Madagascar’s Upside-Down Trees

(Photo credit: Gil.K/Shutterstock)

Madagascar is home to six of the world’s eight species of baobab trees. (Photo credit: Gil.K/Shutterstock)

The baobab is a tree with an unusual look. Many compare its appearance to a tree planted upside-down, as it looks like its roots are reaching toward the sky. [Read more…]

The Rise of the Local Food Movement

farmer

Small-scale farmers are the backbone of the local food movement. (Photo credit: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images)

Eating locally is growing in popularity across the United States. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the growth in popularity resulted in profits of $4.8 billion for the local food industry in 2008. These profits include both direct-to-consumer and intermediated sales, such as through a restaurant or grocery store. Small farms accounted for 81 percent of these sales. A farm is considered “small” if it grosses less than $50,000 annually in sales. [Read more…]

Indonesia’s Ferocious Komodo Dragon

komodo dragon

The komodo dragon is a reptile endemic to Indonesia’s Lesser Sundra Islands. (Photo credit: Wolfgang Kaehler/Alamy)

The Komodo dragon, like its name suggests, is a ferocious animal. It is the largest lizard in the world—as an adult it may grow to a length of ten feet and weigh over 150 pounds. [Read more…]

Let’s Talk Loons

common loon and chick

Common loons protect their young chicks by carrying them on their back. (Photo credit: Roberta Olenick/All Canada Photos/Getty Images)

The echoing call of a common loon across a misty lake is a haunting, ethereal sound. Few who have heard it can soon forget it. Recognizable by their distinctive black and white coloration, loons are common sights during the late spring through early fall months on lakes across the northeastern states and portions of the Upper Midwest. [Read more…]

The Melting Glaciers of Patagonia

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Glaciers are melting at a quickening rate in Chile. (Photo credit: Photodisc/Getty Images)

Seventy-five percent of the world’s freshwater supply is locked up in glaciers and ice sheets. At 14,000 km2, the Patagonian Ice Fields located in southern Chile are the world’s third largest frozen landmass. According to the Centre for Scientific Studies located in Valdivia, Chile, nearly 90 percent of the country’s glaciers are in retreat.  [Read more…]

Go Green When You Clean

natural cleaners

You can make natural cleaning products from simple ingredients you probably already have in your home. (Photo credit: HMH)

We live in a chemical-filled world. Check the label of almost any household product and you will find a long list of hard-to-pronounce chemical names. While these ingredients might make these products effective cleaners, the toxic chemicals they contain could have deleterious affects on human health. Even fetuses are exposed to chemicals in the womb. One study that tested the infant umbilical cord blood found that babies were exposed to over 200 environmental chemicals before they have even been born.

In most cases, household cleaners aren’t required to list specific ingredients on their labels. Consumers who are interested in what they are spraying and wiping around their homes have to track the ingredients down with phone calls to the company that made them or searches of product websites.

Today, consumers are expressing an increased interest for eco-friendly products and are voting with their spending dollars by buying products that are labeled as safer for the environment, or “green.” But did you know that you can make your own natural cleaning products using a few simple ingredients you likely already have in your home? A walk down the cleaning product aisle at any store might make you think that you need a different product for each surface and each room of the house, but this is not true. Many of the same ingredients can be used to clean multiple surfaces. Making your own cleaning products will help you to have cleaner, safer home environment and it will save your family money, too.

Cleaning Windows: A simple recipe of white distilled vinegar and water is all that is needed to clean windows.  Just add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to a quart of water. If the windows require a more powerful cleaner, you can add more vinegar, up to a solution of half vinegar, half water. Even undiluted vinegar can be used in areas where there are tough spots from hard water. The smell of vinegar will disappear shortly after you spray it, but if a fresh scent is preferred, lemon juice can be added.

Polishing Furniture:  A quick natural way to make furniture polish is to put the juice of a lemon into a bowl or container, add one teaspoon of water, and one teaspoon of olive or vegetable oil. Use a soft cloth to lay a thin layer of the mixture onto wood furniture, and then let it sit for a few minutes. Then use a clean dry cloth to both buff the mixture in and remove the excess from the furniture. This mixture will not keep, so make sure to mix up only as much as you will use immediately. Unlike most store-bought furniture polish, it is safe to discard any remaining mixture down the sink.

Deodorizing Rugs:  A quick, easy, and cheap way to remove odors from carpets and rugs is to sprinkle baking soda generously on them. Leave the baking soda on the carpet for at least fifteen minutes, and then vacuum it up. The baking soda will absorb the odor. If you are trying to neutralize a strong odor, sprinkle the baking soda on, use a broom to work it in to the carpet, and then sprinkle more baking soda on top. Leave up to two days if possible. When it is time to clean it up, first use a stiff broom to collect the top layer in a dust pan. Then vacuum up the rest. Vacuuming up a lot of baking soda could damage your vacuum.

Cleaning the Toilet Bowl:  Like cleaning carpets, baking soda is also good for cleaning toilet bowls. Baking soda is mildly abrasive, so it is good for anything that requires scrubbing – from teeth, to pots and pans, to toilet bowls. For toilets, sprinkle the baking soda in the bowl, and use a toilet brush to scrub. For a cleaning solution that has foaming action, a little vinegar can also be added.

More to Explore
Alternatives to Hazardous Household Products
Homemade Non-Toxic Household Cleaners
The Best Non-Toxic Ways to Clean Your Home

Protecting the Fisheries of Belize

Belizean fisherman

Managed Access zones have greatly improved sustainable fishing activities in the Caribbean waters surrounding Belize. (Photo credit: Witold Skrypczak/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images)

The Central American country of Belize, which shares its eastern border with the Caribbean Sea, is well known for its coral reefs and abundant marine life. Belize is a major exporter of lobster, conch, and shrimp and the fisheries industry is a top contributor to the nation’s economy. However, in recent years, open-access fishing has led to a significant decline in overall yield. New fishery management techniques are proving successful in both preventing overfishing and empowering local fishers within the territories they fish. [Read more…]

Front Yard Gardens Growing in Popularity

edible yard

Vegetable gardens are no longer relegated to the backyard. (Photo credit: Mark A Johnson/Alamy)

Home gardening has grown greatly in popularity over the past five years. According to research gathered by the National Gardening Association, 42 million households grow food at home or in a community garden. The greatest surge in home gardeners is among millennials (those between 18 and 34 years of age); over the past five years, food gardening among this age group has increased 63 percent. [Read more…]

New Zealand’s Iconic Kiwi Bird

(Photo credit: Tom McHugh/Getty Images)

While just over a century ago, kiwi birds numbered over 20 million, today New Zealand is home to less than 70,000 of these unique birds. (Photo credit: Tom McHugh/Getty Images)

The kiwi bird is such an important part of New Zealand culture that New Zealanders call themselves “kiwis.” But, while just over a century ago these birds numbered over 20 million, today there are less than 70,000. What has caused their population to drop so drastically and can anything be done to bring these unusual birds back from the brink of extinction? [Read more…]

20 Eco-Friendly Tips to Reduce Your Impact on the Environment

Earth

Earth Day was founded in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson.  (Photo credit: Loskutnikov/Shutterstock)

April 22 marks the 49th annual celebration of Earth Day. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin founded Earth Day in 1970 to bring environmental issues to the top of the national agenda. Until then, there were little to no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect the environment. [Read more…]