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Public Green Blog

Green Your Spring Cleaning

Do you dread spring cleaning because of the harsh chemicals and overpowering smells given off by your average cleaning products? Then consider trying to green your spring cleaning choices this year. Consumer Reports recently tested various green cleaners, including all purpose cleaners, dishwasher detergents with low phosphates, dishwashing liquids, laundry liquids and powders, and shower cleaners. Check out which products fared best at Consumer Reports Green Product Watch: Best Spring Cleaners.

Did you know you can also create your own cleaners from some basic ingredients you may already have in your home? Consumer Reports has also created a list basic ingredients and homemade household cleaner recipes. Check them out at Homemade Household Cleaners: Best Recipes.

Do you have a tried and true recipe for your own green cleaner, or did you try one of the recipes suggested by Consumer Reports? If so, please feel free to share your results by posting a comment!

By MPPL on March 7, 2011 Categories: Consumer Choices, Household Products

Use Better De-icers

Steer clear of rock salt (sodium chloride) and urea-based de-icers. Not only can they pollute habitats with plant-killing runoff, but they can also corrode concrete, destroy your lawn (even a snow-covered one), and contaminate water supplies. Better bets? Sand, which provides traction without damaging salt-sensitive landscapes, and calcium chloride, which may still hurt vegetation, but is free of the cyanide present in rock salt.  For more green winter tips see:

By MPPL on February 18, 2011 Categories: Cold Weather, Consumer Choices

Seeds, Seeds, Seeds!

Are you looking for some new seeds to grow in your garden this year? Have you heard about Seed Savers Exchange, which is a non-profit organization that “saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage” in hopes of saving some endangered seeds from being lost to future generations. Through Seed Savers Exchange you can order seeds for a variety of different plants including vegetables (check out the tomoatoes!), herbs, and flowers. Some of the seeds are even certified USDA Organic! Interested in visiting the farm, located near Decorah, Iowa? Visitors are welcome April through October.
For more information on ordering seeds or visiting the farm, visit Seed Savers Exchange

By MPPL on January 21, 2011 Categories: Consumer Choices, Gardening

Green “Wrapping” Ideas

Do you still have gifts to wrap before the holidays? Before buying anymore gift wrap, consider some alternatives that are more environmentally friendly:
*Giving clothes or blankets as a gift? Consider also using these items to wrap gifts for the same person.
*Reuse paperbags to wrap gifts. You can even make the brown paper more festive by drawing on it.
*Place gifts in a reuseable shopping bag, so the bag becomes part of the gift.
*Reuse comics as wrapping or newspaper to protect breakable items.
*Sew your own gift bags using left over fabric scraps and let the receiver keep the bag as part of their gift.
*Use reuseable gift bags and encourage your giftees to reuse the bag as well.
*Use clean recycled aluminium foil to wrap gifts.
*Wrap gifts in old road maps.
*Ask friends and family members to try not to tear the wrapping paper so that it can be reused next year.
*Have large cans to recycle? Clean and dry them thoroughly, place gifts inside and cover with shredded paper, fabric or yarn scraps.
*Save the cards you receive and reuse them by cutting them apart and using the picture as a gift tag.

Want to do away with wrapping completely? Inform your friends and family that you will not be wrapping gifts in an effort to reduce your footprint. Use the money you save to upgrade their gift or donate the money to your choice of charity. Or purchase your gift online and have it sent directly to the recipient’s home.

By MPPL on December 17, 2010 Categories: Consumer Choices, Holidays

Choose Your Tree: Deciding between a real or artifical Holiday Tree

Have you debated with others (or possibly yourself) about which tree is more environmentally friendly, a real tree or a fake tree? While no 100 percent clear answer can be made, there are some important factors to consider before purchasing your tree.  Check out this site for further information:

By MPPL on December 10, 2010 Categories: Consumer Choices, Holidays

Nicor’s Energy Efficiency Program

Did you know in May, Nicor began an Energy Efficiency Program, which allows consumers of Nicor Gas to save energy and money? The programs are available for residential and business customers. Through the Residential Customer program, Nicor proivdes customers with energy education and resources, and rebates on qualifying natural gas products such as water heaters and furnaces. For more information visit:  Nicor Gas Rebates ( or

By MPPL on November 19, 2010 Categories: Consumer Choices, Energy

Conventional Turkey vs. Organic Turkey

Do you plan on making a turkey this year for Thanksgiving dinner? Did you know that poultry in the United States is not allowed to receive hormones, but that conventional turkeys may receive antibiotics and animal byproducts, and one of the common “growth promoters” given to turkeys can result in arsenic being harbored in the turkey’s liver? Conventional turkeys labeled as “self-basting” are often injected with butter or fat, broth, water, and other seasonings to help make them
flavorful. If you want to avoid these ingredients, or control what you are putting into or on your turkey, consider buying an organic bird. If you want to spend a little extra money, look for a “heritage turkey” which is descended from early domesticated turkeys and full of flavor.

For more information on selecting and cooking your holiday turkey, or to locate a nearby farm, visit:
Consumer Reports Greener Choices “Talking Turkey”
Eat Well Guide
Local Harvest
Heritage Turkey Foundation

By MPPL on November 17, 2010 Categories: Consumer Choices, Holidays

Tips for Making Your Furnance Run Better, More Efficiently and Green

•Add programmable thermostats so the furnace doesn’t work as hard while you’re away but kicks back in before you get home. In most homes, you can reduce your heating bill about two percent for each degree that you lower the thermostat for at least eight hours each day.

•Insulate your boiler with a jacket.

•Clean or replace air filters regularly.

•Clean registers and make sure they’re not blocked by furniture.

•Bleed radiators properly.

•Tune up your burner every one to three years, depending on what kind of system you have. That will keep your system running well, cut heating costs, and reduce the pollutants that seep into your home.

•Seal furnace ducts to keep them from leaking hot air or circulating dust.

•Line your chimney. High-efficiency units produce an acidic exhaust gas that should be vented only through a properly lined chimney (or through a separate duct). Reline your chimney whenever you replace an old furnace or boiler with a more efficient one, as the new unit may create more corrosive exhaust.

•Keep it up. High-efficiency units produce an acidic exhaust gas that should be vented only through a properly lined chimney (or through a separate duct).

Remember, any improvements you do around the house—from installing efficient windows to adding insulation—can help your furnace to work more efficiently. Even a tree maturing outside a window can have a positive effect. Assess the situation from time to time, and you may realize that you could use an even smaller furnace.

By MPPL on November 10, 2010 Categories: Cold Weather, Consumer Choices, Energy

The Many Uses of Baking Soda

Baking soda is a common item kept in many homes, but did you know that there are tons of uses for baking soda? Here are a few to get you started:

In Your Home:
*Place a box of baking soda in your garbage can or refrigerator (they make special boxes for this) to absorb smells.
*Do you have some smelly shoes lying around? Sprinkle a little bit in the shoes to deodorize them.
*Sprinkle some baking soda on your carpet, let it set for a little bit (some say anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour) and then simply vacuum up the baking soda, along with the smell.
*Sprinkle baking soda over upholstered furniture, gently brush, and let sit for anywhere between 1 hour and overnight, then vacuum away any smells trapped in your furniture.
*Keep your fresh flowers alive longer by adding a teaspoon to the water.
*Put baking soda under your sinks, in cracks, and around ground level windows to repel cockroaches and ants.
*Sprinkle some in your cats litter box to help remove foul odors.
*Mix baking soda and water instead of soap to wash your fruits and vegetables.
*Add a cup of baking soda to your toilet bowl, let sit for an hour, then flush.
*Mix baking soda and water to make a paste to gently scrub away marks from walls (including crayon!).
*Sprinkle on a damp sponge to clean stainless steel without scratching.
*Keep your drains clean by putting 4 tablespoons of baking soda in them each week, and flush with hot water.
*Mix 4 tablespoons of baking soda with a quart of warm water to clean the inside of your oven.

Outside Your Home:
*Scatter baking soda around your flowerbeds to keep rabbits away.
*Sprinkle baking soda around the soil of your tomato plants to sweeten your tomatos.
*Clean your screens by dipping a damp wire brush into baking soda, scrub the screens, then rinse with a sponge or hose.
*To clean up light oil spills in the garage, mix equal parts of baking soda and cornmeal and sprinkle on the spill, let it dry, and then sweep or vacuum away. If the spot is still there, sprinkle with baking soda, let it stand and then scrub it using a wet brush.

Do you have a favorite use for baking soda, or did one of these suggestiions work for you? If so, let us know by leaving a comment!

For more information on the many uses of baking soda visit:

By MPPL on October 15, 2010 Categories: Consumer Choices, Household Products

Have a Green Halloween

Make your own costume from things around the house – old clothes, game pieces, sport team items, something from the recycling bin, etc., or purchase items from a resale shop.  
If make-up is used instead of a mask, purchase non-toxic or hypoallergenic cosmetics.  
After using costumes, trade with a friend, start a “costume closet” at  school, church or home to share next year, or donate the costumes to a favorite charity.  
When buying candy, look for treats with minimal packaging – or give pencils, erasers or money.  
Send your children out with a reusable bucket, canvas bag or pillowcase.  
Don’t be a litter bug, dispose of candy wrappers in your bags, buckets or trash cans along the way.  
Stay local to trick-or-treat, bike, wagon or carpool.  
Use rechargeable batteries in your flashlight for trick-or-treating.  

Don’t throw away the pumpkin seeds – bake and eat, or put outdoors for the birds and animals.  
Put a soy or natural beeswax candle in your Jack-o’-lanterns, or use a battery-operated light, with rechargeable batteries, of course.  
As your pumpkin grows old, put in your yard for animals to eat, or put into compost pile.  
Make your own luminaries from old cans with a pattern of hole punches.  
Keep Halloween decorations from year to year so you don’t need to purchase new ones each season.  
If you are hosting a Halloween party, used reusable dishes, tableware, cups napkins, etc.  Serve from a pitcher instead of individual bottles and  cans.Make a mystery punch with your favorite juices/pop, and add dry ice for a spooky effect. Instead of paper invitations, send an electronic  invite to your guests.

From SWANNC’s September E-Newsletter

By MPPL on October 8, 2010 Categories: Consumer Choices, Holidays