Saturday, May 31, 2008
One of the worst things for the environment, is something every cat owner has and it is kitty litter.
Most people do not think about the kitty litter when they throw it away, but while many people use the clumping kind to easily get rid of waste, it has a big impact on the environment.
First, when it gets wet, it solidifies, and this turns it into large gooey messes that do not bio-degrade and slowly seep into the ground. In total, two million tons of cat litter is thrown in the land fill, each year in the United States. That is a lot of gooey messes seeping into the ground.
As well, the clay and silica types of litter, which are the most common kinds, are made through heavily destructive methods of strip-mining that get clay and silica, but destroy the environment around the mines.
Therefore, Layla and I will only be buying natural cat litter, which can come from a variety of natural materials. Two of the most common types of natural cat litters are made from corn and sawdust, and are wonderful for your cats and even better for the environment. Layla and I are now proud to have 100 percent environmentally friendly cat litter, that will not harm the environment when it is taken out of the ground, or put back into it.
Remember, send us your photos of you and your family doing green things like we have in our blog, and we will put them up!
Friday, May 30, 2008
That is why for our 39th Day of the Green Year, we are committing to recycling everything that we can. You can see from the picture that we already recycle cardboard, bottles, cans, milk jugs and papers, but we are going to start going a step further. A lot of what we do here in the Baird household is centered on taking what can be recycled and reusing it for another purpose in the house before we recycle it back into the manufacturing line, but we are going to go a step further, and if it can be recycled, we will. No more throwing out items. We aim to be no-impact with our garbage now. I would also like to point out that in that photo you see plastic bags, those are from before we turned Green, and we are slowly getting rid of them through recycling.
The point of this blog is to show people that we are recycling everything we can, and you should to. Far too many people only recycle pop cans and newspapers, when there is so much more that can be done. That is what this Green Year is about, teaching others how to go greener than the norm.
Here is a list of the many things that can be recycled:
File Folders, envelopes, paper, paper clips, staples, newspapers, flyers, magazines, catalogs, text books, coffee trays, phone books, beverage cans, food cans, glass jars, glass bottles, plastic bottles, plastic containers, ink cartridges and electronics.
Here are some 'fun' facts about recycling in the United States.
- Recycling aluminum saves 95 percent energy than making it from scratch. You can power a TV for three hours by recycling one aluminum can (in terms of energy saved).
- Enough aluminum is thrown away to rebuild the commercial air fleet of the United States, four times over, every single year.
- Recycling one glass container saves enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours.
- Recycled glass generates 20 percent less air pollution and 50 percent less water pollution than making it from scratch.
- One ton of glass made from 50 percent recycled materials saves 250 pounds of mining waste.
- You can reuse glass an endless amount of times, yet 41 billion glass containers are made each year.
- It takes 60 percent less energy to recycle paper than make it from scratch, while generating 95 less air pollution.
- For every one ton of paper recycled, 17 trees and 7,000 gallons of water is saved.
- Every year enough paper is thrown away to build a 12 foot wall from New York to California.
- If Americans recycled every plastic bottle they used, it would keep two billion tons of plastic out of the landfills.
- Americans use enough plastic wrap to wrap all of Texas, every single year.
- If you incinerate 10,000 tons of waste, you create one job, putting 10,000 tons of waste in the landfill creates six jobs, but recycling 10,000 tons of waste creates 36 jobs.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Naturally, you can take your paper to be recycled, which is a great thing, but why not reuse the paper to reduce your purchase and use of other items. There is no better way to be green than by taking items you already have and using them to prevent you from buying more items.
So, Layla and I have decided that not only will we recycle our papers, but we will also use them in other ways to go green.
- We have already talked about how you can use newspaper in compost, as long as it is not color pages. However, why not use the newspapers as a great way to block weeds? There have been several people who have laid down newspaper in their backyard, after digging out a bit of space, then putting dirt and compost over top of the papers. This helped prevent weeds from growing, and allowed beautiful flowers that were planted on top of the newspapers to bloom nicely.
- If you have kids, nothing works better for them to scribble on than paper.
- You can line cabinet bottoms with newspaper instead of buying cabinet paper.
- We have already shown how you can clean windows with newspaper, but did you know that using newspaper to clean windows prevents streaks on the window?
- You can also use newspaper in a seed starter pot? It is truly amazing how this can be put together and it eliminates the need for you to buy pots for the seeds. Here is a great tutorial: http://www.geocities.com/newspaperpots/
- It can be used as wrapping paper, instead of wrapping paper from the stores.
Do you have any ideas for what you could use newspaper for? Let us know!
Remember, if you have pictures of yourself or your family doing green things we have mentioned in our blog, be sure to let us know by sending us a picture. We will put it up in the blog to show the world the steps you are taking in your own green year. E-mail pictures to email@example.com
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Unplugging things when you go to bed, or leave the house is not only safe as it can prevent fires from shorts, but it can save you money. By unplugging everything in your house, you can actually save up to $20 to $30 on your energy bill, depending on how much you pay each month. This means that not only are you saving power, but you are also saving money. It is just one of the many ways that you can go green, and save green.
Unplug your electronics, your coffee makers and your microwave. None of these things need to be plugged in when you are not using them, so you can save some money by just taking the time to unplug them
As well, Layla and I decided to do a demonstration of the baking soda and vinegar drain cleaner, which works great, so we did a video. Enjoy!
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
So, the point of this blog is to focus on going green for birthdays. Too often during someone's birthday we will try and buy them as much as we can to show how much we care, and this is a nice gesture, but it feeds into the consumerism and unsustainable mentality too many have about our world.
Instead of buying things that are not 'green' or 'environmentally friendly', why not go green for a birthday. There are a number of ways that this can be done, and all it takes is thinking green.
- Why not plant a tree for someone on their birthday? You are adding another oxygen producer to the world, and you are also putting down a living symbol of this person that will grow for decades and decades.
- You can do what Layla did and paint a flower pot, which she planted a Marigold in. For me, this gift will last longer, and mean more, than any other gift she could have given.
- Donate to a green charity in someone's name. This is a great gift but some do not like it because it seems like you gave their gift to someone else.
- Buy the person something that is consumable, like organic tea, fair trade coffee, dried fruits, or fresh flowers. This is a great gift that will bio-degrade and not sit in a closet.
- Give the gift of yourself. Sometimes a coupon (on recycled paper) for a free hug can mean a lot, or simply a cozy date in front of the fireplace.
- Buy a gift that is made locally or grown locally. This will support your local economy and you won't be spending money on clothes or products that are made in Third World Countries in sweat shops.
- Think about the packaging of the gifts. Too many people buy wrapping paper that is used for a moment and then ripped apart. Instead, why not use cloth bags to hold the gift? Why not use some of the scrap paper, newspaper or even subway sandwich wrappers as something to cover the gift? You can buy gift bags that will last for years instead of buying wrapping paper that will last for two minutes.
- Buy fair-trade, eco-cotton shirts that are made with green screen printing processes and that use natural dyes. This will allow you to get them some nice clothes, without having to think about where they come from.
Here are a few stats on gifts to get you thinking about going a bit more green for gifts this year:
- There is a 25 increase in the trash generated during the holiday season.
- Most people feel their kids have too many things, but they continue to buy them more things during birthdays and holidays.
- About 97 percent of restaurant gift certificate receives say they would like to receive that type of gift again. This is a great green gift because it supports a local restaurant (make it a local one, not a chain one), and it is a consumable.
- About 83,000,000 square meters of gift wrap ends up in United Kingdom garbage dumps after the holiday season.
Also, thank you to our good friend Min in Hanover who submitted our name to her local radio station, 101.7 The One for the Website of the Day. We won today and are listed on the radio station's website.
Also, don't forget to send us your own stories of going green so we can put them on our bandwagon page (link is on the right hand side), as well as pictures of you using green solutions outlined here for our photo gallery!
Monday, May 26, 2008
However, this being Our Green Year, we have to find ways to fix the problem without resorting to anything that could be deemed harmful or cruel. Therefore, we can't use any poison, or anything that will kill the ants in a way that would be described as cruel (like the sticky 'never leave' ant motels).
Thankfully, we do know some ways to get rid of ants that will fit in with Our Green Year. They are:
- Coffee Grounds
- Lemon Juice
What we will be doing, is putting these three items out in three ant hills in our yard, where we will then see how the ants like or dislike them, and whether or not they work at all. Later on, probably in a week or so, we will let you know the results so you too can use these natural solutions to a pesky pest problem like ants.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
So, from now on we will no longer be using a dryer, and that means in the winter time as well. The great thing about clothes is that they dry, and since we don't wear tonnes of different clothes, we are not going to be overwhelmed with the amount of clothes that we will need to dry. The truth is, we will be able to dry them quite well outside. We know that this is common knowledge, but surprisingly, not many people actually do this. It may be because they are not allowed, as many cities do not allow clotheslines because they are 'unsightly'. However, there are other solutions to drying your clothes without a dryer.
One of our readers actually suggested drying your clothes in your living room in the summer. This is a great idea that Layla and I will be using because you can actually cool down your living room with the clothes drying in there, so you are keeping cool without energy and you are drying your clothes without energy. A double whammy!
If you live in the city and are not allowed to dry your clothes outside, then you can also dry your clothes in the basement of the house. There should be plenty of room and the clothes will dry just as well as they would outside, albeit slower.
Layla and I are quite lucky because we live in a mountain town that allows clothes to be dried outside, so we can dry our clothes in the fresh mountain air. It is a win-win scenario.
If you do dry your clothes inside, you can actually kill a few more birds with one stone (sorry for the expression). Put some pots or bowls under the clothes and catch the water that drips off of them. This keeps your carpet from getting wet and you can reuse that water on the lawn or garden. This of course works best if you don't use detergent. Right there you have water saving, energy saving and you are cooling down your house!
In the winter, things get a bit tougher but you can still dry your clothes inside just the same, and if things cool down, then just bundle up.
Thankfully, things are beginning to change and cities, states and provinces are beginning to change their minds on outdoor clothes drying. In fact, in April the Ontario government lifted the ban on drying clothes outside. This was because several subdivisions, cities and towns did not allow it, but the new ruling by the government means that it does not matter and people can dry their clothes outside, which means our good friends Min, Jay and Faith can begin drying their clothes outside.
Here are just a few facts about dryers and the environment:
- Five dryers produce the same amount of emissions as an average-sized car.
- The average dryer uses 900 kilowatt hours of electricity a year.
- Consumers can save 25 percent on their energy bill each year by not using the dryer.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
If we add together the number of books printed for A Tale of Two Cities (200 million), The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (150 million), The Da Vinci Code (57 million), Harry Potter (400 million) and To Kill A Mockingbird (30 million), we have 837 million books, which comes to 7.2 million trees lost JUST to print those books. Now keep in mind that millions of books are sold each year and we begin to see a problem. Granted, there are books sold through green book publishers, and some are printed on recycled paper, but that is not always the norm.
As a result, Layla and I have decided to only buy second-hand books or go to the library for what we want. Today there was a big book sale in our hometown and we bought over a dozen books for only $7.50. We will be going back tomorrow. This saves them from being thrown out, gives them new life and keeps us from buying new books in the store. For those books we want to read that just come out, then we will either get them from the library, or we will order them through a green book publisher like our friends at Eco-Libris (http://www.ecolibris.net/) who plant a tree when you buy a book.
If you go to a second hand book sale of your own, make sure to take a picture and send it to us so we can add you to our bandwagon! Send pictures of all your green activities to firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, May 23, 2008
If you are like most people, you simply throw it away and before all of this, Layla and I were the same way. However, Our Green Year is all about changing the way we deal with our day-to-day lives and understanding how everything we do affects the environment.
So, as part of our Green Year, Layla and I have decided to do away with these containers. From now on when we go out for supper and there is food left over, it goes in a Tupperware container. When we go out to Subway, as we sometimes like to do, we will be putting the subs, without the paper, in the containers. Doing this can eliminate large amounts of waste in your home because you only use the paper, bags and Styrofoam for a few hours at most. By spending only $10 to $20, you can get the containers you need to never worry about how your food wrapping is affecting the environment.
You should probably get used to not having take-out containers, the Styrofoam ones at least. San Francisco has banned them out right, as has China, and I am sure the rest of the United States and Canada won't be far behind.
Thank you again to the Trail Daily Times for their wonderful story on us today. It is nice to see we can get the word out on what we are doing.
Remember, we will be posting pictures of our readers doing green things, so if you have any, send them to us at email@example.com and if you have any suggestions, let us know.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
For today, we have decided to show the great environmental side of lemons, much like we did with vinegar, to show some of the great things it can do and to help prevent chemicals and other harmful substances from getting into our air, water and earth. It is important to note that when you use chemical cleaners, you are breathing the fumes into your body and it can stay there. Going natural is the best way. Here are some great tips:
- Take equal parts lemon and water and you have a great air freshener.
- Pour lemon juice on places where you have ants and they will stay away.
- Forget about cleaners with harmful chemicals in them, just mix equal parts lemon juice and water and you have an all-purpose cleaner. You can also mix it with vinegar and the lemon juice will mask the smell of the vinegar.
- If you need to clean chrome or copper, just mix lemon juice with baking soda and wipe away the blemishes on the copper or chrome with a towel.
- Use hot lemon juice with baking soda to clean drains.
- If you want to kill the germs on your chopping board, sprinkle lemon juice on it and wash it off.
- Lemon juice works great for cleaning glass and mirrors, as well as serving as a great furniture polish.
- On top of this, if you mix it with equal parts water, then you have a natural mouth wash, and it can also be used to disinfect wounds.
As well, if you implement any of the solutions we have offered in Our Green Year, from the solar cooking to this, send us some photos. We will put them up on our website. Remember, this is not just our green year, it is everyone's green year and we are all in this together. E-mail pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, today I baked some dandelion leaves in the solar cooker and made some coffee out of it and I gotta say...mmmmm it is surprisingly good, and healthy. See how we made it in our tutorial section later this week.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Thank you to everyone who came to our site yesterday, and whom offered suggestions about things we can do in the future for Our Green Year. Layla and I both really appreciate it.
For our month-anniversary of Our Green Year, Layla and I took a road trip (yes we carpooled) to a nearby provincial park where we helped in teaching children about the forest and how much it does for us. The day lasted from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and it saw six Grade Five classes come out to the event to learn about how firefighters fight forest fires, how the watersheds are so important, what the forest has in it and even some orienteering.
Layla and I took part to help out our good friend Darcee O'Hearn, who works with the West Kootenay Forest Education Fund (http://www.learnforestry.com/), who helped put on the event with the Ministry of Forestry.
Now, we do not have any pictures today because our digital camera ran out of battery juice and we had to borrow Darcee's film camera. However, we will be getting the pictures printed tomorrow and uploaded to our Photo Gallery, where we will be putting photos of ourselves at various stages through our Green Year, as well as photos of you when you implement the changes we have. Send us your own photos!
All in all, a very long day but one full of education that we hope will help a lot of children appreciate what the forest does for them.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
What exactly are some of the benefits of indoor composting? Well, the first and foremost is that it will turn into great soil for house plants. The second is that it will save up to 25 percent of household waste, and the third is that food scraps are disposed of in such a way that it will take the pressure off of water treatment plants and landfills where most food scraps will otherwise end up. Making one’s own indoor compost is so easy, anyone can do it. It could even be a great project for the kids. Not only can they have fun in making their own indoor compost, they will learn one of the ways they can get rid off some of the household waste in an environmentally friendly way. To make the bin, you will need:
- A plastic bin with a well-fitted lid that will fit easily under the kitchen sink.
- Old newspaper and other paper scraps that would otherwise be recycled. (None of the paper should be coloured).
, preferably the ones that are often used for fishing. Worms
2. Shred the paper into strips of about one half to
two inches wide and enough will need to be
shredded in order to fill have of the bin.
3. Soak the shredded paper in water and then squeeze out the excess water before putting it into the compost bin.
4. Put the worms in the bin on top of the wet, shredded paper.
5. Put about two inches more of the wet and squeezed shredded paper on top of the worms. Put the paper in loosely so as not to squish the worms, also make sure that the paper is wrung out well so that the worms do not drown.
6. Give the worms a week to get used to their new home.
7. Once the week is over, one can start adding food scraps to the bin.
See how easy it is?! You might be wondering why this compost doesn’t smell. The compost will not smell because the bin is covered with the lid and because the worms will consume and process the scraps before the scraps start growing mold, which is what creates the smell in garbage.
Food for the compost bin
- Vegetable cuttings, peals and scraps
- Banana peels
- Crushed and rinsed eggshells
- Coffee grounds
- Used tea bags
Food not for the compost bin
- Meat scraps
- Food that is already rotting
Composting is great for the environment, and it helps create wonderful fertilizer for the soil in your garden. Craig and I have already begun using our composting bin as those who saw our blog a few days ago about composting coffee grounds.
On a different note, Craig and I would like to thank everyone who has come out to our blog today to check us out. Kate Webb wrote a great story about us in The Province (link on the side) and we even did an interview with AM 1410 out of
Monday, May 19, 2008
Well, first of all we aren't going out to our yard and ripping them out of the lawn (from the roots), we are not preventing them from seeding and we certainly are not using herbicide to kill them. So, why not use something from the Earth to get something beneficial in your body?
The truth is that Dandelions are far from a weed, they are one of the best plants you can have for your body and they have been cultivated for literally thousands of years. Just a few of the benefits of Dandelion tea include:
- They are a source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and E
- They are rich in calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, selenium, silicon and zinc
- They are a laxative, cholertic, tonic antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory
- It is one of the best herbs you can have for gall, spleen and liver problems, and it can relieve symptoms of menstruation in women.
- They keep the liver at peak efficiency and they can purify and build blood when ingested and will even cleanse and regenerate cells. They help the pancreas and they absorb toxins in the bowel.
- Some even say it can help relieve diabetes when consumed as a tea or food on a regular basis.
To make dandelion tea, just follow these easy steps:
- Pick five or six dandelions
- Cut off the stems
- Wash the heads slightly
- Place the the heads in a cup
- Pour boiling water on them
- Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes
If you are not into tea, then you can use young dandelion leaves in salad, you can steam them or you can add them to stir-fries.
You can even use the roots of the dandelion to make non-caffeine coffee by waiting until the plants are nine to twelve months old (growing inside). Then you roast them in the oven until they are a coffee colour, grind them and use them!
It is a plant we think of as a weed that actually has many uses and can be very green and beneficial to you. Give it a try and let us know what you think! Send us photos of you with your dandelion tea and we will post them on the blog!
Sunday, May 18, 2008
First of all, you want to buy local brews. These are brews that are roasted and made in your area. Talk to your local coffee shop to find out if they brew it locally and roast it locally. If they don't, try and find one that does.
Second, instead of going into Starbucks, with their oddly named cup sizes, to get a coffee, why don't you go in with a reusable mug. When you think about the waste that is generated by those mugs, it is quite amazing. You have the lid, container and safety wrap (keeps your hands from burning), which all contribute to waste.
Third, try and get organically grown and fair-trade grown coffee. We have decided to do that here by buying coffee from Kicking Horse Coffee Company, which is located in B.C., so we can kill three birds with one stone on that one.
Lastly, you want to compost your coffee grounds, as well as get a reusable coffee filter. There is no need to constantly buy coffee filters when you do not need to, and coffee grounds make a great compost material for the garden.
Also, in terms of coffee grounds, here are some great uses for it:
- You can use it as plant food for rosebushes, azaleas, rhododendrons, evergreens and camellias that like acidic soil.
- If you are having a problem with ants in the yard or house, then sprinkle some of the grounds in the areas you do not want them and they will not go anywhere near the grounds.
- If you would like to make your own paper (an upcoming blog ;) ), then you can use coffee grounds as brown dye for paper, as well as fabric and Easter eggs.
- Cats hate coffee grounds, so mix it with some orange peels and put it around your plants.
- Mix some of the coffee grounds with some shampoo when you are giving your dog a bath, it will not only get rid of fleas, but it will make the dog's hair feel softer.
I would also like to give a shout out to a new affiliate of our blog, Eco-Libris. The people here are an environmental leader in that they will plant a tree for every book that you buy through them. As a book lover and a writer, this provides a wonderful solution to me as the books I buy end up costing a tree its life. Check out their website at: http://www.ecolibris.net/
Here is a list of coffee companies that practice the principles of fair trade and organically grown, courtesy of Treehugger.com:
Birds and Beans
Blue Smoke Coffee
Global Exchange Fair Trade Online Store
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
The Groovy Mind
Grounds For Change
Kicking Horse Coffee
Merchants of Green Coffee
Newman's Own Organics
Solar Roast Coffee
Sweetwater Organic Coffee Roasters
Today Was Fun
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Today, we decided to save some water, and the best way to do that is by limiting your showers. Typically, people will take a 10 to 15 min shower, and this wastes about 150 to 250 liters of water each time. Now, it is entirely feasible to have a shower, get yourself clean and wash your hair in five minutes, and when you do this you save 75 to 175 liters of water as a result. That may not seem like much, but here is a quick little lesson on water wasting:
- If you have a 20 min shower, you waste 300 liters of water. Multiply that over a week and you waste 2,100 liters of water. Multiply that over one year, and you waste 100,800 liters of water!
- If you have a 10 min shower, you waste 150 liters of water. Multiply that over a week and you have 1,050 liters of water. Multiply that over one year and you waste 50,400 liters of water.
- Now, if you have a five minute shower, then you use 75 liters of water. Multiply that over a week and you get 525 liters of water. Multiply that over one year and you will only use 25,200 liters. In fact, a five minute shower per day for a MONTH will use the same amount of water used in a 20 minute shower per day for a WEEK.
In our own house, we averaged 15 min showers, which came to 225 liters of water. Each day that meant we used 450 liters of water for the shower, which comes to 151,200 liters of water. Switching to five minute showers will save 145,800 liters of water each year here.
To ensure we follow this, we have bought an egg timer that will allow us to know when our five minutes is up.
Some more tips for saving water in the shower is to put a bucket in the shower with you. Let it fill up, then use that bucket to water your garden. Do not leave it in the shower if you are washing your hair or using soap.
You can also only shower a few times a week, like every second day. If you do that, you cut as much as 57 percent on your water.
Don't forget about showering together, that can save water too!
Friday, May 16, 2008
Day 25 has come and it was a big one. To start, we took to task to build a solar cooker that would allow us to barbecue outside during the summer by using free and renewable energy; the sun. The solar cooker was built mostly by Layla who has a knack for these kinds of things. She was able to put it together using just reflective material, electrical tape and cardboard.
We tested it outside and within about 20 min it was over 200 degrees so we hope it works all right.
We will be posting up the steps to build the cooker soon and they will be displayed on a link to the side. Then you will be able to make the cooker yourself.
To build the whole thing, we did not spend over $20 so it is very affordable. We will post pics soon of how well it worked cooking. It may need fine tuning but overall it looks like it will work pretty well.
Also, thank you to Kate Webb from The Province newspaper here in B.C. This is a big paper and they were nice enough to do a story on us, which will appear on Tuesday. Kate also provided me with some links to other individuals who are living the green life:
No Impact Man - http://noimpactman.typepad.com/
Green As A Thistle - http://greenasathistle.com/
We should be using some ideas from those sites as well for our green initiative.
Stay tuned everyone as we begin to go more and more in-depth with the things you can build and use to help you go greener. We are hoping to make this an all encompassing year and want to cover everything, so thank you all for visiting.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Later on we did an interview with the local paper regarding the group and we did a tour of a ground squirrel mound that has been built to keep ground squirrels out of the cemetery area.
Thank you to everyone who has been providing tips and tricks to us, we will be using them in the future to help us in our Green Year. For all of you who have told others, thanks so much! The message is spreading!
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
We will be using a Reel Mower, which is a mower that cuts grass as you push it around. The motor is you and they have been designed to be lightweight and easy to push around.
So now not only do we get great exercise pushing the mower around, but we also don't deal with gas at all, which means we do not put any CO2 into the atmosphere just so we can cut our grass.
We were quite surprised by prices for the mower, we thought they would be expensive but the one we are purchasing one for only $99 at Canadian Tire. These mowers have been proven to last longer than other mowers, if they are cared for properly, and they are even better for your lawn.
When most people cut their lawn, they cut it too short for one thing, but they also collect all the grass in bags and then dump it elsewhere. When you let the Reel Mower cut up the grass and leave it on the lawn, it creates a great natural mulching system that will actually help your lawn.
This is just the start of going green with our lawn. You can check back in the future as we use a rain barrel to deal with watering, we use natural fertilizers and more!
A traditional gas lawnmower puts 22 pounds of CO2 in the atmosphere for one hour use. This means, that if we mow the lawn, one hour every two weeks from April to September, that puts 264 pounds of CO2 in the atmosphere, which is exactly what we are taking out of the atmosphere with our Reel Mower.
Some good news! We were awarded the Blog of the Day award from http://blogofthedayawards.blogspot.com/ so that is great! Word is getting out! Thanks everyone!
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Nonetheless, where we are there are some air conditioners but not many, and for this day of our Green Year, we have decided to offer some tips we will be using to help beat the heat without the air conditioner.
Air conditions are horrible for the environment, and they cost you a lot of money on your energy bill. Instead, there are a few things you can do to beat the heat:
- Insulate Your Home: Insulating your home helps keep it warm, but it can also keep it cool. Put in the right caulking and weather stripping and you will be able to keep the heat out during the summer time. You can also put trees up to shade your home, which can lower the temperature in your home by as much as 40 percent.
- Open the windows on the ground floor of you house on one side only, then go to the top floor and open the windows on the opposite side. This will bring cool air into the bottom of your house and push the warm air out the top (hot air rises remember). Put some fans pointing inward on the window sill downstairs and outward upstairs to help make things work a bit better. (See diagram above)
- Close blinds on your large picture windows. This will prevent a lot of heat from coming into your home, it will get dark but it is not the end of the world.
- Keep anything that generates heat off, throughout your home. This is everything from lights, clothes dryer and more. These things will actually increase the heat in your home and make things a lot hotter.
- Drinking water will cool you down because your body will feel cooler and refreshed. Having hot clam chowder and hot tea is only going to make you feel, well, hot.
- Heat is a state of mind. If you simply try and ignore it, you will but if you focus on it and whine about it, the heat will bother you all that much more.
- It is going to get cold in the winter and you will wish it was hot, so just enjoy the heat while it is there. It is going to be hot, that is what summer is.
Monday, May 12, 2008
As professional writers, Layla and I will often receive books in the mail for which we are supposed to use for research on certain projects. As well, we love books and we often order a few every few months from Amazon.com to help fuel our creative and literary juices.
However, we have begun to think, as part of our green year, about the problem these can create for the environment, when we waste a lot of packaging to hold a few items.
So, for Day 21, we are going to start recycling our packaging material.
First, you can reuse the packaging material to send a package you may need to send to someone. This will save you money from not having to get packaging, and it helps the environment by reusing the item. Of course, you can't just hold onto all these boxes and package material for months on end, unless you want your house to look like a pigsty.
You can also find out if any of your friends, co-workers or family need any boxes or packaging material. If they do, then you simply need to provide some of your excess to them. This may not happen often, as no one wants a bunch of packaging material in their office, but you never know. It is better than putting it in the landfills where it can pile up and become a growing problem.
Now, you can recycle everything in the packaging material, including the bubble wrap and foam inside. You simply need to find a recycling center in your area that will accept it and then you can drop it off. This is by far the best option because you are not contributing at all to waste and you are not adding bubble wrap, boxes and foam filler to your office closet.
This may seem like a rather small thing to focus on when we have talked about saving trees and more, but the truth is that we have to alter everything about our lives in order to help the environment, and everything from recycling bubble wrap to driving less play into making the environment healthy and saving our civilization from an ecological disaster.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Both Layla and my mothers live in Edmonton, but both are coming to visit us at the end of the month and that is when we will be presenting them with their green gifts. What green gifts can you use? Well, there are actually plenty.
- Flowers are a great gift because they are green, beautiful and they smell nice. Try and buy locally to support your local retailers, but if you can, grow them yourself and transplant them to a pot for your mom. If you can, buy your mom some potted plants. As we have discussed in the blog, this is a great way to clean up the air and green up the Earth.
- Plant a tree for her. This is one of those special kinds of gifts that few people seem to think about. When you plant a tree for your mom, you are not only helping take CO2 out of the air and putting out oxygen instead, you are also putting up a living reminder of your mother. Four decades down the road after she is passed on, you can go to that tree and remember the day you planted it for her.
- Try and make her something by using things you have in your own home. Using some arts and craft supplies, you can make a great picture frame out of branches on the ground, or you can make her a wonderful wind chime using tin, wood or other supplies.
- Candles are a great choice because moms love candles. Get ones that are earth-safe, usually made of soy or beeswax. These are great gifts for your mom because they are green, they look good and if they are scented, they smell good.
- Birdhouses are also a good choice. Not only do you give her something to help add life to the yard, you are providing a home for birds who may have lost their home to urban sprawl.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Now, when you buy vinegar, be sure to find out what brand you are buying because some come from fossil fuel products, which negates using it as an environmentally friendly solution in the house. To find out how to make your own vinegar, visit this site: http://www.vinegarman.com/VinegarMaking.shtml
So, what are the uses of vinegar around the house?
- Instead of using paint thiner, use vinegar as it is much better than turpentine and is safer for both your hands and the environment.
- Mix it with water as we did earlier this week and you have a product that is much better than most cleaning products bought at the store.
- If you burn yourself, or have a bit of pain, you can use vinegar by soaking it on a cotton ball and putting that on the bruise or burn to quicken the healing.
- Fido pee on the carpet? Use vinegar to deal with it.
- If you have a stain, you can put vinegar on the stain before washing it, which is better than using the expensive and environmentally-harmful stain removal products on the market.
- It serves as a better fabric softener and uses about half the amount needed.
- In the kitchen and bathroom, you can use vinegar to deal with mold, stains and soap scum.
- If you have clogs in the drain, boil white vinegar and pour it down the drain to remove clogs without the need for Drain-O.
- If you want to cleanse your face or deal with dandruff, you can use vinegar instead of other expensive products.
- One of the most toxic items you will use is oven cleaner, but vinegar can actually work better in the stove simply by soaking stains in vinegar and then scrubbing them off.
- If you have a stinky room, put a bowl of vinegar in there to deodorize it. Both the vinegar smell and the bad odor will disappear in no time.
Thanks to AboutMyPlanet.Com for all these helpful tips!
Friday, May 9, 2008
We know that the fridge and stove are big power consumers in the household. There is not much we can do about the fridge right now except upgrade it to an Energy Star appliance, but with the stove Layla and I have endeavored to use it as little as we can; instead, choosing to use a hot plate grill that allows us to cook nearly anything we need without ever using the stove. It uses much less power than the stove and in some ways, does a much better job.
Another thing we are doing is cutting down on the energy waste of our cookware. When we are cooking a little bit food, we won't use a large pot because the water takes longer to heat up and that means more work on the stove to do it. Instead, we are going to be using pots that are sized perfectly for what we need. We will also be upgrading our cookware so that it has a flat bottom, which provides more contact with the burner and allows it to cook the contents faster. We also will not be cooking anything on a burner that is larger than the pot; this is just a huge waste of energy.
We mentioned yesterday about solar cookers, which we will be building on our own and displaying, that will help us cut down on the use of the stove. Coupled with our reliance on the small grill, we will save quite a bit of energy in the kitchen simply by cooking smart and with the environment in mind.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
With charcoal, you get cheap fuel but it is very dirty. Each time you start cooking with charcoal, you are releasing soot and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere. This may not seem like a lot from a BBQ on your deck, but multiply it by the millions who barbecue each day in North America and it becomes a problem.
As well, lump coal which is made from unprocessed charred wood is a big time cause of deforestation and greenhouse gases, while briquettes have a lot of wood scraps in them, which contain chemicals that were in the wood before it was chopped down. These carcinogenic fumes then go up to the closest thing to them; your nose.
Propane isn't as bad as charcoal, but it is not perfect by any means. It is more efficient than your stove, so if you can, use propane or natural gas.
The best option by far, and the option Layla and I will be going with, is a solar cooker. These amazing devices can cook with temperatures up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and they can be used to deep fry French fries, grill meat or bake items. You can bake, broil, boil or roast with these wonderful devices.
With a solar cooker, no fuel is burned and all it uses is the free solar energy we all have. It is perfectly environmentally friendly because no greenhouse gases are emitted, as well it uses less materials in its construction than barbecues do. They also last longer, roughly five times as long as a gas or charcoal barbecue.
There are two options for your solar cooker needs. You can buy one from www.solarcooking.ca, or you can make one using the plans and many of the recycled materials you have at home, from this website: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-and-Use-a-Solar-Oven
Layla and I will be making our own, so check out a future blog.
If you make a solar cooker from scratch through the plans in the website we provided, let us know and we will post a picture of you with it on our blog!
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
From this point on, we will be recycling our e-waste in an effort to take harmful items and chemicals out of the environment, and put old computers and other electronics to use as something else.
Currently, e-waste represents two percent of the trash in the landfills of the United States, however they represent 70 percent of all the toxic waste in America's landfills. As well, since China, India, Kenya and other third world countries don't have stringent environmental standards, e-waste is sent to them to process, often illegally. With the burning, disassembly and disposal of these items there, huge environmental and health problems result. The reason for this is that e-waste has large amounts of toxic items in them, including lead, mercury and cadmium. For example, a typical computer monitor is made up of six percent lead, usually in the glass. The lead and mercury can often leak into the soil and groundwater of these countries that handle e-waste.
On top of all this, e-waste is the fastest growing source of waste in North America, where only 11 percent of all e-waste is recycled. In one landfill in Vancouver, over 12,000 tonnes of computer equipment was dumped in 2004. E-waste does not decompose, so centuries after it was used, computers will still sit, with their chemicals seeping into the ground and air around them.
From now on, in our household we will recycle all our old electronics to eliminate this problem and we hope you do too.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Every single year, 1.5 million tons of plastic is used to bottle 89 billion liters of water. This is an immense amount. This amounts to the same amount of water that flows over Niagara Falls over the course of two entire days. When you have seen Niagara Falls and the 500,000 liters of water that flow over it every second, you realize just how much water that is.
In the United States, the Earth Policy Institute has estimated that the process to make the plastic for water bottles, burns 1.5 million barrels of oil, which could power 100,000 cars for a year. This is made even worse when you realize that 90 percent of the plastic bottles are not recycled, and sit in landfills where they will slowly decay for centuries.
Instead of using bottled water over and over again, you can simply have one bottle that you clean out, which you fill with water when you need it. There is no reason to have so many water bottles being thrown out over the course of a year, it is the utmost in waste and a huge problem for the environment.
No more water bottles will be entering this house.
Monday, May 5, 2008
- One million trees would be saved if every U.S. household replaced just one 250-count package of virgin fiber napkins with 100 percent recycled ones.
- 544,000 trees would be saved by replacing a 70-sheet roll of virgin fiber paper towels with recycled.
- 424,000 trees would be spared by replacing a 500-sheet roll of virgin fiber toilet paper with recycled.
- 170,000 trees would be saved by replacing one 175-count box of virgin fiber facial tissue recycled.
Have more suggestions for us? Let us know so we can implement them in future blog posts!
Sunday, May 4, 2008
As we grow the garden, we are beginning to find ways to get rid of pests, without worrying about hurting the environment. We have chosen not to use pesticides or anything else chemical, and are choosing natural ways to protect our garden plants.
As a result, we have a list of the things you can do to keep pests out of your garden and keep your garden looking lush.
- If you have cats going in your garden and using it as a litter box, you can circle the garden in lemon peels, or you can put together an orange peel/coffee ground mixture and scatter it around the garden. Can't will not go in as a result.
- Fill some grocery sacks with air and tie them shut. Afterwards, place stakes around your garden and tie the bags to them. The rustling sound it creates will scare rodents and birds away.
- If you have birds taking your strawberries, then simply get some small stones and paint them red and put them around the plants. The birds will eventually tire with trying to eat the 'hard strawberries' and will move on.
- Insects cause a lot of problems in the garden, and if you have spider mites, just spray leftover coffee where they are and they should leave. You can also create a mixture that will get spider mites off your plants. The mixture is 1/2 cup buttermilk, 4 cups of wheat flour and five gallons of water (try to use rain water). Spray it on your garden and you should be able to keep spider mites out, as well as ants, caterpillars and cabbage worms.
- You can mix up black pepper and flour and sprinkle it around your plants to keep the insects out.
- If slugs are moving into your garden, simply take an old recycled sandpaper disk, cut it open and put it around the plant. Slugs won't cross the sandpaper.
- Plant garlic throughout your garden. Doing this will keep insects out of it because they do not like the smell or taste.
- While some bugs are bad for the garden, others help. Spiders eat insects that destroy plants, so to encourage them, lay some mulch at the beginning of the year. This will attract them and they will eat the aphids that come into the garden.
- Are dogs digging in your garden? If they are, you just have to mix a clove of garlic, onion, Tabasco sauce and cayenne pepper in a bucket of water. Let it steep, then let it dribble into the garden where you don't want the dogs. If you have cats digging in your garden, then use powdered mustard and flour instead of garlic and onions to deter them. Mice will keep out of the garden, as will squirrels because the sauce, powder and pepper will stick to the bottom of their feet, which will frustrate them and keep them away.
- Spray vinegar at the base of trees and walls to keep cats away and hide the scent of tomcats who have been in the area.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
We wanted to make sure they survived, so we picked areas that were away from trails, but were also open so that the pine trees would not be choked out by the larger trees.
These pine trees will help to take CO2 out of the atmosphere, put more oxygen into it and assist the environment by providing a habitat for everything from insects and squirrels to chipmunks and birds.
In all there was seven trees planted, over a wide area.
Planting trees is one of the best things you can do for the environment because every day, too many trees to count are cut down to be used for everything from houses to toilet paper in our society.
You may want to plant a tree yourself. It can be done to signify a marriage, birthday, birth or death, and it helps the environment immensely. Think of how cool it will be to come see the tree you planted on the 1st birthday of your son, when your son is 31 years old!
Do the world a favour, plant a tree. We did seven times and that is seven more trees helping to fight global warming.
Friday, May 2, 2008
As part of our Green Year, Layla and I are making the effort to recycle everything that we can, including tin cans, aluminum cans and glass jars. However, the whole point of this blog is to show ways that things can be done that help the environment, and there is nothing better for the environment that recycling items into new items for your home.
So, Layla is making pen jars that can be sold through request to us through the blog (quite cheaply) and through a local farmer's market. By taking the cans we have and converting them into something else, that is a little bit less energy used to create containers for pens, knick-knacks, junk and more. The one on the left is made from a tin can, the one on the right, a Pen Monster, is made from a glass jar.
Recycling your tin cans, either through a recycling program or by turning them into things you can use in your home, is incredibly important. Each year, 15 billion cans are simply thrown away. This is very unfortunate because recycling one tin can can save enough energy to power a TV for three hours, while the average American throws away six pounds worth of tin cans every single month!
Make sure to recycle the tin, aluminum and glass in your home and try to be creative to create things out of those cans that can be of use to you in your house. The Earth will thank you.
Here are just a few of the uses you can get out of cans and jars:
- Plant Pot
- Candle Holder
- Pencil Holder
- Portable Compost Container
- Edge your garden with tin cans to create a unique marker
- Gift Box
- Soap Container
- Tomato juice cans covered in pretty fabric or ribbon make great wine holders for gifts.
- Make a picnic holder from two coffee cans and four soup cans. Spray paint them in fun colors and hot glue them together. Place paper plates and napkins in the large cans and flatware in the small ones. The wind won't blow them away.
- Make a decorative umbrella holder from four coffee cans. Open both ends, hot glue them together end-to-end, and cover them with adhesive-backed paper. Leave the end on the bottom can for a base.
- Use a large coffee can to make "round" bread. Remove both ends and lay on the side while baking.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
When you put in a garden in your backyard, on a windowsill or on your deck, you are actually giving Mother Nature a helping hand.
It may not be hard to see why a garden is something good for the environment, but here are just some of the reasons Layla and I have decided to put a garden in the back and in the front of our house:
1. When you grow a garden, you are helping take CO2 out of the atmosphere through the plants that grow in the garden. As well, you reduce food miles because now the effort to transport food to your home is zero.
2. We will not be using pesticides in our garden and it will all be organic, which means less pesticides in our bodies and the air of our planet.
3. Gardens are habitats for a wide variety of insect species. Instead of trying to get rid of them with chemicals, we are going to try to use natural messages to deal with them.
To deal with our garden, we will be watering minimally, using rain water to water the garden, and we will be composting certain food scraps and other compostable items and using that in the garden instead of buying fertilizers. This will help the soil and the plants, while recycling waste products such as used vegetables and fruits.
If you have any area in your yard, deck or window sill, build yourself a garden. It can be a flower garden to help pollinating insects, it can be vegetables that will put organic food in your diet, or it can be a mixture.
Gardens are easy to make, fun to maintain, the rewards are beautiful and the garden produce tastes great.