Eco-Friendly Cat Litter?

When it comes to owning a cat, easily the most unpleasant part of it is cat litter. It can smell, it needs regularly changing and it wastes a lot of material. For those of us who like to consider the environment in what we do, the idea of dumping bags full of cat litter into landfill seems shameful but what are the options? Can cat litter really be eco-friendly?

The problems

cat litter eco-friendly or otherwiseCat litter comes in neat packets of environmental and health issues before the cat has even touched the stuff. Firstly, many use a lot of silica dust, which has been shown to be connected with upper respiratory issues in cats and even in humans. Similarly, some of the chemical fragrances used in litter products to reduce the smell for the humans can make the cats ill and potentially even be toxic.

Clumping cat litters are great for ease of cleaning but some of them use a clay called sodium bentonite. This swells to 15 times it original volume when hit with cat urine so it works well in the litter tray and is easy to clean. The main worry is that if the cat eats any of the stuff, it can cause gastrointestinal problems and even death in very occasional cases because of this water absorption. It is also commonly mined using strip mining, a very environmentally destructive method.

Possible solutions

The good news is that there are other options to consider. One such idea is Yesterday’s News recycled newspaper litter. This is reported to be around three times as absorbent as clay, is non-toxic and has no fragrances added to it. It still works to get rid of odours, is 99.7% dust free and even comes in packaging that is recycled.

Two natural substances that make good cat litter are wood shavings and sawdust. NEPCO’s Cedarific Natural Cat Litter is one idea of a brand that makes use of hardwood and cedar chips but no clay or silica dust. The price is sensible, it is easy to use in the litter tray according to reports and has a pleasant odour without fragrances being added. However, the most important part is it is completely biodegradable and can also be put into a composter.

Similarly is the Feline Pine, which makes use of dust-free pine chips, and Better Way, which uses clay with cedar chips to use the cedar for natural odour control. Finally, Eco-Shell’s Purr & Simple litter is made from a special product of theirs that is created from fibrous material from renewable tree-nut crops that regrow every year.

Composting

When you use a cat litter that is made from natural materials it is possible to then put it into a compost system and have it become useful for your garden. There are various articles available on the web that explain how composting cat litter works but if your litter is biodegradable then it should be a simple enough process. This means no more bags of litter heading to the landfill site and plenty of useful, free compost for your garden.

 

Is Solar Power Right For You?

Developments to the home to make it more energy efficient, more ‘green’ always sound like fantastic ideas and solar power is right up there amongst them. But is it all it is cracked up to be? Is it suitable for everyone, or more specifically is it right for you?

Researching solar power before making the leap is very important. It is like taking up pool: you need to learn how to rack pool balls and play basic shots before you start learning fancy techniques. With solar power, you need to see if your home is compatible with the systems available and if it is going to be cost effective.

Advantages

PV-system-schematics-residential-Eng.png
PV-system-schematics-residential-Eng” by S-keiOwn work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The main benefit of solar power is the obvious one: it helps stop global warming by not using fossil fuels or producing harmful chemical by-products. It makes use of the most natural of resources in the sun’s rays and can be harvested even on dull days as it the power in the light, not the brightness that is collected.

The other main benefit is that a solar power system can save you money. Depending on where you live, it can be serious money as well with some examples being given as:

  • 20 year saving for family in New York, California or Florida estimated at £30,000
  • 20 year saving for family in Hawaii estimated at $65,000

Now these examples are in the sunniest places where the most hours and days of high-level sunlight is received but the idea is clear. Not only that but also some states and areas have schemes in place to help with the initial costs involved with fitting the system.

Two other phrases used in connection with solar power are energy reliability and energy security. Basic this refers to the fact that the sun is guaranteed to rise and set every day (well for the next few million years at least) so there is no danger in the source of power running out. And while there are always variations in the sunlight from day to day and season to season, we have a reasonably good idea of a general mean figure. Similarly, energy security refers to the fact that some huge company can’t come along and buy up the sun and own the light from it then charge for you it.

Disadvantages

The main disadvantage of solar power is that the sun doesn’t shine all day long. Of course, on the turn of this, it is at its brightest when we need the power the most so this is not a massive disadvantage. Added to that is the fact that during the day electricity is at its most expensive so the time when you can make the most solar power is the time you are paying the most for power from other sources.

No one is saying that solar power is the solution to all of the planet’s power problems but on a personal level, for you and your family, it can be a great way to save some money, go independent from the grid and do your little bit for the environment as well.

 

 

Can You Buy Eco-Friendly Makeup?

For some people, the idea of leaving the house without their full repertoire of makeup in place is utterly unthinkable, while others view makeup as a once in a blue moon situation. Whichever end you are at or likely somewhere in the middle, the most important question may well be is can you buy eco-friendly makeup? Or what particular ingredients should you avoid?  http://www.makeupchalet.com/ has some great reviews on helping you find the best makeup brush for you!

What to avoid

Recent research has highlighted some additives that are commonly used in makeup for their potentially unwanted side effects.

Parabens is one, a preservative that many of the best organic makeups now go to lengths to advise that they no longer contain. They were used to prevent microbial growth inside the makeup but have been found to contain a substance that acts as an endocrine disruptor, which has been implicated as a carcinogenic. There have even been some studies that suggest these substances are changing the very gender of the fish that live around outflow pipes of the sewer system.

Phalates is another substance that is found in nail polishes as well as some fragrances and have been found to have an effect on the reproductive system. The test have been done on lab animals but the same absorption can take place in the human body.

Other substances found in makeup that may have a longer term effect on both the body and the environment include mercury, of which tiny amounts are used in mascara and coal tar colours, often found in hair dye as well as makeup under the name FD&C or D&C. FD&C Blue 1 and Green 3 have been found to carcinogenic properties and some others cause skin cancer.

Organic

If you aim for organic makeup that is genuinely organic as opposed to just styled as organic, then this is good for you and the environment. Organic products have no pesticides in the production, which lessens the impact on the environment and also means you aren’t absorbing them into your system.

Not only that, but also many organic products are made in recyclable packaging and use printing methods such as soy-based inks.

Animal testing

While not strictly speak eco-friendly, buying products that have not been tested on animals is very much in keeping with other green concerns. Many companies now work hard to make sure their products aren’t tested on animals with a cruelty-free logo on their products. Some brands have taken it even further with an avoidance of animal products as ingredients and even some of the best makeup brushes will use synthetic fibres rather than anything made from an animal.

If you are unsure if a brand or company are cruelty free, you can check it out on the PETA website. This is the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and has a searchable database for this purpose.

Conclusion

Going green doesn’t mean you have to forego makeup or perfume, it simply means you need to be a little more aware of what things really mean. Make sure that organic is 100% organic not just the odd product and that ‘not tested on animals’ means cruelty free.

5 Most Environmentally Sustainable Laptops

I had a huge laptop in college. I was an engineering student, so I needed a laptop. But man, was that thing a energy-sucking beast.

It’s hard to ignore that technology is needed for everyday life. This is the life our generation is becoming more and more used to, and our lives are changing because of this. However, since our need for laptops and other technologies are know, does not mean that we should forget about Mother Nature, either. Electronic waste is a major problem, especially in the United States. There are more than one technology or gadget per person in the United States alone, and therefore there are many harming materials and gadgets being thrown away improperly. If you’re worried about staying connected just as much as the environment, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Here are 5 most environmentally Sustainable Laptops:

Acer TravelMate TimelineX:

A major part of any laptop that harms the environment is the battery. The Acer has increased battery life to ultimately make the battery last longer, making the consumer less likely to go out and buy another battery. The platform is ecofriendly and offers i3 core processor. Timleline X meets EPEAT Silver, RoHS, WEEE, and ENERGY STAR standards to protect the environment.

Lenovo ThinkPad L420:

The L-series laptops are made from 30% post-consumer recycled content. The green-ness also affects your wallet, too, as this laptop is supposed to save you 40% on operating costs alone. The backlit display and power manager is LED. It has an energy certification from ENERGY STAR and attains the EPEAT Gold standard. 20% less of the laptop and its materials will go to waste.

MacBook Air:

It’s not really a secret that MacBooks are fighting their way to make their products environmentally friendly as well. The laptop is mostly made out of aluminum and glass, which are both easy to recycle. It also uses energy-efficient components that require less energy to operate than other laptops. It has earned the EPEART Gold certification and has a ENERGY STAR 5.2 level. Apple even goes as far as helping you recycle your old laptop.

Asus Bamboo Series

You may be surprised to find that a product mostly made of wood can hold a product that tends to get very hot. However, Asus didn’t do this out of carelessness. Bamboo is a perfect substitute for plastic with its tensile strength. Bamboo is 100% natural and therefore easiest to recycle. This laptop uses a bamboo frame, and even the track pad is made out of bamboo.

Toshiba Protégé R700

Also certified with a EPEAT Gold Certification, this laptop offers a backlit display of LED that uses less energy than other laptops on the market. Built inside the laptop is a power saving software, which will help you to use as much energy for your laptop to work. Harmful chemicals in the laptops and PCs have been eliminated greatly and are removed from areas that will be thrown away improperly

Keeping Mattresses Out of Landfills

The idea of sleeping on a brand-new mattress easily conjures up a smile because people know they’re in store for a better night’s sleep. Goodbye lumps, sags and achy backs. Hello sweet dreams and waking up feeling refreshed.

resting place

Regardless of what type of mattress will best fit your queen bed dimensions, you have to move the old one out to make room for the new, and therein lies the conundrum of how to dispose of a mattress in an environmentally friendly manner.

According to industry reports, 40 million mattresses are purchased in the United States every year. If you think about all the places that require a bed, from private homes to hotels, hospitals, universities, correctional institutions, etc., that statistic isn’t so surprising. However, the industry also reports that 20 million mattresses are discarded every year, which creates an environmental hazard if they all head to landfills.

Mattresses have become a blight on landfills because they do not compress properly. After all, some of them are filled with springs, so they spring back. Mattresses also take up a lot of space, an estimated 23 cubic feet of landfill space per mattress. So when you do the math of 50,000 mattresses dumped per day, that’s another 1.15 million cubic needed every day

Renewed

In recent years, mattress manufacturers and retailers have joined efforts to reverse this trend by investing in recycling endeavors. It’s worthwhile to point out this is different from “renovating” mattresses, a process some say is questionable because there’s little regulation preventing renovators from simply sewing a new cover over old, dirty, maybe infested mattresses and selling them to unsuspecting customers.

Rather, recycling involves dismantling the mattress and/or box spring and farming out the materials to be used in other applications. For example:
Steel innersprings are sold for scrap metal.
Foam and fibers are shredded and repurposed into carpet padding or insulation.
Wood frames are chipped up to be used in mulch, animal bedding or even biomass fuel.

In fact, nearly 100% of mattress materials can be recycled.

Making an Effort

Mattress recycling centers have popped up across the country in recent years, some in conjunction with departments of corrections and other organizations dedicated to reengaging disenfranchised workers.

Their customer base is growing, too. Both the U.S. Navy and Hilton Worldwide have gotten behind the recycling movement. In less than three years, each organization has sent thousands of mattresses to be recycled. Of course, these efforts will make a big impact on managing landfills, but every household can do its part, too. The International Sleep Products Association maintains a database of mattress recycling centers at www.sleepproducts.org.

Still, it’s a small sector within the recycling industry, and sometimes the operational costs exceed the prices businesses can garner for the resulting materials. Because of that, many charge a fee to take mattresses off of people’s hands; it’s nominal, often less than $15 or $25.

However, knowing you are not contributing to the landfill overuse is priceless and should help you sleep better.

What is the Most Eco-Friendly Grill Method?

Many people are grill fans, even fanatics, but at the same time we are all more aware of the impact our every action has the environment.  Therefore, the question is; what is the most eco-friendly method grilling?

Grill fuels

We have all read the gas grill reviews and the charcoal grill reviews and seen the pieces on electric grills.  But let’s take that information and look at it through a green looking glass

Grilling outside eco-friendly
Enjoy smart grilling outdoors

and see what it all means.

Gas grills use either propane or natural gas, and both of these are a non-renewable fossil fuel, meaning once it’s gone, its gone.  These grills do work quicker than most options and can have less cleaning involved which means fewer chemicals necessary.  They also throw out less smoke when in use.  Therefore, environmentally, if you want a gas grill, head for a high quality one which is energy efficient and has a refillable gas tank.

Charcoal grills, and with them wood burning grills, are the ones which are preferred for the taste they give wood.  But charcoal released as much as double the amount of carbon as a gas grill.  added to this, charcoal and lighter fluid used to ignite some of them, are significant contributors to ground-level ozone, according to the EPA.  They also put particulate matter into the air which can affect people especially with respiratory conditions.  On the turn side, using lump charcoal, as opposed to briquettes and a charcoal chimney instead of lighter fuel, the carbon cycle result of the grill is much more neutral.

Electric grills are a good green option if you home runs on green electricity, perhaps solar power.  Otherwise, they have a high carbon footprint, though they do have the speed element which is present in gas grills.

Some of the newer styles of grills which are greener than traditional options include pellet grills, as well as hybrid grills.  These use a little electricity, small amounts of charcoal and wood for flavouring to get a better all-round taste, but are hard to find.

Other tips

There are a range of other tips to make your barbeque party a little more environmentally friendly, some of which are surprisingly basic.

  • Don’t use throw away plates and cups and single serve utensils and napkins as this increases the amount of rubbish you are sending to landfill.  Instead, use washable crockery.  Plus you can collect leftovers in the fridge to use the next day

 

  • Plan the meal with environmental impact in your thoughts; eliminate beef and opt for chicken or dish, consider larger portions of vegetables instead of side dishes.  Added to this, grill food which can be used for other meals, therefore increasing the amount of meals you get from a single use of the grill

 

 

  • Try to use organically and pasture raised products wherever possible.  Labels on food will guide you to this as well as to making sure your seafood is from sustainable sources.

 

  • Prepare meat beforehand to remove excess fat by searing which means you will not need to cook so long on the grill and also have less chance of food sticking, which will require less cleaning products to remove.

 

  • If you do go for beef and have chosen a grass-fed option, take care when cooking this as it can be over-cooked easier than grain-fed beef.  It is recommended to sear the meat first then grill on a lower temperature

Conclusion

There are lots of little changes which can be made to grilling habits which will allow you to continue with a favor summer pass-time, but also do a little more for the environment.

Great Lakes

Mystery Virus of the Great Lakes

What is VSHV?

Viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV) is a pathogen that infects salmonoid fish species, causing them to develop anemia and die from massive hemorrhaging in their internal organs, skin and muscles. The sickness has decimated fish populations in areas

Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus
VHS

ranging from Washington State to western Europe to the Great Lakes. Signs of the infection are not always present, but include eyes that bulge, bloated abdomens, red color tints to the eyes and tints to the skin, gills and fins that cause them to look bruised. This disease has killed off fish en masse in the Great Lakes since 2005. There are thought to be different forms of the sickness that cause different symptoms, some biological in nature and others behavioral. The behavioral symptoms include abnormal swimming, along with constant flashing and circling. Because there are not always signs present that indicate an active infection, or that a certain fish carries the disease, it is very hard to prevent the spread of this very real threat to the fish population in the Great Lakes area.

 

How was VHSV discovered?

The disease was first found in Northwestern fish species in 2005. At that time, fish in the area were dying in large numbers. VHSV was first documented by ichthyologists as a pathogenic disease in the 1950s. At that time, it was affecting salmonoid species in western Europe. In 1988, it was found in fish that had swum in from the Pacific near Washington State. Freight liners are suspected to have carried the virus into the Great Lakes area. The deadly virus that had infected 28 different species of freshwater fish in each of the Great Lakes by January 2010. No significant fish mortalities occurred in 2008 or 2009, not because the problem had been taken care of, but because the fish were carriers of the disease, but somehow unaffected by its symptoms. The virus is no threat to humans, but there is no cure for the disease in fish. The reason some fish seem to be unaffected by the disease is thought to be related to either the presence of unknown stressors in the environment or the lack thereof. Since the discovery of the disease, there have been some advances in diagnosing the disease, but no advances in treating it.

Is VHSV really that bad?

In terms of its effects on both the fish and its ecological impact on fish populations, VHSV is a dreaded disease. In terms of its impact on humans, VHSV is not known to infect species other than fish. However, the New York State fishing industry suffered a great economic loss due to the infected fish populations. It cost the state $1.4 billion dollars to be exact. That was just during one year. Looking through a larger lens, however, anything that affects species in such great numbers is bound to have an impact on the ecosystem as a whole. Until a cure is found for VHSV, it is important that fish known to be infected be quarantined as much as possible to prevent the further spread of the disease. Many different organizations currently contribute time and money to the search for a treatment that will stop the disease from potentially eradicating entire species of salmon.

What are we doing about it?

In Europe, the heron was responsible for the spread of VHSV, but the birds are not affected by the virus: they only carry it. The virus can also be passed from fish to fish, spread to fish by birds, through eggs that have contamination present and even from fish bait that comes from waters that had infected fish populations. Freight liners and even small boats and their accessories are thought ways the illness spreads. Making sure that boats, trailers, nets and any other equipment that traverses different lakes and streams are thoroughly cleaned using an EPA- approved disinfectant like DuPont’s Virkon Aquatic or highly concentrated doses of chlorine bleach. There are disinfecting stations all over the Great Lakes regions that carry all the necessary supplies. Boats are not the only way to transmit this virus, but sanitizing water vessels is the best method of prevention that exists.

Eco-friendly cars

With all the incentives to drive an eco-friendly car, both for us and mother nature, it makes it more and more difficult to choose just six vehicles for the annual Mother Nature News: Best Green Cars list. We seem to be in the early stages of a movement in car history. The hybrid car has become the ordinary. They are even making hybrid sports cars and SUV’s.

However, a few cars seem to always come at the top of the list. They have had the hybrid concept down for some time now, and worse, they know it. Well, maybe it’s not worse for the environment, but it’s worse for their competitors!

What are the best green cars available? We have given you a rundown of the best six cars named to Mother Nature News. We have included the pricing and all the specs needed to make an accurate decision on the best eco-friendly car for you. They definitely aren’t the most stylish available, however, if the environment and gas mileage are important to you, you are definitely going to want to check out these rides!

Unfortunately, none of the SUV’s or trucks made it into this list. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t fantastic buys, especially if you are going to buy an SUV one way or another.

Chevrolet Volt: Although Chevy is relatively new to the hybrid game, the Volt isn’t a back crack at it. The gas mileage is excellent, they have an superb eco rating, and the incentives for buying one makes it a win/win for everybody. America hasn’t quite caught onto the hybrid market as much as Toyota, but this isn’t a bad try.

Toyota Prius C: The Prius is the centerpiece of hybrid vehicles. Everybody knows that a Prius is and the purpose it serves. This speaks to why there is two Prius’ on this list. Toyota has been absolutely dominating the hybrid market, and they will continue to the way things are going.

Toyota Prius V: Here she is, another Prius. This is a slight upgrade from the previous Prius. This comes with all the features, excellent gas mileage, etc. It really just leaves a small footprint, and that’s what we look for in these types of cars.

Nissan Leaf: Alright, the elephant in the room, we think the name is incredibly lame. I mean the Nissan Leaf? Give us a break. Now that we got that superficial discrepancy out of the way, great car.

Volkswagen Passat TDI: Here is the Nordic’s crack at a hybrid. They do everything extraordinarily, so there is really no reason they won’t do well in the hybrid market.

Mitsubishi i: Mitsubishi has limited options for a hybrid. This car should be a great pick up, however. We are big fans of Asian cars.

There you have it. The top six cars names to Mother Nature News. We are very impressed with the advancements being made on the hybrid car front. We hope you are impressed enough to pick one up for yourself!

 

Why National Gun Laws Will Never Work in America

There are very few things American’s love more than their guns. More weapons and firearms are owned in the United States than any place else in the world. However, despite countless school shootings and other incidents involving firearms, the United States, its government and the people it represents have yet to change any real weapons law or ban many of the weapons that have been used in these shoots. Other nations have run into similar issues before, and in order to prevent further acts of violence many of these nations (including the United Kingdom)ended up banning many of these weapons commonly used in acts of violence, such as automatic rifles and handguns. However, while there are some weapons that are prohibited inside the United States, it is one of the most lax nations on the entire planet when it comes to gun laws. Gun laws in the United States will never work, and while some law makers continue to try and introduce these new laws into congress, many of the laws ultimately will never see the light of day. Gun Safety requirements will get tougher, which may force firearms to be secured, but here are some of the great reasons that America is so protective of it’s firearms.
Several reasons why national gun laws will never work in America are:
– It’s in the constitution
– Guns are already heavily prevalent
– NRA Lobbying

National gun lawsIt’s in the Constitution

Whenever a debate regarding fire arms comes up, most gun supports cling to the one fact that “it’s in the constitution.” While this is the case, congress included “the right to bear arms” in the Constitution back when muskets could only fire one round a minute and King George could break down a citizen’s door at any minute. Times have drastically changed since then, and while it is up for debate whether or not congress would have included the same stipulation if they had envisioned automatic rifles with the ability to fire off several hundred rounds per minute, the fact that it is in the constitution makes it almost impossible to prevent individuals from owning laws or for law makers to pass any sort of gun law into the books.

Guns are Already Prevalent

Even if the United States were to enact a new law prohibiting or requiring much stricter security around specific weapons, such as a handgun, which kills more individuals inside of the United States annually than any other kind of gun, there are so many guns already legally owned on the streets that it would prove incredibly difficult for change to take place. Chicago recently passed laws banning handguns, but Chicago currently sits as the most violent city in the nation. This is because individuals already own handguns, and they are not going to give them back. In fact, it might take a full generation, if not longer, for these gun laws to take any affect at all.

NRA Lobbying

The NRA is one of the largest political lobbying groups in the entire country (right next to the teacher’s union). This makes it almost impossible to pass any sort of gun law, as NRA lobbying essentially prohibits that from ever happening at all.