Latest posts in Queen of Green

How to fend off mosquitoes

June 27, 2016 | Leave a comment
Photo: How to fend off mosquitoes

Attract mosquito-eating chickadees, house wrens, bluebirds, swallows and martins with birdhouses and bird baths. (Credit: James Andruchow)

As an Alberta girl, I know mosquitoes.

I also spent five summers working in the boreal forest counting critters — and inadvertently feeding skeeters, no-see-ums and deer and horse flies.

Bug spray ingredients often don't break down. Some linger and can cause harm to plants and animals other than their targets. Avoid DEET and you'll never rinse it into our oceans, lakes or rivers.

Before you reach for a DEET bug repellent, try these non-toxic tips to make you and your home less attractive to mosquitoes:

  • Remove standing water (mosquito breeding grounds). Refresh bird and bee baths daily.
  • Fill, cover or remove backyard items that collect water — empty planters, kids' toys, wheelbarrows, etc.
  • Keep gutters clean to help rainwater flow freely.
  • Repair screens on doors and windows.
  • Keep grass to about three inches. Trim shrubs.
  • Attract mosquito-eating chickadees, house wrens, bluebirds, swallows and martins with birdhouses and bird baths.
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Who tests consumer goods for safety?

June 22, 2016 | Leave a comment
Photo: Who tests consumer goods for safety?

Substances used in some consumer products pose risks to human health. (Credit: Lindsay Coulter)

A recent audit found Health Canada isn't doing enough to protect Canadians from hazardous chemicals in everyday products.

This is not breaking news to you. And maybe it's the main reason you:

Federal environmental watchdog report findings:

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How to turn your yard into a pollinator haven

June 6, 2016 | 3 comments
Photo: How to turn your yard into a pollinator haven

Butterflies and hummingbirds share many nectar flowers, so efforts to lure one may attract both. (Credit: Theresa Hannah via Instagram)

Whether you have a small plot in the city or a few country acres, you can create a welcome space for important pollinators such as butterflies, hummingbirds and bees. Creating and restoring pollinator habitat and gardening pesticide-free helps offset what's being destroyed by development, roadside mowing or wetland drainage.

How to attract butterflies

Choose native flowers and shrubs. Butterflies need nectar plants for food and host plants to lay their eggs.

  • Tiger swallowtails choose nectar plants such as lilacs or bee balm; nearby willow, alder, or apple trees can host larva
  • Painted ladies choose nectar plants such as aster, cosmos or zinnia; host plants include thistle, mallow or hollyhock
  • Monarchs choose nectar plants such as milkweed, lilac, goldenrod and cosmos; the milkweed family are the monarchs' only host plants

To attract butterflies like the red admiral, tiger swallowtail and mourning cloak, you can also set up a nectar feeder using a solution of one part sugar to 18 parts water.

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How to reuse silica gel packs, part two

May 30, 2016 | 2 comments
Photo: How to reuse silica gel packs, part two

Add silica gel packs to containers of homemade kale chips (or apple chips) to keep them crispy. (Credit: Lindsay Coulter)

I gave you six ways to reuse silica gel packs —- found in vitamin bottles and seaweed snacks —- and you gave me another 10.

Add silica gels packs to your:

  1. Toolboxes to prevent tools from rusting. Thanks, Adam, Ella and Chuck!
  2. Musical instrument cases. "They're great. I offer them up to customers at my guitar shop." ~ Adam
  3. Watch (or smartphone) if it takes on water. "If you get your watch wet and the glass fogs up, put it in a sealable plastic bag with a few of these bags." ~ Michelle (and thanks to David, too!)
  4. Containers of homemade kale chips (or apple chips) to keep them crispy. Thanks, Laine!
  5. Recycling cupboard to absorb excess moisture (and cut down on funky smells that can result). Thanks, Laurie!
  6. Seed packages. Thanks, Jim!
  7. Car in the winter to remove moisture from leaky windows. Thanks, Dana!
  8. Camera case and bags. Thanks, Kellie!
  9. Jewellery box. Thanks, Showey!
  10. Night-guard container. Thanks, Gail!
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How to improve your work life, naturally

May 30, 2016 | Leave a comment
Photo: How to improve your work life, naturally

Getting outside makes employees happier and healthier. These 30×30 Nature Challengers are taking action to protect nature by pulling invasive English ivy in Stanley Park.

More than 1,500 workplaces and schools spent 30 days in nature this May participating in the David Suzuki Foundation's 30×30 Nature Challenge. You can cultivate a "nature habit" where you work, too — starting any time of year!

I quizzed representatives of three companies — Interface (@Interface), Genuine Health (@GenuineHealth) and Aimia (@AimiaInc) — about why they get into nature at work.

How can staff let bosses know they need Vitamin "N" (i.e., time in nature)?

Interface: Encourage your employer to walk the talk. Reference research on the benefits of being in nature (download the 30×30NatureChallenge Workplace Toolkit) — improved performance, productivity and creativity and less absenteeism!

Genuine Health: Pitch it based on your company's core values and share testimonials with your employer. Getting outside makes employees healthier and happier.

Aimia: We made it a friendly competition, a weekly nature photo challenge that added some fun to the office and gave employees a chance to take a break from busy routines, share how they enjoy the outdoors and fall (back) in love with nature!

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