  In addition, one coffee company has sold more than $715 million in K-cups.  Another company says it has sold over 27 billion individual K-cups since 1986.  Not only does this coffee generate tremendous waste, turns out purchasing coffee in individual serving packages means paying $51 a pound for coffee.  Compare this with the under $20 price tag on most high end coffee brands.  

On its website, Keurig talks about environmental responsibility, trying to reduce packaging, and making it easier to recycle the cups.  The fact remains, that these cups use precious petroleum in the manufacturing process and creates additional, unnecessary plastic waste.  Even if the cups could be easily recycled, most never would be as the current plastic recycling rate is less than 5% of all plastics.  Not a very good statistic.  In their defense, Keurig does make a My K-Cup, a reusable coffee filter that can be used with regular coffee.  However, it appears that most Keurig users prefer the convenience of the plastic, prepackaged K-Cups.

I need someone to explain to me how, during an economic downturn with high unemployment and stagnant wages and during a time when individuals should be extremely aware of environmental degradation,  this product has come to exist.  And that it has become so popular.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

This blog post can be subtitled "The Fallacy of Cheap Fast Food."  The below graphic illustrates how fast food really isn't cheaper than healthy food.  It's much more expensive than putting together a simple home cooked meal.  And in the long run, since fast food meals are high in calories and fat, they contributed to a wide variety of serious chronic illnesses which come with a high price tag.  
I'm not sure how correct these prices are but I do know that frozen vegetables, dried beans, and grains are a great value and are much healthier than fast food.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012



Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the day that marks the beginning of the Lenten period on the Christian calendar.  Lent consists of the 40 days, plus weekends, leading up to Easter.  Many Christians take this time period to explore the meaning of sacrifice.  Many give up things like sugar and chocolate for the season.  This year Lent runs from February 22 to April 7.

Last year my Lenten vows consisted of 1) giving up wine, and donating the savings to Blood:Water Mission;  and 2) participating in "not a cent for Lent," meaning I would not buy anything except necessities.  This year "not a cent for Lent" would not really be a sacrifice for me as I've curtailed my spending since last year's spending freeze.  I love that Blood:Water Mission builds wells for people living in areas without access to clean, safe drinking water.  So this year, I'm going to again give up drinking wine and send my savings to them so that my sacrifice benefits others.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sustainable Living 15

Winter came yesterday.  Our first real snow of the season, taken just before the sun set:
Today I continue my sustainable living series.  Sustainable living for me encompasses a number of things.  Among them are reducing my waste stream, avoiding plastics, and supporting local food.  So I was excited to discover this:
This milk comes from a Virginia dairy and is bottled in glass, thus fulfilling my desire to reduce waste, especially plastic, and support local farmers.  The store that carriers this milk requires a $2 deposit for the bottle, which you bring back the next time you visit the store.  Then you either buy another bottle of milk for the regular price or return the bottle for your deposit money.  I just love that I will no longer be dealing with plastic milk cartons or even the plastic-coated cardboard ones.  There is a plastic lid but that is far better than an entire plastic carton - plus I will save the lid to recycle at a source I have discovered.  Not perfect but about as good as I can get without buying my own cow.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Quote for the Day

Non-violence can truly flourish when the world is free of poverty, hunger, discrimination, exclusion, intolerance and hatred - when women and men can realize their highest potential and live a secure and fulfilling life. Until then, each and every one of us would have to contribute - collectively and individually - to build peace through non-violence.

~Anwarul Chowdhury

Friday, February 17, 2012

Food Waste

The graphic below is a great visual to show one of the things I'm trying to avoid by living sustainably:
Many people think that my quest to reduce my impact on the earth is meaningless, yet this illustrates how, over time, individuals and families generate an incredible amount of waste.  122 pounds a month for a family of four, to be exact.  And this is just edible waste.  Think about all of our waste.  Think about over a lifetime.  Think about a neighborhood.   Think about a city.  Think about a country.  Small changes can make a big impact.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Little Civil Disobedience

Earlier this year I received a package in the mail from the U.S. Census Bureau.  It contained a survey that was called something like "American Household Survey" (I can't remember the exact name.)  I was instructed that I had to complete and return the survey as soon as I was able and that my response was required by law.  Since I was quite busy at the time, and because there was no deadline, I put off reading and completing the survey.  I received a second survey in the mail.  And then the phone calls started.  So, feeling that I needed to do my civic duty, I pulled out the package and began filling it out.

At the beginning of the survey, I was asked basic questions such as my age, sex, how many people lived in my home.  Then I was asked to answer questions such as how many bedrooms I had in my home and, if I were to sell my house today, how much I would list it for.  Some of these questions I skipped and told myself I'd go back to the later.  However, as the questions became more and more personal, I stopped completing the form.

The questions that gave me the most concern were:  What time do you leave for work?  How long does your commute take?  My understanding was that the survey was to help the federal and local governments improve services such as schools, emergency services, and roads, and to better allocate resources.  I began to wonder what these questions had to do with providing me with better services.  

Ultimately, the Census Bureau ended up receiving a partially completed form.  Essentially, I only answered questions that I felt would help the government determine if our area needed more schools or hospitals.  (By the way, what we really need is high speed internet.)  Of course, not long after returning the survey, I received a call.  The caller wanted to go over the form with me because I hadn't answered some of the questions.  I informed her that I knew I hadn't answered those questions and that I elected not to answer them.  (After all, the form said I was required by law to respond but it didn't say I had to respond to all the questions.)  The Bureau worker then asked if she could put me on record as saying that and I agreed.  Well, the Bureau is now leaving voice mail messages for me, again.  I'm now wondering when they're going to come for me...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

February is American Heart Month.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high blood pressure is often the culprit in cardiovascular diseases.  A high sodium intake increases the likelihood of high blood pressure.  On average, people should consume no more than 2,300 mg of salt a day, but Americans routinely consume 3,300 mg.  Those with health problems might even need to limit their intake to 1,500 mg.

The CDC identified the 10 foods that tend to make up 40% of our salt consumption.  They are:
  1. breads and rolls
  2. cold cuts and cured meats
  3. fresh and processed poultry
  4. soups
  5. sandwiches
  6. cheese
  7. pasta dishes
  8. meat mixed dishes (such as meatloaf with tomato sauce)
  9. snacks (chips, pretzels, popcorn)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sustainable Living 15

After having read and posted the information about making vegetable stock, I decided to try it out myself.  After all, if successful it would not only save money but would also be more sustainable than buying canned vegetable stock, bouillon cubes, or the "better than bouillon" paste that I've been getting at the health food store.

Just as the article promised, making vegetable stock was a snap.  I saved various vegetable scraps and peelings in a gallon-sized bag in the freezer and, when it was full, I made my stock.  I brought the water to a boil, added the scraps, put in a little salt and a few herbs, returned it to boiling, and boiled it for 30 minutes.  I strained it and allowed it to cool before freezing in 2-3 cup containers for use in future soups.  How easy is that?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sustainable Living 14

One sustainable thing that I've been doing for years now is making my own brown sugar.  It's so simple to do and saves the extra packaging that comes with buying those little cardboard boxes that contain brown sugar encased in plastic.  Sugar can be purchased in the grocery store in large paper bags - that are a renewable resource and can be recycled - or, better yet, purchased from bulk bins at health food stores.  The only other ingredient is molasses.  Unfortunately, the molasses I have came in a plastic bottle; next time I purchase some, I will be looking for a glass bottle.  However, since a little goes a long way, it's going to be some time before I need to buy more.  

Brown Sugar

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons molasses 
Thoroughly mix molasses into sugar.  Store in an airtight container.  

The amount of molasses can be adjusted to make the brown sugar lighter or darker, depending on your needs.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Quote for the Day


“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Fighting Fair

boxing glove
Last Sunday the sermon at our church was about "Fighting Fair."  The pastor said that if one fights fair in a relationship, that relationship is doomed.  The reasoning behind this is that we set a standard that we expect others to perform against.  When they fail to meet that expectation, we then believe that it is fair to engage that person on the same level at which they treat us.  Thus, if we speak reasonably to them and they lash out, it's only fair that we respond likewise.  See where this is going?  The relationship will escalate to the point that it disintegrates.

As I listened to the message, I thought about how we Christians are often quick to support the application of "Love one another" and "Turn the other cheek" to individual relationships.  However, when it comes to foreign affairs, we neglect to use the same principles.  On many occasions, I have heard fellow Christians explain that war is sometimes necessary.  Yet they would strongly disagree if I said the same about a feud with a neighbor.  And if it came to a marriage, most Christians would say that disagreements should be settled in order to save the relationship.

What defines a relationship?  Two humans in a marriage is a relationship, as is the interaction between the United States and a country such as Iran or Syria.  Saying we should be the more mature person and rise above the antics of another person in a relationship should also be applied to foreign affairs.  If we only retaliate against other nations because "that's the way they treated us," we will never achieve the peace we need and long for.  

Thursday, February 9, 2012


What?  You've never heard of nurdles?  Well, to be honest, I hadn't either until I read EcoYogini's post on The Green Phone Booth.  To give you a visual, here's an example of what some nurdles look like:
File:Nurdles 01 gentlemanrook.jpg
Liquid hand soaps and body washes contain extremely tiny nurdles, the "micro beads" you read about or hear about in the advertisements.  These nurdles are the means by which these liquids exfoliate our skin.  However, these bead don't dissolve.  Instead they go down our drains, into our sewer systems, sometimes into our water treatment facilities (where they remain intact), and ultimately end up in our oceans where fish and other sea creatures ingest them and die due to intestinal and other blockages.  

If you're a liquid hand soap or body wash user, I suggest switching to bar soap and/or creating your own liquid soaps and body washes using all natural ingredients.  I recently blogged about making my own liquid hand soap.  Go here for the recipe.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

A friend recently posted a great article on facebook.  The article listed five packaged foods that you should never buy.  These foods include:
  1. Soup
  2. Stock/bouillon
  3. Beans
  4. Hummus
  5. Cereal
Go here to read the article, find out why these foods should be avoided, and get links to easy recipes to make your own.  These items are easy to make and you will know exactly what goes in them so avoid nasty things like BPA, GMOs, and high fructose corn syrup.  A side benefit of making these items yourself is that you will save money.

This post could also go under my "sustainable living" series as all of these alternatives eliminate excess packaging.  I've already posted about making my own hummus and I'll be doing a future post on making my own granola.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sustainable Living 13

In carefully analyzing household and personal item purchases with an eye towards sustainability, I realized that there must be a better way than to buy aerosol cans (with plastic lids) of shaving cream for my husband.  Thinking "pioneer" or "Victorian" days, I remembered that once upon a time ago, men used shaving soap.  After doing some research on Etsy I found a store that sells a shaving brush and mug with handmade shaving soap (available in different scents).  They also sell the refills for the mugs.  I liked the idea of the refills plus it's a small business, so this is what I ordered for my husband:  
Men's Shave Set
As we don't buy one another gifts very often, I told him it was a combination Valentine's Day/anniversary gift.

*Postscript:  Today, February 8, I received the shaving kit in the mail.  The mug already had soap in it and there was another bar included with the kit, so two bars, plus a sample of another soap was included.  A very nice touch.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sustainable Living 12

I love hummus!  But what I don't love are those pesky plastic containers it comes in.  So last week I made some homemade hummus, something I haven't done in years.  There are lots of hummus recipes out there so I don't need to share the one I used. 

Hummus is basically a puree of chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and garlic.  These ingredients can be adjusted to taste and other ingredients can be added - cumin, curry, chili, oregano, spinach, feta, roasted red pepper, jalapeno - the sky's the limit!  It's as simple as blending all the ingredients together and then serving with pita bread, crudites, making a sandwich, or whatever appeals to you.  

Making your own hummus only takes a few minutes, but you get a delicious, healthy product and you aren't adding more plastic to landfill.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Quote for the Day

Found on Morning Ramble:

"To live content with small means, to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion, to be worthy and wealthy, not rich, to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly, to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart, to hear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never - in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony."

 - William Ellery Channing 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cheap Morality

These past few months,  I've thought a lot about social justice and caring for others.  I often see news articles about people who are outraged over various moral issues and I have noticed that many times these are what I call "bedroom sins."  As I consider the needs of the world, I see that people who spend most of their energy monitoring the behavior of others are practicing a cheap morality.  That is, they are most vocal about changing things that do not affect their lives at all.  They don't have to change their behavior nor does it hurt their pocket book.  These people pretend to fight for long as it doesn't affect them.

Meanwhile, children here and abroad languish in foster care and orphanages; homelessness is a growing issue; we have the largest prison population in the world; the working poor cannot afford decent health care; our country is at war a nation that did not attack us; we have innocent people on death row; we are poisoning our planet and our bodies with dangerous chemicals, all in the name of progress; and citizens of the world are dying due to lack of clean drinking water.  While just a year ago, people in Texas clamored to keep homosexual behavior a criminal offense and a small church in Florida burned the Koran.  Do these people really care about others?  Or are they merely disguising their hatred under the banner of morality and religion?

It's easy to tell other people their thinking or their behavior is wrong.  Because it doesn't require any action on our part.  Righting the wrong requires that the other person do something.  However, it's hard to tell people that society is wrong.  Because that requires us to act, for if we point out the wrongs of society and do nothing, we look heartless.  Fighting to right those kinds of moral wrongs will take energy and money and time - things we would rather not give up.

It's easy care about what happens IN people:  in their personal lives, in their bedrooms, in their heads.  It's hard to care about what happens TO people: when they live on the street, when they are incarcerated, when they are ill, when they live in war-torn nations.  That's because once you care about these people, you have do do something about their circumstances. 

Telling others what to do in their personal lives does not engage you in any activity nor is there any risk.  You do not have to change your behavior or your lifestyle.  This is not really caring about others.  This is about being nosy.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

Here is a link for 80 uses for coconut oil.  Seems that coconut oil is healthy and versatile.  Who knew?  Back in the 80s and 90s, coconut oil, a tropical oil, was demonized as it was believed to be extremely bad for one's health.  However, research and a less processed product (no trans fat) has proven the oil to have great health benefits.