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An Environmentally-Friendly Kitchen

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an-environmentally-friendly-kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home and also the best place to find greener alternatives to food, appliances, utility systems, and cleanliness.

Reducing your carbon footprint at home is easier than you think; especially when you start in the kitchen. Eating green, using energy efficient appliances and cutting back on waste is only the beginning.

The more environmentally-friendly your kitchen, the more it benefits your family and Mother Nature.

Given that it is a major activity hub, it’s fitting to build and keep up a sustainable kitchen. You don’t need to be a genius eco-warrior to make a greener kitchen, so start with these great tips:

 

Green-Professionals

1. Green Professionals

Consider making your next remodeling plan a green one. Ask a professional with practical experience and industry contacts to advise you on design elements and greener utility considerations.

The contractor should be LEED-accredited (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and have a proven track record for greener ideals.

TIP: Ask direct questions when hiring a contractor. Don’t be shy to ask about environmental concerns, accreditations, proof of green practices, and suppliers. If you are not comfortable with the contractor’s environmental policies, don’t hire them!

 

 Green-Design

2. Green Design

When sourcing materials for a renovation, for example, do the research on the latest eco-friendly materials before you purchase anything.

Glass tiles, green countertops (made of paper) and cork are some alternatives. Consider the largest fixtures in the kitchen to go green: cabinets, countertops, flooring, appliances, lighting, and backsplashes.

Glass Tiles

Fashioned from sand, an almost limitless material, glass products are some of the greenest around. Glass tiles are the perfect choice for kitchen backsplashes, too.

They are easy to clean and reflect ambient light.

TIP: Look for products made from recycled glass for extra green points. Countertops made from pieces of glass mixed with cement, concrete or resin are a decorative and functional green product as well.

Paper Counters

A recycled paper that has received FSC certification is mixed with formaldehyde-free and non-petroleum based resins, such as from the shells of cashew nuts.

Installed using standard woodworking tools, the product is resistant to both heat and stains and is available in a wide range of colors.

They’re beautiful and definitely worth checking out.

Cork

It is more correct to say the bark of a cork tree. It can be harvested every nine years without damaging a living tree.

Cork flooring is one of the easiest flooring materials to install, as it can be placed directly over existing flooring materials.

Once installed, cork flooring is treated with an acrylic sealer to make it resistant to spills and stains. Soft and warm under bare feet, cork flooring has a natural spring and a wonderful choice for family homes.

It safely and sustainably provides young children extra protection against slips and falls.

 

green-energy

3. Green Energy

Anywhere you can incorporate green will make a huge impact on your home’s carbon footprint, particularly appliances.

This approach may also help you earn back the money invested through lower energy costs for the life of the appliances.

About 39% of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions come from buildings like our homes, both from their construction and operation, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

But amazingly, up to 85% of the country’s electrical needs could be met if all buildings adopted energy-efficient practices. Consider these guidelines for energy efficiency:

 

  • Replace existing appliances with green ones as the need arises. There is no need to go out and buy all the latest appliances when old ones are perfectly operational. Take it slow, and make good decisions about what you will buy next.
  • Cheap options are not always good options. Sometimes slightly more expensive appliances will last longer and be more environmentally-friendly in their consumption and operation.
  • Lower energy consumption is the aim. The U.S. Energy Information Administration revealed that appliances account for two-thirds of the energy consumed by the average home. Lowering our consumption at home will have benefits for the nation as a whole.
  • Experiment with greener options before committing. A single refrigerator alone uses almost 14% of a home’s energy, for example, so when you choose large appliances ask the right questions. Test where you can lower consumption (repacking fridges, defrosting iced freezers more regularly, changing to solar options etc.) by keeping an eye on your consumption and trying different things from month to month.
  • Low temperature doesn’t always mean lower energy consumption. Read the manual to find the optimum levels.

 

TIP: Also consider using a dishwasher for more energy efficient washing up (and less effort on your part!) Skip pre-rinsing as most dishwashers are powerful enough to remove food residue. Dishwashers use 37% less water and using the air dry setting will also cut down consumption.

 

Green-Labels

4. Green Labels

Becoming more conscious about purchasing decisions can make a huge difference to your green kitchen.

Read labels, and ask questions or take time to research anything you do not understand. If the information is not freely available on a certain product, choose one that is more eco-friendly.

Products with an Energy Star label, for example, have been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as products that will save money over time through energy-efficiency.

Other labels like ‘Follow to Frog’ and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) indicate green products sourced sustainably, for example.

A Greenguard label indicates low chemical emissions.

 

Green-Eating

5. Green Eating

Eating green doesn’t have to be complicated; a few intentional changes make a big difference.

Eating less meat, doing more home-cooked meals, and shopping from local farmers markets and organic farmers are great practices overall.

It is also better to do ‘fresh’ meals rather than meals that cook for hours on end and chew up electricity as they go.

 

  • Less Meat. Cutting back on the amount of red meat you consume is recommended. Cattle release methane gas into the atmosphere, and they also contribute to environmental pollution. It also uses so much water to produce meat products.
  • More Veggies. Committing yourself to two vegetarian dinners a week is a healthy and delicious alternative to a meat-dominated menu.
  • Fresh meals. While pre-packaged meals are convenient, they aren’t good for you and they often generate a lot of waste.
  • Efficient cooking. Reserve a few hours on the weekend and create several meals at once (to use and to freeze). Cook a double batch and freeze half, rather than chopping, peeling, preparing, and cooking on two different days.
  • Toast it. For small dishes, using the toaster oven or microwave can save energy by as much as 80%.
  • Pressurize it. Using pressure cookers, especially for meat, reduces cooking time.
  • Measure it. When cooking on a stove, make sure to use properly sized pans and pots so the heat is not wasted.

 

Green-Groceries

6. Green Groceries

The easiest way to reduce the waste coming out of your kitchen is to cut back on the amount of packaging you buy at the grocery store.

For example, purchasing a large box of goldfish, rather than individually packaged snacks, is a smart way to save money and avoid a lot of potential trash.

Seek out unwrapped produce whenever possible.

Rather than using the plastic bags that the store provides, purchase reusable produce bags and bring them with you on each trip to the grocery store (or reuse your plastic bags until they are holey and brittle).

You can’t eliminate food packaging entirely, which is why it is also important to commit yourself to recycle.

It may also be wise to adjust your shopping strategy if you find you aren’t able to eat all of the food you buy before it goes bad.

Not only will you hold true to your greener ideals, but you will be creating healthy, balanced habits for life in general.

TIP: By purchasing local foods, you’ll be reducing what is known as “food miles.”

 

Feng-Shui-Green

7. Green “Feng Shui”

Placement of kitchen equipment and appliances can make a huge difference to the carbon footprint and energy efficiency of your kitchen. Try these suggestions:

  1. Make sure to clean the coils yearly for more efficient fridge pan.
  2. Move the fridge and freezer away from the walls and the cooking range.
  3. Plug in appliances where it is easy to reach so that you can unplug any appliances not in use during the day or night.

 

Green-Compost

8. Green Fingers

Food scraps are inevitable, which is why composting is so essential to an environmentally-friendly kitchen.

Leftovers and food residues can be turned from waste to valuable soil by the process of composting.

There are compact composters you can use indoors if you do not have the luxury of a yard or garden.

It is also amazing to incorporate a mini garden in your kitchen. Herbs and simple veggies are the best for the kitchen. Need basil? Just pick some.

A garden in the kitchen will not only give you fresh and tasty produce, but it also helps you foster a healthier family, fight stress, save money and save the earth!

Don’t worry about tight spaces because there are several indoor garden ideas for small spaces. You can try vertical farming, grow them in a bed, or hang in mason jars.

 

Green-Hygiene

9. Green Hygiene

Eco-friendly cleaning solutions remove a stain, disinfect, eliminate smell, and make things shine. Pretend it’s only the beginning of the 19th century and all you have is baking soda, vinegar, and some lemon juice.

These terrific cleaning agents have stood the test of time, and they are good for the environment, too!

Instead of using bleach for stains try a solution of baking soda and lemon juice instead. Lemon juice contains natural bleach and if you soak off-white items such as teacups which are marked with tannin, in this mixture you will notice that the results are excellent.

The same solution may be used for sinks and drains.

Germ Fighters

The kitchen is often one of the most bacteria-ridden places in the home. Poultry can leave potentially lethal bacteria behind but creating a natural disinfectant is very simple.

Mix the following in a container and add it to a spray bottle for your very own germ blasting spray which won’t harm the environment at all.

 

  • 20 drops of lavender oil
  • 20 drops of tea tree oil
  • Around 2 cups of distilled water

 

Spray it mixture on countertops and wipe with a damp cloth…you can also use it on bins and in the sink.

Follow up your treatment with a wipe down of white vinegar. White distilled vinegar is especially potent in the battle against the germs.

 

green-habits

10. Green Habits

Lastly, reassess your kitchen cooking, cleaning, and storage habits. Habits are often formed before we realize how unhealthy they are for the world around us.

Here are six suggestions for greener habits in the kitchen:

  1. Use paper and plastic products that are biodegradable or compostable.
  2. Avoid plastic wherever possible.
  3. Cut down on linen. Ditch the tablecloth, runner, or seat cushions to save water for washing.
  4. Recycle.
  5. Upcycle.
  6. Organize. Set aside a part of the kitchen to disposing of your unwanted objects and section them off into recyclables and waste items.

What other tips have you discovered for a more environmentally-friendly kitchen?

Gardening Tips for Beginners

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six-gardening-tips-beginners

Growing a garden can be a most rewarding pastime. Whether you are a homeowner, a tenant or a lover of beautifying public spaces, watching green things bloom never gets old.

It is one mystery most of us are happy to observe our whole lives through.

Plants can be very sensitive, and much like people, require different environments and situations to survive and thrive.

Gardening is also one of the most therapeutic activities ever. In fact, the psychological benefits of horticulture include a sense of connection, self-esteem, less anxiety, and a healthy emotional release.

If you’ve never gardened before, there is no time like the present. There are a few basic gardening tips and tricks that can help you become a better grower.

Here are six easy ways to get your hands dirty:

 

From-Black-Thumbs-to-Green-Ones

1. From Black Thumbs to Green Ones

Do you love the idea of being able to take care of your own garden, but it seems every time you start one everything dies?

The curse of the dreaded black thumb is all part of the process. Nobody starts off as an expert gardener.

It takes practice, patience and experimentation to learn about your own personal ecosystem. Put those gardening gloves on and get planting, but take note of all the lessons along the way.

On this interesting journey, you will learn about your garden, the plants, the seasons, the soil, the insects, the water systems, and the light-dark relationship to growth.

 

 Location-Location-Location

2. Location, Location, Location

Like starting your own business, creating a thriving garden has much to do with where you put it. Look for somewhere that regularly will meet your gaze when you move in and around your house. 

A good garden needs plenty of attention, so if it is out of sight, it may be easily forgotten.

Be sure to find a location that gets a good balance of sunlight and shade, too. 

You will learn as you go along that some plants need more than others, but a little of both is usually healthier.

 

 good-soil

3. Good Soil, Better Soil

A garden is highly dependent on the nutrients the plants can access from the ground. If you do not have good soil where you live, it is a good idea to invest in some by buying (or composting) decent topsoil and making use of nitrogen-rich compost to layer the garden beds.

Healthy soil is full of good nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, sulfur, magnesium, and calcium, to name a few.

If you do not have the chemistry skills, the gardening section at your local store or the experts at your local nursery will be happy to advise you on the right choice.

Note that not every garden has the same elements and you should take note of which plants grow well in your type of soil (some types are sand, clay or silt, for example).

 

Be-Water-Wise

4. Be Water Wise

Overwatering is probably the top rookie mistake for new gardeners, whether they are gardening in the city or in the country.

We tend to think plants need water and sun in abundance, but many are actually better-suited to only a little of both.

Plants are made to thrive in seasons and out, so they adapt to spurts of rain, occasional sun, and fluctuating temperatures.

It is not always a case of the more sun and water, the better. Plants can overindulge just like people can.

It is possible for humans to consume too many kale shakes, no matter how healthy it may seem.

  • Observe how your plants are looking and you will start to learn how to balance hydration and light a little better through the seasons.
  • Pay attention to drainage, morning or afternoon sunshine angles, and wind factors for each spot in the garden.

 

Know-Your-Zone

5. Know Your Zone

When to plant is equally as important as where you plant. If you aren’t growing indoors in a controlled environment, your plants will be at the mercy of the elements.

Educate yourself about the zone in which you live to optimise your chances of success in the garden.

Each area of the world is assigned a different “zone” in which different climate features to determine what plants can be grown, and when they should be planted.

Learning which zone applies to your area is a good start to having a successful growth cycle. In time, the cycle will become second nature to you and you will know your planting seasons inside and out.

 

Ignore-Conventions

6. Ignore Conventions

Lastly, don’t worry about conventional methods when creative methods work just as well. Try stuff. Some will work and some won’t, no matter how ‘correctly’ you garden or how much advice you follow from the experts.

If you want to take out seedlings with a spoon instead of a spade, then do it.

If you want to use yoghurt containers as seedling starters (to grow from seed to seedlings until the plants are big enough to replant), then do it – what a great way to recycle plastic!

It will soon become apparent what works and what doesn’t so do it anyway.

As long as it grows, anything goes!

The Negative Effects of Artificial Light on Wildlife [Infographics]

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negative-effects-artificial-light-wildlife-infographics

Our society is dependent on artificial light solutions to function; they’re essential to the running of our homes, offices and roads.

Not only is artificial light damaging to our health, contributing to light pollution and using a huge amount of energy, but it is also dangerous to the survival of many species of wildlife.

Some species have a specific routine that they depend on to function. This routine dictates their eating and sleeping patterns, their mating and hunting habits and their typical flight paths.

Natural light is essential to the maintenance of this routine for many species.

The glare of artificial light from residential communities, cars on the road and city buildings makes it difficult for many species to sustain these routines.

Without their natural routine, many species become confused and vulnerable to predators, often with fatal consequences.

It is essential that we be more considerate to the wildlife around us when choosing our lighting solutions to ensure that we are not contributing further to the issue.

This infographic created by 4ever Deck looks in detail at the effect that artificial light is having on wildlife and presents some ways that we can try to reduce light pollution in our communities.

 

negative-effects-artificial-light-wildlife-infographics
This infographic is provided by 4ever Deck.

Cultivating a Sustainable Garden with Beekeeping

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cultivating-sustainable-garden-beekeeping
Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash

At least 30% of the world’s crops and 90% of all plants require cross-pollination to spread and thrive, making bees an important part of any ecosystem.

Pollinators, and bees specifically, work to create many benefits for humans and the Earth we live on, and one of those is to increase the health of your garden.

Whether you are a fan of honey, want to incorporate more beautiful flowers into your space or love being able to have a positive impact on the environment, beekeeping can prove to be a fun, sustainable hobby while also providing you with a way to improve the health of your garden and home.

 

Bees-and-sustainability-Earth-Ecosystems

Bees & Sustainability in Earth’s Ecosystems

The first step in designing any sustainable space is to understand the way it works within your local ecosystem and beyond.

Bees are a crucial part of our Earth’s ecosystem and can actually benefit not only the quality of your garden but the nature around it.

Three out of four crops across the globe producing fruits or seeds for human use as food depend, at least in part, on pollinators.

Bees work hard to pollinate these plants in order for humans to have food, but for wild animals as well.

As well, by focusing on pollination management in your garden, studies have shown that crop yields could be increased by about 25%, meaning that your garden can grow faster and healthier.

As your garden begins to thrive and flowers begin to flourish, you are creating a positive impact on the air quality in your local community as these types of flowers have been shown to reduce air pollution.

 

Changing-Your-View-of-Gardening

Changing Your View of Gardening

Cultivating a sustainable space by taking up beekeeping will allow you to view your garden from a different perspective, as you will likely begin to do things in order to help pollinators that will be attracted to your space.

As you learn how to cultivate a space that allows them to thrive, you will begin to plant things such as forget-me-nots, wildflowers and weeds such as buttercups as they are beneficial to pollinators.

You might even learn how to use compost effectively to help the bees as well as reduce the amount of waste you send to landfills.

Aside from helping increase your compost pile and reduce your garden waste, bees can help eat insects that might be affecting the overall growth of your garden and the yards around you.

All of this will make you a better and more diverse gardener and a more environmentally-conscious citizen while allowing you to watch your garden thrive.

 

Beekeeping-as-a-Hobby

Beekeeping as a Hobby

To get started, all you need is some beekeeping gear for protection and healthy bees from a reputable bee breeder in your area.

Try to look for very docile bees as these will be the easiest to manage when you first start out, and ensure you never get too comfortable working around them without your protective gear such as gloves, a beekeeper hat and whatever else makes you feel most comfortable and safe around the bees.

It will be important to check your local laws to ensure residential beekeeping is approved in your area before beginning, and to kindly check with your neighbors to ensure they aren’t allergic to bees or any of the flowers you plan to plant.

If you are really dedicated to the cause, you can even take your passion on the road and use your honey bee hives to help farmers all around the country increase the health of their crops such as almonds, pumpkins and apples.

 

Investing-in-the-Health-of-the-Environment

Investing in the Health of the Environment

There is more to green living than just recycling and reducing your energy consumption.

While there exist a variety of ways to engage in a sustainable lifestyle, beekeeping is one of the few that benefit both you and the environment, making it a win-win for you and the bees.

Natural beekeeping at home is an efficient way to save honeybees and other types of pollinators while also ensuring that your garden is beautiful and thriving.

By incorporating these insects into your garden they can help you cultivate food and plants that will increase the health of your home’s green space and help create a more sustainable world.

10 Autumn Gardening Tips

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10-autumn-gardening-tips

“It was one of those days you sometimes get latish in the autumn when the sunbeams, the birds toot, and there is a bracing tang in the air that sends the blood beetling briskly through the veins.” ― PG Wodehouse Jeeves and the Old School Chum

Autumn.  It’s the time of year for tea, slippers and silent reflection.  The world swaps out summer cotton for winter woollies, whimsically lighting pinecones in the fireplace again.  

There is a slight chill in the breeze and short bursts of farewell rain as summer surrenders. Breathtaking hues take over entire mountainsides in golds, and rust, and red, and chocolate.  

The trees in our gardens stand like half-naked sentinels who know the cold is not far off. And we dream of pumpkins and cinnamon and bonfires.

Autumn in the garden is a brilliant distraction from the approaching chill.  

Daily transformations in color and form are fascinating, so grab a spade, an ax, and a wheelbarrow, and take some time to appreciate the beauty of it all.  

Here are 10 Autumn Gardening Tips you don’t want to miss while you’re out there:

 

1 Dig in

Autumn is the perfect time to dig in and ready the soil.  

Preparing the ground is easier before the soil freezes over and the rain dries up.  

It is also a good time to move plants around, prepare new flowers beds, and do some elbow-deep weeding in areas you usually neglect.  

It will be worth it come planting time!

 

Mulch-Squelch

2 Mulch, Squelch

The compost pile should grow considerably during the autumn months as the grass clippings, tree cuttings, fallen leaves, and the pruning add to its bulk.  

Use the increased compost volume to spread life over the prepared flower beds.

It is also a great idea to use the grass and leaf cuttings in a mulch.  

Cover 5 – 10 centimeters deep over tender plants, newly planted seeds or bulbs.  

The mulch protects the plants from the harshest of the winter and creates an extra layer of moisture and warmth, too.

It also provides another warm sanctuary for the creatures of your garden ecosystem to hide under.

 

prune-snap-and-chuck

3 Prune, snap, and chuck

It’s a cathartic exercise, as well as an essential part of a gardener’s repertoire.  

Swing the ax, snap those branches, and throw it all on the compost heap for an extra burst of eco-kudos.  

The more you cut back, the greater encouragement there is to for the plant to grow in the spring.

It also helps the plant to survive the cold, dry winter months when there are fewer leaves or branches to sustain on meager winter resources.

TIP: Remember not to throw any infected plants on to the compost heap as this could spread through the garden.  Rather burn any diseased plants than risk infecting the rest of your organic material in the compost.

 

heavy-frost-plants

4 Got it covered?

If you are in a particularly harsh winter climate location or are subjected to heavy frost, be sure to use protective covers on your most precious plants to help them make it through.

Tender seedlings and perennial shrubs may need a cover like regular frost cloth, an old bed sheet or a screen on the bad weather side.

TIP: Plastic is not recommended as it does not leave any breathing room.

 

Tender-Sweet-seedlings

5 Tender and Sweet

Late autumn is a good time to prepare the seedling trays, placing them under a cover, or in a greenhouse-type climate.  

The seedlings will be ready for planting once the worst of the winter is over.

If you have tender young shrubs or trees in the ground, consider covering these in the final few weeks before the real cold sets in.

 

Bulb-plants-daffodils

6 Bulb Heroes

Bulbs are quite hardy and may be planted in the ground during the autumn months. 

Tulips, Crocus, Hyacinths, Daffodils, and Snowdrops are perfect autumn-planting, spring-flowering bulbs. Lillies are planted in autumn, too, and should flower in summer.  

Be sure to check with your local nursery about bulbs which won’t make the winter so you know when to dig them up for safe-keeping.

 

garden-insects-butterfly

7 Save the Wild Things

Autumn is a trying time for the creatures who rely on titbits from the garden, so pitch in a little for them, too.  

  • Stock up on the bird feed, including overripe fruits and vegetables you will not eat yourself.  
  • Take dormant (slow, or still) butterflies away from heated rooms or walls to non-heated places so they don’t emerge too early from their cycle.
  • Don’t tidy up the garden too much.  Leave some places for little birds and creatures to shelter, and for insects to nest.  

 

fertilize-soil

8 Fertilize

It is a perfect time to fertilize when the leaves are falling.  

Prepare the new flower beds, plant, and prune, and then fertilize the soil so it has time to replenish itself for the rigors of spring.  

Compost and mulch work well with organic fertilizers to restore life to the ground during autumn rest.

 

watering-garden-plants

9 Water

The drier seasons are also a great time to look at water-saving methods for both garden and home.  

  • Try out new methods of collection and saving,
  • install rainwater collection tanks,
  • use condensation techniques, fix drainage systems, and
  • look into grey water usage from the shower, baths, and laundry.

 

vegetables-hearty-health-garden

10 Hearty Vegetables

Finally, early autumn is the best time to plant winter veg for hearty soups and belly-warming stews.  

Cabbage, onions, broad beans, peas and broccoli are a great addition to the Pinterest-worthy squashes you’ll already be showing off to the neighbors.

Who says autumn gardens are boring?

8 Tips for Vegetable Gardening in Winter

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8-tips-for-vegetable-gardening-in-winter

The beauty of a vegetable garden is the seasonal adaptability.  Although vegetables will grow slower than in the spring and summer, winter veggies are just as rewarding and nutritious.  

Especially when they provide organic, fresh ingredients for hearty winter soups and stews on the coldest of days.

Focussing on seasonal vegetables is also a sustainable approach.  Winter vegetables grow slower, need slightly less water, and don’t overdraw on the nutrients in the soil.

 

seasonal-crops

1 Seasonal Crops

For best results and a reputation for having ‘green fingers’, be intentional about planting the right winter vegetables for your area and climate.  Most winter vegetables will thrive (even in a little frost), but there are others which don’t do as well.

These vegetables and herbs are great planting choices for winter:

  • onions,
  • shallots,
  • broad beans,
  • garlic,
  • kale,
  • spring onions,
  • spinach,
  • peas,
  • asparagus,
  • brussel sprouts,
  • turnips,
  • cauliflower,
  • broccoli,
  • thyme,
  • winter gem lettuce, and
  • cabbage.  

Remember, extreme frost will destroy even the hardiest vegetables and extra cover is always a good idea.  

Lettuce, Swiss Chard, beetroot and radishes are slightly more sensitive to cold but make for excellent winter crop choices under tarps or in a greenhouse-like setup.

 

mulch-covering-crops

2 Mulch Cover

For crop protection use mulch (grass cuttings, wood chips, straw or other organic material) layered around the vegetables and garden bulbs.  

This keeps the plants warm and adds potential for extra moisture absorption.

Cover rows with garden cloth, tarp or fleece when severe frost is expected; especially for young seedlings.  

It is also possible to cover individual shoots with plastic bottles (cut in half) overnight or place a shade cloth over raised beds.

 

water-usage-on-crops-wisely

3 Watering Wisely

Watering the vegetables in winter is always tricky.  We suggest you water the garden during the warmest hours of the day during winter.  

The roots absorb moisture slower than in summer and the warmth helps keep it flowing through the entire plant system.  

TIP: Don’t water leaves if sub-zero temperatures are expected overnight as this may cause severe frost damage.

 

harvesting-carefully-crops

4 Harvest Carefully

Since winter vegetables are often slow to produce, adjust your harvest time and quantity to ensure optimal growth.  

Allow enough time to mature and harvest just before the frost, preferably in drier weather to avoid sticky soils. 

Do not dent or damage the vegetables left in the ground wherever possible.

 

microclimate-cold-frames

5 Cold frame magic

A new buzzword in the winter gardening realm is #microclimate.  This is creating a greenhouse effect on a much smaller scale. A great example of this is homemade cold frames for winter vegetable gardens (or seedlings).  

Cold frames are a sure way to protect vegetables (and other plants) from extreme weather damage.

The concept is simple: use a transparent material which lets in sunlight, but is hardy enough to withstand the low temperatures.  

Suggestions are to use a recycled wooden frame (hammered together from old boxes, crates or pallets, for example) with strong plastic stretched over it.  Alternatively, you can purchase cold frames.

A creative (and sustainable) idea is also to fit them as ‘lids’ on to raised planting beds that can be utilized during the cold months and stored away for the rest of the year.

 

fencing-crops

6 Fence it in

Sometimes the wind can cause havoc for fledgling greens. A simple wind barrier could make a huge difference in a susceptible space.  

Place mini fences, layer bricks (with spaces between) into a low wall, or place shade cloth around the vegetable garden to keep the wind from ripping up those precious young plants.

 

growing-fruits-in-pot

 

7 Dwarf the Fruit

A space-saving tip for winter fruit is that citrus trees thrive in large pots.  

They will only grow as big as the pot allows, but will provide delicious citrus throughout cold winter months.  

Even better if kept on a porch or indoors for extra protection against the elements.

 

fresh-veggies-plate

8 Tasty Patience

Lastly, it’s about the palate. Vegetables harvested in slightly colder (frostier) weather will be sweeter and crispier in the kitchen.  

Be sure to get them out of the ground just before the frost hits, though, otherwise, you may need a sledgehammer to get at them.

No matter what the textbooks say, the experienced hand is always the winner.  Do not be afraid to try things, change up the methods, vary the planting techniques and try different plant partnering combinations.  

Why not chat to other gardeners in your neighborhood before jumping into the fray? They may have some awesome advice about the winter vegetables that do best in your region.

What are some of your favorite dishes to create with hearty winter vegetables?

7 Tips to Celebrating Halloween 2018 in an Eco-Friendly Way

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7-tips-to-celebrating-halloween-in-an-eco-friendly-way

Halloween is almost here, and that means a thrilling holiday filled with great food and wild celebration, too much candy and impressive Jack-O-Lanterns.

In most of suburban North America, cries of “Trick or Treat” will soon echo around the neighborhood.  

Excited young voices giggle behind dazzling costumes and spooky masks. “Trick or treating” is a tradition where parents dress their kids in cute and scary Halloween costumes.  

The children run from house to house yelling “trick or treat,” hoping neighbors will joyfully provide piles of candy.

Sometimes they are lucky enough to find delightfully frightening surprises, too, like ‘haunted house’ mazes and pop-up zombies.

Kids meet up with classmates also dressed in wacky plastic costumes and carting around plastic shopping bags and buckets filled with candy.  

Parents walk a little way behind them, enjoying the sight of them screeching in wonder as candy loot is amassed.

Moms yell about feasting on too much candy when they get home. Tell-tale piles of candy wrappers fill the kitchen table, and the garbage can.  

Holiday traditions were formed back when the environment wasn’t a big concern.  Thankfully, times have changed.

Here are seven tips to celebrate Halloween in a more Eco-friendly way, without losing the essence of the celebration:

Halloween-costumes

1 Costumes

The recent standard for Halloween costumes has been prepacked, plastic, and disposable; shipped from halfway around the world.  

These costumes have heavy carbon footprints. They encourage single-use plastic, clog up landfills and fall out of fashion as childhood character trends change.

There are two sure ways to reduce the impact of Halloween costumes on the environment:  First, get creative.  Second, rent.

Browse through ideas on the web and use clothes already in your wardrobe.  Pick up tips for piecing together an award-winning costume from thrift store clothing, using a sewing kit, a couple of reusable accessories, and a sense of humor.  

Get the kids involved, too!  They’ll love the creative family time leading up to the night itself. If you’re not the crafty type, why not see what’s lying in your friends’ closets? Some people have a box of costumes ready for a second (or third, or fourth…) re-wear!

It is usually more environmentally-friendly (and often significantly cheaper) to rent a costume.  

Halloween only comes once a year, but last year, Americans alone spent over $8 billion on this one-time event. Of that $8 billion price tag, the largest chunk – about 36% — was spent on costumes.

I can only imagine what future archaeologists will think of our society, when they uncover plastic costumes of Casper the Friendly Ghost, Mr. T., Batman, Pennywise, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Wonder Woman, and Mickey Mouse.

Rent Halloween get-ups from theatrical or costume stores. This allows kids to dress up differently each year, but saves on trash, and is available for reuse the following Halloween by somebody else.

halloween-trick-or-treat-candies

2 Candy

Candy goes with Halloween, for sure, but but you don’t have to add to the already huge hauls of sugar that these kids bring home.

Many candy wrappers from our childhood Halloween jaunts are probably still intact in landfill sites today, leaching their wasteful by-products into the soil where we grow our food, and into the water we drink.

There are several ways to reduce environmental impact (and choose healthier alternatives) on the candy front:

  1. Choose candy in less plastic packaging.
    • Fewer plastic wrappers and fewer layers means fewer things to throw away.
  2. Make treats yourself.
    • Let the neighbors know what you are making and put a distinctive mark/symbol on it so they know their kids are safe.  You could also put a sign up telling passersby you are giving away handmade food.
  3. Opt for small gifts instead of candy.
    • It could be something handmade by you, or something the kids can put together by themselves at home after Halloween. Let the creative juices flow!
  4. If you are giving out candy, opt for organic or fair-trade brands such Dark Chocolate Minis from Camino or Yummy Earth’s Organic Lollipops.

Organic candy and other treats may be more expensive but the benefits are obvious.

Organic foods are healthier and better for the environment, and made from products which don’t contain pesticides or other chemicals.

You can find organic candy online, in the organics section of many grocery stores, health food stores, and in some farmers’ markets.

halloween-bags-and-buckets

3 Bags and Buckets

Who needs plastic buckets? If you secretly hope your kid gathers some candy for you while you take them trick or treating – and what parent doesn’t? – pillowcases make great loot bags.  

They are washable, and a king-sized one will hold more candy than a typical cloth shopping bag.

Stay away from the molded plastic jack-o-lanterns being sold this time of year. Although they are reusable, they are still made of plastic.

Over 90% of all trash floating in our oceans is plastic, and much of that is eaten by fish, birds and other marine life.  Canvas bags, reusable shopping bags or pillow cases are much creepier anyways.  

halloween-decorations

4 Decorations

Like costumes, most Halloween decorations are cheap, disposable plastic trash.  It gets thrown out after the holiday is gone.

If you’re crafty: This is your time to shine! Get the kids and sit down to start creating some fantastic reusable and high-quality decorations.

Create reusable garlands and bunting, “spookify” mason jars, reuse chicken wire and start painting some Halloween posters – there are plenty of fantastic Halloween decorations out there.

You can do this every year as part of a new (greener) holiday tradition, and you won’t even realize that you’ve done the environment a huge favor!

halloween-pumpkins

5 Pumpkins

Pumpkins are all the rage when the Halloween season falls but people are quick to forget that with supply and demand comes dangerous effects on the environment.

In order to grow pumpkins big enough fast enough, many are sprayed with heavy-duty pesticides.  They are shipped over long distances, making their carbon footprint exorbitantly high.

The solution is easy: Buy organic, locally grown pumpkins.

Don’t forget to make pumpkin-based recipes out of the pumpkin flesh! Try any of these ones to get started: Vegan Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Ravioli, or Pumpkin Seed Granola (Without having to worry about feeding your kids pesticides!)

halloween-travel

6 Travel

Go a little greener in you holiday travel this All Hallows Eve. Organize carpools to reduce the amount of people driving to your Halloween party.

Or even better, eliminate the cars.  Take the kids trick or treating in local neighborhoods you can walk to,  It is not only greener than driving to further communities, but better for them.

They will get to meet and play with other children in the neighborhood – and you get to meet other parents locally, too.

Another idea is to provide special door prizes for those that show up with proof of an environmentally-friendly way to get to your place – a bus pass, transit transfer, or bicycle, for example. People will do just about anything to receive a free gift.

halloween-parties

7 Parties

Having a Halloween party? Make it green-themed right from the start. Invite people to dress up in green-themed, home-crafted costumes, or rentals.

Serve organic food. Use dishes and cutlery instead of disposable plates and plastic forks and knives.  

Encourage or reward environmental ways of getting to your party, and make sure there are green ways for people to get home.

Halloween may be a night for ghosts, goblins and zombies, but with a little planning and thought, it can be an environmentally-friendly celebration.

What other ideas can you share for an eco-friendly Halloween?

Celebrating Thanksgiving the Eco-Friendly Way

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Thanksgiving is part of a wonderful time of the year with family and friends, leaving us filled with gratitude (and good food)!  

There are always ways to celebrate time-honoured traditions like Thanksgiving gatherings in a more eco-friendly way.

It is also an opportunity to start new family traditions, more sustainable ones.

 

celebrating-thanksgiving-the-eco-friendly-way-green-shopping

Green Shopping

The retail sector booms during the holiday season, and not much attention is placed on greener ideals.  

It is more than bringing your own reusable shopping bags, foregoing the plastic bags for fruit and veg, and ditching a straw.  

Recyclable plastic bags and paper bags are noble, but both require raw materials and excess energy to manufacture, so fabric bags are still the best option.

In the name of creating lasting change in the world of holiday traditions, try to find free-range turkey if meat is on the menu.  

A humanely-raised turkey may cost more (not always) but it’s likely to taste better and it won’t contain any questionable growth hormones or other carcinogens.

It also supports growers who practice ethical husbandry, encouraging more locals to follow your example. Look for the American Humane Certified label. If you can’t find one, the next best turkey to purchase is one marked with the USDA Certified Organic symbol.

celebrating-thanksgiving-the-eco-friendly-way-green-agriculture

Green Greens

Local organic agricultural products are always better for the ecosystem.  

Make new shopping habits for the holidays and source all the groceries you can from local, organic, and sustainable sources.  

Organic produce is fresher and better for the environment.

Make use of community supported agriculture (CSA) programs in your area – not just in the holidays, but perhaps as part of a New Year’s Resolution to go green, too.  

It helps you eat seasonally, support local producers and stay away from unknown chemical residues on imported products.

Some programs even deliver to your door, maximizing family time. How convenient!

Browse farmers’ markets instead of retailers who import greens.  Buy free-range eggs from the farmer down the road instead of the mass-produced, unethically-produced stuff.  

Not only does organic food taste better but your purchase supports the organic farmers in the area, an excellent way to say thank you for treating the earth with care.  

celebrating-thanksgiving-the-eco-friendly-way-green-cooking

Green Cooking

Turn the furnace down as you start cooking your dinner. Your oven and stove burners throw off a lot of heat, which you can use to warm your home.  

Unless you have a smoky situation, leave the kitchen fan off to keep the aromas and warm air inside your home.

If you need to bring in extra equipment (like two-plate stoves, and heating boards), try to use induction-smart paraphernalia which uses much less electricity and cuts cooking time right down, too.

It’s easy to splurge on food for Thanksgiving dinner, so either send guests home with extra food or save space in the freezer.  

Instead of using plastic freezer bags or containers, start using glass jars to store food. The glass lasts a long time and does not emit harmful chemicals into the food, even when microwaved.

When freezing liquids in the jars, leave at least one inch of space at the top of the jar to allow for expansion as the food freezes.

celebrating-thanksgiving-the-eco-friendly-way-green-decorations

Green Decor

Don’t buy paper decorations that last one Thanksgiving. Even if paper goods are recyclable, any food spills contaminate it, making it unusable. Try more eco-friendly crafts:

  • Use colorful fall leaves or edible fruit baskets for decorating.
  • Use fabric tablecloths and napkins which last many seasons over.
  • Make candle holders of gourds and other compostable items (like oranges and sour apples which smell great with a tea-light candle).
  • Use dry flowers and grass to weave beautiful welcome wreaths.

celebrating-thanksgiving-the-eco-friendly-way-green-waste

Green Disposal

Minimise waste wherever possible this holiday.  Who knows? It might become a lasting habit and a new family legacy, too.  

  • Set up recycling points for Thanksgiving guests to access easily.  
  • Use dishes, real cutlery, and material napkins, not paper plates, plastic forks or other disposable materials.
  • Use a borrowed roasting pan rather than a disposable one.  Imagine how much less waste there would be if everyone in the Western world did this for every holiday meal.

Put your feet up and share stories around the dinner table by candlelight.  Take time to truly connect, with smartphones in a basket to one side.

Happy Green Thanksgiving!

7 Green Living Projects for Autumn

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7-green-living-projects-for-autumn

Autumn is a time to slow down, put your feet up, and enjoy a cup of something hot in the gorgeous afternoon sunshine.  

If you need something to keep you busy when that’s done, autumn is never short of green-friendly projects around the home and garden.

Here are seven green ideas to keep you busy in the season of pumpkin spice, apples, cinnamon, and falling leaves:

 

1. Simplify, Beautify

Quiet days indoors are a perfect reminder to reassess life in the home for the impact it has on the natural world outside.  

Take time to go through the deepest, darkest hiding places in cupboards, toy boxes, the attic, basement, chests, and garden shed.  

Declutter. Recycle where possible. Donate unnecessary clothes, tools, kitchenware, and furniture. Repurpose the old with a brand new paint job.

While going through each item, remember to think about its environmental impact so you can make better choices with the next purchase, or use it in a greener way.  Are there single-use items you can replace with reusable, sustainable items?

Do you have a habit of buying lots of plastic items which clutter up your storage spaces, when you could be buying environmentally-friendly items to replace it instead?

 

eco-friendly-home-in-autumn

2. Green the House

Are there ways you can decrease your carbon footprint, save water, and decrease power usage?  Try the following:

  • Greywater systems.
  • Installing rain tanks in time for upcoming spring rains.  
  • Switch out light bulbs for energy-saving ones.  
  • Install solar lamps or panels for heating.  
  • Set up the compost heap in an easy access location to the kitchen (or a way to keep the cuttings in an easy to carry container until the end of each day).

 

harmful-cleaning-agents-in-kitchen

3. Clean Up

Go through the chemical cleaning agents in your kitchen.  Clean up your act. It is better for everyone to choose sustainable, non-toxic, biodegradable products.  

Preferably products made from renewable sources and responsible distributors.

Perhaps it is time to dry DIY cleaning products – you may be surprised at the effectiveness.

Try some apple cider vinegar, baking soda and warm water for wiping surfaces. It gets rid of grime like a charm.

 

home-insulation-autumn

4. Insulation

We don’t usually think about insulation through the warmer weather so autumn provides opportunities to get stuck into the idea.  

It doesn’t need to be professional insulation, although it is better to do it right the first time.

Adding insulation to rooms, behind wall heaters, and in the ceilings will help with both cold weather and warm weather, lowering your energy bill as the temperature stays more constant inside the house.

 

garden-worms

5. Start a Worm Farm

The garden needs all the help it can get during the colder, drier months.  

A worm farm is an awesome project to get going in autumn when the pruning and chopping and grass cuttings are keeping the green fingers active.  

Worms love all organic things (except for acidic materials like citrus and onions) and turn it into rich, fertile soil.

The ‘worm wee’ can also be tapped out and diluted in a watering can for some extra growth factor for all things green.

Keep them moist and turn the material every now and again to keep the process going.

 

natural-decorations

6. No-Waste Crafts

Autumn is also an awesome opportunity to use natural materials to decorate the house. The children love being involved in decor efforts; including carving, sticking, shaping and collecting materials.  

  • Decorate with pine cones,
  • make wreaths with leaves, vines and dried flowers,
  • carve pumpkins,
  • make gourd candle holders, and
  • use leftover bits of glass and tiling to create mosaics on flower pots, stones, and walkways.

Use extra fabric pieces to create reusable items like fabric shopping bags, fruit and vegetable liners to replace the small plastic bags in the grocery store, and quilts for the homeless.  

Rather than using synthetic fibers for the crafts, try tying it all together (or knitting and crocheting) with bamboo yarn – a yarn gathered from sustainable, fast-growing bamboo forest.

When it is all done, throw it all in the compost heap (or into the winter fireplace).  No waste, no problem.

TIP: Remember pine cones are wonderful objects for decor ideas but organic material tends to pick up bugs and mold.  To be extra careful, roast the pine cones at 200^C for 90 minutes in the oven before using them around the house.

 

nature7. Leave it to Nature

It is a ludicrous idea to think of nature’s waste being thrown into landfills when fallen leaves can be so valuable to the ground from which they came.  Make greener choices this autumn and see the leaves for what they are – a renewable resource for eco-conscious gardeners.

Autumn leaves can be used in the following ways:

Lawn cover

The leaves keep coming and the wind makes it impossible to keep them to one side.  Why not just mow over them (without a collection attachment) a few times. This breaks them up into small pieces which can decompose quickly and then eventually disappear altogether into the lawn.

 

Mulch

Leaves can be layered directly onto flower beds, newly prepared ground, vegetable gardens, and autumn bulbs.  This will help create a barrier against the elements and add an extra layer against weed growth.

 

Mold

If you have time and patience enough to wait it out, the leaves can be kept in a plastic bag, kept in a dark, moist place for two to three years.  To shorten the molding process, use smaller pieces. The resulting ‘leaf mold’ resembles compost and smells like nature. It can be used to add richness to the ground, to spruce up potting soil and

 

Compost

Obviously, leaves are great for the compost heap but do tend to pile up quickly.  If you can use smaller pieces and compost these, layering the leaves between grass cuttings, the decomposition process will be quicker.

Are there other green projects you enjoy during the exquisite autumn months?

The Latest Technology Trends To Reduce Your Eco Footprint

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green-apps-for-mobile

Sustainability has managed to find a place at the table thanks to trends in greener policy and changing requirements from industry regulators.

Traditional industries are realizing the potential for a more eco-friendly approach, whether in manufacturing, retail, business, agriculture or other services.  

They are making headway into energy-efficient appliances and home systems, eco-friendly building, harnessing solar and wind power, biodegradable materials, biofuels and encouraging individuals to track their own environmental impact.

The latest technology trends are smart appliances and smart applications.

 

smart-home-appliances

Smart, Very Smart

Home appliances are increasingly being designed with intelligence in mind.  

People want stuff to work hard and save costs at the same time, and they are getting it.  

Zero energy homes are as a way of reducing carbon emissions and adding power back to the grid (aiming to effectively end on ‘zero’ net energy used in a year).  

Along with solar power, wind power and shared renewable resources within eco-conscious communities, zero-energy homes are also being built to include automation of lights and water systems (like sprinklers), controlled by an app.

These smart appliance ideas are also greener than usual:

 

smart-washing-machine-LG

Smart Machines

LG was one of the first to unveil their line of smart appliances, including a washing machine that could plan the heaviest washes for during downtime on the power grid, for example.

It works off a smart meter which gathers information about energy usage as it goes.

Panasonic is not far off its tail, either, with plans to invest in lithium-ion batteries, solar technology, and electric cars.

 

smart-thermostat-hvac

Very Smart Thermostats

It is not just the run-of-the-mill thermostat on the market anymore.  

It is a learning, eco-friendly thermostat which ‘remembers’ data settings, adjusts itself with the seasons and is easily accessible via an app.  

The two most popular ones are the Nest Learning Thermostat and ECOBEE4 (with remote sensors).

 

green-apps-for-mobile

Application Approved

With new applications for smart devices being developed every day, ‘green’ apps are a dime a dozen.  

Whether you are an environmentalist, a budding recycler or someone who wants to make a difference in the world, there is an app for it.  

On the plus side, even if you are trying to persuade someone only mildly interested in saving the environment, most of these apps can also save time and money!

Most apps use tracking functions, like tracking habits and measuring how eco-friendly they are or tracking the carbon footprint of a daily commute.  

Other apps offer advice, tips, reminders or steps to a greener home or lifestyle. Still, others give suggestions on an environmentally-sustainable building, organic produce, nearby recycling depots, and indigenous plant life.

Here are a few worth adding to the download list:

 

1. Sustainable Homes

This app provides a platform for updating, renovating or building an eco-friendly home.  It includes tips for energy systems, design and materials.

 

2. Energy Consumption Analyzer (ECAS)

ECAS tracks the efficiency of utilities. Track the average usage figures for water, gas, and electricity. Available in 14 languages, which is awesome!  Use this in conjunction with the Green Outlet app and estimate your carbon footprint based on this usage, too.

 

3. Green Charging

This app helps develop greener habits by reminding you to disconnect appliances when not in use.  It makes your iPhone vibrate when fully charged, and gives estimated talk time remaining at current battery levels.  

 

4 Light Bulb Finder

Light Bulb Finder suggests lightbulb replacements by giving you information.  It logs the type of lightbulb, where you might purchase one, and which replacement bulb is recommended as the greenest option.

 

5 Waterprint

This app tracks your water footprint – exactly how much water you use during the course of your day.  It helps to make better choices by identifying water-sapping appliances or routines and may give you ideas for making eco-friendly changes within your home.

 

6 Rippl

Rippl reminds you about living green by giving you a gentle nudge in the right direction throughout the day.  It offers handy tips for a greener lifestyle, and small changes to make at home or at work. Go Green app is similar in that it encourages small changes around the house by taking you through 52 steps to a greener, healthier you.

 

7 GardenAnswers

GardenAnswers is for use outside.  It is an easy way to identify plants around your garden (and to check your indoor plants are save, water-saving choices).

 

8 Climate Counts

Climate Counts identifies large corporations and ranks them according to their eco-friendliness.  You can find information about their environmental policies and contributions. Should the company rank low on the app, the aim is for environmentalists to take their business elsewhere.

TIP: If you find these apps limited to certain service providers, like Apple, don’t be discouraged.  There are similar apps popping up all the time which are compatible with various devices. Take this list as a guideline so you know the type of apps to look out for on your next Play Store search.

 

The Age of the Technology is making massive advancements on an environmental front, using its power for the good of Mother Earth in new and exciting ways.  There is a rising tide of consumers voicing concerns about green initiatives and embracing forward-thinking innovation. Add your voice (by steering your feet and your wallet towards “greener” pastures). Change the world.

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