As a child, I hated cleaning day, but not for the reasons you might think. I disliked it because of the strong chemicals used to clean the house. The harshly strong scents of ammonia, starch, and chlorine bleach hurt my nose, gave me headaches, and caused skin rashes, but I didn’t connect my symptoms with cleaning products until I was an adult.
Most people don’t associate their home-sweet-homes with toxins but many homes are unknowingly filled with them. And many commonly used cleaning products are just as bad, if not worse.
Scented laundry detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets
Mold and mildew
Toxic gases from: carpeting and rugs, shower curtains, sheets and towels, and dry-cleaned clothing to name a few
- Plug-in, spray, and other air fresheners
The library has many books to help you green your house for the environment and your health.
You can clean your house with borax, baking soda, lemon juice, and white vinegar. Even old-fashioned, been-around-forever Bon Ami cleanser is non-toxic or you can buy many of the green cleaning products available everywhere now in ready-made formulas including Seventh Generation, J.R. Watkins, and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day to name a few.
For more ways to detox your home of harmful chemicals that cause allergies, headaches, and skin irritations, here are a few suggestions:
Toxic Free: How to Protect your Health and Home from the Chemicals that Are Making You Sick
by Debra Dadd-Redalia
Home Safe Home: Protecting Yourself and Your Family From Everyday Toxics and Harmful Household Products
by Debra Lynn Dadd
What’s in This Stuff? The Hidden Toxins in Everyday Products and What You Can Do About Them by Pat Thomas
Each January, many of us decide to change our lives. There are the usual things we want to do:
End bad habits:
Handle money better:
Work out and lose weight:
These are all good things to focus on, but here are some ideas for other changes you could make.
Add some creativity to your life:
Make it yourself:
Whatever you choose to do with your new year, I hope you have a wonderful one.
Perhaps the only holiday I dislike as much as Christmas is St. Patrick’s Day. I also loathe being Irish. That’s right. Amongst other things, I have little pride in my ancestors’ alcoholism, bad skin, belligerence, and boiled potato cuisine.
But what is perhaps best about public libraries is that they are places to be easily introduced to different cultures and to overcome one’s prejudice. So on March 17th, instead of being outside watching some hooligan in a green hat vomit on the sidewalk, I’ll be working at the library amidst some of the wondrous things that Ireland and the Irish have to offer. For instance:
- Though William Butler Yeats (born in Sandymount, Ireland in 1865) made forays into mysticism that got a bit ridiculous, I love his poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.”
- The books and plays by brilliant, witty Oscar Wilde (born in Dublin, Ireland in 1854) have at least one quotable line on every single page. I just re-read The Picture of Dorian Gray a couple of months ago and I also drove around listening twice in a row to an audio recording of The Importance of Being Earnest without realizing that it featured the guy who played Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- Oh, Irish music. I don’t care for most jigs and reels and pub sing-a-longs. I also don’t know why people (including lots of ex-skinheads) like The Pogues and their thoroughly unappealing sounding frontman, Shane McGowan, so much. What I do think the Irish are great at, though, are the sentimental songs like “Galway Bay” that long for home.
- You might know him from Bridesmaids, but I love Irish actor Chris O’Dowd and his accent in the comedy series The IT Crowd.
- Why would one sit in a pub when surrounded by fabulously green hills, harsh but beautiful coastline, and ancient, mysterious stone structures? Until I actually go visit Ireland myself (and I will soon!), I’ll be thumbing through books with lots of pictures of it.
— Tim O’Tim McTim
Money? Nope. This green will introduce a color other than white into your life. With seemingly no end in sight to the winter wonderland outside your window, March 20, the official start of spring, feels much too far away. Terrariums! They’re an easy and fun way to get your spring fix in the dead of winter, not to mention an ideal situation for the forgetful gardener who can’t seem to remember to water.
With no more than a glass jar, gravel, soil, plants, and some cute vintage woodland inspired trinkets, you can create your very own indoor ecosystem from the comforts of home. Between thrift stores and nurseries, all the low-cost supplies you’ll need can easily be acquired. Tons of online tutorials are available. Some places to get started can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here. And as always, the Library has a collection of resources to help you fashion your own personal forest.
Thanks to the Pennsylvania Resources Council, I am now the proud owner of an Earth Machine. The PRC offers affordable backyard composting classes, where they break down (forgive the pun) the basics of composting and provide attendees with a bin. While composting has intrigued me for some time, I was surprised to discover several key points. Namely, it doesn’t smell bad if done correctly, it’s easy, it doesn’t require much space, and it doesn’t take very long.
If you garden with herbs, fruits and veggies, flowers or trees and shrubs, composting can provide you with a great way to amend the soil in just a few weeks. Using the same ground for years at a time has reduced some of the nutrients in my already typically Pittsburgh clay-like yard, but composting creates dark, rich humus that restores beneficial qualities to the soil. Composting is also a great way to reduce the amount of yard and kitchen waste I leave on the curb for the city to collect. Municipal waste management is among the highest costs cities must deal with, and it feels good to know that I’m doing my part to help my garden, the environment and the city budget at the same time.
One more bit of good news about recycling…even though I’m doing what I can to battle the devastating effects of plastic bags, recycling my 1s through 5s, and composting has reduced my weekly garbage day contribution, all the junk mail, old bills, magazines and other paper I throw away still weighs on my conscience. Not anymore though! This week I discovered the Paper Retriever bins–bright yellow and blue dumpsters placed throughout communities where people can drop off paper to be recycled. Their locator showed me that there are two right by my house.
Michael Pollan recently wrote a moving call to action for small, individual eco-actions, and as I take the time to set up systems for my everyday activities, going green gets easier and easier.