1.   Ant remedy
2.   Gasoline saving idea
3.   Paper or Plastic?
4.   Organic Foods
5.   Cut your heating bill
6.   Test for radon
7.   Green dry-cleaning
8.   Sustainable Seafood
9.   Fishing Tackle
10.  Green golf



Top 10 EarthSmart Consumer Tips

Tip #1

Q:  How can I get rid of ants in my house without worrying about my kids and dog getting into the poison?

A:  Use soapy water in a spray bottle or on a sponge to thoroughly clean the area where you are seeing ants. It will kill individual ants and erase the scent trail that the ants are following. Vinegar and water can do the trick too.
Still got ant trouble?
Buy some boric acid at any hardware store and mix a small amount with water and some sugar or grease -depending on if they are sugar or grease-eating ants. Place the paste in an empty screw top jar, punch holes in the lid and set it out of reach of kids and pets. The ants will find and eat the paste and take it back to their nests killing off the entire colony.
It's natural, less toxic and it's the EarthSmart "ant"swer.  back to top

Tip #2

Q:  How can I get better gas mileage without getting a new fuel efficient car?

A:  Make sure your tires are filled up to the recommended pressure "psi" or pounds per inch. You'll find this number right on your tire or in your owner's manual. Properly inflated tires can save you up to 6% on each gallon of gas.
Also be sure to drive without fast starts and stops - smooth driving can save you another 10% on every tank. And regular maintenance - oil changes, tire rotation and clean filters can save another10%.  back to top

Tip #3

Q:  When I get to the check-out counter at the grocery store I want to answer the "paper or plastic" question with the most responsible answer but I'm not sure I know which is right. Please help!

A:   Many people think that paper is the correct answer because paper is recyclable at your curbside, made from trees - a renewable resource and it is biodegradable if it happens to end up in a landfill. This is true. But plastic bags are also recyclable even though they are made from petroleum, which is a non-renewable resource, and are lighter to transport.
The key is that you must bring a plastic bag back to a store that collects them for recycling. Many stores now have quit collecting plastic bags because of problems with the secondary market for "plastic film". Contact your grocery store and encourage them to take plastic bags if they currently don't. As long as you re-use or recycle any used bag you're doing the right thing.
Of course, if you want extra eco-karma for bringing home your groceries, bring reusable organic cotton cloth grocery bags on every shopping trip. It's very European and you'll be saving resources and the trouble of recycling a used bag.  back to top

Tip #4

Q:  I am interested in trying organic foods but I am so overwhelmed when I look at the organic fruits and vegetables section because they seem more expensive and I'm not even sure what organic means? Do I still need to wash organic vegetables?

A:   Organic foods are foods grown in the most healthful and land responsible manner possible. This translates into fruits and vegetables grown without harmful pesticides (poisons) and yes, you still must wash them before eating or cooking to make sure that any harmful bacteria is washed off. Organics can be more expensive but they don't need to be. Purchase what is in season in your location and you will find the pricing to be comparable to non-organics. For example, buy organically grown apples in Minnesota in the fall rather than an apple that needs to travel from New Zealand. You will be buying organic, saving money and saving energy in transportation by purchasing locally grown produce.  back to top

Tip #5

Q:  I've heard that natural gas prices are going to be high again this winter. My budget is already tight, what can I do to keep my heating bills down?

A:   Ah yes, war, blackouts and a bad economy are all creating havoc with the energy markets. The good news is that there are several low cost things that you can do to take the chill out of that gas company bill:
If you turn down your thermostat from 70 degrees to 65 degrees during the day and from 60 degrees to 55 degrees while you're sleeping, you can save 25% on your heating bill .
You can save more by turning down your hot water heater to 120 degrees. Buy a cooking thermometer and turn your tap all the way to hot to measure the tap temperature. If it's more than 120 degrees, you're wasting money.
You should also change your furnace filters monthly and get a furnace inspection every fall.
Open your drapes to let the sun naturally warm your home during the day and close them at night to keep the heat in. If you follow these simple tips, opening your heating bill shouldn't give you a chill.  back to top

Tip #6

Q:  I have recently moved into my house and my neighbor told me that I may have a radon problem, what can I do about it?

A:   Radon is a colorless odorless radioactive gas that occurs naturally as soil breaks down. It can get trapped in the lower level of your home by coming up from the soil through cracks in walls, floors or sump pump basins. Radon is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer after smoking with 15,000 - 30,000 deaths each year.
The only way to know if you have radon is to test for it. Test kits are available at most home stores or through the American Lung Association. The cost of the kits average $25 per test. The test involves leaving a collector vial or sponge out undisturbed for 3-7 days with windows and doors closed.
If the test shows that you do have dangerously high levels of radon you can seal up cracks in flooring and lower level walls, increase ventilation in crawl spaces or plastic off dirt floor areas in crawlspaces yourself. Or hire a contractor that specializes in radon elimination but check with your local Health Department or City for a list of reputable companies. For further information contact the American Lung Association or the EPA.  back to top

Tip #7

Q:  I wear suits to work everyday and they need to be dry-cleaned but I hate the way they smell after they've been cleaned, are there any better smelling alternatives?

A:   The odor from traditional dry-cleaning comes from the solvent used in the cleaning process called perchloro-ethelene or "perc". Perc is a dangerous chemical suspected of causing cancer, as well as, less serious physical reactions in some people. It is classified as a hazardous chemical by the EPA, can contaminate ground water and contributes to smog problems in cities. The less toxic alternatives to perc dry-cleaners are: silicone based solvent cleaners, carbon dioxide cleaners and "wet" cleaners. All of which do not have the strong odor or potential side effects of perc cleaners. If you can't find a non-perc dry-cleaner in your area, contact your state pollution control agency or health department for a list of less toxic dry-cleaners. If you are currently using a perc dry-cleaners, be sure to remove the plastic film from cleaned clothes and let them air out for 1-2 days in a room that you don't use for sleeping. It will help reduce the odor and give the chemicals a chance to leave the fabric before you wear it.   back to top

Tip #8

Q:  I don't want to buy fish or seafood that's endangered. How can I get current information about responsible choices?

A:   Good for you! Since over 60% of the world marine stock is depleted, it is very important that we pay attention to what types of fish and seafood we're buying. Our fishermen need to leave enough of each species in the sea so that they can reproduce and not become endangered. The best resource that I have found for this information is the Monterey Bay Aquarium site at www.mbayaq.org. Hooray for the many chefs in restaurants who have become aware of this issue and won't serve endangered fish or seafood. Beware of your local grocery store - it's a rare butcher at a meat counter who knows anything about this subject, so do your own research before venturing out to pick up dinner.   back to top

Tip #9

Q:  I've heard that lead fishing tackle is a problem for wildlife. What should I be using?

A:   Anglers have used lead for years because it's soft, malleable, cheap and provides the right kind of weight for fishing line. In the last several years, lead sinkers and jigs have been found to kill loons and birds of prey that eat "the fish that got away" and still have the lead jig in their tummy. The birds swallow the jig when they eat the fish get lead poisoning and can die in a week. Good non-lead alternatives include: steel, bismuth, ceramic and tin sinkers and jigs. You can find the non-toxic tackle at your local sporting goods store or online at national sporting goods outlets like Cabella's. If you're teaching a child to fish, non-toxic tackle is a good lesson in wildlife protection and healthier for the small angler. Be sure to read the label carefully or ask for non-lead tackle - the loons are counting on you.   back to top

Tip #10

Q:  I love to golf but feel guilty about playing because of the habitat that golf courses take away and the dangerous pesticides used to make golf courses green. Got any ideas to make me feel better about the game?

A:   There is a new kind of golf course becoming popular that protects habitat (and in some cases enhances it!) and uses less chemical applications. It's popping up in newer public courses around the country. It's catching on with greenskeeping professionals because the courses are naturally beautiful with less turf to mow and require less chemicals and water so are cheaper to maintain than traditional high input golf courses.
Audubon International (not to be confused with the local birding people) has information about the practices and a list of golf courses at www.audubonintl.org click on "institute" and then "research" to find the links for golf. They have a certification program for golf courses that are more environmentally friendly so watch for the certified by Audubon International label.
In the meantime, go ahead and play but wash your hands before you eat and never put tees in your mouth to keep the pesticides out of your body! You can also walk the course to avoid using energy to fuel a cart, don't swing in the rough and try to buy tees made from corn that biodegrade and apply your bug spray on the cart path not the grass (it will kill turf).  back to top