Archive for January, 2012

The Idea has been Mothballed

Uh, wrong mothballs, duh!

Ever thought about the origin of that saying?

It means: Put into storage, or not used.

Mothballs… I remember mothballs, my grandmother’s house smelled of them, my Aunt Louie’s house reeked of them. The smell of mothballs was an integral part of my childhood.

My mother had mothballs in the linen cupboard and in the chest where she kept winter clothes in the summer and vice versa.

As a budding chemist I knew that mothballs were naphthalene at the age of 13; I had a jar of naphthalene flakes in my laboratory, although I never figured out a use for them, but I had a lot of chemicals like that. I never became a chemist, I dropped out of high school and was considered too dumb because I didn’t pass the end of year exam. Geez, four lousy points is the difference between being dumb and being smart, but that’s another story.

Naphthalene aka Mothballs are poison. Did you know that? I did, but used frugally in the home they don’t present a problem; used to excess, they are.

You want to find out more information on mothballs, try here and here.

Did you know there was a safe natural alternative to mothballs?

There is you know…

Aromatic Cedar Chips

Cedar chips. You can get cedar chips cheaply, they are often used as ground cover in gardens.

Simply make a small muslin bag to hold small cedar chips and hang in your closet, or wherever.

If you want a variation, add a couple of sprigs of lavender for extra pong.

Much safer for the family and pets.

You can buy aesthetically pleasing cedar balls and blocks commercially, but why the extra expense?

Note: A link to this post is in the Apothecary

Monday Moaning

We’ve done it!

The Pacific Garbage Patch is a Texas-sized swirling mass of the world's mostly plastic garbage floating around in the North Pacific Ocean.

We all know that our oceans and seas are polluted with plastic, bottles, bags and all sorts of plastic crap that is thrown out on a daily basis. Plastic containers left on the beach, trash from rivers, garbage from ships, fishing nets, etc. This pollution is a plague, totally out of all proportion and control.

On land we try to recycle as much as possible, but what happens when it gets to the sea?

The Pacific Gyre is the size of Texas, that’s hell of a lot of plastic; you imagine Texas covered in three feet of plastic. Check out this disaster on Greenpeace’s Pacific Vortex and you’ll get an idea of how disastrous this is.

If that is not enough to shock you, I’m going to refer to a BBC News article that will, and it’s not about the Pacific Gyre, it’s about your laundry, your neighbour’s laundry, every laundry in the world that has a washing machine!

Accumulating ‘microplastic’ threat to shores

Concentrations of microplastic were greatest near coastal urban areas, the study showed

Microscopic plastic debris from washing clothes is accumulating in the marine environment and could be entering the food chain, a study has warned.

Researchers traced the “microplastic” back to synthetic clothes, which released up to 1,900 tiny fibres per garment every time they were washed.

Earlier research showed plastic smaller than 1mm were being eaten by animals and getting into the food chain.

The findings appeared in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

“Research we had done before… showed that when we looked at all the bits of plastic in the environment, about 80% was made up from smaller bits of plastic,” said co-author Mark Browne, an ecologist now based at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“This really led us to the idea of what sorts of plastic are there and where did they come from.”

Dr Browne, a member of the US-based research network National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, said the tiny plastic was a concern because evidence showed that it was making its way into the food chain.

“Once the plastics had been eaten, it transferred from [the animals’] stomachs to their circulation system and actually accumulated in their cells,” he told BBC News.

In order to identify how widespread the presence of microplastic was on shorelines, the team took samples from 18 beaches around the globe, including the UK, India and Singapore.

“We found that there was no sample from around the world that did not contain pieces of microplastic.”

Scanning microscope image of nylon fibres The smallest fibres could end up causing huge problems worldwide

Dr Browne added: “Most of the plastic seemed to be fibrous.

“When we looked at the different types of polymers we were finding, we were finding that polyester, acrylic and polyamides (nylon) were the major ones that we were finding.”

The data also showed that the concentration of microplastic was greatest in areas near large urban centres.

In order to test the idea that sewerage discharges were the source of the plastic discharges, the team worked with a local authority in New South Wales, Australia.

“We found exactly the same proportion of plastics,” Dr Browne revealed, which led the team to conclude that their suspicions had been correct.

As a result, Dr Browne his colleague Professor Richard Thompson from the University of Plymouth, UK carried out a number of experiments to see what fibres were contained in the water discharge from washing machines.

“We were quite surprised. Some polyester garments released more than 1,900 fibres per garment, per wash,” Dr Browne observed.

“It may not sound like an awful lot, but if that is from a single item from a single wash, it shows how things can build up.

“It suggests to us that a large proportion of the fibres we were finding in the environment, in the strongest evidence yet, was derived from the sewerage as a consequence from washing clothes.”

Source: BBC News

It appears that regardless of the visible plastic that pollutes the oceans, regardless of how much plastic we recycle, there is a greater threat that has existed longer.

Your laundry, your washing machine, it turns out,  is one of the greatest dangers to mankind. Microplastic entering the sea, eaten by fish, we eat the fish whose metabolism has been altered by the plastic.

This is the strongest argument that I have seen for a return to 100% natural fibres and a return to hand washing. Remember the days when the washing water was used to water the garden and wasn’t wasted down the sewer.

Once again mankind in his rush to make life easier with washing machines and synthetic fibres has damaged the natural balance of the eco-system, perhaps beyond recovery.

Imagine: 7,000,000,000 people washing a shirt a day means that each week we potentially pour 93.1 quadrillion pieces of microplastic into the rivers and sewers of the world, and we haven’t even discussed socks, underwear and trousers. That’s 4.74 quintillion a year; I can’t even imagine a number that large, I don’t even know if quintillion exists…


It does, I just checked, Rubik’s Cube has 43 quintillion +/- possible combinations.

Certain Death

A street catador of cardboard

A street 'catador' of cardboard

I am a catador. I know it sounds like an AA confession; and I know it is an addiction. The verb catar in Portuguese means to ‘pick up’ or ‘scoop up’ and is used to describe people who collect useful, recyclable items from other people’s rubbish. These catadores are present everywhere. They collect cardboard, plastic, scrap metal, anything that is not nailed down and sell-able.

I have just read a story about a catadora (f) saving a plant that had been thrown away by someone else and relocating it outside her door on Good Girl Gone Green. Bells rung, lightbulbs flashed (the new CFLs don’t do this) and I realised that I had a post for today.

Espada de São Jorge

I have survived the last three years by ‘picking up’ useful stuff on the street. A few months back I saw a lovely plant Espada de São Jorge (St George’s sword) lying discarded on a pile of rubble. Someone had had a clean out. I was on the way to a private lesson, on the way back, it was still there; quite a clump the roots were just beginning to dry. I picked it up and walked the half hour home and put in a bucket of water to recover saving it from a certain death. Being quite a hardy plant, it did and I have long since replanted it in one of my elegant paint tins. The one shown is not mine, still lacking batteries for my camera.

My plant is ready to be divided and spread around a .bit.

I have no idea what the plant is called in English, if anyone has an idea, please leave a comment.


During my search for an image I found this and thought it appropriate…

A catadore's hand cart


The Portuguese reads: “I recycle, and you?” and “My car doesn’t pollute!”

Saturday Satire

Credit: The Onion

Make you Fink on Friday

An Apothecary

What is an apothecary?

An apothecary is a place where you could buy remedies, or the ingredients to make your own remedies or household products.

Today Small Footprints sent me a link that got me to thinking. Now we all know that when I think, the pygmies in Africa duck for cover.

The link was about homemade lip balm. Now I know that we can head off to the drugstore and buy the same thing ready made by some pharmaceutical company. But things like this can be made at home easily and cheaply with natural products, and the chances are with less ingredients which lessens the risk of allergic reactions.

But there are so many products like soaps, detergents, cleaners, washing powders, toothpaste, etc. The list could go on and on.

Now making these things at home is a lot ‘greener’ than some smoke belching factory doing the same thing.

Also, waxing politic, I believe the time is near when those with the skills of the old ways will be the ones who survive in this world because the politicians, bankers, etc have made sure that the world is on the path to destruction. It is highly likely that we won’t have drugstores and supermarkets to rush off and buy things. I know that sounds a bit drastic, but I believe this scenario is not that far in the future, and getting closer.

To this end, I have opened an Apothecary, it’s just a click away on the navigation bar at the top of the blog. So far it has only the one entry and link, but others will be added as I come across them.

Change the World Wednesday – 25th Jan

Last week saw the first CTWW for 2012 and some of the posts on what we perceive as roadblocks to being green and comments were eye-openers. One I particularly enjoyed was about an aspect that I had not considered in my post; peer pressure and kids; Struggles with Going Green worth a read.

Small Footprints also has a new scheme, Meet and Greet Monday. Each Monday she plans, starting last Monday, to put up a Linky for us to take advantage of. I did and within hours, I got two visits, one of them was new. Great idea to get to know new blogs. Join in on Mondays on Reduce Footprints.

This weeks challenge is one that I have been on the receiving end of recently.

This week, begin creating a list of unneeded household items to donate to nonprofits. Perhaps you have clothing, pillows, books or sports equipment which could be given to men’s and women’s shelters. Animal shelters are always in need of towels and food containers. So look around your home and see what could be offered. Donating keeps stuff out of landfills & supports local nonprofits that need all the help they can get.

Or …

If you’ve already cleaned out your closets, please share other ideas on how we can keep “stuff” out of landfills.

A little more than three years ago I found myself with the clothes in which I stood. The reasons are another story, and a long one. But it did leave me in quite a predicament and without asking, I had secondhand clothing donated, some usable, some not because of my considerable girth. The stuff I could use, I did and am still doing, the stuff I couldn’t I passed on to my kids who are teenagers now. So all was well used.

Flooding wipes out whole towns

Generally though, this is a point where Brazilians excel. God knows they fail in so many areas; but this one not.

Brazil is inundated with annual flooding in areas throughout the country during the summer rains. The fault of the flooding is the councils and government not preparing and/or corruption in both.

Not even humble dwellings are spared

Many people are left without homes, clothing, furniture nor food. Some end up in shelters for months, even a year or more waiting for emergency housing. It is only the generosity of Brazilians not afflicted who donate anything they don’t need and campaigns for dry foodstuff to be donated that saves the day.

This is not just a ‘once off’, it happens annually, literally truck loads of clothing, food, appliances and furniture are donated.

So while Brazilians fail sadly in many CTWW challenges, this is one challenge where I can say that Brazilians surpass themselves.

Brazilians are generous to a fault. That’s one of the reasons I love Brazil regardless of its failings. Brazilians think with the heart (not only Brazilians, Latin Americans generally, because it is true of Bolivians and Peruvians as well). In the west, we think with the head, often forgetting where the heart is; Latin Americans are the opposite, they think with the heart and not the head; which is often their downfall as well.


Monday Moaning

It tastes like chicken… But it isn’t chicken!

I read yesterday that PETA has offered a $1million prize to the first person that can ‘make’ chicken.

A synthetic chicken.

Same texture, same taste, even look like chicken.

Race to serve up artificial chicken for a $1m prize

Dutch scientist Mark Post displays samples of in-vitro meat, or cultured meat grown in a laboratory, at the University of Maastricht. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/REUTERS

Dr Frankenstein

This is just straight out scary.

This is a poultry version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein…

This is Chickenstein!

This is scarier than Scooby Doo!

It’s all very well for animal rights groups and vege/vegans to be concerned for animal welfare; you are not alone there, many of us carnivores and mere mortals are with you. The conditions that animals, particularly chickens are kept are generally horrific and truly a sad indictment on the human race.

But one must ask the question, is it the consumers or the producers (corporations) who are at fault?

My answer is resoundingly the latter; with the caveat that the consumer has the power to change the methods.

Mechanically separated chicken used by all fast-food restaurants to make chicken nuggets and patties

But this is not the essence of my moan this morning. I am asking the question, what are we looking at in this artificial ‘solution’?

More chemicals by which we slowly poison ourselves, subject ourselves to illness and cancers, genetically modified gunge with which to assuage our collective conscience.

It is bad enough to eat the crap pictured, but what comes next I believe is the next stage in degradation.

There is no way that you’ll ever convince me that meat, chicken or otherwise, that is grown/created in the laboratory like a bacteria or a virus remotely copies the properties of meat, regardless of how it looks, feels and tastes.

This is another example of man running amok, playing God; and I don’t agree with it.

Race to save Ecuador’s ‘lungs of the world’ park

The Napo River in Ecuador, an Amazon tributary, runs for 1,075km (668 miles)

The Yasuni National Park, known as “the lungs of the world” and one of the most bio-diverse places on earth, is under threat from oil drilling. The race is on to find the funds required to develop new sustainable energy programmes that would leave the oil – and the forest – untouched.

In the early light of dawn, the Napo River, running swiftly from its headwaters in the high Andes, swirled powerfully past the bow of our motorised canoe.

Suddenly, a dense cloud of green parrots swooped down from the canopy of the jungle and in a cackling din started scooping tiny beakfuls from the exposed muddy bank.

The heavy mineral rich clay, the birds seem to know, is an antidote to the toxins present in the seeds of the forest which are a major part of their daily diets.

As if on cue at 07:30 local time, as the first rays of the sun touched the water, they took flight and were gone and one of the most wonderful spectacles of Amazonian Ecuador was over.

We were drifting on the fringes of the Yasuni National Park, which has more plant species in its million hectares (3,860 sq miles) of swamps, jungle and marsh, than the entirety of North America.

The pygmy marmoset – the world’s smallest monkey – sloths and giant otters are among many other threatened species to find home in the park.

There are also some 300 members of the last nomadic hunter-gatherers on earth, who choose to live in total isolation as they have for thousands of years.

Fund-raising mission

It was a strange thought that people who have no concept of modern life could be watching us from the impenetrable jungle close by.

In Quito, Ecuador’s capital, I talked to Yvonne Baki, the government special envoy who now heads the Yasuni fund-raising mission to save the forest from oil drilling.

Wasn’t it strange to expect the global community to pay Ecuadoreans not to despoil one their most valuable natural assets? I asked Ms Baki.

“Yasuni and the Amazon are the lungs of the world,” she told me.

“The Yasuni fund will be used to finance reforestation, develop new sources of alternative energy and other strategic sustainable development programs.

“Now we’ve opened it to everyone in the world, from private individuals to corporations, as well as national governments. We are not a rich country, yet in one day here we raised $3m – most of it from ordinary people.

“This is a unique project – what other country even thinks of leaving its oil wealth in the ground?” Ms Baki continued.

The clock though is still ticking for Yasuni.

The government initially demanded that $100m (£64m) had to be donated by the end of December 2011. If not oil drilling would get the green light.

The deadline has been put back but Rocque Sevilla, a former politician and conservationist who was the first director of the Yasuni Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputini (ITT) project, thinks that the world is not yet ready for such an innovative concept.

Cash contributions

“It is perfectly achievable if we give enough time to the industrialised countries to understand the huge advance in international environmental policy that the ITT project represents,” Mr Sevilla said.

“We in Ecuador too have to understand that, with the rich alternative sources of energy we have, from hydro-electricity to solar power, we can use far less oil,” Mr Sevilla concluded.

Macaw parrot The majority of macaw parrot species in Yasuni park are now endangered

Small yellow boxes for donors to give cash contributions are now in place in Ecuadorean post offices and government offices. Marco Toscano, a friend who drove me to Quito’s airport to catch the plane to the jungle region, told me he would stop by on the way home to put $100 into the fund.

“Many people in Ecuador had no idea about the importance of Yasuni. Now many of us are determined to help in any way we can,” Mr Toscano said.

In the bustling oil town of Coca, on the banks of the Napo river, I meet Eduardo Pichilingue, who has worked monitoring the uncontacted tribes of Yasuni.

For him it is simply a matter of payback time.

“There are areas of Ecuadorean Amazonia which have already been ruined by oil exploitation,” Mr Pichilingue said as I boarded my canoe.

“The Yasuni ITT fund will save biodiversity, isolated tribal communities, and prevent millions of tons of carbon going into the atmosphere. I think the world really owes us this,” Mr Pichilingue continued.

Two hours downstream from Coca, I land on the edge of the Yasuni park. There the Curi Muyu co-operative run by Kichwa Indian women demonstrates to visitors how tribal people can live in total harmony with the jungle.

Antonia Aguinda, a small vibrant woman, shows me a fine earthenware bowl which she made and fired in the simple kiln at the centre of the cool thatched living space.

“The oil business is bad for us,” Ms Aguinda said.

“Some people get jobs and money – some don’t. It divides us against each other. And how long will oil last – maybe 10 years?

“If we can save Yasuni then we all will have work and can continue to share this beautiful place with people from far away.”

Source: BBC News

Red-Green Macaws flying above the clay bank


Majesty at risk

Saturday Satire

Green Hummer

Is an oxymoron!

Make you Fink on Friday

Can you spot the recycling possibility?

We all talk about recycling being the answer to the world’s problems and it is. But we mainly recycle the obvious, stuff thrown out as waste from the home. Of course there is industrial waste that is recycled as well. But there is so much material out there that could be recycled, that we often don’t imagine the recycling possibilities, we don’t even consider them as recyclable. We don’t see the wood for the trees.

Here’s a case in point…

Inghua Ting established TING in 2000. Following her graduation from the Royal College of Art, Inghua worked in Japan developing innovative, futuristic fabrics. However, working at the forefront of fabric technology led her to considering sustainable issues, and the challenge of designing and producing a desirable, luxury product from reclaimed materials. Inspired by seat belts, old leather belts, vintage leather saddles and a range of salvaged fabrics, Inghua cleverly incorporates these materials into new designs to show them off to their best advantage. (from her profile).

Check out a couple TING’s products, they are not only recycling but creating a whole new industry. (Photos from TING’s Gallery)

Makes you think of the myriad of things out there in the world that are just waiting to be recycled. Check out the gallery and see what she does with car seat belts.

Op Shop leather belts (Photo credit Pam Irie)

Looks like someone has been to the Op Shop (second hand clothing) and made their own.

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