Monday, May 25, 2009

Energy Hogs, Go!

I wanted to investigate energy programs geared towards children. I have two younger siblings that are in grade school and have several habits that cause my parents more headaches than they need. My young sister tends to leave the TV on even while she is outside playing with her friends while my little brother has an obsession with running water. My mother had voiced her concerns about these habits with me, so I decided to try to educate them.

As a child I remember my teacher giving me blue pamphlets with cartoons of some water drop mascot. She gave us maybe an hour's worth of "energy conservation tips" such as watering our lawns at night and to brush my teeth without keeping the faucet on. Looking at my siblings now, I know that teaching styles have changed drastically with the availability of the internet. Instead of comic strips and cheesy cartoons, my siblings are brought up in a world of interactive media.

Energy Hog's homepage is directed to two audiences; adults, and children. "NO ADULTS ALLOWED" is written on the children's link, but of course...I click on it.

I'm welcomed by a diverse pair of scientists for my "HogBuster" training. I create an ID badge using my little sister's name and a cat's face for my profile picture. I read through the script and undergo a series of interactive games while "searching for the energy hogs" like matching refrigerators and whacking a digital hog instead of a mole. Unfortunately the shower hog looks like some hideous aunt in a shower cap, but I'm sure other children won't see the resemblance.

Overall I passed my HogBuster training and I had fun while doing it. I don't get the sense that it is corny or cute, but rather very informative. I had more fun playing the games rather than understanding its context, but perhaps that's the best route for young children with short attention spans.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

A Fragrance-Free Future for All?

I am a second-generation Vietnamese American who grew up in Anaheim. I had a variety of friends but I was very conscious about the smell of my house. The Vietnamese are notorious for not only pho (beef noodle soup) but also their nguoc mam (fish sauce). My mother was aware of it too, and we usually wanted the house to smell more "American" so she clipped out coupons for Glade Plug-Ins every weekend.

I remember how the plastic Glade Plug-Ins would soften and eventually burn its plastic cover if we left it in for too long. At one time each power outlet had a Plug-In, but the combination of "Tropical Breeze" and "Pinewood" started to give me dizzying effects. My mother eventually stopped buying them...and now she has turned her passion into buying air filters.

It led me to wonder about the fragrance industry in the world. With Americans generally bathing or showering each day, it's quite amusing to research history. In Elizabethan times, about 500 years ago, bathing once a month was the epitome of cleanliness. Perfumes and potpourri were created from dried organic materials, but nothing was really synthetic at that time. Nowadays, it's much cheaper to create chemical compounds imitating the scents of these fragrances without environmental threats (ex. musk).

I read an article that was reprinted online. It made me think about the fragrance industry and the chemicals we create in pursuit of fragrances.

Synthetic fragrances are used to scent products, and sometimes to mask odors or unpleasant smells that a chemical compound may produce. One good example is a product that I've used in my home for years, Comet, which I recently bought in a lavender scent. I was not particularly happy with the change, as it smelt nothing like lavender.

Since the rise of synthetic fragrances we've been layering ourselves day in and out with chemicals. I have eczema-prone skin and while I lived in Riverside, the dry air caused several major outbreaks. I thought air purifiers would help, which it did, but my condition did not improve as much as simply using oatmeal-based skin products and moisturizers. But beware, just because it is unscented or fragrance-free does not mean that they are chemical free.

Not to mention that some people are just plain allergic to some fragrances. Do you remember any product you've used that caused your skin to break-out? I remember that applying anything on my inflamed skin would cause a burning, itching feel. And have you tried any scented product that gave adverse reactions? For you lucky ones, no. But for those who have...there's a good reason for it. Reactions in fragrances can quickly become medical lawsuits, so much that magazines must adhere to a strict fragrance protocol to prevent accidental exposure.

It is very creepy to know that most fragrances can be launched on the American market without any approval process. Basically, until it makes some kind of adverse reaction, the fragrance manufacturer can go about its business and the FDA would not have any jurisdiction over the matter.

I would recommend simply investing in a good air purifier over the hundreds of dollars you may spend in home fragrances and to begin using organic and wholesome chemical-free products. Granted, some individuals prefer the scent of ocean in the morning, or dew in the evening, but the truth is that it is most likely chemicals and toxins you are exposing your body to. Potpourri may also be an alternative, but keep in mind that some potpourri is also soaked in fragrant chemicals. Fragrance yourself free from chemicals. I am sure it would not only be good for the environment but for your body, too.

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