50 ways to Reuse your old Yoga Mat

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I love this link – I practice hot yoga regularly and I really love it. But with all that sweating, I felt like I needed to replace my yoga mat. I put it in the closet, as I’m so loathe to throw things away if they can be reused, and I thought I must be able to find something useful to do with it. Check out this link, that shares 50 great ideas for ways to reuse your old yoga mat. A couple of good pet suggestions are to line your crate with it when transporting animals to the vet, so that they don’t slip all around. They also suggest using pieces of it under water and food bowls. I think it might also be great to put under crates at home to protect the hardwoods from being scratched. There are many other interesting ideas for kids and home uses. Brilliant!

Electronic Waste – if it has a plug, don’t throw it away!

I’m typing this on my new laptop computer while Mike works on the store’s main computer, the ipod is shuffling away through the stereo, and my cell phone is charging in the next room. All of these gadgets have improved our lives in ways we never could have imagined, and now we can’t live without them. Unfortunately, the life spans of these devices are fairly short, as new and better versions become available all the time. This leads to an incredible disposal problem, and not just because of the amount of space that all of this electronic refuse consumes (according to the recycling company E-Waste Solutions, individuals and organizations worldwide will replace more than 400 million computers in the next 3 years). Did you know that as much as 25% of a monitor’s weight is lead? Some monitors and TVs can contain up to 8 pounds of lead! Electronic equipment also contains loads of other metals and chemicals, like mercury, cadmium and fire retardants. When disposed of improperly, these toxic metals and chemicals leach into our soil and water supply. In fact, 70% of heavy metals in landfills come from discarded electronic equipment. The other ugly secret is that 50-80% of electronic waste that has been collected by “recyclers” has been exported to developing countries, where laws about the disposal of toxic materials are more lax. This poses quite a danger to the people and to the environment of these countries. To read more about this exporting issue, visit this link

The good news is that there are many good recycling operations, and a lot of the materials that make up electronic materials (glass, steel, gold, etc) can actually be recycled, and the toxic materials can be captured and reused or properly disposed of. Also, many computer companies are now taking back old computers when you buy a new one.

Many of the recyclers at this link will take any item with a plug. This is good news for me, as I know I have some old fluorescent lights in my garage that have mercury in the ballasts, a few old cordless phones that I haven’t wanted to throw away because of the batteries inside, and scads of telephone and stereo cables clogging up my junk drawers and tool boxes. And don’t forget — you can bring me your old cell phones for recycling! The company that recycles them either donates them to good causes or makes sure they are recycled properly, and The Orangutan Conservancy gets a few dollars for each phone to benefit orangutan conservation in the wild. If you’re not here in Portland, you can mail your old cell phone to:
Happy Hollow
Cell Phone Recycle Program
1300 Senter Road
San José, CA 95112

A quick Google search for electronic waste recycling in your state should make it easy to find a place to bring your stuff. Here are a few links to help as well:

Staples takes e-waste

Apple takes back computers

Wikipedia’s article on e-waste has lots of great links

Dell’s recycling program

Sony’s free take back program

Smart Animals

Check out this wonderful collection of smart animal videos.

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Eating Organic is better for you

farmersmarket.jpgOur local farmer’s markets are in full swing right now, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Living in Portland has really made us feel so much more connected to our local farmers – maybe because there are so many things grown here. It’s made us much more aware of not only how much more delicious fresh organic foods are than those that have ridden in a truck or boat or train (or all of the above) to get to my supermarket, (moments from wilting), but also what a challenge it is for small, locally owned organic farmers to compete with giant agrobusiness.
I’m sure most of you know that organic farming is good for both you and the environment, as it reduces overall exposure to toxic chemicals. Synthetic pesticides and other chemicals can end up in the ground, air, water and food supply, and not only are they pollutants but they could be associated health consequences, from asthma to cancer. But did you know that organically grown foods can actually be better for you (and your pets) nutritionally than their traditionally grown counterparts? Just a few of the examples I found:
A study was presented at the Soil Association (UK’s largest soil conservation, organic farming, and environmental protection NGO) Annual Conference that came down solidly on the side of Organic milk. According to the research, cows farmed organically produced milk which was, on average, 50% higher in Vitamin E, 75% higher in beta carotene, two to three times higher in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthine, and richer in Omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally produced milk. A group of scientists from Europe have shown that organic food is healthier, for rats. The University of Newcastle Upon Tyne and the Danish Research Center for Organic Farming found that by feeding rats only organic food they had a stronger immune systems, slept better, and stored less fat. In a study by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture, organic ketchup was shown to contain 57% higher levels of the antioxidant lycopene.

So get on out there to the Farmer’s Markets while they’re still in full swing, or seek out markets in your area that carry locally grown produce. When food is locally grown, it hasn’t traveled as far to get here as stuff in the supermarket — this uses far less fossil fuel and produces fewer emissions to transport it. It’s also fresher, so it tastes better and lasts longer. Support our local organic farmers!

 

Did You Know You Can Bring Your E-waste to Staples?

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I just read something interesting today about the Staples company – they accept all sorts of e-waste at their store whether you bought it there or not. I’ll be posting something about e-waste (discarded electrical equipment like computers and printers) soon, so it’s on my mind, but I thought I’d share this article with you as I think it’s great and should make it even easier to be able to dispose of that toxic e-waste properly. Check out this link

Fireworks — Fun for some people, but a nightmare for some dogs and their owners.

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We couldn’t believe it when we moved to Portland and saw/heard how many fireworks go off here on the 4th of July. We’ve never lived anywhere with legal fireworks, and had no idea that it would be such a constant barrage of explosions for hours on end. This can be a very frightening thing for pets in our homes who can’t possibly understand what is happening, and can drive some dogs into a panic. I thought I’d put together some tips for how to get ready and how to deal with the 4th when it comes.

If this is your first 4th of July with your new puppy, this is your chance to set the tone for the future. This exercise can also help older dogs that are already frightened of fireworks noises. <! — more — >

       In the next week, try to desensitize the noise of random fireworks and turn them into a signal that something great is going to happen for the dog. People are always impatient for the 4th to come, and they end up setting a few off ahead of time. These can be very useful opportunities for you to work on getting your puppy happy with the noises instead of being frightened. First, get some sort of outrageous treat ready — something that will really blow your dog’s mind that he doesn’t usually get. Hotdog slices come to mind, or pieces of real meat. Cut them up and put them in a Tupperware in the front of the fridge, ready to grab. Any time you hear a bang outside, start your “puppy party”. React like something really exciting and fabulous has happened — “Lucky lucky puppy!! Oooh Boy!” Bounce your way to the fridge and grab your goodies. Sounds silly, but if you’re lucky enough to get some repetitions, your dog will soon associate the sound of the fireworks with an opportunity for a hotdog puppy party, instead of making up his own interpretation of what this big noise could possibly mean. Dogs are incredibly good at associations, and this sort of classical conditioning works well with anything that a dog has previously found unnerving. They will quickly come to associate a noise (even a scary one) with big fun if that’s what you seem to be saying it means. An industrious puppy owner could even come up with ways of getting some more repetitions under their belt in ways they can control and predict. Maybe you can get a hold of some fireworks and enlist the help of a friend or family member to set them off when you’re ready. Cell phones make this an easier exercise. Maybe they start from a block away and set one off — just a little pop. “Lucky puppy”! It makes you happily jump up from the couch and get him a hotdog. Then you settle down again. When you’re ready, maybe a few more pops, and a few more hotdog slices and maybe a little game of tug, or a new toy. Then your helper moves closer. Just a few repetitions a night can lead to some good associations for your dog. If your dog has an extreme case of fireworks phobia, consider occasionally working on this exercise throughout the coming year, and next year will be easy sailing for your dog. You might also be able to find a fireworks noises tape or CD, or maybe even a DVD (I found one online by Nova called “Discover the Explosive History of Fireworks”) In the cases of extreme fear, you want to start as small as possible — very low volume on the DVD, or just those little snaps you throw on the ground (someone can pop them outside in the yard for you, then build up to bigger bangs later). The key is to wait to increase the intensity until you get a good response at the level you’re at. It may seem like a pain, but it’s so worth it in the end to help spare them from such a stressful experience. You can also use this “Lucky Puppy!” response to help work on other noises for the noise sensitive dog. The other reason this works is that dogs play off of your energy. You might be inadvertently reinforcing the trembling terrors by cuddling a trembling dog, whereas if you appear to think a noise is OK, or even fun, they might believe you (especially a puppy).

        – Next, consider picking up a product to help ease the fear of a nervous dog. Homeopet makes an Anxiety Blend which is specific to fears about noise called TFLN (Thunder, Fireworks, Loud Noises). Homeopathy is extremely safe and can be given safely even in conjunction with other medications, so it might be worth trying. Other options include an herbal blend by Animals Apawthecary called Tranquility Blend to relax an animal, and Ark Naturals makes an herbal blend called Happy Traveler that might help to take the edge off. (We carry all three in the store, if you’re in the neighborhood).

         – On the day, make sure that you exercise your dog really well. A tired dog is much less likely to be stressed about the noises. Keep your dog inside, as more dogs are lost on this night than almost any other trying to flee from the noise. If you’re not going to be home, find a secure place in the house and draw the blinds (if your dog is crate trained, this would be a perfect time to use it).

        – Some folks have told us that drowning out the noises sometimes helps. One woman said she puts her dog in the laundry room with a meaty bone or a stuffed Kong and puts sneakers in the dryer, and it works well for her dog. You’d have to decide though whether that would add stress to your noise sensitive dog, or whether it might help. Of course it depends on your dog. Perhaps more “normal” noises like the TV or radio would work better for some.

        – Other people have had good luck with the T-Touch method of wrapping a dog in fabric to give it a greater sense of security. The easiest way to try this is to get a tight t-shirt, put it on the dog and tie the bottom in a knot to keep it snug around the dog’s body. (If it smells like you, even better.)

        Most importantly, don’t ever bring a dog with you to a fireworks display. Not only are they very crowded, but they are far too loud for your dog’s sensitive ears. While there are some dogs out there who might take an experience like a fireworks display in stride, it would be far too easy to traumatize a dog with this very extreme evening of smells, giant explosions overhead, the feeling of rumbling in the ground, and earsplitting noise. Once you’re packed into a crowd, it’s hard to make a quick exit if your dog isn’t handling the situation well, and the damage might already be done. Perhaps you could spend the puppy’s first 4th of July at home with him and make it a fun evening for him, so that future fireworks aren’t as scary.

Have any fireworks tips for others, or product recommendations? Please feel free to post a comment here and share your idea with others!