Posts Tagged Green & Eco Friendly

Green Gifts

Don’t stress out if you missed the opportunity to have one of the fabulous gifts from our green guides shipped in time for the holidays. There are plenty of thoughtful last-minute green gifts for everyone on your list! So whether you haven’t been able find that special something for your sister, in-laws, co-worker, or even your best friends, we have the prefect ideas that are earth friendly and easy to put together. herb planters, seeds kit, recycled cans, edible, baking, cooking ingredients gifts eco green holiday “last minute” guide 2009 diy handmade

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1. HANDMADE SEED STARTER KIT A great gift for almost anyone on your list is handmade seed starter kit. You can customize a planter by covering or painting an aluminum can, a yogurt cup, or any other container with a bottom that can be punctured for drainage. Avocado8 has some great tips for the type of soil and seeds to use for a starter kit. To make it even more special, you may want to add a few plant markers to the kit. You can design your own, or use a template, like this one from Goldtop design. sustainable design, green design, last minute gifts, green christmas presents, eco holiday gifts, edible gifts

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2. EDIBLE GREEN GIFT Edible gifts are a standby last-minute treat. Holiday cookies made from organic ingredients will be enjoyed by all, but if you aren’t very savvy with baking you could try something easier like spiced nuts, chocolate-covered gummy bears, or even your own fudge sauce. Green cooking tip: reusable silicon mats are great for eco-friendly baking. Another nice alternative is to create a cute package with all the ingredients and instructions needed to make a special recipe – try a chocolate cranberry cookie mix, or hot cocoa mix. sustainable design, green design, last minute gifts, green christmas presents, eco holiday gifts, vase

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3. RECYCLED CUSTOMIZED FLOWER VASE Giving someone flowers can be a nice last-minute gesture for the holidays, but it will be even better when you give them a bouquet in a handmade vase. You can follow these easy instructions to make one from a recycled glass bottle using glue and yarn for a simple and classy look, or for a ceramic-inspired creation try this technique using puffy paints. sustainable design, green design, last minute gifts, green christmas presents, eco holiday gifts, DIY sketchbook

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4. A PERSONALIZED SKETCHBOOK OR NOTEPAD Another easy gift is to make vintage-inspired notepads or sketchbooks with 100% recycled paper. You can use a thrift store book cover, or make your own cover by wrapping a sheet of cardboard with a newspaper, fabric or even paint chip samples. Don’t worry; there are online tutorials that will help you with the binding techniques. digital gifts, online gifts, sustainable design, green design, last minute gifts, green christmas presents, eco holiday gifts,

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5. DIGITAL GIFTS Go digital with your last-minute gifts this year. For musical friends, gift them a custom playlist you made with iTunes, or send them a gift card for Amazon’s mp3s. For literary types, buy them a digital book for their kindle, or a subscription to a digital magazine or newspaper from Zinio. Photo junkies will love it when you buy them a pro account on Flickr, so they can organize and share all their photos online. sustainable design, green design, last minute gifts, green christmas presents, eco holiday gifts, gifts of time

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6. GIFTS OF TIME A last-minute holiday present that is net-zero and consumerism-free is to give the gift of your time. You can make coupons using holiday letterpress cards, like these eco-friendly sustainably harvested yellow birch cards from Night Owl Paper Goods. Some ideas for coupon themes: offer to do an eco-friendly house cleaning, laundry duties for a month with natural detergents, prepare an organic meal, or offer to paint a room with low-VOC paints. For more great gifts ideas, be sure to check out our Gifts of Time Guide.

 

Space Saving Toilet

sink toilet

If you asked me a year ago if I would ever be blogging about toilets, well I most likely would have laughed at you.

I have seen these before, but they are most often conversion kits and a never looked quite as nice.  The Caroma Profile Smart is a Small profile toilet that has an integrated sink that uses the water before it goes into the toilet.  I have told folks about these before and often get this disgusted look, if you have never had to fix one you might not know how they work.  First the water fills a reservoir tank, that tank empties down into the bow through small holes at the top, the water collects in the bowl and well you know the rest.   The water that goes into the reservoir is 100% clean water, same stuff you drink from the tap.

If you are in another country this may not be the case as they sometimes use grey water, which I hope catches on here, but here in the US of A we use the regular water to fill the bowl.  What is more many folks put what are essentially chlorine tablets in the reservoir which creates a barrier if you will.  In fact if you read any disaster preparedness guide they talk about if push comes to shove, you can drink from the reservoir (best to boil).

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So what’s so great about this toilet first it actually looks somewhat attractive, the second is that it is a very narrow profile, perfect for tiny houses.

  • High efficiency dual flush toilet – 1.28/0.8 gallons (4.8/3 liters) per flush
  • Integrated sink for enhanced water savings
  • After flushing, fresh cold water is directed through the faucet for hand washing and drains into the tank to be used for the next flush
  • Unique water and space saving design
  • Chrome buttons built-in to tapware design
  • Easy installation
  • Large trapway virtually eliminates blockages
  • 12″ rough-in

 

Billboard Refit

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I have been preaching the need for us to live allot more locally, for a variety of reasons.   As we do the old infrastructure of our 1600 mile salad will no longer have its usefulness. I wrote about how retrofitting a grocery store was one example of this, well here is another.  Dornob talked about this great concept

There are nearly 500,000 freestanding billboards in the United States alone. What if any number of these could be converted en mass into functional, modular prefab homes that could be shipped and installed in rural and urban areas around the country – eco-friendly, cheap new housing from recycled old billboards.

Prefabrication and portability are nothing new in architecture and transportation, but world-changing modular and mass-producible visions  like this concept by Nocturnal Design Labs are few and far between. Unlike most conventional prefabs, these spaces are planned with interior layouts, sun paths and wind patterns in mind, giving the result a distictive and dynamic shape.

rom the curved modern shell and functional interior spaces to the high-up locations with varied views, there is more to this than simply a clever idea from a forward-thinking designer – these are best understood as prefab building prototypes, the potential start of an entire movement in adaptive reuse already being explored by various architects and designs.

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Clorox GreenWorks Really Green?

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I have seen these products all around now, which made me wonder if these products where truly green or just green washed (faking or just going with the fad)  Inhabitat put this to rest today

Reprinted: Inhabitat Evelyn Lee 8/2009

Launched in January of 2008, Clorox’s line of natural cleaning products, Green Works, currently holds more than a 40% share of the natural home cleaning market. The first year success of their product single-handedly grew the natural cleaning product market by more than 80% in one year by selling Green Works through their current distribution chain in more than 24,000 stores alongside their regular household cleaning products. However the question remains, is Green Works truly green? Critics argue that since no industry standard definitions currently exist for natural cleaners, Green Works is simply deeming itself green against its own standards – a dangerous trend to set. Read on to find out more.greenworks3

According to their website, Green Works sets their own very stringent standards to ensure that their cleaners are at least 99% natural – a.k.a. coming from renewable resources, being biodegradable and free of petrochemicals. They attribute the 1% to synthetic ingredients including a preservative and green coloring but are working to find alternatives to be able to claim that the line is 100% natural. On the other hand, because no standard exists, those who are on the lookout for product authenticity question the use of corn-based ethanol which has a larger greenhouse gas footprint than petrochemicals, as well as the use of coconut oil, which contributes to rainforest habitat destruction. Clorox has done their best to remain openly transparent about the ingredients in their Green Works line by publishing their ingredients on the product and responding to such questions online at their blog and through their Shades of Green Journal.

So where’s the rub, you ask? As stated on their Shades of Green blog, “The Green Works brand stands for powerful cleaning done naturally and we have stayed true to that promise. Our proposition is aimed at the mainstream consumer who is interested in natural products that clean, are affordable and easily accessible. We are achieving our goal to mainstream natural cleaning.” The company has delivered on their promise to bring natural cleaners into the forefront at a 15-20% premium over their natural competitors that are often carried at a 50-100% premium. On the other hand, if it weren’t for the success of their product, it’s questionable whether or not Clorox would continue to carry their natural line unless it continued to drive their bottom line – which doesn’t tend to sit well with those who are constantly on the lookout for a more sustainable product. Despite their commitment to their natural product line, Green Works, Clorox has done little as a company to internalize their sustainable chatter into their overall operations and product manufacturing.

IS IT GREEN?

The simple answer is yes. Green Works is a product that can, for the most part, claim truthfully that their product is 99% natural. On the other hand, those looking for cradle to cradle operations and a company whose foresight is focused on a more sustainable future may want to look elsewhere. After all, in the end Clorox will always be a bleach company that is driven by the success of their products and the bottom line.

Oil & Food, A Scary Picture

  • Oil is used to deliver the seeds to farmers
  • Oil is used to pump water to the cropspeakoil
  • Oil is used in production of fertilizers
  • Oil runs the tractors that harvest food
  • Oil is in the plastics that we package the food
  • Oil is in the tanks of the trucks that ship food an average of 5000 miles
  • Oil is used to drive your car when you bring the food home
  • Oil powers electricity at every step of this chain
  • Oil helps you cook the food when you bring it….
  • What would happen when Oil is $400 a barrel?

Peak oil is here and now, Get ready for the ride of your lifetime

Info on Peak Oil

Reprinted Treehugger Lester Brown July 2009

Today we are an oil-based civilization, one that is totally dependent on a resource whose production will soon be falling. Since 1981, the quantity of oil extracted has exceeded new discoveries by an ever-widening margin. In 2008, the world pumped 31 billion barrels of oil but discovered fewer than 9 billion barrels of new oil. World reserves of conventional oil are in a free fall, dropping every year.

Discoveries of conventional oil total roughly 2 trillion barrels, of which 1 trillion have been extracted so far, with another trillion barrels to go. By themselves, however, these numbers miss a central point. As security analyst Michael Klare notes, the first trillion barrels was easy oil, “oil that’s found on shore or near to shore; oil close to the surface and concentrated in large reservoirs; oil produced in friendly, safe, and welcoming places.” The other half, Klare notes, is tough oil, “oil that’s buried far offshore or deep underground; oil scattered in small, hard-to-find reservoirs; oil that must be obtained from unfriendly, politically dangerous, or hazardous places.”

The oil-food-security link.
At Earth Policy Institute we note that the prospect of peaking oil production has direct consequences for world food security, as modern agriculture depends heavily on the use of fossil fuels. Most tractors use gasoline or diesel fuel. Irrigation pumps use diesel fuel, natural gas, or coal-fired electricity. Fertilizer production is also energy-intensive. Natural gas is used to synthesize the basic ammonia building block in nitrogen fertilizers. The mining, manufacture, and international transport of phosphates and potash all depend on oil.

Efficiency gains can help reduce agriculture’s dependence on oil. In the United States, the combined direct use of gasoline and diesel fuel in farming fell from its historical high of 7.7 billion gallons (29.1 billion liters) in 1973 to 4.2 billion in 2005–a decline of 45 percent. Broadly calculated, the gallons of fuel used per ton of grain produced dropped from 33 in 1973 to 12 in 2005, an impressive decrease of 64 percent.
One reason for this achievement was a shift to minimum- and no-till cultural practices on roughly two fifths of U.S. cropland. But while U.S. agricultural fuel use has been declining, in many developing countries it is rising as the shift from draft animals to tractors continues. A generation ago, for example, cropland in China was tilled largely by draft animals. Today much of the plowing is done with tractors.

Fertilizer consumes oil
Fertilizer accounts for 20 percent of U.S. farm energy use. Worldwide, the figure may be slightly higher. As the world urbanizes, the demand for fertilizer climbs. As people migrate from rural areas to cities, it becomes more difficult to recycle the nutrients in human waste back into the soil, requiring the use of more fertilizer. Beyond this, the growing international food trade can separate producer and consumer by thousands of miles, further disrupting the nutrient cycle. The United States, for example, exports some 80 million tons of grain per year—grain that contains large quantities of basic plant nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The ongoing export of these nutrients would slowly drain the inherent fertility from U.S. cropland if the nutrients were not replaced.

Irrigation consumes oil
Irrigation, another major energy claimant, is requiring more energy worldwide as water tables fall. In the United States, close to 19 percent of farm energy use is for pumping water. And in some states in India where water tables are falling, over half of all electricity is used to pump water from wells. Some trends, such as the shift to no-tillage, are making agriculture less oil-intensive, but rising fertilizer use, the spread of farm mechanization, and falling water tables are having the opposite effect.
Although attention commonly focuses on energy use on the farm, agriculture accounts for only one fifth of the energy used in the U.S. food system. Transport, processing, packaging, marketing, and kitchen preparation of food are responsible for the rest. The U.S. food economy uses as much energy as the entire economy of the United Kingdom.

Distribution consumes oil
The 14 percent of energy used in the food system to move goods from farmer to consumer is equal to two thirds of the energy used to produce the food. And an estimated 16 percent of food system energy use is devoted to canning, freezing, and drying food—everything from frozen orange juice concentrate to canned peas.
Food staples such as wheat have traditionally moved over long distances by ship, traveling from the United States to Europe, for example. What is new is the shipment of fresh fruits and vegetables over vast distances by air. Few economic activities are more energy-intensive.

Food miles—the distance that food travels from producer to consumer—have risen with cheap oil. At my local supermarket in downtown Washington, D.C., the fresh grapes in winter typically come by plane from Chile, traveling almost 5,000 miles. One of the most routine long-distance movements of fresh produce is from California to the heavily populated U.S. East Coast. Most of this produce moves by refrigerated trucks. In assessing the future of long-distance produce transport, one writer observed that the days of the 3,000-mile Caesar salad may be numbered.

Packaging consumes oil
Packaging is also surprisingly energy-intensive, accounting for 7 percent of food system energy use. It is not uncommon for the energy invested in packaging to exceed that in the food it contains. Packaging and marketing also can account for much of the cost of processed foods. The U.S. farmer gets about 20 percent of the consumer food dollar, and for some products, the figure is much lower. As one analyst has observed, “An empty cereal box delivered to the grocery store would cost about the same as a full one.”

Electricity dominates with consumption
The most energy-intensive segment of the food chain is the kitchen. Much more energy is used to refrigerate and prepare food in the home than is used to produce it in the first place. The big energy user in the food system is the kitchen refrigerator, not the farm tractor. While oil dominates the production end of the food system, electricity dominates the consumption end.

In short, with higher energy prices and a limited supply of fossil fuels, the modern food system that evolved when oil was cheap will not survive as it is now structured.
To continue reading about localized agriculture and urban gardening, see Farming in the City from Chapter 10 in Earth Policy Institute’s book, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, available for free downloading.