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Archive for How to
January 7th, 2013
The traditional (incandescent) light bulbs in our home have slowly been swapped out for a more efficient type of light bulb- Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs). We also have a few Light Emitting Diode bulbs (LEDs). As the old light bulbs need to be replaced new CFL or LED bulbs make their way into every lamp, light and fixture in our home. I have to admit that I’m not in love with the lighting that a CFL emits and I’ve been known to get frustrated by the amount of time these bulbs can take to light a space. There are a few lamps that I’m holding out making the switch to a CFL.
Last week I learned the hard way that I made a big mistake with my placement of a certain CFL.
What is a CFL?
CFLs need a little more energy when they are first turned on, but once the electricity starts moving they use about 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. This entire process typically takes 30 seconds to 3 minutes to complete, which is why CFLs take longer than other lights to become fully lit.
CFL’s and mercury
CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury which is needed for fluorescent lighting -the type of lighting emitted by a CFL. No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact or in use.
You know where this is headed, right?
How the bulb broke
Last week a CFL broke. Can you guess how?
Nerf Gun war. Need I say more? Clearly my son hasn’t yet perfected his shot. Rather than hitting the desired target-a stuffed snake-the soft Nerf “bullet” hit a reading lamp in his room, knocking it to the floor. The bulb broke and small pieces of the bulb were brought to me in another room.
I knew that CFLs contained mercury so I inwardly freaked and outwardly remained calm. Here’s what I learned…..
How to clean up a broken CFL
I turned to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for help.
- Get everyone out of the room pronto. I had to close the door so kids and dogs would stay out.
- Open the windows. There was snow on the ground and our heat was cranked, but those windows were wide open.
- Air the room out for 5-15 minutes.
- Put on gloves or some sort of protective gear. We have a few boxes of latex gloves so I grabbed a few for the clean-up. In hindsight I probably should have put on some sort of mask, but I didn’t.
- Find a Mason jar with a screw on lid. Place broken pieces of the bulb in the Mason jar.
- Use duct tape to pick up smaller pieces on the floor or other surfaces. Place the used tape in the Mason jar.
- Don’t vacuum the area-this could spread the mercury.
- Place the clothing you were wearing to clean up in the washer. I threw my son’s bedding in the washing machine since it was right next to the broken bulb.
- Wash your face and hands.
- Keep the room well ventilated.
- Don’t throw the Mason jar in the garbage.
- Use the EPA’s website to find the nearest location for disposal of household hazardous waste. www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling
- If no facilities exist it may be legal to send well-packaged waste to your local landfill.
What I learned
Think about where you are placing a CFL. It’s probably not a good idea to put a CFL in a reading lamp that could potentially fall over or get shot by a Nerf Gun.
Have you ever broken a CFL? How did you handle it?
photo credit: Dano via photopin cc
May 1st, 2012
I don’t know about you, but my lips get pretty chapped as the warmer weather kicks in. Before bed and in the morning I tend to slather on lip balm to keep my lips from chapping. Many over the counter lip balms contain all sorts of toxins and long ingredient names that are impossible to pronounce, so I’m hesitant to put them on my lips.
I’m not by definition a DIYer , but there are times when the urge to use those creative juices is hard to resist. I was DIY lip balm inspired when I saw a recipe for How to Make Naturally Tinted Lip Balm over at Frugally Sustainable. Since my three boys are constantly grabbing my chap stick and using it on their own lips I decided to focus on a color free version. I was looking for a recipe that was:
- Simple to make
- Toxin free
After several disastrous attempts I finally came up with my own recipe for lip balm and now it’s become an obsession!
Recipe for Non-Toxic Lip Balm
- 6 teaspoons beeswax (I bought my Organic Beeswax through Amazon and they also carry it at some Whole Foods Markets and other health food stores)
- 1/2 teaspoon organic honey
- 5 teaspoons organic olive oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons vitamin E oil
- 1 teaspoon essential oil of your choice
- Containers -either reuse containers or purchase a few tins.
- In small double boiler (you can use two pans on top of each other), melt beeswax over low heat. Once melted add olive oil, honey and vitamin E. Once completely melted remove mixture from heat and add your favorite essential oil. I like ylang ylang or peppermint. Mix well.
- Pour into lip balm tins or tubes. I chose stainless steel containers to avoid using plastic. This recipe will yield between three to four one ounce containers. For my first attempt I reused a few old lip balm containers that were empty.
- Let stand on counter until lip balm hardens and cools. Could take a few hours so be patient!
Have you made your own lip balm?
Photos: Beeswax © Olga Volodina #7630422 and Angela Mabray/Flickr
There is an affiliate link in this post. If you use it, it will place a few pennies in my pocket. Thank you!
January 24th, 2012
The saying goes: “One person’s trash may be another person’s treasure.” We live in a use-and-toss society where most of the time we don’t give a second thought to using an item once and then tossing it. If we stopped before tossing we might realize that some of those items that seem ripe for the trash can be repurposed into something completely different for our own use. That trash could become our own treasure.
Why repurpose or reuse?
Repurposing something is different than recycling. Recycling is the process by which old goods are re-manufactured, allowing them to be turned into new products. Reusing or repurposing is taking a product that’s already in existence and lengthening its life by using it for something new.
Reusing can help keep our earth healthy and green.
- Reusing something keeps it out of an overflowing landfill.
- Reusing conserves natural resources.
- When you reuse a product you consume less. This will ultimately save you money over time.
- Reusing a product reduces your health risks. In most cases, an item already in circulation has off-gassed its harmful VOCs (that “new” smell).
Many of us are already in the habit of using reusable bags when we head out to the market. This is a fantastic step in the reusable direction. There are many other ways to reuse a product. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Toilet paper rolls for planting seedlings
No need to buy peat pots when you can make your own biodegradable pots out of something you already have in your home — toilet paper rolls. Cut the rolls in half and fold in the bottom of the roll as shown above. Add soil and seeds and you have your very own peat pot.
Wooden clementine box for stuffed animal or doll bed
We go through a lot of clementines in our house and they usually come in a wooden crate to prevent the fruit from being crushed. If you have a few of these crates lying around they can be repurposed into an adorable little stuffed animal or doll bed.
Empty glass jars repurposed for storage
Empty glass jars can be repurposed into storage containers for nails, screws, bolts and other hardware. Different sized jars can also work well for food and spice storage.
What have you repurposed?
[Photo used under Creative Commons from Girl in Gear Studio, How Can I Recycle This/Flickr]
August 2nd, 2011
What if a whole group of people did the same “green” activity at the same time?
That very question was the foundation for a campaign spearheaded by Reduce Footprints called “Change the World Wednesday (#CTWW)”. Each week a new challenge is posted on the site and anyone can join in. The challenges are manageable for all-for example last week’s challenge was to take 5 minute showers all week. It was so bloody hot here that a 5 minute cool shower was doable.
The big picture: each challenge represents a small, simple change that, if done by few or many, can have a tremendous impact on the earth.
This week’s challenge was to avoid using or buying paper towels for 7 days.
Seven days isn’t unbearable-even for paper towel lovers.This one was pretty simple for me since our home is already paper towel free. About 6 years ago we let go of our addiction to paper towels and made the switch to reusable rags and towels. It wasn’t an easy transition, but now it’s integrated into our lives.
- The US produces half of the world’s garbage, but has only 6% of the world’s people.
- According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces about 4.4 pounds (2 kg) of garbage a day, or a total of 29 pounds (13 kg) per week and 1,600 pounds (726 kg) a year.
- Paper waste makes for about 35 percent of the total material filling up landfills.
Problems with paper towels
- They’re single use-we use them once and then toss them. And we don’t only use one-we use many. This creates a lot of waste that ends up sitting in our overflowing landfills trying to biodegrade.
- Paper mills producing the paper towels are the largest industrial polluters in the US. They’re the ones who emit those horribly stinky smells that make you roll up your car windows as you drive by.
- The mills use a long list of hazardous chemicals to turn a tree into a paper towel.
- Much of the waste from mills is released into the air and our waterways causes pollution.
- During the production process paper towels are generally bleached with chlorine, which can cause dioxin, a highly toxic chemical that can cause cancer and birth defects in humans.
- Don’t forget the trees that are being chopped and diced to turn into your paper towels.
- Creating the paper towels requires a tremendous amount of energy that is often provided by coal or natural gas, which release greenhouse gas emissions.
- A crazy amount of water is needed to make one roll of paper towels.
- They’re packaged in plastic-adding to the landfill and water way problems.
- Paper towels are expensive and need to be replaced often.
If every household in the U.S. used just one less 70-sheet roll of paper towels, that would save 544,000 trees each year. If the switch was to using three less rolls per U.S. household per year, and that would save 120,000 tons of waste and $4.1 million in landfill dumping fees.
Tips on how to switch from paper towels to reusable towels
- Just do it. Stop buying paper towels and have old rags ready to go. I use old towels and t-shirts that are ready to be reused.
- Put them in a convenient place so you won’t be tempted to reach for the tissues or toilet paper (been there!).
- Check out People Towels Reusable Hand Towels. I really like their 100% organic reusable towels and they have some great designs.
With three kids and a dog, there are plenty of times I wish I had a roll of paper towels. But we are well trained over here and know to reach for a reusable rag.
Ready to up the ante?
Already using reusable towels and clothes? A few CTWW community members decided to take the “no paper towel challenge” to the next level. I’m on-board with most…
- Use reusable napkins-DID IT
- Reuse old clothing (t-shirst etc. ) as the towel. DID IT
- Carry cloth napkins with us so we’re ready for eating on the go. WORK IN PROGRESS
- Use a Wee Cloth instead of toilet paper. NO WAY. CAN’T DO IT-could you?
Are you willing to join in the fun? Can you go for 7 days without paper towels? Hop on over to Reduce Footprints to check out next week’s challenge and to see how others are doing with the current challenge.
There is an Amazon Affiliate link in this post. If you use the link it will place a few pennies in my pocket. Thanks!
[Photo used under Creative Commons from Josh Mormann/Flickr]