So You Want to be Green?

Emma Sterling Says Yes!

Emma Sterling Says Yes!

What does it really mean to be green, everyone seems to have a different idea of what green is? We use the term green for everything such as buildings to drinks, home furnishings to laundry detergents, electricity to mouthwash. Let’s discuss a few definitions and then get into ways the average person can really help make their home green and eco-friendly.

In the context of ‘going green’ it implies: The need for reducing consumption, reusing and recycling products, steps that will help preserve the planet for future generations. “Going green” is a term used to describe being more environmentally conscious in all aspects of your life. The goal of “going green” is to exhibit behaviors that help reduce your overall carbon footprint, which is a measurement of all greenhouse gases we individually produce. Some people adopt this lifestyle in small steps, gradually introducing more green products and behaviors into their everyday lives. I have determined that small steps must be taken to accommodate varying degrees of acceptability within the household occupants.

Greening your home and life can be broken up into several categories with the first being external influences such as electricity, water, and governmental policies which can affect water collection and tax incentives. Building structure and maintenance would be my second category. The third category would be home consumables with the forth category of personal consumables. Food has been broken into a separate category as it can encompass building maintenance in the form of edible landscaping and also as something you’re personally consuming.

1. External Influences
External influences are relationships you have with outside companies that provide a service to you or to a member of your household. If you purchase electricity or power from your local company, do they generate the power using nuclear, coal, wind or water based energy sources. Propane, natural gas, water, heating oil, and waste management services would all fall into this category. When reviewing suppliers in this category, determine what percentage of their product is generated using green energy sources such as solar, wind, and other sustainable energy practices. Do they use energy efficient vehicles, do they adopt practices that reduce individual service calls for more efficient measures such as remote login, web conferencing. Do they practice recycling? Remember you direct their future with the dollars you spend, so spend them wisely.

2. The building structure and maintenance category is simply what materials do you purchase to build, renovate, or remodel your place of residence whether this is a physical home, recreational vehicle, travel trailer, or some other form of mobile living structure. Many people think of this as used LEED or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, which is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. But this actually means a lot more than that, this is the category that involves real discussions between couples or families about what they actually want for a living space and then to determine what products are available to then as local sustainable materials. Honest discussions must also be completed to determine if the owner has the proper skill set to do the work themselves or will they be using local craftsman to perform the work. Review materials as honestly as possible, there will always be opinions on both sides of a discussion, so make an informed decision that you feel comfortable defending. You might have to at some point. Use the LEED green building council publications as a guide but do your own research.

3. The third category is the home consumables. This would include printer paper, printer cartridges, packaging, labels, envelopes, and home cleaning products. Do you purchase products made from 100% recycled paper, do you recycle printer cartridges, and do you recycle at all? Become a savvy consumer and read every label to see what the ingredient list contains. Can you identify every ingredient or do they become so technical you have to spend time looking up the majority of the ingredients online to determine what they are? Remove chemicals from your house and your life, there are environmentally friendly cleaning products that clean windows, countertops, showers, ovens and stoves, mold, walls or even exterminate bed bugs from mattresses. There are even steam cleaning products that clean floors, carpets and do the laundry. Our goal is to drastically cut down on the number of toxins we use in our homes. Recycle, recycle, and recycle, if you do not have a formal program where you live, then call your city council and discuss the creation of a program with them.

4. Personal consumables is an area that should start with local artisans for soaps, bath gels, shampoo’s. Then move on to organic products at local stores, or consider making your own products. There are many good and simple recipes online to create your own products using plants, flowers, and seeds that comes from your own gardens. Be creative and have fun, turn this into a family project to teach the skill to other family members.

5. Food products for the majority of the American people has become a matter of convenience, it has nothing to do with nutrition. We must turn that around. Use foods that are in season and grown locally. Cook with whole foods, do not purchase anything that can be cooked in a microwave or comes in a box. Try a new vegetable, make a meatless meal one day a week. Look around your property, do you have bushes you prune every year for show or do you have bushes that produce something your family can eat. Replace your landscaping with edible landscaping. A single hardy almond tree produces 20 pounds a fruit for a family. Or better yet, replace your front lawn with a front yard garden, that way you can talk with the neighbors when you are harvesting your vegetables. Teach your children how to grow food, let them grow something as they will surely eat what they grow. Extend your harvest by learning how to can your garden harvest, dehydrating is another option. Recently the Harvest Right Home Freezer Dryer has been released, while this is the lowest cost unit available today, I still find this too expensive for most home. But it would fit the bill for a neighborhood to purchase or a food or cooking group. Another method of food preservation would be fermentation, there are many health benefits due to the fermentation process such as creating beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. Keep your family healthy and happy with healthy food, heal their bodies from the inside out.

While this is not an exhaustive list, it does provide you with a basic framework to look at your own situation and access areas of potential improvement and where you already excel. Don’t try and tackle everything at once, pick one item and master it fully, then move on to another. Remember while you make improvements, you are “going green”. Congratulations you made it.

Vince Kirchner, a certified Permaculture instructor and an Ohio State University Master Gardener, is owner of Great Lakes Permaculture, Tiffin.

Goats Love Silvopastures

Goats love Silvopasture

Closeup of goat eating grass

Closeup of goat eating grass

My son Joel is embarking on his dream of creating a permaculture homestead for himself in the Nashville TN area. His recent purchase of the land was only the first step. While taking his Permaculture Designers Course training, it ignited a passion that we did not know he had for building architecture, mushrooms, and cheese. Okay, we did know about the cheese because he has always liked cheese.

Joel has already setup short term and long term goals while he starts to observe the land and surroundings for wind, water and solar energies crossing his property. Short term he will start to create an income using mushrooms, a combination of logs and bags. Long term his plans are to raise goats and manufacture goat cheese, it is that plan that brings us to silvopastures.

Many times we think of Silvopasture as something we use for cattle only, but that is not the case. Silvopastures work equally well with goats. Silvopasture simply means Forest Pasture. By using a Silvopasture, you combine an intentional combination of trees, forage plants and livestock. Using this system, Joel will diversify his income opportunities while increasing his forage potential, reducing his need for chemical or mechanical vegetation control, reduce or eliminate his need for fertilization, and provides greater livestock protection from any harsh summer heat and winter chills.

If you have a few acres you can raise enough animals to provide a supplemental income, conversely if you own a large farm you can also benefit equally well from diversification into goat meat as supplemental income. By using goats to control invasive weeds in the pasture, Joel will eliminate mechanical cutting or mowing and any chemical herbicides or pesticide use. The goats will also provide nutrient cycling helping to improve the soil fertility.

I do not think that Joel has finalized his decision on the breed of goats to be used, but his final determination will be based on the following criteria.

1. Adaptable – Can easily adapt to the conditions of Joel’s farm
2. Growth rate – Meat goats should have high post-weaning growth rates. We understand that we are partially responsible for this based on feeding techniques, but the breed of goat also contributes to this also.
3. Reproduction – Keep or purchase does that produce twins.
4. Feed efficiency – Has a high growth rate for the feed provided. Consider using sustainable fodder as part of your overall Silvopasture strategy.

Marketing can take you down many different avenues also. As I explained earlier, Joel plans to use the goat milk to create goat cheese but he also must keep in mind that many ethnic and religious groups celebrate with goat as part of the festivities. This can increase the demand for meat, also providing another outlet for his homestead products. For additional information about respective animal varieties suitable for your area, a good source of information is you county extension agency. A quick look in your phone book or online will provide you with a phone number for your local office.

If you prefer a good book on the subject, the best source of a total farm system using restoration agriculture I know of is Mark Shepard’s book “Restoration Agriculture” you can also obtain additional information about Mark’s farm enterprises at

A Silent Killer In Your Home

EMF or electromagnetic frequencies are around us every day, from the minute you pick up a hair dryer in the morning to the time you set the clock radio for your alarm at night, our bodies are assaulted with various radio wave frequencies that disrupt our cellular communications, as well as interfere in DNA, RNA. What is it, what does it do, and what we can do to protect our family.

Unless you are living in a tent on a deserted beach, every home has access to some form of electricity or electrical circuits. The electrical circuits and devices used will create hotspots within the home; another name for hotspots would be pollution. Common sources of EMF pollution or hotspots are poorly grounded wiring, microwave ovens, internal and external power lines, circuit breakers, televisions and computers and other electronic equipment. Limited exposure to EMF within the home is reputed to provide symptoms which include sleep disorders, dizziness, heart palpitations, vision problems, headaches, high blood pressure, skin symptoms, like facial prickling, burning sensations and rashes, pains and muscle aches, foggy thinking and difficulty in concentration, depression, digestive disorders, infertility, breast cancer or cancer clusters which have been linked to high exposure rates, leukemia in children, and a general feeling of uneasiness. The most susceptible are children living within our homes.
Extremely low frequency (ELF) frequencies from 3 to 30 Hz, and corresponding wavelengths from 100,000 to 10,000 kilometers have been linked to childhood leukemia. For neurodegenerative diseases and brain tumors, the link to ELF fields remains uncertain. Typical sources of ELF include power lines whether commercial or residential, and electric engines in cars, train, and city commuter trams.

Intermediate Frequency Fields (IF fields) frequencies between 300 Hz and 100 kHz are produced by the following types of equipment, anti-theft devices such as those used at the entrance/exit of retail stores, electric engines, and badge readers, welding devices, induction heaters, and Clinical MRI devices. The type of response to IF field frequency depends on the type of field, electric or magnetic, and the frequency they emit. Well known biological effects are nerve stimulation at low frequencies and heating at high frequencies.

Radio frequency (RF fields) frequencies from 100 kHz – 300 GHz are produced by broadcasting and television equipment, mobile telephones, microwave ovens, radar, portable and stationary radios, and mobile radios. Biological effects can range from heating of the body to electrostimulation categorized as RF shock and burns. A shock or RF burn is an electrostimulation which occurs when you come into contact with either an RF radiator or a re-radiator, usually some type of antenna. Perhaps the most vulnerable organs are the eyes. The eyes have virtually no blood flow that can provide cooling from other parts of the body, and their dimensions make them very good antennas at microwave frequencies.

What can you do to reduce EMF filed within the home, become intelligent about what you use in your home? We are creature of comfort, we want multiple televisions, computers, tablets, cell phones, wireless routers, and they all emit some form of radiation that our bodies absorb every day. You can purchase a device to measure the levels of radiation within the home. Speaking from experience, I was loaned a device for testing, the TriField Model 100XE meter which is a very simple hand held device with a price point around $150. The model 100XE measures the magnetic, electrical, and radio wave fields in a simple hand held device. You can carry it from room to room, attic to basement and test everywhere in your house and your neighbor’s house. Our goal is to alert everyone to this potential danger which has the greatest risk to our children because of their developing bodies and acceptability to frequency stimulation. I have no affiliation with this company, but I have found the device to work very well and it is simple to operate, turn a single knob to determine what type of filed you want information on and read the meters scale, that’s it. The first thing I tested was the wireless router, my goal was to make sure that the levels within my home were less than 3 milligauss, which appears to be level at which bad things happen to our bodies. Lower is always better in this type of test.

I worked from room to room; checking in the center of the room and also along all walls. The results were startling and disturbing; multiple areas in my home were not under the 3 milligauss range. In fact, several areas of my home were pegging the TriField meter at 100 milligauss, so high that a final reading cannot be determined because the meter did not go high enough. After much deliberation and discussions with multiple professionals, it has been determined that although our electrical ground meets current city and state codes, it is the culprit. You see we have a ground wire running to our plumbing and also to an outside single ground stake. The plumbing is suspected of acting like an antennae, reradiating the electrical and magnetic fields at an extremely high level through our entire house. By placing 3 ground stakes outside at a specific distance from each other, we will be allowed to remove the ground wire from our plumbing and hopefully reducing the harmful levels below the 3 milligauss level.
I never would have found such a problem without the use of the TriField 100XE meter, thank you for lending me this device Joel Kirchner. Below I have listed additional items which can help to reduce EMF pollution and increase your families’ health.

1. Have the home checked for unsafe levels of electromagnetic radiation particularly in the children’s bedroom and play areas or consider the purchase of a TriField meter or similar device to perform your own testing. This is something all home associations should have available to their homeowners. This also would be a good shared purchase between neighbors.
2. Never allow a young child to use a cellular telephone or a cordless phone.
3. Make sure that all beds in use at night have zero electric field exposure and magnetic field exposure no higher than 0.2 to 0.3 milligauss.
4. Never sleep in a bed with an electric heating pad, electric blanket, or waterbed heater plugged in to a wall outlet.
5. Stand at least 3 feet from an operating toaster, electric hot pot, microwave oven, electric stove, electric oven or toaster oven when immediate attention is not required.
6. If cordless devices must be used, recharge them at night and locate the charging units away from bedrooms.
7. Limit the use of cellular phones within the home.
8. Because of high levels of electromagnetic radiation and long periods of exposure, do everything possible to the home computer and workstation to reduce risks from electromagnetic radiation.
9. Remove cordless telephones from bedrooms and replace them with corded units and use battery operated clocks and radios.
10. Avoid using wireless connections for computer equipment.
11. Never use a laptop on your lap while it is using AC power.
12. Remove all 2 prong electrical plugs and devices, replacing them with 3 prong grounded receptacles and plugs.
13. Pregnant women should not expose the fetus to unhealthy levels of electromagnetic radiation as a result of their use of cellular telephones, wireless devices, computers and kitchen appliances.
14. Arrange bedroom furniture such that no member of the family sleeps with the head of the bed on a wall that is opposite to an electric panel, electric meter, refrigerator, freezer, television, computer, air conditioning unit or any other device that produces electromagnetic radiation during sleeping hours.

Vince Kirchner, a certified Permaculture instructor and an Ohio State University Master Gardener, is owner of Great Lakes Permaculture, Tiffin.

Reduce Water Runoff, Plant More Plants

Responsible water stewardship is an important topic that many people have not considered. Recently the Natural Resources Defense Council rated Ohio worst in the nation for water quality, worst in the nation. This is one distinction I do not want to be saddled with. So what happen around a typical residential home that effects water quality. That’s easy, water runoff and increased plants and trees.

If you look at most homes, they purposely run down spouts to move the rain water away from their homes and basements, and out to the street so the water can quickly be taken away by storm sewers and street side curbs. This is one problem. That runoff is washing salts, oils, chemical fertilizers and pesticides out into our water treatments systems, rivers and streams and into our lakes and major waterways. We should be directing the water where it is needed, slowing the water down so it can be absorbed into the ground, watering our plants and trees and insuring reduced water runoff and water purification at the same time.

Increasing the amount of plants absorb more storm water and act as filters that reduce the harmful effects of fertilizers, pesticides, pet waste, and petroleum products from automobiles and power equipment. The plant root systems also reduce erosion by gripping the soil, a single rhubarb plant can provide a root system eight feet deep and six feet in diameter.

When considering landscaping or home remodeling, contact us to help determine what simple changes can be made to ensure improved water retention without structural degradation, improving water quality, and create a healthy environment for your family and neighborhood.

Is Black the Next Green? – Wood Vinegar

Biochar is agricultural charcoal (similar to char generated by forest fires) that is made for incorporation into soils to increase soil fertility while providing natural carbon sequestration. The incorporation of biochar into soils can preserve and enrich soils and also slow the rate at which climate change is affecting our planet.

Wood vinegar is a liquid substance that is obtained when organic materials such as wood, coconut shell, bamboo, prairie grass, and other plants are placed in a heating chamber. When these materials are heated, their juices, oils, and liquid contents evaporate as steam or vapor. The vapor passes through a tube where it will be allowed to cool. When cooled, the vapor will turn into liquid (condensation process). The chamber is heated by burning firewood at the lower portion of the chamber. The liquid (wood vinegar) flows from a tube into a container ready for packing, storage, or use.

Wood Carbonization

Wood Carbonization

Since the 1950’s, Japanese farmers have been using wood vinegar to improve crop and livestock production. They use it as:
1) foliar spray, particularly for fungus (grey molds)
2) insecticide when mixed with hot pepper
3) enhancer for compost-making
4) soil conditioner to improve the soil when mixed with agricultural charcoal (biochar)
5) feed supplement or additives for livestock feeds
Wood vinegar contains 80-90% water and 10-20% organic compounds including more than 200 chemical components with mainly acetic acid. It also contains various kinds of phenol, carbonyl and alcohol compounds.

Wood Vinegar Trials

Wood Vinegar Trials

Chart of Wood Vinegar Dilution Ratios

Chart of Wood Vinegar Dilution Ratios

Remember to always use the wood vinegar in diluted form. You can contact the following agencies for more information.

Japan Biochar Association
Wood Vinegar Australia
Asian Journal of Food and Agro-Industry

Millenniels and the Future

Fact or Fiction

Fact or Fiction

I have three millennial’s that I call my sons, like most parents I am concerned for their futures wanting them to have more than we did growing up. So I have tried to study their patterns of communications, buying, their thoughts and dreams. As I read article after article about millennial’s and their habits, I find that there is more and more fiction written about them, just plain drivel.

The government talks about the jobless rates and how low they are, how much the millennial’s are shaping the future of this country. What a bunch of bull crap! Millennial’s are struggling with the economy, not shaping it but trying to adapt and survive in it. They are provided sub standard jobs that are available for 20-28 hours a week at minimum wage. Sometimes working for tips at lower than minimum wage, tips that never materialize. Armed with a college degree, straddled with college debt to repay, their future is much bleaker than ours ever was.

The millennial’s are NOT more important than the previous generations were before them. They are different than the generations before them. Yes, and so were we when we were growing up. They communicate differently. Yes, they use electronics to communicate at a must faster rate than we do. They have social groups that span the world, but they still have very close friends that they cultivate for a lifetime.

I have been told that millennial’s only care about themselves, their lives, their friends, and their future, this is so far from the truth. True, they do not cherish material items as much as we do. But their parents did not go through a depression like our parents and grandparents did. They have no context of the utter poverty that prevailed at that time. The millennial’s live for larger causes, they tackle problems head on and they organize to solve the problem quickly. I admire them for that, we analyze and calculate before action to make sure we do not offend someone or something. They organize and overwhelm the problem for a quick resolution. Wow, if our government only did that…

The millennial’s do not need our help, but they are very willing to work with us. They are very capable, very intelligent, and very dedicated. They do not need material items such as fancy cars or large homes, which does affect the economy to a small degree. But they do not need them for the right reason, they are willing to live with a smaller ecological foot print because they can see the effects of our past decisions and the future it will bring. Good for them. I plan to help them as much as I can as they move forward.

WVO Project Vehicle Update

I know it has been a long time since I updated you on the progress of the waste vegetable oil project vehicle, but that has been for a few very good reasons. The most important reason is the fact that we wanted to make sure that the vehicle we started with was is good shape or the entire project would be compromised. So meticulous care was taken to make sure that the vehicle, a 1985 Chevrolet K5 Military Blazer was mechanically sound.

Jerry Faber was called upon to carry out that task, his knowledge as a General Motors certified mechanic is supplemented with his knowledge gathered in the reserves as a mechanic on this very style of vehicle. Jerry was allowed to use this as a fill in project, becoming almost a fixture at his garage in Fostoria Ohio. Because of the flexibility of using this as a fill in project, Jerry would provide a lower cost on the labor and also dig a little deeper into the vehicle to insure the mechanical safety of almost a 30 year old vehicle. You can imagine my excitement when Jerry called to say that the vehicle was complete and ready for pickup.

Since that time I have driven the Blazer for several days for a total of a couple of hundred miles without incident. The 6.2 liter diesel starts with little effort, rattling as most older diesel engines do. The sound is almost melodious to me. So now that the mechanical details are proven, next we are on to the aesthetics of the vehicle. Or as my Wife has stated many times, the vehicle has to look pretty. I smile every time she makes that statement, it amuses me that a military vehicle and pretty would be used in the same sentence but I understand what she means. The vehicle will receive a fresh coat of paint in OD green to remove the Starsky and Hutch stripe on the vehicle, who knows how that got on a military vehicle. Then on to new rubber seals for the glass, new seats, and a few improvements to the interior such as a new coat of paint for the door panels.

Finally we will add the waste vegetable oil kit, by that time I will have gathered enough driving miles to create a base line set of data for the vehicle to compare against the waste vegetable oil driving. The vehicle has little frills to start with, roll up windows, no air conditioning, no cruise control, just a good solid vehicle that should run another 30 years with good maintenance. I give you another update as we move along with making the vehicle “pretty”.

How to Create Your Own Seed Bank

Blackberry seed heads

Blackberry seed heads

As you prepare for the fall season in Central Ohio, this is the time to start to collect seeds from your heirloom and open pollinated vegetable species along with your perennial herbs and flowers. So what exactly is a seed, a seed is a tiny living plant surrounded by a small but essential quantity of nutrients. Many gardeners are seed collectors whether they recognize it by another name or not. Look at the list below; see how many items can you relate to?

1. Have you any seeds left over from your spring planting?
2. Did you buy any packets at the end of the season during a discount sale?
3. Are you saving seeds from any heirloom produce you have grown?
4. Do you have any weeds on your soil, just waiting for the right conditions to sprout again?
5. Have you thrown any non-edible produce onto the compost pile that could sprout next year?

The partial list above just shows you that in many cases we are creating a seed bank without realizing what we are doing. Although we are saving seeds, you should realize that seeds have a distinct purpose and they should be managed accordingly.

One of the questions that I hear quite often is, why don’t I just buy fresh seed every year? With changes in the seed industry, consolidation of companies, and elimination of seed varieties that companies deem unprofitable, you cannot guarantee that your favorite varieties will be available in the years to come, that is why you should make it a practice to save your own seed to insure you have a sufficient supply of seeds that will produce well under your climate conditions and to insure healthier plants in the future years for your growing conditions.

Our goal for storage is to discourage germination, store your seed in a cool dry location without humidity. Bathrooms are too moist and most basements. A general rule of thumb to follow is the 100 rule. If the temperature of the storage area is 70 degrees, then the humidity of the storage area should be under 30% so when you add the 70 and the 30 together they are less than a total of 100. Storing your seed in a plastic storage bag is not a good idea as air and moisture will eventually penetrate the plastic bag, storing your seed in a glass jar is a better choice.

When storing seed, seeds must be dry and free from pests such as moths and weevils. The small silica gel packs that you acquire in vitamins and electronics can absorb up to 20% of their own weight in moisture. They can be used inside the glass jar to help keep your seeds safe from damage.

For freezer storage the moisture content must be low, commercial seed is dried to approximately 8% moisture. Dry seed will snap instead of bending when pressure is applied. Drying seed to 1-3% can extend the life of the seed 4-16 times. If you have a dehydrator, set the dehydrator on 100 degrees F. for six hours, this will bring your seed down to approximately 8% moisture level. No microwaves should be used in this procedure. Store your seed in a glass jar with a clasp lid and rubber seal for maximum effectiveness, canning jars with separate lids and rings will allow air and moisture to enter eventually. So depending on the length of time you plan to keep your seed, plan accordingly.

Label your seed with the scientific name whenever possible; place the label inside the jar as labels will fall off the jars over time. Include the name of the company you purchased the original seeds from, the year you purchased the seed or the year you gathered the seed along with any specific notes from your growing season (cool summer, hot and rainy season). If you save the same varieties over several years, remember to rotate your stock using the oldest first to keep all seed stock current.

Why would you save seed?
1. Good hobby or for fun
2. Profit, save your seeds and sell them on the internet or to friends
3. To insure you do not have a crop failure due to seed that will not grow in your area
4. Because it is the sustainable thing to do
5. Or because you believe that there will be a partial or total societal collapse

Whatever your reason, have fun with your new adventure. The reasons why you are saving seeds will dictate your methods. If you want to play it safe, collect self-pollinating seeds such as tomatoes, beans, lettuce, peas, chicory, and endive. If you are feeling a little bit braver, collect wind and insect pollinated varieties like corn, cucumber, radish, spinach, and squashes. Then move on to biennials which seed the second year of growth, biennials include onions, carrots, cabbages, beets, Swiss chard, turnips, celery, leeks. If you have specific questions or comments, please contact me at

Are we saving our world?

Every day I look at the news headlines and I wonder if everyone has just gone insane. Some days I do wonder. There seems to be a definite chasm between government, big business, and conventional agriculture versus the non-conventional agriculture, holistic, and organic industries. They both believe that they are on the right path; they both believe that their cause is a true cause. What should an individual do in this case; you should always consider where the money trail leads. That is what differs between the two sides, government, big business, and conventional agriculture is a large money machine that no one wants to even try to slow up, maybe we never will. But what can an individual do within their own home that can make a difference, let’s take and look at a few facts and explore the ways that we can make a difference.

In 1970 a total of 72,700 tons of aluminum was used to manufacture soda and beer cans, in 1990 we used 1,251,900 tons of aluminum for the same task. In 2012 that same number had risen to 1,900,000 tons for containers and packaging according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Every day the United States generates 200 million tons of trash, or 4.3 pounds per person. Some of this is created in the manufacturing and distribution of the food and products that we consume on a daily basis, not personally created. We also consume 25 million plastic soda bottles daily, which were created using 800 million pounds of virgin plastic material. The numbers are staggering, even after we have convinced everyone to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Let’s start with reduction. The typical household throws out 10-15% of the food that it purchases; if 5% of the wasted food was recovered we would save $50,000,000 in land fill costs alone. How do we do that? Use more fresh local food, eat seasonally, this reduces the packaging requirements which reduces the number of trees cut down for paper and cardboard along with the petroleum used for plastic and the ore that has been mined for aluminum.

Conventional agriculture relies on chemicals, pesticides to kill insects, herbicides to kill weeds, antibiotics and hormones have been given to animals to increase the bulk of the animal before slaughter. University of California – Davis Health System reports that “pregnant women who lived in close proximity to fields and farms where chemical pesticides were applied experienced a two-thirds increased risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental delay”. While research continues, prudence dictates that we should remove all evidence of four classes of pesticides: organophosphates, organochlorines, pyrethroids and carbamates for our immediate areas and homes.

To limit your exposure to organophosphates, common sources of these pesticides include.

1. Animal growth promoters, cattle treatments, flame retardants (children’s pajamas), flea treatments for pets, gasoline additives, household and garden pesticides, pesticides for crops -particularly soft fruit, vegetables and grain products (buy organic to be safe), wood infestation treatments, and mosquito sprays

Organochlorines or PCB’s are widely used as insecticides

2. Insecticide sprays whether concentrated or aerosol, ant traps, reduce your plastic use, use non-chlorine bleach, chemical disinfectants, chlorine bleached paper used for tampons, toilet paper, and paper cups

Pyrethroids are a class of synthetic pesticides

3. Toxic to humans and dogs, and they can be particularly lethal to cats, bees, and fish and other water-dwelling creatures. In humans, the chemicals can harm the nervous system, and high amounts can cause headache, difficulty breathing, nausea, and vomiting. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that one member of the pyrethroid class, permethrin, is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”
4. Used in conventionally grown fruits and vegetables (buy organic to be safe), used to treat clothes as an insect repellant, used as flea and tick repellants, mosquito repellants, bug bombs, pet shampoo’s

Carbamates are used as a crop protectant

5. Used as a lawn and garden pesticide and is harmful to “Hymenoptera” which comprises the largest orders of insects, which includes the sawflies, wasps, bees and ants. Used in conventionally grown fruits and vegetables (buy organic to be safe)
Look for environmentally safe alternatives for our pets, buy organic fruits and vegetables, and use simple household cleaners you can make at home, read all labels.

How else can we reduce waste within our households?

1. When running water, while waiting for it to get hot, capture the cold water in a one gallon jug under the sink to water your plants, fill your countertop water filter system, or hand water your garden plants.
2. Dehydrate leftovers until you fix that meal again, then you can reheat the smaller portion with the larger or use the dehydrated vegetables for a slow cooker soup and save more time in your busy schedule.
3. Buy in bulk to eliminate unneeded packaging and cost.
4. To reduce the amount of chemicals in your diet, buy organic food whenever possible, if you cannot buy organic remember to peel the fruit or vegetable prior to eating. Remember to compost any scraps from your organics produce to help feed your garden also.
5. Buy from a local farm or CSA, if this is not available start your own garden or offer to allow someone else to use your yard as a garden and share the produce with you.
6. Eat in season, this will reduce the amount of miles that food travel to get to your table.
7. Plan your grocery shopping based on the recipes that you will cook that week, that will help to reduce overspending or impulse buying and future waste.
8. Buy powdered drinks and mix them at home instead of purchasing cases of soda and other artificially flavored drinks for our children.
9. Make larger meals that you need and freeze a portion to be reheated at a later date when you are running late, and unexpected guest arrive, or you are just tired from a busy day.
10. Keep a bottle of water in the refrigerator; this will eliminate the need to run the water to get it cold before drinking.

We are surrounded every day with harmful chemicals which can accumulate within our bodies, never showing traces of existence until they have reached harmful or even fatal levels. Read the labels, compare the names, research names that you might not be familiar with and as you eliminate one chemical at a time, note how you and your family feel after the chemical has been removed. You might not notice at first, but your body knows. We will continue to look at environmentally safe household items in future articles.

Thrive Life Foods

It is with great pleasure that I can announce that Great Lakes Permaculture is now a Thrive Life Foods Distributor. As part of our Permaculture teaching, we cover food preservation techniques such as canning, fermenting, and dehydration, but freeze dried is too costly for the average person to afford. Yet we understand the value of having quality food available for your family for everyday use and also in times of emergency.

After testing the Thrive Life food products, I was impressed with the quality and their ability to capture the freshness of the food without the chemical additives and coatings associated with most food products. Products are available in pouches, pantry cans, and #10 size cans, so you can find the right size to fit your needs. Thrive also exhibits the 3rd Permaculture Principle of “Set Limits and Redistribute Surplus” by contributing 5% back to their charity, Thrive Nations.

Thrive Nations

Thrive Nations

If you would like more information, visit us at

Thrive Foods

Thrive Foods