Wednesday, August 31, 2011

You Really Are What You Eat

Recent dietary research has uncovered 14 different nutrient-dense foods that time and again promote good overall health. Coined “superfoods,” they tend to have fewer calories, higher levels of vitamins and minerals, and many disease-fighting antioxidants.

A diet rich in soy and whey protein, found in ...Image via WikipediaBeans (legumes), berries (especially blueberries), broccoli, green tea, nuts (especially walnuts), oranges, pumpkin, salmon. soy, spinach, tomatoes, turkey, whole grains and oats, and yogurt can all help stop and even reverse diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and some forms of cancer. And where one might have an effect on a certain part of the body, it can also affect the health of other body functions and performance, since the whole body is connected. With these 14 foods as the base of a balanced, solid diet, weight loss gimmicks and other fly-by-night programs can become a thing of the past in your life.

Conversely, the ill-effects of an unbalanced diet are several and varied. Low energy levels, mood swings, tired all the time, weight change, uncomfortable with body are just a few signs that your diet is unbalanced. An unbalanced diet can cause problems with maintenance of body tissues, growth and development, brain and nervous system function, as well as problems with bone and muscle systems.

food sources of magnesium: bran muffins, pumpk...Image via WikipediaSymptoms of malnutrition include lack of energy, irritability, a weakened immune system leading to frequent colds or allergies, and mineral depletion that can trigger a variety of health concerns including anemia.
And since the body is connected, realizing that an unhealthy body will result in an unhealthy spirit only makes sense. When we nourish our body with these superfoods and complement them with other nutrient-dense and healthy fresh foods, our spirit will be vitalized and healthy as a direct result.

Many modern diets based on prepackaged convenience foods are sorely lacking in many vitamins and minerals, which can affect our mental capacities as well, and cause irritability, confusion, and the feeling of ‘being in a fog’ all the time.

Superfoods can be the basis of a sound, healthy, nutritious solution to curing many of these ailments and more.

For more on superfoods, including many tasty recipes, visit our Cooking From Scratch blog!
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Monday, August 29, 2011

Why You Should Get Your Nutrition from Real Food

Many people think popping a multi-vitamin supplement to get their nutrients is just as good as what comes from real foods. They don’t realize that it is far better to get vitamins and minerals from natural foods and juices. Our bodies utilize the vitamins and minerals from real foods more efficiently. And most people find it much easier to select a variety of whole foods they enjoy eating instead of trying to make heads or tails of the entire selection of vitamin and mineral supplements that are available. And any of us who’ve swallowed a multi-vitamin or a mineral supplement can say without a doubt that the taste leaves a lot to be desired
Close-up of fruit saladImage via Wikipedia
Supplements are also difficult for our bodies to break down and use, making it difficult to get the full punch from the vitamins and minerals they contain. Conversely, by consuming plenty of nutrient-dense food to get the equivalent means the nutrients are going to be easier for the body to process and utilize, and less likely to be wasted. We are also processing nutrients throughout the course of the day when we obtain them from food, instead of just getting them from the ‘one a day’ approach.
Many of the supplements available today use fillers and binders to hold them together, plus coatings on the tablets themselves. These are products the body does not need and will not use. Some people find they are allergic to the dyes and fillers used in vitamin pills. However, the body uses the fiber that binds fruits and vegetables. Often the “skin” of a vegetable, like the potato, is the most nutritious part. In addition, sometimes the vitamin and mineral supplements can upset our stomachs, making taking them even more difficult the next day. In many cases, combining supplements can counteract their effectiveness and can produce stomach upset when dealing with the taste and smell of some supplements. On the other hand, a variety of fruits and vegetables enhance the flavor of a nutritious meal and their fiber aids digestion. 
Fruits and vegetables from a farmers market. c...Image via Wikipedia One caveat: Be sure you are getting fresh ones - many studies have shown the produce sold in most grocery stores has lost a majority of its nutrients by the time it reaches the consumer. For the freshest foods, shop at a local farmer's market, or through a CSA subscription. Or grow them yourself
If you’re looking to lose weight, eating fresh food is vital to a weight loss plan. Also, eating fresh fruits and vegetables help hair, skin and teeth stay attractive and healthy. And when you think about it, fruits and vegetables are the original ‘to go’ food. It’s simple to grab for an orange, apple, banana, grapes, or quickly toss a few vegetables together for a salad to take to work. 
So when you’re looking for well-balanced, healthy, reliable nutrition, don’t reach for the bottle. Reach for the food!
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Friday, August 26, 2011

How to Cut Your Over-Consumption

Over-consumption is something that poses a huge problem for many human populations on our our planet today. Of course it is unintentional. Things can take over your life. It’s all too easy to get caught up in indulgence. Perhaps you indulge in food. Maybe you drink too much alcohol or eat too many sweets. Or you might find that you shop for things you just don’t need.

Often this overconsumption is an attempt to fill a void. Boredom, sadness, stress and other emotions are a common cause of over-consumption. Take heart, there is a way to cut back and regain control of your life.

1. Find out why you over indulge. Spend some time meditating or contemplating why you’re overindulging. What emotion are you not trying to feel? What is the purpose for your over-consumption?

Cheetos are commonly considered a junk food.Image via Wikipedia2. Clean out. One of the best ways to regain control is to create a fresh start. Cleaning out your existing clutter is the first step. If you’re overindulging in junk food, clean out the cupboards. If you’re over-consuming on a particular type of food or beverage, get it out of your home. Take anything that’s unopened to your local homeless shelter.

If you have acquired belongings, get rid of what you don’t need. Consider using the three basket approach. Keep, toss, donate. Each item in your home will fit into one of those categories. If you’d like, create a fourth basket for items you can sell.

3. Create a place for everything in your home. Make sure everything has a place. This doesn’t mean shoving it into a closet. If it’s important enough to keep then it needs to have a proper place. Label, organize and display.

4. Don’t buy something unless you are giving something away or it has a specific purpose. Become aware of your consumption. For example, if you’re out to eat and you have a habit of over consumption, be aware of this. Choose your meal carefully. Limit yourself to only what you need. This step might be the most difficult. It requires conscious decision making. Ask yourself, “Do I need this?” and “Why do I need this” before each meal, purchase or drink.

Energy consumption per capita (2001). Red hues...Image via Wikipedia5. Budget. Budgeting helps you stay on top of consumption. It requires you to create a spending category for everything. This includes meals out, groceries, entertainment and purchases. Budgeting requires you to think through each purchase you make. It forces you to make a conscious decision. Most over consumption is not based on conscious decision making skills.

Finally, consider volunteering. When you spend your time giving back to others, you stop thinking so much about what you don’t have. Volunteer where your strengths, skills and interests best fit. When you focus on giving back to the world, you’ll be too busy to consume. You’ll also feel great about yourself. Gratitude is one of the best cures for over consumption.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Where to Find Organic Wines

If you are keen on organic food, you might have also tried organic wine. Wine, in moderation, is said to be beneficial to your heart health. But there are many health reasons why you should drink organic wine instead of traditionally grown wine. First of all, the grapes in organic wines are not sprayed with pesticides. Organic wine producers don't add flavors to their wine, no additional sulfites are added other than the naturally occurring sulfite and they abide by strict environmental and sustainable growing practices. Not only is drinking organic wine better for your health, but in doing so, you also support eco-friendly farming. (See our previous post for more on the benefits of organic wine.)

order organic-vegan-biodynamic winesThe Organic Wine Company offers outstanding organic wines from different countries. There are red, wine, rosé, sparkling and dessert wines from France, Chile, Spain, Argentina, New Zealand to name a few. Or how about a delicious vegan or biodynamic bottle?

If you enjoy wine, why not sign up to the monthly wine club, which delivers three bottles of either red or mixed colors organic wine, to your home. The wines will differ each time and you will be able to enjoy a good selection of superb wines each month.

Overall, the Organic Wine Company offers - in my opinion - a great selection and fantastic value at a very reasonable price.

You can find their website at:

organic-vegan-biodynamic wines

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why You Should Drink Organic Wine

Do you drink wine? I know I do! There are many health benefits to drinking wine. It’s full of antioxidants. Red wine has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. It can also reduce the risk of certain cancers and slow progression of neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Tempranillo varietal wine bottle and glass, sh...Image via WikipediaAll of these benefits are truly wonderful. However, organic wine may offer more benefits than your standard bottle.

1. Standard wines are grown with pesticides. Organic wines are not. They’re free from pesticides and therefore your wine is free from pesticides. It tastes better and is better for you.

2. Pesticide free also means that pesticides are not put into the soil and our water supply. Organic wines are better for the environment.

3. Standard wines can have additives in them. Organic wines are free from additives. They’re also simply processed. All you get is the simple pleasure of good glass of wine.

4. No sulfites. Organic wines do not contain sulfites. They cannot if they want to be classified as organic. Many people are sensitive or allergic to sulfites. The absence of them means more people can drink wine without side effects.

5. Organic wines tend to be produced by smaller farmers. When you drink organic wine you’re supporting smaller farmers and local businesses.

6. Due to demand and biodynamic farming improvements more and more organic wines are available. This means you have more options at your local wine stores and restaurants. Biodynamic farming is the process of balancing the soil, the animals, and even the stars to take advantage of all the environment’s resources. It uses compost and manure rather than chemicals to feed and nurture the vines.

7. Finally, consider drinking organic wine because it simply tastes better than many other standard non-organic wines. You don’t have any chemical tastes or additives or extra packaging. You’re getting a simple straight-forward bottle of wine. However, don’t let the simplicity fool you. Many organically grown wines are quite sophisticated. Biodynamic farming has been around for decades. Organic vineyards are popping up around the globe. That means more variety for you.

If you enjoy a good glass of wine from time to time consider organic wine. It’s good for your health. There are fewer allergens. It’s good for the environment. It’s good for small business and farms. And ultimately it just plain tastes superior.

(Wondering where to find organic wine? Check back Wednesday when we will share a great source! Meanwhile, learn more via the resources below.)
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Learn More About Organic Wine:

Friday, August 19, 2011

India Tree Natural Decorating Colors - For Cakes, Frostings, and More

Most of us are aware of the dangers and issues with artificial coloring and how they can affect humans and endanger our health. Artificial colorants are everywhere, even if you are not aware of it. Did you know that artificial colorants are made from chemicals such as petroleum, coal tar and acetone to name a few? (Yes, that is what your kids are eating....) They cause havoc with our health and especially the health of our growing children. If you are aware of the dangers of these artificial colors, you might already use natural dyes for your baking etc.

India Tree Natural Decorating ColoursThere are various products on the market now that are made from natural ingredients. One of them is the India Tree Natural Decorating Colors Set. The set comes with primary colors yellow, red and blue. Given that these are natural dyes, the brightness of the colors will vary from what you might expect or are used to from artificial ones. The colors in general are more subdued - the red is not artificially bright red, but more reddish/pink pastel. What you get are natural earthy colors. You can still create lovely looking icing and frosting by adding drops of this natural dye.

I think it is important to know that these colors are made from natural and highly concentrated vegetable colorants instead of synthetic and artificial chemicals that can cause harm to our health. Avoiding artificial colors is especially important for kids with certain food allergies and autism.

Where to Buy:
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How to Raise Environmentally Responsible Kids

If you are concerned about the future of the environment, it makes sense to raise your children to be environmentally responsible. After all, the future belongs to them. Investing in your kids and making them aware of the planet is one of the most environmentally responsible things you can do.

Hopetoun Falls, Beech Forest, near Otway Natio...Image via WikipediaHere are some ideas on how you can raise your kids to respect the planet and want to preserve it!

* Foster a love of nature in your kids. Get out into it and go on hikes, field trips (literally), picnics, cookouts, camping, and fishing trips. Consider getting bikes for the family and going out biking in the woods or on trails. Take your kids to play in a nearby park or encourage them to play outdoors in your yard. This means limiting television and other electronic pursuits.

* Identify plants, animals, constellations, leaves, and other things in nature. Check out some field guides and take your kids to a natural area. Then collect and identify flowers, leaves, feathers, rocks, and so forth.

* Encourage your kids to participate in local clean-up projects. Consider beginning one if your neighborhood or community does not already have such an event. It's very eye-opening for your kids to see the extent of the trash and litter that builds up in a given area.

enormous dusky eggplant, average sized boyImage by woodleywonderworks via Flickr* Grow your own food if possible, even if it's just a few plants in containers. Your kids will be enlightened to see what it takes to grow food and how the natural elements (air, water, sunlight) come together to produce food. (Check out our Sustainable Gardening blog, where we do occasionally feature articles on including your kids in creating your own sustainable garden.)

* Recycle with your kids. This doesn't just mean having them help organize recyclables into bins and taking them to the facility. It also means teaching them creative recycling - how to fix and refurbish, for example, instead of throwing something out and buying a new replacement. Encourage your kids to make their own toys and crafts, especially out of recyclables, rather than going to a craft store or buying new toys.

* Gather wild foods. Children usually love this. Get a good book on gathering wild foods, or find an expert in your area who can show you. Whether it's raiding a blackberry patch, gathering nuts, or picking dandelion greens to cook as a potherb, harvesting nature's gifts really fosters a sense of appreciation for everything nature has to offer.

* Include your kids in your household energy-saving goals. Make sure everyone is on board with shortening showers and turning off lights. Make sure they know why - it's not just about lowering the utility bills.

Helping your kids learn the impact of their decisions, and their responsibility for their environment, will equip them to move forward into this new century in a responsible and sustainable way. Remember that our kids will be the scientists of the future, developing innovative ways to keep our species alive and well for centuries to come. Give them a good start by teaching them how they can have a positive impact on their planet.
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Video - Climate Change: Man Vs. Nature

This video is a bit longer than we usually post, but it is worth a watch. If you are not that familiar with the climate change debate, this is a good one to check out, as it does explain the problems and issues in a way that is easy to understand.

A brief warning - don't expect it to give you all the answers, though - climate change involves the whole planet and everything (and everyone) on it, so it is quite a complex issue, with a variety of factors to consider. But this video does give a good overview of where we are, how we got here, what to expect in the future, and what (if anything) we can do about it.

Climate Change, Man vs. Nature on HOUSTON 8
Our climate is changing -- no doubt about it. Heat waves are sweeping the continent, drought is devastating the south, yet floods have destroyed much of the Mississippi River Valley... and across the globe tsunamis, hurricanes and tornadoes are racki...

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Solar Rent Lease and Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) Strategy – An Explanation

If you're looking to equip your home for solar power, but not sure how to start, or if it's too expensive, there are some new options available now that many people are not aware of. As alternative power comes to the fore, programs are springing up to facilitate the use of alternative energy in people's homes and businesses. Solar rent leases or power purchase agreements (PPAs) are two of those programs. Here is how they work.

Concentrating photovoltaics in Catalonia, Spain.Image via WikipediaSolar Rent Leases

A solar rent lease involves renting solar equipment from a power/electricity provider. The provider actually owns the solar panels and overall solar power system, and is responsible for its maintenance. You pay a fee, or rent, for the use of the equipment. Generally, the solar power system is intended to augment, not replace, the electricity you purchase from your utility company. Hopefully, you will save so much on your power bill that it will offset the rent amount.

Most power providers that offer solar rent leases have a contract that "locks you in" to the agreement. It has advantages for you, the purchaser, and the provider - you are protected against rising utility rates, and the provider gets the security of a long-term contract. Most providers' contracts are for 15 to 20 years.


A power purchase agreement is similar to the solar rent lease. With a PPA, the provider purchases the solar panels and solar power system, and also installs and maintains them. Instead of paying rent, you, the purchaser, pay for the actual power generated by the solar power system. Again, your monthly utility bill will be augmented, not replaced, by the solar-generated electricity. The idea is for the purchaser to save money and reduce his or her use of fossil fuel-generated electricity.

Fort Dix solar panelsImage by U.S. Army Environmental Command via FlickrPPAs also involve a contract, usually 15 to 20 years. Some PPAs give you the option of buying the equipment and solar power system when the contract ends.

Generally speaking, the electricity providers involved in solar rent leases and PPAs are independently owned companies. Thus, PPAs and solar rent leases help finance these independent power producers. Because the electricity output is clearly defined and measured and there are contracts in place, banks and other financial institutions are more likely to invest in the independent provider. This is another incentive for some who are interested in alternative energy.

Another attractive thing about PPAs and solar lease agreements is the low initial cost. Many people would like to "go solar" but are unsure how to pay for, install, and maintain the necessary equipment. With these agreements, the provider does all of that and you only have to pay rent for the equipment or pay for the solar power generated.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Environmental (and Toxic) Impact of Dry Cleaning

Dry cleaning has been a long standing way of keeping your fine clothes in good shape. And it’s simple. You take your clothes to the cleaner, drop them off and a few days later they’re returned nice and clean. It’s convenient to be sure. However, dry cleaning also has a profound impact on the environment.

Dry Clean ClothingImage by mag3737 via Flickr#1 Dry Cleaning Extras Fill Landfills
Each piece of dry cleaning you pick up is hung on a nice hanger. Generally, those hangers end up in the garbage. Some dry cleaners give you a credit if you take them back and reuse them. However, most people forget to return them or just throw them away.

Additionally, all dry cleaning items come covered with plastic. This plastic gets tossed in the garbage and ends up in landfills. The end result is that there are a lot of hangers and plastic bags sitting around your local landfill.

#2 Toxins
The primary chemical used to for dry cleaning is Perchloroethylene. This toxic chemical is also known as tetrachloroethylene, perc, PCE, C2Cl4, Cl2C=CCl2, or tetrachloroethene. It’s used in more than 90% of the dry cleaners throughout the United States.

Perc is a petroleum byproduct and it is toxic to the environment. It’s colorless and clear so it’s not apparent when it ends up in our soil or water ways. Additionally, dry cleaners use chlorinated solvents, acetic acid, hydrogen peroxide, ammonia and petroleum naptha to clean stains and for other dry cleaning processes. These chemicals are also toxins. The environment is contaminated to these toxins via air born exposure. It also ends up in our soil and waterways - and guess what - eventually, back in your body!

#3 Human Complications
PERC is a known animal carcinogen. International Association for Research on Cancer has deemed it a likely human carcinogen as well. Among women who work in dry cleaning, Perc has been studied and has been shown to cause:
* menstrual irregularities,
* fertility problems,
* spontaneous abortions

tetrachloroethylene moleculeImage via WikipediaPerc found in drinking water has been shown to cause liver and kidney damage. Additionally, the other dry cleaning chemicals has been shown to cause:
* Central nervous system damage
* Liver and kidney damage
* Skin irritation
* Respiratory problems
* Confusion,
* Dizziness
* Headache
* Loss of memory
* Eye, nose and throat irritation

Alternatives to Perc
While dry cleaning chemicals are quite toxic to both people and the environment, they’re not your only option. Many dry cleaners are now using more environmentally friendly methods. They include: wet cleaning and CO2 solvents.

You can also choose to not dry clean your clothing. Most “dry clean only” clothes can also be hand washed or steam cleaned. If you do dry clean your clothing make sure your cleaner uses an alternative to Perc. It’s better for your health AND the environment.
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Monday, August 8, 2011

Why You Should Drink More Water

You might have seen the recent TV ads about switching to water as your beverage of choice. While they are obviously trying to sell bottled water, they do have a good point.

Mineral water being poured from a bottle into ...Image via WikipediaSay you’re standing in the supermarket. All around you are choices. Juice. Soda. Energy drinks. Each claim to offer a benefit. Yet none offers the same benefits a simple glass of water can offer. When it comes down to making a decision about what to drink; water wins every time (and we're not selling bottled water here). :-)

Here Are Five Reasons Why You Should Drink More Water

#1: Flushes Toxins From Your Body
In addition to simply hydrating your body, water serves to help remove waste from your body. It helps remove more than basic digestive waste too -- it helps flush toxins from your cells and organs as well. This time of year, when most of us are sweating a lot (especially this summer), drinking water is especially important. Part of the reason heat stroke and illness happens when we don't drink enough is that our bodies don't have the liquid needed to flush toxins out in our sweat - this is one of the reasons dehydration is so dangerous.

#2: Helps You Lose Weight
Flushing toxins from your body is one way that water helps you lose weight. It also helps you feel full. Many diet and nutrition experts recommend drinking a glass of water when you feel hungry. Your body often misinterprets thirst. It thinks it is hungry, when really you just need hydration.

Drinking a glass of water can take care of the hunger signals. Additionally, when you drink a zero calorie glass of water before a meal, it helps fill you up. You eat less during mealtime. You consume fewer calories. Keep this up meal after meal and you’ll lose weight.

#3: Improved skin, joints, hair, nails and muscles.
Water is your body’s main source of lubrication. When all of your cells are healthy and hydrated, your body is able to function optimally. That means your hair is healthier. Your skin is vital and healthy. Your joints, tendons and muscles have what they need to function as well. In short, drink water to look and feel better.

Young woman taking drink of bottled water, St....Image via Wikipedia#4: It’s Better for Your Heart
Many studies have found that drinking more water helps:
* Lower cholesterol
* Lower blood pressure
* Minimize the risk of heart disease

Much of the benefit to your heart comes from two key factors; water helps your blood flow which in turn lowers blood pressure and the strain on your heart. Additionally, water helps your body carry nutrients to your organs and vital tissues, and helps in the body's natural detox processes at the same time.

#5: Water is free!
Sure, you can pay big bucks for sparkling mineral water. It does taste good. However, water from a filtered tap is just as good for you and it’s absolutely free (other than the nominal cost of the filter, which is usually only pennies compared to buying bottled). You don’t have to spend your hard earned money on beverages that actually harm your health. Soda, fruit juice, energy drinks and other beverages contain sugar, chemicals and lack the hydrating elements you can get from a simple glass of water.

Drinking water is also simple. Water is everywhere. Drinking fountains, sink faucets and bottled water at your supermarket, if you really must get the bottled kind (however, we recommend glass bottles if you do - harmful toxins have been found in some types of plastic bottles). It’s quick and easy to find anytime you want a drink.
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Friday, August 5, 2011

Recycling Electronic Items - Computers, TVs, etc.

With the way technology multiplies year after year with newer, better, bigger and improved products for computer users, you can just imagine the amount of waste that is generated when thousands of consumers upgrade every year.  One household may have one or two computers to upgrade every few years, but if you add to that computers and monitors from even a small business, the numbers add up very quickly. 

Pile of e-Waste / Electronic waste: A few olde...Image via WikipediaWhat is the problem with throwing computers, their monitors, TVs and the like away with the rest of our trash?  The main concern is that with CRTs and TVs they each contain approximately four pounds of lead per unit.  Lead cannot be biologically broken down and if it were placed in a landfill there is the possibility of the landfill becoming contaminated with the toxins from lead.  Lead poisoning has been associated with several health problems in children, including, learning disabilities and behavior issues and in some extreme cases, where high doses of the lead has been found, there have been reports of seizures, coma and even death.  There is always the risk of lead toxins seeping into a water source if left in a landfill and any results of lead poisoning are made even more tragic because they are so easily preventable. 

In addition to the lead in some household items like computer screens and TVs, the plastic parts of these items sometimes contain a component that is called, brominated flame-retardant that helps the item to be resistant to flames in case of a fire.  Unfortunately, while the exact results of exposure to this additive are undocumented there is most likely some kind of negative result that it's just better to steer clear of. 

In an effort to keep these potentially hazardous materials out of landfills there are many other options for ridding your home of older, outdated technology.  The first option should be to check with your community to see if there is a program set up to receive older CRTs and TVs for recycling.  For instance, in Massachusetts, many cities and towns were given grant money for the specific purpose of setting up such a program. 

Computers ready for recycling at an event at O...Image via WikipediaIf your town does not have such a program the next place to look would be at a local TV repair shop or even an electronics retailer because they may be able to reuse what you want to throw out.  Some areas even have electronic recycling companies that will come to your residence or business and pick up such items and from there they are responsible for the recycling of the items.  Even if a piece of electronic equipment can no longer be used for refurbishing an older model they can always be dissected and the individual components can be sold for their scrap value. 

No matter what the item is that you want to recycle, there is a way to do it -- all you usually need to do is make a phone call or two, or do a quick internet search, and you will have done your part to help keep our planet safe and clean for future generations.

Here are some resources you may find helpful: (this one has a lot of links to different helpful resources) (click on your state to find programs in your area) (a state-by-state listing) (offers a number of different options for donating and recycling)

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Book Review: The Solar House: Passive Heating and Cooling

More and more people want to make their own homes more energy-efficient and earth-friendly. There are lots of books on the market that you can read up on passive heating and cooling ideas and designs. One great book you should read is Daniel Chiras' book: The Solar House: Passive Heating and Cooling.

Cover of "The Solar House: Passive Heatin...Cover via AmazonIt is a fantastic resource on energy efficient home designs and covers related topics in great detail. You will be able to read up on region-specific building techniques to keep your home comfortably cool or warm, green building techniques, insulation materials, backup heating systems, such as geothermal heat pumps etc

I like the chapter on healthy air quality in passively conditional homes. This talks about health and environmental issues arising from various home designs, such as insulation material, air conditioning, ventilation. If you want to keep our planet and your family healthy, these are important things to consider before deciding on appropriate passive heating and cooling designs.

In my opinion, this book covers lots of valuable information on how to modify your house so you can live in a healthy and energy-efficient home.

You can find this book in many bookstores, as well as on
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Monday, August 1, 2011

How To Travel And Still Be Eco-Conscious

During summer vacation season, it can seem difficult to to travel and still be "eco-friendly,". However, there are plenty of options out there. In fact, there are so many ways that we can choose to stay environmentally conscientious when we travel that there really is no excuse for not doing it.

Here are a few ideas for families that are traveling and still want to stay in their eco-conscious state of mind. 

Southport, NC, October 4, 1999 -- Elevating ut...Image via WikipediaBefore you even leave your home there are ways that you can help save energy and waste.  Turn your thermostats down on your home and your hot water heater.  Some heaters have a "Vacation" setting right on them that can be used to set the temperature when no one will be around to need the heat.  Just keep in mind the plants that are left behind and as long as they will not be killed off due to the temperature change, you're set.  Be sure to turn off your outside water source, in the event that there is a pipe break while you're away, this will minimize the damage.  When you return home, turn the water back on slowly, where you will be able to be aware of any issues or leaks that may have occurred. 

If you are going to be away from home for a few days, stop your newspaper delivery.  That way the paper won't be left to end up in the trash receptacle and waste your time when you return home, sorting through what is relevant mail and what is not.  You may even want to check to see if your paper can be donated to a school or non-profit organization, where it will be used in your absence.

If you or someone else in your home sleeps on a water bed, turn the temperature down on that while you're away, you can go as low as a ten degree difference and it will have a positive impact on your energy usage.  If you have a refrigerator with the ability to make ice cubes, be sure to turn that part off by lifting the wire, and you can save energy and lessen the risk of flooding should it break while you're away. 

A flight coupon issued by Thai Airways Interna...Image via WikipediaThere are airlines that offer electronic ticketing and using these services will cut back on the paper waste generated by the airline, on a daily basis.  There are even some airlines that charge a fee if you have lost a paper ticket, so rid yourself of any of those problems by opting for the paper-less airline ticket options.

If you are heading out of town, before you leave, go around the house and unplug the items that you would normally leave plugged in, like the TV, the computer, cable converter boxes, appliances, VCRs, stereos, etc.  If these items are left plugged in to the outlets they can still draw or "leak" energy, even up to 40 watts per hour, even if they have been turned off.  I think this is one of the most important messages to get across before you leave for a vacation; even if your electronics are turned off, they can still cost you money if they remain plugged in.  Do yourself a big favor and always be sure to check these items before walking out the door to your vacation.

And to support alternative sources of energy, you may wish to purchase some "offsets" for your trip. Terrapass and Native Energy are two good sources to check out, and learn more about offsets and how they work, as well as other info on reducing your carbon footprint.

Now have fun, and enjoy your trip!
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