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Cold Comfort
March 2012

Big Boosts in Fridge Efficiency

refrigeratorRefrigerator manufacturers are making huge strides in creating more energy efficient products, and with recent improvements in standards, upcoming designs will use a fifth of the energy that household refrigerators required 40 years ago. That will save the average owner about $150 over a typical 12-year product lifetime.

Government analysts note that side-by-side refrigerators might be more convenient than traditional top-andbottom models, but they offer less usable space and use more electricity—50 to
150 more kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, about 20 percent of the unit’s total energy consumption. An icemaker and door-accessed ice and water service can each add another 10 to 15 percent to overall refrigerator energy consumption.

Top Ten USA, the leading source of independent information about the energy efficiency of common products, identifies and publicizes the most efficient products on the market, so that when consumers are able to find the most energyand money-saving models to buy, manufacturers are encouraged to make products even more energy-efficient.

The nonprofit uses comprehensive information from Energy Star, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), The California Energy Commission and professional and manufacturing trade publications to evaluate and determine the most energy-efficient refrigerators and freezers in the United States. They recently tested three size categories: medium (14 to 18 cubic feet); large (18 to 22 cubic feet) and extra-large (22 cubic feet and up). To compare the top 10 most efficient medium refrigerator models, visit Tinyurl.com/7wm6cub.

Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, calculates that by upgrading to Energy Star appliances, Americans saved enough energy in 2010 alone to avoid creating greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 33 million cars, while saving nearly $18 billion on their utility bills.


Source: NRDC.org

 
Improve Your Snooze
February 2012

Sleep Aids versus Sleep Sappers

sleepCan eating a whole-wheat peanut butter cracker or sipping tart cherry juice help us sleep? Either is certainly worth a try, because most of us aren’t getting enough shut-eye. According to the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation, 64 percent of America’s adults frequently experience sleep problems; nearly half wake up at least once during the night. This deficit of restorative rest can affect our health.

“Lack of sleep can affect the immune system,” says Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler, of the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center and an officer of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Studies show that people that don’t get a good night’s sleep or don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as the common cold.”

A concept called sleep hygiene refers to good health practices that promote sleep. For example: Is the room dark or quiet enough? Is the mattress comfortable? Have we allowed sufficient time to wind down after daily activities to become relaxed? What we eat or drink also can have a profound effect on getting a good night’s rest.

 
Green Laundry List
February 2012

Use Cold Water and Eco-Wise Detergents

laundryMom may have said that hot water washes best, but don’t give cold-water detergents the cold shoulder—today’s new products deliver clean laundry that’s easy on the pocketbook and the planet.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an average American family annually washes nearly 400 loads of laundry. Because heating the water accounts for 90 percent of the energy used by a washing machine, using only hot or warm water in a top-loading electric washer annually produces an average 2,407 pounds of CO2 pollution—equivalent to two cross-country flights.

Many conventional cold-water detergents still contain toxic chemicals that when drained, end up in waterways, creating a host of environmental woes and exposing wildlife to endocrine disruptors. For both clean and green clothes, buy biodegradable laundry detergents made with plant oils and other natural ingredients that are free of phosphates, bleach and surfactants such as petroleum-based nonylphenol ethoxylates, or NPE. Kinder to the planet, greener choices are also gentler on the skin.

Consumers concerned about killing bacteria, dust mites and other allergens may be tempted to turn on the hot water tap for sheets, linens and underwear, but Philip Tierno, Jr., Ph.D., a professor of microbiology and pathology at the New York University School of Medicine, says that most of the hot water people use is not hot enough anyway. “You need water that’s between 140 and 150 degrees to kill germs,” he advises. Tierno, author of The Secret Life of Germs, notes that the sun is one of nature’s most efficient germ killers, so letting clothes dry outdoors is a good eco-option. “The ultraviolet radiation kills germs,” he advises, “and it’s just as effective as bleach.”

Natural disinfectants that can be added during rinsing include white vinegar (one-half cup per load); grapefruit seed extract (one teaspoon); tea tree oil (two teaspoons); and lavender or peppermint essential oil (a few drops), which also imparts a fresh fragrance.


Find more tips on the Sierra Club’s website at Tinyurl.com/3kh2dpf, plus eco-wise products including pre-wash treatments, non-chlorine bleach and laundry liquids at Natural Awakenings’ online store, NAWebstore.com.

 
Seaweed Loves the Heart
February 2012

A Rich Source of Heart-Healthy Goodness

seaweedSome relish seaweed, while others eye it with culinary suspicion. Now an article in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reports that many scientists have identified seaweed as a rich, potential source of heart-healthy food ingredients. A review of nearly 100 studies shows that seaweed and other microalgae could rival milk products as sources of important bioactive peptides.

Maria Hayes, Ph.D., and her colleagues at the Teagasc Food Research Centre, in Dublin, Ireland, concluded that certain seaweed proteins work just like the bioactive peptides in milk products to reduce blood pressure, almost like angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor drugs. Thus, they could be used as ingredients in functional foods like soups and health beverages to provide nutrition, while offering medicinal effects in treating or preventing heart disease.

Seaweeds are a neglected alternative source of these bioactive peptides in this country, the researchers state, noting its popularity in other cultures. Varieties of seaweed are known as
nori in Japan, dulse in coastal parts of Europe and limu palahalaha in native Hawaiian cuisine.

In addition, notes Hayes, “Seaweeds are a known source of essential fatty acids, which are thought to reduce thrombosis and atherosclerosis—factors important in the reduction of the risk of heart disease.”

 
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