Category Archives: Going Green

COMING SOON: New Thatch Products!

New products will be gracing the pages of Backyard X-Scapes in the near future. Be on the lookout for our newest addition to our ever-expanding eco-friendly product line: Viro thatch. Viro is the “environmentally friendly all-weather wicker.” The first synthetic thatch in the world made entirely from 100% recyclable plastic, Viro thatch has a longer lifespan than traditional thatch and will not mold, rot, decay or shed.


Viro thatch was conceptualized with an exit strategy in mind, meaning that the production process was meant to be entirely sustainable from the beginning. Not only can the thatch panels be tossed into any standard recycling bin, but all the waste created during the production process goes back into constructing additional Viro products. HDPE, or high density polyethylene, is the greenest plastic on earth and is often used for plastic bottles and other non-toxic plastic containers. Due to its unique and sustainable production process, Viro Thatch is the only non-toxic thatch product on the market.


Viro thatch comes in three varieties: Bali Thatch, Java Thatch and African Reed Thatch. All three textures are used for different sized panels, umbrellas, bundles and eaves. The Bali Thatch combines smooth honey and light brown “leaves” to create a natural-looking thatch panel that resists fading, shedding, rotting and unwanted pests like insects, birds and mold. The textured Java Thatch blends yellows, browns and greens for an organic feel while the African Reed utilized long brown, terra cotta and olive green straw to achieve the look for authentic African Reed without the maintenance and hassle.


Keep an eye on our Viro Thatch tab to see all our new Viro products including ViroThatch, ViroReed, ViroUmbrella and ViroSurface coming soon! Viro products are 100% recyclable, sustainable and fire resistant. The only non-toxic thatch product on the market today, Viro thatch lasts longer and is more weather resistant than natural thatch. Viro works equally well for commercial and residential projects, so keep it in mind when you are ready to install a safe, eco-friendly and natural-looking thatch structure.

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Protect Your Skin AND Coral Reefs Simultaneously

As summer gets into full swing, we hear over and over about the benefits of sunscreen and protecting our skin from the sun. While this is sage advice indeed, there are some very important environmental factors to consider when choosing proper sun protection.


While most of us do not consider the small amount of sunscreen that is washed from our skin and into the ocean while we play in the waves on a hot day, this runoff can have a major impact on neighboring sea life. Specifically, non-biodegradable sunscreen is known to cause great harm to coral reefs. Sunscreen has been shown to activate dormant viruses in the algae that live on coral, causing the algae to explode. This leaves the coral unable to photosynthesize vital chemical energy for the reef’s ecosystem. When the algae die, not only does the coral bleach and die, but it puts the remaining wildlife at risk of starvation. Algae play an important role in the food chain and the coral provides shelter for enumerable sea creatures.
It is estimated that up to 5,000 tons of sunscreen is washed into the oceans each year, putting approximately 10% of the world’s coral reefs in jeopardy. Scientists have called coral reefs the “medicine cabinet of the future,” meaning that the diverse ecosystem could unlock the cures to many diseases.


So what can we do? There are many brands of reef friendly, biodegradable sunscreens made with all natural or easily broken down ingredients. The most popular brand, Reef Safe, is endorsed by the American Lifeguard Association and is provided free on many commercial snorkel tours. Other brands include: Caribbean Solution, Loving Naturals and Lavera.
This is one simple solution to a big problem. Increased awareness can bring about great change. So next time you are on the market for sunscreen, make an eco-conscious and easy decision.

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Travelling for Memorial Day? Go Green!

Memorial Day is just around the corner and for most of us, that means the start of the summer travelling season. We find excuses to get outside, to go to the beach and to escape the trials and tribulations of everyday life. However, just because our schedules have new values, doesn’t mean we have to give up our green ones. Here are three ways you can maintain your green values even when you’re far away.


Pack Light. Not only will being prudent in your packing choices make your life easier when it comes to moving your luggage around, but it will also reduce the weight put on whatever train, plane or automobile you will be travelling by. The lighter the mode of transportation, the less gas it uses. We have already discussed cleaning out the trunk of your car to get better gas mileage; the same concept applies to larger transporters.

Buy Local. Eating at local restaurants and purchasing authentic souvenirs will not only create a unique travel experience but will reduce carbon emissions required to transport food and trinkets from faraway places. Additionally, you won’t be paying transportation and shipping costs but will put the money back into the local economy for higher quality, authentic meals and products. Besides, who wants to eat at McDonalds again when you can have freshly prepared dish from a recipe perfected by the local culture?

Do Your Airline Homework. Many airlines are doing their part to reduce their carbon footprint. Aircraft initiatives like reducing bulk and actively decreasing taxi times make a big difference in reducing gas consumption and emissions. It is important to support those companies that are making ‘green’ changes.

So travel, experience, learn and stay green this summer!

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Silva MacBook Pro Case Combines Business-Chic with Eco-Chic

Over the past several months, we have kept you up to date on all things bamboo. From computer packaging made from recycled paper and bamboo to bamboo computer and iPhone shells or cases. Bamboo is gaining popularity in all sectors of the economy for its green growing practices, strength, beauty and versatility. The latest and greatest “green” computer accessory is the bamboo laptop case for the MacBook Pro.

The Silva MacBook Pro case is built to fit the 13” or 15” MacBooks and is made entirely of eco-friendly caramel-colored bamboo. The solid bamboo case weighs about 2 pounds after it is cut, assembled and sanded by hand. A leather handle is also entirely handcrafted, providing a comfortable and secure grip. The bamboo fiber is accentuated with tung oil and finished in polyurethane to harden the case and make it shine. The briefcase style carrier is lined with wool to protect the computer from scratches and provide additional resistance to impact, even if the case itself doesn’t make it through a hard fall.

So if you’re looking to further “green” your way of life or just your office, consider investing $180 in a solid bamboo MacBook case. The company is looking to expand into other cases for Apply products soon; keep your eyes peeled for more eco-friendly tech updates.

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Earth Day is Friday!

Earth Day is Friday April 22. This holiday has been celebrated every year on this day since 1970 to raise awareness about the needs of the Earth we all share and the trials and tribulations we put it through on a daily basis. Do your part this year and celebrate the earth in a fun and proactive way. Stumped on how to actively participate? Here are some ideas and inspiration:


1. Plant a tree. Perhaps the most obvious of celebratory acts, this can be a fun activity for the family or as a moment of zen for yourself. If you don’t have a place in the yard for a tree, plant some flowers or something small outside or in a planter. Hanging or potted plants will add some life to the living room, kitchen or even to the office. Additionally, youre new plants will clean the air around them and the Mother Nature will thank you.

2. Turn Things Off. Perhaps this is the easiest of all Earth Day actions. Simply turn off the lights when you leave a room, turn off and unplug appliances when you’re done with them and turn off the heater or air conditioner when you’re not home. Take things a step further and install sensor lights or solar lighting to save valuable electricity and avoid jamming the power grid.

3. Enjoy the outdoors. Take the family on a nature hike or plan a picnic. Enjoying the outdoors will reinforce your commitment to it and remind you why it is important for all of us to protect it. Being outdoors will probably improve your overall mood and if you’re being active outside, you can get your workout out of the way too.

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Get Your “Green Living” Resolution Back on Track

Hopefully, you are finishing up your spring cleaning and getting your house, backyard, body, mind and spirit ready for summer. But let’s not allow our forward-looking thinking attitude get ahead of our old New Year’s Resolution to live more “green” this year. Implement these three simple ways to save your health, electricity and gas.

1.) Save Your Health. If you wear your shoes in the house and allow your guests to, consider adopting a “no shoes inside” policy. Dirt and germs attached to bottom of your shoes gets tracked onto your clean, green carpet and floors. This means increased toxins in the air you breathe and on the ground on which you play. Plus, it means less time and effort spent vacuuming, mopping and sweeping.
2.) Save Electricity. Replace your old desktop computer with a compact little laptop. Laptops use less energy when they are plugged in and don’t have to be plugged in constantly. Remember that even when a device is off, if it is plugged in, it is still consuming electricity.
3.) Save Gas. Do you have stuff in your trunk you haven’t seen in over six months? Cleaning out your trunk and backseat will rid your car of unnecessary pounds, saving gas.

Use three simple tips to revamp your commitment to green living. Even if you have fallen out of the habit recently, even the smallest steps can get you back on track.


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E-Waste Has a Recycling Option Too

As the holiday fever subsides and we are left with the reality all of our new toys, we are also left wondering what to do with our now old electronic devices. According to a public policy organization, Demos, the average American household owns 25 electronic devices. That number, coupled with a national estimate of an average $232 spent on electronic gifts this season, can only lead to a tremendous amount of electronic waste. Devices that are now obsolete or simply do not work anymore are being thrown out at a growing rate, filling our landfills at an ever increasing speed. However, large companies and small organizations alike are tackling the problem of so-called “e-waste.”

Also according to Demos, less than 14% of e-waste gets recycled despite the fact that opportunities for consumers to recycle are expanding. Many electronics companies offer “take back” programs that allow consumers to return their products directly to the manufacturer for eco-friendly breakdowns and recycling.  AT&T, Dell, HP, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Sony and Sprint, to name a few, offer recycling programs – a full list of programs is available on the EPA’s website. Most companies offer free recycling, a rebate program or a postage paid shipping program. Best Buy allows consumers to drop off small merchandise in store for free and larger items like monitors and printers for a $10 fee, but return a $10 gift certificate immediately.

Additionally, some grassroots organizations have developed programs to donate used or outdated technology to third world countries or low income households. CollectiveGood donates phones in the U.S. and abroad, Iveneo gives used flash drives to students and workers in developing countries, Close The Gap refurbishes old computers for use in Africa and the list goes on. Most websites offer a zip code search feature to help users find drop sites near them.

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Corporations Begin to Green

In light of the recent economic downturn, small businesses have suffered in every sector of the market – this includes marketers and retailers of so-called “green” fashion statements. The environmentally conscious dresser could find everything from jeans to blouses to shoes boasting entirely green beginnings. However, these eco-brands have become fewer and father between making it difficult to find garments utilizing the once highly touted organic cotton. On the bright side, large retailers have adopted more sustainable production practices and are considering everything from water use to soil health and fair trade.

In 2006, Levi’s introduced a line of jeans using organic cotton called “EcoJeans” but shortly dropped it to develop its “Water<Less” line. A pair of Water<Less pants requires 96% less water than traditional jeans to produce, a difference of 40 litres for some styles. Levi’s is promoting efficient use of water by encouraging users to wash their jeans once every two weeks.

Other large corporations that have taken to using organic cotton and other eco-conscious production methods include Nike, Walmart, H&M and Target. Nike will construct all of its cotton based products with at lest 5% organic products by the end of 2011. In 2006, only 52% of its products utilized organic cotton. Nike also employs recycled polyester in its All Conditions Gear and only the most environmentally responsible leather suppliers.

Walmart is striving “to be supplied 100% by renewable energy, create zero waste and sell products that sustain people and the environment” while simultaneously donating money to green initiatives around the world. In October, Walmart announced its commitment to sustainable agriculture and will donate upwards of $1 billion to small and mid-sized farmers to help stimulate both small business and responsible farming methods.

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Technology and Bamboo – Together at Last

In our ever evolving, technologically-dependant society, we see more and more electrical hardware including everything from DVD players and DVRs to the iPhone and MP3 Players. With all this technological advancement though, there are a number of consequences. Hardware can take anywhere from 420-1000 years to biodegrade in a landfill or other waste facility. So with the rise in technology, comes the rise in hardware waste and thus the opportunity for the centuries old bamboo grass to become relevant in the cutting edge world of technology.

Companies large and small, local and international are creating environmentally sound hardware utilizing the strength, durability, flexibility and versatility of bamboo stalks. The bamboo keyboard and mouse boasts a smooth, comforting look and feel as well as a personalized look to any office of computer desk. Manufacturers claim the laser engraved keys absorbs sweat and oil as you type, offering further comfort and a unique texture. What’s more, the bamboo keyboard is completely biodegradable so when it does wear out (after about two year), you don’t have to find a recycling center or worry about it rotting in the ground for hundreds of years.


The keyboard employs the typical 106 key design, including simple shortcuts to email, the internet, mute and calculator. The set retails anywhere between $30 and $80 not including shipping. Simply plug the keyboard and mouse into your computer using their USB cable and transform your workspace in to an environmentally-friendly zone not to mention the envy of the office.


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What to Do with Your Chirstmas Tree

Decorations, guests, presents, eggnog and December 25th have all come and gone and now we are just left with the holiday memories, leftovers and general debris. We know to save our bows and wrapping paper for next year, to keep boxes and packaging for future presents and to reuse what we can for other creative projects. If you have an artificial tree, you’re beginning to think of taking off the tinsel and ornaments and packing it safely away for next year. But if you bought a tree from the lot, you may be a little lost as to what to do with it.

Placing your tree on the side of the road and crossing your fingers is not the best way to go. This year earth 911 has put together the most comprehensive list to date of local recycling centers, reaching out to every city in America with a population of over 30,000. Remember, that just because someone hauls your Christmas tree away, does NOT mean it has been properly recycled; it may still end up in a landfill.

Many cities have curb-side pick-up options, but most have size and condition requirements (all trees must be void of lights, ornaments, tinsel, etc). In other cases, local volunteer organizations, such as the boy scouts, will pick up trees for a small donation. If all else fails, you can cut up the tree yourself and place It in your organic waste trash bin.

Other ideas on how to keep your tree out of a landfill include placing it in your backyard as a bird feeder/refuge, using small branches in your fish tank or aquarium as fish habitats and feeding areas or chipping it yourself and turning it into mulch for your garden.

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