Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summertime...time to get away

We have never been big on vacations in our house. How about you? Do you save up all year so you can escape normal life for a week or two in the summer? If so, where do you go? Same place each year, or do you like to seek out new places?

I have to admit I'm pretty boring when it comes to travel. I don't like the idea of busy vacations and endless travel. While there are places I'd like to see, the travel part just doesn't appeal to me. For me, a vacation in Orlando would be a nightmare, although we did do it once. To spend long days and nights at amusement parks is not my idea of a vacation. And, of course, flying has become such a hassle, I want no part of it. Between figuring out what you can pack, how much you can pack and paying extra if you pack too much only to arrive at your destination without your luggage anyway...not my idea of fun. Certainly not my idea of relaxation.

Then there's the driving option. I used to enjoy that, but let's face it: there seems to be a whole lot more idiots on the road these days. It's hard to enjoy a drive across the state, much less across the country! And that's not to mention the cost at the gas pump and the ongoing oil crisis we're facing!

If I had my way, I'd travel by train as much as possible. I love riding the rails. Traveling by train is a greener option as well because trains generate less pollution than cars and, according to Joseph R. Provey and Owen Lockwood in The Little Green Book, they "produce about two to three times less CO2 per person per mile than planes generate." They also point out that "according to some estimates, emitting CO2 into the upper stmosphere -- which planes do -- does more than twice the damage of the same amount of CO2 emitted at ground level." I'm sold. Put me on a train.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

To call or not to call...when to ring your pediatrician

When my oldest child was an infant, my mother insisted I call her pediatrician on a holiday. I was not thrilled about this, but she was insistent, so I called to appease her. You see, Mom was visiting for the weekend and when she realized her grandbaby had not moved her bowels in three days, she panicked. I told her it had been more like five days and that's when she demanded I call the doctor.

I left a message with the answering service and a little while later the pediatrician returned my call.

"What's the problem?" he asked.

"My three-month-old hasn't moved her bowels in five or six days."

"Is she breastfed?" he deadpanned.

"Yes," I answered sheepishly.

"Perfectly normal."

Maybe I'm not remembering the details as well as I should, but I do believe he hung up with that. No goodbye. No question about other symptoms. Just a statement of fact. "Perfectly normal."

My breastfed baby just didn't poop much. I always felt a bit of pride when I hung her diapers on the line because they were the whitest diapers around! No nasty poop stains marring their pristine appearance as they blew lazily in the breeze.

Do you ever struggle with whether or not to call the pediatrician?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Let's bring back the horse and buggy!

It's that time of year for me -- my annual car inspection is due. I hate, hate, hate when this date rolls around, as I feel completely vulnerable to potentially crooked car mechanics. I know there are a lot of honest ones out there, but I rarely seem to find them.

The problem with car inspections (mandatory in Pennsylvania) is you never know how much it's going to cost you to be able to legally put your car back on the road. At this point, I know I need a new exhaust system. Ouch. I know I don't need tires, but I'm just not sure about the brakes.

Since I'm already thinking about cars, I thought I'd share some green car tips with you. Did you know that if you simply slow down you can save money? Motoring it 10 mph above 60 costs you about 50 cents more per gallon. So rather than griping about the rising gas prices (which are worth griping about, in my opinion) just ease your foot off the gas petal when you're on the highway.

But what about when you're just scooting about town? Fast starts and gunning your engine can eat up your gas rather quickly. While we're all about saving ourselves money, think about saving someone else some money (and gas) by letting your left-turning fellow drivers go in front of you at a light. That way they don't have to gun their engines in order to escape being hit by oncoming traffic. I never thought about this one before, so thanks to Verdure Magazine, Pittsburgh's green publication, for the tip.

Another way to reduce your gasoline consumption is by keeping your tires pumped up -- improper inflation ultimately costs you at the gas pump.

Finally, my last tip for today involves your car's air filter. A clean one helps your car run more efficiently....which reminds me to remind my hubby to check it for me when he gets home from work.

Have an awesome week, my friends.

Keeping it green,

Hana

Photo courtesy of Peter Griffin

Saturday, June 26, 2010

If I am going to be
in the right relationship
with God,
I should treat the things He has made
in the same way He treats them.

                                            -- Francis Schaeffer (1912-84),
                                           Pollution and the Death of Man

Friday, June 25, 2010

Vinegar Fridays

TGIVF!

Two weeks ago, I promised more summertime vinegar tips on the next Vinegar Friday. Unfortunately, an emergency prevented me from posting. So, with the old adage "better late than never,' here they are:

Being seen in public in your swimsuit is not the only issue facing swimmers, although I'm sure for some of you, that isn't a problem. For me, personally, chances are pretty good you're not going to see me in a swimsuit any time soon. But that's not the only problem I have when it comes to swimming. I also deal with swimmer's ear any time my ears get wet...even in the shower.

Once again, vinegar comes to the rescue. This time it's distilled white vinegar mixed with rubbing alcohol (1:1 ratio). Put some drops in your ears before you swim and you'll have a good shot at preventing the pain of swimmer's ear entirely. If you don't have a dropper, just saturate a cotton swab with the mixture and gently dab it in your ear. You can also dab some undiluted apple cider vinegar in the outer ear canals for relief.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Keeping it green...in the bathroom Part 2

Other than shampoo/conditioner and deodorant, what are some other ways to be kinder to the environment in your bathroom?

If you're up to speed at all regarding green living, then you've probably heard about how much water is wasted whenever you're brushing your teeth. The estimated amount of water used when doing this daily task is about five gallons per person. According to The Green Book, if everyone across the U.S. would simply turn off the water while brushing, up to 1.5 billion gallons of water could be saved each day. Whoa. So, wet your toothbrush and then turn off the tap until you're done brushing. Easy enough.

Now let's go back to products used in the bathroom, starting with cotton balls. I know, you're thinking, What now? What could be wrong with cotton balls? Nothing, necessarily, unless they're not made from cotton. Many cotton balls actually contain polyester and it requires over 65% more energy to produce this synthetic material than it does to produce cotton. However, if you remember my posting about the chemicals used to treat cotton, your best option here is organic cotton balls or at least buy the ones not treated with chlorine bleach.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Keeping it green...in the bathroom

Still not feeling my best, so I thought I'd just post a couple of personal grooming green tips for you. These are from The Green Book by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen.

Did you ever think about all you could save by using a two-in-one shampoo and conditioner rather than buying/using them separately? Well, consider this:
  • You'd save money
  • You'd save on plastic bottles
  • You'd save water (it wouldn't take as long to wash and condition your hair...oh look, that translates to saving money as well!)
  • You'd save time -- something we all seem to need more of
According to The Green Book (page 100), "If one in seven U.S. households replaced its shampoo and conditioner purchase with a single two-in-one bottle, the amount of plastic saved per year could fill a football field twenty-seven stories high." That's some serious saving!

For those of you who are heavy sweaters out there -- you might not like this one. When buying deodorant, skip the antiperspirants. Why? Well, antiperspirants contain aluminum salts which seal up your pores -- this is potentially toxic to you. Besides the health risk, there is also the fact that mining aluminum requires an enormous amount of energy. For each stick of deodorant you buy sans aluminum, you save enough energy to power up a laptop for a half hour. Doesn't seem like much of a savings, does it? But, if only five percent of adults crossed antiperspirants off their shopping lists for life, the yearly energy savings could buy 250 new computers for classrooms in the United States every year.

More tips tomorrow.

Keeping it green,

Hana

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What is this blog about anyway?

Someone emailed me tonight, and in a bit of a rant, questioned my decision to post yesterday's story about crib death. "Did I assume wrong that Green Grandma wants to promote a clean environment?" she asked. "I thought that was its focus."

Based on her question, I thought that perhaps this would be a good time to reiterate to you, my readers, what the purpose of the blog is.

Let's look at the name of the blog: Green Grandma. Green because I really do want to educate and spur on the GG community to living greener lives. "Promote a clean environment?" Perhaps, but my main goal is to encourage each of you to make more environmentally-friendly choices in your everyday lives. It's not to raise up tree-hugging activists. There are enough other sites to do that. For those of you who have been reading long enough, you know I often focus on trash and recycling issues. And, of course, I give cloth diapers a plug from time to time.

The second half of the name is Grandma. That's where the heart of the blog lies. I'm the grandma of one amazing 20-month-old granddaughter, with a grandson on the way. I care about the world that awaits them. I care about the chemicals and toxins in the products they will use. I care about the chemicals and toxins in the landfills...and in the water...and in the diapers. I care about the emotional environment they'll be raised in. I care about the schools and the television shows and the music they'll be exposed to. I care about the food they eat, the medicines they take, the health conditions they may have. I want my grandchildren to grow up in a healthy environment.

Since this is my blog, I feel I have the right to share whatever I want to on it. Sometimes that means I share my heart with you. I share my pain and my hopes. Why? Because you've become a family to me and I want you to get to know me. Why I'm being questioned on what I choose to post baffles me.

But I hope I've cleared some things up for you. You, who I offer vinegar tips to on Fridays. You, who I warn about toxins and unsafe products. You, who I trust with sensitive issues....like crib death.

Thank you for receiving Patty Gunnett's story yesterday with such warmth. She wrote it in hopes of touching someone's life out there who may be struggling with the aftermath of their own child's death. Her email address follows her story. If you feel a need or desire to correspond with Patty, she would love to hear from you.

In the meantime, please know that every post I write or share, is done with you in mind.

Keeping it real,

Hana

Monday, June 21, 2010

Crib death -- rising above the tragedy



Last week at the writers' workshop I lead, one of our new writers shared a little bit about a painful experience she went through over 50 years ago. I emailed her later and asked if she'd be willing to write about it and share what happened with the GG community. She graciously agreed. So, here, in her own words, is Patty Gunnett's moving story.


REMEMBERING

A Personal Story About SIDS


It was 1958 and my husband and I were enjoying the Christmas season. Married for not quite two years, Bob and I lived in a second floor apartment in the small town of Ellwood City, Pennsylvania with our 6 month old daughter, Beth Ann.

Trimmed with brightly colored ornaments, the Christmas tree looked festive as we stacked our presents under it.

Our small family had plans to visit my husband’s parents in Norristown, Pennsylvania on Christmas day, along with a quick visit with his brother and family, who lived nearby. Our own family celebration with my parents would take place a few days later back in Ellwood City. We couldn’t wait to see Beth Ann’s reaction to what Santa Claus left for her there.

The trip to Norristown was cheerful, yet uneventful. Beth Ann’s car seat was fastened between us on the front seat. Every several miles, I reached over and beeped the horn on the little plastic steering wheel attached to the seat. She laughed with delight.

Grandma and Grandpa were anxious to spend Beth Ann’s first Christmas with us. We enjoyed a delicious chicken dinner at Bob’s brother’s house the day after we arrived, ending the evening with a family slide show which resulted in much laughter. It was December 22, 1958 and my whole world was about to come crashing down around me.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!


You will find that if you really try to be a father,
your child will meet you halfway.

~Robert Brault                                              



Photo by Bobby Mikul

Friday, June 18, 2010

TGIVF!

Unfortunately, an emergency situation kept me from writing my Vinegar Fridays post. I'll try to work it into the schedule as the day goes on. If I don't get anything posted, please forgive me and check back next week for some more awesome vinegar tips.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Spent the afternoon and evening with my 20-month-old granddaughter. It was a delightful day but now I'm beat. Plus I think I'm getting sick...or am sick. So, rather than staying up late writing my blog post for tomorrow, I think I'm going to go do my apple cider vinegar gargle and head to bed.

Sometimes taking care of ourselves is the best thing we can do for our families and friends.

Trying to keep it healthy,

Hana

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The worry demon

There's an awful lot going on in the world of products-to-stay-away-from. It can get awfully worrisome, can't it? Sometimes you just feel like burying your head in the sand -- the less you know, the better, right? Well, maybe as far as your mental health goes, but if you care about your family's safety, knowledge is key.

A few years ago, while researching for a series of articles on pregnancy and infant care I was hired to write for a client, I discovered the disturbing facts about disposable diapers. When it was time for one of my children to have a baby of her own, I couldn't help sharing what I'd learned. Sure, I could've kept quiet. After all, her life would have been a bit easier had she used disposable diapers. But knowing the facts about the dangers lurking in the chemicals in disposables, Jessica made the inconvenient choice to go with cloth, despite the fact that she was working fulltime! I can't tell you how proud I am of her for making that decision.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lead in Baby Food...what next?!

Sometimes you just feel like walking around in ignorance of things, don't you? I mean, really...everything seems to be dangerous these days. And now we have to watch out for lead in the foods and drinks we give our little ones. C'mon....this is getting ridiculous.

On June 10, 2010, the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) issued a press release informing the public of the violation of California Proposition 65 Toxics Right to Know law, by a long list of well-known and trusted companies, including: Beech-Nut, Del Monte and Earth's Best. The charges indicate that the toxic chemical lead was found in the following foods and beverages: apple juice, grape juice, packaged pears and peaches (including baby food) and fruit cocktail. You can find the complete list here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Recycle Caps with Aveda

When you throw your plastic bottles in the recycling can, what do you do with the caps? If you're like me, you toss 'em right in there with the bottles. That is, up until a few days ago when I found out that many recycling companies simply toss the caps in the trash and don't recycle them at all!

I was at the mall on Wednesday...which is not a common occurence for me, and I stopped by Aveda for some of their wonderful tea, a relaxing neck massage with their amazing blue oil and a bottle of shampoo. While there, I engaged in a rather lengthy conversation with the manager and learned even more reasons why I, and you, should shop at Aveda whenever possible. This is a company that truly cares, not only about the environment, but about so much more.

Which brings us to the plastic bottle cap issue. Aveda has a cap recycling initiative that puts these caps to good use.

Saturday, June 12, 2010



Caring for creation
is not a new theology;
rather, it has simply been forgotten.

 -- J. Matthew Sleeth, M.D.
Introduction to The Green Bible


Photo courtesty of Maureen Profeta

Friday, June 11, 2010

Vinegar Fridays

TGIVF!

Once again, I can't believe it's time for Vinegar Fridays already. These late spring weeks are flying by. I wish they'd slow down a bit so I could enjoy more of this beautiful time of year.

One thing I don't like about this time of year is the clothing. For me, the more clothing covers up, the better! I love, love, love fall and winter clothes! Once I hit 50, I started noticing weird things happening to my skin. Veins that used to be invisible no longer are. And what are these age spots all about?! I'm not liking this part of aging.

So what does all this have to do with vinegar? Well, it just so happens, there are some vinegar remedies for these little skin problems we all might face sometime or another.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Children's sunscreens -- which ones are safe?

After the rainout we had in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, it's hard to think about the need for sunscreen. But before you take your children outside on a sunny day, you really ought to read this blog post.

According to ModernMom.com, there are some sunscreens you need to keep away from your little ones. From claims of staying power that give false security to potential hormone disruptors to poisoning dangers, the following sunscreens should be avoided:
  • Banana Boat Baby 100 SPF
  • Panama Jack Baby Sunblock
  • Aveeno Baby
  • Hawaiian Tropic Baby Cream Lotion
So which ones are considered safe? Again, according to ModernMom.com, you want to look for sunscreens containing zinc or titanium. This will give you, and your kids, the best UVA protection while eliminating the chemicals that are linked to hormone disruption.

The Environmental Working Group named these sunscreens among the best:
The above links take you directly to the products' websites, but you can find good deals on them on Amazon.com and sites like Drugstore.com. Some stores, such as Whole Foods carry some of these lines as well.

While it's essential you keep your children safe from too much sun exposure, it's also important to protect them from harmful chemicals. It all goes with this parenting package you accepted the day they were born.

Keeping it healthy,

Hana

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Too much sun

Despite our best efforts, sometimes we, or our kids, get burnt while enjoying a day in the sun. My daughter is on vacation in Savannah. She and her husband decided to spend the day at the beach on Tybee Island.

"Don't get burnt again," I warned her on the phone today.

"I won't," she assured me. We even rented an umbrella to keep me in the shade."

Relieved, I didn't give it any more thought, other than a quick reminiscence back to 2001 when she asked me to go to Savannah with her on vacation in lieu of her going on a senior trip with friends. I was honored and thrilled to go.

So just the two of us headed out by car for the 700+ mile drive. We grabbed a copy of the audiobook, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, from the library to accompany us on the way down.

On one of our first days there, we hit the beach on Tybee Island where she got severely burnt. She spent the next day or two moaning and groaning on the bed in the hotel. Not fun.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

How full is your trash can?

Are you a typical American? If so, did you know that your production of garbage averages about 4.5 lbs./day.  Does that not disgust you?

My husband and I have really become conscious of this over the last 10 months or so, since I created my alter-ego, The Green Grandma, and I'm happy to say, we didn't even bother putting out our garbage this week. There wasn't enough to bother with. Our recycling bin was full, of course, and we took some bags of paper over to our church's paper recycling bin. But our garbage can had one small bag in it. And that makes me happy!

Monday, June 7, 2010

A hairy dilemma

I have a dilemma. I may be The Green Grandma, but that doesn't mean I want to be The Grey Grandma! I don't want grey hair. Period. But this hair dying routine I go through every six weeks or so has me feeling a little bit guilty. After all, the toxins and heavy metals I'm putting onto my head and then washing down the drain cannot be doing me or the earth any good, and chances are, they're doing both of us a bit of harm.

As a matter of fact, research shows that home-dye solutions can contain quite a few known carcinogens, including Acid Orange 24, 2,3-Naphthalenediol and F,D,&C, D&C, and P-phenylenediamine.  So what do I do?

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Around the world,
we can see the results of exploitation
which destroys much
without taking future generations
into account.
Today,
all men have a duty
to show themselves worthy
of the mission
given them by the Creator
by ensuring the safe-keeping
of that creation.

-- Pope John Paul II, press conference, Antannanarivo, Malagasy Republic

Friday, June 4, 2010

Vinegar Fridays

TGIVF!!

While I may say Thank God it's Vinegar Friday, I'm not quite sure I mean it. This week flew by and I'm not at all ready for it to be over. It was a busy week and I didn't accomplish nearly what I set out to do. Which means Saturday will be spent in my office working. So you all can celebrate Friday, while I pretend it's Thursday. Fair enough?

The last couple of weeks I wrote about the health benefits of apple cider vinegar. There are lots more, and I'll be sharing them in the next month or so, but for today I want to go back to our old friend, distilled white vinegar.

My daughter, Jess, and her friend, Erin, have launched a green cleaning business and are introducing DWV to homes in the Pittsburgh area, as they demonstrate the extraordinary cleaning and disinfecting properties of vinegar, baking soda, lemons and more. See where a simple thing like Vinegar Fridays can lead?!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Color your world...the green way

With the season of open windows and good ventilation, many of you might be considering putting a fresh coat of paint onto a wall or two inside your home. Well, before you head out to Home Depot to pick your colors, why not consider greener alternatives to traditional paints. By choosing paints made from minerals, beeswax, plant oils or milk, you eliminate just one more toxic substance from your home.

Milk paints go back to Colonial times and actually do contain milk, along with lime and natural pigments. These are good when you'll aiming for a textured look, as the brush marks will remain.

You can get similar results without the milk by using a whitewash. The lime and water combo gets its tint from natural pigments. Click here for a recipe for homemade eco-friendly whitewash.

Both milk paints and whitewash can be used outdoors as well.

Another natural texturing idea is tinted plaster made from natural clays. Make sure you use a primer if you decide to use plaster on new drywall or any surfaces that are already painted.

Natural clay paints are another good alternative and work well on most surfaces.

For a list of non-toxic earth-friendly paints, check out eartheasy.com.

There are so many choices out there, and granted, some are more expensive than traditional paints you can pick up at your local hardware store. But in the long run, isn't your family's health worth it? You never know how many doctors' visits you may avoid by limiting the amount of toxins you invite into your home. Just saying....

Keeping it green,

Hana

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Looking for a college? Why not go green?

While my parenting posts generally address issues with smaller children, today's is directed at those of you who have teenagers looking into college choices for next year.

There are many reasons to choose a college from majors to location to, God forbid, partying status (as in Penn State, voted the #1 party school in the country...wonderful). But if your teen has a heart for the environment as well as a head for learning, he or she may want to consider a green college or university.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I hope you all enjoyed your long weekend. I know I did. Lots of time with my family and three days in a row with my grandbaby. It doesn't get any better than that. Since it was a busy weekend for me, and I'm assuming a busy one for many of you as well, I'm not going to blog today, in hopes you will take the time to read yesterday's post which you may not have had the time to read.

So, enjoy your shorter work week and I'll be back with a new post tomorrow.

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