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Solar roof tiles

Question from Karen

Hello, my name is Karen. My husband and I own a roofing company in Tampa, Florida. I am interested in learning more about solar tile roofs. I had heard of a community in Arizona that had solar tile roofs. I would be excited to provide solar tile products and installation, if it were to be approved in Florida. Any information you have would be appreciated.

Thank you

Debra’s Answer

My husband and I thought this was a good idea too and looked into it. There are a number of different manufacturers making them now. For those of you that are not familiar with solar roof tiles, they fit in with your roof tiles instead of being large panels that sit on top, so you can have solar energy that is almost invisible (photo)

Here are some links to get started with. And I hope you do this as Florida is a prime area for solar energy and it’s not being utilized. So lead the way!

Premier Power




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can visions cookware and pyrex shatter while cooking?

Question from Kat

Hi, I had been tempted to get some of the clear cookware, but now I’ve heard some complaints about the “glass” cookware exploding?

And that was the reason why the Visions cookware was originally discontinued?

I also heard that Pyrex bowls were originally made of borosilicate glass, which is very resistant to thermal shock (which is what can cause the glass to shatter), but are currently, made of soda-lime glass, which is not as resistant.

What I don’t understand is the inconsistency…Why are some people able to cook with on a stovetop just fine without anything breaking or shattering… while others have it explode? Based off what I read, it seems to be more than just a “thermal shock” issue, but I can’t tell.

Debra’s Answer

I don’t know where you got the idea that Pyrex or Visions can shatter while cooking. Some websites say “Glass cookware that is allowed to boil dry is likely to shatter” and I had this experience once. When I was a teen, my parents had a Pyrex pot in which my mother boiled water for coffee. One day I put it on and didn’t watch it and when it boiled dry, it did shatter. However, this does not occur during normal cooking.

Visions pots are so heavy that I can’t imagine that they would shatter under any circumstances.

Regarding the inconsistency, I don’t know what references you are looking at, but I would say that if there were problems with shattering, it had to do with the differences in how the pots were used rather than the pots themselves.

Used according to manufacturer’s instructions, I don’t see any problem with the safety of these pots and they are very nontoxic.

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Safety of ant baits?

Question from Albert

Hi Debra,

I recently moved into an apartment and am finding ants in the bathroom. By keeping the tub as dry as possible and using peppermint oil profusely, I am keeping the population down to just a few a day so it isn’t a big problem yet, but a bother. I have also seen some in the laundry room so I suspect they are a problem in the building. I am wondering if it would be safe for someone chemically sensitive to use a few ant baits as well? I am considering trying to seal off all the cracks in the bathroom, but I’ve tried taping most of the visible ones and they still seem to find some way in so I wonder if that will help?


Debra’s Answer

Here is the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for ant bait. I wouldn’t recommend it for a person with chemical sensitivities, or otherwise.

I have always had success by filling the cracks where they are entering with Elmer’s white glue. You’ll need to keep watch and do this day after day until you get all the cracks, but when you do it’s handled…nontoxically.

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Eco friendly laptops?

Question from Susan


We are looking to purchase a new laptop for working at home and would like to purchase an eco friendly one, if possible. I have read somewhere there are better machines out there now with less emissions etc. but can’t seem to find much info now that we are looking for one. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.


Susan in MA

Debra’s Answer

Well, there’s a whole website devoted just to answering this question. It’s called Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT)–Green Electronics Made Easy. The system helps purchasers compare and select desktop computers, notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes.

Compared to traditional computer equipment, all EPEAT-registered computers have reduced levels of cadmium, lead, and mercury to better protect human health and the environment. They are more energy efficient, which reduces emissions of climate changing greenhouse gases. They are also easier to upgrade and recycle. In fact, manufacturers must offer safe recycling options for the products when they are no longer useable.

EPEAT products are identified as EPEAT-Bronze, EPEAT-Silver, or EPEAT-Gold depending on the number of environmental features incorporated in the product.

EPEAT was developed over a three year period in an extensive consensus-based, EPA-funded process that included more than 100 representatives from environmental groups, government officials, large volume computer purchasers, subject matter experts, electronics recyclers, and manufacturers. When developing the standard, the group integrated a wide variety of existing environmental standards and requirements into the EPEAT “umbrella” standard, including the most recent U.S. Energy Star energy efficiency requirements, EPA’s Plug-In Guidelines for Materials Management, Rechargeable Battery Recycling Coalition recommendations, Coalition of North Eastern Governors Model Toxics in Packaging Legislation, European Union (EU) restriction on hazardous substances (RoHS), EU Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment requirements (WEEE), EU battery directives, and various global environmental labeling standards.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, using very conservative assumptions, estimates that over the next five years, purchases of EPEAT registered computers will result in reductions of more than 13 million pounds of hazardous waste, more than 3 million pounds of non-hazardous waste, and more than 600,000 MWh of energy – enough to power 6 million homes.

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Non-Slip Bath Mat For Inside The Bath

Question from Kat

I liked having a non-slip bath mat in the bathtub so when my toddler moves around in the bathtub, he is less likely to slip and bonk his head. But now that I’ve been reading about plastics, I am horrified at the thought of taking a warm bath with the plastic or rubber non-slip mats that are out there.

Does anyone know where I could get a a non-slip bath mat for the bathtub that isn’t plastic and AFFORDABLE?

I saw a teak one that was really expensive, but it also said it was treated to be waterproof. One has to wonder what it was treated with and if THAT stuff is safe to take many long baths with…


Debra’s Answer

Readers, your suggestions?

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A 2nd Question About Affodable Laundry Detergent…

Question from Janel Tenerelli

Hi Again,

Thank you for your answer and other readers responses about affordable laundry detergent! I came across a new detergent and would like your input here…Arm & Hammer Essentials Detergent. The ingredients listed on the bottle are:

You can purchase this detergent at any grocery store and it is just as affordable as any other detergent on the shelves. My question is just how safe is it? Since I wrote to you the first time, I have been purchasing 7th Generation, Ecover and Charlie’s Soap. Would you know if this Arm & Hammer detergent is just as safe to use as one of the ones I now use…it certainly would be easier on my pocket!

Thank you for such a great website and newsletter!

Debra’s Answer

While searching for their website (apparently this product doesn’t have a website yet…) I found ARM & HAMMER ESSENTIALS described as “a concentrated liquid laundry detergent formulated with plant-based soaps and containing no dyes, phosphates or bleaches.”

She then gave Seventh Generation’s ingredient list for comparison:

Coconut-based surfactants, Non-animal derived enzymes, Natural water softener and alkalinity builder (borax), agent to wash away soils (sodium gluconate), Viscosity control agent (table salt), Natural fragrance (citrus oil), Preservative (less than 0.05%), Water.

They look pretty similar to me. I would classify this new Arm & Hammer Essentials Laundry Detergent as “natural”, but for the moment I’d watch out for the fragrance (since I haven’t actually used this product myself. Maybe one of you will write in and let the rest of us know about the scent issue.

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Hair Removal

Question from CVD

Dear Debra,

What do you know about the Finally Free Permanent Hair Removal System? It uses radio frequency waves to kill the hair at the roots. Do you think it would be a safe way to get rid of unwanted facial hair?

Debra’s Answer

I don’t know anything about this particular product, but..readers, how do you (women) safely remove unwanted facial hair? The best method I’ve found is the Finishing Touch Personal Hair Remover. Yes, it’s one of those cheap infomercial gadgets, but it really does work very well! And it is inexpensive, easy to use, nontoxic, painless, and hair actually grows back lighter and softer.

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Baking soda

Question from Marilyn

Dear Debra, Are there any toxic factors or warnings of any kindwith baking soda? Thank you,

Debra’s Answer

As far as I know, baking soda is completely safe to use.

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How do we find a green contractor?

Question from TB

How do we find a contractor who will use non-toxic materials and decoration to finish our basement in the Naperville, IL area? We have children on the autism spectrum and want to convert our basement into a play area, a sensory gym area, and a therapy area…we need a kitchen, a bathroom, and a workout room as well.

Debra’s Answer

I’m lucky. I have my own personal green contractor—my husband. He and I have been remodeling houses to be healthy and eco-friendly for almost twenty years now. But if I didn’t have Larry, I would need to find a contractor who could build to my health and environmental specifications. Sometimes I do need to hire subcontractors.

Green building is a large field that encompasses everything from healthy indoor air quality to using resources efficiently and choosing building products made from ecologically sound growing and manufacturing practices. Most contractors don’t have training, experience, or even awareness of these issues, but more and more contractors are learning about the subject and offering their services.

In some areas of the country there has been enough interest in green building that there are now quite a few contractors and other building professionals who have some kind of experience and training in building green. In areas where there are no experienced or trained contractors, look for someone who has done at least something that shows they have some interest and willingness to learn about and use green products. Stay away from contractors who express doubt or uncertainty about green products.

Nearly 250 general contractors across America have completed the requirements for LEED Professional Accreditation. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the leading organization that is establishing standards for green building in the U.S. and certifies building projects according to these standards. Accreditation identifies individuals who have demonstrated detailed knowledge of LEED project certification requirements and processes and a command of integrated design principles by passing a comprehensive exam. (To access their database of accredited general contractors, go to, then click on “Education”, then “LEED AP Directory” in the navigation bar.)

If you don’t need (and don’t want to spend money on) a contractor who can help you pass the LEED requirements for certification. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is gearing up a green contractor program to serve the average homeowner. NARI is working on a national program to train general contractors to add green options to their projects—things like Energy Star appliances, low-e windows, FSC-certified hardwood floors, and cabinets that don’t outgas formaldehyde. They want their contractors to be familiar with green building products and offer them to their clients. NARI has local chapters so contact your local chapter to find out about green contractors in your area.

Some areas already have their own local education and certification programs for contractors. Ask around at places like local natural food stores, hardware stores, or a green building materials store, if you have one in your community. GreenHomeGuide is now building a directory of green building professionals across the country, so that is a place to look too.

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Question from R Zamastil

What cookware is it still ok to use? Aluminum is bad, cast iron is bad, teflon/nonstick is bad, and now I read in a blog on this site that stainless steel is bad. (I was planning on getting stainless)Is it only certain types of stainless? What kind do you use? Thanks.

Hi Debra,

I’m following up on your blog Thermalon Nonstick Cookware. There was discussion on Cuisinart’s Green Gourmet and on Thermolon.

I was wondering if your impression on Thermolon feeling more plastic may be isolated to one brand of products.

I too purchased the green gourmet pans and have had them for a while now with no problem. Then I noticed their Greenware Line came out with a 10 piece pots and pan set. I was thrilled! Well I bring the set home and with the slightest use two of the pieces have chips in them, with a quick review search online I noticed that there were other people experiencing the same issue. Although they’re supposed to be non-toxic I cant imagine how safe it is to be swallowing. ( And cuisinart customer service was no help at all!)

On my search I came across Todd English GreenPan by Thermolon and wanted your opionion as stated above that the other comment might be isolated to only that brand of products. I can only find them on HSN and would like to see what you have to say on the matter before I spend wasted money on Shipping and Handling not to mention returning the product.

Also do you think that these products both Cuisinart and Thermolon are safe now but in the future they will find something toxic with these also. I am under the impression that they are both of a new technology that doesnot have much research backing it.

Debra’s Answer

See all my cookware links for everything I have written about cookware. Scroll down to the head AT HOME WITH DEBRA and see the “My New Cookware” article for what I use. “Cookware & Bakeware” under ABOUT gives an overview of all the different types of cookware and my opinion about them.

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