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If you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for new ways to be eco-friendly and healthy without breaking your bank, especially around the home. It’s not always easy being green, but it is worth the extra effort.
I’ve recently become even more attuned to just how much of a positive impact going green around the house can have on your budget and your life. Why? I started working at BrightNest. If you haven’t heard of BrightNest, it’s a free web service that provides people with the tools, tips, and motivation they need to keep their home in great shape and save money.
The best part? There is a mountain of information on green living – everything from greening your bathroom to making pet-friendly floor cleaner.
Any online tool that explains the benefits of going green while helping homeowners maintain their home is (as BPGL would say) “earth wise, money smart,” and BrightNest has hit the nail on the head. Here are four ways BrightNest helps its users embrace and appreciate green living:
1. Green Tips & Tricks
Whether you’re interested in conserving water, conducting a home energy audit or making your own eco-friendly air fresheners, BrightNest provides informative, step-by-step guides to complete essential tasks for a healthier and happier home.
The crafty side of me loves anything that repurposes, reuses, or recycles, but upcycling is also about reducing our impact on the earth. BrightNest has endless DIY and upcycling projects that turn trash into treasure and inspire reuse for even the most bizarre home finds.
3. Eco-friendly Cleaning Recipes
Being safe and being green in your home go hand-in-hand when it comes to household cleaning products. Not only does BrightNest explain why eco-friendly cleaners are good for the earth, your wallet, and your health, it also supplies you with specific recipes to make them yourself!
One of my favorite parts about BrightNest is the Homefolio. This tool allows you to store virtually all of your home’s information online, no paper necessary. You can enter everything from paint colors, warranty information and professional contacts all in one place.
BrightNest will even track down the owner’s manuals for your appliances and store them online for you! That means you can recycle those owner’s manuals and clean out your junk draws – you won’t need that stack of papers anymore!
Start receiving personalized, green tips and weekly reminders from BrightNest. Sign up for a free account, and check out the BrightNest blog, which features green products, décor ideas and recipes.
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)
As a new contributor to Blue Planet Green Living, I’ve been assigned to explore environmental and social-action websites. I invite you to go on this journey with me. Since I can only critique the websites I’m aware of, when you come across a website that is particularly intriguing, useful, or informative, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line, “Jaia.” I look forward to hearing from you! — Jaia Rosenfels, Contributing Writer
ChasingGreen is a young website with great content and a lot of promise. I was completely taken aback by the site’s ease of navigation and the solid information it provides. “Going green” is a topic that has been discussed for years and has consumed much of our time and energy. But the process is actually comprised of many small steps. And, as ChasingGreen clearly shows readers, most of those steps are relatively easy, such as choosing one brand of coffee over another or mowing your lawn with a mower that consumes less gas.
The website’s home page separates the tips into six main categories: General, Lawn & Garden, Family, Travel, At Home, and Quick (which I found pretty amusing, considering that few tips anywhere on the site seem to necessitate much time, energy, or skill). The home page also includes snippets of the featured articles, which are both helpful and interesting.
As I admitted in my last post, I’m pretty green about being “green.” So, I was downright shocked after I learned in the General category that I am already doing the “Ten Easy Green Things I Did Today.”
Since I am a vegetarian who does not drive, acing that little evaluation was simple. A close inspection made me into more of a believer in the good those tests do to influence behavior, as they clearly point to strengths and weaknesses. (If you don’t know what you’re doing wrong, how will you know that you need to change your behavior?)
Another tip in the General category concerned wedding gowns. I was recently the maid of honor in my sister’s wedding and am about to be a bridesmaid in another. So, looking into this particular article was definitely relevant to me. Lo and behold, I learned information that any earth-conscious couple would want to know before getting married.
When shopping for a wedding gown, for example, the writer suggests, “[B]e sure to ask about the gown’s fabric content before you make a purchase.” That’s important, because certain materials used to make wedding dresses — like organic cotton — might seem eco-friendly, but require heavy water use in the growing process. Silk may seem like a good choice, but may also “be treated with chemical additives in the manufacturing process.” If you’re about to be an eco-friendly bride, you want to be sure your gown — quite possibly the most expensive dress you’ll ever buy — is as good a fit to your ideals as it is to your body.
Lawn & Garden
Many Americans seem to desire crisply green, well-manicured lawns. Lawn care is (rightly, in my opinion) under inspection by people who care about the environment. The fertilizers and pesticides required to maintain that image are hardly healthy to our earth. ChasingGreen presents the pros and cons of having this traditional image of keeping up a “perfect lawn.”
Yet, the suggestions offered don’t include having a jungle lifestyle, where you allow weeds to overtake your grass. It offers a very reasonable approach to lawn care, one that isn’t likely to lower your home value or cause your neighbors to complain.
Some readers might disagree with the more traditional tips, like mowing less often — which saves work and energy, and reduces gas consumption, but requires an altered perspective on what’s an “acceptable” lawn height. But, for others, it’s a great solution that only requires compromising, not changing your entire lawn-care philosophy.
Additionally, ChasingGreen suggests a simple switch to organic weed control:
Organic corn gluten-based weed control is widely available, and does not release harmful chemicals into the air the way more tradition types do. There are corn based fertilizers that do the same thing.
Another great alternative to petroleum-based fertilizers is mulching with your grass clippings, which is healthy for your lawn (if done correctly). This practice also keeps the grass clippings from adding to “already overfilled landfills.”
Of course, there are many other eco-friendly hints and tips to “green your lawn,” but why not explore the website and have fun discovering them for yourself?
Included in the “Family Category” are articles that could help turn any family green:
[It] might seem crazy to … try and get your kids to go green at a young age. And even though teaching them about going green may be difficult in the beginning, you will soon notice them becoming the most eco-friendly members of the family (because they’re having fun!).
Holidays provide terrific opportunities for instruction on ways to conserve and to prevent pollution. The only holiday article on the site so far is about the Fourth of July, but the tips could apply to any large or small gathering. For example, the writers suggest avoiding single-use plates and tableware, opting instead for reusables.
As a child’s main thoughts often concern school, shopping for clothing and supplies is another great opportunity to create a “green student.” Here are a couple of great tips from ChasingGreen:
- Make sure you don’t buy crayons made of paraffin wax, as it is derived from petroleum. Crayons made from soybean oil are a much better, not to mention nontoxic, choice.
- Recycled stainless-steel scissors with handles made of at least 30 percent post consumer plastic are best.
All forms of motorized transportation increase your use of CO2. The creators of this website present choices and strategies that are worth reading. For example, if you are considering biking to work, but have reservations about it, read “Biking to Work for the Planet,” which debunks some common myths about the disadvantages of two-wheeling it to the office.
Many, if not most, of us spend much of our time and resources in our home. Articles describing efforts to create or sustain an eco-friendly home make up an entire category of the ChasingGreen website.
I love the romantic tips for spending time with your partner, including massaging each other with organic oils; giving organic dark chocolate (reportedly an aphrodisiac) as a present; and planting roses together, instead of giving cut flowers.
Because I own a cat (or, more correctly, she allows me to live in “her” house), I am appreciative of any information I can find on creating an eco-friendly home for my kitty, Grace. As a consumer of clumping, clay kitty litter, I was surprised, but gratified, to learn that I need to change my ways (I’m sorry, Grace! I’ll do better, I promise.):
Be wary of clumping clay kitty litter; it’s not only harmful to the planet, it’s a potential health hazard to your cats. Sodium bentonite is the clumping agent in clay litter that gets stuck in your cats’ hair and slowly poisons them as they chronically groom. This type of litter also contains a carcinogenic silica dust that coats your cats’ lungs every time they use the litter box. Try FelinePine or another eco-friendly, pet-safe brand.
Although many of us feel aware of alterations we can make in conserving, recycling, recharging, or renewing, the information contained under the Quick Tips category proves that there is much more to learn. Here’s an example: We all know that it’s just good neighboring to pick up after your dog and properly dispose of the waste. But did you know dog waste is more than just a smelly eyesore?
Eliminate one source of public health risk by cleaning up and disposing of pet waste, even if it’s not from your own pet. If it’s left on the ground, harmful bacteria wash into storm drains and eventually into local water bodies.
Other tips, like replacing leaky pipes or changing the filter on your air conditioner, seem to be generally well known. But, in my opinion, a reminder is always appreciated.
As a mindful consumer, an essential step is not only recycling and recharging, but reusing the goods that you buy. Sure, you can reuse someone else’s item when you buy it at a local garage sale. But you can also reuse items you already have at home, like gift wrap, coffee grounds, books, and wedding gowns. Here are some tips you may not have heard about (you’ll find lots more on the website):
Massage your face with coffee grounds for an exfoliating scrub that will leave you with a radiant glow.
You don’t have to buy a heating pad or a hot-water bottle to ease your cold, aching feet at the end of the day. Just fill a 2-liter plastic bottle with hot water and roll it back and forth under your feet as you sit and unwind.
When it comes to gift giving, ChasingGreen offers several ways to make giving presents a green experience.
- Use scarves, hair ribbons, yarn, or hemp twine to secure gifts.
- Give two gifts instead of one: put a gift inside a jewelry box, flower pot, basket, or vase.
Simple Suggestions for Busy Readers
Essentially, the beauty of ChasingGreen is that it is not too complex for the average, busy reader. None of the tips offered require a lot of time or effort. And you won’t need to dramatically change your life or your perspective in order to begin reducing your carbon footprint.
As this is a new site, the number of articles available is a little slim. But the quality of suggestions is excellent. I look forward to reading new articles and learning additional tips as the site becomes more robust.
A Word from the Founders
Blue Planet Green Living contacted ChasingGreen prior to publishing this review. Here’s what co-founder Jeff Randall wrote to us. Perhaps you can see why we found the site so intriguing:
ChasingGreen was created in response to the environmental concern and vigilance of our (then) 11-year-old son. “If you can’t beat him, join him” seemed the most reasonable approach, and we began working as a family to increase our green-awareness and share that knowledge with others. This became the basis for ChasingGreen’s primary assertion—that one person, even a child, can positively impact our world in their everyday lives.
ChasingGreen.org is owned and operated by Jeff and Amanda Randall, with varying levels of ownership and support also attributed to our two children, three dogs, two cats and one frog. As you can imagine, board meetings are never dull.
I first met Melissa Clark-Reynolds, the CEO of MiniMonos, online. We connected through a shared love of the environment and children, as we followed one another’s “tweets”. Dedicated and deeply generous, Melissa has poured her love and values into developing the children’s website MiniMonos, a place where she hopes that children will learn and share ideas about sustainability, generosity, and caring for one another, all while having fun together.
An eco-friendly children’s virtual world, MiniMonos is underpinned by the values of sustainability, friendship, and generosity. The children assume monkey avatars and play on a virtual island, where caring for their environment forms an intrinsic part of the experience. Their in-world living treehouses require nourishment and care, including recycling to keep their treehouse tidy, and capturing clouds to power their tree’s wind turbine.
The appealing games across MiniMonos Island carry underlying cooperative and eco-themes, rewarding the children for such activities as cleaning up a lagoon, using strategy, and sorting recyclables accurately.
As a mom, I hold the values supported by MiniMonos dear to my heart. And while I have the usual mom concerns about how my child spends time online, I do believe online interaction has a place in a balanced childhood. Internet play is ideal when it enhances a child’s skills in participating, creating, cooperating, and having fun. To this end, I always check a site my child interacts with to ensure it engages his interest, has sound values and messages, sparks his creativity, and facilitates his innate generosity. Ultimately, I look for a place where he feels he belongs.
As part of the MiniMonos team, it has been a sheer delight to discover how the children actively make MiniMonos a place of their own, filling it with their ideas, creativity, and passion. Every day the children inspire us with their passion for caring about the environment and their generosity towards one another. They’re having fun but they’re also demonstrating the importance of action beyond words.
Take Percy, who, on his own initiative and with his own pocket money, ran an eco-themed artwork competition. Or Emini, who picked up over 1,800 cigarette butts from her local beach. Indeed, many of the members dedicate themselves to regularly recycling or cleaning away trash from natural places.
The children support initiatives such as Earth Hour, and worthy causes like providing clean drinking water for fellow children in India. They have also voted for an orangutan adoptee, and now they all feel they have a stake in caring for her!
Creatively, we’ve seen amazing artwork competitions initiated by the children and a number of members have created their own blogs or become “moggers” — monkey bloggers — on the MiniMonos Go Bananas blog. These are wonderful ways for sharing their writing and journalistic skills with each other.
Another delightful evolution on MiniMonos is the children’s own responsiveness and willingness to moderate behavior they don’t see as appropriate for their community. While the site has full-time moderation, regular players will take it upon themselves to dampen any negative behavior, reacting with compassion and devotion to upholding the site’s values of generosity and fun. Dozens of children have become mini-monkey-moderators, a role that recognizes their dedicated attentiveness to others playing in this virtual world.
Of the 20,000 registered members on MiniMonos, children like these are the rule, not the exception. Their extraordinary spirits have governed the way the site gets developed. They’re our most vigorous testers and our most vocally constructive critics, and we’re privileged to learn from them every day.
MiniMonos doesn’t pretend to have all the answers to creating an ideal virtual world for children; instead, we strive to live up to the children’s own standards of sustainability, generosity, community, and fun. And if our future is in the hands of these children, I feel optimistic about these fantastic minds shaping a future that is truly sustainable.
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)
Tepper is the adult community coordinator Mini Monos.