How to Control Pests with Natural Products

February 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Eco-Friendly, Front Page, Pesticides, Slideshow, Tips

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  Do you spray toxic chemicals around baseboards, leave poisoned bait in dark corners, bug-bomb your home and office, or douse yourself (and your kids) with DEET to keep pests at bay? Using pesticides might rid your surroundings of pests, but what are you doing to your health in the process? ~ Julia Wasson, Publisher […]

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Love Those Fruits and Veggies – When They’re Safe to Eat

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Hungry? How about a juicy peach? Imported grapes are sooo delicious. Apples are yummy. And cherries are a snack straight from Paradise.

Or not.

Fact is, every one of those conventionally raised, scrumptious food choices is laden with pesticides — dozens of different pesticide chemicals. According to an article on About.com, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) compiled information about pesticides “from approximately 96,000 studies by the USDA and FDA of the 49 fruits and vegetables listed between 2000 and 2008.” EWG then created a handy Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides, which lists the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen.”

When I first read EWG’s list last year, I was more than a little chagrined to see many of my favorite foods listed in the Dirty Dozen. I truly love 11 of the 12 foods: “peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, kale, cherries, potatoes, grapes.” (I’m not so crazy about celery.) These are many of the foods I most enjoy. And being almost-entirely a vegetarian, they’re foods I depend on for their nutrient value — especially kale….

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This Borrowed Earth by Robert Emmet Hernan

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As the Gulf of Mexico continues to fill with oil due to BP’s negligence and our own government agencies’ lack of oversight, we are experiencing an environmental disaster of catastrophic proportions. Tragically, this isn’t the first human-caused environmental disaster — and given our track record as stewards of this planet, it’s futile to fool ourselves that it will be the last. In his book, This Borrowed Earth: Lessons from the 15 Worst Environmental Disasters Around the World, Robert Emmet Hernan describes in detail 15 environmental disasters we must remember so that history doesn’t repeat itself.

In the book’s Introduction — penned merely months before BP’s so-called “spill,” Hernan wrote, “If we forget how and why these disasters happened and what horrible consequences emerged from them, we will not avert future disasters.” As a society, we seem to have done just what Hernan feared: We’ve forgotten. And so another disaster is upon us.

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, writes in the book’s Foreword, “In an age where we’re once again ideologically committed to ‘loosening the reins’ on private enterprise, it’s sobering to remember what has happened in the past. In an age when new technologies are barely tested before they’re put into widespread use—genetically engineered crops, for instance—it’s even more sobering to contemplate a seemingly iron-clad rule: every new machine or system seems to fail catastrophically at least once.” …

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Slow Death by Rubber Duck

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The information in Slow Death by Rubber Duck doesn’t make for relaxing reading, even though the authors, Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, do a masterful job of translating statistics and technical data (sometimes very technical) into highly readable prose. The problem is, the book is about a very unsettling topic.

When I first received my review copy and read the introduction, I was struck by the experiment that forms the basis for the book: The authors voluntarily and quite deliberately exposed themselves to toxic chemicals — lots of them.

Now, why would these men risk their health by loading their bodies with toxins? Isn’t that irresponsible? I wondered. It sounded so dangerous. And, from the way they tell it, their families were none too thrilled by their participation, either….

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Wilson’s Apple Orchard – Eco-Friendly Farming Yields Bumper Crop of Family Fun

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Drive a little more than 4 miles north out of Iowa City on Highway 1. Turn east down Dingleberry Road for a little less than a mile, and take a right down an unpaved road. Soon you arrive at Wilson’s Apple Orchard, a local Iowa City landmark that you won’t soon forget. Ask just about anyone in the Iowa City – Solon area, and they’ll tell you about a family outing they took to Wilson’s when they were kids, about their own child’s recent preschool field trip, or a romantic apple-picking outing with their date. Young and old, Wilson’s Apple Orchard figures into the fond memories of generations of Iowans.

Paul Rasch bought the grounds from previous owners, Robert “Chug” and Joyce Wilson, last year. When asked about the environmental practices he is putting in place in his new venture, Rasch comments that there are three main environmental concerns associated with farming: manure, erosion, and pesticides. Wilson’s Apple Orchard has no livestock, so manure is not a concern. Rasch does no tilling, so the soil is stable. That leaves only pesticides to deal with…

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Environmental Working Group Gets “Feisty” about Chemical Pollution

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Recently, Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) wrote in praise of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and encouraged readers to consider supporting the important work of this nonprofit organization. Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking with Ken Cook, who heads EWG. I wanted to know about EWG’s history, its major areas of focus, and what he sees as the most critical issue on the group’s docket today. — Publisher

COOK: I started the Environmental Working Group in the early 1990s, with my colleague Richard Wiles, whom I consider to be a co-founder of the organization. He brought to us a lot of talent — in particular, a great deal of information, knowledge, and experience on toxic chemicals, specifically pesticides…

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Healthy Child Healthy World — A Story of Heartbreak and Hope

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“When a parent loses a child, there really are no words. There are no words to describe this grief, and there are no words to mend the broken heart that remains forever after. But my husband and I chose to try to make a difference,” said Nancy Chuda, referring to the death of their only child, Colette. “We said, let us take the remains of what would have been her life and, in her memory, establish something that would give benefit to countless millions. It fueled our passion. It was our pain that carried us through — from pain to passion — in building the network.”

I spoke with Nancy Chuda about Healthy Child Healthy World, the organization she and her husband, Jim, founded nearly twenty years ago in honor and memory of their daughter. This is her story.

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Organic Gardening in Your Own Backyard

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Spring in Iowa feels like stepping out of the Ice Age into some of the most appreciated warm weather on the planet. After enduring 20 snow and ice storms from November to March (and more still possible all the way to early May), a person’s patience begins to thin. Mine does, anyway. But a few days of warmer weather, say in the 50s and 60s, changes my whole outlook….

I am ready for spring. I am ready for the rain to wash all those chilly memories away. I am ready for the plants in my garden to return. I am ready to see green buds pushing up through the dead leaves. I long for the feel of dirt under my fingernails. If you live in a cool climate, I’ll bet you’re ready, too.

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Porked Off! A Critical Look at Iowa’s Water Quality

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For 25 years, I’ve lived two blocks from the Iowa River. I used to water ski on, swim in, and fish from it. I don’t anymore. Twenty years ago, I felt safe including my children in these activities. We felt safe swimming in the river and eating bass, bullhead, catfish, and walleye from its waters. I had hoped I would be able to share the same experiences with my grandchildren someday.

Nowadays, you shouldn’t just drop in a line and catch your dinner. You should check with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) before you eat the fish. The agency does federally mandated testing for pesticides at least once a year. They do periodic testing for mercury and PCBs, too. Their latest warnings are posted on their Fish Consumption Advisories page. You’ll find warnings like this one:

“The Cedar River from the Highway 218 bridge at Floyd (Floyd Co.) to the Iowa/Minnesota state line (39 mile stretch): Eat only 1 meal/week of smallmouth bass, walleye, and northern pike due to elevated levels of mercury.”

Sound healthy to you?

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Eco-Friendly Fabrics Make Green Fashion Statement

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As consumers become increasingly concerned about the environment, the marketplace responds with new technology to fit the demands of a greener lifestyle: CFLs now provide a more energy-efficient alternative than the fluorescent light bulbs of a few years ago. Hybrid cars use less gas and emit fewer fumes than their gas-only counterparts. Solar installations and wind turbines create off-the-grid energy to power homes and businesses. Even clothing is becoming more eco-friendly.

Eco-fashion, also known as green fashion, features clothes made with respect for the environment. Environmentally friendly fabrics are woven from organic fibers that were grown without pesticides or artificial herbicides. In addition, organic fabrics, such as organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and soy silk are not treated with harmful chemical dyes or bleaches.

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Spiritual Sustainability: Save the Earth Without Killing Yourself

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For much of my life, I have zealously pursued the ideal of sustainable living. A deep love for the natural world, coupled with an equally deep perfectionist streak, made me alternately — depending on the flavor of the times — an object of curiosity or subject to ridicule. However, over the past five years, I have had to admit that this ultra-determined sort of sustainability has not produced the eco-perfect life that I expected.

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Silent Spring

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First published in 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is undoubtedly one of the founding texts of the modern environmental movement. Indeed, as Al Gore noted in his introduction to a 1994 edition, “without this book, the environmental movement might have been long delayed or never have developed at all.” I suppose it is a credit to the book’s influence and power that many of its ideas have become widely accepted by the great majority of the public (surely by visitors to this site) and appear so obvious that it seems incredible someone had to write a book to prove them.

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