Archive for the ‘Green/Sustainable’ Category

Sustainable Home Decorating on a Budget

Over the past year I have come to the realization that many people I know have an uncanny knack for something, not that unlike a superpower.? Dan and Alicia have this amazing ability to find anything.? It is almost as if God has sent angels for the sole purpose of bestowing them with free gifts.? Like last Fall, walking our neighborhood they found and gathered enough apples to make gallons and gallons of apple cider.? Meanwhile, Kendall and I couldn’t even find a single apple tree on our walks.? Similarly, Jared is the king of getting steals-of-a-deal when it comes to buying anything from train tickets to office furniture.? Then there is my sister, Kathryn, who can sell anybody anything (usually on craigslist) while never budging on her price.? When moving from Chicago to Houston last summer with only room for what would fit in her Civic, she had to sell many of her possessions and after doing so found that she made a profit in the process.

Well, today, I am happy that we are being joined by one of my superheroes.? Kathryn has been kind enough to agree to share another one of her gifts.? With her cross country moves (Dallas to Chicago to Houston) Kathryn has gotten unbelievably good at sustainably furnishing empty apartments on a small budget.? She has gathered a few of her tricks and ideas and written them out for us below.? Please give her a warm welcome!? Enjoy.

Oh and I think the key to all of their superpowers may be vision and balls.? I am not sure which one I am missing.


?We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors….we borrow it from our children.?
-Native American Proverb

This quote inspired me to share with you some ideas that can not only ?cuten? up your home, but make you feel good about doing it!

One of the greatest issues facing our environment is the severe amount of waste that we produce. We can all do our part to reduce the number of disposable items we use, but we can also help by reusing what we already have. Have you ever had a table that just didn?t work with your room anymore? Or a lampshade you suddenly found dull? Before you toss it, here are some ideas to spruce it up and essentially create a new table, without the waste and without the buck.

An easy way to add a little pop to your room is to recover your table with a cute fabric or paper. Start with the top and move to the legs if you are up for a bit of a challenge. Arrange your paper/fabric (you can combine several different styles to create a fun design) onto the top of the table. Make sure the papers/fabrics are cut to fit the exact size. Place your design aside and paint the table with a water-based polycrylic protective finish. Now lay your design back on top of the glue and set it in place. Use the same protective finish to paint a seal on top of the design. Repeat this process on the legs if you desire.

A more complicated, yet rewarding, approach to recovering your table is to mosaic it. You can always find cheap plates at any second hand store. Just break them up and adhere them in a fun pattern with craft glue. Add some grout and you will have a brand new look.? Here are a couple tutorials I found.

If you like painting, you can always paint (using zero-VOC paint) a solid color on the table and then paint a fun design or pattern on the top or sides. I?m a big fan of silhouettes, so I constantly find myself painting something black and then painting a leaf or floral silhouette on top. You will end up creating a completely unique piece that can?t be found at the closest Pier 1.

Even if you don?t have an older piece of your own to play with, Craigslist and garage sales are the perfect places to find a fixer upper. For $5-$10 you can find solid pieces that simply need a makeover. This way you save money buying used, you cut down on the amount of waste the table could potentially cause, and you find yourself with hours of entertainment creating your own masterpiece.

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A fun idea I had came about when I was shopping at the Canton Marketplace. I found an old window for $7 in the garage sale section. I also had an Eiffel Tower poster displayed at home in a regular frame and I wasn?t crazy about the look. So, I took the window home, cleaned it up with a rag and then placed the poster behind the window, transforming a regular poster into a really unique addition to the living room. Even better is that it only cost about $15 total for the window and poster.

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Just remember….don?t limit yourself and don?t worry about messing up! Almost anything can be sanded down for a clean start. These techniques can be used on picture frames or mirrors as well. Basically treat any item as though it is your canvas for creation! Check back in soon to find a fun and easy way to liven up your lampshade and much more!

Sweatshop Free/Fair Trade Shopping

I was asked in response to my post yesterday to provide some suggestions as to what some of the best/worst companies to support are with regard to fair trade or to provide a resource.? Co-op America’s Repsonsible Shopper is probably the best resource that I can point you to.? It allows you to search for companies and get information about their environmental and social track record.? It is not a comprehensive list, but they are always adding new companies to their directory. Gap (this includes Old Navy and Banana Republic), Wal-Mart are some of the most notoriously bad companies as far as fair trade practices go.? Gap has repeated accounts of terrible working conditions overseas, including employing children as young as 10 years old in their sweatshops.? Some of the biggest complaints against Wal-Mart involve its treatment of workers in America.? According to reports, thousands of their employees are underpayed and rely on government assistance to meet their basic needs.? Nike is another traditionally bad company to support, however, they have been making a concerted effort to change their overseas labor practices. They recently have been more transparent about the locations of their factories and are being independently monitored.

Co-op America also has a great article on sweat shop free clothing.

Here is a list of some basic tips:

  1. Buy local.? Not only does this support your local economy, but you get to know the person creating the product and you can ask them as many questions as you like about their practices.? This goes for anything from food to clothing.? The clothing will more than likely be more expensive because it is handmade, but it guarantees that the product that wasn’t made in a sweatshop.? Etsy is a fun site to check out for handmade goods.
  2. Buy used products.? Go to a thrift store or local consignment shop and look around.? You will find some great deals.
  3. Research the companies you are buying from.
  4. Look for a UNITE label.

It is important to note that none of these can guarantee that the entire product was made in a fair trade facility.? Most products are assembled from pieces made all over the world and a Made in America label could mean that only the finishing touches were put on in America (like buttons).? However, following these guidelines is still important.? It is just not a perfect solution to the social justice issues of labor practices.

Here are a few more helpful resources in your search for responsible shopping:

No Sweat Apparel

Co-op America’s National Green Pages

Green Home’s Products Page

Fair Green Trade

The Green Earth Directory

Finally, I would like to leave you with an interesting article on Portland, OR, a city that is attempting to go sweatshop free.

Apple goes green with new aluminium MacBooks

Apple unveiled it’s new campaign to promote it’s new line of laptop computers. They call it the greenest notebook Apple has ever created. They have also released their Environmental Report for 2008 which outlines and gives environmental information about their products and facilities.

Some highlights about the new line of MacBooks and MacBook Pro laptops (information provided by Apple).

  • Arsenic-free glass
  • Mercury-free LED-backlit display
  • Brominated flame retardant-free internal components
  • PVC-free internal cables
  • Highly recyclable aluminum and glass enclosure
  • Up to 41 percent smaller packaging

Apple has taken a lot of heat over it’s environmental practices in the past. A couple of years ago they pledged to remove PVC and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from all of their products by the end of 2008. CEO Steve Jobs says that they are on track to meet their goals.

It’s pretty cool when a company that has as much attention and mindshare as Apple makes these claims and then meets the goals they’ve laid out. This, along with many other reasons, is why our household is committed to buying Apple products.

Organic Undies

Sorry I have been gone for a bit. School is a total time sucker and in attempting to continue to live a simple life I must choose to give up some activities that I enjoy doing. Since spending time with my hubbo and sleeping will not be sacrificed (not even to school no matter how hard it tries to weasel its way in), my blogging cannot be as regular as I would like it to be. Unfortunately this will continue to be the case until I GRADUATE, which will be in DECEMBER!!!!

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However, I did want to share with you an awesome find. Nordstrom is now selling Holistia Organic cotton underwear. It is so soft and comes is simple solid colors as well as some funky designs (most of which they unfortunately don’t picture on their site). The one down side is that when I was in the store I read the Ethical Fashion tag and interpreted it as Ethical labor practices. I wasn’t until I was in the middle of writing this post that I realized that it just talking about the environmental practices. So, it isn’t perfect but it is a step in the right direction, especially since cotton is the number one pesticide crop.

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A little environmental School House Rock

Eco School

Working on my Undergrad degree has been a broken trail for me as I have steadily committed to give it a place of importance, but never wanted it to be The Most Important piece in my very full life. There are other things that I have come before and will always come before my formal education. That being said, it has over the years remained important to me to graduate with a Bachelors degree and because of this I made a return to school last September. I am now attending University of Washington and it has been a very positive experience and I am very much enjoying this part of my life. There are some changes to my schooling habits that I have made upon my return that I would like to share with you.
In the spirit of ecological responsibility at universities around the world, I now present you with NOTES on Environmental Changes for Students (or anyone really):

  1. Travel Mug filled with: fair trade, organic tea; fair trade, organic, decaf coffee; or fair trade organic hot chocolate. So, good. Drinking a warm beverage is lovely on these cold, wet Seattle days.
    • Produces less waste than disposable cups
    • On campus they have a Tully’s that only uses fully compostable cups. However, unless you actually put these cups (like any compostable products) in your compost they are not compostable.
    • It provides a lovely treat while sitting in class or studying.
  2. Bring a refillable water bottle
  3. Take public transportation (or of course walk, bike, or carpool)
  4. Rebinders
  5. Recycled notebook paper
  6. Take notes on my computer through WordPress (how to below):
    • Install a webserver on your laptop. It’s easier than you think. There are packages that make it easy to install and setup (MAMP for a Mac and WAMP for a PC).
    • Create a database using the tools installed with either MAMP or WAMP.
    • Install WordPress. There will be some manual text editing you need to do for setup, but it’s minimal.
    • Create categories for each of your classes.
    • Start a new post for each class session.

    When you use this method of taking notes, you can easily look back at past class periods by date, and also there is a search function installed by default. If you run into trouble, my husband has offered assistance to those who need some direction. You can get in touch with him over at his company web site Vigilanteweb.

  7. Print only when a Professor requires a hard copy of an assignment and print on both the front and back of each paper.
    To print on the front and back from my computer I:

    1. Press Print
    2. Within the Print Detail page select Paper Handling
    3. Select “Print Odd Numbered Pages”
    4. Print
    5. Place either the single sheet or stack of printed pages face down in the paper tray with the bottom of the page closest to me in.
    6. Repeat steps 1 and 2
    7. Select “Print: Even Numbered Pages” and “Page Order: Reverse”
  8. Buy used Text Books. There are plenty out there already and they are usually cheaper. You can also check text books out of the library instead of buying it. A final suggestion is to book share. If you have a reliable classmate it may work out for you to share a text book and split the cost. Everyone has their own study habits and you know what works best for you.

If anyone else has tips feel free to share them through comments!

Natural flea fighter

I don’t have any pets, but I came across this natural flea fighter on Care2 and wanted to share it. Usually I test any recipes or remedies that I post, but since I don’t have dogs, cats, or fleas I cannot tell you how well it works or ways that I may alter it. However, if any of you do try this I would love to hear your thoughts through some comment feedback.

Citrus peel extract is an excellent choice against fleas for dogs, because its components d-limonene and linalool kill all stages of the flea’s life cycle. I have completely eradicated our home and dogs of fleas using citrus peel extract I don’t think anything else works as well. Still, you must use caution: while it is a natural material, and much safer for health and the environment than toxic synthetic pesticides, it is not without problems, especially for asthmatics (see Caution below). Citrus shouldn’t be used around cats.
SIMPLE SOLUTION: For Fleas from and on Dogs
Assuming you don’t own a cat, and you keep your windows open when using citrus peel extract products, get rid of fleas in your house by washing floors twice a week with a solution of 1/4 cup citrus peel extract (available in health food stores–citra solve is one brand) in 1 to 2 gallons of water. Spray bedding with a mixture of 2 teaspoons citrus peel extract and 2 cups of water in a spray bottle.To make a fur rub for the dog, cut up 4 lemons, and simmer for one hour in 1 quart of water, adding more water as it evaporates. Cool the mixture, strain, and massage into the dog’s coat. Note that there are a number of pure citrus-peel-based pet products on the market (see Shop for Supplies, below).For Cats *and* Dogs
Herbal repellents work well to repel fleas. Make an herbal infusion by adding a handful of dried herbs (available in most health food stores) to a tea pot and fill with boiling water. Let the tea set overnight, and then strain it into a spray bottle. Recommended herbs include southernwood, rue, rosemary, sage, catmint, eucalyptus, and leaves from the black walnut tree. Start with just a small amount to make sure the pet can tolerate the herb.

Boric acid and borax are also widely used against fleas. Sprinkle a thin powder or boric acid or borax on carpets, leave on for a few days, and then vacuum up.

Other Flea Controls

HELPFUL HINTS: Caution

  • One controversial study found that when fed extremely high doses of d-limonene, male rats developed cancer. There was no evidence that it did so in female rats or in mice of either sex.
  • Citrus-peel extract is a strong volatile organic chemical (VOC). Make sure you use adequate ventilation when using. Asthmatics should not use this approach.
  • Don’t use pennyroyal around pets, especially pregnant pets or people.
  • Avoid pet’s eyes when using any of the above recommended ingredients.

21 things you didn’t know you could recycle

Co-op America posted a list of 21 things you didn’t know you could recycle and I am sharing it with you.

1. Appliances: Goodwill accepts working appliances, www.goodwill.org, or you can contact the Steel Recycling Institute to recycle them. 800/YES-1-CAN, www.recycle-steel.org.

2. Batteries: Rechargeables and single-use: Battery Solutions, 734/467-9110, www.batteryrecycling.com.

3. Cardboard boxes: Contact local nonprofits and women’s shelters to see if they Boxcan use them. Or, offer up used cardboard boxes at your local Freecycle.org listserv or on Craigslist.org for others who may need them for moving or storage. If your workplace collects at least 100 boxes or more each month, UsedCardboardBoxes.com accepts them for resale.

4. CDs/DVDs/Game Disks: Send scratched music or computer CDs, DVDs, and PlayStation or Nintendo video game disks to AuralTech for refinishing, and they’ll work like new: 888/454-3223, www.auraltech.com.

5. Clothes: Wearable clothes can go to your local Goodwill outlet or shelter. ShirtsDonate wearable women’s business clothing to Dress for Success, which gives them to low-income women as they search for jobs, 212/532-1922, www.dressforsuccess.org. Offer unwearable clothes and towels to local animal boarding and shelter facilities, which often use them as pet bedding. Consider holding a clothes swap at your office, school, faith congregation or community center. Swap clothes with friends and colleagues, and save money on a new fall wardrobe and back-to-school clothes.

6. Compact fluorescent bulbs: Take them to your local IKEA store for recycling: www.ikea.com.

7. Compostable bio-plastics: You probably won’t be able to compost these in your home compost bin or pile. Find a municipal composter to take them to at www.findacomposter.com.

8. Computers and electronics: Find the most responsible recyclers, local and national, at www.ban.org/pledge/Locations.html.

9. Exercise videos: Swap them with others at www.videofitness.com.

10. Eyeglasses: Your local Lion’s Club or eye care chain may collect these. Lenses Glassesare reground and given to people in need.

11. Foam packing: Your local pack-and-ship store will likely accept foam peanuts for reuse. Or, call the Plastic Loose Fill Producers Council to find a drop-off site: 800/828-2214. For places to drop off foam blocks for recycling, contact the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers, 410/451-8340, www.epspackaging.org/info.html

12. Ink/toner cartridges: Recycleplace.com pays $1/each.

13. Miscellaneous: Get your unwanted items into the hands of people who can use them. Offer them up on your local Freecycle.org or Craigslist.org listserv, or try giving them away at Throwplace.com or giving or selling them at iReuse.com. iReuse.com will also help you find a recycler, if possible, when your items have reached the end of their useful lifecycle.

14. Oil: Find Used Motor Oil Hotlines for each state: 202/682-8000, www.recycleoil.org.

15. Phones: Donate cell phones: Collective Good will refurbish your phone and sell Cellphoneit to someone in a developing country: 770/856-9021, www.collectivegood.com. Call to Protect reprograms cell phones to dial 911 and gives them to domestic violence victims: www.donateaphone.com. Recycle single-line phones: Reclamere, 814/386-2927, www.reclamere.com.

16. Sports equipment: Resell or trade it at your local Play It Again Sports outlet, 800/476-9249, www.playitagainsports.com.

17. Technotrash: Easily recycle all of your CDs, jewel cases, DVDs, audio and video tapes, cell phones, pagers, rechargeable and single-use batteries, PDAs, and ink/toner cartridges with GreenDisk’s Technotrash program. For $30, GreenDisk will send you a cardboard box in which you can ship them up to 70 pounds of any of the above. Your fee covers the box as well as shipping and recycling fees. 800/305-GREENDISK, www.greendisk.com.

18. Tennis shoes: Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program turns old shoes into playground and athletic flooring. www.nikereuseashoe.com. One World Running will send still-wearable shoes to athletes in need in Africa, Latin America, and Haiti. www.oneworldrunning.com.

19. Toothbrushes and razors: Buy a recycled plastic toothbrush or razor from ToothbrushRecycline, and the company will take it back to be recycled again into plastic lumber. Recycline products are made from used Stonyfield Farms yogurt cups. 888/354-7296, www.recycline.com.

20. Tyvek envelopes: Quantities less than 25: Send to Shirley Cimburke, Tyvek Recycling Specialist, 5401 Jefferson Davis Hwy., Spot 197, Room 231, Richmond, VA 23234. Quantities larger than 25, call 866/33-TYVEK.

21. Stuff you just can’t recycle: When practical, send such items back to the manufacturer and tell them they need to manufacture products that close the waste loop responsibly.

Recipe for a hot summer day

Recipe for a hot summer day

Ingredients:

  1. Get outside, sweat, and catch every breeze you can.
  2. Sit, lay, sleep, rest, read, and chat under the shade of a tree.
  3. Water. Drinks lots of it and find some body of water to swim, splash, sit, or dangle your feet in. We took a walk to The Sound and dipped our feet in the deliciously, cold, clear water.
  4. Enjoy little treats. Make some iced tea. Eat popsicles and ice cream/frozen yogurt. Fill up on cucumber sandwiches and slices of watermelon.
  5. Go on a long, slow, gentle walk visiting your favorite places.
  6. Adjust your attitude. Come to terms with the fact that you are just. going. to. be. hot. When you try to fight weather you lose. If you live in Seattle you just know that you are going to get wet, everyone is. Just put on a rain jacket and keep going about your life. It is not the end of the world to have frizzy, rain jacket hair or wet legs. If you live in Texas just know that you are going to be hot, everyone is. If you try to fight it you are going to be miserable and you. are. going. to. lose. Cranking air conditioners is only going to keep making the world warmer (Ahem…global warming and we all know how that is going to turn out.)
  7. Cool off before bed with a short “slow cool” rinse. This means you start off with luke warm water and continue to make it colder until it is as cold as you can stand it. Dry off. Get in bed.

Directions:

  1. Slowly combine the ingredients* above on a hot, summer day along with a generous amount of (aluminum-free) deodorant and (paraben-free) sunblock. Continue to mix until the days become cooler.

*Add more of the ingredients you love and adjust the mixture to your environment. If you have to stay indoors to work replace going outside with opening ALL your windows and doors, add some Jon Mellencamp music, and mix in as many of the ingredients as possible.

A list with some information.

This is the slightly longer version of the “10 small changes you can make for the benefit of creation” list I made for my church back in April for Creation Sunday. It has some good and interesting information in it so I thought that I would go ahead and share it with you guys.

  1. Eat Local (Grow your own veggies, buy a share in Community Supported Agriculture, shop at farmers markets)
    Info: Supermarket food travels an average of 1,500 miles by the time it gets to your plate. Buying local strengthens the local economy. A dollar spent locally generates twice as much income for the local economy. You get to celebrate the seasons by eating local in-season food.
  2. Buy fair trade, organic, shade grown coffee and fair trade, organic tea.
    Info: Sun coffee (grown with no shade canopy) destroys natural habitats and cannot be sustained for many years without intensive management (additions of chemical fertilizers and a range of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides). The few studies that have been conducted have found that the diversity of migratory birds plummets when coffee is converted from shade to sun (studies in Colombia and Mexico found 94-97% fewer bird species in sun grown coffee than in shade grown coffee) 1.
  3. Buy organic food when possible, especially organic chocolate.
    Info: Non-organic cocoa is 2nd only to cotton in terms of the most pesticides used on the crop. Exposure to pesticides is being increasingly linked to various kinds of cancer. Industrialized agriculture produces food that is deficient in minerals and nutrition because it has over-cultivated the land. Crops get their nutrients and minerals from the soil that it is grown on. If the soil is not taken care of and becomes unhealthy then the food grown on it will also lack nutrition and health.
  4. Buy products with minimal or reusable packaging or buy in bulk (like the bulk bins at Madison Market Co-op or Whole Foods) and use your own containers when shopping and bring your own shopping bags.
    Info: Around 33% of trash in the average American household comes from packaging.
  5. Start an indoor or outdoor compost bin.
    Info: “The landfill is not designed to help things biodegrade, which requires contact with air and water. Instead, landfills hermetically seal their contents away from the environment to protect it from the toxic things in the landfill that aren’t biodegradable. What this means, is that organic things like apple cores and yesterdays newspapers and cornstarch cups, when dumped in the landfill, either don’t break down at all and certainly don’t end up returning nutrients to the earth or they break down anaerobically, which means they produce methane, a worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.”2
  6. Buy recycled paper toilet paper to help protect endangered forests.
    Info: Every day, the amount of toilet paper used equals about 270,000 trees.
  7. Make your own household cleaners.
    Info: The EPA says indoor air pollution is often 2-5 times worse than outdoor air pollution, and harsh cleaning chemicals contribute.
  8. Switch to compact florescent light bulbs (CFL)
    Info: CFLs are some of the most efficient lights available – they can replace incandescent bulbs that are roughly 3 to 4 times their wattage, saving up to 75% of your lighting energy.
  9. Buy used products when possible (books, clothing, furniture) and make repairs when possible instead of buying new.
  10. Print only when necessary and on recycled paper.
    Info: Offices use 1.5 lbs of paper per person per day.
  11. Use a coffee mug or travel mug.
  12. Reduce your carbon footprint caused by travel (buy a TerraPass, use flexcar, carpool, public transit, bike, or walk)
    Info: Every gallon of gasoline burned creates about 20 lbs of climate change-causing CO2.
  13. Enjoy God’s creation by being part of a community garden (or start your own community garden in your own backyard), volunteering on a farm, or getting out and enjoying nature with loved ones.

1Smithsonian, National Zoological Park, Migratory Bird Center; 2 No Impact Man;

Evan Almighty and The Conservation Fund

Get on Board

Lights, camera, take action! Ha.

Tom Shadyac, director of the film Evan Almighty, wanted to make the first major motion picture that was a zero emission (carbon neutral) production. He describes Evan Almighty as a film that speaks of our need to be good stewards of the Earth and he didn’t want to contribute to the destruction of the Earth while trying to get this message across. So, they worked with Habitat for Humanity, Conservation Fund, and Hope to Others to create a movie that left no trace (similar idea to “leave no trace” camping or hiking).

“Green” activities/efforts during production included:

  • The film’s production was carbon offset through a donation to the Conservation Fund.
  • All the landscaping, lumber, windows and other reusable materials were donated to Habitat for Humanity.
  • All crew members were given bicycles by director Tom Shadyac to reduce car usage.
  • Recycled paper, plastic, aluminum, and glass were used on set.
  • After production was completed, trees were planted near the site of the ark in Crozet,VA as a thank you to the community.
  • HtoO water was used -(Hope to Others, a company founded by Tom Shadyac, donates 100% of the profits after taxes to charity).

Go to their site to find out ways in which you can Go Zero (as individuals and businesses).

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