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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Why Being Green Can Save You Money

May 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Eco-Friendly, Economy, England, Front Page, Homes, Slideshow, Tips

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We all know that driving an economical car can save money both in tax and petrol, but what can you do in your home to keep carbon dioxide from the air and money in your wallet?

Thankfully, there are many incentives in Britain to keep your home green and your wallet healthy.

One such government scheme is the Green Deal, which helps homeowners and business managers afford energy-saving improvements for their house or business.

Homeowners can buy various energy-saving improvements for their homes, including:

Insulation, such as loft and cavity insulation
Heating measures
Double glazing
Renewable energy technologies …

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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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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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Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion—A Guide to Staying Stylish While Keeping the Environment in Mind

March 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Books, Clothing, Fashion, Front Page, Slideshow

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Before last month, the last time I read an entire book was December 1999, after I got the third Harry Potter book for Christmas.

However, I completely absorbed myself in “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth L. Cline on a Saturday afternoon as a result of her easy-to-read writing style and well-researched chapters. Cline sets out to investigate the impact of “fast fashion” retailers like Forever 21 and H&M—stores that have prices so low that clothing becomes practically disposable—on the environment, the economy, and the typical American consumer’s lifestyle. But it starts out as a personal story beginning when Cline finds herself at Kmart. Standing in front of an expansive rack, she recklessly purchases seven pairs of $7 canvas flip flops that had been marked down from $15 and is inspired to look into today’s fashion consumer lifestyle.

The result? A book covers so many topics that it’s impossible to touch on everything in a review. Cline discusses how clothing has become a trillion-dollar global industry, the plummeting price of apparel, the move to overseas production, the separation between cost and quality, the effect of our increased consumption on the environment, and so much more. After reading this book, I was inspired to reflect upon my own fashion choices. I’ve made some changes as a result….

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Don’t Let Automation Raise Your Home Energy Bills

January 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Economy, Front Page, Homes, Slideshow, Tips

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Automation has been rising in popularity with new and evolving technologies, and wireless communication can now be found in anything from lamps to washers and dryers. The point of automation is less work for the user, but that’s not necessarily true for your energy company; some common uses of automation drain a lot more power than others. Following are a few tips for saving money and energy with the wise use of automation.

Responsible Home Theaters

Home theaters are the most common areas to see energy-sucking automation. Some automation systems keep amplifiers on standby mode, or even worse, on but not producing sound. An amplifier can use up to 35 Watts of power if it stays on without playing music.

On the other hand, great strides have been taken with televisions. TVs with EnergyStar ratings are limited to a standby power of 1 Watt. That’s compared to older, tube TVs, which use up to 16 Watts…

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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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3 DIY Ways to Save Energy Dollars in the New Year

January 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, DIY, Energy, Front Page, Slideshow, Tips, Weatherizing

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  While the products you read about below will save energy and money, some contain highly toxic materials. Be sure to look for the most environmentally friendly brands you can find. — Julia Wasson, Publisher Want to make some room in your budget for next year’s holiday shopping? Here are three steps to earning up […]

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5 Surprising Energy Drains in Your Home – and What You Can Do about Them

December 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Energy, Front Page, Homes, Slideshow, Tips

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Friends of ours just bought a home and were more than a little shocked after receiving their first set of utility bills. Whether you’re looking to save money or just want to reduce your environmental impact, there are easy do-it-yourself fixes that can make your home leaner and greener in a matter of minutes….

Lots of energy-saving tips focus on your hot water heater, or your heating and cooling systems, but the kitchen can also be a huge source of energy loss. Refrigerators are the biggest energy hogs, since they run constantly — if you have an
older model refrigerator and aren’t afraid of a unique look, cover it in shag carpet to keep it insulated.

Your oven and stovetop are the second largest energy users, but you can make small changes to save energy, like using appropriately sized pots on each burner and only boiling just as much water as you need. If you’re not cooking multiple things on your range at one time, consider using a toaster oven instead for smaller items. And, if you use the self-cleaning feature on your large oven, try using it once you’ve just completed cooking a meal, so the temperature is already high….

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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

December 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, DIY, Front Page, Green Cleaning, Homes, Slideshow, Sustainability

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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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The Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Mystery: What’s With All the Labels?

December 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Beauty Products, Blog, Front Page, Slideshow, Take Action, Vegan

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Like a lot of people, the thought of applying cosmetics that were once slathered into rabbits’ eyes or forced down rats’ throats makes me want to make a mad dash for the makeup remover. But navigating the sea of cosmetics and decoding their labels to figure out which were and which were not tested on animals can seem tougher than getting “Call Me Maybe” out of your head. So I looked into some of the most common labels found on cosmetics, and here’s what I found…

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Install a Dimmer Switch: DIY for Earth-Friendly Savings

November 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, DIY, Electricity, Front Page, Homes, Slideshow

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Remember the “clap on, clap off” jingle for clap-sensitive lights? For years, we’ve been honing and perfecting our lighting systems, including finding ways to control a room’s brightness from bed.

These days, the truly devoted can hook all of their lighting (and even the coffee maker, for that matter) into remote systems controllable from a smartphone. Apart from switching to more efficient bulbs, however, the simplest and most affordable way to take a big bite out of your lighting energy usage is simply to install motion-sensitive light switches.

Who hasn’t opened a closet, bathroom, or guest room door to discover that a light has been left burning unnecessarily for hours, days, or even weeks? That wasted power costs us on our monthly bill, and it unnecessarily draws from an electric grid that, depending on where you live, may still rely on carbon-generating coal as its source.

Automatic sensor switches turn on when a person enters a room and off soon after they depart. Many are programmable to allow a manual override or to set the amount of time without motion before turning dim. These switches range in cost from around $20 to $50 models with elaborate programmable settings.

Making the ‘switch’ will require a small upfront investment, but you’ll end up saving money in the long run through the power you save. …

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5 Things to Consider When Picking a Spot for Your Urban Garden

August 25, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Front Page, Gardening, Slideshow, Sustainability, Tips

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People who live in an apartment or townhouse don’t usually have the luxury of available green space to start a garden. And those who rent houses and have the green space may not be able to use it to grow fruit and vegetables, since the land doesn’t belong to them. Yet, those in tight living spaces can still get involved with urban gardening by using the space they do have to grow herbs, fruits, and vegetables.

Growing a garden not only saves money in the long-term, but it also creates a sustainable lifestyle by reducing the waste and carbon emissions that come from transporting these goods all across the world — and from making trips to the store and back to buy them. Plus it’s a commonly known fact among gardeners that if you grow something, it tastes better! …

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Earthquakes, Tornados, Floods, Fire and Hurricanes: When Natural Disasters Hit Home

August 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Disaster, Earthquake, Front Page, Homes, Slideshow, Tornado

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Some of the largest cities in the world have been built in areas that sooner or later get hit by natural disasters of incredible magnitude. In the U.S., for example, Los Angeles, along with much of the rest of California, sits astride a massive fault line. Several eastern U.S. sea port cities are in prime hurricane country, and a fair portion of the Midwest is plagued by tornadoes.

But as dangerous as these areas can be, people still call them home despite the high cost of destruction. Below are a few examples of past natural disasters and their related costs….

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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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7 Energy-Saving Tips for Your Kitchen Appliances

January 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Eco-Friendly, Front Page, Green Living, Homes, Slideshow, Tips

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Did you know that your kitchen is one the biggest energy hogs in your home? According to the U.S. Department of Energy, major appliances, including the refrigerator, can account for up to 20% of your utility bills. With dishwashers, ovens, refrigerators and all kinds of gadgets and gizmos sucking energy on a daily basis, learning how to make your kitchen green is necessary to protect both your wallet and your planet. The following steps will guide you through your journey into a greener kitchen.
1: Use Energy Star-Qualified Appliances

If you’re in the market for new appliances, always purchase energy-saving models, easily recognized by the Energy Star marking. Such appliances comply with the US Department of Energy efficiency standards and can reduce your energy and water usage by as much as 50%.
2: Reduce Your Refrigerator’s Energy Consumption

Start by breaking the bad habit of standing in front of your refrigerator and leaving the door open while you decide what to grab. When you do so, the temperature inside increases; your refrigerator has to work harder and consume more energy in order to maintain the right temperature. So make sure you decide what you want to remove before you open the refrigerator or freezer door….

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Build or Remodel Your Home with Eco-Friendly Products

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If you’re lucky enough to have the time and money to build your own home (or more likely, have it built by others), then there’s absolutely no reason you can’t get the greenest house in existence, thanks to building companies that specialize in just this sort of construction.

But just because the rest of us are relegated to purchasing previously lived-in structures (or even new but already fully constructed homes) that doesn’t mean we can’t do our part for the environment when we do upgrades.

So whether you’re interested in building a green home from scratch, or you’re looking to renovate the home you already own in a way that is in keeping with your environmental sensibilities, there are a ton of ecofriendly products to help you meet your goals on the home front….

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Sustainable Fabrics: Eco-Friendly Clothing

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If you’re interested in finding ways to reduce your carbon footprint with small, daily changes to your lifestyle, there are a lot of options to cut waste and reduce pollution on a personal level. You can recycle, use green cleaning solvents, switch to organic foods, and make many of your own products at home in bulk (5-gallon buckets of homemade laundry detergent, for example) in order to cut back on disposable packaging waste.

But did you know that you can also support sustainable farming by purchasing clothing made from eco-friendly fabrics? Not only are there a wide variety of clothing options out there (with even some big-name designers jumping on the bandwagon), but there are also plenty of reasons to make the change….

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