The Sloths of Costa Rica

Costa Rica sloth

Sloths are found throughout Costa Rica’s tropical forests. (Photo credit: Kjersti Joergensen/Shutterstock)

With their shy, seemingly secret-hiding smiles, languid movements, and unique habits, the sloth fits the basic description of a charismatic animal to a T. [Read more…]

Wax Worm Caterpillars Have a Taste for Plastic

wax worm

Scientists have discovered that wax worms (Galleria mellonella) can digest plastic. (Photo credit: Kuttelvaserova Stuchelova/Shutterstock)

Federica Bertocchini’s discovery that wax worms can eat through plastic happened completely by accident. Bertocchini, an amateur beekeeper, was dismayed to find that her beehives were infested by wax worm caterpillars. After cleaning out the hive, she went to pick up the plastic bags she had placed the pests in, only to find the bags riddled with holes.   [Read more…]

Feral Camels Wreak Havoc on the Australian Outback

Australian landscape

The Australian Outback is an arid landscape home to a number of plant and animal species, including non-native species such as feral camels. (Photo credit: Image Source Pink/Alamy)

Kangaroos, koala bears, and wallabies are all animals that are easily associated with Australia. But there are many non-native animals that are wreaking havoc across the Australian countryside.  [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…]

The Reindeer of Finland

reindeer

Reindeer refers to domesticated populations of caribou. (Photo credit: JellisV/istock Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

You know Dasher and Dancer, and Prancer and Vixen … but what do you really know about reindeer?

[Read more…]

The Environmental Impact of Plastic Bags

plastic bags in trees

A huge number of plastic bags are used each year. A large proportion of them end up as litter. (Photo credit: bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock)

“Paper or plastic?” is a common question heard at the checkout line. Though the environmental impact of paper versus plastic bags continues to be debated, perhaps the best answer is “I’ve brought my own.” [Read more…]

The Tree Goats of Morocco

goats in argan tree

These Moroccan goats have an important role in the extraction of argan oil, a precious commodity. (Photo credit: Yavuz Sariyildiz/Alamy)

While goats are well-known for their ability to jump over fences and scale great heights, a certain population of goats in southwestern Morocco takes their climbing skills to a whole new level. [Read more…]

Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Wintering Grounds

monarch butterflies

Monarch butterflies cluster tightly together in pine and fir trees in their Mexican habitat. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

The number of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico dropped by 27 percent in 2017, according to experts. This decline is a reversal in last year’s numbers, which appeared to show a recovery in the monarch butterfly population. [Read more…]