Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Go Green: Use Bicycles & Public Transportation

One of the best ways to go green is to change your modes of transportation. Driving a car creates pollution, supports the toxic petroleum industry, congests roads, and all in all adds to the environmental problems of the world.

Here are some of the many benefits of going green with your transportation, along with a few tips for making the transition:

1. Decreased Congestion Means Less Gas

English: Traffic Jam in Delhi Français : Un em...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The more cars we take off the road, the less congested the roads will be. The less congested the roads are, the less gas each individual car will consume.

Not only are you lowering your gas consumption by not driving a car, you're also making other cars on the road more fuel efficient by not driving.

2. Voting with Your Wallet

It's one thing to say you support environmentalism. It's another thing to vote with your wallet.

When you stop spending money on gas-guzzling vehicles, you take your vote out of the automobile industry. You're also increasing the amount of money public transit is earning, which in time translates to better, more fuel efficient public transportation systems.

3. Get Exercise without Trying

A lot of people have a hard time regularly scheduling exercise into their daily routines.

Getting in the habit of riding a bicycle or walking to take public transportation makes it easy to get your exercise in every day. You're either walking more or cycling or both.

English: Saving for a sabbatical, a car repair...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
4. Save a Lot of Money

Driving a car costs a lot of money. You have your gas costs, which can add up to hundreds of dollars a month. In addition you have automotive repair and maintenance, which can also add up to a lot of money every year.

That's not even taking into account the actual cost of the car. Generally you're spending several hundred dollars a month on a car loan or lease. If you're buying a car outright, you're often tying up tens of thousands of dollars of your net worth.

All in all, not owning a car can save you buckets of money.

Tips for Making the Transition

The most important thing for making the transition smoothly is to plan how you need to get to the various places in your daily life before you make the switch.

If you already know how to get everywhere you want to get and how long it'll take, that'll take a lot of the difficulty out of the picture.

Learn to use Google Maps or a smartphone app to check bus routes and public transportation routes for areas that you're not familiar with traveling to.

For the first couple weeks, leave a little earlier than you think you need to so you can get used to the system while still being on time.

Going green with your transportation allows you to save money, reduce the world's pollution, help improve public transportation and even get some exercise - it's a win-win for everyone!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

5 Fun and Unusual Ways to Reuse Household Items

Sometimes reusing items in the house isn't about saving money or helping the environment: sometimes it's just pure fun. Coming up with new ways to use old things is a creative process that can be a real blast. Especially when it works! You'll have something real that you can touch and use that others would have thrown away.

Here are a few fun and unusual ways to reuse household items.

1. Make Your Own Sprinkler System

English: garden hose Deutsch: Gartenschlauch
Old garden hose. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Don't throw away your old garden hoses, even if they leak! Instead, seal off one end of the garden hose with cement, melted plastic or glue. Then poke holes throughout the rest of the garden hose.

You now have a soaker hose! Thread this hose throughout your garden and turn on the water. Your new soaker hose will spray water throughout your garden while you barely lift a finger.

2. Make Your Own Fridge Magnets

Instead of throwing away your bottle caps, save them up. Go to your local stationary store or eBay and buy a pack of small magnets.

Then grab your bottle caps and glue the magnet to the back. Congratulations! You now have home-made fridge magnets that look really neat!

There are a lot of things you can use besides bottle caps. Your creativity is the only limitation.

3. Make Your Own Drink Coasters

Do you have old CDs lying around that you'll probably never use? Instead of just throwing them away, why not turn them into unique drink coasters?

There are many ways you can do this. You can paint over them then laminate them. You can melt the surface of the CD to create unique textures. You could sand the surface of the CD in uneven shapes to create an interesting effect.

Don't be afraid to experiment - chances are, you've got a lot of these lying around.

English: "Ball blue" aqua glass home...
"Ball blue" aqua glass home canning Mason jar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
4. Make Your Own Lamp

Take your used glass bottles and make your own lamp. From your neighborhood shop, just buy a small light that can be inserted into the bottle. Thread it in, then turn it on.

To get even more creative, you can use a light coating of paint on the outside to change the light's colors. You can use several different colors to create a multi-colored light that'll really impress your friends.

5. Turn Your Shoes into a Playground

Did you know that you can send Nike your old shoes and they'll turn them into a playground? They'll literally take your old shoes and melt them down in a safe way, then use the plastic to build playgrounds.

These are a few fun and creative ways you can reuse household items. Unlike buying a lamp or a soaker hose, you'll get to look at these items and know that YOU made them! You get to express your creativity while feeling the pride that comes with making something new, all while doing good things for the planet.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

7 Simple Tips to Help Keep the Earth Clean

Many people don't bother making changes to live a greener and more environmentally friendly life because they don’t think what they do can make a difference. It is difficult to imagine how one person can make a change in the environment when there are billions of people on this planet.

Yet each small part does make a difference. Think about it this way - one tree over the course of its lifetime will remove 600 pounds of carbon dioxide. One small tree makes a significant difference in the cleanliness of the air you breathe and you can make a big difference too. Here’s how:

The aerosol(A gaseous suspension of fine solid...
The aerosol spray canister invented by USDA researchers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
1. Paint Your Home With Latex – Oil-based paints contain solvents that are released into the air and cause pollution. Latex paints are water-based and safer.

2. Stop Buying Aerosols – Many things come with a propellant. From hair spray to cooking spray, each requires a propellant to release from the can. These propellants release harmful gases. They’re not great for your health and they’re certainly not good for the environment. Use pump sprays instead.

3. Unplug & Turn Off – When you’re not using an appliance, unplug it. This includes electronic devices too. And turn off lights in your home when you’re not using them. In fact, try to watch less television and use electronics less. You might decide to designate an afternoon or an entire day as a day to “unplug” and not use any electronics for entertainment (Hint: Earth Day is next Tuesday!). Read a book. Go for a walk. Enjoy a game or time with your family.

4. Recycle – Recycling is something that is so easy to do. Even if your community doesn’t offer a recycling pick up, you can make a weekly, or even monthly, habit of driving to the recycling center to drop off your materials. You’ll be amazed how much you save from the landfill when you recycle.

Crystal earth recycle icon
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
5. Use Environmentally Friendly Cleaners – To be fair, not all “green” cleaners work as well as you’d like them to. However, there are some amazing brands and truly effective and “green” cleaners. Read reviews. Find the products that fit your needs, and clean your home without harsh and harmful chemicals. We often offer suggestions on this blog, or check out our Green Living Products page on our website for some excellent suggestions.

6. Wash In Cold Water – Most washable items do not need to be washed in hot or warm water. When possible, use cold water. It requires less energy from your water heater and is usually better for your clothing too.

7. Buy Organic Whenever Possible – Organic crops are crops that are not treated with harmful chemicals. They’re better for your health too. However, we realize it’s not always feasible to buy organic all the time. Check into the "Dirty Dozen," which includes items like apples and strawberries which have a heavy use of pesticides and other chemicals.

Cotton is another product that should ideally be organic. The cotton industry is one of the most harmful industries. “Cotton covers 55% of the world's cultivated land and uses 75% of the world's insecticides, more than any other single major crop.” (Source: Organic Trade Association)

You really can make a difference in the world around you. Small changes to your habits and your lifestyle do have an impact. In honor of Earth Day next week, why not choose at least one or two of these tips, and put them into practice this month!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Do You Know the Golden Rules of Eco Driving?

Are you an eco driver? Do you want to drive in a more environmentally friendly manner? You might be happy to learn that driving “greener” generally means that you also save money. You’ll buy less fuel and can use that savings to spend more on other things. And it’s fantastic for the environment. Learn the golden rules of eco driving and benefit both your pocket book and the planet!

Rule #1: Maintain Your Speed

Interior in a short nose SAAB 96. Photographed...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Did you know that accelerating increases emissions? It does. If you can maintain a steady speed you’ll reduce emissions. The key is to strive to reduce the energy your car needs to maintain your speed. So if you drive a manual transmission, then try to use the highest possible gear at the lowest RPM. If you drive an automatic, generally your car will attempt to optimize and work most efficiently automatically, but you can help by not having a "lead foot," and letting your car gradually accelerate and shift down naturally.

Rule #2: Anticipate Traffic 

If you are able to anticipate traffic flow, you’ll be better able to maintain speed and conserve fuel as well. For example, if you see that the light is about to change, you can let your foot off of the accelerator - meaning you’re saving fuel. Anticipate it correctly, and you may be able to reduce your need to accelerate too much as well. Stomping on the accelerator or the brake both cause you to use more fuel than is absolutely necessary.

Rule #3: Keep Your Tires Inflated

It takes more energy for your car to move on underinflated tires. Think about trying to ride a bike with low tires. It takes you more energy to just push the pedals around. When they’re fully inflated, it’s much easier. The same is true for your car. Keep your tires properly inflated and you’ll use less fuel.

Rule #4: Keep It Streamlined

The boxier your car, the more air resistance there is. That means it takes more energy to move forward. Streamlined and aerodynamic cars tend to get better gas mileage. While no one is asking you to buy a new, more aerodynamic car, you can reduce resistance by not adding unnecessary external cargo to your car, or strapping bulky items to the outside of your car such as bikes.

Rule #5: Shift Early

Finally, instead of waiting for your manual transmission to redline before shifting, shift early. This keeps your RPMs low and helps reduce fuel consumption. Again, if you drive a car with an automatic transmission your car generally strives to shift when it’s optimal. If you drive a manual transmission then you get to decide when to shift. Shifting around 2000 RPM instead of 3000 or 4000 saves gas and cuts back on emissions.

The golden rules of eco driving aren’t difficult to follow. Pay attention to your surroundings so you can maintain your speed. Don’t be in such a hurry and take good care of your car.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How to Become An Everyday Environmentalist

Every day, just about every action you take provides you with an opportunity to make an environmentally sound decision. For example, do you purchase the oranges grown in California or the ones grown in Costa Rica? Do you idle the car while you wait to pick someone up or do you turn the car off? There are simple things you can do every day to make a difference. Here are just a few to consider and remember.

Eat More Vegetables

Eesti: Maheköögivili
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Livestock produces a significant amount of methane gas. And the care and keeping of livestock requires an abundance of resources and energy. Vegetables, and fruits, don’t require as much energy and they’re generally better for you.

Additionally, if you buy locally grown organic vegetables and other produce, you’re taking huge strides to improve the environment because there are no harsh chemicals used to grow organic food, and locally grown produce doesn’t need to travel across the country to get to your dinner table.

Use a Car Share

Car shares are membership programs. You pay a monthly fee and borrow a car from the fleet whenever you need it. They’re fantastic because you don’t have to worry about the daily expense of insurance, parking, and car maintenance. You only pay for the gas you use and the cost of car shares is usually quite affordable.

Get a Reusable Coffee Mug

How many cups of take-out coffee, or tea, do you drink each week? If you’re like many Americans you may consume 3-5 cups of coffee-shop coffee on a weekly basis. Simply buying a reusable coffee mug and refilling it can save tons of garbage from finding its way into landfills. You don’t have to give up your coffee habit to be an everyday environmentalist.

English: Reusable shopping bag
Reusable shopping bag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Reuse Shopping Bags
Stop bringing home all of those plastic shopping bags! They’re made from petroleum products and they don’t break down in landfills. And paper bags aren’t much better. Trees are cut down to make those bags and trees are what we need to continuously clean the air. Not to mention the amount of energy it takes to make one paper bag.

Instead, purchase a few reusable cloth shopping bags. Wash them weekly when you wash your towels or sheets; you’ll keep your food germ free and the environment will be in much better shape.

Turn It Off

Did you know that if you if you leave your computer on 24 hours a day, it could be responsible for releasing up to 1,500 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere every year ( Turn off lights and other electronics when they’re not in use as well. It makes a big difference.

It doesn’t take much to become an everyday environmentalist. Simply think about how your actions affect the planet and then make the best choice possible - for yourself and future generations.