Essential Oils

I have become a huge fan of essential oils; they are the essence that is extracted from various plants.  Here is a list of some of the essential oils and the properties they have:

  • Cinnamon – antiseptic, said to stimulate the body and mind
  • Clove – antiseptic, repels ants
  • Lavender – antiseptic, antifungal, traditionally used to heal skin and clean cuts
  • Lemon – antibacterial, antiseptic, deodorizing
  • Lemongrass – antiseptic, repels insects
  • Lime – antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic
  • Oregano – antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic
  • Rosemary – antiseptic
  • Sweet Orange – disinfectant
  • Tea Tree – antiseptic, disinfectant, antifungal
  • Thyme – antiseptic, disinfectant, antibacterial, antimicrobial

As you can see, the possibilities for how we can use essential oils to replace chemicals in our homes is quite vast.

 Through my readings I have realized that I want to eliminate my use of chlorine bleach (to see why refer to the end of the post), but I wondered what I would do at the cottage to sanitize after winter (aka mouse season).  This year I can use water with a few drops of the essential oil of sweet orange, tea tree or thyme (or a combination). 

I am a huge lavender fan.  I have a row of it growing beside my driveway, and in June the girls and I always pick a few sprigs to bring in the van with us.  So thus far, I have  only purchased lavender essential oil, and I have found a few ways to use it. 

We have a bagless vacuum cleaner, and sometimes when we vacuum it smells like dirty feet.  This does not add to the clean feeling.  So when I cleaned out the filters, I added a few drops of lavender essential oil on the filter.  It worked great!  When I vacuumed, it created this beautiful relaxing lavender scent while I cleaned. 

When I am cleaning my toilet, I put a couple drops of the oil in the toilet bowl with the baking soda.  I have also added lavender essential oil into a bath, and into cleaning water.  There are many homemade cleaning recipes out there that utilize essential oils, and I am collecting and planning to try out a number of them.

I really think essential oils are amazing because they are just the essence from a plant and nothing else, they have great cleaning properties, and they smell fabulous!


Why I want to eliminate my use of chlorine bleach:

Some of the direct hazards are it is extremely corrosive, it burns your skin, it is absorbed through your skin, it is a poison, it bioaccumulates (accumulates in fatty tissue and doesn’t leave), it is a respiratory irritant that viciously attacks mucous membranes, it is an indoor air pollutant, and it is dangerously reactive with organic matter (it can cause low-grade toxic reactions with dirt).

Some of the indirect hazards are it is reactive (causes dangerous reactions in the environment), it ends up in our food because it accumulates and travels up the food chain, and it causes serious health effects (linked with reproductive disorders, birth defects, developmental impairment, cancer, etc).

Published in: on February 26, 2009 at 2:13 am  Comments (1)  

My New Prgrammable Thermostat

A representative from Horizon Utilities came by this morning and installed my new, free programmable thermostat.  I signed up for the peek saver program, which gives you a $25 credit on your account and a free programmable thermostat.   Then at peek energy times they can send a wireless signal to temporarily alter the central air conditioner’s compressor cycle to 15 minutes on then 15 minutes off for 4  hours between May and September.  I think it is a win – win situation.  They have installed aournd 7000 so far in St. Catharines and Hamilton.  And if you have been thinking about it, they have just updated the thermostats that they are installing – so now is a good time.

In our household energy use 49% goes towards heating and cooling, anything we can do in our homes to improve heating and cooling pays off big for the environment, and usually for our wallet.

Here are some helps in the heating and cooling area:

  • replace older heating systems with an energy efficient furnace
  • check and replace filters regularly, have annual tune-ups, make sure all the ducts are sealed properly to ensure maximum air flow
  • installing a programmable thermostat can save 5-10% on an energy bill
  • use a ceiling fan instead of AC (the fan uses one tenth the electricity per year)
  • living in the northern hemisphere plant coniferous trees on the north side to block cold winds and plant deciduous trees on the south side for shade (carefully positioned trees can save up to 25% of the energy used for cooling)
  • close curtains and blinds at night during winter and during the day in the summer
  • turn the thermostat down by 1 or 2 degrees

A great way to determine your home energy deficits is to bring in an energy auditor or a home performance analyst.  There is also government funding for this (this one is specifically Ontario).

The government is interested in helping us to be more energy efficient.  Here are a couple of other websites that list some funding available through Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada.  It is a bit of reading, but if you are thinking of making changes, check these websites out first.

I am excited about the new thermostat, and if I wanted I could change the temperature in my house right now.  It is accessible over the Internet, cool hey?!

Published in: on February 19, 2009 at 7:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

SOA Watch

I have been reading today, and I had to blog right away about the SOA Watch, because it brings up a new thread in the web of abuse. 

The SOA Watch according to their website “is  an independent organization that seeks to close the US Army School of the Americas, under whatever name it is called, through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as well as media and legislative work. ”

What is this school?  It is an army training base located in Fort Benning, Georgia.  The school trains Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, and the graduates have killed many of their own people.  According to the SOA Watch website: “Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins.”

The thread of the evil of military repression is an integral part in the web of economic oppression.  The militia are ready to brutalize and kill people who stand up against the injustices of economic greed within their community.  I recognized the presence and evils of the military, but did not think of their training.  The fact that these soldiers are being trained in the States to kill brave folks standing up against oppression is terrible.  I just want to applaud the efforts of this group that is trying to shut down this school, so please go check out their website.

Published in: on February 15, 2009 at 9:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Green Valentine

My husband surprised me with some green valentine’s gifts.  He bought me the Cradle to Cradle book that I have been wanting to read (let me know if you want to borrow it), and a page a day calendar called Living Green: 365 ways to make a difference.  It was a great surprise and it is nice to know that I have support in this journey.  We cannot help the earth and the people on it alone.

For my girls, I decided to give them a different Valentine’s gift.  Each Saturday comes with Saturday morning chores that need to be finished before the fun of the day begins.  My Valentine’s gift was to do their chores with them, and this elicited much thanks.  Hannah even said that she dreamed that I would say that. 

I hope your Valentine’s has been green.

Published in: on February 14, 2009 at 8:03 pm  Comments (1)  

Food Miles

I am now well aware of the miles that food travels, the statistics state that food on average travels around 1300 miles to reach our plate.  This notion was really brought home last night.

Last night our niece took Chris and I out to The Keg for dinner, she had a gift card from her workplace and kindly decided to take us with her.   I am not much for beef, so I usually have salmon at the Keg, but I thought I need to ask where this salmon is from.  Chris was skeptical – how can you tell if it is responsibly fished based on where it is from.  Of course, I have not done enough research to know that.  But I thought what is the harm in asking, right?  Well, when the waitress came back (because she had no clue where it was from), she let us know that it came from – guess – New Zealand!  I was totally not expecting that.  I did not want to have something that had literally travelled half-way around the world – so I had chicken.

Eating local food is always a great idea, but not always available.  I know there are also some local restaurants that try to serve local fare, and they need to be supported.  I think part of this green process is about asking questions and thinking ahead.  We can’t used our fast-paced life as an excuse for not taking the time to ask questions, be informed, and make changes.

Published in: on February 14, 2009 at 2:18 am  Comments (2)  

Did you turn off the …?

When I grew up this phrase usually ended with “the lights”, and I have heard myself ask my own kids that question numerous times.  It is obvious, right? We see the lights on, so we know they need to be turned off.  Well, now because of  phantom power I think the phrase will end a little differently.

Did you know that on average 75% of all electricity used to power household electronic items is sent to them while they are turned off?  Considering that electronics account for 7 % of our total household energy use, what would happen if we did some unplugging?  

We currently have our computer and our television/DVD/stereo all plugged into power bars, and for the last couple of weeks I have been turning off the power bar when they are not in use.  It is actually not that inconvenient. 

Did you turn off the power bar?

Published in: on February 11, 2009 at 7:37 pm  Comments (1)  

Green Living Show

I was trying to do some research on the internet the other night, and I was getting very overwhelmed.  There are a lot of companies out there, and it is just hard for one person to find out everything.  However, as I was nearing my end, I was so delighted to find out about the Green Living Show.  Finding this information redeemed all the other time I had already spent.

The Green Living Show is a huge eco-show happening in Toronto on April 23 – 26, and I have it booked in my schedule.  I am so excited, because I can actually talk to people about all these issues.  It is the 3rd Annual event, and it looks like it will be so good.  Check it out for yourself.

Published in: on February 8, 2009 at 2:47 am  Leave a Comment  


Before, when I thought about cotton, I thought clean, comfy, and pure.  Well, I have to let go of that image now that I really know about cotton. 

Conventionally grown cotton is not a pretty crop.  Here are some of the dirty details:

  • Cotton requires a long growing season and huge amounts of water, causing desertification in some parts of the world.
  • Cotton consumes around 25% of the worldwide insecticides and more than 10% of the pesticides, while occupying only 3% of the farmland.
  • The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies 7 of the top 15 cotton pesticides as human carcinogens.
  • It takes around a 1/4 lb of chemicals to produce  1 T-shirt.
  • After harvest cotton is typically bleached (chemicals), dyed (more chemicals), and then treated with a formaldehyde finish (yet more chemicals).
  • In California cotton gin trash (the left-over leaves, stems,  and short fibers) is so contaminated that it is illegal to feed it to cows.  So instead the gin trash is used to make mattresses, pillows, tampons, cotton balls, etc.

Supporting conventional cotton growing is not something that I want to be a part of, so what are the other options out there?  Organic products are, of course, the recommendation: cotton, hemp, bamboo, ramie (an asian grass used to cover mummys back in the day), linen, silk (the caterpiller friendly kind – in which they let the caterpillers live), wool, alpaca, cashmere, and lyocell (wood pulp).  Choosing hemp and bamboo, even if they are not organic, are still a better choice because they require little to no fertilizer.

Avoid nylon, polyester, and acrylic which are all fossil fuels. 

I did a little web surfing the other night, and I found a few Canadian companies that are offering some of these products online, including fabric.  A lot of the products in clothing tend toward yoga wear, t-shirts, items for women and infant/toddlers.  So, as far as I can tell at this point, the selections are somewhat limited.  There is more choice if you are looking for houshold linens and towels.

I think, for the moment, second hand stores are going to be the ticket for me.  That way I will not consume raw materials and I will help limit new uglies from being created in the environment (as well as not unknowingly supporting sweatshops).  Swapping clothes with friends is another great way to get a new wardrobe without being wasteful, and it would be so fun to organize a Swap-O-Rama-Rama.  The website states at the outset of their philosophy:

“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.”  –Gandhi




Driving in the Slow Lane

I am not sure if it is growing up on a farm in rural Alberta, or just the genes passed down to me from my father, but I have been know to have a heavy foot when it comes to driving.  (Although, I did not try to kill gophers on the road while driving at high speeds, like Dad did.)  So moving to the slow lane is difficult for me.

For every gallon of gas a car burns it releases 20 lbs of carbon dioxide into the air, so to preserve our earth we need to foster fuel efficiency.  So I have a list of 10 things we can do to be more fuel efficient in our automobiles, because not all of us can afford to go out and purchase a Toyota Prius.

  1. The optimal fuel efficiency for all cars is around 100 km/h, so drive the speed limit.
  2. Keep your tires properly inflated because then there is less surface area that comes in contact with the road, therefore creating less drag.
  3. Idling for more than 10 seconds is actually less efficient than turning the car off and on again, so avoid drive throughs.
  4. Drive at a steady speed, and avoid sudden braking or accelerating.
  5. In manuel transmission switch to a higher gear as soon as possible.
  6. Using the AC decreases fuel efficiency (easy right now, but lets see how it goes come summer).
  7. Keep the air filters clean.
  8. Pack light, don’t carry around extra stuff in your car.
  9. Keep the engine properly maintained.
  10. Smile at all the people passing you in the slow lane, maybe they will see how much fun it is to slow down and want to join in.

I have made a couple successful trips to the Hamilton Airport in the slow lane.  The first time was the hardest, and I had to talk myself through the experience.  I kept telling myself: just relax, think of how much less carbon dioxide you are producing, the slow lane is the new cool lane, etc.  The true test will be if I can stay in the slow lane for the whole 3 hour trip to the cottage – with small children.

Published in: on February 3, 2009 at 2:27 am  Comments (1)  


I was not aware that I was using rat poison to clean my teeth. 

Some of you may have known, but I was not aware that sodium flouride was used as rat poison and as an insecticide for plants (until the plants started dying).  Now I know why the dental hygenist is always saying, make sure you don’t swallow, during the flouride treatment.  I know that I have swallowed a lot of toothpaste over the years.   (Maybe that is what killed the tapeworm.)   Chances are I still have the flouride inside me, because it is one of the chemicals that bioaccumulates (which means it collects in the tissues).

So, if I don’t swallow then I will be fine, right?!  Well, there is also a chemical called sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), which is used in many products, including toothpaste, to help create bubbles, and lather.  What SLS’s do are increase the skin’s ability to absorb, so whatever chemicals are in a product can penetrate more easily  through the skin.

The other things that could penetrate through the skin besides the sodium flouride are coal tar products (like saccharin or synthetic food dyes).  Doesn’t that just make your teeth feel so clean!  I also did not know that I was using coal to clean my teeth.

I took my kids toothpaste, which was close to being empty, and looked at the ingredients.  Some of them were: 11% sodium flouride, SLS, and the dye Yellow 10 Lake, which is not recommended in Europe for kids because it is believed to make them hyper, distracted, and prone to throwing tantrums.  My kids have stopped using that toothpaste.  I replaced it with an eco-friendly product; there was even bubble gum flavour.  Although it took some time to find the right one, because some of the products in the eco-section still had flouride and SLS.

The reviews are Sarah doesn’t really like the new toothpaste, but Hannah has not complained.  I picked up one for me from Green Beaver, and I really love the way my teeth feel when I am finished.  It takes a little bit to get used to the fact that it does not lather up, but I know if it did lather there would be SLS in it.

Happy brushing!!

Published in: on February 1, 2009 at 5:40 am  Comments (1)