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How Sustainable is Your Business? The 10 Questions You Need to Answer

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sustainable business

Business sustainability has shifted from a mere talking point among executives to actionable to-do’s in offices.

A past measure of “green business” was how fast executives could pontificate intelligently about sustainability matters, alas, that has changed.

These days, customers, employees, investors, and other investors want to know, specifically, what you’re doing to create a greener business. You only need look at the activist investors pursuing bold green changes in today’s corporate sphere to appreciate the urgency.

To help you along the way, here are 10 questions you should be prepared to answer at some point along your sustainability journey as an organization.

 

1. What is your carbon footprint?

carbon footprint

This is the question most executives and other stakeholders are asking. Don’t be surprised if this question is accompanied by another more academic one, namely “what exactly is a carbon footprint anyway?”

Top tip: Check out the Carbon Fund‘s carbon calculator or use the one offered by the Marrion Institute.

Difficulty Rating: Simple

Cost Rating: Free if using online packages – costs associated with professional evaluations

 

2. How green are your products and services?

This question tends to follow on very quickly from the first, since products and services are the bread and butter of any company. The likely consequence will focus on how a company can determine if their products are green. Issues that will need further unpacking, and may help you develop your answer include:

  • How much energy, water and resources does the business currently use?
  • How can you improve resource use and efficiency?
  • How and where do you source your materials from?
  • Are you using sustainable products and processes?
  • What is your impact on the local and global community?

Top tip: Understanding the environmental costs of your products will require a thorough analysis, undertaken by a professional.

Difficulty Rating: This activity requires a lot of in-depth analysis

Cost Rating: Costs associated with professional evaluations

3. How could you become a greener company?

This is the question that you can expect once your company has made a commitment to enhance sustainability.

It is also the most complex, since the answer can literally involve every part of an enterprise and its supply chain. This is also a question that involves both short and long term program development, project management and strategy.

Top tip: Check out what leading companies in your industry are doing to learn how your company can design and implement programmes for environmental improvement.

Difficulty Rating: May require a bit of extra effort – professional advice may be required

Cost Rating: Costs associated with professional evaluations

4. How educated and engaged are your employees?

This is another question that signals a sustainability journey is maturing, since the conversation is expanding beyond the key managers and executives.

Attaining a figure is also challenging in many organisations, particularly larger ones, as mindsets and behavior towards sustainability takes time to filter down to all employees.

Your answer should look at how much your employees know about the environmental impacts associated with your products and services, and the ways in which your company is offsetting these.

Top tip: Devise a questionnaire and interview as many employees as possible to gauge an overall impression of environmental awareness in your company.

Difficulty Rating: Simple – may prove to be complex exercise depending on company size

Cost Rating: Free – costs associated with professional evaluations

 

5. What are your key sustainability measures?

sustainability metrics

The old adage of “what gets measured, gets managed” is a good place to start. There are some values that might be trickier to measure, such as return on investment (ROI). This looks at how much have you saved through sustainability investments.

Top tip: By calculating your companies ROI, you can see how much money is being saved by implementing sustainable actions.

Difficulty Rating: Simple – may prove to be complex exercise depending on company size

Cost Rating: Costs associated with professional evaluations

 

6. How do you set goals for improvement and make yourselves more efficient?

This simple question has many implications, and also requires a lot of data collection, analyses and planning. Aspects to consider are:

  • What levels can we achieve while growing our business?
  • What will the projects involved cost us?
  • How quickly can we achieve the goals?
  • How will others perceive the goals?

Top tip: Setting targets and goals should be a top priority and evaluated over time to ensure that these are still the right objectives.

Difficulty Rating: Simple – may prove to be complex exercise depending on company size

Cost Rating: Free – costs associated with professional evaluations

7. How do you innovate and offer greener products and services?

This goes to the heart of a business, and the answers are sometimes aren’t easy to find.

It’s not surprising, given that innovation is usually the result of a process, and can be encouraged and nurtured. This comes without a guarantee of success, but resources, a commitment of time, and financial and human capital are a good starting point.

Top tip: By researching techniques to limit the environmental impacts of products and services, you may come across innovative ways to improve overall sustainability.

Difficulty Rating: Simple – may prove to be complex exercise depending on company size

Cost Rating: Free – costs associated with professional evaluations

8. How do your competitors fare?

A point of reference is always important for directors to properly understand green issues, and most companies tend to look to competitors, customers and similar for benchmarks.

Thanks to the internet and the growing trend towards corporate reporting, this task of comparison has become much easier.

Top tip: Check out competitors’ webpages, annual reports and online media to assess their levels of sustainability.

Difficulty Rating: Simple

Cost Rating: Free

 

9. Are there any environmental organisations you can, or need to partner with?

green business partnerships

By partnering with sustainability NGOs, environmental companies or even government departments, you create a platform for idea sharing, joint ventures and exciting pilot projects.

It is vital that collaborative efforts are made between your organisation and another that has similar environmental values, to ensure the success of the venture. One of the major financial benefits includes government subsidies and grants, and also the potential to save costs.

Top tip: Speak to your local business council about finding organisations that you could potentially partner with.

Difficulty Rating: Simple

Cost Rating: Free

10. What do people on the outside of the company think of your green performance?

The notion that sustainability extends well beyond the boundaries of the company is often difficult for some executives to understand.

Develop ways to gather feedback from people external to the company, such as clients, investors and interested parties. This could be through dedicated email and phone services, company newsletters, suggestion boxes, online media and information forums.

Top tip: Schedule discussions or meetings at least once a year, so as to gather information on what external parties think of your company.

Difficulty Rating: Simple – may require a bit of extra effort

Cost Rating: Free – costs associated with professional services

 

Ask and answer

The questions posed will be focused on your businesses operations, and answers will require sustainability staff to explore data gathering, planning, strategy and analyses, target setting, and engagement with employees and external parties.

Even though all of this information will be collected, you can be sure that some new challenging questions will emerge, keeping you on your toes.

[This article has been updated for freshness and consistency.]

6 Zero-Waste Packing Tips

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zero-waste packing tips

The chant against waste reduction is reaching epic proportions as awareness of plastic and other pollution spreads.  A call for change, in both attitude and habits, is rising.

Whether it is making better purchasing decisions, or exploring zero-waste packing skills for your next vacation, ideas are power. 

Eco-friendly travelers are some of the latest guinea pigs for zero-waste packing techniques. We sign pledges with movements like Travelers Against Plastic, and zealously agree with anti-waste blogs like Trash is for Tossers.

We applaud ethical and Eco-friendly travel by the likes of The Oceanpreneur, who inspires us to dig deeper in combating our convenience travel lists, especially favoring products which are “cruelty-free, child-labor free, low carbon, zero/low chemical, durable, thoughtful and with PASSION for play and planet.

So how do we jump on board the zero-waste travel adventure? Here are six considerations:

 

1. Planning is your friend

Zero-Waste Packing Tips

As a general rule, travel requires a bit of planning beforehand.  

It is all very romantic to ‘go with the flow’ until you realize you’ve paid double for a last-minute flight, missed out on a great deal at the other hotel, need to hire something you could have brought with you, and completely misjudged the wardrobe needed for the week’s weather forecast.  

Planning is a traveler’s friend. Truly.

This applies wholeheartedly to zero-waste packing. It may require you to think hard about layout, to purchase a zero-waste item, and to change your perspective on travel itself.  

The “Don’t worry, we’ll buy it when we get there,” mentality is a bad idea when trying to minimize how much plastic is purchased (and disposed of).  

Instead, a responsible traveler might benefit from slightly more planning and bringing useful items with you (fold up cloth grocery bags, for example, which also make great beach bags, and make-shift pillows).

 

2. Don’t assume

You know what they say about what assumption makes out of you and me… Well, zero-waste packing is not meant to be a guessing game.  

Common sense might assume choosing paper bags over plastic bags is better for the environment, for example. Right? Wrong.

One of many studies comparing Life Cycle Assessments of paper bags to plastic bags (in terms of environmental impact) concludes:

Surprisingly, the trend is the same for most of the individual categories of environmental impacts. No one category showed environmental impacts lower for either the compostable plastic bag or the paper bag.”  

It goes on to say cloth or tote bags are effective at lowering environmental impact if communities can be persuaded to use them consistently.

 

3. Take off the Sunglasses

zero waste packing

Travel is exciting, and the point is to relax, expand horizons and savor every moment of the experiences that come our way.  

There’s plenty of information out there to assist in environmentally-responsible packing decisions, and to avoid rookie mistakes. On the way, you might also come across ways to travel responsibly.

Not funding illegal vendors or supporting environmentally-damaging activities designed to milk funds from eager tourists, for example.

It is easy to forget our travel destination is a real place with real problems, not a fantasy land designed exclusively for our pleasure.  

The folks behind exotic dishes and well-organized tours are just trying to make a living, often without any thought for impact on the environment.  

It’s up to us, as travelers, to take off our sunglasses, roll up our sleeves, and make green a priority.

 

4. Money Talks

Where and how we spread dollars is the loudest evidence of our value system. The world notices where we spend cash, even if surface-level dialogue seems to contradict it.   

One of the best ways to consume less plastic is to purchase less plastic.

It’s the same principle as healthy eating – if it is in the pantry, you’ll eat it.  If there is plastic on, in, and over the products you want, you’ll buy it, and then have to dispose of it.

 

5. R is for Right

reduce reuse recycle

The five R’s are making headway as nature’s proponents expand on the classic reduce, reuse and recycle mantra.  

Refusing and repurposing are now part of the mix, too. The five principles encourage us to invest more than just a mediocre effort in our daily interactions.  

The five R’s stand in this order: refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle.

In zero-waste packing, reuse is key. Reusable items trump single-use items any day, especially plastic.  It is surprising how many people are opposed to reusing materials. The excuse is often in the name of hygiene.  

Perhaps the hygiene card is a mask for ego issues against the “second-hand” concept. Careful reuse though doesn’t need to be dirty.  

Society is rethinking reuse in clean, elegant and attractive ways. Think of the gorgeous modern cloth diapers now available as green-conscious mothers transform this once boring old terry-cloth world, for example.  

There are awesome new travel items popping up everywhere, too:

  • Thermos travel mugs to keep drinks hot and cold.
  • Refillable toiletry containers for creams and shampoos.
  • Eco-friendly towels which are made of natural fibers. These use less water and need fewer washes.

 

6. Do it, then say it

Actions speak. Before you criticize a barista on the ground about the straw his franchise requires him to place into your milkshake, get your ducks in a row.  

We like Drew’s message, and it is creating awareness about a problem, but how do we know he is genuine? 

Will it help to combat the problem itself?

A haughty retort about the straws killing turtles means nothing when you are carrying groceries in a plastic bag, buying bottled water, or using the plastic cup the coffee shop provides because you forgot your reusable travel mug.  

Let a green lifestyle speak for you, that way hypocrisy cannot taint good intentions.

What other zero-waste packing tips have you discovered through your travel experiences?

HVAC Considerations for an Eco-Friendly Home

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Hvac for greener home

Preserving the environment is a step all of us should take to ensure our future generations are cared for along with the planet. There are many ways to help the planet and do so on a daily basis. We can recycle cans and bottles, keep our disposable product use to a minimum level, and conserve energy whenever possible. 

We can also promote green living by having an Eco-friendly home. Some simple methods to aid the environment include shutting off lights when they’re not in use, taking advantage of the natural sunlight for warmth and light, and conserving water throughout the home. 

Another way we can help the environment in our homes is to keep green HVAC considerations in mind and use HVAC systems that are Eco-friendly. 

Here are a few tips you can use your HVAC systems in an environmentally-friendly way:

 

Use the Right Size Air Conditioning Unit

HVAC considerations

When you use an air conditioner, make sure the unit is the right size for the building. An air conditioning unit that’s too big will not properly cool your home and will keep running in an inefficient manner.

The air conditioning unit will continue to run thinking the space is larger than it really is. This situation results in overuse of the air conditioning unit resulting in a less than favorable environmental situation. 

When you use the right size air conditioning unit for your home, you will save energy by not overreaching with lower temperatures. Plus, you’ll save money by not having to pay for your air conditioning system to run continuously.

 

Ensure Proper Installation of Your HVAC System

Another way you can make sure your HVAC system is environmentally friendly and not using too much energy is to be certain it’s installed correctly.

An HVAC system that’s not set up right will not work in the best way. This leads to reduced efficiency and more power being put into the system which means more energy use is required. 

It’s important to have an HVAC professional install your system so you know it’s done right and working in the most Eco-friendly manner. These industry professionals can easily install your HVAC system in a quick and proper manner.

 

Use the Right HVAC Filters

air-conditioner

Change your HVAC filters every three months. You can compare Merv rating vs. FPR and choose the rating that’s most energy efficient for your home. 

Keeping your filters clean and using the right ones will help you be as environmentally friendly in your HVAC system practices as possible. Changing your HVAC filters is easy to do and a necessity.

 

Use a New Technology HVAC System to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions are extremely harmful to the environment. There’s a large push to reduce carbon emissions in many different ways. You can help do so when it comes to your HVAC system. 

Fortunately, there are new HVAC systems with state-of-the-art technology that produce reduced carbon emissions. These systems consume less energy and run more efficiently When you install these new HVACs you’re doing your part to help the environment and making your home much more environmentally friendly.

 

Reuse Water from Air Conditioning Units

Another way to turn your ordinary home into an Eco-friendly building is to reuse water from air conditioning units. Condensation builds up on air conditioning units which amounts to quite a bit of water over time.

You can have a runoff area for this water and use it to water flowers, wash your car, and pursue other outdoor non-potable uses.

 

Buy an HVAC Unit with ENERGY STAR Label

HVAC units

If your current HVAC unit is more than ten years old, it may be time for a more energy-efficient model. You can buy an HVAC unit with an ENERGY STAR label and rest easy knowing this type of system is energy-efficient. 

There are many types of ENERGY STAR appliances and home comfort systems available these days. ENERGY STAR rated appliances are not only made for kitchens. Hooking up an environmentally friendly HVAC system is easy to do and will pay off in the long run, both for the planet and your wallet. 

You can shave as much as $115 each year from your energy bill if you switch out your old HVAC system for an ENERGY STAR unit.

Do some research and check out all the HVAC systems that have the ENERGY STAR label on them.

 

Keep HVAC Considerations in Mind for an Eco-Friendly Home

These are some of the ways you can achieve your HVAC needs while preserving the environment.

You can still have a fully-functioning HVAC system and still help preserve the environment. You’ll stay comfortably cool, or warm and still help protect the environment for future generations.

Dreamy Peach Coconut Smoothie Recipe

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It’s summer and sometimes we want a really cooling, refreshing drink to get us going in the morning or to pick us up in the afternoon. Green smoothies are a wonderful option and are super easy to make at home.

Green smoothies taste just like normal smoothies, but they offer a huge serving of vegetables hidden in the yumminess.

Drinking smoothies is a wonderful way to eat your food- because it is already broken down and easy to digest.

In fact, your digestive system does not have to do very much work to assimilate and absorb the nutrients from smoothies. Giving the digestive system a rest can be beneficial for healing the digestive tract.

Green smoothies are also alkalizing for the body. When the body is in an alkaline state, cells are healthier, oxygen increases, and there is less risk of cancer and disease developing.

Increasing the amount of vegetables and fruits you consume, can help increase the alkalinity of the body. This smoothie makes it easy to fit another serving of greens and fruit into your diet.

Dreamy Peach Coconut Smoothie
Yield: 2 Servings

Dreamy Peach Coconut Smoothie

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

This creamy peach coconut smoothie makes it easy to fit another serving of greens and fruit into your diet.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup kale, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, chopped
  • 1 peach, chopped
  • 1-2 cups coconut water
  • 2 tbsp hemp seeds

Instructions

  1. Blend all the ingredients together in a blender, until creamy and smooth.
  2. Sip slowly and enjoy!

Nutrition Information

Yield

2

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 157Total Fat 6gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 5gCholesterol 0mgSodium 268mgCarbohydrates 23gFiber 6gSugar 15gProtein 7g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

 

 

What You Probably Didn’t Know About Our National Forests

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The National Forest Foundation put together this eye catching infographic illustrating the amazing things forests do for us.

It’s important to keep this in mind as each year millions of acres of forest are harvested.

Check out the National Forest Foundation website to learn how you can do your part to preserve the 193 million acres of national forests in the United States.

Forests Infographic

3 Steps to an Organic and Sustainable Lifestyle at Home

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organic lifestyle

When a food is labeled as “organic,” it means that there were no pesticides or chemical fertilizers used in the production process. 

Whether you are a gardener or a consumer – or both – it is important to understand what organic means, what foods you should buy organic, alternatives to pesticides and herbicides, and how harmful pesticides and herbicides can affect us and the environment.

An organic lifestyle is a more natural and sustainable way to live. It not only saves you money in the long run, but also improves your health, well-being and longevity.

So, how do you adopt an organic lifestyle at home?

 

Switch to Natural Herbicides/Weed Killers

organic lifestyle - weeding

Weeds are considered unwanted plants in a garden, field, lawn, etc. Common unwanted plants include dandelion, pigweed, and bindweed. These types of plants tend to take the nutrients away from the desired plants. 

Certain weed killers have been known to cause cancer, specifically Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This type of cancer affects the lymph nodes, which are a part of our body’s immune system. The lymphatic system flows throughout the entire body, getting rid of waste and fighting infections.

While the scientific research is still ongoing on some of these chemicals, there seems to be general consensus that exposure to some phenoxy herbicides may increase your chances of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Additionally, several jurisdictions in more than 25 countries have banned the use of Glyphosate, the most common ingredient in widely used herbicides.

 

Glyphosate-Free

Glyphosate is a known carcinogen (can cause cancer), so it’s best to stay away from products that use this ingredient in high concentrations, or to avoid it altogether.

 

Steam and Electricity

Two natural alternatives to herbicides include steam weed control and electric weed control. 

Steam weeding is where steam at a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit is applied to weeds to destroy the cell membrane. Electric weeding is similar, targeting unwanted plants with a high voltage of electricity to kill them.

 

Switch to Natural Pesticides/Insecticides

garden pests

As a gardener, you probably want an organic garden, or for your garden to be as organic as possible. You don’t want these harmful chemicals on or in your food, but you also don’t want bugs and other pests to destroy your plants. What do you do?

 

Essential Oils

Essential oils seem to be the remedy for everything nowadays, but they actually work! 

Eucalyptus, for instance, is really popular when it comes to keeping bugs away. This oil deters several insects. Neem oil, extracted from the fruit seeds of an evergreen tree in India, is also considered to be a natural pesticide. It kills aphids, mites, and whiteflies.

 

Himalayan Pink Salt

Mixed with water in a spray bottle, this salt deters spider mites.

 

Chrysanthemum Tea

While this tea offers many health benefits to humans, it’s actually pretty toxic to certain insects. It contains pyrethrum, an oil created by the flower, which attacks the nervous system of insects.

It’s important to note here that chrysanthemum tea, Himalayan pink salt, and essential oils are not harmful to humans in small amounts. Large concentrations of these (and really anything) can be harmful to us. Always use these products as directed.

 

Buy Organic Foods

organic foods

If you are not a gardener or a farmer, you probably still want to buy all organic foods

Organically grown foods tend to be more expensive than their non-organic counterparts. Fortunately, there are some fruits and vegetables that are still considered safe if you don’t buy the organic version. They are referred to as “The Clean Fifteen”.

 

The Clean Fifteen

The “Clean Fifteen” is a list of foods believed to have the lowest concentrations of pesticides. As such, they are considered safer to buy conventionally.

When buying the non-organic version of these items, you’re likely to have less pesticide residue. 

The Clean Fifteen list varies, but they’re usually fruits and vegetables that you have to peel before you eat. These include produce such as:

  • Mangoes, Pineapples, and Kiwi
  • Cantaloupe, Honeydew Melon, and Watermelon
  • Grapefruit, Oranges, and Lemons
  • Sweet Corn, Sweet Peas, and Onions
  • Potatoes, Avocados, and Papaya

 

The Dirty Dozen

On the other hand, there is some produce that you will want to always buy organic. Even after washing, these tend to still have pesticide residue. This list varies slightly too, but it’s almost always produce with an edible peel, such as:

  • Tomatoes (all), Sweet Bell Peppers, Cucumbers
  • Spinach, Celery, Lettuce
  • Apples, Pears, Cherries
  • Peaches, Nectarines, Strawberries

There are many more, including grapes, milk, and some would even consider buying organic potatoes, since potatoes have a thin covering.

 

Organic lifestyle

These are just a few ways to live an organic lifestyle. You can also use organic and natural cleaning products in your home, beauty and personal care products, and supplements. 

As always, use everything as directed!

12 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Road Trip

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Eco-friendly road trip

Where is your cabin fever going to take you this year?

After the strange past year or so we’ve had because of the pandemic, getting out into the sunshine is a welcome change.

A road trip can be the perfect way to reconnect with old friends, make new ones, or simply take some time out.

If you’re in the midst of preparing for your summer road trip but feeling guilty about the environmental cost of your family’s planned activities, don’t fret.

Being green on the road goes further than driving an electric or hybrid car.

There are plenty of simple ways in which you can have an Eco-friendly road trip without sacrificing too much.

As an added bonus, a green road trip can save you serious money. Read on for some cost-effective tips on how to make this summer’s trip your greenest yet!

 

1. Packing

 

Eco-friendly road trip

The greenest car is one that’s packed full of people, not luggage.

Bring only what you’re sure you’ll need, avoiding tempting but wasteful extras like a second set of golf clubs, and replace the space you’ll save that way with another passenger if you can.

Even if it’s a less fuel-efficient model, one six-passenger car is still greener than two three-passenger cars.

 

2. Before you leave

Before hitting the road on your Eco-friendly road trip, make sure you haven’t left anything on standby, and unplug appliances which might use up unnecessary electricity.

Plugged electronics still consume energy even when you’re not using them.

It’s important to think about the things we don’t usually consider, like leaving the television on standby or an electric toothbrush plugged into the charger.

You can be Eco-friendly at home when you’re not even there!

 

3. Check the car

Before your trip, check your car’s oil and tire pressure. Topping off its oil and filling its tires will boost your car’s fuel efficiency by 5 percent or more, making a major difference over an entire road trip.

Making sure you’re not carrying any excess weight can be tricky when going on a road trip, but try and minimize your packing as much as possible.

If you have a bike rack or roof rack on your car which you’re not going to use, take it off. The more weight you carry with you, the more fuel you’ll use, increasing your carbon footprint and costing you more money.

Before you set off, you should also ensure that your car has had a full service and is in tip top condition. Otherwise, you might incur extra expenses on tow trucks, not to mention adding to the carbon footprint.

 

4. Adapt your driving style

Of course, taking to the road in a hybrid car is the most Eco-friendly way to travel, but you don’t have to own an Eco-friendly car to drive in an Eco-friendly way and have an Eco-friendly road trip. Cut out sharp braking and acceleration by looking ahead and anticipating changes in traffic flow.

If you’re driving in a manual car, slow down, gradually, with your brakes instead of your gears in order to reduce your fuel emissions. If at a standstill in traffic, switch your engine off.

 

5. Where to stay

Eco-hotel

If you’ve planned where you’re going, it’s a good idea to try and prebook some Eco-friendly accommodation. There are a number of ‘green’ or ‘eco’ hotels around the globe and their main focus is on conserving water, energy and reducing solid waste.

If, on the other hand, you’re not planning your route and just going to see where your adventure takes you, camping is a fantastic, green alternative (if it’s not the middle of winter, of course!).

 

6. Minimize your packaging

Avoid taking lots of packaging on your Eco-friendly road trip. Use flasks instead of bottled water and take reusable grocery bags with you for visiting the store with. 

When buying things on your journey, choose foods with the least amount of packaging. Processed foods with a lot of unnecessary wrapping are not a good choice for an Eco-friendly road tripper!

 

7. Choose where to eat carefully

It’s nice to sit down for a prepared meal after a long day on the road, but try to avoid eating out as much as possible.

Restaurants, especially national fast-food chains, have tremendous carbon footprints. If you’re going to eat at a restaurant, find a small, local restaurant to eat in and try some of the local produce.

Paper plates and cutlery are a no go, so make sure you find somewhere which only uses real plates, cups, knives and forks!

If you’re going on a short trip, you could make yourself some food before you leave and store it in a cooler bag.

The American highway system is chock full of rest areas with full picnic facilities, so stop by a supermarket to get some local organic flavor and eat under the open sky!

This will save you money and is a great way to use up any leftovers in the fridge which would otherwise have gone to waste while you’re away.

 

8. Find your fastest route

Half the fun of a road trip is the drive itself, but not when you’re lost.

If you know where you want to go, use a map or GPS system to find your fastest route.

This is an obvious but effective Eco-friendly tip, because the shorter the distance you travel, the less fuel you will use and the less harmful emissions you will produce.

You can find your fastest route even if you set out without a route in mind. Plan your route in stages and as soon as you establish exactly where you’re heading, calculate the quickest way to get there.

Getting lost wastes both gas and time, both of which are expensive these days.

 

9. Watch that speed

It can sometimes be tempting to put your foot down when taking to the open road. Not only will this cost you more in fuel, but it will also lose you Eco-points.

Fuel efficiency decreases exponentially above this cut-off speed, which in turn increases your carbon footprint and the total cost of your road trip.

If your car has cruise control, take advantage of it. It will be impossible to speed, you’ll have a smoother journey and you’re less likely to do any harsh braking.

It may be tough, but every automotive expert out there insists that keeping your speed less than 60 MPH (less than 100Km/hr)  is essential if you want to get the most out of your tank of gas.

The extra few minutes that you’ll shave off your Eco-friendly road trip by driving faster just aren’t worth it. Excessive speed also increases your chances of catastrophic road accidents.

 

10. Drive responsibly

You’re on vacation, so don’t drive like you’re late to the biggest interview of your life.

Aggressive acceleration is a close second to speeding in terms of unnecessary fuel wastage, especially on long-distance road trips during which you’re regularly accelerating to highway speeds from a dead stop.

Also, if you have to floor the accelerator when you begin a passing maneuver in order to avoid oncoming traffic, wait for the road to clear next time.

 

11. Open your windows

Avoid using the air conditioning and heating as much as possible.

Park in the shade and open the windows instead of switching on the gas-guzzling A/C.

Try not to turn the heating on unless it’s essential, and if you do use it, don’t leave it on for long periods of time.

 

12. Finally, use your legs!

hiking - Eco-friendly road trip 2

A road trip doesn’t have to be all about driving. Whenever possible, get out of the car and stretch those legs.

By foot can be one of the best ways to explore a new place. Consider hiring some bikes if you’re in a particularly scenic part of the world, and you’ll even manage to get some exercise in too!

 

Final thoughts

By keeping these simple tips in mind, you can enjoy an incredible Eco-friendly road trip and assuage any guilt you feel about traveling in the first place.

As an added bonus, stretching your car’s fuel economy and replacing restaurant meals with picnics will save your family some much-needed cash.

By slowing down and making family-friendly stops to enjoy the scenery, you may even enjoy going green!

 

Turn your car into an Eco-friendly vehicle

how to turn your car into an eco-friendly vehicle
Infographic via Global Tint

How to Make Your Own Compost: The Ultimate Guide

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composting - the ultimate guide

Although Americans are getting much better at recycling, there’s one thing that we still have a problem with: garbage. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces approximately 1,600 pounds of garbage per year. That figure doesn’t even include industrial or commercial waste – only household waste.

While you can decrease your contribution to landfills by using reusable grocery bags, buying products with less packaging, and recycling as much as possible, composting may be the ticket to seriously scaling back how much waste you throw in the garbage.

Making your own compost is the ultimate in recycling; it is nature’s way of turning de-composable organic material into a nutrient rich soil, and it is a great way to divert some (or most) of your household trash away from the landfill.

You can assist nature in the composting process and reap the benefits of it by creating your own compost pile.

 

Getting started

make your own compost

Starting a compost heap or installing a compost bin is not as difficult or as problematic as you might think. Within a relatively short amount of time, your garden will benefit from rich, environmentally friendly compost.

If you have a yard, you can fit a compost pile just about anywhere. And if you live in a town or city, don’t fret – you can create a small compost bucket on your deck or patio, or even indoors.

Once your compost is ready, you’ll be able to use it as fertilizer on plants, for your yard, in your garden, or even to sell or give to neighbors.

 

What do I need to build a compost pile?

compost bin

You need a compost bin or a designated area to keep your compost contained. This is an important factor, and whether you go for a composting bin or a traditional compost heap is very much a personal decision.

A compost bin is simply a container in which to keep your compostable materials while they break down.

A compost heap is (as the name suggests) nothing more than a pile of compostable material that is usually covered over with card or plastic sheeting and often insulated with straw.

If you want to get fancy, you can use a turning unit to hold your compost, such as a barrel, but keep in mind that turning units cost more and are more labor intensive to put together than other units.

The structure of the bin can be made up of pretty much anything, however you shouldn’t place your compost directly on top of concrete or plastic. Basically, you just want your compost to touch the dirt so that worms can make their way in and help with the composting process.

You should also think about creating a collection point in your kitchen to hold decomposing leftovers and scraps, keeping in mind an infrequently-cleaned container may quickly turn foul.

For this reason, it’s recommended you buy a compost container with a carbon filter, which costs only a few dollars more than an old-fashioned bucket.

Sizes range anywhere from a half gallon for irregular use, to a full 5 gallon bucket for busy kitchens. A 1.5 gallon container is ideal for a typical family, and shouldn’t need to be emptied more than once a week.

 

Where should I build my compost heap?

compost bin area

Your compost heap or bin should be in an area which is easy to reach, first and foremost. Keeping it out of sight is a concern for some people, but a compost heap that’s behind a shed or outbuilding may be awkward to get to and discourage you from using it.

The main points in terms of the location are as follows:

  • Compost bins or heaps should be in a position which is reached by the sun. The sun provides heat which speeds up the composing process.
  • Composts should be tightly covered or have a lid.
  • Compost should be kept away from water sources.

 

What is suitable to add to a compost heap or bin?

compost bin content

The general rule of thumb in terms of compostable materials is that if it once lived, it can go on!

To keep the micro-organisms that will transform your scraps into good soil happy, you need to keep the brown stuff to green stuff ratio.

Green stuff: egg shells, fruit and veggie scraps, moldy bread, fresh grass clippings, weeds

Brown Stuff: wood, leaves, papers, nuts and shells, tea leaves, coffee grounds, dryer lint, pinecones, pine needles

Try to get an equal mixture of “brown and green” materials for your compost.

Never compost nappies or cooked foods. Certain foods will attract pests and so should be avoided. Meat and dairy products in particular are among the biggest attracters of rats. The best waste food products to compost are fruit and vegetable products.

Avoid using pet poo in your compost unless you are only going to be using it on ornamental plants. Never use it on vegetable plants or anything else that you plant to consume or use in some other way.

 

Getting your compost started

So, how do you start your pile?

Start adding your ingredients to the pile or bin. Make sure any large things are chopped up.

If you add anything that’s dry, such as egg shells, dry leaves, pine needles, or cardboard, make sure to add a bit of water.

You don’t want to drown the pile, but it won’t work well without some added moisture. Composting in layers of wet and dry can generally keep it pretty moist.

If you are using a container for your compost, you can lay the mix of items on the bottom green waste in compostof it to a depth of about 12 inches and then replace the lid and return whenever you have more materials to add to it.

If you are making a compost heap, lay the first layer right down on the earth or turf and then a layer of straw for insulation. Cover tightly with plastic sheeting or plenty of cardboard and return when you have more materials to add to it.

 

Maintaining and Using Your Compost

In order for a heap to fully mature, you should add to it regularly and ensure that you have a good balance of “greens and browns” to include. Depending on what you add to your pile or bin, your compost could produce useable compost in two months or take as long as six months.

Keeping your compost covered will help, as a cover keeps in heat and moisture. Also, make sure to give it a good stir once in a while – oxygen is an essential ingredient to any compost pile or bin.

Keep an eye on your compost for signs of rodents, but if you avoid cooked foods and the other products mentioned, then they shouldn’t be an issue.

When the bottom of your pile resembles dark, rich soil, it’s ready!

Use it in your garden, on your lawn, or on your houseplants. If you have enough compost to go around, neighbors can also use it for their gardens, plants, or lawns. You may even be able to sell it, depending on its quality and your location.

Hopefully, these tips are helpful to get your first compost started. Happy Composting!


Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of an earlier post. It has been edited for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness, and includes contributions from Ant Langston.

How to Conserve Water and Save Money in the Process

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water conservation

Water is essential for all life. You can survive without food for up to three weeks in some cases, but if you go for more than a few days without water, you will develop all sorts of physiological problems, and will eventually die. 

As human beings on this planet, especially here in the West, we often take water for granted. All we have to do is turn on the faucet, and out comes that life-giving water. 

But, many people are unaware that the amount of fresh water available on our planet is less than 3 percent. In fact, 2.5 percent of this freshwater is inaccessible, locked inside polar ice, stored within soil deposits, or deep within the Earth. 

With the rise of environmental awareness, water conservation has become a crusade of sorts across the world. Environmental advocates are continuously trying to educate others on the necessity of water conservation to ensure our species survival in the future.

A few simple ways to conserve water are as follows.

 

Fix Leaks

water conservation - fix leaks

This might seem like basic common sense when it comes to conserving water, and that’s because it is. Water leaks account for a huge percentage of high water budgets, an avoidable circumstance that leads to wasted freshwater and higher water bills.

The first thing you can do is check around your home for leaks and problems with pipes, and make necessary repairs.

If you don’t know how to fix these leaks, consider hiring a plumber to come and assess your pipes. Perhaps you know someone who is looking to gain their journeyman or renew their plumbing license. An individual pursuing this profession might be able to better assist you in fixing any problems you might have. 

Regardless, seeking professional help will ensure that you fix any leaks properly.

 

Upgrade Hardware

low flow faucet

Probably one of the most effective methods for doing your part in water conservation is installing hardware that aids in conservation efforts. This can be done by installing low-flow systems throughout your home at all water access points.

Some hardware solutions to consider are as follows:

  • Dual Flush Toilets 
  • Low Flow Toilets (or by use of a conversion kit)
  • Low Flow Shower Heads
  • Faucet Aerators 
  • Installing an energy-saving (often smaller) Water Heater

Today, we have several hardware solutions for conserving water. Not only will installing these conversions allow you to conserve water, but they’ll also assist in lowering your monthly water bill, allowing you to save more money. 

 

Adjust Your Habits

conserving water

Often, by modifying our own water consumption behaviors, we can greatly reduce how much water we use on a daily and yearly basis. Simply put, this is the same principle that is used for energy conservation.

As stated, many Americans simply take water access for granted. Not many of us have had to travel a long distance with water containers, spend time finding or building a water well, or have had to purify water from natural sources. 

As such, the way we use water here in the West is often wasteful, and this behavior can be easily corrected by simple measures.

Turning the faucet off when you brush your teeth is a great practice to get into the habit of doing. Additionally, taking shorter showers or avoiding watering your lawn as frequently can have a huge impact on conservation efforts, thus, allowing you to save money from water usage. 

Other water-saving efforts can be utilized as well, such as installing rain gauges to alert you to the water levels in your yard. Using a water catch or installing a rain garden to catch runoff water are also great methods to implement for water conservation. 

 

We’re All in This Together

As human beings, we all have to share what little freshwater that’s available on this planet. Even though our world is composed of over 70 percent water, nearly all of this water is held in the world’s oceans and is high in salinity, making it undrinkable for us. 

If we are to utilize the little freshwater that we have to the best of our ability and ensure that future generations will flourish as we have, conserving water is our only option. This becomes an obligation for each individual to take on.

Without water, there can be no life, and this should be reason enough to explore and implement our own personal conservation efforts.

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