6 Eco Resolutions for 2013

It’s nearly 2013 and I am grateful. After three years of traveling with a backpack through 14 countries in Africa and the Middle East, I am finally back home with my family in the United States.  The time I spent abroad stretched my mind and broadened my heart, transformed long held stereotypes into a long string of new insights, and in some ways left me more confused than I was before. But I must say, looking at next year and beyond through the eyes of my young nephews, whose planet has been so radically altered in the last few decades, strengthens my worries about the future. And with it my motivation to do something about it, which is why I decided to sit down and map out a few ways in which I hope to reduce my environmental footprint in 2013. Here are six of my resolutions.

1. Walk the green talk

For many years I have encouraged our readers to live lightly knowing all along that my own footprint could have been smaller too. For example, though I tried as much as possible to use alternative modes of transportation throughout my travels – such as buses and trains – flights between countries were inevitable and my carbon footprint soared. That will change now as I’ve just signed a lease on an apartment for the first time in six long years! My goal is to drastically reduce my travels and settle into a slower, more thoughtful life rhythm.

2. DIY furnishings

It is very difficult to collect a bunch of stuff while traveling, which has been such a liberating part of my travels that I’m determined to keep my more stationary life clutter-free as well. Although a few pieces of furniture will inevitably expand my short list of belongings, I don’t plan to run to the nearest Ikea store to populate my new home. Instead, I intend to scout out previously owned pieces on Freecyle or Craigslist, or in my local antique markets and thrift stores. Then I’ll re-finish them myself. Not only will this be a fun way to spend time and save money, but it gives me greater creative control of my personal sanctuary.

3. Compost and garden

I can’t wait to start growing my own herbs and vegetables. Although I won’t be able to do much of this on my rental property, my sister lives close enough that I’ll be able to grow some of my own food on a small patch of her subsistence farm. I feel increasingly certain that our future survival depends on our ability to reconnect with the earth. This means knowing how to find and grow food, how to stay cool and warm without mechanical assistance, and how to live simply in accordance with nature’s disrupted cycles. Luckily, where I’ll be living in Virginia, we don’t have a shortage of water, so I don’t have to worry too much about that, though it would be worthwhile to harvest rainwater for use in plumbing systems.

4. Get to zero waste

Although this is changing slowly, it is difficult to find decent recycling facilities in the MENA region, something that always drove me bananas. Our resources are now so scarce and there’s so much waste cluttering every darn waterway from the Nile to the Mississippi that there is absolutely no excuse for throwing away perfectly good can or glass goods (and don’t even get me started on plastic.) Of course, people like the Zabaleen in Cairo and certain public and private organizations throughout the United Arab Emirates are beginning to take recycling more seriously, but I will admit that I look forward to being able to dispose of just about everything that I consume such that getting to zero waste in my own home is an achievable goal.

5. Support local growers

Of course it’s winter time now, so most of my local farms are on hiatus and there aren’t going to be any farmer’s markets on the weekends, but just as soon as the birds start tweeting on Spring mornings, I have every intention of supporting local farmers who grow wholesome, non GMO food. More than elsewhere, shopping for food is a tricky affair in the United States. Every time I walk into a store, I feel like I need to put on my armor. With such loose regulations and influential corporations run amok, it’s very important to read the labels to protect oneself against harmful ingredients. I don’t want to support irresponsible corporations. I want to put my money in the pockets of real people – the hard working mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who are the backbone of a healthy community.

6. Get political

I’ve come to understand that getting more politically involved is one of the most meaningful contributions I can make to society, something that has been virtually impossible since I’ve been on the road. As soon as I am settled, I plan to pay closer attention to the bills that are passed which affect the food we eat, the water we drink, the land we plough and the air we breathe. Because how can we convince our governments that these things are important if we ourselves ignore them? Recently my sister called her congressman when a new farm bill was about to slip by unnoticed which would have given giants like Monsanto undue freedom they really don’t deserve, and then she convinced her circle of friends to do the same. This is how we make change. First by creating it ourselves in our own homes, and then by holding our elected officials accountable.

Image credit: Happy New Year, Distressed Furniture, Gardening Tools via Shutterstock

Source: www.greenprophet.com

How To Have a Green New Year in your Office

Photo by Dave Goodman

The end of the year is a time when many reflect and prepare for what’s to come. “Auld Lang Syne” is sung, excitement for a fresh start is in the air, and many resolutions, both big and small, are made.

One thoughtful (and easy) resolution to consider would be your carbon footprint in the office. Think about how your day-to-day office habits affect the earth’s recourses. As an environmentally friendly commercial janitorial business, our brains are wired to think like that. So below, we’d like to share some simple steps that you can take to have a green New Year in your office:

1. Recycle.

This one is common sense and extremely easy to fulfill! Get your co-workers on board to recycle, unless you already have it available in your office (good for you!). Ask your boss if you can install recycling bins around the office, in the kitchen, and in the conference room.

Remember to only print hard copies of documents when completely necessary; and when you’re finished with them, recycle them. We live in a day and age where your smartphone or computer can hold and showcase the documents you might need, so printing isn’t always a necessity.

2. Get rid of plastic water bottles.

In the United States, 1,500 plastic water bottles are consumed every second — startling, huh? (Source) And these plastic waters bottles contain harmful chemicals and are often not disposed of properly. We know that it’s common for offices to carry water bottles in the fridge for clients and employees. But, this is another problem that can be fixed and another effortless resolution that you can feel good about.

Stock your building’s kitchen with reusable cups or look into water bottles made from 100% recyclable materials. For personal use, bring in an eco-friendly, refillable water bottle that you can use throughout the day. Not only will bringing a refillable water bottle to work every day be great for the environment, but you’ll be able to stay fully hydrated, too. That’s definitely a win-win.

3. Carpool to and from the office.

Live near a few co-workers? Consider carpooling! A company carpool can be fun and it reduces the use of your car. Just make sure you create the ultimate carpool playlist to listen to on the drive in. Of course the bus is another option, too. If you’re within walking or bike-riding distance from work, opt for that alternative instead. It’s healthier for the earth and healthier for your body (and you can knock out two resolutions at once!).

4. Lower electricity use.

Electricity is a resource that often gets overlooked, but it can be unchallenging on your part to become more efficient with energy use. Turn off lights when you’re not using the conference room. If you have windows, use daylight in your office on a sunny day. Turn off your computer and power strip every night when you leave the office. Don’t use the heater or the AC when the temperature is comfortable. We could go on and on!

No matter if you choose to fulfill one or all of these green resolutions (and there are many more that you can do), we hope they help you see how simple it is to adopt green practices in your office.

Source: redleescsblog.com


Get your Kitchen GREEN in 2013

We did it! We survived the dreaded end of the Mayan Calandar and lived to tell the tale but now what? Here we are on the cusp of a new year and a fresh start. NOW is the time to motivate yourself to make those little changes that will make a big impact for 2013.

Last week as we prepared for the end of the world, we talked about some tips on getting your home green. This week, we zone in on getting our kitchen green.

Skip the non-stick
Non-stick pans are coated with with polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE), aka Teflon which can break down when heated, releasing toxic fumes and particles. These fumes are part of the perfluorinated chemical “family” (PFC’s) and are considered a danger to our health and the manufacturing process of this coating also causes environmental hazzards so they are best avoided. PFC’s are also widely used in many everyday products like microwave popcorn and paper plates. If you want to learn how to avoid them, visit EWG’s Guide to PFCs for a list of products that contain PFCs.

I know, I know, you love your non-stick pan but before you swear off cooking forever consider these alternatives.

Stainless steel is a popular one because of its ability to brown food better than non-stick surfaces since you can cook at a much higher temperatures (most can go in your oven as well!)
Cast iron is another great alternative to non-stick pans and is extremely durable, sometimes lasting through generations of cooks! Like stainless steel, these pans can be heated to much higher temperatures than non-stick and can safely be placed in the oven.
For baking, use glass or ceramic pans. Not only are they safer to use but they also conserve energy. Since they warm up quicker and retain heat longer than their metal counterparts, oven temperatures can be lowered by 25 degrees without changing bake time….bonus!

Skip the plastics
Small amounts of toxic chemicals like BPA and phthalates can leach into food and liquids when stored in plastic containers. This is especially true when reheating food in a microwave. Even if the plastic container is considered BPA Free or Microwave Safe your best bet is to completely avoid these chemicals completely by storing and re-heating your food using ceramic or glass food containers (e.g.Pyrex).

Keep your cool
Every time you open your freezer, the cold air escapes and warm air is introduced. Most of the energy your freezer uses goes towards cooling this warm air down. If you keep your freezer well stocked, less warm air can enter and whatever does enter will be partially cooled down by the freezer’s contents. If you can’t fill your freezer up with food, consider filling the void with newspaper, bags of shipping peanuts, bags, containers or milk jugs filled with water or even bags of ice. When filling your freezer make sure it is defrosted and dry. Place the non-food, void fillers in the middle and keep your food items in the front/sides where they can be grabbed quickly, keeping about an inch or two of space from the top and walls. This will help the thermostat work properly.

Fill your fridge using the tips above and add few more steps to ensure maximum efficiency.

Keep food covered. Your fridge’s compressor works harder if there is moisture inside of it. Covered food reduces your refrigerator’s carbon footprint.
Clean your compressor coils annually. (see your manual for cleaning recommendations.
Keep the correct temperature. 35 F to 40 F is considered optimum run temperature for a fridge (see your manual for manufacturer’s recommendations0
Check the seals To test, close the door on a strip of paper and see how easy it is to pull out. If it slides out easily, your refrigerator door is probably leaking cold air.
Move your fridge Keeping it out of direct sunlight and away from your stove ensures it doesn’t have to work as hard.

Avoid dishpan hands
Washing a load of dishes in a dishwasher uses about 37% less water than washing dishes by hand. A new, Energy Star qualified dishwasher will save, on average, 1,300 gallons of water over its lifetime. To save even more energy and resources:

Replace your dishwasher if its more than 10 years old
Skip the heat-drying option
Run the washer only when it’s full
Don’t prerinse in the sink.

Bring your own baggage
Each year the United States consumes 30 billion plastic and 10 billion paper grocery bags only to end up in our landfills. Next time you go to the store, BYOB and keep all that plastic out of our landfills. Some stores will even give consumers incentives like a few cents off when you bring your own re-usuable totes. If you are like me and need some help remembering to actually BRING them to the store, check out 10 ways to remember your bags

These are just a few of the many changes you can make to go green in 2013. Little changes equal BIG impact. Have a happy, healthy GREEN New Year!!

Source: www.teresasfamilycleaning.com

10 Easy, Green New Year’s Resolutions for the Eco-Slacker


Going to farmers markets and becoming a weekend vegetarian are two easy green lifestyle changes you can make in the new year. (Photo: JohnnyRokkit/Flickr)

It’s easy to think about all the big changes you’re going to make in the New Year as the old year comes to an end — but by the second week of January, most of us are already finding reasons to skip the gym or break the spending freeze. That’s why we’ve come up with ten green New Year’s resolutions so easy you’ll have no excuse not to keep them — and as they help you save money, cut your carbon footprint, decrease your home’s waste stream, and improve the quality of the Earth, you’ll be glad you did.

1. Never buy bottled water again
Trade your bottled water habit for an at-home filtering pitcher and you can help make a dent in the 1.5 million barrels of oil used to make plastic water bottles each year; pair it with a reusable bottle (like one made of glass, aluminum, or recycled plastic), and you’ll always be prepared to tackle your thirst. Bonus: With bottled water no longer on your shopping list, you could save as much as $1,400 this year.

2. Brew your own Fair Trade coffee
Carrying your own coffee in an insulated travel mug helps you reduce waste from cardboard cups and carrying sleeves — which are thrown away at a staggering rate of 58 billion each year. For greener at-home brewing, choose a Fair Trade blend that supports farmers; add organic milk instead of artificial creamers; and try a French press (instead of a traditional brewer) to save electricity.

3. Remember your reusable bags
With more than 1 million plastic bags ending up in the trash every minute, taking reusable bags to the store is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint — but the hardest part about using them is simply remembering to take them with you. A set like this one from Blue Avocado is almost impossible to forget: It comes with six different bags, sized for everything from frozen goods to fresh fruit, and the entire collection folds down into a slim packet for easy transport.

4. Cut back on paper towels
If you’re grabbing a paper towel for everything from wiping up spills and cleaning your counter to scrubbing the bathroom and keeping your hands clean at dinner, it’s time to make a change. Instead, invest in a few cotton cloths and some fabric napkins; then drop them in the wash when you run a load of laundry. Using the cloth alternatives is just as easy as using the paper versions, and you only need to buy them once — plus you can help eliminate the 3,000 tons of paper towels that end up landfills every day.

5. Use a bike for short trips
It takes a certain amount of dedication to permanently give up a car in favor of a bike, but even an eco-slacker can make it work for short trips that don’t require hauling a lot of stuff: picking up milk at the local grocery store, after-dinner ice cream at your favorite dessert spot, your morning yoga class, brunch with friends at the coffee shop. Ride your bike for trips shorter than 2 miles and you could cut your carbon footprint significantly, save money on gasoline and car maintenance, and increase your fitness level — all at the same time.

6. Order from your local CSA
Going to the farmer’s market always sounds like such a great idea — until Saturday morning rolls around and you realize you have to get up early, have enough cash, and fight other customers for the best strawberries. Instead, have your local CSA program do the hard part for you by putting together a box of their best produce each week — and, if you’re really feeling lazy, have it delivered right to your door so you get fresh, local fruits and vegetables without giving up your lazy coffee-and-crossword mornings.

7. Become a weekend vegetarian
Cutting meat out of your diet just two days a week can decrease your carbon footprint by about 1/3 of a ton — and coming up with meat-free meals for Saturday and Sunday isn’t as hard as it sounds. Try pancakes and fruit for breakfast; fresh salads or roasted vegetable sandwiches for lunch; and veggie pizza, bean soups, and creamy risottos for dinner. And since doubling a recipe rarely adds any time to your prep work, you can make extras to eat throughout the week (and trim your carbon footprint even more).

8. Eliminate phantom power
It takes approximately one second to unplug the charger for your cell phone, mp3 player, e-reader, or iPad — but if you really can’t be bothered, then let nifty, energy-efficient gadgets do the work for you. Use power strips to turn off all your appliances at once; put your television, DVD player, game system, and stereo on a timer so they automatically shut off overnight; and invest in chargers that stop drawing current when the device’s battery is full. You could cut your energy bill by as much as 10 percent annually — without lifting a finger.

9. Switch to green power
Switching your home to run on green power sounds like a big job — installing solar panels, geothermal energy, or a tankless hot water heater is not a job for the construction-impaired. But you can also make this happen without getting out of your chair: Call your local energy company and see if they offer renewable options (most do). You might see a small jump in your bill, but it’s an easy way to make a big change.

10. Replace your lightbulbs
Replacing your lightbulbs with compact fluorescent lights may be the ultimate change for the eco-slacker. Despite all the jokes, it takes only one person to change a lightbulb — and since CFLs last longer than traditional bulbs, you’ll be saving time for years down the road while cutting your energy use by as much as 80 percent. Can’t even face the hardware store? Order your bulbs online and have them come straight to your door.

Source: www.mnn.com

A Thin, Solar-Powered, Bluetooth 4.0 Game Controller Built Directly Into An iPhone Case

Game controllers for iPhone are no longer all that rare, even though once upon a time Apple didn’t even allow them to connect to its smartphone. Still, there’s plenty of room for innovation in this space, and Justice Frangipane’s new design is a perfect example of how things can still get better in this market. Frangipane’s project is an iPhone case that while only 3mm thick, holds a Bluetooth 4.0 video game controller that recharges via solar power.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfjD7mM7qiY?feature=player_embedded]

Launching today on Kickstarter, the project is a concept that creator Justice Frangipane has been working on for the last year, but now he’s working with iDevices, the creators of the Bluetooth iPhone meat thermometer iGrill, to help make it a reality. It features a controller that snaps into the back of a super thin iPhone case, providing physical controls compatible with specific games on iOS that support Bluetooth accessories. It not only charges via solar power, but can also use “trickle charging” to sip on low light and indoor light sources, too. The goal was to build a device you never had to build in, and Frangipane says in the project description that they’ve managed to achieve that.

The controller also doesn’t need that much energy to do its thing, thanks to the use of Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy tech,. That will help it connect to the iPhone without sucking down too much juice on either side of the equation, in order to get four hours of play time on a full charge without any light source. And Bluetooth 4.0 also means that response time for input is dramatically improved: BLE has a 6 second response time, Frangipane says, vs. a sluggish 100 milliseconds for older Bluetooth specifications.

Frangipane says that the project has Apple’s support, and that in fact, the iPhone maker has agreed to work with their team to help make sure the controller works with iOS devices, thanks to help from iDevices. At this stage, the prototype still looks like something created by a home hacker in a garage, but it clearly demonstrates that the concept works: by the time it ships, Frangipane says the control pods will snap into place on the front of the device in the case frame, and of course any wires or connectors will be less exposed.

Backers can get shipping devices for $60, with an estimated delivery date of June 2013. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are 125 prototype testing spots open at the $500 pledge level. Overall, the team hopes to raise $135,000 to bring the controller to market.

Source: techcrunch.com