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Monday, October 28, 2013

What is fracking and how may it affect your dog's health!

Next Saturday, November 2nd, HBO will be showing an important film. The film, Promised Land, stars Matt Damon, reuniting with director Gus Van Sant ("Good Will Hunting") for a compelling drama centering on "fracking," a controversial process of natural-gas drilling.

Damon plays an earnest corporate rep who arrives in a rural Pennsylvania town to buy drilling rights from the economically hard-hit residents. But what looks like an easy sell becomes unexpectedly complicated by opposition from a slick environmental activist (John Krasinski) and a wily old schoolteacher (Frances McDormand).

According to LiveScience, 'Fracking is also one of today's most hotly debated environmental and political issues. While advocates insist it is a safe and economical source of clean energy, critics claim fracking can destroy drinking water supplies, pollute the air and contribute to the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.'

What is fracking?

If you are unfamiliar with 'fracking' (also known at hydraulic fracturing) it's one of the most controversial techniques with the sole purpose of recovering gas and oil from shale rock.

Simplified, the process involves two technologies: hydraulic fracturing used since the 1940's and horizontal drilling which became widespread in the 1990's. The process starts with a well that is drilled down into our earth approximately 1-2 miles to a deep layer of rock where natural gas or oil exists. Then the well is encased in steel or cement to prevent the well from leaking into groundwater. Once drilled vertically to reach the desired location the drilling moves horizontally along the rock layer extending more than one mile.

After the well is drilled, fluid is pumped down into the well at very high pressures, to 'fracture' the surrounding rock and create cracks through which oil and gas can flow. The fluid that is pumped is mostly water but also contains a wide range of chemicals from detergents, salts, acids, alcohols, lubricants and disinfectants. It's these chemicals that create a problem environmentally and from a health perspective.

Here are some examples of the problems, health concerns and environmental dangers of fracking:

1. Just a few weeks ago, NBC reported about a study published in early October 2013. In the journal Environmental Science and Technology, researchers found high levels of radioactivity, salts and metals in the water and sediments downstream from a fracking wastewater plant on Blacklick Creek in western Pennsylvania.

2. The U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey Office of Communications and Publishing division released a report in October 2013 indicating, 'since January 2009, more than 200 magnitude 3.0 or greater earthquakes have rattled Central Oklahoma, marking a significant rise in the frequency of these seismic events.' In addition the report indicates, 'the analysis suggests that a contributing factor to the increase in earthquakes triggers may be from activities such as wastewater disposal--a phenomenon known as injection-induced seismicity.'

3. The Earth Institute at Columbia University recently reported, 'a new study in the journal Geology is the latest to tie a string of unusual earthquakes, in this case, in central Oklahoma, to the injection of wastewater deep underground. Researchers now say that the magnitude 5.7 earthquake near Prague, OK, on Nov. 6, 2011, may also be the largest ever linked to wastewater injection.

4. According to the Alaska Dispatch, 'a pair of environmental monitoring wells drilled deep into an aquifer in Pavillion, WY, contain high levels of cancer-causing compounds and at least one chemical commonly used in hydraulic fracturing, according to new water test results released yesterday by the Environmental Protection Agency.'

5. For some of the economically depressed areas of the country, fracking has saved some land owners from going bankrupt, as they lease their land to large oil and natural gas companies. For others fracking on their land has created contaminated ground water with a wealth of contaminates and brought about significant health problems and concerns; everything from deformed chickens, human cancer emergencies, and water from their kitchen faucet suddenly igniting.

6. According to a information reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, District II New York State, 'veterinary medicine provides a sentinel for potential human health outcomes, and reveals reason to be concerned about the effect of fracking on food supply. Animals are exposed to the same environmental challenges that we are, but are more vulnerable because they have fewer protections and more exposure.'

The report goes on to say, 'anecdotal reports have found that both companion animals and livestock that lived in pastures or barns and drank water from nearby run-off from natural gas drilling operations have experienced direct mortality, and among survivors, failure to breed, stillborn and congenitally deformed offspring, and worsening reproductive health in successive breeding seasons. Additionally, some animals have developed unusual neurological conditions, anorexia, and liver or kidney disease.

Some livestock that were exposed wound up in the food chain, either as feed for other animals or perhaps even on a supermarket shelf. Also, there are reports of deleterious effects on wild mule deer populations, with an increased risk of early mortality, reproductive failure, as well as weakness and death of newborns.'

The potential dangers of fracking have prompted this organization to call for 'a moratorium on hydrofracking in New York until these aforementioned concerns have been clarified in a Health Impact Assessment, and that any uncovered risks have been adequately addressed to protect the health and well-being of New Yorkers.'

Is fracking bad for your health and the health of your dog?

The scientific jury may be out on that conclusive fact. But what is known is there are instances (mentioned above) that show anecdotal correlations of health concerns, determining that more testing and safety is definitely needed to keep our ground water safe for humans and animals alike.

If you'd like to find areas in the US where fracking occurs, the FracTracker is one of the best sources of information by state, and also includes reported incidents of health concerns by those living near where fracking occurs.

See a preview of Promised Land:

If you don't subscribe to HBO, you can rent the video on Netflix, watch on Amazon Instant Video, or purchase the DVD from Amazon.

Sources: Live Science, USGS, Wall Street Journal, Alaska Dispatch, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, District II New York State. Photo courtesy: Jeremy Buckingham MLC and JSF539.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

DIY: Pawsome homemade dog seat cover!

It's fall and that means getting outdoors, enjoying a nice hike, having fun with the family.

But this time of year does bring dirt and mud on those great outdoor adventures. So how do you keep your car clean and save you time and money?

Make a pawsome dog car seat cover hammock for your back seat!

We came across a wonderful pattern and directions over at Ex-Scapes and wanted to share it with you.

Remember to utilize re-purposed materials when you can to make it more green. And we recommend making openings in the hammock for your dog's car seat harness to attach to your car's seat belt mechanism to keep them the safest they can be when traveling in a car.

Happy Fall Adventures!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Is your dog's shampoo safe?

Dogs, we love to get dirty...believe me I know!

We roll in yucky stuff, we tromp through the mud and dirt, we love to investigate puddles on our walks, and take a nice dip in a flowing stream on our hike. All leaving us with a not so pleasant aroma to our humans.

Us dogs, we don't know the difference between what humans think is a good smell and a bad smell. To us they are just oh so wonderful smells!

But, when us dogs get into smelly stuff, dog lovers quickly turn to bath time. Not only is bath time not the most fun time for many dogs, it can also be a dangerous time if you're not careful about which shampoo you use.

There are 1000's of dog shampoos on the market, but did you know that many of them contain dangerous ingredients that for humans have been linked to cancer, organ toxicity, respiratory ailments, reproductive disorders and more?

When you browse the pet store isle looking for a shampoo for your dog, be careful you look at the ingredients. Just like people shampoo, dog shampoo has ingredients you should avoid and ingredients you should look for.

First, let's take a look at some typical ingredients you will most probably find in any inexpensive dog shampoo on pet product shelves, all researched through the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database:
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: If you look at shampoo products on stores shelves, whether human or for dogs, you will most probably find sodium lauryl sulfate. It's a cleansing agent added to many shampoos and is the main ingredient that makes a product foam. While moderately toxic it can irritate skin, eyes and lungs, and holds moderate concern for organ system toxicity.
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate is also an emulsifier and cleansing agent and holds the same toxicity levels as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.
  • Cocamide DEA: Also known as cocamide diethanolamine, this ingredient is a a chemically-modified form of coconut oil and often used as a foaming agent. This is a nasty ingredient, so nasty that in June 2012, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment added Cocamide DEA to the California Proposition 65 (1986) list of chemicals known to cause cancer. Many, many dog shampoos on the market contain this ingredient, as do human shampoos, but are not labeled with a warning. Want to know which dog shampoos contain Cocamide DEA? Do a quick Google search.
  • Glycol Stearate: Glycol Stearate is composed ethylene glycol and stearic acid, a naturally occurring fatty acid, and has limited or no toxicity information available.
  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine: Cocamidopropyl betaine is a synthetic surfactant; it has been associated with irritation and allergic contact dermatitis, reactions that could be due to the ingredient itself or to impurities within.
  • Colloidal Oatmeal: This is a safe ingredient created from finely ground oatmeal.
  • Sodium Chloride: An inorganic salt (also called table salt).
  • Aloe Vera: Determined safe for use in cosmetics, subject to concentration or use limitations.
  • Carbomer: A large polymeric chemical composed of acrylic acid monomers, classified as not expected to be potentially toxic or harmful.
  • Fragrance: This is a tricky one as most always the complete ingredients of the fragrance isn't listed within the ingredients label, and it's not required to be. Many studies by the EWG have shown that "the word "fragrance" or "parfum" on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system."
  • Polyquaternium 7: This ingredient is a synthetic polymer based on quaternary ammonium compounds, and has a moderate concern of organ system toxicity.
  • Glycerin: Glycerin (also called glycerol) is a naturally occurring alcohol compound and a component of many lipids. Glycerin may be of animal or vegetable origin.
  • Extract of Chamomile: An Extract of the camomile (Chamomilla Recutita) flowers, this ingredient functions as a fragrance and skin-conditioning agent and has no toxicity.
  • Triethanolamine: A strongly alkaline substance used as surfactant and pH adjusting chemical, this ingredient has been shown to cause organ toxicity in one or more animal studies showing effects at moderate doses.
  • Propylene glycol: A small organic alcohol commonly used as a skin conditioning agent. It has been associated with irritant and allergic contact dermatitis, as well as contact urticaria in humans.
  • Diazolidinyl urea: An antimicrobial preservative that works by forming formaldehyde in cosmetic products. People exposed to such formaldehyde-releasing ingredients may develop a formaldehyde allergy or an allergy to the ingredient itself.
  • Methylparaben: In the paraben family of preservatives and used by the food, pharmaceutical, and personal care product industries, parabens mimic estrogen and can act as potential hormone (endocrine) system disruptors.
  • Propylparaben: Also in the paraben family of preservatives and results in the same effects as Methylparaben.
  • D-Panthenol: Used in food or as an additive with limited or no toxicity information available.
Now that we've covered a typical inexpensive dog shampoo you may find on any pet store shelf, lets take a look at typical ingredients from a healthier, safer dog shampoo - the Peppermint & Tea Tree Oil Shampoo Bar (Certified Organic) from Raise A Green Dog Partner DERMagic.
  • Saponified Coconut: Saponified oil or fat is a lipid substance treated with sodium or patassium hydroxide to convert it into soap. No known toxicity issues.
  • Olive: No toxicity.
  • Castor Oil: Produced by hydrogenation of Ricinus communis (Castor) seed oil, this ingredient functions as a skin-conditioning agent and has no toxicity.
  • Sunflower Oil: Sunflower oil is extracted from the seeds of the sunflower, Helianthus annuus, and has no toxicity.
  • Essential Oils: This oils are distilled or extracted from a wide variety of plants and hold no toxicity issues when used appropriately in this form.
  • Saponified oil: Also listed as saponified fat, a lipid substance treated with sodium or patassium hydroxide to convert it into soap. Has no toxicity issues.
  • Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil: An oil expressed from rice bran, oryza sativa is utilized as a skin-conditioning agent and has no known toxicity issues if derived from organic sources. If not derived from organic sources it may contain minute pesticide residue.
  • Stearic acid: A naturally occurring fatty acid and has no toxicity issues.
  • Organic Aloe Vera: Determined safe for use in cosmetics, subject to concentration or use limitations.
  • Vitamin E: Tocopherols are a class of naturally occurring chemical compounds related to Vitamin E utilized as a skin-conditioning agent and determined safe for use in costmetics.
  • Organic Dried Peppermint: Determined safe for use in cosmetics, subject to concentration or use limitations.
As you can see there is a big difference in the health and safety of these two dog shampoos. Which one would you want to use with your dog?

How can you research the health and safety of your dog shampoo or one that you are considering purchasing for your green dog?

Go to the Skin Deep Database of the Environmental Working Group. There you can insert into the search box any ingredient you would like to investigate and determine it's safety from 0 (safe) to 10 (very toxic) to help you make a much more informed decision.

The results of utilizing a healthier dog shampoo are significant, including:
  • Less exposure to toxic chemicals that may be carcinogenic and potentially cancerous.
  • Less exposure to toxic chemicals that may affect your dog's respiratory system.
  • Less exposure to toxic chemicals that may affect your dog's organ function.
  • Less exposure to ingredients that may create allergic responses.
  • Less ingredients that can strip the natural oils of your dog's coat, creating skin flaking and itching.
All resulting in a healthier, happier dog with a shiny, clean, wonderful smelling, natural coat!

Some quick dog bathing tips for a healthier, happier dog:
  • If you take your dog to a groomer, take along your healthier, safer shampoo! Good groomers will respect your wishes and utilize products on your dog that are pre-approved by you.
  • If you groom and bath your dog at home like we do, utilize a handheld shower filter that filters out the nasty chemicals (chlorine, fluoride and more) that can contribute to increased health risks for your dog through skin absorption and through inhaling.
  • Dogs don't need as many baths as you may think! A healthy dog, fed a wonderful healthy diet will smell better, longer. Believe it or not we only get baths maybe 2-3 times a year. Between baths we get a good brushing at least once a week, a quick wipe down with a wet wash cloth when we roll in yucky stuff or get into some mud. With this we still smell wonderful and Mum loves burying her nose in our coat and taking a big wiff. She says we smell just like the great outdoors! And the best part is we sport a shiny, clean, healthy coat that most dogs would envy!
Happy Bathing!

Sources: Environmental Working Group

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

RAGD interviewed by Toxic Free Talk Radio!

Just this Monday, Leslie May and Johann (the dog) of Raise A Green Dog were interviewed by Debra Lynn Dadd of Toxic Free Talk Radio.

Leslie, with a little bark from Johann, talked about the potential unhealthy and dangerous toxins that your dog can get into inside and out, and how you can minimize your dog's toxic exposure to keep them happier and healthier!

Save an hour and check out the archived radio interview by clicking on the link below:

Listen to the interview with Raise a Green Dog authors
Leslie May and Johann The Dog

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Five green, eco-friendly things you can do with your leaves!


It's such a great time of the year. Cooler weather. Beautiful color. And don't forget all the outdoor fun!

With fall, however, come all those leaves.

Living in the mountains we are very, very familiar with leaves. Dogwood leaves, oak leaves, maple leaves, ash leaves, birch leaves, redbud leaves...well you get the idea!

One thing we like to do is be sure and enjoy our leaves and appreciate the nature that they are!

After the fun what do you do with those leaves? We're sharing some of our great green ideas of what you can do with your leaves this Fall!

Mow 'em! If you don't have a ton of leaves, you can actually leave them in place in your lawn and mow over them. These mulched leaves create wonderful organic matter and nutrients that can be tremendous fertilizer for your lawn.

Got a vegetable garden? Use leaves to create a wonderful insulated cover and weed barrier in your vegetable and flower garden, whether they are whole leaves or chopped.

Compost! Add your unwanted leaves to your compost pile. Leaves, along with grass clippings, vegetable waste and more, over time, creates a wonderful nutrient rich compost that you can later add to your vegetable or flower garden, and even lawn, to feed your plants and help them grow organically.

Make a playground! One of Gracie's and YoYo's favorite things in the fall is playing in the leaves. They run around, dig in deep into the pile, enjoy the wonderful woodsy smells. They never tire of leaf fun!

Get crafty! Over the years we've created some wonderful, beautiful crafts from leaves, and the dried weeds and flowers we find in the fields and woods. We made this front door wreath from old grape vines we found, along with some dried hydrangeas and sedum, reused raffia and topped it off with a nice fall ribbon.

Have fun! And we'll leave you with one of our favorite photos from our back deck last fall....a beautiful view of the fall mountains of North Georgia in the fall.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Amazingly yummy organic apple treats for dogs!

It's Fall and that means organic apple time!

Organic apples are one of Gracie's and my absolute favorite treats.

Whether just sharing a little slice with my Mum, dehydrated, or mixed in to create another amazing treat, apples just plain RAWK!

Over the years we've learned a lot about apples. The good kinds and the bad kinds.

The bad kinds include those that aren't organic. Why? Because apples that aren't organic according to the Environmental Working Group, " the Environmental Working Group's annual Dirty Dozen™ list of most pesticide-contaminated produce." They also indicate that 99 percent of apple samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.

What's on those conventional apples that is bad for us dogs? Chemically produced pesticides, fungicides and insecticides to keep those blemishes and bugs off the apples, and herbicides that come from the soil that's sprayed to keep the weeds at bay.

What's good about Apples?

Apples contain powerful antioxidants, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, manganese, magnesium, iron and zinc. Apples also contain vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E, K, folate, and niacin. Just be safe and don't let your dog have the seeds as they contain a minute amount of amygdalin, a compound that contains cyanide that in large quantities and over time can be harmful. And everything in moderation, K?

The great thing is that there are many wonderful farmers growing amazingly healthier organic apples that have much less danger to our and our dog's bodies. And you can find them this time of year in many local grocers, farmers markets and more.

But what do you do with all those apples? We've got some great ideas for you:

Apples, plain and simple! 

One of our favorite treats is sharing a nice peeled apple with our Mum. Many times after a nice hike around our mountain, we'll take a cool down break on our back porch and share little slices of apple with our Mum. It's one of our favorite treats, and one of our favorite times with Mum.

Apple Jerky! 

You can make your nice harvest of organic apples last a little longer by dehydrating them. You can utilize your dehydrator or you can use your oven. Here's our recipe:
  • Wash and peel your organic apples.
  • Slice your apple with a mandolin, or with a knife very thinly.
  • Place in a lemon juice /water bath 1/2 to 1/2 ratio for a few minutes.
  • Immediately place in the oven on a stainless steel baking sheet.
  • Bake for about 2 hours at 250 degrees, but if very thin check after one hour.
  • Flip mid cooking time.
By slicing thin then should come out crispy, if you slice thicker they will come out chewy (which is good too!) If dry they should keep for a week, if chewy store in the fridge and use within one week. If using your dehydrator, just follow your machines instructions.

Pumpkin and Apples, oh my!

We came across a new recipe we can't wait to try called Pumpkin Apple Jerky. This recipes looks amazingly easy:

  • Mix 1 to 1 canned or homemade pumpkin puree and organic applesauce (you can find our recipe for homemade organic applesauce on our Facebook page).
  • Spread the mixture in slices about 1/8 inch thick on parchment paper.
  • Bake (or use your dehydrator - 6 hours at 130 degrees) for three hours at 250 (check after two hours).

The finished product should be able to be ripped, but not sticky. They last for about a week in the fridge.

Add a dollop of your favorite spread to your dog's apples!

One of my favorite things is when Mum spreads a little dollop of something on my apples. Sometimes she spreads a dab of organic peanut butter, sometimes a dab of pumpkin puree, sometimes just a little olive oil! These little dabs can make our apple snacks just a little different and add some good stuff for our tummies.

Remember all treats in moderation, K? Enjoy!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Quick fall organic lawn care tips for the health of your dog!

Over the years we've written a lot about organic lawn care. Why?

Because we believe it's one of the most important things you can do for the health of your dog.

Thanks to several groups and organizations evidence is mounting of the affects of commercial lawn chemicals on dogs and children, including:
With all these dangers, why take a chance with the health of your dog? There are many ways to create a beautiful. lush, green, healthy lawn organically, without the use of dangers pesticides, insecticides and herbicides.

Here are our favorite fall organic lawn gardening tips that you can implement, easily! And don't miss our previous blog posts with more information and details:

Is your lawn killing your dog?
Great, green organic lawn tips for Fall lawn care!

Get out there and pull the weeds! Before you reach for those chemical herbicides think twice. One of the most effective ways of getting rid of weeds is by pulling. And the fun part is that you get to be outside, spend time with your dog, and perhaps they can help you pull a few of those nasty weeds.

Got leaves? One of the healthiest things you can do for your lawn is to mow over many of the leaves that fall in your yard and create wonderful, organic mulch that increases the nutrients provided and creates healthy grass growth. If you have too many leaves, gather them up and add to your organic compost pile. Then come spring add the compost to your lawn, flower and vegetable garden.

Seed, seed and more seed! One of the best things you can do for a good looking lawn is seeding. Seeding fills in those gaps that weeds like, creating a wonderful, healthy, lush lawn. We reseed many times throughout the year, but Fall is the best time. Make sure that you purchase seed that doesn't have added growth hormone coatings and added chemical fertilizer.

Fertilize the organic way! About four weeks after you've reseeded, add some great organic fertilizer to your lawn to create strong plantings. We like several types of organic fertilizers, from worm poo and fish emulsions (which are sprays) to pellet based fertilizers made from feather meal, bone meal, and/or soybean meal.

If you follow all of these organic and lawn building tips this fall, we know you'll have one of the most envied green, lush lawns in the neighborhood without the use of dangerous chemicals.

Happy lawning!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Recycling at it's best: Trashed art speaks dog!

Reusing and recycling is a great way to help the environment!

Recently we came across a wide variety of individuals who took recycling and reusing to a new level with Dog Art!

Our main image is 'Recycled Dog' a sculpture by Marinka Solman that won 1st Place in the Town of Windsor Fine Arts Show back in 2011.

This isn't the only recycled item we found. Check these out!

Japanese artist Haroshi utilized layered and pixelated pieces from reclaimed skateboard decks to create this beautiful work of art.

Artist Robert Bradford creates these life-size sculptures of dogs (and other animals and humans) from a wide variety of discarded plastic items, including discarded children's toys. Visit his website to see many more.

Designers Vinti Tan and Paul Andrews of Vinti Andrews is a collaboration between the two who created these amazing dogs from old Nike sneakers. 

If you were in Grand Haven, Michigan in August of 2011 and 2012 you may have seen these very fun sculptures of dog art as part of the ArfWalk, a project of the Grand Haven Main Street Downtown Development Authority's Preservation & Place Committee. See other ArfWalk projects on Michigan Cottage Cook.

Portland, Oregon sculptor Brian Mock welds some amazing art from discarded bolts, hinges, forks, nuts and other metal materials into amazing life-size dogs!

If you're looking for some very cute dog art that's affordable on Etsy, Reclaim2Fame has some great items.

VivaTerra, an eco-friendly shop for home furnishings and more, showcases Rover, made from tightly woven and corded recycled newspaper.

And last but certainly not least, Kitty Wales has been creating sculptures, designs, and installations for the last fifteen years that focus on the animal world, particularly Border Collies.
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