17 February 2010

flee fleas!

My dog has suddenly become infested with fleas and ticks. I think ticks are the lesser of the two evils as they are easy to pick out and easy to kill. Fleas jump, don't die easily and cause my poor pup to constantly itch. In addition to his woes, he also has a bad case of doggy dandruff. The idea of using strong chemicals does not appeal to me for many reasons. First, his infestation is not so bad that it warrants the need of pesticides. Once before, I did use a chemical pesticide on him and he went into shock shortly afterwards which was a scary experience that I don't want to go through again. Second, I think it will make the dandruff worse. Third, most ecto-parasites are utterly immune to strong chemicals that it seems pointless to put him through the risk. The active ingredients in these solutions include chemicals such as imidacloprid, fipronil, permethrin, methoprene, and pyriproxyfen, all of which have caused serious health problems in animals in laboratories. Other forms of flea control - powders, collars, and sprays are no less harmful.

So with my arsenal of fighting tools reduced to the bare minimum, I began intensive internet searches for best possible herbal remedies. There were several things suggested among which:
  • Rub aromatic oils like eucalyptus, citronella, lavender, tea tree oil mixed with an almond oil base directly onto the animal if infestation is bad
  • If infestation is mild to moderate then dilute these essential oils and spray onto the animal or use as an oil bath and spray its bedding etc
  • Using a citrus repellent which involves cutting lemon into quarters and steeping in boiling water, cooling and then spraying onto the pet as well as its living areas
  • Feed animal with garlic, brewer's yeast tablets, apple cider vinegar as fleas don't like the smell of these
  • Using diatomaceous earth
  • Herbal flea and tick powders
So today I gave my dog a bath with herbal, chemical-free, human anti-dandruff shampoo and conditioner. The shampoo contained aloe vera and tea-tree oil in a creamy base. His last rinse consisted of a few drops of pure tea-tree oil in the bath water to take care of the dandruff. Once he was thoroughly dry, I rubbed a mix of turmeric and water into places where he itched the worse then dusted him all over with herbal flea and tick powder. After that, I let him sit for a couple of hours and I sprayed him and his bedding area with a mix of citronella and eucalyptus oil - I spray his bedding everyday anyway, in order to prevent mosquitoes from biting him. Essential oils like lavender and tea tree oil can be used only for dogs and not cats. Although these are good for control of flea infestation, prolonged use may result in lethargy and nausea.

I'm going to wait a week and see if this helps. In the meantime, I will continue with the spraying, dusting and watching for nausea. My next step will be rubbing him with eucalyptus and almond oil and perhaps the lemon spray. I have also been giving him vitamins to help with the dandruff. Perhaps, I will also try the garlic if he actually eats it. I have no idea where to buy diatomaceous earth so will skip that for now.

Previously, I have used a paste of neem leaves and orange peel for ticks post-bath which was very effective. He did look like a sad alien-type dog for a day until the pack fell off though. What I like most about herbal remedies is that even if he does end up biting himself, he won't be ingesting something that is harmful. The added eco-benefit is a big selling point.

Products used:
  1. Himalaya anti-dandruff shampoo
  2. Himalaya Protein Conditioner
  3. Himalaya Erina-EP Powder
Himalaya is an Indian herbal drug company that makes herbal products for both animal and human use. Would love to hear from you about herbal remedies that do and don't work. Leave me your thoughts!

11 February 2010

the business of cards

My post today is inspired by the fact that I had to get business cards printed. As I am in the 'green' business obviously there is the need to walk the talk. In my quick, preliminary research for business card printers online I found two companies in the States that offered eco-friendly business cards. One called Greenerprinter offered cards printed on chlorine-free, 50% post-consumer waste recycled paper. They were printed with VOC-free, soy-based inks and cost a bomb (in terms of what you would expect to pay in India). I also found another company called Pixxlz which offered all manner of eco-friendly things including business cards. I also found the EcoPrintingGroup approved by the FSC that provided a lot of paper products. Ultimately, I wasn't terribly comfortable with the idea of getting them shipped all the way from America. I didn't find very many companies in India who offered business cards except for Printbell. An email to their customer service team confirmed that they offer only 310 GSM 60% recycled paper and no information on the inks they used or if the paper was chlorine-free.

Armed with these facts I did a quick, simple cost-benefit analysis and am going with Printbell. I'm still unsure if they offer VOC-free ink; but all logic suggests that air-freighting business cards from America surely is more harmful than VOC-full ink. I'm still waiting for the cards and hopefully the reviews on the site match up to expectations.

Recycled paper products form a number of varieties which is worth educating yourself about. Each ton (2000 lbs) of recycled paper saves 17 trees, 390 gallons of oil, 7000 gallons of water, and 4100 kwh of energy. It also eliminates 60 lbs of air-polluting emissions and saves 8 cubic feet of landfill space. Recycled paper often matches the characteristics of virgin paper and is available in a range of colours that does not compromise on print quality. Chlorine-free paper is unbleached and does not contain chlorine which means that harmful chemicals including dioxins are not released into water supplies.

How do you get started? First of all look for recycled paper. Recycled paper products usually contain a symbol that looks like this - which indicates that it is made from recycled content. This is not to be confused with which merely means that the product can be recycled. Secondly look for the highest percentage of post-consumer content in the paper. This indicates the amount of waste paper collected from consumers and reprocessed. Pre-consumer waste paper is also available and this is manufactured from paper trimmings from paper mill and printer, printed materials that never reach the consumer etc. Thirdly do not fall for labeling that proclaims paper products to be 'environment-friendly', 'natural' etc. The Environmental Defense Fund has an online paper calculator that you can use to figure out paper needs.

There is a gamut of information online about the benefits and importance of recycling. Recycling is one the most easiest, simplest ways of reducing wastes. With a plethora of recycled products available in the market there is no excuse for anyone to use virgin material be it plastic or paper. For a quick check-list of recycling facts, look here. If there is one green-habit you start today; make sure that is recycling and the use of recycled products.

10 February 2010


This is my 101st post and the shortest one yet. I never really thought I would sustain this blog for so long. For the next 100 posts, I hope to increase readership and get some of this stuff actually published. Thanks for all the support - it kept me going! :-)

join the roar!

Stripey the cub (in photo) has become the symbol of the tiger conservation movement and the recent Save our Tigers campaign initiated by Aircel*/WWF. The year of the Tiger rings in on 14th February and with this, there is predicted to be an increase in demand for tiger products.

India is working very closely with China to ensure that poaching is curbed on both ends of the supply chain. Beijing's co-operation is critically important in order to ensure the survival of the species. With only 50 tigers left in the wild in China, poachers are likely to intensify their efforts in India. Is someone addressing this issue?The site also gives information on tiger reserves and tiger density in each reserve - out of the 37 sanctuaries in India 17 face a collapse in tiger population. I have previously blogged about the plight of our national animal and since then nothing has changed really, in the overall scenario.

So what can you do? According to the website which is not very informative you can donate, blog, tweet, or join the Facebook page. The Aircel campaign has its heart in the right place and it is a great start to creating awareness; but its impact remains to be seen. Since Project Tiger which has been the most successful program in the 70s lost steam; tiger conservation has always had its lulls and rises. There has never been a concentrated effort to increase tiger numbers, reducing poaching and ensuring protected habitat remain that way. More importantly there has not been much transparency, advocacy or public involvement in the process. Every census releases varying numbers regarding tiger population - for example, does the site explain how the number 1411 was arrived at?

Latest technologies in animal conservation and expert consultations are the need of the hour. It is also highly essential for the public sector and civil society organizations to attack bureaucracy. More importantly it is essential that every tiger campaign, indeed every campaign keeps people in the loop. The newest WWF initiative is an interactive map that gives a status report of tigers all over the world. According to their latest numbers there are 3200 tigers are left world over in the wild. Like I have argued previously, conservation efforts are dependent on rate of biodiversity loss which is tied into economic losses. Stripey no matter how cute and how much celebrity support he garners, will not stir public sympathies for too long unless a holistic picture is provided. I hope someone from Aircel is reading this: more information is needed on their campaign objectives, how they plan on achieving them and where they're getting their numbers from - for starters.

* Aircel is a mobile phone service provider in India
Photo Courtesy: www.saveourtigers.com

eggplant interrupted

I have spent a lot of time ruminating the phenomenal decision taken by Jairam Ramesh, India's Environmental Minister. I have concluded that in the face of corrupt politics and skewed ideas of agricultural progress: it is a monumental affirmation. It is more power to the GM Free India Coalition, to the science of right and indeed, farmers all over the nation.

Today I am slightly stunned because I doubted if this moratorium would actually happen - so clearly resounding its logical voice and based so solidly in scientific fact. This decision has come after public debates, back and forth consultations, news cycle after news cycle, protests and general chaos which is a confirmation to the power of people. The government will listen, it has to listen when what is being demanded is something as basic as safe food.

The hold on the commercial introduction of Bt Brinjal comes after key brinjal growing states announced their own state bans. The states of West Bengal, Orissa and Bihar which account for 60% of brinjal production announced a ban earlier this year. This was followed by bans in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand etc. The massive public pressure on the Environmental Ministry also has played an important role. Through a Greenpeace campaign alone; 40,000 emails landed up in Jairam Ramesh's personal inbox protesting the introduction of Bt Brinjal. These two important factors have worked together to lead to this triumph. It is a day of celebration for anti-GM campaigners, every sane politician (Sharad Pawar does not qualify), brinjal farmers, consumers and the glorious heritage of Indian agriculture.

Brinjal, eggplant or aubergine is indigenous to the sub-continent and India grows over 2000 varieties of brinjal in over 500,000 hectares of land. It has been doing so for almost 4000 years. I do wish the Indian government will take a cue from the outcome of the campaign and devise methods to change agri-policy by pushing for more organic food, less pesticide/fertilizer use and definitely no GM. The humble brinjal has become India's most talked about vegetable and I predict; the symbol of the country's anti-GM movement and hopefully from here, a desperately needed agricultural revolution. Jairam Ramesh has kept his promise for a "fair outcome", he is indeed the man of the hour and has restored a little faith in Indian bureaucracy.

However celebrations cannot last long and there is much to be done on the GE front. Currently there are several indigenous crops reaching the last stages of testing like rice, okra, tomatoes - all of which are widely cultivated and consumed. These GM 'events' are sitting in line waiting for approval. So the battle may be over, but the war still remains.