UU Barn Blog

Green Home – Easy/Med – Reduce Fire Retardants

 Green Living Idea

UUA Green Sanctuary  –  Small changes made by many people make big changes for our world. Be part of it! 

Green Living Idea:   Easy/Med – Green Home – Reduce Fire Retardants 

Fire retardants are toxic to our environment and our families. Fire retardants are in a lot of things, furniture, electronics, appliances and even baby products. One particularly toxic form PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) has been taken off the market (2005), but there are new ones that are also linked to cancer and endocrine disruption. Scientists have found exposure at critical points in development can damage the reproductive system and cause deficits in motor skills, learning, memory and behavior.


1) Avoid retardants when possible.

2) When you can’t avoid them, minimize exposure.

  • It is hard to avoid the retardants in TVs, remotes, cell phones, and building materials. But, at least try to keep them out of toddler mouths.
  • Inspect foam cushioning for damage. Make sure the foam is completely encased in protective fabric. There are no holes or tears in the upholstery, car seats or mattress pad covers.
  • Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to trap dust contaminated with fire retardants. Use it often.
  • Be careful removing old carpet. Isolate the work area from the rest of your home and thoroughly clean after removing.
  • Wash retardant chemicals from your hands before you eat.
  • Test your furniture. Most older couches and easy chairs contain Tris or other worrisome flame retardants. Duke University will test foam from your furniture for free

3) When you buy or refurbish, look for items without fire retardants. They are found in electronics, building materials, anything with foam including upholstered furniture, futons, carpet padding, child safety seats, changing table pads, portable crib mattresses, nap mats and nursing pillows. EWG states they know of no children’s pajamas currently treated with fire retardants.

  • There is often no easy way to tell if baby products, upholstered furniture, etc. have been saturated with fire retardants. Call the manufacturer and ask.
  • Reupholstering furniture? Replace the foam with one without fire retardants.

4) Work to ban bad chemicals. The good news is once banned, chemicals do get out of our homes and bodies. States are leading the effort . Unfortunately Pennsylvania is not one of them.

5) Work to make new products safer. Many chemicals are ineffective and unnecessary and pose unknown risks to our health. It isn’t enough to simply ban chemicals after they cause problems. Instead our federal government must safeguard our health by requiring new chemicals to be fully screened for safety and only used when necessary.

References: 1) http://www.ewg.org/research/healthy-home-tips/tip-4-avoid-fire-retardants#.WXN8w4jyuUk

2) http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2017/02/flame-retardant-roulette-swapping-one-toxic-compound-another#.WXOU_IjyuUk

Share Your Idea: Have a green living idea that works for you? Please forward to conniemhester@yahoo.com for inclusion in an upcoming newsletter.

Take Action – Easy – Tell your Senators to legally BAN chlorpyrifos since Scott Pruitt cancelled the EPA scheduled ban.

Green Living – Take Action – re-ban chlorpyrifos, Scott Pruitt cancelled it!

UUA Green Sanctuary – Small changes made by many people make big changes for our world. Be part of it!

Tell your Senators to legally BAN chlorpyrifos since Scott Pruitt cancelled the EPA scheduled ban. Chlorpyrifos is a toxic pesticide that harms children’s brains. It has been linked to serious health effects in young children when their mothers were exposed during pregnancy, including nervous system damage, autism, ADHD and lower IQs. Chlorpyrifos was scheduled to be banned because of significant evidence of its toxicity. But, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt canceled the scheduled ban. Senator Udall, N.M. is trying to override Pruitt’s decision. He has just introduced a bill (S.1624) that would BAN chlorpyrifos. Ask your Senators to take action and BAN the pesticide once and for all!  Contact your Senators to support this bill.

Share Your Idea: Have a green living idea that works for you? Please forward to conniemhester@yahoo.com for inclusion in an upcoming newsletter.

Green Home – Easy/Med – Pick and Use Plastics Carefully

 Green Living Idea

UUA Green Sanctuary    Small changes made by many people make big changes for our world. Be part of it! 

Green Living Idea:   Easy/Med – Green Home – Pick and Use Plastics Carefully 

We know that plastics contain chemicals that are toxic to our environment and unhealthy for our families. Some have been proven to be harmful – BPA and phthalates are potent hormone disruptors that are linked to behavior changes, cancer and reproductive damage. Others are less well understood, but we know chemicals in plastics routinely leach into whatever they touch: food, water, even your baby’s mouth. 

1) Choose and use safer plastics.

  • Avoid toys marked “3” or “PVC”
  • Avoid polycarbonate containers marked #7 or “PC”. These are transparent and rigid plastic, like food storage containers and water bottles
  • Avoid old plastics before 2009 before phthalates were banned
  • Use glass or ceramic when you can. When you use plastic, pick #1, 2, 4, or 5 which don’t have BPA.

2) Handle plastics wisely.

  • Don’t heat them or put anything hot in them. Heat can break down plastics and release more chemical additives. Don’t microwave in them or put hot food or drinks in them. Also, don’t leave plastic water bottles or other plastics in the car. The plastic will become the temperature of the air in the car, even hotter than the water itself. This will make the plastic leach very quickly.
  • If they are scratched or damaged, avoid them. Exposure to chemicals are greater when the surface is worn down.
  • Wash on top rack of dishwasher or by hand.
  • Don’t allow young children to chew on plastic electronics (the remote, your cell phone). They are treated with fire retardants.
  • Wash plastic chemicals from your hands before you eat.
  • Never reuse plastic water bottles or other plastics not designed to be reused. The plastics can break down very quickly after washing in the dishwasher or with any dishwashing liquid.

3) Consider safer alternatives

  • For the Kids. Choose glass baby bottle with silicone nipple. Give natural teethers like frozen washcloths or natural wood. Choose toys of natural materials, wool, cotton and uncoated wood.
  • In the Kitchen. Use ceramic or glass food containers. When using the electric mixer don’t use plastic bowls to avoid chipping bits of plastic into food. Lay natural flooring instead of vinyl. Use wooden or glass cutting boards. Cover food in the microwave with a paper towel instead of a plastic cover or plastic wrap.
  • In the bathroom. Pick a cotton shower curtain instead of vinyl. In the tub, play with cotton washcloths, finger puppets, wooden toy boats and lightweight aluminum cups. Skip the soft plastic bath toys and books.

References: 1) http://www.ewg.org/research/healthy-home-tips/tip-3-pick-plastics-carefully#.WXNqQYjyuUk

Share Your Idea: Have a green living idea that works for you? Please forward to conniemhester@yahoo.com for inclusion in an upcoming newslette

Action on Great Sorrow Leads to Great Joy!

I am saddened, actually sick, of how the US is diverging from the values that make us great. I was born American and brought up American. As a child, every day in school I said these words. I believe these words!

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic, for which it stands, one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for ALL.

For this group I use the 1945 version!  Few Americans haven’t said these words.  I think the vast majority actually believe or at least want to believe them.

“ALL” today includes:

  • Our African Americans,
  • Our Muslims born in the USA or immigrants,
  • Our white WASP males,
  • Our women,
  • Our native Americans
  • Our members of the LBGTQ,
  • Our rural, struggling and displaced,
  • Our refugees and immigrants from all nations,
  • Our police,
  • Our Latinos,
  • Our less well educated,
  • Our Republicans, our Democrats, and the President too,
  • Our people of every religion,
  • Our homeless,
  • Our rich and our poor,
  • …….

To sum it up, if you are homo-sapiens you are in.  

My great sorrow is to see us diverging further from our patriotic values. Some of my sorrow is due to the fact that I am naïve.  I always believed in those words I was taught. It never occurred to me that others have had or may have a more limited definition of “all”. We might disagree on how united we have been in the past, but there is no doubt we are moving further and further away from these values as evidenced, every day, by increasingly divisive rhetoric and increasing polarization within our society.

I am over-joyed to have recently joined this church. I see so many wonderful people, with wonderful values doing wonderful things.  It has helped me to crystalize my OWN values. I see many things clearer. I have learned so much from all of you. I am compelled to try to make a difference.  To remind us ALL, homo-sapiens, to aspire to these very American patriotic values- one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for ALL.

I am preparing a proposal to use courage, kindness and respect to help close divides and change the dividing rhetoric, so prevalent in our country today, to uniting rhetoric. Every day the dividing rhetoric takes us further from our goals of positive change.  The dividing rhetoric is hurting (seriously hurting) every justice movement in progress today!

The initial outline of this proposal embodies the values of this church demonstrated by our members. Courage as demonstrated by Eleanor Howe in Africa, kindness – to only ask and expect people to do “ their best, in their circumstances and in their time” (Susie Wood), and there is “nothing better than good people doing good work and having fun doing it” (Scott Rudolph).  AND MANY MANY MORE. Every interaction I have in this church makes me better, stronger, and happier.  That is true JOY!

I hope you will support this. I would welcome help from people with:

  • A passion for kindness and respect – That is YOU if your stomach is beginning to turn when you hear the divisive angry rhetoric of movements for which you support. FOR ME, that is the women’s movement. I was all in until I heard some of the language and it made me pause.
  • Technology skills- social media usage, conf calls, collaborative document development, email, website, etc.
  • Graphic design skills.
  • Communications skills (providing guidelines for communicating kindly and respectfully).
  • Diverse perspectives to make our approach as compelling as possible to ALL!

Changing the rhetoric will get us back on track towards one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

It is a joy to be working on it. Come join me! If you join me, you will never be asked to give more than you can comfortably and want to give. As I have learned from Susie, ask for people to do their best, in their circumstances and time.

GREAT SORROW leads to GREAT JOY when you do something about it.

Feel free to email me at conniemhester@yahoo.com

Connie Hester

Recycling: Shredded Paper

Green Living Ideas:   Tear, Don’t Shred (Or Re-use Shredded Paper)
If you are carefully putting paper aside for recycling (we’ve all seen the green and yellow bins at many public places), you may want to think of what happens to items that you put into these.  It’s a complicated story, but we’re just touching on one little corner of it here.  White office or computer paper is great for recycling.  Sources seem to agree that good white office paper can be recycled six to eight times.  That doesn’t make it indestructible, but it’s a good deal. Still, this week’s tip warns against a seemingly innocuous step that many of us have taken that can harm the recycled potential of that paper that we hope will have several new lives. Ironically, if we shred that same piece of valuable white paper, one environmental site claims that it may not even be recyclable once; all agree that the recycling potential is greatly reduced because of damage to the paper fiber during the shredding process. The Waste Management official note on this warns that shredded paper submitted along with household recycling “often ends up in the garbage at the recycling center”: http://wmnorthwest.com/guidelines/shredded paper.htm A useful site for this and other cautions on recycling can be found here: http://earth911.com/home-garden/what-not-to-put-in-the-bin/.
This site suggests we rip up any semi-confidential documents rather than shredding them.  For sensitive documents that require shredding, it may be possible to find centers that accept shredded paper. Meanwhile, shredded paper can be used in a number of ways: in compost or as garden mulch, for instance (but keep the glossy papers and envelope ‘windows’ out of the garden). Other options:  as animal bedding, as packaging, stuffing for a scarecrow, to make fire-starting logs, or in creative projects like paper mache.  You can find interesting discussion of the options at sites like these: 
Of course, it’s always possible to ask that confidential information be sent electronically, so that disposal will be quick and environmentally friendly.
If you have a question we might research for you, or if you have a hint you would like to share, please email conniemhester@yahoo.com

Clean Drains Without Toxic Chemicals

  Green Living Idea:   Easy – Clean Drains without toxic chemicals 

Not only are commercial drain cleaners toxic to ground water, they corrode pipes, are bad for septic systems, and they can damage the materials that your sink and tub are made of. Those are all pretty good reasons to try these ideas. 

1) Prevention: Try to avoid allowing food particles, grease and hair from going down the drain. A small piece of wire mesh over your drains is helpful. Periodically, use these cleaning ideas before it clogs.

2) If it is likely clogged with hair, first remove any hair with any drain cleaning stick around $6. It is simply a flexible plastic stick with short knobs. Or I have used a wire coat hanger, straightening it and making the hook on the end much smaller. Just stick it down the drain, spin it around and pull it out. You can get huge hairballs with this.  Flush with plenty of hot water.

3) If more is needed: Make a volcano erupt in your drain, just like you did for a school project. Put one cup of baking soda down the drain. I use the hair removal stick to push it down the drain. Then poor in one cup of vinegar. Let the intense foaming action continue until it resolves. Some people say wait up to an hour for stubborn clogs. I haven’t tried this. Flush with very hot water. If it is still slow repeat. You can vary the amount of baking soda and vinegar as needed and use the drain cleaning stick to help dislodge anything still hanging on.

4) Sometimes boiling water alone will take care of the clog, if it is due to fats and oils that solidify in the pipe like bacon grease. Be sure to pour directly into the drain to avoid damaging plastics or cracking porcelain. 

References: 1) http://www.networx.com/article/4-effective-and-natural-diy-drain-cleaner

Share Your Idea: Have a green living idea that works for you? Please forward to conniemhester@yahoo.com for inclusion in an upcoming newsletter.

Save water – Easy – Ideas from the youth at All Souls New London, a Unitarian Universalist congregation

Green Living Ideas:

This week’s green living ideas come from the youth at All Souls New London, a Unitarian Universalist congregation, in New London, Connecticut. 

  • Ways you and your family can save water are:
  • turn off the faucets if you see them running,
  • make sure to not take a long shower,
  • only wash clothes once a week,
  • use water saver modes on washing machines and dish washers, and
  • when you water your lawn you can use a water efficient sprinkler. 

This is how you can save water and remember every action counts.

Share Your Idea: Have a green living idea that works for you? Please forward to conniemhester@yahoo.com for inclusion in an upcoming newsletter.

Air pollution – Easy/Med – Help Improve our Air: Bad Air Day Actions to Consider

Green Living Ideas for:   Bad Air Days 1

What It Takes:  Easy/Med – Learn what you can do and make adjustments

 1) Sign up for the local air quality forecast. If it is poor, consider minimizing your impact.

Go to AirNow  scroll to the bottom to have the air quality forecast emailed daily to your inbox.

2) On Days when High Ozone Levels are Expected, Take these Extra Steps to Reduce Pollution:

  • Choose a cleaner commute – share a ride to work or use public transportation.
  • Combine errands and reduce trips. Walk to errands when possible.
  • Avoid excessive idling of your automobile; park instead of idling in the drive-thru.
  • Refuel your car in the evening when its cooler.
  • Conserve electricity and set air conditioners no lower than 78 degrees.
  • Defer lawn and gardening chores that use gasoline-powered equipment, or wait until evening.

 3) On Days when High Particle Levels are Expected, Take these Extra Steps to Reduce Pollution:

  • Reduce the number of trips you take in your car.
  • Reduce or eliminate fireplace and wood stove use.
  • Avoid burning leaves, trash, and other materials.
  • Avoid using gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.

 4) Take steps to minimize your exposure to air pollution and protect your health.

 The following summarizes actions to take when pollutants (O-Ozone, P-Particles, C-Carbon Monoxide and S – Sulfur) rise to unhealthy levels and above according to the Air Quality Index (AQI).

 Sensitive Groups. Sensitive groups of people vary based on the pollutant as shown below.  As AQI values rise, members of sensitive groups are more likely to experience health effects and those effects are more likely to be severe.

  • Ozone:People with lung disease such as asthma, children, older adults, and people who are active outdoors are considered sensitive and therefore at greater risk.
  • Particle pollution:People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children are considered sensitive and therefore at greater risk.
  • Carbon monoxide: People with heart disease, like angina, are at greater risk.
  • Sulfur dioxide: People with asthma, heart or lung disease and children are at greater risk

Green  Good (0 – 50)            

Little or no health risk. Enjoy outdoor activities

Yellow  Moderate (51 – 100)             

A very small number of people may experience moderate symptoms.

  • O, P – Unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion.
  • C, S – None

 Orange  Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (101 – 150)

Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects, but the general public is unlikely to be affected.

Sensitive Groups:

  • O, P, C – reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion
  • C – avoid sources of CO, such as heavy traffic
  • S – People with asthma should consider reducing exertion outdoors

Red  Unhealthy (151 – 200)

Everyone may begin to experience health effects when AQI values are between 151 and 200. Members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.

Sensitive Groups:

  • O, P – avoid prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion
  • C – reduce moderate exertion;
  • C – avoid sources of CO, such as heavy traffic
  • S – reduce exertion outdoors

Everyone else:

  • O, P – should limit/reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion

 Purple  Very Unhealthy  (201 – 300)

Everyone may experience more serious health effects. A HEALTH ALERT is triggered.

Sensitive Groups:  STAY INSIDE

  • O, P – avoid all outdoor exertion
  • C – avoid outside exertion;
  • C – avoid sources of CO, such as heavy traffic
  • S – avoid exertion outdoors

Everyone else:

  • O – limit all outdoor exertion.
  • P – avoid prolonged or heavy outside exertion
  • S – reduce exertion outdoors

What You Get: Information to help improve our air quality and your health

World Benefit: Cleaner air and better health.

References: 1) Information summarized from presentation by Matt Mehalik during the April 30th Earth day service

2) https://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=aqi_brochure.index ; https://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=pubs.aqiguideozone

Share Your Idea: Have a green living idea that works for you? Please forward to conniemhester@yahoo.com for inclusion in an upcoming newsletter and on the Green Sanctuary webpage.

Be Straw Free – Easy – Stop Using Disposable Straws

Green Living Idea to:   Be Straw Free – Join Milo Cress’ movement 

What It Takes:  Easy – Habit Change

Milo Cress, who was 9 when he started this project in February 2011, is the primary spokesperson (and primary Instigator, his mother likes to say) of the Be Straw Free project. Over 500 million straws are handed out each day with beverages in the US. That is enough to fill over 127 school busses per day or 46,400 per year. 1

1) Ask for your beverage without a straw when eating out or on the go.  

 2) If you like straws, buy a reusable one. Take it along to the restaurants with your own reusable container for leftovers.

3) Invite restaurants to ask before giving out straws with every drink. Most people are happy to drink straight from a glass. Restaurants are more likely to change procedure, if they are asked by customers. Thank those restaurants that already ask. Milo’s how to ask

What You Get: Reduces waste. Reduces cost, if you use regularly at home.

World Benefit: Reduces greenhouse gas from production and transportation of straws. Reduces landfill usage.  

References: 1) http://ecocycle.org/bestrawfree#action


Share Your Idea: Have a green living idea that works for you? Please forward to conniemhester@yahoo.com for inclusion in an upcoming newsletter.

President’s Report – June 2017

Baumwell’s that ends well-

As outgoing Board President, this part of the President’s Report will be my last column. Most of what I wanted to say about the year in review is written in the President’s Report of the Annual Report. The message that I want to leave you with here is my deep appreciation of and thanks for all the talent, hard work, and dedication of the members and staff of UUCNH. The strength and health of this congregation combined with our shared vision has made this past year like a pleasant stroll together with 200 or so of my closest friends. It has been my pleasure and honor to serve as your President and I leave committed to remaining engaged and certain of the strong leadership to follow.

                ~ Ivan Baumwell


Robyn’s Ramblings-

As incoming Board President, I look forward to what the next year will bring. We are a community in transition in many ways. This year we will implement our new governance change, and this will bring challenges to how we view our roles and how we share authority and delegate work. What new policies will we implement? What new roles will we each take on? How will the work we do change? We will also endeavor to find a settled Director of Lifespan Faith Development (DLFD). What will our Religious Education plan look like? What can we do better/different? Finally, we will begin a new year with a new minister.  What will our new ministry look like? What will Sundays look like? What will we see when our new minister shows us our own reflection in the mirror and asks us to really look?

The truth is, through all this transition, I am positive that, one thing will continue:  we will continue to be a community. All the aspects that make us a beloved community will remain. We will continue to love each other. We will continue our love for our church. We will continue to work for each other. We will continue to work for justice in the world. We will continue to challenge each other. We will continue to show deep gratitude for each other. We will continue to deepen our connections. We will continue to work toward growth. We will continue to be the community that so many of us have come to need and nurture. No matter how many ways we change, we will do it as a community, and

I look forward to seeing what our beloved community will look like at this time next year.

Robyn Travers
President, UUCNH Board of Trustees