Huddling for the Home Team (Habitat for Humanity) on Super Sunday

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Super Sunday is an American tradition and, football fan or not, the vast majority of us find ourselves in someone’s living room or den gathered around the television watching the game (okay, the ads). For enterprising fundraisers, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to gather friends together for a good cause.

This evening, Jeff Capps, Executive Director of Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, and his wife, Amber, hosted one of 85 house parties that will benefit the local Habitat for Humanity organization. These Home Team Huddles raise money that goes directly to building homes for deserving—and hard-working—families….

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Expiring Eco-Friendly Tax Credits Can Help with 2011 Taxes

January 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Eco-Friendly, Energy, Front Page, Slideshow, Tax Credits, Tips

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The clock is ticking. If you haven’t filed your 2011 taxes yet, you still have time to take advantages of some home energy tax credits that you may have made during the year. But, come April 15th, Many of the incentives set forth by federal and state government will no longer assist you with your taxes as many expired with the change of the calendar.

According to ENERGY STAR, if you’ve made any of the following improvements to your primary residence during 2011, you’re eligible take advantage of the Federal Tax breaks offered on your 2011 returns:

Biomass Stoves: These stoves, which use biomass fuels to heat your home and hot water, are eligible for a $300 tax credit, as long as they carry a thermal efficiency rating of at least 75 percent….

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Tab for a Cause — An Easy Way to Raise Funds for Charity

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If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?

My answer to this question is always the same: Pay my tuition. Most college students don’t have money to spare, and if you manage to earn a few bucks, it goes towards books or school supplies. So, when someone asks you to donate to charity, it’s hard to contribute.

Four college students – Kevin Jennison, Alex Groth, Joel Detweiler, and Sam Ward-Packard tackled this problem. On August 4th they launched Tab for a Cause (TFAC), a browser extension that allows the user to donate to charity simply by opening a new tab….

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The Heifers Are Strolling in Brattleboro, Vermont

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Spain has the running of the bulls. Brattleboro, Vermont has Strolling of the Heifers.

Ten years ago, Strolling of the Heifers got its start in order to educate the public, especially schoolchildren, about sustainable local agriculture. It began with 10,000 attendees, the weekend long event now attracts more than 50,000 visitors from across the country.

Orly Munzing, Executive Director, says, “The goal is to connect people to the food they eat,” and to benefit local farmers.
Free Events

June 3–5, attendees can enjoy all events for free, including the featured Heifers parade, a green living expo with bands and food, a bicycle tour of local farms, and more. There’s even a sandwich competition in which the winner will be flown to Australia for the international competition….

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Improve Your Home – and Save Taxes – with a “Green Mortgage”

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Energy-efficient mortgages (EEM), also known colloquially as green mortgages, are still relatively unknown among homeowners. Perhaps it’s due to a lack of information, or perhaps even due to mismanaged marketing, but green mortgages, started by the Federal Housing Administration in 1995, are a great way to improve one’s home, finances, and health.

Few homeowners know that energy-efficiency upgrades can get them tax credits. Fewer know that with an energy-efficient home, they lessen their carbon footprint and contribute more to making their communities sustainable. An EEM makes both of these possible.

The New York Times reports that less than one percent of all mortgage loans are green mortgages, quoting industry stakeholders. Over the past few years, more and more people are getting concerned about the energy performance of their homes. Environmentalists and industry stakeholders alike hope that green mortgages increase to prop up the already weak mortgage market….

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The Green Garmento – An Eco-Friendly Dry Cleaning Tote

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“Using The Green Garmento for your dry cleaning is similar to the reusable totes movement, which started as something grocery stores were offering and has changed the way people do their grocery shopping,” says Jennie Nigrosh, president and co-founder of The Green Garmento.

Nigrosh’s product is a dry cleaning bag that consumers use over and over again, both as a hamper at home and as a way to transport their dry cleaning without plastic bags. “Way beyond the fact that we have an interesting product that helps make life easier, helps to organize your closet, and helps you be green all at the same time,” Nigrosh adds, “it’s a new category.

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) interviewed Nigrosh by phone from her California office to learn more about The Green Garmento as well as its acceptance in the dry-cleaning world and in homes around the nation….

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“I Can’t Walk Away and Leave Malnourished Children Standing There”

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My cousin, David Wasson, knows about childhood nutrition better than most. David is an award-winning chef who spent his career preparing meals for wealthy people and teaching their children to cook. He also taught cooking at a community college in the United States. As he approached retirement, David embarked on a completely new venture that would profoundly change his life. Today, as the Chef and Child Foundation Ambassador to the Philippines, David cooks for children who are as familiar with hunger as most people reading this post are familiar with a full belly.

His work is urgent. With every meal he cooks, he fights to save children’s lives and the health of their brains and bodies….

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Notes from Canada: Giving Back to Uganda with Love

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I was born a white child in Uganda, East Africa to missionary parents, Velma and David Freeman. When I was 8 years old, our time in Africa came to a sudden and frightening end.

Just three months earlier, my dad had witnessed the brutal killing of our town mayor in Masaka. The mayor had been dragged through the town on the back of a pickup truck, and then a major in the army openly slit his throat as a warning to anyone who might stand against the regime of the ruthless and unpredictable dictator, President Idi Amin. My father was the only white man he could see, along with a few Asians in the crowd.

Our deportation was ordered shortly thereafter. Idi Amin’s soldiers picked up my father late one night and took him to jail. We had 48 hours to leave. Little did I realize at that young age that everything I knew as normal would change forever….

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Take the Itch Away with Motherlove Green Salve

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Last week, I was sitting at my computer alternately scratching my first mosquito bite of the season and trying to page through my emails. No stranger to itching, I had remnants of poison ivy dotting my left knee. My second case of poison ivy so far this summer, darn it all.

And even though symptoms of my annual battle with the toxic vine are lessening each year thanks to a concoction my pharmacist sells, the itching is enough to drive me somewhat mad.

So, when the following email came up on my screen, it immediately caught my attention:

“I’m writing on behalf of summer and all things itchy and scratchy. Figuring Iowa is full of mosquitoes after all the 4th of July rain, I’m reaching out to see if you’d be interested in reviewing the Green Salve from Motherlove Herbal Company. It’s saving our skin over in Wisconsin. Thanks!

Julie — the new Blog Review Mother for Motherlove Herbal Company”

No way I’d turn down that offer. I immediately wrote back….

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From Rich to Enriched – Responding to The Tap

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There’s no doubt that Frank McKinney stands out in a crowd. His long, flowing, blond hair sets him apart from most business types he deals with. His daredevil actions put others in awe of his tolerance for risk-taking — and his successes. And his creative ways of approaching both his business and his charity work draw others to his door. Frank McKinney also knows how to market himself, his business interests, his books, and the Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF).

But everything that McKinney does these days is centered around a concept he paraphrases from the Bible: “From those to whom much is given, much will be expected.” In Part 3 of our interview, I talk with McKinney about how he puts that into action through CHPF and the homes he builds in Haiti, and about the messages he shares in his book, The Tap.

On his Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF) web page, author Frank McKinney writes, “In The Tap, I share the most important spiritual principle of my success in the business we are all in, the business of life. I explain how God has tapped me (and taps everyone) many times in life, answering prayers and presenting life-changing opportunities….

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Self Sufficiency — The Best “Return on Donation”

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“We are one global community,” says builder, author, entrepreneur, and humanitarian Frank McKinney. “There are so many places around the world that do not have the social service net to protect the indigent like we have here [in the U.S.]. So we took our ministry, if you will, to Haiti.”

This is Part 2 of a three-part interview with McKinney, author of the book, The Tap. He’s a complex individual living a dichotomous life, as described in Part 1. Using the sale of the mansions he builds, he funds the charity he founded, the Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF), which constructs villages for some of the world’s poorest people.

“We realized the dollars would go so much further by creating self-sufficient villages in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,” Frank McKinney explains. “Commencing in 2003, and by the end of 2010, we will have built 15 self-sufficient villages in Haiti. We were there seven years before the earthquake took place. And we’ll be there many years after.

“We realized we could touch a life with shelter for about $500 internationally. So we sold two of the domestic houses [described in Part 1], kept one, and took whatever proceeds we had and stretched those dollars further internationally.” …

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Frank McKinney – “Tapped” to Live a Dichotomous Life

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Frank McKinney isn’t just a man, he’s a full-fledged brand. His name is synonymous with the most expensive, most lavish homes built on speculation in the United States. In typical style, Frank McKinney’s Acqua Liana estate is a not only a $22.9 million masterpiece of architectural design and luxury, it’s also arguably the most environmentally friendly home for the super rich that’s been built to date. As you might guess, Frank McKinney doesn’t do things half way.

But this interview series isn’t about Frank McKinney, builder to the world’s elite. It isn’t about Frank McKinney, extreme athlete (he’s that, too, running an ultra marathon across Death Valley each of the past five years — in his mid 40s). It isn’t even about Frank McKinney, daredevil and showman, dressed as a pirate and descending a zip line at one of his luxury home unveilings. It’s about Frank McKinney, humanitarian.

Blue Planet Green Living interviewed McKinney by phone from his oceanfront home in Florida. This is part one in a three-part series about McKinney, his Caring House Project Foundation, and his book, The Tap….

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Design Student Creates Jewelry to Aid Gulf Wildlife

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Like nearly everyone who sees the damage its caused, Nadilyn Beáto is upset about the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But she isn’t just complaining, she’s doing something about it. A junior at Parsons – The New School for Design in Brooklyn, New York, Beáto has recently begun designing, making, and selling fashion jewelry to benefit the wildlife affected by the vast oil leak.

Beáto’s jewelry depicts some of the animals that she wants to save: sea turtles, orcas, dolphins, American oyster catchers, black skimmers, and more. She uses Super Sculpey to create her jewelry pieces, then paints them with nontoxic paints. Her creations include necklaces, charm bracelets, and earrings. Each individual piece of jewelry takes her about an hour and a half to make.

The turtles sell for $15 in Beáto’s Etsy store, with $10 donated to the Gulf Coast Response team at the Environmental Defense Fund. Her goal is to create and sell 150 pieces of jewelry, raising $1,500 for the rescue and rehabilitation of the wildlife in the Gulf.

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Light the Way for Clean Water – But Hurry!

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One of every seven people in developing countries around the world does not have access to clean water.* It’s a shocking statistic for those of us who take daily showers and use flush toilets with no thought at all. Women and girls, in particular, may walk miles to carry water back to their families. Try moving up on the economic scale when so much of your time is consumed with providing the basic necessities to your family. Not likely.

But organizations around the world are doing ambitious projects to change that. Global Greengrants Fund oversees many of these projects, with serious funding support from Aveda — a company best known for creating organic hair and beauty care products that are sourced from around the world. For the past three years in April, Aveda has been raising funds for Global Greengrants water-related projects by selling their Light the Way candles.

In addition to Global Greengrants, Aveda is supporting 21 regional partners through their Earth Month activities. According to the Aveda website, the projects this year include: “training 3,500 people in sustainable and organic agriculture methods [which keeps pesticides and herbicides out of waterways]; helping 20 communities implement local water resource management plans; enabling 100 communities to take action against toxic industrial pollution and hundreds of other projects that have helped protect water rights and water access around the world.” …

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Old Clothes Cluttering Your Closet? Swap-O-Rama-Rama!

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I’ll bet you have clothes in your closet that you haven’t worn for years. And how about shoes? How many of those are cluttering your shoe rack or heaped on the floor?

The vast majority of people reading this post have clothes that you’ve forgotten about. What good are they doing cluttering up limited closet and drawer space? Isn’t it time to tell them to move along?

After all, someone, somewhere, would love to have a gently used pair of jeans in the size that no longer fits you. Or maybe they’d enjoy those black pumps you only wore a couple of times before deciding they’re not really your style. And that cool outfit you bought that turned out to look better in the magazine than it does on you? Yeah, somebody else would like that one, too.

Swap-O-Rama-Rama (SORR) is an event designed to solve the problem of too many clothes and too little space. At a Swap-O-Rama-Rama, you donate your lovingly worn or long-forgotten clothing at the event, then take home something that’s just right for you today….

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Pop Opera ECOLOGIC Competes for Funds in Pepsi Project

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When I was a kindergartner in an inner city neighborhood of the Chicago Public Schools, my class was bussed downtown to see Rapunzel at one of the grand old theatres. From my nearly front-row seat, the magic of the theatre left a lasting impression on this kid from an economically challenged family.

That kind of magical experience is one Jay Nagle and Dwayne Parks would like to give to thousands of other kids in the Chicago Public Schools. Their goal is to produce free performances of Ecologic, their original musical with an environmental message, in Chicago’s Millennium Park. But their vision needs funding.

Parks and Nagle have entered the Pepsi Refresh Project contest to compete for a grant that would bring their project to life. Jay Nagle is a playwright, dance teacher, and director. His partner, Dwayne Parks, is a musician and composer. Together, they own Totally New Theatre and TKATS — Talented Kids, Adults, and TeenS — a nonprofit theatre arts organization that produces original musical performances. Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with the team to find out more about their musical and why they think their project merits your votes in Pepsi’s Planet category this month….

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Full-Circle Learning – Global Partnerships Unlock Potential

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After the 1992 civil unrest in South Central Los Angeles, a small grassroots group began an after-school program to show the children living in the area that diverse members of their community cared about them. Teresa Henkle Langness, who later founded Full-Circle Learning, was among them.

“Over time,” Langness says, “we began to see that what these children needed was to be a part of a community, to be a part of the solution, instead of feeling like victims of society’s ills.”

Langness adds, “When we began to incorporate character themes linked to local and global service within each lesson plan, the students’ scores suddenly began to leap. They became much better students, much better people. They began to teach their parents conflict resolution. Outside organizations in the community began to benefit from their work. Families wanted to replicate the model and began asking us for help in doing so.”

Today, Full-Circle Learning provides a full preschool-through-high school curriculum in 13 nations. Langness told Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL), “The mission of Full-Circle Learning is to help young people embrace their role as humanitarians and change agents. We do this through educational programs that integrate and expand students’ character strength, academic excellence, creative capacities, and conflict resolution skills.” …

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Green Campus Project Wants Your Vote

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Have you ever had a dream about a great project that would benefit humanity? Maybe it was little more than an idea. Or maybe you actually got to the stage where you had it all planned out and ready to go, but the funding just wasn’t there.

That’s where Marty Leenhouts finds himself today. He has an idea about a Green Campus Project that will benefit college and university students, reduce emissions and traffic congestion, and make the world a little greener. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the funds to make his vision a reality.

But PepsiCo does. And Pepsi has invited people with vision to submit their own project ideas to the Pepsi Refresh Project, to compete for some pretty hefty cash prizes each month. Here’s the story of one of those projects, in the Planet category. As visionary Marty Leenhouts says, “The fulfillment of the Green Campus project will only happen with the winning of the contest.”

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked Leenhouts to tell us about his vision and what he hopes to accomplish with the Green Campus Project….

LEENHOUTS: I’m an educator by heart and by trade for many years, and so my interest has been with students for a long time. My involvement with electric transportation began with an interest in doing something good for the environment. I started it when gas was over $3 a gallon — about a year and a half ago.

People needed a different way to get around that was economical, clean, quiet, easy to ride. Nothing deluxe. Just to get from point A to point B. That got me involved in electric transportation….

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Sustainable Futures Repurposes Glass Bottles – and Human Lives

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“I was like one of those used wine bottles. I was used and discarded. I laid on the ground, my label faded and my contents dried. I forgot the good that was once inside, the joy and happiness I once knew. I hated what I was and what I had become. Life was dark, bad and not worth living. The prison took what little hope I had reinforcing what people and drugs had told me about myself my whole life. I came to the work center looking for work. I was told I had to have a job or I’d be sent back to the prison and someone else who was employable would take my place. Once again I was not worth keeping, I found a job here at Sustainable Futures and I was recycled. I was picked up, washed off a little and was cut off at the top, sanded down and polished. I’ve been given hope, worthiness and self love. Now I shine, not just on the outside but on the inside. I’m like the glasses we make. I have a new use.” — Lisa Childers, IDOC inmate

Sustainable Futures is a brand-new nonprofit that repurposes glass bottles — and gives new purpose to human lives. It’s a simple idea: Businesses donate used glass bottles to their Boise, Idaho-based center, and hard-to-place workers process the glass to produce new and improved glassware. The company then sells the repurposed glassware back to the businesses. “It’s a great product, and it’s the right thing to do,” says Carlyn Blake, executive director of Sustainable Futures….

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Hallowell Acadia Is Revolutionizing the Heating Industry

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How do you heat and cool your home? Do you have both a furnace and an air conditioner? What if you could install a single, highly efficient, and environmentally sound system to handle both heating and cooling?

The Acadia, designed and built by Hallowell International, is a revolutionary, next-generation, air-source heat pump — the first that functions efficiently in cold climates down to -30˚F. Even residents of Canada and New England can enjoy comfortable indoor temperatures year ’round without the use of fossil fuels.

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with Duane Hallowell, president and co-founder of Hallowell International, to learn about the latest innovation in heat pumps….

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