Wellness Wednesday

A LESSon in Greening Your Cleaning Routine

Burlap dress - see, I'm not that crazy.


Less is more. 

While I have yet to start wearing only burlap sacks, I have applied this rule to pretty much every area of my life, including my cleaning routine. Being ‘green’ to me often translates to using less. It means less chemicals in my food, makeup, shampoo, toothpaste, lotion, deodorant, countertop cleaner, laundry, dish soap…you get the idea. Fewer chemicals in all of these items not only mean fewer chemicals in my body, but also fewer chemicals in the air from the products themselves and the processes to make them. Simpler, more natural solutions often also mean energy savings because they do not require complex production methods. 

While you may be apprehensive to make the switch when it comes to something like your deodorant (although, you really shouldn’t be scared – I live by THIS product), start by swapping out your cleaning products for a natural, safe, and healthy home environment. Contrary to popular belief, in order for your home to be squeaky clean it doesn’t have to smell like bleach and suffocate you.  A quick online search for natural cleaning products will reveal the ‘magic’ ingredient I like to use in all of my homemade concoctions: vinegar. In fact, I found a website completely dedicated to the many uses of it. I have used vinegar solutions to clean everything from my windows and counters to my skin. One of the best parts about vinegar? It’s CHEAP.

Something I recently learned is that you can also use it to clean your washing machine! Clean the cleaning machine? Absolutely. Think of it how you do the lint trap in your dryer. Regular maintenance of your machines will help with functionality and {energy} efficiency. Follow these cleaning instructions from one of my guilty pleasure websites - Apartment Therapy.

Photo sources:
latimesblog.com

Wellness Wednesday: Spring has sprung!



Bulbs that needed relocating found a home in a pot. 
Hopefully they last! 
It’s been a while since I have updated everyone on my adventures in home ownership so I thought I would share what we have been up to as of late. When we first purchased our home back in October the yard was extremely overgrown. The past five months or so have been spent tearing down a rotted out structure and shed, ripping out overgrown and crowded shrubs and trees, and slowly gaining control of the plants we intend to keep. I recently fed our 20-plus rose bushes and relocated some of the never-ending supply of bulbs like daffodils, irises, hyacinth, surprise lilies and summer snowflakes. Spring has most definitely sprung and our yard will soon look like an Easter basket explosion – no complaints here since the tidying up process has prevented us from planting the flowers, fruits, and vegetables of our choosing. I like to call our yard ‘the secret garden’ because everywhere I look there’s a new plant I failed to see the time before. My most recent discovery were the three avocado trees (plus the shoots of a million other avocado trees at the base of the full-grown ones) and the two or three apricot trees. YUM! Those should hold me over until I can begin my raised edible garden. 

This beast of a plant took forever to get up!
An edible garden has me so excited that I often find myself smiling and wandering aimlessly at Gazebo Gardens. Like I said, it won’t be a while until that project gets off the ground but it is an important project to me. Health is my main priority (hence Wild Ginger Wellness) because if you don’t have your health you can’t enjoy life to the fullest. Good nutrition is the springboard for good health and one of my greatest passions is experimenting in the kitchen. I recently whipped up the most delicious arugula and kale pesto (to go atop my homemade pizza dough along with zucchini, tomato, and creamy goat cheese) and can only imagine how much more satisfying it will taste when the ingredients come from my own backyard. 


kale-argula pesto
Homegrown (or simply locally grown for those who do not have or do not want to have a green thumb) foods are not only more nutritious for you but they are also better for the environment. The farther a food has to travel the less nutrient dense it will be by the time it reaches you. Additionally, the farther a food has to travel the more petroleum (i.e. gasoline) that will be required to transport the food from the farm to the processing plant, packaging plant, grocery store, and finally your home. An incredible amount of energy and greenhouse gases are expended every single step of the way. The less effort and energy that is required to get food to your plate, the better for you, me and the environment. 

While my yard is only likely to produce a few ingredients here and there this coming spring and summer, I will take what I can get (and hopefully make loads of guacamole) and in the meantime I will look forward to what the future holds!

Wellness Wednesday: BPA

Image from preventdisease.com
Let’s just get right to it: as a ginger and the daughter of a stage 4 breast cancer fighter, I don’t need anything else to be messing with my hormones. We can’t change our genetics so I make every effort to watch what I put in and on my body and encourage others to do the same. This article on the HuffPost blog discusses how exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) has some seriously scary side effects. Studies are even showing that exposure during pregnancy can cause health problems in later generations - even if those generations are not directly exposed to BPA. Ladies and Gents, we are talking about lowered sperm counts, damaged uteri in females, and obesity, just to name a few – yeah, I thought that might get your attention. BPA is commonly found in plastic food and water packaging/bottles and safety concerns over the organic compound have sparked efforts to produce BPA-free products; however, the chemical substitute for BPA-free doesn’t look to be that much safer


Like I said, seriously scary. But I am a half-glass-full type of person and I like to think that findings like this help us in more than one way, both of which support the work I do at the SJVCEO and Wild Ginger Wellness. We just read about the toxic effects on our health, but what about the environment? Plastic manufacturing utilizes petroleum, which has the potential to be highly toxic, and requires a significant amount of energy. Plastics can also take up to 1,000 years to degrade so they sit in landfills or in our water supplies, further polluting.  

What can we do?

Image from plasticfreebottles.com
This topic is something that has weighed heavy on me lately because I do bring my lunch to work every day and like most people, I have my fair share of plastic Tupperware. Last time I checked, plastic containers weren’t the only type of packaging available. While it isn’t as lightweight, use glass or stainless steel containers when storing and transporting food. My goal is to replace all plastic storage with glass counterparts (note to self: update wedding registry). Glass and stainless steel alternatives are safer to use (especially when storing warm items), more durable, and last much longer without getting dingy like their plastic friends. Let’s also re-start the trend of being civilized again and use anything but plastic eating utensils. And those with little ones, don’t forget about researching alternatives to plastic bottles and those toys that end up in your kids’ mouths.

There are countless ways to keep ourselves and our environment healthy and avoiding products with BPA is most definitely one of them. For my fellow holistic health nuts, I also suggest this blog post for further reading on ‘conscious consumption’ – just a few more things to think about which can help save money, energy, and, of course, our health. 

Note to reader: I do also recognize the benefits of plastic, particularly in its role in saving lives - helmets, bullet proof vests, car seats, etc. This blog post primarily concerns those plastics that are related to food/beverage packaging/containers. As with any post topic, I encourage our readers to do their own research and formulate their own, educated opinions.

Wellness Wednesday: What the frack?!


Image from Getty via huffingtonpost.com
I recently read an article about hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’ as it is commonly called, and the impact on human and animal health. The full study on the natural gas extraction process and its effects can be read here. The study examined farms within close proximity of fracking sites and showed that those living there often suffered from ‘fatigue, headaches, nosebleeds, rashes and sensory deficits’ while animals on the farm were dying. If these animals or their milk were intended for consumption, I can only imagine that the adverse health effects would be that much greater in humans once ingested.


To be quite honest, I didn’t know much about the process until recently. All I knew was that it had a funny name – I know, I am so mature. Thanks to the media and free speech we have been bombarded with contradictory reports. I am sure you could take a good guess and figure out which side of the fracking fence debate I live on, but I also respect others’ opinions when they are well-founded. My hope is that most people, no matter their position on natural gas drilling practices, will take the articles, reports, studies, and arts as inspiration to do their own research and formulate their own opinions. You could even have a fracking film marathon in order to help make up your mind. What’s everyone doing this weekend?


Here are just a few of the more recent films related to fracking:

  • Promised Land ­– 2012 film with drilling rights, fracking, and Matt Damon (side bonus!)
  • FrackNation – 2012 pro-fracking documentary
  • Gasland – 2010 anti-fracking documentary
Image from wikimedia.org

Wellness Wednesday: Wait, What the WWTF?

It’s easy to take what seem like the simple things in life, like running water, for granted. You turn on the faucet and out it comes. You flush the toilet and there it goes. Your sprinklers go off like clockwork. I was taught the importance of water conservation (e.g. turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth and whatnot) but not until a recent visit to the City ofWoodlake’s Waste Water Treatment Facility (WWTF) did I truly grasp the consequences of my actions and the ‘big picture’ when it comes to water use.


A waste water treatment facility is the destination for all waste water that travels through our complex sewer systems. This can be from our homes (toilets, baths, showers, kitchens, sinks, etc.), industry, and storm water runoff. A lovely combination of human waste, animal waste, oil and grease, and whatever else finds its way into the system go through a series of processes at the facility in order to treat it so that it may be discharged into a body of water, used as irrigation, or even put back into the groundwater supply. That is the overly simplified explanation so you can visit good ol’ Wikipedia for some great diagrams. The largest gag reflex point of Courtney and my tour of Woodlake’s WWTF would have to have been at the very beginning where solid wastes that cannot proceed through the treatment facility are disposed of into the trash to be taken to the dump. Nothing was even processing at the time we stood there but I could only imagine. Close second was standing on the catwalk over the bubbling waste water as it was being treated – see photos for full effect. The most amazing part of our tour was that while I was thoroughly disgusted, I was also equally fascinated.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that these complex processes to treat waste water take a huge amount of energy. My personal adventures in benchmarking municipal energy use and seeing the utility bills related to running these facilities caused my jaw to drop. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), ‘municipal water supply and waste water treatment systems are among the most energy-intensive facilities owned and are operated by local governments, accounting for about 35% of energy used by municipalities’. You can’t deny the obvious link between water and energy; in fact, this is something the VIEW Partnership hopes to address in the coming year. The City of Woodlake wisely incorporated energy efficiency measures into the development of their treatment facility which will help with operation costs.

I think it goes without saying that these facilities are not only related to energy but also to our health. Without these treatment facilities…well, I don’t need to spell it out - just think about it. Proper collection, treatment, and disposal of waste water are crucial for human and environmental health. Water contamination can lead to cholera, typhoid, parasites, and Hepatitis – just to name a few illnesses.  

My visit to Woodlake’s facility was a reminder to be cautious as to what I put down the drain and to be thankful for our municipalities for allowing us safer and healthier lives.  Hats off to you, Woodlake, and congrats on the grand opening of your new facility!


PHOTOS (from C. Kalashian)

Wellness Wednesday: Indoor Air Quality and Energy Efficiency


It’s official: escrow closed and the fiancé, two kitties, and I are now in our new house. Phew! There was a gap of about a week and a half from when we vacated our apartment and moved into the house. (Note to readers: when you tell your apartment complex you plan to be out on a certain day they will take you seriously! Shout out to the U-haul of Mid City in Fresno for having a truck available last minute.) My über generous parents took all four of us in and we took the opportunity to make a few repairs and clean every nook and cranny before settling in.

Low-VOC Paint: So long stench!

The 1949 home had been vacant for a few years because the previous owners (the one and only owners before us) had passed away and left their five children in charge. The place is in pretty good condition for its age and while it was empty for a few years, it was kept up nicely; however, one thing I couldn't get past was the smell of ‘old’ – that would be the technical term. Throwing out the frilly curtains definitely helped but I knew fresh paint would make the place feel clean and personalized to fit our style. We used Valspar Signature interior paint and primer which is one of the options on the market for a low odor, low-VOC paint. I was absolutely adamant that our paint choice be low or no VOC – like I have said before, control the controllables! Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are released from solids or liquids, such as paint, and can result in both short-term and long-term adverse health effects including dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea, damage to internal organs and the central nervous system, and possibly even cancer. These toxins are often a more significant factor in indoor air pollution than outdoor air pollution! It is a frightening thought that the comfort of our own homes may not be any better than the hazy Central Valley skyline.

Other products that contain VOCs include paint thinners, cleaning supplies, permanent markers,  and glues and adhesives, to name a few. While you might not always be able to completely avoid these and other products, I try to search for the low and no VOC varieties and more natural alternatives. Side note: I recently have started to make my own natural cleaning supplies (like these here) with basic pantry supplies to save money and to save the health of myself, my family (including pets), and our environment. This also allows me to reuse containers to help save energy that would have been used in the production of the plastic.

A word of caution when painting no matter what level VOC: ventilate, ventilate, ventilate! Even the greener and more natural products can be hazardous to your health if you trap yourself indoors with them. Lucky for us our home needs some serious weatherization so while we froze painting at all hours of the night, the large one and two inch gaps around our doors (check out the one in the pic on the right) kept the stench at bay and allowed for decent airflow. Who would have thought a serious flaw would be so beneficial?

Home Energy Tune Up
In all seriousness and now that most of the painting is complete we will definitely be taking care of those gaps to ensure an energy efficient home. While I enjoy being very hands-on with my home improvement projects it is important to have qualified professionals assess and work on your home because, as I read in a 2011 online article, ‘Energy-Tight is Chemical-Tight’. It’s important not to go overboard with the way you caulk and seal up your home because you could be doing more harm than good. In order to avoid testing each bowl of porridge I decided to go straight for the professional opinion so I could get it just right.

I recently signed up for the FREE Home Energy Tune Up program offered through the City of Fresno. FREE: music to my ears! The program offers Fresno and Madera county residents a professional, whole house energy audit to help identify where homeowners can make improvements and save on their energy bills. The audit includes a detailed report, low and no cost solutions for saving energy and helps point a homeowner in the right direction if and when he or she chooses to make improvements to their home. Did I mention this is FREE? My parents not too long along had this done on their home and discovered they had duct work that was completely detached! No wonder they had such sky high utility bills! Our very own CourtneyKalashian went through the program as well and I too look forward to sharing my own experience.

Here’s to a happy, healthy, energy-efficient home!

--Maureen 

photo credit: melissajonas via photopin cc

photo credit: Maureen Hoff

photo credit: http://www.fresno.gov/Government/DepartmentDirectory/DARM/HomeTuneUp/Default.htm

Wellness Wednesday: Making kids and buildings better


14 years ago, as a junior in high school (I was in 8th grade), my brother was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had metastasized to his lungs. You would never believe by looking at him now, healthy as can be, that he was once sick as a dog.  For the majority of his chemotherapy, surgeries, and appointments he was treated at the old location of Children’s Hospital Central California in Fresno (then known as Valley Children’s Hospital). While the staff and care was phenomenal, I remember the facility being dark and scary! I can’t imagine how a sick child would have felt being wheeled through the dungeon-like hallways. Our family was ecstatic when in August of 1998 the hospital started the move to the new facility in Madera right off the Highway 41. Kyle was through with treatment at this point but still had to make frequent visits to the hospital for routine check-ups. The place was (and still is) gorgeous.

Children’s Hospital Central California was recently awarded the Energy Star certification for energy efficiency. The hospital utilizes variable speed drives, LED technology, environmental controls, and an employeeawareness campaign to help cut back on energy use. Since 2005 the hospital has reduced its carbon footprint by 3,436 metric tons of carbon dioxide which is equivalent to taking 674 cars off the road. This isn’t the first award for the hospital. Children’s Hospital won the California Flex Your Power award in 2005 and in 2007 the American Society for Healthcare Engineering recognized the hospital for a 15 percent decrease in energy intensity.

Well done, Children’s Hospital. And, thank you.

--Maureen Hoff
Kyle and Amanda on their wedding day - July 7, 2012 – Kauai, Hawaii
Photo credit: http://lennon.csufresno.edu/~anyanaz/index1.htm
Photo credit: Maureen Hoff

Wellness Wednesday: BFFs & LEDs

Wellness Wednesday has surprisingly been a challenge for me. I thought it would be easy to make the link between personal wellness and happenings in the clean energy world because, to me, the two are so closely tied together; however, it seems that it is not a widely publicized topic. Good and bad. Good because I feel like we can pave the way in exploring this topic and bad because it requires that extra bit of research on my end! With that being said, I encourage you to send any ‘Wellness Wednesday’ ideas to me at mhoff@pesc.com - I want to make sure I am addressing what interests our readers! In the meantime, you will have to hear a lot about my personal life adventure of buying and greening my home.
Meet my BFF, IKEA. She’s modern. She’s hip. Yep, she’s my Best Frugal Find and she’s into energy efficiency. It’s like we were meant to be. I just wish she lived a tad bit closer but thank goodness for the Internet because we are able to keep in touch!

Okay, yes. I have lost my mind but to be fair I am drafting this blog on a misty, October Friday when all I can think about is organic hot chocolate, curling up next to the fireplace, and listening to Celine Dion (note to editor: do not remove this Celine reference - I like her and I am not ashamed). Note from editor: I am ashamed for you. 

Back to IKEA.  A recent article let me know that my BFF has a goal to sell only LED lamps and bulbs by 2016. Like Oprah, she really wants people to live their best life and feels that saving energy, slicing utility bills, and cutting carbon emissions are a big piece of that pie. IKEA as a company is strongly committed to being a leader when it comes to energy efficiency – check out the page on Climate Change. I too like to lead by example and feel that as a new home owner it is important to do my part in making my space energy efficient to not only put money back in my pocket but to protect our environment for generations to come.

‘If all IKEA customers around the world took out one traditional light bulb and replaced it with a new LED bulb that would save enough energy to power up a city with one million people.’ – James Futcher, IKEA Product Developer


Energy efficiency is easy and can be cheap thanks to no-cost, low-cost fixes and BFFs like IKEA. Just one bulb per household?! Come on, I think we can all do better than that. I know I plan to. Besides cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions, LEDs also cut down on exposure to toxic substances because they are mercury free, unlike traditional incandescent or compact fluorescent bulbs. Sure LEDs still cost more upfront, but thanks to a long life and companies like IKEA LEDs will most definitely save you in the long run.


LED
CFL
Incandescent
Light bulb projected lifespan
50,000 hours
10,000 hours
1,200 hours
Watts per bulb (equiv. 60 watts)
10
14
60
Cost per bulb
$35.95
$3.95
$1.25
KWh of electricity used over 
50,000 hours
300 500
700
3000
Cost of electricity (@ 0.10per KWh)
$50
$70
$300
Bulbs needed for 50k hours of use
1
5
42
Equivalent 50k hours bulb expense
$35.95
$19.75
$52.50
Total cost for 50k hours
$85.75
$89.75
$352.50

Energy Savings over 50,000 hours, assuming 25 bulbs per household:
Total cost for 25 bulbs
$2143.75
$2243.75
$8812.50
Savings to household by switching 
from incandescents
$6668.75
$6568.75
0


Healthy wallet, healthy home, healthy planet - just another win on this Wellness Wednesday.

photo credit: slimmer_jimmer via photopin cc

Wellness Wednesday: Financial Health and Energy Efficiency


All my life I have known there is a ‘bigger picture’ when it comes to total wellness. Not only are we nourished by the foods we eat by also by our experiences in our daily lives. According to Wikipedia (gotta love a Google search), ‘holistic health is a concept in medical practice upholding that all aspects of people’s needs, psychological, physical and social should be taken into account and seen as a whole’. I believe that good health comes from a balance of nutrition and lifestyle factors and even takes into account financial health. Most people at one time in their lives have probably been affected by poor financial health. Maybe it was when mom and dad finally cut you off or the time when you were let go from your job; either way, it is amazing how much of a negative toll it can have on your physical health. Just as smart nutrition choices lead to a long and healthy life, good financial investments can also help you reap the rewards down the road.

You may remember my electric lawnmower post
from a few weeks back in which I announced one, that I am (finally) engaged and two, that my fiancé and I bought a house. Talk about stressful finances! In reality, the home purchase was a wise investment. Our apartment rent was costing more than what our mortgage payments will be and we finally get to have a say in what will make our house a home (backyard vegetable garden, composter, bocce ball court, and painted walls oh my!). While I can’t wait to check off my project list, I do recognize that this home is ours and will be ours for a very long time if not forever. A lifetime of projects: my dreams and nightmares all rolled into one. Whenever I find myself in a situation in which my pulse begins to race and I can’t seem to shut my mind off at the end of the day, I like to ask myself ‘what would you tell your health coaching clients?’

#slowdownjustbreathe.

One thing at a time and when it comes to wise home investments I have learned in my time at SJVCEO that energy efficiency is that first baby step that will set me up for a lifetime of financial health.

Just like that electric lawnmower, there are other ‘low hanging’ options I can make that will have a big impact on my wallet. First up we will be purchasing a clothes washer and dryer. Next will be a new oven, range, microwave, and then refrigerator – trust me, there will be large gaps of time in between purchases. I am sure you are thinking dollar signs and really, so am I; however, PG&E, my local service provider, offers rebates on many of these items when you purchase qualifying appliances. Sure a couple hundred dollars in savings doesn’t sound like a lot but when I know that these new, smarter, energy efficient appliances will save me in the long run on my utility bills I know that it is worth the investment. And, if I can control my spending habits and use those couple hundred incentive/rebate dollars as my own personal revolving energy fund I can do other projects such as weatherization that will continue to help put money back into my pocket all the while making our home energy efficient and better for the environment.  

Just as I think organic fruits and veggies are an investment in my long-term health and well-being so are these appliances when it comes to the health of our environment (and my wallet). Spend money upfront (qualifying appliances), save money down the road (cheaper utility bills), and know that you have done your small part in saving energy and reducing your carbon footprint.

--Maureen Hoff

photo credit: kenteegardin via photopin cc

photo credit: jbloom via photopin cc

photo credit: samsungtomorrow via photopin cc

Wellness Wednesday: Waste, your waist, & a song about recycling


Who would have thought that the little song I crafted back in early 1990s for an Odyssey of the Mind sketch would still be haunting me today. Only I could have come up with embarrassing lyrics that went a little something like, ‘R-E-C-Y-C-L-E, find out what it means to me!’ and watch my teammates perform them on stage because there was NO WAY I would be caught dead doing that. Too bad I didn't know Courtney back then because I am sure she would have been up to the task. After all, I somehow got her to meow at a small bird trying to eat her dinner.[note from Courtney: this is true.  It was a fat, rude bird that was not intimidated by meowing] Anyway…

An email floated across my desk just the other day explaining how Governor Jerry Brown has signed new restrictions on California’s bottle bill. In a nutshell this bill serves two main points: one, deter those cheater, cheater, pumpkin eaters from crossing state lines, importing bottles, and exploiting the system; and two, encourage (fair) recycling. When consumers purchase canned or bottled beverages and some packaged food products, they pay a fee. This fee can then be redeemed upon recycling. I remember gathering all the cans and bottles our family would accumulate and taking them to the recycling center with my dad. For our efforts he would let me keep the few bucks we received in exchange for our waste.

minimize waste = minimized waist
In addition to the benefit of the spare change as a reward for recycling, it is important to note that recycling can help to save energy. Making something from scratch takes far more energy and produces much more pollution than if a manufacturer were to use recycled materials. The best solution, however, is to simply use less. Yes, we are talking about those three R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle – and you can bet that was incorporated into my song. Not only does cutting down on what you use help to shed those pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, it can also help to shed those unwanted pounds of fat on your body! This is Wellness Wednesday, people. You should have expected that.



While it sounds silly, it is true. Packages, boxes, bags, cans, and bottles mean extra trash and a greater carbon footprint. They also signal that a food item has been processed and this typically means chemicals, preservatives, and sugar. Stick to Mother Nature’s packaging and opt for foods that come in their natural state – think fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Try to shop the bulk section of your grocery store and when you have to use packaging opt for the biodegradable brown bags over plastic.

So, no matter which waste/waist concerns you more you should always practice those three R’s and you (and the planet) will be reap the rewards.  

photo credit: MonotonousSarah via photopin cc

photo credit: matt.hintsa via photopin cc

Photo from California Integrated Waste Management Board

photo credit: bcmom via photopin cc

Wellness Wednesday: The Joys of Home Ownership

My fiancé (whoa…still getting used to saying that one!) and I are a few short weeks away from closing escrow on our first home. It has been such an exciting time but the closer we get the more I feel like reality is slapping me in the face! Our home was built in 1949 and is absolutely adorable if I do say so myself; but, with age comes some serious maintenance issues. My ‘to-do’ list…wait, let’s get real…my ‘to-buy’ list is ever-growing. While I would love to purchase that gorgeous light fixture for the dining room and start in on my painting (Courtney Kalashian, you can count on the fact that there will be stripes somewhere), I have to keep reminding myself that we must start with the basics before I bankrupt my soon-to-be husband and myself.

Call me a nerd, but the one item that sits at the top of our ‘need’ list is a lawn mower and I am so stinkin’ excited! I am sure that enthusiasm will go away once I actually have to push that thing across the large expanse of grass and realize that Patrick Dempsey isn’t going to drive meoff into the sunset on the back of his mower, but I am still giddy. Maybe I am misreading my emotions and I am actually just anxious to get this process over with and have those keys in my hands. Either way, when it comes to lawn mowers there are so many options out there but I feel I am obligated to do it the right way. The SJVCEO way. The Wellness Wednesday way. And so I begin my adventures in search of the perfect electric lawn mower.

Not only are electric lawn mowers quieter than their gas counterparts (my new neighbors will love me), they are also much better for our air quality (i.e. smaller carbon footprint) which means better health for you and me. Our friends over at the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District have even held electric lawn mower trade-in programs in the past in which Valley residents could replace their old gas-powered mower with a clean, electric mower for less than $100. I am hoping that in honor of me purchasing a home they will reinstate this program. Wink, wink. In the meantime, I have signed up online to receive email updates regarding this ‘Clean Green Yard Machine’ program. 

Another side bonus? Electric mowers will cost less than gas mowers in the long run. According to mowersdirect.com, summertime mowing will only cost about $5 in electric bills! No stinky gasoline. Cleaner air. Healthier lungs. More money in my pocket. Looks like I might be getting that light fixture after all!

--Maureen Hoff






Photo Credit: Mount, Thom (Producer) & Rash, Steve (Director). 1987. Can't Buy Me Love [Motion picture]/ United Sates. Apollo Pictures, Silver Screen Partners III, The Mount Company.

Wellness Wednesday: Smart meters and radio frequency


In the third installment of our staff coverage on smart meters (one and two), our resident wellness expert, Maureen Hoff addresses the question of whether or not smart meters adversely affect the health of the people who live with them.  As part of our team effort to provide consistency in blog posting, Maureen is taking on the weekly post, 'Wellness Wednesday' where she will show the connection between energy, the environment and your personal wellness. 

Maureen has been with the SJVCEO for two and a half years serving as the project coordinator for our VIEW local government partnership, master of ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and all-around 'girl Friday' for the organization.  Maureen wholeheartedly embraces the SJVCEO efforts "to provide a better quality of life for residents of the San Joaquin Valley" in her personal life as well.  When she's not working with our cities and counties, Maureen is the proprietor of Wild Ginger Wellness and works as a personal health coach helping people reach their goals and improve their quality of life. Maureen holds a bachelors degree in cultural anthropology with a minor in exercise and health science from the University of California, Santa Barbara and has studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York.  

Smart Meters and Radio Frequency 

Utility companies around the globe, and even in our very own Central Valley, have been switching customers over to ‘smart meters’ in order to prevent their poor meter-reading employees from having to tromp through bushes and run from dogs--well, maybe that is a bit of a simplified explanation.  A smart meter is a two-way communication device that allows utilities and their customers to better track energy usage. You may have heard a favorite saying over here at the SJVCEO is ‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure’ and we love the smart meter because it puts the power in the customer's hands.

Between 2009 and 2012, our friends at Southern California Edison (SCE) will have deployed approximately 5 million of their SmartConnect meters. Customers will have the ability to log into their online account and track energy usage by the hour. Yep. I would say that’s pretty smart! The majority of customers’ concerns with smart meters typically surround privacy issues; however,some have questioned possible health risks associated with these two-way devices emitting radio frequency (RF) signals.

RF signals are categorized as a non-ionizing form of radiation on the electromagnetic spectrum. In a nutshell, this means that RF signals do not emit enough energy to alter the chemical structure of an atom and are generally safe, despite the fact that they are strong enough to cause increased temperature in body tissue. If the intensity of a non-ionizing form of radiation is strong enough, however, it can become ionizing. Ionizing radiation, which occurs naturally and from man-made activities (think nuclear), produces toxic free radicals which can severely damage body tissue and even cause death.
http://asset.sce.com/microsite/Documents/ESC/smartconnect_rf_onepager_v5_072111-outlines.pdf
When it comes to SmartConnect, SCE says that ‘a person’s exposure to RF signals depends on three factors: the signal strength, the distance from the device, and how often it transmits’. The good news is that the meters have a low signal strength, will most likely be installed in a location around your home or small business that isn’t too close to where you spend much time, and only transmit a signal for a few minutes each hour. In my opinion, when compared to a device such as a cell phone, smart meters don’t look like much of a health risk at all; but, if you are like me then you will still want to go to all lengths to protect yourself and your family from even the slightest risk. And that is when I turn to the diet.

Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients found in foods that assist in protecting and repairing damaged cells. Eating a colorful diet full of fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, healthy fats/oils, and lean protein can help combat exposure to free radicals from radiation. Foods like dark, leafy greens; berries; avocados; good quality olive oil; and even chocolate in its raw state (cacao) can help protect our bodies from environmental toxins. I like to say ‘control the controllables’. Watch what you put in your mouth, get a little exericse every day, and let your utility company install a smart meter. After all, if you decrease your energy use you are helping to decrease greenhouse gas emissions which means cleaner air, which means better health.


Photo credit: Southern California Edison
photo credit: A Culinary (Photo) Journal via photopin cc