Posts Tagged ‘eco living’

Day 100 – The National Geographic Green Guide

National Geographic Green Guide

Green Guide: The Complete Reference for Consuming Wisely is filled with information and tips for living a greener life.  The foreword is by Meryl Streep.  Has anyone else noticed how many books the gorgeous, prolific Meryl has stamped with a foreword?

I recommend reading this book.  You’ll find practical information and advice for making every day decisions.  Here is a quote to give you an example: “Bags, shoes, wallets, and belts – small purchases, but they can have a big impact on the planet.  Look at the material as well as the design.  Is it leather?  Is it PVC?  Was it made in a sweatshop?  You may not be able to make all of your accessories 100 percent green, but some change is better than none.”  The text continues with more details.

Knowledge is power, as the saying goes.  It is true.  The more we know about how and where things are made, the better decisions we will all make in our day-to-day lives.

Day 99 – Carbon Offset

Airplane Takeoff

A carbon offset is a fee that you pay to a company that is a calculated amount based on how many carbon emissions you used.  The fee usually goes towards supporting projects like renewable energy.  Some people refer to it as a “guilt tax,” but I think it is a good thing.  Helping renewable energy is only going to help our world in the long run.  I keep saying this, and I’m going to say it again…being in touch with the impact our lifestyles have on the environment helps us make better and better choices. 

Carbon emissions are emitted by transportation vehicles like automobiles and airplanes and by hour heating and cooling systems among other things, but they are also emitted indirectly by the things that we purchase.  Search online for a carbon footprint calculator to determine the amount of carbon emissions you contribute to the environment.  This is also called your carbon footprint.

Day 98 – Small Scale Solar

Solar Calculator

The small scale solar application that we’re probably the most familiar with is the solar calculator.  As solar technology improves, we’re now seeing more and more accessories powered with photovoltaics (solar energy cells.)  Solar power can now be used to charge cell phones, sound systems, and patio lighting.  The hottest new thing is a backpack with a solar panel that can charge your electronics on the go.

Photovoltaic cells in solar panels use sunlight to generate electricity for either immediate use or for charging a battery for later use.  For me and my calculator this means never having to worry about turning it off because there really is no “off.”  The downside is of course if you don’t have enough sunlight to gain power.  My calculator does not work in the dark or under faint levels of light.

One thing to remember with small scale solar power parts: An item, like a calculator, may be made in one country, but the photovoltaic cell is only a part that may have first come from somewhere else.  It’s pretty much impossible for us to know where all of the parts of a particular item originate.  Please  begin to think about these things.  The next time you invent something, you can source the parts locally!

Day 97 – Host a Natural Scavenger Hunt

Two Acorns in Moss

What a perfect time of year for some fresh air and sunshine!  Gather your children and some friends and neighbors for a natural scavenger hunt.  Children spend more and more time in front of computers, cell phones, and televisions, so get them out of the house for a fun and educational event.

To have a scavenger hunt, make a list of items to find.  The items don’t all have to be easy to find, as long as they are possible to find, and the level depends on the age of the children.  Are your kids learning about the different types of trees in school?  One idea is to have them find and identify leaves as a part of a scavenger hunt game.  Make learning about nature fun!  Pass out the lists to individuals or groups.  The first person or group to find all of the items on the list and bring them back to you for verification is the winner!

Some ideas for your scavenger hunt list include different types of leaves, a stick, a feather, pine needles, and a stone.  For teens and adults, you can have a photography scavenger hunt to find a squirrel or bird, a solar panel, a reusable coffee cup, and a rain barrel.  The possibilities are endless!  This type of event is educational and can be a great team-building exercise for all ages.

Day 96 – Onions

Onions

Green onions…well, not green onions per se, but eco friendly ones.  Ha-ha!  I made a joke.  Well, at least you aren’t crying over your onions…yet.

This is the time of year to stock up on root vegetables.  Onions fall into this category.  Last fall, I bought a 10 lb. bag of onions at our local farmer’s market, and it lasted me all winter.  Now, before you go saying “eeewww” on me, let me ask you this: What do you think the onion growers and stores do?  Tomatoes have to be eaten fresh or canned for storage.  Onions are dried.  When kept in a cool, dry place, they’ll last for months and be as “fresh” as if you bought one from the store.

Ideally, onions are kept in root cellars, but I keep mine in the bottom of my cool, dry pantry with the door closed.  Root vegetables, like onions, actually continue to grow in their storage place albeit very slowly.  That’s why they stay “fresh,” but the key is to keep them from growing too quickly and sprouting before you use them.  Oh, and don’t worry about bacteria or mold.  Onions have natural antibiotic properties that repel bacteria.  That’s also why they shouldn’t be used in your compost pile.

Day 95 – Salvage

Unbuilding

Unbuilding: Salvaging the Architectural Treasures of Unwanted Houses by Bob Falk and Brad Guy is such a cool book!  It tells you how to “deconstruct” or take apart and salvage old buildings.  This is often done when remodeling or demolishing a building.  The art of deconstruction and salvaging, called “unbuilding”  by the authors saves useful items from going to the landfill.

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer who wants to get into a hot new market, then this is for you!  You can also do an online search for salvage shops in your area who may carry the products that have been deconstructed and saved from landfills.

I worked with my client who was remodeling and modernizing a vintage apartment building in Chicago.  When I saw the treasures inside, I called my friends at the local salvage shop.  They purchased doors, trim, hardware, and plumbing fixtures from my client.  The doors and trim went on to be a part of a movie set!  This is salvaging in action.

Day 94 – New Clothes

Clothes!

You want some new clothes, but if you’ve been following along with my blog you might be, as I am on occasion, nervous about it because, once again, you’re delving into new territory.  Have no fear!  Here are some tips to help you make better choices when buying new clothes.

1.     Look for natural fibers.  Cotton, linen, and wool are some of my favorites.  If they are dyed with natural, vegetable-based dyes, this is preferred.  However, perfection is rare if nonexistent right now.
2.     Choose high-quality, long-lasting clothes.  Note: price is not necessarily a determining factor when choosing quality.  My lined, wool slacks are in a classic cut.  They are high-quality and ubiquitously styled to last a long time yet they came from an outlet store.
3.     Newer to the market are ultra stain-resistant and odor-repellant fabrics that don’t need to be washed as often.  I understand the water conservation part of this choice, but these fibers are man-made and not suited to my preference for tactile feel and breathability.  This choice is great for workout clothes, though!
4.     Made locally.  I know that jeans made in the USA are several times the price of those imported from around the world, but there are benefits to shopping locally.  Because of American consumerism, my friend told me that ships come here full and many go back empty.  This multiplies fossil-fuel use and carbon emissions.
5.     Mix and match.  Choosing your base wardrobe so that many pieces work together minimizes the need for new clothes.  Use unique accessories to change the style.

Day 93 – Say NO to Bleach

Nature Bright

 

…say HELLO to Nature Bright! 

Okay, so some people like the smell of bleach, but isn’t it like liking the smell of gasoline or rubber cement or other equally terrible things to breathe?  To me, a clean house smells like…well…nothing!  I suffer from allergies, and indoor pollutants like chemicals and perfumes make me feel worse.  Maybe you like the smell of it, but are your children suffering…or your pets? 

I use Nature Bright for my laundry and stain removal.  It is an “effective alternative to chlorine bleach. [and is] Color safe and can be used with any washable fabric.”  It is of course bleach-free, but is also natural, biodegradable, and contains no phosphates.  Plus, it is 60% more effective than the leading brand on grass stains! 

Don’t suffer anymore.  Support your children with allergies and asthma by eliminating harsh cleaners from your house.  Choose alternatives like this that are safe and effective.

Day 92 – Read “Earth Talk”

Earth Talk

This cute little book called Earth Talk is filled with “Expert Answers to Everyday Questions About the Environment.”  Here are some of the intriguing questions posed – and answered – in this book.  “Are ‘silver’ dental fillings, which contain mercury, toxic?”  “I’ve been hearing that wind power is going to play a significant role in our energy future.  But doesn’t it kill a lot of birds?”  “What impact does mining for diamonds and other gems have on the environment?”  “What’s behind the startling explosion of nut allergies among children?  Is it changes in the kids, the peanuts, or the processing?” 

I am not going to give away the answers.  I know, I know…sorry!  But, that will encourage you to go out and find this book and read it.  It is a simple format to read.  The chapters are main headings that are filled with questions followed by their answers.  Even the experts don’t know everything, so not all of the questions were answered to quell my curiosity, but I learned a lot and found the book interesting and worth the read.

Day 91 – Recycle Electronics

Integrated Circuits

So you have an old computer sitting in storage and there’s that old cell phone that you kept in case you needed some information from it.  There’s the printer that doesn’t work and besides, the cord is for a computer that might as well be a dinosaur.  Well, there is hope for these items.  They can be recycled.

You can’t just put electronics in your recycling bin at home.  Contact your city to see if they have a special collection or a drop-off point.  Try calling your recycling company, too.  Even if they don’t take these items, they may know who will.  In my town, there is an electronics recycling day.  It is wildly popular!  People come from miles around and fill a couple of semi truck beds full of old electronics. 

What happens to these old electronics?  Some of them are put directly into use: computers for underprivileged children, cell phones for the elderly to use for emergencies, and simply resale.  Others are disassembled and stripped of valuable materials that can be recycled individually.  You should ask what will happen to your old electronics.  You want a reputable company doing these things.  If your electronics end up in a third-world country that burns them to extract the more valuable materials, the plastics will cause a super toxin to form in the air, and that affects the air we all breathe.