Eat a (safer) peach
Peaches are among the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen," those conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that carry the heaviest load of pesticide residue. And while the Environmental Protection Agency restricts the use of highly toxic farm chemicals, some continue to show up in the food chain. Plus, a heated debate endures over the safety of ingesting even EPA-approved chemicals.
So don't hesitate to ask your grocery store produce staff or farmers-market sellers where, and how, their peaches were grown.
Your best bet, according to C&R Farms' Zack Quintana, is to buy Colorado peaches. "Shipping peaches in from other states or other countries requires the peaches to be picked more green, and they spray them more so the peaches hold up," he says. Quintana says C&R, near Palisade on the Western Slope, sprays a dormant oil ("a light or 'soft' pesticide") on its trees just as they finish blooming and the fruit begins to form, which helps control insect pests. They don't spray the fruit again once it starts to grow. Though theirs is not an organic orchard, the type of horticultural oil they use can also be used by organic growers.
For info on the Dirty Dozen, the Clean Fifteen and the pesticide ranking of 48 fruits and veggies, see tinyurl.com/indy-ewg. And wait, there's more.
• High-altitude peach canning from Colorado State University Extension: tinyurl.com/indy-high-alt
• Preserving peaches without sugar: tinyurl.com/indy-preserve
• Organic-approved pesticides that minimize risks to bees: tinyurl.com/indy-bee-safe
• Pesticides for organic gardeners: tinyurl.com/indy-pest
Shades of gray
As of May, when Gov. John Hickenlooper signed HB 1044, Colorado is no longer the only state in the West without legislative permission to reuse lightly used water, called "graywater." Today, as the next of several steps at state and local levels, the Water Quality Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is forming regulations that will determine how the law is applied. You can be a part of that process by signing up at tinyurl.com/indy-stakeholder.
The law permits the collection of excess water from bathroom sinks and tubs and laundry machines and sinks for reuse on lawns or to fill toilet bowls — basically, to replace potable water that doesn't need to be potable. Water cannot be diverted from toilets, urinals, dishwashers, kitchen sinks or nonlaundry utility sinks.
If you implement a graywater system, you'll lower the daily amount of fresh water and energy used, while you encourage plant growth and reclaim nutrients that would otherwise be wasted. Plants thrive on the nutrients they absorb.
Jim Fennell, architect of the Ivywild School rebirth, received a special permit from El Paso County before passage of HB 1044 and has been using graywater from the brewery to irrigate gardens and greenhouses since 2010. Concerning its use in homes, he says, "If you take a 10-minute shower, that's 30 gallons of clean water down the drain that could be captured and reused. A family of four can save up to 120 gallons of water a day, so it would be a huge resource for homeowners."
• All about graywater: tinyurl.com/indy-gray
• The Colorado law: tinyurl.com/indy-co-law
The right to dry
Among the many good reasons to dry laundry outdoors: the disinfecting action of the sun; savings on electricity; reduction of toxic shmutz belched from our coal-fired power plants; and the fresh, sweet smell of linens and clothes dried in the Colorado breeze.
But there are two big reasons why more people don't line-dry: HOA covenants that disallow clotheslines, and terrycloth towels that dry like sandpaper.
As for the first impediment, in 2008 the Colorado Legislature passed HB 1270, which says: "An association shall not effectively prohibit the installation or use of an energy efficiency measure." It specifically permits "a retractable clothesline."
Though there are several styles available, we experimented with a portable, three-arm, umbrella-style clothesline that fits nicely on a condo balcony. Problem solved.
The sandpaper-towel challenge has a four-step fix. 1) Reduce the amount of detergent you use; 2) add vinegar during the rinse cycle to help remove soap buildup; 3) give the towels a vigorous shake and snap before you hang them; 4) avoid hanging them in direct sun or in the hottest part of the day. We were amazed by the amount of detergent that remained on our "clean" laundry; pop the lid during the rinse cycle to see how murky your water is.
Added benefit: All the stretching, shaking and snapping helps rid the world of lunch-lady arms.
• The nonprofit Project Laundry List: tinyurl.com/indy-laundry
It's a reaction to the excesses of McMansion living during the housing boom (and the upside-down mortgages that followed it), a way to have a paid-for place to call home even if you lose your job, and a chance to thumb your nose at the grid. The international Tiny House Movement calls on people to dump most of their stuff, crunch the rest, and take up solvent residence in a few hundred square feet. That's the short version ... we'll let these folks tell you the rest:
The heat is on
People who garden are familiar with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's plant hardiness zone map, but even non-growers should take a look. The map, which shows where certain plants are most apt to thrive, is divided into 10-degree-Fahrenheit zones based on each location's average yearly minimum winter temperature. And the 2012 version shows that the planet is heating up.
• The new, interactive map (click Colorado to see our zones; enter your ZIP code to find your zone): tinyurl.com/indy-usda
• Those in Colorado's U.S. congressional delegation who are wishy-washy about their stance on global warming (should you want to call and chat with them): Rep. Mike Coffman, District 6, 202/225-7882; Rep. Doug Lamborn, District 5, 202/225-4422; Rep. Cory Gardner, District 4, 202/225-4676; Rep. Scott Tipton, District 3, 202/225-4761.
Put some vinegar on
Paul Sorvino's character in My Big Fat Greek Wedding had a fool-proof cure for afflictions large or small: "Put some Windex on." Today, channeling Gus Portokalos, we are recommending not Windex, but vinegar for whatever ails you or your home.
Our experiment began with the annual tidy of the portable swamp cooler, wherein the multi-year build-up of mineral deposits in the water tank proved impervious to all household poisons applied to it, but instantly yielded to a stout mixture of white vinegar and warm water.
This dirt-cheap, Earth-friendly liquid also: softened terrycloth towels for line-drying (see "The right to dry," p. 20), put the sparkle back on ancient chrome bathroom fixtures, and removed blackberry stains from hands. Medical investigators are finding that consuming vinegar can reduce blood glucose levels, and apparently it even takes the pain out of jellyfish stings.
• Find tips for your own vinegar experiments: tinyurl.com/indy-vinegar
• Make your own flavored vinegars: tinyurl.com/indy-flavored
Additional reporting by Hannah Brenneman.
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