Friday, October 30, 2009

Taking candy from strangers

I'd start off by saying "Happy Halloween," but, quite honestly, it's not a 'holiday' I choose to celebrate. There are many reasons for this. I'd like to share with you the common sense ones.

For me, it makes no sense for parents to drum it into their kids' heads day after day, year after year, not to talk to strangers, but then on one particular night of the year they encourage them to knock on strangers' doors and take candy from them. Excuse me? Doesn't anyone else see the contradiction here?

Our little 'angels' are allowed to dress like little demons, or worse, like characters from R-rated movies they should know nothing about! Again, what sense does this make? Is it really cute to see an 8-year-old wielding a bloody ax? Really? Okay, I know not all costumes are fashioned after serial killers. "What's wrong with dressing up my little one like a Care Bear or Hello Kitty?" Absolutely nothing. Dressing up is fun for kids and I have no issues with that. My issues arise from introducing children to images of death and evil. To me, it's simply not acceptable.

Another objection I have to trick-or-treating is found in the name: 'trick or treat.' Again, we're encouraging our children to do something we would punish them for any other time of the year. We give them permission to threaten tricks on people if they don't get what they want. That's what the phrase "trick-or-treat" means, folks.

Halloween pranks seem to be an accepted practice for October 30th and 31st. Cars get egged, pumpkins smashed, windows broken, houses spray-painted, cats are tortured, yards toilet papered....woo hoo....Happy Halloween.

Then there's the money and time spent on decorating....sometimes, the yard decorations are cute, sometimes they're pretty. But more often than not, they are hideously ugly. Images of evil and death permeate neighborhoods. I remember the Halloween following my husband's death -- never before had I been so disturbed by front yard cemeteries and coffins used for decoration. I saw no humor in it, just painful reminders of my loss. Oddly enough, October of 2001 was void of similar yard displays. For one year people seemed to respect the mourning of a nation and didn't poke fun at tragedy as we were still reeling from 9/11.

One more word of caution to anyone taking their children out trick-or-treating -- a scenario for you to consider: A couple days after you've canvassed the neighborhood for Halloween candy with you child, he or she is walking home from school when a neighbor calls out, using his or her name (which he learned a couple of nights ago). He invites your child in for some leftover candy. "I'm not allowed to talk to strangers," your child protests. "Strangers?" he replies. "We're not strangers. Your parents brought you here on Halloween, remember? I gave you some chocolate and lollipops. C'mon, I have more candy set aside just for you. Your mom won't mind." What will your child do? You have unknowingly opened the door to a possible pedophile...and believe me, they do live in children's neighborhoods. They don't look creepy. They have nice homes and well-manicured yards, are members of the PTA, and are well-respected residents in the community. And they know how to lure your children in. Be aware.

I'm not suggesting you raise your children in fear. But using some common sense when it comes to Halloween can go a long way in keeping them safe. Don't throw your common sense out the window for the sake of 'tradition.' Things are different than when you were a kid. The world has changed. Maybe it's time for traditions to change as well.

Keeping it safe,


Living Green at The Edward Harris House

In a couple of days I'm heading out of town on business. Fortunately for me, this trip will combine business with pleasure as I'm going to one of my favorite inns in the country and will have the opportunity to catch up with the innkeeper, who I like to think of as a friend. I found The Edward Harris House by chance several years ago and since then have never considered staying anywhere else when I'm in Rochester, New York.

Aside from the magnificent historic inn with its rich decor, the welcoming ambience invites you to unwind from the moment you cross the threshold. I find stress literally dissolving as I settle in.

Going online to make my reservations, I was pleasantly surprised by the inn's updated website. Browsing through the photos made me 'homesick' for a place that refreshes me with each visit. I found that my favorite room (Emily's Suite) was available and I reserved it.

As I was revisiting the Inn online, I was pleased to see a section titled, "Living Green at The Edward Harris House." Yes, the Alvarezes have chosen to go green at the inn and I couldn't be happier.

What this means for the EHH is that they are using only non-toxic and natural cleaners and have made the switch to CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs), which use approximately 75% less energy than standard bulbs. They are also serving organic and natural foods and supporting local farmers whenever possible.

Guests are encouraged to make eco-friendly choices as well by recycling all cans, bottles and newspapers; turning off lights, televisions, air conditioners and fans when they are not in their rooms; and reusing their linens and towels during their stay.

The Edward Harris House just crept up a notch in my book....which I didn't think was possible. I fell in love with the inn long before I started caring as much about the environment, but knowing they care too just makes me love the inn even more.

The next time you're booking a hotel or B&B, look into their policies on environmental issues. More and more hotel chains are going green, and it's good to know some B&Bs are following suit. Call and speak with the innkeepers -- ask them about their policies. Perhaps they've never thought about choosing greener options and your phone call will be the catalyst for change.

If you're traveling to the Rochester, New York area, look no further than The Edward Harris House ( and tell Susan the Green Grandma sent you!

Book green when you travel. You'll get even more out of your time away...I guarantee it.

Keeping it green,


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A world filled with opportunity

"The thing is, we still live in a world that's filled with opportunity. In fact, we have more than an opportunity -- we have an obligation. An obligation to spend our time doing great things. To find ideas that matter and to share them. To push ourselves and the people around us to demonstrate gratitude, insight, and inspiration. To take risks and to make the world better by being amazing....You get to make a choice. You can remake that choice every day, in fact. It's never too late to choose optimism, to choose action, to choose excellence. The best thing is that it only takes a moment -- just one second -- to decide."

-- Seth Godin

We all need a little sunshine

If you are one of the many sufferers of SAD (seasonal affective disorder), maybe it's not just about the lack of light that accompanies the winter months. Researchers have found a link between depression and low levels of vitamin D. But feeling down in the dumps from a lack of sunlight isn't the only problem here.

Higher levels of vitamin D actually increase measures of physical performance in older adults and, according to a Harvard study, low levels increase the odds of a man dying from heart disease or suffering a heart attack by more than 50%! Low levels also have been linked with prostate and breast cancer and osteoporosis. Plus, vitamin D helps with the body's absorption of calcium and sufficient levels lead to a longer life.

Vitamin D has been referred to as "the most important vitamin you are probably not taking." The problem of having enough vitamin D stems from diet (not drinking enough fortified milk), not spending enough time in the sun and obesity. Vitamin D gets trapped in the fat cells of overweight people, making them more prone to deficiencies.

So how much D does the average person need? There is no RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) established at this point. But researchers have recently expressed concern about the low levels of vitamin D in children, stating the worrisome link to rickets. As a matter of fact, studies reveal that one out of every five children do not get enough vitamin D. A minimum daily intake of 400 IU had been recommended, but experts are now saying adults need a minimum of 1,000 IU, with possibly more needed in the months when sunshine seems to be on sabbatical. Despite the warnings about skin cancer, Dr. Michael Holick, M.D., Ph.D. of the Boston University School of Medicine, recommends 10 minutes of sun exposure to your arms and legs, without sunscreen, three times each week. But this is still not enough; taking a supplement of 1,000 IU daily is necessary as well.

Because of vitamin D deficient diets on the part of nursing mothers, breastfed infants should receive supplements of 400 IU/day. Additionally, all infants and children who are not drinking one quart a day or more of vitamin D fortified formula or milk should take the supplements as well.

Diet is helpful, but coupled with sun-exposure, is still often not enough. Foods rich in this essential vitamin include:
  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, butter, cream, fortified yogurt)
  • Fish
  • Oysters
  • Fortified cereals
  • Mushrooms enriched with vitamin D
  • Fortified orange juice
  • Eggs

However you get your D, just make sure you and your children are getting enough of it to ward off the devasting effects of vitamin D deficiency.

Keeping it healthy,


Monday, October 26, 2009

Another recycling option

Milk and juice cartons are recyclable! Who knew? I certainly didn't. Waste Management and Tropicana worked together with some of the juice company's suppliers to form the Juice Carton Council. What does this mean for you? Well, depending on where you live and who collects your recycling, you may be able to throw your juice and milk cartons directly into your recycling bins for pickup. To find out if your community is part of this initiative, go to and click on your state. Unfortunately, for those of us who live in Pennsylvania, the only participating area is far. The Juice Carton Council is working hard to make carton recycling available in every part of the country.

In the meantime, recycling kits with prepaid mailing labels are available at If Waste Management is not yet accepting beverage cartons for recycling in your area, you can purchase a recycling kit, fill it and mail it back. Yes, it is an expense on your part, but it is also an investment in the future of the environment.

Recycling kits are available for the following:
  • Wash, Squash and Recyle -- group together aluminum, tin and steel cans, cardboard, clipboard (i.e. cereal boxes), paper, plastic bottles and jugs, juice and milk cartons
  • CFL -- for all CFLs and fluorescent tubes
  • Batteries -- dry cell
  • Electronics and Computers -- all computer components, televisions, VCRs, etc.
  • Syringes and Lancets

The next time you're debating what brand of juice to buy, opt for Tropicana, as they were the first national juice manufacturer to qualify to place a recycle logo on thier packaging. Constantly looking for ways to improve their products' sustainability, their beverage cartons are manufactured with 85% renewable materials. A recycle-friendly polymer makes up the remaining 15%.

By supporting companies that truly care about being good stewards of the environment, we demonstrate our own commitment to living greener lives now and providing a better future for our children and grandchildren.

Keeping it green,


Apathy...or is it?

I don't get it. What, exactly, is so difficult about recycling? Does it really take that much more effort to deposit a plastic bottle or aluminum can in the recycling bin rather than the trash can? Is bundling up your newspapers and taking them to a paper recycling receptacle all that difficult?

There are approximately 44 million newspapers dumped in the landfills every week in the United States. It takes 500,000 trees to produce that many papers and we thoughtlessly toss them out. Why? I must admit, I'm completely baffled by all of this.

Perhaps it's not indifference, but rather ignorance that perpetuates this vicious cycle. Until I wrote an article about battery disposal, I always tossed my dead batteries in the trash. I wasn't being lazy or self-centered, I just didn't know any better. That's the biggest perk of my having this blog...I learn so much. It's my goal to pass some of this info on to you and, hopefully, teach you something new that will change your habits. Then you can tell someone else about it and they can start doing their part for the environment as well. Little things lead to bigger things. A handful of people can become a crowd. As my minister said in his sermon today, it just takes a little bit on the part of everyone.

So, maybe rather than getting frustrated with people's supposed apathy, I should just plod on...learning, sharing, doing. Those are my thoughts for today.

Keeping it green,


Sunday, October 25, 2009

"Because we don't think about future generations,
they will never forget us."
-- Henrik Tikkanen

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What will they think?

"Your grandchildren will likely find it incredible
- or even sinful -
that you burned up a gallon of gasoline to fetch a pack of cigarettes."
-- Paul MacCready, Jr.

Friday, October 23, 2009

When green isn’t attractive

There’s a certain shade of green that needs to be eradicated from our homes….that dark, dark, almost-black, shade of green. The shade of mold and mildew. Yuck.

One of the four most common allergic triggers, mold is not just unpleasant…it’s dangerous, particularly for infants, small children and pregnant women, and can cause a variety of health problems including allergies, asthma, chronic respiratory symptoms, recurrent infections, persistent fatigue and headaches. Plus, high exposure to mold has been linked to pulmonary hemorrhage and hemosiderosis in infants.

According to Fungal Research Group Foundation, Inc., the rise in asthma and allergies is linked to microbial products – fungal spores and hyphae, moisture problems, dampness and exposure to mold. And the June 1999 issue of Environmental Health Perspective includes the statement: “exposure to molds may constitute a health threat to children resulting in respiratory symptoms in both the upper and lower airways, an increased risk of infections, and skin problems.”

Mold-related illnesses can evolve from irritation, causing burning eyes, congestion, cough and post-nasal drip; allergy, which manifests with itchy, watery eyes, congestion, cough, sneezing, wheezing and tightness in your chest; toxins, which can affect the skin as well as respiratory, immune and nervous systems; and infection, such as chronic sinus infection.

“But I don’t have a mold problem in my home,” you may be thinking, but guess again. Mold is insidious in its ability to remain hidden. For example, did you know your refrigerator drip pan should be cleaned every two or three months? Why? Because it’s the perfect breeding ground for mold and as the mold grows, the fan from the refrigerator blows the spores into your kitchen. Ewww.

Mold also loves to play tag with you via your heating and air conditioning ducts. Installing High Efficiency Low Pressure Air filters (HELPA) will help trap the mold spores as they prepare for an attack. Using a HEPA air purifier will also help to reduce these, as well as other indoor pollutants.

Cutting down on mold in your home can also be accomplished by installing and using exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathrooms. Keep the humidity level low in your home (less than 50%) by running dehumidifiers or air conditioning. On low humidity days, open your house up and let it breathe in some fresh outdoor air. If you find any water leaks in your home, take care of them immediately and don’t allow mold and mildew the opportunity to take root.

Before you grab a bottle of bleach and prepare to do battle, stop for a minute and think about the harmful effects breathing in bleach fumes can cause. There are better, greener ways to attack the problem.

One effective solution for combating mold and mildew can be found in a spray bottle filled with 2 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil. Shake up the bottle before each use and spray generously onto the mold and mildew. Do not rinse off. After a couple of hours, you can wipe the solution away, or just let it go if it’s inside your shower or tub. It couldn’t get much easier.

For those who prefer a more active approach, spread a thick layer of baking soda on the spots where the mold and mildew are growing. Follow with a spray of straight distilled white vinegar. Be prepared for the chemical reaction to follow – Scrubbing Bubbles' eco-friendly cousins bubbling and fizzing as they go to work. Grab a scrub brush, apply plenty of elbow grease and rinse. Voila! No more ugly dark, dark, almost-black, green.

If you’re not comfortable with these simple homemade solutions to this not so simple problem, order a bottle of MOLD-OFF, an environmentally-friendly mold and mildew cleaner that contains no chlorine or bleach.

Mold – it’s not the color green we’re after. Take it seriously, and for the health of your family, get rid of it!

Keeping it green,


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Add green to your autumn color scheme

For those of you in the Northeast U.S. or other parts of the country where the ground is quickly being carpeted by a kaleidoscope of vibrant reds, golden yellows, burnt oranges and shades of brown, it’s time to start thinking green about the fall. Here are some tips for making this season as environmentally-friendly as possible:

  • When it comes to clearing your yard from the fallen leaves, opt for the old-fashioned way – raking. Not only is raking better for the environment than using a gas or electric leaf blower, but it’s also good for you! Skip the trips to the gym and give yourself a good workout in the backyard. **Additional green points for not having to drive to the gym!

  • Compost the leaves. Skip the whole ‘bag ‘em and drag ‘em to the landfill’ debacle. If you must do it, at least opt for biodegradable bags.

  • Apples! Pumpkins! Hit the local farmer’s markets for fresh, locally grown produce before the winter snow’s move in.

  • Weatherproof around the house. Insulate water pipes, seal any cracks around windows or garage walls, buy or make draft guards to keep cold air from seeping in under your doors, etc.

  • Bulk up your bed with blankets and turn down the heat. Consider installing a programmable thermostat so your home can warm up a bit before you get up in the morning.

  • Keep throws, blankets and shawls scattered around the house to bundle up with when you get chilly rather than cranking up the heat.

  • Get a furnace tune-up and change your filters. Keeping your furnace operating at its most efficient saves money as well as helping the environment.

  • Keep babies and toddlers warm in eco-friendly blanket sleepers. Opt for organic cotton, hemp or bamboo.

Aside from the images of death and evil ‘decorating’ people’s front yards and the political campaign signs littering the landscape, this is a beautiful time of year. As we look beyond all of that to the gorgeous colors gracing the trees, let’s remember it’s our duty to make sure this is a sight our grandchildren and their children will enjoy as well.

Keeping it green,


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A green birthday

If you follow my blog, you know my granddaughter, the lovely little Lady Laura, celebrated her first birthday on Saturday. It was a lovely party, complete with Laura's first taste of.... gasp....sugar! My daughter, Jess, cleverly arranged cupcakes in the shape of Eric Carle's Hungry Little Caterpillar and made Laura a "smash" cake in the shape of an apple. Very cute. (Pictures by my daughter, Bethany Schad)
When I started thinking about what to buy Laura for her birthday, I realized I had little choice but to buy her green products. After all, that's the proper thing for the Green Grandma to do. In case you're looking for ideas for gifts of your own, here's what I bought:

Of course, these gifts were appreciated more by Mommy than by the active one-year-old. So I had to have something else for Laura to get excited about. Sandra Boynton to the rescue! When it comes to toddlers, no one beats Boynton, in my opinion. Her books are the perfect combination of zaniness, education, and creative illustration, as well as being appealing to both parents and children alike. My grown daughters can still recite from memory, But Not the Hippopatamus, The Going to Bed Book, and Red Shirt, Blue Shirt. So, Laura got 3 new Boynton books in addition to the eco-friendly selection of gifts geared toward making life easier and greener for her mother. Plus the books were "wrapped" in her own cloth bookbag.

Oh, and I gave her one more thing...a small picture of a train I cross-stitched for her mommy in 1989 with the saying, "I think I can..." It brought tears to Jess's eyes. I hope someday it's as meaningful to the lovely little Lady Laura.

All in all, it was a fun day and Laura was both delighted and delightful. How blessed I am to have such a sweet little one in my life.

Keeping it green,


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Help wanted

I'm looking to compile a list of creative green tips from my readers and I need YOUR help! Please post a comment with your favorite environmentally-friendly idea. I'm looking for the best tips for reusing common items, recycling pointers, green cleaning solutions, etc. If you do something green you're especially proud of, post it! We can all benefit from each other's creativity.

Just think, if your way of doing things helps the planet...having lots of people do it that way can really make an impact!

Keeping it green,


Monday, October 19, 2009

20 things kids don't really die from

Regardless of what they tell you, or what your misplaced guilt tries to dictate, kids really won't die from:

1. Hearing the word "No"

2. Being deprived of television, dvds, or a computer in their room

3. Not having their own cell phone

4. Having to dress modestly

5. Having a bedtime or curfew

6. Not being able to get their license the moment they're legally able to

7. Having to eat vegetables

8. Doing chores before they can go outside to play

9. Going outside to play

10. Not getting their ears, belly button, lip, eyebrows, etc. pierced

11. Not making the cheerleading squad/football team

12. Not winning beauty pageants

13. Waiting

14. Embarrassment

15. Having to ride the bus

16. Being seen with you at the mall

17. Eating dinner at the dining room table with the rest of the family

18. Having to spend a few hours with Grandpap at the nursing home

19. Saving their money

20. Drinking water instead of sugar-laden soft drinks

On the other hand, kids do die from not being strapped in their car seats, not wearing seat belts, riding bicycles without helmets, living in smoke-filled homes, drowning, fires in homes without smoke detectors, irresponsibility of caretakers, H1N1, physical abuse, neglect, poor nutrition, dog bites, AIDS, drug addiction at birth, fetal alcohol syndrome, contaminated food/water, ATV accidents, riding in the back of pick up trucks, cancer, violence and more.

It's your job to keep your kids and grandkids safe and healthy. Give them a good dose of discipline and reasonable boundaries (by your standards, not theirs) and don't make it your goal to be their best friend. Parenting involves unpopular decisions on your part...and that's okay. Raising responsible kids pays dividends beyond your wildest dreams. Someday, they'll thank you for it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What kind of world do you want to live in?

"Every aspect of our lives is,
in a sense,
a vote for the kind of world
we want to live in."

-- Frances Moore Lappe

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Laura!


the lovely little Lady Laura

celebrates her first birthday.


the Green Grandma

celebrates a year of having a new purpose.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In memory of a kindness hero

It seems like there are an awful lot of 'takers' out there. People who would suck you dry if you let them. We live in a society, here in the U.S., of people who expect things...who want things handed to them...who feel entitled for one reason or another.

Sometimes it gets discouraging.

But if you look around, you also see folks out there who are willing to give you the shirt off their back if you need it. Everywhere you look, actually, you can pick up on random acts of kindness offered to family, friends and strangers alike. Organizations such as The Kindness Cure, founded by CJ Scarlet, exist to foster kindness in a world that too often is harsh and unyielding. Just reading some of the stories on their website ( is inspiring and uplifting.

I believe acts of kindness are acts of heroism and awards should be given out to honor those heroes.

I'd like to start the process by honoring a couple who went beyond the call of duty back when my second husband and I got married. Since we were blending families with four girls, a honeymoon was not an option. However, a couple at our church insisted we get away for at least a weekend and volunteered to take in and care for my daughters so we could do just that. The remarkable thing about this was that they already had a whole slew of young children occupying their very small home. At that point there were seven or eight people living there, but my girls just squeezed in beside them. The Moffats opened their home and their hearts to us...a new family trying to navigate the very stormy waters of becoming a blended family.

I just learned tonight that Mike Moffat died on August 5th of this year. We missed the funeral. We missed sending our condolences. And we missed what so many of us miss everyday...the opportunity to tell someone they've made a difference in your life. Mike was a good man, a godly man, a man who loved and cared for his wife and seven children. Mary Jane was forced into joining the club none of us wants to join -- The Widow's Club. She's been thrust into single parenthood...not something she ever dreamed of as she and Mike continued to add to their family. They started with two, and then added seven children, one by one, until there were nine in the family. And now there's eight.

My heart breaks for them tonight, as I remember, all too well, the weight of widowhood and single parenting. I remember the questions that churned just below the surface that were never stilled by an answer. Jesus told the storm to be still and the winds stopped. But in the face of this kind of loss, Jesus often seems to be silent, as if calming these storms would somehow throw the earth off its axis.

Tonight I offer a prayer for comfort for the Moffat family and a sacrifice of praise for these heroes in my life. Acts of kindness...they practiced them daily. Thank you Mike....thank you Mary Jane...the way you made us feel will always be remembered.

Parents...grandparents...spouses...children: Listen up as I once again remind you LIFE IS SHORT. Treasure those around you.

Hold these words, by Maya Angelou, close to your heart:

"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."


How green is my valley?

I did an Internet search for the greenest country and the first site that came up listed Finland, the land of my father’s people, came up as number one in 2007! I was thrilled…knowing it couldn’t possibly be the U.S. with all our self-indulgent wastefulness.

According to the 2007 Reader’s Digest report, Finland ranked at the top of the list as the greenest and most livable country. Go Finland! The study rates the nations on the quality of drinking water, greenhouse gas emissions, quality of education and income level of the residents. Finland won this prestigious title based on its air and water quality, protection of its citizens from water pollution and natural disasters, and, what I found most interesting, the low incidence of infant disease.

I decided to pursue the reasons why Finland had a low incidence of infant disease but wasn’t able to locate a single study that confirmed this statistic. But I did stumble upon something of interest that is encouraging to all you nursing moms out there. Did you know that breastfeeding an infant for more than two months significantly reduces the risk of your child developing celiac disease? Children who are breastfed for two months or less, or not at all, have a 63% greater risk of developing this immunological disease than children who are nursed longer. As a matter of fact, studies show that children who are introduced to gluten-containing foods while they are still breastfeeding have a much lower chance of developing permanent gluten sensitivity enteropathy. Yet one more indication that breast is best!

In 2009, Costa Rica won the honor of being not only the greenest country, but the happiest one as well, according to the New Economics Foundation’s HPI (Happy Planet Index). Measuring how long and happy a life citizens of a country enjoy, along with the amount of natural resources a nation uses, the HPI looks for three things when determining countries’ ranking:
  • High life satisfaction
  • High life expectancy
  • “One planet living”

Of everyone in the world, it’s the Costa Ricans who claim the highest level of satisfaction with their lives. They have slightly longer life spans than Americans and, according to the NEF “have an ecological footprint that is less than a quarter the size.”

Conclusion: It is possible to live a better and happier life by living a greener life. Hmmm.

In 2008, Yale University did a study rating countries according to their EPI (environmental performance index) and found, based on conservation practices, water purity, and carbon and sulfur emissions, that Switzerland took home the honors, with Sweden, Norway, Finland and Costa Rica filling out the next four slots. In the 2007 Reader’s Digest study I mentioned at the beginning of this posting, Finland’s number one spot was followed by Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Austria and Switzerland. The Scandinavian countries (which Finland and Iceland are sometimes included in) consistently show up high in these studies, while the United States and Great Britain are nowhere to be seen in the top rankings. C’mon folks, we’re smarter than this. When are we going to stop focusing on being the wealthiest, or most athletic, or whatever else we compete for, and set our goals higher? It would truly be a victory for the planet if the U.S. eventually made the top of the list for greenest countries! Well, a grandma can dream…

Giving credit where credit is due, Portland, Oregon was bestowed the honor of being the greenest city in America in 2008 because half of the city’s power comes from renewable sources, thirty-five of its buildings are certified by the U.S. Green Building Council and one-quarter of the workforce gets to work by bicycle, carpool or public transit. The ranking is based on five factors:

  • Electricity
  • Transportation
  • Green living (which counts the number of buildings U.S. Green Building Council certified, looks at how much land is devoted to green space, as in public parks and nature preserves)
  • Recycling
  • Green perspective

According to these criteria, San Francisco, California came in second; followed by Boston, Massachusetts; Oakland, California; Eugene, Oregon; and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

If you live in any of these cities, applaud your local governments. It’s time all cities start following suit.

Keeping it green,


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Greener greetings

I don’t like to think about it, but the fact is the holidays are just around the corner. It seems like I just packed away the Christmas decorations a few months ago and now my husband’s recommending we bring them down from the attic to sort through everything and rid ourselves of what we no longer find useful. The concept itself has merit, but the thought of unwrapping ornaments and having “discussions” over what to keep and what to donate is a bit unnerving. His idea is to display the items we don’t want on a table in the spare room so our kids can peruse and choose; leftovers will make their way to Goodwill, after documenting each and every piece for tax time deductions. And so it begins…

Since we’re already talking about Christmas, perhaps now is the time to think about the most environmentally-friendly way to send greetings. After all, holiday mail is a huge contributor to the growing problem in the landfills. So how can we do our part in reducing the waste?

First of all, pull out your Christmas card list, sit down with your family and a red pen and start crossing out names. After all, do you really need to continue to send cards to people you wouldn’t even go out for a drink with or have over for coffee? Be realistic about who you really want to wish happy holidays to.

My next suggestion focuses only on the people on your list who are also in your email address book. eCards have come a long way since their inception. With music and animation, your holiday greetings come to life via sites like,, and so many more. Not only are eCards the greenest way to exchange Christmas cards, but they’re also the cheapest way, with many choices available for free or with a small subscription fee.

Sending cards to people you will see over the holidays is something else that can be avoided. Hand-delivered cards are just as, if not more, meaningful. Here’s where you can stray a bit from the traditional boxed cards. Why not cut a sprig of holly from your garden and tie a pretty tag on with a ribbon? Tags can be easily made from the Christmas cards you received in previous years (and didn’t have the heart to throw away). Write a verse on the back and sign as you would a normal greeting. Or pick up some vintage postcards at an antique store and use them. Neighbors will appreciate the thoughtful gesture of a “nature” greeting hanging from their doorknob or mailbox.

If you’re set on mailing your greetings, consider holiday postcards. With postcards you eliminate envelopes and pay less for postage.

Finally, on my list of greener greetings is something that could develop into a fun tradition for your family and friends. You’ve no doubt heard of re-gifting. Well, this is re-carding. Send your standard Christmas cards out this year, but don’t sign them! Use Post-it® notes, write your greeting and sign. Stick the note where your signature would normally go and add a suggestion for the recipient to resend the card next year. Of course, a new envelope would be needed, but if your house is like ours, there are plenty to spare. Just think how much fun it will be to receive the card again, from someone you didn’t even send it to, a few years from now!

I hope I’ve given you some incentive to start thinking about a green Christmas. I’ll be sharing some more ideas as the magical day draws nearer. In the meantime, enjoy autumn in all of its glory.

Keeping it green,


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A bathrobe occupation

I am blessed. One of the ways I’m doing my part for the environment is by working from home, where my car remains parked for most of the week. Fill ups are infrequent and I thoroughly relish the convenience of not having to spar with other drivers for my place in line as a mass of vehicles crawls toward fume-enhanced tunnels and overcrowded parking lots. The pleasures of working from home can’t be matched when it comes to the commute.

Of course, there are disadvantages. The temptation to sleep in is stronger when there’s no clock to punch. Morning coffee breaks on the patio last longer than most when being entertained by chattering squirrels, busy hummingbirds, vibrant cardinals and finches and a view that’s breathtaking.

Then there are the folks who call to chat, since after all, I’m not really working…I mean, not really. People expect you to be available for volunteer activities, impromptu lunches, and extended visits.

The main disadvantage to working from home is the constant conflict of what needs my attention the most. I usually end each day (late into the evening) with a list of what I’d like to accomplish the next day. For instance, tonight my list for tomorrow includes working on research for a magazine article about dogs, editing a short story for a client, and doing a series of narrations for a voice-over project I’m working on. My daily blog is on the list every day as well.

But what happens on the days I wake up and discover the sun’s shining brightly (which is a rare sight in Western Pennsylvania lately) and there’s a nice breeze blowing? After all, isn’t that the perfect type of day to do laundry and get it on the line? Suddenly, my goal of crossing things off my list early in the day gets pushed aside in lieu of sorting laundry and getting a load in the washer. Then as I pass through the kitchen I realize we never cleaned up the dishes from the night before and suddenly I’m unloading and loading the dishwasher as my coffee brews. By now, my diabetes is getting the better of me and I know I have to take the time to eat. Oops…time to clean up again. As the spin cycle grinds its way to a stop, I head back downstairs to take the wet laundry outside to hang on the line. “What a perfect day for laundry,” I say to myself. “I should strip the bed.”

And on and on it goes…with work undone and a list vying for my attention. Thus, the reason you’ll find the lights on in my office late into the night. I’m trying to be green, but working in the dark just doesn’t seem to be effective.

So if you’re contemplating leaving the corporate world for a bathrobe occupation, maybe this will give you just a glimpse of what life is like for those of us who make that choice. Frustrating? Sometimes. Lonely? It can be…although now that I’ve discovered my water cooler buddies on Facebook, I seem to feel much less isolated. Risky? That goes without saying. Fulfilling? You bet.

If you’re a parent of young children who would rather have them home with you than in a daycare center somewhere (especially with the threat of H1N1 looming), I say go for it. But be prepared to have to juggle. Your kids need not only your presence, but your attention as well. Clients don’t pay you to play Candyland or watch Bambi with your little ones. You’ll have to make some personal sacrifices in order to be successful, both in business and in your personal life, but since working from home is usually a greener option, you have my support all the way.

With that said, I’ll end with how I started. I am blessed.

Keeping it green,


Monday, October 12, 2009

A non-partisan issue

I find it interesting that people who are more conservative (or completely conservative) tend to shy away from environmental issues. Why is that? Is it for the same reason that many democrats hide their pro-life convictions from their friends? Why should either issue be a partisan issue?

While I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with all presidential candidates, I do tend to lean toward the conservative to moderate side of things. For example, I believe abortion is a bloodstain on our nation from which we may never recover from. I am not a Catholic, yet feel Pope John Paul II delivered one of the best quotes in opposition to abortion:

“A nation that kills its own children is a nation without hope.”

A few liberal democrats, like actress Kate Mulgrew, take stands against abortion, and I’m sure she faces opposition daily, as does Patricia Heaton, the Honorary Chair of Feminists for Life. These are just two brave ladies who choose to go against the flow.

I also believe that, in most cases, if you want a paycheck, you need to work. The Welfare program was set up to help people in transition, not to keep people dependent on the government. How did it get turned upside down the way it has?

And national health care…are you kidding me?

I believe in honoring life, working hard, giving humane treatment to animals and doing our best to care for the environment. I guess that means you can’t box me into a particular “wing.” I’m neither right wing nor left wing. What I am is an American with convictions. I don’t vote according to party…I vote according to issues. Of course, most politicians stick to their party’s stands on things, which makes voting particularly difficult since both parties support my causes on one side or another.

So, let’s get back to environmental issues. It’s my opinion that we live on a magnificent planet gifted to us from our Creator. How dare we disrespect it the way we have! I don’t believe in the radical means touted by the liberal political agenda, especially when I see such hypocrisy there. However, I also cringe at the apathy of the other side. C’mon folks, wake up! This is not a political issue. This is an issue for all of us. It’s time we all do our part to ensure a healthier environment for the next generations.

Keeping it honest and green,


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Transcending political boundaries

"The issue of environmental quality is one
which transcends traditional political boundaries.
It is a cause which can attract,
and very sincerely,
middle-class straights."

-- Russell Kirk

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Penalty of the prodigal

"We of an older generation can get along with what we have,
though with growing hardship;
but in your full manhood and womanhood
you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied
and man so thoughtlessly destroyed;
and because of that want
you will reproach us,
not for what we have used,
but for what we have wasted...
So any nation which in its youth lives only for the day,
reaps without sowing,
and consumes without husbanding,
must expect the penalty of the prodigal
whose labor could with difficulty
find him the bare means of life."

-- Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, October 9, 2009

See how they run

As the temps drop outdoors, little creatures (like mice) are making their way indoors. It’s that time of year when critters are seeking out lodging and dining. I remember one year when I discovered mouse droppings in my silverware drawer! What a lot of work that created for me. Apparently mice were making their way into the cupboard under my kitchen sink via the drainpipe hole. Then they crept up and explored the drawers. Nasty indeed. The hole’s been since covered and the problem solved.

So the first lesson in keeping mice out is sealing up cracks and holes. Inevitably, though, they’ll find some way in. So what’s the next step? In our case, our cats are a natural repellent.

If you don’t have cats, what’s the best way to rid your home of rodents? First of all, you have to determine whether or not you want to kill the mice. I opt for not going that route. But if you do, please find the most humane way to do so.

I used to work at a flower shop where they used the sticky mouse traps that, to me, seemed like the worst kind of torture possible. The little mice would get stuck in the glue and literally rip away their skin in an effort to escape. On more than one occasion, I put the trap on the ground by my car tire, covered it up and ran over it. It was the only way to silence the teeny little mouse cries. Simply awful.

Standard mouse traps generally cause instant death from a broken neck, but this isn’t always the case.

There are different options for catching mice and then releasing them outside, but chances are they’ll just find their way back inside. So the only option, other than killing or capturing the mice, is to repel them.

Peppermint is a natural repellent to mice. During the summer months you can plant fresh peppermint close to your house. Those of you with a green thumb can also grow potted peppermint in your homes during the cooler months. It’s great for steeping and drinking as a tea whenever you have an upset stomach, so it will serve two purposes. Additionally, you can break off leaves and place them near sites where mice seem to gravitate to.

Other natural repellents include cloves and cayenne pepper. One way to use these is to get clove, peppermint or cayenne pepper oil and soak cotton balls in it. Strategically placed cotton balls will do the trick as well, as will sachets made of cheesecloth filled with any of the dried herbs mentioned.

Caps full of ammonia are effective as well, but do you really want spillable ammonia in various places in your home?

Place your repellant of choice in cupboards, corners, closets and under your beds and sofas.

If the mice in your home become resistant to your natural and green-friendly repellents, you can go the route of commercially produced ones, some of which use only natural ingredients. SomaTherapy makes one called Mouse Away Concentrate which is a blend of peppermint and spearmint oils which they claim is the right combination to drive mice away as fast as possible. Mouse Away Concentrate is one of the best-selling natural mouse repellents on the market.

If you have kids at home, keep in mind how curious they can be. Little fingers can receive quite an injury when caught in a trap or stuck to glue. Chemicals present even more problems. Your kids, or grandkids, are watching you. If they see you treating animals, even skittering rodents, with respect and kindness, they’re likely to grow up to appreciate and care for God’s creatures in the same way. While we may not want our homes infested with mice, we also don’t want our kids’ minds infested with images of inhumane behavior.

Keeping it green and humane,


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Forking over the big bucks for organic…is it really worth it?

Every trip to the grocery store challenges us, as parents and grandparents, to decide whether or not it’s worth it to spend more on foods labeled as organic. After all, it seems like the right thing to do for our kids, but is it really necessary?

Basically, at this point, researchers have found no scientific evidence suggesting that the minute traces of chemicals found in non-organic produce is going to be a threat to your child’s health in the long run. However, we have to remember how long it took for scientists to start recognizing and publicizing the risks involved with BPA or allowing our babies to wear chemically-laced disposable diapers. Are there going to be warnings two years from now? Five? Ten?

So let’s start with produce. When does it, and when does it not, make sense to purchase organically grown fruits and vegetables?

Fruits with peels that are taken off and discarded, such as bananas and oranges, carry the least amount of chemical residue when you get down to the actual fruit. So you can probably skip paying premium prices here. Additionally, the following produce is proven to be exposed to the least amount of chemicals:
Sweet corn
Sweet peas

On the other hand, if you’re concerned about exposing your family to pesticides, here are some of the ones most likely to carry the highest percentage:
Bell peppers
Red raspberries

According to research, higher levels of antioxidants and other nutrients exist in organically-grown strawberries, peaches, tomatoes, and corn. But it’s important to note that some of these studies were paid for by the organic-food industry.

In order to be labeled ‘organic,’ the produce, along with grains, must be grown on land where no genetic engineering or irradiation are allowed. There also can be no synthetic fertilizers or sewage sludge used. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture enforces strict standards on foods that indicate they are organic.

There are different reasons for buying organic when it comes to meat and dairy products. For more about the specifics of organic milk, refer to my blog posting on September 21, 2009.

The situation with meat, milk and poultry is that in order to be labeled organic, they have to come from animals raised without any of the growth hormones or antibiotics that are traditionally given to their non-organic alternatives. The animals must be given access to the outdoors and be fed a completely organic diet, which includes grazing on fields where pesticides have not been used for over three years and there are no pesticides in their feed. They also cannot be given any antibiotics or animal by-products.

A side benefit here involves a decrease in mad-cow disease, since animal by-products provide a link to bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Additionally, some research has revealed a risk to human health in cases where people are consuming meat and dairy products that contain rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), which is a hormone connected to breast, prostate and colon cancers. While rBGH is banned in the European Union as well as some other countries, the U.S. Government continues to approve its safety. Again, it may just be a matter of time.

Packaged foods provide yet another option when it comes to buying organic. If they are labeled with the USDA Organic Seal, they must include 95% or more of pesticide-free ingredients. If the label says “made with organic,” the content of true organic ingredients only has to be at 70%. Either way, check out the labels on the processed food you buy. A reduction in non-organic ingredients might not make the cookies, crackers, baked goods or snacks the healthiest option, as they often have an increased fat content.

I know it’s a lot to take in and I hope this article clears away some of the fog. You may want to print it and tote it along to the grocery store to help you make some better choices for your kids. After all, it’s each of our responsibilities to make the right decisions for our children’s health.

Keeping it green and healthy,


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Paper or plastic?

When thinking about ways to reuse plastic bags, my first thoughts turned to how kids could use them. What do kids like to do? Play…so why not transform plastic bags into toys for them? For instance, they could put them over their heads as a way of playing peek-a-boo, or….hold on. Before you start thinking my current meds are messing with my common sense, relax. I’m only kidding! Just wanted to see if you were paying attention!

Of course, reusing plastic bags should not include anything child-related, unless it has to do with holding dirty cloth diapers when out and about or storing things in a closet or attic. Never, I repeat, never allow a child to play with a plastic bag or plastic wrap. This should go without saying, as it is common sense, but I’m saying it anyway.

So let’s get serious about what you can do with the mounds of plastic bags in your home, unless, of course, your house is like ours where we’re constantly scrounging for a plastic bag or two when we need one because I’m obsessed with using cloth bags.

First of all, are you aware that when asked the question, “Paper or plastic?” the environmentally sound choice is plastic? I was surprised myself to hear that. After all, we all have heard how plastic bags are a serious problem in the landfills and oceans. However, it takes more energy to manufacture paper bags than it does plastic. Plus, since they weigh less, they produce less waste. During the manufacturing process, there are fewer emissions produced with plastic over paper and plastic bags are fully recyclable. So, on the days you forget to take your cloth bags to the grocery store, opt for plastic when asked. Then, when you have a bag full of bags, refer back to this blog to find out what to do with them.

Have you ever heard of plarn? Plarn is plastic yarn made out of plastic grocery bags. The process for making it is simple and once made, it can be used the same way as regular yarn. There’s just some folding and trimming involved and you can find step-by-step instructions at Aside from the illustrated guide, there are also ideas for what to make with the plarn once done.

Other creative uses for plastic bags include: wrapping them around the knees of your pants to protect them from staining when working on your knees in the garage or garden; covering your hands with them when dealing with messes (such as when you have doggy duty) or other unpleasant pick up tasks; or temporarily keeping your paint brushes and rollers from drying out when you’re pressed for time and can’t get around to cleaning them for a day or two – simply wrap in a plastic bag and secure with a rubber band to make their airproof. You can also keep a large bag in your car to use as an emergency rain poncho or a small one for a rain hat in a pinch and you can carry a bag in your purse or pocket to wrap your wet umbrella in. Plastic grocery bags also make excellent planter fillers. Just crumple up some bags and put them in the bottom of planters (making sure you don’t cover up the drainage holes). This not only keeps you from using an excess amount of potting soil, but it also keeps the weight down on planters you move around from time to time.

One idea I love is to protect your breakables when shipping by padding them with wadded up plastic bags. Skip the Styrofoam peanuts (which I absolutely detest) and surround your items with bags. Include a suggestion for reuse or recycling of the bags for the recipient (or simply print up this article and tuck it in the box).

Of course, the standard use of plastic grocery bags is to line wastepaper baskets and kitchen trashcans. Just make sure the bags don’t have any holes in them!

One more use for plastic grocery bags is…for grocery shopping. Tote them along to the store and hand them to the bagger. When they wear out, turn them in for recycling. Most local grocery stores collect bags for recycling. It’s also possible they’ll take other kinds of plastic bags…it’s worth asking about! Some places will even take some or all of the following:

  • Clean dry cleaning bags
  • Bread bags
  • Furniture and electronic plastic wrap
  • Zipper type bags
  • Napkin, toilet paper and paper towel wrap
  • Cereal box liners
  • Produce bags

To find out more about this type of plastic recycling, go to

After writing all of this, I just might skip carrying the cloth bags to the store from time to time. Christmas is just around the corner and I’ll have plenty of packages to send.

Keeping it green,


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Plug in to eCycling

I’ve been lax lately on my daily posts. For that, I ask for your understanding. I’ve been battling a bad cough for weeks now, which eventually landed me in the ER. Hopefully I’ll start gaining my energy back and be able to attend to the tasks at hand.

Last week I was a bit tough on the government when I was writing about hemp. So tonight I thought I’d dole out some credit. The EPA has a wonderful program going called Plug in to eCycling, supporting the benefits of recycling and providing the public with information on how to go about recycling old electronics products. With an understanding that recycling our analog TVs or our outdated computers isn’t as easy as tossing a can into the recycling bin, the EPA has teamed up with various electronic manufacturers and retailers to offer some solutions.

As stated on their website, eCycling benefits in 3 ways:

  • Protects your health and surroundings by promoting the proper management of lead, mercury and other toxic chemicals.
  • Conserves natural resources by lessening the need to use as many raw materials from the earth and saving the energy involved in the manufacturing process of new electronic equipment.
  • Helps others by providing them with refurbished equipment that otherwise would have just been thrown away. In 2008 alone, over 20 million televisions were tossed into the U.S. landfills.

You can visit for detailed information about what and where you can recycle your electronic equipment.

Here’s a brief overview of what you’ll find on the website:


Watch the Pass it on Video which educates you about both the environmental and economical perks of donating electronics for reuse. Stephen Johnson, former EPA Administrator and 5 of the EPA’s Plug-In partners offer their insights.

Read the pdf file: Do the PC Thing for Consumers or Do the PC Thing for Businesses.


Since many charitable organizations are no longer accepting donations of analog TVs, it would be wise to check with them before taking your televisions to drop off. If your favorite charity isn’t willing to take your analog TVs off your hands, there are many retailers that will.

  • Best Buy
    They do charge a $10 fee/television (up to 32” and up to 2/day), but will award with a $10 Best Buy gift card in return.
  • Samsung
    With over 218 locations nationwide, they will accept any Samsung televisions for free and other brands for a nominal fee.
  • LG Electronics
    They have teamed with Waste Management and offer a network of electronics drop-off and recycling locations and do not charge fees for LG, Zenith and Goldstar brands.
  • Panasonic, Sharp & Toshiba
    280 locations will accept their brands.
  • Sony
    Offers free recycling for all Sony-branded TVs at 274 locations across the country. They also accept other brands for a fee.

Cell phones, PDAs, chargers and batteries:

For every one million cell phones recycled, the equivalent amount of energy is saved to provide more than 185 American homes with electricity. That’s significant. In 2007, nearly 14 million cell phones were recycled in the U.S.

There are many drop-off locations for used cell phones, including:

AT&T, Best Buy, Sony Ericsson, Sprint, Staples, Office Depot, LG Electronics, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile. Check with your local stores to find out if they have a recycling program in place. If they say ‘no,’ press them for an explanation and a change in policy.

Make sure you erase all data before donating your cell phones. To make it easier, you can use a handy tool called ReCellular’s Cell Phone Data Eraser.

Visit for more information.

Now that you’re armed with resources, I hope you’ll think twice before setting any of your electronic devices out at the curb on trash night. If you’ve read this, I challenge you to share it with others…after all ignorance isn’t really bliss when it comes to our health. Every piece of electronic equipment that ends up in the landfill is going to affect us one way or another.

Keeping it green,


Sunday, October 4, 2009

The wonders and realities of the universe

The more clearly

we can focus our attention

on the wonders and realities

of the universe about us,

the less taste we shall have

for destruction.

-- Rachel Carlson

photo courtesy of NASA

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The surprising benefits of hemp

Do you know what happens when you smoke hemp? Not a whole lot. You may end up with a cough or a headache, but you certainly won’t end up with a high. Surprised? Most people are because they mistakenly think hemp is the same thing as marijuana. It’s not; even though they are both members of the plant species cannabis sativa and bear an uncanny resemblance. Actually, the psychoactive properties in marijuana come from the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) found in the flower of the plant. While the THC values in marijuana are about 15% - 20%, they’re only standardized at about 0.3% in industrial hemp.

So what’s all the hype with hemp? It’s actually an eco-friendly renewable resource that is once again warranting attention in the United States (although it’s not legal to commercially grow here). Hemp is an excellent alternative to cotton when it comes to clothing, as hemp is more resilient and water-resistant, offers better breathe-ability, and is, quite simply, softer and warmer. With the look of linen and the feel of flannel, it’s no wonder clothing made of hemp is gaining in popularity.

But clothing isn’t the only thing hemp is used for. Consider these facts:
  • When used for building material, hemp is known to be better than wood in terms of quality and strength, as well as being less expensive
  • Paper made from hemp can be recycled up to 7 times, versus only 4 times for paper made from wood pulp
  • Hemp has 10 times less toxicity than salt and is as biodegradable as sugar
  • When used to make bio-diesel fuel, it emits 80% less carbon dioxide and close to 100% less sulfur dioxide
  • It boasts a production rate of up to 10 tons per acre every 4 months
  • It matures in about 100 days versus the 50 – 100 years for a tree to mature
  • Hemp crops are heat, cold, mildew, pest, light, drought and rot resistant
  • There are far less chemicals used to produce fabric made of hemp than of cotton and other fibers
  • The woody stalks, or hurds, of the hemp plant are used for a variety of products, including: paper, plastics, animal bedding and more efficient and cleaner burning fuels, such as ethanol and methane
  • The plant fibers are perfect for clothing, canvas, paper, textiles and rope, as well as replacements for heavier toxic fibers and building materials generally made with recycled plastic and fiber
One of the most beneficial parts of the hemp plant comes from the seed which contains many nutrients for both human and animal consumption. The hemp seed consists of
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin A
  • Protein (25%)
  • Insoluble fiber (15%)
  • Carbohydrates (30%)
It also is the absolute best vegetable source of essential fatty acids, with 55% Omega 3 linoleic acid and 25% Omega 6 linoleic acid, as well as gama linoleic acid.

Hemp seeds can be used in baking or cooking, crushed or whole. Hempseed oil is the principle product derived from the seed and has many uses from nutrition to cosmetics to paints and varnishes.

The multiple uses of the hemp plant, coupled with its eco-friendly properties, makes it the perfect crop choice for farmers across America. So why are we not seeing this invaluable plant being harvested from coast to coast?

Well, not to sound cynical, but you’d have to ask a politician about this. After all, it’s the powers-that-be that enforce the law that makes industrial hemp production in the U.S. illegal. But it wasn’t always this way.

Up until 1883, nearly 90% of all paper in this country was made with hemp rather than wood pulp. Four million pounds of hemp seed was sold in the States in 1937, and up until that year, almost 90% of all rope and twine was manufactured from the hemp plant. Then there’s the car Henry Ford built in 1941, made from a hemp and wheat straw plastic. However, the popularity of hemp and its abundance seemed to be cutting into the potential profits of men like William Randolph Hearst and Pierre DuPont, who collaborated and succeeded in making hemp an illegal crop in the U.S. in 1937. What did they have to gain? Well, Hearst held interests in multiple lumber mills and personally owned huge forests. DuPont used petroleum to manufacture synthetic fuels and fibers, such as rayon, nylon and a variety of plastics. The versatility of hemp wasn’t welcome in their world.

Seventy-plus years later, what have we learned? Well, we’ve experienced an energy crisis, polluted our air and waterways, found that chemicals in synthetics can be a danger to our health, endangered our wildlife species with the destruction of the forests, created holes in our ozone layer, etc., etc.

Could this have been avoided? Possibly. Researchers estimate the if just 6% of the continental United States would be planted with hemp crops, this would provide for ALL our national energy needs. Is this factual? I don’t know. But it certainly should be worth investigating. So why is our government sitting on its hands on this one? Is it that there are too many Hearsts and DuPonts out there blocking the way for real change?

I don’t know about you, but this makes me angry. When I think about the possibility that we could have fuel with far less toxic emissions, affordable clothing that wouldn’t be chemically treated, healthy alternative sources of essential fatty acids, etc. I just want to schedule a meeting with the higher ups and ask them why it isn’t happening. They talk the talk of independence from foreign oil, but when given a sensible alternative, they turn a deaf ear. Angry…you bet I am. And frustrated with the stupidity and ignorance of people who continue to think it should be illegal, because they refuse to differentiate between hemp and marijuana.

In no means is the Green Grandma endorsing the non-medicinal use of marijuana. But I'd grow some hemp on my rooftop balcony without hesitation.

Keeping you informed,


Friday, October 2, 2009

Cough and cold season...and sleepless nights

The wonders of fall have ushered in cooler weather along with coughs, runny noses and aches and pains. It started with me. Despite the fact I’d been coughing for weeks, I still decided to join the family at a local amusement park on Saturday. It was Military Appreciation Day and tickets were discounted to only $13 each (a savings of over $20/person). My husband and I, along with two of our daughters and their husbands, eagerly bought our tickets a month or so ago, eager to introduce our first grandbaby to the joys of Kennywood! What we didn’t anticipate was a cold, miserable, rainy day.

Armed with sweatshirts, umbrellas and ponchos, we ventured out and enjoyed a soggy day of fun riding roller coasters and carousels and squeezing into Kiddie Land rides with Laura. The evening was spent drying off over dinner at our house followed by Sunday morning at church together. We squeezed into a booth for lunch before parting ways. At this point, I was the only one not feeling well.

On Tuesday, when my son-in-law picked up his daughter from my house, I handed over a very fussy…and sick…baby. That night I found out my daughter, Bethany, was had a sore throat and was coughing. Yesterday it hit Laura’s mommy, then her daddy and finally, my husband came home from work today, sniffling and hacking. Everybody’s miserable.

Sound familiar? Ah yes, it’s cold season. It’s bad enough when we, as adults, get sick, but it’s even worse when our babies start sneezing and coughing. We can’t load them up with OTC meds, so what can we do?

Unless your normally healthy baby is spitting out thick mucus that’s bloody or green, is pulling at her ears, has a sore throat that’s bright red, or a fever that doesn’t respond to acetaminophen or ibuprofen, there’s no point in hauling her off to the pediatrician’s office. For infants under 4 months, a fever worth noting would be 101° or higher; 101°-104° for at least a full day for babies older than this.

So what does this mean? Basically you’re on your own. Not what you wanted to hear…especially if you’ve been up pacing the floor with a whining little one. But there some things you can do to help ease the discomfort.

First of all, if you’re breastfeeding, you already know that colds aren’t a common occurrence with your child since breast milk gives your baby antibodies which are vital in fighting infections and strengthening his immune system. But since most babies will get at least one cold before their first birthday, it’s good to know breast milk has another function…it’s perfect for breaking up the mucus in your baby’s nostrils. Seriously. Just aim and squirt and let the enzymes go to work. Your baby will nurse much more comfortably once he’s able to breathe through his nose!

An alternate to the breast milk flushing is to use infant saline drops. Use them about 15 minutes before feeding your baby. Simply (like it’s ever simple) tilt your baby’s head back and instill a few drops in each nostril. There’s also a great new product out called saline gel, widely available in retail stores. You just rub a little gel on the outside and a little bit inside the nostrils. This is soothing to your child’s sore nose as well as helpful in relieving some of the stuffiness.

Of course, steam helps your little one breathe better, just like it does for you. Running a hot shower while sitting in a closed bathroom with your baby will create a steam room perfect for temporary relief. Stay in the room for about 15 minutes. You can also try a cool mist humidifier in the nursery. This works by keeping the air moist and preventing the secretions from drying out. Make sure you use filtered or distilled water in the humidifier.

If your baby seems to be achy (you know how you feel when you’re sick), try giving her a warm bath followed by a gentle full body massage. This will help to relax her and ease some of the discomfort that accompanies a cold. Don’t expose her to chilly air, however, as this would be totally counterproductive.

To help your baby, and you, get some sleep, you might want to raise the end of the crib mattress by placing rolled up towels or a pillow under the mattress. Do not put a pillow in the crib with your baby! Also, don’t raise one end of the crib by putting something under the legs, as this can result in an unstable crib, posing a potential danger to your baby. If your little one seems comfortable enough in his carseat, strap him in there for the night, or in his swing, as sleeping in a more upright position might help him to breathe easier.

For all of you parents out there who are living through this experience right now…God bless you. Sleepless nights are just part of the package. But just wait…this type of sleepless night beats pacing the floor at 2 a.m. wondering where your teenage daughter is any day!

Wishing you a good night’s sleep,


Thursday, October 1, 2009

A banquet of consequences

Sooner or later,
we sit down
to a banquet of consequences.

-- Robert Louis Stevenson

Search This Blog