Keepin’ the Feline Footsies Fresh

I’ve got two cats, and they’re pretty picky about how I (their servant) set up their litter box and how it’s maintained. Much like the three bears, if the litter is too soft, too dry, too dusty, too stinky, or too clumpy, they’re outta there, and I’m left holding, ahem, the crap bag. Thanks so much, kitties!

But I have to say, I’ve finally found the perfect cat litter. Not only do the cats like it, it’s also better for the planet.

Why, you ask, do we need to green-up the way our kitties poop? Here’s the scoop. First, clay litters are all bad. Made of a mineral, usually bentonite or attapulgite/montmorillonite, clay-based litters are eco-unfriendly from the get-go. They rely on unsustainable mining practices and are heavy to transport to boot, so their carbon footprint is sizeably larger than your feline’s paw prints.

Not only that, but clay litters tend to be unhealthy for kitties, adding silica dust to their lungs which can contribute to respiratory problems. Add to these problems that fact that there’s nothing to be done with used clay litter (especially the clumping variety) but to send it to the landfill where it can contaminate ground water and where it’ll sit without biodegrading for centuries, and you’ve got one solid, stinky mess. Apparently, we Americans throw away 2 million tons of kitty litter every year!

My new solution is this: Feline Fresh Natural Pine Cat Litter. It’s made from leftover wood material which means its biodegradable, so that’s an improvement. Additionally, when you’re done with it, you can put it in your compost pile (preferably one that’s not going to be used on your veggie garden) or employ it as mulch on flower beds and around trees. It’s low on odor, dust, and won’t track like clay litters, and it has no chemical additives, so it’s healthier for my kitties, too. I absolutely love this stuff!

– Lucy

Scan for Savings: GoodGuide’s iPhone App

GoodGuide, a great little company that’s making it easier for us regular consumers to make greener, more ethical purchases, has recently released an iPhone app for their already handy database.

What’s GoodGuide, you ask? Currently, it’s an elaborate database, containing over 70,000 items (at the time of this writing—they’re adding more every single day) such as toys, personal care products, food, household items, and more. Using expert advice and recommendations from other consumers, the guide pulls together information about each of these products, creating a rating for them so that you can make an informed decision before plunking down your hard-earning cash.

Their philosophy: the more information that’s in the hands of consumers, the more we can signal companies about our consumer preferences, which in turn will push them to make better products that are safer, more eco-friendly, and traded fairly. Their aim is to fill a huge information gap in the marketplace.

They provide ratings on a variety of indexes, including:

  • Health performance (cancer risk, endocrine disruption, skin and eye irritation, etc)
  • Environmental performance (emissions in water, air, land, and climate as well as use of natural resources and environmental management programs)
  • Social performance (how well employees are compensated, whether labor and human rights are observed, diversity policies, etc)

These ratings are then weighed carefully and plugged into their system, which then spits out a number that gives a reference for comparing that product to others in similar categories.

What’s really cool is that their new iPhone app allows you to scan a product at the store (using the UPC barcode) to instantly get a rating for a particular product (provided it’s in their database already). And if a product hasn’t yet been rated, the more it is scanned by iPhone users, the higher it will rise along the priority chain for future ratings.

Good work, GoodGuide!

– Lucy

The Green Challenge – Day 29

Join me on this Green Challenge – Thirty Days of Serious (and Silly) Green Commitments! Each day, I’ll challenge myself to introduce a new green thing in my life, and I invite you to get on the bandwagon to make a difference. If all goes well, we’ll be living a greener life that will continue well beyond this Earth Month!

I love the dishwasher (probably because I hate washing dishes by hand), so it’s a good thing that it uses less water and energy than the average dishwashing session at the sink. But I wonder about how much dishwashing soap I use—I never know if it’s enough or too much. Of course, we use eco-friendly, phosphate-free, biodegradable automatic dishwasher detergent, but I hate to waste if I don’t have to.

I did a little reading (off the bottle of detergent) and found that the amount really does depend on the hardness of our water. To find out how hard our water is, I called our local water utility and they gave me a generalized number which I then used to determine how much detergent I needed (according to the bottles directions). Now I know that I only need to fill the main cup three-quarters full, which is less than I was using. This will be an easy habit to form, and one that will benefit our cleaning product bill, too.

– Lucy

The Green Challenge – Day 28

Join me on this Green Challenge – Thirty Days of Serious (and Silly) Green Commitments! Each day, I’ll challenge myself to introduce a new green thing in my life, and I invite you to get on the bandwagon to make a difference. If all goes well, we’ll be living a greener life that will continue well beyond this Earth Month!

While on the topic of my fridge… There seem to be no end to the number of thermostat adjustments a person can make to help reduce energy consumption! There’s the programmable thermostat for heating and cooling, the water heater thermostat for hot water, and then there’s the refrigerator thermostat. The average refrigerator is a big energy user in the home, so it stands to reason that if we can cut energy costs here, we’ll save a bit, and this is an easy win.

The Rocky Mountain Institute recommends setting the fridge thermostat between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit (this is still safe for food storage). Most are set to colder temperatures than this, which isn’t necessary, and apparently 10 degrees colder means 25% higher energy consumption. We don’t have an actual thermostat in our fridge, but I’m going to use an analog one that’s hanging in the middle of the fridge to adjust the temperature over the next few days.

– Lucy

The Green Challenge – Day 27

Join me on this Green Challenge – Thirty Days of Serious (and Silly) Green Commitments! Each day, I’ll challenge myself to introduce a new green thing in my life, and I invite you to get on the bandwagon to make a difference. If all goes well, we’ll be living a greener life that will continue well beyond this Earth Month!

I’ll admit it: I’ve never cleaned my refrigerator coils. I suppose this is not uncommon, but given that this is new territory, and I’m supposed to be trying out new green actions during this challenge, I thought working on this would be a good, well, challenge!

Pulling the fridge out from the wall was no small task—it was heavy! Not only that, but I had several cookbooks, papers, pens, and various other bits of stuff up there—and they all came tumbling down. Once I got it out, I saw the problem: really dusty coils. I got the vacuum cleaner and got rid of as much dust as possible.

After pushing it back in place (a much easier job), I wiped down all of the seals and gaskets to ensure a tight close. And I won’t be replacing the stuff on the top of the fridge, since apparently it reduces efficiency of the appliance.

– Lucy

The Green Challenge – Day 26

Join me on this Green Challenge – Thirty Days of Serious (and Silly) Green Commitments! Each day, I’ll challenge myself to introduce a new green thing in my life, and I invite you to get on the bandwagon to make a difference. If all goes well, we’ll be living a greener life that will continue well beyond this Earth Month!

If I’ve focused a little more on gardening this month, you’ll forgive me (I hope) given that spring is upon us. Today I’m strategizing how to bring some soft illumination to my garden without adding to my monthly electric bill. I’ve wanted to try out some solar-powered lights for some time now, so off to the garden store I went.

There were many options there, a good number of which looked and felt cheap. There were, however, some nice, sturdy looking devices (with a warranty!) that were made with riveted joints rather than twist-lock or press-fit assemblies (ensuring durability). These solar garden lights are made with small little solar panels on the top and are fitted with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for maximum efficiency. They also have nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries, which are efficient but less toxic than other varieties. Though these were a bit pricier than other options, I think they’ll last longer. Time will tell.

Though my soul may set in darkness,
It will rise in perfect light.
I have loved the stars too fondly
To be fearful of the night.

–Sarah Williams

– Lucy

The Green Challenge – Day 24

Join me on this Green Challenge – Thirty Days of Serious (and Silly) Green Commitments! Each day, I’ll challenge myself to introduce a new green thing in my life, and I invite you to get on the bandwagon to make a difference. If all goes well, we’ll be living a greener life that will continue well beyond this Earth Month!

We stash an emergency kit in our vehicle during the winter with things like warm boots, some candles and matches, a radio, some water, a blanket, and other necessities. The kit comes in handy in emergencies, especially in cold weather. But now that things are warming up, this box of stuff is not really necessary. And it adds to the weight of my car and thereby reduces its fuel efficiency.

I hauled this out of the car and stored it in the garage for next winter, but that got me thinking that there may be even more things I could remove to further boost my vehicle’s mileage. I went through the glove box and the trunk and removed CDs we never listen to, a box of books I’d been carrying around to donate to the library, as well as the vast majority of the “car toys” left there by my kids. It’s not a huge move, but will provide benefits for the entire summer. And it’s a no-cost action!

– Lucy

The Green Challenge – Day 23

Join me on this Green Challenge – Thirty Days of Serious (and Silly) Green Commitments! Each day, I’ll challenge myself to introduce a new green thing in my life, and I invite you to get on the bandwagon to make a difference. If all goes well, we’ll be living a greener life that will continue well beyond this Earth Month!

As you already know, I worked last year’s leaves into the garden a couple of weeks ago, but I think it is going to need some additional work to ensure it retains as much moisture and nutrients as possible. In particular, I’m sure I’ll be needing compost. All of the talk about spring has got me thinking about how I might be able to conserve water in the backyard.

So I took a trek down to my local green store and scoped out the possibility of getting some locally-made mulch to reduce soil evaporation and prevent pests. Turns out there’s a sawmill in my area and they have all kinds of “waste” mulch that they give away to gardeners in the area. I called to confirm, and indeed, it’s true! I’ll be taking a trip out there later this month to get what I need. This has many benefits: it’ll make my garden more sustainable, it prevents usable wood products from going to the landfill, and since it’s locally produced, it means fewer emissions, too!

– Lucy

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