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Friday, January 23, 2015

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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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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why Natural Gas is a More Efficient Alternative to Electricity


Hand holding eco house

Homeowners who plan to make the switch to natural gas for some or all of their household needs should consider the various reasons why natural gas is more eco-friendly than electricity in many everyday applications. Taking a look at the differences between gas and electricity in different home applications will make it clear why natural gas is often the greener option.

Stovetop Cooking
Stoves that are powered by natural gas are actually better than electric ones in several ways. For one, the user has more control over the amount of energy actually consumed. An electric stove takes several minutes to reach the optimal temperature for cooking, while a gas stove produces the desired amount of heat instantly. This makes gas stoves more energy efficient than electric ones. Some stoves use a combination of natural gas for cooking, but have an electric pilot light. These stoves ensure that natural gas is not wasted while keeping the pilot continuously lit. Because the Department of Energy estimates that cooking comprises almost 5% of everyday energy consumption, switching to a natural gas powered stove is a more efficient alternative than electricity for stovetop cooking.

Cooling and Refrigeration
Natural gas like that available from plusgas.com.au in Brisbane is one of the only options for off-the-grid refrigeration, and is often used in air conditioning systems. This eco-friendly alternative to electric refrigeration is not considered to have high global warming potential, nor is it believed to have a high risk of causing ozone depletion. These refrigerant systems, called gas absorption refrigerators, do not run on electricity. They are powered by a combination of dry propane and butane.

Home Heating
Natural gas from bottled gas suppliers is the only way some rural areas have access to heat. The technologies used to heat using natural gas can also be used to generate electricity, and this can be an energy efficient way to heat or even power homes that don’t already have access to natural gas pipelines. Combining natural gas with other types of heating systems can reduce emissions significantly.

General Powering
Those who are interested in switching to natural gas, but still want access to electricity, can actually generate their own power using fuel from LPG gas suppliers. Liquid petroleum gas can be used to fuel turbines that generate electricity. While most homes do not produce their own electricity in this way, for those who want to be completely off-the-grid, it is a viable way to produce reliable electrical power. In conjunction with less reliable methods of generating electricity, such as wind power and solar power, bottled gas can be a backup component to create a completely self-sufficient setup that has low emissions and a low carbon footprint.

Homes that switch to natural gas often work directly with liquid petroleum gas suppliers to provide for their own energy needs. LPG gas suppliers provide liquid petroleum gas, often simply referred to as bottled gas. Propane and butane are two of the most common kinds used in all the above mentioned applications. Making the switch to gas often gives homeowners a greater awareness of actual energy consumption within the home, and this can help a household significantly reduce its carbon footprint.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

old is new – a roundup of reclaimed and salvaged wood shelves


salvaged fir shelf

Furniture and accessories made of reclaimed or salvaged wood can not only save living trees from the sawmill, but they can add all the inherent character, patina and charm embodied in the old wood to your home’s decor. Here are few select items we’ve uncovered.

This woodsy shelf unit (above) is created from live edge slabs of wood salvaged from forest restoration activities. The tree has been milled, kiln dried, sanded, cavities have been filled and it’s sealed with hard matte wax. Each shelf is priced separately – by Real Wood Works

handmade reclaimed wood shelfbox

If you’re taste runs toward the rustic – this wall-mounted set of boxed shelves (above) will provide a myriad of decorating and presentation possibilities. Handmade entirely of reclaimed wood. A very tasty $99 @ Del Huston Designs   (more…)

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Top Tips for Growing Vegetables and Herbs in the Wintertime


plants and produceAnyone that lives near or drives through rural regions of America is familiar with the barren landscape that appears during the winter months. With the sun’s heat less intense and its appearances few and far between in the American heartland, winter is not the prime growing season for some of the most important crops in the world. Farmers spend this time processing the crops they’ve grown and preparing them for sale and storage.

What about your home garden? Are there any vegetables and herbs you can grow that will survive the lack of sunshine during the winter months? Below you’ll find some helpful tips to grow vegetables and herbs during the winter, both indoors and outdoors.

Best Vegetables to Grow during the Winter
Believe it or not, there are a number of vegetables you can grow throughout the winter months to produce earlier crops than springtime plantings. These vegetables are hardy plants that can deal with the cold temperatures and lack of sunshine during the winter, and are ready to pick in the spring. According to Thompson & Morgan, the following are some of the best winter vegetables:

  • Onions and Shallots: Planting these veggies in the autumn results in quality crops the next year. Both vegetables look after themselves over the winter, meaning less work and attention from you. Keep in mind that onions have a longer growing season, so they won’t be ready until the following summer. Plan accordingly when you plant.
  • Garlic: Garlic is one of the easiest plants to grow. Garlic, like onions, has a long growing season. You’ll need to plan accordingly to enjoy your garlic next year.
  • Peas: This vegetable is a hardy plant that is capable of growing through the tough winter months, and your peas will be ready for harvesting in the spring.
  • Asparagus: It takes several years to establish an asparagus bed that is easily reused each year, but once you do you can enjoy tasty asparagus that is homegrown. Take note though, asparagus can take two years to grow. Once your bed is established though, the plants can produce for up to 25 years. Additionally, the plants can survive through summer and winter growing seasons with ease.

Indoor Herbs and Vegetables
If you lack the space to grow veggies and herbs outdoors, or the faith in outdoor growing during the winter, you can always care for your plants indoors. Off the Grid News identified the following herbs and vegetables as the easiest to grow indoors during the winter months:

  • Basil: The herb requires just four hours of sunlight each day and proper watering to grow indoors during winter. If necessary, you can substitute the four hours of sunlight for 12 hours under a florescent bulb.
  • Rosemary: This herb needs at least six hours of sunlight each day and can, like basil, survive under a florescent bulb when necessary. One key factor: rosemary needs well-drained soil to survive.
  • Chives: A tasty onion-like herb, chives can survive on minimal sunlight throughout the winter and can easily grow under the glow of a florescent bulb.
  • Tomatoes: Larger tomatoes are difficult to grow indoors, but small cherry and windowsill tomatoes are easy to grow inside during the winter. They require just three to four months to reach maturity and provide a vine-ripened taste that cannot be matched at the grocery store.
  • Green beans: This veggie is available in bush and pole varieties. Bush green beans are easier to grow inside. All they require for growth during the winter is a container that drains well, six hours of sunlight, and about three months to mature.

Indoor Growing with a Greenhouse
If you have the space on your property for a greenhouse or other sturdy, outdoor structure, companies like http://www.4patriots.com/ have the supplies you need. Greenhouses range from simply cold-frame structures to full-size glass structures. Depending on the specific structure you purchase and the vegetables and herbs you wish to grow, a greenhouse can include electricity, heat, benches, lighting, and humidity controls.

Establishing a greenhouse on your property allows you to grow your favorite herbs and veggies outdoors throughout the winter, without worrying about their survival. You can start your seeds earlier, grow throughout the year, and enjoy fresh vegetables year round. Consider the following guidelines as you setup your new greenhouse:

  • Heat & Ventilation: The ideal temperature inside a greenhouse is 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Many structures capture the sun’s rays for heat, while others use dedicated heaters to provide warmth. Good ventilation includes open doors (or lids on cold frames) on warm days and stand fans, when necessary, to circulate air.
  • Shade cloth: Green shade cloths can help control the temperature inside your greenhouse by blocking the sun’s rays during the day.
  • Humidity: For tropical plants, humidity control in a greenhouse is vital. To generate greater humidity during the winter months, place trays of pebbles with water underneath plants. As the water evaporates, humidity is added to the air surrounding the plants.

With these tips and guidelines, you’ll be able to grow your favorite vegetables and herbs throughout the winter.

Author: Allen Baler is a Partner at 4Patriots LLC, a Tennessee based small business that provides products to help people be more self-reliant and more independent. Allen founded the company in 2008 after 14 years as a corporate executive leading profitable business for the Easton Press and the Danbury Mint. He graduated with honors from Harvard University and resides in Nashville with his wife and 3 daughters.

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