Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What is Bioremediation?

Simply put, bioremediation is the act of using microorganisms and their enzymes to clean up contaminants. The bioremediation field has been growing steadily since the 1980’s and recently gained a lot of media attention for the part it played in cleaning up the BP oil spill. During the clean-up, microorganisms were added to the Gulf of Mexico in order to order to break down the petroleum. This same bio-technology was used for the Exxon Valdez oil spill, where it was first proven effective on a large scale.

Bioremediation is also widely used in agriculture, for preparing soil and controlling livestock waste. It can effectively break down chlorinated pesticides, dioxin and ammoniated hydrocarbons. Bioremediation can purify ground water, clean the air, prevent the off-gassing of Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs), and even accelerate the half life of radioactive compounds! For this reason, it will likely be widely used in Japan as the country recovers from the devastating earthquake and subsequent nuclear meltdown. Other examples of bioremediation include bioventing, bioreactor, composting, bioap>Simply put, bioremediation is the act of using microorganisms and their enzymes to clean up contaminants. The bioremediation field has been growing steadily since the 1980’s and recently gained a lot of media attention for the part it played in cleaning up the BP oil spill. During the clean-up, microorganisms were added to the Gulf of Mexico in order to order to break down the petroleum. This same bio-technology was used for the Exxon Valdez oil spill, where it was first proven effective on a large scale.

Bioremediation is also widely used in agriculture, for preparing soil and controlling livestock waste. It can effectively break down chlorinated pesticides, dioxin and ammoniated hydrocarbons. Bioremediation can purify ground water, clean the air, prevent the off-gassing of Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs), and even accelerate the half life of radioactive compounds! For this reason, it will likely be widely used in Japan as the country recovers from the devastating earthquake and subsequent nuclear meltdown. Other examples of bioremediation include bioventing, bioreactor, composting, bioaugmentation and biostimulation. Bioremediation may be used to break down heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and mercury. Scientists, however, need to develop specific techniques to do this in the field.

There are numerous advantages to bioremediation. First and foremost, it is ecologically sound. Iugmentation and biostimulation. Bioremediation may be used to break down heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and mercury. Scientists, however, need to develop specific techniques to do this in the field.

There are numerous advantages to bioremediation. First and foremost, it is ecologically sound. It is one of the most environmentally responsible ways to treat contamination. Secondly, it allows you to treat areas that are difficult to reach, including underground and deep in the ocean. It is also less expensive than traditional cleanup techniques which often require excavation, incineration and mechanisms for pumping. Lastly, it is safer than traditional techniques and does not place humans in harm’s way.

While it may sound like something from a scifi movie, you can apply bioremediation in the home in some very useful ways. It is highly affordable, effective, eco-friendly and in most instances it replaces potentially harmful chemicals. Teragainx recommends a versatile product like EM-1 that can be safely used in a myriad of ways including:

  • As a composting accelerator
  • In septic tanks
  • For deodorizing around the home and controlling pet odor
  • To enhance gardens and household plants – bacteria prime the soil so that it is moisture and nutrient rich similar to a natural fertilizer

To learn more about how bioremediation products like EM-1 microbial inoculants can be used in your home, visit Teraganix online.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Non Toxic Home: Reducing Household Chemicals

More and more people are proactively removing unnecessary and potentially harmful chemicals from the home. There are a number of good reasons to do this. Many of these toxic chemicals end up in our community’s ground water and can influence our ecosystem, agriculture and drinking water. The medical community has also noticed a rise in chemical sensitivities and other instances where chemical exposure is hurting our immune systems. Homes with children and/or pregnant women need to be extra vigilant that toxins are limited. Pound for pound, babies and children absorb, drink and eat more chemicals than adults. To further complicate the issue, children’s bodies are still developing, and chemicals can dramatically influence that process. Likewise pregnant women and even nursing mothers need to limit chemical exposure as these chemicals will be passed along to the infant.

But what can you do? In this modern age toxic products in the home have become the norm. They are easy to find, aggressively advertised and often on special at our local super market. It is nearly impossible to remove every chemical from our household. (Actually, it is possible, but also challenging and not always practical.) That said… there are simple changes you can make to dramatically reduce household toxic chemicals without hurting your budget or becoming an anti-chemical zealot.

There are 2 key areas where you can target to eliminate toxic products from the home: bath and beauty and general cleaning agents. (Food could also be a category all its own, but merits its own blog post.) Before we delve into these categories, it would be best to start with a general rule of thumb...

Look for red flags. When selecting products for the home, read the label carefully. Look for “signal words” that indicate high risk. Signal words to watch out for include "caution,” “warning,” “danger”, and “poison.” Trust us, manufacturers don’t put these terms on the label because they are benevolent. These are legal obligations based of FDA regulations and subsequent liability. Warning, danger and poison are the biggest red flags. Caution is a bit of a gray area and can simply address common sense recommendations, as in: “Caution - do not set this product on fire and leave the room.” Cautions are usually less insidious, though still worth noting.

Bath and Beauty Products

  • Rule out the usual suspects. Seek out bath and beauty products that are unscented, natural, organic and feature natural dyes. Key ingredients to rule out include phthalates, formaldehyde, phenols, sodium laureth sulfate (also known as SLS), coal tar, toxic dyes, and synthetic fragrances. Unfortunately, there are a number products labeled as “natural” or “organic” that still contain these chemicals, so it’s best to read the label thoroughly. This is really important when you are selecting shampoos and bath products for your child.
  • Plants are preferable to synthetics. Choose plant-based products made from natural oils. These products are not only less toxic than their synthetic counterparts, but they are also biodegradable and made from renewable resources.
  • No more sneaky mercury. Invest in a mercury free thermometer. A broken thermometer can lead to toxic mercury levels in the home and dire health consequences. Likewise, when purchasing eye drops or nasal spray, avoid products containing thimerosal, a preservative that features mercury.
  • A little bacteria is a good thing! Avoid antibacterial soap. While not toxic in its own right, antibacterial soap leads to stronger bacterial strains such as Staph. And while the commercial antibacterial hand sanitizer industry would never admit it, it's actually healthy for humans to be exposed to certain amount of bacteria.

Cleaning Agents

  • Raid your pantry. Baking soda, vinegar and plant-based ingredients are inexpensive and have a long established history of keeping homes clean without introducing toxic chemicals. Baking soda is especially effective on carpets, rugs, sinks, drains, tubs and toilets. Vegetable oil with a splash of lemon is great on wood. Mix vinegar and water in a spray bottle for an effective window and mirror cleaner. Simmer cloves and cinnamon on the stove top for a natural air freshener.
  • Seek out eco-friendly pros. If your carpets need a deep clean or you have pest issues, choose professionals that feature eco-friendly services. In our experience, these companies are better for your home and the environment, are comparable in price and often feature a higher level of customer service.
  • Add beneficial enzymes and bacteria to the mix. Incorporate a quality enzyme and beneficial bacteria product into your cleaning regimen. These versatile solutions can be used as chemical-free deodorizers and all-natural cleaning agents. Just add a product like EM-1 Effective Microorganisms to a spray bottle and mist the area. It can also be added to the laundry for deeper cleaning and fed to household plants in the place of organic plant food.
  • Kick your shoes off and get comfortable. Have everyone in the family remove their shoes when they come inside. Shoes will dirty your home, requiring more frequent cleaning, and they also track in chemicals and pesticides from outside.
  • A little bacteria is a good thing! We hate to repeat ourselves but again, avoid antibacterial products as they do more harm than good. These products only kill off beneficial bacteria and increase the likelihood of dangerous bacteria strains like Staph.

Friday, April 01, 2011

10 Easy Ways To Make Your Home Eco-Friendly

With spring cleaning is full swing, it is the perfect time to incorporate small changes in your home in order to decrease your impact on the environment. Here are the top 10 easy ways to make your home an eco-friendly one.

  1. Replace burnt out light bulbs with energy-efficient ones and invest in proper insulation, especially if you have an older home. These inexpensive tactics will not only lower your environmental impact, but they will also immediately reduce your electric bill.
  2. Don’t just turn appliances off, get them off the grid. Even when appliances are turned off, if they are still plugged into a live socket, they are still pulling energy off the grid. When possible, unplug appliances that are not in use. In some instances a power strip with a master on/off switch can prove more convenient.
  3. Invest in a solar powered charger for your cell phone and other mobile devices.
  4. During the summer, consider hanging clothes outside to dry. It’s easy, inexpensive and is surprising relaxing.
  5. Start composting your kitchen scraps. The Bokashi compost system makes it fast, easy and considerably less smelly to compost in the home. You can learn more about kitchen composting in our previous post about composting.
  6. Donate your old clothes and household items. Instead of creating waste, you will be helping others.
  7. Be smart about water usage. Turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth and shave. Install a low-flow shower head in your shower. (If you tried one in the past and found the pressure unsatisfactory, I recommend giving them a second try. The technology has come a long way.) Scrape scraps off dishes into the garbage or compost bucket before rinsing them. If your faucet does not have an aerator (the wire mesh filter), it is easy and inexpensive to install one. (These little contraptions can reduce your water flow by 50% without negatively impacting water pressure!) If you do not have high-efficiency toilets, consider this low-cost alternative: rocks in a plastic bottle. Just place a water bottle filled with pebbles into the tank and you will substantially decrease your water usage.
  8. Use eco-friendly cleaning products in the home. Biologically driven cleaning agents such as EM-1 Effective Microorganisms uses microbial innoculants to break down unwanted compounds, rather than harsh chemicals. This not only reduces chemical run-off in our ground water, but it also protects your family and pets from excessive exposure to toxic chemicals which can lead to chemical sensitivities and other health issues.
  9. If you arrive at the grocery store without your reusable shopping bag (and who hasn’t?), simply find a secondary use for the plastic shopping bags in some other facet of your life. For example, my family uses plastic grocery bags for picking up after the dog on walks and disposing of our cats' litter. If you cannot find a good secondary use for your plastic bags, many grocery stores have recycle bins... just bring them along the next time you go shopping.
  10. Commit to using fewer disposable things in the home. If you use disposable paper towels, cups, cutlery or razors, reconsider. Likewise, filtering and filling your own water bottles saves a tremendous amount of waste.
 
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