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Sunday, October 12, 2014

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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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Friday, October 10, 2014

Eco-Fashion Friday Finds – Spooky Green


red riding hood cape

Want to keep your costume simple, classic and eco-friendly? Loving this Little Red Riding Hood hooded cloak made of organic cotton and soy spandex. The cape/cloak will cost you $85 and answer all those “Who are you dressed as?” gazes. Just avoid encounters with any big bad wolves. From Nancy Campbell and Soul Role.

xray halloween maternity shirt

What does a Halloween costume say about a person? If you have a bun in the oven, or just want to start the rumor that you do, this t-shirt will get the job done. This X-Ray Pregnancy shirt (above) featuring a little x-ray baby is screen printed by hand and made of bamboo and organic cotton. $24.99 from Bump Covers Maternity Wear

recycled silver skull necklaceIf you’re looking to accessorize for a Halloween event or just give off a goth, spooky vibe, you may consider a nicely designed, handmade skull necklace in recycled sterling silver (above). This necklace smiles in the face of mortality. $190 from Me&Ro

childrens eco felt animal masks

If you’re in need of a last minute costume solution for the kids – or you want costume solutions that will (more…)

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

design Provocateur – vintage furniture given new expression


burning rainforest chair

Art or furniture? The answer is – both. design Provocateur is a New Jersey based collection of artists, architects and designers led by Robert delPazzo. The design group creates furniture and decor that merges art and design with discarded, recycled and vintage materials to create unexpected art furniture – like their “Louis XV” gilt lounge chairs (above). The chairs have been re-upholstered with custom printed cloth featuring a thought-provoking image of the burning rainforest. (The rainforest image was custom printed on the fabric by Duggal of New York)

painted vintage chaise lounge

The striking vintage chaise lounge (above) has been custom painted by artist Nelma Guimaraes. This OOAK piece features a secret storage compartment under the cushion and oodles of exotic style.

recycled love seat

The “Dirty Secrets Bench” (above) is constructed from an eclectic assortment of chairs backs and furniture pieces – all (more…)

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Let the EWG Seafood Calculator Determine the Best Seafood for You


circling school of fish

Most people know the health benefits from regularly including fish and other seafood in their diets; they provide us with the essential, long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. A third, short-chain form of Omega-3 is found in several plant seeds and nuts, but the forms found in seafood are proven to have more effective health benefits. On the other hand, there are opposite reports of the health risks associated with eating seafood due to an increase of toxic mercury levels in the world’s oceans. In fact, a recent study concluded that in “ocean waters shallower than about 100 meters… have tripled in mercury concentration since the Industrial Revolution.” Emissions from coal fired power plants, smelting, cement manufacturing and certain mining activities are only some of the industries contributing to a unnatural amount of airborne mercury, which is eventually deposited in water bodies around the world, infecting marine life. So while the Omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood are essential to our health, harmful levels of mercury could accompany them. Luckily, the cost – benefit analysis between these two traits in different species of fish has been spelled out in a quick and pleasing “seafood calculator” from Environmental Working Group. (more…)

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tomato Sushi? a tasty, vegan way to save bluefin tuna


Mediterranean bluefin tuna

Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see sushi sold in your local grocery store. Sushi has been rising in popularity over the years, and alongside it, the demand for fish; in particular tuna. In Japan, the Bluefin tuna is considered to be the cream of the crop and the average price for one Bluefin in Japan’s main fish market, Tsukiji, can range from 2,000 to 20,000 dollars. With prices like, that it’s not hard to see how fishing is a multi-billion dollar industry. But unfortunately, these high prices have also led to excessive overfishing.

According to the Blue Ocean Institute Bluefin tuna has been exploited heavily science the 1970’s. And in 1996 the World Conservation Union listed the western populations of Atlantic Bluefin as critically endangered and the eastern population as endangered. With no end in sight to the demand, and no end to the exploitation, it’s only a matter of time before populations collapse.

tomato sushi

In response to a client’s challenge of creating vegetarian sushi, Master Chef James Corwell came up with the idea of Tomato Sushi. The San Francisco based chef and his chef-partner, Brian Doyle, created the company and product:  Tomato Sushi(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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The Cycle2Work scheme: What is it?


bike messenger

The Cycle2Work scheme has been an odd phenomenon. Even though it was introduced in the 1999 Finance Act and first enacted in 2003, it’s one of those things which people tend to have heard of in passing, but otherwise don’t know much about. Despite this, the scheme has been a roaring success, with more than half a million people having taken part — 61% of them having never regularly ridden a bike before.

The idea is fairly simple: to cut down on the environmental impact of cars and help improve employee health, your employer helps subsidise the cost of a new bike and cycling gear, for which he or she is then reimbursed by the government, in order to entice you into cycling to work rather than driving. Typically speaking, a participant can save up to 42% off the cost of a new bike, with employers enjoying the benefits of the equipment being a tax-exempt benefit.

For employers, the Cycle to Work scheme is currently one of the most sought-after employee benefits and is completely free to set up, with employers across the country reporting a significant increase in staff wellbeing and a reduction in the number of days taken off sick by their staff. The financial benefits are far more wide-ranging than simple tax breaks.

bicyclistThe environmental and health benefits of cycling to work rather than driving are pretty clear, but it’s the financial benefits which often convince people into opting for the Cycle to Work scheme. There are savings to be made on National Insurance Contributions as well as the reduced costs of commuting and the expense on petrol and car repairs. With someone participants having sold their commuting cars altogether, there’s actually money to be made through the scheme if it’s done correctly.

It would be fair to say, though, that the government had hoped it’d be far more successful than half a million participants over the course of ten years. The UK’s workforce is around thirty million, so the number of Cycle to Work participants represents less than 1% of the workforce over the past decade. At any given time, it’s probably far less than half of that figure. Even that relatively small number can make a huge difference, though. It’s estimated that the scheme has so far reduced carbon emissions equivalent to that of a town the size of Doncaster for a whole year.

The programme is still open to new participants and continues to be renewed by the government, who are keen to encourage more people into it. Of course, the take-up in Cycle to Work comes at the cost of the huge recent success of the British motoring industry, which the present government are very keen to keep talking up. Is this why, then, they’ve been a bit quiet about the Cycle to Work scheme? As the Coalition are less than keen to talk up the successes of the previous Labour administration, that might explain some of the silence.

Silence or not, though, the Cycle to Work scheme is still around and is still taking on new participants, with an 8% rise in participation following the 2012 London Olympics with more than 86,000 new cyclists taking to the road as part of the Cycle to Work scheme. With cycling being one of Britain’s top sports in terms of Olympic success, it is often the case that retailers such as Halfords see huge boosts in the sales of bikes to children and teenagers around the time of a successful Olympic Games, but to see the enthusiasm spill over into the adult workforce was particularly satisfying for those who welcome the new, healthy, green agenda.

It would be fair to say, too, that as we head into the cold half of the year it’s likely that the take-up in interest will be significantly lower. Cycling in Britain isn’t a year-round activity, with icy roads and bitterly cold winds deterring even the keenest of cyclists. That’s why, though, it’ll be even more interesting than ever to see what the participation figures are like for the Cycle to Work scheme in the coming months.

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

DIY: How to make a solar powered jack-o’-lantern


solar jack-o'-lantern

With fall upon us and stores bursting with Halloween supplies, many of us are starting to decorate our homes and yards. Lighting is always a fun way to give homes some festive curb appeal. What’s better than a glowing jack-o’-lantern? Buying a bunch of pumpkins and carving them every few nights doesn’t seem like a practical idea. And since electricity should not be wasted nor toxic batteries tossed, how about going solar? A solar-powered jack-o’-lantern is a great and green do-it-yourself option to bring some of the spirit of Halloween to your home.

clear glass bowlAnyone of any craft skill level can make these lanterns at home in three simple steps. Before you begin, gather the following:  (more…)

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