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3 Ways to Make Your Kitchen Greener

Posted on: November 9th, 2014 by michelle No Comments

Kitchen renovations are one of the most popular renovation projects that homeowners tackle, second only to bathroom renovations. It’s easy to see why: a renovated kitchen not only improves the flow and function of your living space, it also boasts a high investment return of between 80-85%, on average.*

*Source: Remodeling Online/Hanley-Wood

According to the Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, 49% of homeowners say that using eco-friendly appliances and materials in their kitchen is important. If you want to make your kitchen renovation project more eco-friendly, follow these tips:

For greener cabinets:

  • Choose adhesives or glues that have no – or low-Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) and formaldehyde-free.
  • Refinish cabinets with no- or low-VOC, water based paints and stains.
  • If you use reclaimed wood, find out where the wood came from. Old wood may contain toxic chemicals.

For greener countertops:

  • Look for countertops that are made from recycled or sustainable materials.
  • Avoid using formaldehyde-based glues and adhesives during installation.
  • Seal stone with water-based, low odor sealant.

For greener flooring:

  • Traditional linoleum is durable and easy to maintain.
  • Cork is another green option, but make sure that you use cork that was manufactured in Spain and Portugal, where environmental and health regulations are stricter than in other foreign countries.
  • Bamboo is a great choice. Just make sure it wasn’t made with formaldehyde-based binders.

Also look for the Energy Star certification on the appliances you buy. These appliances are energy efficient, which means more money in your pocket.

Reasons to Consume Local Foods

Posted on: May 15th, 2014 by michelle No Comments

locally-grown

Did you know that on average, food travels 1,500 miles from farm to consumer in the United States?

This industrial approach to food consumption results in more fossil fuels expended, a higher carbon footprint, less fresh, natural and organic food consumption and little economic support for small family farms.

What if we consumed much more of our food that was grown near where we live?  That local approach to food consumption would save energy, support local family farms, improve the quality of the foods we eat and help and grow local economies—a much better scenario, wouldn’t you agree?

Strolling of the Heifers, an organization founded in 2001—works to sustain family farms by connecting people with healthy local food and food systems. Its signature event is the annual Strolling of the Heifers Weekend, which draws over 50,000 people to Brattleboro, Vermont in June each year. What began as a small-town agricultural parade has grown into an important year-round endeavor. Our work encourages entrepreneurship and innovation at farm and food businesses, connects people and organizations around sustainable living and promotes the value of local food systems.

One of the ways they do this is through their annual Locavore Index, a state-by-state ranking of commitment to local foods. Their intentions with the Index is to strengthen local farms and food systems by encouraging efforts across the country to increase the use of local foods in homes, restaurants, schools and institutions.

The Locavore Index incorporates four measures for which current data is available for all states: the number of farmers markets, the number of consumer-supported agriculture operations (CSAs), the number of food hubs — all compared on a per-capita basis — plus the percentage of each state’s school districts with active Farm-to-School programs.

Here are the top ten reasons to consume local foods:

1. Support local farms: Buying local food keeps local farms healthy and creates local jobs at farms and in local food processing and distribution systems.

2. Boost local economy: Food dollars spent at local farms and food producers stay in the local economy, creating more jobs at other local businesses.

3. Less travel:  Local food travels much less distance to market than typical fresh or processed grocery store foods, therefore using less fuel and generating fewer greenhouse gases.

4. Less waste: Because of the shorter distribution chains for local foods, less food is wasted in distribution, warehousing and merchandising.

5. More freshness: Because it spends less time in transit from farm to plate, local food loses fewer nutrients and incurs less spoilage. Therefore, it is fresher, healthier and tastes better.

6. New tastes: A commitment to buy local encourages people to discover new fruits and vegetables, new ways to prepare food, and promotes a better appreciation of the pleasure of each season’s foods.

7. Improved soil: Local food encourages diversification of local agriculture, which reduces the reliance on monoculture — single crops grown over a wide area to the detriment of soils.

8. Attract tourists: Local foods promote agritourism. Farmer’s markets and farm stays, and opportunities to visit farms and local food producers help draw tourists to a region.

9. Preserve open space: Buying local food helps local farms survive and thrive, keeping land from being redeveloped into suburban sprawl.

10. Build more connected communities: Local foods create more vibrant communities by connecting people with the farmers and food producers who bring them healthy local foods. As customers of CSAs and farmers markets have discovered, they are great places to meet and connect with friends and farmers.

Applaud to the Founder and CEO of Strolling of the Heifers:

Orly Munzing is the Founder and CEO of Strolling of the Heifers, a Vermont-based local food advocacy group.  Munzing has a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She worked with students, teachers and parents for 24 years as an educational consultant focusing
on assessment and relational development with youth and adult populations and the understanding of child development and family dynamics.

Drawing on this background, she gathered a group of volunteers in 2001 to help focus attention on the difficulties of small family farms in the Brattleboro region.   In 2002, they organized the first annual Strolling of the Heifers, a parade and festival celebrating farmers and aiming to connect people with healthy local food. Over the years the group launched educational programs, a microloan fund, and farm internship program for youth, which are now all carried on by other organizations.  Strolling of the Heifers also currently organizes the Vermont Farm/Food Business Plan Competition in collaboration with Vermont Technical College.

The importance of becoming energy efficient

Posted on: May 14th, 2014 by michelle No Comments

The amount of energy we use in our everyday lives and its impact on the environment and our bank accounts is a growing cause for concern.

It has led to many governments, private companies and individuals striving to find ways in which households and businesses can become more energy efficient.

This basically means getting more out of using less, primarily with regards to gas and electricity. There are many ways of becoming more energy efficient, with products and advice available all over the internet.

However, many opt not to make any changes and wonder just how big an impact they can have on their lives. The fact is, they can be quite drastic and important to you and others around you.

COST SAVINGS

First of all, something as simple as replacing light bulbs with energy-efficient halogens, CFLs or LEDs can reduce bills by 30 – 80%.

On a larger scale, purchasing Energy Star appliances can cut down on costs by as much as 30%.

Keeping cars tyres inflated and washing your clothes in cold water will also save you money. It may not seem a lot, but combined these small and helpful tips with the many other available on the web and it’ll quickly build up into a more substantial saving.

Despite pressure from the government and consumer watchdogs, energy prices are increasing and you should do all you can to minimise what you pay.

THE ECONOMY

Becoming more energy efficient actually benefits the economy, according to the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE).

An ASE report revealed consumers and businesses in the US save approximately $500 billion (£300 billion) every year through energy efficiency measures.

This leaves individuals with the ability to spend more on other products and services that can drive the economy into a better state, while businesses are in a better position to hire new staff and expand their operations.

In addition, energy efficiency actually creates jobs in itself, with more than 800,000 individuals becoming employed in the US in 2010 because of the growing industry.

THE ENVIRONMENT

Arguably the most important reason for becoming energy efficient is because of the environment, which is struggling to cope with the growing amount of emissions humans are producing.

The ASE report 56% less energy is used in the US today because of strategies in place to reduce these emissions, or enough to power 12 states for an entire year.

Aside from that, introducing energy efficient measures would see instant benefits for people in the developed and third-world areas of the planet. Pollution causes respiratory and inflammatory health issues, but with cleaner air, we’d all be better off.

 

Eco Friendly Gift Wrapping Ideas

Posted on: May 13th, 2014 by michelle No Comments

Some Eco-friendly gift wrapping ideas:

Stockpile old newspapers to use as gift wrap.

Use the comics for kids and black-and-white print paper for sophisticated wrap jobs.

Scout your yard or park for natural embellishments, such as pinecones, sprigs of ivy, or small pine boughs.10178150_10152149892157672_7095066453545277166_n

Clean your laundry the natural way – use soap nuts!

Posted on: January 10th, 2014 by michelle No Comments

Don’t be afraid of soap nuts. Yes, they look a bit weird and smell funky at first, but they work! Your clothes will come out of the washer with a light, fresh scent and very clean.

maggies soap nuts For the cleanest laundry, try soap nuts

Soap nuts are literally nuts from the Sapindus genus of trees, also known as soapberry trees. The shell of the nut contains saponin, a natural cleansing substance that has been used for centuries around Asia for both clothing and skin.

In addition to being an effective cleaner, soap nuts are very gentle on skin so they’re great for people with allergies.

The nuts – which have been de-seeded and dried – are usually sold by the ounce and come with a small, fabric pouch. The pouch holds the soap nuts (4-5 per load) so they can be easily retrieved later.

The nuts can be used up to five times on average before they lose their potency. Based on your water softness, wash temperature, and necessary cleaning power the number and usage of your soap nuts may be different.

After a couple washes the shells of the nut fall apart, but work just as well.  The second best thing about these, is when finished with the, dispose of them in the composter!

Note for apartment dwellers: buy a couple extra bags so you can use your soap nuts on multiple loads at a time.

Get your here: http://bit.ly/1gfbKWi

10 Things You Can Do to Make Your Bird Happy

Posted on: January 4th, 2014 by michelle No Comments

National Bird Day recognizes that birds are non-domesticated animals that belong in the wild where they can fly free and express their natural behaviors. However, due to the large number of birds living in captivity which cannot be returned to the wild and the limited space available in avian sanctuaries, optimizing care of birds held in private hands can go far in reducing suffering and improving the welfare of captive birds. We provide the following suggestions for those with birds in their care.

Provide a healthy and varied diet — not just seeds, but grains, beans, vegetables (cooked and raw) formulated pellets, and some fruit. (Harmful foods include chocolate, avocado, highly processed or overly salted foods, human junk food, and caffeine.) Read a Q&A about the ethical issues involved with feeding birds.

Give your bird the largest enclosure possible — no space is too big for a creature adapted to flying through jungles and across savannas.

Provide daily exercise and ample out-of-cage time, preferably to include free flying in a safe, supervised environment. (Bird-proofing a room for out-of-cage time includes keeping birds away from items containing lead and zinc, and from paint chips, ceiling fans, electrical cords, cats and dogs, and open windows.)

Offer a variety of toys and enrichment activities. (Buy toys from creative BirdyBooty toys and help support bird rescue.)

Provide plenty of socialization with other birds and/or human caretakers.

Give access to unfiltered sunlight and/or full-spectrum lighting. Birds need exposure to UVA and UVB rays from direct sunlight (windows block necessary UV rays) or full-spectrum lighting to synthesize vitamin D necessary for bone health.

Offer daily or weekly misting with a clean spray bottle of water to promote feather and skin health and for fun! Some birds prefer to bathe in a small container (like their water dish); others enjoy being misted with water. It is important to allow the birds to air-dry in a warm room or in the sunshine.

Develop games and teach your bird skills (“jobs”) like foraging or treasure hunts (this can be done in the house or with creative toys in the cage), cleaning up toys by putting them in a basket.

Provide a secure enclosure, carrier, or harness so your bird can enjoy the outdoors with you.

Place multiple perches/stands throughout the house so that your bird can benefit from ambient “flock time” while being included in family activities like watching TV or movies, preparing meals, playing cards or games.

Recycle your Christmas Tree

Posted on: December 29th, 2013 by michelle No Comments

recycletree

After the holidays, don’t throw your Real Christmas Tree in the trash or set it on the curb. Real Christmas Trees are biodegradable, which means they can be easily reused or recycled for mulch and other purposes. Here are some recycling options and tips on what to do with your tree after the holidays. Every community is different, but in general, you have these options:

Curbside pick-up for recycling: Most areas will collect trees during their regular pickup schedules on the two weeks following Christmas.  There are often requirements for size, removing ornaments, flocking, etc.

Take your tree to a drop off recycling center: Most counties have free drop-off locations throughout the county. Usually, you may take up to two trees to a drop-off location at no charge.

Yard waste: Cut the tree to fit loosely into your yard waste container.

Tree recycling/mulching programs: Tree recycling and mulching programs are a fast-growing trend in communities throughout the nation. Check with your local department of public works for information. They chip and shred the trees, then make the mulch available for use in your garden.  Your hauler will notify you of pick-up dates in your area. Be sure to check with your local hauler.

Nonprofit pickup: Call for an appointment to have a nonprofit organization in your area pickup your tree. Some Boy Scout troops offer a pickup service for a small donation (often $5).

Mulch: A Christmas tree is biodegradable; its branches may be removed, chipped, and used as mulch in the garden. If you have a neighbor with a chipper, see if he will chip it for you.

Paths for hiking trails: Some counties use the shredded trees as a free, renewable and natural path material that fits both the environment and the needs of hikers!

Living, rooted trees: Of course, next year, you could get a rooted (ball and burlap or containerized) tree and then plant it in your yard after Christmas. (It’s a good idea to pre-dig the hole in the late fall while the soil is still soft, then plant the tree into that hole immediately after Christmas.) Living trees have a better survival rate in mild climates

Why recycle? Landfills and incinerators are major sources of pollution

Posted on: November 19th, 2013 by michelle No Comments
First, landfills are the largest source of human-caused methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. Second, landfill gas contains hazardous air pollutants including known carcinogens, or cancer-causing substances. Landfill gas contributes to ambient air pollution and may adversely affect the health of adjacent residents and the environment. Third, landfill leachate contains a myriad of pollutants ranging from heavy metals to priority pollutants to organic compounds which can all contaminate groundwater. Once groundwater is contaminated, it is virtually impossible to clean up and the EPA recommends abandoning the source. Groundwater sources provide the drinking water for more than 50% of U.S. residents and are used to irrigate about a third of our cropland.
Despite claims by the incineration industry of reduced air pollution emissions, no new incinerators have been built in the U.S. since 1995. Incinerators are a source of dioxin, the most toxic substance known to man. They also produce mercury, a powerful neurotoxin, as well as other dangerous heavy metals including lead, cadmium, arsenic and chromium. Other byproducts of concern include particulate matter, greenhouse gases, and potentially unknown chemical compounds from incomplete combustion. While high-tech pollution devices can be installed to reduce smokestack emissions, these dangerous pollutants are simply transferred to the fly ash, the hazardous residue which must then be disposed of at a hazardous waste landfill.
Industry

Why Recycle? Recycling saves money

Posted on: November 17th, 2013 by michelle No Comments
It is untrue that recycling costs more than disposal. Selling recyclable mate rials offsets the extra costs of collecting and processing recyclables, making recycling the cheaper option for the community.
The town of Loveland, Colorado built an efficient, government-operated recycling program that saves the town more than $40 per ton over landfilling. Loveland does not require residents to recycle yet still boasts a residential recycling rate near 55%, making the  community a huge success story in the Rocky Mountain region. Plus, all the environmental and public health benefits of recycling, such as reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and the avoided health care costs from a cleaner environment, have economic value as well— more than $55 per ton compared to landfilling.
Read more about Loveland, Colorado and what is they are doing to work together for a better  future here.
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Why Recycle? Recycling saves energy

Posted on: November 15th, 2013 by michelle No Comments
Every year, Americans generate more than 230 million tons of solid waste. By recycling about 30% of our waste every year, Americans save the energy equivalent of 11.9 billion gallons of gasoline and reduce the greenhouse gas equivalent of taking 25 million cars off the road. For every one million tons of material recycled rather than landfilled, we save the energy equivalent of
  • Aluminum: 35,680,000 barrels of oil
  • Glass: 460,000 barrels of oil
  • Newspaper: 2,920,000 barrels of oil
  • Office paper: 1,760,000 barrels of oil
  • Mixed residential paper: 4,010,000 barrels of oil
  • PET (plastic): 9,100,000 barrels of oil
  • HDPE (plastic): 8,870,000 barrels of oil

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