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Your future home could be in a flood zone — and no one’s required to tell you

Olga McKissic lives in an airy, white-brick home with a pillared porch, the kind where you might sit and watch fireflies late in the night. The only issue is that every few years, the rising waters from a nearby river pour into her Kentucky home, ascending the porch like an uninvited guest. Her home flooded in 1997, 2006, 2013, and 2015.

“That property that we purchased back in 1986, that we thought was such a wonderful, tranquil, lovely place — it’s a nightmare to live here with the thought that it is going to flood again,” says McKissic in a video produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council. She explains that the first time it flooded, she replaced the carpet with tiles. When the water tore up the tiles, she installed linoleum. And when the linoleum failed to survive the next flood, she settled for just painting the concrete.

McKissic is just one of 30,000 homeowners or renters in the United States who live on a severe repetitive loss property, by National Flood Insurance Program standards. In North Carolina, where flooding from Hurricane Florence continues to threaten homes and lives, there are 1,132 such properties. From 1978 to 2018, the National Flood Insurance Program shelled out over $1.2 billion to North Carolina alone to repair and rebuild properties damaged by flooding, which often need to be rebuilt all over again after the next flood.  

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So why do homeowners all over the country invest in flood-prone property in the first place? One issue is that they don’t have enough information to know better. Due to an insubstantial patchwork of flood risk disclosure laws, “many Americans who are about to make one of the biggest financial investments of their lives have zero knowledge of whether a house has flooded and is likely to flood again,” according to research published last month in a joint project between the NRDC and the Sabin Center for Climate Law.

In 21 states, there are no statutory or regulatory requirements for a seller to disclose a property’s flood risks or past flood damages to a potential buyer, according to the research. The other 29 states have varying degrees of disclosure requirements. Kentucky and North Carolina, for instance, have some requirements, but not enough to protect many homeowners. (View an interactive map of your state’s laws here.)

“What Hurricane Florence and other major flooding events have really illustrated over the past few years is that the nation’s flood risk is getting worse,” explains Joel Scata, a climate and water attorney at the NRDC. “That really sets potential home buyers to be in a bad situation where they are buying property where they are not fully informed of the risk.”

The Carolinas’ vague, insubstantial disclosure laws likely helped contribute to the situation they now find themselves in: While millions of homes at risk of flooding, only 335,000 have flood insurance.

“Both North Carolina and South Carolina’s disclosure requirements were rated inadequate in our assessment,” explains Dena Adler, a researcher for the flood risk disclosure project and fellow at the Sabin Center for Climate Law. The research found that there are no requirements in North Carolina for home sellers to disclose previous flood damage to structures on the property or any requirement to carry flood insurance for the property.

In North Carolina, the Real Estate Commission must disclose that a property is located within a federally designated flood zone, which is based on hundred-year floodplains. That’s the land predicted to flood during a 100-year storm — one so severe it has a 1 percent chance of occurring during any given year. But storms have been getting stronger lately. In the last two years, North Carolina has seen two 1,000-year flood events: Hurricane Matthew and now, Hurricane Florence.

For more accurate flood risk maps, FEMA needs to take climate change into account. “Climate change is a loaded dice, because it makes the risk different,” Scata says. “By not looking at the future effects of climate change on flooding, like sea-level rise and bigger rain events contributing to bigger floodplains, you’re not getting the full picture.”

Scata and the NRDC recommend that states participating in the National Flood Insurance Program should explicitly disclose flood risks. Additionally, FEMA should provide homeowners a “right to know” about their property’s past history and create a public, open-data system to share information related to flood damage.

If better laws were in place, they could help mitigate what has become an unsustainable cycle: real estate developers buying up coastal properties, selling them to unknowing buyers, and then forcing them into a cycle of flooding and buyout.

Another solution is a significantly improved and expanded voluntary property buyout program, where FEMA provides funding for the local government to purchase the flood-prone property and convert it to open space. Currently, the National Flood Insurance Program focuses most of its funding on rebuilding homes, many of which are destined to flood again, and there is only a limited pool of money for property buyouts. As a 2017 report from NRDC puts it: “For every $100 FEMA has spent to rebuild properties through the NFIP, a paltry $1.72 has been spent to help move people to higher ground.”

Oh, and one more thing: The future of flood risk is closely related to what we do about climate change. As Scata explains, “Our future greenhouse gas and carbon emissions will dictate the various levels of sea-level rise. So if it’s going to be business as usual, it’s going to be a lot higher risk than if we take action.”

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Your future home could be in a flood zone — and no one’s required to tell you

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5 Ways You Might Be Contributing to Water Pollution

The health of our planet?s water is critical to life on Earth, yet it?s being polluted at an alarming rate. And humans are to blame. In fact, roughly 80 percent of ocean pollution comes from land, primarily from human activity. Here are five ways people contribute to water pollution in their everyday lives ? and what you can do to help combat the problem.

1. Plastic use

Maybe you?ve seen the viral video of the sea turtle who got a plastic straw stuck up its nose, and you decided to give up straws. That?s a great start. But the plastic problem facing the ocean goes a whole lot deeper. Millions of metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, influenced by population size and waste management standards, according to one study.

It all comes down to how much plastic people use. If you want to do your part to minimize plastic pollution, avoid disposable plastics wherever you can ? straws, drink lids, cutlery, grocery bags, water bottles, etc. Steer clear of beauty products with plastic microbeads. Consider the packaging when you make a purchase. For instance, you might be able to buy food from bulk bins using your own reusable containers, rather than purchasing a product packaged in plastic. And, of course, always responsibly recycle plastic whenever you can.

2. Pouring toxins down the sink or toilet

If your kid tries to flush one of their toys down the toilet, it might just mean a hefty plumber?s bill for you. But if an item that isn?t biodegradable makes it down a drain, that could affect the sewage treatment process. Those items often end up polluting water and beaches, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, so never let them go down the drain.

Furthermore, keep toxins far away from your drains, as well ? think old paint, chemical cleaners and unused medication. Instead, find a hazardous waste collection facility near you to dispose of them responsibly. The extra effort certainly is worth it to avoid those chemicals someday making an appearance in your drinking water.

3. Washing your own car

Being a model car owner doesn?t just make the roads safer. It also can keep our water cleaner. ?Good maintenance can reduce the leaking of oil, coolant, antifreeze, and other nasty liquids that are carried by rainwater down driveways or through parking lots and then seep into groundwater supplies,? according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

So what about a car wash? Although it costs more money, it actually might be more environmentally friendly to head to a professional car wash instead of doing it yourself. ?The pros are required to drain their wastewater into sewer systems, where the water is treated for all the bad stuff before being discharged,? the Natural Resources Defense Council says. ?Many even recycle that water.?

4. Not picking up after your dog

If you have a dog, hopefully you?re already a responsible pet owner picking up its waste. And you can pat yourself on the back twice because you?re also preventing pathogens from entering our water supply. ?Rain can carry pathogens in dog waste into streams where people swim, making them sick,? according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. The nitrogen and phosphorus in dog waste also can contribute to toxic algae blooms and harm marine life.

And if you have a feline friend, never flush your cat?s poop down the toilet unless it has tested negative for toxoplasmosis. Cats excrete the parasite that causes the disease, which can lead to serious health complications in some people. If you don’t have a municipal compost program that accepts pet waste, the most practical option is to bag it ? preferably in an eco-friendly bag ? and throw it in the trash.

5. Applying lawn chemicals

As long as people insist on having the greenest lawn on the block and growing plants that don?t really belong in their environment, they?ll use fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Those chemicals might make your grass green, but they also have some serious consequences.

?When lawn chemicals are applied improperly, they can run off into streams, harming fish and other animals and contaminating our drinking water,? according to the Environmental Protection Agency. ?Overapplication of any lawn chemical can result in runoff that carries toxic levels of chemicals or excessive nutrients into lakes, streams and groundwater.?

Thankfully, there are many viable alternatives to toxic lawn chemicals that will keep your garden growing. Try organic lawn treatments or compost to feed your plants. Landscape with native species, which require less assistance from you. And test your soil for nutrient deficiencies before you apply anything unnecessarily.

Main image credit: Toa55/Thinkstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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5 Ways You Might Be Contributing to Water Pollution

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The Puerto Rican diaspora gets ready to flex its political power

It has been one year since Hurricane Maria laid waste to Puerto Rico and one week since President Trump denied official reports that the storm took nearly 3,000 lives. To honor those lives and demand accountability for failures in the federal response to the storm, thousands are expected to march on the White House, Trump Tower, and Mar-a-Lago today.

“From the day Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, President Trump has shown a level of of indifference and callousness towards the people of Puerto Rico that is nothing short of reprehensible,” José Calderón, president of the Hispanic Federation, said in a statement announcing nationwide actions. “It is time for our elected officials to feel the brunt of our outrage and let it be known that we will remember in November whether they stood with us or not.”

A coalition of civil rights, faith-based, labor, and advocacy groups have called for a national week of action that they’re calling “Boricuas Remember.” They are leading mass vigils and marches in D.C., Florida, and New York today, as well as other events across the country through the 22.

In a separate but coinciding effort at New York’s Union Square this evening, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Yampierre, and Naomi Klein will join other big names, grassroots leaders, and artists who are calling for community-led solutions and a just transition away from fossil fuels.

Protest organizers say that policymakers can expect the thousands hitting the streets today to also march to ballot boxes during this year’s elections. Since Hurricane Maria, at least 135,000 people have moved from Puerto Rico to the mainland U.S. and could make a major impact now that they’re eligible to vote in congressional and presidential elections.

At the end of August, the “Respeta Mi Gente” coalition launched in Central Florida to activate Puerto Rican voters and center their priorities during 2018 midterm elections in the swing state. Frederick Velez, the campaign director for Respeta Mi Gente, says disaster resiliency is a top priority. “No. 1 is, how can we use the power of the million Puerto Ricans in Florida to affect congressional legislation so that we can get a good recovery and rebuild in Puerto Rico?” says Velez, adding that it’s important to not only repair the infrastructure but to ensure that the territory is prepared for another disaster.

Former New York City council speaker and campaign director of Power 4 Puerto Rico Melissa Mark-Viverito says the Puerto Rican community is geared up to shape policy across the country. “If we are decisive in these elections,” says Viverito, who is speaking at a vigil in New York today, then, “what comes with political muscle is political leverage.”

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The Puerto Rican diaspora gets ready to flex its political power

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A year after an environmental disaster in Texas, chemical company executives face charges

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Hurricane Harvey struck southeast Texas last August with 130 mph winds and dumped more than 50 inches of rain across the region. In the aftermath of the second-costliest storm in recent American history, a Category 4 nightmare that left at least 88 Texans dead and forced thousands to flee into shelters, government agencies have finally begun reckoning with Harvey’s environmental cost. The storm contributed to the release of more than 8 million pounds of air pollution and more than 150 million gallons of wastewater.

Arguably no city was hit harder by the environmental devastation during the storm than Crosby, a 2.26-square-mile satellite of Houston with fewer than 3,000 residents. Chemicals left in refrigeration trailers at a plant owned by the multinational chemical manufacturer Arkema Inc. in the northeast part of town caught fire on August 31 and September 1, sending toxic clouds of smoke billowing into the air. More than 200 neighbors evacuated their homes, and 21 first responders sought medical treatment for the nausea, vomiting, and dizziness they experienced after exposure to the chemicals.

Along with hundreds of residents, those first responders have sued Arkema in a pair of class-action lawsuits for negligence, charging that the company did not properly safeguard its chemicals or inform the community of the “unreasonably dangerous condition” created by their release. Harris and Liberty counties have separately sued the company. Arkema has fiercely denied any wrongdoing, but now, a year after the disaster, its leaders may have more to worry about than fronting a huge payday for disgruntled residents.

On August 3, a Harris County grand jury indicted the company’s chief executive, Richard Rowe, and the Crosby plant’s manager, Leslie Comardelle, for “recklessly” releasing chemicals into the air and putting residents and emergency workers at risk. “Companies don’t make decisions, people do,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement. “Responsibility for pursuing profit over the health of innocent people rests with the leadership of Arkema.”

“These criminal charges are astonishing,” Arkema responded in a statement. “At the end of its eight-month investigation, the Chemical Safety Board noted that Hurricane Harvey was the most significant rainfall event in U.S. history, an Act of God that never before has been seen in this country.”

The series of fires at Arkema’s plant were far from the only environmental disasters to hit southeast Texas in Harvey’s wake. Matt Tresaugue, who studies air quality issues at the Environmental Defense Fund, says Arkema barely even cracked his top 10 list. More serious, he argued, was the cumulative impact of several lesser-known incidents across the region. But fairly or not, Arkema remains, for many people, the most public example of executive malfeasance in the face of environmental calamity during Harvey. Companies like Valero and Chevron, among many others, were sued over their actions during the hurricane, but only Arkema’s executives face possible criminal penalties.

Arkema was certainly not the only entity at fault during the storm, but in its lack of preparedness and defiant defense of its actions, the company struck residents — and Harris County prosecutors — as eager to prioritize its profits over safety. The firm’s history did not help.

The year before Harvey, Arkema was slapped with a nearly $92,000 fine after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found 10 violations at the Crosby plant related to its handling of hazardous materials. Previous incidents, including the release of sulfuric acid in 1994 that left a 5-year-old girl with severe burns, led one Crosby resident to tell the Houston Chronicle she had “a bitter taste in [her] mouth about Arkema.”

Perhaps most troubling, Arkema has twice before faced civil penalties for improperly storing organic peroxides, the same chemicals that caught fire during Harvey. In 2006, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality cited the Crosby plant for releasing 3,200 pounds of pollutants because a “pallet of organic peroxide was stored inappropriately” and burned up. The state imposed a $20,300 penalty five years later, after finding that Arkema was not maintaining the proper temperature in the devices it used to decompose dangerous gases.

Arkema’s passionate defense of its behavior has led its representatives to quibble over relatively minor concerns. Janet Smith, a company spokesperson, responded to a request for comment from Mother Jones by first criticizing other media companies, such as the New York Times and CNN, for using the term “explosion” to describe what happened last August at the Crosby plant.“The flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey led to a series of short-lived fires at our Crosby plant, but there was no explosion,” she wrote in an email. “We have repeatedly pointed this out to news media covering the incident, but the inaccurate coverage persists.”

Even as residents have begun the process of returning home and paying off storm-related debts, many neighbors still do not know the long-term health effects of exposure to the toxic cloud, because federal investigators could not figure them out, according to a lengthy U.S. Chemical Safety Board report published in May.

The models Environmental Protection Agency staffers used to track how local air and water quality were being affected by the Arkema fires “did not reflect the nature of actual dispersions that occurred,” the CSB found. Combined with “other practical difficulties,” the EPA was unable to draw any firm conclusions about the health threats brought about by Arkema’s plant.

In its public statements soon after the disaster, the EPA was also not clear about the risks posed to residents who were soon forced to evacuate. After testing water samples near the Crosby plant, the EPA announced that the results “were less than the screening levels that would warrant further investigation.” The agency’s inspector general’s office said on August 2 it would investigate how the EPA responded to accidents during Harvey.

The Trump administration played a role, too. Under President Barack Obama, the EPA proposed a series of rules designed to strengthen industry’s reporting requirements to mitigate future chemical disasters. Known as the Chemical Disaster Rule, the proposal was opposed by companies like Arkema and indefinitely delayed once President Donald Trump’s first EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, took office. Pruitt defended his reasoning after the Arkema fires by claiming that terrorists could have exploited the information chemical companies would have been forced to give up under the rule.“What you’ve got to do is strike the balance,” he said, “so that you’re not informing terrorists and helping them have data that they shouldn’t have.”

For now, at least, that rule has been restored. On August 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the EPA’s decision to delay the rule. Calling the agency’s actions “arbitrary and capricious,” the court ordered the EPA to let the rule remain until the agency amends its requirements by standard regulatory action. That ruling may only prove temporary given the Trump administration’s commitment to rolling back dozens of Obama-era environmental regulations.

Whether the Chemical Safety Board even exists the next time another environmental disaster occurs is an open question. Embattled former chair Rafael Moure-Eraso was the target of a series of congressional probes into his workplace conduct during a five-year tenure that ended in 2015. Since taking office, Trump has tried to eliminate the agency twice in the White House’s budget proposals, but Congress has restored full funding both times. The resulting uncertainty has impeded “the CSB’s ability to attract, hire, and retain staff,” according to a report from the EPA inspector general’s office in June.

Stopping the next Arkema disaster will require more stringent oversight from federal regulators and a willingness by industry leaders to pony up the cash for frequent safety evaluations and up-to-date equipment. With industry-friendly leaders at the helm of the EPA and a CSB clinging to life, those reforms do not appear likely anytime soon.

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A year after an environmental disaster in Texas, chemical company executives face charges

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5 Time-Tested Ways to Make Your Groceries Last Longer

You spend hours?each week planning out your meals, gathering up reusable bags and hauling groceries from the store to the house.?And then they all go bad on you??That’s just not nice.

Produce is fickle stuff?? it starts fresh, then quickly devolves into a mess of green goo, mold and wilted leaves. What can you do? Fortunately, lots of things! Here are a few of the secrets you need to know.

1) Store leafy greens loose and dry.

The bane of all leafy greens ? arugula, spring lettuce, spinach ??is moisture. If left bunched up, unwashed, in the back of the fridge, they?will wilt.

To keep your greens from spoiling too quickly, first remove any ties or rubber bands, then rinse and dry (fully!) before wrapping loosely in a dry tea towel. Hardier varieties, like curly kale for example, will do best when placed in a cup of water like a bouquet.

2) Store?bulbs and tubers in the dark.

Bulb vegetables like onions and shallots, as well as tubers like sweet potatoes and golden potatoes, should be stored in as cellar-like an environment as possible.

Cool, dark, dry, with a bit of air circulation. That’s ideal. Placing them on the counter or?? please no?? in the fridge is a recipe for greening or growing eyes. Yuck!

3) Store?fleshy fruit vegetables in the crisper.

Fruit vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers (basically, all the good stuff) have a tendency to soften and mold due to their high moisture content.

Again, moisture is a serious no-no. Lay down a tea towel in the bottom of your fridge’s vegetable crisper, then wash and dry fully everything that will be placed there. Set up reminders to eat these! They’ll last longer when kept well, but longevity isn’t their strength to begin with.

4) Store?soft fruit in a paper bag on the counter.

Stone fruit?? think apricots, avocados, peaches?? come with the summer and go just as fast. Mold comes quickly, so you have to be vigilant and eat these at their prime.?

First, get them to?just ripe on the counter top (speed up the process by placing them in a paper bag) and then pop these beauties into the fridge when at their peak.

5) Store?melons uncut and out of sight.

Melons may be stored as-is on the counter, but you’ll want to keep them far away from direct sunlight. Cantaloupe and honeydew in particular are prone to sogginess, so follow the rules if you want to keep them fresh for long.

Once ripe, slice and store in a reusable container with a dry towel. This will help sop up any excess moisture and prevent ripe melon slices from becoming soft and unappetizing.

What creative tricks do you have up your sleeve for keeping produce fresh? Let us know!

Related Stories:

The Dos and Don’ts of Washing Your Produce
2018′s Dirtiest Produce Award Goes To…
4 Surprising Reasons to Eat Ugly Fruit

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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5 Time-Tested Ways to Make Your Groceries Last Longer

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What is Vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting is a composting?method?that uses earthworms to supercharge the process of organic waste conversion. Earthworms feed on organic waste material (vegetable scraps, egg shells, strawberry tops) and, through their digestive process, turn it into granular excrement castings called vermicompost.

Which?worm varieties are ideal for vermicomposting?

There are nearly 3,600 types of earthworms. They fall into two categories: burrowing and non-burrowing. Among these types, the most ideal for compost making is Eisenia foetida,?also known as red wiggler worms.?You can find them at many nursery suppliers or online.

What types of material can go into?a?vermicomposter?

In general,?worms can process just about any type of?organic, biodegradable material, from kitchen scraps and coffee grounds to dry carbon-based materials like straw and leaves to poultry litter, dairy wastes and a lot more.

How quickly do worms convert organic material?

The average earthworm can eat and excrete half its body weight in organic material per day. As the worm population grows and multiplies, this capability only increases. To create an efficient vermicomposting system, you’ll want to start with one pound of worms. One pound of worms can consume up to 3.5 pounds of food waste per week!

How can vermicompost be used?

Vermicompost contains a much higher percentage of both macro and micronutrients than standard garden compost. As such, it enhances plant growth, suppresses disease in plants, increases microbial activity in the soil, and improves water retention and aeration.

If you’re able to extract vermicompost tea ? the liquid produced during the composting process ? you?can apply it directly to foliage on your plants. This can help suppress plant disease. Cool, right!?

Related Stories:

How and Why to Make Compost Tea
80 Items You Can Compost
The Best Composting Option for City Dwellers

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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What is Vermicomposting?

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5 Simple Ways to Reduce Dangerous Toxins in Your Home

After a long day, there?s nothing like taking a deep breath and relaxing at home. But don?t get too comfortable. That air you?re breathing might be making you sick.

We face countless pollutants each day, and some of the worst can be in our home environments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports indoor air often has more pollution than outdoor air, even in populated cities. And because many of us spend the majority of our days indoors, that can pose some serious health hazards.

So what can you do to make your indoor air cleaner? Here are five simple and inexpensive ways to reduce indoor toxins and breathe a little easier in your home.

1. Plant some houseplants

Plants are nature?s air filter. And despite mixed research on their effectiveness of reducing indoor air pollution, one thing is for sure: It can?t hurt to bring some greenery into your space.

According to Healthline, plants remove toxins either by trapping them in their tissue or breaking them down into benign byproducts. It?s ideal to have one potted plant per 100 square feet indoors. That might not be enough to totally clear the air of toxins, but it will provide some mild air-scrubbing effects.

Besides reducing toxins, indoor plants also can help make you an overall healthier person. For one, the humidity plants release boosts our ability to fight allergies and infections. Plus, research has shown being around plants makes people calmer, more focused and generally happier.

2. Invest in an air purifier

There are many shapes and sizes of indoor air purifiers. And unless you have a health issue that necessitates an industrial-sized unit, you likely can reap some benefits from the cheaper, portable purifiers.

The devices work to remove particle and gaseous pollutants in the air, though they have their limitations, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. For instance, purifiers with mechanical filters are good at capturing airborne particles; however, larger particles tend to settle in the environment before the filter can pick them up. Thus, using an air purifier should put a dent in your home?s pollutants, but it likely won?t be enough for completely healthy air.

3. Increase ventilation

Image credit: Blair_witch/Thinkstock

Opening a window for some “fresh air” is a pretty appropriate description. Building materials, furniture, cleaning products and moisture are just a few sources of indoor air pollution. And your home needs a way for those to vent out before they accumulate to dangerous levels.

According to the World Health Organization, improving ventilation has been estimated to reduce lung-related illnesses by up to 20 percent. Increasing ventilation also promotes moisture control, which helps to hinder mold growth, according to the CDC. So open your doors and windows whenever possible, and use outdoor-venting fans to maintain a healthy air flow.

4. Limit off-gassing

You spend months picking out a new couch. You get it home, position it exactly where you want it, sit down and take a breath. What?s that smell? Toxic compounds.

Many new products we bring into our homes ? including furniture, carpets and construction materials ? contain volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. And those VOCs tend to evaporate, or off-gas, into the air, sometimes over the course of years. Pressed-wood products are major off-gassing offenders, often containing formaldehyde among other chemicals. According to the EPA, formaldehyde can cause eye, nose, throat and skin irritation, as well as cancer.

To combat off-gassing, limit the products you buy with VOCs. Shop for secondhand furniture that has completed its off-gassing process. And if you must bring something with VOCs into your home, allow it to off-gas with plenty of ventilation.

5. Remove your shoes

Your mom was right when she told you to take off your shoes at the door. It?s not just muddy footprints you?re tracking in. Think of everywhere you go in a day. During your trek, your shoes can pick up bacteria, parasites, allergens, pesticides and countless other nasty materials.

One study found the outside of shoes averaged 421,000 units of bacteria, including E. coli. According to the study, the bacteria could survive on shoes over long distances, and they would easily transfer to previously uncontaminated floors. But there?s a silver lining. Washing the shoes according to manufacturer instructions reduced the bacteria by 99 percent. In between washes, just leave those dirt traps at the door.

Related Stories:

7 Sources of Indoor Air Pollution
6 Houseplants That Will Thrive in Your Bathroom
20 Houseplants That Clear Toxins From Your Home

Main image credit: imnoom/Thinkstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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This Hack Makes Composting at Home So Much Easier

Most people new to composting find that there are a number of nuisances that are difficult to avoid. Odor, fruit flies, countless trips to the bin in the backyard…in the beginning, all this can be enough to make even the most dedicated want to give up.

But what would you say if I told you there was a single solution that could take care of all three of these problems? All you need is a freezer!

Stashing your food scraps in the freezer might sound weird, but it’s actually a great way to keep all those organic discards from ending up stinky and bug-ridden. Simply locate a bin (this could be an old coffee can, a 3-quart trash can, reusable silicon bags ? anything, really) that you don’t mind relegating to the freezer, and place it on a shelf where it can be easily accessed.

When the bin gets full, all you have to do is empty it in your pile and give your empty freezer bin a rinse. The organics will already be well on their way to decomposing and you’ll have been able to avoid the trek to the pile for at least a week, if not more!

What makes this method so great?

1. Minimal to no odor

Frozen organic matter does not interact with its environment the way it would were it on the kitchen counter. Open the freezer and all you’ll smell is icy freshness! Bonus tip: Struggling to keep everything tidy? Lay a flexible cutting board underneath your freezer bin to catch any escaped scraps.

2. Zero?pests

Common pests like fruit flies and maggots will steer clear of your freezer. They don’t want to be in there any more than you do!?Freezing scraps will also kill any insect larva that may be in the food.

3. A convenient location

It takes next to no effort to drop a banana peel or pile of carrot shavings into a bin just steps from where you created them. Keep your bin in the freezer and you won’t have to tromp out to the backyard every five minutes just to drop your scraps off for decomposition.

4. Quicker decomposition

Speaking of decomposition…did you know that the act of freezing actually breaks down the cell walls of organic material? It’s true! When that newly dumped bin of scraps thaws in your pile (or in your city’s pile), it’ll already be much closer to becoming the black gold you know it can be.

How to apply frozen scraps by composting method.

If you have a traditional pile:

Keep doing what you’re doing. Freezing kitchen scraps will help stretch the time between trips out to the compost pile. Sometimes that’s all the motivation you need!

If you?use bokashi:

Frozen scraps can be added to your bokashi bucket, no problem. Just make sure you’re still layering with “browns”?? a.k.a. dry, high-carbon materials like newspaper, brown paper bag shreds, sawdust, etc.

If you?send scraps out for collection:

Again, keep doing what you’re doing. Compost collectors won’t have any issue with frozen scraps. The only consideration here is that you get the bin out a few minutes ahead of pick-up time so you don’t have to struggle to dump a frozen-together lump of scraps into your collection bin.

If you have a worm bin / vermicomposter:

If you are using a vermicomposter to manage your kitchen scraps, adding the scraps directly to the bin as you make them may still be your best bet ? don’t want to overwhelm those worms! Still want to save scraps in the freezer? Just make sure you thaw them before adding them to the worm tray.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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This Hack Makes Composting at Home So Much Easier

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8 Eco Products That Make Dish Duty Look Dreamy

For most of us, doing the dishes is pretty far down the list of tolerable chores. It’s such a slog ? and?something you need to keep up with every day, week by week, till the end of time. A good time? I think not.

Lucky for us, there are a lot of brands out there who are working hard creating clever products that make dish duty a lot more fun. Here are some of my favorites!

This Dish Soap

Not all dish soaps are created equal. Lots of them contain numerous chemicals, including foaming agents like sodium laureth sulfate, carcinogenic antibacterial agents and synthetic fragrances. Fortunately, there are a number of delicious, non-toxic variations out there: a favorite is this?safe and effective formula?by Eco-Me.

This Swedish?Dishcloth

You may have seen these cute little?dishcloths?slowly popping up in boutiques and specialty kitchen stores in recent years. Made from earth-friendly cellulose, cotton fibers and water-based inks, these reusable sponge cloths last about a year and compost at the end of their life. Cool right!? To clean, simply toss in the washing machine or microwave when damp to kill bacteria.

These?Bar Mops

These hand towels do what you wish every paper towel could. Made from 100% cotton, these lightweight,?absorbent towels are durable and efficient, plus they dry quickly so you won’t have to worry about mildew. Once you’re done with the task at hand, send them to the laundry. The earth will thank you!

These Copper Pot Scrubbers

Who knew a pot scrubber could be so elegant??These scrubbers are made from copper threads, so they’re tough enough to remove even the most stubborn food residue, but gentle enough to keep from scratching your beautiful cookware. And, bonus: they can be recycled at the end of their useful life.

These?Dish Towels

Renewable hemp woven in a honeycomb pattern makes this beautiful dish towel both strong and beautiful.?Because hemp is especially durable, you can expect these eco-conscious towels to last for years to come.

This Wooden Dish Brush

B?rstenhaus Redecker has been handcrafting brushes in Germany for over 75 years, and their commitment to high quality craftsmanship certainly shows! Use this brush to clean everything from coffee mugs to pots and pans. The hard bristles will hold up to just about anything.

These?Vintage?Trays

Vintage?knick knacks always come in handy. A quick Etsy search of vintage dish trays yields a vast selection of darling secondhand trays eager to prove their worth at your kitchen sink. This one is a?personal favorite (it will match your Swedish dishcloths)?? this one too!

This Bamboo Drying Rack

Perfect for all those hand wash-only items or kitchens without the luxury of a dishwasher, this bamboo dish rack is an attractive addition to the countertop. This particular one is made from eco-friendly bamboo and has two individual racks for large plates and glassware. Plus, it folds up neatly for easy storage!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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8 Eco Products That Make Dish Duty Look Dreamy

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Victory! Federal Court Orders EPA to Ban Toxic Pesticide

There?s a new victory for environmentalists, health advocates and anyone who cares about their health: a federal court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos.

The decision puts an end to the EPA?s lengthy history of stall tactics and seeming unwillingness to protect people or the environment from this nasty toxic chemical.

The EPA?s History of Stall Tactics and Non-Protection

The EPA banned the brain-damaging pesticide from household use almost two decades ago in 2000. But, the so-called ?environmental protection? agency continued to allow the toxic chemical to grow food and for other agricultural purposes.

Additionally, the EPA had planned to completely ban chlorpyifos over a year ago but then mysteriously reversed its decision after meeting with the CEO of Dow Chemical, Andrew Liveris. Scott Pruitt, the then EPA administrator. Instead, they decided to keep the brain-damaging insecticide in use and to reverse the ban.

While the court has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the toxic pesticide, a spokesperson for the agency said that the agency ?is reviewing the decision.? That sounds like still another stall tactic by the agency that has already been court-ordered to immediately ban the chemical. Interestingly, and not surprisingly, as part of the decision, the judge admonished the EPA for ?having stalled on banning chlorpyrifos,? and ordered that all commercial registrations for chlorpyrifos be cancelled or revoked within 60 days.

Chlorpyrifos?A Serious Brain Toxin

Also known as CPF, or Dursban, the pesticide is an established nerve agent that has been linked to disruption of the brain messenger acetylcholine which is involved in memory and motor function and poor coordination, interference in the formation of brain cells and communication between brain cells, hyperactivity, learning impairment, depression?and other social and emotional changes. It has also been linked to headaches, blurred vision, unusual fatigue and other health issues.

Children are the Most Vulnerable

Research published in the journal Neurotoxicology found that the developing brains of children, especially those who are two years old and under, are most vulnerable to the harmful effects of these toxic pesticides.

Research published in the journal Pediatrics found that children with high exposures to this herbicide are more vulnerable to attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other developmental disorders. Yet, children are often the ones who are most exposed to the chemical because it is still sprayed on schoolyards and playgrounds. Another study published in Pediatrics found that fetal exposure may be linked to developmental problems.

In a study published in the journal Environmental Health, researchers labelled chlorpyrifos exposure as the ?Silent Epidemic? that is destroying our brain and neurological health.

How to Minimize Your Exposure to Chlorpyrifos

While the chemical will remain in the environment long after the ban is officially implemented, there are still things you can do to limit your exposure, including:

-Eat organic food as much as possible. Organic food is not sprayed with harmful pesticides; however, it may still come in contact with them during transportation or in grocery stores. Ideally, choose organic food at your local farmer?s market from a farmer that you know is exclusively growing organically.

-Avoid grass or parks that have been sprayed. And, definitely do not let your children play in the grass of parks or lawns that have been sprayed with pesticides. If you?re not sure about the area, assume it has been sprayed.

-Avoid spraying your lawn, flower, fruit or vegetable gardens with chemical pesticides of any kind.

-Don?t spray any chemical insecticides in your home.

-Grow your own sprouts. Not only is it the best example of eating locally, as long as you use organic seeds and pure water, they?ll be pesticide-free. Learn more about how to grow your own sprouts here.

-Place a ?Pesticide-free? yard sign to encourage others to do the same and to contribute to the increasing number of yards that are pesticide-free.

Write to the EPA telling them to follow the court order and insisting that they not employ further stall tactics or waste more taxpayer money by appealing the decision. You can reach them by mail at: Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20460. You can also make your opinions known on their Facebook page, Twitter page, Instagram page?or Flickr page.

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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World?s Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, co-founder of BestPlaceinCanada, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your Life.? Follow her work.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Victory! Federal Court Orders EPA to Ban Toxic Pesticide

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