What your drought-tolerant landscape could look like

Drought-tolerant landscapes are an idea whose time has come. Many homeowners in Austin get this. Here’s a look at several non-lawn lawns that may inspire you. While they almost all require getting rid of that pesky turf, they’re easy to maintain later on. Most importantly, they’re not overly thirsty.

Bamboo: Why you need it in your kitchen, and six ways to get it there

Bamboo, that renewable, quick-growing wood that’s really a grass, has been expanding across product lines, turning up on floors, in furniture, and towels. But let’s get back to where we started: Bamboo works great in the kitchen. Remember those bamboo salad bowls? They’re still around, but there are many more ways attractive, durable bamboo is being tapped for kitchen ware.

One cancer risk you can easily remove from your life

It’s a little like a storyline from those nuclear-age science-fiction movies from the 1950s. An invisible, insidious gas invades your home, poised to undermine your family’s health.
But this is no fiction. It’s radon, a gas that exists naturally in the earth, but can concentrate in homes raising the cancer risk for those who are exposed long term.

Worried about toxic ingredients in cleaners? See our new improved list of the greenest products

When the Environmental Working Group released their scorecard on green cleaners last month, I sprang from my chair to check the label on the case of Ecover Limescale Remover that UPS had just delivered.

I don’t usually buy by the case, but this was the only way I could get this cleaner, which I adore because it transforms my shower door from an icky, opaque bacteria-generator into a sheet of glistening glass, without using toxic ingredients. Or so I believed.
Fortunately, my limescale remover skated by with a solid “B” on the EWG 2012 Guide to Healthy Cleaning. Whew!

But some of the other products I’m using did not make the grade, despite being sold as “green” or “natural” products.

That’s right. Amazingly, many green cleaners contain endocrine disrupters, suspected carcinogens, toxic ingredients with unknown effects and needlessly harsh ingredients, like sodium laurel sulfate, according to the EWG review of more than 2,000 cleaners .

EWG’s Guide to Green Cleaning dishes the dirt about scores of ‘natural’ green cleaners

Green cleaners exploded onto store shelves over the last five years, offering to detoxify our homes, laundry, dishes and countertops with a dazzling line-up of herb-y, botanically scented, natural and biodegradable formulas.

These products promised to replace the old guard of harsh, caustic and unhealthful less-than-green products, solving those perennial problems of tub rings, toilet bowl stains and kitchen sink germs but without killing aquatic life, risking anyone’s fertility or triggering asthma episodes.

Steamed by summer heat? Here’s a checklist to help cool your home

Nothing quite says “soaring electricity bill” like the sound of the AC kicking on as you wake-up, heralding another broiling summer day.

Whether you’re suffering in the usual seasonal heat of the Southwest, or simmering in the extraordinary heat wave cooking the mid-section of the nation, it’s likely the AC is running 24/7 now as record daytime heat overwhelms night time cool temperatures no longer worthy of that adjective.

Cleaning up just got more efficient with stricter washer and dishwasher standards

Saving energy is becoming a priority in America, foisted upon us by the ugly realities of finite fossil fuels and $4 gasoline.
But even as awareness about the oil, gas and coal that power our cars and homes has grown, energy conservation efforts in other areas of modern life have been touch and go. For decades, household appliances mainly grew larger and more complex, increasing their energy consumption. Washers and dryers performed

Healthy Stuff.org (and your mom) says don’t drink from the garden hose

We usually watch out for snakes in the garden. You don’t want to be caught unaware.

It turns out that the same could be said for your garden hose, which could be a snake in the grass when it comes to chemical pollution. Like most real snakes, it’s probably not mortally dangerous. But you need to know more about it, especially if you’re using your hose as a drinking spigot or to water an edible garden.

Healthy Stuff.org, known for testing common kids’ toys for lead, cadmium and other pollution, recently tested 179 garden products, including two types of garden hoses and four types of garden work gloves, for chemical contaminants and toxic metals.

5 reasons to quit using weed-and-feed chemicals

Ah, spring. You can smell it on the air — that bracing ammonia smell wafting off your neighbor’s lawn; the acrid odors at the local home store, where the first six aisles have been packed with heaping bags of the season’s poisons.
Hydramethylnon, glyphosate, dicambra, atrazine and 2,4-D.
There’s a little something to wipe out every potential lawn and garden interloper, but the most popular consumer weapons in the annual war on nature are the “weed and feeds.” These fertilizers-herbicide combos were conceived of more than 50 years ago in the US to enrich turf grass, while simultaneously stamping out invading weeds.

The future’s so bright: A guide to the new efficient light bulbs

With the stricter light bulb standards beginning their phase-in this month, consumers will find many illuminating ways to cut their electricity use.

LEDs (Photo: DOE)use.


The new, energy-saving bulbs are the result of a 2007 mandate passed by Congress and signed by George W. Bush that light bulbs be made 25 percent more efficient. That has resulted in a renaissance of new bulbs that meet and exceed this threshold, a technology change that was already underway in 2007 and welcomed by the lighting industry and energy conservationists.

Recycle your Christmas tree

Every year the holidays bring the same debate: Is it more eco-friendly to use a live fresh-cut evergreen or a reusable faux tree?

And the answer is that the most eco-friendly yuletide solution is to decorate a potted live tree, which is planted after the holidays.
The next choice would be to buy a live Christmas tree, and have it mulched after the holidays.
Pine and fir tree mulch is commonly used in civic garden areas or even as fuel. In recent years, people have come up with a variety of creative ways to reuse even whole discarded Christmas trees, according to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA).

Tea Partiers win light bulb concession; but energy experts say prospects for better bulbs are still bright

Far right GOPers who oppose federal standards for energy efficient light bulbs have successfully attached a rider to the big spending bill moving through Congress.

The rider withholds funding for federal enforcement of new efficiency standards going into effect in 2012, though it leaves in place the 2007 law raising the efficiency standards for light bulbs.

While this could lead to some cheap, inefficient bulbs slipping into the market — potentially slowing of the adoption of energy efficient light bulbs — it is unlikely to stop the wave of innovation and lighting advancements already under way by manufacturers who’ve retooled to meet the 2007 requirements, according to lighting and energy experts who spoke at a news conference on Friday.

China plays tug of war with U.S. inspectors over drywall

by Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica, and Aaron Kessler, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

A federal investigation into contaminated Chinese-made drywall has been a long, hard tug-of-war for U.S. investigators trying to pry information from Chinese government officials and manufacturers. When a team of investigators traveled to China last year, the tug-of-war became physical, with a Chinese official trying to wrest a piece of drywall from an American’s hands.

The federal probe is the largest defective-product investigation [1] ever conducted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. But almost two years after it began, the CPSC still hasn’t been able to figure out what materials in the Chinese drywall are triggering the release of sulfur gases. The gases have a chemical smell and have corroded wiring and appliances in thousands of U.S. homes. They’ve also been linked to respiratory ailments, nosebleeds and sinus problems

Get your ducts in a row

You can hear them rattle in the winter, and rumble in the summer. Whether they’re underfoot or overhead in the attic, these unseen monsters can really make a difference in your home’s heating and cooling bills. Yes, we’re talking about your ducts or duct work, and we don’t mean to be personal when we say, you’d better have your ducts in order when it comes to saving on cooling costs.

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