Archive for Seasonal

Green Your Halloween

“Think outside the conventional candy box.”Corey Colwell-Lipson

That magical, festive celebration is upon us. Halloween is full of ghost and goblins, but you don’t want to leave any skeletons in your closet when it comes to staying green this Halloween. Like many holidays, Halloween often becomes a consumer-driven day, fueled by creative costumes and candy cravings. But it’s important to remember that all the holiday hoopla can take a toll on the environment. Below are 3 simple tips for keeping the environment in mind during this holiday, and they might even save a you a buck or two, too.

1. Bag it

While those little orange pumpkin buckets are certainly cute, they’re also made out of plastic. According to the Environmental Literacy Council, plastic is “essentially a byproduct of petroleum refining” that “account(s) for 25 percent of all waste in landfills when buried.” Improper disposal of plastic is harmful to the environment because plastic does not biodegrade easily, meaning it sticks around for a long time and disrupts healthy ecosystems and oceans.

Instead of the buckets, use the old-fashioned pillowcase method for collecting goodies, or tote around a reusable grocery bag; the bags come in all kinds of colors, so you can certainly find one to match to your costume.

Photo courtesy zcache.com

2. Dare to re-wear

It’s always fun to go all-out and wear the funniest, scariest, or most elaborate costume. Unfortunately, extravagance comes at a price, and that price it typically the environment. Environmental Health Perspectives states that making clothes can make a mess of the natural world: “Conventionally grown cotton, one of the most popular clothing fibers, is also one of the most water- and pesticide-dependent crops.” So the more new clothing consumers purchase, the more potential hazards to the environment. But, there are other options.

Remember that costume from three years ago that you shoved to the back of your closet? Well, not many other people probably do, so drag it out and wear it again. If you can’t fight off the urge for something new, visit local second-hand or thrift stores for “new” costume pieces. A European study showed that for every 100 t-shirts that made it to thrift stores, 14 percent of the “environmental burden of the [t-shirts’]  life cycle is decreased for global warming.”

3. Let there be (more natural) light

Whether you need to light the driveway for trick-or-treaters or the path your own trick-or-treating may follow, you probably aren’t thinking about where that light is coming from. According to a community blog, strands of traditional lights use about “1 amp, which is roughly the same as a 100 watt light bulb.” Not only is this creating electrical pollution, but disposed traditional compact fluorescent light bulbs create 30,000 pounds of mercury each year when they sit in landfills. That’s a lot of potential ground, air, and water pollution.

This Halloween, consider switching to LED lights. MSNBC states that they “use 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and 75 percent less than the mini-lights used for holiday decorations.” Even if you don’t plan to decorate with lights, you may still need some shine to get you from the door-to-door, trick-or-treat candy excursion. For this, use battery-free flashlights that power up by shaking. No dead batteries to leak acid in landfills, plus it’s kind of fun to shake them up.

Photo courtesy gizmodo.com

For more tips about greening your Halloween, visit The Daily Green or Green Halloween Web sites.

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Blown Away

“Don’t blow it – good planets are hard to find.”Unknown

There’s no denying it: Fall is approaching quickly, and with that cool, crisp change in the air, leaves begin to high-tail it off tree branches.

While the red, orange and golden leaves do make a beautiful sight, they also clutter yards. For most people, firing up their leaf-blowers is the easiest, most efficient way to pile their leaves and make their lawns a bit less messy. Unfortunately, using leaf-blowers means sacrificing a healthy environment for a quick fix.

Gas-powered leaf-blowers pollute the air, just as any gas-powered invention does. According to a Reuters blog, “in one year, the average blower used by a professional gardener emits as much smog-forming pollution as 80 new cars, each driven 12,500 miles.” But the pollution doesn’t stop there.  Not only do these blowers produce foul chemical emissions, but they also stir up mold and other allergens that were trapped in the decomposing leaves. Several California communities have even placed bans on gas-powered blowers, as well as offered an exchange program to get those polluters off the yards.

But there is good news: This blower debacle is nothing that a little old-fashioned exercise can’t fix. In a study examining particulate emission (the fine liquid or solid particles discharged with exhaust gases) rates from leaf-blowers, researchers found that raking leaves did not generate significant amounts of the nasty debris. Horticulture agent Maggie Shao says,Raking leaves is generally a good practice of sanitation, that is cleaning up possibly diseased leaves or preventing a dark, warm environment for diseases and pests to develop and create problems in the spring for new tender growth.” So, as you’re keeping your yard healthy, you’re also keeping the air healthy.

And that’s not the only health benefit: Raking leaves will help to get your heart rate pumping and to tone your body. According to AARP.com, “A 135-pound person could burn about 240 calories raking leaves for an hour.” That’s quite a few calories for just tidying up your yard, and all you need is a rake. Good rakes are made with high-carbon steel. The type of rake you need will depend on the type of clean-up job you have to do. Adjustable rakes are great for big-yard cleanups, but they can also work well for digging leaves out of shrubbery. The “Cleanup Rake” is also versatile and can be used for picking up both wet and dry leaves.

Whatever style you choose, the important thing to keep in mind is that by raking, you’re taking one step toward cleaning up not only your yard, but also the environment. That is something you should really fall in love with.

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It’s getting hot (or cold) in here

“The system of nature, of which man is a part, tends to be self-balancing, self-adjusting, self-cleansing. Not so with technology.”E.F. Schumacher

E.F. Schumacher had it right: Technology can’t seem to regulate itself the same way nature can. But, some creations in this technological age do have the ability to make some of their own adjustments, and programmable thermostats are a good example.

Photo courtesy ductlesscooling.com

Photo courtesy ductlesscooling.com

These thermostats can be programed to automatically reduce heating and cooling in your home when you don’t need as much, and they are one of the easiest ways you can save energy, money and help fight global warming.

We’re currently in the throes of summer, and temperatures can get a bit uncomfortable. Informational “going green” Web site thedailygreen.com states that cooling accounts for nearly half the energy used by the average home during the summer, according to the EPA. Energy Star broadens that sad picture, explaining that the average household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills — nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling.

Photo courtesy guardian.co.uk

Photo courtesy guardian.co.uk

By using a programmable thermostat, you can adjust the times you turn on the heating or air conditioning through a pre-set schedule, according to the US Department of Energy. For every degree you lower the thermostat in the winter or raise it in the summer, you’ll save between 1 percent and 3 percent of your heating and cooling bill. You can save around 10 percent a year of your bill by simply turning your thermostat back 10 degrees to 15 degrees for eight hours.

Programmable thermostats can cost as little as $30 to as much as $300 depending on how fancy you get them, although they will pay for themselves in energy savings.

But what if you’re either a.) not in the market for a thermostat, or b.) don’t have a thermostat to replace? Well, there are other options. Another energy-saving solution is to purchase a Cool-n-Save, which attaches to almost any home air conditioning unit. The system costs about $100, but it’s supposed to save you 30 percent on your electric bill.

Additional options involve working with what you already have. The US Department of Energy suggests keeping your house warmer than normal when you are away and lowering the setting to 78°F (26°C) only when you are at home and need cooling. Or, if you really want to save (and don’t have pets at home that need a cooler temperature), try turning off your air conditioner about 10 minutes before you leave the house, so that you still feel cool prior to heading out. You should also be sure to clean and to maintain your air-conditioning unit properly.

Photo courtesy bhgrealestate.com

Photo courtesy bhgrealestate.com

The best option for saving energy and money: Don’t use an air conditioner at all. E/The Environmental Magazine suggests using table top or ceiling fans, which use about only 1/30th the electricity of a room air conditioner. Even better yet, just throw open a couple windows and let nature do its thing.

As Schumacher said, nature is self-balancing, self-adjusting and self-cleansing. Why not let a little bit of that goodness flow through your house now and then? It’ll beat air conditioning any day, I guarantee it.

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Keeping the bugs at bay

“There’s so much pollution in the air now that if it weren’t for our lungs there’d be no place to put it all.”Robert Orben

Nothing says summer more than relaxing in the sunshine, getting together with friends and sharing a meal in the great outdoors. However, with all the excitement, it’s easy to forget about the damage all the good times may be having on one’s health and the environment.

Citronella

No one likes bugs crashing the fun, but you may want to think twice before whipping out the bug spray. It turns out, bug spray could be harming more than just bugs. Two chemicals commonly found in bug repellents (among a host of other items) were responsible for nearly 30 percent of human incident adverse-reaction reports in the US in 2007, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

For a safer alternative, use a citronella oil-based repellent. The EPA states that citronella oil shows little to no toxicity, as well as minimal to no risks to wildlife, so it is not harmful to health or environment. Companies such as Burt’s Bees and Badger Balm have safe repellents for less than $10, and these products are DEET- and chemical-free.

You can also find citronella oil candles. Etsy.com has eco-friendly, soy citronella candles for less than $5 (plus shipping).


Lavender

Still concerned about pesky mosquitoes? Try using lavender oil to repel the persistent insects. Supposedly mosquitoes have a very limited olfactory system but are extremely sensitive to carbon dioxide, the gas we breathe out as waste. Luckily, lavender oil temporarily blocks their ability to smell and keeps the insects from finding and feeding on you. Hood River Lavender Farms sells organic lavender oils and spritzers for $6 to $12.

If you have your own lavender plants, you can make your own lavender oil. While there are several different methods, wikiHow seems to offer the quickest and easiest way. In case of a needed instant fix, simply rub the plant itself on your skin. The best places to put the lavender oil (or plant) are on your ankles, wrists and behind your ears. Lavender as a repellent, however, only lasts about two hours, so fairly frequent re-application is necessary.

Food

I know what you’re thinking: It’s food that brings the bugs, so how can it possibly keep them away? Easy. Ants just don’t like certain foods. For a natural and non-harmful way to deter ants, try creating a food barrier. Salt, cinnamon, chili or cayenne pepper and lemon juice are all supposed to stop ants in their tracks. Another popular trick is setting out cucumber peels, especially bitter ones. Many ants appear to have a natural aversion to the vegetable.

Protecting yourself from bugs and their bites doesn’t have to come at a price. The environment, your health and your wallet can all benefit from a little thoughtfulness when choosing insect repellents. The only things that won’t be thanking you are the bugs themselves.

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