Green Living ideas

Some people may think that living green means you have to give up a lot of luxuries and this is quite untrue! Everyone has that one piece of furniture that they claim in the house as “their chair”, and wouldn’t that be great if that piece was Eco-friendly as well. Great ways to make this happen is to go to your local thrift store, friends or even use that old chair that you never thought of using in high-traffic rooms. Step two is to find a fabric and maybe some studs or buttons because you are about to make the chair of your dreams. Take these items to your local reupholster store for less hassle (don’t forget the chair) or be even more proud of your chair by doing it yourself. If you aren’t very good at sewing and still want furniture you can be proud of try reclaimed wood. There are wood pallets everywhere or even old pieces of wood furniture could work (such as old box springs or cabinets). All you need to do is have a few handy man skills and some wood stain or gloss. If this seems like a bit too much work then try Bamboo furniture, it is also an amazingly Eco-friendly product because of its durability and its neutral palette is ideal in any home.

Being Eco-friendly is meant to reduce our carbon footprint but what people don’t realize is that we can do that while still leaving our handprint behind. By this, I mean our creativity. There seems to be a lot more artists these days that are taking this idea and making a great living off of it. Some ideas are to take broken ceramic, glass, etc. and make a mural, vase, drink coaster or spice up that boring picture frame or mirror. If you don’t consider yourself savvy enough then the simplest way to be Eco-friendly is by reusing something old and give it a new life with paint. You can show it off at your home or office or even give it as a gift.

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Wrap Without Waste

Christmas is less than two weeks away. Hopefully, everyone has completed all their holiday shopping, decorating and organizing. Now it’s time to wrap!! In our traditional “green” spirit, we have come up with suggestions to curb the another wasteful holiday habit: tossing tons upon tons of the wrapping waste in the garbage. Countless rolls of dyed wrapping paper, non recyclable tape and tissue paper are thrown out every year during the holidays. We believe that if we are committed to going green throughout the rest of the year, there is no reason that commitment should waver during the holiday season.

We all have stacks of newspapers, magazines and various scraps of paper lying around. Give these odds and ends that are now useless to you a new life. The comic section is colorful and adds a bit of humor to gift giving. You can really use anything to wrap with – old calendars, wallpaper samples, last years greeting cards, children’s art work. We can all admit to hoarding things for sentimental value that wind up just taking up space in our closets and garages. Make this year the year you go green AND create more space in the attic.
Remember when we had to use maps to navigate? Now with smart phones and GPS, we always know where we are and also where all of our Facebook friends and acquaintances are at anytime of the day or night. But what happened to all those colorful maps that were all but required on any road trip? They are sitting in the backseat of your car, in your glove box and in that drawer under the sink just waiting to reincarnated as creative wrapping paper.

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Decorate for the Family and the Planet

As we decorate for Christmas this year, we are reminded of the joy of togetherness, the fond memories of Christmases past and the love we feel for all the friends, family and opportunities in our lives. However, we can also get carried away with the stress of hunting for presents in the overcrowded malls, scheduling and attending dinners, parties and other events and making sure the house properly reflects all of our Christmas spirit. Here are some ideas for Christmas decorating that can double as quality family time and your karma points for saving waste from the landfills.

Got old cardboard boxes laying around from a recent move or from shipping Christmas presents? Convert this thick paper into ornaments using a stencil, sharp scissors and some creativity. Cut out stars, snowmen, reindeer or even Santa shapes and decorate them with scaprs of paper, ribbon, glitter and paint. Your tree will be most creative and eco-friendly on the block! Additionally, you can make your own ornaments with odds and ends from around the house. Wrap a tennis ball with colored twine for an original family ornament or sring together old spools of thread to create a hanging Christmas tree shape. With a little imagination, there is really no end to the things you can convert into decorations.

Rather than buying the same old gift tags and place cards, cut up old greeting cards. Cut cards into small pieces and tape them to gifts as name tags. Use Hallmark’s sparkle and glitter over and over again rather than buying new tags every year. Additionally, you can use them as place cards for big family dinners. No need to throw all last year’s Christmas cards away or leave them collecting dust in the garage – give them new life this year.

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Instituting REAL Change

In the past, this blog has covered multiple topics: everything from “going green” to planning parties, from the benefits of bamboo to leading a healthy lifestyle and from progress in international environmental political practices to rejuvenating yourself after a long weekend. But something occurred to me on the way to work this morning: every week, we discuss some way to save the environment, conserve natural resources or simply life happier, more fulfilling lives; but what are we REALLY doing to institute change?
Personally, I take care to recycle, unplug my computer and charging devices and reuse things beyond all possible value. However, I still drive my car hundreds of miles a week, buy a throwaway cup of coffee everyday and eat packaged, unnatural food that commutes from farther away than I do. The more I read about the way our world is changing for the worse, I have to wonder, how long before I get angry and make the big (albeit inconvenient) changes? And what’s more, how long before our country’s biggest institutions do the same?

So I ask you, Cyberspace, what have you done to change your lifestyle? How long will you go on polluting the air we breathe, the water we swim in and the earth from which all our food grows? Granted it may not matter to you personally or your generation, but it will, sure as the increasing price of gasoline, matter to your children and unborn grandchildren.
Dead zones in our oceans, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, global warming, deforestration, and rising levels of CO2 on land and in the water are not myths we can ignore any longer. At the rate we’re going, the death of the only home we have is not an abstract idea, it is a reality.

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Marrying Carbon-Free Cars with Renewable Resources

Touting the benefits of bamboo is all in a day’s work here at Backyard X-Scapes. Although we were certainly not the first to exploit the benefits of bamboo with our eco-friendly, lightweight, durable and cost-effective bamboo products, the rate at which bamboo is achieving popularity is a-ok by us. As we have discussed before, bamboo is now considered one of the most versatile materials on the planet and now is even being tested for use in car construction.

An avid electric car builder, Greg “Gadget” Abbott, was one of the first to envisage replacing heavy fiberglass with bamboo in electric car frames. He rationalized that since bamboo has a strength-to-width ratio somewhere between carbon fiber and fiberglass and can compensate for the up to 200 pound battery used by electric cars, it would be far superior than traditional steel or fiberglass for car frame construction.

We know that bamboo is considered a “green material” because of its rapid growth rate, natural growing practices and clean harvesting methods. Bamboo is just as strong as its “dirty” counterparts and much more readily available and cost effective in the long run. With twice the strength of fiberglass and six times the strength of steel, bamboo seems the next logical step in “green” car construction.

With a lighter car frame, electric batteries may be expected to travel farther than usual 100 miles per charge. More efficient electric cars will be more appealing to car buyers as well as more economically realistic. Increased efficiency and viability will hopefully make bamboo-centric electric cars the next trend in the Green Revolution.

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Product Spotlight: Method

You may have seen the sleek, modern bottles of Method cleaning supplies on the shelves at major retailers like Target and grocery stores like Albertson’s or Ralphs. However, aside from their eco-chic design, you may not know the difference between Method and other so-called “green cleaners.” While many companies simply typically paste the term “green” in front of their product name or splash “made from post-consumer waste” on their bottles, Method has married truly green cleaning supplies with an obsession with sustainable packaging. Their latest conquest has been the production of a bottle made entirely of post-consumer recycled polyethylene plastic. The kicker? 25% of which is plastic recovered from the Pacific Ocean.

Method announced its new triumph in packaging on September 15th with government officials Lisa P. Jackson or the EPA and Karen Mills of the Small Business Administration. The officials declared the date “Method Day” in San Francisco to honor Method’s commitment to providing consumers with non-toxic, quality cleaning supplies while utilizing inspirational business practices. While Method is a pioneer in sustainable cleaning products and packaging, it is still a small business whose ingenuity and integrity is essential to the recovery of the American economy.

Method’s latest packaging innovation was inspired by co-owner and founder Adam Lowry’s latest trip to Hawaii’s Kahuku Beach on the island of Oahu. The remote island was littered with colorful plastic and other tangible pollutants deposited there by the swirling tides that created the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Patch lies just north of Hawaii and is roughly the size of Texas. Garbage from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch washes up on the shores of Hawaii constantly, so much so that certain beaches have been dubbed “collection beaches” where trash from all over the world accumulates. Lowry deduced that the only way to put the lid on plastic waste was to change the way it was produced. There is so much plastic on the planet already, there is no need to produce more virgin plastic. Hence, Method’s new bottles.

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Go, Fight, Green! Is Your Favorite Sport an Eco-Friendly Institution?

“Going green” surely seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue these days. We talk about going green in our everyday life, politicians talk about green initiatives, tax breaks are given to business large and small for implementing green practices and public relations representatives everywhere are touting how their respective clients are strengthening the green effort. However, this still leaves out on crucial sector of American society: entertainment and specifically, sports. Our favorite American pastimes oftentimes involve participating and watching countless hours of college and professional sports. But how much are these larger than life organizations hurting our environment? You’ll be happy and maybe surprised to know that some of our favorite sports franchises are giving going green the ole college try.

Going green and Nascar may seem an unlikely pair. The sport is inherently centered on consumption. Fast cars burn fossil fuels at a rate that would embarrass any self respecting conservationist. However, Nascar is making the sport as green as it can. Authorities have implemented green initiatives such as collecting used fuel for recycling along with oil filters, fluorescent light bulbs, metal shavings, aluminum and steel. Some raceways are planting a specific number of mature tress per race to offset carbon emissions and still others are using sheep lawnmowers to trim infield grasses.

In addition to Nascar, both the NFL and the NBA are contributing to the cause. The Washington Redskins hosted the Arizona Cardinals at what was lovingly dubbed the “Solar Bowl” on opening weekend. FedEx Field is home to 8,000 solar panels that provide 100% of the stadiums power on non-game days and 20% of power on game days. The solar panels also provide shaded parking in one section of the parking lot.

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Japan’s Energy Obsession

Japan is fast becoming the most energy efficient country in the world. Since the Tohoku Earthquake in March 2011, Japan has increased its efforts decrease its dependence on nuclear energy. A radiation scare has forced the Japanese government and the world to seriously question the merits of nuclear energy while taking into account the potential risks. The earthquake suspended the use of 35 nuclear reactors, leaving only 19 reactors to supply the country with electrical power. However, with stringent energy conservation rules from both the federal government and private companies, the Japanese have found a way to operate at capacity using 20% less energy.

Japans conservatiionist mindset stems from both necessity after its major natural disasters this year and from governmental intervention. Japanese gasoline sells for $5.20 a gallon, twice as much as in the United States and way above international market levels. This price forces individual homes as well as business and corporate offices to find numerous and creative ways to conserve.

In offices, air conditioning is substituted for fans, electronics are turned off during lunch breaks and heavy curtains are used to block the suns rays. In the winter, Japanese businesspeople are encouraged to wear long johns and sweaters under their work clothes to save on heating bills. Additionally, the government has pushed appliance manufacturers to increase energy efficiency in devices like air-conditioners, dishwashers and freezers.

Meanwhile at home, families and individuals are investing in highly efficient fuel cells – devices that convert natural gas into hydrogen that in turn, create electricity. There have been 1,300 fuel cells sold to private homes since 2005 and hopefully more as production costs decrease and the units become more affordable. The “conservation mindset” applies beyond just unique devices like the fuel cell though. Many Japanese families practice energy saving habits like reusing warm bath water to wash laundry or bicycling to do errands.

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Speaking the Green Language

Words, phrases and their meanings are constantly evolving and changing as cultures find new experiences they need to describe. The dawn of the “Green Revolution” and its effect on our lexicon is no different. As our society places increasing importance on efforts made to “go green”, our language has expanded to include this new priority. Here is a short guide to some new terms you may not be familiar with:

CRADLE TO CRADLE – a product whose production, use and disposal is considered efficient and waste free. That is, a product that is manufactured with environmental consideration, that does not produce carbon emissions and requires few if any natural resources to function and that can be recycled or composted at the end of its life.

ENERGY STAR – a certification for electronics and appliances based on rules and guidelines agreed upon by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy that denotes energy use efficiency. Energy star products save consumers money overall by using less energy while simultaneously conserving the earth’s natural resources.

GREEN LIVING – Committing to a lifestyle that takes responsibility for the environment. That is, making changes in one’s day to day living to ‘reduce, reuse or recycle’ thus making ones existence beneficial, or at least not harmful, to the planet as opposed to depleting the planet of natural resources, wasting resources or producing toxins into the environment.

PHANTOM POWER – also known as “Vampire Power.” Refers to electricity used by plugged-in appliances even when they are powered off.

UPCYCLE – the redesign of a product no longer considered useful to create something more valuable. For example, creating a blanket out of old T-shirts or using old greeting cards to create custom coasters.

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Great “Green” Products You Didn’t Know Existed

We all know that the “Green Revolution” is upon us. It is becoming more and more en vogue to “go green”; large corporations, small businesses, individuals and families are all doing their part to reduce, reuse and recycle. With a little homework and a little extra effort, we can all make small changes in our daily routines to decrease the negative impact our actions can have on the planet. Here are a few one-time purchases that can save a significant amount of waste in the long run.

Reusable Coffee Sleeves
If you can’t seem to remember to carry that reusable plastic coffee cup or water bottle with you, consider at least purchasing a fabric coffee sleeve. The sleeve is small enough to fit in your glove compartment (for drive-thu coffee stops), in your purse for walk-in coffee excursions) or at your desk for your office coffee breaks. These ones are handmade in Maui and come in a variety of colors and patterns for under ten dollars to fit your personal style and budget. Most are machine washable; just toss them in with your regular load to quickly and easily reduce the amount of waste produced by your coffee habit.

iPad Case
This particular iPad case is fashioned from old suit jackets and then padded with fabric and foam. The case utilizes the coat pockets so you can carry small personal items as well as the charger. Why purchase a brand new case processed from new materials when you can have a one of a kind and earth friendly one?  All of the “I” products are so ubiquitous anyways, make yours stand out with a truly unique and “green” covering. You can find them on etsy.com for about $5 or grab a sewing machine and make your own.

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