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Thursday, October 30, 2014

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Crafty DIY Halloween Decorating Ideas


DIY Halloween Lantern Box

Something wicked this way comes: Adding some low impact flare to your Halloween décor

As with any holiday, when looking around for fun decorations it’s important to think about the materials those decorations are made from and what will become of them when they are tossed out. So keeping this in mind and counting down to the last day before Halloween – I’m going to share a fun and simple DIY anyone can do to add some last minute-flare using basic cardboard. (more…)

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

votive candles vs battery-powered LED lights


LED vs. Wick: shedding a little light …

halloween votive candles

A glowing Jack-O-Lantern is about as iconic Halloween as you can get. But lately, more and more families have been switching out their old fashioned candles for new battery-powered LED options. As LEDs grow in popularity they are slowly replacing traditional candles. So the question becomes, are these battery-powered LEDs more eco-friendly than their candle counterparts?

LED votive candles

Let’s breakdown some environmental pros and cons of each option. An LED candle:

  • CONS – it has a plastic body and powered by batteries.
  • PROS – they last longer than a candle (so we won’t go through as many) and they come with no risk of fire or fumes. Here are some rechargeable battery-powered LED votive solutions on amazon.com.

Whereas traditional candles:

  • PROS – usually burn themselves out leaving little behind so there is less waste for the landfills
  • CONS – most candles on the market are made from paraffin wax, which is a petroleum product derived from oil. Burning this type of candle increases dependence on oil and also releases byproducts like carbon dioxide, toxic toluene and benzene. Exposure to these substances is linked to nervous system damage and endocrine disruption. Lastly, there is always a risk of fire.

Perhaps it’s these negatives of a conventional candle that has families turning to the LED option … but with anything battery-powered we need to take into consideration what impact the batteries have.  One-time use batteries are commonly alkaline batteries and when they’re done they are discarded. Almost all Halloween candle LED substitutes use one-time use batteries. And the batteries contain harmful materials like cadmium, lead, mercury, copper, zinc, manganese and potassium that we don’t want leaching into ground water. Because of their toxic nature they can’t be tossed in the recycling bin, nor can they be tossed in the trash. Every city handles battery disposal differently but they do need to be collected and disposed of properly.

acorn candy soy votive candles

(above) Candy Corn Soy Votive Candles with Cotton Wicks, scented with phthalate-free scented oil (3-pack, $9) @ theprismaticpeacock on etsy.

Which brings me back to the candle option … you can make your traditional candle cleaner and greener by: (more…)

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Dark Side of Halloween Candy


Halloween candy

The darker side of what all those trick-or-treaters will be bringing home this Halloween season…

Alongside all the ghouls and ghosts this Halloween season there will be lots of fun sized candy bars, lollipops and sour gummies. For many kids all this candy is the tradition they look forward to the most. Every year for Halloween over $2 billion is spent by consumers on candy. But what are the environmental costs of all these sweet treats? (more…)

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Friday, October 24, 2014

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.  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 s (more…)

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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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