Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How Clean is Coal? Coal Ash Spill in Tennessee

The following is my personal observation of the recent pollution disaster that happened just around the bend from where I live.

This morning when I woke up I smelled something horrible, kind of like exhaust, raw gasoline, beer and burned poison... so strong I had to shut my windows to keep from gagging. When I tried to enjoy the sunny day outside I got nauseous, lethargic, and seizure prone. I decided to ask some local friends over email whether they could smell something terrible outside too, and I got mail back saying that everyone had "headaches" and it was probably connected to the TN Coal Ash disaster (with link). WTF? I looked it up and there it was... one of the grossest pollution stories I have ever heard since the Exxon Valdez spill.

"The spill at the utility’s Harriman Fossil Plant deluged more than 300 acres of rural Roane County, destroying three homes and damaging 42 other properties. In nearby Kingston, that raised fears of fouled water and air, while 13 families wait to see if their homes can be salvaged, said Carolyn Brewer, finance director for the city of 5,300. The sludge-like spill, a mixture of water and residue from burned coal, escaped from a 40-acre holding pond after a retaining wall burst last week."

What infuriates me besides the fact that the air outside is tainted like we are living inside a can of roach spray, is that "authorities" have already tried to dumb down the implications of such a disaster.

Here is the conflict between a big corporation cover up and reality:
"...in just one year, the plant’s byproducts included 45,000 pounds of arsenic, 49,000 pounds of lead, 1.4 million pounds of barium, 91,000 pounds of chromium and 140,000 pounds of manganese. Those metals can cause cancer, liver damage and neurological complications, among other health problems. And the holding pond, at the Kingston Fossil Plant, a T.V.A. plant 40 miles west of Knoxville, contained many decades’ worth of these deposits...
For days, authority officials have maintained that the sludge released in the spill is not toxic..."
(VIA NY Times)

And then there's this...
"The authority has been using backhoes and heavy equipment to clean up the ash and is building weirs, or underwater dams, to try to keep it from traveling downstream. Officials do not have an estimate of the cost of the cleanup or how long it will take, said a spokeswoman, Catherine Mackey...
Mr. Smith also criticized the agency for increasing the flow of the Tennessee River to keep the ash from approaching the drinking water intake for Kingston, a town a half-mile up from the confluence of the Clinch and the Tennessee. “They’re actually moving the stuff further downstream, in order to protect the drinking supply at Kingston,” he said. "
(VIA NY Times)

They are moving kind of slow on water testing too...
"Samples taken at the site of the spill in Harriman, 35 miles southwest of Knoxville, “slightly exceed” the standards for some metals, according to a statement from the Tennessee Valley Authority, owner of the coal power plant where the Dec. 22 accident occurred. Results from well-water and air tests won’t be known until later this week, the utility said....
A test for heavy metals in water, soil or sediment should take two to eight hours, said Peter Schulert, the chief executive of the Environmental Science Corporation, an environmental laboratory near Nashville. “There’s no reason why you couldn’t have the results within a day,” Mr. Schulert said.... "
(And that fact is making people mad, rightfully so!)
“They think that the public is stupid, that they can’t put two and two together,” said Sandy Gupton, a registered nurse who hired an independent firm to test the spring water on her family’s 300-acre farm, now sullied by sludge from the spill. “It took five days for the T.V.A. to respond to us.”

They (whoever this "authority" is) tries to make it sound like it's not such a big deal, if you happen to come in contact with this sludge bi-product then just give your hands a little wash. NO advice on what to do when you are breathing it, since there's no brilliant soapy water solution.
"Authorities are testing air quality in the area and “currently evaluating the potential for health effects,” the agencies said in the TVA’s statement. Anyone who touches soil, sediments or water affected by the spill should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water and wash clothes separately from other items, according to the statement. "
(VIA Bloomberg)

So do we all get government distributed respirators too, so that we might be able to breathe safely without getting sick? Big corporations are big babies (ego centric to a fault) - they can never admit when they have done something wrong, they give heartless apologies and keep counting their dollars while all of us sit here breathing polluted air and people's homes, land and water are destroyed. They worry over being sued when they should be sued for any damage they may try to weasel their way out of covering. But really, how can you compensate fully for someone's sludged home and health?

Humor : Graph Jam

Another lovely giggle from Graph Jam! Enjoy!

Smoking & Lead Exposure Have Similar Effects

We all know about first hand and second hand cigarette smoke causing adverse health problems such as nutritional deficiencies & lung cancer - but have you ever heard of third hand smoke? (Neither had I till I read the latest cig news over on The Canary Report!)
Adult smokers already know what they are doing is not the healthy choice for their body, but what science had not yet realized was even the particles/residue transferring from a smoker's hair, clothes and skin to their children were causing kids learning disabilities, a similar reaction as to being exposed to low levels of lead.

"When you smoke – anyplace – toxic particulate matter from tobacco smoke gets into your hair and clothing,” says lead study author, Jonathan Winickoff, MD, MPH, assistant director of the MGHfC Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy. “When you come into contact with your baby, even if you’re not smoking at the time, she comes in contact with those toxins. And if you breastfeed, the toxins will transfer to your baby in your breastmilk.” Winickoff notes that nursing a baby if you’re a smoker is still preferable to bottle-feeding, however.

Particulate matter from tobacco smoke has been proven toxic. According to the National Toxicology Program, these 250 poisonous gases, chemicals, and metals include hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, butane, ammonia, toluene (found in paint thinners), arsenic, lead, chromium (used to make steel), cadmium (used to make batteries), and polonium-210 (highly radioactive carcinogen). Eleven of the compounds are classified as Group 1 carcinogens, the most dangerous.

Third-hand smoke can remain indoors even long after the smoking has stopped. Similar to low-level lead exposure, low levels of tobacco particulates have been associated with cognitive deficits among children, and the higher the exposure level, the lower the reading score. These findings underscore the possibility that even extremely low levels of these compounds may be neurotoxic and, according to the researchers, justify restricting all smoking in indoor areas inhabited by children."

Personally speaking my parents didn't smoke, but my grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and everyone under the sun smoked around me. I learned early on how bad the first, second and third hand smoke was when I watched my best friend in elementary school lose both her grandparents to cancer caused by smoking. Then by the time I was a teenager my own over exposure led to cig reactions like coughing up blood, developing sinus infections, fevers, and long drawn out illnesses after spending time with a smoker. When I turned 20 my own grandfather (Pepere) who had smoked blackberry vines as a teen on the bayou and unfiltered camels most his life developed lung cancer and died nine months after being diagnosed.
As someone who now has strong reactions to even the smell of it on someone's clothes I am not surprised to hear reports of how dangerous the third hand smoke residue is. Possibly what makes the matter entirely worse for smokers is the fact that big companies manufacture this stuff with chemicals, bleached papers, additives and other substances that make it way more carcinogenic then the actual tobacco plant is to begin with. Add to the equation that they are spraying these crops with toxic pesticides and it makes for one hell of a smoke to inhale.

FIY: Second hand smoke kills 3 times more children then any other cancer combined.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Multiple Chemical Sensitivities: The Crazy Sh!t We Gotta Do

When dealing with chemical sensitivities even the most mundane tasks, plans and events become an olympic style obstacle course to get through...and due to economic breakdown I am getting a housemate. Anyone reading this who has MCS will understand this is the kind of event that can put the shake in the rattle and roll of fear, because other people bring things into your safe home that you normally can not tolerate. If you don't have chemical sensitivities you may find the following project completely insane, but tell the Gulf War Veterans who are now officially declared to have MSC/GWS from chemical exposure, the still sick rescue teams from 9-11 who didn't have protection going into the disaster, and my good friend Lou Cheese who was chemically injured on the job that their medical & government documented affliction is insane.
The following project is how me and Nick sealed off the door between the two halves of the house & it is now a duplex with separate outside entrances.

Check this crazy out:::::
Meet Nick, my new housemate who is kind enough to help me do this important yet coo-a-doo project. The first layer against the door is foil strips taped together with packing tape- then taped flush to the wall.
This is my sci-fi fashion pose, a possibly failed attempt to make the MCS foil barrier somehow a sexy thing. (I did help tape too! I swear.) With the foil completely flush and tape around all the edges, a layer of plastic was added on top... While this was happening I was on the other side of the door squeezing organic fleece fabric strips into the door cracks with pointy scissors. If I look a little haggard at this point it's cause I was extremely haggard...the thrill was gone. The very last layer of protection is bubble wrap! Why? Cause that is what I had on hand and doesn't it look like a portal to another dimension now !?!? Hopefully I get beamed to a place with unicorns, aliens, or just no chemicals...
I will update later on whether this MCS protection project worked to it's full potential as Nick (the impending housemate) moves his belongings into the other side of the house. Leave me any suggestions in the comments section...

And in the words of Britney Spears: "You Say I'm Crazy, I GOT your crazy!"

Sunday, December 28, 2008

DIY: Sewing An Organic Corset Dress

Yay! Here is another organic cotton sewing video on how to put together a corset dress.
This 'corset dress' is made with 100% organic cotton fabric with low impact dyes sourced locally from Spiritex for under $5! It's made from end of the mill scraps - and I can say this project is not as easy as my other tutorials but is well worth the time spent crafting it. The biggest challenges for me were that the base fabric was not stretchy which doesn't leave room for sizing mistakes, creating the corset look takes a little more time and patience to piece together and lace up, and attempting to make blah fabric look sassy takes some planning. I made this project to see if i could possibly take very boring tan checkered pattern fabric and turn it into something sexy and fun - the style is inspired by the many drawings of woman's clothing I did in the 80's as a child.

PS- You will want to add a zipper, side ties or some other open/close device on the sides if you don't use stretch fabric.

Let me know what you think...


Saturday, December 27, 2008

DIY: Organic Cotton Jumper

Here is an easy DIY organic cotton jumper tutorial I posted on You Tube! It's a quick project that only requires cutting out two panels and sewing them together - I drew the pattern on scrap paper first then used that to cut the two shapes out of the fabric. The main measurements you'll need is your hip, waist and the length of your shoulder to waist (torso). This jumper is made in 100% organic cotton, low impact dye and was scrap fabric sold for $3 by Spiritex (a local organic cotton weaver). I was inspired to make this style by the re-surge of 80's gear, the Ting Ting's video, and my friend Bort who wears overalls.
Throw this jumper on over your favorite shirt and make a sassy organic outfit in a instant!


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Holiday Bike Ride!

This is Part 2 of my holiday plans - I rode my bike around my neighborhood and looked at holiday lights, saw X-mas trees lit up in windows, and wished that all these lights were LED or solar! Asheville doesn't have nearly the amount of decorated houses that New Orleans had - or maybe no one can afford the electric bill this year... either way it's a bonus for the environment. Enjoy the pics...

PS- My good friend Bort used to work for an X-mas tree farm and said not only are the trees sprayed with pesticides but they are sprayed with PAINT too! Now that is f-en gross! Buy Organic :) xoxo

Winter Woods

For the holiday I have two plans... to walk in the woods and then at night to ride my bike and look at holiday lights on houses. Here are pictures from Part 1 of my X-mas Day. After all the crazed consumerism mixed with a slumpy economy the woods are a breath of fresh air (literally)! Happy Holidays! xoxo

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Humor: Fail Blog

These pics are from the ever so hysterical Fail Blog, full of crazy pics and videos of things that are just plain wrong! Take some time to relax and giggle at their website - let the holiday stress go!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Organic Larkin Dress

Is this organic purple dress not the cutest thing ever? Could be the beautiful color or the sultry library scene - but I love designer Melissa Baswell of MOTM's new organic winter collection! I have had a thing for the color of royalty ever since I had my purple skinny jeans with side zippers in 8th grade... but FIY the dress is available in twilight blue too. :)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

DIY: Sewing Organic Lingerie Part 3 and 4

Yay! Here are two new organic lingerie tutorials/videos- both saucy sets are made from locally purchased organic cotton scrap fabric. This fabric is the end of the line cut up pieces (of all shapes and sizes) left over from Spiritex's organic fabric production here in Asheville NC. Scraps are sold for prices usually between $1.50- $5.00 ... and that is dang cheap!

*So go HERE to watch Sewing with Organic Cotton Part 3, to see how to make a camisole and shortie set with side ties...

*Then go
HERE to see Sewing with Organic Cotton Part 4 and check out the orange and black 'bandeaux' top with drawstring tap shorts!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ecoland Organic Undergarments on Sale

Organic undies are not always affordable and finding a good sturdy organic bra is not easy! Ecoland makes dye free organic basics that everyone loves because they are well priced and long lasting... and now they are ON SALE! The ultra comfy Ecoland Organic Underwire Bra is only $25 ($10 OFF), the matching organic tank is now only $12.50, and you can buy the hipsters two pack for a cheap $18 (that means only $9 for a pair of 100% organic panties!)
Check it out at The Oko Box!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Organic Winter Accessories On SALE!

Shopping for earth friendly winter gear just got a whole lot easier! You can get organic cotton cable knit gloves for only $12.50, a matching organic cotton & tencel 1940's retro winter hat for the same price, hemp knit hats for under $10, and a plethora of other winter warmers for prices better then you can find slave made options for at the mall! Our silky soft 6 ft long hemp scarf (available in black and rose) is marked down to only $10 -
so make sure to support a healthy planet while holiday shopping this season!
PS - There's still plenty time to order online, all packages are shipped USPS priority mail and there is an option to upgrade to Express mail!

Here is an email I received today from a customer who bought the Organic Cable Gloves:

"I received the gloves yesterday and LOVE them!! They are so comfortable and warm! Thank you all for such wonderful customer service - I had only ordered them a couple of days before - and thank you for the personalized note on the enclosed invoice - you all are wonderful!! With the wonderful, stylish and eco friendly (wallet friendly too!) products that the Oko Box offers, and your over-the-top customer service, I will be a return customer!! Thank you again!! Happy Holidays! "

~Susan Yeager-Jordan

Love you Susan!!! Thanks!

Monday, December 15, 2008

DIY: Bamboo Clothes Drying Rack

During the winter it's a little more complicated to hang dry clothes since it has to be done inside the house. You can save electricity though by not using a conventional clothes dryer, but instead by mooching off your winter heat source with a DIY rack! I made this bamboo clothes rack with only three materials : 1. bamboo cut from my back yard 2. jute twine 3. scissors !
Because the bamboo I had available was very thin I used the twine to tie a few pieces together for greater strength. I made four poles total to hold the cross bars for hanging clothes.
Then I made a tee-pee triangle shape out of the four poles, creating two support beams for the right and left sides. And tied thin bamboo across - laying flat in the open triangle up top.
I added two more bamboo beams across the lower half to hang more clothes - with the twine you can add as many levels as you want, as long as you don't overload the bamboo with too much weight in wet clothes.
Here is where I need the advice of a builder, engineer or 3-D thinker... it is perfectly fine to hang clothes on, but I had to lean it up against one wall to get it completely sturdy - does anyone know what should be added to make this entirely stand alone and supported?
In the meantime, this is one bad ass drying machine! Works like a charm and holds a surprising amount of weight! If you don't have bamboo, you can try using tree branches too - it's all about using resources you have right around you and FREE.
Make sure to place your clothes near your winter heat source so they can dry fully & quickly. :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Sale: 50% OFF Organic Clothing!

The economy is tanking and budgets are tight, but you still want to shop green this season? No problem cause I just marked down bunches of men's and women's items at The Oko Box 50%- 70% off the original retail price! (Like the Kimono Cardigan Sweater below is marked down from $150 to $50!) Go HERE or click any of the pics below to check out the sale section! There is still time to shop - all orders are sent USPS priority or you can upgrade to USPS Express shipping to have it delivered overnight! Shop earth friendly & affordable this holiday season!