The Green Apartment

Solar panels, programmable thermostats and STAR appliances—when it comes to being green, homeowners seem to have all the fun! But there are simple ways that apartment dwellers can make their living spaces more green as well.

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Are Plastics a Good Idea for Food Preservation?

Freezing foods in plastic containers isn't as worrisome as heating them, but if you're leery of plastic, glass containers designed to withstand large temperature extremes, such as Ball Jars (aka Mason jars), like the one pictured here, or anything made by Pyrex, can be a sensible alternative. Just be sure not to load them to the brim as some foods expand when frozen.
Photo credit: Johnathunder, Wikipedia.

Dear EarthTalk: I love to cook and when I have the time I make soups, stews and pasta meals in large batches and freeze them. I use leftover plastic containers, but I know this is not good. What kinds of containers are safe for freezer food storage?
-- Kathy Roberto, via e-mail

Reusing leftover plastic food containers to store items in the freezer may be noble environmentally, but it might not be wise from the perspective of keeping food safely frozen and tasting its best when later heated up and served. Many such containers are designed for one-time use and then recycling, so it’s not worth risking using them over and over. Likewise, wax paper, bread wrappers and cardboard cartons should not be used to store frozen foods; these types of containers don’t provide enough of a barrier to moisture and odors and also may not keep food fresh when frozen.

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Is Tap Water Better?

photo courtesy joshme17 on flickr

W"hat's in that bottle of water you just bought? Ads suggest it's pure H2O, implying that it's less contaminated by pollutants than what flows from the tap. But recent tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit environmental organization based in Washington, D.C., show that 10 bestselling brands of bottled water contained "a surprising array of chemical contaminants...at levels no different from those found in tap water."

The International Bottled Water Association countered that the EWG's report contained "false claims and exaggerations" and maintains that bottled water meets federal standards for drinking water quality.

So what's a water drinker to do? Get the facts and then decide for yourself.

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Boxed Wine: A Green Option for the Holidays

There are no bottles in these boxes of wine -- just wine and the plastic pouch that holds it. It's a great "green" option for holiday parties. Boxing instead of bottling wine saves half the shipping weight (and associated carbon emissions) and keeps the product fresher longer. Photo: BotaBox.

Dear EarthTalk: Apparently boxed wine (instead of bottled) is becoming all the rage for environmental reasons. What are the eco-benefits of boxed wine over bottled?
--Justin J., Los Angeles, CA

With more and more wineries offering organic varieties to lower their eco-footprint, it’s no surprise that they’re looking at the environmental impacts of their packaging as well. The making of conventional glass bottles (and the corks that cap them) uses significant quantities of natural resources and generates considerable pollution. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the process of manufacturing glass not only contributes its share of greenhouse gas emissions but also generates nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and tiny particulates that can damage lung tissue when breathed in.

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15% Off Keds "Green Label" environmentally-friendly shoes

Via the Bargainist:

15% off Keds "Green Label" shoes with coupon code KEDSINSTYLE at checkout.


Paid to cloth diaper

Wow! I found this article: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/topstories/tm_objectid%3D16697797%26method%... written awhile ago, (in 2006) and I am wondering WHY the U.S. has not followed suit! Does anyone know if this program has been successful? If so, how can we bring it to other countries? At this point in time, I know that women's clinics in the U.S.

Make Your Own Natural Dishwasher/Scouring Powder

For some time now I've been experimenting with making my own dishwasher powder. I've tinkered with the basic formula, even at one point adding Kool-Aid to it (for the citric acid--it turned out to be a crucial step in figuring the formula out). In further experimentation I've discovered it makes a decent no-scratch scouring powder as well, more like Bon Ami than Comet.

What I've discovered is that it doesn't work as well as some of the commercial detergents; however I have found that it works just as well as the major " green alternative" dishwasher detergents, if not a little better, and at a fraction of the cost. If you don't like scraping your dishes and rinsing them off, you won't like homemade powder; I found you had to be diligent about getting all food particles off your dishes because the dishwasher powder will not do it for you. Of course, many dishwashers require you to do this anyway, but oftentimes people are lazy. Like, uh, me. But this is so much easier on the environment and the pocketbook it's worth taking the time to properly prepare the dishes I've found.

The formula
Here, after much experimenting, is the formula for dishwashing powder...

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Vinegar: (Almost) the Only Cleaner You'll Ever Need

Most cleaning products fall into one of two categories: toxic or expensive. While both types will clean almost anything (or at least, anything within their limited range of capabilities), there's a third option. It's inexpensive and not at all poisonous to humans. It's multi-purpose as well--one container will take care of laundry, kitchen cleaning, even bugs and weeds. This "miracle cleaner" is vinegar.

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27 Ways to Clean with Baking Soda

There are many non-poisonous products that can be used for basic household cleaning. Next to vinegar, the most useful of these is baking soda.

Like vinegar, baking soda has three major things going for it as a cleanser:

  • It's non-toxic. Sure, eaten in large amounts it might make you feel unpleasant, but it's not poisonous.
  • It's multi-purposed. The suggestions in this article are only a few of the many ways that baking soda can be used as a household cleanser.
  • Best of all, it's CHEAP! The cost of baking soda (especially when purchased in several pound large boxes) is far less than that of any other, specialized cleaning agent.
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