Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Greener Pets: How You Can Make Pet Ownership More Eco-Friendly

Pet ownership is a big responsibility - you have to care for the animal for its entire life, buying food, bedding, clothing, toys, and other supplies. But did you ever stop to think about the environmental responsibilities of owning a pet?

There is, in fact, a significant environmental consideration in owning a pet. Consider, for instance, the manufacture of pet foods and all the packaging involved, and consider the synthetic rubber and plastic toys pet owners often buy for their animals. Here are some tips on how you can make pet ownership more eco-friendly.

Managing Pet Wastes

English: Sign telling owners to clean up after...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Dogs - When you walk your dog, you really need to scoop its poop. Leaving it outside pollutes the water supply and is unsanitary. It also changes the composition of the soil and kills grass and other plants. When you dispose of your pet's waste, the most eco-friendly thing to do is seal it in a biodegradable bag and trash it.

Cats - Scooping kitty litter is one of those tasks that most cat owners dislike, but you can at least make it a more eco-friendly venture by also using biodegradable bags to place the "scoopings" in. Also, effective, biodegradable kitty litter is available and is a good, eco-conscious choice.

Buying vs. Making Food

Interestingly, pets produce more of that problematic waste material (i.e. poop) when they are fed cheap pet food that's full of fillers and artificial colors. Also, the manufacture of pet foods on such a massive scale may not be the most environmentally friendly thing.

Consider making your own pet food, or buying sustainable, pre-made pet foods that are simple and natural. It's not too hard to make your own pet treats, either - they are basically just hard biscuits made in pet-friendly flavors.

Does Your Dog or Cat Really Need That?

Let's face it - it's fun to buy little cute toys and things for your fur babies. But does your dog really need another rubber squeaky toy, and does your cat need another plastic dingle ball? Many dogs are happy with a stick or a favorite toy or two, and many cats just enjoy an inexpensive piece of string. Rope toys made from natural hemp are an option for dogs, and many cats enjoy rolling on catnip, which you can grow yourself.

Loveable Pets
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Flea Control

Controlling fleas is important for your pet's health and comfort. But using pesticides on your pet's body may be harmful both to your pet's health and to the environment. Consider eco-friendly, herbal flea collars, sprays, or spot-on treatments. It's also a good idea to comb your pet daily to remove fleas that were picked up outdoors before they get established.

By following just a few simple green tips, you can make owning a pet better for you, them, and the environment.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Frugal & Green: How Going Green Can Save You Money At Home

There are all kinds of ways to save money while going green. In fact, regardless of which is your primary goal (going green or saving money), you will find they complement each other nicely. Here are some ways that going green can save you money.

Household Cleaners

English: No name baking soda
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you ever stop to add it all up, you probably spend a significant amount of money on household cleaners, from toilet bowl cleaner to sink scrubbers. There are concerns that the chemicals used in many of these cleaners are unhealthy, and, in the case of bleach and other substances, potentially carcinogenic.

As you green your lifestyle, it only makes sense to stop buying and using commercial household cleaners. You can make your own natural cleaners for a fraction of the cost, thus saving money and being green.

For example, baking soda made into a paste with water makes a great sink and bathtub scrubber, and can even be used to clean an oven. Combined with borax, a little liquid soap, and peppermint essential oil, baking soda becomes a cream scrubber.

Inexpensive white vinegar and water make a good floor cleaner for hardwood. Add a little lavender essential oil to the vinegar and water and wash your windows. (See this blog for more tips on this - just click the "natural cleaning products" tag for some suggestions.)

Med u saću
Honey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Personal Care Products

Beauty products can cost a great deal of money, and some of the ingredients are dubious. In fact, substances like parabens, found in many cosmetics, have been implicated in cancer. It's considered green to use natural personal care products, but that can be even pricier. Making your own is far less expensive and just as natural and healthy.

For a creamy, moisturizing cleanser for your face, mix 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt with 1/2 teaspoon sweet almond oil and 1/2 teaspoon honey. To make an exfoliating cleanser, add ground, dried beans, ground nuts, or sugar.

Instead of spending a lot of money on shampoos and conditioners, mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a cupful of warm water and pour that over your head as a shampoo. Apple cider vinegar (2 teaspoons per cup of warm water) makes an effective conditioner.

There are also many other ways that going green can cost you less - from fuel efficient vehicles, to energy-efficient appliances, and other conservation methods that help cut down on utility bills. Going green doesn't have to be expensive; in fact, it can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Eco-Friendly Eating

If you're living a green lifestyle or are looking for ways to implement it, the food you put on your table may be something you've overlooked. Eco-friendly eating is not necessarily complicated, but it does involve some awareness and possible small changes.

"Sustainable" food choices are those foods that are grown and harvested in environmentally responsible ways. For example, crops that are heavily sprayed with pesticides and fungicides are not only considered less healthy for you, but such conventional farming methods also result in the eventual "death" of the soil and toxic run-off.

Here are some tips on how to apply the green lifestyle to what you eat.

Sustainable Seafood

MSC ecolabel
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The issue of sustainability as it applies to seafood has come to the fore lately. Fish, especially salmon, is considered a very healthy food and a good source of healthy fats and protein. However, some seafood is not considered sustainable.

Species such as orange roughy and Atlantic cod are not sustainable choices due to their endangered populations. Sources say that mussels, tilapia and sardines are, at this point, sustainable choices of seafood.

It's worth pointing out that farm-raised fish are not necessarily the most sustainable choice either; sometimes, wild-caught is better. When in doubt, look for wild-caught fish (it's considered healthier anyhow) that's been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.

Pesticide-Free Produce

It's probably a no-brainer to point out organic produce as the more sustainable choice - but sometimes it's more complicated than that. For instance, if you are choosing between an organic bell pepper imported from Holland, or a conventional bell pepper grown at a small farm and transported only a few miles, the latter would probably be the most sustainable choice. Less fuel was used to bring the local pepper to your market, and the pepper was probably not sprayed with preservatives or mold-inhibiting chemicals to prepare it for transport.

It's also worth asking if the local farmer uses pesticides or other chemicals (he/she may not, even though the "organic" label is not applied to his/her produce).

Of course, if you can do it, growing your own organic produce is an eco-friendly choice. (See our Sustainable Gardening page for more help with that.)

Eye fillet of grass-fed beef.
Filet of grass-fed beef. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Naturally Raised Meats

Large-scale agribusiness and the meat industry has become a concern for eco-conscious people the world over. The problem with some beef cattle is that they are grown (or "produced") on large feed lots that are a source of potentially toxic and unsanitary run-off, and grass-fed beef may mean large areas of forest have been cleared to make way for grazing cattle.

However, lean, grass-fed, free-range beef is usually considered a sustainable choice, as is free-range chicken. Again, local is better; and if you know a hunter, see about getting some venison (that's about as free-range and grass-fed as it gets!). You also might know a local farmer who might consider selling you some fresh chickens or turkeys.

Some experts point out that simply cutting back on meat is an eco-friendly choice, too. Health experts agree that limiting your consumption of red meat is better for you anyway. Most adults should consume no more than 4-6oz of meat per day. Try adding more varied proteins to your diet, such as beans or quinoa, and implement a "Meatless Monday" for at least one day per week that's meat-free. Your health - and your planet - will benefit.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

How To Go Green In 2015

Many people start off the year with some lofty goals for how they will live a healthier lifestyle this year, and do more to help others as well as the planet. One great way to do that is to adopt an environmentally friendly, or "green" lifestyle. However, many people find the idea intimidating. Perhaps you think it takes someone special to live green, or maybe you believe it requires a certain personality type or income level. But in reality, green living is within everyone's reach.

This month, we will share some ideas for helping you live a cleaner, greener, healthier lifestyle in the year(s) ahead, starting with the 4 tips below.

Think Before You Buy

English: Eletrical wire reel used in MORAR MAI...
Eletrical wire reel used as an eco-design coffee table. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In our modern culture, it's tempting just to go out and buy something new, cheap, and (usually) plastic whenever we have a need. But used items are worth considering, either from second-hand stores, antique stores, or yard sales. And it might pay to look around your house for hidden treasures first.

For instance, you may decide you need a lemonade pitcher or a container for iced tea. Rather than getting a cheap plastic one, look around and see what you can reuse - maybe a glass juice container that you were going to throw away would work just fine.

Did you know it's considered "green" to buy pretty much anything second-hand? Clothing, furniture, lamps, appliances and so forth can all be purchased second-hand for a fraction of the cost, and it helps keep those items from being thrown away.

Shop Local for Food

If you've looked at the price of organic food, you might think you can't afford to go green with regard to the foods you eat. But you don't have to buy the expensive imported organic foods to be green; it's just as eco-friendly to buy locally-grown produce or foods that are produced near you.

Foods like honey, vegetables, fruits, breads, and meat can often be found at decent prices from local producers - and you're also supporting your local community (try a CSA for an even easier shopping experience). Organic whole grains and dried beans are still pretty cheap, and switching to those is a move in the green direction.

Plastic recycle logo PET, Polyethylene Terepht...
Plastic recycle logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In addition to doing the usual "recycling thing," you can also look around and think of creative ways to recycle or reuse items around your home. For instance, use empty jars, cardboard tubes, and cereal boxes in crafts, or reuse plastic food tubs for storage (you could paint them or cover them with construction paper first if you want to pretty them up).

Look at yard sales and second-hand stores for your household needs - this is not only cheaper; it also means you're reusing (recycling) items that are already in circulation. Recycling means more than just shipping off your plastic, glass, and metal to the recycling center. It also involves reusing items to avoid buying new ones. That's budget-friendly for just about everyone!

Conserve Resources

From saving water, to reducing energy consumption via your heating and cooling system, to using blinds for passive solar heating and cooling, there are lots of things you can do to save energy and reduce your carbon footprint that not only don't cost you much money, but can even result in some significant savings!

Buy following these tips, at least some elements of the green lifestyle are within everyone's reach, and with just a few simple adjustments, you can live a healthier, cleaner lifestyle this year. Be sure to check back later this month for some more tips to help you live green in 2015.

One of our goals this year is to update our website to include even more helpful resources. Along with getting our little homestead going, we're going to be extra busy this year! For the time being, we are switching to a once-per-week posting schedule, so be sure to check back each Wednesday for more healthy green living tips.

Friday, January 2, 2015

6 Ways to Recycle Your Real Christmas Tree

It's hard to believe it's already January, and time to take down the Christmas tree - a sad time for children (and adults) everywhere.... But you can make this occasion just a little less sad this year by disposing of your Christmas tree responsibly.

Every year, between 34 and 36 million Christmas trees are produced every year. At the end of Christmas season, a lot of these trees end up simply discarded. But there are really much better ways to dispose of a Christmas tree. Ways that are much better for the environment - and not much hassle at all.

Here are a few different ways to responsibly dispose of your real Christmas trees.

1. Curbside Pickup

Don't just throw your tree out onto the curb after Christmas. Many municipalities will recycle your tree into mulch that can be used by the city or its residents. Look up when curbside pickup actually happens in your area. Generally it's around 2 weeks after Christmas. Look up when they're doing pickups and place your tree outside then.

If you put your tree out front too early, it could get treated as trash. If you do it too late, you might miss the curbside pickup window and again the tree will just be treated as trash. Note that some cities don't offer Christmas tree pickups at all, so do make sure you check your county's or locality's website.

English: Christmas Tree recycling bin in Place...
Christmas Tree recycling bin in Place des Vosges (Paris, France). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
2. Look Up Green Non-Profits

Look up green and environmentally oriented non-profits in your area. Chances are many of them will have partnerships with recyclers that help people get rid of their Christmas trees. Generally all the information you need will usually be on their website, though you can also call and ask.

3. Call the Boy Scouts

You can also just have the tree picked up for you by the Boy Scouts. Just call your local Boy Scouts chapter and ask if they have a program to pick up Christmas trees.

You'll generally have to pay them $5 to $10 for this service. But this is a great way to make sure your tree gets recycled, as well as to support your local Boy Scouts chapter and help teach kids the value of helping the community.

4. Use It As Firewood

If you live in a cold part of the country, and you have a fireplace, you could just cut up the tree and use it as firewood. Christmas trees aren't the best burning woods in the world and can be smokier than your average firewood, but it's still a good way to get rid of a tree if push comes to shove. Chop it up and burn it in small pieces. You may also wish to save it and let it dry out in a shed or garage and burn it later in an outdoor fire pit to avoid as much smoke and soot indoors.

5. Shred It Into Mulch

A lot of cities today have programs that shred your tree into mulch for you. Basically a tree shredder drives to your house and the tree is turned into mulch on the spot. This makes a great mulch for pathways and garden walkways.

6. Drive It To the Recycler

If you can't find anyone to pick it up for you and if you miss the curbside pickup deadline, then you can just drive your tree to the recycler yourself. Most recyclers will take your tree completely free of charge.

With so many different options for recycling a Christmas tree, there's really no reason to throw yours away. Avoid waste, and turn your tree into something useful this year!