We went out to Volunteer Tree Farm, just about 10 minutes from our house. You can find a local tree farm by visiting the Christmas Tree Farm Network. The whole experience was great. We ran from tree to tree to find the first-ever Rogers live Christmas tree. Alex cut it down with a hand saw and we toted it back to the barn. We even got free hot chocolate and hot apple cider!
But what about fake trees? Isn't "reuse" one of those "go-green" mantras? The National Christmas Tree Association represents real tree growers and provides a chart of the pros and cons of buying a real tree versus a fake tree. They probably aren't biased, are they?
The American Christmas Tree Association, on the other hand, represents artificial tree manufacturers and boasts that fake trees are used year after year and can save you more money the longer they last.
While artificial trees may save you some green, it's important for going green to remember that most tree farms plant one to three trees for every one that is cut, and after the holidays, they don’t end up in a landfill like artificial trees eventually do. Artificial trees are made by using fossil fuels. The plastic, when it eventually ends up in landfills, takes years to decompose. A real tree is a renewable resource and can be recycled into mulch.
The bottom line: Go for the actual tree and try to support a small-scale, local sustainable grower if you can.
More Christmas tree resources:
For the last year or so, I've been using kitchen trashcans that I asked for and received off FreeCycle for my "little hobby," as Alex calls it. And while reusing and re-purposing are great, I decided to just go for the new bins--It is my birthday, after all!
I've got six bins now instead of three, so I can separate my clear glass from my brown or green glass. Also, these nifty bins stack. They're shorter so when one or more get full, I can just stash them easily in the trunk of my car and then dump them into the recycle dumpster! No more plastic trash bags to deal with--YAY!
If you're like me, you may have decorated the front porch with pumpkins for the fall. Instead of letting them rot or throwing them out, use those pieces and parts to create something new (and yummy!).
When we scooped out our Halloween jack-o-lanterns two weeks ago, we saved the pumpkin seeds. There are tons of recipes online to roast them with different seasonings, whether you want hot and spicy (which was the natural choice for our "dried dragon boogers"), Italian garlic and herb, or curried seeds.
Tonight we're planning on baking some pumpkin bread using real pumpkin — none of that canned stuff for us! (NOTE: Don't use those old jack-o-lanterns for baking. Rather, you'll want to use some decorative pumpkin that you haven't cut a face into.)
You could also use real pumpkin in your Thanksgiving pies, muffins and cookies. Most recipes can be modified for using real pumpkin — you just have to boil the chunks first and mash 'em up! Mmm, nothing like the real thing, that's for sure!
This picture was taken at a little non-chain place in Murfreesboro. The food was excellent. But I ordered water instead of soda or tea, and what happens?
"Oh, no. Not again," I think as the cashier pulls out the equivalent of a Dixie cup from behind the register. Is that a smirk she's hiding? On one occasion, I've actually asked a guy, "...Seriously?"
So, as you can see, Alex has a big nice (even reusable --props!) cup, whereas I have a much smaller excuse for a drink holder.
I'm making a change. No, I'm not settling for diet soda. Rather, I've decided to carry a reusable cup or mug into quick food resaurants like this one too. I already carry them everywhere else. Then, when the smirking cashier pulls out a pint-size version, I'll smile and sweetly say, "No thanks. I brought my own."
During the period from mid-August to mid-October, moderate and relatively stable air temperatures prevail, and soil temperatures and moisture levels are usually in a range that promote rapid root development. Watering new trees properly in the fall is just as important as any season—new trees need to get enough water before the ground freezes.
Notable tree species that can be successfully planted in the fall include:
- buckeye or horsechestnut
- Kentucky coffeetree
- Amur corktree
Fall planting takes advantage of favorable soil temperatures and moisture conditions that promote the root growth needed to sustain plants through their critical first year in the landscape. If healthy, vigorous plants are chosen, proper post-planting care is given and slow-to-establish species are avoided, fall planting of trees and shrubs can be as successful as spring planting.
Plant away, friends!
photo by friggy_30 flickr creative commons
- Moving your thermostat down 2 degrees in the winter and up 2 degrees in the summer saves 2,000 pounds of CO2, not to mention money on your heating and air conditioning bill. A good rule of thumb: set your thermostat at 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer.
- Also, you can manually turn down your thermostat even farther in the winter when you leave the house for work, and turn it back up when you get home. A programmable thermostat might be a good investment if you think you'll forget each day.
- Evaluate how tightly your windows and doors shut, and use weatherstripping in your home to seal air leaks. Here is a video to help you do it yourself. Caulking and weatherstripping any gaps will pay for itself within one year in energy savings.
- Wait on hot water. When you turn on the hot water to wash your hands, do you ever finish before the water even gets hot? Your hot water heater is using energy to heat the water, but then it just sits in the pipes and gets cold again. If you're not going to wait, just turn on the cold.
This was taken with my cell phone camera, so it's not the best photo, but you can see how all the trash has washed up from the lake. Doesn't it make you sad? If this is just what's washed up at Granville Marina, think what else is still out there or washed up in other areas of the lake.
We've got to spread the word about caring for the environment. Tell your children. Don't let them grow up in a world that is overflowing with garbage on every street corner or in every lake and river. But landfills aren't the answer either. Within 50 years, the approximately 2,216 landfills that exist today will reach full capacity, according to Science World.
First: Reduce (what you use)!
Second: Reuse (what you can't reduce)!
Third: Recycle (after you've reused all you can)!
A new documentary called Tapped talks about bottled water and its consumption. I haven't seen it yet, but the following is a 5-minute trailer, and it looks pretty interesting ...
Visit the Tapped site to learn more, reserve your DVD, e-mail your state representatives, and more!
Creative Commons photo by Gabriel_Not from Flickr
Yesterday on my way to work a guy in a pickup truck pulled onto the interstate in front of me. It wasn't long before I saw aluminum cans flying out of the bed of his truck. Maybe he wasn't deliberately littering, but it's littering just the same.
Tennessee has a campaign called Stop Litter: Tennessee's had Enough.
Did you know?
- 48 percent of Tennesseeans polled say they have knowingly thrown trash on the street.
- 1 in 5 people say they do this on a regular basis!
- $11 million tax payer dollars is what our state spends picking up the trash Tennesseans throw down on the ground. That doesn't even count what your city pays to pick up litter in the incorporated areas.
- 12,000,000 miles are driven each year picking up litter in our state. Think about all the gas that is needed to fuel trucks for litter pick up.
I'll admit, it feels a bit like tattling, but something needs to be done. The state will send a letter to the registered owner of the vehicle informing them of the negative consequences of their littering actions and providing them with educational materials. The letter will include information about how to contain their litter and inform them that litterers can be fined up to $1,500.
It's a start. Maybe that guy will be looking over his shoulder and think twice next time before throwing trash into the back of his pickup.
Find out if your city or state has resources you can use to help wipe out litter. You can find other ways to get involved here.
Watch CBS Videos Online
Do you know if you can dry in your neighborhood? What argument do you agree with? Are clothes lines a good way to save energy, an eyesore or both?
My place of business is taking another step in "going green." Xerox staff will be on campus tomorrow to program all copy machines for two-sided copy. This endeavor will save paper, which in turn has the benefit of saving money. If employees have a particular need to print something one-sided, they can go in and change the default setting.
This is a great thing companies — large or small — can do to make a big difference. Theoretically, we should go through nearly half the paper as we normally do.Additional steps you can take to print green include:
1) Decrease the margins. By making the margins on your typed documents smaller, you'll fit more on a page, thereby using fewer sheets of paper to get your point across. MS Word has the margins default at 1 inch for top and bottom, and 1.25 inches left and right. When printing anything longer than a page, try setting your margins at .75 all around.
2) Print it on the back of something else if it's not important. Make a separate stack of paper that has clean backs, and feed this paper into your printer next time you need to print a rough draft or some notes.
3) If it's really not important, don't print it at all.
By KRISTEN GELINEAU – 8 hours ago
SYDNEY (AP) — Residents of a rural Australian town hoping to protect the earth and their wallets have voted to ban the sale of bottled water, the first community in the country — and possibly the world — to take such a drastic step in the growing backlash against the industry.
Residents of Bundanoon cheered after their near-unanimous approval of the measure at a town meeting Wednesday. It was the second blow to Australia's beverage industry in one day: Hours earlier, the New South Wales state premier banned all state departments and agencies from buying bottled water, calling it a waste of money and natural resources.
"I have never seen 350 Australians in the same room all agreeing to something," said Jon Dee, who helped spearhead the "Bundy on Tap" campaign in Bundanoon, a town of 2,500 about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Sydney. "It's time for people to realize they're being conned by the bottled water industry."
First popularized in the 1980s as a convenient, healthy alternative to sugary drinks, bottled water today is often criticized as an environmental menace, with bottles cluttering landfills and requiring large amounts of energy to produce and transport.
Over the past few years, at least 60 cities in the United States and a handful of others in Canada and the United Kingdom have agreed to stop spending taxpayer dollars on bottled water, which is often consumed during city meetings, said Deborah Lapidus, organizer of Corporate Accountability International's "Think Outside the Bottle" campaign in the U.S.
But the Boston-based nonprofit corporate watchdog has never heard of a community banning the sale of bottled water, she said.
"I think what this town is doing is taking it one step further and recognizing that there's safe drinking water coming out of our taps," she said.
Bundanoon's battle against the bottle has been brewing for years, ever since a Sydney-based beverage company announced plans to build a water extraction plant in the town. Residents were furious over the prospect of an outsider taking their water, trucking it up to Sydney for processing and then selling it back to them. The town is still fighting the company's proposal in court.
Then in March, Huw Kingston, who owns the town's combination cafe and bike shop, had a thought: If the town was so against hosting a water bottling company, why not ban the end product?
To prevent lost profit in the 10-or-so town businesses that sell bottled water, Kingston suggested they instead sell reusable bottles for about the same price. Residents will be able to fill the bottles for free at public water fountains, or pay a small fee to fill them with filtered water kept in the stores.
The measure will not impose penalties on those who don't comply when it goes into effect in September. Still, all the business owners voluntarily agreed to follow it, recognizing the financial and environmental drawbacks of bottled water, Kingston said.
On Wednesday, 356 people turned up for a vote — the biggest turnout ever at a town meeting.
Only two people voted no. One said he was worried banning bottled water would encourage people to drink sugary beverages. The other was Geoff Parker, director of the Australasian Bottled Water Institute — which represents the bottled water industry.
Australians spent 500 million Australian dollars ($390 million) on bottled water in 2008 — a hefty sum for a country of just under 22 million people.
On Thursday, Parker blasted the ban as unfair, misguided and ineffective.
He said the bottled water industry is a leader in researching ways to minimize bottled beverage impact on the environment. Plus, he said, the ban removes consumer choice.
"To take away someone's right to choose possibly the healthiest option in a shop fridge or a vending machine we think doesn't embrace common sense," he said.
But tap water is just as good as the stuff you find encased in plastic, said campaign organizer Dee, who also serves as director of the Australian environment group Do Something!
"We're hoping it will act as a catalyst to people's memories to remember the days when we did not have bottled water," he said. "What is 'Evian' spelled backwards? 'Naive.'"
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Another resource to check out to find a plethora of green information is from Cool People Care. You can sign up for the "5 minutes of caring" e-mail, and each day you'll receive a topic and links to research to make the world a better place.
HandsIn is another Web site I frequent. It's mission is to improve the world by mobilizing the unique energy and creative passion of 20-somethings. Their vision? A world community that meets the expectations of those who dare to dream of more. It's about volunteering. Making small changes and banding together to realize big results.
I'm not going to necessarily advocate the use of Twitter just yet, but I wanted to share some ways for you to stay in touch with your green side while you surf the web.
Keep it real. Keep it green. Keep it real green. And I'm out like the light you turn off when you leave the room. Peace.
We had a fantastically green weekend. Saturday morning, Alex and I went to the local Farmer's Market and bought some fresh fruits and veggies. I have already had one of the mouth-watering peaches. We also picked up bell peppers for stuffed bell peppers for dinner one night, a cucumber for my lunch, and red potatoes for fresh, cool potato salad. Find a local Farmers Market by clicking here.
Here is a picture of me beside the tree we planted back in April. It's a sycamore, and it is growing very nicely. The rain barrels should cut down on our water bill since the tree needs watering every other day.
So, overall, I'm very pleased with the green steps we've taken this weekend. Let me know what you're doing to go green!
I want to send a big CONGRATULATIONS to my friend Debbie.
She has provided the essential elements for a healthy and sustainable wildlife habitat in her own backyard, earning the National Wildlife Federation's Certified Wildlife Habitat™ program.
The following is a 37-second, super-cute video Debbie took of a little visitor playing around in her backyard habitat.
Click here to certify your yard. The five requirements include:
- Food Sources—For example: Native plants, seeds, fruits, nuts, berries, nectar
- Water Sources—For example: Birdbath, pond, water garden, stream
- Places for Cover—For example: Thicket, rockpile, birdhouse
- Places to Raise Young—For example: Dense shrubs, vegetation, nesting box, pond
- Sustainable Gardening—For example: Mulch, compost, rain garden, chemical-free fertilizer
The picture to the right is Debbie beside the 6-by-11-foot, 18-inch-deep fish pond that she and her husband built in their backyard last year.
The couple put a lot of work into the pond, digging about two tons of dirt from what would be the fish pond with just a shovel a some elbow grease. Then, they bought about three tons of river rock and handwashed each stone so the pond water wouldn’t be dirty. They lined the hole with a rubber liner and stacked the rocks one-by-one.
Great job, Debbie!
Soles4Souls is on a mission to donate 50,000 pairs of shoes in 50 days — between June 1 and July 20. With 43 days to go, nearly 1,000 pairs have been donated.
The shoes go to people who need them in America and around the world. A $5 donation provides two pair of shoes. And for $25 you can sponsor a whole family and provide 10 pair!
My Sunday School class is going to organize a community-wide shoe drive for Soles4Souls next month. There are things you can do too! All summer long, Finish Line stores will give you $5 off a new pair of shoes if you bring in gently worn shoes to donate. Also, if you're a member of an organization, you can hold a fundraiser that helps your organization raise money and provides shoes for people in poverty at the same time!
Last year alone, Americans discarded more than 300 million pairs of shoes. When these shoes break down in our landfills, the toxic glue that holds the shoes together can leak into our water supply and atmosphere. Take a few minutes today to consider ways to join Soles4Souls in their mission to "Change the world, one pair at a time." The gift of shoes is a simple yet profound way to benefit people in need while helping the environment at the same time.
The Boston Globe has reported that 91 percent of detached single-family homes in the U.S. have a clothes dryer, and a single electric model can spew some 1,500 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually.
What can we do? With summer kicking into gear, I am going to start hanging my clothes out to dry on nice days. I have picked out a retractable clothesline that I can install outside (rather, I'll get Alex to install it!), and it'll be out of the way when it's not in use.
Several reasons to use a clothesline:
- The moisture remaining in clothes, sheets, towels, etc., after washing pulls the wrinkles out, as it drains through the material under the influence of gravity. Neatly fold the clothes as you take them off the clothesline and in most cases you’ll find yourself (and your electricity bill) freed from the dreaded chore of ironing. Dryers on the other hand are notorious for shrinking their contents, twisting them, inducing wrinkles and adding static electricity.
- Sunshine is a brilliant steriliser, so your clothes will smell great.
- According to Project Laundry List, you’ll be safer as a result. They reckon that clothes dryer fires account for about 15,600 structure fires, 15 deaths, and 400 injuries annually in the U.S.
To get started, check out these laundry tips, which include the best places to set up a clothesline and hang certain garments to avoid wrinking and bunching.
If you can't go all-out right now, think about placing a collapsible drying rack on your balcony or patio, or simply near an open window.
You have to set up a Yahoo! username if you don't have one already, but it's an entirely free service that helps you get rid of things you don't want by matching you with people in your own community who need those items. Or, you can post a "wanted" item, and group members will e-mail or call you with offers. It really is that easy.
First, you'll want to go to the Freecycle home page and search for the city (or county) and state where you live. Don't be surprised when something pops up. Freecycle is everywhere! Click on that group page, and then click view page. You'll be taken to the group page, where you can click the button that says "Join this Group!" You will have to go through a few steps where the group moderator asks a few questions through e-mail to verify you, but after that, you're free to post wanteds or offers on the wall. (Just be smart and meet people for items in public places.)
The basic rules are that everything listed must be free, legal and appropriate for all ages. I check the Lebanon (where I live) and Franklin (where I work) Freecycle pages daily.
- When my mom got a new kitchen table, I gave away her old one to a family with two little girls who didn't have a table big enough to eat dinner together.
- Old tennis balls to a teacher for placing on the bottoms of chairs
- Small propane grill good for camping (We used it when we lived in an apartment.)
- Bowling ball with bag
- Portable garment rack
- Small Lexmark printer
- Large Toshiba office printer
- A working hood to go over our stove
- Three large metal shelves to go in our storage building
- An answering machine for my mom after my dad passed away
Kroger and its affiliate stores are going green! You can create your own design on a reusable bag and enter it into a contest to win $1,000 in free groceries. In fact, just for designing a bag, Kroger will give you a free reusable bag next time your in the store.
They also have partnered with cafepress.com so you can buy your own designed bag! You can create as many as you want. My design (above) is the only one I've done so far—I only have so much creativity alloted per day. :)
You can go to the site and vote for your favorite design once a day. The contest lasts through May 15.
According to its site, Kroger is going green in various ways:
- Our skylights mean we can max out on natural light and our open ceiling reduces building material.
- The refrigeration system in our store is so cool, it not only keeps food cold, but it also helps heat our air and water.
- Energy-efficient fans and dryers inside our frozen food cases keep products frozen while using less electricity.
- Our overhead lights are smart enough to turn themselves off at night. Motion sensors turn the lights off when no one is around.
- The light bulbs over the magazines and check lanes are called "compact fluorescents." They last longer and use less energy than regular bulbs.
- Our concrete floor eliminates the need for tile and its harsh cleaning solvents.
- Our wide array of organic products results in less pesticide for the ecosphere.
- Our recycling program includes cardboard, newspaper, glass, etc.
- Having reusable bags available for your use, as well as our Bag-2-Bag recycling program, reduces waste.
So what are you waiting for?
Bag it and snag it!
OK, let's think about this. My car gets 22 miles to the gallon. If you divide 80 miles by 22, you get that I use roughly 4 gallons of gas each day. With gas at around $2 per gallon, I save $8 a day, or $32 a month, or $384 each year. Just think, back when gas was $4 per gallon, I would have saved twice that—$768 in a year!
When you take those savings and factor in wear & tear on your vehicle, dry cleaning costs for dress clothes, and any number of other factors, that's a big difference. So, not only are you saving money, you're impacting the environment in a postive way by not burning fuel or contributing to air pollution.
With the economy in its current slump, this is actually a good time to ask your boss for the opportunity to work from home. During a time when many companies are experiencing salary freezes, employers may be willing to negotiate a work-from-home day each week, especially if you're a responsible worker bee.
Today 33 percent of every 10 1/2 ounce SunChips bag is made with renewable, plant-based materials. It's their first step to reduce the amount of non-renewable materials used for packaging. Besides the few free bags the company has recently been handing out, SunChips plans to completely use fully compostable chip bags in 2010. These innovative bags are designed to fully decompose in about 14 weeks when placed in a hot, active compost bin or pile.
In the short clip below, you can see a time lapse of the bag decomposing.
So you eat the chips. The earth eats the bag. And we all live in a cleaner world!
You can visit SunChips Web site to see more of the ways the company cares for the environment. For instance, SunChips made in California are made using solar energy!
It's important for us as consumers to support companies who care about the same causes we do. We bought two bags of SunChips at the grocery store last weekend—And that's just the beginning.
Do you know of any environmentally-conscious organizations? If so, let me know in the comments section. I want to give them my business, and I hope you will too!
It’s not always easy bein’ green, but you can make smarter decisions. Small, practical changes in your everyday life can make a big difference.
For instance, I have completely stopped bringing home plastic bags from the grocery store. I take reusable, canvas bags. Not only can you carry more in each one so you need fewer (I use about five for each “big” grocery store trip), but the bags are also much better for the environment than plastic.
More 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. While plastic bags weigh less and take up less landfill space then their paper counterparts, many plastic bags don’t end up in landfills. Scientists currently believe the world’s largest garbage dump isn’t on land—it’s in the Pacific Ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is roughly th size of Texas and contains about 3.5 million tons of trash!
In some places, the floating debris—estimated to be 90 percent plastic—goes 90 feet deep. Pieces of plastic outnumber plankton, the main food source for many sea animals, by a 6-to-1 ratio.
Plastic bags don't biodegrade, they photodegrade—breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web when animals accidentally ingest. Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags mistaken for food.
I encourage you to check out this slideshow for a visual represntation of how using plastic bags affects the environtment. http://www.poconorecord.com/_flash/soundslides/20080505plasticbags/soundslider.swf
What can you do?
- Think twice about taking a plastic bag if your purchase is small and easy to carry.
- Keep canvas bags in your home, office and car so you always have them available when you go to the supermarket or even clothing or other stores.
- Ask your favorite stores to stop providing bags for free, or to offer a discount for not using the bags.
- Encourage your local politicians to introduce legislation taxing or banning plastic bags. (A 2002 tax on platic bags in Ireland reduced consumption by 90 percent. San Francisco was the first U.S. city to outright ban plastic bags.)
- Check out these Web sites for more information:
Last weekend, Alex and I took advantage of the *beautiful* weather in Middle Tennessee to play outside all day. We planted a sycamore tree in our front yard, an herb garden at the side of the house and petunias in our front porch planters.
In this picture, you can see my herb garden. We planted, from left to right, chives, oregano and mint. The chives and mint are perennials, so they should come back each year. We also planted parsley and basil seeds inside the kitchen on the windowsill.
We went to our local Farmer's Co-Op to get the herb plants. It's a great way to support local farmers. It's also a great place to buy honey. Local honey is good for your allergies, and it too supports local farmers. Buying anything local helps conserve the fuel it takes to transport items from one place to another. Your local farmer's market is another way to support local farmers, and your fruits and veggies will be fresh and in season. To find a farmer's market near you, visit http://apps.ams.usda.gov/FarmersMarkets/.
Let me know what you're doing to celebrate Earth Day ... and beyond!