Latest posts in Queen of Green

How to reduce your formaldehyde exposure

April 18, 2014 | 139 comments
Photo: How to reduce your formaldehyde exposure

The Queen of Green was featured on Dr.Oz, Friday April 18, 2014!

What's colourless, preserves frogs, coats pillow cases and impregnates 'no-iron' shirts?

Answer: formaldehyde.

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The ABC's of planet saving

April 16, 2014 | Leave a comment
Photo: The ABC's of planet saving

Being outside reduces stress, anger and depression, and increases creativity, curiosity and problem-solving ability. (Credit: Brendon Purdy Photography)

Happy Earth Month from my family to yours:

A is for animal sign. Look for claw marks on trees or scat (poop). Moose scat looks like chocolate almonds, elk scat resembles chocolate kisses and deer scat looks like chocolate-covered raisins!

B is for batteries. Children play longer with no-battery toys than ones that do everything for them. Wooden blocks and puzzles boost critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

C is for coyote. Urban coyotes can become more aggressive as they get more comfortable around people, so haze coyotes you encounter: stand tall, wave your arms and yell!

D is for diapers. "Elimination communication" toilet trains using a combination of signals, timing and body language. Fewer diapers saves money and stops landfill clogging.

E is for essential oils. Instead of DEET — a suspected neurotoxin and respiratory toxin — -battle skeeters with herbal repellents containing citronella, eucalyptus or peppermint essential oils.

F is for fundraising. Turn stuff into cash for your kid's hockey team or school! Recycle e-waste and keep old and obsolete electronics out of landfills by sending them to ThinkRecycle.

G is for garden. Raised garden beds provide good drainage and act as slug barriers. Construct them on top of lawns with rot- and insect-resistant natural cedar.

H is for honey. Choose organic honey from hives that don't use non-organic honey, sugar or antibiotics. Look for the EcoCert, USDA organic, or Certified Organic Association of B.C. logos.

I is for injured wildlife. Never capture a sick or injured wild animal. Call a wildlife rehabilitation facility so staff can provide humane care.

J is for jojoba oil. Make baby massage oil. Add one tablespoon each of jojoba, sweet almond and olive oils to a bottle and shake to blend. Apply with warm hands.

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How to create a butterfly garden

April 8, 2014 | Leave a comment
Photo: How to create a butterfly garden

Did you know butterflies are active from about 10 AM to 3 PM? (Credit: Lindsay Coulter)

All gardens are not created equal. Just ask any butterfly.

Creation and restoration of butterfly habitat offsets those destroyed by development, roadside mowing or wetland drainage. (Gardening pesticide-free helps, too.)

Whether you have a small plot in the big city or a few acres, transform your yard into a butterfly garden!

What you'll need to attract butterflies

Choose native flowers and shrubs. Butterflies need nectar plants for food and host plants to lay their eggs. Check out this index of larval food plants (listed alphabetically)!

  • Tiger swallowtails choose nectar plants like lilacs or bee balm; nearby willow, alder, or apple trees can host larva
  • Painted ladies choose nectar plants like aster, cosmos or zinnia; host plants include thistle, mallow or hollyhock
  • Monarchs choose nectar plants like, black-eyed Susan, Canada goldenrod, wild bergamot and common yarrow; host plants include the milkweed family. (There are four most common species of milkweed in Canada — swamp (aka rose) , poke, butterfly (aka orange), showy and common. Choose the species that is native to your area.)
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Frequently asked questions about soap making

March 31, 2014 | 7 comments
Photo: Frequently asked questions about soap making

Always add lye to water to be safe. (Credit: Brendon Purdy Photography)

Only heard about soap making from the movie Fight Club? Then my month of blogs will help. If Brad Pitt and Edward Norton can do it, so can you!

Week 1: Lye, saponification and cold-process
Week 2: Supplies and ingredients
Week 3: The method in 12 steps
Week 4: A few recipes
Week 5: FAQs

How did people make soap long ago?

Lye (sodium hydroxide AKA caustic soda) wasn't around "back in the day" but other caustic alkalis were: potash — leached from wood ashes — even ashes from seaweed and other plants. In the 1700s, Nicholas Le Blanc figured out how to turn common salt (sodium chloride) into soda ash!

Why add lye to water and NOT water to lye?

Dry sodium hydroxide is highly reactive. A bead of it can burn through layers of skin (remember Fight Club?). In solution — mixing sodium hydroxide with water — a lot of heat is generated, upwards of 90 C! Adding sodium hydroxide to a large volume of water (i.e., lye to water) evokes a less intense and safer reaction.

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How to make soap, part four

March 27, 2014 | 8 comments
Photo: How to make soap, part four

I've made 37 batches of soap! Allow me to share my favourite soap calculator and three lovely recipes. (Credit: Brendon Purdy Photography)

It's finally soap recipe time!

Anxious to get started? I wasn't trying to build suspense. I just wanted you to know what you're getting into. Soap making is the hardest DIY I've taught — caustic lye, specific tools, often expensive and hard-to-find ingredients — and a four-week process!

Let's recap:

Use a soap making calculator

Meet my favourite soap making calculator. "Pin" it to your toolbar. Memorize the URL. Write it in your soon-to-be soap recipe book! I can't do without it.

A soap calculator helps you create your own one-of-a-kind recipes with over 100 choices for fats, oils and waxes. You decide how big the batch — my block holds 1,200 grams of oils, fats and waxes. It tells you how much lye and water you'll need to saponify the ingredients and the qualities of your bar — hardness, cleansing, bubbly, etc.—giving you a safe range for great soap!

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