Category Archives: Going Green

5 “Green” Gift Ideas

Christmas is this weekend and if you’re anything like me, you haven’t bought a thing. At Backyard X-Scapes we are always looking for ways to help our customers “go green” without breaking the bank or pushing too far outside the box. We believe that Christmas gift-giving can be meaningful, generous and eco-friendly. The following are 5 of our favorite ideas for green gift-giving.


iTunes or Amazon.com Gift Cards – While it goes without saying that digital gifts cut down on waste by eliminating packaging and carbon emissions by eliminating production and shipping, they are also in high demand in today’s tech savvy society. We all know that both iTunes and Amazon offer gift cards for downloading music, but they can also be used for video streaming. Instead of buying DVDs as gifts, give your loved ones the gift of waste-free entertainment; they can stream almost any movie as well as entire television series.

Homemade Gift Coupons – Give the special person in your life many gifts in one without costing you a dime.  Coupons for massages, breakfast in bed and babysitting are all great options that only require time and effort on your part. This gift is ultra-personal, won’t drain your checking account and doesn’t produce an ounce of waste, especially if you use recycled paper to craft each coupon.

Sony Ericsson GreenHeart Cell Phone – The techie in your life will love Sony’s new GreenHeart line of cell phones and accessories. These phones create 15% fewer carbon emissions than traditional phones by eliminating the paper manual (it is stored digitally within the phone), utilizing recycled plastic in the phone’s structure, employing an energy efficient display and waterborne paint. The packaging is also eco-conscious.

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Global Climate Change Conference in Progress in Cancun

Mixed emotions and hesitant results are being emitted from the United Nations Climate Change Conference happening now in Cancun, Mexico. While most of the top ministers are yet to arrive, the United States Special Envoy and the Indian Environment Minister are already in the country and ready to begin working on the loose framework of an agreement designed to “hold the increase in global average temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.” The agreement at hand is currently 33 pages of potential goals that still require debate and compromise on concrete accomplishment methodology. Everything from emission reduction milestones to the recalculation of financial responsibilities from developed and developing countries is up for debate.

One early positive accomplishment was made public by Brazil on December 1. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced that Brazil’s deforestation rates were the lowest on record since tracking began in 1988, totaling 2,490 miles of deforested land between August 2009 and July 2010. This landmark announcement for Brazil makes it the only developed country presenting emission reduction information at the Conference. Brazil will also announce its new policies to promote sustainable development in the Amazon region while simultaneously generating food, jobs and income.

On the other hand, some smaller nations on the short end of the climate change stick are set to reveal a list of demands in order to fulfill their carbon reduction goals, including approximately $3 billion dollars needed by Kenya alone. Another contingency at the Cancun Conference is the potential extension of the Kyoto Protocol that requires major industrialized nations to cut their carbon emissions between 2008 and 2012. The United States signed the deal in Japan in 1997 but the Senate has refused to ratify it, for fear of causing an economic downturn for the sake of complying with steep emission reduction requirements. The United States is unlikely to agree to an extension of the agreement, while China is pushing uncompromisingly for one.

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The Benefits of Bamboo Are Not Lost on Dell

These days, just about everything can be made from some derivative of bamboo. At Backyard X-Scapes we try to make our dedication to the environment and our belief in bamboo as a viable renewable resource apparent in everything we do. With the increase in technology we see more and more of our everyday commodities constructed from better, more eco-friendly materials. Recently Dell Incorporated figured out how to integrate bamboo into their shipping and packaging practices.


Dell’s Inspiron models and their Streak tablet are now packaged and shipped in environmentally responsible, custom designed bamboo shells that fit neatly into an outer box made of 25% recycled materials. Currently, the bamboo casings are constructed specifically for these two Dell products but Dell hopes to expand the use of bamboo across its product line as well as initiate an industry-wide trend.


In addition to its eco-friendly construction, bamboo packaging is entirely compostable. That is, the packaging will biodegrade as well as other all-natural materials and produce soil capable of sustaining plant growth. Composting at home is a virtually effortless way to go green while simultaneously creating all-natural gardening fertilizer. Simply pile organic materials on top of each other outside and wait. After about a year, the bottom of the pile will have decomposed into an effective soil additive. Keep adding organic waste to the pile to ensure you always have a supply of supplement.


Whether or not you are a Dell consumer, their packaging methods and environmental conviction are certainly up-and-coming trends to keep your eyes on. And remember, when it comes to protecting our planets, every little bit helps.

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Reused Land Offers Promise in California

For years, California has been in a state of drought – a result of sparse rainfall coupled with intricate irrigation systems and the inherent difficulties in supplying over 35 million people with water. A budget crisis and political unrest have recently added to the states problems but now, there is a bright spot (literally) on the horizon. A proposal by Westside Holdings in California has initiated the construction of the largest solar panel field in the country: the Westlands Solar Park in the San Joaquin Valley.


Westlands will reuse 30,000 acres of land contaminated with salt and other pollutants from years of irrigation and over-planting for a solar panel field capable of producing up to 5,000 megawatts of clean energy. As the largest current solar panel project underway, the field promises enough energy to power almost 4 million homes. By contrast, Spain currently claims the largest functioning solar panel field in the world, with a 60-megawatt capacity.
Phase one of the Westlands project will install solar panels on 9,000 acres of land leased by farmers to Westside Holdings and will generate 600-1,000 megawatts of renewable energy, to be transmitted on existing infrastructure. To complete the project, billions of private and public dollars will have to be invested in both construction and infrastructure development, ultimately creating thousands of jobs.

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Go Green for Back to School

The summer months are coming to a close and students and parents alike are looking towards the start of a new school year. Typically, back to school time entails lots of shopping and preparation. The “starting on a clean slate” mentality engenders cravings for new school supplies and clothes. However, in today’s day and age, it is becoming increasingly important and fashionable to save resources, monetary and otherwise. Luckily, with the development of new and more creative ways to conserve it’s easier than ever to go green while remaining on a budget. Approximately 56 million children will attend elementary and secondary schools this year and each one will produce approximately 240 pounds of waste, so it’s important to save and reuse where we can. Here are some helpful ideas and products to help you save this school year.

The first important step to leading a greener lifestyle is to stay organized. Make a list of all the things you need (or think you will need) before doing any shopping. This will keep you from going overboard when you see all the shiny new equipment offered at Target or Staples.

Secondly, take stock of what you already have. Most times, at some point another, you’ve overbought pencils, pens, paper, notebooks and other school supplies. Using them now will not only save you money this year, but will also free up the house of a little clutter.

If you must purchase new back to school products, there are plenty of ways to go green. Everything from lunch boxes and pencils, to clothing and backpacks exist in an environmentally-friendly form and include such developments as a solar paneled backpack from Voltaic that can charge your cell phone, laptop or iPod while you walk. Big name brands have also embraced the green trend; just check the labels and avoid excessive packaging.

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Save Water This Summer

We are all aware of the country’s dire need for clean water. The summer months are especially tough for dry southern areas, including southern California and the entire southwest. A few simple changes can affect your overall water use immensely. This summer, make the most of your water consumption with the following tips on water conservation.

  • Turn off the faucet – Whether you’re brushing your teeth, shaving or cooking, simply turning the water off when you’re not directly using it can save untold gallons.

  • Reuse where you can – Catch the water your shower wastes while you’re waiting for the temperature to warm up. This water can be reused to water houseplants or for pets.
  • Go natural – Collect rain. Water collection units are a great way to catch and store 40-80 gallons of water at a time. Additionally, these units can serve as decorative accents and are easily camouflaged so they will not ruin your outdoor aesthetic.

  • Work with nature, not against it – Water the lawn early in the morning. By getting up a few minutes earlier, you cash in on the help provided by natural dew that accumulates on grass and other plants and can save up to 25 gallons of water a day.
  • Wait – Only wash full loads of laundry or dishes. By just waiting for enough dirty items to accumulate you can save 15 to 50 gallons of water per load.

  • Get in and get out – Shortening showers by only one minute saves up to 5 gallons a day.
  • Sweep - Use a broom to clean off sidewalks and driveways. Hosing them down just wastes water that can be used for the lawn or washing the car. It also adds more sewage to storm drains which ultimately flow into the ocean. Sweeping helps save water and prevents water pollution.
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The Benefits of Solar Lighting

 

As the summer months drift lazily on, there are more and more opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. Whether entertaining guests in your backyard or simply sitting solo with a good book into the evening is your style, you’re certain to run into a classic summer problem: the weather is still warm and comfortable, but the sun has gone down, forcing you to retreat indoors. Once again, Backyard Xscapes has the answer to your most vexing questions – the use of solar lights can easily and cost-effectively solve your outdoor lighting dilemma.

Solar lights capitalize on one of the Earth’s most reusable resources –the sun. A solar panel within the unit “stores” the energy from the sun’s rays during the day and subsequently emits this energy through LED light bulbs at night. Most solar lights turn off and on automatically with the help of  high-tech darkness sensors, making them both easy to use, waste free and an integral part of any intention to “go green.”

To make your life even simpler, solar lights don’t require a connection to the house power source and therefore do not require any confusing wiring or outlet planning. Positioning is the only tactical consideration as the bulbs require direct sunlight during the day in order to operate at full capacity at night.  They usually consist of two or less parts making them easy to assemble, easy to move and easy to install.

To add to the growing list of benefits to solar lighting, they will not add to your electric bill, produce environmentally harmful emissions or become dangerous in any way. Children and pets cannot be electrocuted or burned because there is no electricity involved and the bulbs are always cool to the touch. The lights can be placed anywhere that is lit by direct sunlight during the day, with no consideration for potential water spills or contact with upholstery or other flammable materials.

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Supporting “Green” With the Earth Day Silent Auction

Each year after the Earth Day fair, San Diego Earthworks holds an awards ceremony recognizing individuals who have made a greener difference in the community, which is then followed by a dinner and silent auction.  Backyard X-Scapes was invited to attend the festivities and  to donate an eco-friendly product for the auction.

Our all-natural bamboo furniture added a hint of the tropics to the décor and was admired both for its aesthetic appeal and functionality while being environmentally-friendly. We’re incredibly proud that our bamboo furniture set was able to raise money for a great cause, while providing attending patrons with a comfortable place to sit and enjoy.

In keeping with the motif, the event was completely waste -free.  All the drink containers and serving devices were 100% biodegradable and all food waste were separated into a bin for land fertilizer, rather than being sent to the landfill.

In addition to enjoying great food, good times and some friendly auction competitiveness, we got to see and experience all of the other wonderful green ideas sprouting up in the San Diego area.  One great auction item was for a business membership to the Green Chamber of Commerce, a business network “supporting the development of sustainable business practices, and advocating for a green public policy.”  With the recent environmental devastation surrounding the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we also believe that now more than ever, businesses need to be more aware of the environmental impact we make, and in which ways we can help each other to be more kind to the planet.

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5 Reasons to Go Green With Bamboo

It’s nearly impossible to not hear about going green, the 3 Rs (reduce reuse recycle) and the infinite ways in which you can help the planet.  For your next home decorating or landscaping project, we wanted to give you 5 reasons why we are buzzing about Bamboo and what makes it so great!

1) Bamboo is STRONG
Different species of bamboo are stronger than oak, harder than cedar and have the tensional strength comparable to steel.  By purchasing bamboo, you’re getting a quality building material at a fraction of the cost, and is also incredibly versatile.


2) Bamboo is GREEN
Being that bamboo is not a woody tree but in fact a weed like grass, it grows at an incredibly fast rate.  Unlike traditional trees that can take years or decades to grow, Bamboo can be grown and harvested at a much quicker rate.  It’s a renewable resource that serves as an alternative material that can be used for an infinite number of possibilities for goods.


3)Bamboo is VERSATILE
From sheets to cutting boards, fencing, tiki bars, furniture and so much more, Bamboo is being used world wide in various types of production.  You can even customize your own building project with rolls of fencing or individual poles.


4)Bamboo is AFFORDABLE
Let’s face it, economic times have not been at their greatest in the past few years and investing in upgrading your home or landscape can be a hefty investment.  Bamboo offers an affordable way to instantly give your home and garden that tropical or zen revival.  Replacing a wall or fencing around your yard can also be quite expensive but at times necessary if you’re looking to sell your home or are required by home associations;  Bamboo fencing can offer a cost effective and easy solution.

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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Size of Pacific Garbage Patch

Floating in the Great Pacific is an enormous patch of garbage in which is composed of 80% plastic and said to be twice the size of Texas.  Also known as the “Pacific Trash Vortex”, the garbage in these areas of water are so dense with debris and garbage that have been collected by the water currents of the North Pacific Gyre.  Water samples taken from recent years in comparison to collected samples in the past, shows an increase in the abundance of broken down plastics in the water.

garbage beaches

“Researchers believe this enormous trash zone accumulated over many years from trash being dumped off boats and ocean-going ships, and from trash accumulated on beaches, where it eventually washed in the Pacific Ocean and into the huge zone.” ~cnn.com

Water bottles and plastics from consumer packaging rarely make it to the recycling bin and are the largest contributors to our landfills and in our waters.  The pollution of plastics in the ocean not only presents eco-system and environmental concerns but also health risks as well.  Larger plastics breakdown into smaller pieces in which small fish eat and as they are eaten by larger animals and fish, the toxicity concentration of the plastics multiply by the time they reach our food supply.

The Great Pacfic Garbage Patch on Good Morning America

Because of the abundance of debris, and the constant accumulation of more trash, cleaning up the waters is becoming a near impossible task.  The best way to start is to prevent the further build up of pollution in our oceans.  The next time you’re at the beach or by a river, be mindful of the garbage left and dispose of trash properly.  Save money buy investing in a re-usable water bottle!

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