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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

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Outdoor Furniture: Eucalyptus – A New Type of Wood


eucalyptus table

The most familiar wood on the market for outdoor furniture is Red Cedar, treated Pine, Teak and Oak. But another type of wood available on the market is eucalyptus. Eucalyptus which is native to Australia, Tasmania and nearby islands is a fast growing very hardy plant. It has been harvested for years in its native lands as timber and for fuel; but the trees have been introduced worldwide. In California, San Diego, eucalyptus was introduced as wood for the railways. In China the trees were introduced through reforestation efforts; but were turned to plantations now exceeding 170 million hectares.

eucalyptus bench

So eucalyptus is an abundant wood. But what makes eucalyptus a good option for outdoor furniture is that it is strong, long lasting and as attractive as teak yet less expensive. Also its straight grain, smooth finish and high oil content make it exceptionally durable and weather resistant. Aside from these attributes which make eucalyptus ideal for outdoor furniture, eucalyptus has the following pros.

eucalyptus chair

  • Eucalyptus has a fast turnover rate, harvest can be done in 3-5 years.
  • Eucalyptus can grow in heavily eroded soil and needs only limited amounts of artificial fertilizer.
  • Eucalyptus can be harvested and grown back from the trunk allowing for plantation like planting instead of logging in natural forests.
  • Eucalyptus oil is used in medicinal, cleaning, deodorizing and bug repellent products.
  • Eucalyptus can be used in paper making, tissues and for fuel.

sproutSome of the problems that might make eucalyptus less sustainable are the following. Firstly – eucalyptus is a heavy water consumer. The trees put a strain on the environment drying up water tables, local streams and ground water. Secondly – not only is eucalyptus invasive everywhere except for its native lands it also provides few environmental services to other species and in some cases the trees hinder them.

So in areas of high rain fall, controlled plantations of eucalyptus can be sustainably grown without causing too much damage to the native environment. But in the meantime if you are on the market for patio furniture eucalyptus is a good and abundant candidate. You can check out some furniture options on Plow and Hearth but they are widely available.

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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sustainable Restaurants on the Rise


green business

Without a doubt, the green revolution is in, and it is probably here to stay. Yes, in the past, people would change some habits, but they would not think of the bigger picture, which was a pity as people can really make a difference if they change the way they shop, commute and eat. With that being said, sustainable restaurants are on the rise, and here are a few things to ponder about their rise in popularity.

Recycled materials: First and foremost, when building a restaurant or adding onto it, many owners spend a lot of money to fix up the inside of the place. While it’s great to have a nice dining area, you can do so without spending too much money. At the same time, when adding new furniture, one will probably hurt the environment. Luckily, the trend is in, and people now often use recycled or old furnishing. Not only will it help reduce the cutting down of trees, but it has a certain cool, rustic look. Yes, you can impress people when you use the right used restaurant equipment as they will like the rustic look.

Reduce waste: When you know how to start your own restaurant, you will; probably know that you need to reduce waste, drastically. Not only will you save plenty of cash when you don’t waste food or other resources, but you will help the environment, and your customers will appreciate this fully. Remember, due to inefficiencies and stupidity, lots of restaurants waste food, which costs people a lot of money.

Think local: When thinking on a local scale, a company can save money and resources. Think about this in regards to a restaurant. Ideally, a restaurant owner should buy all of his or her produce and other supplies from local companies. Not only is this good for the planet, but it’s good for business as a lot of people love buying local. Since items are shipped to the restaurant, often from hundreds of kilometres away, if not more, it’s wise to buy local so you can do your part to save resources.

Buy recycled: IF you have the time and a little know-how, you can buy old materials and create your own benches, tables and chairs. If you don’t have that knowledge, you can still buy old furniture. When doing so, not only can you save cash, but you will see as your customers are impressed that you didn’t buy a brand new table made from old-growth trees. Remember, used restaurant equipment is not expensive, and you should consider this in your overall eco plan.

Find local suppliers and minimize e waste: If you want to do well, you should find local suppliers. This is not that hard if you are in the right area. Not only can you reduce your shipping costs and get better quality, but local suppliers won’t truck your food hundreds of kilometers, which will cut down on emissions.

If you want to know how to start your own restaurant, you should think green, this free eBook might even help you figure out some of the business specifics. When doing so, not only can you use fewer resources, but you can enjoy higher profits as people will flock to your restaurant.

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Eco-Fashion Friday Finds – something old and something new


vintage herringbone coat

Being fashionably green takes many forms. For instance, you can buy something fabulously new, ethically made of sustainable fabric, via a zero-waste process – or you can go vintage and ramp up you style by wearing and reusing things that had a previous life like this lovely Jill Sander herringbone coat (above) that you can find at Archive Vintage for $325.

indigo blue crew tee organic cotton

(above) Something new – love the vibrant indigo blue color and Small Mountain pattern of this Lina Rennell crew tee. Made with 100% organic cotton. Styled with a 3/4-length sleeve. $110 @ belkina.com

mandate of heaven vintage

(above) Old is new – if you want a little original style and exotica in your vintage vibe you may enjoy the creations of Mandate of Heaven who create their funky clothing from vintage fabrics and materials.

PrairieUndergroundtarpaulinjacket

(above) Something new – from Prairie Underground’s spring 2015 line comes the Tarpaulin Jacket featuring: a jaunty angled zipper, double-layered funnel neck, and edgy slash pockets. Made with Spandex, hemp and organic cotton. Starts shipping in March @ notjustpretty.com

related: more green fashion finds from The Alternative Consumer

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

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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