Archive for the ‘Green Health’ Category

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BeingGreen: Staying Warm & Cool Without Electricity: Part 2.

April 10, 2009

Even though I conveniently forgot to do this one last week (warning: Script Frenzy will ruin your life, kthxbai), I decided that there was no way I was going to let this Friday pass without wrapping up this topic.  So here I am.

In the last article, I covered various methods for staying warm without eating up your electrical bill.  Now I move onto a greater challenge: staying cool.

The reason I view it as a greater challenge is because, unlike heat, your body does not produce coolness.  You have to get it in from the inside.  More accurately, you achieve it by removing heat from your body.  Wearing cool clothes helps with this process, via the same method that allows it to make you cold in cooler weather, but only if the air is sufficiently cool.  If the air is warmer than you, you’re going to end up absorbing heat no matter what you wear.

So how do you stay cool?  Well… there are a few options.

  1. Stay hydrated.  Sweat, though unsightly and often malodorous, is your first line of defense against heat.  By sitting on your skin, it helps to suck heat out from your body and… er… I’m not entirely sure where the heat goes.  I only know that it works.  Drink an adequate (not excessive!) amount of water so that your sweat glands have something to secrete.
  2. Eat/drink cold stuff.  Ice water, ice cream, and frozen fruit will all suck heat from your body (and taste darned good in the meantime).  Just watch out for the sugars, and don’t overdo it.  The only thing worse than being hot is being hot and sick on sugar or water.
  3. Go to your shower – or your kitchen sink – and spray down your hair.  As mentioned earlier, water sucks out body heat, and there’s no better place to lose it than your head.  In addition to your head’s basic heat-loss properties, your hair will trap the water and keep you cool for a longer duration of time.
  4. Take a cool shower or bath.  This method has been employed by both animals and humans for as long as there have been animals and humans with temperature-regulation problems (or pretty close, anyway) and for good reason.  Take the sweat effect and magnify it, and you’ve got what a bath can do for you.  If you don’t have access to a bath, or don’t want to use the water, wet a cloth and wipe down your face, your chest, and behind your ears.

Finally, there are a few common-sense tips that you can follow to make sure you don’t pick up excess heat:

  1. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothes.  These will help to reflect heat away from you while trapping any cool air you might accumulate.
  2. Stay indoors as much as possible.  I know; who’d have thought it’d be green to avoid nature?  But it’s easier to get and stay cool in a controlled environment.  Go outside where it’s hot, and you end up reabsorbing heat, which means you have to get cooled down all over again.  (Pool parties are excluded.)
  3. Wear shoes only if you’re walking on a hot surface.  If the surface is cool, it’s better to lose the shoes and let the heat leak out through your feet.

That pretty much covers it… and it’s about twenty-five minutes until midnight, so it’s off to bed for me.  Adios.

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BeingGreen: Hunger vs. Cravings.

April 4, 2009

Dang, it’s amazing how a day of formatting your computer can throw off your schedule.  This technically should have gone up yesterday (of course), but it ended up getting delayed.  Don’t even ask where iLOL’d went.  It didn’t tell me.

Anyway, I’mma talk about food some more.  This time: learning the difference between hunger and cravings.

I have this problem a lot.  I’ll have a day or so when I consume more bread than usual (read: any), and it throws me completely off-guard.  For the next couple of days, I have to deal with grain cravings.  And it doesn’t matter what I eat.  I can have two eggs, a sausage patty, and an orange, and I’ll still be getting this message from within: “Hey!  Did you eat your BREAD yet?”  So I get the false impression that I’m still hungry and attempt to stave it off with soy nuts and whatever else.

It just doesn’t work.

No matter what kind of diet you eat, you’ve probably come up against this kind of thing.  Consume something that used to be a staple in your diet – be it bread or soda pop – and your body reacts as though it were welcoming an old friend.  “Hey, welcome back!  You should hang around forever!  Wait, what do you mean you have to leave?  Come baaaaaaaaaaaaack!”  Indulging the cravings doesn’t help.  The only way to get rid of them is to ignore them.

But how do you tell the difference between a craving and hunger?

Sometimes it’s pretty obvious.  You’ve just eaten a full meal, and your body is niggling you to eat more; it’s going to be fairly apparent that you don’t actually need more food.  Other times, not so much.  Suppose the last time you ate was a couple of hours ago.  How can you know for sure?

Finally, I devised a test that seems to cover it.

It’s pretty simple.  Before eating something, I consider consuming different foods.  The thought of omnomnomnominating a piece of bread will often make my body send off pathetic cries of deprivation.  But the thought of eating something richer – like a glass of milk or a dish of vegetables – will elicit the opposite response: “No, don’t!  I couldn’t eat another bite!”

If that’s the case, it’s definitely a craving.

So, what to do if you’re not hungry but craving some kind of food?  Quite simply: ignore it.  Remove yourself from the area of temptation (i.e. the kitchen).  Get busy doing something that is either mentally or physically engaging.

Or just quit buying the food that’s giving you the cravings in the first place.

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BeingGreen: Getting Rid of Petroleum.

March 13, 2009

Petroleum has become a ubiquitous ingredient in our everyday lives.  We run our cars on it (most of the time).  We rub our lips and babies’ rear ends in one of its byproducts (petroleum jelly).  And most of the candles available on the market are made from petroleum.

Unfortunately, like many other of our favorite products, petroleum is not such a great thing.  For one thing, it is not biodegradable.  For another thing, it tends to emit dangerous fumes when burned, and has been known to contain trace amounts of sulfur (and potentially other harmful chemicals, though this is unknown for certain).  Either way, it’s not very green, and it should be replaced as soon as practical.

Keeping it off your lips is pretty easy.  Several companies, including Burt’s Bees and Chapstick, offer natural lip balms without petroleum jelly.  Keeping it off your baby’s bum may be a bit harder; there are other moisturizers, but I have yet to hear of one with the greasy goodness of petroleum jelly.  Fortunately, the jelly is mostly harmless if not ingested; the only concern according to Skin Deep is potential contamination.

Candles are a bigger problem.  As stated above, petroleum (the rawer stuff, not the jelly) contains several chemicals which create nasty fumes when burned.  Your best bet is to get organic candles made from either soy or beeswax; soy candles are now available in several stores, though beeswax may be a bit trickier to come by.

Then there’s your car.  At the moment, there are only two things to run your car on: petroleum-based gasoline and ethanol.  Ethanol is said to be the greener of these options, although a recent kerfuffle suggests that it may not be as green as it’s cracked up to be – possibly because of the large amount of farming required to create it.  Rather than splitting hairs over which of these fuels to use, it’s best to cut down on your driving – which is better for the environment in several different ways – and consider obtaining a hybrid car, which will help to reduce the amount of gasoline used when you do drive.

These are the three biggest sources of petroleum in a home – and, without a doubt, the three most likely to pose a problem.  While it is by no means the most glaring threat to your health, petroleum does pose some long-term problems – most importantly, it is a non-renewable resource.  We can keep finding new places to drill for it, but eventually the supplies will be exhausted.

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BeingGreen: Green Clothes.

February 27, 2009

Clothes can be both very easy and very difficult to green.  Easy to obtain – while new clothes may not be easy to get organic, pre-owned clothes are green regardless of how they were made.  Hard to keep that way – clothes are tenacious little pieces, difficult to make effectively clean without chemical-based detergents.  Without a squirt of dish soap, body oil causes clothes to smell foul after a few weeks of storage.  White clothes – at least the way we use them – do not come out white without plenty of bleach (read more about the lack of green decolorizers in Green Stain Removal).

Even commercial detergents, when made from environmentally-friendly products, are usually less effective than their toxic counterparts.  Those that aren’t can be higher-priced.  Care2 has a pretty good article on various green soaps and their pros and cons.   One exception is Arm & Hammer’s baking soda-based detergent, which we’re currently using out of frugality more than green intent.  It’s working well so far, but long-term tests are in order to determine its effects on stains, oil, and those white clothes.

Speaking of those white clothes…

Many of the things we bleach (such as towels) we do so not because we like them to look good, but for health reasons.  Wet towels and rags become quick homes for bacteria, which cause a foul stench and, I presume, unhealthy build-up in the linens.  For this reason, chlorine bleach is used to nix the bacteria.  I think it’s a fair trade-off, though I will look into alternate ways to keep our cloths safe and good-smelling.

So… head’s a bit fuzzy.  I’ve been spending too much time in the Blogosphere and it’s having an effect on my lecturing ability.  To wrap up:

  • Buying green clothes is easy: hit a thrift store.  As long as the fabric isn’t a complete environmental menace, you’ll be saving an enormous strain on resources.
  • For green cleaning of clothes, Seventh Generation and Arm & Hammer are said to be the best.
  • For stain and mildew… just bleach ’em, or start experimenting for a better solution.  I’ll get into that as soon as I have a bit more liberty – my mother runs the laundry scene, and she tends to get torqued if something turns out wrong.

Finally, remember to use the most scientifically effective method of filling your washing machine: fill machine, add soap, add clothes.  In that order.  The soap is better distributed through the water, so it cleans more evenly (and, we presume, effectively.)

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BeingGreen: Responsible Stress Eating.

February 21, 2009

Instead of another article on Saving Teh Earfs™, I thought I’d deviate a bit this time and talk about something that’s a little closer to home: stress/emotional eating.

This is a serious problem for some people (me included).  We stress out (physically or emotionally), and the first thing we turn to is food.  Most of the time, this is some kind of junk food, like cookies or a box of chips.  Not only is this not good for our immediate health, but it can lead to weight gain, which for most of us only serves to make us more emo.  At this point, eating more chips or cookies to soothe ourselves starts to look like a really dumb idea – and we’d be right.

The obvious solution to this would be to avoid stress eating altogether.  And sure, that’ll work, but it’s just not as satisfying.  Stress eating is a valid coping mechanism; we eat and it makes us feel better.

Since embarking on a controlled-carbohydrate diet, I’ve had to make some changes to my stress-eating routine.  During that time, I’ve developed a few methods to keep the behavior from becoming dangerous:

  • Eat healthy foods.  It doesn’t matter what kind of healthy foods these are; tailor it to your dietary needs.  For me, this could be a cheeseburger (no bun, plenty of veggies) or some frozen fruit with half-and-half and a little bit of honey.  Or just raw cabbage, if it’s available.  If you eat low-fat and/or vegetarian, you might enjoy tucking into a large bowl of salad or a stirfry.  At the very least, never stress-eat empty calories.
  • Emphasize quality over quantity.  Instead of going through the whole chip bag, grab a few chips (this works best with corn), put some cheese on them, and heat them in the microwave.  Rather than a huge piece of mediocre cake, get/make one exactly the way you like it and eat less.  And don’t eat mindlessly – take the time to enjoy it.
  • Share the food.  I find that I tend to eat less of something if I know there are other people around who want some of it.
  • Don’t make stress eating a habit – and don’t make it the first thing you turn to.  Before you hit the food, go through a few relaxation techniques.  Breathe deeply and stretch, or just sing a song you enjoy – again, whatever works for you.  Save food for when you really need a pick-me-up.

Done properly, stress eating can be quite beneficial without having a negative effect on your body or your wallet.  Responsibility is the key.