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Environment

Eco-Friendly Composting Methods That Will Transform Your Garden

January 12, 2018
Eco-Friendly Composting Methods

What if I said you could reduce landfills and improve your land while spending no money in the process of fulfilling these two crucial tasks? Anyone can contribute to the environment while transforming their yard into a thriving space with crops and floral life. All that’s required is a little knowledge on composting.

Composting grants you the power to take your garden to the next level. You can transform ordinary dirt into soil that properly nourishes your greens. Best of all, you don’t have to rely on the synthetic chemicals emitted from commercial fertilizers. Choosing organic is as simple as organizing your waste and setting it aside.

If you haven’t started composting yet, you’re missing out on the valuable benefits this simple act has to offer.

Reducing Your Ecological Footprint

Did you know in the United States alone, families generate a cumulative amount of roughly 250 million tons of trash per year? The average car only weighs approximately one half of a ton, so imagine 500 million vehicles stacked into one unbelievably huge lot. Pretty unfathomable, right?

You can play your part in reducing waste by transforming trash into a valuable resource. Virtually any organic, non-animal-based material will work. Instead of tossing your coffee beans, fruit peels and paper products into the dumpster, use them in your yard instead!

One man’s trash is the soil’s treasure.

How Composting Improves Your Land

Composting takes ordinary waste and transforms it into a crucial element that strengthens your soil.
When you place all of your organic materials in composting containers, the components decompose into an eclectic mixture of mineral-rich soil. That’s because insects and worms consume all of the waste. This matter then expels from the insects through waste in the form of a nutrient and vitamin-rich mixture.

Nothing beats the natural process of composting. While synthetic fertilizers provide nutrients to your land, their impact is often short-lived. Composting provides a natural fertilizer that nourishes your ground with a more significant influence.

Start with Organizational Measures

Creating the perfect composting pile requires a bit of preparation. When you dispose of waste, you may find yourself separating your trash into various categories. Plastic goes into one bin and paper goes into another. But when you choose which waste goes into your compost pile, you have to use caution.

Tossing all of your waste into one large trash can is easy. But when you want to transform your scraps into valuable soil, you have to eliminate unnecessary materials that will ruin your fertilizer.

Keep a separate container for waste which you will not place into your composting bin. You should discard diapers, recycled magazines and meat scraps separately to keep your waste divisions organized.

Know Which Materials to Throw Aside

Composting is a science. With the right know-how and knowledge, you can produce the fertile soil and land you’ve always dreamed of achieving.

No two materials are the same, especially when it comes to their ability to decompose. Not sure which products to include in your composting pile? Check out the list materials to avoid throwing in your compost pile:

  • Plastic materials
  • Cat and dog excrements
  • Poisonous or diseased plants
  • Fish and meats
  • Colored or glossy papers
  • Bones
  • Ashes from charcoal or coal

Scan the Environmental Protection Agency’s website for a greater understanding of which materials to withhold from your composting pile to get the most out of your effort.

Consider Root Growth Hormones for Added Growth

By composting your waste, you’ve already taken the first step necessary to provide your plants and crops with the nutrients they need. The next step involves acquiring the proper root growth hormone.

If you’re unfamiliar with this process, rooting hormones are a synthetic mixture of plant growth hormones that assist in the plant’s natural formation of roots. Using this compound will help your plants grow thicker, healthier roots which grant your greens a stronger life potential. You can make your own rooting hormone using apple cider vinegar, honey or willow water.

When you use root growth hormones in combination with composting soil, you aid your plants’ growth process immensely. Once you find the right rooting hormone for your greenery, applying the compound is relatively simple. After you drip powder onto a cutting, you will plant the mixture into a hole in your soil. Nutrient-rich soil produced from composting ensures your growth hormones perform to their maximum potential.

Turn Composting Into a Family-Friendly Activity

You don’t have to exhaust yourself in the process of building a better future for the environment. Take gardening, for instance. Planting and sowing seeds in your garden allow you to spend time outdoors with your family in a bonding experience that gets all family members involved.

Making fertilizer through composting offers an incredible learning experience children can engage in through hands-on learning. You’ll enlighten them on the benefits of recycling while they play an active part in bringing your garden to life.

Once your compost pile transforms into good soil, you can plant flowers and crops together as a family. Picky-eaters might even try new tastes knowing they helped create the foods lining your kitchen.

Save the Environment and Lessen Your Expenses

Did you know composting can save you hundreds of dollars on your monthly food expenses? Making your own organically grown fertilizer provides you with a fresh heaping of soil you can use to sow vegetables and fruits. If you’ve ever shopped organic before, you know the price of crops can be quite pricey, especially during the cold winter season. Why not grow your own produce instead?

Compost-friendly waste products grant you the power to harvest food from the comforts of your own home. When your fruits or vegetables spoil, you can recycle them with the satisfaction of knowing they will one day help new crops thrive.

Environment

Unfortunately, Yes the President Can Legally Reduce National Monuments

January 5, 2018
President Can Legally Reduce National Monuments

You read that right. The president can cut national monuments at his discretion, as evidenced by Donald Trump’s recent decision to reduce Utah’s two national monuments by considerable proportions. If you thought the Antiquities Act granted landmarks such as Bears Ear and the Grand Staircase Monument special protection against governmental interference, think again.

Although public outcries from groups including the Native American community proclaim Trump’s decision an act of illegality, the president is moving forward in his decision to slash Utah’s landmarks by a remarkable two million acres — the most extensive monumental cutback in the United States’ history.

A Brief History of Bears Ear and the Grand Staircase Monument

If you’re unfamiliar with Utah’s two infamous monuments, a brief understanding of their history will help you realize what sparked this recent debate.

Both the Bears Ear and Grand Staircase monument grant the general public access to the plants and wildlife within the surrounding area. The Bears Ear National Monument also provides tribal access to a sacred land that various tribes from the Native American community access daily.

In 2016, former President Obama declared Bears Ear a national monument to further preserve and guarantee Native American access to the Utah terrain. The Grand Staircase was similarly established as a protected site in 1996 to protect the land from unwanted damage and pollution. However, much of the controversy surrounding this monument states that the 1.3 million acres of size prevent the poverty-stricken area from accessing the land for more productive measures.

With Trump’s recent decision to slash Utah’s monuments by nearly two million acres, the future of Bears Ear and the Grand Stair Monument remains uncertain.

What You Need to Know About the Antiquities Act

The Antiquities Act dates back over nearly a century to when President Teddy Roosevelt first passed the bill in 1906. When Roosevelt first signed this bill, his priority centered on protecting the Native Americans from losing the land they hold sacred to their culture.

This act grants the president power to mark designated natural areas and monuments into conservation units. As a result, the act aims to extend the protection of the land for public interest and protected use.

Many claim Trump’s decision to cut Utah’s preserved land as an unreasonable breach of power based on the details outlined in the Antiquities Act which warrant conservation. However, President Trump’s decision to cut Bear Ears aligns with the Antiquities Act declaration that the President should protect national monuments while utilizing the least expanse of land.

The Antiquities Act leaves a gray area that does not explicitly state Trump cannot cut these significant sites into smaller proportions. In fact, various presidents who preceded Trump decreased the amount of land allotted to these landmarks, too. However, prior presidents made minor cuts to the nation’s protected areas. Trump’s decision to reduce Utah’s monuments by several million acres is the most substantial cut the country has yet to experience.

Understanding the Acts Set by Predecessor Presidents

Even if the Antiquities Act explicitly stated that future presidents could not legally reduce national monuments or alter protected land such as Bears Ear and the Grand Staircase Movement, Trump’s decision may still have held some ground.

Current and future presidents are permitted to override specific acts established by prior officials. Even though Teddy Roosevelt passed this bill in the early twentieth century, that doesn’t mean all of his successors must abide by his every decree.

If every individual following Roosevelt had to adhere to the principles he established during his presidency, this sense of authority would forever grant Roosevelt power ever after his time in office. No policy is guaranteed a lifetime of use because laws must alter and change to accommodate the nation’s ever-changing societal demands and needs.

While many may protest and disagree with Trump’s recent decisions, his choice to cut Utah’s land still falls within the realm of legal abidance. Political choices that were once upheld by those in office before him can change at any point in time. The same rule of thumb applies to Trump’s future successors, who may have the power to follow — or undo — several of the policies he himself establishes during his time in office.

How Trump Claims to Improve Utah’s Community

Rather than harming the Native American community’s access to these national lands, Trump believes his decision will assist them. When making remarks on the Antiquities Act Designations, President Trump voiced that the new overturn of this bill will allow Natives to have a newfound voice in the land.

Although the president claims to have made his decision with the indigenous population in mind, various Native American tribes took the initiative in suing Trump to voice their discontent.

What Trump’s Cut Means for the Future of Archaeological and National Sites

Parks and environmental displays, such as Utah’s highly debated monuments, offer everyday citizens the ability to explore their natural surroundings in a protected environment. As the number of archaeological sites shrinks, what will become of our ability to connect to the natural environment?

Unfortunately, the president’s decision to cut back Utah’s monuments by drastic proportions may be the first warning of what’s still to come. The possibility that other states will experience monumental reduction is an increasing probability. This equates to not only less monumental access in Utah but in the nation as a whole.

The Dangers of Making National Monuments into Public Land

Once areas such as Bears Ear National and the Grand Staircase monuments become federally owned, their protection seems to falter.

One of the major threats toward formerly protected lands is the change in legal ownership. The ownership shifts toward the federal government, who could easily decide to place these lands under potentially dangerous acts ruining the natural wildlife and plants.

Protestors who disagree with Trump’s decision fear Bear Ears and the Grand Staircase monument are now open to prospective mining, oil drilling and building establishments. As federal property, these lands lose their protection against environmental damage that they formally possessed.

While Trump proclaims to have the people of Utah in mind, the future of these two historically significant areas remains up in the air.

Environment

Obama’s Environmental Legacy Versus the Legacy Trump Is Leaving

December 29, 2017
Obama's environmental legacy

Since the primordial cook fires of our ancestors first released carbon into the atmosphere, humans have made changes to their environment. Our surroundings, after all, are our vehicle for advancement: We learned breeding and farming to supply a steady food supply, cut trees from the forests for shelter, and burned whatever we could for heat and light. The Earth provides what we consume, fueling our collective forward motion.

Consumption and modification of the environment seat us at the forefront of all other species and allows us the luxury of meteoric advancement — often at the cost of our surroundings. Our progress has finally reached a terminal point where we, as a species, become aware of our unsustainable lifestyles. We may still use the Earth as elastic for the evolutionary slingshot of the human race, but our future seeks better propulsion by sustainable means.

Reasons for Current and Continued Fossil Fuel Reliance

Both politics and economics play into our entrenched use of fossil fuels.

What is good for the short-term economy is seldom good for the environment. Fossil fuels are an excellent example of this: They are plentiful, simple to use, and reasonably cheap to extract and refine. Oil and natural gas are also used in primary life functions, from transportation to heating, making them a cornerstone of modern life and a significant portion of many national economies. A country can grow massively wealthy from the discovery and sale of oil or natural gas reserves.

Likewise, many jobs stay tied to extraction, refinement and sale of these fuels. When jobs are at stake, people tend to vote. Thus, the right’s alignment with traditional energy industries — and its opposition to green energy — makes some sense. President Trump carried most regions reliant on jobs tied to mining, drilling and fracking. When votes are cast along these lines, it is no surprise Republican candidates advocate for the continued reliance on carbon-emitting energy sources.

Obama’s Environmental Legacy

Where Trump’s campaign leaned on expanding the existing coal, oil and natural gas industries, his predecessor trod clearly in the opposite direction. President Obama aided legislation intended to preserve the environment: laws and orders ranging from the high-profile rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline to the long-term official goal of increasing fuel efficiency for personal vehicles. He also expanded existing wildlife refuges and national monuments and established new ones.

He also advocated for the expansion of renewable energy sources. In his infamous bailout bill, signed into law during the height of the economic recession, provisions included some $90 million earmarked for green energy subsidies.

In separate legislation, Obama also established massive tax credits for individual households interested in pursuing renewable energy. Individuals claimed these by contributing solar power to the grid, driving an electric car or even insulating their homes better, so as to decrease carbon wastefulness. Thousands of Americans felt incentivized to hop on board. Obama also funded continued research into the science behind renewable energy, rendering facilitators like turbines and panels more efficient.

Trump’s Environmental Legacy

It is hard to imagine a sharper about-face from the Obama-era legislation than the claims and tangible movement of the Trump team. During his campaign, Trump promised to entirely eradicate the EPA, a claim he since stepped back from, but whose specter continues to loom in the White House. He has settled for a 31 percent decrease in the agency’s budget and laying off several thousand associated jobs.

His pick for the agency head — Scott Pruitt — is a public climate change denier, and the EPA removed its climate change page in April. Trump has himself claimed climate science is a hoax and that any related action will cost America jobs and worsen economic suffering. Indeed, he recently signed an executive order in the midst of a team of miners, an act that would loosen mining restrictions on federal lands.

Lesser Trump legislation includes abolishing restrictions on big-game trophy hunting and tossing out the Clean Water Rule — a dangerous move that will open loopholes and ambiguity within the law. These are only two examples of a wide-ranging pattern of attacks on conservation norms.

The Facts

For all the political maneuvering and supposed protection of jobs in traditional energy sectors, the numbers tell a different story. The U.S. employs roughly 200,000 workers across all fossil fuel industries — which include oil, natural gas and coal. These numbers pale in comparison to the budding renewable energy industry, which claimed over 1 million workers in 2016. Further, job opportunities for renewable applications are on the rise. Wind energy boasted a 32 percent growth in employment between 2015 and 2016.

Conversely, oil and gas jobs have dwindled in recent years. Logic dictates that when one industry grows, the other will shrink, and there seems to be a bleak future for those involved in fossil fuels around the world. While some have proposed legislation allowing traditional fuel workers the chance to train for renewable energy jobs, little tangible action has been taken by the Trump administration.

The Future

Renewable energy marches on, in spite of the best efforts from the current administration. Thus, we find ourselves in a strange time: a government in denial of basic scientific fact, and a flourishing new industry replacing the wasteful and traditional energy sources. History cannot look kindly on this president.

Environment

Eco-Friendly New Year’s Resolutions You Should Make This Year

December 25, 2017
Eco-friendly new year's resolutions

Thanksgiving is behind us, and 2017 is nearly over. While we’re digesting our holiday meals, it’s time to start thinking about our Christmas plans and your New Year’s Resolutions. New Years is a great time to make some eco-friendly resolutions. If you’re not sure where to start, or you’re not sure what classifies as an eco-friendly resolution, you’ve come to the right place. Here are a few ideas to help you get started with planning your resolutions for the upcoming year.

Bring Your Own Bags

Unless you live in California (which has banned them) nearly every store puts your purchases in single-use plastic bags. These bags are the second most common form of litter in the world, second only to cigarette butts. They get caught in the wind, they end up in oceans and lakes and rivers where they kill wildlife, and they use up millions of barrels of oil each year to produce.

One of the easiest eco-friendly New Year’s resolutions to make is to give up plastic bags in favor of reusable bags. If you keep forgetting them, consider investing in a set of compact pocket- or purse-sized bags.

Use Less Water

Do you know how much water you use every single day? Between trips to the bathroom, showers, cooking and the water you drink, it can be hard to keep track. The USGS estimates that a single person uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water every single day. How can you reduce your water use?

  • Keep track of it — use apps like Dropcountr to keep track of your water usage. Not only will it give you a better idea of how much water you use, but it will also let you know the best places to reduce your overall water use.
  • Update your fixtures — old showerheads can use a ton of water. Update your bathroom with a low-flow showerhead and toilet. They work the same except for the fact that they use less water.
  • Skip the bottled water — Buying bottled water is wasteful in more ways than one. Instead, invest in a good reusable water bottle and water filtration if your local tap water tastes gross.

Eat Less Meat (Or Go Organic)

Meat can be part of a healthy diet, but it is also rough on the environment. Raising cows and pigs generates lots of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses, uses millions of gallons of water every year and cost millions of dollars. Reducing your overall meat consumption can help to reduce your carbon footprint and improve your overall health.

If you just can’t live with the idea of not eating meat a few times a week, try switching to organic, free-range meat sources. Most of these meets come from small local farms, which helps to bolster your local economy as well as your local ecosystems.

If you want to be more eco-friendly without making any dramatic changes to your lifestyle, just reduce your meat consumption.

Drive Less, Walk More

Personal vehicles make getting to and from work, school, and the store much more convenient, but these cars and trucks also account for more than 30% of emissions in the United States. You can help to reduce your overall carbon footprint by making an eco-friendly New Year’s resolution to drive less and walk, bike or use public transportation more.

The dramatic impact that cars have was never more evident than in Beijing in 2015. For the 70th anniversary of Victory Day, Beijing officials wanted clear skies for their parade, so they banned cars for two weeks before the event. Do you know what happened?

The skies turned perfectly blue. Just two weeks of no cars was enough to clear the smog away. Once cars were allowed to drive again, the haze came back in less than 24 hours.

Recycle and Compost

It’s 2017 — recycling isn’t as hard as it used to be. Many cities provide recycling bins and don’t even require you to sort your recyclables. Just put everything you can recycle in one container, and workers, with the help of machinery, will sort it at the plant. If you don’t already recycle, consider making that part of your eco-friendly New Year’s resolutions.

If you’ve got a garden or are planning on starting one, consider recycling your organic waste as well (kitchen waste! Not that organic waste!) in the form of a compost pile. Keep your coffee grounds, your eggshells and your vegetable shavings in a compost bin. This organic matter will decompose and provide nutrients that help your plants and flowers grow.

It doesn’t take much to make your new year a little more environmentally friendly. Use these resolution suggestions or come up with your own, and let us know what you’re planning on doing in 2018 to make your home and your family a little more eco-friendly.

Environment

My Favorite Holiday Eco-Friendly Dishes and Desserts

December 18, 2017
eco-friendly dishes and desserts

Welcome to Part 3 of the 3-part eco-friendly holiday series. You can read Part 1 Part 2 here.

Thanksgiving is behind us and just when we thought that we were done with cooking for a while, it’s time to prepare for the holidays. Whether you’re planning a big holiday feast or just a small intimate gathering for your immediate family, it’s time to start thinking about your menu and the kind of foods you want to serve.

Did you know that you can make your holiday dinner eco-friendly? Believe it or not, it is possible. Here are some of my favorite holiday eco-friendly dishes and desserts to help you make your holiday menu as green as possible.

Buy Organic and Local Where Possible

You’ve got tons of options for the main course for your holiday feast — turkey, goose, roast or some equally flavorful vegan alternatives. The biggest thing you want to remember for your main course protein is to buy local, organic and/or free range proteins. They’re a bit more expensive than the alternative, but they’re better both for you and for the environment.

Using local meat and produce helps to reduce carbon emissions by reducing the distance that the food has to travel.

I don’t know about you, but by the time holiday dinner rolls around, I have had just about enough of turkey for a while, and so I tend to go with a beef roast. I’ve included some vegan alternatives that are just as savory as well though!

Holiday Roast

Ingredients

  • Local, free-range rib eye roast, roughly 3lbs.
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped rosemary
  • ¼ cup chopped garlic. (This is about 20 cloves, give or take a few.)
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 cups mushrooms — use whatever is in season or choose your favorite mushrooms.
  • 1 cup beef stock.

Heat your oven to 350 °F. Tie the roast and season with salt and pepper. Mix your rosemary and garlic with 2 tbsp of olive oil and set aside. Add the other 2 tbsp of oil to a cast iron skillet over medium heat and brown the roast on all sides. Remove the pan from heat and cover the roast with the garlic and rosemary mixture. Roast for 1 to 1½ hours, until temperature reads 135 °F with a meat thermometer. Remove from heat and let rest.

While the roast is resting, sauté your mushrooms with butter until they’re cooked through and have absorbed the butter. Remove the roast from the pan, deglaze with stock and cook until thickened. Then just slice and serve!

Mushroom Wellington

You don’t need beef to have a fantastic holiday feast.

Ingredients

Vegan Filo Dough

  • 2 cups whole grain spelt flour
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 medium avocado mashed
  • ¾ cup very hot water

Filling

  • 1tbsp flax seed, ground
  • 1tbsp water
  • 3 1/8 cup of brown mushrooms
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • ½ c and 1 tsp dry white wine
  • ½ c and 1 tsp water
  • 1 tbsp vegetable stock paste
  • 1/8 c rolled oats
  • 1/8 c walnuts
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 1/8 cup thawed spinach
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Cheese (omit for fully vegan recipe)
  1. Mix the pastry — add flour and salt to a bowl or food processor and combine. Add the avocado and blend, then add water a little at a time and blend. You want pliable dough that’s not too sticky. Knead for about five minutes, then wrap in plastic and rest while you make the filling. Mix your water and flax seed and let rest in the fridge while you cook the filling.
  2. Stew your garlic, water, white wine and stock paste over medium heat for 20 minutes or so. You can add more water if it starts to dry out.
  3. Dry sauté the mushrooms over high heat until well browned. Once browned, add the mushrooms to the garlic and wine mixture and cook for 15 more minutes. Toss the red onion in the pan where you were cooking the mushroom and sauté until translucent.
  4. Grind up the rolled oats and walnuts to a powder in a food processor. Mix the onions, mushroom mixture, rolled oats and walnut mixture and the flax seeds from the fridge until well combined. Wring out the thawed frozen spinach to get rid of as much water as possible. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
  5. Roll out your dough and layer the ingredients on it — spinach first, then mushrooms and then top with cheese if you’re using it. Roll up the Wellington, brush with an egg wash (or use soy milk for a vegan recipe) and bake for 15-30 minutes until evenly browned.

Sides

Side dishes for holiday dinner are as varied as the people hosting these fantastic meals, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be eco-friendly.  The biggest trick for veggie sides is to use seasonal vegetables — beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots and citrus fruits are all in season in December, making them an ideal eco-friendly choice!

Maple Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups Brussels sprouts
  • 1 bunch broccoli, broccolini or other seasonal vegetables.
  • A few handfuls of arugula
  • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Remove the outer leaves of your Brussels sprouts and chop them in half. Cut the rest of your vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Heat your oven to 375 °F.

Spread your veggies out on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Bake until browned but not burnt — 20 minutes for veggies like broccoli and broccolini, 45 minutes for other vegetables like Brussels sprouts.

Toss with arugula and cranberries and serve immediately, or store and warm up right before serving.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Potatoes are in season in the winter, and you can’t have a proper tasty and filling meal without some potato goodness. This is not traditionally a vegan dish, but you can easily substitute the butter and milk for vegan-friendly alternatives — I’ll include some below.

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs of locally grown organic potatoes, peeled and cubed. (If you like some skin in your mashed potatoes, opt for red potatoes or other small varieties.)
  • 1 head of garlic, unpeeled.
  • 4 – 8 tbsp butter (substitute vegan buttery spread or olive oil)
  • 1 c half and half or whole milk (Substitute unflavored and unsweetened almond or soy milk)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

First, peel and chop your potatoes, then toss them into a pot of water with a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes break apart when punctured with a fork.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat up your oven to 350. Don’t peel the garlic — instead, just chop off the top of the head, doing your best to expose all the cloves. Drizzle with olive oil, cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or so until the garlic is browned and very soft. Remove and cool.

Once the potatoes are cooked, drain the water and mash them until they’ve reached the consistency you prefer. I like them chunky, but other people prefer smoother mashed potatoes, so this is entirely up to you. Mix in your butter and milk, and stir until smooth. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the cloves into the potatoes and mix well — I love the subtle taste of roasted garlic, so I tend to use the whole head but feel free to season to taste.

Add salt and pepper, and serve.

Dessert

You can’t have a holiday dinner without dessert. Break out the fine dessert china instead of using disposable plates and silverware. It looks better, and it’s better for the environment.  We’ve got one no-bake dessert to keep you from having to turn the oven on, and one that takes advantage of the seasonal citrus fruit that’s available in December!

No Bake Eggnog Bites

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups of gluten-free oat flour
  • ¼ cup coconut flour (can be substituted for more oat flour if preferred)
  • 2 tbsp granulated sweetener (sugar, coconut palm sugar, etc.)
  • Pinch each of sea salt, nutmeg, and cloves
  • ¼ cup nut butter of choice (almond, cashew, etc.)
  • ¼ cup brown rice syrup (or any sticky sweetener)
  • ¼ cup eggnog of choice (substitute Silk or Almond eggnog for vegan recipe)

First, mix dry ingredients — flour, sweetener, sea salt, cloves, nutmeg — in a bowl and combine well.

Next, heat your nut butter and sticky sweetener in a microwave-safe bowl or small saucepan until combined. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix. Once mixed, pour in your eggnog and mix well until a thick batter forms.

Using your hands, form the dough into balls and refrigerate to firm. Simple but tasty — if you want, you can even add a scoop of protein powder to make them a little less of a guilty pleasure.

Grapefruit Brown Sugar Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 grapefruits, sliced

Cream together your butter and sugar, then stir in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla extract. Mix in your flour a bit at a time, until well combined. Scoop the batter into a muffin tin and top each muffin with a slice of grapefruit.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cupcake.

It’s not hard to keep holiday eco-friendly while still enjoying all the amazingly rich flavors of the season. Just remember to buy local, buy seasonal and skip the disposable dishware, and you’re well on your way to reducing your carbon footprint while still making eco-friendly dishes and desserts to remember.

Environment

My Favorite Eco-Friendly Christmas Gift Ideas

December 15, 2017
Favorite eco-friendly Christmas gift ideas

Thanks for joining me for Part 2 of this 3-part series on eco-friendly holiday celebration. You can reader Part 1 here.

It’s that time of year again where everyone starts thinking about what they’re going to get for the people they love. Presents have to be thought through, bought and wrapped before people arrive for Christmas. And don’t forget to consider shipping time for those gifts that have to be sent through the mail. This year, choose a theme to base gifts upon rather than stressing over each individual gift.

Buying eco-friendly gifts doesn’t have to mean doing a lot of research to find the right gift for the people on your list. These gifts are easy to think of if you spend a short amount of time imagining ways you and the ones closest to you can help the earth. Check out some ideas for my favorite eco-friendly Christmas gift ideas, so you can rest easy Christmas morning knowing you’ve done your part to give back to the earth too.

1. A Drying Rack

Drying racks are something not many people think about buying unless they’re in college. Not only can drying racks save time and money, but they can also help decrease the energy consumption of a household, which means a family’s carbon footprint can be lightened. Get a drying rack for that person who always talks about how many loads of laundry they do, and they’ll quickly notice an improvement in their finances and concerns for the planet.

2. Reusable Water Bottles

One of the many things people get and forget to replace is a reusable water bottle. They come in all shapes and sizes, which means they can be personalized for everyone. They’re easily refillable and will help reduce the catastrophic plastic pollution growth that’s accumulated over the last few decades.

3. Biodegradable Soap Nuts

Reducing the use of household chemicals is a big way people can be more eco-friendly, and a place chemicals can sneak in is through washing machine detergents. Help a friend or family member skip the next bottle of dyed, soap liquid and use soap nuts instead. They’re compostable and work well to remove things like stains and smells. Plus, they can be reused after a wash, which can save money.

4. Composting Bin

Using a composting bin is something people have to warm up to, but when they’re presented as a gift with a set of instructions, it makes them easy to use. Composting is important for anyone concerned about being eco-friendly because they help minimize the damage effects of landfills, like how they’re the third-largest source of human methane emissions. Try giving a bin to a friend everyone looks up to and see if you can get a trend going.

5. Fabric Shopping Bags

Your friends and family probably have one or two of these lying around the house somewhere because they get given out so frequently as free gifts from stores, but it’s for a good reason. Reusing fabric bags keeps plastic bags out of the ocean and paper bags from unnecessary tree depletion. They’re collapsible, eco-friendly and basically the perfect gift for people who grocery shop frequently.

Giving gifts each year for Christmas always presents new challenges that everyone has to overcome. Some people you drift away from and don’t know as well, and some people are out of your daily life entirely, but you still have to get them something. It can feel nearly impossible to figure out what to get the people you love when there’s so much to choose from, so take it easy this year and go with presents that fit an eco-friendly theme.

By giving your loved ones gifts that give back to the earth, you can help minimize carbon footprints without breaking a sweat. Help those closest to you start using refillable water bottles or cloth grocery bags. Anything produced with little impact on the earth and reusable for a considerable amount of time will help the earth while simultaneously helping you check people off your gift list.

Think about the lifestyles your friends and family lead to decide which of the favorite eco-friendly Christmas gift ideas are the right ones for them. Not everyone will want to use the same gift, but they will all love to get behind the idea of presents that help them while helping the world.

 

Have other go-to gifts you love? Share your favorite eco-friendly Christmas gift ideas in the comments below.

Environment

My Favorite Eco-Friendly Christmas Décor

December 11, 2017

This is Part 1 of a 3-part series on eco-friendly holiday ideas. Keep reading every Monday and Friday for more eco-friendly holiday festivities.

Christmas is coming, and it’s time to beautify your house in celebration of the season. Christmas décor provides so much of the fun, sparkle and spirit of the holiday season.

There’s just one hitch. Christmas decorations can be a drain on the environment. Think of it: Ornaments, paper and plastics are all waste to be thrown away after they’ve delighted the eye.

People in the United States send, for example, 2.65 billion holiday cards each year. If everyone who sent cards to friends and family last year sent just one less, it would save 50,000 cubic yards of paper. The result? Less material taking up space in landfills, and less paper manufactured using electricity from fossil fuels to churn out laminated Santas, reindeer and trees on a card.

So much of what we use to spread holiday cheer depletes our natural resources — which is hardly a cheerful thought.

Here’s the good news. It’s easy and fun to decorate your home and office with eco-friendly Christmas décor. You can celebrate sustainably! You can also reduce energy use by going outside to get some of your favorite eco-friendly Christmas décor, as the first two tips recommend. While you’re gone, be sure to turn down your thermostat.

Here are a few of my favorite eco-friendly Christmas décor ideas.

 1. Buy a Living Christmas Tree

For many people, going out to get the Christmas tree is the kickoff of the season. It still can be. Just pick up a Christmas tree that hasn’t been cut down. Many home and garden stores offer verdant evergreens in a pot. They continue to provide the wonderful smell of pine and fir to your home throughout the season, with less shedding of needles.

You can buy a dwarf evergreen to have all year ‘round, minus the tinsel and lights. If you want to buy a larger living tree, take it to a recycling center when Christmas is over. They transform your tree into usable wood chips for mulch or fuel.

 2. Make Pinecone Ornaments

Pinecones make festive holiday decorations. Go to a local park or rural area and simply pick up pinecones, if you have areas nearby. If not, many decoration stores sell natural pinecones that grew on trees — no fossil fuel energy required!

You can glue pinecones together in artistic shapes, or just place them on a bed of pine or fir boughs as decorative highlights. You can easily spray them with acrylic gold or silver for a shimmering effect.

 3. Craft Centerpieces of Holly, Ivy and Cranberries

The traditional carol “The Holly and the Ivy” was popular because holly and ivy were once commonly used in homes for Christmas decorations. They’re evergreens, just as firs and pine trees are. Plan for a throwback holiday season by using sprigs of holly and ivy as centerpieces for your holiday table. You can combine them with evergreen boughs, as well.

Red holly berries, of course, add a seasonal touch of their own. Cranberries are another item to add for seasonal color accents.

4. Burn Candles and Turn off Lights

Candles are a beautiful and festive way to make your home holiday-ready. You can purchase scented candles with accents of pine, fir and bayberry to focus on the season. But if you already have a Christmas tree filling your house with delightful fragrance, you can also buy unscented.

Candles cast a warm glow. Want a terrific Christmas season evening? Turn off all your electric lights and devices, and light the candles. Chat with your loved ones, or play a family board game by candlelight. It’s restful, serene and underscores the peace that the holiday should be about.

 5. Send E-Cards

E-cards are becoming an increasingly popular way of communicating with loved ones and wishing them the best holiday season ever. The eco-friendly advantage here, of course, is that it saves the paper involved in cards, stamps and envelopes. The messages are just as cheery and heartfelt.

Frankly, many people would prefer to read something they can look at on a computer or smartphone, rather than feeling obligated to display a stack of cards in their living rooms. Plus, it’s a big burden off Mother Nature.

 6. Decorate With Strings of Popcorn

String popcorn to decorate the Christmas tree or hang from fireplace hearths. You can also spray-paint strands of popcorn with acrylic holiday colors. They’re a great alternative to tinsel and lights.

Popcorn strings biodegrade easily and use minimal energy, plus they’re fun to make, especially if you do it with young children.

 7. Give Plants as Gifts

You don’t need to buy gifts made of plastic, which are full of fossil fuels that contribute to global warming. Plants are one of the nicest holiday gifts, because they remind the recipients of your thoughtfulness all year around.

For a holiday-themed gift, buy poinsettias or Christmas cactuses. Both are beautiful during the season, and gifted gardeners can make them bloom year after year. For cooks, buy potted herbs like basil or sage. Give crocus bulbs in a glass vase for people who need a boost in early spring.

These seven are some of my favorite eco-friendly Christmas décor ideas that will make your holidays sustainable and do your part to reduce waste and help the environment. Happy holidays!

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.