Baking Soda: Clean for the Environment, the Kitchen, the Bathroom, and You

alternative-cleaning-and-cosmetic-suppliesBaking Soda is an excellent alternative to most cleaning and hygienic products which contain toxic chemicals which are harmful to the people who use them as well as the environment. Concern about the damaging chemicals in cleaning and hygienic products has been recently justified by frightening revelations such as triclosan being found in dolphins and paraben being linked to cancerous tumors. 

Parabens are a man-made chemical preservative which is cheap to produce and can be found in almost all shampoos, moisturizers, gels, lubricants, toothpaste and food additives. Parabens are particularly dangerous to women, as they can mimic the hormone estrogen. Parabens have been found in tumors removed from breast cancer patients. It is likely that parabens also damage to reproductive systems of males, in the July 2002 Archives of Toxicology a study was published by Dr. S. Oishi of the Tokyo Metropolitan Research Laboratory of Public Health, which showed a causal relationship between parabens and adverse effects to the male reproductive system in newborn male mammals.

Triclosan is an antibacterial agent commonly found in cleaning products like dish detergent. A 2005 study published in Environmental Pollution documents how blood samples taken from bottlenose dolphins in South Carolina and Florida showed that an average of 27 percent of the animals from various locations in both states contained triclosan. The presence of triclosan signals that not only has the health of the dolphins been affected, but also the water has been contaminated. So every time we wash our hands, dishes, and clothes triclosan is entering the wastewater and residual remains of triclosan leak into rivers and estuaries despite the water treatment process.

Fortunately, baking soda, known scientifically as sodium bicarbonate, is a multifaceted, multipurpose substance, which can clean and deodorize your home and your body without damaging your health or the health of the environment. Baking soda regulates pH and when baking soda encounters either an overly acidic or overly alkaline-based substance baking soda’s natural reaction is to neutralize that pH. Beyond that, baking soda also acts as a buffer by preventing further changes in pH balance. Baking soda’s dual properties of buffering and neutralizing make it a sustainable product with many helpful uses.

In your home, baking soda can be used to clean the toilet, the walls, mirrors, countertops, and other surfaces. By using baking soda in your toilet you can improve the flow of your whole septic system. Baking soda removes grease from dishes, can dry wet furniture and carpet, remove scratches and marks from floors and walls, and can be combined with water to polish chrome and stainless steel. Baking soda can also clean appliances like microwaves and coffee pots and has the ability to clean and unclog your drains and stoves (it can unclog gas stoves!). Baking soda can also deodorize and clean your trashcan, cat’s liter box, cutting board, drain, dishwasher, lunch boxes, dishrags, ashtray, refrigerator, carpets, cars, footwear and even stuffed animals. You can even make fresh cut flowers last longer by adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the vase.

Baking soda is also incredibly helpful to aiding you in hygienic needs. For instance, you can apply baking soda to your underarms with a powder puff to act as deodorant, which cuts back on the use of harmful parabens and can prevent more plastic waste from being put in landfills. Baking soda can be used to make toothpaste when mixed with a half a teaspoon of peroxide paste. You can use baking soda to scrub your body and face. If you add it to a bath it will soften your skin. Baking soda can be used for fresh breath or canker sores if you gargle with it using a mixture of water. Baking soda can even be used to alleviate pain from insect bites, sunburn, diaper rash, poison ivy rashes, windburns, and jellyfish stings. If added to a vaporizer or humidifying, baking soda can relieve a stuffy nose.

Other helpful uses include washing vegetables and fruit with baking soda and water. If you are a hunter you can remove the gamey taste from your food using baking soda. If you sprinkle your tomato plants with a little baking soda it will sweeten the tomatoes produces. If you sprinkle soil in your garden with baking soda it will repel rabbits and can be used in your home as well to repel cockroaches and ants. If applied to a windshield it will repel rain.. You can even create modeling clay with baking soda by mixing it with 1 ¼ cup water and 1 cup cornstarch.

All of these helpful tips and more can be found at care2.com,where Melissa Breyer has compiled a through list, as well as on lifehackery.com. To encourage a stricter labeling process on items such as cosmetics that contain harmful toxins, sign this petition on ForceChange.com.

Photo credit: maine.gov/spo/recycle/images/clipart/hhw/vinegar.gif

Government Opens New Carbon Capture Test Facility

In efforts to accelerate the development of commercially viable carbon capture and storage methods, the U.S. Department of Energy unveiled a new testing facility last week at the National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC) in Gaston, Alabama. 

The Post-Combustion Carbon Capture Center (PC4), part of the larger NCCC established by the DOE in 2009, was commissioned to test and evaluate emerging carbon capture technologies for more cost-effective and energy efficient solutions. 

Although employed by the oil and gas industries for years as a means of increasing oil and gas recovery rates, carbon capture technologies have only recently been explored on a larger scale for environmental purposes. 

The current goal of carbon capture and storage technology is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere through the combustion of fossil fuels, primarily by power plants.  In doing so, scientists hope to curb the emission levels of this greenhouse gas significantly enough to mitigate the effects of global warming. 

If enough carbon dioxide emitted from the combustion process can be captured and safely stored, scientists believe humans can lower atmospheric levels of CO2.  

Existing carbon capture technologies, however, are too expensive and energy intensive to commercially implement.

“The cost of CO2 capture using current technology…is on the order of $150 per ton of carbon – much too high for carbon emissions reduction applications,” according to the DOE

Furthermore, a cost analysis by SFA Pacific, Inc. showed that the implementation of current CO2 capture methods to an electricity generation process would cause a price increase of 2.5 cents to an average rate of 4 cents/kWh. 

In order to develop an economically feasible solution, the testing facilities at the Gaston plant, operated by Southern Company and several partnering energy companies, are working to advance post-combustion carbon capture methods

This involves trapping carbon dioxide after the fuel source (coal, natural gas, oil) has been combusted.  Using an amine solvent, CO2 is absorbed from a stream of flue gases produced by the combustion process. 

While the remaining flue gases are released into the atmosphere, the solvent – carrying the dissolved CO2 – travels to another area of the plant where it is then heated, releasing water vapour and leaving a concentrated stream of carbon dioxide.  

This gas must then be compressed for transport to an isolated location in the energy intensive process known as carbon storage. 

The biggest benefit to using post-combustion carbon capture, as opposed to pre-combustion or oxy-fuel combustion methods, is that this technology can be retrofitted to older power plants.  A filter containing the amine solvent, which will absorb the CO2, can be installed in the chimneys and smokestacks of existing plants, rendering costly renovations unnecessary. 

The Gaston test center will be evaluating the efficiency of various solvents, different methods of stripping CO2 from the solvents, and several ways to regenerate the solvents for reuse on an 880 MW pulverized coal plant. 

“Initial testing at the PC4 began recently when researchers used a solvent called monoethanolamine (MEA) to capture CO2 from a slipstream of flue gas from the plant. To date, the MEA solvent has exceeded the expected 90 percent CO2 capture, and the unit is now in steady operation capturing about 10 tons of CO2 per day. Data from these initial tests will be used as a baseline to evaluate the performance of emerging CO2 capture technologies,” explained the DOE. 

The NCCC posits that “clearly, major technology advancements are needed for commercial application of CO2 capture with conventional pulverized coal units,” citing high capital costs, the large footprint required for CO2 capture equipment, numerous operational concerns, and a high energy penalty for CO2 stripping and regeneration of solvents. 

With the Obama administration continuing to stand behind clean coal as a viable alternative energy source, however, the DOE has called the plant opening “another step forward” in developing cost-effective solutions for carbon capture and storage methods. 

Photo credit: arpa-e.energy.gov/ProgramsProjects/IMPACCT.aspx