Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Choose Chemical-Free Deicers This Winter

There's no question about it, it's winter! Along with winter in most areas of the country comes the inevitable bouts of snow and ice. Ice buildup on your walkways can not only be a hassle, it can actually be dangerous. People in your family can slip and fall on the ice. It could cause your car to slip, and ice can also damage your trees and shrubs in your garden.

The answer a lot of people turn to is deicers. Deicers can help you get rid of the ice, but can be damaging in their own way. A lot of them contain corrosive ingredients that can damage metals, stone and glass.

So what can you do? Here are a few tips:

A sequence of winter precipitation: several in...
Snow and ice. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Don't Use Too Much

A common misconception about deicers is that they're supposed to actually remove ice. They're not. If you're using your deicer as your primary vehicle for removing ice, chances are you're using far too much.

The deicer's job is to lower the freezing point, so the bottom layer of the snow or ice melts. You can then use a shovel to move all the ice out. It's more of a loosening agent than a removal agent.

So if you want to keep your property in good shape, don't over do it on the deicer.

Watch Out For Plants

A lot of deicers are labeled as "safe for plants," but many of them really aren't. People don't catch the damage to their plants because it doesn't happen right away. Your plants and shrubs are most likely dormant for the winter, so you don't suddenly start to see your plants wilting the moment you pour deicer on top.

Instead, your plants just won't grow healthily after winter time. They might grow more slowly, have stunted leaves or have some sort of other issue.

English: Picture of solid form of rock salt us...
Solid form of rock salt used for ice removal on streets. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What Are Your Options?

There are a few different environmentally friendly, property-safe ways to get rid of ice.

Your best option is an extract made from limestone and vinegar called calcium magnesium acetate (CMA.) CMA is more expensive than your average salt-based deicer. But it's also much better for your plants as well as for concrete and for windshields. As far as researchers can tell, it's basically non-corrosive.

There are a number of deicers you can use that are fine for plants, but damaging to concrete. You can use these for your garden areas, but don't use it on sidewalks.

If you have pets, this whole equation changes. Deicers can be deadly to pets. Pets tend to run around everywhere in the house and will walk on almost every pathway. If that pathway has chemicals or salts, your pet could poison himself when he licks his paws.

There are a number of environmentally friendly products on the market that are safe for plants, animals and concrete. Ice Melt and Safe Paw are two well known options. Calcium magnesium acetate is also generally regarded as safe for pets.

These are some of the most important things to keep in mind when you're choosing a deicer. Remember that sometimes it's worth spending a little more, especially when the safety of your plants, animals and property are involved.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Eco-Friendly Tips for Keeping Your Home Warm

It's the holiday season, and your home may be filled with the warmth of family and friends - but you need to keep them warm too! Heating your home in the winter can not only be expensive, but also detrimental to the environment. Did you know that an astounding 4 tons of greenhouse gases are emitted by the average house just to keep it heated during the winter? Between the gas burned, the electricity used and the wood incinerated, the amount of greenhouse emissions is enormous. Learning to keep your home warm in an eco-friendly manner is not only better for the environment, but in many cases much more affordable.

So how do you keep your home warm in an eco-friendly way?

1. Seal Off Your Fireplace

Martel and van Over have friends for dinner an...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you have a fireplace, make sure you close both the gate inside the chimney, as well as the gate in front of the fireplace. Even just a small opening in your fireplace can result in cold air rushing into your home.

It's important to note that most fireplaces really don't produce heat. If you don't use the fireplace often, it might make more sense to seal it up and get an electric fireplace instead.

2. Install Storm Windows

Storm windows cost just over $10 a square foot to install. They will repay for their costs very quickly.

Your windows are usually the biggest source of heat loss in your home. Neither concrete nor wood nor drywall loses nearly as much heat as glass. Glass transfers hot and cold temperatures, if it's cold outside the glass will get cold and make the inside of your home cold as well.

Storm windows alone can boost your indoor temperature by 25 to 35 degrees. Just install them on the outside of your window and you're set.

English: A Hunter-branded "Eclipse",...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
3. Spread the Heat Around

A lot of people heat their homes in a very ineffective manner. They have heaters running, but the heat just raises straight up to the ceiling and hangs out there. Heat naturally rises and doesn't travel sideways.

There are a of couple solutions for this. If you have a ceiling fan, turn it on. It seems counter intuitive to turn a fan on when it's cold, but it can really go a long way towards spreading the heat around.

You can also get thermodynamic fans that you place on top of heaters. These fans are powered by the heat itself, so you don't need to plug them in. They're green and energy efficient and can help blow warm air throughout your home.

4. The Smoke Trick

Finally, seal off any sources of air into your home. These could be from loose window seals, from the sides of doors, from loose plumbing and more.

How do you find these tiny gaps? Just light a candle. Walk around the house with your candle. Anywhere you suspect there might be a leak, put the candle near it. If there's wind, the flame or the smoke will move. Seal whatever leaks you find.

Keeping your house warm doesn't have to cost a bundle every year. These techniques will help you keep your house warm for very little cost, as well as keep your family eco-friendly and green.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

5 Holiday Recycling Tips

The holidays are a time of joy and celebration - But they can also be a time of waste. People often throw all kinds of things away during the holidays and create all kinds of trash that ends up in the landfills. A lot of this waste can be avoided.

Here are five tips to help improve your recycling this holiday season, and reduce your environmental impact - which is a great gift to the planet!

Tip #1: Recycle Your Batteries

Electric batteries.
Batteries. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Don't throw away batteries. Batteries contain chemicals that pollute landfills and poison land. Yet most people simply chuck their batteries in the garbage can when they're done. Worse yet, a lot of the toys and gifts exchanged during the holidays have batteries in them, so more batteries are used this time of year than any other. Luckily there are more options available every day for responsibly disposing of used batteries.

How do you recycle your batteries? Simple. Collect them and take them to RadioShack or Home Depot. That's right - They'll recycle your batteries for you, for free.

Tip #2: Recycle Your Catalogs

Holiday season is also catalog season. Chances are you're going to get a whole slew of catalogs in the mail, even if you never asked for them.

Don't throw them away. Instead, collect all of them and recycle them. Do this for all the papers, mailers and various scraps that'll come your way in the holiday season. This includes greeting cards that you don't plan on keeping.

Tip #3: Shipping Materials

If you're shipping presents to other people, pack your boxes with newspaper. It works just as well as Styrofoam, but is easier on the environment. Not only is Styrofoam made of toxic chemicals that clog up landfills, the process to make them is toxic as well.

If you're receiving gifts in the mail, make sure you recycle all the shipping materials. Recycle your cardboard boxes and any packaging you can.

English: Gift ideas for men - wrapping paper e...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Tip #4: Buy Recyclable Gift Wrap

Not all gift wrap is recyclable. When you're shopping for wrapping, look for the recyclable symbol. The more people who buy recyclable gift wraps, the more likely stores are to stock them in the future.

Don't be shy about telling people you give gifts to that the gift wrap can be recycled. A lot of people just won't know.

Tip #5: Reuse, Reuse, Reuse

Reusing something is far better than recycling something. When you recycle something, be it plastic or paper, only a fraction of what you throw out can actually be reused. Recycling is also an energy intensive process. When you reuse something, you skip all of that.

Reuse your boxes. Re-gift presents that you don't like. Store your artificial Christmas tree for next year instead of throwing it out. Look for creative ways to reuse things instead of just tossing it in the trash or recycle bin.

These five tips will help you stay eco-friendly this holiday season. Get in the habit of asking yourself: "Can I recycle or reuse this?"

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Clean Your Countertops With Natural & Organic Cleaners

Your countertops handle a lot of different activity. In the kitchen, your countertops hold appliances, cutting boards for food preparation, dishware in preparation for serving food, and in many cases, it’s where we put the groceries we bring in from the car until we put the food away.

English: Our humble house kitchen with updated...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bacteria from food preparation lands on your countertops. Food from meals ends up on your countertops, and dirt from the groceries also sticks to the countertop. Kids put all kinds of things on them - from a flower plucked out of the yard, to rocks, to sticky, dirty hands - and your countertops begin to collect dirt and start to look grimy.

Bacteria and grime in the kitchen is the number one cause of the spread of germs that can make your family sick. You want to keep your countertops free from anything that can harm your family - but that also includes cleaning supplies.

When you wipe the counters and surrounding areas with a cleaning solution or a cleaning wipe that’s soaked in solution, whatever chemicals are in that product are now on your countertops mixing with your food, and also getting onto your kids’ hands and maybe in their mouths!

This is why it's a good idea to use an organic and natural countertop cleaning solution. You can easily find these products in a variety of sizes and natural ingredients designed to clean your countertops, deodorize them and give your kitchen a pleasant scent, too - without harmful perfumes and chemicals.

Ava Anderson Non-Toxic Countertop Spray 
Party Code: 42532
You also want a cleaner that’s gentle on your surfaces. Natural all-purpose countertop sprays often come in a variety of scents such as basil, lavender, and more. The vegetable protein in these cleaners helps keep kitchen odors down, too.

Of course, you don’t want to have to buy one cleaner for your kitchen countertops and a separate kind for your bathroom counters - you want one that can do both jobs. An organic all-purpose cleaner is intended for both bathroom and kitchen counters.

Sometimes there are quick spills that you want to wipe up, or you might have dropped a piece of uncooked meat onto the counter and you quickly want to clean and disinfect that area without bringing out the spray. You’ll want something handy nearby. For that purpose, you can use disinfecting wipes that contain natural and organic ingredients.

When you have tougher dirt or stains such as a scuffmark from a can or other kitchen gadget, you can clean this by using an organic cleaner that has cornstarch in the ingredients. These types of cleaners can also take ink stains off counters; so if you were writing out a grocery list and accidentally marked on the counter, an organic cleaner with coconut oil plus cornstarch can take that right out.

Try Amazon.com to find some natural and organic countertop cleaners, or you can also shop at natural online retailers such as Ava Anderson Non-Toxic, who has a full line of all-natural cleaning products, beauty products, and more. (Use Party Code 42532 when checking out.)


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Healthier & Greener Beauty Products Make Great Holiday Gifts!

The average woman in America wears 515 chemicals every day, just from the beauty products, skin care, and personal care items she uses on a regular basis. And it's not just women; men are also exposed to many harmful chemicals in deodorants, shampoos, shaving lotions, and more. Buying healthier products is not only better for your health, it's also a great way to give the gift of health this holiday season!

Ava Anderson Non-Toxic beauty, personal care, & cleaning products.
Party Code: 42532

There are a number of companies boasting "natural" or organic products these days, but not all of them are all they claim to be. Many "natural" products still contain harmful chemicals - or chemicals which can combine to form harmful substances, such as formaldehyde. And it only gets more confusing as more and more companies jump on the "natural" bandwagon. By law, manufacturers can put the "natural" label on just about anything, as long as it contains even ONE naturally-sourced ingredient! Organic is a bit stricter, but companies can still advertise "organic ingredients," while including other chemicals as well.

So how can you be sure you're choosing safer products? Check out our recent blog posts at New Holistic Living for a list of 18 chemicals to avoid when shopping for beauty and personal care products.

Or choose products from companies such as Miessence, and Ava Anderson, which use ONLY natural ingredients - and most are also organically grown. (For a special on Ava Anderson products this month, use "Party Code: 42532" when checking out - good through December 31.)

And visit NewHolisticLiving.com for a list of recommended safer, cleaner, and greener products to help you reduce your toxic load and live (and shop) greener this year!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Create Holiday Decorations Your Way

Once you get the menu planned for your holiday celebration, you most likely will start thinking about decorating.  But when you think of the price of decorations, you panic.  How will you be able to create a festive atmosphere on a tight budget?  It's not difficult if you keep in mind that sometimes simple is best.  Let's take a look at how you can create decorations you love while staying within your budget - and keeping the environment clean at the same time.

Minnesota Governor's Residence, Music room. Ch...
Christmas tree with home-made decorations. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Stay True to Your Style

It's a fact that when decorating for a holiday, the fewer pieces you buy the better.  Not only will your budget thank you, but it's often true that less-is-more.  But, along with keeping your decorations simple and focused, your decorations should also reflect your style.  Not only will this make your guests more comfortable in your home, the decorations will also fit in your home for many years and seasons to come.

Choosing the 'Now' or 'It' styles touted by stylists doesn't typically work for most people, especially people on a budget.  If you can't afford to swap out your decorations every year, then you shouldn't go with the latest fads.  Do you really want to be stuck with mauve color silk floral wreaths, lights, and ribbons all over the house if your style is more on the natural, earthy, rustic side?  It costs a lot of money to replace boxes and boxes of previous years' decorations simply because you just can't stand putting them out again - not to mention how much waste they contribute to the environment.  Look around your house now.  What style are you?  Now look for inspiration and choose the décor that fits your style and will make you happy for years to come.

Be Inspired

Now you need inspiration, but don't go to the mall yet!  This is a common mistake. Don't get stuck in the décor aisle in the big department store without knowing what you're looking for. You are bound to start grabbing things that are pretty, and then paying a pretty price for way too much stuff.  Instead, know what you're looking for before you shop, or create.  Take the time to look through the glossy design magazines and pull a few ideas that you like.  Your public library will have these magazines to borrow, so you don't even need to spend any money, except a few cents to run the photocopier perhaps.  Tune into the home and garden television shows, too.  Again, find one or two themes that fit your style and make notes so you can build your holiday décor around them. 

A newer place to find inspiration to get your creativity flowing is the Pinterest website. Pinterest is an online bulletin board that allows people to share pictures with anyone who chooses to log on.  There are virtually millions of images to scroll through and be inspired by.  It's easy to start finding inspiration on Pinterest. Just set up a free account and begin your search with something easy like 'holiday decorations.'  Once you start finding your way around, you'll have enough inspiration to start designing your own festive holiday decorations as easily and as frugally as you want. And, as opposed to getting caught up in impulse buying at the store, this inspiration doesn't cost you a dime.

Create it Yourself

English: Red Pinterest logo
Pinterest logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Now that you know your style and have your inspiration, it's time to decorate.  When it comes to getting your decorations together, it may be more cost efficient to design your own. If you pulled inspiration from Pinterest, be sure to click through to the websites that feature the design you like.  There are often DIY instructions to create similar decorations - often both saving money and creating a more eco-friendly product. Most magazines also offer a website to find more detailed information about their décor choices.

Keep an open mind.  If you can't invest in the fancy tablecloth you spotted online, see if you can create something around the same look.  If, for instance, you love the embroidered fall leaf design, recreate it with fabric paint and stencils or stamps on a plain white tablecloth.  If you love the glitter and glow of a fireplace mantle lined with dozens of designer candles and glass beads, buy a big box of candles at the dollar store and boxes of clear tree ornaments and create your own sparkling decoration on your mantle. These decorations are inspired by designer elements, but you add your own touches making them true to your style, and budget!

Holiday decorating doesn't have to be expensive if you find the inspiration you need to create your own festive atmosphere.  Choose the style that fits you and create it yourself for less money and environmental impact, as well as the added benefit of making it uniquely yours.  Your guests will be comfortable in your home because it's warm and inviting and fits your style.  And that's what decorating is all about!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Shop Smart To Find Frugal Holiday Gifts

It can be very easy to run up a big bill when it comes to buying gifts for the holidays.  When you have a tight budget, you can reach your limit fast!  How can you stretch your budget so you can still give your family and friends gifts that they will love, and be eco-smart at the same time?  Let's take a look at a few simple ideas for giving gifts on a budget.

Buy Off Season

Christmas gifts.
Christmas gifts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of the most effective ways to stay within your budget when buying holiday gifts is to actually do most of your shopping during the off season periods. If you keep a list of gift ideas on hand, you can shop the real deals, and not the ones that the stores like to entice you with just before the holidays.  As we get closer to the holidays, prices tend to climb, then you'll get a few teaser sales that look good but really aren't.  If you watch the sales throughout the year, you are bound to find deals that are real, and not the inflated prices during the height of the holiday shopping season.

Search Online

If you haven't gotten acquainted yet with online shopping, now is the time.  Companies are in hot competition to get your business so they are offering not only lower prices but free shipping, and even free returns!  There are plenty of coupon sites to check out, too, but many companies are just skipping right by the coupons and giving you the deals directly.  It really pays to shop around, and there are even sites that do that for you, too.  Start early so you have plenty of time to send items back if they don't work out for you.  Remember, it's all about customer service so be picky and find companies with great websites, deals, and shipping options that you like. And you can save money on gas since you don't have to drive to the store. Plus also gives you lots more options for finding affordable and eco-friendly gifts!

Dig Into the Clearance Bin

The clearance bin can be your best friend when you're looking for a bargain. A toy that was a top seller last year could very well end up deeply discounted this year. Clothing, household items, decorative items, etc. all end up in the clearance bin at some time or other.  If you're at the department store, look for the signs and head that way.  You have to be patient and be prepared to spend some time digging through the items if you want the best deal.  If you're shopping online, click that CLEARANCE button and start scrolling. Things move fast on the sale racks, so be ready to shop when you find an item.

English: icon for smartphone (smart phone) rel...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Use Your Phone

It is amazing how much money that phone in your pocket can save you. They call it a "smart phone" for a reason. Don't be afraid to use it when shopping for your holiday gifts. If you find something at a store while you're out shopping, why drive around to see if you can find it cheaper elsewhere?  Not only is this costly, but it also wastes fuel and contributes to emissions and pollution. Instead, pull out your phone, download an app and you can have your own personal price checker. Not only will it tell you where to go for the lower price, many of the apps tell you who still has them available and gives you the opportunity to call the store and have them hold the item for you. If you don't have a 'smart phone' don't fret. Your phone is still your best friend. Call the store and ask. If they are not willing to help you, then they don't need your business. Either way, your phone has helped you make a decision and you didn't need to drive around and waste money on gas.

Make it Yourself

When you can add the label “Handmade Especially For You” on a gift item, you know it will be well received and greatly appreciated. What are your talents? Can you put them to work to create gifts for the holidays?  Perhaps you can learn a new talent.  There are plenty of DIY books, magazines, and websites that can help you get started creating one of a kind gift items.  Not only are these handmade gifts special, but they ordinarily are much cheaper.  If you're trying to give special gifts on a budget, handmade items are very often the way to go - and definitely more eco-friendly! Home-made gifts save on packaging, shipping, and other waste.

If you've ever found yourself standing dazed, in the middle of a store around the holidays, you most likely didn't plan ahead.  Gift giving is not easy, or cheap, when you do it on the fly or at the last minute.  Plan ahead, shop smart, and try these tips to give the perfect gifts this holiday season, even on your tight budget.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Is Biomass A Valid Green Energy Source?

According to experts, yes it is. In fact, it is one of the three main sources of bioenergy.

But what is bioenergy? Bioenergy is a process by which organic material such as animal waste, plants and wood, etc. are used to generate electricity, produce heat and also aid in the production of biofuels.

Biomass Fuel Supply
Biomass Fuel Supply (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the case of biomass, hot air or water is generated to produce electricity. This is done through direct combustion and is considered the simplest and most common method of generating energy from biomass.

Aside from generating electricity, biomass can be used for hot air production to warm a home or workspace. For this to work, biomass has to be combusted in a furnace where it heats either water or air. Speaking of water, this enables you to have warm water so you can take a shower. In short, biomass in itself can also be used in a small scale as a heating system.

Since you can generate electricity and heat, some people have been able to combine the two which is known as combined heat and power or CHP - which is a very efficient way to generate energy as you can use one energy source for two purposes.

If you are able to compare the amount of electricity generated between biomass and let’s say solar energy, you will notice that biomass produces more because the energy in plants is already captured and stored, and you don’t have to collect it first which is what happens with solar or even wind energy since this is manufactured technology. Biomass energy is readily available unlike the other two which are dependent on the weather.

English: BioEnergy Taufkirchen; combined heat ...
Combined heat and power plant fired with biomass (woodchips from local forest and other) in Taufkirchen near Munich, Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You can even use organic waste to product electricity. No other green energy source can do that, and by using this fuel source properly, governments and municipalities can save money because you don’t have to spend money to dispose of the waste and you will no longer depend as much on foreign oil to power energy plants.

The downside to biomass is that because you have to burn waste and other organic materials to produce power, you add to the pollution which is already in the atmosphere. But this can be offset by planting more crops which help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

You will also have to shell out a lot of money initially for the costs of labor, and the transport and storage of these fuels.

Biomass uses renewable natural resources which is why it is considered a green energy source. This means that we theoretically can have an endless supply of it, just like the power of the sun or the wind which flows from the ocean. The challenge is to find suitable land that has a sufficient water supply so these biomass fuel sources will be able to grow. This means that in areas where water is not that abundant, you cannot rely on biomass technology to generate power. When that happens, you will need to use other means, such as solar, wind, or geothermal energy.

There are lots of ways to generate power without causing harm to the environment. Biomass is just one of many, and it can be a viable option to supplement our fuel needs in some areas.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Does Recycling Really Matter?

Recycling is all the rage these days. Green this and green that. Think about the environment. No more chemicals. Recycled materials for everything from what things are packaged in, to what our homes are made up of. The symbol for recycling can be found on so many different things and yet here we are, still dealing with global warming and climate change. So does recycling really make a difference? Or is it all just the latest fad? Let's take a look at what recycling really does for the environment:

International Recycling Symbol 32px|alt=W3C|li...
International Recycling Symbol  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
1. Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to keep a 100-watt light bulb burning for up to four hours or could even run your television for up to three hours. The energy it takes to create one aluminum can with new materials could create 20 aluminum cans from recycled materials. In almost all cases, it takes more resources and energy to make something new.

2. There are social benefits to recycling. Many non-profit organizations have drives to raise money for various causes. Habitat for Humanity for example has a program called Cans for Humanity which raises money to help Habitat for Humanity make quality affordable housing for low-income families. They have locations all around the nation for people to drop off cans.

3. Glass is the easiest and most frequently recycled material. For every 20 glass bottles recycled you will save two pounds of carbon emissions. For every ton of glass recycled that's 700 pounds of saved carbon emissions, or the equivalent of line drying your laundry for six months.

4. The energy savings we see from recycling reduce the greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn affect climate change. If we save 18 million tons of CO2 by recycling in a year, that would be the equivalent of taking five million cars off the road.

Comparison of greenhouse gas emissions for mun...
Comparison of greenhouse gas emissions for municipal solid waste disposal methods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
5. On average an eco-conscious person recycles up to 1.5 pounds of municipal solid waste (MSW) a day. That's a savings of over 2.5 pounds of carbon emissions from one person a day. For every ton of MSW waste recycled, that's 2.27 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

6. If we were to recycle about 50 percent of our waste per day (or just over two pounds), then on average per family we would save 2400 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

7. Everything you recycle instead of dump in the dumpster saves room in landfills. Large amounts of methane gas are produced at landfills. And these areas can become hazardous, not to mention unsightly.

Recycling definitely has its benefits for the environment - even though it seems like such a small thing! However, it's not all we should be doing. We also need to be much more conscientious consumers. This includes buying products which save energy, and buying products made from recycled materials. Buy green power for your home. Be aware of what you're doing when you travel and think about how you're traveling. Eat healthy, whole, sustainably grown foods - and grow your own organic garden. 

Doing all of this will reduce your carbon footprint even more, but recycling is a great start to a life of being green and helping to save the planet for future generations.