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Monday, January 26, 2015

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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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Monday, January 26, 2015

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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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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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

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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Saturday, January 17, 2015

5 Ways Your Home Could Be Making You Miserable


green home

Most people may never think of their home as the cause of being miserable both mentally and physically. Your environment plays a pivotal role in your daily lifestyle, and disruptions in that environment can come from unlikely sources. However, there are methods that can help you improve your daily routine as long as you can identify the causes of your discomfort. What aspects of the home can directly impact how you function throughout the day?

Dust in the Air
Not everyone is immune to various particulates circulating in the air. Many people are allergic to dust and some don’t even realize the problem. Not being able to breath properly can affect everything from sleeping patterns to physical complications. Furnace filters and carpets that hold dust particles could be causing a great deal of your discomfort.

Mold Spores
Dust isn’t the only thing that can affect you that is airborne. Mildews and molds could be growing in carpet padding and walls wreaking havoc on your lungs. For asthmatics, this could cause everything from cold like symptoms to severe complications leading to an emergency room visit.

Clutter
Many studies have shown that people can be affected by the tidiness of their environment. The more haphazard and cluttered a room, the greater the stress level within a particular individual. Some people can go so far as to having an acute anxiety attack or feel claustrophobic due to a messy home.

Lack of Sunlight
For a lot of people, a lack of direct sunlight can cause severe cases of anxiety and cabin fever. While there are some people that prefer the dark, others thrive when there is a regular supply of sunlight coming into the home.

Temperatures
It has been found that 72 degrees Fahrenheit is an ideal temperature to keep people productive in both school and at work. It only stands to reason that temperature variations could be causing distress in the home. Many people are directly affected by climate, and you could be experiencing discomfort on an emotional level should your home be too hot or too cold.

Organic cleaners and compounds are not solely for those looking to save the environment. They can be used to promote a non-allergenic solution that can help you breath better throughout the day. When looking for a carpet cleaner in Brooklyn, find out if they offer solutions that can improve your lifestyle. Why add to your complications with toxic chemicals from cleaning methods? Your environment directly affects your mental state.

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