If you’re like me, the dog days of summer usually find you toting around a box of tissues, clinging to your Allegra or Zyrtec bottle like a security blanket, and blushing each time you sneeze loudly in a public place. There are so many allergens we’re routinely exposed to—dust, pet dander (on our friends’ clothing—even if not in our own houses), tobacco smoke, cleaning chemicals, molds, and a host of flower and tree pollens.

Quick: before the ragweed blooms

When I was a kid, my mom uttered the word “ragweed” like it was a swear. There was venom in her voice directed at this feathery plant who made her kid wheeze and sneeze uncontrollably. Turns out I have a lot of company. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 30 to 60 million Americans suffer from ragweed allergies—many miss school and work due to their discomfort, and many have trouble sleeping. The ubiquitous plants bloom from mid-August through October, each one releasing around a billion potent pollen grains, making us miserable in what can seem like a billion different ways. Itchy throat. Watery eyes. Coughing. Sneezing. Sniffling. Aggravated asthma.

Thankfully, there are a host of green products and practices that can bring us relief. Top among them is closing the windows, and cleaning your indoor air with an

Austin Air HealthMate Jr. Alen Paralda air purifier air filter

Healthmate Jr, and Alen Paralda

air purifier.  We really like Austin Air’s HealthMate Jr. that uses 6.5 pounds of activated carbon and over 30 square feet of medical-grade HEPA to filter 125 cubic feet of air per minute. It will remove chemicals odors, pollen, dust, mold spores, and other allergens. Put one in the bedroom with the door closed to give you (or your sneezy kid) a good night’s sleep.  Larger models are available for open areas like greatrooms and kitchen-dining.  If you want

Allerdust allergy dusting aid

Allerdust Dusting Aid

something with a bit more style, check out the Alen Paralda purifier.

You can also tackle allergens that have settled on furniture and hard surfaces in your house by using these cool products from Allersearch, such as dusting spray, carpet treatments, and upholstery spray that neutralizes allergens on contact.

In a future post, I’ll take on vaccums with HEPA filters, and test kits that can help you determine the allergy levels in your home. For now, check out those air purifiers and allergen neutralizers, and get yourself some summer relief.

JeansHave you heard of the insulation made from blue jeans? UltraTouch 100% cotton batt insulation has actually been a very popular seller at Green Depot, and at other purveyors of green building products, for years. When Bonded Logic first started producing the stuff, they sourced the cotton scraps from Mexican textile mills. They were the end-cuttings from making denim blue jeans, and other clothing. I used to have to explain to customers that they weren’t really from old blue jeans themselves, but from post-industrial (pre-consumer) recycled blue jean scrap material.

blue jeans on conveyor belt

Jeans on conveyor belt

Rivets & snaps removed

Not anymore! Bonded Logic is now getting ALL their insulation feedstock from actual used blue jeans. Apparently the Goodwills and Salvation Armies of the Texas area cannot sell all the used jeans they take in to enough American kids looking for their grunge fix. And the market for exported textiles

Bonded Logic Installation

Can I make fun of his hair?

(to Africa and Asia, for example) has dropped off, so there is this huge supply of faded blue jeans that might otherwise end up in a landfill somewhere. Bonded Logic’s suppliers figured out a way to remove (and recycle!) the copper zippers and rivets so that all that’s left is soft, luxuriant shredded blue jean fluff.

People love to smush their faces into its blue, soft pile. At trade shows, women come to my booth and ask me if they can make a futon out of it, or stuff the sofa cushions with it. Kids want to make pillows out of it, or throw the cushy sample blocks at each other. Well, I suppose you can buy a few batts and take a stab at any of those craft projects, but what I’d really recommend is stuffing it into your walls and ceilings. It comes in a range of widths and thicknesses, so no matter what the configuration of your wall, there’s a size for you. Thinnest is 3.5” (R-13), and thickest is 8” (R-30). The R-value is a measure of how well a material insulates; the higher the number, the better. (Read more about R-values here.)


Bubbele! Let me get you a pillowcase

Here are some other nifty facts about UltraTouch:

  • You can handle it with bare hands. It won’t irritate your skin like fiberglass.
  • Treated with borate: a natural mineral that repels insects and inhibits mold growth
  • Great as a sound dampener, too. Teenagers with drum kits, anyone?
  • Doesn’t contain formaldehyde (a carcinogen)
  • Can contribute to up to 12 LEED credits.

Adian Grenier! How cool is that?

Tax credits available

You may be eligible for a 30% federal tax credit for your insulation project, up to $1.500. See the U.S. EPA’s Energy Star website to learn more. So whether you’re building a new home or an addition, or renovating your existing space with green products, consider using UltraTouch. Summer is a great time to get those insulation projects wrapped up (no pun intended!) before winter falls and you really need it.

You can install it while you’re listening to Dala’s song “Levi Blues” (watch the video!). Great harmonies from a young female duo with a bright future. My 8-year old’s new favorites!

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Have you been suffering through the recent heat wave on the East Coast? I know I have. Yes, the Texans are calling us all wimps, but I’m sorry, I just am not comfortable when sweat is dripping into my eyes! Temperatures here have broken records going back decades. In New York City, the mercury hit 103° on July 6th. Triple-digit temps were recorded in Boston, Philadelphia and Providence, RI.

When temperatures soar, most people crank up their air conditioners, collectively placing a very heavy demand on electric utilities. Not only are power failures a risk, but greenhouse gas emissions soar along with rising electricity generation. Air pollutants increase, too, because utilities are forced to bring older, dirtier plants on line when peak demand is high. Extra pollutants increase the risk of smog formation, acid rain, and poor outdoor air quality that impacts children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems.

Tips for staying cool while minimizing your environmental impact:

In the house or office:

  • If you own a central air conditioner that is over 12 years old, the EPA recommends that you replace it with a more efficient Energy Star model that can cut your home cooling costs by up to 30%.

  • Use room A/C units. If you spend most of the day in one room of the house, install a window air conditioner there and turn off the central air. A medium-sized room unit draws about 900 watts, compared to over 3000 watts for a typical central air system. (Check out Mr. Electricity’s cool site!)  Don’t forget to keep the door closed!

  • Use a fan instead of an air conditioner, especially at night in the bedroom. Fans use much less electricity than air conditioners, don’t run the risk of getting mildewy, and are portable and inexpensive. Green Depot carries a few neat models: the lightweight and colorful Vornado Flippi 6 fan is one of the coolest green products you’ll find: literally! It uses only 14 watts on High, and can move air up to 20 feet: perfect for bedroom or office.

    Flippi V6 Fan: uses only 14 watts
  • Finally, the Sycamore Ceiling Fan combines futuristic styling with awesome aerodynamics: moves 5,000 cubic feet per minute using under 50 watts. Cool indeed.

    The Sycamore Ceiling Fan
  • Pull down shades or blinds on the south side of the house, and on the western side of the house after 1 or 2 pm. Consider buying insulating shades: they benefit you in summer and winter.
  • Look into buying awnings for south-facing windows. They’ll not only cool the house during the summer, but will let you keep those windows open when it rains, further refreshing the air in your house.

Personal care tips:

  • Sleep with a sheet instead of a blanket. Your body heat will escape instead of getting trapped.
  • Hot flash relief! If you’re menopausal and going insane at night, you’ll love this low-profile Bedfan that circulates cool air under the sheets on your side of the bed (your partner will never know!). One of the few green products that’s made to keep your body cool.

    The Bedfan
  • Drink ice water, and take tepid or cool showers. Both will cool your core body temperature, with effects that can last for a few hours.
  • Don’t eat big meals before bed. Your body will work overtime trying to digest the excess calories, generating extra heat that may make sleeping difficult.
  • Exercise early in the morning while it’s still relatively cool.
  • When outside: wear a hat and stay hydrated—even if you’re not the water-glugging type. Check out this Klean Kanteen all-stainless, insulated water bottle that will keep your iced drinks cold while you’re in the car, walking down the street, or at your desk.