Don’t be S.A.D.

The shortest day of the year is once again upon us. Winter Solstice arrives in the Northern Hemisphere on December 21st this year (some years it’s the 22nd) and despite the levity of the Christmas and Chanukah season, some of us may find we’re feeling a little sluggish or irritable around now.

It used to be called simply the “winter blues” but in 1984 mental health researchers first described Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and made the link between reduced sunlight exposure and mood disruptions. If you find you’re feeling depressed starting in late fall and throughout the winter, you may just be SAD. Symptoms include difficulty with concentration, decreased libido, anxiety, lethargy and even carbohydrate cravings. So, savour those yummy Christmas cookies but be mindful: weight gain is another SAD symptom.

The good news is that there are a few easy lifestyle tweaks that can help ease the symptoms of this seasonal syndrome.

The first order of business is to make sure you optimize your vitamin D levels. A simple blood test will let you know whether or not you’re deficient. If you are – and those of us living in cold, northern climes are prone to deficiency, especially during winter – you can supplement with vitamin D3 to raise your levels to the optimal range.

An added benefit of ensuring you have enough of the so-called “sunshine vitamin” is that recent studies indicate, in addition to the known benefits of helping maintain healthy teeth and bones, D may have a protective effect against cold and flu viruses, as well as some cancers.

And, of course, nothing brightens the mood like sunshine itself. Take time for yourself to go for a brisk walk when the sun is shining, preferably around noon when you’ll get the most benefit from the sun’s rays. If you can manage to get away to a tropical place in winter, you’ll store up enough vitamin D to help get you through to spring. It’s estimated that just 30 minutes of full body sun exposure around mid-day generates about 10,000-20,000 IUs of vitamin D.

Staying active — a little bit of exercise for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week — can lift your mood and relieve anxiety and stress. And be sure to get enough sleep, but not too much — it’s easy to hide under the covers when you’re depressed.

Whether you work from home, in an office or an industrial environment, in addition to helping alleviate the winter blues, proper lighting makes work easier and more efficient. Poor lighting conditions, such as low, glaring or shadow-casting light can cause headaches and eye fatigue, which can lead to more serious consequences like workplace accidents. Proper lighting reduces stress and increases productivity by allowing you to concentrate better on the task at hand.

Additionally, light therapy, in the form of a full-spectrum light box, has been used for decades to effectively combat seasonal affective disorder. SAD sufferers use the specially-calibrated table-top light in the morning for just 30 minutes a day. It’s simple and easy – just turn it on while you’re catching up on the news or scrolling through your social media feeds.

So, if you’re feeling SAD, no need to suffer in the dark. The best way to beat the winter blues, to work more efficiently and to have a healthier, happier life is to live in the light.

The Great Debate: Paper Towels vs. Hand Dryers

It’s really all about germs, isn’t it?

You’ve all heard the argument when it comes to drying your hands: should you use paper towels or the electric hand dryer? Which is more hygienic? Which is more environmentally responsible? Which is more efficient and economical? Or should you just let your hands air dry and forget about the whole thing?

Research has been done to compare both methods of hand drying and the verdict is – ready? – that, environmentally speaking, they’re about the same.

Each approach has a small advantage over the other, depending on various factors, such as the number of paper towels used (two on average), recycled paper or not, length of time, power usage of the electric dryer and regional electricity impacts. So, basically, it depends on how the electricity is generated and how the paper towels are made and disposed of.

What about those fancy new hand dryers that are popping up everywhere? You know, the non-heated, super rapid-air kind that strip the water right off of your hands. Research shows that they have a much shorter drying time than conventional warm air dryers and use less electricity.

After analyzing the data associated with generating electricity for the rapid-air hand dryers versus data related to the production and disposal of paper towels, the high-speed dryers came out on top – but just barely. This held true even when the paper towels were 100% recycled, both in manufacturing and disposal.

It seems that the argument for the rapid air electric hand dryer is the hands down winner. But that could easily change, with smaller, lighter towels or reusable towels (now there’s a concept). New paper technologies could soon provide environmental benefits over the use of high-speed air dryers.

So, the bottom line is that hand-drying methods should be considered by taking into account the life cycle of the whole system so you can make choices that are better for the environment now and in the future.

But whatever you do to limit your environmental impact, the bottom line is: don’t skip the hand washing.

We care about clean.



Posted on Categories Green Living

The Magic of H2O2 | Hydrogen Peroxide – Part 1

Hydrogen Peroxide: H202. You probably already have it in your home, and more than likely you use it to treat minor cuts and scrapes. But you’d be surprised at how many uses this colourless liquid has.

For household cleaning, health and hygiene, beauty, medical uses — even as rocket fuel! Hydrogen peroxide is readily available at any drug store or grocery store. It’s inexpensive, and is one of the handiest household supplies ever.

Best known for its medicinal uses — hence its availability at pharmacies. Let’s start with some common uses, and some that you may not be aware of.

Health, Hygiene and Beauty

Minor wounds

 This is the most obvious use that most people know about, that’s probably why you have it in your home. Applied directly to minor wounds, it can help clear up infections and clean away dead tissue.

Disinfect your toothbrush

 Once a week, soak your toothbrush in hydrogen peroxide for at least five minute, rinse the toothbrush thoroughly and let air-dry. This eliminates any bacteria that may be hiding there. If you’re sick, repeat after each use, so you don’t re-infect yourself.

Hair, Teeth and Nails – and Feet

 Speaking of teeth, swishing a solution of equal parts water and hydrogen peroxide will whiten your teeth and get rid of bad breath. And since peroxide is a bleaching agent, you can also use the same solution to lighten your hair.

To whiten your nails just soak some hydrogen peroxide onto a cotton ball and swab your nails. Oh, and BTW, it works well to cure athlete’s foot. Apply the same equal parts solution to the infected area on your feet, and that itching and discomfort will be gone.

House Cleaning Uses

Disinfect surfaces

Since hydrogen peroxide is a disinfectant, it’s a great cleaning tool all around the house. Leaving countertops, and other surfaces in the kitchen, bathroom, office, anywhere in the house, sparkling and clean.

Grout whitener

 Nobody likes the look of dingy grout in the shower, but there’s an easy fix. To whiten your grout, make sure it’s dry, then spray H202 directly onto it. Go and do something else for a couple of hours (Netflix), then come back with a toothbrush and soapy water. Scrub away, and viola, perfectly white grout again.

The benefits of using this natural, and incredibly inexpensive compound are almost endless. This is one amazing tool that everyone can use to clean and disinfect the house. In fact, there are so many uses, that we’re going follow up with another blog post. So, stay tuned.

If you have any interesting ideas that we might have missed about the fabulous uses of hydrogen peroxide, please let use know, and share in the comments section below.

Remember, we care about clean.

Best Holiday Houseplant

The Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla), takes its name from a small island in the Pacific Ocean between Australia and New Zealand. It’s notably effective in removing many common indoor air pollutants.


Although the Norfolk Island Pine is a beautiful year-round indoor plant, this small conifer is often used as a Christmas tree. Be gentle with the decorations as it has fragile branches, so take it easy with heavier ornaments.

The Norfolk Island Pine is an easy-care indoor plant that doesn’t like to be too hot, preferring temperatures in the 16-24°C (60-75°F) range, and likes basking in full sun to semi-shade. It doesn’t like being overwatered, but if the air is very dry, misting it with room-temperature water or adding a humidifier will make it happier.

This lovely evergreen grows slowly, adding just one new tier of branches per growing season, to a height of 91-183 cm (3-6 ft.) indoors. Outdoors, the Norfolk Island Pine can grow up to 61 metres (200 ft.) in height.

Norfolk Island Pines can live as long as 150 years in their natural habitat. With the proper care, an indoor Norfolk will provide many years of joy – and will help make the air in your home or office easier to breathe.

We wish you a joyous holiday season and a Shiny New Year!

Best Houseplants to Purify the Air – 4

Philodendron is a large genus of flowering plants in the Araceae family. The two most effective air-purifying Philodendrons are the Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron scandens `oxycardium’) and the Elephant Ear Philodendron (Philodendron domesticum).

The Heartleaf Philodendron, often used in hanging baskets or trained to climb, is easy to grow and can tolerate a wide range of conditions. This native of Mexico and Central America adds oxygen to the air and filters out toxins such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and benzene.

The Elephant Ear Philodendron is a very low-maintenance houseplant that can easily survive in just about any place in a room — and they even respond well to artificial light. This Philodendron is not a climber and has large, broad, heart-shaped leaves as well as the same air-cleansing qualities as its cousin.

Please note that Philodendrons are poisonous to cats and dogs.

Posted on Categories Green Living

Best Houseplants to Purify the Air – 3

Broad Leaf Lady Palm 

The Broad Leaf Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa), a native of Taiwan and China is one of the most popular houseplants in the world; it’s been used as an indoor plant in Japan for over 500 years, and is widely known as one of the easiest plants to grow.

Unlike other household plants that produce only oxygen, the Broad Leaf Lady Palm will remove common household toxins such as ammonia, formaldehyde, xylene and carbon monoxide, making the air safer and cleaner to breathe.

This graceful and elegant palm does best in bright, indirect sunlight and will tolerate a wide range of temperatures (-6 – 37ºC). The soil should be kept uniformly moist, but not left in standing water, as sogginess will rot the plant’s root system.


Devil’s Ivy 

Devil’s Ivy or Golden Pathos (Epipremnum aureumt) is a popular, attractive houseplant with small, green, heart-shaped leaves and variegated white and yellow accents. Often sold as a decorative hanging plant, it prefers to live near a bright window out of direct sunlight in moist, peaty soil.

This native of the Solomon Islands is not only easy to care for, but has the added benefit of being extremely efficient at cleaning household air pollutants, such as xylene, benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.

A word of caution, this plant is toxic when ingested, especially for pets. Seek immediate veterinary assistance if you suspect your pet has consumed any part of this plant.

Best Houseplants to Purify the Air – 2

Florist’s Chrysanthemum

Florist’s Chrysanthemum, also known as Florist’s Daisy and Hardy Garden Mum (chrysanthemum moriflium), is a beautiful perennial plant that’s often found in homes and offices for its long-lasting and various coloured blooms. This houseplant needs a medium amount of water and flourishes in direct sunlight.

Those lovely flowers not only brighten up a room, but they also help clean the air of many common chemicals found indoors, including formaldehyde, xylene, ammonia, benzene, toluene and trichloroethylene.

While they’re beneficial and beautiful to have around, a word of caution: they are poisonous to animals and can make cats and dogs very sick if ingested. If your pet has consumed any part of this plant, call a veterinarian as soon as possible.


Flamingo Lily

Flamingo Lily (Anthurium andraeanum) is a beautiful flowering plant that is an excellent houseplant for removing air-borne toxins commonly found indoors. Their large, dark leaves suck up ammonia, formaldehyde, toluene and xylene.

These plants are durable and fairly easy to grow as houseplants and will thrive for years if cared for properly — they can even last for a year or two in the most adverse conditions.

Flamingo Lily plants should be thoroughly watered regularly, allowing the soil to dry only slightly before watering again. They should only receive indirect sunlight, never full sunlight, and enjoy a draft-free, humid environment.

Best Houseplants to Purify the Air

Indoor air pollution didn’t become a significant health issue until the late 1980s. Due to the energy shortages of the 1970s, people began to insulate their homes and offices to conserve energy and lower their heating and cooling costs, and new building construction techniques became especially energy-efficient. Prior to that, buildings tended to be drafty – so much so, that there was sufficient air circulation even with doors and windows closed.

NASA conducted research in the late 1980s on the air-filtering effects of common houseplants and concluded that they are extremely effective at reducing indoor air pollution. The researchers found that certain houseplants were able to remove as much as 87% of indoor air pollutants within a 24-hour period. Not only do the plants remove carbon monoxide (which people and animals exhale) replacing it with pure oxygen, but they also have the remarkable ability to remove toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air.

Below is a partial list of beneficial plants that filter out harmful compounds from indoor environments.


Snake Plant

The Snake Plant, or Mother-in-law’s Tongue (sansveieria trifasciata), is an ideal indoor plant due to its superb air-purifying abilities. It’s one of the best at filtering out formaldehyde, which is common in toilet paper, tissues and cleaning products.

Snake Plants don’t need a lot of light or water and are very easy to care for.

Interestingly, this plant absorbs carbon monoxide and releases oxygen at night (most plants do the opposite). So having a couple of Snake Plants in the bedroom will give you a slight oxygen boost and help you awaken feeling refreshed.


Peace Lily

The Peace Lily (spathiphyllum) only needs a shady place and weekly watering to survive and to flower occasionally. It’s a hardy and forgiving plant and will let you know when it’s thirsty — just look for the telltale droop.

The Peace Lily topped NASA’s list for its ability to remove all three of the most common Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs – formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. It’s also effective against toluene and xylene.

This plant does its best work in bathrooms and other damp areas.


English Ivy

English Ivy (hedera helix) is a popular potted household plant, but isn’t much appreciated by gardeners. It’s been called an aggressive invader in forested and open areas, threatening other vegetation by taking over and choking off native species. Fortunately, this isn’t a problem when potted and grown indoors. English Ivy does best in moist soil and prefers at least four hours of direct sunlight each day.

Studies have shown that English Ivy reduces airborne fecal-matter particles and is good at filtering out formaldehyde, which is found in household cleaning products.

Posted on Categories Green Living

Get Out to These Green Events and Festivities in the GTA this Summer

If you’re an Allcare customer, chances are that you care about making your indoor workplace environment clean with the help of our eco-friendly cleaning services. The summer, however, is a great time to enjoy the outdoor environment and reduce your impact on it, as well as “green” other aspects of your life.

In this post, we suggest some of the events in the Greater Toronto Area that will help you enjoy a green lifestyle.

1. Celebrate the Environment at the Live Green Toronto Festival

Yonge-Dundas Square, Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Live Green Toronto Festival is Toronto’s largest celebration of all things green. Saturday, On July 21, 2012, Yonge-Dundas Square will host hundreds of green products and services, live music, local foods, buskers and more.

It will also feature Swapsity’s Book Movie Music Eco-Swap, which lets people swap their pre-loved books, DVDs, CDs, Blu-rays and records.

Also feel free to shop the Green Street Market from 11 am to 8 pm, where dozens of green exhibitors will line Yonge St. from Dundas Ave. to Queen St.

2. Pick up Some Plants and Gardening Tips at the Evergreen Garden Market

Evergreen Brick Works, 550 Bayview Avenue

The Evergreen Garden Market is a retail garden centre that helps visitors bring nature into their backyard or balcony. Through experts and demonstration gardens, you’ll learn how to make your garden “truly green” with native plants, and organic and heritage food plants, as well as non-native plants that offer important environmental benefits.

It’s open Monday–Friday: 10am–6pm; Saturday: 8am–5pm; Sunday: 10am–5pm; and Holidays: 11am–4pm.

3. Visit One of the GTA’s Many Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ Markets give shoppers in the GTA have access to some of nature’s best produce. Plus, they can feel secure in the knowledge that the food is fresh, and safe to eat. It’s the next best thing to harvesting it yourself.

Plan on taking a trip to one of these weekend farmers’ markets:

Junction Farmers’ Market
Green P Lot, 385 Pacific Avenue, Toronto
The Junction Farmers’ Market features products and produce all made from locally-sourced ingredients.
Open Saturdays, 9 am to 12 pm (June 2 to October 13, 2012)

Leslieville Farmers’ Market
Jonathan Ashbridge Park, Queen St. E. at Woodward Ave. (near Coxwell)
The Leslieville Farmers’ Market wants to enable people to buy food directly from producers, and know their farmer by name.
Open Sundays from 9 am to 2 pm (June 3 to October 28, 2012)

St. Lawrence North Farmers’ Market
92 Front Street East (at Jarvis)
Named the world’s best food market by National Geographic in April 2012, St. Lawrence Market is open all year and features a lively quilt work of more than 120 specialty vendors.
Saturdays, 5 am – 5 pm

Liberty Village Farmers’ Market
At the corner of Liberty St and Atlantic Ave, Toronto
The Liberty Village Farmers’ Market brings to market food from certified local farmers who selling what they grow.
Open Sundays, 9 am – 2 pm (June 3 to October 31, 2012)

For more farmers’ markets in the GTA, check out the Toronto Farmers’ Market Network list for 2012.

We hope this post gives you some ideas of some green activities to do around the GTA. If you have an event or an activity to share, please let us know in the comments!

Importance Of Purchasing Green Paper Products

When purchasing janitorial paper products, there are things to consider. The most important being; does it help reduce the health and environmental impacts?.

Some of the key issues when choosing which paper products to use are:

Recycled Content: Having recycled content, reduces the amount of virgin free fibers required to produce paper.

Post Consumer Content: This uses Municipal curb recycled content. Having this encourages recycling everywhere.

Source Reduction: Dispensers: Use multi roll dispensers. It helps reduce waste from smaller rolls.

Replace multifold paper towels with larger rolls. Use touch free dispensers or dispensers which release only specific sized sheets.

Bleaching of Product: Try to avoid papers bleached with chlorine or bleached without the use of chlorine.

Be sure when purchasing paper products to look for the Eco Logo Certified symbol. This ensures all the above are taken care of.