Monday, December 8, 2008

Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater...

Eco-awareness can strike at the most unexpected times. This weekend, I emailed my friends Chris and Denise, who are expecting their first baby in four weeks. I wished them luck – and added, as an afterthought: "PS: Whatever you do, don’t bother buying a baby bath. "Everyone does, but you don’t need one. They are big, ugly and plastic and just get in your way and you’ll never need it."

Chris emailed me back within five minutes: "Thanks for the great advice. Sadly, a large yellow baby bath is one of the first things we bought. I’m already banging my knee on it every time I get out of bed…"

I confess I was just the same when I had my first baby – and probably committed more eco sins that I care to remember. You make your way from shop to shop, clutching a list of ‘must-haves’ that ranges from cumbersome pieces of changing equipment to itty-bitty clothes and mysterious lotions and potions.
The driving force is partly hormones – that famous ‘nesting’ instinct, which hits men as well as women. It turns even the most laid-back shopper into a frenzied consumer, as if your life depends on finding a changing mat with a hopping bunnies motif or a musical mobile that promises to lull babies to sleep. Think panic buying on Christmas Eve to the power of 20.
But it’s not just hormones to blame for this mass spending spree. From the moment that magical line appears on a pregnancy test, you are bombarded with messages that you must spend, spend, spend. This is before your baby has even uttered its first cry, let alone learned to say "I want" (which leads you on whole new adventures in consumer land…).
Yes, there are accessories that make life easier (My Baby Bjorn sling became like a second skin) and products you couldn’t do without (Green Baby’s Petroleum Free Jelly zaps nappy rash – and feels a whole lot better than smearing a byproduct of the oil industry on your baby’s bottom). But there are a truckload of unnecessary things on offer that just clutter up your life.
For me, buying a baby bath was a classic case of us putting consumerism before what really matters when you have a baby. In the end, both my babies were fine - and felt far more safe and reassured - sitting between a parent’s knees in our big bath. What’s more, shelling out for these throwaway items (often made from non-recyclable plastic) not only empties your pockets, it also has an impact on the environment - and your baby certainly isn’t going to thank you for that.
But the good news is there are plenty of ways to be an ecohip parent, without sacrificing style – or the planet. All it takes is rethinking a few ideas, and you’ll all be richer in every sense.
Oh, and don’t let yourself feel guilt about not giving your baby ‘the best’. If you’re parenting with care, love and consideration, that’s the real deal, not buying up half the stock of ToysRUs.

Ecohip’s top 5 ways to be a green parent:
1 New isn’t always best
Suddenly your home will be full of ‘stuff’, from cots to car seats, buggies to baby carriers. Before you shell out, try NCT sales (see for branches), eBay ( Freecycle ( or My Skip ( to give a nearly-new item a new lease of life. If you want to buy new, go for furniture (eg high chairs) made out of sustainably forested wood rather than plastic. The only things you are recommended to always buy new are car seats (there’s no way of knowing if it’s been in an accident) and cot mattresses (there’s a possible link between second-hand cot mattresses and sudden infant death syndrome).
2 Buy feel-good clothes
A lot of high street clothes for babies and children are made out of synthetic fabrics that can trigger allergies, use potentially toxic dyes and are sourced from sweatshops overseas, where workers (often children) are paid a pittance. Go for organic cotton clothes or fairtrade items. Quality items will often last longer (or can be passed on to someone else) than ‘cheap as chips’ brands. Charity shops and nearly-new sales often yield great items that have barely been worn.
3 Play safe
Old-fashioned wooden toys or soft toys made out of organic material get our vote. After all, the first thing a baby does with a toy is put it in their mouth to test its texture. And what would you prefer your baby to chew on: organic wool or a plastic Fimble? When they get to the toddler stage, swap toys between friends or join a toy library to cut down on crowding out your house with huge items that only get played with once.
4 Cook in bulk
Keep shop-bought organic jars and pots of baby food for when you’re on the go. At home, bulk cook favourite veggie and fruit purees, and freeze in ice trays.
5 Pass it on
If you’ve finished with something that was really useful, pass it on to a friend or put it in a nearly new sale (NCT ones are well organised, and you just donate a percentage of the money you make). But I’m not making any promises you’ll be able to get rid of that hulking yellow baby bath…

What was the most unnecessary thing you bought for your baby – or the one thing you couldn’t do without? Let us know…


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What Everybody Ought to Know About Earwax

Earwax to keep or not to keep that is the question? The feeling of putting a cotton bud or Q-tip in the ear to remove earwax can be described as comforting, but are we doing any good?

The answers is not really as the earwax can be pushed down the canal and form a blockage. This can cause pain, pressure, itching, odours, ringing, ear discharge and hearing loss.

As earwax is not formed near the eardrum if one gets a build up there it can only be from probing.

Earwax should migrate outwards, its purpose is to carry dirt and debris with it, so using a Q-tip will just push this dirt back in which your body is trying to remove. It is therefore a important secretion to protect your ear.

Water can get in your ear canal -- whilst say swimming or taking a shower, for example.

Earwax As a Part of Our Protection System

The function of earwax will cause the water to bead up and move
away from your eardrum. Then the slipperiness of the wax encourages the water to run out of the canal.
Earwax is slightly acidic, which reduces bacterial or fungal growth in the moist, dark ear canal. Less earwax = more ear infections.

It's part of the body's self-cleaning system. No maintenance is required at all, except as earwax slowly migrates towards the opening of the ear canal and comes off.

Removing Earwax

If you want, you can take a washcloth and, using your finger, gently wash the opening of your ear.

So don't poke a cotton swab into your ear. A swab may remove a little wax, but it's also likely to push some deeper into the ear canal which is hourglass-shaped, and can create a plug that won't come out on its own.

So the problem is created by Q-Tips that send millions of people each year to the doctor.

Some people do produce large amounts of earwax. If your ear canal keeps getting clogged, you may need to see your doctor and have it removed.

This will most likely be removed with jets of carefully-controlled water to rinse out the ear canal and remove impacted wax. Ear specialists use a magnifying scope and a small instrument to remove wax.

How To Clean Earwax

There are some kits containing wax dissolving drops and a rubber sucking syringe that you can buy in the pharmacy but please follow directions and under supervision.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What We Gonna Do When Sh*t Hits The Fan

The last time I visited a supermarket I was thinking of our lost skills. How much we indeed lost in the course of civilization. We have lost touch with nature. Most of us are very good at tracking the lowest prices on the Internet, and perhaps frozen food in a supermarket. But would we be able to understand animal tracks in the wild.

No doubt we lost surviving skills, but what’s more frightening is most of us don’t think we still need them which is hopefully true but what if we do ………

We run out of food

The climate is getting warmer. Polar ice caps are melting, oceans are rising, coasts are eroding, and weather patterns may be shifting. Scientists are predicting increased droughts, floods (not a contradiction), wildfires, a massive disruption of agriculture and the food chain, and more severe storms—especially hurricanes. The sea level might rise by several feet in this century alone. The best-case scenarios look pretty awful.

The problem is that each tiny increase brings on a cascade of effects in weather, crops, migration, species interdependence, and so on. More rain here, less rain there. Hotter, drier earth means fewer microscopic worms fertilizing the soil, lower crop yields, and on and on and on. One quick glimpse at the minimum of devastation: The British government's chief scientist recently estimated that an increase of 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) was the minimum we could hope for, even if we managed to stabilize carbon dioxide emissions in the near future, and that this temperature increase would result in a decrease of 200 million to 400 million tons of grain production throughout the world—and subsequently threaten starvation of 400 million people.

In this scenario some of those 400 millions people could have an advantage if they knew how to survive, and used their survival skills that their ancestors knew about. And it’s not far from reality, is it?

We run of the water

Another thing is, how we treat the water. In the past many tribes treated water as a god. Since water means life, it was of utmost importance to them. And now what’s our relation to water?

We constantly waste it, either by over consumption or by polluting it. What about collecting rain water? How many of us do collect it? Perhaps you might if you knew what the future holds in available freshwater!

Further, global warming has already negatively impacted bio systems and conditions for several species. What's more, if the temperature rises further still we are looking art 400 million and 1.7 billion people won't be able to get enough water, allergic pollens will increase, and some amphibians will go extinct.

It doesn’t sound good, does it?

Get in touch with Nature
With all of the environmental changes we're experiencing, mass extinction - according to scientists - is a real possibility. It's important that as a society we begin to realize how everything in our world is connected, just like if I was to pull a hair on you leg your eyes will water.

So consider this as you make your daily decisions. It might be necessary for your survival. Learn how to collect water, save energy, grow vegetables and food, swim, and build a shelter. Learn from our friends the animals, as they don't go to supermarkets.

Learn how native tribes dealt with the world around them. You may consider them as primitive, but they had more wisdom how to treat the Nature. It also is a good fun and will get you prepared for any disaster.

Stay tuned to our next post for these survival tips.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

The Coolest Way To Get From A To B Without The C

Who said that green vehicles couldn’t be cool? We gathered the coolest ones that many of us want to have. Our favourite: Venturi Fetish, PoweriZer, Zero Bike and Worn Again. Check them out and tell us what’s yours.

Coolest Green Cars

Venturi Fetish
980kg carbon-fibre and aluminium constructed sports car with top speed 100mph. It accelerates 0-62mph in less than 5 seconds. Venturi Fetish is powered by an 180kW motor with its energy supplied by lithium-ion battery. Venturi claims its Fetish will take you 155 miles and those batteries should last around 2,000 charges – or 10 years. To recharge it’ll take 1 hour with the external charger, or if you’re out and about and need to use one of the internal chargers it’ll take 2-4 hours.

Honda Dream II
This electrical oddity might look like it’s from the future, but it’s actually more than 10 years old. The Honda Dream II was built to compete in the World Solar Challenge in 1996, a race, unsurprisingly, for solar powered cars taking place between Darwin and Adelaide. Honda entered the race in both the ’93 and ’96 - this Dream II taking part in the second event. Its inclusion gave the event a huge boost in coverage, the Honda effort shattering previous records by covering the 1866 miles in just over 4 days with an average speed of 55.8mph.

Perhaps the most notorious electric vehicle of them all General Motors EV1 has sparked a huge conspiracy debate that car manufacturers don’t really want to produce electric vehicles. And General Motors has certainly given the conspiracy theorists reason to believe there’s something not right. That’s because the EV1 was universally praised by the 465 people who leased it from the American automotive giant. Not a pretty car admittedly, but its wind cheating shape allowed it to cruise at speed in near silence and maximise the energy from its batteries.

Tesla Roadster
Tesla Roadster is the latest electric sports car to wow drivers with an environmental bent. Its performance matches its looks, the Roadster able to reach 60mph in around 4 seconds – all from a motor that Tesla describes as being ‘the size of a watermelon’. The batteries take up a bit more space, though the lithium-ion ESS (Energy Storage System) is able to run the Roadster for 250 miles without a recharge. Oh, and Tesla claim a top speed of more than 130mph.

Tesla is using Lotus’ strong and lightweight extruded aluminium chassis to underpin its electric sports car. Lotus are involved too in the Tesla’s development.

Smart EV
The Smart’s drivetrain has been developed by the Zytek Group in the UK, its electric motor and batteries giving it a 30kW output and a potential top speed of 70mph. Smart quotes a 0-30mph time of 6.5 seconds, which is reasonable, but suggests the performance after that isn’t up to much… Still, it’s a city car, and it should be quick enough to dice with town traffic. Smart claims a range of ‘up to’ 72 miles. It’s not much but well…

Coolest Bikes
Zero Bike
The bike is a hubless and very lightweight bicycle powered by cranking magnetic pedals which rotate the tires suspended between other magnets. Designed by Makota Makita and Hiroshi Tsuzaki from Tokyo.

Biomega AMS Bicycle
This multi-purpose town bike uses shaft instead of a chain, requiring less maintenance, and leaving fewer oily trousers and tangled evening dresses. A hub dynamo, 8-speed hub gear, shaft drive, and clean, deco design are well integrated on this bike.

Coolest Eco Shoes
Worn Again
Their shoes are made of everything - from bicycle tires, car seat belts, e-leather and reclaimed jeans – yet their shoes are stylish, eco and cool.

They are made of hemp and are vegan, substantial, durable and long-lasting shoes. The upper is constructed with the finest organic hemp fibers with the natural rubber outsole. Great and giving you the peace-of-mind that such an environmentally-positive footwear statement can afford.

Simple Shoes
Simple Shoes are made of recycled car tires, hemp and bamboo - the best combination for eco-aware people.

…And Now For Something Completely Different

PoweriZers are super-muscles that enhance your natural strength. Curved springs attach to the bottom of the PoweriZers and harness the gravitational energy that is created when you put your weight down. The super-charged springs push back, giving you the ability to run and jump incredible distances!

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Is Your Cell Phone Killing You?!

Can you picture the life without a cell phone? I can’t, since it’s very handy. I can rely on it like on a good friend. But my friend has two sides of which I have not been fully aware.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
I knew there might be some affects on my health, but I didn’t realize that there are so many.

I quickly did a research what bad things mobile phones may cause. The results were horrifying.

Cell phone may:
- Affect Protein Expression
- Affect Human Skin
- Affect Living Tissue
- Increase Risk of Mouth Cancer
- Harm Blood Cells

It turns out that my good friend morphed to the monster.

Looking for more details I discovered that the list of illnesses is not complete. I added another ones:

- Nausea, Headaches
- Brain Tumors
- May trigger Alzheimer's disease
- and…

…Acoustic Neurona (along with Brain Tumor)
If you have used your mobile phone for more than 10 years, you might have increased your risk of developing acoustic neuroma, a benign tumor on the auditory nerve.

Interestingly enough, studies found that the risk was confined to the side of the head that was used most often while talking on the phone. As a matter of fact, the risk of acoustic neuroma was nearly four times greater on the side of the head that the phone was most frequently held compared to the other side, which appeared normal.

Protein Expression, Living Tissue and Skin Disease
According to Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) study, “small area of forearm's skin in 10 female volunteers was exposed to RF-EMF (specific absorption rate SAR = 1.3 W/kg) and punch biopsies were collected from exposed and non-exposed areas of skin. Analysis has identified 8 proteins that were statistically significantly affected (Anova and Wilcoxon tests). Two of the proteins were present in all 10 volunteers.

This suggests that protein expression in human skin might be affected by the exposure to RF-EMF. The number of affected proteins was similar to the number of affected proteins observed in our earlier in vitro studies.”

Taking a stock mobile phone radiation might alter protein expression in human skin.
▪ Physiological significance of this change is not known and requires further study.
▪ Larger human volunteer study will be needed to confirm results of this pilot study.
▪ Proteomics screening is valid method for search for molecular targets of mobile phone radiation. Without this approach the identification of the proteins responding to mobile phone radiation would not be reasonably possible.

"Mobile phone radiation has some biological effect. Even if the changes are small, they still exist", says Dariusz Leszczynski, Research Professor at STUK.

According to Leszczynski it is much too early to say will these changes induced by the mobile phone radiation have any effect on health.

"The aim of this project was not detecting any possible health effects, but to find out whether living human skin responds to mobile phone radiation and whether proteomics approach is useful in sorting out this issue", he states.

Mouth Cancer
A recent research has shown that chatting on a mobile phone before bedtime would cause you insomnia. The team from Sweden's Karolinska Institute and Wayne State University, in Michigan, found that mobile phone radiation of 884 MHz provokes insomnia, headaches and concentration difficulties.

But these are short-term effects, and many cancers have a 10-to-20-year latency period. Still, one cancer risk has just been detected by a team at the Tel Aviv University. The new research published in the "American Journal of Epidemiology" shows that people using cell phones for many hours daily are 50% more likely to develop mouth cancer, than individuals who do not use cell phones at all. Moreover, cell phone users in rural areas could be exposed to a higher risk for cancer because cell phones have to emit higher levels of radiation for picking up the signal of the fewer available antennas.

Blood Cells
According to New Scientist:

“A study has shown that radiation from mobile phones may cause a substantial increase in the forces that living cells exert on each other. Experts said this research could be critical to providing answers to the question of whether radiation from mobile phones is linked to cancer and other health problems. Although several researchers believe this to be the case, they have been unable to come up with ways that radiation could produce this affect and harm biological tissue.

Future studies will be conducted to check the dielectric properties of various types of biological tissue during exposure to radiation across the range of frequencies normally used by mobile phones.”

Nausea and Headaches
Radio signals for the next wave of cell phones--third generation (3G) phones that transmit high-speed Internet data--caused headache, tingling sensations and nausea among participants in a research study.

The side effects occurred after participants were exposed to radiation from 3G base station signals. No side effects were noted from current mobile phone base stations.

Base stations transmit constant signals, exposing everyone within range, while cell phone handsets emit stronger levels of radiation to the user.

Government officials say further research is needed to confirm findings and explore long-term health effects.

Triggering Alzheimer's disease
After digging the BBC website I found something on Alzheimer’s disease. The study was carried out on rats.

Rats aged between 12 and 26 weeks, whose brains are thought to be in the same developmental stage as teenagers, were exposed to two hours of radiation equal to that emitted by mobile phones.

Upon examination 50 days later, researchers found an abundance of dead brain cells in rats that had been exposed to medium and high levels of radiation.

They hypothesized that in people whose neurons are prone to Alzheimer’s disease, radiation from mobile phones may trigger the disease earlier in life.

How to fight the radiation. Some tips
Surely the best way to avoid mobile phone radiation is to give up using cell phone. But this might hard for most of us. So I prepared other tips which easy to employ.

- Switch off your cell phone when you are not going to use it.

- Don’t use wireless mobile phone headset, as they make matters worse.

- Make sure that you are not talking on cell phone unless you are using a speakerphone or headset specifically designed to reduce radiation. Headset may reduce the cell phone radiation even up to 90%.

- Keep your mobile phone as far from your body as possible.

- Use Mobile Phone Bio-Shield which helps to relieve conditions associated with cell phone radiation.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Waste Less, Be Creative. Part II

In part II I’d like to focus on creative part of being green. Certainly we can’t buy all eco, organic and green stuff. What to do in those cases? Well, as an eco person I found myself rather creative in finding new ways for non-recyclable things.

Let’s have a look at some creative ideas.

Protect car seats from muddy or wet clothing (it’s good for newspapers, as recycling them it’s not recommended).

Stuff in leather shoes to preserve shape (it’s better than using shoe trees made of wood, or plastic. Newspaper is also a good deodoriser).

Stuff in wet shoes overnight to dry and deodorize.

Crumple and place in suitcase for couple of weeks to remove stale odours.

Stuff hats to keep their shape.

Stuff leather handbags in storage.

Wrap around candle bottoms so they'll fit holders tighter.

Cover store windows when remodelling.

Dampen and spread over window-panes before painting.

Use to dry and polish window after washing.

Stuff under doors and in cracks to stop cold wind fromcoming in.

Use as a bounce reflector when taking flash photographs or use to reflect sunlight into shadow areas.

Sharpen pencils by rubbing the point on newspaper.

Spread out between garden rows to discourage weeds.

Use to wrap green tomatoes to ripen.

Cover plants during a frost.

Use as a mat for wet darkroom photographs.

Put under car wheels when stuck in snow, mud or sand.

Shred and use for packing breakables.

Wrap and store Christmas tree ornaments.

Crumple (no colours) and place in plastic containers to eliminate odours

Other everyday objects
Transform a plastic ice cream tub into a flowerpot.

Turn used tires (not steel-belted) into children's swings or other playground equipment.

Plastic soda bottle uses: Make a disposable funnel from the top half Cut a scoop from the bottom half, Or use the bottom half as a plant "greenhouse."

Other eco using
You can even make your own packaging peanuts! Use real popcorn, and the recipients can sprinkle it in their garden for the birds.

Plastic grocery bags make excellent small trash can bags and are great to take with you for cloth diaper and/or accidents for babies and toddlers.

Paper grocery bags are a cheap way to cover schoolbooks.

Toilet paper rollers make great craft items.

Good heavy foil can be washed and reused time and time again.

Worn out clothes can be used as rags or saved for quilt squares.

Newspaper is great for cleaning windows and mirrors. You can also use newspaper if you have indoor pets.

Leftovers: Stop throwing them out. If you don't want them the next meal, freeze what is left after a meal. Use on those days you don't feel like cooking, or make a soup or stew.

Boxes make great storage containers, mailers, and play towns for the children.

Plastic milk jugs can be used to store water in for sudden power outages, water for plants, etc.

Small plastic water or soda bottles are great for freezing water in and taking with you on a shopping trip. This saves a lot of drink purchases while you are out.

Old mouse pads can be cut into sections to make coasters.

Last words
Only the imagination is the limit, but I’m pleased to hear other tips for converting non-recyclable things into eco stuff. Feel free to post the as a comment.

Set yourself a challenge of not how much you can recycle but rather how little you can throw away. Remember how resourceful the older generations were in wartime collecting piece of string and anything they can put to good use.

The point I'd like to add is, don't be afraid to take packaging back to the shop or supermarket where they came from. This is a real pain for the store but it will send out a message that they really need top think about reducing waste and excess packaging.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Waste Less, More Create Or The Old Shoes Story. Part I

One thing about green lifestyle is that you need to be creative; you need to look at stuff from different angles. But before I explain that, let me tell you a short story that happened to me some years ago.

The Old Shoes Story
During my travel to South Africa I met a poor guy who had no shoes. I thought I had a spare pair (by this stage I had done a lot of travelling so the shoes were poor condition). I brought the shoes and gave it to him. He accepted the gift with the enthusiasm of a kid.

The next day I returned to meet the poor man, I asked him where he got the new pair of shoes he was wearing. He exclaimed they are the ones you gave me. He had cleaned them up and fixed them and they now looked brand new. Although I was please for him there was a part of me that wanted my shoes back

Reuse? Why reuse and how?
Since the earliest civilisations man has produced waste and disposal by landfill has been the main way of dealing with it. In modern times growing industrialisation and consumerism have transformed the types and quantity of waste we generate in our every day lives. As a result, the ways in which we manage this waste have had to change dramatically over a relatively short period of time.

It has been said many times on this occasion that we should reuse whatever is possible. Actually we can reuse almost anything we want. Below are some easy non-creative tips:

Old Electrical Equipment
Donate old electrical equipment to schools or community centres so that others can reuse them.

Old Clothes and Books
Other people can reuse your unwanted clothes and books when you donate them to charity shops.

Car-boot Sale
Have a car-boot sale and get rid of some unwanted items. Other people may find a use for them, plus it gives you the opportunity to earn some extra cash.

Rechargeable Batteries
Rechargeable batteries can be reused many times before they need throwing away, opposed to regular batteries that create unnecessary waste.

Build a Compost Bin
You can reuse many waste items, such as eggshells and old tea bags, using a compost bin. This waste then degrades and turns into compost that can be used to help your garden grow.

Grass Cycling
After mowing your lawn, instead of throwing the grass cuttings away, leave them in your garden. The nutrients from the cuttings go back into the soil and act as a fertiliser.

Try to buy things that you can easily refill, like Aquaballs for laundry. Similarly you can refill ink cartridges for your home or office printer.

Use paper wisely
Recycling old newspapers is a good thing, but it’s still not the most efficient. You can use paper more creatively like using it to clean up after your pets, or bury it (layered newspaper, covered over with mulch, slowly converts a patch of earth into a bad of prime potting soil - perfect place to plant your geraniums).

Going green you not only save the planet, but also save your pocket.
In next part I will post some creative ideas how to reuse everyday objects. If you have any other good ideas, poste them as a comment.

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