YES! But How? :: Rid Yourself of Roaches

If you're searching for practical ways to live sustainably, just ask us.


Help! My house is infested with cockroaches. What's the best way to get rid of them without using toxic chemicals?

Roaches like to live in warm, damp places with access to food, water, and shelter. The best way to get rid of roaches is through a three-pronged approach: remove those cozy roach crash-pads, trap and kill the roaches with non-toxic traps, and lock the roaches out of your house so they'll never come back.

  • Make your house inhospitable to roaches. Inside, store food in insect-proof containers, keep garbage and trash in containers with tight-fitting lids, clean cabinets frequently (especially the one under your sink) , remove trash and recycling regularly, and eliminate plumbing leaks.
  • Make your own traps. All you need is a quart-sized can, some petroleum jelly, and a slice of white bread. Coat the top third of the inside of the can with the petroleum jelly and place the bread inside the can as bait. Place your traps anywhere you've found roach hideouts, as well as behind the refrigerator and in kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Once the roaches are in the can, they won't be able to climb out because the petroleum jelly is too slick. You can kill the trapped cockroaches with hot, soapy water.
  • Keep new roaches out. Roaches can get into your house through cracks as small as 1/16 of an inch. Common entry points are small cracks in the wall and space around pipes. Seal all cracks and spaces to prevent a new team of roaches from moving in.

For more advice on eradicating cockroaches, visit the University of California's Integrated Pest Management site:

—Sarah Kuck


I am a vegan, and some omnivorous friends have invited me over for dinner. I'm worried that unless I pipe up, I will be presented with a plate of meat and other animal products. I don't want to offend my friends, but I must stay true to my principles. How do I broach this subject politely and without sounding militant or judgmental?

Speaking from personal experience, making this dietary decision can put a real strain on social eating. No good dinner guest wants to reject a slaved-over cordon-bleu in disgust and send the chef sobbing into the kitchen. The best thing to do is communicate with your friends in an open, honest way that refrains from using accusatory terms.
Here are some concrete suggestions:

  • Tell your friends about your dietary needs ahead of time. This will give them some time to prepare.

  • Treat veganism like any other dietary restriction. Would someone who is allergic to peanuts be ashamed to request a nut-free meal? True friends should be willing to keep an open mind and compromise to meet each other's needs. Remember that this applies to you, too. If the time comes for you to accommodate the dietary needs of a friend, treat them with the respect and acceptance you'd like to receive yourself.

  • Don't want to ask your friends to go out of their way to accommodate you?

    Supplement the confession of your dietary needs with an offer to bring a vegan-friendly dish. This will ensure you have something to eat, and you can introduce your friends to the delicacies of vegan cuisine.

  • Be prepared to answer the inevitable question: Why are you a vegan? Respond in an informative, non-threatening way. Focus on arguments that affirm the positives of the vegan lifestyle—increased energy, better health, lower food bill, better for the environment, and a sense of harmony with all living things—instead of immediately jumping to the horrors of factory farming. And stick to the facts rather than delving into the messy (and possibly inflammatory) world of emotions.

For lists of facts covering everything from environmental impact to health benefits of a vegan diet, visit

—Catherine Bailey


I've heard that power strips may be helpful in saving energy, but don't they also consume energy as well? What's the scoop? Should I be using one or not? And do I need to unplug it at the end of the day?

Yes, power strips do consume energy, but the amount used is trivial, less than one watt of power per hour, just enough to power the tiny “on” light. When they are turned off, they consume no power at all.

The real energy vampires are the items that are plugged into the power strip. Even when seemingly turned off, many modern electronics—such as TVs, computers, stereos, DVD players, and printers—are secretly leeching energy, a phenomenon frequently referred to as a “phantom load.”

By continually drawing a reduced amount of energy even when turned off, these devices remain in “standby mode,” ready to be activated at a moment's notice. This is why we no longer have to wait for more than a second after turning on the TV before the picture comes into view and why music will play as soon as we turn on the stereo.

Fortunately, identifying and slaying these energy vampires is easy. First, look for the telltale glowing “eye” (sometimes slyly hidden in the back) that most phantom menaces shine at you even when supposedly turned off. Then plug these menaces into a power strip. When you turn off the power strip, you cut power to all the devices that are plugged into it. The energy-saving potential here is huge, since most phantoms suck at least 4 watts/hour each and there are likely many of them lurking in your home.

—Catherine Bailey


We all know about killing slugs with salt. Here are other earth-friendly ideas from

  • Watering Schedule: Avoid watering your garden in the evening. Water in the morning—the surface soil will be dry by evening, when slugs are most active. Studies show this can reduce slug damage by 80%.
  • Beer: Slugs are attracted to beer. Set a small amount of beer in a shallow wide jar buried in the soil up to its neck. Slugs will crawl in and drown.
  • Diatomaceous Earth: Diatomaceous earth is the sharp, jagged skeletal remains of microscopic creatures. It lacerates soft-bodied pests, causing them to dehydrate. Be sure to buy natural or agricultural grade diatomaceous earth, not pool grade, which has smoother edges and is far less effective.
  • Copper: Small strips of copper can be placed around flower pots or raised beds as obstructions for slugs to crawl over. Cut 2 inch strips of thin copper and wrap them around the lower part of flower pots, like a ribbon. Or set the strips in the soil on edge, making a “fence” for the slugs to climb. Slugs are repelled by the small electrical charge given off when their slime reacts with the metal's ions.
  • Grapefruit Halves: At night, the scent of the fruit will act as bait for slugs. Simply flip it over during the day to reveal the culprits.
  • Seaweed: Seaweed is not only a good soil amendment for the garden, mulching with it repels slugs.
  • Coffee: Coffee grounds scattered on top of the soil will deter slugs.

Catherine is taking time off from her undergraduate studies to intern at YES! She plans to return to college this fall. She was the organizer of the Bainbridge Island, WA, Step It Up event.


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