Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Fat Idea

A little seemingly weird news for this day before Thanksgiving. San Francisco is urging its residents to keep their turkey fat and turn it in to make fuel. That's right, they're even making it convenient by allowing residents to jar it up and take it to certain grocery stores, where the drippings will be collected and turned into fuel either for vehicles or into electricity for its wastewater facility.
Too bad this technology isn't available everywhere.

I'll be off on Friday, playing a little with friends and family in Kansas City. On Monday, I'll start the Green Holiday Season off with posting about ways to make your holiday season more earth-friendly.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

What Bugs Me

I've blogged before about the critters we have here in the woods. It's not surprising, but it can be a little disconcerting to go into the bathroom and see a spider climbing out of your tub faucet. In the fall, we have ladybugs, which aren't nearly as scary.
Some of the issues that bug us stem from our crawl space basement, which consists of a dirt floor. It really isn't secure enough to make the bugs stay out. My husband has mentioned setting off bug bombs several times - particularly in the winter, when he has to go down there and seal up the vents - and in the spring when he's down there again.
I've fought against this though, knowing that filling the air with poison could harm more than just the bugs. This week, I had an article to show him that backed up my point. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that bug bombs can be very harmful to people and pets. It also gives alternative ways to control pests:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Renewable Funding

When we moved here to the Ozarks, there was nothing I would have liked more than to be able to say "goodbye" to our electric company - or at least cut down on what we use from them. Although we have a perfectly good electricity producing dam not 20 miles from our house, our energy comes from a nuclear plant in New Orleans.
However, the cost of solar was so prohibitive that we quickly dropped that idea. I was alerted a couple of weeks ago to a program being tested in Berkley, Calif. in which homeowners are able to finance solar panels through a 20 year line item added to their property tax bill. That certainly changes the ballgame and could make solar more affordable for more individuals. I don't look for my county to institute it anytime soon though.
For more information, go to

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Great American Smoke Out

I have a lot of reasons to urge people who smoke to take the opportunity tomorrow to participate in the Great American Smokeout, which is designed to help smokers take just one day to show they can quit. A recent study showed that 2/3 of smokers in Missouri have a strong desire to quit within the next six months. There's no time like the present.
My mother smoked for over 60 years before a heart attack forced her to stop cold turkey. However, by then it was too late. She had advanced stage COPD. In her last year, I went to visit her and she was in her apartment crying. When I asked her what was wrong, she said that she had spent the entire day trying to fold a blanket to drape over the back of her couch. Although she was on oxygen, she kept losing her breath and had to sit down between folds. What would have taken a healthy person only a few seconds, was a major chore for her.
In the end, she hardly had the breath to go to the bathroom. It was excruciating for her, and it was horrible to watch her decline.
There's also the environmental impact of smoking, which not only pollutes the air of your loved ones, but the butts you leave takes decades to fully decompose.
So, please, do it for yourself. Do it for your loved ones. Do it for our earth.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Furnaces

Now is the time of year some of you may be turning on your furnaces and finding out that the old unit just isn't going to give you one more winter. My friend in Pennsylvania had been having problems with their furnace for a couple of years. They decided to bite the bullet and go with a new system. While it isn't a fun expense, a new, energy efficient furnace can keep you comfortable during the cold winter months, while helping the environment.
They went with a 93% energy efficient furnace. Another advantage to getting a newer more efficient unit is that you should start seeing the difference on your energy bills right away.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Avoiding the Flu

Sometimes in our quest to be more natural, we shy away from routine medicines that might make us better. While I subscribe to a certain extent to the power of herbs and natural remedies, I believe modern science also plays a part in our health.
My father came from a very large family - he was the youngest of 13. The one thing I think he always felt was missing was knowing most of his siblings. By the time he was born in 1923, most of his siblings were dead. They had died in the influenza outbreak of 1918.
Today, while the flu is rarely fatal for people who don't have other complicating health factors, we have the benefit of having a vaccine that my aunts and uncles who died that year did not.
My husband, mother and I started getting flu shots probably about a decade ago when we first learned Mom had COPD, a chronic lung disease. The flu, as well as pneumonia is very dangerous for people with chrnoic lung conditions. Now that Mom is gone we still get our flu shots. For one thing, my husband is a diabetic and it is recommended by his doctor. Diabetics who get ill have a terrible time controlling their blood sugar levels.
For another, I hate being sick, and I don't want to take 7-14 days from my life to nurse the flu.
The flu shots are safe for most people and it is a myth you can actually catch the flu from the vaccine.
I'm going to get mine today.
From the CDC, here's a list of people who should not get a shot before talking with their doctor:

People who are have a severe allergy to hens' eggs
People who have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccine in the past
People who previously developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) in the 6 weeks after getting a flu shot

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fire Saves on Energy - Must Be Safe

Many of us are using wood and pellet burning stoves and fireplaces to save on energy costs this year. However, the tragic death of 9-year-old Kolton Real in a house fire here in the Ozarks over the weekend reminds us to be safe with our heat. It's not yet completely known what caused that fire, but officials are guessing it was some type of pellet stove used to help heat the home.
When we sold our house in Kansas City last year, the inspector found we had a chimney fire in our often-used fireplace. "Lucky it didn't burn your house down," said the inspector. We had to make an insurance claim for a fire and have the interior of the chimney dismantled and replaced to make it safe for the new owner. It's very important a safety inspection is conducted each year on your chimney, and that it is cleaned.
Here are a few other tips to help keep you warm and safe this winter:

Keep all flammable household items—drapes, furniture, newspapers, and books—far away from your wood stove.
Start fires only with clean newspaper and dry kindling. Never start a fire with gasoline, kerosene, charcoal starter, or a propane torch.
Do not burn wet or green (unseasoned) logs.
Do not use logs made from wax and sawdust in your wood stove or fireplace insert – they are made for open hearth fireplaces. If you use manufactured logs, choose those made from 100 percent compressed sawdust.
Build small, hot fires. A smoldering fire is not a safe or efficient fire.
Keep the doors of your wood stove closed unless loading or stoking the live fire.
Regularly remove ashes from your wood stove into a metal container with a cover. Store the container of ashes outdoors on a cement or brick slab (not on a wood deck or near wood).
Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
If possible, properly install an insert to help efficiency.
Always have a working smoke and carbon monoxide detector in the home.

Tips provided by the EPA at:

Friday, November 07, 2008

A New Environmental Day

Only time will tell, and the environment is just one of the many challenges newly elected President Barrack Obama will face.
We'll also be watching closely to see if he keeps his promise to "recycle" an unwanted pet and adopt from either a shelter or a rescue group.