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Coronavirus myth-busting: The truth about empty shelves and toilet paper shortages

My 8-year-old daughter only began to comprehend the absolute weirdness of living in this time of coronavirus on a recent trip to a grocery store.

The line outside to get in, the employee regulating traffic at the door, the gloops of hand sanitizer, the face masks — it was all bizarre. And stranger than strange were the empty shelves. For the first time, she could see that she was living through an extraordinary moment in history.

“That was super weird,” she said quietly, when we got home.

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The abundance of food in a grocery store is every bit as much a hallmark of Americana as Bugs Bunny and Major League Baseball. So it’s eerie to see those shelves bare.

What exactly is going on here? Are people irrationally hoarding beans and toilet paper? It turns out, not so much. To find out what’s really happening, I talked to a few people who study the country’s massive chain of farms, trucks, and warehouses that deliver the nutrients we all need to survive to ask how the system is holding up, what this stress test tells us about preparing for future shocks, and just what the fresh hell is happening with toilet paper.

What has changed?

The sudden shift in the way Americans shop is stunning.

“One stat I have heard from grocery store folks is that the traffic in their stores is up tremendously, like 300 percent,” said Jayson Lusk, an agricultural economist at Purdue University.

Grocery store sales reached the highest level in history in the week ending March 15, an eye-popping 62 percent higher than in the same week last year, according to the retail research company IRI. Americans are buying a lot of staples — bread, eggs, beans — but also just buying more of everything. Nail polish remover sales are up nearly 60 percent, too.

In turn, grocery stores have to order more from their suppliers, driving up prices. The wholesale price of a dozen eggs jumped from 90 cents at the start of the year to a recent $2.35.

We’re running out of food!

Not true. There are pigs aplenty and enough chickens for every pot. Cattle are copious.

“We’re actually on pace to produce more beef than we have in, really recorded history, this year,” Lusk said.

There’s plenty of wheat, too. But it has to be ground, baked into bread, and delivered. Before you can eat a sausage, someone needs to slaughter a pig, cut it up, and get it on a shelf. And that’s where there are bottlenecks.

“There’s only so many loading docks coming out of a distribution center,” said Shelie Miller, a professor at the University of Michigan who studies the environmental impacts of food systems. “The system is not designed for everyone to buy everything at once, but it will catch up.”

Why are we shopping more?

If you tell people they should be prepared to stay in their house for a long time, it only makes sense that they are going to fill up their pantries. That part is no mystery. But after the first week or two, you’d think people would go back to their normal shopping patterns and grocery stores shelves would be full again. After all, it’s not like we are eating more, right?

Turns out, we are eating more groceries. A lot more. You might have noticed the same thing that I’ve noticed in my house: Food seems to run low at an alarming pace. That’s because we are no longer eating out. Instead of getting food from school lunches, company cafeterias, and restaurants, Americans are now getting the bulk of their calories from grocery stores. Normally, the meat Americans eat is split evenly — half from restaurants (and schools, and office canteens) and half from stores. That has “drastically shifted,” with 85 percent of meat running through grocery stores, a Cargill executive told Food Navigator.

And it’s not like all the trucks full of food headed for restaurants can just turn around and drive to a grocery store instead. There’s only so much space on the shelf in every store, and it takes a while for grocers who need more milk, say, to figure out who has excess and negotiate a new deal. That’s why dairies are dumping truckloads of milk into fields around the country. But pretty soon, people will figure out how to divert the food headed for restaurants so that it gets to groceries instead. It’s already beginning to happen:

“Some of the big meatpackers have already said they are doing that,” Lusk said. “They are packing more individual items, rather than big cuts that normally go to restaurants.”

As a result, prices for meat have started to go down.

Where are the strains?

Anywhere the food system relies on workers: people who pick the veggies, drive the trucks, and restock the shelves. Many farmworkers come on special work visas from Mexico — now suspended. It’s likely that melons and lettuce will rot in the fields this year.

A lot of the people who harvest and process our food can’t afford to quarantine themselves. Already a few workers at meatpacking houses have contracted the coronavirus. That’s concerning because these packing houses tend to be big; Big enough that when something goes wrong it can trigger shockwaves of shortages. If there aren’t enough workers to run any one of these food-processing links in the food chain, that could cause major problems.

“Last fall there was a lot of fervor when a fire in a Tyson meatpacking plant caused really big disruptions in the meat market,” Lusk said. “That one facility was about 5 percent of all the beef processing in the country.”

What does this stress test tell us about eating in a hotter future?

Big meatpacking plants are very good at producing affordable food. But their size also makes the country vulnerable to shocks: A single flood or fire could shut down a significant portion of the food system.

To prepare for future disasters we might want to encourage food companies to have five or six food processing plants scattered around the countryside, rather than one giant regional plant, Lusk said. That would cost more, but it would be more resilient.

Some help could come from abroad. If one giant slaughterhouse or grain-processing plant goes dark in the United States, there’s already a robust network of ships and rails to move food around the world.

“Globalized food systems require a lot more energy than local food systems, but there is also more redundancy,” Miller said. “If one part of the globe is experiencing a major climate event you have more options — there are lots of different suppliers in lots of different locations.”

But in many ways the coronavirus pandemic presents fundamentally different challenges than the slow emergency of climate change. Adapting to a hotter planet requires figuring out how to feed ourselves without releasing greenhouse gases, which means growing more food on less land, so that we can stop cutting down forests, and start growing more carbon-sucking trees.

Who gets left out?

There is a real danger that this pandemic causes many more people to go hungry, not because there isn’t enough food to go around, but because the economic slowdown leaves families without the money to buy it.

“COVID-19 is a health crisis. But it could also lead to a food security crisis if proper measures are not taken,” wrote Shenggen Fan, former director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute, which is funded by governments and foundations.

Researchers at IFPRI projected that the number of desperately poor people — those living on less than $1.90 a day — could surge by 14 million because of the virus to around 750 million. If the pandemic shuts down international trade, that could rise to 22 million. That increase of 2 or 3 percent is especially significant, because the number of people living in extreme poverty has been falling for years.

Will panic buying lead to rotten food?

It’s hard to tell. Americans are buying tons of food, and some of that could end up in the trash.

“As a general rule, Americans already tend to produce a lot of food waste,” Miller said. “Estimates are 30 to 40 percent of food that is grown ends up going to waste — and a lot of that happens in our own refrigerators where we buy produce and then let it wilt and rot.”

This has big environmental consequences. Just think of all the farmland that could be devoted to wildlife, all the water that wouldn’t need to be pumped out of aquifers to farmland, if we stopped letting so much food rot.

But we are also spending so much time at home that we have time to cook, and to plan out how we will use up food. That makes this quarantine period an important opportunity Miller said: “Because if we are doing it now we might be able to keep doing it when things go back to normal.”

It’s also an opportunity to think a little differently about food waste. It’s understandable that people want to overstock their pantries even if it means throwing some things out, Lusk said, because for any one person waste is better than scarcity. Ideally we’d have a food system with some excess — that produces a little waste in normal times but can fill bellies in emergencies — rather than a system that’s so lean that leads to hunger when something unexpected happens. As we can see with masks and ventilators, there can be tragic downsides to keeping a lean supply of surplus.

OK, so what the heck is going on with toilet paper?

The explanation for those empty shelves isn’t panic buying. Sure, some people are buying too much. But people really do need more toilet paper at home because they aren’t using the bathrooms in office buildings, airports and restaurants anymore, as Will Oremus of OneZero explained in a post on Medium. The paper giant Georgia Pacific estimated that people staying at home full time would need to buy 40 percent more TP.

The larger issue is that supply chains just aren’t cut out for the shift in demand. Just like food — which is split into two supply chains for restaurants and grocery stores — toilet paper is divided between industrial and consumer markets. That toilet paper in public restrooms comes in giant rolls. And so, just like food, companies can’t just turn the trucks headed for the office parks and send them to grocery warehouses. They need to retool their supply chains to deliver household-sized products to grocery stores.

And once stores ran out of TP, Lusk thinks store managers may have prioritized other goods:

“If a grocery store has one semi-truck showing up at their backdoor from the warehouse, what do you tell the warehouse to fill that truck up with? Toilet paper is big and bulky: It doesn’t take a lot to fill up the back of a semi truck. If your choices are toilet paper or bread and pasta you are going to choose the bread and pasta. “

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Coronavirus myth-busting: The truth about empty shelves and toilet paper shortages

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The internet is ablaze with Lil Dicky’s bizarre, star-studded climate anthem

Lil Dicky, the self-flagellating Jewish rapper slash comedian, came out with another banger on Friday. Born Andrew David Burd, Lil Dicky is known for his hits with rappers Fetty Wap, Rich Homie Quan, and Chris Brown. His songs are about stuff other artists don’t usually discuss, like fiscal responsibility and being a white rapper, and often verge into satire.

Lil Dicky’s latest jam, Earth, takes on new and unusual subject matter, even for him: climate change. The 7-minute music video is his most celebrity-packed yet, featuring Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Halsey, Bad Bunny, PSY, Zac Brown, Miley Cyrus, Sia, Snoop Dogg, and more. How did Dicky get all those celebs to star on his track? Probably the same way he got strangers to let him use their mansions and yachts for free for his $ave Dat Money music video: a lot of begging.

Regardless of how Lil Dicky pulled it off, Earth is already trending on YouTube with 6 million views and climbing, and the rapper worked with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation to donate proceeds from the video to climate and environment projects. So what all is the song about? Think “We Are The World,” but animated and millennial as f***.

The video opens with a clip of a newscaster talking about the fires that ripped through California last year. But the video rapidly leaves the sweltering California streets and enters an animated world, replete with talking bald eagles and safari animals.

Dicky frolics with penguins, analyzes chatty microbes under a microscope, and talks to a marijuana plant voiced by Snoop Dogg (duh). The video might look like a Disney channel special, but isn’t too concerned with being wholesome (Justin Bieber’s line: “I’m a baboon. I’m like a man just less advanced and my anus is huge).

The second half of the video is a call to action. “These days it’s like we don’t know how to act, all these shootings, pollution, we under attack on ourselves,” he says. “Like let’s all just chill.” Gripping stuff.

If you don’t want to watch an animated Lil Dicky sing about the planet in a loincloth g-string for seven minutes, I don’t blame you. But think of it this way: what if this whole video is a critique of the tired and worn-out tropes used by old-school Earth Day advocates? Hmm??

As Dicky recently told TIME in an interview, “If we don’t completely redefine how we do everything on earth, from an energy perspective, from a food perspective, from a conserving nature perspective, in the next 12 years, the damage is irreversible and we’re screwed.” Clearly, he knows that recycling bottles and changing light bulbs isn’t enough to get ourselves out of this climate predicament.

Then again, the celebrities in his video are contributing more than their fair share of pollution by jetting around the world to play shows, as Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg points out. Commenters have also noted some racist and misogynistic tropes. (Case in point: Lil Dicky points out India, Germany, and “Africa” as he twirls around the globe. You can’t group a whole continent with a bunch of countries, ya dingus.) Maybe this shit isn’t that deep and I’m just looking for an excuse to dunk on Earth Day? You be the judge.

Either way, the fact that Lil Dicky chose to focus one of his songs on climate change in the first place marks a shift in popular culture. “I’d like to figure out a way to impact humanity as best as I possibly can beyond my typical d**k and fart jokes,” he said. Well, Mr. Dicky, I guess you succeeded?


The internet is ablaze with Lil Dicky’s bizarre, star-studded climate anthem

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6 Ways You Can Help Endangered Species (Starting with a Call to Your Governor)

Extinction is a natural phenomenon. Thank goodness. Unless you’re a six-year-old kid, chances are you’re relieved that dinosaurs no longer roam the earth.

But scientists estimate we’re losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the normal rate. To put that in perspective, the normal rate is one to five species per year.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals. It might be hard to imagine, but were it not for a landmark decision in 1973, the situation could be even more dire.

Unfortunately, the Endangered Species Act ?which boasts a 99 percent success rate? is under political threat.?That means things could get worse really quickly.?We need to band together to help protect endangered species in whatever way we can.

Urging your governor to stand up for the Act?is one way to?help,?and there are lots of other things you can do to make a difference to the planet and its inhabitants.

How to Help Endangered Species

The sad reality is that 99 percent of currently threatened species are at risk as a result of human activity. On the bright side, this means we have the power to?turn the tide on extinction by changing our behavior.

A somewhat idealistic outlook, I’ll agree, but imagine if everyone made?a few simple changes to the way they lived.

Don’t panic, I’m not suggesting an off-the-grid Luddite existence. I love outrageously overpriced coffee as much as the next person.

What we need to do?is look beyond our immediate reality?and consider?that our actions and choices impact the world around us. It may not always be apparent when you’re rushing to work, dropping off kids and chasing deadlines, but we’re all connected.

These are things we should all do to protect endangered species. If we don’t, it won’t just be at the expense of the animals. The food on our plates is at risk too.

Image?Credit: Net Credit

1. Call Your Governor

Call or email your state’s governor and urge them to?stand up for the Endangered Species Act. Earthjustice has a form that makes it easy to send a quick email voicing your support. Never called an elected official before? This handy guide can help you get ready.

2. Learn about Endangered Species in Your Area

Endangered animals don’t only exist in far-flung places, like the Amazon Rainforest or Indonesia. Habitat loss, poaching and pollution affect hundreds of species in the USA, too. Take the time to learn about the wildlife, birds, fish and plants in your area.

Sometimes grasping the proximity of a problem?can help spur us into action. When you know your lifestyle choices have a direct impact on the wildlife in your area, you’ll be less inclined to opt for convenience.

3. Nurture Your Backyard Ecosystem

Find out how you can help the ecosystem in your own backyard thrive. Plant an environmentally friendly garden, use natural pest control methods. Capture rainwater for irrigation purposes. Favor plants over lawn. Do everything you can to make a place pollinators want to hang out.

4. Stop Using Plastic

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. produces 32 million tons of plastic waste a year. No wonder 700 marine species are at risk of extinction because of plastic. Ditch the convenience of single-use plastic and opt instead for more sustainable alternatives.

5. Buy Local

Large-scale food production invariably uses agricultural practices that are harmful to the environment. One easy lifestyle change you can make right now is to support local farmers. Even if they’re not certified organic, their practices will be a lot better for the planet.

6. Slow Down When Driving

Urbanisation has forced a lot of animals into built-up areas. Along with their natural predators, these guys?now also have to be on the lookout out for human hazards, like cars. Drive the speed limit, and you’ll have a better chance of stopping in time.

When you see signs warning you of endangered animals crossing, pay even closer attention.?Remember, they need to get where they’re going just as much as you do.

Take Action

Small changes can add up, but we also need large-scale action to protect endangered species.?Join over 104,000 supporters and sign and share? petition demanding that Congress take bipartisan action to protect endangered species.

If?you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You?ll find Care2?s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.


Photo Credit: Getty Images

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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The Hole in the Universe – K. C. Cole


The Hole in the Universe
How Scientists Peered over the Edge of Emptiness and Found Everything
K. C. Cole

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $9.99

Publish Date: July 18, 2012

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC

“A compelling, enjoyable, and widely accessible exploration of one of the most fundamental scientific issues of our age” (Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe ).   In The Hole in the Universe , an award-winning science writer “provides an illuminating slant on physics and mathematics by exploring the concept of nothing” ( Scientific American ).   Welcome to the world of cutting-edge math, physics, and neuroscience, where the search for the ultimate vacuum, the point of nothingness, the ground zero of theory, has rendered the universe deep, rich, and juicy. Every time scientists and mathematicians think they have reached the ultimate void, something new appears: a black hole, an undulating string, an additional dimension of space or time, repulsive anti-gravity, universes that breed like bunnies. Cole’s exploration at the edge of everything is “as playfully entertaining as it is informative” ( San Jose Mercury News ).   “A strong and sometimes mind-blowing introduction to the edges of modern physics.” —   “Comprising an expansive set of topics from the history of numbers to string theory, the big bang, even Zen, the book’s chapters are broken into bite-sized portions that allow the author to revel in the puns and awkwardness that comes with trying to describe a concept that no one has fully grasped. It is an amorphous, flowing, mind-bending discussion, written in rich, graceful prose. As clear and accessible as Hawking’s A Brief History of Time , this work deserves wide circulation, not just among science buffs.” — Publishers Weekly , starred review   “Here we have the definitive book about nothing, and who would think that nothing could be so interesting . . . not only accessible but compelling reading.” — St. Louis Post-Dispatch    

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The Hole in the Universe – K. C. Cole

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How a Minimalist Lifestyle Can Add to Your Green Efforts


You may have seen the term “minimalism” being thrown around a lot lately, especially in the eco-friendly sphere. As more and more people have adopted minimalist lifestyles, the concept has begun to slowly creep to the forefront of our collective consciousness. But what exactly is minimalism? To be honest, it can be a little hard to pinpoint.

Minimalism means different things to different people — it’s unique to the person living it. The truth is, there’s no “one size fits all” to this approach. However, one thing that can be agreed upon is that living as a minimalist is far more earth-friendly than how the majority of Americans are currently getting by. Let’s take a closer look:

What Is Minimalism?

Ranging from apartment-dwelling urbanites to country homesteaders, minimalists come from vast walks of life. They might be single or have a large family, have a house full of treasured items or live out of a backpack. The common ground lies in the opposition to the American ideal of working more to make more, and spending more to have more.

The true essence of minimalism is determining what provides you the most value in life and removing everything that is simply excess. It’s a very intentional way of living that gives rise to positive changes in almost all aspects of life. Being a minimalist means choosing to live your life with great purpose.

Curbing the Consumer Mind-Set

Society’s greatest lie is that a good life is based on the accumulation and possession of as many material items as possible. Massive houses, expensive cars, grand yachts, glittering diamonds — you know, the Instagram-worthy, Kardashian-inspired lifestyle. When we believe that more is better, we fall prey to the notion that money can buy happiness. That’s where minimalism comes in. Minimalism frees us from the all-consuming desire to possess. It sidesteps consumerism and compels us to seek happiness in experiences and relationships. It encourages us to actually live a life instead of buying one.

Now, all this isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with owning material possessions. It’s more about throwing off the meaning we attribute to said possessions. To put it more plainly, acquiring more stuff shouldn’t come before our health, relationships or personal growth. If owning a house or a car is important to you, that’s perfectly fine. Minimalism is merely a method that supports you in making these decisions more thoughtfully.

When it comes to your possessions, adopting a minimalist lifestyle means being very intentional about what you own and not being distracted by material belongings. While you may want to start your minimalist journey by getting rid of a bunch of stuff, the focus of minimalism shouldn’t be on what you are throwing out, it should instead be on the benefit of removing what doesn’t bring value to your life. Though minimalism sounds like it’s all about having less, there’s actually a lot of “more” that comes along with it. You’ll have more time, more space, more peace and more freedom.

Minimalism Is Eco-Friendly

The basic tenets of minimalism are surprisingly in tune with the eco-friendly way of living. For instance, by making a conscious choice to only purchase what is absolutely needed, you’ll naturally consume less. The less gas, plastic and nonrecyclable materials you use on a regular basis, the fewer nonrenewable resources are used up in their production. Reuse allows you to take this even further, say by borrowing a book from the library instead of buying a new one.

Minimalism makes you more aware of how much waste you generate. Buying less means wasting less; the fewer purchases you make, the fewer boxes, bags and packing materials end up dumped in landfills. What’s more, when you produce less waste, sorting through it for recycling and composting purposes is far easier and more efficient.

Minimalism is helpful in overcoming perceived obsolescence. Perceived obsolescence is when an object is completely functional but is no longer perceived to be stylish or appropriate. It’s rendered obsolete by perception, rather than by function. Minimalism encourages you to purchase goods designed to last for a long period of time, and use them for their entire life span.

Though eighty-sixing excess possessions is a big part of minimalism, the concept goes far beyond what you own. Minimalism should be practiced in all areas of your life — determine what you value most and remove what stands in the way. Apply this to how you spend your time, who you have relationships with, what you eat and so on.

Minimalism, like so many things in life, comes in many forms — it’s a flexible concept. You can choose to adopt the aspects of minimalism that appeal to you most and adapt others to fit your lifestyle. And since it all depends on what adds value to your life in the moment, it’s bound to change over time. After all, what’s meaningful to you in your 20s is not always the same as what’s meaningful to you in your 50s. Just remember, the true aim of minimalism isn’t to deprive yourself of anything, it’s to focus on the things that bring you the most value, cultivate your relationships and live the best life you can.

To learn more about embracing minimalism, check out these fantastic minimalist blogs.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock

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How a Minimalist Lifestyle Can Add to Your Green Efforts

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Want to stop wildfires? Try logging, says Utah official.

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Want to stop wildfires? Try logging, says Utah official.

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How to Control All Types of Garden Pests Without Using Chemicals

Each year, homes in the United States apply approximately 171 million pounds of pesticides on gardens and lawns. You can avoid many of these toxic chemicals by using natural pest control methods instead. Taking a preventative approach will also save you time and money in the long run.

For all pests, the best defense is vigorous, healthy plants. Make sure your plants have plenty of water, nutrients, sunshine and attention. You can also boost beneficial microorganisms in your soil by applying compost tea, which is shown to help reduce damage from insects and diseases.

Related: How & Why to Make Compost Tea

These are some easy and effective ways to control common garden pests.

Bugs and Insects

Insect pests can seem to move into your garden overnight. Preventing them from getting started in the first place is especially important.

Get to know your bugs. If youre not sure who youre dealing with, catch a few bugs in a clear plastic bag and take them to your local garden center for identification. You can plan the best defense once you know your enemy.
Grow organically. Many broad-spectrum insecticides will kill beneficial insects as well as the bad ones. Keeping your yard chemical-free will encourage good populations of predatory bugs.
Install row covers. A row cover is a cloth thats hung over a garden bed like a tent. It protects the plants underneath from flying insects. This is particularly helpful for plants in the cabbage family to protect against pests like cabbage moths and loopers.
Use companion plants. Planting certain plants together has been shown to help deter pests. Check out some of the best companion planting pairs.
Choose appropriate plants. Select plants that will flourish in your local conditions. Plants in wrong locations will become stressed and attract pests. Also try planting varieties that are resistant to pests in your area.
Wash your plants. If you see unwanted visitors, washing them off with your hose or other water sprayer can be surprisingly effective.
Plant decoys. You can outsmart pests by growing plants theyll eat instead of your crops. For example, if you plant nasturtiums near your vegetables, aphids will often attack the nasturtiums and leave your other plants alone.

Related: 5 Simple Pest Remedies for the Garden

Slugs and Snails

These soft-bodied mollusks love fresh and succulent plant parts, especially leaves and young seedlings. You can do a lot to keep them out of your prized vegetables.

Remove them by hand. Wear an old pair of gloves while you do this, or use tongs or chopsticks. Theyll be covered in slime by the time youre done, so use something disposable. After youre done, you can manually squish your invaders, drown them in a bucket of salt water or throw them on the road.
Put out beer traps. For some reason, slugs and snails are attracted to the smell of beer. You can use this to your advantage. Slug Off has a great description of how to make your own slug beer trap.
Use a lure. A lure is any object that slugs and snails will crawl under to seek shelter from the days sun. You can then collect and dispose of them each day. You can use anything as a lure, such as cabbage leaves, an overturned pot, a plate or a plank of wood.
Get some ducks. You may not think of ducks as vicious predators, but they love eating slugs. Theyll keep your slug population in check.
Spread scratchy materials. Slugs and snails are deterred by rough materials like sandpaper, diatomaceous earth, crushed eggshells or wood ashes, because theyre hard to slither across. Spread these around plants you want to protect or around the edges of garden beds as a barrier.

Related: 16 Natural Ways to Defeat Garden Slugs

Fungal Diseases

Keeping your plants clean and dry is the key for preventing fungal diseases like powdery mildew, leaf spot, rusts and blights. This will prevent their spores from spreading.

Water plants in the morning. Any excess water on your plants can evaporate during the day. Watering at the soil level is also helpful because it keeps water off the leaves altogether.
Give your plants space. Good air flow in between plants will prevent moisture buildup and potential fungal problems, especially for vegetables and other closely-planted annuals. Also weed regularly to keep areas open.
Rotate your vegetable crops. Dont plant the same veggies in the same place year after year. This invites soil-borne diseases. Check out the Old Farmers Almanac guide to easy crop rotation.
Remove infected plant debris. If youve had a fungal infection, make sure you remove the affected plants from your property. Dont leave them on the ground or compost them, which could spread fungal spores.
Harvest regularly. Fruit and vegetables left to spoil on the plants will encourage fungal invasion.
Clean your tools. Wash any tools youve used with infected plants or soil. Wash with soap and hot water and dry thoroughly before storing your tools.

Foraging Animals

Deer, rabbits and squirrels can be very cute visitors in your garden, but these and other furry critters can do a lot of damage to your plants. Your best defense is to make your property as uninviting as possible.

Get a cat or a dog. Even if your pet would rather snuggle with you than chase an invading rodent, often their presence is enough to scare away potential four-legged pests.
Keep your yard clean. Garbage, standing water, piles of yard trimmings and other debris can all provide food and homes for visitors.
Put up fencing. The height of your fence depends on the type of animal youre trying to keep out. A one- or two-foot high barrier is fine for rabbits, voles and most other rodents. Whereas, a deer fence often needs to be at least eight or ten feet high. Its also helpful to bury the bottom of your fence at least 6-inches to prevent critters tunneling underneath.
Sprinkle deterrents around your property. Some excellent options are human hair, hot pepper flakes, human or animal urine, kitty litter, blood meal or fabric softener.
Use pungent plants. Garlic, chives, onions, hot peppers, marigolds, sage and yarrow are well-known for their pest-repelling scents.
Startle your visitors. Many garden props can scare off animals, such as floodlights or noisemakers triggered by motion sensors, flags waving in the wind, radios playing, hidden fishing lines or water sprinklers.

12 Ways to Get Rid of Aggressive Weeds Without Resorting to Roundup
25+ Beneficial Plants That Ward Off Pests and Protect Your Garden
9 Beneficial Bugs and Insects to Welcome in the Garden

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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How to Control All Types of Garden Pests Without Using Chemicals

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How to Compost at Home

In the old Brothers Grimm tale Rumpelstiltskin, a miller swears to the king that his daughter can spin straw into golda bold-faced lie.With the help of the eponymous imp and his magical powers, the daughter was eventually able to spew gold from her very fingers. But, she had to promise her firstborn child to him in order to receive the special talent.

In the real world there is one way to turn straw into gold, so to speak, that doesnt require any special powers or bargaining with a frightful creatureits known as composting. Creating organic fertilizer from food scraps happens to be much easier than most people think. Heres everything you need to know:

Photo Credit: Paul Delmont


In basic terms, composting means recycling plant scraps from the kitchenincluding carrot tops, potato peels, herb stems, celery fronds, eggshells, coffee grounds, used tea bagsall in the effort to minimize waste and to make garden fertilizer. The process transforms such food scraps, which would have normally ended up in the garbage, into a nutrient-rich mulch that can be added to soil and help you grow even more fruits and vegetables, thereby perpetuating the cycle. Now thatssustainability at its finest.

How it works

As organic materials decompose, they break down into nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassiumthe same compounds plants need to thrive. Brown matter, like dead leaves and branches, provide carbon while green matter, like vegetables and fruits, provide nitrogen. Compost piles and bins ideally consist ofthree parts brown matter to one part green matter.

When these organic materials are exposed to air and water, microorganisms likebacteria, actinobacteria, fungi, protozoa, and earthwormsstart to break them down into compost. Carbon gives these microbes energy, and nitrogen facilitatesprotein synthesisa biological process where individual cells build up their specific proteins..

After these microorganisms break down the plant matter, what youre left with is a substance calledhumus(no, not hummus) which basically looks, smells, and feels like dark, moist soil. Spread a thick layer of it on top of the soil in your garden and watch your plants flourish! (Well get to more specifics below.)


Reduces and recycles kitchen and yard waste

One of the greatest benefits of composting is giving food scraps and yard waste another life. Instead of going straight to a landfillwhere40 percent of all food produced in the U.S. ends uptheyll serve a new purpose and nourish your garden naturally and even help you to cultivate more food.

Good for the environment

Compost can serve as a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers, which oftenseep into groundwater and end up polluting waterways.

Conditions and fertilizes soil

Compost helps give soil a softer, looser texture, which allows water and nutrients to reach the plants roots more efficiently. Its all thanks to those beneficial microorganisms, which can evenkill pathogensand prevent plant disease, according to theEnvironmental Protection Agency.

Photo Credit: Paul Delmont


Heres what can (and cant) go into your compost heap,according to the EPAandRodales Organic Life.

Brown matter

These are generally dry ingredients that are rich in carbon:

Corn husks
Dead leaves
Pine needles
Shredded newspaper
Wood ashes
Wood chips

Green matter

These tend to be wet and are rich in nitrogen:

Coffee grounds and filters
Dead plants
Freshwater aquarium water
Grains (cooked, plain)
Grass clippings
Tea bags


These materials may be harmful to the health of your compost:

Black walnut tree leaves and twigs
Dairy products
Diseased plants
Dryer or vacuum lint from synthetic fabrics
Fats or oils
Glossy paper (especially with color printing)
Meat or fish scraps or bones
Pet waste


Its easy to start composting at home. Whether you have a big backyard or live in an apartment with minimal outdoor space, heres how to do it.

Composting in a backyard

1. Pick a spot

The first step is to pick a dry, sunlit area outdoors and near a water source (like a garden hose). Since compost tends to be smelly, be mindful and choose a spot where the appearance or smell wont bother your neighbors. Its best to keep it far away from anywhere you eat or entertain, too. You should also avoid placing it near the house or any other wooden structures, as the decomposing materials can rot wood.

2. Dig a hole or buy a compost bin

If you dont mind letting your compost heap sit exposed, its a good idea to dig a hole in the ground to make it easier to manage. Make sure the hole measures at least 3 x 3 x 3.

You can buy a holding unit or bin at Thrive Market, likethis one here. Or you can get crafty and check out how tomake a DIY version. A closed bin with a lid also worksjust drill holes into the lid to allow air in, and add your own worms (you can pick those up at home and garden stores, too).

3. Start adding organic materials

Add compostable materials in alternating layers, starting with brown matter, then green matter, and some brown again. Try to maintain a ratio of three parts carbon (brown) to one part nitrogen (green). Too much carbon can slow down the decomposition, while too much nitrogen can make the pile slimy, smelly, and difficult to aerate.

4. Turn and add water

If you arent continually adding new matter, let it sit for five weeks. Then, turn it with a pitchfork or rake to oxygenate the mixture, and add enough water to dampen the pile. (Excess moisture hinders airflow, and too little prevents the microorganisms you need to start decomposition from thriving.) Leave it for three or four months longeritll turn into dark, moist soil, which is your key to know its ready to use.

Most people, however, tend to add new materials throughout the year. In this case, whenever you add new food waste or kitchen scraps, bury it to incorporate. Turn and moisten the pile at least every four to five weeks, but keep in mind that turning more often can really speed up the decomposition process.

Composting indoors or in an apartment

No backyard? No problem. You can make your own small-scale composting system indoorsand you dont even need worms. Heres how:

What you need

Small trash bin with a lid
Tray that fits underneath trash bin


Choose a space to keep your compost bin. (Under the sink works well.)
Poke or drill a few holes on the bottom and around the rim of the bin.
Cover tray with newspaper and place the bin in the tray.
Add a layer of soil, a few inches deep, into the bin.
Add a layer of shredded newspaper into the bin.
Start adding your food scraps (green matter as listed above), along with a handful of newspaper or other brown matter as you go. (If it starts to smell bad, add more brown matter.)
Once a week, mix the pile and add a handful of fresh soil.

Youll know the compost is ready when its broken down into dark, moist soil. Use it as a top layer for potted plants or donate whatever you cant use to a neighborhood garden.

Photo Credit: Paul Delmont


Here are some important things to know before getting started to make your composting a success.

Start your compost in summer:The process works best in heata compost pile that maintains an internal temperature of 130 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit breaks down faster.
Keep a small compost bin in the kitchen:Its a convenient way to collect food scraps without having to run out to the compost pile every time you have something to add. Once your indoor bin is filled, you can throw it all into the pile at once.
Always keep a healthy balance of of carbon to nitrogen (brown to green):Remember its three parts brown to one part green. Too much or too little of either can slow things down.
The smaller the materials, the better:Before adding things into the compost, cut them down to smaller chunks to help them decompose faster.
Dont pack too much waste in:The pile needs air to breathe.
The more green matter you use, the less water you need:Remember that too much water keeps the air from flowing freely through the mixture.
Do not compost pet waste:It can contain parasites.
Do not compost meat, meat scraps, fats or oils:Otherwise pests will come crawling and potentially spread disease through the compost.
Wormsare your friends:When these guys show up, leave them be and let them do their thing. Theyll feed on your food waste and help turn it into the beautiful compost youve been waiting for.
You can compost weeds:Just make sure they dont have seeds, or else you may get some pesky plants cropping up in your garden.
Turn your pile frequently:Aerating the compost as often as every two weeks can really speed up the process.
Keep two separate compost piles:Got a lot of organic material and extra space? Starting a second pile is handy so you can let the original one break down faster while continuing your composting habit.
Add compost to the garden two to four weeks before planting:This allows time for it to meld with the soil. Once youve got it all ready to go, its time to plant theseeds. When beautiful, bright-orange carrots grow in, youll be pretty happy you didnt trash those old peels.

Written by Emily Murphy, and reposted with permission fromThrive Market.

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Photo Credit: Lindsay/Flickr

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


How to Compost at Home

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Watch a GIF of U.S. wind power growing like crazy.

After her husband died from lung cancer in 1969, Hazel M. Johnson started a fight against all the things making her neighbors and loved ones sick. She founded the organization People for Community Recovery, and later met a young organizer named Barack Obama. The two worked together to remove asbestos from Altgeld Gardens, her public housing community — a fight they won in 1989.

Obama later wrote about that fight in his memoir, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. As detailed in Johnson’s Chicago Tribune obituary, Obama was criticized for leaving Johnson out of the story. Johnson passed away in 2011, leaving behind an inspiring legacy that too many people know nothing about. Chicago took a step toward changing that when it renamed 130th Street on the South Side Hazel Johnson EJ Way.

The recognition that marginalized people shoulder too much of the burden from environmental threats inspired Johnson’s life’s work. She was radically ahead of her time. “It’s all very well to embrace saving the rain forests and conserving endangered animal species,” she said, “but such global initiatives don’t even begin to impact communities inhabited by people of color.”

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Watch a GIF of U.S. wind power growing like crazy.

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President Obama is designating these ocean monuments like it’s his job, or something.

At the Our Ocean Conference in Washington, D.C., this week, Obama announced the creation of The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, which will protect deep-sea ecosystems off the coast of New England.

The monument, which lies about 150 miles east of Massachusetts, includes three submerged canyons — one of them deeper than the Grand Canyon — and four underwater mountains. The designation means that commercial fishing will be phased out of the region, and resource extraction such as mining and drilling will be prohibited. That’s good news for creatures like endangered whales, sea turtles, and deep-sea coral — and those less sexy microorganisms that sustain all of them, like plankton.

According to a recent study by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, ocean temperatures in this section of the Atlantic are projected to warm three times faster than the global average. This new monument, according to the White House, “will help build the resilience of that unique ecosystem, provide a refuge for at-risk species, and create natural laboratories for scientists to monitor and explore the impacts of climate change.”

President Obama has protected more land and water than any other American president — including the world’s largest marine protected area in the Pacific.

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President Obama is designating these ocean monuments like it’s his job, or something.

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