Green Team: Being Green in the Home

April 22nd is Earth Day, and in preparation for this day, we’re here to give you a few tips on how a few little decisions can make a big impact (especially when we all do them)!

The Green Team would like to encourage everyone to consider every day an Earth Day!  Every day is a chance for you, your family, and your friends to find ways to care for our environment.  This issue explores simple changes in the way we eat, play, and get around, that can have a positive effect on the state of our environment.

Our challenge to you:  Pick at least one way to be green and start doing it as part of your life.  Once you have that mastered, pick one more.  Then pick one more, and so on.

Tips on Being Green Around the Home

  • Replace light bulbs with compact-fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).  CFLs use 2/3 less energy and last 10 times longer.
  • Why so cold?  Turn up the A/C to 26 degrees or higher.  Even better, turn it off in unused rooms.
  • Unplug gadgets.  Electronic equipment and appliances use energy even when they’re turned off.  Americans alone waste $1 billion a year powering items like TVs and DVD players while they’re turned off. So unplug your TV, stereo, computer, microwave and other electronics when you’re not using them — or use a power strip that you keep turned off unless you’re using one of the items.  Make sure to unplug your cell phone and MP3 player chargers as soon as the devices are powered up.
  • Eat less meat.  Meat production takes a lot more energy and resources than growing vegetables or grains, and 18 percent of human-generated greenhouse gases come from the livestock industry. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to make a difference in this area: Try skipping meat just one day a week.
  • Put the brakes on driving.  Vehicles consume half of the world’s oil and emit a quarter of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Leaving your car at home even one day a week can save a lot of gas and emissions over a year. Try walking, biking, or car pooling to get where you need to go.  When you do drive, make sure your tires are properly inflated — underinflated tires can cut your gas mileage by 5 percent.
  • Use dishcloths instead of paper towels.
  • Buy reusable shopping bags.  Instead of getting plastic bags from stores each time you shop, invest in canvas or other reusable bags.
  • Find laundry detergent that is phosphate-free and triple concentrated (
  • Buy local and organic food.  Eliminate chemicals from your life as much as possible. By buying local, you cut down on fuel needed to transport food.
  • Avoid disposable plates and cups whenever possible.
  • You can save water and prevent water wastage in the following ways:
  • Do not throw away water when you can re-use it for cleaning purposes, or watering plants (i.e., dehumidifier water can be used to water a plant or clean the floor; rainwater can be caught to wash the car or water the lawn).
  • Check if there are any water leaks at home. Submit a work request to repair dripping taps, toilet tanks, and pipe lines. If water leaks from a tap at one drop per second, you would be wasting approximately 10,220 liters of water per year!
  • Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects and other such waste in the trash rather than the toilet.
  • Take shorter showers. Replace you showerhead with a low-flow version.
  • Do not let water run while shaving, washing your face, or brushing your teeth.
  • Operate washing machines only when they are fully loaded. Otherwise, set the water level for the size of load you are using.
  • Wash clothes efficiently.  Ninety percent of the energy used in clothes washing goes to heat the water, so washing cold is a simple way to cut energy use drastically.  Plus, make sure to wash full loads.  When it’s time to dry, make sure to check the lint screen before every load, and clean it afterward, even better– hang some items and let them air-dry instead of running them through the dryer.
  • Don’t use plastic garbage bags – or if you must, use something like Perf’s Go Green kitchen bags.  Go Green bags breakdown in one or two years (whereas traditional plastic bags can sit for 1000+ years).  Available on
  • Clean with non-toxic cleaning solutions, ounce for ounce homemade cleaning formulas cost about one-tenth the price of their commercial counterpart—and that includes costly, but worthwhile essential oils, and concentrated, all-purpose detergents for homemade recipes.  And even more important, they remove toxic chemicals and their smells and residue from your home.  Look for an email from the Green Team, and future articles with ‘recipes’ for eco-friendly cleaners!

And finally:  SHARE WHAT YOU DO WITH OTHERS to create a Green Community.  As always, if you have green practices of your own that you would like to share through the Green Team, or questions about going green, please submit to

Green Team: National Poison Prevention Week


More than 2 million poisonings are reported each year to the 61 Poison Control Centers across the United States. Over 90% of these poisonings occur at home. More than 50% of over two million exposure incidents each year involve children under six and 40% of those cases involve a child under three years of age.

March 19-25, 2017 is Poison Prevention Week in the United States. We can all take some quick and easy steps to keep our children safe from these dangerous everyday household items.

A survey by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding pesticide use in and around the home revealed that almost half (47%) of all households with children under the age of 5 had at least one pesticide stored in an unlocked cabinet, and less than 4 feet off the ground. The survey also found that 75% of households without children under the age of 5 also stored one pesticide within reach of children. This number is especially significant because 13% of all pesticide poisonings occur in homes other than the child’s home. Adults should take the following steps to safeguard children from exposures to pesticides:

  • Always store pesticides away from children’s reach, in a locked cabinet or garden shed.
  • Read the label first and follow the directions to the letter, including all precautions and restrictions.
  • Before applying pesticides (indoors and outdoors), remove children and their toys from the area and keep them away until it is dry or as recommended by the label.
  • Never leave pesticides unattended when you are using them – not even for a few minutes.
  • Never transfer pesticides to other containers – children may associate certain containers with food or drink.
  • Use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container tightly after use.
  • Alert others to the potential hazard, especially grandparents and caregivers.


EPA allows safer products to carry the Design for the Environment (DfE) label. This mark enables consumers to quickly identify and choose products that can help protect the environment and are safer for families.  The DfE logo on a product means that the DfE scientific review team has screened each ingredient for potential human health and environmental effects and that—based on currently available information, EPA predictive models, and expert judgment—the product contains only those ingredients that pose the least concern among chemicals in their class.

Product manufacturers who become DfE partners, and earn the right to display the DfE logo on recognized products, have invested heavily in research, development and reformulation to ensure that their ingredients and finished product line up on the green end of the health and environmental spectrum while maintaining or improving product performance.

Link to DfE products:

Green Team: Recycling in Dakar

Recycling in Dakar

For those who grew up with a culture of recycling, throwing a can or bottle into a trashcan feel odd.  Until recently, we’ve had the option of bringing recyclables (aluminum, glass and plastic) to the embassy for pickup. However, GSO recently put out this notice:

Unfortunately, our recycling partner is no longer picking-up our recycling items.  Until we are able to find other options for recycling at the Embassy compound, we ask that you stop bringing items into the compound for recycling.  The bins are currently overflowing and there is no more capacity for aluminum, tin, plastic and glass.

If you want to avoid the gut-wrenching guilt of tossing a can into the trash, you can still separate your recyclables. Put them out with the regular trash, and they will be collected. Doing this accomplishes a few things. First, it keeps your recycling muscles toned; it is easy to fall out of the recycling habit. Second, it makes it easier for trash collectors to separate items; all of the trash is picked through at the distribution site, and items that can be reused are removed. By doing the separating, you are helping the sorters. And third, your household staff may want some of the bottles or jars for home, but they don’t want to dig through your trash.

If you know of a reasonable and reliable recycling center here in Dakar, for the love of all things holy, let us know about it: dkrgreenteam -at-

Green Team: ECO-Gifts

Gift giving can take its toll on the environment. There is lots of packaging and if you are buying items made abroad, shipping contains a carbon cost. Sometimes it’s hard to find that perfect gift, but the best gifts are handmade.  It takes a little more effort, and a little more creativity, but it sends a stronger message to that someone special.

If you make gifts yourself, you can save quite a bit.  Take a look around the house, go through the kitchen cupboards, the arts and crafts closet, search through the clothes to be given away, and start pulling recyclables out of the garbage.  You would be surprised what you can make with landfill items.

Here are a few great green gift ideas that you can make at home, with friends, family, or on your own.

  • Food is a great way to show appreciation. Who doesn’t like a nice home cooked meal or some yummy treats?  Make them from scratch though….no cheating and buying the prepared mixes (then you have the throw-away boxes to deal with)

Infused alcohols, oils, and vinegars – use recycled bottles and gift-wrapping from around the house (old fabric or newspapers).

Homemade hot sauce or chocolate sauce

Homemade mixed spices

  • Potpourri – take a walk outside and grab leaves, flowers, seeds, etc. Throw them in a recycled jar, sprinkle some essential oils, and tie some ribbon around it.
  • Potted plants
  • Homemade organic body lotions or cleansing creams and scrubs. Use a recycled bottle to put it in and decorate it with a homemade label.
  • Make reusable grocery bags out of old clothing or fabric.
  • Make your own paper out of recycled paper, herbs, and flowers. Click here for different recipes.

Gifts that kids can make:

  • A coupon book for mom and dad
  • Macaroni necklaces
  • Picture frames (two different kinds)

Cloth, cardboard, and glue

Popsicle sticks, cardboard, construction paper, and glue

Or combine all these gifts together into a homemade gift basket.

For more ideas, click here: “Homemade Eco Gifts

Green Team: They Be Lamps Not Bulbs

We all have heard of and used CFL’s or compact fluorescent lamps. They are “bulbs” that have glass tubes (fluorescent gas filled) that either twist and spiral or loop up and down. CFL’s are actually miniaturized fluorescent lamps that are made in the traditional “bulb” form (Edison’s bulb) and mostly designed to fit light sockets intended for incandescent bulbs (two types of socket designs are the Edison’s screw and bayonet fitting). The main difference between these two types of light fixtures are incandescents use a heated filament to produce light while fluorescents produce light through the excitement of gases….wow!

Like their older and longer fluorescent lamp brethren, they do have ballasts in a very compact assembly. CFL’s are also known as energy efficient lamps. They are known to be 20% to as much as 60% more efficient than incandescent bulbs. Life span is deemed 8 to 15 times those of incandescents. Although cost is about 3 to 10 times more than incandescents, the efficiency and lifespan benefits outweigh cost differences any given time or day. C’mon, do the math!


When you do get into your new house or apartment, you will find that most, if not all light fixtures are CFL’s, these include the “bulbs” for those lovely chandeliers (it has been set as policy to use these fixtures whenever practical….in the Embassy and in our residences). Should you need more light (most people find these bulbs dim and not fit for reading), or if your existing fixture burns out, do not slide into the convenience of replacing these CFLs with a cheaper 100 watt incandescent bulb. Suitable CFL replacements may be found in shops around town. A good store for higher lumens (brighter) replacement CFL’s is Le Gran on the VDN. As well, you can pick up CFL’s from the expendable supply closet.

Remember, a replacement CFL that can produce light equivalent to that of a 100 watt bulb uses only 30 watts! Do your share! Go with fixtures with excitable gas……they’re good for your environment and your pocket in the long run!

Green Team: Tips to save more electricity

Saving electricity is in all of our best interests. Most electricity comes from burning limited and expensive fossil fuels. Other electricity comes from hydropower dams, which can have a devastating effect on natural ecosystems and severely damage fisheries.  In both cases, consuming more electricity has a negative impact on the environment.

As well, electricity in Dakar is expensive.  Did you know the average money spent on our monthly electricity bill for residences hovers upwards of $500?  If we were paying this out of our own pockets, we would do all we can to bring that down to a reasonable level.  It is our responsibility as stewards of taxpayer money to reduce spending where we can.

Here are a few tips to help reduce waste:

  • Darken your room – Just by closing the curtains you can reduce the amount of heat coming into your room, thus making your A/C work less. Housekeepers may want to open these curtains. If you want them closed, speak with your housekeeper about this.
  • Turn Off your A/C when no one is home – If your house is empty, there is no reason to cool it down. It does not take very long (15 minutes or so) to get a room to a comfortable temperature. If you have a house keeper that wants the temperature warmer, she can turn on the A/C 30 minutes before you arrive home.
  • Especially now that “winter” is here in Dakar, you might not need that A/C on at all. Try sleeping with just the fan on… you may find it more comfortable.
  • Does your housekeeper wear a jacket? – If so, it may be too cold for her in your house. Speak with your housekeeper to find out her preference.  She may prefer it a little warmer. If so, give her the leeway to change the temperature if necessary.
  • Use the timer feature on your A/C – Like the “Setback” on central A/C’s in the U.S., our wall units have timer features on them to turn it off and on.
  • “Won’t I get mold?” – No, you won’t. Even in Dakar’s humid season, leaving your A/C off for a few hours a day will not give you mold. Leaving it off for a couple of months could.  If you notice mold after turning your A/C off for a short time, chances are the mold spores were already present in your house, and must be cleaned properly.
  • Use overhead fans – Fans will circulate the cool air, allowing you to raise the temperature on your A/C, and still keep cool. If you do not have fans in your home, speak with GSO/FAC about the possibility of installing some (if they have them in stock).
  • Take advantage of the breeze – Some houses are built so that when all the windows are open, a nice breeze blows through the house. If your house has this feature, use it!
  • Turn Off lights when they aren’t in use – Kids (if you have them) are very good at playing this game.
  • Compact Fluorescents – All embassy houses are supplied with Compact Fluorescent bulbs, which use substantially less electricity compared with regular bulbs. When replacing light bulbs, use compact fluorescents. Replacement bulbs are available from GSO’s expendable supply stock.

We understand that each house is different, and what works for some houses may not work for other houses.  This is not to say that you need to swelter in your homes and be uncomfortable.  As well, some people have allergies, there are family members at home during the day, or other circumstances that require a cooler house.  We aren’t saying you need to suffer. What we are trying to avoid is wasteful use of electricity, both for environmental and financial reasons. These all require a change in routine and habits, something that is not easy to do. We hope you will do your part.

Green Team: Indoor Air pollution

Get the facts:  Indoor Air pollution

Most of us understand the dangers of outside pollution that includes carbon dioxide.  But did you know there is more danger in indoor air pollution?  According to the American Lung Association, indoor air pollution ranks as the fifth highest risk factors to public health.  The average person spends 90 percent of their time indoors, where air quality can be more polluted than outside.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that the medical cost, loss of productivity, sick leave, etc. costs the businesses over 60 billion dollars per year.  Children are affected by indoor pollution more than others and their developing bodies are more susceptible to pollutants.  What are air pollutants and what can we do?

  1. Make a habit of not smoking inside the residential area.  Cigarette is the most visible pollutant of air quality.
  2. Cleaning solutions used in the kitchen and bathroom contain chemical, hazardous for health.  The manufacturer of these products want us to buy and use more material, therefore they add refreshing scent of various fragrances to these chemicals.  When something can be cleaned with one spray, avoid spraying at it for extra cleaning.  Be stingy in spraying chemical in your house.
  3. Certain cosmetics such as nail polish remover effect the air quality.
  4. Paint, varnish, and varnish remover
  5. Pesticides, bug spray
  6. Whitening material
  7. Gas stove, fire place, space heater
  8. Mold around the a/c, water dripping pipes, or wood molding under the furniture effect the air quality in your home
  9. Redon gas from closed unventilated areas of the house

What we can do to improve our indoor air pollution:

  1. Review your home, room by room, closet by closet, bathroom by bathroom and find out who has put what where; and asked them why?  Find an alternative location to store cleaning material, washing detergents, spray cleaners, etc.
  2. Look beyond the realm of possibilities and replace eliminate the cleaning material by non-toxic, bio-degradable cleaners sold at many stores and becoming more available.  In addition there are several organic cleaning solutions such as baking soda, vinegar.
  3. When the manufacturer recommend one cup per one bucket of cold water for best results, avoid the urgency of adding two to four cups and use hot water to ensure better cleaning.  This will only increase the level of indoor pollution.  Be Stingy!
  4. Invest in lots and lots of plants in your home, including Allovera, Boston………………  NASA has made recommendation on 10 best plants to improve air quality in your home.

Green Team: Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)



We all use household cleaners, solvents and detergents. Most household shelves are filled with toxic substances. Ordinary household cleaners and solvents contain materials that can pollute our air and water systems. These materials contain acids, volatile organic compounds (VOC), lye, and other toxic chemicals. The release of these toxic chemicals into our environment can cause air pollution, as well as soil and groundwater damage. Contaminating our air and water can threaten human health and other organisms living in our environment.

Most household hazardous products can fit into four categories:

  1. Automotive Products: motor oil, brake and transmission fluid, antifreeze and car batteries, gasoline, kerosene, diesel fuel, car wax with solvent and windshield wiper fluid
  2. Home Improvement Products: paint, varnish, stain, paint thinner, paint stripper, caulk, adhesives, primer, rust remover, turpentine, mineral spirits and glues
  3. Household Cleaners: drain cleaners, oven cleaners, toilet cleaners, spot removers, silver polishes, furniture polishes, window cleaners, bleach, dyes, tub and tile cleaner, and ammonia
  4. Pesticides: insecticide and insect repellent, weed killer, rat and mouse poison, pet spray and dip, flea collars, mothballs, ant/roach killer, garden fungicides, slug poison, wood preservative and banned pesticides.


Given all the possible harm household hazardous waste can cause, it is important to make sure your hazardous products are safely stored.

 Here are some tips for properly storing HHW:

  1. Follow any storage directions on the label. Volatile products belong in a well-ventilated area. Flammable products should be stored in cooler temperatures. Corrosive products give off vapors that can corrode nearby metal objects.
  2. Keep these products out of the reach of children and animals. Even if you don’t have kids or pets, it’s better to be on the safe side. Keep your local poison control phone number handy, in case any accidents happen.
  3. Avoid transferring the contents of a hazardous product to a different container. If the container is leaking or corroding, make sure the new container is comparable and clearly labeled with the hazardous material.
  4. Avoid storing hazardous products near food to avoid contamination.
  5. Also avoid storing HHW near sources of heat or flames. Keep the same guidelines for rags used to spread hazardous products.
  6. Store incompatible products separately. Keep corrosive products away from flammable ones.
  7. Keep containers dry to prevent corrosion.
  8. Know the whereabouts of any flammable contents in your home, and know how to extinguish them if need be.
  9. Keep hazardous products in separate containers instead of combining them to save space. It is NEVER a good idea to mix chemicals, especially ones with which you are unfamiliar. Mixing even small amounts of chemicals can have disastrous results.


For many hazardous products, like common household cleaners, you can find a more natural alternative.  Here are a few do-it-yourself ways to clean-up at home with products that might be in your kitchen right now.

Freshen up. Make your own air freshener using 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon vinegar (or lemon juice), and 2 cups hot water. Pour the mix into a spray bottle and spritz away to remove odors. Note that while white vinegar has a slight scent while wet, when dries, it leaves no odor.

Boost detergent. To reduce the amount of laundry detergent you need to use, add baking soda or washing soda. These minerals soften the water, which increases the detergent’s power. For liquid detergent, add 1/2 cup of soda at the beginning of the wash. For powdered detergent, add 1/2 cup of soda during the rinse cycle.

Get squeaky-clean. Just add 3 tablespoons vinegar per 1 quart water in a spray bottle and you’ve got a safe, eco-friendly window cleaner. Some recommend using half vinegar and half water. For extra-dirty windows try this: 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap, 3 tablespoons vinegar, and 2 cups of water. Shake well.

Lift stains and spots. Cream of tartar lifts stains from sinks and tubs, and removes spots from aluminum pans.  Cream of tartar is a mild alternative to chlorine bleach that can be used for stain removal and mild bleaching and killing germs.

Cut grime and grease. Use baking soda to clean up in the kitchen. For a “soft-scrub” for countertops, mix baking soda and liquid soap to until you get a consistency you like. The amounts don’t have to be perfect. Make only as much as you need, as it dries up quickly. To clean extra-greasy ovens, mix together 1 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup of washing soda, then add enough water to make a paste; apply the paste to oven surfaces and let soak overnight. The next morning, lift off soda mixture and grime; rinse surfaces well (gloves are recommended as washing soda may irritate skin).

Try borax in the bathroom.  Borax is a water softener and sanitizer. For a good all-purpose bathroom sanitizer, mix 2 teaspoons of borax, 4 tablespoons of vinegar, and 3 to 4 cups of hot water in a spray bottle. For extra cleaning power, add 1/4 teaspoon liquid soap to the mixture. To clean your toilet bowl, pour 1 cup of borax into the toilet before going to bed. In the morning, scrub and flush. For an extra-strength cleaner, add 1/4 cup vinegar to the borax.

Play it safe. Whether you’re using commercial or homemade cleaners, it’s important to follow safety precautions. Avoid splashing household cleaners on your skin or in your face and check labels to see if respiratory masks, rubber gloves, goggles, or other protective measures are recommended. People with heart or lung disease and pregnant women should try to avoid products that contain chemical solvents. And since contact lenses can absorb vapors and hold them against the eye, causing irritation or eye damage, anyone who normally wears contacts should remove them and put on eyeglasses before handling such products. If you find that the cleaners you’re using irritate your nose, eyes and/or lungs, follow your instincts and stop using them. Finally, be sure to clearly label containers of homemade cleaners, and keep all cleaners out of reach of children and pets.

Green Team: You can recycle cans and bottles here at the embassy!

You can recycle cans and bottles here at the embassy!

If you are tired of that gut wrenching feeling of throwing aluminum cans in your trash, there is an easy solution. Save them at home and bring them to the embassy. There are two recycling drop off locations:

For cans only: a green recycling bin in the room next to the kitchen where you leave your dishes.


For cans, glass bottles, and plastic bottles/containers: large wooden and plastic bins behind the guard booth at the rear entrance to the parking structure. There is a separate bin for each item.


Don’t forget to check out the Green Team articles on La Palabre.

Green Team: Saving water

Saving Water

From space the Earth is seen as a blue planet, because 70% of it is covered with water. However, 97.5% of all water on earth is salt water, leaving only 2.5% as fresh water. Of this 2.5%, nearly 70% is locked in ice at the North and South poles and another 30% is deep below the ground.  Only 0.4% is accessible on the surface. 

saving water saving water1

Water is a finite resource. There is debate in the scientific community as to whether the freshwater on earth came from comets, asteroids, or from water deep in the earth released by volcanoes, but we do know the amount we have is finite. The earth does not produce more water. The water molecules in our bodies today may have been in the bodies of dinosaurs, may have traveled down the Senegal River, or may have been in a cloud a week ago.

More than half of humanity will be living with water shortages within 50 years. Severe water shortages will affect 4 billion people by 2050.

 Increased pollution is damaging ecosystem and the health, lives, and livelihoods of those without access to adequate, safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

Countries with the lowest fresh water availability per person (surface water and ground water) are Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahamas, Qatar, Maldives, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Malta, Singapore, and Jordan.

For many countries agriculture is the primary use of fresh water resources, whereas in the US the greatest percentage of fresh water is consumed for domestic, industrial, commercial, and other uses. Only small percentage of fresh water extracted is consumed through evaporation, transpiration, or incorporated into products or crops, the rest is used, treated, and discharged into bodies of water. Frequently this leads to pollution of their water ways through the introduction of bacteria, nitrogen, heavy metals, toxins, and other contaminants.

While the world population triples in the 20th century, the use of water resources has grown sixfold. This increase in water usage translates into increase operating and maintenance costs. It also means increased demand on the municipal infrastructure of water supply and waste treatment facilities, where they exist. To help mitigate the increasing demand of fresh water supplies, it is necessary to identify alternative sources and water‐saving technologies that can be readily implemented.  (From OBO Green Guide)

To do your part in making our Earth green and making water resources last, you should reduce the amount of water you use daily:

  • Turn off faucet while you brushing your teeth, washing your face or shaving.
  • Use low‐flow shower head or adjust the water flow so as to not waste water while showering.
  • Use the correct amount of laundry detergent and water while washing your cloths. Putting too much powder demands more water to wash it. Set your washing machine to the corresponding load size.
  • Use cloth to wipe clean your car first before cleaning it with water.
  • Do not pollute our water resources such as rivers, streams, and lakes.
  • Do not throw any litter (such as beer bottles/cans) into the ocean or river during a boat ride.
  • Do not throw any trash or debris into the oceans, rivers or lakes if you reside nearby these areas.
  • Beside tap water, find other alternative sources of water supplies. Try collecting rain water during the rainy season to use for watering plants and washing your car.