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Is Watering Plants With Softened Water Good Or Bad?

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is watering plants with softened water good or bad

This is quite a common question we’re asked from keen gardeners, so we thought we’d answer it once and for all.

Most people in the US, UK and Canada will be aware that they have a mixture of soft and hard water areas.

If you’re unsure of the water quality in your area, simply look at the below maps for a quick overview, and then scroll below to read the discussion.

Map of distribution of hard water vs soft water in the United States
Map via HomeWater101.com

hard and soft water map

Map of water hardness in Canada
Map of Canadian water hardness via Muskoka Cleanwater

 

For those of you who are in hard water areas, there’s a good chance you may be softening your water already.

Hard water can have a negative impact on hot water household appliances such as dish washers, washing machines and showers – not to mention the taste!

Softening water will not only make it taste better, but it will also be likely to increase the lifespan of your appliances.

Obviously if you live in a soft water area, you won’t need to soften your water. But if you plan on relocating to a hard water area in the future, this may still be a helpful read…

It’s worth mentioning that hard water is often softened by treating it with sodium or potassium as this replaces the calcium and magnesium minerals which cause the hardness.

I know all this technical and plumbing information isn’t that interesting (sorry!), but it makes sense to explain it now as it will be referenced later on in the article.

 

Softened Water Is BAD News

Whilst softening hard water will likely benefit you and your household, the same can’t be said for your garden.

In fact, watering your garden, plants and soil with softened water is actually detrimental to their health.

Don’t get me wrong, simply pouring softened water on them once isn’t going to kill them or cause immediate damage; but if you consistently use softened water to feed your garden, then the damage will occur over a period of time.

Now, why is softened water bad for your garden?

Remember earlier when we said that sodium was often used as a way to treat hard water?

Well, this is the main cause of the problems.

Routinely watering your plants with softened water can be bad, because large amounts of sodium are often present in softened water.

Given that sodium is a main component of salt, and high levels of salt are extremely detrimental to your plants and your soil, softened water can also be bad when used over the long-term.

softened water is bad for plants

Plants will actually have their water balance interfered with when large amounts of sodium are in the water.

Essentially, this excess amount of sodium tricks plants into thinking they’ve absorbed more water than they actually have.

Needless to say, your plants therefore won’t be getting the amount of water they require and eventually, they will die from dehydration.

Your soil is also at risk when using softened water as the amount of salt will build up over time and gradually cause degradation in the soil quality.

As well as this, the excess salt will also create a hostile planting environment for future plants since the soil will prevent regular water absorption.

 

Avoiding Softened Water

If you do have a water softener installed for your household, don’t worry; there are ways to avoid this and still give your garden the nourishment it needs.

However, your options are quite limited. So if you want to water to continue watering your garden without causing further damage, you should consider the following options:

 

1) Get a bypass valve installed

Obviously, all of your water is fed into the softener before it comes into your house and appliances.

By installing a bypass valve, you essentially get ‘untreated’ water straight from the main water line.

If you link this bypass valve up to an outside tap or other outlet, you can simply water your garden with a hose or fill up a watering can from this source and bypass the softening treatment.

This way, you can water your garden as normal and without any ill side effects; just don’t drink from the outdoor tap as it won’t taste as nice.

 

2) Mix your softened water

If you have copious amounts of distilled water, or even better, rainwater collected in a water butt, you can simply mix the two together in order to dilute your softened water.

This dilution reduces the salt content in the volume of water, which makes it much friendlier on your plants and soil.

However, over time the salt level in your soil will still build up, so it’s wise to test this every now and then to ensure your soil is still fertile and healthy.

Just a heads up, as I’m a bit of a car guy, I should state that washing your car with softened water is much nicer than hard water as you don’t get left with ugly water marks if you don’t dry it properly.

 

How To Treat Damage Caused By Softened Water

treat contaminated soil

There’s a good chance that some of you already have plants and soil that are displaying the signs of being watered with softened water.

Not to worry – we’ve got the answers that will get your garden back on track to being beautiful and healthy!

If your plants are showing signs of dehydration as a result of the excess sodium, you can simply stop using softened water to water them and begin using regular water, or even better, rainwater!

Doing this will allow your plants to start absorbing the correct amount of water they need. However it may take time, so be prepared to wait a little while for plant recuperation.

There’s also a good chance that your soil will have encountered some damage if you’ve been watering with softened water for too long.

The build up in salt leaves you with a soil imbalance that needs to be corrected.

Sadly, there’s no quick way to do this since chemicals are unable to reduce the salt content in your soil.

 

Leaching

However, it is possible to reverse the effects by leaching. This process involves frequent manual watering (with rainwater or regular untreated water) in order to ‘flush out’ the salt in the soil.

Since you’ll be watering often, you must ensure there is adequate drainage to rid the soil of excess water or you plants and soil will become waterlogged.

If these treatments are carried out, there’s no reason why you should be faced with any plant deaths or further complications as a result of softened water.

Just be patient and give your garden time to adapt to the new water quality whilst it rids itself of the effects of the softened water.

Over time your garden, soil and plants will return to their previous state of health – just be sure to keep a close eye on everything and monitor soil levels until everything is back to normal.

Remember, if you have the option of watering your garden with a natural source such as rainwater, do so as the benefits are considerable when compared to regular tap water!


Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for freshness and consistency.

5 Things You Should Know About Solar Panels Before Installing Them in Your Home

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solar installation

Solar panels are an energy saving home power solution that can help dramatically reduce both your power bill and your carbon footprint.

Installing them is relatively simple and although their one-time installation cost may be high, long term prices for these panels are remarkably reasonable.

Many commercial and residential dwellings use solar panels as part of their energy plan and use is only growing in popularity. This applies particularly to areas of the world where at least 6 hours of peak sunshine are available on a daily basis for large parts of the year.

However, even in less sun soaked places, panels can be installed and will still help reduce your power bill to some extent.

That said; let’s look over some important factors that you need to consider before installing a solar panel system in your own home or business. This is a fairly big decision and you need to have at least your basic facts straight if you want to go ahead with it.

 

Basic Considerations

solar technician

As a first step towards setting up your own solar power system, you will need to calculate your approximate energy requirements and how much of that you can expect to cover with a solar array of whatever size you can afford.

There are online solar calculators that can help with this.

Your monthly and annual energy consumption can be easily found just by looking at your monthly electrical bills over a range of several months and calculating an average annual consumption.

If your energy bills are particularly high, then you might also consider ways in which you can lower them to some extent by cutting back on using electrical lighting unnecessarily, shutting off certain appliances and maybe buying less energy intensive home appliances.

You may also consult a professional electrician on how you can optimise your electrical wiring and lighting locations at home to reduce your overall electricity consumption.

With your energy consumption calculated, you need to know how much peak sunlight you can expect for your particular region. This is going to vary greatly depending on where you live but generally speaking you should be able to count on at least a few hours of peak sunlight per day for half the year.

Furthermore, to improve this, your panels should be installed on a southward facing surface for maximal sun exposure.

The average American home uses about 14,000 watt hours per day of electricity. You’ll want to cover as much of this as possible with your panel array.

 

How Much for How Much Energy?

home energy consumption

So, given that the average home uses about 14,000 watt hours per 24 hour day in powering its main electrical and electronic devices (except the heating and cooking appliances), how much solar panel coverage will you need to almost completely meet the needs of your power consumption?

Well, modern PV (photo voltaic) cells generate about 70 miliwatts per square inch; this means that if you can get 4 hours of usable sunlight per day, you’d be receiving about 280 miliwatt hours per inch per day.

With these quantities, you’d need to install at least 51,000 square inches of solar paneling; this amounts to 354 square feet of panels. These will provide you with an estimated 14,000 watt hours during their peak operating times under perfect conditions.

However, since you won’t normally get perfect conditions and because the sun only shines for a fraction of each day, actual energy savings from such an array may be somewhat less than complete.

Nonetheless, these 354 square feet (assuming you live in a typical middle class home) will still drastically reduce your annual power bill by as much as 90%.

 

Equipment Requirements

what you need to know before installing solar panels

Solar energy systems for homes don’t just consist of a series of glass panels. These are the most visible part of the whole arrangement, but hardly the only one.

In addition to the numerous photo voltaic cells or modules, you will also have to install two other principal components. These are the electricity inverter unit, which turns the solar arrays DC current into the AC current that powers your home, and a battery cell unit, which can store extra energy for when there is no solar power coming to the PV cells in your yard or on your roof.

Certain modern PV solar panels actually have their own built-in micro inverters attached to each one of the individual cells.

These are beneficial because they allow you to grow your solar array however you please without having to replace inverters to fit expanding or shrinking size requirements.

They also allow for easier installation and lose less energy absorption ability under conditions of partial shade.

 

Cost

cost of installing solar

The most important question of all to the budget conscious green thinking homeowner; cost is a big reason why solar power isn’t more common in places where it’s not actually necessary.

Even though prices have steadily been dropping as the home-based solar energy market expands, PV arrays are still a significant investment.

An array such as our example above will probably cost you a minimum of $16,000 for the panels alone and another twice that for the inverter and battery storage system.

For an accurate estimate of solar pricing for your specific property or home, consider using an online solar calculator.

Furthermore, the battery may have to be replaced every few years, adding to your costs. Micro-inverter based PV cells are going to save you some expense by removing the cost of a single inverter, but the individual cells are more expensive than normal PV modules.

A key cost reduction factor will be in the energy reduction measures you take. This means that before you even install your system, you should have switched to energy-saving appliances, reduced the use of unnecessary lighting and decreased the number of unneeded electronics in your home.

These cutbacks will allow you to reduce the size of your power bill before you even start with solar panel installation.

 

Return on Investment

The look you make looking at your slashed power bill coz of solar

So, assuming you decide to set up a solar array of at least 354 square feet and manage to reduce your annual grid based power consumption by at least 90%, how long will it take you to earn back the investment?

Well, let’s assume your overall installation costs amount to a total of $33,000 to $40,000 dollars for an array of 354 square feet or more. With such an installation you reduce an average annual power bill of $1500 by 90% and are left with an annual savings of $1350.

You might even manage to attain complete electrical self-sufficiency, but given the realities of weather, electrical inefficiency and other factors, this is unlikely.

With $1350 saved each year, your $33,000 investment (at the lower end of the cost scale) will be able to completely pay for itself within a little over 20 years.

However, there are a few other factors that can shorten your ROI time rapidly.

First of all, there is a federal tax credit available to homeowners that cover 30% of your solar array installation costs. In addition to this, there may be a number of annual or one time state tax and utility credits that you can take advantage of in your particular state.

If you live in another country, similar programs may apply for your local jurisdiction and any of them will help shorten your ROI.

Finally, you should also bear in mind the inflating cost of grid-based electricity, and this is rising at an annual rate of 5% in many places.

What this means is that the amount you don’t pay to the utility company each year will more than likely grow, shortening the amount of time it takes you to pay for your initial solar array installation.


Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for freshness and consistency.

Vegan Carrot Molasses Cake Recipe

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By omitting eggs, butter and milk, and using molasses as a sweetener, this recipe is almost as moist and thick as Christmas cake, with added texture from the shredded carrots.

Frost the cake while warm to let it absorb into the top of the cake or leave it plain for use as a breakfast snack. While tempting to eat right away, let the dish sit for a day to let the flavors meld together and grow richer.

Vegan Carrot Molasses Cake
Yield: 4 servings

Vegan Carrot Molasses Cake

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 2 cups carrots, shredded
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup almond milk, with 1 tsp of lemon juice mixed in
  • 2.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cloves pinch
  • 1 pinch allspice
  • 1 pinch cardamom

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil a square baking dish. Set it aside.
  2. Combine the carrots, molasses, sugar, oil, vanilla and almond milk in a large bowl, whisking until smooth.
  3. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and cardamom together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, mixing until combined.
  4. Pour into the prepared dish and insert it into the oven. Allow to bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  5. If desiring icing, spread it on the top of the cake while still warm. Remove and let sit for a day before serving.

Nutrition Information

Yield

12

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 301Total Fat 10gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 0mgSodium 181mgCarbohydrates 51gFiber 2gSugar 30gProtein 3g

Did you make this recipe?

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

How to Have a Low-Cost, Eco-Friendly Lawn

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Eco-Friendly lawn

“A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken” – James Dent

Spending time relaxing in the garden is glorious, but somehow there never seems to be time to simply sit and enjoy the outside space you have made for yourself.

There’s always a long list of jobs to do, and caring for your lawn can be expensive and time consuming. While some prefer to dump nasty chemicals in their yard to keep it looking good, that’s hardly environmentally-friendly – not to mention, safe for pets and kids.

Here are a few suggestions for taking the strain out of mowing, and producing an Eco-friendly lawn to be proud of, with time to enjoy it.

 

Getting Started

Eco-Friendly lawn - getting started

All lawns require regular upkeep to help them stay in tip-top condition; the main treatments you should be carrying out are easy to undertake but need to be applied during the proper seasons.

The equipment required for basic lawn care is not extensive and the basics can include only a lawn mower, rake, fork and shears. There are, however, a number of specialist tools out there to make lawn care less back-breaking, and some of these can simplify lawn care significantly, but they’re not mandatory.

The basics of lawn care should be easy for most people to carry out and they include the following:

 

Spiking (Aerating)

Spiking is the process of aerating lawns in order to improve drainage and air circulation; this can be carried out by simply jabbing the lawn all over with a garden fork or by using a special tool such as a rolling spiker.

Some spikers include hollow tines which lift out plugs of earth to further aid drainage and aeration. This is especially important if your lawn is prone to flooding and it should ideally be carried out in the autumn before the heavy rains begin to take their toll.

 

Scarifying

This is the process of raking dead moss and grass from your lawn’s surface. Without scarifying, lawns can suffer from a lack of sunlight as the dead grass and moss prevents the light reaching all of the grass.

Around a week before scarifying, apply moss killer to your Eco-friendly lawn to enable full cleansing of the surface.

 

Watering

watering an Eco-Friendly lawn

In order to save water, it is advisable to install a water butt in your garden…especially if you plan to regularly water a lawn. New lawns in particular require regular water in their first season.

A sprinkler system is the best way of watering a lawn as it provides a light and even spray which will help to avoid boggy patches.

 

Edging

Trim the edges of your Eco-friendly lawn regularly during growing seasons with the aid of shears or a power trimmer. A neatly edged lawn looks far better than a straggly, unkempt mess.

 

Mowing

Mowing needs to take place regularly during spring and summer when the grass is growing. The Royal Horticultural Society recommends mowing your lawn twice weekly during summer, and once a week during spring and autumn. You could even find yourself mowing during winter if the weather is particularly mild.

If you discover that your lawn is not growing evenly then you can put down grass seed but this needs to take place in spring.

During the summer months you should avoid applying any weed or moss killer as dry weather means that the grass may sustain burns from strong chemicals.

Save money (and reduce your carbon emissions) by using a manual lawn mower. They’ve come a long way from than the back breakers our parents pushed around the garden – the new generation of manual lawn mowers are light, compact, and you can accurately control the cutting height; crucial for a healthy lawn.

Leave the clippings on the grass as you go, they smell wonderful and provide a great mulch.

 

Less Is More

Setting a higher cutting height means less watering and fertilizing, and less danger of bare patches as the grass is encouraged to grow deep roots.

Why not “go wild” with your lawn and allow a bit of colour and variety to pop up here and there? In areas where pesticide use for cosmetic use has been banned, the results can be pretty, and great for supporting local biodiversity too.

 

Make Your Lawn a Cup of Tea

Try making some organic compost tea to feed your lawn and reduce fertilizer, pesticide and fungicide use. It takes a few days to brew up a batch, but its a great way to nourish your whole garden, not just the lawn.

Making compost tea requires a bit of investment in equipment (an aquarium pump, tubing, bubblers and a bucket), but once you’ve started, you wont need to spend any more money on fertilizing your lawn, and as the use of compost tea make the soil more resistant to pests, you wont need to use pesticides and fungicides either.

 

Learn to Love Moss

moss

Why do we hate moss so much? Every year we pour gallons of chemicals onto our lawns in an attempt to rid ourselves of these fascinating and pretty little plants that require zero maintenance and feel delightfully springy.

In the zen gardens of Japan, moss is an important element in creating a calm, meditative space. If your lawn is in a shady spot and is prone to mossy patches, you could just let the moss take over.

Encourage the spread of moss by uprooting a small amount, blending it with a little beer, and sprinkling the mixture in the area you want the moss to grow. Moss feels lovely underfoot, and your mowing days will be over.

By making some environmentally friendly choices in the way you care for your lawn, you will be helping to support the local environment, and also saving energy, time and money.

And with more time on your hands, you might actually get to enjoy a relaxing afternoon, dozing in a deckchair, enjoying your beautiful, Eco-friendly lawn.

{Updated for freshness and consistency. Includes contributions from Ant Langston.}

Own a Pet? The Environmental Impact Could be Worse Than You Think

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Look away, pet lovers! If you have a cat or dog at home, the chances are that your furry friend is guilty of harming the planet. 

However much adorable and lovable these animals are, research has shown that pets leave a significant carbon footprint in the environment mainly due to their eating habits. The cost of feeding and maintaining these pets has been linked to environmental issues like climate change.

In the U.S., which makes up the largest number of pet owners globally, there are 163 million domestic dogs and cats. Their diet mainly constitutes traditional meat-based products that require heavy use of land, energy, and water, eventually impacting the environment in terms of erosion, pesticides, and waste.

A 2017 study published in the journal PLOS One shows that pets accounted for between 25%-30% of the environmental impact of meat consumed in the country. 

This equates to about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide generated through waste every year. That is as much as 13 million petrol or diesel cars driving for a year, according to UCLA geography professor Gregory Okin’s findings published in the study.

“Americans are the largest pet owners in the world, but the tradition of pet ownership in the U.S. has considerable costs,” Okin noted.  

 

Carbon v. Cats and Dogs

Pets environmental impact

“As pet ownership increases in some developing countries, especially China, and trends continue in pet food toward higher content and quality of meat, globally, pet ownership will compound the environmental impacts of human dietary choices.”

It takes 24 kilograms of carbon dioxide to make a kilo of pork, while the same amount of beef results in up to 1,000 kilograms of CO2. This is according to a 2014 study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which goes to show just how warmer the Earth is getting due to greenhouse gas emissions.

Some scientists, however, beg to differ with Okin’s findings, terming them “inaccurate.”

“Because most pet foods are based on secondary products from the human food industry, especially the ingredients that are animal-based, the environmental costs of those ingredients are not the same as those being consumed by humans,” Kelly Swanson, a professor in animal nutrition at the University of Illinois, told AFP.

To better understand these findings, if a country comprised the U.S.’ 163 million cats and dogs, it would rank fifth in global meat consumption behind Russia, Brazil, the United States, and China, Okin calculated. 

And that’s not all since some of the food has to be eliminated from the body. The pets produce about 5.1 million tons of poop every year, as much as 90 million Americans.

 

The “Humanization” of Pet Products

“Humanization” of Pet Products

To determine the carbon footprint of the pets, Okin calculated the number of dogs and cats in the U.S., their average weights, and ingredients in market-leading pet foods. He found that the country’s dogs and cats consume about 19 percent of the calories people do in the U.S.

“So to put that into context, that’s equivalent to the amount of calories consumed by the people of France,” Okin said.

He notes an increasing trend of “humanization” of pet products where more meat is put in pet foods. With a growing number of people considering pets more like family than animals, these furry animals are, thus, increasingly eating cuts of meat suitable for humans.

To mitigate the environmental impact caused by the eating habits of our furry friends, Okin argues that pet owners need to compromise the quality of meat they serve to the pets. “A dog doesn’t need to eat steak,” Okin said.

 “A dog can eat things a human sincerely can’t. So what if we could turn some of that pet food into people’s chow?”

 

Informed conversation

conversation about pet ownership

“I’m not a vegetarian, but eating meat does come at a cost,” he continued. “Those of us in favor of eating or serving meat need to be able to have an informed conversation about our choices, and that includes the choices we make for our pets.”

While the survey does not give a straightforward solution to pet owners, Okin puts forth a few suggestions on reducing the carbon pawprint. He observes that the study is not meant to curtail pet ownership for environmental reasons, especially given that pets come with a range of social, health, and emotional benefits. 

However, for the sake of protecting the environment, the geographer suggests: “Consider vegetarian pets, such as hamsters or birds, which offer similar benefits.”

“Both small and large animals have been shown to be associated with important benefits, including friendship, verbal interaction, companionship, promoting self-care, and increased empathy.”

 

Alternative protein sources

alternative 'sustainable' pets

On the other hand, the pet food industry is taking a keen interest in sustainability and could reduce overfeeding and find alternative sources of protein.

“Simple measures like feeding domestic dogs and cats nutritionally appropriate amounts will certainly reduce their environmental and energetic impact.”

“However, without large-scale reduction in their number and changes to the food system that drastically reduces the per-capita animal product consumption, the environmental and energetic impact of these animals will remain significant,” Okin says.

Ultimately, taming your pets environmental impact requires conscious choices about how you feed and maintain them.

The Environmental & Economical Benefits of Carpooling

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carpooling benefits

If there are a few things that are certain in life, it’s working, taxes, and needing to get from A to B. With work, there are a myriad of avenues that you can go down. 

From teaching to mining, to being a professional lion tamer, your professional life can really be anything you could dream to be. Taxes, however, are unfortunately an unavoidable and constant presence in all our lives that’s not really subject to too much change. 

Getting from A to B is usually pretty simple. You can drive, catch public transit or get a taxi or an Uber.

Or you could carpool! In this article, we’ll be discussing the environmental and economical benefits of carpooling.

 

What is Carpooling?

Benefits of carpooling

Carpooling is when you drive yourself and a few others to the same destination, instead of everybody taking separate cars or modes of transport.

For example, if you live near your colleagues, you could decide to pick them up on your way to work. This ensures that you all have a reliable means of transport every day and won’t have to spend time looking for multiple parking spaces. 

On the weekends, you might decide to be the designated driver on a big night out, so you can look out for friends and ensure they all get home safe. Carpooling can be a fantastic and cost-efficient method for navigating the city on a jam-packed weekend.

As well as offering further benefits which we’ll outline in detail below, carpooling is undoubtedly a great social activity.

You can shoot the breeze, put on some tunes and rock out, or even have a work meeting as you carpool. This instead of everyone driving in alone, with only themselves for company, and of course, releasing their own individual sets of carbon emissions. More on that below.

 

What Cars are Suitable for Carpooling?

Most cars are, but models that are particularly practical tend to be large 7 seater cars. These ‘people movers’ make it easier to do just that: seat more people and their possessions, allowing for a large party of people to travel together with ease. 

With only one vehicle on the road as opposed to two or three, 7 seater cars make the process of traveling far more sustainable for all involved. That’s not to say that those with smaller vehicles can’t start carpooling themselves, but the larger the car, the more options you are likely to have.

 

The Environmental Benefits of Carpooling

There is one main environmental benefit of carpooling, and that is that with only one car making the journey, you are greatly reducing your combined carbon emissions.

If three or four people drove themselves, that’s three or four times the carbon output from each vehicle’s exhaust fumes. 

With carpooling, you greatly reduce your own carbon footprint, as well as helping your carpool buddies reduce theirs.

 

The Economical Benefits of Carpooling

Economical Benefits of Carpooling

The benefits don’t just stop here, however. As well as doing your bit for the environment, carpooling can also reduce the pressure on your pocket too.

It’s important to note here, that the economic benefits of carpooling only become apparent if everyone shares the responsibility of driving. This means that one day you’ll be the driver, but the next day it will be someone else’s turn, and so on.

Because your car is on the road less, you’re spending less on fuel each week. Any frequent driver knows that decreasing your fuel consumption is a major cost-saving initiative, as fuel is usually one of the largest expenses related to owning a car.

 

Save on car servicing

You’re also putting less mileage on the car, which means your car will drive better for longer and you can go longer between servicing appointments with your mechanic. Cars wear out after lots of travel, so carpooling is a great way to ensure that you lengthen the lifespan of your own little people mover.

Less frequent driving also means that it is less likely that your car will need major repair work as time goes on, so you’re saving money there as well.

And the icing on the cake? You’ll save money on parking as well, assuming that everyone is sharing the responsibility of driving each day. 

This means only paying for parking on one or two days of the week. You might also work out a way of sharing parking costs with your carpooling mates, meaning everyone only has to pay a few dollars as opposed to larger amounts of money over the week.

 

Some Other Small Tips

Here are some other small tips to assist you in your carpooling journey.

  • Only carpool with people you know well from work or other areas of your life.
  • Be on time when picking people up, and be on time when getting picked up.
  • Do the speed limit and obey all other road rules.
  • Pick music everyone can enjoy or a radio show. 

 

A Carpooling Conclusion

We’ve shared the environmental and economic benefits of carpooling. By carpooling, you are reducing carbon emissions, and doing your bit for the planet. You’ll also save money on fuel, running costs and parking.

The Eco-Friendly Hiking Guide

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Eco-Friendly hiking tips

Going hiking or camping is a magical experience, the beautiful and natural surroundings can enchant you and make you feel like you are in a whole other world.

Those who are already outdoor enthusiasts will know, however, that to keep the countryside and all our natural surroundings as beautiful and charming as they have been for decades, it is important to clean up after ourselves and minimize the effect our presence has.

A set of trail ethics known as “Leave No Trace” aims to promote and encourage outdoor conservation, while helping to educate people in how to be as green and Eco-friendly as possible when out hiking or camping.

Before you next go on an outdoor adventure, check out these great Eco-friendly hiking tips to keep you green on your adventure:

 

Stick to the Path

Eco-friendly hiking - stick to the path

This sounds like common sense, but often people go hiking or walking to socialise and so may end up walking two or three abreast in order to hear each other talking.

The problem with this is that many paths and trails are only designed for one or two people to walk along.

By deviating from the path, your feet will cause erosion to the ground that is not used to being walked upon. As more people deviate from the path, the ground beneath starts to shift causing damage the environment.

Try and stay in single file and if you see other footprints from someone who has recently strayed from the path, then be sure to avoid that area to give it a chance to grow back.

 

Creating Campfires

campfire

Most public campsites already have campfire regulations in place, so make sure to read these before you start building a fire. If there is not already a stone ring, then create one for yourself with a few stones, this will prevent the fire from spreading.

When you collect wood to use in your fire, stick to the 3 Ds rule – only collect sticks that are: Dead, Detached and Downed. Always ensure there is someone attending to your fire at all times and put it out before you go to sleep.

 

 

Reduce Waste

sustainable hiking

Rubbish and waste is a huge problem in the countryside and outdoor areas, because people often take lots of food and drink with them and then just discard the wrappers and bottles when they are done.

Make sure to put all rubbish into your backpack to take home with you, or get rid of it at designated places.

Plastic and other types of waste material can be dangerous to animals if they eat them and if the rubbish has holes in it, animals can easily get their limbs stuck proving to be fatal if they cannot move.

If you see someone else has dropped their rubbish, then be kind and pick it up and dispose of it properly.

 

Camping

sustainable camping - pitching tent

The process of pitching a tent can cause quite a lot of damage to the ground around and under the tent, so if possible find an existing campsite so you don’t cause any more harm than necessary.

You can also buy green tents which are made from recycled polyester and other natural fabrics like hemp and bamboo. There are also quite a good range of Eco-friendly sleeping bags available, just be sure to check the materials that the sleeping bag is made of before buying.

 

Protect the Water

protect the water

When it comes to water in the wild, hikers and campers are often more concerned about finding enough to drink and to use for washing up etc., but, little thought is given to the potential pollution of natural water sources.

When you are choosing a campsite, ensure it is at least 200m away from any rivers or streams, so should it rain any waste you leave out won’t be washing into the water.

Wash your plates and dishes with collected water as far away as possible from the water source, to prevent toxic soaps and detergents polluting the water that animals drink.

 

Summary

Camping and hiking allows you to explore some of the most beautiful areas in the whole country. It is a perfect way to relax and unwind while taking in the enchanting wilderness and nature around you.

Keeping the environment clean is easy and it is important to do everything you can to preserve our natural surroundings and the wildlife that live in them. With these Eco-friendly hiking tips, you can enjoy the great outdoors while preserving nature’s beauty for future generations.

{This article has been updated for freshness and consistency.}

8 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Ziploc Bags

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Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Ziploc Bags

When it comes to the world of food storage, nothing beats Ziploc bags, yet. Since its inception in the 1960s, these flexible bags have made packing lunch or freezing leftovers a tad bit easier.

However, as much as they are helpful, they risk polluting the environment with plastic waste. Ziploc bags fall under the category of single-use plastic bags, and most people are guilty of discarding them in the trash bin without much thought.

This waste ends up in landfills and bodies of water, affecting birds and marine life. Even worse is the fact that plastic bags take hundreds of years to degrade. Some never do.

The good news is that there are plenty of natural and Eco-friendly alternatives to Ziploc bags. From Lunchskin sandwich bags to Vegan food wraps, here are eight options you can try out:

 

Bees Wrap

Bees wrap - Eco-friendly alternatives to Ziploc bags

Bees Wrap is a biodegradable packaging made from 100% recycled paper. It is a unique Eco-friendly storage alternative that wraps your food by using just the heat of your hands! This self-sealing bag is naturally breathable, so your food stays fresher for longer.

The Wrap is made from 100% organic cotton sheets infused with beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin. The bags are washable and can be reused severally. To wash, simply use Eco-friendly soap and lukewarm water, then hang to dry.

The wraps are also biodegradable; thus, once they reach the end of their lifespan, you can throw them in your compost pile.

 

Stasher reusable silicone bag

Stasher bags are made from platinum, food-grade silicone, which is plastic-free material. They come in a variety of colors and sizes and are designed to be used indefinitely.

You can use them to store veggies in the fridge or cook your food in the oven or microwave. That they are non-toxic means, they can be subjected to high temperatures of up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

These versatile bags can also go in the dishwasher, so you don’t have to endure the struggle of hand washing.

Their locking mechanism is simple to use thanks to the wide opening, making it easy to get contents inside.

 

Lunchskin paper sandwich bags

Looking for a solid, Eco-friendly Ziploc bag alternative for your kid’s lunchbox? Then look no further than the Lunchskin paper sandwich bag.

The bags come in a thin packaging suitable for sandwiches or dry food. They come with 60 stickers that guarantee freshness.

Lunchskin bags are made of pure wood pulp, non-waxed compostable paper. The advantage of these bags is that they hardly require a complete seal, thus making them perfect for kids that struggle with tight Ziploc closure.

 

Pyrex glass storage containers

sustainable storage - glass containers

Pyrex storage containers are often a common sighting in many zero waste kitchens. The containers are made from durable, high-tempered glass that is freezer, microwave, and pre-heated oven safe.

The tempered glass is a standout feature of the Pyrex storage containers meaning it can withstand any oven temperature.

The dishes come in colorful lids, making it easier to match their shape to the respective container. Not to forget, the containers are dishwasher safe for super-easy cleaning.

 

Ziptuck Reusable sandwich bags

Ziptucks are a sustainable and convenient storage solution that can be used for snacks or as travel or lunch bags. They are food-safe and BPA-free and can be used over and over.

The bags come in a lock seal design that is leak-proof and air-tight, so your contents stay fresh for longer.

You can use them in the freezer, and the advantage is that they lie flat to take up minimal storage space. Just like the packaging mentioned earlier, Ziptucks are dishwasher safe. For best results, place the bags on the top rack, then low heat for a quick refresher.

 

Chicago Snack Time rePETe (Recycled PET)

The Snack Time rePETe comes in a set that includes three adjustable, reusable snack and sandwich bags. The bags are made with BPA, phthalate, lead, and PVC-free food-safe materials. 

They are ideal for sandwiches and snacks on the go.

Its secure hook and loop closure can expand to fit a full-size sandwich of fold over for small snacks. The ChicoBags also have water and stain-resistant liner that makes for easy cleaning.

They are a favorite among many people owing to their versatility and how easy they are to travel with.

 

Khala & Co. Vegan Food Wrap

Tired of packing food in plastic bags and wraps? Perhaps it’s time you gave reusable vegan clothes a try. The Khala food wraps are eco-friendly packaging made from consciously sourced, 100% plant-based ingredients.

The wraps come in three or four sets and can be used just about anywhere, making them versatile. They are durable and 100% fully compostable at the end of their life.

 

EcoFresh Silicone Food Storage Bag

EcoFresh reusable bags

The EcoFresh silicone reusable bags are yet another suitable alternative to Ziploc bags for that environment-conscious person. These easy-to-use packages are 100% safe, non-toxic, non-reactive, and non-allergenic.

They are multi-functional thus can be used in the oven, freezer, and dishwasher. Likewise, the bags have a leak-proof closure, so you don’t have to worry about your food going bad anytime soon.

With the EcoFresh storage bags, you don’t need to stress over having a cluttered fridge. The packages can be labeled, making it easy to organize the refrigerator.

Oh, not forgetting that these snack bags are made from the highest quality food-grade silicones, which are resistant to temperatures of up to 482 degrees. You can, therefore, feel comfortable cleaning them in the dishwasher.

How to Add Natural Light To Your Home and Save Energy

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natural light through window

Everyone wants their home to be light and airy, but some homes – especially those which have been extended or which are north-facing — can be very dark and dingy inside.

Though it may be fine at night, a dark home is not especially inviting, for you or for your guests.

There is always an option to add more lamps and ceiling lights, but these require additional energy consumption, which can be costly.

And furthermore, natural light has been proven to offer significant health benefits, such as:

  • boosting your body’s Vitamin D storage
  • higher productivity
  • better vision
  • better sleep quality
  • improved mood

Whether your home is a period property with small windows or a new build still in the early design stages, there are plenty of ways you can maximize the natural light in your home and save money on energy bills at the same time.

 

Changing the Windows and Doors

big windows with natural light

The most obvious way to introduce more light into your home is via windows and doors.

Bigger windows are the obvious way of getting more light into your home. Small windows can often be a problem in country cottages or very old properties, built at a time when the cost of glass for large windows was prohibitively expensive.

The only challenge with changing out your windows and doors is that large expanses of glazing need to be energy efficient. If it isn’t, you run the risk of your home turning into an oven during the summer, or a freezer during the winter when the temperature plummets.

Thanks to innovative design techniques, modern windows and doors are available in highly-rated energy efficient options, and it is possible to maintain a very comfortable temperature all year round.

Getting new windows is often not an inexpensive option either, with a double glazed unit costing upwards of $700 USD.

If light floods into your house from one direction only, leaving the other side of the house dark, think about investing in glass doors which will help move the light around.

It is always a balancing act between getting larger windows while maintaining the character and appearance of your home, and in the case of people living in listed buildings or a conservation area, there are often restrictions about what you are and are not allowed to do to improve your windows.

Keep this in mind when doing your window and door shopping.

 

Interior Design Tricks

bathroom mirrors with natural light shining through a window

If you don’t have the budget for replacing or adding more windows or doors, then being clever with interior design can drastically change the feel of your home without the expense.

Mirrors are a tried and tested design trick, as they reflect the light around the room and hallways, maximizing any existing natural light and creating a sense of space. Use mirrors to reflect what light is available.

At night, place lamps in front of carefully positioned mirrors to increase the levels of illumination in the room.

When choosing paint colors for your home, pale colors rather than deep shades will make the room feel lighter too.

Keep window coverings to a minimum to allow as much light to stream in as possible, and pull your curtains and blinds open fully every morning.

There are plenty of ways to make the most of natural light using innovative and traditional glazing techniques, but in the case of a period property, make sure you stay sympathetic to the overall design.

 

Atriums and Roof Lanterns

atrium

Atriums or roof lanterns are a beautiful way of bringing natural light into a dark room. Rather than enjoying a view of the garden, you can instead gaze up at the sky.

Roof lanterns and atriums are also a lovely architectural feature in their own right and, when constructed sympathetically, they can add light and a wonderful sense of space to even the gloomiest of rooms.

 

Folding or Retractable Glass Panels

sliding doors

A popular way of closing the gap between indoor and outdoor space is to construct folding glass panels in place of a traditional patio window or French doors.

When closed, glass panels act as a wall of glass, shielding the interior of the room from the elements whilst still allowing natural light to flood in.

When open, the room is opened up and becomes at one with the outdoor space, which is great during warmer weather.

Glass panels can either slide or fold open, or you can install a pulley system so that the entire wall lifts up into a horizontal position.

 

Skylights

natural light shining into bathroom via skylight

Skylights refer to windows fitted into the roof space. These are a great way of bringing light into an attic bedroom or bathroom when it is impossible to build any other type of window.

Having a skylight on the roof provides far more light than a window on the side of the house, and if you are building an extension or using an attic room having a skylight can flood the room with natural light.

This is a particularly good solution for rooms which are north-facing or for extensions where the inclusion of a skylight can be built in at the planning stage.

 

Sun Pipes aka Solar Tubes

natural light shining into house via solar tube
Image by Stefan Kühn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 

One of the most innovative methods of getting light into a room is by using a product such as a sun pipe.

The sun pipe kits comprise a small sky roof light and then a long mirrored tube which directs the light from the roof down into the room below.

They are a relatively inexpensive way of bringing daylight into a room with no other natural light source. In some cases, when a sun tube has been installed it negates the requirement for any artificial light during the day, which, in a bathroom or hallway, could be very useful.

The way they are constructed means that sun tubes can be used in most single storey areas of the house, or upstairs to filter light down from the roof level.

solar tube shining natural light into home
Photo by Mimi Kotter via CC 3.0

Sun pipes are still quite an innovative product and although many are being used in offices or schools, they are still quite unusual in a domestic setting.

Keen DIY enthusiasts should be able to fit a sun pipe themselves, or a professional should be able to complete the job in a day.

 

Daylight Bulbs

daylight bulbs combat seasonal affective disorder

If you have tried all of the interior design tricks and window installation options and are still struggling to get enough natural light into a room, daylight bulbs can be the answer.

These bulbs are blue in color and, unlike regular light bulbs, they give off a much more natural glow.

Daylight bulbs are also available as energy efficient bulbs, and although they are more expensive to buy initially, they last much longer.

They are recommended for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, and for people who do crafts such as needlework or knitting.

There are also therapeutic daylight lamps which are designed for people who suffer badly with the lack of daylight in the winter, but these are designed for using over short periods of time rather than to light a room on a permanent basis.

{This article has been updated for freshness and consistency.}

8 Ways To Be An Eco-Friendly Dog Owner

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“Humanization” of Pet Products

How can a dog be bad for the environment? Aren’t they part of it?

Although they may be animals, our dogs aren’t like wild wolves. They aren’t adapted to the natural environment, but rather to human needs and desires which, as anyone concerned about the environment know, can often get out of control in our consumer driven culture.

From their eating and play habits to their elimination cycles, humanity’s best friend can take a serious toll on the planet.

Here are 8 meaningful first steps you can take to begin greening your dog’s environmental paw-print now.

 

1. Dutiful Pooper Scooping

Eco-Friendly dog owner

Zoonotic – animal-borne – diseases have afflicted humans and the environment since we first began domesticating critters several thousand years ago.

There’s a reason it’s important to pick up your dog’s pile as an Eco-friendly dog owner and remove it from the environment.

But that’s not all.

If you’re one of the many who tucks it into a plastic bag for disposal, consider using a pooper scooper rake to transfer the mess to the trash.

Plastic bags are awful for the environment, even the so-called biodegradable ones.

 

2. Animal Waste Composting

Animal waste composting is a positive step in the right direction, although it could be a bit difficult to implement, depending on your living situation.

If you have the means, composting your dog’s dump is an Eco-friendly alternative to numerous unsustainable waste disposal methods. It’s a way to skip the landfill and save waterways by turning hazardous remains into safe, fertile mulch.

The USDA has good information on how to begin composting dog waste.

 

3. Upcycle Dog Toys

dog toys

Why are many dog toys colored bright red when canines cannot see that color? Because the toys aren’t marketed to pet dogs; they are being marketed to the human owners.

Dogs don’t have our sensibilities; they don’t care about fashion, and they don’t discriminate between new, brand-name toys and ones upcycled from ordinary stuff lying around your house.

Landfills are filled with the former. Here are some starter ideas for upcycling your dog’s next accessory:

  • Rope toy: tie an old T-shirt into knots.
  • Chew toy: stick a plastic bottle in a sock.
  • Puppy sweater: use old kid’s clothes from the attic.

 

4. Don’t Overfeed

It may not come as a surprise that the obesity problem facing many humans is also weighing down our pets.

Pets are being fed up to 20 percent more than is necessary, according to the latest research.

Too much food means unnecessary food waste, which extracts more from the environment.

It doesn’t do your pup’s health any favors, either. By the way, it is a myth that domesticated canines are good at regulating their own food intake.

 

5. Green Flea & Tick Treatments

Often, what’s good for the environment is also good for dogs’ health, and for you asn an Eco-friendly dog-owner.

You may have heard that common lawn pesticides can kill your canine, but what about the ones in Fido’s flea collar?

Conventional flea poisons include pesticides that inadvertently sicken and kill thousands of pet dogs a year.

Organophosphates are the main problem.

Do you have to use hazardous chemicals to kill the fleas and ticks infesting your dog’s body? Thankfully, you do not.

There are several non-toxic alternatives, like soapy water, Diatomaceous Earth and electric flea traps.

 

6. Little Dog, Big Dog

dogs

It has been suggested that bigger dogs have a greater impact on the planet than small dog breeds.

How big is the difference?

The ecological footprint of a medium-sized dog is about .84 gha, in one estimate; for a large dog, it is closer to 1.0 gha.

These figures are comparable to the least impactful people on the planet, although they are greater in impact than a luxury SUV, as a New Zealander couple notoriously claimed a few years ago in the book Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living.

 

7. Avoid Beef and Lamb

The biggest impact of most dogs is the amount of food they eat, notably all that meat product.

The impact of meat production on the planet is exorbitant. You can reduce the load on Mother Nature by investing in grass-fed animal products, which require less carbon for their production.

Also, not all meats have an equivalent impact. Eliminating carbon-intensive lamb and beef from the menu would be a substantial step in the right direction.

 

8. Recycled Doghouse

Whether you are thinking of buying a new doghouse or plan to build your own, you can be an Eco-Friendly dog owner by being environmentally sensitive.

If you are building your own, there are many ways to access free reclaimed wood.

Building a DIY doghouse can also be much less expensive, and more so if you have access to common construction materials.

If you purchase a commercial doghouse, however, try to buy one made from recycled, if not biodegradable materials.

{This article has been updated for freshness and consistency.}

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