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The Low-Down on New York City, and if it Really is Going Green

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New York City

Everyday, global climate continues to break records in terms of temperature, with scientists now on a perpetual state of red alert. Moreover, the latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change paints a catastrophic picture if immediate action isn’t taken.

President Trump’s denouncement of climate change, though unsurprising, is yet another blow for the environment. When the U.S. announced its withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement last year, the fight to save the earth lost a significant ally. 

According to an article by the New York Times, Trump has proven adamant in dismantling the Obama administration’s efforts in addressing climate change, like the Clean Power Plan.

Fortunately, states like California and Washington nonetheless continue to plough on, pursuing their own policies on sustainability and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. New York, in particular, is waving the flag for the next generation of sustainable cities. 

Despite Trump’s threats to pull out of the Paris Climate deal, Mayor Bill de Blaiso signed off an executive order last year that directed the city to create a plan pledging to the Paris agreement’s commitments against climate change. It included promises of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050, and the goal of keeping average temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 °C.

By now, it’s easy to see that climate change and the U.S.’ withdrawal are as much an economic crisis as an environmental one.

There are gradual cost increases, like added cooling expenses for buildings as the weather heats up, and more dramatic ones, like the $35 billion spent on repairing New York City following Hurricane Sandy.

The disaster was one of the worst ones to ever hit the city, causing power outages for 8 million people, numerous subway floods, and more than 20 fires in the greater New York area.

New York City street

Since the calamity, heavy construction has been underway to build sea walls and climate-proof housing. Unfortunately, The Guardian reports that climate change has only slowed these plans down, with the real estate market taking a heavy hit. Property analysts are estimating Florida has suffered $2 to $3 billion in wind-born property damage from Hurricane Michael, and potentially $1 billion more in storm surge losses.

Should New York continue on this path, it may just suffer the same fate, opening real estate opportunities elsewhere for people seeking more climate-safe cities. This isn’t even taking into consideration the extreme prices that modern-day New York real estate now commands, according to a feature article by Yoreevo. This additional expenditure means properties are staying on the market for longer, which could further hamper the city’s appeal to potential homeowners.

Thankfully, eco initiatives are in place to restore New York’s liveability. 

Now more than ever, it is important for major cities like New York to step up and fulfil their role in the Paris Agreement.

“Big problems require big solutions – and New Yorkers are already hard at work to meet the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Mayor de Blasio in a statement. “In the Trump era, cities have to lead the way when it comes to fighting climate change. Hotter summers and powerful storms made worse by climate change are an existential threat to a coastal city like ours, which is why we need to act now.”

“Big problems require big solutions – and New Yorkers are already hard at work to meet the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement,”


A year since de Blasio’s proclamation of allegiance to the earth, the city is indeed placing itself at the forefront of a green redesign. Besides launching the biggest ever green wall on Elizabeth Street, some of New York’s most popular landmarks are also making significant eco-friendly improvements.

One such building that has outdone itself is the Barclays Center and its new roof, covered by 130,000 square feet of garden space. The largest public building project in the city, The New York Police Academy, also boasts low-flow plumbing and drought tolerant landscaping.

Jumping on the solar bandwagon, on the other hand, is the Roosevelt Island Cornell Tech Campus, which is slated to generate enough solar energy to power its First Academic Building. Additionally, the campus is on a test run for their geothermal energy system, which has the potential to be adopted by other buildings as well. Even the Empire State Building began a $20 million environmental retrofit in 2009, which included a full-scale insulation installation.

On top of that, there are tons of other smaller — yet no less significant — environmental initiatives throughout the city. Not only will you find sustainable shops and home-grown natural products on the market, there are a ton of organizations raising awareness about the earth. These include the Alley Pond Environmental Center, GreenNYC Greenmarkets, Build It Green! NYC, and many more.

Most notably, however, is New York’s recent efforts as the world’s first city to report to the United Nations on its progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Once again, they are stressing their commitment towards the UN’s five SDGs: clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; sustainable cities and communities; responsible consumption and production; and protecting land. 

Though they may just be a single city, the Big Green Apple is doing its part and showing the rest of America what climate leadership looks like, painting pictures of cleaner air, lower bills, and increased jobs for everyone.

As emphasized by New York regional director at Environmental Defense Fund Andy Darrell, “With electric vehicles, renewable energy and today’s smart technology, cities can break our dependence on expensive, polluting fuels and start now to turn the corner in climate change.”

7 Winter Homesteading Tips

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winter cabin

Winter always sneaks up on us. It seems to come out of nowhere, sliding in on the breeze that rustles through the autumn leaves, turning the world from golden to brown.

For homesteaders, the autumn also sparks a sense of urgency as they realize the amount left to do before the real cold and snow arrive.

Here are seven tips to get wintering homesteaders started:

 

Radiant Energy

Radiant Energy

Energy is probably the most important aspect of homesteading during winter.  You need to ensure sufficient supplies.

 

Lights

Stock up on emergency lights.  Consider a range of energy sources including solar lights and candles, too.

 

Batteries

We always regret running out when the time comes to replace batteries.  Grab a couple of them every time you run to the store during autumn. Don’t forget to get a range of sizes.

 

Firewood

Chop, collect and store fuel for the fires from whatever sources possible.  Remember to use up reusable fuel sources like pinecones and paper, too.

 

freezed-water-on-roof-h20

H2O

Where hard freezes are imminent, consider stocking up on spring water for both your household and your animals.  

Staying hydrated is always more difficult in winter, but even more important to keep our bodies functioning at optimal immunity.

Try out those submersible heaters for animal troughs if you want to avoid boiling pots of water on the stove all winter.

 

Garden Gloves

 

Don Garden Gloves

In the case of a garden, a little preparation in late autumn goes a long way.  Not only will the weeding, fertilizing, and cold protection measures make for hearty winter vegetables and beautiful winter bulbs, it also makes way for a thriving spring garden.

Cover the flower beds and vegetables with mulch (a 5-10 cm layer of grass cuttings, for example) to keep them warm and retain moisture.  Toss the flower beds, weed as much as possible, and prune. This will also neaten things up for the cold months and reduce the amount of hard labor needed until spring.

 

Wild Menagerie

Wild Menagerie

Looking after the animals is just as important as keeping the family warm and fed.  The pets and livestock need food, shelter, and warmth like us, no matter the weather.  This takes some planning, especially when there is the possibility of being snowed in.

Make sure you stock up on some extra food early and take measures to keep them warm. Try these:

 

Bedding

Change animal bedding (like hay) to a more sustainable method, like Meredith’s Deep Litter Method, which will save you time and effort during winter.  

 

Chickens and Wild Birds

Throw out some scratch grains for the chickens, so they can stay warm with the extra digestion.  The same applies to the garden birds if you can spare a few extra grains each day.

 

Water Troughs

Add a deep-set solar heater to the animal’s water troughs if you expect hard freezes in your area.  It could save you so much effort in the long run and is also more sustainable than stove-top solutions when there are other important things to do around the homestead.

 

shopping-list-winter

List it All

Make lists of what you need to do, buy and remember.  Stick to it.

Be sure to include things on your shopping list that you will lose access to if you are snowed in for a couple of weeks – like pet food, extra coffee, long life milk, and enough water to keep you hydrated and able to prepare food (especially if your regular water source is bound to freeze over).

 

Read and Share

Read and Share

Winter often forces us indoors for longer periods, and earlier bedtimes.  Take the time to read a good book, play games together, do puzzles, find some craft projects and have fun.  Research homesteading improvements for the coming spring.

Why not start a personal blog with all that extra time?  This helpful and humorous blog post from Mother Earth News, for example, provides some out-of-the-box Handy Winter Homesteading Tips.  Who knew that a handful of tin cans laid in the fireplace would be a super way to radiate more heat into a room, for example?  Try it!

happy-family-together

Heart Matters

Homesteading can be tough, especially when we have to contend with harsh winters and a seemingly endless to-do list of homestead maintenance.

Sometimes it is better to skip cleaning the barn and enjoy a steaming cup of coffee with your loved ones instead.  

Have a good laugh together and voice what you are grateful for out loud. A happy heart makes for a healthy body, too, and wintering homesteaders sure need to keep their strength up during this magical time of year.

What other solid wintering homesteading tips have you found helpful?

Guide to an Environmentally-Friendly Office

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environmentally-friendly-office

Most people spend almost a third of their lives at the office. Work-based activities can have a huge impact on the environment and sometimes we are completely oblivious to it.  

Aside from switching off standby appliances at the socket, here are twelve comprehensive tips for an environmentally-friendly office:

 

Less Paper

It may not be possible to go full “paperless” with all the regulatory requirements still present in most industries, but offices certainly have the potential to use less paper during the daily grind. It is all about creating awareness.

Try this simple experiment to get everyone on board:

  • For a week, put all waste paper in a central point (a bag/bin/room) and ask staff to write their names on each piece contributed.
  • Pile up what each department uses for a visual of how much they contribute weekly.
  • At the end of the week, brainstorm the following questions:
    • Did it really need to be printed in the first place?
    • Did it need to be printed on regular paper or would recycled/scrap paper do?
    • What would need to happen for it not to be printed?

TIP: The point is not to name and shame but to create a consciousness about paper usage.

Some departments will use more paper than others but where there is a greater awareness of the problem, innovative solutions will follow. The exercise will create an ongoing dialogue, even pushing competition between departments to reduce paper usage.

Discuss these ideas within each department:

  • Does everyone need a copy of the agenda or could it be projected or accessed digitally?
  • Could you dedicate one printer to recycled paper and make this a default for the office?
  • Can everyone print double-sided documents and are printers set to this as a default?
  • Does every staff member know how to work projectors?
  • Could the office have an e-filing system in place?
  • Can the office use electronic schedulers, task-reminders, online telephone listings, and online catalogs as a general rule?
  • Are you using fax to email?
  • Can everyone create email attachments with a clear image instead of faxing documents?
  • Create an office policy about sharing online and decide what documents must be printed?

Make a game of it and reward the best-improved department with cash back, long lunch breaks or a quirky certificate.

Done in a positive spirit, it may even become a great team building exercise during the year.  

 

More Competition

A “green” team at work could help focus efforts, win over management, encourage participation, and implement practical changes.  

Encourage others to go green by using eco-friendly pens and pencils, recycled office notebooks, virtual post-its, and shared office space (colocation). Make it fun.

  • Distribute fact sheets, offer incentives, and host promotional events.
  • Schedule orientation sessions at the outset.
  • Meet regularly to evaluate the success of your program.
  • Keep all staff informed of the results of their efforts.

 

Less Water

Water wastage is high on the office front. Employees are not generally accountable for the water bill, which leads to inefficient practices and little concern for day-to-day water volume.

Try these water-saving tips:

  • Fill up the kettle using your mug, for the exact number of mugs you will be drinking.
  • Install timers on taps and urinals, and dual-flush toilets which save 6 liters per flush.

 

More Compost

Compost bins are typically handled by a commercial composting company, as the degree of materials being tossed in is beyond the capabilities of typical backyard compost bins.

Items may include paper, waxed paper, and meat scraps. It is also an ideal way to reduce an office’s general garbage load.

 

More or Less Energy

Change out to more sustainable lighting, use solar power, and take advantage of natural light and solar heating.

Yes, energy-saving light bulbs are a great investment in the long-run, too.  

There is even an eco-range of computers so you don’t need to sacrifice processing power for sustainability.

  • Try pulling up blinds or positioning workstations near windows instead of turning lights on.
  • Open or close windows instead of using air conditioners.
  • Consider lowering the thermostat slightly in the winter and increasing it slightly in the summer. Even a degree or two in either direction can save as much as ten percent on overall heating bills.
  • Program the thermostat and the lights for nights and weekends (with manual override for when employees are working overtime).

 

More Mobilization

Mobile workforce solutions can benefit many industries, such as trade services.

This technology is also being implemented in forward-thinking offices, revolutionizing departments such as IT, HR and Finance.

From an environmental standpoint, an employee will reduce their carbon footprint by eliminating the need to commute daily.

Paper-based procedures are being streamlined, employees work remotely, and mobile applications allow for dynamic data capture, recorded and accessed from anywhere in the world.

 

Less Waste

The waste present is wholly dependent on the nature of your business but it is worth streamlining recycling to minimize landfill contributions.

The average office worker generates 1.5 pounds of waste paper per day – and most of it can be recycled!

Most office blocks now have to have a system in place and, even if yours doesn’t, it’s very easy to purchase cheap bins and label them, paper, metal, plastic.

Recycling bins in the photocopy room, lunchroom and in each department will create visual reminders for people. If staff members are unhappy to lose garbage cans, offer tiny desktop garbage cans instead.

Place garbage cans in central areas throughout the office, and in the lunchroom.

Shredded Paper

Check with the local recycler and if it isn’t accepted, try these shredded paper ideas instead:

  • animal bedding,
  • worm bins for gardens,
  • mulch,
  • homemade papers of your own,
  • packing and storage
  • fire log home-production.

If not covered in soil (like tissues) or any sort of un-papery coatings such as wax or foils, put it in a tub and find a recycler to take it.

 

Coated Paper

Waxy papers such as milk and juice cartons are “poly-coated paperboard containers” and are also recyclable.

Keep these separate from other papers after rinsing as they undergo hydro-pulping to clean them for reuse.

 

Newspaper

Tied in bundles or neatly stacked, newspapers are great for starting a garden, too. Lay it on the ground, over a lawn, and you will never have to dig it up.

Lay straw on top of it and, next year, plant right through it. You won’t even have to weed!

 

Glass

Reuse cluttering bud vases by sending them back to flower receivers again.

Don’t contaminate the glass bin with ceramics which are not recyclable and neither are crystal or heat-resistant glasses.

Keep different colored glasses separate from one another.

 

Aluminum

If a magnet won’t stick to it, rinse it off and put it into the aluminum bin with foil, soda cans, and scraps of broken fixtures.

TIP: Make sure there is a place for pop cans, as these can be donated to charitable organizations.

 

Plastic

Collect anything plastic, rinse it out, divide it by the numbers in the little recycling triangles on each piece. Put it in a plastic bin with a plastic smiley face on it and haul it out on the plastic cart. Hooray!

 

Steel

If a magnet sticks to it, go ahead and put it in the bin for steel. Canned foods from the kitchen will fall into this category much of the time.

 

Trash Bags

If not soiled, don’t pull them out with the trash. Dump them into the larger bin and reuse the liners.

 

Computers and Batteries

All your data machines can be erased and recycled. Contact a reputable electronics recycler to pick up your dinosaur friends, wipe them clean electronically, and send them off to be safely reused.

The same goes for batteries.

 

Furniture

Do the earth a favor and shop secondhand. Donate furniture to charity, offer it in ads, let employees know that if they can think of someone who can use it, and refurbish it.

 

Cardboard

Get your corrugation in line and recycle twice. First, take the box home for the kids to play with, then bring it back and get it recycled.

The same goes for glossy magazines, phone books, and paper.

 

Ink Cartridges

Keep a small, plastic-lined box nearby for the used containers when changing them out.

 

Light Bulbs

CFL and fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, a highly poisonous element.

These need to be recycled and you can obtain kits that will help you do the job safely.

Aren’t you glad THAT’s not going into the water supply?

 

Cater better

If everyone went meatless for one meal a week, it would be the equivalent, in terms of carbon emission savings, as taking 5 million cars off the road.

Besides, choosing the vegetarian option is often a healthier mealtime arrangement.

There is also plenty of room for improvement in the break room:

  • If the lunchroom contains paper crockery and cutlery – recycle it. Have the business invest in normal reusable dishes and cutlery.
  • Stop buying small sachets of coffee and tea and start filling up your own flask with Starbucks each morning instead of buying disposable beverage containers.
  • Have a wash-up roster to ease the pressure if you do not have a cleaning service.
  • Pack zero-waste lunches with reusable lunch bags, food containers, storage containers, silverware, and mugs.
  • Use fair-trade organic coffee and offer employees the best tasting cup o’ joe that also pays its employees well and treats the earth with respect.

 

Meet better

Before the meeting, think through the implications of travel, which adds to pollution in a big way.

Keep meetings close to home or choose a central venue for all candidates if you must meet in person.

Online solutions are both financially and environmentally more sustainable for any business so why not video-conference in instead?

At the meeting, use smart boards, projectors, and digital tools instead of paper handouts. If you must use paper, print it on recycled pieces and recycle any left behind after the meeting.

Check your toner-saving settings (with recyclable toner cartridges) and print on both sides of the paper, while avoiding any extra copies.

If catering, opt for glasses and mugs rather than disposable cups (approximately 25 billion Styrofoam cups are thrown out in the US every year). Use bulk dispensers for cream, sugar, and coffee, and real teaspoons.

Ensure the caterer provides vegetarian choices and makes uses of local, seasonal produce.

 

Commute and relax better

Carpool where possible and pool resources for gas. It creates a system of eco-responsibility and gives workers incentives to ride bikes and look for green alternatives.

Look for ways to reward employees who do their best to limit their footprint and, even better, work from home.

Providing a space where employees can get access to fresh air, green leaves and calm, quiet surroundings – away from the frenetic pace of downtown – will do wonders for staff morale and so productivity.

Why not green-up the office spaces with lots of plants for air purification, the removal of toxic gases, scented offices, and even a greenhouse supply of fresh vegetables and herbs for the lunch room.

Plants also help reduce incidences of asthma, dust allergies and migraines within an office, and several are recommended by NASA, specifically for office use.

 

Look and feel better

It might not be a fashionable new suit, but used clothing and uniforms does the job. Save money and the environment by wearing previously owned clothing.

If you don’t like the fit you can always have it altered, investing in your local craftsmen and recycling perfectly good materials.

This applies to furniture and equipment, too.

Rent it, refurbish it, and shop from secondhand stores instead of ordering a new set.

While you’re at it, ensure natural, sustainable furniture and non-toxic cleaning products are being used around the office.

Green antibacterial cleaning products get rid of germs while protecting the environment, including multi-surface cleaners, polish, cloths, air fresheners, and purifiers.

The health benefits are numerous and the environment will thank you for the change!

Benefits include:

  • Fewer sick days in general (thanks to fewer chemicals for respiratory illness and allergies).
  • Improved indoor air quality.
  • Minimized wear on office furniture.
  • A positive reflection on a business image (ethics and marketing).

 

Compute better

Computers and other electrical appliances suck the life out of the office budget, literally.

Know how things work to optimize energy-usage for computers and other key office essentials:

  • Standby Mode uses almost as much power as a computer left on. Power down machines before staff leave at night.
  • Data centers require cooling of servers and huge amounts of power. Consider moving over to virtualized servers, running your business on a cloud. Cloud computing works out cheaper massively reduces your carbon footprint.
  • Charge stations will help reduce random chargers left in the staff terminals.
  • Consider energy ratings before purchasing new electrical equipment.
  • Cheap, old equipment isn’t energy efficient. Old machines need replacement even if they ‘still work.’

 

The Biggest Challenge

When going green, the biggest challenge is getting user buy-in. As with anything new, it is going to take time for everyone to adapt.

The easiest way to make the whole procedure as seamless as possible is by educating everyone and being patient with individuals.

Have a clear objective in mind (reduce the energy bill by X% or cut the amount of paper being thrown away by half etc) and ensure everyone knows the goal.

Prove it isn’t a passing fad and show staff these are permanent changes. Before you know it, your office will be eco-friendly.

 

There are lots of advantages to making your business as green as possible:

  • Being eco-friendly is good PR, which is always good for business;
  • Being eco-friendly makes you look good to potential employees and business partners;
  • When done properly, green practices are cost-saving practices. It’s cheaper, in the long run, to be kind to the environment.

And, of course, you’re helping the planet!

What other simple ways have you implemented to reduce your carbon footprint at the office?

How to Prepare Your Solar Panels For Winter

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prepare-solar-panels-winter

Installing solar panels allows us to operate more environmentally-friendly homes and give back to the power grid but will they survive the long, dark winters?  

Absolutely, yes. The lengthy days of sunshine wane into crisp mornings, snowfalls, crunchy walkways and more time inside, but properly preparing solar panels for winter will ensure a warm, connected, and happier home.  

Here are eight tips for preparing and maintaining solar panels in winter:

winter-sunshine

Sunshine

It is true there are fewer hours of sunshine during the winter, but there are still plenty of hours to tap for a solar charge.  

Remember, the winter sun adjusts its angle, so your solar panels may need a slight change in tilt, too.

Check with local solar installation companies if you need specific information about the angular facing of the solar panels during the cooler months.

small-appliance-energy-reductions

Reduce

An obvious, but often overlooked area of preparation is to trim down on the excess usage of power in the smaller appliances and bulbs around the house.  

This may be achieved in several ways. 

All of it will help towards reducing power consumption in the high-usage months when solar power is stretched.  

  • Turn off the lights you don’t need.  Don’t forget outside lights, pantry lights, and display fixtures.
  • Unplug appliances from the wall to stop unnecessary power leaks. This applies to all sorts of things, like the TV, kitchen and cooking appliances, phone chargers, hairdryers, unused battery chargers, and heaters, for example.  If plugged into the socket, these appliances still draw from the grid, even when switched off.
  • Use energy-efficient lighting and bulbs (consider wattage and lifespan).  Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) provide for 15-watt bulbs, for example, which perform at the same level as a normal 60-watt bulb.
  • Use solar-powered lamps for the garden, walkways and sidewalk features rather than connecting to another power source.

Why not keep these greener habits in place for the rest of the year, too?  

discharge-level

 

50% discharge

Solar batteries are the same no matter the type – all require charging, maintenance, and proper storage discharge levels.  

There are some advertisements for battery banks sized on a 100% discharge, however, experts recommend never exceeding discharge level of 80%.  

50% is an ideal discharge goal, regardless of the battery type, as this allows an extra margin on available power for unavoidable high usage days.

solar-battery

Batteries

Batteries may be tricky beasts if left to their own devices during winter.  

Regular checks will help you stay on top of potential repair and maintenance issues.  

These are a few things to prepare before it is too cold:

  • Keep antifreeze distilled water on hand, especially if you are off the grid.
  • Monitor battery temperature to ensure it is within the recommended parameters for optimum use and storage (this applies to winter and summer extreme temperatures)

For lead-acid batteries, periodically check voltage on the cells to ensure anomalies are detected and repaired early on.  

At -20 degrees Celsius, these batteries will freeze and seize.

indoor-storage

Storage

For both storage and installation, indoors is better.  Outdoor storage is fine with secure insulation and enough airflow to keep temperatures constant.  

Remember both extreme cold and extreme heat will be detrimental to the battery lifespan and performance.

  • Lead-acid batteries should be disconnected and stored long-term at 100% capacity.  
  • Lithium-ion batteries are discharged to 40% and stored in a cool, well-insulated area.

solar-panel-maintenance

Maintenance

Any solar equipment needs maintenance and monitoring, even if the box says otherwise.  

It is wise to have a handheld battery refractometer, a digital multimeter, cutters, and a set of clamps.  

Battery maintenance sometimes requires cleaning battery terminals, checking voltage and connections, checking fluid and making distilled water additions.

It may be prudent to invest in a soft, smooth snow brush for ground-level solar panels so you do not scratch the surface with an abrasive metal rake.  

On-roof installations need to be self-cleaning. Out of reach panels should be ready to withstand snow (and freeze-overs after rain) without aid from a slipping, sliding, and cold human trying to climb up on the roof.  

Make sure you choose the right product robustness for your climate. In this case, cheaper does not mean better value.

  • Lead-acid battery plates need to be equalized by overcharging.  This also cleans off the sulfate build-up.
  • Lithium-ion batteries use dissipation (moving charge from high to low cells) to equalize.

capturing-winter-heat

Heat

Since heating is at its the highest consumption during winter, every effort is necessary to reduce usage and tighten up heating efficiency.  Here are some considerations:

  • Insulation will conserve heat – both in the house and for battery storage.  Check the walls, attics, floors, and ducts for leaks before heating up.
  • Use the power of the sun to heat rooms whenever possible.  Throw open the curtains of south-facing windows during the hottest part of the day.  Use thermal curtains to lock in the heat once the sun disappears.
  • Use a preset temperature on the thermostat.
  • Close the dampers in unused fireplaces.

freezing-cold-energy

Capacity

Extreme temperatures can erode solar batteries which are not properly housed and insulated.  Try to maintain three to six days of stored energy if you are off-the-grid.

A battery monitoring system (BMS) will assist in battery maintenance and regular detection of risky systems.

It will alert to over-charge of lower-capacity cells, reduce the risk of fire or explosion, and allow peace of mind.  

It also makes it easier to monitor voltage, temperature, depth of discharge and capacity function. 

Also, if you need to ensure a constant power supply, it is better to invest in a backup generator with plenty of fuel on hand.  

Test and maintain the generator every few months, especially before expected heavy weather.

What tips can you share for making the best of a solar-powered winter season?

What You Can (and Shouldn’t!) Burn in Your Fireplace

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fireplace

“We remember though all the firelit glow
Of a great hearth’s gleam and glare,
And we looked for a space at each happy face
And the love that was written there.”

Caris Brooke

Chilly winter evenings are wonderfully well spent before a roaring fire, sipping a cup of hot cocoa, and immersing yourself in a good book, in my opinion.  

However you choose to wile away the colder months, careful consideration of what to burn in the fireplace is one way to make greener choices.

 

Choose Carefully

Firstly, the elements of a good fire are a suitable choice of the tinder, the kindling, and the logs or fuel. Depending on your type of fireplace, you may need to go with traditional chopped and dried logs or pellets for more modern setups.

Seasoned wood is always better than green or moist wood. It should be left for at least a year (maybe longer) to dry out and harden before being useful as firewood.  

Be cautious when wood is covered in moss and lichen growth as these may create too much smoke for an indoor fire.

Layer the pile with both hardwood and softwood to ensure a speedy start, and a slow finish burn. Cherry, Hard Maple, Oak, and Birch are considered hardwoods (Oak and Hard Maple being the hardest, longest-burning wood choices of the lot).  

Softwood comes from Fir, Pine, Spruce, and Poplar, all of which are perfect kindling ingredients and quite aromatic, too.

Please note: If you are cooking over the fire avoid toxic wood such as Australian Cypress, Ash, Alder, and Red Cedar, for example.

eco-friendly-dry-woods

Choose Renewable

Wood is the go-to for a cosy fireplace with some crackle and spark, but it can sometimes be an unsustainable choice.  

If you are buying wood, choose renewable sources, quick-growing trees, and not indigenous trees which take decades to mature.  

If you are chopping from your backyard or natural area, choose wood which will dry well and minimize CO2 emissions.

 

Choose Insular

Unfortunately, traditional fireplaces are not exactly the most efficient contraptions. The heat escapes right up the chimney.  

The good news is there are inserts to solve this common insulation problem.

Burning natural resources only seems worth it if it is going to do what you need it to do – warm up the house! If you haven’t installed a fireplace yet, choose one that is going to increase heat efficiency and direct it into the house.  

Ask local suppliers about inserts or modern fittings to improve the insulation of the fireplace, and expel harmful smoke emissions.

Eco-Logs

Choose Eco Logs

Strangely, we shun man-made materials as not being eco-friendly.  Sometimes this is a wrong perception. In the case of fireplaces, fake logs, called Eco logs, can be a much greener alternative.

The Eco logs are made of compressed wood chips, sawdust, and excess products like grape seeds, and even coffee grounds. 

Be sure to choose Eco logs which contain no petroleum-based wax (bio-wax is much more environmentally-friendly). 

They give off fewer emissions, burn for longer and often burn hotter because there are fewer wet spots in the compressed log.  

A hotter fire (from eco logs which burn for longer) also keeps the chimney cleaner.

book in front of fireplace

Choose clean and green

Both Fir and Pine will spark from the sap, especially younger trees.  They will not burn as hot as the hardwoods.

The more smoke is created, the more emissions are released into the atmosphere.  Ensure good airflow, as dry a wood as possible, and only as much kindling as needed to light the main component.

Soot and creosote also build up quickly, and this can lead to excess smoke, heating efficiency problems, and health hazards.  

Be sure to keep both the fireplace and the chimney clean throughout the year.

An annual cleaning may not be enough – check often.

It is not recommended burning any of the following substances indoors, for both health and environmental concerns:

  • Anything plastic, or containing plastic-like elements like colored prints
  • Plywood and chipboard
  • Treated or painted wood
  • Wood that has not been fully dried out (called “unseasoned”)
  • Wrapping paper, Christmas trees, and pizza boxes
  • Coal or charcoal

candles-for-christmas

Choose something different

Overall, wood smoke is not considered a healthy or environmentally-safe way to burn fires, especially if it is an ongoing, daily occurrence in the home.  

If you are not using the fire for warmth, but are still looking for something heartwarming and aromatic, try a few candles and scents to build an ambiance instead.

Why not try burning a few cinnamon sticks, cherry or apple wood for sweet smells, and birch for a woodland scent?

Herbs (like rosemary), old pinecones, cedar wood, dehydrated citrus peels (the drier the better), and drops of preferred fragrances on the wood also create amazing aromas around the house.  

In all cases, the less you use of the added substance the less smoke it is likely to produce.

These added scents won’t take away that ‘woodfire’ smell, but it does add a touch of something to the air. It often tones down the after-effects of stale smoke as well.


What other calming and natural aromas can be achieved with a few handfuls chucked into a roaring fire?

Guide to an Environmentally-Friendly Bedroom

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bright bedroom

The bedroom is just as important as any other room in the house from a green living standpoint.

Why not try making your bedroom your next greening project?

Just a few simple changes can help to transform your bedroom into a toxin-free haven of peace and tranquillity, helping us to achieve a more restful night’s sleep and helping the planet at the same time.

 

bedroom-energy-saving

Toasty Tidbits

The bedroom is one of the most neglected rooms in the home in terms of energy efficiency.  

Aside from the usual advice to unplug standby appliances and change out to more efficient light bulbs, there are a few other energy efficiency tips to follow.

The bedroom serves as a sleeping area but also as a leisure zone for television, internet, homework, and other tasks that require quiet comfort.

Staying warm is a necessity in the place we spend the most time snuggled up and at our most vulnerable.  

Central heating uses up energy, which uses up fossil fuels and costs money.

Instead, why not look at ways to keep your bedroom cozy and warm without using a heater or radiator?

 

Windows-and-Doors

Windows and Doors

Check the windows for cracks, gaps or ill-fitting frames.

Add draft excluders to the windows and doors, too. You will be surprised how much heat is insulated with these simple measures.

 

hot-water-bottle-under-duvet

Back to the Stone Age

Sometimes the way our grandparents did things was more eco-friendly than we realize. No need to climb in between freezing cold sheets after a nice hot shower.

Fill a couple of hot water bottles and place them under the duvet before going to bed. It is cheap, highly effective, and cozy, too!

 

closed-curtains-trapping-heat

Heat Barriers

  • Closing curtains, and using thicker lined curtains will also save on lost heat.
  • Try putting foil behind your radiator to reflect heat away from the walls and back into the room.
  • Invest in thicker duvets which can be stored during the summer months, and wear pajamas that are cozy and warm.
  • Insulate better by getting a contractor to fill in cracks in walls and window frames.
  • Try passive solar design and thermal mass for moderating the bedroom’s temperature – not too cold in winter, not too hot in summer.
  • In summer, air circulation is better for your health, the environment, and your budget. Use ceiling fans to create a breeze in summer, or an extractor to draw out the heat, rather than using air conditioning.

electric-room-appliance

The Buzz Word

Electronics. We want them, we need them but does our body benefit from all the electronic output zooming around our bedroom when we sleep? Probably not.

Electrical equipment generates positive ions in the atmosphere and creates electromagnetic radiation.

It also generates light which interferes with our body’s natural sleep cycle.

If you cannot create a completely electronic-free zone in the bedroom, at least switch off the electrics at the socket during the night.

Your body, your budget, and the earth will thank you for it.

Conscious-eco-friendly-decoration

A Conscious Decorator

A bedroom is a place where we can truly unwind, and it needs to look good.

Going green in the bedroom is all about lasting comfort which leaves little to no impact on the earth – it is a win-win situation!

Take advantage of all the environmentally-friendly alternatives out there and become a more conscious decorator.

Bed

Most mattresses are produced using large quantities of chemicals, so choosing to go organic will make a big difference to the toxin levels in your sleeping environment.

Look for one that has no toxins, polyurethane foam and fire retardants as these chemicals are toxic and have been shown to lead to learning deficiencies.  

Instead, find mattresses made with environmentally friendly components like organic wool, cotton, and latex.

Eco-friendly mattresses aren’t as hard to get a hold of as you might think. Keetsa and Pure Rest produce great mattresses that are made in the most eco-friendly ways possible and are good value for money.

Environmentally-conscious linen is also widely available.

Look for pillows, sheets, and duvet covers that are made from organic hemp, cotton, bamboo or silk. Environmentally friendly pillows can be stuffed with wool, feathers, or down.

TIP: For consistency in design, purchase the same material for the bedroom curtains.

One step further is to go organic and choose naturally-dyed materials.

For the best night’s sleep choose pure organic cotton which has not been soaked in pesticides during its production.

Likewise, choose organic cotton pajamas as these are chemical-free and better for skin prone to allergies.

Wash pure organic items in an ecologically-friendly washing powder to maintain the integrity of the cotton.

Floor

Choosing flooring is a huge part of a green home improvement project.

Usually, carpets contain toxic and artificial chemicals in the nylon fibers, so timber or bamboo flooring is a greener option.

You can go for hardwood as long as it is FSC-certified wood but bamboo is a far more renewable resource.

For a bit of extra warmth put down a rug made of wool, organic cotton or natural fibers, such as sisal or jute.  

Woolen carpets with a natural fiber backing are the most environmentally-friendly option for all-carpet rooms.

While many of the companies that make environmentally conscious rugs are rather expensive, BB Begonia has rugs that won’t hurt your wallet or the Earth.

Wherever you buy, be sure to check that your purchase is mostly made of natural fibers.

Furniture

Furniture is a broad category but there are a few basic rules for sourcing new items:

  1. Avoid composite woods. This includes particleboard, plywood, and fibreboard. Not only do they have a short life but they also contain toxins such as formaldehyde!
  2. Redecorate with used furniture.  Before you buy anything brand new, take some time to do some vintage, antique, and plain old used furniture shopping.  Shopping this way is not only less expensive but heightens the chance of finding something unique, one-of-a-kind for your home.
  3. Check the source of wooden products. Solid wood sourced from the Forest Stewardship Council is better.
  4. Shop for eco-friendly wardrobes with FSC certification. This will guarantee the wood was regulated and harvested by a responsible organization. Even better, buy second-hand pieces!

Walls

Want to get your room to look totally different with one masterful move?  Paint it. Just be sure to choose an eco-friendly product.

If you’re going to paint your bedroom, use natural paints.

Standard paints have a petrochemical base and the dyes often contain toxic chemicals that could be the cause of respiratory illnesses.

Say goodbye to the toxic odors, chemicals, and solvents that come with most paint!

There are abundant color options so don’t limit yourself. Ask for eco-friendly brands – there are plenty that will give a vibrant, enduring color.  

An example of one of the many paint companies that are choosing to go greener is Anna Sova, whose paint is made out of 90% food materials.

Plants

Most of us like a plant or two in the bedroom and houseplants are great at absorbing toxins such as formaldehyde, ammonia, and benzene.

Spider plants, bamboo, and ferns are all particularly effective decontaminants.

Some houseplants, such as the Peace Lily are reputed to aid in the removal of electromagnetic radiation in the room, but whether this is true or not, a houseplant will help to improve the air quality through its cycle of carbon dioxide and oxygen release.

Fresh flowers can also help with this, in addition to creating a beautiful scent in the room and creating a more relaxing and pleasing mood in the bedroom.

An eco-friendly bedroom makes for a peaceful and healthy environment to relax. Do you agree?

Guide to an Environmentally-Friendly Bathroom

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eco friendly bathroom

The bathroom is probably the most overlooked area of an eco-conscious home. The simplest measures can go a long way to reducing both water and energy wastage in the bathroom.

 

bath-shower

Shower over Bath

The most obvious first step is to switch to showers as a primary choice overfilling a bath, except if you have a “power shower.” An average comparison of 62 liters per shower to 80 liters per bath shows how much you can save every time.

Reduce water usage further by showering for shorter periods and lather soaps and shampoos while switching off the water in between.

TIP: Collect grey water in buckets while you shower and water your plants. If you must bath, use the water to pre-rinse the day’s eco-friendly cloth nappies before you pull the plug.

 

Improve-the-Shower-Head

Improve the Shower Head

A green bathroom remodeling project doesn’t have to be a huge one, to start with. Start with an aerator – an inexpensive gadget that screws onto your bathroom faucet.

It restricts water flow and can also be attached to your shower head.

Showers are only one up on baths with normal shower fixtures. Power showers which last for more than 8 minutes use on average 136 liters each time.  

Switch to an eco-friendly aerating shower head, which gives the feel of a power shower, but saves water and uses far less energy.

 

led-lights-bathroom

Flick the Lights

The bathroom is often the last place in the house to be switched to LED or more eco-friendly lighting options.

Older lighting fixtures or halogen bulbs use excessive energy in comparison. LED lighting is a superior option, especially in the bathroom.

TIP: Even better, turn off the lights and light a few romantic candles or candle ‘lanterns’ instead. It is far more calming than glaring electric lighting.

 

Automatic-Faucets

Automatic Faucets

In theory, you could turn off the tap between brushing and washing your face, but the reality is that many of us don’t. An automatic faucet can force everyone in your household to be more eco-friendly, plus it is fun!

Flushed-Out

Flushed Out

Most of the water use each day routes through the toilet cistern! The average toilet uses 9 liters per flush and we are literally flushing money down the drain each time we pull the chain. Low flow toilets and dual flush systems are not the only green options these days.

Paper-less Automatic Toilet

The Toto toilet from Japan is a true marvel. The dual flush system is efficient and Toto also completely eliminates the need for toilet paper! To top it off, it may just save a virgin rainforest in the process.

As one of the biggest waste products in the world, toilet paper (which is made from trees!) is sent on its way to contaminate the underground water systems.

98% of all toilet paper sold in the United States is harvested from untouched forests.

Modern convenience also perpetuates the demand for ‘soft’ new paper instead of using recycled paper.

Instead of toilet paper, the Toto uses a small wand to expel gentle, tiny water bubbles while a click of a button starts the dryer to finish the job.

It is fresher and cleaner, plus you can continue to browse your smartphone or read your magazine while it does its thing.

TIP: Invest in a gadget like the Drop-A Brick, which you pop into the tank. Some water companies even give these types of devices away, free of charge.

Want to know how much water you use in a day? Check out the U.S. Geological Survey’s calculator.

Greywater

It is time that we started using recycled water (or “greywater”) to do the flushing.

Greywater systems come in all sizes – a small, sink-toilet filter (like the one pictured here), or a large, household-wide system to collect from sinks, dishwashers, washing machines, and showers (like the one pictured here).

The water you save is filtered, and can be used for flushing a toilet, and watering the garden all summer long, regardless of watering restrictions.

Drain water heat recovery (or greywater heat recovery) recovers and reuses hot water heat from the dishwasher, washing machine, and shower!

You could save as much as 60% of your heat energy by installing a system like this, and take one step closer to being self-sustainable.

Alternative-Heat

Alternative Heat

Radiators are huge energy guzzlers, which are largely unnecessary in smaller bathrooms. More economical heating options are heated towel rails and underfloor heating.

Efficient Water Heaters

If the climate in your area is suitable, switch to a solar powered hot water system, not only for the bathroom but the kitchen and laundry, too.

A traditional hot water tank can also be converted into a tankless water heater, which uses a fraction of the energy. Insulating the water heater also works on efficiency.

reduce-recycle-reuse-house

The R Story Continues

Reduce, reuse, recycle does not only apply to the kitchen.

The bathroom cries out for a change in perspective and some out-of-the-bottle thinking on eco-friendly hygiene and products.

In the bathroom, we actively consume the most energy and expel the most waste.

From modern plumbing to ventilation, hair dryers, razors, and hot showers, there’s an ecological price to pay for convenience.

Do you really need to throw away that bathroom suite and replace it with a new one or would some new tiles and paint give the room a whole new look? Vintage is in fashion and some antique shelving or tiles may cost less and add a unique flavor to the whole room.

Next time you’re out shopping for shower curtains, take a look at what they are made of.

There are plenty of great looking shower curtains that use organic cotton, hemp or even bamboo to create a green look that is chic.

Don’t just look for green materials for the shower curtain.

There are plenty of choices for bath mats, trash cans, and toothbrush holders as well.

Eco-Hygiene

Eco Hygiene

People feel they have to use products that contain chemicals in order to truly get rid of the dirt and grime in the bathroom.

It is possible to clean in an eco-friendly manner, however, if you stay on top of the process.

Just five minutes a day allows you to remain committed to your green ideals and keep the bathroom in tip-top shape.

Dry the bath after each use to prevent soap scum and mineral deposits, then hang the towel over the side to dry.

If you do spot mildew, try making your own eco-friendly, non-toxic solution

TIP: Reduce the mold and mildew formation by opening windows, closing the shower curtain after use to keep steam away from the walls.

start-small-green-living

Start Small

If these all sounded like great ideas, but you’re not ready to take the plunge yet, start small.

  • Buy toilet paper made from 100% recycled (like this product).
  • Look for organic “green” ingredients – including tissues, cleaners, shampoos, and conditioners.
  • Use a cloth shower curtain instead of using a plastic liner.

Lastly, move through your day with a greater awareness of the world around you, like buying soap knowing what is in it and how it got there, for example.

Palm Oil is an unsustainable resource. If you love Dove soap, consider contacting Unilever (form created by Greenpeace here) and do your part to save the rainforest from your bathroom.

 

What other tips do you have for creating an environmentally-friendly bathroom?

Eco-friendly Gifts to Give this Christmas

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eco-friendly-gifts-to-give-this-christmas

 

It truly is the most wonderful time of the year coming up, where we focus on the gift of life we have received.  In the spirit of the season, our decisions should be considerate of others, and of the world in which we live and love. 

What could be better than a heartfelt exchange of gifts which are both kind to the earth and deeply personal?

 

 

Expensive and Eco-friendly Gifts

It is sometimes suggested we buy gifts for that people would not usually go out and buy for themselves. Often these unique gifts are expensive, but not always.

 

Sometimes the items are just things we tend to see as luxuries or excessive spending.  It may just be an item we have never seen or used before but which may change our lives.

Why not give others the opportunity to invest in an eco-friendly lifestyle by finding out what may enhance their home or garden.  Consider the following ideas:

  • solar-powered products,
  • energy-efficient products,
  • recycled furniture and upcycled home decor,
  • indigenous trees, and fruit or herb pot plants,
  • unique organic and animal-friendly cosmetics,
  • zero-waste travel products,
  • and gadgets or appliances to encourage eco-friendly activities (like composting, recycling, and subsistence homesteading).

Anything-Reusable

Anything Reusable

Reusable gifts are the way to go since single-use items are much of the problem in our polluted oceans and shrinking natural habitats.  

Buy beautiful, luxurious reusable products for someone special, which let them know how much you value and care for them.

It does not only have to be stainless steel straws and glass water bottles.  

Why not invest in some beautiful fabric carry bags, organic cloth diapers with stunning designs for new mothers, stainless steel or bamboo crockery, and growing gifts (which are fully compostable growing kits, usually featuring uplifting messages or seasonal wisdom on the bag).

 

Fairtrade

Fairtrade

Giving responsibly-sourced, ethical gifts is also in line with building a better world. Look for vegan-friendly products stamped with Fairtrade practices and cruelty-free endorsements.   

Jewelry from sustainable sources, like ethically-sourced diamonds, is a beautiful gesture to a cherished loved one.

It is also a wonderful chance to get into the spirit of giving by looking for products which donate a portion of the proceeds to worthy causes.

 

Local-Support

Local Support

Local communities light up at Christmas time, and not only with twinkling fairy lights and glowing garden figurines hiding under falling snowflakes.

It is especially wonderful to support local talent in the season of giving. Buy from local artists, local grocers, and local businesses.

Source your fresh produce and meat from local farmers, especially organic products. Forgo the imported, cross-country deliveries at all costs.

 

Ethical-Dealers

Ethical Dealers

Choose ethically-sourced clothing labels for unique creations that are as kind to the environment as they are to your body.  

Brands like Patagonia are great choices. They repair clothing, for example, rather than dispose of it – on the Worn Wear section of their website.

Buying gifts like these also help to create awareness about better choices out there.

 

eco-friendly-digital-gift-ebook

Not the Usual ‘Green Fingers’

Sometimes a digital gift is the most environmentally-friendly gift you can give.

An eBook, for example.  It is portable, it does not need to be stored or dusted, and it can be disposed of or archived with a click of a button instead of becoming another item for the overflowing landfills in your area.

Learn about their interests and hobbies and try to find an awesome app to match this.

Buy a bird app or a plant identification app for someone so they can learn about the world right outside their window, and educate their children, too.

There are cool gardening apps, geographic apps, energy-saving apps, and homesteading apps.

 

eco-friendly-brown-paper-wrapping

Wrapping it Up

Lastly, forego the wrapping paper and use some recyclable materials instead, like brown paper wrapping.  

If the simplicity of the paper isn’t quite what you had in mind for a colorful Christmas gathering, dolly it up with stencils, stamps, art, dried flowers, organic ribbons, and free-hand drawings.  

It’ll be much more personal, and better for the environment, too.

Even better, wrap the gift up in a breathtaking fabric bag that can be reused later.

Why not make it one that donates a portion of its proceeds to a worthy cause, too? Merry Christmas, everyone!

What other ideas have you shared for an eco-friendly Christmas this year?

How to Have a Vegan-Friendly Christmas

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vegan food

A vegan lifestyle is as green as it gets, not only in the food department but by foregoing all animal products as a rule.

As you don your Oprah-approved Lacy Tote from Un Billion (made with vegan leather) around the shopping mall, look around for alternative ingredients and materials to your traditional Christmas choices.

In support of the vegan lifestyle, which is not for everyone, this festive season is an excellent opportunity to go green in every way, including what you put on the dinner table.

Below we have gathered a few ideas for a vegan-friendly Christmas from foodies around the world.

Grab some snacks, your mouth will be watering by the end of this list!

 

1. Jamie Oliver’s Vegan Christmas Spread

Jamie-Oliver’s-Vegan-Christmas-SpreadWorld-famous for his first appearance as ‘The Naked Chef,’ Jamie Oliver is passionate about organic, environmentally-friendly food production.

He is also one of the most creative chefs around.

The website has loads of free recipes, but the Jamie Oliver Vegan Christmas Collection is something special.

We love how he uses local fresh produce and responsibly-sourced ingredients in just about every recipe he promotes.

It was difficult to choose one, but when it comes to sit-down dinners, it wouldn’t be the same without gravy. The vegan gravy recipe is awesome!

 

Vegan-Society’s-Vegan-Recipes

2. Vegan Society’s Vegan Recipes

Vegan Society has gathered a few of the yummiest Christmas dishes from around the world.  

The list of ten vegan recipes is a winner for any formal occasion though, so take a look hereOur top recommendation from the list is Vegan Society’s Christmas Trifle Recipe.

It is a mix of all things sweet and good, including vegan jelly, vegan margarine, coconut milk, and plant milk.

Minimalist-Baker’s-Vegan-Recipes

3. Minimalist Baker’s Vegan Recipes

Minimalist Baker has gone above and beyond the call of duty with 126 amazing vegan recipes all in one place.  

They’ve added a visual of each, just to whet the taste buds, and we can not stop scrolling.

Check out all of the recipes here.

The minimalists proudly present their ideas for vegan cooking, aiming for dishes which are under thirty minutes of preparation, and simple.

Everyone appreciates recipes that are both simple to prepare, and delicious at the same time.

It was impossible to pick one recipe to share with you.

So many options made us need to stop and make a snack first, but the recipes for these dishes from Dana and John definitely made our list of favorites:

Vegan-Christmas-from-Delish

4. Vegan Christmas from Delish

There are twenty salivating recipes on Delish, simple enough for any vegan chef.

Traditional winners abound but there are some surprises, too – like the sizzling Holiday Roasted Vegetables and the decadent and luxuriously rich Chocolate Pom Poms.

All are sure to impress even your non-vegan guests this festive season.

Check out the whole list of the recipes here.

Peta’s-Formal-Vegan-Food-Ideas

5. Peta’s Formal Vegan Food Ideas

Last, but not least, Peta has provided fabulous ideas for vegan catering. Both formal and informal recipes are provided, and it is great for getting an idea of tasty combinations when you are trying something new.

The Spanish Paella sounds fantastic! Check out Peta’s long list of vegan recipes here.

vegan-books

One for the Books

Of all the vegan recipes out there, this one can not be ignored.

This dish can be made the day before and heated up just before dinner, and it has a ‘not too tricky’ difficulty level tagged onto it.

Check out the recipe by Pippa Kendrick, a Vegan Mushroom, Chestnut and Cranberry Tart featured in Jamie’s classic vegan Christmas collection.

vegan-christmas-market

Good News for All of Us

On the news front, there is a zero-waste vegan Christmas market coming to London for the first time ever!

It starts on 08 December 2018 and thousands are expected to attend.

Imagine all the delicious and cruelty-free products that will be on display at this festive gathering of like-minded souls.

Way to go, London!

On that note, remember that veganism is not only about the food. Look into some ideas on how to ‘veganize’ your entire festive celebration this year with cruelty-free, environmentally-responsible, sustainable, and organic products on and off the table. Christmas gifts included!

Have yourselves a Merry Vegan Christmas, everyone!

9 Food Waste Solutions That Are Basically Habits To Save The Earth

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10-food-waste-solutions-that-are-basically-habits-to-save-the-earth

The food waste problem has existed ever since technology enabled us to produce more food than we actually need; and like many other environmental issues, it can’t be solved until every one of us gets involved.

However, while the bad news is that we have created a real problem, the good news is it’s totally solvable and preventable with minimal efforts from the end consumers.

Before looking into the solutions to reduce food waste, I believe it’s better to first look at the facts.

 

Food Waste Facts

Take the U.S for example, a country known for its supreme development in the economy.

Regarding solid waste, according to learner.org, each person in the U.S produces approximately 4.6 pounds of garbage per day, meaning 230 million tons of “trash” produced every year.

Meanwhile, in their latest discovery, Unenvironment shares a stunning report regarding food waste: The U.S alone takes up nearly ⅓ of the world’s food waste, specifically 66.5 million tons.

Run the numbers and you’ll see food waste alone takes up to 29% the amount of trash each year.

And that’s just the numbers in the U.S.

In Japan, nearly 20 million tons of food is thrown away each year, 9 million of which is still usable and yet to pass its expiration date!

In the world, approximately 1.3 billion tons of food are being discarded each year, turning into food waste, also according to the site.

This amount of food waste takes up ⅓ the amount of trash produced each year, and it shouldn’t be.

Organizations are struggling to handle such an enormous amount of waste, but it is still impossible to recycle everything as it depends much on the nature of each kind of trash itself.

Most importantly, more food waste equals less resource spent to reduce and recycle plastic and hazardous waste.

It’s impossible to get rid of plastic use, but we can eliminate the food waste problem.

Here’s how.

 

9 Easy Food Waste Solutions

These are 9 surprisingly effective ways to reduce food waste, and they’re just good habits that anyone can easily take up.

shop-efficiently

1. Respect Your Food: Shop Efficiently

Just don’t overbuy. Seriously. My mom always bought tons of cabbages or any veggies on sale at the market near our house. “Cabbage week is the healthiest thing in your life sweetie,” she said, and I ended up having take-outs because I couldn’t handle that much cabbage.

Everything was up to the point where she kept buying stuff and throwing them away in the end because there was too much to eat.

Buy enough to make sure they all get digested in your stomach. It both helps reducing food waste and numbers at the bottom of the grocery bills.

 

store-food-smartly

2. Be Smart About Food Storage

Here’s a true fact about foods that many people, surprisingly, do not know: Foods can be contaminated if not stored properly.

If you’ve been applying the freezing method your entire life, there are also other tips that you might find helpful:

  • Not everything freezes and then tastes well when reheated, especially those with high water content. It can freeze alright, but once the ice crystals are formed, unfreezing them results in limpy greens that are no longer crispy to the bite.
  • If you’re storing raw meat, be sure to take a clean paper towel and slightly wipe all over the surface to absorb all moisture. Molds form in moist surfaces more quickly than usual.
  • For meals that are supposed to be eaten during the day and there’s no room in the fridge, at least cover it with reusable food wrap. Foods left out in the open air is the best home for disease-causing pathogens!



dont-throw-your-food-uselessly

3. Don’t Be Picky!

“This apple tastes supreme, but the core with 99% edible flesh and 2 inedible seeds seems repelling, so I’m throwing away the core.”

“These strawberries’ sweetness is divine, but I’m going to cut out and discard the top with half of it being the edible flesh and the other being the stem.”

If somehow you possess one of these thoughts, you are contributing to the production of food waste more than you already are.

Pick out the seeds and eat the whole apple. There are like 2 or 3 of them. Pick the stems out with your hands.

Remember to utilize everything, even your food. Isn’t this just a thing we all should do?

 

Date-Your-Food

4. Date Your Food

“How long has this thing been in here? Can I still eat it?”

Stop asking yourself these kinds of questions and start putting labels with dates of storage on them.

You won’t have to throw away food just because you’re not sure if it’s edible or not anymore.


Transform-scraps-to-vegetable-broth

 

5. Reuse To Reduce: Transform scraps to vegetable broth

Food scraps might look unappetizing and unsuitable to be served on plates, but they don’t necessarily belong to the trash bin.

Fill the pot of vegetable or meat scraps with plain water, heat it on low for 2-3 hours and you’ll have a delicious (and nutritious!) broth for risotto, soups or even stews.

Don’t-Throw-Your-Food-Away

 

6. Don’t Throw Your Food Away If It’s Not Expired Yet

Although this seems quite obvious, many people still throw their foods away, especially when it’s close to their expiration dates.

So, should you throw it away when it’s past the expiration date? It depends.

“Best if Used By, Best By, Best Before” are terms that indicate a product is best to be used before that date, not the expiration date.

The product is still usable within several days after this date.

“Use By”, meanwhile, can be a little tricky to denote. While it means “throw-away” date in the EU, it conveys “still usable but tastes worse after [date]” to consumers in the U.S.

Either way, for the sake of your health, throw the product away when it’s past “Use By” date.

“Expires on” is the “deadline” for your food: after this date, the product is no longer usable.
So, by knowing your terms, you just saved quite some money and the planet.

Transform-Leftovers-To-Casseroles

 

7. Transform Leftovers To Casseroles

Leftovers could sometimes look quite… unappealing. I mean, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for you and you’re feeling good. You deserve new food, not a boring tray of leftovers.

You’re right!

Make yourself a new tray of casserole by adding more: bundles of veggies, put some mashed potatoes on top and sprinkle some cheese on top to bake until golden brown.

If it’s veggies, add in strips of baked chicken breasts seasoned with salt and pepper and eat as is, or with cooked rice.

Isn’t that the way the legendary pizzas were invented in the first place? The key to reducing food waste comes down to just the matter of creativity.

Install-A-Garbage-Disposal

 

8. Dispose of Smartly: Install A Garbage Disposal

In some countries, like Japan for example, trash is categorized and treated differently.

Therefore, food waste gets to be chopped up into small pieces in factories and either decomposed into plant food, or buried in landfills to produce methane gas, a source of fuel.

However, in many other countries, organic waste is oftentimes dumbed directly down the drain.

Dispose-of-Smartly

This could easily clog the drain and cause great damages to the drainage system, which are not designed to deal with big chunks of solid food waste.

With a garbage disposal machine right under your sink, food waste can be pulverized and essentially liquefied, making it easier for the system to deliver it to the right place.

There are currently loads of garbage disposals on the market, with different brands featuring their unique functions. It’s not easy to choose what you need amongst that big collection.

I highly recommend you check out this article to have the most accurate reviews regarding each kind. Super clear and straight to the point.

 

 Raise-Earthworms

9. Raise Earthworms

Composting is the most effective method of treating food waste, and unlike general assumption, it can happen right inside your house.

This may sound a bit creepy, raising a bunch of earthworms in a box somewhere near your kitchen, where you cook.

But considering that raising these little compost makers turns out to be quite helpful in turning your life eco-friendly, isn’t it worth the effort?

Simply go to a fish store, get a box of them, put some soil in it and start throwing in food scraps. The smaller the pieces, the quicker these worms work their magic.


Oh and don’t feed them meat (any kinds of meat), bones, fish, dairy products and oily foods as these will produce odor that attracts flies.

After just a few days, you’ll have plenty of rich soil to grow onions, potatoes or any house plants for your kitchen!

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