This spring Enviro Girl taught a class of 2nd graders about nutrition and one of the activities they did involved reading the labels on various beverage containers: a can of soda, a bottle of sports drink, a juice box, a pint of milk, a pint of chocolate milk, a pint of orange juice. They were collectively astonished at how much sugar was in all of the drinks. Continue reading
It’s dandelion season in many parts of the U.S. If you don’t have a sea of yellow on your lawn yet, you probably will soon. The temptation is to KILL THEM ALL with POISON POISON HERBICIDE POISON, but Enviro Girl begs you, please reconsider.
That monoculture of a green lawn is very unhealthy for many reasons. Let’s start with bees. The poor bees have been decimated in recent years. One of the reasons is because of chemical poisons people use to kill pests and weeds. Another reason is because bees require a diversified landscape. More plants means more biodiversity which benefits insect populations as well as bird populations. Just as people cannot live well on a diet of only one food, neither can any other creature. Biodiversity in your backyard benefits many creatures and even helps reduce population imbalances.
To get a stronger sense of how a monoculture destroys biodiversity, click on this link: Cornstalks Everywhere But Nothing Else, Not Even A Bee. If you plant only one thing, very few things survive. Consequently, other things thrive without their natural predators to keep populations in check. Enviro Girl’s in-laws live within an Iowa cornfield and she can attest to the devastation of planting nothing but corn firsthand. The mass amounts of black flies and Asian beetles is pretty overwhelming, but with no birds, bats or other insects to eat them, they continue to reproduce unchecked.
Soil and water health also depend upon humans NOT spraying herbicides across their lawns. Dandelion killer also kills the beneficial fungi and organisms in soil that helps other things, like grass and flowers and earthworms, grow. There’s no specifically targeted way to eliminate one plant with a broadfield application without somehow damaging other plant life and soil health. Residual amounts of weedkiller end up washed away into water systems, creating a new set of problems. According to the EPA, of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 17 are detected in groundwater, and 23 have the potential to leach.
It stands to reason, then, if weedkiller is bad for the environment, it’s also bad for us people. Again, let’s check out some EPA facts:
*Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides 19 have studies pointing toward carcinogens, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 15 with neurotoxicity, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 27 are sensitizers and/or irritants, and 11 have the potential to disrupt the endocrine (hormonal) system.
*Scientific studies find pesticide residues such as the weedkiller 2,4-D and the insecticide carbaryl inside homes, due to drift and track-in, where they contaminate air, dust, surfaces and carpets and expose children at levels ten times higher than preapplication levels. In other words, just because you apply it on the yard and tell kids to stay off your grass, that’s no guarantee you’re keeping children away from the poison.
*This especially gave Enviro Girl pause as she knows of five young people recently diagnosed with leukemia: A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute finds home and garden pesticide use can increase the risk of childhood leukemia by almost seven times.
*Which doesn’t make this tidbit terribly surprising: The U.S. GAO has told Congress on several occasions that the public is misled on pesticide safety by statements characterizing pesticides as “safe” or “harmless.” EPA states that no pesticide is 100 percent safe.
*And if you’ve ever tried to read the label on a lawn care product, this probably doesn’t surprise you AT ALL: pesticide products are made of an active ingredient and several inert, or other, ingredients. Inert ingredients are neither chemically, biologically nor toxicologically inert. Inerts are not disclosed to the public due to their status as “trade secrets”. Active ingredients usually comprise only 5% of the actual product; the other ingredients make up the majority of a given pesticide product or formulation.
You can read more scary stuff here. Enviro Girl’s pretty freaked out right now, aren’t you?
So what SHOULD you do? Mow the dandelions, endure the two weeks of dandelion season, and do whatever you can to improve your turf (soil health, choice of plants, keep mower blade at least 3 inches off the ground) so other stuff crowds out dandelions trying to take root and thrive. If you’ve got a small lawn and plenty of time, you can fork ‘em out one by one. But please, pretty pretty please with sugar on top, for the sake of your environment and ours, do not assault your dandelions with weedkillers!
It’s a new season at Enviro Girl’s house. The basketballs have been put aside, the baseball gloves and soccer balls are out of storage. Because she’s got 3 growing boys, Enviro Girl is used to shelling out for sporting gear as her kids play on a variety of teams. But she’s also thrifty and environmentally-conscious. Instead of buying her kids’ (or her own) gloves, cleats, clothes and other sporting equipment brand new from a local Big Box store like Dick’s or Scheels or even Target, she recommends the following: Continue reading
Earth Hour is the World Wildlife Fund’s project in which people, businesses, and governments all over the world turn off their lights for one hour to show their support for action on climate change. Earth Hour is a symbolic event designed to engage people from all walks of life in the climate change discussion in order to send a strong message to our political leaders that we want them to take meaningful action on climate change.
Enviro Girl was at a party the other night and again found herself explaining Habitat ReStore to someone. It blows her mind that everyone living in her area isn’t already aware of this awesome shop. When a Dunkin’ Donuts opens up, people line up around the block. But Habitat ReStore, a place twice as fabulous as any donut shop, still seems to fly under everyone’s radar.
On Monday, Enviro Girl posted some terrific tips on eating healthy meals on a budget. Recycla’s family shops, cooks, and eats the same way and they eat very well without a lot of hassle.
One little thing that Recycla does is make breadcrumbs instead of buying them. Buying breadcrumbs at the store appears to be mostly an American thing, as Recycla’s friends in Europe have told her that they don’t have breadcrumbs in stores there.
Enviro Girl has little patience for manufactured holidays because they stand for everything bad for the environment: waste, consumerism, pollution and packaging. She despises the aisles full of Valentine’s Day crap pitched at people–perfumes, stuffed animals, candy and heart-shaped trinkets. Her family only celebrates Valentine’s Day by default. Enviro Girl’s sons bring cards to their classmates and send cards to the grandparents. That’s it. But IF Enviro Girl’s husband were to suddenly get struck by Cupid’s arrow, here are ten loving gestures that she wouldn’t snub: Continue reading
Enviro Girl has written before about how her family tries to reduce their household waste. Her household (5 people, 1 dog) produces roughly one tall kitchen garbage bag of garbage each week. She pushes her family’s dumpster to the end of their driveway once a month. Managing their waste means not dumping it in the county landfill. Enviro Girl often imagines how her taxes might fall if everyone in her area managed waste the same way: Continue reading
The other day Enviro Girl was talking to another mom at their sons’ basketball game. This mom has 3 little kids and hasn’t invested a lot of time in updating her wardrobe. “When I shop, I always end up getting stuff for them. It’s just so overwhelming even getting started on shopping for myself. I know my closet is hopelessly outdated. I don’t even know where to start.” That’s the gist of what she said, anyway. Enviro Girl saw her opening.
One of Enviro Girl’s favorite winter hobbies involves a $15 outdoor bird feeder. Every day feathered visitors fly in for a meal, hang out on the tree branches and fence posts and add color to the dull winter landscape. Cardinals, finches, jays and sparrows congregate throughout the day and enliven the view outside Enviro Girl’s living room window.
Birds add diversity to any habitat which strengthens the environment. Birds are entertaining to watch, they help control insect populations and they play a huge role in propagating plant life. As nature hobbies go, bird feeding is inexpensive, easy and fun for people of all ages. In fact, Enviro Girl has purchased and set up feeders for her grandparents so they can appreciate the great outdoors from inside their homes. She cannot recommend enough the joy of a bird feeder strategically placed outside a nursing home window. If you’re looking for a way to brighten the day of anyone bedridden or confined, bringing birds outside their window is a great way to do it.
How can you create a backyard bird paradise? Even in the dead of winter, it can be done and here’s how: