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Friday, October 24, 2014

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Fun Eco-Friendly Goodie Bags for Your Trick-Or-Treaters


candy monster bag with kiddo

When you take your little monsters and princesses out on Halloween night to go trick-or-treating they are going to need something in which to keep all their goodies. Instead of toting those classic plastic pumpkins or caldron buckets, they can “feed” fun and reusable monster bags. These colorful creatures were cooked up by Megan, the shop owner of Doves Nest Designs on Etsy.

candy monster brown bag

(above) These fun monster bags are made of various fabrics and are fed treats via their mouths. When Halloween night is over there is no need to put away these cute creations; your kids can hang them in their rooms and use them to hold various other goodies like small toys, allowance money, socks or anything else they want to feed them. Using fabrics instead of plastic products cuts down on our plastic waste, keeping unnecessary amounts of plastic out of landfills, which is always a plus for the environment.

If you can’t get your hands on one of these masterpieces you can always DIY a Halloween goodie bag; they may not get fed through their mouths but they will still get the job done. For those not very crafty you can just decorate and embellish a reusable tote bag you already own. For those who are crafty you can make your own tote bag from low environmental impact materials like burlap. Just cut some rectangles and strips for handles sew it all together to make your bag. Finish it off with some water based craft paint or embellishments and you’re done.

DIY Halloween tote

(above) Here’s one I made many years ago using a blue canvas tote bag me and my aunt bought from Michael’s. All I did was use some Halloween themed stencils, also from Michael’s, to outline my design and then I painted it in … (see image of blue bag).  My little bag has seen many Halloween nights when I was a monster trick-or-treating and it saved my mom from needing to buy me a new one each year. My treating days many be long behind me but my bag is still in good shape and still getting used each year in my Halloween decoration displays.

Either way you decide to go, finding a substitute for a use once and discard plastic product is an easy way to cut back on cost and impact. So this Halloween season don’t stop at just making your pumpkin or costume greener you can get rid of some of the plastics in your life and green up your treat bags, too.

related: green children previously on alternativeconsumer.com

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Take a Single Action This Month to Save – and Satisfy


By Karen Wirth, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Did you know that October is Energy Action Month?  You’ve probably already heard a lot about the actions consumers can take to save energy—change a light bulb to an LED model or select ENERGY STAR qualified products. But did you know there is one simple action you can take to not only save energy, but save water, reduce utility bills, and shower better?

WaterSense® the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) water-saving counterpart to ENERGY STAR, is a labeling program for water-saving products from toilets and faucets to the systems that control our automatic sprinklers. Before a product can earn the WaterSense label, it must be tested and independently certified to meet EPA’s criteria for both water efficiency and performance.

saving water infographic shower
If you replace just one showerhead in your home with a WaterSense labeled model this month, your family can save more than 2,900 gallons of water each year—the amount it takes to wash more than 70 loads of laundry. A WaterSense labeled showerhead can also save the amount of electricity it takes to power the average family’s home for 13 days and reduce your annual water and energy costs by more than $70.

If you’re worried that using less water will take your powerful shower down to a trickle, think again. Because EPA has set strict performance criteria on WaterSense labeled showerheads for water force and spray coverage, you can be sure to get the same satisfying shower you want and deserve. What’s more, you’ll be saving at least four gallons of water with every shower, not to mention the energy and money it takes to heat that water. In other words, you’ll shower better.

In honor of Energy Action Month this October, WaterSense and many of its manufacturer, retail and utility partners are also celebrating Shower Better Month. Many water utilities are offering free showerheads replacements or rebates on WaterSense labeled models; check out EPA’s website to see if your local utility is one of them. Even if you can’t earn a rebate for purchasing a WaterSense labeled showerhead, you can see how quickly your investment will pay for itself by using EPA’s “We’re for Water” calculator.
Learn more about Shower Better Month and other ways to save water and energy today.

Karen Wirth is the WaterSense marketing and outreach coordinator at EPA.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Five Ways to Go Green When Doing the Laundry


Recycle t-shirt drying on clothesline

Although it may seem like a menial chore, weekly laundry greatly affects our environment. The average washing machine uses vast amounts of energy to heat water and run the dry cycle. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to reduce your personal energy and water use and ultimately reduce your environmental footprint.

All of this is possible by simply greening your laundry habits.

Cut the dryer out of the equation
It’s getting a little too cold and wet to hang the clothes outside and for many, this means putting them into the dryer. Unless you need a certain item of clothing right at that minute, your clothes will dry just as well inside as they will outside. They may take slightly longer but if you time it right, your favourite outfits can be ready for when you need them.

The dryer is the second most energy-guzzling appliance in the household – using it only when necessary will reduce your environmental footprint, whilst saving you money on household bills.

Wear it more than once
Not everything requires washing after just one wear. The likes of thick knits and jeans can take up a great deal of room in our washing machines, which is when wearing them more than once is the greener option.

Use green laundry detergent
A number of supermarkets and health food stores sell eco-friendly detergents. These products do the same job using fewer ingredients. The likes of phosphates (which are found in all conventional laundry soaps) can cause algal blooms that have a negative affect on marine life and ecosystems. Plant-based products are therefore a much better option. Another option is to buy eco-balls – a product that claims to wash clothes without the use of a detergent.

Choose a concentrated detergent
Concentrated detergents boast a smaller carbon footprint and reduced packaging. When investing in concentrated products, make sure you pick up the one that’s right for your machine.

Wash by hand
If you only have a few items to wash, save on electricity and wash them by hand. This is not only a much quicker process; it’s one way to dramatically reduce your carbon footprint.

Organization is the key
Instead of several little washes, aim for just the one big wash every week. This may require organization from all family members but it will be worth it if you wish to green-up your laundry.

Use a cleaning service
Commercial washers and dryers tend to use less energy than home appliances. When you have a rather large load to contend with, take your washing to a laundry service instead.

Avoid ironing
Only iron items when you need to. Aside from using a great deal of energy, ironing has a tendency to deteriorate fabric. A better option is to iron the item prior to it being worn, chances are it will only become creased hanging in your wardrobe over long periods of time anyway!

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Recycled Milk Jug Jack-o’-Lantern Lights


recycled plastic milk jug ghost light

DIY … A spooky way to light your sidewalks this Halloween …

Many times when you’re trying to create crafts around the home inspiration often comes from an everyday item. A neat craft option this Halloween season is to create light-up ghosts, or lights that will invite trick-or-treaters to your door. If the average American drinks about 20 gallons of milk a year odds are a family can save a few jugs for craft purposes. If you’re not a family of milk drinkers or you just don’t have enough gallon milk jugs around the house, fear not. Since 1976 plastic has been the most used material in the United States so odds are pretty good that you have other plastic jugs around the home that you can use instead. And if not maybe your neighbors or friends can pitch-in.

When I was younger I used transformed milk jugs to cover the lantern lights in our front yard, to turn them from everyday white to Halloween appropriate orange. All I used was craft paint and scissors. Ghost jugs make a more impressive statement but are still easy enough to make to be kid friendly.

milk jug jack-o-lanterns

What you will need is: (more…)

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

5 green tips for winterizing your home and garden


fall garden

As the first cold fronts of the season, armed with their accompanying storms and winds shake the brightly colored orange and fall foliage from many northern yards and forests, it’s time to take stock and prep for winter.

Here are five simple tips for making your seasonal transition a smoother, greener, and more economical endeavor:

large composter

  • Gather all ye leaves and compost. Don’t bag the piles of fall leaves that are covering your lawn and haul them to your already-overloaded local landfill. All that organic material is valuable stuff. Invest the time, energy or funds in building or purchasing a composter (you may need more than one). There are online plans for building a designer composter, or you can just go DIY and create one out of heavy duty fencing wire, or cut the bottom off an old trash barrels. The nutrient rich soil that will be created in just a few months of composting can be used to revitalize your lawn, gardens or planters.  (more…)
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

DIY Halloween – Costume Wings in 6 Easy Steps


diy fairy wings

With Halloween right around the corner, it’s time to think about what you’d like to dress up as. Most people buy from places like Party City where they pay high prices for a one-time-use costume. And most of these outfits are usually tossed after Halloween, finding their way into landfills. So instead of choosing a store bought costume this year, a smarter, greener option would be to make one yourself.

I flew around the ‘net and found lots of inspiration, like this: In just 6 easy steps you can make a pair of simple wings for a fairy, lady bug, butterfly or winged creature costume. The main components of these wings are items you can find around the home: old wire hangers and nylons. Add face paint, some appropriate body wear, and you’re ready to take flight.

old nylons

Supplies: nylons or pantyhose you no longer need, paint, elastic, ribbon, a hot glue gun and metal wire. If you don’t have old wire hangers hanging around the house, you can pick up some wire at a craft store like Michael’s.  (more…)

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

4 Ways to Green your Pumpkin Carving


carved Halloween pumpkins

For most fans of Halloween, myself included, a favorite tradition is not the piles of candy or dressing up, but the carving of the pumpkin. Every year, each one in family gets to pick out a pumpkin to carve and display the night of Halloween. Sadly, when the spooky fest is over, our masterpieces end up in the trash … which got me to thinking about all the other families doing just that. In the US over 1 billion pounds of pumpkin are grown every year, if most of us are just chucking our pumpkins in the trash when we’re done that’s is a lot of bio-matter going to the dump. The situation leaves me with two questions: Why are we carving pumpkins? And how can we make having a Jack O’Lantern more eco-friendly?

The tradition of carving pumpkins started back in Ireland as part of an Irish myth involving a man named Stingy Jack. Stingy Jack got in trouble with the Devil and after his death was banished to wander the land with only a coal in a lantern as his source of light. As a result of this myth people began the tradition of carving turnips or potatoes with evil faces then lighting and displaying them in doorways and windows to ward off Stingy Jack and other evil spirits. When Irish immigrants brought their tradition of carving over to the states they improvised by adopting the use of pumpkins instead.

And thus the tradition was born. Now to answer the meatier question – here are four easy ways to make a Jack O’Lantern more eco-friendly.

pumpkins

  • Choose Your Pumpkin Wisely: Buy local and buy organic. Buying from local farmers reduces emissions due to transportation, reduces fuel consumption and supports local business. Also most local farmers tend to use less pesticides and fertilizers. Which blends into buying organic, even if you’re not going to eat your pumpkin buying organic cuts back on the pesticides and fertilizers that go into pumpkin production. Pesticides and fertilizers run off into the environment where they are detrimental to natural systems.

pumpkin cake

  • Save Your Pumpkin Meat: Pumpkin is edible and can be eaten as is or cooked. Instead of buying the big monster pumpkins, opt for the smaller ones who’s tasty flesh can be carved out to make cookies, bread, soup and cake. Nutritional note: fresh pumpkin is cholesterol free and high in vitamin C. There are dozens and dozens of pumpkin recipes online to choose from.

roasted pumpkin seeds

  • Save The Pumpkin Seeds: The seeds that you harvest from your pumpkin can be separated (more…)
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Monday, October 6, 2014

Winter is Upon Us: Save Money by Winterizing Your Home


hand adjusting thermostat

As the days become shorter and the leaves lose their color, autumn arrives with colder temperatures in tow. Homes all across the country will have their thermostats switched from “cool” to “heat,” and furnaces fire into life on the first of winter. Especially in northern states, home heating during the winter months can amount to a significant family expense; drastically more so than the cost associated with keeping a home cool in the summer. Outside temperatures determine how much energy is required for home heating, but even if you or your family live in a moderately cool winter climate, you could easily reduce their energy costs by taking a few steps to “winterize” your home.

First and foremost, there is hardly a reason to keep your home at a comfortable temperature when you are away during the day, unless of course you have sensitive pets. It is important not to completely shut off your heating system, as it could actually take more energy to reheat your home upon your return or damage water lines if you live in an especially cold region, but lowering the thermostat by as little as 10% during the day could result in hefty savings on your home energy bill. (more…)

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