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…]

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

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 48th 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…]

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 Demise of the Cavendish Banana

bananas

The Cavendish variety accounts for nearly 100% of the bananas imported around the world. (Photo credit: Muellek Josef/Shutterstock)

Whether sliced into a bowl of cereal, split in two and served with ice cream, or peeled and eaten, the banana is a common part of the American diet. Americans eat more bananas annually than oranges and apples combined. Bananas are an excellent source of vitamins, including B6 and C, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. While Americans typically view bananas as a snack food, in other parts of the world, they hold a much more important nutritional role. In some areas of Africa, where more than 200 species of the fruit are grown, bananas account for 80% of consumed calories. However, the banana that you know and love – a variety called the Cavendish – is in danger of being wiped out by a catastrophic disease currently spreading across the globe.

[Read more…]

Are We in a New Epoch? The Case for the Anthropocene

freeway

The proliferation of concrete on Earth’s surface is one piece of evidence scientists suggest supports the designation of a new epoch called the Anthropocene. (Photo credit: UpperCut Images/Alamy)

The Holocene Epoch began around 12,000 years ago. Are we now in the Anthropocene? In a recent study published in Science magazine, some scientists argue that we indeed have entered a new epoch. [Read more…]

Quinoa: The Mother Grain

harvesting quinoa

The quinoa boom has greatly benefited Altiplano farmers and their families. (Photo credit: David Mercado/Reuters/Corbis)

In recent years, quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) has gained wide popularity around the world.

[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…]

Botanic Gardens Help Protect Threatened Plant Species

botanic garden

Botanic gardens are home to a large percentage of threatened plant species. (Photo credit: ©Wikimedia Commons)

While botanic gardens might seem like just a pretty or relaxing place to visit, it turns out they hold a very important role in the global conservation and preservation of threatened and endangered plant species. However, some researchers think botanic gardens should be taking an even bigger part in ensuring that threatened and endangered plant species are protected from extinction. [Read more…]

Solar Power Savings

solar panels

Switching from coal to solar power could save thousands of lives, according to new research. (Photo credit: Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Transitioning from coal to solar power in the United States could prevent the premature death of nearly 52,000 Americans annually, according to a study recently published in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

[Read more…]