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Environment

How to Save Money for an Eco-Friendly Lifestyle

December 1, 2017

Living a green lifestyle doesn’t mean breaking the bank. Some eco-friendly accouterments — hybrid cars, for one big example — cost a lot of money, but the lifestyle isn’t actually that expensive. And how to save money for an eco-friendly lifestyle is even easier to save money than before being green. In fact, many people who make their way over to the green side find that the lifestyle they begin to lead is easier on the earth and on their budgets.

It’s also easier on their minds. A recent study found that those who do good deeds feel happier because they know that what they’re doing is purposeful and meaningful. In order to reap all of the above benefits, then, you have to learn how to protect the earth and your budget. The following are five ideas of how to save money for an eco-friendly lifestyle:

1. Have Less Stuff

Living a more minimalistic lifestyle is a great way to go easy on the earth and save yourself money. By buying less, you’ll require fewer of the Earth’s resources and, chances are, you’ll waste less, too. Plus, less buying means less spending, which means more money in the bank for you.

You may be overwhelmed with stuff as it is, which is common — and also easy to fix. Spend a weekend organizing with minimalism in mind. You can even find items that would re-sell and make money on what you no longer use, instantly making your green lifestyle a lucrative one.

2. Turn the Tap Off

There’s a reason why your showers and faucets are on every list of suggested ways to save money for an eco-friendly lifestyle. Turning off the tap while you brush your teeth, wash dishes and complete any other sink-related task can help save the planet and lower your utility bills.

The same goes for shortening your showers, which can be an even bigger boon to your green efforts. If it helps, put on some music and try and cut down your shower sessions to one or two songs. And, if your bathroom isn’t too cold, you can try turning the water on and off during your shower so that it’s only flowing when you need it. So, after wetting your hair, you can turn off the water to lather up before turning it back on to rinse.

3. Buy Second Hand or Borrow

We already suggested selling your gently used items to others who could find better uses for them. The next time you need something, you should try buying it second-hand, too, to keep the cycle going. That way, you won’t waste extra resources when what you need has already been made — and is likely on sale second-hand at a cheaper price. Plus, buying someone’s unwanted items saves them from going to a landfill, which makes the earth that much cleaner.

You can also borrow reusable, big-ticket items from friends, family members and neighbors so that everyone buys less. For example, if you want to irrigate and re-seed your lawn, ask a friend who has a shed full of gardening tools before you buy a new one. You’ll save money and avoid wasting materials like metal and plastic on a product you’ll use a handful of times.

4. Celebrate Meatless Monday

Even if you love meat, a change-up in your diet can make a big difference to your budget and to the environment. It turns out that raising livestock wastes quite a bit of resources, from land to water; plus, these large animals can pollute the earth with their waste, which leads to even more damage.

If everyone celebrated Meatless Monday, the earth would reap a huge number of benefits. Aside from a lowered use of resources and a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, less fuel would be used to ship meat from farm to store. Plus, meatless meals tend to cost less and they can be wonderful for your health. You don’t have to go meat-free all of the time, but once a week is a great compromise for you — and a great benefit to your planet.

5. Ditch Your Car

In many places, this may be a big ask: you simply cannot get anywhere without your car. However, if you live in a city or town with well-connected public transport — or even with well-maintained sidewalks — you can ditch your car and its fuel emissions for a greener mode of transportation.

Clearly, this move will save you on gas, parking costs and repairs to your over-worked car. You’ll also get moving more often, and walking regularly has its own set of benefits. You’ll be in a better mood, help keep yourself at a healthy weight and strengthen your muscles and bones to boot.

It’s Just the Beginning

Once you adopt the above five ways to save money for an eco-friendly lifestyle, you’ll realize how easy and effective they are in both saving the earth and saving your budget. Even better is that they’re just five of the many, many ways you can lead a low-cost eco-friendly lifestyle. It’s just the beginning: take these five small steps and see where they lead you. We can promise it’ll be toward a more rewarding, less wasteful future.

Environment

Green Thanksgiving Food Preparation Tips

November 20, 2017
Green Thanksgiving food preparation tips

Thanksgiving is known as the season for golden yellows, burnt oranges and deep reds, but, this year, you can make yours a little bit greener. And you can do so without sacrificing any bit of the year’s biggest feast — one that tends to be super wasteful, which means your efforts could actually make a difference to the earth at-large.

To have an eco-friendly Thanksgiving this year, here are five green Thanksgiving food preparation tips.

1. Don’t Use Disposable Dinnerware

With a large party to feed, it may seem easier to forego traditional table settings for paper and plastic ones. And, while this certainly aids with cleanup, it does nothing to help reduce your footprint. Instead, use the holiday as an excuse to pull out all the reusable stops. Arm your guests not only with reusable flatware but with washable, reusable napkins, too. In every place that you can use a washable tool, do so — you’ll cut down on post-holiday waste that way.

If your party is simply too big, there’s one compromise: you can use disposable napkins, plates, cups and flatware so long as it’s all made from 100 percent recycled materials.

2. Plan a Plant-Centric Menu

In 2012, Americans consumed a whopping 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving. Turkey isn’t one of the biggest offenders when it comes to the carbon footprint created by cultivating livestock, but the transport of meat requires lots of fuel, especially on high-demand holidays like Thanksgiving.

As such, you should try and build your menu around plant-based dishes that require fewer resources to cultivate and harvest. You get bonus points if you use fruits and vegetables that are in-season. Chances are, your favorite Thanksgiving recipes already contain those flavors anyway, but make sure you’re shopping for the season to stay green and potentially save money, to boot.

3. Order Smart, Too

Your Thanksgiving plans could potentially bring you to a restaurant, or you may have Friendsgiving celebrations at your favorite local eatery. Either way, you know you’ll be out to eat this holiday season, and it’s worth learning the ways you can be eco-friendly while you’re at a restaurant, too.

There are so many ways to do it. For one, you can order tap water instead of bottled beverages so that you don’t have to worry about staffers throwing your finished plastic bottle into the trash instead of the recycling. You can take your leftovers to go to cut down on waste or choose a restaurant with a farm-to-table menu so that you know the ingredients are from nearby and not shipped over large distances, thus wasting fuel.

With a few steps in mind, your Thanksgiving dinner parties — and Christmas dinner parties, and New Year’s dinner parties — will all be eco-friendlier.

4. Buy Fresh, Local and Organic

We’ve already touched on the importance of local produce, but it’s worth reiterating, especially when you’re planning a huge shop for your Thanksgiving feast. If you buy from local shops and farmers, you know your products have traveled less of a distance and therefore required less fuel to make their way to your table. This makes your menu instantly greener.

Fresh foods cut down on the energy required to preserve and store canned and bottled foodstuffs. And organic products help preserve the ecosystem and boost soil quality in a way that traditional farming cannot. In the long term, organic farming can stall soil erosion, reduce nutrient loss and hold onto water in a drought. All of these are benefits to the earth that you can help facilitate.

5. Compost What You Can

If you don’t have a compost bin already, make your own before Thanksgiving rolls around so that you can use your leftovers in an earth-friendly way. Rather than contributing to the huge quantity of food that’s wasted post-Thanksgiving, you can reuse your scraps and leftovers to fertilize your garden. It’s a pretty simple process, too, once you get the hang of composting: toss your leftovers in and wait until they make rich, natural fertilizer for your flowers and produce.

Have a Green Thanksgiving

With these tips in mind — and the many other ways you can make your holiday eco-friendlier — you’ll find your holiday even more blissful as you protect the earth and serve a delicious meal to your loved ones. There’s no better feeling than that; in fact, it’s what the holidays are all about.

Environment

5 Ways to Volunteer on America Recycles Day

November 13, 2017
Volunteer on America Recycles Day

There’s so much natural beauty to be seen — and to preserve — across the United States. As such, the non-profit organization Keep America Beautiful (KAB) runs multiple nationwide initiatives to, well, keep America beautiful.

Since 1997, on or around November 15, the country has celebrated America Recycles Day, which is one of the aforementioned initiatives led by KAB. Prior to the big day, local communities make pledges to recycle more as they teach environmentalism and promote the practice of recycling. It all culminates in a whole bunch of activities and chances to volunteer on America Recycles Day when it finally arrives.

As you can probably imagine, there are tons of ways to take part, since so many cities and towns pledge their time to improving the reduce-reuse-recycle process. In honor of the 20th year of America Recycles Day here are five examples of how you can volunteer on America Recycles Day:

Book Swap: Honesdale, Pennsylvania

On Saturday, November 18, you can make your way to the Honesdale, Pennsylvania, Book Swap, where locals are encouraged to bring books they’ve already read or titles collecting dust on shelves and in attics. In exchange for handfuls, bags or cars full of books — brought to the site a few days before the swap — you can pick up new reads and bring them home. You can take as many as you want, too.

Plastic Bag Pick-Up: Chicago, IL

Chances are, you have tons of plastic bags laying around that you neither reuse nor recycle. The country has a massive plastic pollution problem, with 9 billion tons of plastic already produced and more being manufactured every day. It’s not a substance that can easily break down in landfills, either, which is why recycling it should be of the utmost importance.

As such, one school in Chicago will have a challenge amongst its homerooms to recycle as many clean plastic shopping bags as possible. You can challenge yourself to finally clean out your supply of bags, or spend the week surrounding America Recycles Day using only canvas or fabric shopping totes that are reusable. Setting up a bag-recycling challenge at your own school or place of work would be a great recycling effort, too.

Recycling Challenge: Charlotte, NC

Here’s another idea of a challenge you can replicate at your local school or even at your workplace. For a week, students at Bain Elementary in Charlotte, NC, are undertaking a recycling challenge where they hope to remove all recyclables from trashcans so that they’re properly reused.

Students will swap from other classrooms to objectively evaluate the trash left in the can: is it recyclable or not? Classes that dispose of trash and recyclables properly win points, and the overall winner at the end of the week gets a prize. This is a model that’s fun and informative and can be replicated in other establishments, too.

3R Bazaar: Woodlands, TX

The 3R Bazaar is a learning experience and a recycling opportunity all rolled into one. At the event, organizers will collect unusual recyclables, including eyeglasses, batteries, flip-flops, cell phones, yard signs and textiles. After dropping off your items, you can learn some reuse strategies of your own and pick up a few useful DIY ideas that’ll also be on display.

Keep Them Warm This Winter: Atlanta, GA

Old towels and blankets falling out of your linen closet? You can offload your extra, unused linens on the Atlanta Humane Society’s Mansell Office. There, they’ll be used — as you can probably guess — to keep animals warm throughout the cold winter months. We can pretty much guarantee you’ll feel good about recycling your older, well-loved items to help homeless pets.

These are just a few of the many, many ways you can get involved this America Recycles Day, November 15, 2017. With 2,400 registered events and counting you can find out how to register an event or how to volunteer on America Recycles Day on the website, there’s sure to be something near you that’ll give you the chance to help the earth first-hand.

Environment

The Whoas of Having an Eco-Friendly Halloween

October 23, 2017
Eco-Friendly Halloween

Halloween is almost here, which means everyone is running around grabbing costumes and yard decorations to prepare for a holiday that’s nearly everyone’s favorite. But have you ever stopped to wonder how Halloween can hurt the environment? This year, check out some traditions you can change up to create a fun, scary night — while also having an eco-friendly Halloween.

Reuse What You Can

The smartest thing you can do this Halloween to be safe and help the earth is to reuse anything you can. Wear an old costume or trade outfits with friends. Look around in thrift stores to find old clothes you may be able to repurpose into something new. Use grocery bags or old pillowcases to carry candy, or get creative with what you have around the house to add a creepy decorating theme to your holiday excitement. You won’t be introducing anything harmful to yourself or the environment, so you can relax and have fun.

Make Your Own Fake Blood

When you’re laying out that skeleton in your yard or hanging a creepy witch, you’re probably thinking about using some fake blood to make your decorations even scarier. What might be the scariest thing to consider is how opening a pack of fake blood could hurt you. There’s no question it has chemicals, but they’re meant to be used by people, so how could they be harmful?

Sometimes things get out of hand or become unpredictable, as experienced by one mother who used fake blood for her Halloween costume. Once she applied the product to her skin, she began to feel a burning sensation, and her skin quickly foamed and peeled, forcing her to go to the hospital. Instead of risking a situation like this, whip up a batch of fake blood out of corn syrup and food dye. It’ll still look great on decorations, and it’ll taste even better if used for a vampire costume.

What’s in That Face Paint?

Face paint is ubiquitous during the Halloween season. People paint themselves as ghosts and skeletons, without giving much thought to what they’re putting on their faces. A recent study found face paint meant for kids included dangerous chemicals like arsenic, lead and mercury were in face paint meant for kids. Not only is that a health risk, it’s also bad for the environment. When kids wash off that paint and watch the colors go down the drain, chemicals like lead can cause air pollution. Maybe skip the paint this year.

Check Your Tags

Your kids have picked out the perfect costumes and have their trick-or-treat bags ready to go, but make sure you know what your kids’ outfits are made from. Products made with fabric like polyester use an average of 70 million barrels of oil each year to make. That emits high levels of CO2 and gets trapped in the atmosphere, warming the earth. To avoid buying harmful products, make your costumes at home or use recycled bags or pillowcases to hold candy.

It might surprise you, but having an eco-friendly Halloween isn’t impossible. With a little bit of investigating, you can narrow down where you might be hurting the environment or yourself, then you just have to think outside the box to fix it. Ask friends for help, and encourage them to go green with you. After all, the planet needs to stay healthy for everyone, so make it a group effort this year to go green and help the environment.

Environment

How Did We Let Plastic Pollution Growth Reach Catastrophic Measures?

October 20, 2017
Plastic Pollution Growth

Plastic pollution in our bodies of water, along with global warming, may be the largest worldwide environmental threat we will face in the coming decades.

Stories of plastic islands the size of Texas have long permeated popular news sites and social media. However, these do not necessarily present an accurate assessment of how bad the situation is. So how bad is it?

The Problem of Plastic Pollution Growth

Here’s what we know. Throughout history, plastic production clocks in around 9 billion tons. Furthermore, production is on the rise. Plastic is one of the cheapest means for packaging and storing goods, and its usage has spread over the globe since its commercial debut in 1872.

Unfortunately, there are some major downsides to plastic production. While it is cheap and effective, the only effective means of disposal is recycling, a method that requires the collection and repurposing of plastic goods. Many plastic-producing nations around the world do not have adequate means for trash removal, much less developed recycling industries. In these countries, plastics find their way into waterways and into larger bodies of water and oceans. From there, tides transport plastics — often broken into much smaller pieces — all around the globe. Hence, floating, semi-solid patches of trash.

However, the blame does not rest solely on the production end. Movements in the US have begun criticizing the consumerist leanings that fuel this industry. For this overabundance of plastic production to occur, there needs to be demand. The U.S., in particular, contributes to this side of the problem.

Potential Solutions to Plastic Pollution

Efforts to clean up the oceans, and prevent the continuation of plastic pollution growth, face some significant challenges. First, it is difficult to remove plastics from the ocean. This may seem obvious, but the extent to which plastic has penetrated this environment is anything but.

Dredging plastics from the water can have harmful effects on the local environments, including the removal of important microorganisms — plankton, in particular. Plastic particles reaching microscopic sizes can be difficult to detect and even harder to remove. Further, the depth of the ocean makes this process of removal costly and, in some cases, impossible.

Local initiatives have focused on cleaning beaches instead, to prevent plastics from reaching the ocean in the first place. Still, given the staggering amount of plastic produced and discarded every day, efforts have been only partially successful. Some options allow for the safe monitoring of plastic pollution in local waterways.

As previously mentioned, there have also been social efforts to curb the dependence on plastic products in consumer nations. This confronts the greater problem of increased globalization and consumerism around the world. The growth of plastic production indicates this trend as more nations become capable of plastic production and create a greater market for finished plastic products through consumerist ideals.

Efforts to push social norms away from this direction are comparatively recent, and the impact they will have on the world stage is not yet clear. Still, some cities around the U.S. have taken the first steps in banning the use of certain wasteful plastic materials.

A Look Forward

The next few years will be instrumental in determining how to stop the momemtum of plastic pollution growth. If beachfront cleanup efforts and social movements eschewing consumerism continue to gain steam, plastic pollution may become a figment of the past. That being said, if the current trend in plastic production continues, we may pass a point of no return. Plastic is notoriously difficult to remove from the oceans and waterways — the plastic already littering the oceans will not disappear on its own for thousands of years, if that. This level of production is not sustainable and something needs to be done.

Environment

Genetic Influence on Sustainable Living

October 16, 2017
Genetic Influence on Sustainable Living

What is the genetic influence on sustainable living? What does a self-sustainable lifestyle have to do with our hereditary? A lot, it turns out, once you look at study results of epigenetics.

Epigenetics stands for the study of heritable changes appearing from various aspects of our environment — essentially, how the environment affects our genes. The human epigenome receives signals from the outside world, so factors such as diet, stress and prenatal nutrition impact the DNA cells we pass from one generation to the next. While we all have our own unique genetic code, our lifestyles and diets influence the DNA we pass on to our children and our children’s children.

Making Smart Choices Makes Sense

Professor Elizabeth H. Blackburn, a Nobel Laureate and leader in telomere and telomerase research, established a connection between stress and human genetic material in 2013. She and a colleague found that violence, poverty and abuse reduce the protective cover of the genome. These experiments essentially proved the legitimacy of epigenetics as a realm of scientific study, as well as its real-world applications toward human development.

Knowing this link between our blood inside and our lives outside, the importance of having as healthy a lifestyle as possible becomes a serious consideration.

Those aiming for a sustainable life attempt to reduce the strain they place on the Earth’s resources, reducing their carbon footprint by altering their methods of transportation, energy consumption and diet. Based on what epigenetics tells us, homesteading and converting to green energy power and transportation serves as a positive choice for future generations on more than one level.

Our cells start off one way when we are born and mutate due to the various pollutants we encounter in our environment, which then alter our DNA sequence. For example, chemicals in cigarette smoke cause cancer, and those cancer cells can be passed down to you children. Certain gardening pesticides can alter epigenetic pathways, which are also inherited by the next generation. Increasing our consumption of naturally grown and raised produce and proteins, as well as reducing the amount of pollution we inhale and process on a daily basis, are biologically positive lifestyle choices.

Stress can alter a number of proteins your genes produce for your immune system, which explains why we get sick during high-stress periods of our lives. Since gardening serves as a natural remedy against stress and as a reinforcement of mental and physical health, growing things can improve your immune system and reduce your dependence on pharmaceuticals.

Hope for the Future

Historically, humanity has considered the suffering of the elder generation as inconsequential to the biological well-being of the incoming generation. However, based on the study of epigenetics, this is not true.

While going green has a reputation for being extreme — becoming vegan or communal living, for example — there are plenty of other ways to develop a self-sustainable lifestyle. With a small amount of dedicated effort, simple changes can create resounding positive results in the world and for future generations. Conserving water and electricity, recycling, starting a small garden for herbs or small-scale produce in your backyard, or using reusable bags and containers are all healthy choices.

While incredible ideas are being unveiled and are in construction in order to combat environmental pollution and global warming, it’s the small changes we make in our lives that will forge a better future for our descendants, and change the genetic influence on sustainable living for future generations.

Environment

Columbus Day Reflections: History of Environmental Treatment in America

October 9, 2017
History of Environmental Impact in America

With Columbus Day just around the corner, now is a good time to take a moment to consider the history of environmental impact in America. The arrival of Columbus is what gave America the chance to start the Industrial Revolution, which changed our country and our planet in unprecedented ways.

Following a monumental hurricane season that brought the climate change discussion to the forefront again, we might want to take a moment to look back and reflect on the past.

Bringing Technology to the Country

When Columbus initially came to America, it was mostly unsettled. The Native American tribes co-existed with nature, for the most part, living in ways that altered the environment minimally. Once people started immigrating to the U.S. in larger numbers, things began to change.

Cities were built, dams constructed, roads paved and invasive species introduced. The larger waves of immigration came long after Columbus died, between 1880 and 1920, not including the African slaves that were brought here in untold numbers from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Disease was rampant. There was no such thing as plumbing or waste disposal. Cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever, diphtheria and tuberculosis killed people by the thousands. We built things up and had nowhere to put the waste, no methods to contain infection and no one in the government who was working toward prevention. At this time, most people thought the world was so big that there was nothing we could do to it. But we could, and we did. Poor farming techniques contributed to the Dust Bowl, and we’re starting to understand what we did to the oceans with overfishing.

America’s History of Change

If there’s one thing that never changes about America, it’s that the country never stays the same. The historical data we have shows us that the world has seen a sudden and significant uptick in carbon dioxide emissions since the end of the Industrial Revolution. CO2 didn’t rise abruptly at first, but from 1880-1910, you can see the start of the trend. Meanwhile, the Industrial Revolution ended in 1840, which gave the world time to start accumulating CO2 from all of those new machines that became so popular.

This huge boom in infrastructure came with some incredible advancements, but it was completely unregulated. It took years for the U.S. government to try and catch up to the machines. One of the biggest wake-up calls came in 1969 when CO2 emissions were steadily climbing. It was also the year that the Cuyahoga River caught fire.

That struck America in a way it hadn’t before. The population suddenly decided that the pollution they could see all around them was enough. The result was a sudden slew of regulations to help protect the environment. Earth Day was born. Private companies, many of them non-profits, sprung up to help people get organized.

In a few short years, things changed. The government stepped up in a big way. The National Environmental Policy Act allowed for the creation of the entire Environmental Protection Agency and later the Clean Water Act.

The U.S. had been teaching environmental education since the late 1800’s, but it wasn’t until 1996 that the National Science Education Standards were developed. This has left us with a good way to look at things accepted as fact, but little methods for dealing with the politicization of facts. Climate change is a fact, but there is still debate around the amount of human activity influencing it. Some schools have flat-out decided not to teach it, leaving students behind in the race for solutions.

Back in the 70s, the politicians didn’t take steps to protect the environment because they thought it was a good idea. They did it because the public demanded it. There might not be an easy answer, but avoiding climate change entirely certainly isn’t it. We need to take steps to prepare for the future, not avoid it. Remembering the history of environmental impact in America, the mistakes we made and how we changed things, is the first step toward that goal.

Environment

7 Tips for Sustainable Eating While Eating Out

October 2, 2017
Sustainable Eating

You’re a conscientious eater when you’re at home, and you can be: you’re in charge of the shopping, the preparation and the disposal of all the food you eat there. At a restaurant, though, it’s harder to ensure that what you’re eating is just as sustainable as what you prep for yourself.

To make the task a little bit easier, we’ve gathered the following seven tips to help you eat sustainably while you’re out. So, grab your jacket and get ready to go: nothing’s holding you back from going out to eat anymore.

1. Ask For a Box

It’s no secret that today’s restaurants often pile up plates with extra-large portions of food that you simply cannot finish in one sitting. As such, many diners leave half a dish of food behind which will go straight into the trash.

Simply asking for remnants of your meal in a takeaway box can help cut down on food waste. As an added bonus, you can grab your to-go box on the way to work tomorrow morning and you instantly have lunch prepped.

2. Drink From the Tap

More than $1 billion worth of plastic bottles are wasted every single year when Americans throw them into the trash instead of recycling them. This is just one of the many reasons why bottled water and other beverages are very eco-unfriendly.

On your next restaurant trip, you can cut down on waste by ordering tap water instead of bottled. On top of that, forego any bottled or canned beers in favor of brews on tap. You can even order fountain sodas instead of cans, plastic bottles or glass bottles. Make sure you’ve expended all packaging-free options before choosing a drink that’s served in a one-time-use container.

3. Choose Farm-to-Table Restaurants

Eating at a restaurant with locally sourced ingredients means you’re majorly cutting down your cuisine’s carbon footprint. Think about it: rather than shipping exotic ingredients in from across the country and world, your meal will require way less fuel and waste to get from the farm to the plate in front of you.

4. …Or Know What’s Sustainable and What’s Not

Some places might not have farm-to-table restaurants, of course. Even so, you can do your part by researching the types of foods that tend to be unsustainable and either avoid them or ask the restaurant from where they source theirs.

The most common offender is meat, as meat production requires so many resources. Think about it: livestock farmers have to grow animals to a plump adult size before shipping them off to be slaughtered, butchered, packaged and, once again, shipped to stores or restaurants.

The same goes for the harvest of fish. Figuring out which type of seafood is sustainable is another tough business, as there are many myths around the production and sale of seafood. For example, you don’t have to buy fish from a specialty shop or restaurant to ensure it’s sustainable, but knowing its origins can help you make a sustainable decision.

Also, have a general idea of what fruits and vegetables are in season so they have a better chance of being fresh and local, rather than flown in from warmer, tropical locales.

5. Opt For Organic

It may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning the value of organically grown produce. Pesticides can run off into nearby soil, turf and water supplies, contaminating all three. Plus, the animals that inhabit these areas can become poisoned from their exposure to pesticides. Simply saying “yes” to an organic menu item can help you avoid contributing to this ongoing toxicity problem and perhaps even send a message to those whose products you now avoid because they’re produced with pesticides.

6. Say No to Too Many To-Go Bag Extras

If you’ve ever picked up an order to-go from a restaurant, you know that many establishments will load you up with disposable extras: napkins, plastic cutlery, extra straws, salt packets… the add-ons are endless. And, while these are convenient at the time, they might end up being tossed in the trash immediately by most customers, especially those who aren’t as environmentally aware as you.

So, next time, ask the staff to leave out your plastic cutlery and napkins and use the ones you have at home instead. If you need sauce or other condiments to go, take only what you need (or refrigerate and use what you don’t this time around).

7. Download an App to Help You

Even with the above tips in mind, you still might falter in your attempt to eat eco-friendly 100 percent of the time. You can always ask for help — and you don’t have to look much further than the phone that’s in your hand right now.

There are plenty of smartphone apps to aid you in your quest. One points out vegan or vegetarian restaurants, while others tell you how sustainable menu items and ingredients are. With these tools literally in your pocket, you’ll find sustainable restaurant-ing to be so much easier.

With these tips in mind, you can eat out and feel good that choice. So, start making plans and figure out which eco-friendly eatery you’ll be visiting first: you are definitely not the one cooking tonight.

Environment

Eco-Friendly Home Designs for the Modern Minimalist

September 29, 2017
Eco-Friendly Home Designs

Clear, open space, clean lines, natural lighting and pieces that serve multiple functions: Sounds eerily environmental and sustainable, doesn’t it? A reflection of mother nature at her best.

In stark contrast to the shock factor and plasticity of traditional minimalistic design, today’s trends pull directly from the great outdoors and, as a result, are almost entirely symbiotic with modern eco-friendly home designs.

Simplify Sustainability

Minimalistic design seeks to reduce living space to its necessary elements with a distinct emphasis on simplicity. In the back-to-basics scheme of things, minimalism is so low-impact it screams of eco-influence. As the trends of modern minimalism and eco-friendliness collide, results are striking, innovative — and, unsurprisingly, sustainable.

Open up

Rooms with open-space voids and clear pathways create a natural flow. Air circulates well through an uncluttered floor plan and supports efficient heating and cooling methods.

Clean interior lines allow a few stark furnishings to stand out. Eco-friendly pieces that use organic fabrics and natural materials reflect desired simplicity and create a unified effect with the outdoors. Increasingl

y, retail companies offer ethically made environmental lines from which to choose.

Top It Off

The characteristic rectangular or chunky room parameters of minimalistic design often lend credence to exciting green roof options. Flat or gently sloping roofs are perfect for the installation of cover plantings. Green roofs naturally insulate living space, reduce stormwater runoff, improve air quality and increase area biodiversity. Root networks help protect the longevity of a roof, even while the plants themselves add visual appeal.

Regardless of roof pitch, solar panels continue to be a cost-efficient method to harness environmental power while staying true to clean-line design. In addition to the original large, square units, solar paneling is now available in classic shingles and innovative glass tile.

Keep It Light

Large, multiple windows throughout the home are paramount. They allow for infusion of light and invite the surrounding natural environment in. Cross-view windows create the perspective of widened living space. Keeping windows unadorned with coverings remains faithful to the minimal concept and can significantly lower heating and cooling costs — especially if you’ve chosen to install energy-efficient models.

Salvage Materials

If you are renovating or rebuilding, consider re-use of original foundation structure. It’s as economical as it is environmental when you can avoid razing the earth or clearing additional land. Cement, bricks, steel and glass make excellent eco-friendly building materials and can be adapted in numerous ways to support minimalist design.

Whenever possible, salvage recycled materials like ceramics, aluminum and glass. Source out wood from fallen trees or old barns. Look into composite lumber made from compressed sawdust and rice husks. Search for suitable fixtures and pieces that were previously owned. You’ll save on manufacturing cost, even as you protect the planet’s resources!

Preserve Water

From Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1935 Fallingwater to the present, water has been a prominent element in minimal architecture. Reflective and fluid, water adds unique visual and sensorial draw. Water, as an eco-friendly element, can also be harvested and recycled for home use.

In addition to traditional collection systems which catch water at the base of a structure in barrel-like containers, modern designs include roofs which slant to a center peak and direct water straight into the home.

Using Eco-Friendly Products

From a bold splash of color on the walls to creative effect lighting, modern minimalist homeowners have an arsenal of environmentally supportive products to choose from. Make sure to use paint that’s nontoxic, and preferably an all-natural option made from raw ingredients such as milk protein and lime.

LED — light-emitting diode — bulbs are available for everything from table and floor lamps, recessed lighting, under kitchen cabinet tracks and outdoor area spots. They last eight to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs and use only 25-30 percent of the energy.

Today’s eco-friendly home designs put modern minimalists in prime position to maximize sustainable practices. After all, less is more!

Environment

Are Our National Parks in Danger?

September 15, 2017
National parks in danger

The 388 parks, monuments and recreation areas managed by the National Park Service cover some of the most beautiful and iconic landscapes in the United States. From mountains to glaciers to forests, they protect rare ecosystems and species. They also ensure that people can enjoy nature, and they bring tourism money to nearby communities.

Some of these parks, though, are now in trouble due to a wide variety of potential threats. What exactly is putting our national parks in danger, how serious is the situation and what can we do about it? Keep reading to find out.

Political Climate

Republican lawmakers recently proposed a bill that would transfer protected federal lands to the states. Lawmakers who support the bill have said the lands have little value when the federal government owns them. Supporters argue that they bring in approximately $6.46 billion and create around 6 million jobs.

Those who are against the change worry that protected lands could be sold off once under state control and opened up for oil drilling or property development. States might choose to do this to make money, while others would have little choice due to budget restrictions.

Actions like this have been met with opposition. After a bill to sell more than 3 million acres of public land caused an uproar among conservationists, hunters and fishermen, U.S. Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah announced that he would withdraw it.

Pollution and Climate Change

National parks also face a less direct threat from pollution, climate change and other damage to the environment. The pollution levels in some parks are almost as bad as those in urban areas. In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for example, emissions from industry and power plants blow in from outside the park. That’s not the type of smoke Great Smoky should be known for.

Climate change may cause long-term changes to national parks, as it will to the rest of the world. Glaciers in Montana’s Glacier National Park are already melting. As climate change continues to worsen, we may see more forest fires and storms, as well as higher temperatures that change the ecosystems of the parks. Because national parks are such iconic representations of nature, the effects of climate change seem even more pronounced within them.

Budget Issues

Many of our national parks don’t have enough funding to keep up with repairs, maintenance and the needs of visitors. Roads, buildings and water systems could all use some attention. Some have estimated the parks need around $600 million just to get the infrastructure up to par.

The National Parks Conservation Association has expressed concerns over the Trump Administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018, which includes large cuts to the Department of Interior and Environmental Protection Agency budgets. It also has said that Trump’s hiring freeze may prevent the parks from having enough personnel.

From the Outside In

Though a main goal of establishing the parks is to enable people to enjoy them, the influx of people from places around the world has also created challenges for the health of the parks. Overcrowding can degrade the natural landscape and the habitats of the animals that live there.

When people come to parks, they also sometimes accidentally carry with them species that aren’t native to the area. They might accidentally have seeds of foreign plant species or bugs that aren’t from the area. If these species make their new home in the park, they won’t have any natural competition and may destroy native species.

Some non-native species may escape from homes into the park. For example, people sometimes keep exotic snakes as pets, but if they escape or are released into the wild, they can cause problems. More than 650,000 invasive species have already been identified in national parks in the United States.

U.S. national parks provide critical protection for unique and important ecosystems and create a way for people to easily enjoy and learn more about nature. These national parks in danger from budget cuts and pollution; however, they must be preserved if we want to keep enjoying the benefits from these parks.