Are You Unintentionally Supporting False Organic Brands?

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Fake organic labelling undermines the companies who really care, dilutes the growth of the organic sector and compromises the health of people and planet. As consumers we need to do our best to boycott companies guilty of greenwash.

A recent report published by The Soil Association reveals that Organic is steadily working its way into the mainstream. With the growth of global organic sales up 25% in the past three years and sales of certified organic health and beauty products increasing in 2013 by 5.6% to £31.8 million in the UK, the importance of organic products in the mind of the average consumer is demonstrably on the rise….

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Overcome Obsolescence by Buying Sustainably

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I’ve been writing about sustainability and green lifestyle for a while now. But the recent demise of my kettle, after only three years of use, got me thinking about sustainable consuming in a way that was much closer to home.

I am in my kitchen, drinking a cup of tea, made with water that was boiled in a milk pan. It’s what I’ve used for the last few weeks because I made the decision never again to buy a kettle that is made deliberately to break. Trying to find a sustainable alternative has not been easy. Planned or built-in obsolescence is common practice, especially in electrical products.

Unsurprisingly, I was not able to find an electrical kettle with a warranty that stretched beyond five years. But what I did stumble over in my travels across the net was the term heirloom design….

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Eco-Friendly Driving Habits: A Win for Everybody

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These days, it’s not difficult to reduce the carbon footprint while on the go. Not only is the global market for hybrid and electric cars expected to grow through at least 2015, but car makers are coming up with all kinds of ways to inspire eco-friendly driving. For example, Chevrolet is equipping all 2013 models […]

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Gardening with a (Re)Purpose

April 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, DIY, Front Page, Gardening, Repurposing, Slideshow

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Starting a backyard garden doesn’t have to involve spending a lot on containers, watering systems and soil additives. In fact, you could probably plant a rich, healthy and visually attractive garden right now with what you have lying around your house. Everything from that pile of recyclables to the yard waste sitting at the curb can be used to build a low-cost, low-maintenance source of kitchen herbs, vegetables and day-brightening flora. Following are a few ideas to get you started and to spur on your gardening imagination.

Consider using all those leaves, sticks and pine cones you rake out of your yard every couple of months as free and effective mulch in your garden. Leaves and pine straw are a great finishing touch to your garden beds as they help your soil maintain a consistent temperature and moisture level as well as help to keep out weeds.

Planters with a New Purpose

Instead of asking yourself, “What can I repurpose and turn into a planter?” you should be asking what you can’t, because just about anything that can hold soil and drain water can be used for your planting purposes. Assorted old coffee tins make great containers for flowering gardens and the two center holes of stacked, staggered cinder blocks can be filled with potting soil for a unique wall garden.

Have an old wooden wine box? Drill some holes in the bottom, fill with a short layer of gravel, top with potting soil and hang from sturdy eyelets screwed into the four corners for an intriguing and useful kitchen garden ….

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Why Electric Driving is an Affordable Reality in Britain

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Ford, Renault-Nissan, and Daimler have announced that they are joining their knowledge, technology and resources to create the world’s first mass-produced, affordable fuel cell car. The big three have set themselves a deadline of 2017 to have the model and its technology up to scratch and ready for the market.

This news brings with it the proof that the auto industry are finally becoming more environmentally aware, working with governments and scientists to create a green driving experience that doesn’t have its revolution lodged firmly in a space-age future.

Fuel cell cars work by replacing petrol with hydrogen. The fuel cells convert the chemical energy produced from combining hydrogen and oxygen in the engine to electrical energy to power the motor. You may be surprised to learn that fuel cell cars are not a new concept. In fact, the first fuel cell car came about in 1959. Unfortunately, due to the cost of developing the technology, fuel cell cars have never really become much more than a distant ideal…

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Why Cloud Computing Is Good for Green Businesses

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Much has been written about the cloud computing revolution, particularly about the many ways it may be an inherently sustainable move for humanity at large. And yet data centers require massive amounts of energy to run, enough to account for 1.5 percent of US electricity needs by 2020, according to the EPA. And, even as it is now, a Greenpeace study shows that much of that energy is gleaned from fossil fuels, with huge data centers run by Amazon, Apple and Microsoft sourcing only about 15% of the energy they need from renewables.

Still, there’s much about cloud computing that is green, and, with basic reforms, it has the potential to be far more sustainable than our current working model, fitting in entirely with the green business mentality….

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5 Must-Have Plumbing Updates for Your Home

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The average American household uses about 260 gallons of water each day, adding up to 30 billion gallons of daily water usage across the nation. There are multiple ways to conserve water in your home, from replacing a constantly running toilet to installing a weather-sensitive sprinkler system. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), water heating accounts for around 15 to 25 percent of the energy used in the average home. Water-saving plumbing updates to your home not only help lower your water bill but can reduce your monthly energy bills as well.

Following are five of the most cost-effective plumbing upgrades…

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Break Out of Throwaway Culture in 2013

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For decades, a disposable culture has permeated every part of our society, leading to environmental degradation, waste, and inefficiency. If your family is locked in a throwaway lifestyle, there’s no better time to make a fresh start. Here are a few trends that are helping people around the country save money, live better, and protect the planet.
1. Repair Shops

Disposable culture caused the near-extinction dozens of repair trades like tailoring, cobbling, and small appliance repair; but in environmentally conscious regions, these professions are making a comeback, mending tennis shoes and t-shirts as well as high-end luxury items. For a few bucks and 20 minutes of their time, not only are people saving something that would have been thrown away, but keeping someone local employed as well. Repair swaps are also popping up all over the country, where once a week or month groups get together to help each other repair their items for free. Check your local living section of your newspaper, the classifieds, and Craigslist to find repair shops or repair swaps in your area….

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American Wasteland by Jonathan Bloom

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If you’re like most people, you were probably shocked by a report released earlier this year that found that up to half of the world’s food is wasted. When hundreds of millions of people go hungry every day, how is this possible?

This is just one of many questions that journalist Jonathan Bloom explores in his book American Wasteland. Every day, Americans waste enough food to fill the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, Calif. Bloom opens American Wasteland with this sobering statistic, and it just gets more depressing from there.

Depending on whom you ask, we squander between one quarter and one half of all the food produced in this country (40 percent is the figure that’s often used). Fruits and vegetables are allowed to rot on farms when the price for a particular crop would be less than the cost of harvesting it. Grocery stores throw out perfectly edible food that has reached its “sell-by” date (which is not the same as an “eat-by” date). Consumers let food go bad in the fridge—on average, we each waste 25 percent of the food that we bring into our homes—or leave half-eaten entrées behind at restaurants. Much of this wasted food ends up decaying in landfills, spewing out methane gas….

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FOOD FIGHT! – Hip Hop Video Teaches Dangers of Processed Foods

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In FOOD FIGHT!, a video released early this morning by filmmaker Ben Zolno (New Message Media), a boy runs for his life after witnessing a murder in a convenience store. This murder, however, isn’t done with conventional weapons but with junk food.

What ensues is a life-and-death struggle as citizens of the boy’s community come together to fight against the snack foods that fill store shelves by brandishing real food. It’s a comedic musical, but the message is far from funny: We are dying from the foods we eat while the corporations that manufacture, market, and sell them to us get rich at our expense.

Odd as the story setup is, the battle between healthy and disease-inducing foods is a reality; with every bite and sip we take, we determine how long we will live and how healthy we will be.

I can almost hear readers saying, “Well, that’s obvious.” If it’s so obvious, why is the U.S. (and much of the world) in a health crisis of obesity? Is it just that we have no self-control? Or does much of the problem lie in the “foods” themselves? …

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Branded for Animal Rights

February 12, 2013 by  
Filed under 2013, Blog, Front Page, Slideshow, Social Action

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The moment the brand hits my skin, I can’t help but think of them. Him cramped in a metal cell, absolutely terrified, the barrel of a gun to his temple. Her crying out as her child is ripped away from her moments after his birth, the third child of hers taken from her this way. And here I lie, face down on the cold earth, my head freshly shorn of its mid-back-length hair, my side literally on fire as the brand melts through layers of my flesh.

I’ve gotten off easy.

Unlike me, they weren’t so lucky. Unlike me, they lost their lives.

In the United States alone, 8.3 billion animals were killed for food in 2012, according to the USDA’s National Agriculture’s Statistics Service. Given this data does not include fish, marine animals, crustaceans, rabbits, other farmed animals, or animals killed for their fur or other “by-products,” this figure is a gross underestimation.

Isaac Bashevis Singer, Jewish Author and Nobel Laureate wrote that “in relation to them [animals], all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.” Theodor Adorno, German Jewish philosopher, sociologist, and musicologist, stated, “Auschwitz begins whenever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they are only animals.” …

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How to Control Pests with Natural Products

February 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Eco-Friendly, Front Page, Pesticides, Slideshow, Tips

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  Do you spray toxic chemicals around baseboards, leave poisoned bait in dark corners, bug-bomb your home and office, or douse yourself (and your kids) with DEET to keep pests at bay? Using pesticides might rid your surroundings of pests, but what are you doing to your health in the process? ~ Julia Wasson, Publisher […]

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On My Way to Someplace Else by Sandra Hurtes

January 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Books, Front Page, Immigrants, Slideshow

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On My Way to Someplace Else begins with liberation, on the day Russian soldiers entered Auschwitz and set Rifka and her fellow prisoners free. “A handsome soldier lifted my mother off her feet and although she was just skin and bones, he kissed her cheeks and told her she was beautiful,” writes Sandra Hurtes. It’s […]

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5 Tips for a Greener Move: Save Money and Lower Your Environmental Footprint

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From Styrofoam packing peanuts to gasoline-guzzling moving trucks, maintaining your well-honed green lifestyle on moving day can seem impossible. Yet, keeping your move sustainable and inexpensive doesn’t have to be such a challenge. With a little strategic planning ahead of time, these five tips can make moving affordable and eco-friendly. 1. Pare Down The less […]

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5 Things Every Consumer Should Know about Walmart’s Sustainability Index

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When Walmart initially announced its effort to infuse sustainable principles into every aspect of its business, some observers didn’t buy it. After all, its stated goals were a bit ambitious.

With their soon-to-be-implemented Sustainability Index, Walmart hopes to improve product quality, reduce energy consumption and waste, and educate consumers about sustainability. It plans to do all of this with the full cooperation of its network of thousands upon thousands of suppliers located around the world.

The information below highlights some of the components of the Sustainability Index and their likely impact. Suffice it to say, Walmart’s newest initiative has fewer skeptics today than it did when the program was first announced. Time will determine its effectiveness, as the market pressure created by a “green” rating system trickles down to both manufacturers and retail suppliers at every level….

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A Laptop Sleeve to Love from GreenSmart

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Like you (I’m making an assumption here, but it’s a fair one since you’re reading this website), I hate the idea of billions of single-use plastic water and soda bottles going to waste, littering our waterways and landscape. It’s about time someone figured out a way to put those discarded bottles to good use. GreenSmart has done just that with a rugged and cool-looking laptop sleeve.

I was intrigued, though frankly a bit skeptical, when I received an offer of a laptop sleeve made from recycled water bottles. But I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived — and I remain delighted. I’ve been using my GreenSmart laptop sleeve daily since July, and it’s been amazingly durable.

When I say durable, I mean it’s withstood several plane trips and lengthy road trips, and traveled back and forth to the office each day in an overloaded computer bag for more than six months. Frankly, I’m hard on both my laptop and my computer bag. It’s not that I’m careless, just that I tend to carry way too much on every trip — including my daily commute….

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The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned from Patagonia’s First 40 Years by Yvon Chouinard & Vincent Stanley

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When Joe and I began writing this blog late in 2008, we were soon introduced to Patagonia as a leader in sustainable business practices — or, as founder Yvon Chouinard prefers to call them—responsible business practices. We found Patagonia.com’s Footprint Chronicles to be an especially intriguing—and daring—step toward a company’s taking responsibility for its impact on the environment. So, when I was offered an opportunity to review The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned from Patagonia by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley, I eagerly agreed.

If you’re familiar with Patagonia, you’ll understand how Chouinard and Stanley are qualified to write such a book. Patagonia is known for its commitment to the environment, for its celebration of the natural world, and for providing its employees with a rewarding and well-balanced work life (see Chouinard’s 2002 book, Let My People Go Surfing)….

There’s no self-congratulatory back-slapping in this book. The authors tell the story of their painful realization of the harm their businesses (Patagonia is “an offshoot of the Chouinard Equipment Company, which made excellent mountain-climbing gear”) were doing to the environment and the financial risks they took when they committed to improvement….

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Top 5 Green Flooring Options for Your Home

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If you’re an environment-conscious homeowner, consider using one of the following green flooring options for your next remodeling project. Eco-friendly floors are aesthetically appealing as well as environmentally responsible. Green flooring adds character to your home and, in many cases, can even help save you money over the alternatives.

The top 5 options for green flooring include:
• Cork
• Laminate
• Reclaimed Wood
• Bamboo
• Wool Carpet …

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DIY Natural Cleaning Products for Your Home

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Take a stroll down the cleaning supply aisle in your local market, and you’ll find no shortage of ways to polish and shine your home. You will, however, find a shortage of chemical-free, unscented supplies that promote healthy cleaning and no ill-effects. When it comes to making your home sparkle, most commercially available cleaners will do the trick, but when it comes to your health, homemade cleansers are the best choice for safety and shine….

Natural and inexpensive, a mixture of one part vinegar, one part water provides a gentle cleaning solution for the hard surfaces of bathrooms and kitchens, including stoves, countertops, tile, and floors. Simply spray the solution on, allow it to sit for a few minutes, and wipe it down with a cloth. For more difficult cleaning jobs, heat the solution until warm or use undiluted vinegar.

TIP: To make sure you’re starting out with the cleanest solution, use filtered water in your mixture to avoid spreading chlorine, sediment, and other pollutants found in water around your home….

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Rainwater Harvesting Options for Homeowners

December 11, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Front Page, Gardening, Slideshow, Sustainability, Water

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Depending on where you live, your water bill can be one of your larger monthly expenses, especially during the summer. With the help of landscapers, you can set up a rainwater harvesting system that will save you money and reduce the demand for water in your community.
Rainwater harvesting systems can be as simple as using a barrel or as complex as installing underground tanks. Whichever method you choose, it’s important to remember that your landscape design should prevent water from pooling around the foundation of your home. Also keep in mind that plain rainwater is non-potable, so you’ll need to set up a purification system if you plan to drink it….

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