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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

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Designer Spotlight: Joining Wood and Metal – Hilla Shamia


Hilla Shamia bench 2

Designers have always sought out wood for its natural beauty and warm organic feel. A designer turning out a new twist on wood furniture is Hilla Shamia. Shamia’s work is a beautiful example of contrasting materials that work together. Shamia developed her technique while studying for her B.Des. in the Department of Industrial Design at Holon Institute of Technology, Israel.

Hilla Shamia casting

Shamia’s stunning pieces come in a range of tables, stools and benches. They are made by first positioning the wood into a mold. Molten aluminum is then poured into the mold filling in the cracks and crevasses of the wood. Because wood has a burning point around 250 degrees Celsius (482 degree Fahrenheit) and aluminum has a melting point of about 660 degrees Celsius (1220 degree Fahrenheit); where the molten metal touches the wood, charcoal forms.
Hilla Shamia benches

The layer of charcoal creates a transitioning barrier between metal and wood. The process preserves the natural form of the wood while joining it to the metal. Shamia calls this process wood casting. Because no two trees are the same and you can never predict the final outcome; each piece is one of a kind. Being one of a kind means you won’t be finding one in your local furniture store, however some pieces are listed on Discover Deliver, price upon request. The current pieces listed are composed of cypress and aluminum.

Hilla Shamia table

You can check out Hilla Shamia’s Facebook page for posts about availability, article mentions and more. But aside from the natural beauty of these pieces they are keeping it sustainable as well. Her metal of choice aluminum is recyclable. And although some designs are made with Cyprus the designer also works with Eucalyptus which is a fast growing sustainable wood.

related: more innovative design featured on The Alternative Consumer

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Green Your Home Like an Expert!


Family sitting in hammock

When you “Go Green and Sustainable” you make choices that involve participating in an environmentally friendly lifestyle. The intention of these lifestyle choices and initiatives is to create ecological integrity by helping to protect the environment and sustain its resources for future generations.

The green movement has created a new huge marketplace and profit center. To take advantage of this opportunity many corporations are using the word green or even just the color green as a marketing tool. There is a term used to describe the deceptive use of green PR or green marketing. That term, “greenwashing,” refers to the practice some companies employ of disingenuously spinning their products and policies to make them appear environmentally friendly when, in fact, they are not. As an informed consumer, your best way to make sure your dollars are buying and supporting safe, environmentally-conscious products, companies and practices is to carefully research all products.

This may feel like an overwhelming task to take on and you may ask yourself, “Where do I begin?” Early on, reading labels and analyzing ingredients was daunting but today third parties verify and certify everything you plan to use; from green cleaning products to dishwashers.

The following are some tips to help make your walk down the path of greening your home less intimidating and more easily attainable.

1.  Energy Efficiency

  • Drafts in your home through windows and doorways are very common and cause us to use more energy to heat and cool our environments than necessary. Foam or caulk are commonly used in areas where outside air is leaking into our homes. You may not have heard of SIGA Tape which has long term durability and less chemicals than the foams and caulk on the market.

2.  Lighting

  • Your incandescent light bulbs are using more energy and blowing out much faster than CFLs and LED lights. The CFLs do have mercury in them so disposing of them properly when they die is very important. LEDs do not have that problem and have a much longer life however they are an investment-they are the most costly of the options.

3.  Energy Star

  • Whether a washer, dryer or refrigerator, all appliances that are Energy Star are labeled explaining energy savings and power usage. For washers and dishwashers look for the Water Factor (WF) rating of the appliance. The lower the WF number the more water efficient the equipment is.

4.  Cleaning Products and Materials

  • There are thousands of products that contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that are used in the home. Paints, carpeting, adhesives, flooring and textiles just to name a few, most often have VOCs that are off-gassing in our indoor environments causing possible allergies and health threats to us and our families. Find information on over 2000 products on the Environmental Working Group website.

5.  Waste

The rule of thumb in our daily lives is to:

  • Reduce Waste
  • Reuse
  • Recycle

It is especially important to follow this rule during construction and remodeling when waste accumulates in bulk very quickly. Conscious calculations and responsible decisions add up. A good example is to calculate how much paint to buy for your project. One gallon of paint covers approximately 400 square feet. Extra opened paint cans is extra waste that can be avoided.

Going out for a coffee? Bring your own cup with you!  Do you have dinner reservations? Bring a container from home for left overs. Change is never easy, and I applaud you for your willingness to get started. The challenge is even greater and the stakes higher when we deal with those things in our homes that can harm us. I encourage you to keep at it and educate yourself. Small changes today can lead to a healthier tomorrow for us and our planet.

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Why Teaching Kids to Play Outside Creates Eco Conscious Adults


be happy

If you have kids and you want them to live an eco-conscious lifestyle, you need to lead by example. Yes, if you sit around on the Internet or play video games while your children are home, you are setting a bad example for a few reasons. With this in mind, you are going to help your cause greatly if you teach kids to play outside, and here are five reasons teaching kids to play outside will help them learn how to become more eco-friendly adults.

See animals: First and foremost, a lot of people never really see non-domesticated animals. Think about it, when you only see your cat or dog and the occasional squirrel, you will not realize that the world is full of animals, some of which need protecting. Luckily, if you take your kid outside and they see animals in the wild, they are going to have an easier time understanding why it’s crucial to protect animals and make sure they do not suffer or live in a habitat that is bad for them.

Protect what they love: When out in the playground riding around on playground equipment, your kid will see that nature is great, trees are beautiful and it’s great to go outside. For this reason, when you want your child to learn how to respect nature in a smart and kind way, you are going to help your case greatly. Simply put, when your child is outside and sees nature in its true beauty, he or she is going to have fun. You can start small by simply installing playground equipment, which will help your children stay safe while outside.

Recycle t-shirt drying on clothesline

See the negative effects: Without a doubt, if you look at the outside world, you can see that humans are damaging it badly. Not only is global warming on people’s radar, but a lot of people seeing the problems associated with logging and treating the entire planet poorly. If your kid goes outside and sees the negative side effects at a young age, he or she is likely to care more about the future and take action. Yes, not only will your kid understand the issues he or she will face in the future, but they will see it up close and in-person.

Garbage all over: If you are smart, you will take your kids on hikes and how them the outside world. Not only that, if you have the time, you need to take them to the beach and show them the bad shape it is in. Yes, humans seemingly don’t care about throwing garbage in the ocean and on hiking trails. If you show your kids this, you are likely to convert them into people who care about the environment. In reality, young kids are often helpful in bringing change as they have more common sense than plenty of adults who are not always thinking about such issues. So, for this reason, if you want to take your kids outside, you need to show them some of the bad.

It’s wise to teach your kids to go outside all the time. Not only is it better for their health, but they will appreciate and protect the world around them.

This post comes from our friends at Kompan, check out their line of play equipment to see how they have incorporated educational features into the natural fun of playing.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Eco-Fashion Friday Finds: style and substance


amour vert organic cotton jacket

It’s on sale! The Amour Vert Riley Jacket (above) features an sleek modern silhouette, an off-center zipper and a herringbone pattern. The jacket is made of organic cotton in the USA. On sale for $128, marked-down from $184 @ kaightshop

grandaddy t recycled stuff

This Grandaddy Vee shirt by Groceries (above) is made of unbleached, natural hemp and comes in white or grey. Groceries produces fair trade products in California using 100% organic or recycled materials. This classic v-neck tee has a dipping front and back hem that will give you a little protection fore and aft. The t is featured on Good Goods, a web store that features products that support a minimal and modern aesthetic and meet high standards for animal rights, human rights and sustainability. Check them out. BTW – the shirt goes for $62 @ thegoodgoods.co

hemp and organic cotton scarf

Everyone needs a go-to scarf. Pretty Birdie hand-dyed this organic cotton and hemp classic in it-will-go-with-anything grey, using low-impact, eco-friendly dye. $45 from Stephanie Trippe and Pretty Birdie.

latitude and longitude wedding rings

If you’re planning a wedding you’re probably shopping for rings … these Latitude and Longitude wedding bands can help you remember exactly where you were married without checking your GPS. Handmade and hand-stamped (you can add any text you like) in 100% recycled sterling silver. $127 from the cheekily named – Monkeys Always Look.

related: more eco-fashion finds from The Alternative Consumer

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

A DIY Guide to Starting Your Own Terrace Garden


get your green on

If done with precision and care, preparing an Organic Terrace Garden can be very easy and methodical. Let us walk you through some simple and low-cost ways on the basics of getting started with your own terrace garden.

What would you require?
1. Space
First and foremost, you must ensure that you have ample space in your terrace/balcony for plants to grow, and where you can fit in a few containers. You must also have sufficient space to sit and work comfortably in.

You must ensure the flooring of your terrace is water proof and there is an outlet for the water to flow out instead of flooding the space.

2. Containers
A container should be able to hold water and soil and other ingredients within itself. For short-term usages you could also use an oil can, a vegetable/milk crate, a good thick UV treated plastic grow bag, water bottle/can, used paint buckets, PVC drainage pipes.

You could use plastic pots of size 10 or 12 or more which are good enough for a single plant like tomato, chilli, brinjal, capsicum etc. Also commonly used are pots made out of clay, mud, cement, terracotta and so on.

3. Sunlight
You must ensure that your terrace receives adequate amount of sunlight. You can place your plants in different regions of the terrace depending upon how much sunlight that area receives. You also have the option of putting up shade nets to control the sunlight reaching your plants. Flowering plants like roses can be placed directly under the sun.

4. Water
Maintaining a terrace garden would demand generous amounts of water and hence you must ensure that there is a consistent source of water supply on your terrace. Provision to use a hosepipe would be ideal.

5. Gardening tools
A good pair of gloves, a hoe, a fork, a pruner and a spade are the 5 basic tools you’ll need, to get started on your garden. You could visit sites like ChameleonJohn to get coupons of various hardware stores to avail great discounts on purchase of these gardening tools.

Pre-seeding phase
Creating the compost is the most crucial and time-consuming part of the Organic terrace gardening process. You need to mix your kitchen waste, leaves and other biodegradable materials and place it in a container with holes underneath it. Turn the mixture every alternate day and within a couple of months, your homemade compost should be ready. You could use catalysts like horse dung to quicken the process further.

Seeding Phase
The first step in this phase is procuring soil which can be a challenge in urban areas. However, at this stage the quality of soil does not matter. Therefore, you can even get some soil available at any construction site.

The second step is mixing the soil with the successfully prepared compost in a container.

The third step is the actual planting. Place the seeds half an inch under the level of soil. Place a greater number of seeds as it increases the probability of germination. The seeds should sprout within two fortnights. If not, repeat the process with more seeds.

Post-germination care
Once the seedlings rise, care needs to be taken to ensure their proper development. Timely watering, ample sunlight provision, protection against mites and soil-tending needs to be done on a regular basis for your terrace garden to blossom. After your plants mature, you can even use the process of cutting instead of seeding to grow new plants thereafter.

Starting your own terrace garden can be challenging at some levels but is a very rewarding project. Apart from being able to grow your own set of flowers and vegetables, they increase the aesthetic value of your home and balance the ecosystem around you. So go on, and put your green fingers to a field test!

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Off the Grid Solar: Sustainable Energy Meets Sensible Design


lumi solar (original at night)

One of the obstacles hindering the growth of solar power is that it is still connected to the grid. Because solar in some cases is connected to and supplemented by the grid; it is not self-efficient. The people against solar make this argument, arguing that solar is not a viable option because it cannot work on its own. Lumi Solair, a New York based company, addresses this concern and specializes in off-grid self-efficient products. Lumi Solair has three different lights designed to light streets, parking lots and both private and public space. The three models are the Original, Swan and Classic; all of which are stylish.

lumi solar

1. Original is an off the grid solar and wind powered lighting unit that provides reliable lighting in the most demanding of environments.

  • The structure stands 25 feet tall, is composed of aluminum and can stand winds up to 110 mph.
  • The solar panels are a 200 W polycrystalline panel.
  • Has its own energy management system, a lithium Iron phosphate battery, a 10 year lifetime and is 100% recyclable.
  • The light is an LED and dark sky rated.
  • Its additional turbine is 250 W at 10 m/s and has power generation below 5 mph.

swan solar light

2.  Swan is strictly an off-the-grid solar lighting unit. Installing the Lumi Solair swan can save you more than 45% when compared to conventional lights.

  • The structure stands 25 feet tall, is composed of aluminum and rated for winds up to 150 MPH.
  • The solar panels are a 320 W polycrystalline.
  • Has its own energy management system, a lithium Iron phosphate battery, a 10 year lifetime and is 100% recyclable.
  • The light is an LED and is dark sky rated.   (more…)
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