Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Have You Winterized Your Home?

While surfing on The Daily Green, I found some great tips on how to "Winterize" your home. There are some very interesting and doable tips... some more extreme than others (as in building a refrigerator that uses the cold air from outside to keep your perishables cold.) I am slightly paranoid about food going bad, so that won't be something I will be doing. However, one of the things that has the potential to be fun is the door snake. Door snakes can simply be a towel rolled up, or a cute decorated fabric tube. The purpose of the door snake is to keep drafts out by placing the "snake" at the bottom of your doors and windows. This will save you on your heating bill because that extra cold air will not be able to come in.

Click here for tips on how to build an air fridge.

Click here for more tips on how to make a door snake.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Waterkeeper Alliance

I was channel surfing on Sunday, looking for something to watch other than football, when I stumbled across The Deer Valley Celebrity Skifest. Well being the type of person that follows all the celebrity mumbo jumbo, I was curious as to what they were trying to raise money for. Turns out they were raising funds for a non-profit organization called Waterkeeper Alliance.
Well I did not exactly know what that was so I thought that I would research it. Waterkeeper Alliance is an organization that tries to protect water quality, ecosystems and communities. They have a full time person that is in change of one area of water and several different program names, such as Riverkeeper and Coastkeeper. For more information, like how you may start your own Waterkeeper Program go to http://www.waterkeeper.org/

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree...

Just like other controversial topics, the debate on real vs fake Christmas trees is no different. I have read many articles in favor of both real Christmas trees and fake trees. But I can’t help but wonder why the pendulum is swinging so extremely.

A few of years ago, if not a bit longer, the trend was in favor of purchasing fake trees to save the billions of live ones from being harvested and then discarded like yesterday’s trash. We were told that we were killing forests, and natural habitats, and that our desire for a Christmas tree was destructive and selfish. Pleas to the consumer to make this transition from real to fake were targeted right at our “emotional jugulars.” So, a large percentage of consumers listened (although they had many other reasons for purchasing, such as the convenience of never having to string lights on a tree again) resulting in the popularity of the fake tree.

Now, we are being persuaded to go out and once again buy those wonderful smelling once live trees. We are told that buying a real tree is “eco friendly” and better for the environment. That these fake trees are bad - constructed from harmful PVCs (which is what a lot of our plastic bottles are made from, but we still drink from them!), made in harmful factory conditions in China, and only ultimately end up in our land fills - never to be recycled or decomposed. Again our “emotional jugulars” are being attached with the fear that we are breaking toxic air, or our houses will burn down from our fake trees catching fire.

For me, I have always been in favor of real Christmas Trees. Not for the reasons of whether or not it was better for the environment, but for the traditions that came with picking out a purchasing a real tree, for the bonding that took place when the entire family went out in search of it, for the smells that filled my house once that tree entered. Those are my reasons for why I had always chose real vs fake. But recently, I inherited a fake tree and decided to put it up this year. It wasn’t so bad, it’s still a beautiful tree decorating my home with the Christmas spirit. Which poses this question to me: What would these tree advocates have me do? They tell us continuously that real is better and that fake is toxic and only goes into the land fills. So, do I continue to use this fake tree I have acquired, contaminating my air and raising the potential for fire (which I don’t quite believe...) in my home? Or do I throw it away before it’s use is spent, putting it in a landfill somewhere - to go back to purchasing real trees? These advocates have caused quite the dilemma for us consumers - we are doomed if we do, and doomed if we don’t.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Just Broken Glass or Something Else?

I know there has been a lot of blogs about great Christmas gift ideas, but I could not resist blogging about this really cool website I found, bottled up designs.

This woman, Laura Bergman, has found a way to take broken glass that she finds and transforming it into jewelry, and for this time of year Christmas ornaments. With each piece she also includes "The Story of the Glass." Which tells the purchaser what the glass originally was (i.e. beer bottles, mason jar, antique clorox bottles ext.) and the age of the glass.
So I urge you to take a look. The prices are not that bad, and you are buying items that are made from glass that would not have been able to be recycled any other way, not to mention they are really pretty.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Green up your Holiday Parties

Christmas time is just around the corner and I am sure many businesses are getting ready for there annual holiday parties. Courtesy of Earth911.com, here are some wonderful ideas on how to make your party eco-friendly:

1. Send Virtual Invites - You can save on paper by sending email invites. There are also certain websites that can help you manage your guest list, that will make it easy to see who has RSVP so that you are not buying too much food.

2. Buy By the Bunch - When you buy in bulk it saves on packaging and it makes it easier to clean up.

3. Light it up With LEDs - These lights are more energy efficient and you can now get different kinds of Christmas lights that are made from LEDs. If you like lighting candles instead try and make sure that they are made from non-petroleum products such as soy or beeswax.

4. Paper or Plastic? - Use reusable dishes instead of plasticware. You would not only be saving on the cost, but mose of the plasticware isn't recyclable. I know it would be more work, due to the fact that you would have to clean the dishes, but its better to save the environment and save money.

5. Post-Consumer Goodies - If you do however purchase paper products, try and make sure they contain the highest percentage of recycled content as possible.

6. Favorable Favors - Try and give environmentally responsible gifts and favors at your party or you can even make a donation to your favorite charity in honor of your guests.

7. Truly Evergreen - What would a Christmas party be without wreaths or a Christmas tree. Try when you are done with this festive items to recycle them, you can usually use a seasonal curbside recycling porgram or find a treecyling event.

8. The Morning After - Cleaning up after a party is always a downer, but since it has to be done you should make it worth everyones time and efort. You can recycle any bottles or cans that were used. Also if you have a ton of leftovers you can donate them to a food bank or a shelter. And remember to use biodegradable cleaning products.

Holiday parties are always fun and exciteing, but they can also be rewarding if you follow a few of these simple tips.

Friday, December 12, 2008

"Green" Christmas Gifts

Why spend money on Christmas gifts that someone might or might not use! The way to go this year is to give real, useful products such as Kathy's Climate Kit's. These kits have a variety of home efficiency items that can help you start being green. Included in Kathy's Climate Kit is: 2 CFL's, window weatherstripping, an auto-sensor LED nightlight, a faucet aerator, tire pressure gauge, compact reusable Chico-Bag, a form letter for reducing junk mail, 3 pre-stamped letters to Congress on climate policy, a reusable grocery bag, a toilet tank bank (saves water when flushing), toilet leak detection dye tablets, and some informative Climate Cards. They will also make a donation to an environmental organization based on what you've done to fight climate change in your home.

You can also put these together yourself and give them as gifts. The basket below contains many home energy efficiency aids such as: a programmable thermostat, do-it-yourself weatherization products, compact fluorescent light bulbs and a tip booklet.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I attended a conference yesterday in Salt Lake City, Utah. The topic was: Adjusting To Less Water: Climate Change and the Colorado River. Scientists agree that climate change will affect the southwestern United States in a number of ways: reduced snowpack, earlier runoff, heavier rain events, etc. Water agencies throughout the southwest are trying to determine the best way to deal with these possibilities.

However, there was another aspect of the conference I found quite moving. This conference was sponsored by the Glen Canyon Institute. The afternoon presentations consisted of photographers and conservationists that love the Glen Canyon. If you're not familiar with Glen Canyon, it was drowned by Lake Powell when Glen Canyon Dam was built in the 1960's. The question was posed, "How do we teach children the importance of environmental stewardship?" After some discussion, the main idea that emerged was that it is absolutely crucial that children be afforded the opportunity to be in the natural environment if they are to have any respect for it.

Educating the next generation about natural resources and environmental protection is a noble thing to do and I'm happy to be a part of that!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Eco-Friendly Christmas Gifts

While browsing for Christmas gift ideas this weekend, I decided to check out one of the websites another blogger had posted about: www.reusablebags.com. I was thinking that it was going to just be a bunch of bags, but I was mistaken. I came across so many eco-friendly gift ideas. I was stoked when I found the Stainless Steel Cutlery Set. What a great idea! I know that I personally use at least one plastic fork or spoon a day at work. Wouldn't it be great if we had these cutlery sets in our drawers at work? It would save sooo much plastic! And we all know that is definitely going to help the environment. That is certainly on my Christmas Wish List!

Another product I found that was awesome too was a porcelain coffee cup with a silicone lid...it looks exactly like a Styrofoam coffee cup! So much waste would be saved if we all used our own coffee mugs from home. I think a lot of offices lately are encouraging employees to do that, which is great! Someone also mentioned to me that if you take your own mug into places like Starbucks, they will give you a slight discount.. what a great deal!

Let's try to give some eco-friendly gifts this year for Christmas!

A Greener Christmas

I know we all have our own picture perfect Christmas of exactly what it should be and how it should look. When it boils down to it, if we could do things more Eco-friendly I know we would. I know of 5 simple easy things we can do that really make a huge difference.

Number one is to replant or donate your Christmas tree. I know everyone loves the smell of pine so take care of your tree and once Christmas is over donate your Christmas tree to be replanted in local parks, church's, schools, etc. Second would be switching from incandescent lights to LED lights. It is a fact that if every American home switched to LED Christmas lights, we could save $160 million in energy costs this season alone. Not only that but your bill alone would drop significantly. Third is to either make or buy recycled ornaments. Families could get together and make ornaments out of fruits and berries, gingerbread cookies, pine cones, etc. Most of the ornaments made in today's society are either plastic or glass. Did you know that you can rent a Christmas tree? People deliver it before Christmas and set it up for you and after the Holiday they come and pick it up. This is a great way to insure that the plant will be replanted; and last but not least number five. Christmas trees can be recycled a number of ways. They can be turned in mulch, used for landscaping or chipped and used on pathways. By doing this trees not only stabilize the soil but provide habitats for fish, birds and mammals as well.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Eat A Local Feast For Thanksgiving!

Let's get back to our roots this Thanksgiving...

We know that the Pilgrims did not truck food in from thousands or even hundreds of miles away for their feast. It was obviously not possible for that to happen. Why can't we eat locally grown foods for our Thanksgiving meal? The 100 Mile Diet is doing a Thanksgiving special this year. You can go to their site, type in your zip code and find out local foods for Thanksgiving.

To me, this is great because the carbon dioxide emissions from transporting turkeys or what have you across the country are not entering our atmosphere. The produce should also be cheaper because it didn't have to be hauled in from who knows where.

Whether you eat locally or globally, have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo by Elkit via Flickr

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gimme 5

Starting in January, Preserve, a household product maker, will be accepting all #5 plastics for recycling. As part of a new “Gimme 5” program, Preserve will be arranging a partnership with Whole Foods to have bins for you to take your #5 plastics, such as butter and yogurt tubs, reusable plastic bottles, medicine bottles, and Brita water filters.

The company will be taking these plastics and reusing them for products such as toothbrushes, razor handles and kitchen ware (instead of filling landfills). The activated carbon and other filter media in the Brita filters will be sent to “be regenerated for alternative use and converted into energy” according to press releases put out by both Preserve and Brita.

If you don’t have a Whole foods near you, you can still send your #5 plastics directly to Preserve. For more information visit Preserve.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Green your Ride"

What if a single inexpensive upgrade could significantly cut your car’s emissions while simultaneously increasing its fuel efficiency? That is the idea behind this new product called ‘Blade,’ created by Sabertec. Blade is an exhaust filtration unit. It filters matter particles as well as increasing catalytic converter efficiency. This new device makes some pretty fantastic claims, but is it truly cracked up to be - or just another piece of green-washed bling out to pilfer your pockets?

Blade has been approved by the California Air Resources Board and the EPA. It is capable of reducing greenhouse gasses by up to 34%, filtering vehicle air pollution by up to 57%, and increasing your vehicle’s fuel sufficiency by 10-30%. Blade reduces emissions with a filter that captures post-catalytic particulate matter, also decreases the time it takes for your vehicle’s catalytic converter to heat up and prevents exhaust from slipping back into the combustion chamber as it is expelled, theoretically maximizing gasoline efficiency.

But, “Blade relies upon disposable filters, which must be replaced every 3,000-10,000 miles, cost $20 a pop, and will presumably end up in a landfill. Second, how can a device that by nature filters and restricts exhaust prevent it from trailing back into the combustion chamber? ... perhaps the most problematic aspect of the Blade is the way it empowers car culture by giving free license to gas guzzlers to parade about under an environmental banner: “Blade your ride… because you should feel good about what you drive”. The device even comes with a physical badge to identify your vehicle as “eco-optimized”. Bill O’Brien, the CEO of Sabertech says that “really, when you look at blade, it’s the best thing you can do for your car from an environmental perspective.” He continues to say that “a lot of people put these on their cars just because of how it looks.”

This conflation of image with eco sets a dangerous precedent, and I can already envision hordes of “eco-optimized” SUV’s sporting these banners as a justification to continue on polluting as normal. The blade may help in cleaning up car exhaust, but it ignores the number one way to reduce vehicle emissions: simply don’t drive - walk, ride a bike or use public transportation.”

via Treehugger and inhabitat

Frustration Free, Ouch Free

Amazon introduced ‘Frustration Free Packaging’ just in time for this holiday season. Right now, they currently have 19 products; with the hopes of expanding into more; with this new Frustration-Free packaging.

“If you’ve ever tried to open a plastic package twice the size of the product inside and ended up with box cutters in one hand and carpal tunnel syndrome in the other you may know ‘wrap rage.’ Then once you finally got the plastic off, you still had 18 wires to unwind and a mountain of mostly unrecyclable trash.”

Working with manufacturers, Amazon is trying to eliminate the awful plastic clamshell and other wasteful packages in exchange for recyclable brown boxes that are easy to wrap and unwrap.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Happy Birthday

Tis the season for colds, and the germs that cause them.

Did you know that half of us don't wash our hands enough throughout the day (and after using the restroom - yuck!)? And and that two-thirds of the half of us that do wash our hands, don't wash them long enough to make a difference? Makes you not want to shake hands or touch doorknobs!!

Washing our hands is something we all seem to take for granted. But proper, effective hand washing takes only 30 seconds and it is the single best way to prevent the spread of the flu and the common cold. You will not only prevent the spread of your germs to other people, but prevent yourself from catching germs as well.

A way of measuring "how long is long enough" when washing your hands, is singing Happy Birthday. No, not out loud... keep those vocals to yourself. If you wash your hands long enough to sing happy birthday, than you are washing your hands long enough to properly kill all those nasty cold causing germs (assuming you are using soap and warm water...)!

So next time you are at the sink, think Happy Birthday!

New Study Shows California's Air Pollution Kills More People Than Auto Accidents

A new study from California State University-Fullerton dug into the potential dollar and health benefits from reducing California's air pollution levels to meet federal air quality standards. The results were, well, breathtaking.

A report from the Associated Press today indicated that the study found that the California Highway Patrol recorded 2,521 vehicular deaths in the San Joaquin Valley and South Coast Air Basin in 2006, compared to 3,812 deaths attributed to respiratory illness caused by particulate pollution. The study linked ozone and particulates to both respiratory ailments and heart disease, and identified health costs and productivity costs.

In short, while expensive and difficult to achieve, the goal of cleaning up California's air would pay big dividends in quality of life and dollars. This kind of analysis and dialogue is exactly what we need to begin looking at the true costs - and benefits - of actions which clean our environment. These investments have big, important payoffs that help the economy as well as other important quality of life indicators. For more on this story, go to the msnbc website at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27697708/,

The Gift of Giving

With the holidays just around the corner, it is the perfect time to start thinking about how to be the most thoughtful without being the most wasteful. There is a plethora of ways - from small to big.

When you’re wrapping those pretty little presents, think about using your shredded paper as stuffing rather than new tissue paper. Not only will you save money, but you will be giving those gifts better protection and won’t be creating anymore waste - it was already going in the trash.. Choose wrapping paper that can be recycled instead of all those foils and tin lined papers. Yes, they are pretty, but they aren’t good for us and they cost an arm and a leg to begin with! Think about reusing ribbons and bows from previous years instead of always buying new present toppers and finishers. All those bows go to waste each year when they can be saved.

When it comes to the gift itself. Try finding new, used/recycled/repurposed gifts. I don’t mean looking in your closet for some junky item you got last year, or re-gifting the fruitcake your aunt gave you... For example: for the wine connoisseur, think about getting them a set of recycled windshield wine glasses, handmade from car windshields. They are great conversation pieces and it is a new use for something once discarded ( for other recycled wine glasses, check out www.potterybarn.com). For the the person who loves unique jewelry, think about giving them vintage “dead stock” jewelry (so they’ve never been worn). This will give them a unique style without adding to the waste of mass produced, cheaply made jewelry of today. For the loved one that needs a vacation (that you certainly can’t pay for), give them a day at a spa, or a massage instead of any of those do-it-yourself relaxation tools. You will keep someone employed and your gift can’t be thrown into a landfill.

You can find unique gift ideas at places like uncommongoods.com, sprig.com, vintage-hollywood.com, costplus.com and many more.

Being creative with your gift giving lends itself to being more thoughtful and less wasteful - it’s a win win!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Which Candidate Thinks Like You

It may be election night and you may have already voted but there's still time to take the "Which Candidate Thinks Like You?" election quiz over at thedailygreen.com. Just like voting you don't have to tell anyone which one you favor just smile knowingly when your candidate wins.

Don't Let The Holidays Get You Down

So the holiday season is upon us and so is the season for colds and flu. With the passing of money back and forth with holiday shopping and the elevated stress levels it's a given you're going to get sick.

Not to worry though, The Daily Green has some advice that will help keep you healthy this winter.

For instance, I never knew that eating carrots would help get rid of headaches or that tomatoes could ease the pain of minor burns.

thedailygreen.com: Phytonutrients in fresh produce, like the beta carotene in carrots, can reduce inflammation in the blood vessels of the brain. Eating two cups a day can help some people reduce headache incidence by 70%!

For minor burns, slice a tomato and apply it to the burn, allowing the juice to fully dry. Tomatoes have nature's healthiest dose of lycopene, which is anti-inflammatory.

Be sure to check out the other tips at TheDailyGreen.com and let us know your great winter tips by leaving us a comment.

Photo by Claudecf via Flickr.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Here are a few things that we can expect from our favorite coffee company coming up in the near future. As part of its Shared Planet™ program, Starbucks has vowed to:

* Making 100 percent of Starbucks cups to be reusable or recyclable.
* Increase and encourage in store recycling.
* “Greening” all new, company-owned stores by 2010.
* Growing and ethically trading 100% of the company’s coffee (up from the current
* Contributing more than 1 million community service hours annually in Communities where the company does business.
* Reduce its global impact by conserving water and energy and promoting forest conservation.

Starbucks has committed to achieving these goals by 2015. Current Starbucks is already supporting other green programs in stores; such as a 10-cent discount whenever a customer brings there own cup to fill up instead of a store paper cup.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Blind as a Bat?

We all know the saying blind as a bat, although it is an oxymoron. Well, the University of Michigan College of Engineering, just received a five year $10-million dollar grant to develope a steel-winged robotic spy plane shaped like a bat - named COM-BAT. It is a six inch surveillence device that is powered by solar, wind, and vibrations - much like a real bat... The concept came from the US military as a means to gather real-time data for soldiers, and the army. The grant will initiate the University of Michigan Center for Objectives Microelectronics and Biominetic Advanced Technologies (called COM-BAT for short).

Some of the concepts that will be worked on through the grant include cameras for stereo vision, mini-microphones capable of tracking sounds from different directions, and small detectors for nuclear radiation and poisonous gases. 

There's Something New in the Air

Hey readers, welcome back! Blogger is rolling out a new feature that will make getting your fill of energy and resource conservation news and tips much easier. Now you can follow us if you have a blogger account. Here's how to do it.

Step 1) Log into Blogger.com and go to your Dashboard.

Step 2) Look about half way down the page and you should see 3 tabs. One says "Blogs I'm Following", and the other 2 say "Blogger Buzz" and "Blogs of Note". Click the "Blogs I'm Following" tab. If you don't see it don't worry. This is a limited roll out but everyone will have it very soon.

Step 3) Now click the light blue "Add" button.

Step 4) Select "Add from URL" and enter the following URL in the blank: resourceactionprograms.blogspot.com and click the "Add" button.

Step 5) Select "Follow publicly" and then click "Follow".

That's it! Now you'll be able to see posts from our blog on your Dashboard everytime you log in. You can add all your favorite blogs the same way! Enjoy!

That's A Lot of Bottles...

In Thailand, the Wat Pa Maha Chedio Kaew Temple was built from one million recycled bottles! They "found a way to bottle-up Nervana, literally." The temple is in Thailand's Sisaket province, about 370 miles northeast of Bangkok. It was nicknamed, "Wat Lan Kuad", Temple of Million Bottles. It features glass bottles throughout the entire temple and grounds, including the crematorium, surrounding shelters, and the toilets too! An estimate of 1.5 million recycled bottles are built into the temple and they are continuing to build with more. They have even used the bottle caps as decoration throughout in mosaics and murals!

This bottle collection that turned into a building started in 1984 when the bottles were used as decoration in shelters by the monks. The shiny feature of the glass attracted more people and donations of more bottles until they had enough to build the temple standing today. The bottle bricks don't fade and let plenty of natural light in, and are surprisingly easy to clean and maintain.

Living like Tarzan?

Mitchell Joachim, an eco-architect, has a visionary idea about how to grow living treehouses from ficus that is molded around a group of frame structures. 

"As part of the ecological architecture nonprofit Terreform, Mitchell Joachin, Lara Greden, and Javier Arbona designed this living treehouse in which the dwelling itself merges with its environment and nourishes its inhabitants. 'Fab Tree Hab' dissolves our conventional concept of home and establishes a new symbiosis between the house and its surrounding ecosystem."

In order to build this treehouse, an initial frame must be constructed by forming and manipulating lager tree trunks and branches of trees such as Elm, Live Oak, and Dogwood, to bear the heavier loads. Vines, smaller branches, and other plants would form the lattice work for the walls and roof of the house. The inside structure would be made of cob (clay and straw), which has been proven as a tried and true "green building" approach that allows for customization in shaping the walls and ceilings. 

The idea is to create a structure that provides sustenance for the inhabitants and other living creatures who interact with the structure, that when utilized in their "living state", can create a "superstructure" that is biologically pure and contains no unknown substances. 

I don't know what to think about the idea. Although these designers have the best intentions and are only trying to "do good", it seems like we are using the technology and resources we have today to live like Tarzan and the Swiss Family Robinsons... going forwards just to go backwards....

Below is a short video:

California's Solar Thermal Plant

In Bakersfield, California, a solar thermal plant was launched - the first in twenty years. This was a push to launch California into a "new era of renewable energy." It was designed by Ausra and was named "Kimberlina." The first of it's kind in North America, it uses 1,000 foot long mirrors to convert the sun rays into energy. Kimberlina is expected to generate 5MW of electricity - enough to power 3,500 homes. It is the first trial before constructing a much larger 177MW plant powering more than 120,000 homes, set to open in 2010.  

This plant uses a technology called "compact linear fresnel reflectors," which uses mirrors to focus the heat of the sun upon tubes of water, creating steam that is then used to drive power turbines to generate electricity. Solar thermal plants are capable of storing heat for when it is needed and the steam created can also be used for other applications.

Governor Schwarzenegger was quoted saying: " This next generation solar power plant is further evidence that reliable, renewable and pollution-free technology is here to stay... Not only will this large-scale solar facility generate power to help us meet our renewable energy goals, it will also generate new jobs as California continues to pioneer the clean-tech industry."

Spooky Eco House

This eco-friendly, off-grid house, in the woods of Sweden is enough to give anyone the creeps. This house gives the human imagination cart blanch! It's structure takes on the shape of a lizard, dragon, even a dinosaur! It was built in compliance with environmental building code. Because of it's location, so close to the water, the owners were limited. Inspired by Frank Loyd Wright's "Fallingwater," they got around the regulations by building an accordion room that is capable of extending outward over the nearby stream along two steal rails with a series of ropes and pulleys. The extension has not foundation and is technically part of the main footprint - thus avoiding the strict regulations.

inhabitat.com The organic cabin has a frame constructed of pine, with western red cedar shakes, which will eventually turn gray, blending in with its surroundings. The interior is naturally bright and lined with silver birth laths. Reindeer hides were nailed to the walls and ceiling to provide extra insulation, which was inspired by the Sami culture in Northern Scandanavia. Additionally, the cabin has no running water or phone lines and is not tied to the electric grid. The off-grid cabin is powered by solar panels on the roof.
When fully extended, the cabin is 775 sq ft, with a kitchen, living room, dining room, bedroom and a sleeping loft. As the architects describe Dragspelhuset, they see it as a tightly sealed cacoon in the winter when the movable extension is stored inside the body. When they return in the summer and extend the living room, they liken it to a butterfly expanding its wings to provide shelter on rainy days. Either way, it is an ingenious use of a small space, totally off-gird and in harmony with its surroundings.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

One Solution to Polluted Runoff

Fall and winter will, hopefully, bring much needed rain. Rain brings many benefits, however, in urban areas with a lot of pavement, rain also brings "runoff". Storm water runoff is a major concern. When it rains, pollution on driveways, parking lots, and roads washes into storm drains and into rivers, lakes or the ocean. This pollution can include: oil, brake dust, animal feces, cigarette butts, and trash.

One solution to reducing runoff is the use of porous pavement. Using larger aggregate than normal asphalt, porous pavement encourages rainwater to seep into the ground rather than running into storm drains. When water seeps into the ground, there is a natural filtration process that cleans the water, and ultimately recharges groundwater.

Porous pavement can help capture runoff which would be lost to the ocean for later use as it is pumped from the groundwater aquifer, and it helps protect our lakes, rivers and oceans from the polluted runoff.

This technology is being used in new construction, but if you're thinking about repaving your driveway, you might consider using environmentally-friendly porous pavement.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Stop Burning Leaves!

Although you might think that it is easier than raking them and bagging them up, burning leaves may be hazardous to your health, not to mention that the smoke does pollute the air.
When you burn leaves they usually burn slowly because of the moisture that can be trapped in them. This can cause airborne particulates, such as dust, soot, and other solid materials, which can cause coughing, wheezing , chest pain, shortness of breath and sometimes respiratory problems.
Leaf smoke may contain carbon monoxide and benzo(a)pyrene. It can also irritate the eyes, nose and throat of adults and affect people that have asthma.
There are some alternatives to burning leaves, you can always rake them and bag them up. I know this is a major chore, but it is a lot healthier than burning them and many towns offer curbside pickup for leaves and other yard waste. So all you would have to do is set the bags in the street by the curb or simply rake them to the street, just make sure they aren't too far into the street because that could be an accident waiting to happen.
Leaves also make good compost and you can shred your leaves to use as mulch to help your lawn or protect garden and landscape plants.
So please, the next time you think about burning your leaves not only think of your health, but the health of the people around you.

Another Reservoir to Store Colorado River Water?

A groundbreaking ceremony took place this week to provide more water for southern Nevada, central Arizona and Southern California, a good thing in light of our drought conditions, right?

The $172 million reservoir being built in the Imperial Valley of Southern California will store more Colorado River for the three states building it. However, this means less water being delivered to Mexico. Mexico has been receiving excess water from the Colorado River when available, more than they are “entitled” to under a 1944 treaty.

An Imperial Irrigation District board member said, “It’s not Mexico’s water, it’s California’s water.” But is water really something countries (or states, or individuals) should “own”?

Before the United States began diverting Colorado River water, the river ran free from it’s headwaters in the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California. This fresh water carried silt to the Delta which once covered 1.9 million acres. The delta wetlands supported abundant plant, bird and marine life. Diversions of freshwater for the U.S. resulted in a loss of freshwater for the Delta, consequently, the Delta has been reduced to about 10% of its original size.

So, if you haven’t already gotten the message that conserving water is a good thing, here’s yet another reason not to be wasteful. Water is a natural resource that has benefits beyond our use around our homes and businesses, water is necessary to support ecosystems such as the Colorado River Delta. For more information regarding ongoing work to heal the delta visit www.sonoran.org


How would you like to be saving hundreds of dollars just by using a certain light bulb? An energy efficient home is not only good for wallet but also good for our planet. So here comes the big question... Do you use Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL'S) in your home?

It is estimated that just one CFL will save you $30 in electric costs over a lifetime. Doesn't sound like much; now, take that and multiply it by the number of CFL's you use in your house and you really could be saving some serious money.

A CFL is a spiral-type integrated compact fluorescent lamp that is combined with a tube and electronic ballast. This spiral shaped style has reduced efficiency compared to the tubular shaped style, due to the thick layer of phosphor that is on the lower layer of the twist. This type of CFL has become the most popular type of lighting among the Northern American consumers.

Here are a few interesting facts about CFL's...

*If every home used just one ENERGYSTAR light bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for one whole year.

*ENERGYSTAR CFL's use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than a standard bulb.

*Incandescent bulbs waste 90% of their energy generating heat; while a CFL uses only 20% as much energy, emits 75% heat and still produces the same amount of light.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Generating Electricity at Sea Takes the Cake

One of the biggest complaints against off-shore oil drilling is the possibility of an oil spill that would destroy ecosystems, threaten coastal communities, decimate miles of coastline and cost untold millions of dollars in cleanup costs and restitution to families and businesses. What if we could still meet our energy needs but instead of drilling offshore we put up wind farms to harness coastal breezes and turn it into electricity? That's exactly what the UK and Denmark have been doing.

The UK has completed it's most aggressive campaign to harness offshore winds opening up a 194MW (megawatt) wind farm off the coast of Lincolnshire. The new wind farm can produce enough electricity to power 130,000 homes and makes the UK the worlds largest producer of offshore electricity.

Now that's thinking green!

Photo by emily_well_mannered via Flickr.

7 Green Vacation Spots You're Going to Need to Visit

No matter whether you're an Obama supporter or a McCain supporter, one thing we're all going to need after this Presidential Election is a vacation.

National Geographic's Green Guide had a great article the other day on 7 Green destinations for travelers. The destinations were picked based on their sustainable practices, recycling and resource conservation efforts, and ambiance. Here are the top 5 from the list.

First on the list was Camp Denali in Vice-Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin's home state of Alaska. Camp Denali is located in Denali National Park and Preserve home of Mt. McKinley (Denali), the tallest peak in North America.(campdenali.com).

Second was the Orchard Garden Hotel in beautiful San Francicsco, California. The Orchard Garden is a LEED-certified hotel in the heart of the city, just a couple minutes walk from Fisherman's Wharf, the beach, fine Italian food in Little Italy, or breathtaking views of the city from Telegraph Hill. Forget driving in San Francisco and hop one of the cable cars or rent a hybrid car and take day trips around the bay area to Mt. Tamalpais, Tomales Bay, Half Moon Bay (where the pumpkins are great right now), or even visit the Computer History Museum. (theorchardgardenhotel.com).

Number three on the list is the Rock Harbor Lodge in Isle Royale National Park, Michigan. Tucked away on a remote island in Northwest Lake Superior, Rock Harbor Lodge offers seclusion and beauty giving you ample opportunity to unwind (rockharborlodge.com).

The Sundance Resort in Sundance Utah has long been a favorite getaway destination and with 6000 acres of wilderness and some of the best skiing anywhere it's no wonder it was number four on the list.(sundanceresort.com).

For the rest of the list be sure to check out TheGreenGuide.com

Photo by Tyler Westcott via Flickr.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Want Green Employees? Reward Them For Being Good

So your company's gone green. You're doing all your printing on recycled stock. You're shipping with recycled cardboard containers and using biodegradable foam for packing and you've switched to more efficient lights in the office. The only problem you still have is getting your employees in the game. You could always do what Earth911 of California did, offer the prime parking spaces to employees who frequently carpool or drive hybrid vehicles.

Earth911 is located in San Francisco California, a city notorious for minimal parking and rampant crash and runs. You're more likely to get your car damaged by simply parking it on the street than stepping in front of a moving train. Well...ok...I'm over exaggerating a little. Just a little. But in a city where parking is hard to come by incentives like this can really make the difference to your employees.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Have a Green Halloween!!!

Everyone should know a few eco friendly ways to go green and enlighten your kids while celebrating Halloween. Some little fun ways to recycle are instead of using a store bought candy holder use a cloth bag or a pillow case. If you start this when they are young they will definitely endure this as they grow up.

It is always fun to be creative and festive for the holidays. Like the picture of this pumpkin that is made out of twigs. Another fun activitie is melting down old bees wax crayons and making Halloween candles with them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Get Clean and Green

Nothing feels better on a cold, fall morning than a nice hot shower but did you ever think about how much CO2 that shower is producing? Showers account for approximately 30 percent of household hot water use and can produce over 1,000 pounds of CO2 per year. Electric powered water heaters can produce even more CO2 if you live in an area where electricity is generated from a coal fired plant.

So what can you do? Try limiting the time you spend in the shower under the hot water. As my dad used to say, "Do what you gotta do and get out."

Install a high efficiency showerhead.

Have you had your water heater more than 2 years? Contact your plumber and have it checked to see if it's time for a new one. Sediment and calcium build up inside your water heaters tank lowering it's efficiency and require the burner to be on longer to heat the water.

Have your kids recently moved off to college or out of the house? Ask your plumber if downgrading to a smaller water heater or a tankless model is an option. Smaller tanks don't require the burner to be on as long before the water is the proper temperature. Tankless models heat the water "as-you-need-it" using far less energy.

To see how much CO2 you generate in the shower check out thegreenguide.com's CO2 calculator.

Photo courtesy of Oxygenics.com.

Maybe It's Not Better

Walk around the gym, school, or even down the street and you're sure to see someone carrying a bottle of water they purchased at a store. But is that water really better than the water you get out of a tap? A new report says no and in fact, says tap water may be much safer in some cases.

In a new report from the non-profit Environmental Working Group, 10 popular brands of water were found to have contaminants ranging from fertilizer, benzine, bacteria and even medications such as Tyelnol.

Environmental Working Group: Overall, the test results strongly indicate that the purity of bottled water cannot be trusted.

“It’s buyer beware with bottle water,” said Jane Houlihan, Vice President for Research at EWG. “The bottled water industry promotes its products as pure and healthy, but our tests show that pollutants in some popular brands match the levels found in some of the nation’s most polluted big city tap water systems. Consumers can’t trust that what’s in the bottle is anything more than processed, pricey tap water.”

“For years the bottled water industry has marketed their product with the message that it is somehow safer or purer than tap water,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the non-profit consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch. “This new report provides even more evidence that the purity of bottled water is nothing more than a myth propagated to trick consumers into paying thousands times more for a product than what it is actually worth.”

Laboratory tests conducted for EWG at one of the country’s leading water
quality laboratories found 38 contaminants in ten brands of bottled water purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in nine states and the District of Columbia. The pollutants identified include common urban wastewater pollutants like caffeine and pharmaceuticals, an array of cancer-causing byproducts from municipal tap water chlorination, heavy metals and minerals including arsenic and radioactive isotopes, fertilizer residue and a broad range of industrial chemicals. Four brands were also contaminated with bacteria.

Unlike tap water, where consumers are provided with test results every year, the bottled water industry does not disclose the results of any contaminant testing that it conducts. Instead, the industry hides behind the claim that bottled water is held to the same safety standards as tap water. But with promotional campaigns saturated with images of mountain springs, and prices 1,000 times the price of tap water, consumers are clearly led to believe that they are buying a product that has been purified to a level beyond the water that comes out of the garden hose.

Photo by shrff14 via Flickr.

Safe Toys are Good Toys

Having a new little girl who is at that age where every toy in the house finds its way into her mouth I'm becoming more careful with the toys we buy for our kids. HealthyToys.org tracks toys and lists the hazardous chemicals found within them including lead, mercury, arsenic, chlorine, and cadmium.

You can vote for a toy to be tested and even nominate a toy to be tested.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Plastic Recycling Codes

We all know that we need to recycle our plastics, but did you know that there are different types of plastics and that you should not necessarily put them all in your bin at home? Some of them need to be taken down to other designated places to be recycled. Plastics have codes on them with different symbols that designate what type of plastic they are. The Daily Green posted a list with all the different types and codes for plastics. This list will help you figure out if your plastics are eligible for curbside pick up or not. I like this this also because it tells you what certain types of plastics are recycled into. So lets keep on recycling because we need to save as much energy as possible!!

For a complete list of the different codes click here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Frogs In Trouble

It looks like the little, green amphibians are facing extinction. Why would this concern us? Scientists say that amphibians are indicators of how the environment changes. Since they breathe partly through their skin, they are more sensitive to things such as disease, pollution, toxic chemicals, ultraviolet radiation, and habitat destruction. So the fact that they are showing signs of going extinct could be early warning signs that some ecosystems are out of whack.
There is hope though, Jane Goodall has been talking to zoo's regarding an international breeding program called the Amphibian Ark. This is where amphibian's that would otherwise go extinct would be put into biosecure shipping containers to let them be able to breed safely until they can be secured into the wild.
Personally, I am glad that people are working together to help frogs. I love the little guys, not only because I think they are cute and they get rid of annoying flies, but know because it means that our environment is doing well.

Endangered Species

How important is the specie life to us in today's society. Probably not as important as it should be. McDonald's Corporation and Cl partnered up almost 20 years ago in creating on the ground conservation efforts along side and educational outreach campaign. This campaign is focused on teaching kids how important it is to protect endangered species.

McDonald's in Europe has turned something useful into something fun. This partnership has launched a happy mean promotion. This happy meal special is a great way to make children and parents more aware of endangered species and how they are being threatened by climate change. The promotion is focused on 8 species of endangered animals. These 8 animals are:









This is a unique opportunity to empower children to make conservation an every day part of their lives. For more information you can visit www.mcdonalds.com and www.happymeal.com.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

One Stop Gardening Advice

Fall is the perfect time to begin thinking about your yard for next year. The soil is still soft and easy to dig, the days still have good sunshine in which plants can develop root systems and build nutrients, and winter is just around the corner so your fall plantings will go dormant and get the rest for that busy spring that'll be here before you know it.

Now that I've got you thinking you're probably wondering, "Hmmm...what should I plant?" Well obviously you want to plant drought tolerant, low maintenance, low water plants right? Have no fear all the information you want is at one easy to find place, the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service has information on plant needs, choosing the right plants (list included), efficient watering, installing irrigation systems and lots more to help you get ready for next spring.

Photo by Kristie Tuthill via Flickr.