Mothballs have had a bad name for a lot of years now. I removed the threat but didn’t hit on an alternative. Moth holes for me. Who knows what moved me this spring to seek out a mothball substitute? But last week I did.

Mothball substitutes abound – as AboutMyPlanet.com attests. The Web site features daily “Green Tips,” where a little feature loaded with data and grammatical errors detail mothball contents and mothball substitutes. In olden days, mothballs were made of naphthalene, but no more. The benign substance was replaced years ago with a carcinogenic mouthful called dichlorobenzene.

There’s more bad news about mothballs, but won’t that do?

One mothball substitute is dried lemon peel, but the current price of thick-skinned lemons took that option right out of the running. Others are cinnamon sticks, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, rosemary and lavender.

How much rosemary, lavender, etc., would it take to protect a closet full of coats?

No one seemed to know (including the feature writer on the Web site). I called Red Hill Foods because Barbara Smith-Baker knows a lot about a lot of things. She wasn’t there. But Carrie Puiia was, and she, too, seems to know a lot about a lot except how much of any of the herbs and spices would be needed to discourage the advances of moths onto sweaters.

What Carrie did tell me had to do with cedar: cedar blocks, cedar balls, or essential cedar oils. In truth she didn’t tell me how many of each would best suit the per-closet moth challenge. However, she pointed out that cedar can be refreshed yearly with the lightest of sanding. Cedar for me.

More AboutMyPlanet

Climate change and global warming are pressing issues that we sometimes feel powerless to do anything about in our own backyards and towns. We aren’t powerless, however. To learn more about what can be done at home, go to Nature.org, the Nature Conservancy’s Web site.

At the present moment, understandably, the price of gas is even more compelling than climate change and polar bears. What will become of us? As I was scrolling around in search of mothball substitutes on AboutMyPlanet.co, I e-spied “7 tips on saving gas this summer.” A lot of the usual: correct tire pressure, oil changes, planning errands to avoid multiple trips, avoid using the air conditioning.

But there were a few that were new, to me at least: Wash and wax the car regularly because a dirty car has less wind resistance.

Clean out the car: The more weight it’s carrying, the more gas it burns.

(Check out those high-wheeled pickups carrying ATVs. While you’re at it, check out our trunk in which, until last Friday, we had stashed snow tires, assorted kindling and other wood, and a big bag of manure.)

And the last tip: Drive at or under the speed limit; burn less gas.

Finally on AboutMyPlanet.com, a link presented itself: RunYourCar WithWater.com. The gizmo costs under $200, can be installed by you in your own driveway, won’t affect the warranty on your vehicle, and will extend your gas gallons by 40 percent.

If anyone knows anything about this kind of wonder-works, please contact me.

The power of what we don’t do

“Diet for a Small Planet” was published in 1971, again in 1981, and yet again for a 20th anniversary edition. Its author, Frances Wood Lappe, was ahead of her time, promoting vegetarianism and revealing the downside of agribusiness (it takes 21 pounds of feed to produce one pound of beef).

Still working, Lappe was on public radio last week, and she had a lot of value to share. But what struck me most was her reminder that what we choose not to do has as much power as what we do do.

If you don’t get the cake out of the oven, farewell cake. In matters great and small, what we don’t do matters as much as what we do do.

Linda Farr Macgregor lives in Rumford with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance writer. Contact her: [email protected]


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