Ten Ways to Be Toxic Free and Energy Efficient: The Spring Cleaning Edition

EHC's Toxic Free Cleaning Kit from Home Safe Home

May is here and Spring is in full force. What better time than now to discuss how your Spring cleaning can help ensure you have a green and healthy home? Here's a list of ten quick and easy tips to be toxic-free and energy efficient with your Spring cleaning:

  1. As a general rule of thumb, try to use non-toxic cleaning products when spring-cleaning. One easy and effective recipe can be achieved by mixing white distilled vinegar, dish soap, and water.

  2. Clean out the dust from your windowsills with this mixture or just plain vinegar.

  3. Toss out unused prescription pills and expired pain medications. With fewer pills lying around, your kids will be safer at home. Questions about disposal? Call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222

  4. Wash your curtains, and open them up to let in daylight. Longer days mean less use of electric lights. This saves energy costs while eliminating any toxins that can blow onto your curtains from outside.

  5. Clean your light bulbs to conserve energy. Dust can cut light output by as much as 25 percent.

  6. Use baking soda before you vacuum to clean your carpet and area rugs. Spreading baking soda over carpet helps eliminate moisture and odors, absorb dirt.

  7. Get rid of old boxes! Roaches and other pests love them and come summer time, it's their favorite hiding place for lounging around and laying eggs.

  8. Clean your clothes-dryer lint filter after every load. Clogged filters drive up the drying costs and can be a fire hazard.

  9. Clean the burner pans on your stove. When clean, they will reflect heat more efficiently back up to pots and pans.

  10. Clean out food particles from your microwave. Without dust and left over food particles, it will cook food more efficiently.

In addition to this list of toxic-free cleaning tips, EHC can help with more tips and education. EHC also offers Healthy Homes kits which come complete with non-toxic cleaning supplies, roach traps, lead check swabs, and much more. Best of all, these cleaning kits are absolutely free if you qualify and sign up for a Healthy Homes Visit. For more information and help setting up your home for toxic-free cleaning, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at 619-474-0220 ext. 163.


Abril 2013

¿Cómo es que algo con un nombre tan frío como "mesa técnica" es tan importante para el corazón de una comunidad?

La familia y el arroyo 

sustentable Mama e Hijo Alamar arboladasustentable Mama e Hijo Alamar cementoAna es madre de dos hijos, un niño que acaba de entrar a la primaria y un adolescente. Viven en una casa pequeña cerca del Arroyo Alamar. Los tres son integrantes de la campaña del la frontera de Environmental Health Coalition. Ella pertenece al Colectivo Chilpancingo Pro Justicia Ambiental y sus hijos al grupo de jóvenes.

Por años han sido testigos, junto a toda la comunidad, de cómo el impacto por la contaminación y el crecimiento que genera la industria maquiladora han ido deteriorando el arroyo. Y más ahora con el proyecto de canalización del Alamar que está revistiendo de concreto el lecho del arroyo.

El Arroyo Alamar significa, para ellos y para muchas otras familias que viven cerca, una gran posibilidad de mitigar la contaminación por la maquiladora y el paso de los traileres que le sirven a esta industria. Es por esta razón que, desde hace ya varios meses, con EHC, el Colectivo y muchas otras ONG's, habían estado buscando la oportunidad de sentarse con las dependencias de gobierno encargadas del proyecto y encontrar una manera más sustentable de hacer el encauzamiento y la construcción de la vialidades que acompañan a dicho proyecto.

 La mesa técnica

En la casa de Ana y su familia, por generaciones la mesa del comedor ha significado el punto de encuentro de la familia, donde se nutre el cuerpo y se conectan todas las historias de chicos y grandes. Ahora la "Mesa Técnica del Arroyo Alamar" significa punto de encuentro entre gobierno, comunidad y organizaciones civiles, donde se nutre la posibilidad de mejorar la calidad de vida para las comunidades.

sustentable alamar mesa tecnicaRecientemente se ha logrado consolidar la participación de la Secretaria de Protección al Ambiente del Estado como coordinador de la mesa técnica y se tiene la esperanza de que el tema suba a nivel regional, integrando a funcionarios y comunidad de ambos lados de la frontera, ya que el Arroyo Alamar, aunque está dentro de México, nace y termina en suelo norteamericano.


Aníbal Méndez Martínez
Organizador Comunitario


Part 1/2 in Protecting Your Child From Common Asthma Triggers

healthy kids asthma inhaler dust homesIf you have a child with asthma, you are not alone. About 20 million Americans have asthma, and it is the leading cause of long-term illness in children. Reducing allergens and irritants that are common in homes is one way to help your child breathe easier. Three common triggers are secondhand smoke, dust mites, and house dust.

Secondhand Smoke 

Asthma can be triggered by the smoke from a burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar and the smoke breathed out by a smoker. Choose not to smoke in your home or car, and do not allow others to do so.

Dust Mites 

healthy kids dust prevention toys

Dust mites are too small to be seen, but they are found in every home. They live in mattresses, pillows, carpets, fabric-covered furniture, bedcovers, clothes, and stuffed toys. To prevent dust mites:

  • Wash sheets and blankets once a week in hot water
  • Choose washable stuffed toys and wash them often in hot water. Dry them thoroughly.
  • Cover mattresses and pillows in dust-proof (allergen-impermeable) zippered covers

House Dust

Remove dust often with a damp cloth, and vacuum carpet and fabric-covered furniture to reduce dust build-up. Using vacuums with high efficiency filters or central vacuums may be helpful.

Asthma is a serious lung disease. During an asthma attack, the airways get narrow, making it difficult to breath. Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing. Asthma can even cause death. Consult a doctor and reduce asthma triggers in your home. Check out part 2 of this blog, which covers three more asthma triggers: pets, molds, and pests.

Ensuring the San Diego Port Commission reflects the whole community is vital to having a "Port for All"

laura hunter environmental health coalition port commission priorities

The position of Port Commissioner is a regionally very important one. The Port not only manages one of the region's premier economic assets, it has primary steward responsibility for the premier environmental asset in the region—San Diego Bay.

We are very appreciative of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and the City Council for taking some time to look into the best way to seat the City of San Diego's Port Commission appointments. The way it has been done in the past can definitely be improved. Here are EHC's top priorities for improving the City of San Diego's Port Commission appointment process:

1. Increase Diversity of Port Appointments:

We support the clear guidance in the Council Policy 000-13 that aspires to a diversity on Board that 'reflects the entire community'. But, all too often, there is very little ethnic, gender, or economic diversity on the Port Commission. EHC would recommend that the city explore ways to increase the diversity of candidates.

The position is unpaid and time-consuming, so it's hard for most regular people to even consider applying for the Commission. To help alleviate the time burdens of the position, the City can improve staff support and resources to Port Commissioners.

To ensure broad community understanding of the Port Commission, the City should develop and post Port Commission job descriptions, standardize applications, offer more time in the appointment process for community groups to iprovide input, and increase community outreach related to the Port and opportunities to be a Port Commissioner.

The Port and the city would be better served with a diverse Board membership that reflects the community it seeks to serve. Without a concentrated effort to address this issue, the Port appointments will remain an insiders' game—which we do not think is in the highest public interest.Environmental health coalition port commission appointment priorities

2. Ensure Appointees Have Needed Skill Sets:

In terms of skills that are needed to do the job, the best Port Commissioners are those who can understand, are sensitive to, and can forge agreement among a wider diversity of stakeholders. The city will also be well served if your commissioners are experienced in working with the public and marrying the function of government and public input together.

The Port is also a regulatory agency. It has responsibility as landlord, but it also must enforce those leases and environmental rules like the Regional Storm Water Permit, CEQA, and others. In the past, the failure of the Port to be a strong enforcer has lead to multiple multi-million dollar cleanups of the Bay—a huge economic hit in addition to degrading the health of the Bay and communities around it. Failing to regulate the tenants is NOT good for the Bay, the city, or the economy. Commissioners must be clear on this important role.

3. Consider Appointments within Core Experience Areas:

In terms of selection, since the charter responsibilities are largely around commerce, recreation, and environmental protection, we would recommend that the city seek one Commissioner with skills in each of these focus areas. We agree with the Mayor's vision that Commissioners should be chosen to reflect some core experience areas.

At the end of the day, these adjustments to the process would ensure that the requisite skills and experience needed would be reflected on the Port Commission, in addition to the diversity of the community. Thank you Mayor Filner for your leadership in changing the appointment process to better serve all residents of San Diego. Thank you to the City Council Rules Committee under the leadership of Chair Sherri Lightner for spending the time to develop a clear vision and process for the Port Commissioner selection. We look forward to continued participation with the Mayor and City Council to ensure that our Port is one that reflects and represents our community.

whack a mole energy strategyOriginally published in the UT San Diego, February 8, 2013.

In early February, we watched the implosion of the South Bay Power Plant— just one day after the California Public Utilities Commission heard public comments on two new SDG&E-proposed fossil fuel power plants in San Diego.

We're playing a game of Whack-a-Mole with our regional energy policy at ratepayers' expense. Though the demolition of the South Bay Power Plant is striking, we can't let SDG&E continue to turn a blind eye to the reasons why we don't need that plant anymore.

Reliance on fossil fuels has led to an Orwellian-esque era where each year is becoming the hottest on record and we are suffering through a series of costly and deadly weather events. In San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography warns us to expect hotter and more humid mid-summer heat waves that are worse than many inland areas while freshwater in the Southwest is becoming scarcer and our oceans are rising faster than expected.

So why is SDG&E proposing to build unneeded fossil-fuel power plants using the expensive, dirty and outdated centralized power plant model when we're barely scratching the surface of our clean energy and smart grid potential?

San Diego deserves better than this.

On top of the harmful impacts to public health and our climate from the greenhouse gases, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide that would be emitted by these two power plants, the nearly $1.6 billion dollar price tag of the power plants would be passed on to ratepayers over the next 20 years, according to the California Energy Commission.

Perhaps what's most perplexing about SDG&E's proposal, though, is that the energy from these plants is not even needed, according to both the Administrative Law Judge and the lead California Public Utilities Commissioner for the proceeding. Both have issued proposed decisions denying the plants due to a lack of need.

Even without San Onofre coming back online, SDG&E has ample power reserves to "keep the lights on." On the hottest day of the year last September, SDG&E had approximately 24 percent more energy than was needed. Further, the state agency that manages our energy grid, the California Independent Systems Operator, said the way to address the San Onofre shut down was through fixes to our transmission lines, not construction of new power plants.

Our regional leadership must embrace a strategy that prioritizes building a better future for our children by integrating demand management strategies, conservation, local clean energy generation, and energy storage into a smart modern grid that benefits all communities in San Diego.

In fact, San Diego is on the cutting-edge in this arena already. SDG&E proudly announced smart grid breakthroughs just last week that will allow them to prevent blackouts and integrate renewable resources seamlessly. UCSD has its own nationally recognized microgrid -- an on-site energy generation, distribution, and management network that balances renewable energy, electric vehicles, storage, and demand management. The microgrid is connected to SDG&E's grid but can disconnect and operate independently in "islanded mode" as needed, such as during the SDG&E blackout of September 2011, giving UCSD energy independence and security. Our local military bases are also investing in this new smart grid/microgrid approach to maximize the security and reliability of their energy needs. Naval Base Coronado and the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar are both pursuing these new solutions/grid-independence.

Environmental Health Coalition knows from our recent educational efforts within the local communities that small changes to our daily habits can result in drastic reduction in energy use.

With a newly elected Mayor Bob Filner in the City of San Diego and other progressive elected officials who have pledged to pave a new pathway for our energy future, we are excited to build a new energy paradigm as part of San Diego's innovation economy. We look forward to working with our partners in local government, labor, the business community, the military and our educational institutions to create local, family-wage, career-track jobs while reducing our carbon footprint and protecting the health of every San Diego family.

It's time we put a stop to the Whack-A-Mole approach to energy. We must demand more from our energy utility so that it produces big new solutions to the big challenges we face.

Nicole Capretz
Green Energy / Green Jobs Campaign Director for Environmental Health Coalition
City Heights Resident