Environment | Healthy Air |

Earth Day vs. Arbor Day: The Difference and Why They Both Matter

2 minute read

Earth Day vs. Arbor Day. Why do we even need these two holidays? Well, for one, these aren’t just holidays that were invented to sell greeting cards. In fact, part of their goal is to reduce the number of greeting cards that are made and to recycle all the old ones.

We have both of these holidays because they started in very different ways for causes that were important in their time, almost a century apart. Today, their causes are as crucial as ever, and they have both come to emphasize the end goal of improving our planet. Here’s some more information that will help you see the forest for the trees and be able to tell the two holidays apart.

History of Arbor Day vs. Earth Day

Arbor Day

Arbor Day was started back in 1872 by a member of Nebraska’s State Board of Agriculture. Julius Sterling Morton proposed the day of tree planting as a way to repopulate his home state with trees. By 1888, we were recognizing the importance of trees nationwide and Arbor Day became a widely celebrated holiday.

Earth Day

Earth Day was founded much later in 1970 when Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson began an organization of volunteers to raise awareness of environmental issues and pollution. Nelson believed he could force environmental protection onto the national political agenda if he could combine the energy of the anti-war movement with a public awareness of the ongoing air and water pollution.

How We Celebrate Arbor Day vs. Earth Day

Because tree planting can’t happen at the same time of year nationwide, Arbor Day is celebrated either the last Friday of April, or whenever the climate allows. Hawaii for example, doesn’t celebrate until November when their rainy season starts.

Arbor Day

Activities involve planting new trees, tending to endangered trees and plants, and cultivating spaces for continued and future tree growth. Search here to find events in your state.

Earth Day

Earth Day is every April 22nd in the United States in honor of Senator Nelson’s environmental teach-in first held on that day. Initiatives include planting trees and local trash cleanups.

What You Can Do for Arbor Day vs. Earth Day

Arbor Day

While Arbor Day is thought to be just a day to plant trees, it is really about environmental stewardship and leaving a better Earth for future generations than the one we currently have. You can do something as simple as learning your state tree, or if you’re feeling ambitious, you can share a picnic with friends and bake a dish using spices and other ingredients produced entirely by trees.

Earth Day

Earth Day has become known for widespread, impassioned calls to action. But even if you’re not the call-your-senator-and-join-a-protest-at-the-capitol type, there are lots of simple ways for you to make a difference. Walking to school or work is healthy and cuts down on air pollution. Recycling, using your own grocery bags, and carrying a reusable water bottle or coffee cup are all good practices that help to cut down on waste and pollution. And, just like for Arbor Day, you can plant a tree or two.

So now you know the difference between Earth Day and Arbor Day. While each holiday began under different circumstances, they have always been simpatico at their core. Take some time on those days to become more aware of your surroundings and find a way that you can positively impact the world around you.

Archive |

Making A Difference on Earth Day

2 minute read

Earth, it’s our home. And we—all 7.6 billion of us—share in the responsibility of keeping that home clean and in order. It may sound like an overwhelming challenge, but it becomes easier when everyone does their part. Earth Day, which is on April 22 this year, is the perfect time to reassess the resources we use and to find new ways to appreciate our planet. Luckily, there are lots of small steps you, your family, and your community can take that can have a big, positive impact on the environment.

How to celebrate Earth Day

Daily Practices

Often times, it’s the small things we do every day that add up to big, positive changes for the world. These can include:

  • Recycling
  • Turning off lights
  • Unplugging electronics
  • Carpooling, walking, or riding a bike when possible
  • Carrying a garbage picker and bucket on walks to collect litter
  • Using reusable water bottles/coffee cups/shopping bags

Re-Use

Using eco-swap services is also a great way to prevent old but usable items from going to the junkyard. Lots of services are popping up around the country that are connecting people looking to get rid of things with people who need those same things. It’s a simple, sensical way to be less wasteful and to connect with others in your community. Plus, a lot of the items are free and you just have to handle the transportation.

Getting involved with Earth Day

Start Early!

It’s easy to get kids involved with and excited about environmental awareness at an early age. There are plenty of fun activities out there that can inspire their imaginations and make them more conscious of their impact on the world.

Try starting with a recycling project, like these DIY bottle planters. Bird feeders, doll houses, and homemade Rube Goldberg machines are other creative ways for kids to reuse things they might normally throw away, like an empty toilet paper roll, a milk carton, or a tin can.

Awareness and Knowledge

Awareness is an essential part of Earth Day. Look to see if there is a conference in your area like this annual one in Madison, WI. This type of event is a great way to meet other people who are passionate about the environment, and to start making a difference.

Whether you do something big or small, be sure to do your part on April 22 to show some love for the place we all call home!

Environment | Family |

Crafts for Kids: DIY Water Filter

2 minute read

Water is as important to us as the air we breathe. After all, we use it to irrigate and grow the food we eat. And where does it come from naturally? In the form of rain! Use this DIY water filter to teach your kids about rain harvesting and its benefits:

  • Saves water
  • Used to water plants
  • Helps prevent erosion

This DIY water filter is made from easy-to-find items and can help sift out unwanted particles, which is important for preventing bacteria overgrowth if you’re going to store your rainwater long-term.

Simply catch the rain in the filter and watch as it trickles into the base.

Materials Needed

1 Clean Plastic Bottle

Gravel

Sand

Activated Charcoal Powder (Not grill charcoal, which may contain lighter fluid)

Box Cutter

Rubber Band

Cloth Fabric

Instructions

Step One: Cut your liter bottle bottom horizontally in the middle. The top portion will serve as your water filter.

Step Two: Turn your new water filter upside down and remove the lid. Fashion a piece of cloth fabric over the spout with a rubber band.

Step Three: With your water filter upside down and the cloth fabric secured, add the following, in this order:

  • A layer of sand
  • A layer of activated charcoal powder
  • An extra layer of sand
  • A layer of gravel

Step Four: Fit the water filter into the bottom part of the original bottle, which will serve as your water collector.

Step Five: Test your rain catcher by pouring colored water into the top portion.

Step Six: Have your kids place your DIY water filter system outside on a rainy day to collect water and watch as it fills with clean, refreshing rain.

*Disclaimer: Please exercise caution and use adult supervision when working with sharp objects and keep small pieces out of reach of young children.

Healthy Clean Air | Healthy Air |

City Air: How To Improve Air Quality In Your Apartment

3 minute read

When you live in a city, you get used to being surrounded by people at all times, even when you get home to your apartment. With populations increasing and cities becoming more dense, large numbers of people are forced to live in smaller spaces. And when you have neighbors on all sides in a building, and are likely surrounded by automobile traffic and construction, air quality can be an issue.

So if you’ve ever felt the air in your apartment was a little “stuffy”, you’re probably not imagining it. Below we have some of the common causes of poor Indoor Air Quality in city living spaces and some tips on how to resolve them.

Previous Tenants

You probably don’t want to imagine all the other people who have previously lived in your apartment, but sometimes, it’s hard to ignore them.

Smokers, pet owners, and slobs often leave behind a lingering scent. Mold, dust, and other irritants can easily be left behind in carpets, woodwork, and bathrooms.

Neighbors

Depending on the size of your city, you could have anywhere from dozens of neighbors in the same building to hundreds of people in the same high-rise.

Secondhand smoke can easily get into your apartment if any of your nearby neighbors are smokers, or if your apartment is next to a shared patio frequented by smokers.

Building and Construction

The types of chemicals present in your building’s construction largely depend on when it was built. But even in the newest constructions, there can be harmful chemicals in the fire retardants used throughout the building and even in the cleaning supplies that were used to clean your apartment after the previous tenant.

Chances are if you’re in a mid-size or larger city, there are construction cranes dotting the skyline. With any new construction, dust, and debris can get kicked up into the air around your apartment.

Cooking and Cleaning

Not all the blame for poor Indoor Air Quality lies elsewhere. Cooking odors and fumes can leak into hallways or pass between open windows, and in addition to being annoying, can irritate allergies and asthma symptoms. It’s important for you to properly ventilate your apartment when cooking and cleaning. Keep the exhaust fan on when cooking and open a window if you’re doing any cleaning with chemicals. These simple steps will help prevent the buildup of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which are harmful to respiratory and overall health.

How to Improve Air Quality in Your Apartment:

Ventilation

This is especially true in apartments, where the small rooms can more easily trap pollutants. You can offset this by opening windows when weather permits, or trying to use a fan to circulate the air. This will help clear out or at least dilute the levels of irritants in the air.

Use an Air Purifier

Concerned about secondhand smoke or residue from building materials? Get a purifier that filters particulates and chemicals from the air.

Our Allergy Room Purifier is perfect for anyone with allergies who’s concerned with the air in their apartment. It handles common things like dust and mold spores. It also filters out VOCs and other gaseous allergy triggers.

Air Quality Test Kit

These are simple, in-home kits that take a sample of the surrounding air. You then send them back to the company and their lab analyzes the results.

Once you know what pollutants are lingering in your environment, you’ll be able to take the necessary steps to remove them. And remember, sometimes that means alerting your landlord or property manager to make sure your building is up to code.

Sources:

United Nations, “The World’s Cities 2016”, http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/urbanization/the_worlds_cities_in_2016_data_booklet.pdf

pollen, allergies, aprilaire

Archive |

Do you live in an allergy “capital?” Here’s how to cope!

2 minute read

The severity of allergies in a city depends on many things: the local vegetation and types of pollen, pollution levels, access to healthcare and even annual climate changes. From year to year, cities labeled as “allergy capitals” tend to swap positions. Front runners are usually Louisville, KY and Madison, WI. Both cities are hotbeds of tree pollen – the major contributor to seasonal allergies for those who suffer in the spring.

The last time the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America published a list, Memphis, TN and Syracuse, NY were also in the Top 5. So, from north to south, east to west, pretty much anywhere in the country can be a challenging place to live if you suffer from Spring allergies.

The bad news is you never know exactly how rough spring will be in your area. But the good news is that regardless of where you live you can start preparing now! Here are the 3 best ways to prepare.

See an allergist

 This is number one because knowledge is power. It’s always easier to fight allergy symptoms when you know exactly what it is you’re allergic too. An allergist can perform a quick and painless skin prick test to help determine what types of pollen, dander or other environmental factors cause you to sneeze, sniffle and suffer.

An allergist can also review your entire medical history to determine the best medications and treatments for your specific allergies. Seeing an allergist is so important,  that the availability of board-certified allergists is actually a variable when the AAFA assembles their capitals list!

There’s an app for that

 Once you know what you’re allergic to, you can track your specific allergens daily using a number of applications and websites. The Aprilaire Wi-FI Thermostat App features a 3-day pollen and mold forecast that you can access right from your phone.

While you won’t be able to completely avoid allergies – we all need to get outside to complete our day –  you can maybe reschedule an afternoon run or yard work until a day when levels are lower.

Clean Air Everywhere

 While you can’t control the pollen outside – you can control the air purity in your home. Whole-home air purifiers provide clean air everywhere for homeowners in every city! A professional HVAC contractor can help you select the best air purifier for your home and HVAC system.

Many great cities are also allergy capitals, so don’t let pollen keep you from you enjoying your home and hometown. Take control of your allergies this season by being proactive and prepared before the allergens start to fly!

Archive |

Could Spring Cleaning Make Your Home Less Healthy?

2 minute read

Spring Cleaning: Good for your home; bad for the air inside

Anyone in charge of keeping a home clean knows that the idea of “Spring Cleaning” ignores the work that happens every day of the year to maintain a healthy, happy home.

But, tradition is tradition. So let’s talk Spring Cleaning!

While it’s important to do a deep clean of your home, that activity can also expose you to harmful chemicals and create a dangerous environment. Let’s look at a couple of the problem areas and talk about easy solutions that can keep your home and family healthy.

Dusting

Dust is the classic sign of a dirty home. It collects just about anywhere (even where we can’t see it), which makes it tempting to just wipe it away with a feather duster, dry cloth, or even your hand.

The problem with these methods is that they kick up dust into the air, which can lead to sneezing or even serious asthma effects.

So instead of the stopgap, dry dusting methods, try a vacuum cleaner with detail attachments or use a non-toxic, spray-on cleaner that you can use on woodwork, countertops, and furniture. Then you can properly dispose of the dust by emptying the vacuum cleaner or washing the wet dusting cloth.

Cleaning Chemicals

Some household cleaners have been around for generations, and it’s easy to think they’re as safe as they are effective. But the truth is that some common cleaners (old and new) contain chemicals that are harmful to you, your family, and your pets.

According to a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, 53 percent of cleaning products they reviewed had lung-harming ingredients. And well-known carcinogens like formaldehyde and chloroform were found in several of those cleaners.

These chemicals are especially dangerous when they get into the air where you can breathe them in. And when they come in spray bottles and aerosol cans, it can be pretty easy to be exposed while you’re cleaning your bathtub, kitchen sink, and windows.

Thankfully, there are many alternatives to those harmful cleaners. Most stores carry natural solutions that clean up just as well as the chemicals without adding a danger to your home. In fact, some common household items like lemon juice, vinegar, baking soda, and cooking oil can effectively clean many areas when used correctly.

Indoor Air Quality

So how do you prevent spring cleaning from turning into an airborne hazard for your family? You could keep the windows open while you clean, but more likely than not it will be too hot outside or allergen levels will be too.

Your next option is an air purifier, which exists as whole-home purifiers or single room, portable purifiers. Find one that works for you and your family, and you can enjoy the benefits of fresh indoor air after Spring Cleaning and (better yet) all year long.

clean air

Healthy Clean Air | Healthy Air |

Let’s Clear the Air: Whole-Home vs. Room Air Purifiers

3 minute read

For those who are ready to clear the air and take their Indoor Air Quality more seriously, congratulations! Air purifiers (whole-home, room, or both) can go a long way toward increasing respiratory wellness.

Unbeknownst to many, our homes are filled with dust mites, molds, allergies, VOCs, and more. Actively removing these indoor air pollutants can help fend off allergy and asthma triggers.

First off, there are two main things to look for in an air purifier:

  1. High-efficiency air filters allow you to better optimize your Indoor Air Quality. Look for HEPA or highly-rated MERV filters for a greater effect.
  2. Make sure your air purifiers don’t produce ozone. Ozone is a toxic gas that can have a detrimental effect on your respiratory health.

Let’s dive into the benefits of whole-home air purifiers vs. room air purifiers and identify reasons to utilize both.

Whole-Home Air Purifiers

As the name implies, whole=-home air purifiers help clear the air in entire homes, rather than just one or two rooms. These systems cast a wider net  that can filter out indoor air pollution and help your family avoid respiratory irritants.

Additionally, since they cover more ground, these air purifiers are usually more cost effective than purchasing multiple room units.

Whole-home air purifiers can also extend the life of your HVAC system by reducing the amount of dust moving through the system. A cleaner HVAC system offers greater long-term efficiency, so be sure to maintain its upkeep throughout the year.

These air purifiers are also, typically, hidden within your HVAC system and make little noise. They can even be programmed through your home’s thermostat, making it nearly a set and forget solution to breathing easy at home.

Room Air Purifiers

Obviously, opposite from whole-home air purifiers, room air purifiers clear the air in one or two rooms, rather than entire homes. Just like whole-home air purifiers though, room air purifiers are typically programmable and can filter out indoor air pollution, helping your family avoid asthma, allergies, and respiratory irritants.

If you live in a small space like a dorm room or an apartment, or if your home simply doesn’t have whole-home air purification, consider a room air purifier to supply supplemental bursts of fresh air throughout your home. When looking for a room air purifier, you’ll still want to look at the square footage offered to maximize your purification efforts.

Room air purifiers are also extremely portable, which is great. This allows you to use them where and when you need them most—say, allergy season—and then stow them away when they’re not needed any longer.

For some homes, you may find that you want to use them year-round in different scenarios…even if you already have a whole-home air purifier.

The Argument for Utilizing Both

For those with whole-home purifiers, you likely think you’re good to go with your current setup and therefore won’t need an air purifier.

That may not be entirely true.

Whether you have a whole-home air purifier installed or not, it’s never a bad idea to have a room purifier on hand to give your home that supplemental burst of fresh air in a variety of situations.

  • Whenever you’re painting or staining in a specific room
  • Rooms that double as high-traffic areas for pets
  • When the fireplace or wood stove is on
  • On days when allergy aggravators are high
  • In damp rooms where mold may be prevalent
  • In wildfire prone areas

The bottom line is this: being proactive about the air you and your family breathe goes a long way toward providing greater respiratory wellness. Clear the air, pure and simple, by removing indoor air pollutants and breathe easy.