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Green Living Ideas provides ideas, tips, and information to help you improve the environmental sustainability of every aspect of your life: home energy, green building and remodeling, cars, food, waste recycling—and everything in between. Green Living Ideas is the most comprehensive green living website ever assembled, with information on how to live greener in over 200 different areas of life! We’ve assembled the world’s top green living authors and experts to bring you the latest info on green and sustainable living.
Updated: 17 hours 23 min ago

Water Leaks: A Silent Menace

Mon, 2014-07-21 20:21

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average american household wastes roughly 10,000 gallons of water a year through both known and unknown water leaks. That’s enough water to run an additional 270 loads of laundry! Worse yet, roughly 10 percent of US homes waste over 90 gallons of water per day. When you add all that up, it accounts to nearly 1 trillion gallons of wasted water by the US alone every year. Which is enough water to cover the annual usage of 11 million homes! But how can this be? Isn’t the average home owner smart enough to spot a dripping faucet or notice a dramatic spike in their water bill? In short yes, but most leaks are so small that they often go unnoticed. Especially given the relatively low cost of actual water usage on your monthly water bill.

The most common areas where you’ll find these little trouble makers in your home are the bathroom, kitchen and laundry rooms. Just knowing where to look is a great start to finding and fixing these water leaks, but sometimes it’s a little easier said than done. So to help you figure out if your home has sprung a leak, we’ve complied a few easy tips.

  • Check your water meter before and after a 2 hour period. During that time, try to refrain from using any water in your home. If the meter has gone up, then you’ve got a leak somewhere in the house.
  • Monitor your winter water usage. If a house hold of four is using more than 12,000 gallons per month, odds are there is a major water leak somewhere in the home.
  • Compare your bills. If you haven’t had a major shift in your water usage habits, but your bill has gone up, you might have a water leak. Be sure to look at the actual water “usage” when comparing your monthly water bills.
  • Look for water marks or discoloring in the paint on your ceilings. This is often caused by a leak from the floor above the water mark. Most likely a leaky sink, bathtub or drainage line is the culprit.

If any of these examples sound familiar it might be a good idea to check around your house for a water leak. The good news, is that if you know where to look they shouldn’t be too hard to find. Try reading this article on leaks in and around your various sinks to get yourself started. Also, check out this article for a homemade drain cleaner, keeping your drains clean and clear is a great way to prevent leaks from forming in the first place.

Photo courtesy of Painter Click.

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Categories: Green Living

Finding a leak in your Bathroom, Kitchen And Utility Sinks

Mon, 2014-07-21 19:23

Every home is bound to have at least one during its lifetime, and if gone un-checked, can cause serious damage to both your home and bank account. We’re talking about a leaky sink. Even if your sink is only dripping 10 times per minute, that can amount to more than 500 gallons per year! Not only that, it can be causing damage to your cabinets, floors and ceilings which could cost you even more money.  So, to help you save both time and money down the road, we’ve compiled some easy tips to help you identify and repair some common water leaks in your sink(s).

Things you’ll need for the job:

  • Flashlight
  • Sponge
  • Towel
  • Wrench (optional)
  • Caulking Solution (optional)
  • Caulking Gun (optional)
Identifying The Type Of Leak You Have

The first step to repairing any water leak is identifying the type of leak you have. There are three common areas where a leak can develop in and around your sink; leaks will occur around the rim, water supply and drain lines. Depending on both the severity and type of leak you have, you may or may not need to call a professional plumber to help you repair it.

Problem: The Rim Of The Sink - This type of leak is often caused by  either old/worn out caulking solution or a loose faucet base . To find out if this is the leak you have, take a sponge and soak it with water. Next, squeeze out the water from the sponge around the rim of the sink. Now, take your flashlight and look in the cabinet underneath the sink. If you see any drops or pools of water under the sink, you likely have a leak in the rim of your sink.

Solution: To fix this type of leak, all you have to do is either replace the bead of caulking solution or use a wrench tighten the faucet base.

Problem: The Water Supply Line - This type of leak is caused by a loose connection or hole somewhere in the supply line. Unless you’re a certified plumber, we’d recommend calling a professional to have it fixed. Though, you can always inspect the connections and supply line itself to see if that’s the issue. To do this all you will need is a dry towel. first, turn on the water to the sink and let it run for a minute or two. While the water is running take a dry towel and rub it along and around any connections in the water supply line. Inspect the towel after wiping each connection point to see if it’s at all damp. If so, you’ve likely spotted the loose connection in your water supply line.

Solution: Call your local plumber and have them inspect and determine just what needs to be done to repair the line.

Problem: The Drain - This leak is often attributed to a leaky joint, slip nut, ring nut or strainer under the sink. To test for this, fill up your sink with water. Now, open the drain and allow the water to drain out of the sink. As the water is draining take a dry towel and flashlight and wipe all the connections along the drain line. If at any point you find water on the outside of a connection, you’ve likely found a water leak.

Solution: Try taking a wrench and tightening any loose connections you may have. If this doesn’t stop the leak, you’ll need to contact a professional plumber for further assessment.

If you’re still looking for more ways to ensure that water is flowing efficiently and properly through your home check out this article on natural drain cleaner, or try implementing some of these water saving tips.

Photo courtesy of Isolated Existence, Bob Villa, Connor Plumbing and the Family Handyman.

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Categories: Green Living

Solar Energy: A Guiding Light To A Brighter Future

Wed, 2014-07-16 16:33

I was once told that the only constant in this world is change, and it would seem that the person who told me that was right. We can see the effects of this change in just about every facet of our lives; from fashion to technology, the world that we live in is in a constant state of change. However, the most promising change may just be in how we gather and generate energy.

Meet AGL Solar. AGL has been providing and meeting their customers energy needs for the last 175 years and that has required a great deal of flexibility and, you guessed it, change. However, it’s this change that has kept AGL on the cutting edge of the energy industry and allows them to address all your solar energy needs. With their extensive knowledge and background in solar energy they can come up with a solar powered solution for all sorts of customers in a variety of situations.

What’s not to love about converting to solar? Not only is it one of, if not the, cleanest forms of energy available on the market today, it’s the only one that can stand apposed the constant of change we face in our day to day lives. As long as the sun rises everyday, and my guess is that it will, you’ll be powering your life with clean energy that will help to minimize your carbon footprint and maximize all that your life has to offer.

If you want to know more about solar energy, and see if it’s something you can incorporate into your day to day life contact the folks at AGL Solar. Or you can use their online calculator to see what it might cost you to change over to solar energy. There are also a number of different incentives available for those who chose to purchase a solar system, including feed-in tariffs and rebates. Making the change to solar energy an affordable decision that will benefit both you and the planet for years to come.

This post was generously sponsored by AGL Solar.

Photo courtesy of The Telegraph.

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Categories: Green Living

8 Fracking Myths Debunked – Updated

Wed, 2014-07-16 07:00

Earlier this year I penned a popular mythbusting guide to hydraulic fracturing, also known as ‘fracking’, the process of extracting shale gas by drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a very high pressure. This process is intensive and potentially risky because the pressure is required to fracture the shale rocks and release the gas. Fracking is continuously undergoing scrutiny and research and there is still much that we don’t know about it, but we do know more now than we did six months ago when I wrote the original mythbusting article, so I’ve updated the information here.

The original article I wrote was also aimed at a primarily British audience, however several readers in the US contacted me to ask for a similar research-based overview of fracking that is relevant to Americans as well, so here it is.

Myth #1 – Flammable Water Caused by Fracking is a Hoax

In the UK

In the original article I mentioned the unlikelihood of general water supplies becoming contaminated with methane in the UK. However, since then the results of a major study on the link between fracking and drinking water contamination have been published. The British Geological Survey and the Environment Agency have mapped the locations of key aquifers in England and Wales and their proximity to proposed fracking sites, and the results show that nearly half of the areas considered for fracking are at risk of polluting aquifers – ie drinking water sources. This means that, contrary to what I wrote in the original article, the risk of methane being released into drinking water through the fracking process is high in these specific areas. If fracking gets underway in England, which Prime Minister David Cameron assures us it will, drinking water contaminated with methane may become a real scenario for people across the country, even if the water is not contaminated enough to be set on fire when exposed to a naked flame, as has been the case in the US.

In the US

Unfortunately for people in the US local fracking wells are very likely to contaminate their drinking water, as research by Duke University has found that water wells that are in close proximity to fracking sites in Pennsylvania had methane levels that were over six times higher than other wells.

Here’s a video showcasing the potential for water to catch on fire from fracking operations:

Myth #2 – Fracking Doesn’t Cause Earthquakes

In the US

If the fracking debate was to boil down to assessing which is the greater evil caused in the long-term – emissions contributing to climate change, vs earthquakes, the latter is probably the least of our problems. Still, earlier this month scientists linked hundreds of earthquakes across Oklahoma to a handful of fracking sites, and that is worrying news.

The research by three American universities and the US Geological Survey found that about one-fifth of the earthquakes in Oklahoma were caused by just four fracking wells, and that earthquakes could actually occur as far away as 30km away from a fracking site, which is a much larger distance than previously assumed by scientists.

In the UK

Although the news about seismic activity is bad for America, us Brits don’t have to worry about this one.. Or do we? The small earthquakes that occurred in Blackpool in 2011 were linked to Cuadrilla Resources Ltd’s drilling practices, however the British Geological Survey states that ‘both the tectonic history and the present-day stress regime in the British Isles is rather different to many of these areas of exploration and production. Also, it should be noted that many US shale gas plays are in relatively remote locations, with no monitoring networks in place.’

So, no need to worry, right? It depends on how trusting you are of the oil industry, as the report that addresses these concerns by estimating ‘future seismic hazard’ and ‘proposed recommendations for future operations to mitigate seismic risk’ was undertaken by the company at fault and whose operations were at stake – Cuadrilla. I’ll leave you with that fact.

Myth #3 – Fracking is a Sustainable Option

Fracking is in no way sustainable. It is a highly intensive process that increases emissions, causes methane leakage, creates low level ozone in some places in the world, and requires vast quantities of water and mass construction to create temporary fracking sites in green, typically countryside areas in both the UK and the US. Also, shale gas is still a finite resource, which means it’s going to run out one day.

Myth #4 – Fracking is Safe

In the original article I wrote that fracking is not strictly regulated, and this is still true despite immense pressure from concerned citizens and environmental organisations across the globe. To look at Oklahoma as an example, there are no rules for fracking companies to limit the pressure or volume of fracking waste that can be injected into the ground in the state, despite solid evidence that this pressure is what is triggering so many earthquakes.

In addition to this, the fracking process requires the use of toxic chemicals, which have been linked to instances of soil, livestock and wildlife contamination, and as with all methods of oil extraction there is the risk of spills. In February this year a fracking site in North Dakota suffered a major leak, and last year The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) was concerned that methane was ‘bubbling up’ on fracking sites that had been drilled to test for the gas in Scotland.

In the original article I reported that the Environmental Protection Agency was undertaking a large-scale study of the fracking industry, the results of which are due to be published later this year.

Finally, earlier this year ExxonMobil’s CEO Rex Tillerson objected to the construction of a fracking tower next to his home in Texas. Doesn’t fill you with trust for the process, does it?

Myth #5 – Fracking Sites Look Nicer Than Wind Farms

Nope, they’re still eyesores.

Whereas these are not.

Myth #6 – Fracking Will Boost the Economy

Unfortunately when people discuss economy they tend to focus on right now instead of the long-term, so people with vested interests in fracking are arguing that it is creating jobs, which is of course true. But how sustained this job creation might be is up for debate.

Ultimately, shale gas is a finite resource and therefore only a temporary solution to a long-term problem. It’s not doing our grandchildren any favours to frack the planet now, especially not through a difficult, high energy and environmentally destructive process.

Since I wrote the original article an interesting case study has hit in the news in the form of Germany’s renewable energy usage, as 31 percent of Germany’s electricity generation in the first half of 2014 came from renewable sources. Germany also set a solar power record in June of this year, and the country’s Energiewende or ‘energy transformation’ plan aims to shift from nuclear and fossil fuels to renewables and achieve 80 percent renewable energy generation by 2050. Two of the motivations driving energy transformation in Germany are that it will generate economic growth, and make the country more energy independent, and these are both things that are beneficial for the economy in the long-term. In the long-term, fracking can’t boast either of them.

Myth #7 – Fracking is a Popular Choice

In the UK

In May this year the BBC reported the results of a new poll that found that the number of people in favour of fracking in the UK has fallen below 50%. Last year Green Party MP Caroline Lucas was arrested at an anti-fracking protest in Balcombe, Sussex, and was cleared of all charges in April of this year.

In the US

Whether Americans are for or against fracking depends entirely on who you ask, as discovered by the Pew Research Centre survey undertaken last year. Although the survey looks at factors like age, gender, and political leanings, a regional survey might be more revealing, since Santa Cruz, CA has banned fracking, Los Angeles, CA passed a moratorium on fracking earlier this year, and in June this year the highest New York court ruled that its cities and towns can ban fracking within their borders.

Myth #8 – Fracking Can’t Be Stopped

As I wrote in the original article, the key to challenging the fracking industry is to act locally. Don’t just scare people about earthquakes and flammable water – watch the research, know your arguments, and tackle the other side of the argument which is reducing our dependence on oil and embracing energy alternatives in the meantime. Green energy is fracking’s nemesis.

Acting locally means that changes can be as simple as investing in a green energy supplier for electricity needs at home, which won’t necessarily cost more than a fossil fuel supplier. If fracking is happening in your area then write to your local MP, the newspaper, and join your local Greenpeace group to meet other people who want to keep the frackers away.

But most of all, keep up the discussion without spreading the myths. Because there’s really no need to exaggerate claims about what is clearly a dangerous, polluting, poorly regulated, and unsustainable practice, for all the reasons outlined above.

 

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Categories: Green Living

The Heart of the Home: Green Home Improvement Ideas for the Kitchen

Mon, 2014-07-14 20:06

Turn your kitchen into a space to be proud of!

Does your kitchen need updating? Now is the perfect time to undergo an eco-friendly remodeling project. Surprisingly, going green will not add a lot to your budget, and in many cases, doing so will even save you money over the long term. The following ideas are a great way to embrace your eco-friendly ideals while still creating the kitchen of your dreams.

Turn Old Items into New Treasures

Several items in the kitchen may not need to be replaced. Look closely at your cabinets, sinks, faucets, and even appliances. Make a decision about whether to reuse these items based on their age and condition. For example, any appliance that is more than ten years old should be replaced with an Energy Star model. The difference in the amount of energy the two appliances consume is amazing. Purchasing a new model refrigerator, for instance, instead of using one that is twenty years old, will save your family about $120 per year. However, be smart about what you buy new and what you choose to reuse. If you know anyone that is also going through a kitchen remodel, you may be able to turn their trash into your treasures.

Focus on Flooring

When it comes to eco-friendly flooring options, both cork and linoleum are solid, sustainable choices. They hold up well over time, and they also look nice in the kitchen area. The benefits of using linoleum include the fact that it is not affected by moisture, it is durable, and there are many options when it comes to design. There are also no harmful vapors associated with this flooring. However, linoleum can stain, so it is a good idea to add a protective coating.

Cork comes from tree bark, which grows back after it is used. Like linoleum, cork is not affected by moisture. Because cork has a textured surface, it is easy to walk on and it is not slippery. A sealant should be applied to cork flooring every four years to ensure it stays in the best shape possible.

Replace the Lighting

How many years has it been since your kitchen was updated? If the answer is “quite a while,” it is a good idea to replace your lighting with energy efficient options. Technology has come a long way in the past decade, and choosing eco-friendly products will save you money and improve the atmosphere in your kitchen space.

Support Local Vendors

Give back to the community by purchasing supplies from manufacturers in your area. Not only are you helping out your town or city by doing so, you are also helping the environment at the same time. Buying local goods means less fossil fuel is wasted, because the items do not have to travel a long distance to reach you.

Remodeling your kitchen can add a lot of value to your home. If you are interested in taking on a home improvement project, consider turning the process “green” using the tips above. The end result will be well worth any extra effort involved.

Image Credit: Some rights reserved by Nancy Hugo, CKD

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Categories: Green Living

Healthy Eating for the Family

Thu, 2014-07-03 13:14

 

There are a lot of things you can do to keep your children and family healthy, safe, and happy but none are likely to have a greater impact on a daily basis than the careful selection of the food they eat. While it remains bizarre how it became common place to consume processed, chemical laden foods with a list of ingredients that reads like a high school chemistry test, it takes little more than common sense to decide that they may not be the best choice when it comes to eating healthy foods.

Informed Shoppers Are Healthier Shoppers

Choosing to eat and live in a healthier more natural way is as simple as learning to read labels and see past advertising hype to get to the truth. If there was an accurate description of the way foods were grown, processed, and delivered to the grocery store or your table. There is little doubt most would choose the natural and organic methods automatically. Unfortunately, after years of overlooking labelling requirements people have learnt to not ask questions about foods. Now we simply consume them without thought. Healthier living starts with learning to ask questions again.

It is interesting that the average shopper is more interested in the details of the history of a used car than in the history of the food they will be giving their children to consume. When shopping for a used car we always ask: who owned it last, was it ever in an accident, do you have maintenance records to verity that all was as it was supposed to be before, and even check 3rd party sites for history reports. Yet many people pick up a can of baby formula with a label that reads –

Water, Non-fat Milk, Lactose, High Oleic Safflower Oil, Soy Oil, Coconut Oil, Galactooligosaccharides, Whey Protein Concentrate. Less than 0.5% of the Following: C. Cohnii Oil, M. Alpina Oil, Beta-Carotene, Lutein, Lycopene, Ascorbic Acid, Soy Lecithin, Monoglycerides, Potassium Citrate, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Carrageenan, Ferrous Sulfate, Magnesium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Choline Bitartrate, Taurine, m-Inositol, Calcium Phosphate, Zinc Sulfate, Potassium Phosphate, d-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, L-Carnitine, Vitamin A Palmitate, Cupric Sulfate, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Manganese Sulfate, Phylloquinone, Biotin, Sodium Selenate, Vitamin D3, Cyanocobalamin, Salt, Potassium Hydroxide, and Nucleotides (Adenosine 5’-Monophosphate, Cytidine 5’-Monophosphate, Disodium Guanosine 5’-Monophosphate, Disodium Uridine 5’-Monophosphate).

(Similac advance nutrition formula)

Without as much as a question of why this formula contains so many ingredients and what exactly they are.

There are two things everybody can do to make healthier choices. Begin to read the labels and ask why is that in my food? If you do not have time to read every label every time then to consider shopping at places that do that for you and only carry organic food products. The immediate argument you will hear is that the quantities are so small that the ingredient does not matter (as the label points out less than .5% or ½ of 1%. So yes, it is a small amount, however in this case the label lists 42 separate ingredients in that area so in total even though it is a small amount of each by labelling, it could legally be over 20% in total.

Choosing to ask questions and shopping in places that ask questions for you is the key to finding healthier food products for your family. If stores that specialize in organic and natural food products are rare in your area then the internet is an excellent place to shop for organic and natural foods.

Another excellent resource for healthier safer foods are the locally produced organic farmers markets that are common in some areas. To decide whether to purchase local produce, look for certified organic producers. Simply choosing to buy fresh fruits and vegetables locally is not an indication of whether pesticides or chemical fertilizers were used unless they are certified as an organic grower.

This post was generously sponsored by

Photo courtesy of SLT2008.

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Categories: Green Living

8 Natural Remedies for Arthritis

Thu, 2014-07-03 00:16

The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The bad news is that both types of arthritis cause pain, inflammation and discomfort in the joints. The good news is that a lot of research is being done into treating and preventing arthritis, and there are a number of natural remedies available today that have been found to ease the symptoms of arthritis.

1. Devil’s Claw

Devil’s claw gets its name from the little hooks that cover its fruit, as they look a bit like claws. Several studies have found that devil’s claw reduces pain and inflammation in arthritis patients, but more research needs to be done to see whether the plant can help everyone who takes it. The general findings are that taking devil’s claw for 8-12 weeks reduces pain in people with osteoarthritis and also increases joint flexibility. It may also relieve joint pain and arthritic pain in the spine, hip, and knee. This remedy is therefore easy to get hold of and is stocked by most stores that sell herbal or natural supplements. As with all natural remedies, consult your doctor first to make sure you can take devil’s claw, as it can interact with some prescribed medications.

2. Turmeric

Turmeric has been used for many centuries in Ayurvedic culture, in cooking and as a medicine for treating inflammatory disorders including arthritis.

A study found that turmeric was useful for preventing arthritis, but there’s some debate about whether the turmeric extracts that are available to buy actually contain the active ingredients needed to help arthritis patients. If you can’t find a reputable source, opt for using more turmeric in your cooking instead, and increase the amount you consume slowly over time.

3. Ginger

I’ve talked about the benefits of treating gout with ginger before, but ginger is also great for other inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. A study found a reduction in knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee after the participants took ginger extract for 6 weeks. However, they also had a side effect of more gastrointestinal (GI) problems than the placebo group in the study, so it’s best to avoid this remedy if you suffer from stomach problems or GI complaints already.

Ginger is best used to treat arthritis of the knee, but there’s no harm in increasing how much you consume as a potential preventative measure as well. Either take a highly purified and standardized ginger extract for treatment, or for prevention I recommend adding more to your cooking and drinking herbal teas brewed using ginger root. I also recommend these useful tips for growing and using ginger at home.

4. Boswellia

A study found that Boswellia serrata Extract (BSE) helped to decrease pain in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, increased their knee flexibility and increased their ability to walk. Swelling around the affected joints was also reduced. Unfortunately it’s not that easy to get hold of this remedy, but if you do manage to get hold of Boswellia extract make sure it’s from a well-known and safe supplier.

5. Rosehip

Rosehip is the fruit of the rose plant and it grows wild in many parts of the world. Rosehips are high in vitamin C and can be eaten raw or made into jams, jellies, syrups, soups and drinks.

Research found that rosehip powder improved hip flexibility in patients with osteoarthritis of the hips, and reduced the pain that went with it after 3 months of use. Rosehip more impact on osteoarthritis patients and less on patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Although it is not one of the most effective natural remedies for treating arthritis, rosehip extract may be the easiest remedy for you to get hold of and use, as it is available to buy in capsules, tablets and as an oil that can be rubbed into your skin. The studies used 5g of rosehip a day, so you will want to build up to using a similar dose, but I also highly recommend making your own jellies and syrup out of foraged rosehips as well, as it has a mild fruity flavour and is such a good source of vitamin C.

6. Omega-3 fatty acids

It has been thought for a while that consuming more omega-3 fatty acids can be good for inflammatory arthritis, and now researchers think they understand why this is, but there’s still a lot of confusion about the best way to increase fatty acid intake. This is because omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids come in two forms, known as EPA and DHA, and large amounts of omega-3 are needed for the best effects.

Many people choose concentrated fish oil supplements to increase fatty acid intake, but omega-3 works together with omega-6 and omega-9 so if you increase your intake of one and not the other two, your body many not be able to use the extra oils you’re consuming anyway. The best option then is to buy a mixture of the three omegas in capsule form. The ingredients don’t necessarily have to come from fish oil but can be from a mixture of other fatty acids such as flaxseed oil and walnuts, although little research has been done into fish-free oils.

As well as taking capsules for treatment, as a preventative measure I recommend increasing the number of walnuts you eat and adding ground flaxseeds to your diet. It’s also worth noting here that increasing omega fatty acid intake can helpful if you have inflammatory arthritis, but not for treating gout.

7. Vitamin D

Since vitamin D deficiency is linked to arthritis, and slight vitamin D deficiency is quite common, especially in winter, it’s worth adding more to your diet, or taking a general multivitamin to make sure you’re getting the minimum amount that your body needs.

8. Selenium

Selenium is an essential mineral and micronutrient and selenium deficiency may make arthritis worse. Unless you have had blood tests done and know that you have a deficiency, I don’t recommend taking selenium in supplement form as minerals need to work together to work properly, so taking a high dose of a single mineral that you are not deficient in is a waste of money and resources. Instead, try adding natural sources of selenium to your diet, as it is found in many foods and is highest in Brazil nuts. As long as you’re not a nut allergy sufferer already, only good can come of increasing your general nut intake, as it will help you to ensure that you’re getting other trace vitamins and minerals as well. So tuck in!

Disclaimer: I am not a licensed doctor or herbalist. Please consult a doctor or medical provider for medical issues and before self-remedying, especially if you are taking prescription medication.

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Categories: Green Living

5 Common Myths Surrounding Nuclear Power

Fri, 2014-06-27 16:05

I must start off by saying that as you read this, bear in mind that I am a huge environmental supporter and things like nuclear waste do not bode well with me. However, there are common misconceptions about nuclear power I want to address.

Okay, so you may not be a nuclear engineer, but you’ve probably heard of nuclear power before. Nuclear power plants have been operational since the early 1950’s and since then we have seen catastrophes such as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl,  and Fukushima. The public has grown in their understanding of nuclear power over the years and, consequently, has grown very distrustful of both the technology and the politics behind it. Below are a few talking points that most would consider true statements:

1) Nuclear power is not clean technology.

2) Nuclear power is not safe technology.

3) Nuclear power is not sustainable.

4) Nuclear power promotes proliferation of nuclear weapons.

5)  Nuclear power is just an expensive way to boil water to generate electricity.

These are the facts about nuclear power, right? Most people would certainly say so. But it turns out most people are wrong. Now, before you start writing your hate mail, please allow me to explain.

There is much more to the story than you may realize. I say this because the word ‘nuclear’ now carries a negative stigmatism that it truly doesn’t deserve. Perhaps this is just an issue of semantics, but I believe we can gain insight by dissecting the words that are commonly used. The key here is the word ‘nuclear’. This refers to the energy stored within the nucleus of the atom. There are two ways to extract the energy out of the nucleus. The first is through fission and the second is through fusion.

Fission is the current method used by nuclear power plants. This approach is scientifically very different from fusion, an approach that is being researched to replace fission. In the talking points above, if you were to replace the word ‘nuclear power’ with ‘fission power’ the statements would all be true. However, if you replace ‘nuclear power’ with ‘fusion power’ all the statements actually become false. To put it simply, fission is bad and fusion is good. The word nuclear is a broad term that encompasses both fission and fusion technology. The result being that fusion is getting a bad rapport before it’s even shown up to the party. I think it’s important that we begin to disassociate fusion technology from fission technology within the nuclear arena.

Perhaps fusion energy currently is not being discussed in this way because many people think it is so far away. It feels very abstract, not real. Every time you have this thought, I want you to look up in the sky and marvel at the stars as a reminder that fusion is very real. Also note, fusion research has been advancing about as fast as Moore’s Law and there’s a long list of different approaches being explored, most of which are not covered by mass media. My point being that a huge break-through may be just around the corner. Some researchers are claiming we could have fusion power as early as 2020. Not only is it time to start the discussion, but it’s long overdue.

What’s the difference between fission and fusion? Nuclear fission is the splitting of atoms, while nuclear fusion is the joining of atoms. Now, fusion technology may not be competitive with other energy sources yet, but it certainly will be eventually. And it is this reason that I believe we need to better understand this nuclear technology. It is so easy for people to call all nuclear technology bad and it seriously undermines the admirable efforts of scientists working towards fusion energy technology.

Fusion has long been heralded as the holy grail of energy and rightfully so. It holds so much potential. The biggest hurdle facing scientists attempting this goal is obtaining net energy, or more power out than in. We’ve done this with fission already, but it has proven to be a less than desirable method because of it’s serious drawbacks. All of those drawbacks are the consequences of radioactive waste that can remain hazardous for hundreds or thousands of years. Presently, radioactive waste is a serious issue that is practically synonymous with nuclear power. But, one day that will change. In fact, it must change.

Nuclear fusion has greater energy potential than even fission.  But that’s far from it’s best selling point. Many different fuel sources can be used for fusion and they all result in less radioactive waste. But less radioactive waste is not good enough. The biggest misconception about nuclear power is the issue of radioactive waste. If there is one takeaway from this post to remember, it is that there are fusion fuel sources that will not lead to radioactive waste. This subset of fusion is called aneutronic fusion because it releases less than 1% of it’s energy in the form of neutrons. The importance of this is that radioactive waste is generated by neutrons. Therefore, this subset of nuclear fusion results in substantially less radioactivity. So much less, that it produces no radioactive waste. Of course, the lack of radioactive waste eliminates all the problems associated with recycling it. I believe it is important to help people understand that research into aneutronic fusion is an investment in the future of mankind. That’s how disruptive this technology will be once it is realized. It is the ultimate green energy and not enough people are even aware that it’s possible. Aneutronic fusion shatters the common myths surrounding nuclear power.

This post was generously sponsored by Kyle Haines. Photo courtesy of PSU.

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Categories: Green Living

Go Kin Packs – Always A Step In The Right Direction

Fri, 2014-06-20 08:06

For most of us, “getting off the grid” is viewed as a necessary part of life. It’s a chance for us to engage with the natural world, turn off our phones and enjoy some peace and quiet. However, there are times when being “plugged in” is just as vital. That ability to be connected at a moments notice could mean the difference between life and death. So how do we bridge this gap between want and need? Meet Bill Ostrom and the Go Kin Pack.

Bill has been designing and developing outdoor products and technology for over 26 years, and the Go Kin Pack is the latest in his long line of achievements. These packs seem to have more benefits than you can count. Not only is it a seemingly limitless power source, that has almost no carbon footprint; It could also be the mobile power source that makes an emergency stress call possible. With these packs you can stay both plugged into your online-self and the world around you. However this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The walking power technology pioneered by Go Kin Packs can have major implications for military, medical and emergency response professionals and more. So if you’re inspired by this eco-friendly technology that’s good for both peoples wallets and waistlines, make a donation to their Kickstarter Campaign.

 

Donations for Bill’s campaign start at $1 CAD and go as high as $12,000 CAD (which will get you a 12 day guided canoe trip, the Go Kin Pack system, a t-shirt and most likely a high five from Bill).  Regardless of how much you donate, you’ll definitely get some piece of mind in knowing that you’ve helped make the world a greener place.

Look to see if Bill, and his walking power technology, will be coming to a city near you. They’ll both be on the move to spread the word about the next step in green technology.

Photo courtesy of Kickstarter.com. This post was generously sponsored by Go Kin Packs.

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Categories: Green Living

A Self Employed Eco-Handyman’s Quick Guide To Retirement

Fri, 2014-06-20 07:59

If  you’re the do-it-yourself type of person, then odds are that may have been the way you approached your professional career. You’ve struck out on your own and carved your own path, followed your own rules and been your own boss. You’ve charged yourself with the task of making the world a greener place, and did so one lightbulb, tank bag and air conditioner at a time. You’re a contractor with an eco-focus, and to you sustainability is more than just protecting plants and natural resources. It’s a way of life, impacting everything you do. From the products you purchase and install in people’s homes to the investments you make. It’s all about re-use, re-purpose and recycle.

But what do you do when it’s over, and you’ve decided to retire? What is the best way to invest your hard earned money and protect your assets? How do you make your retirement something sustainable and affordable? For many people the thought of handling their own retirement is just too scary. Though they’ve never feared that leak in the toilet or the drain that needed clearing, the decisions around retirement are a different story.

The folks over at Contractor Financials are prepared to help you handle all those questions surrounding retirement and more. They’ve  already helped over 11,000 freelance contractors achieve their financial goals and are helping more every day. Like you, they believe that a unique solution is appropriate for just about every situation, and that the cookie cutter approach just doesn’t work. So if you’re the type of person who enjoys a personal touch, speak with someone over at Contractor Financials and retire the same way you worked; on your own terms.

Photo courtesy of Business 2 Community.This post was generously sponsored by Contractor Financials.

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Categories: Green Living

Top 5 Toilet Water Conservation Devices

Fri, 2014-06-20 06:00

We’ve all heard the expression, “flushing money down the toilet” , but did you ever realize that it’s true? Seriously! Every time you flush your toilet it’s costing you money in the form of your monthly water bill. So to help you save both money and agony, we’ve come up with the top 5 toilet water conservation devices.

Number 1 – The TapNFlush

When it comes to conserving water in your toilet, the TapNFlush is the best. Not only is it quick and easy to install, it can save you up to $100 per year or more! That’s a savings of nearly twice what it will cost you to get it. But don’t just take our word for it, check out these reviews of the TapNFlush from Amazon. “It took 2 minutes to be installed without any tools!!!” said David Hsing. “Whether you are looking to save money on your water bill or help save the environment, this kit will accomplish the goal.” said Cute Chihuahua.

Number 2 – The Niagara Conservation Water Saving Toilet Tank Bag

Another great way to save money in your toilet is to install one of the toilet tank bags from Niagara Conservation. It’s easy to install and requires virtually no maintenance. Not only that it’s, it’s a low cost way to eventually rack up some big savings!

Number 3 - Fluidmaster Duo Flush Toilet Valve

If installed properly, the fluidmaster can be a great way to conserve water in your toilet. It’s also relatively cheap to purchase, but can require you to be a little bit of a handyman to install it. But, if you’re someone who fancies themselves as such, this could work for you.

Number 4 - HydroRight Drop-in Dual Flush Converter

Using the HydroRight Drop-in can be a great way to save both money and water. This will allow you to convert your toilet into a dual flush toilet, complete with two separate buttons in place of your old handle! The installation may take a little bit longer to do, but it will be time well spent.

Number 5 - Leak Detector Dye Tablets

A big part of saving money is knowing that you’re loosing money. By using these dye tablets, you can determine whether or not your toilet is leaking and costing you even more money. While it won’t necessary fix the problem with your leaky toilet, it’s the first step to identifying ways to save money. Check out this article to learn how to test your toilet for leaks.

 

Photo courtesy of lorettahelson.com

 

 

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Categories: Green Living

Can Pets Boost Your Health?

Wed, 2014-06-18 18:00

Owning a pet is good way for you to boost your health, fact! There is no denying that sharing your life with a member of the animal kingdom enriches your life immeasurably. It is no accident that we have evolved together, entwined our histories so much that the power of our bond is unbreakable, so it’s not surprising that scientists have cottoned on to this. The Pet Health Council explains how a study from the University of Cambridge showed that being around animals reduces stress and anxiety, stops us feeling lonely, lowers cholesterol and the risk of heart attacks can even help us deal with physical pain.

Get out of the house

Walking our dogs can have physical and psychological benefits. It helps us to relax, slows us down and gives us opportunity to reflect on what is going on around us. These days you can even keep fit by running with your dog using special tummy leads that attach around your midriff so you can stay balanced. These leads can be hard to find in the normal high street, but websites like ebay sell all sorts of leads including the midriff lead. If jogging is not your thing but socialising is, then walking a dog is a great way to meet people. Dog walkers are generally very sociable types and many long-term friendships start by a chance meeting while walking the dog.

Animal assisted therapy

There is a swathe of popularity in using animals in therapy. It is medically proven that humans benefit from touch and close contact with animals by lowering the level of a hormone called cortisol and through release of serotonin, which helps us keep calm and relax. Mental Healthy tells us more about how this works. Therapy animals visit patients in hospital and in old people’s homes around the UK. We are used to horses and ponies being used for Riding for the Disabled activities, but they are now being used as a form of psychological therapy. The horse and human work together on the ground to build a relationship – the horse is considered a mirror of your emotions and can see whether you are ‘worth’ working with and, therefore, only when you are calm, steady and relaxed will the animal be happy to be with you. Animal-assisted therapy has been immensely successful with sufferers of metal health issues, victims of domestic violence, children with educational or emotional challenges and even with the rehabilitation of prisoners, but can be beneficial to any one of us.

Never work with children or animals…

Why though? Well, because they are so similar and this is why they have a natural affinity with one another, animals can get children doing all sorts of things we can’t – they’ll have a lazy TV-addicted child running around the garden, the angriest of kids softly stoking and nurturing ,and the most disorganised of children working to a regime of cleaning out and feeding.

It doesn’t have to be fluffy and on four legs

There are so many species of pets out there that share our homes and lives, but it is personal preference as to which one ticks an individual’s emotional needs box. You don’t have to have a cat sitting on your lap in the evening, or a dog resting its head on you to feel the benefits of owning a pet. A bird chirping away, a relaxing aquarium or maybe even a giant spider staring at you can be just as good for your health (although I guess you’d need to be a spider lover to agree with the last one).

Photo courtesy of Seniors Helping Seniors.

This post was generously sponsored and provided by Anna Jones.

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Categories: Green Living

6 Natural Remedies for an Upset Stomach

Fri, 2014-06-13 16:45

We all suffer from an upset stomach from time to time, but what to do when it’s a regular occurrence, or it happens at work or at an important function? Here are six natural remedies that can help with the problem, either by preventing indigestion over time, or putting a stop to the upset right away.

As with all natural remedies, if you are taking prescribed medication, check with your doctor before taking any of these in high quantities.

1. Peppermint

The University of Maryland Medical Centre recommends peppermint for several health problems including an upset stomach, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and bloating. A common symptom of an upset stomach is the feeling of food being ‘stuck’ in the stomach, and mint can help to ease this feeling. Peppermint works by relaxing the muscles of the stomach, which helps food to enter and leave that area of your body more quickly. It can have an instant effect at stopping indigestion so keep a box of peppermint tea with you at work, or dry the leaves and keep them in your bag in an air-tight container. You never know when an upset stomach might strike, but you can always know that the remedy to stop is within easy reach.

I recommend starting small, with 2-3 cups of peppermint tea a day, drunk a few minutes after a meal if possible. Peppermint tea is easy to get hold of as most supermarkets stock it, but if you can make it fresh at home, even better. Mint is a very hardy herb and can withstand most weather conditions or be grown in a pot indoors even through winter. Crush a few leaves and steep them in a mug of hot water for a few minutes, then drink. It has a refreshing taste but you may like to add a natural sweetener to it to suit your taste buds. Up your intake over a few weeks, but don’t overdo it, as consuming very high amounts of peppermint can cause problems too. If you prefer, you can add fresh mint to meals or just chew it fresh from the plant. Don’t assume that it will help every stomach problem though – taking a lot peppermint when you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can actually make it worse.

2. Thyme

Some research into the effect of thyme on the body has found that the herb may help to relieve spasms around the intestines. These spasms are often associated with indigestion. Why not start a herb garden, in pots in a windowsill if you don’t have access to an outdoor space? Thyme grows wild in the Mediterranean, so it needs plenty of sun and light, but not too much watering. Pick and use the youngest leaves for the freshest fragrance, as this will also help the plant to grow more.

Try increasing how much thyme you consume by adding it to your meals. You don’t have to cook fancy food – just try adding it to pasta, or buy an olive oil that is flavoured with the herb. Celebrated British chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests adding it to lemon thyme shortbread. If that doesn’t help your stomach, at least it will give you some tasty to eat.

3. Apples

We all know the saying – an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Thanks to the pectin they contain, apples have been found to increase enzyme activity in rats, which may help them to digest food better and calm upset stomachs. Apples have to be consumed long-term to see the effects, so just eating one now and again won’t help. If you drink juice regularly, try substituting it for pressed apple juice, as well as adding fresh apples to your diet. If you’re not keen on either, try an apple chutney, or other ways of adding the fruit to your diet more discreetly.

4. Bananas

You’ve probably heard of getting an upset stomach from eating unripe bananas, but it may be that the opposite is true as well. A study looked closely at bananas and how they are digested and found that ripe bananas are used by the body much easier than other carbohydrates and starches. So buy only ripe bananas from now on and try eating them regularly to see if they help with your stomach. If you want to mix it up a bit you can also eat them in smoothies or bake them in bread. A food diary will help you to tell whether eating ripe bananas with your meals makes a difference to your stomach.

5. Fenugreek

Although there is some evidence that fenugreek impacts the enzymes in a rat’s body, it is difficult to say what the meaning of this effect is. As fenugreek has been shown to slow down the absorption of sugars in the stomach, this is good news for people with diabetes, but the jury’s out on whether it will calm an upset stomach. People have been consuming the spice for many years, and it has a wonderful distinct taste, so it’s worth adding it to your cooking anyway and seeing how it sits with your stomach.

6. Marshmallow

According to The University of Maryland Medical Centre, marshmallow has been used as a food and a medicine for over 2,000 years by many cultures around the world including the Romans, Arabs, Egyptians, Chinese, and Syrians. The root and leaves of the marshmallow plant contain a gummy substance that can be mixed with water to make a stomach tonic. Marshmallow is available in tea form, as a tincture or a capsule. Drinking 1-2 cups or marshmallow tea a day might give you an idea of whether or not a regular capsule will help you. If you don’t like the taste and also dislike swallowing capsules, use a tincture as it can be put straight on your tongue or added to a drink. I recommend trying it in apple juice. Good luck!

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Categories: Green Living

Put A Charge Into Your Bike Commute: DIY Electric Bike

Thu, 2014-06-05 19:33

In order to be a dedicated and regular bike commuter there are some things you just have to come to terms with. Odds are you’ll probably be sweaty when you get to work. Sometimes, you’ll have no choice but to ride through a monsoon to get home. And whether or not you like it, riding your bike up that hill is just simply faster than walking. Fortunately for those of us who’ve traded in our trunk space for backpacks and leather seats for spandex, that hill you’ve been dreading may be a worry of the past. Meet Micah Toll and his do-it-yourself electric bike book.

Micah has been building these DIY electric bikes for over six years and the results speak for themselves. By converting your bike to an e-bike you can commute at speeds of 30mph, go 40 miles on a single charge and the cost to travel 1,000 miles is only $2.50 in energy costs!  Best of all, now being a bike commuter doesn’t have to be synonymous with sacrifice. This eloquent solution to commuting can cut down on both commute times and carbon emissions simultaneously. Since you’ll be riding on a bicycle you can switch between bike lanes, roadways and sidewalks at your leisure. Plus, you don’t need a drivers license or insurance to get around town.

Micah is running a crowd funding campaign for a revised hardback copy of his DIY book through Kickstarter. There are a variety of donation levels that range from $10-$50. All of which will you get you, at the minimum, an electric copy of Micah’s DIY book and more. So if you’re the DIY type, who happens to commute on their bike, you’ll be able to save both time on the cranks and the environment.

Photo courtesy of EV WORLD.

This post was generously sponsored by Micah Toll.

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Categories: Green Living

Make Green Living Easy: 5 (Simple!) DIY Projects for Your Home

Wed, 2014-06-04 16:54

Grab your toolbox and get started!

Are you concerned about the environment? There are a number of things you can do at home to help the Earth and save money at the same time. However, many people shy away from “do it yourself” projects because they are concerned about the effort and skill needed to successfully complete the job. DIY home improvement does not have to be difficult. These five ideas are perfect weekend jobs that even newcomers can dig into.

1. Change the Air Filter

Did you know the HVAC air filter needs to be changed on a monthly basis? When the filter is dirty, it impedes air flow, making your system work harder than it needs to. Replacing the filter, then, helps you save money each month and may extend the longevity of your system as well. At the very least, make sure to put in a new air filter every three months if you can’t get to it on a monthly basis.

2. Replace Your Faucet aerators and Showerheads

Pick up high efficiency faucet aerators and showerheads at your local hardware store, and install them in your home. Both of these solutions are simple and effective. Installing an efficient showerhead is very simple to do. Check out that link for a tutorial, the tools you’ll need, and the things to think about. Installing a high efficiency faucet aerator is also very easy, and often doesn’t even require a tool. Keep your old fixtures in a bathroom furniture unit

3. Update with Green Flooring

Are you ready to get rid of your stained carpets? Hardwood floors look great. However, they are not the most eco-friendly option on the market. There are a lot of materials that can improve the appearance of your home but that are not a burden on the environment. For example, bamboo flooring is all natural. It holds up well over time, and it looks great. Stone flooring is another option. Simple to clean, it is also relatively easy to install. Finally, look into recycled glass tiles as well. They can really add a colorful touch to any interior space.

4. Install Weather Stripping

Homes can lose a lot of energy around the windows and doors. Weather stripping is the simple solution to that problem. It does not cost a lot of money, and you only need a few hours to install it. The difference it makes, however, is substantial.

5. Paint!

Painting is an inexpensive (and easy!) way to completely change the look and feel of your home. With a bit of prep work, you should be able to knock out several rooms over the course of a weekend. Seek out nontoxic paint to cut back on indoor air pollution. Nontoxic products also reduce the number of contaminants that wind up in landfills.

“Do it yourself” projects sound intimidating, but it is important to remember that there are a lot of inexpensive, quick tweaks you can make around the house that will help the planet and your wallet. Set aside a weekend to see what you can accomplish in your home!

Image Credit: Some rights reserved by Dan Thompson. This post was supported by BathAndShower.com 

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Categories: Green Living

Green Deal Hunting: Shopping Around Before Signing the Dotted Line

Mon, 2014-06-02 12:46

You will probably have already heard about the Green Deal initiative. Despite the obvious attractions and incentives to sign up and make some energy saving improvements to your property, you should consider all finer points of the scheme. Understanding its purpose and the principals behind it will help you make an informed decision. Here are some things to consider before you agree to take up the offer and sign on the dotted line.

The purpose of the Green Deal

The basic purpose of the Green Deal initiative is to provide a facility for homeowners to obtain a loan that is specifically designed to provide you with the funds required in order to carry out some home improvements to your property that will help to reduce your energy consumption and save on fuel bills.

It would certainly be advisable to learn more about what is involved from a financial perspective before your commit to the deal. The fundamental difference between a Green Deal loan and a bank loan or standard finance agreement, is that the loan is attached to the property that you live in and not directly to you as a an individual as opposed to a regular personal loan to finance the property improvements.

You will still have to go through the same credit checking procedure as with any loan and once you have been approved, you can receive a loan to help pay for energy saving improvements such as solid wall insulation, a more efficient boiler or double glazing.

Repaying the loan

Your Green Deal loan is not repaid in the conventional way that you would repay a finance agreement and instead of repayments coming directly out of your bank account each month, the payments are added to your electricity bill.

You then have to pay the loan back through your electricity bill, so if you pay your energy supplier by direct debit, an adjustment will be made to the monthly amount so that it includes a figure for repaying the Green Deal loan over the term of the agreement.

Golden Rule

One of the most significant features of a Green Deal loan is that there is a so-called Golden Rule, which dictates that the repayments you are asked to make should never actually exceed the amount of savings that you are making on your energy bills. This figure is based on the measures recommended when your property was assessed for its suitability.

It has to be said that this Golden Rule is not an absolute guarantee that your bill savings will definitely match your loan repayments. The deal is based on estimates of typical energy usage and savings. It also does not take into account any future energy price increases.

You should also be aware of your obligations when it comes to making the repayments on your Green Deal loan. Government directives relating to the scheme say that anyone who falls into arrears with their Green Deal payments will be treated in the same way as a customer who is in arrears with their energy bills, meaning that you could be at risk of disconnection for non-payment if you don’t pay.

Starting the process

If you have evaluated your situation and decided that you may well benefit from what the Green Deal initiative has to offer, you will then need to arrange an assessment before you make an application for financial assistance.

An assessor will visit your home and take a look at ways in which you can improve aspects like insulation and any other improvements that could offer you worthwhile energy savings. You should expect to pay about £120 for the report to be compiled, although you can get financial assistance from the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme if you are unable to pay the amount yourself.

Compare quotes

You should view the Green Deal scheme in just the same way as you would when applying for finance. So, you would be well advised to shop around and aim to get quotes from between 2-3 Green Deal providers. This way you can be sure you are getting the best terms available for your money as interest rates do vary from provider to provider.

The Green Deal certainly has the ability to offer a way in which you can finance the improvements to make your home warmer and therefore cheaper to run, just make sure that you are comfortable with everything being offered to you before signing on the dotted line.

Adam Wilmer studies domestic energy usage. From improved efficiency to innovative systems through providers, he often writes about the continued effort to use energy smartly. This post was supported by NPower.com. Photo from Shutterstock

Categories: Green Living

5 Simple, Natural and Effective Ways to Get Rid of Weeds

Fri, 2014-05-30 06:01

Spring is in the air. Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, and your yard is starting to look….overgrown. You want to do something about all those weeds, but you don’t want to pour chemical herbicides all over your yard, exposing your children, yourself, and your pets to chemicals that are known to cause cancer. You’ve decided that you like the idea of going au natural with your yard, using means other than chemicals in order to get your yard looking the way you want. In other words, you want a natural, effective way to get rid of weeds.

So what are the natural alternatives? As someone who used to run a green landscaping company, I can tell you from first hand experience, there’s no silver bullet. We used to apply generous portions of corn gluten meal as a pre-emergent weed and feed. Corn gluten meal is a byproduct of corn processing, and usually is fed to pigs as a high protein feed to fatten them up as fast as possible for slaughter. You can guess that it’s all GMO corn, of course, so you’re not reducing the market demand for chemicals if you choose to go this route–just shifting the chemical applications to farmlands and watersheds instead of your own yard.

As a pre-emergent weed killer, corn gluten meal was discovered during an experiment at Iowa State University. Researchers there found that the substance had a natural herbicide. They later refined, altered, and patented that herbicide. But the fact remained that corn gluten meal just naturally contained the herbicide. It works by inhibiting root growth in weeds at the time of germination.

Note–that means it has zero effect on weed seeds that have already germinated.

But manufacturers of corn gluten meal will say that it helps prevent crabgrass, smart weed, dandelions, purslane, foxtail, and Bermuda grass, among others. As someone who ran an eco-friendly landscape maintenance company as the first business he started, I can tell you from 4 years experience that my results using corn gluten meal in this way were extremely unsatisfactory. I applied 4 applications per year, starting just before the frost gave way in the spring, so that I could keep weeds from germinating on customers’ property. Many customers were not satisfied, though some said they thought it might have helped. I never saw a truly weed free lawn emerge from it, however.

The better ways to prevent weeds are with mulching, and physical removal. Read on for Eat Drink Better’s physical removal advice!

 

How to Get Rid of Weeds: 4 Essential Tools (via http://eatdrinkbetter.com)

I’m officially an urban farmer. After replacing shrubbery with crops, our small backyard (about six one-thousandths of an acre to be more specific) is almost 100% edible. But it wasn’t easy. I had to learn how to get rid of weeds and mint…

Categories: Green Living

Are e-Cigarettes better for you and for the environment?

Fri, 2014-05-30 01:35

When it comes to quitting smoking, even the most ardent smokers will admit it’s a good idea. The nicotine patch helps some. Breaking routines helps others. Increasingly, these days, many are starting to look to e-cigarettes, or “vaping”, to break their addiction to cigarettes.

Proponents argue that this allows smokers to enjoy their nicotinic urges without making others’ lives miserable around them. Second hand smoke is awful, and those of us old enough to remember when smoking was allowed on planes and in restaurants can tell you that it pretty much ruins things for the people who are not smoking. Vaping allows people to “smoke” but only exhale vapors, not smoke.

In addition, there’s the environmental impacts of cigarette smoking and waste. According to the website Planetsave:

In 2010, cigarette butts accounted for 38% of the World’s litter, demonstrating just the start of the huge impact that electronic cigarettes have on the environment. Up to 600 million trees are cutdown every year to use in cigarette products. The machinery used for this process creates significant and damaging carbon emissions.

 

Earth911 says it this way:

The improper disposal of cigarette filters is a huge problem, contributing to the U.S.’s annual $11.5 billion cost to clean up litter.

Despite the fact that smoking has decreased in the U.S. by 28 percent in the past decade, cigarette butts remain the most littered item, and they account for 38 percent of litter worldwide.

During the International Coastal Cleanup last year, more than 2 million cigarette butts were collected, accounting for 21 percent of the 7.4 million pounds of debris that were collected.

To make matters worse, 95 percent of cigarette filters are made cellulose acetate, a kind of plastic that doesn’t degrade easily. In fact, it takes about 12 years for one to break down.

Health

But is an e-cigarette any healthier for the smoker themselves? That’s a question we turned to WebMD for the answer to. Says Dr. Gordon Strauss, smoking cessation expert, “Nicotine or flavorings are dissolved into propylene glycol usually, though it’s hard to know for sure because they’re not regulated.” The nicotine penetrates your cheeks in order to get into your bloodstream, not your lungs, as it does in the case of cigarette smoke.

WebMD says that there doesn’t appear to be any evidence that e-cigs help people actually quit: in a double blind study, they found that the quit rates was effectively the same for people using e-cigs with nicotine versus the patch versus e-cigs with just flavorings!

Strauss said, “Cigarettes are already so bad for you it’s hard to imagine anything worse.” He said that the primary benefit in terms of health is for other people. Parents, for example, who don’t want to expose their children to second hand smoke can help them avoid it with e-cigarettes.

The challenge, from the health side, is that they’re largely unregulated. Several years ago, according to the American Lung Association, the FDA tested e-cigarettes on the market and found chemicals of “all kinds”, including diethylene glycol, the same ingredient used in antifreeze. As a result of this and a request by 40 state Attorneys General, the FDA has recommended people don’t use them, and is going to start regulating e-cigarettes as a tobacco product.

Conclusion

Are e-cigarettes better than real cigs? In article after article that I found while researching this topic, not one made a conclusive argument about the environmental or health advantages or disadvantages of e-cigs. So suffice to say, the jury’s still out. When e-cigs get regulated, we’ll know what people are vaping, and probably have people get exposed to less toxic chemicals. And generally, I’ve always felt that anything that gets people to stop smoking cigarettes is a good idea.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock

Categories: Green Living

Green Your Memorial Day: 5 Sustainable Holiday Favorites

Mon, 2014-05-26 15:12

Memorial Day is a great American tradition, in which we take a day to remember and to celebrate our fallen soldiers. Here is Green Living Ideas’ top five list of ways to have an awesome, and sustainable, Memorial Day.

Play some carbon-free games with friends and family.

Get out from behind the TV, skip the excess road tripping, and hit a local park with your loved ones to play some horseshoes, bocce, frisbee, and other games. Mix it up by playing beer-in-hand (meaning you have to keep your beer in your hand while playing, and if you spill you have to drink).

Don’t have enough people for a game? Hit the road on two wheels instead of four. Go out on a long bike ride and explore your neighborhood. You may well make some friends and get invited into several barbecues!

 

Fire up an eco-friendly grill with sustainable foods.

Cooking outside can keep your home from heating up, which is one of the reasons why grilling is so popular in the summertime. Memorial Day, in many places, is viewed as the first day of summer, so get on outside and get to grilling. Now, barbecuing is not without its carbon footprint, of course, but it’s minimal compared to the carbon footprint of what you put on that grill. Putting a bunch of factory farmed beef, sausage and chicken on the grill means the carbon footprint and the resource needs of your food are going to be huge. Try to minimize, reduce, or heck, even eliminate your meat footprint on the grill. Recently, I’ve discovered the best veggie burger ever for grilling: it’s from Life Foods. It is soy free, gluten free, GMO free, organic, and vegan, AND holds together on a grill like a champ. I mean…check out these burgers!

If you need more inspiration, here’s Eat Drink Better’s top ten vegan grilling recipes.

Get a greener grill

Grills using gas tie you to fossil fuels every time you want to cook some grub. Grills using charcoal have a heavy carbon footprint. What’s a greenie who loves grilling to do? Have no fear. Inhabitat has the 4 top greener grills, including a wicked cool solar oven you can make at home.

 

Green up your road trip

If you’re heading out for a road trip this weekend, make sure to check out our tips for a green road trip!

 

Make a pledge to help America reduce its dependence on foreign oil

Energy independence is a very noble goal, worth fighting for. America’s clean technology future depends on all of us to reduce our consumption and to support renewables.

Photo from Shutterstock

 

Categories: Green Living

The Perfect Green Car: Designed By You

Sat, 2014-05-24 01:04

Tesla’s Engineering Tools Director, Paul Lomangino, sees the creative process as the most critical to ensuring car buyers are happy and become lifelong brand advocates. Lomangino describes the creative process at Tesla as a team effort, saying, “At Tesla Motors, we depend on everybody to be as creative and productive as possible.” Tesla’s design and performance are largely responsible for the electric vehicle revolution that is sweeping the nation…well, at least those parts of the nation that believe in free markets.

Surely, Tesla did loads of market research, looking into why other hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric vehicles either succeeded or failed, in order to help them build the coolest company on four wheels. Green and sustainable market research is pricy, time consuming, and, like all market research, subject to all sorts of potential error. Seems like Tesla got it right and is killing it in green marketing, and Elio Motors has not.

When it comes down to it, market research is nothing other than a fancy way of saying “ask customers what they want you to make, for how much, how they want to buy it, and for what price” (trust me, I’m an MBA professor…it really is that simple). The challenge of course comes in that to do this costs money, and to do it with a lot of potential customers costs A LOT of money. So for those of us in the market for a new vehicle, we are generally represented by a tiny fraction of the demographic we’re in, and from this (hopefully) representative sample, auto-makers are forced to make judgment calls on production lines that could launch the company into the S&P 500, or onto the dungheap of history. Where’s my chance to say, “Hey, I want an electric work van capable of everything the Ford Transit Van is, my budget is $35K, and I need it to be sold and serviced here in Honolulu, where I live.”?

For automakers, crowdsourcing this kind of information would be invaluable, so long as it was done in a way that was organized and constructive. One firm, Dassault Systems, has developed exactly this solution. It’s called “My Car Experience“, and it’s designed to allow socialization, co-creation, and virtual experience of the car design process for consumers, and data collection and improvement of design for automakers. The solution allows automakers to connect with potential customers over social media, and to control and analyze data gathered in the process.

Dassault is pushing the envelop further in its assistance of car manufacturers, helping them avoid costly and environmentally impactful product recalls stemming from poor design. Its Target Zero Defect system is helping Tesla to complete the goals Lomangino set out. The collaborative team design is enhanced by Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE platform, which helps Tesla “to allow everybody involved in the product development process to focus on being creative and productive rather than focusing on the process and tools”, according to Lomangino.

Solid and interactive market research coupled with 3D design capabilities? Now we’re talking. OK fellas, just tell me when to jump into your virtual spaceship so I can show you what kind of shelving I want in my van, and what kind of MPGe’s I want to get.

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Photo courtesy of Dassault Systems. Article supported by Dassault Systems. 

Categories: Green Living