Author Archives: hbarcello

Insanity Time

We haven’t been doing a lot of purchasing lately (which makes me happy), so I haven’t had much to post up in the way of reviews.  In the meantime however, we did borrow some DVDs of “Insanity” (I couldn’t bear to pay the full retail on this thing) one of those home workout dealies that is supposed to give you the body of a movie star (or starlet) in 60 days or less.

If you want to track my progress and thoughts through the whole process, check out the blog here.

(This is the DVD that I am referring to, in case there is some other insane sort of workout DVD in the market).


“Green” Toy Review – Green Toys Submarine

This was one of the presents that our kiddo received for Christmas this year and it is one of my favorites, here’s why.

  1. Made in the USA – didn’t have to be shipped here from China (not that being Chinese made is inherently bad for the planet, but it’s not a good start)
  2. It doesn’t take batteries or make any obnoxious noises (never realized how much I would appreciate this)
  3. Made from recycled materials (100% post-consumer in fact)
  4. Feels solid, it’s hard to put into words, but this is a well constructed toy that seems like it will be really durable.
  5. Simple & easy to recycle packaging.  The toy comes packed in a simple brown cardboard box (wish I had taken a picture), easy to unwrap, don’t have to take out a knife or scissors and no nasty plastic clam shell stuff either.
  6. Fun to play with – designed to be a bath toy but pretty fun in or out of the bath. In the bath it functions as a nice water scooper to wet down the kiddo and rinse him off.

Their website is if you want to get more information.

The Greenest Christmas Gift Guide of All

We are right in the middle of the most consumption heavy time of year for the US, if not the world. We are inundated with crazy “green gift guides” of various sorts (like this one from Timeout LA) that recommend we all spend $110 on a recycled Eco-friendly laptop sleeve. Let’s get real for a second, it would be much more efficient to spent $20 on a cheap laptop sleeve and the $90 you saved on making your life or someone else’s life more efficient and less wasteful.  Better yet, make your own laptop sleeve from something that you were going to throw out anyway.

That said, here’s my shot at the top 5 gifts that you can give your environmentally conscious friends and family this year (spoiler alert: no 3 figure laptop sleeves to be found here).

  1. Nothing (probably a hard sell for many givers and recipients, but it’s the truth).
  2. Something that you made using either materials or ingredients from one of the following (your garden, something that you were going to throw out anyway, something of yours that wasn’t being utilized).  We bought local berries this year and gifted berry jam, as one example.
  3. A service, specifically your service, we usually do a day of yard work for one member of our family who has trouble keeping up with maintenance.  Costs nothing, consumes nothing, other than our transit there. Provides satisfaction for all parties involved. Other ideas would be cooking a group dinner, cleaning a car (if you have one), teaching a skill or craft, the options are endless, depending on your specific skill set. Something else that might fall into this category would be a certificate for a bike tune up from a local bike shop, leading us to #4…
  4. Secondhand bicycle, pays dividends in savings on gas, emissions, and, depending on where you live, time as well. Some areas have a crazy used bicycle market, in that case, you may have to go with brand new.
  5. This is sort of a catch all, but I think that any item which would improve the recipient’s efficiency falls into #5. I would include anything from LED light-bulbs to a canning kit in here.  Ultimately, almost anything that isn’t a resource hog and decreases your reliance on buying “stuff” is a win, as long as it gets use by the recipient. A sewing machine (secondhand perhaps) might even fall into here, though you could certainly get a lot done with just a plain ol’ needle and thread as well.

Happy Holidays!

Movie Review: No Impact Man – The Documentary

I’m going to repost this old review that I did when I was blogging on the previous incarnation of this site. I consider it to be an oldie but a goodie.

No Impact Man is one wing of Colin Beavan’s multi-format documentation of his year spent striving to not impact the earth.

I have not had a chance to read his book, and probably won’t, this shouldn’t be seen as a huge knock against Colin and his admirable quest to reduce his impact. However, I, like many others am growing a bit fatigued of the “Do something for a year and then sell a book about it” concept.

This isn’t to say that there haven’t been some great projects born out of this framework, but once I’ve read a half dozen or so, I’ve pretty well had my fill.  My personal favorite of this genre was “Not Buying It”, worth a read if you aren’t tired of this genre as well.

On to the movie itself. I believe this film is intended as a documentary of Beavan’s book writing more than his actual journey to no-impact land, and as such seems to have more of a focus on the impact of this project on his wife and their relationship. At one particular point in the film Colin himself even comments how “Reality-TV like” the conversation between he and his wife feels, and he is speaking the truth, many of their exchanges seem somewhere between survivor and a marriage reality show.

Relationship spotlight notwithstanding, it was interesting to watch the stages of the project unfold on camera as the Beavan household moves from a relatively standard middle-class Manhattan household to living a relatively primitive existence without cars, elevators, electricity, toilet paper, detergent (well, they do have Borax), and all the trappings of our current middle class lifestyle.

But in the end, I just couldn’t connect with the Beavans and was left wondering whether they give the environmental movement a bad rap.  As I watched their film I wavered in deciding whether to label them as fringe lunatics or spoiled yuppies and I just couldn’t get the thought out of my mind that despite all the publicity of their sacrifices, they are still living a life much more comfortable than many of the world’s citizens.

My final rating is 2/5 stars. There are some redeeming moments and the film is easy enough to watch, but it is nowhere near the best in class.  Topics covered will be familiar and almost rote to anyone with a background in sustainability



Review: BioKleen Bac Out Stain & Odor Eliminator

Best Use:
Stain Removal from clothing, upholstery and certain types of carpet (see bottom line)


Pretty versatile

Great at removing darker stains

Can purchase by the gallon

Laundry stain removal comparable to Spray & Wash

Decent smell

Septic safe


Will leave a “border ring” on microfiber after drying

Spray bottle quality is a bit lacking

I wish it was better at removing pet odors

Performance on cloth diapers may be overrated



Better than vinegar and baking soda?

Works better and doesn’t leave that vinegary smell on clothing & upholstery.  Vinegar & baking soda are better on thick carpet or carpets with thicker padding.

Bottom Line:

This is a highly rated cleaner on Amazon (4.3 out of 5 stars as of writing this) and I can see why.  Despite my list of cons, this is a versatile cleaner.  We received several gallons of this stuff when our child was born and we have almost gone through them all.  However, most of it was used in dealing with pet stains, rather than dirty diapers.  I now think that there are better products on the market for dealing with pet stains (Oxi-Clean, for example). However, we had lots of Bac-Out, and we put it to use.  It’s better than a lot of the more toxic pet stain cleaners, but probably not a class leader.  For laundry stains and odor removal, I think it is close to the top however.


You see, when our child was born, our dogs felt a bit left out.  We have spiteful little doggies (I call them the furry terrorists).  The furballs took to peeing in our hallway rather than outside (and it wasn’t for lack of opportunity to go outside).  In fact, it was this scenario that led me to start this cleaning product review site in the first place.  Bac-Out does a good of removing the physical evidence of these doggie accidents, but it just doesn’t seem to penetrate the carpet pad well enough to take care of all the odor.  What you are left with is a carpet that looks great, but smells less than great.


For whatever reason Bac-Out performs fine in the laundry room, and I think it is as good or better than Spray & Wash for removing most laundry stains.  It also performs well on upholstery.  However, with microfiber it seems to leave a ring around the border of the application area that takes a while to fade.  Rinsing the upholstery with water seems to help that, but then the upholstery is damp for quite a while whilst it dries.


But, all in all, I think this is a good product, especially as a switch hitter doing upholstery and laundry cleaning duty.

Review: 2am Miracle Green Nursery Cleaner

Best Use:
Surface cleaning

Smells nice (for a cleaning product)
Very safe for kids and pets
Multi-Purpose, you can use this stuff on anything and achieve good results

A bit spendy
Just “good” at most cleaning tasks, a dedicated enymatic cleaner performs better at a specific task (pet urine or laundry strains, for example)

Better than vinegar and Baking Soda?
Yes, better disinfectant properties on surfaces. Cleans up easier from pre-treated surfaces.
But – if you are strapped for cash, not sure if it is worth the extra $$$

Bottom Line:
If you don’t like vinegar and baking soda and can only have one cleaning product in your house. This is probably your best, safest choice.