Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Detox & Weight Loss with The pH Miracle Diet

One of the biggest touted benefits of The pH Miracle Diet besides detoxification is weight loss. Many people have turned to this diet to lose weight as well as to improve their overall level of health The pH Miracle Diet is very efficient at removing extra weight.

English: Illustration of obesity and waist cir...
Illustration of obesity and waist circumference.Source: Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2000. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Obesity is a nationwide epidemic. According to recent studies, over 59 million adults over the age of 20 in the U.S. are obese (30 or more pounds overweight). One in three Americans have a some degree of being overweight that puts them at medical risk for many different conditions, including heart disease, heart attack, diabetes and hypertension. Even more startling is the number of children that qualify as overweight and obese. In the early 1990s the National Center for Health Statistics found that 15 percent of children between 6 and 19 were overweight, which was twice as much as the results found in the early 1980s. The numbers have grown even more significant. Today, 9 million children are at least 15 pounds overweight with many millions qualifying as obese.

What is to blame for these alarming obesity rates? The environment of highly acidic foods and high levels of stress have made for a disastrous combination. The more acidic a body becomes, the more fat the body will store. Overweight conditions result from too much acid in the body. Eliminating acid from the diet with The pH Miracle Diet will help most people lose weight.

The accumulation of fat is actually the body’s attempt to deal with the high levels of acid waste. Many people think that fat is bad and that fat is the enemy that needs to be attacked. Fat is just a symptom of a larger problem – acidity. You may be surprised to find out that your fat is saving your life. Fat is actually protecting your body from rising levels of acidity. When you eat massive amounts of sugar, starches, red meat, dairy products and other acidic foods, your body uses fat to bind to the acid to protect your cells.                           
English: This is a graph showing the rate of o...
A graph showing the rate of obesity in adults and the rate of being overweight in both children and adults in the United States from 1960 - 2004. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The acidic cycle in your body functions in the following way. When you eat foods that produce acid when they are digested, this acid builds up in your body. When the acid is not eliminated in a timely fashion, it can disturb other cells and get in the way of their functioning. Pretty soon, many cells in the body are being negatively affected by the presence of acid. However, the body has a line of defense in the form of fat. Dietary and body fat are both used to neutralize the acid. The acid bound fat is either eliminated or stored, depending on how much there is. The body can only rid itself of so much acid bound fat, so when you eat a lot of acidic foods you will store a lot of fat.

So people who are overweight and obese are actually showing signs of being too acid. Their diets are too much for their body to handle, so body fat is being used as a line of defense against the toxins. Fat is a symptom, not the main problem. Many people begin to think that eliminating fat from their diets is the key. However if they are still eating acidic foods they are actually robbing their bodies of the ability to protect themselves. Low-carbohydrate and high protein diets have high levels of fat, but the people on these diets need that fat because their diet is highly acidic (animal protein has acidifying effects).

The dietary solution for weight loss is to follow a program that is high in alkaline foods. The pH Miracle Diet balances out the acidity that you have been developing in your body, reduces your toxic load, and may help restore you to your ideal weight.

More Info On The pH Miracle Diet:
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Monday, October 29, 2012

Does Detoxing Help You Lose Weight?

If you want to lose weight you might be considering a detox plan. Although usually the main goal of a cleansing/detoxing program is to remove toxins from the body and restore healthy function, in recent years, many celebrities have touted detox plans as a quick weight loss strategy, and many people have found great success detoxing for weight loss. However, there are some facts to consider before using a detox program to lose weight.

Diet and Nutrition
(Photo credit: fantasyhealthball)
How Does Detoxing Help you Lose Weight?

Most detox diets require significant dietary restrictions. In fact, the Lemonade Diet or Master Cleanse diet limits you to drinking a lemon, maple syrup, water and cayenne pepper concoction throughout the day. You don't eat anything. When you reduce your caloric intake like this your body begins to burn its fat stores. The result is that you lose a lot of weight quickly.

However, there are repercussions to this type of weight loss. You regain the weight as soon as you begin to eat normally again. Studies have also shown that dieting like this can slow down your metabolism.

There is good news, though. Not all detox plans have these same harsh side effects. Some detox diets and plans - such as the Total Wellness Cleanse - can help you lose weight naturally and gradually. Detoxing helps purge the toxins from your fat cells. This process can help you lose weight faster once you start a diet and exercise program. A detox diet doesn't have to mean starvation. And you can also detox (or enhance your detox diet efforts) with tea, massage, saunas and detox baths. Purging the toxins from your body can help you get a clean slate before you begin a diet and fitness program.

Additional Dieting and Detox Benefits

Detoxing can also help you lose weight in a number of other surprising ways. One important example is the renewed energy that you’ll likely have once you’ve completed your detox program. Most people who have detoxified state that they have more energy and more mental clarity when they finish. This energy will help you get and stay motivated to stick to your diet and exercise program.

You may also sleep better. Studies have shown that quality sleep helps boost weight loss. It also helps you keep the weight off once you’ve lost it. Finally, when you have completed a detox program you’re going to feel healthier. You will have eliminated sugary foods and processed foods from your diet. This process essentially reprograms your taste buds and your metabolism. You won’t have the same cravings or desire for junk food. This helps you stick to your diet program and lose weight.

When detoxing for weight loss keep your long term goals in mind. Starvation detox programs don’t always offer the best solution. However, there are quality detox plans and programs that help you get healthy and lose weight naturally. Find the plan that is right for you.

We do review various detoxification and cleansing programs here on this blog, but so far our favorite has been the Total Wellness Cleanse - a gentle method that has you eat lots of whole, fresh natural foods, to help support your body's own natural detoxification systems without starving you or subjecting you to all kinds of crazy supplements and pills that may actually be hard on the body.
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Friday, October 26, 2012

Dark Chocolate: A Healthy Comfort Food

This week we're talking about healthy comfort foods, and few foods in the world have been considered as comforting as CHOCOLATE, so there's no better way to wrap up!  We’ve been starting to hear for a while now that dark chocolate is not only not bad for you, it’s actually being considered a health food.  But this can’t be true, right?  It has to be a hoax by the chocolate companies to get us to buy more candy, doesn’t it?  Actually, more and more studies are finding that dark chocolate, in moderation, is very good for your health.

English: Dark chocolate. Español: Chocolate negro.
Dark chocolate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Dark chocolate is chock full of antioxidants.  These are the powerful chemicals that neutralize free radicals.  These are dangerous particles from the food you eat, the air you breathe, the cosmetics you put on your skin, and from pretty much everywhere.  In short, antioxidants prevent cell damage that can cause everything from heart disease to cancer. 

Dark chocolate also contains plant phenols, which have been shown to lower blood pressure.  Many studies have been done, not just on plant phenols, but on dark chocolate specifically, that have shown by eating a small amount of dark chocolate each day, you can actually help to treat moderate high blood pressure.  The key is replacing other similar foods in your diet with dark chocolate to compensate for the added calories.  Just remember that dark chocolate does not replace eating your vegetables!

Many people look at dark chocolate labels and assume it’s bad for you because of the fat content, but not all fat is bad for you (I emphasized this because so many people have this misconception).  Dark chocolate can contain different kinds of fat, but it does contain quite a bit of fats that are good for you.  They help keep your body running properly and even can help prevent certain diseases.

When it comes to picking dark chocolate, you need to be particular.  My mom often picks up dark chocolate at the grocery store because she’s heard from her friends and the news how good it is for you.  The problem is, if you look at most regular store brand “dark chocolate”, it’s probably at most 59% cacao, and even that’s on the high side realistically.  To be truly healthy, dark chocolate should be at least 65% cacao.

English: Bars of black Swiss Chocolate. From l...
Bars of black Swiss Chocolate. From left to right: About 75% cacao; With chili; Normal black chocolate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
While you may be able to find it at a regular grocery store, you’re probably better off looking at an organic market or health food store.  Regular stores often don’t carry it because most people don’t consider true dark chocolate as tasty as regular chocolate.  You can find dark chocolate at most organic markets and health food stores, as well as health-oriented chains like Trader Joe's.  The beauty of these places is that you can also often find different varieties like cherry chocolate and other flavors.  They provide a tasty treat without removing any of the health benefits.

So, if dark chocolate is so good for you, why don’t you get the same benefits from milk chocolate or white chocolate?  While you may not know this - it's not just the added sugar - it's the milk.  Some chemicals in milk tend to interfere with many of the powerful, healthy chemicals in the chocolate.  That means not only should you go for darker chocolates, you should also never wash down your healthy snack with a glass of milk.  If you must drink milk, hold off until later in the day.

Like everything else, dark chocolate is good for you in moderation, so this doesn't mean you should pig out on it every day. But just a like a small glass of red wine, a small piece of dark chocolate daily can be a healthy and tasty treat.

You Can Even Buy Dark Chocolate Online:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Healthy Alternatives to White Pasta or Rice

If you're thinking of your favorite comfort food, most likely it contains either pasta or rice. (Or chocolate - we'll cover that on Friday!) :-)  Pasta and white rice are staples in pantries around the world.  They go with just about anything from gravy to tomato sauce; they’re filling and they’re quite tasty.  The trouble is they have very little nutritional value, and a diet rich in white pasta and rice has now been linked to health problems including systemic inflammation (leading to heart disease), diabetes and other complications. 

The good news is that there are some wonderful, nutritious and delicious alternatives to white pasta or rice. 

* Quinoa is a protein-rich grain which is native to the Andes.  This is one of my favorites. It has a delightful flavor and is easy to prepare.  It tastes great as a cold salad or hot.  It can also be made into pasta.

Whole wheat penne pasta (Photo credit: flavorrelish)
* Whole wheat pasta has become such a high demand product that you can often find it in your local supermarket right alongside the traditional white pasta.  It’s higher in fiber, protein, B vitamins, and minerals than standard white flour varieties. 

* Buckwheat is another alternative to consider.  Ever have soba noodles?  Soba is made from buckwheat and is high in protein and fiber.  It’s delicious with Japanese recipes and flavors and also wonderful in soup.

* Spelt, commonly used to make gluten-free bread and cereal, can also be used to make pasta. It has a sweet, nutty flavor. 

* Brown rice is just as filling and versatile as white rice but it’s much healthier for you.  It is a great source of fiber, has a bit of protein and other nutrients and has a delightful texture and a richer, nuttier flavor and aroma than white rice. 

* While corn isn’t typically made into pasta, it is what makes up polenta.  Polenta is great with traditional Italian flavors like tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.  It makes a tasty white pasta replacement. 

Spaghetti squash "noodles". (Photo credit: famfriendsfood)
* Finally, consider trying vegetables like zucchini or spaghetti squash as the foundation for your next pasta meal.  Zucchini can be sliced thin, about the width of linguini, sautéed for a few seconds and then topped with pasta sauce and cheese as you normally would.  Spaghetti squash is prepared by baking and then can be scraped out with a fork to look like spaghetti - it can be used in many traditional comfort food dishes in place of spaghetti or noodles, and can also be baked in casseroles.

So the next time you’re searching for an alternative to white pasta and/or white rice to make your favorite comfort food, consider one of these tasty options.  Most are just as affordable, easy to prepare and they’re healthier and more delicious that the old standby. 

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Monday, October 22, 2012

7 Ways to Make Your Favorite Comfort Foods Healthier

It's fall, moving towards winter, and the time for warm, yummy bowls of comfort food! The problem is,  comfort foods tend to be high in calories, and we tend to eat more of them, and exercise less, during the colder months. So what's a health-conscious comfort-food craver to do?

Instead of chowing down on needless sugar and fat calories, why not try one of these healthy comfort food alternatives instead?  Making small adjustments to your already satisfying foods will help you cut the calories without cutting the taste.

Home made macaroni and cheese, with some dried...
Home made macaroni and cheese, with some dried herbs and ground pepper. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Pasta is a great way to make you feel full and satisfied, but it’s also a great way to pack on the pounds.  In your favorite pasta dish, try substituting whole grain or sprouted grain pasta. Sprouted grains are not only easier on the digestion, but they also contain healthful enzymes and additional nutrients which are more available to the body.  For an extra dose of health food, be sure to add fresh or frozen vegetables. 

* Macaroni and cheese is one of the all-time top comfort foods, but it’s also pretty fatty.  Next time try making it with regular whole milk, but substituting some lower-fat cheese.  It will still have the creamy goodness you love, without quite as much of the fat. (And as mentioned above, use whole-grain pasta.)

* Almost everyone out there loves chocolate when they’re stressed or sad, but you can still indulge without expanding your waistline.  Instead of using milk chocolate in your recipes, try using dark chocolate, or cocoa powder when cooking.  They have all the good taste of chocolate, but they’re chock full of antioxidants and other healthy things.  Just remember, milk cuts down on the healthy benefits of dark chocolate, so use it sparingly in these recipes.

* Love hamburgers, meat loaf, or anything else with ground beef?  Try substituting all or some of the ground beef in your recipes with ground turkey - or even better - venison if you can get it.  It has a similar taste, but is much much leaner, and isn't full of the hormones and chemicals of traditionally raised beef. Even using a half and half mix can cut down on fat and calories in your meal. And if you must have beef, be sure it's organic and grass-fed!  Grass-fed beef is not only lower in fat, but it is much higher in Omega-3 fatty acids, and healthier for you overall.
Chicken soup is a common classic comfort food ...
Chicken soup is a common classic comfort food across many cultures. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

* Soup is great food for a cold day.  But instead of using canned soup, next time make your own.  Canned soups have tons of salt and preservatives.  Simply by making the soup yourself instead of relying on cans makes the dish a whole lot healthier.  Plus, you can make it just how your family likes it, and add all kinds of tasty and healthy ingredients!

* When I’m settling down and ready to eat a satisfying dinner, I LOVE mashed potatoes.  To me there’s nothing better...except for maybe healthier mashed potatoes.  By adding buttermilk instead of cream, you can keep the rich creamy taste with a lot less fat. Try my favorite - garlic mashed potatoes - or other herbs and seasonings which add flavor without fat. And if you have organically grown potatoes, you can try leaving some of the skins on - this provides visual interest, and retains more of the vitamins and nutrients of the potato.

* There is one way sure-fire way to help turn any food into a comfort food and that’s spices.  When you cut back on fat and calories, some food may a tendency to get bland, so when making a new healthy recipe, pump up the spice. Turmeric and cinnamon are two super-powered spices when it comes to health, but many other herbs and spices are really good for you too. Try experimenting with different spices and quantities until you get it just right.

However, keep in mind that the healthiest foods are whole foods - the way God made them - which are naturally packed full of flavor anyway. The bland stuff tends to be processed and have  much of the nutrients and flavor removed, which is why we add fat and sugar to make it palatable! (See my previous posts on this Why We Need A New Definition of Healthy, and Why Real Food Tastes Good.) So if you're eating lots of fresh, healthy, whole and natural foods, in most cases you may not need to spice them up that much after all.

For more healthy eating ideas and tips, plus lots of great from-scratch recipes you can easily make at home, visit our Cooking From Scratch blog!
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Friday, October 19, 2012

Video - Green Halloween Ideas

This quick video gives you some great ideas for an eco-friendly Halloween. From home-made candy bags, to spooky homemade decorations, to what to do with your leftover Jack-o-Lanterns, this video offers helpful tips for having a safe, fun, and green Halloween!

Make your Halloween a green one. From decorations to costumes, how you can help the environment and your pocketbook.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

8 Tips for An Eco-Friendly Halloween Party

Decided what you're going to be this year? I love coming up with my own costume ideas, and rarely buy anything for them other than a few accessories. This year I'm going to a Halloween ball as a corpse bride - I just have to make the veil and I'm ready to go!

For many adults and children alike Halloween is the best holiday of the year.  With all the candy and costumes and parties, it’s an immensely fun time.  Now you can enhance the fun by eliminating waste and any associated guilt by throwing a zero-waste eco-friendly Halloween party!  Here are some tips:

Halloween Costumes
Halloween Costumes (Photo credit: Transguyjay)
#1.  Start with the invitations.  Electronic invitations or evites are invitations without paper.  They’re sent via email.  That means no trees are cut down in the name of your party.

#2.  Give it a home-made theme.  Encourage attendees to make their costumes themselves from things they have lying around the house. You could even hold a contest for the most eco-friendly costume.

#3.  Use recycled or reusable party ware.  Plates, napkins, glasses and all party decorations can be made from recycled materials or use your own plates, cloth napkins and cups.  You an also buy compostable party ware, like plates and cups made from corn.

#4.  Decorate with natural items like soy candles, jack-o-lanterns and cotton webbing instead of synthetic (the cotton kind, and your jack-o-lanterns, can be composted). 

Jack-o-lantern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
#5.  Compost leftovers.  Composting is a great way to make use of leftovers and you can use the finished compost to help indoor and outdoor plants thrive.

#6.  Play games.  Games are part of a fun party and guess what?  Bobbing for apples has zero waste if you use the leftover water to water your plants.  Charades and scavenger hunts also have zero waste.

#7.  Recycle anything that cannot be reused.  For example, if you purchase soda or juice for the party you can recycle the containers.  Or you can use them to create compost scoops, bird feeders, piñatas, or bat houses to keep with the Halloween theme.

#8.  Finally, consider only serving natural foods without wrappers. Home-made caramel corn, candy apples and apple pies are all delicious treats.  There’s no waste and not a chance that there will be any leftovers!

Halloween is a great time of the year - one of my favorite holidays.  The air is crisp, children are laughing and everyone gets one night to play make-believe.  Enjoy your Halloween and throw an eco-friendly party this year!
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Monday, October 15, 2012

Natural Remedy: The Many Uses of Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is the essential oil derived from the leaves of the Melaleuca tree.  The tree is found in Australia.  It has been heralded for having anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties that make it a favorite among alternative health professionals and natural practitioners.

Rather than using over-the-counter or prescription anti-fungal medicines, you may want to try the natural anti-fungal tea tree oil instead.  Here are just a few ways tea tree oil can be used:

Tea Tree Oil
Tea Tree Oil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* To treat athlete’s foot
* To treat toe fungus
* To treat acne
* To treat Candida and thrush
* To treat vaginal infections
* To treat contact dermatitis – allergic reactions
* To treat cuts and scrapes
* To treat dandruff, psoriasis and other scalp/hair related dryness and issues
* To treat burns
* To treat lice
* To treat herpes
* To treat Staph infections

Application of Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil, unlike other supplements, isn’t to be taken orally.  It’s commonly made into a tincture or added to inactive ingredients before applying directly to the skin.  For example, a common dose is 5-10% tea tree oil in gel or shampoo form.

Full-strength 100% tea tree oil can and is often used to treat fungal nail infections or skin infections.  It can also be used in full form as an antiseptic or antibacterial treatment.  In some products to treat acne, benzoyl peroxide and tea tree oil are both at 5% and combined with inactive ingredients. 

Tea Tree Oil Isn’t Safe for Everyone

Tea tree oil is known to cause allergic reactions in some people, and should not be used if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.  Allergic reactions include mild contact dermatitis to severe blistering rashes.

English: little bottle of Tea Tree Oil Česky: ...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A few smaller studies have also connected tea tree oil to altering hormone levels, so if your hormones are sensitive or you are pregnant or breastfeeding it should be avoided.  Additionally, it’s been connected with breast enlargement in boys so adolescent males may want to avoid tea tree oil.

Additionally, while tea tree oil may be found in mouthwash and toothpaste these products should only be used by adults who do not swallow their toothpaste and mouthwash.  Tea tree oil when consumed can cause impaired immune function, diarrhea, fatigue and in extreme cases even coma.

Tea tree oil is one of the wonderful things nature has given us.  However, it isn’t to be taken lightly.  Use it as it's intended, speak with a physician if you have questions or concerns, and enjoy the benefits of this wonderful and powerful oil.

Buy Tea Tree Oil Online:
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Friday, October 12, 2012

Video - Straw Bale Construction Examples & Benefits

This really short video lists a number of benefits of straw bale construction, along with a number of photos of straw bale homes and the usage of straw bales as building materials. Whether you are using straw bales to build your home, or just as insulation, there are some interesting uses for this eco-friendly and economical material. See below the video for some other resources on straw bale building if you would like to learn more.

Benefits Of Straw Bale Construction A short clip about the benefits of straw bale construction... If your interested in learning natural building, visit http for workshop dates...

Learn More About Straw Bale Construction: 

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

7 Benefits Of Straw Bale Construction

We mentioned straw as a "green" insulation material, but the use of straw as a building material goes back centuries (remember the 3 Little Pigs?). :-)  Straw bales as building materials became very popular over a century ago, as settlers in Nebraska found themselves in need of shelter but with very little lumber. They contrived straw bale buildings, and interestingly enough, this building style is enjoying a resurgence in modern times. These early structures used straw bales to bear the weight of the roof; this load-bearing style is therefore called Nebraska-style.

English: Building a straw-bale house Français ...
Building a straw-bale house. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
More common today is the post-and-beam style, which consists of a traditional frame of wooden posts and beams. The straw bales are used as a fill for the walls. In both styles, the bales are covered with plaster. There are quite a few benefits to straw bale constructions, some of which are discussed below.

1. Reduce your carbon footprint
The straw used in straw bale structures is entirely contained in the wall, which means that the carbon absorbed while the straw was growing as wheat, oats, or other grains will not be released into the atmosphere. Also, straw bale construction uses a common waste product, straw, that would normally be burned or otherwise disposed of. Finally, using straw decreases the need for other natural resources, particularly lumber.

2. Fire resistance
It may seem counter-intuitive, but straw bales are actually more fire resistant than the average lumber house. Why? The bales are packed so tightly that not enough oxygen penetrates them to feed a fire. Fire tends only to smolder in straw bales, rather than going up in flames.

3. Insulation
The real savings in straw bale structures is in energy costs. Straw makes an excellent insulation against temperature and noise. People who are building near an airport or highway may want to consider straw bale construction.

4. Save on labor costs
Straw bales are easy to stack, like big blocks, which means a "work party" of volunteers can help build your structure for much less money than a typical contractor.

Straw Bale House
Straw Bale House (Photo credit: Todd Dwyer)
5. Straw is free of chemicals
Unlike flake board, plywood, drywall, fiberglass insulation, and other building materials, straw contains no artificial chemicals and won't outgas any harmful fumes.

6. Termites don't like it
Termites just don't find straw palatable. Unlike hay, straw has no food value to termites or other vermin.

7. No allergy worries
Also unlike hay, straw has no leftover flower or plant parts and thus no pollen. That's why certain allergic reactions are called hay fever, not straw fever!

Straw bale construction is worth considering, especially if you live in a climate with temperature extremes or in an area with a great deal of noise. And last but not least, when covered with smooth plaster, straw bale constructions are very attractive. While this method of building construction may be new to you, as you can see there are many benefits, and in some cases it can be a very economical and environmentally friendly choice.
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Monday, October 8, 2012

Choosing Greener Insulation Materials

Last week we talked about getting your home ready for winter, including checking seals for drafts, and adding insulation where needed. But some types of insulation are healthier to use in your home than others.

Because it is hidden in our walls, most of us do not really think about insulation or what it's made of. But more and more people are looking to "green" options for insulating their homes and buildings, not only because it's healthier for the occupants, but also because the manufacture and use of green insulation is better for the environment. Mainstream insulation can contain fiberglass, formaldehyde, and other toxic components. Here are some examples of eco-friendly, healthy insulation materials you may not have thought of, but which can be great alternatives to traditional insulation material choices.

- Jeans
The denim fabric of a jeans
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yes, jeans - as in blue jeans. Some insulation companies recycle the waste denim from blue jeans manufacturers and make it into insulation. This cotton fiber is just as effective as fiberglass, and works for thermal as well as noise insulation. It is treated with borate, a non-toxic chemical that does not outgas and acts as a fire retardant and mold inhibitor. Plus you're encouraging recycling - bet you didn't know you could recycle your jeans as anything other than shorts!

- Cellulose
Cellulose is made from recycled or finely-shredded newspaper. There are options as to its installation: it can be blown into crevices and walls, and it's also available in boards and pads. It is also chemically treated with non-toxic substances to reduce susceptibility to fire and mold.

- Straw
One of the oldest insulators, straw is making a comeback. Tightly-bound bales are stacked within wall studs and covered with plaster. Baled in this way, straw is fire-resistant but prone to moisture absorption, so it's not a good option for humid climates.

English: A sample of a sheep wool insulation batt.
A sample of a sheep wool insulation batt. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
- Wool
Another common clothing ingredient, wool makes excellent insulation. You have the option of having it treated chemically to reduce the risk of insect infestation. It has been used successfully without being so treated, and if you want to avoid chemicals altogether, you can try it untreated. Wool is naturally resistant to fire.

- Hemp
Naturally resistant to insects, hemp does not need to be chemically treated with insecticide. It is fairly dense and offers insulating properties similar to wool.

- Spray Foam
There are such things as eco-friendly, spray foam insulations. Water-based spray is a mix of carbon dioxide and water, and it is sprayed into spaces where it swells and fills the space like traditional, synthetic foams. Another kind of spray foam insulation is made with a combination of naturally-derived magnesium dioxide and compressed air. It is mold and fire resistant, and is particularly good insulation against noise.

Whether you are re-insulating an existing home or building your own structure from the ground up, there are quite a few options for non-toxic insulation that will improve your indoor air quality and be easier on the planet.

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Video - Home Winterizing Tips

In this short video, a home improvement expert demonstrates several tips for winterizing your home and getting your home ready for the energy needs of winter, while keeping your electric bills down through increased efficiency.

How to winterize your home for comfort and energy efficiency
Lou Manfredini discusses ways to winterize your home. Tips include: getting a professional furnace inspection and tune-up; replacing old, drafty windows and doors with quality, energy-efficient products from a manufacturer such as Marvin; weather str...

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Save Energy With A Programmable Thermostat

Programmable thermostats are quite possibly your single biggest tool to conserve energy and to reduce your utility expense each month.  In addition to those marvelous benefits of saving energy and money, programmable thermostats offer a number of additional perks.

Benefits of Programmable Thermostats

Lux Products' Model TX900TS Touch Screen Therm...
Lux Products' Model TX9000TS Touch Screen Thermostat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Typically, you will save about $150 each year on your heating and cooling bill, and you can save more depending on how you program your thermostat.

* Programmable thermostats are more earth friendly because they don’t contain any mercury. 

* When you use a programmable thermostat, you will use less energy to heat or cool your home and therefore you’ll reduce your carbon footprint – fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

* For homeowners who work outside the home during the day and have a different schedule on the weekend, a programmable thermostat can offer many benefits.  On the other hand, if you are home throughout the day, seven days a week, then a programmable thermostat will offer more limited benefits.

* Programmable thermostats remove the work from heating and cooling your home.  Once you've programmed your thermostat, you can adopt a hands-off approach and know you’re going to be comfortable while saving money and energy – it’s extremely convenient and efficient.

* Programmable thermostats can be programmed differently for each day of the week.  This is wonderfully convenient if you work from home two days a week and would like it to be warmer or cooler at that time.  On the days when you’re out of the home during the day you can set your thermostat lower during the winter and higher during the summer to save more money. 

You don’t need the temperature to be 70 during the winter if you’re not home; you can let it drop to 65 or even cooler and then set your thermostat to warm up your home when you’re scheduled to arrive. 

* Programmable thermostats have override features, which allow you to modify your program temporarily.  This is convenient if for example, you don’t go into work as you would normally and you wish to warm or cool the house to a more temperate level than if you weren’t at home.  You simply set the temperature you want it to be and it will stay there until your next scheduled temperature change.

English: A residential electronic thermostat
A residential electronic thermostat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If, for example, you have your thermostat scheduled to warm the house from 63 degrees at 9am to 68 at 5pm then your override will hold until 5pm at which point it will switch to the new program.

Many programmable thermostats also offer a hold feature that allows you to simply set the temperature and keep it there until you change it.  This might be used if you’re going on vacation and don’t need your home’s temperature to fluctuate.  If you’re taking a vacation during the winter, for example, you can simply hold your home’s temperature at 55 degrees Fahrenheit and know that your pipes won’t freeze and you won’t be wasting energy and money while you’re gone.

Programmable thermostats are great for saving money on your heating and cooling bills and they’re extremely earth friendly.  In addition to those two primary benefits, programmable thermostats provide a convenience unrivaled by standard thermostats which require you to adjust them each time you wish to change the temperature in your home.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Fall Energy-Saving Tips: Insulating Your Home

Well, we can't deny it any longer - summer is over.... The leaves are falling, the mornings are crisp, and we're back to sleeping with blankets. It's fall!  And fall is always a great time to assess your energy usage and find ways to keep those energy bills as low as possible through the winter. This week we've got several helpful tips for winterizing your home and saving energy. Today we're going to talk about insulating your home.

Rockwool Thermal insulation, scanned @ 1600dpi...
Rockwool Thermal insulation, scanned @ 1600dpi; Type Roxul RXL 80. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Insulation can be a confusing topic.  How much is enough?  What are the right materials?  What insulation is safe and what insulation material is unsafe and potentially harmful to your health and the environment.  Lets address those questions and clear the air about home insulation.

Insulation Facts

  • Insulation is measured by R value.  The greater the R-value, the greater the insulation power of the insulation.
  • The US department of energy recommends an R-value of R-49 for the attics of homes in most states.
  • If you live in south Florida, Texas, or California then R-38 is typically all you’ll need.
  • Most regional building codes for new construction require a minimum of R-19 in walls and floors. 

Three Types of Insulation
Insulation comes in more forms than the pink roll you see on television.  The three main types are:

Blown-In Insulation. This type of insulation is the easiest to install and is usually the ideal choice for upgrading your home.  Essentially, insulation ingredients are fed into a blower and then it’s forced into the necessary spaces.  This type of insulation is usually made of cellulose, rock wool, polyurethane foam, or fiberglass.  Cellulose, made of recycled newspaper treated with a flame retardant, is the most popular choice. 

Blanket Insulation is probably what you’re most familiar with and is typically used in new construction.  It comes in rolls where it can easily be laid onto floors and ceilings and inserted into walls.   It’s made of rock wool or fiberglass.  Easy because it doesn’t require professional installation.

Polyisocyanurate insulation boards
Polyisocyanurate (rigid) insulation boards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Rigid Insulation is tough and offers close to R5 per inch.  The panels are comprised of expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) or extruded polystyrene foam (XPS).  This insulation is typically used on basement interior walls. 

The drawback to this type of insulation is that it is flammable and composed of an ingredient that isn’t degradable or recyclable.  Both mineral wool and cellulose are environmentally friendly. Though cellulose is flammable unless treated with a flame retardant. 

Where Do You Insulate?

Attics are the primary place people think to insulate.  The recommended minimum amount of insulation is usually a minimum of R-49.

Crawlspaces are another common place to insulate because they are prime areas to lose heat and energy. 

Walls are the final location to consider insulating.  This includes both exterior and non-insulated above ground basement walls. 

House Insulation R Values
  • R value of Blown in Cellulose Insulation is 3.70 per inch
  • R value of Fiberglass Insulation is 3.14 per inch 
  • R value of Expanded Polystyrene is 4.00 per inch
Remember you’re looking for an R value of 49 for your attic. This means if you have less than 15 inches of fiberglass for example, then you’re home needs another few inches of insulation. 

Insulating your home is a valuable way to save energy.  With a little research into the present state of your insulation, you can quickly ascertain whether your home could benefit with a little extra padding.  Pay attention to condensation on your windows and your roofline during the winter.  Rapid snowmelt on your roof and condensation on the inside of your windows can be signals that you have too little insulation.
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