Quick! What’s more environmentally friendly: real or fake Christmas trees? Some shoppers may think that by selecting a plastic tree, they’re “saving a tree” and picking a solution that can be used year after year. However, most fake trees are made from vinyl and other difficult-to-recycle plastics. Real Christmas trees are actually the more eco-friendly choice, thanks in part to their recyclability. After the holidays, consider these great uses for your natural tree:
Dune defenders: Next time you head to the beach, you may need to thank Christmas trees for those beautiful coastlines. Recycled trees are commonly used to strengthen and rebuild dunes. In fact, after Hurricane Sandy, several beaches in New Jersey used Christmas trees to restore their flattened and destroyed dunes. Beyond the beach, recycled trees can also be used to build barriers in marshlands and bayous.
Soil enrichment: Many municipalities offer convenient, curbside pickup programs that turn discarded Christmas trees into mulch. This mulch can be used for a variety of local landscaping projects, from padding hiking trails to beautifying parks. You can use Earth911’s easy search tool to find pickup/drop-off locations near you.
Underwater habitat: If you own property with a pond, lake, or stream, Christmas trees can be sunk and used as inexpensive, eco-friendly homes for fish and other aquatic life. If your home doesn’t have a waterfront view, contact local conservation groups to see if your tree could have a second life under the sea.
Compost champion: Trees will naturally break down and enrich the soil, so if you live in a rural area, throw your tree in a brush pile and let it return to nature. As an added bonus, before it decomposes, it can provide shelter for finches, sparrows and other birds.
Bottom line: No matter if you’re a bird lover or beach bum, your Christmas tree can be easily recycled to help the environment. Check your local newspaper for nonprofits and community programs near you and select your favorite program.
What’s your favorite Christmas tree tradition? Let us know in the comments below, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org . DING! You are now free to be green!
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It’s the day before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was worrying, not even—Oh shoot! You forgot a gift for the neighbor, or second cousin, or someone. If you’ve overlooked someone in the holiday frenzy, don’t fret! Here are some last-minute, eco-friendly gifts:
Ebook: With just a few keystrokes, you can browse through a library of wonderful gift ideas. Since these gifts are typically delivered via e-mail on Christmas day, these environmentally-friendly options will keep your secret—and delight your giftee!
Trees, tigers, or just warm fuzzy feelings: If you’re stumped, consider donating in your great Aunt Mrytle's name to one of many wonderful environmental causes. With your donation, most orginizations will provide detailed information so you can easily share the impact of your gift. With just the click of a mouse, you can help preserve redwoods or great cats while spreading holiday cheer.
Crafty creation: With many common household items, you can easily create a memorable, handmade gift. For example, to make a luxe sugar scrub, you just need: sugar, oil, fragrance, and a cute container to put it in! Check out this resource of more than 100 do-it-yourself gift ideas for more inspiration.
Baked goods: With some sugar, flour and a little LUV, you can easily (and quickly!) bake a fantastic gift. Cookies, cakes, pastries and other sweet treats are a welcome gift and easy to make on the fly. If your pantry is running low, you can filter recipes based on what ingredients you already have. But please, skip the fruitcake.
What are your favorite green gifts? Let us know by commenting below. DING! You are now free to be green!
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Tis the season! Whether you’re turning your home into Santa's Village or a Winter Wonderland, keep our Planet in mind while enjoying the holiday.
Check out our quick tips for selecting the most eco-friendly decorations. keep our Planet in mind while enjoying the holiday.
Swap old-school for ultra-efficient: The holidays just aren’t complete without twinkling lights! So wrap your trees with the most energy efficient option: LED lights. They use about 90 percent less energy than incandescent lights and last longer, making them a great choice year after year. Even better, some retailers offer discounts if you trade an old string of lights for these eco-friendly wonders. What a bright idea!
Do-it-yourself: You may have the following items strewn in your junk drawer: old CDs, last year's holiday cards, empty pill bottles, and other odds and ends. Instead of trashing them, turn them into ornaments! Check out this great site for inspiration and easy-to-follow guides on turning everyday items into holiday ornaments, tree toppers, and other treasures.
Go all-natural: When it comes to wreathes, trees, and other natural holiday decorations, the greenest option is also the simplest: use real trees, branches, and other natural elements instead of their plastic counterparts. These green stunners will make your home smell like Christmas and can be easily composted. However, if you're trying to score some Holiday kisses with real mistletoe, watch out—it’s toxic! So use a pine bough or other decorative elements to spread peace and LUV!
What do you use to decorate for the Holidays? Let us know by commenting below. DING! You are now free to be Green!
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With the holidays near, you’re likely looking for the perfect gift for your friends, Co-Hearts and family members. Instead of buying individual gifts, consider organizing a White Elephant gift exchange instead.
What’s White Elephant? It’s a gift exchange that promotes the eco-friendly principles of reducing our holiday shopping frenzy and reusing perfectly good items. Here are the full rules, but in principle, everyone just brings a fun, wacky, off-the-wall gift and exchanges it with someone else. There’s strategy involved too—players can “steal” desirable gifts, making it a fun, exciting game for the whole family.
You can set any kind of limit on your exchanges—only pre-loved items, or only former gifts, but it tends to be more fun if you let your guests surprise you with a mix of pre-loved, gag, and traditional gifts. Here are some White Elephant gift ideas to get you started:
Bizarre items: Cuckoo clocks, small figurines, and children’s toys have all made an appearance in my family’s annual exchanges. You can find something spectacular at a thrift store for less than $5. Of course, if you’re a packrat (or just live with one) you can shop your garage or attic instead. Nothing is off-limits for a White Elephant exchange!
Unused items: You got it on clearance! It was such a good deal! We all have items that we buy but never use. Maybe it’s a set of martini glasses or decorative pot holders. A White Elephant exchange is the perfect opportunity to unload impulse buys, clutter, or failed gifts. In fact, re-gifting is encouraged!
Local treats: If you don’t want to give a gag gift, or can’t bear to part with your clutter, consider adding some local brews or artisanal chocolates into the mix. These are the gifts that typically get the most “steals” and are a great opportunity to support your local businesses. A quick trip to the farmer’s market can yield a plethora of fun ideas. If you want to be devious, consider getting some extra-hot sauces or stinky cheeses.
Do you have any green holiday traditions? Let us know by commenting below. DING! You are now free to be green!
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We all LUV a good getaway, but don’t take a vacation from your green habits!
Whether you’re heading home for Thanksgiving or going to an exotic locale during the holiday season, check out these quick tips to make your next escape more eco-friendly:
Go digital: If you like to purchase paperbacks to read inflight, consider an e-book instead. The glue used to bind books (especially hardbacks) often makes them difficult to recycle. If you love the feel of a real book, try shopping secondhand or swapping titles with a friend.
Bring your own toiletries: As tempting as is to rely on the hotel freebies, try to bring your own whenever possible. While some hotels have started making great strides in recycling those cute, micro-sized soaps, many still have not. If you’re concerned about saving space in your carryon, try a multi-tasking product; a concentrated castile soap can serve as your shampoo, soap, and even toothpaste!
Opt-in to the hotel linen conservation program: Most hotels give guests the option to save resources by opting to re-use towels and other linens. Opt in, hang up those towels, and help save the planet.
Select green gifts and souvenirs: Look for locally-produced goods and support small businesses; every purchase you make has an impact! Avoid carvings or other exotic souvenirs unless you can verify they’re made from sustainable materials.
My fellow frequent flyers, what are your green travel tips? Let us know by commenting below. DING! You are now free to be Green!
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With Thanksgiving just around the corner, you may be focusing on turkey, cranberry sauce, and, of course, quality time with the family. Right after the holiday splendor, the biggest shopping day of the year—Black Friday—will begin.
If you’re one of the 200 million Americans who participate each year, check out these simple tips for selecting more eco-friendly goods:
Clothes: If you’re looking to expand your wardrobe this Black Friday, you can make greener choices by just checking the tag. Avoid “Frankenstein” fabrics (blends of polyesters and other synthetic materials) since these fabrics are often difficult to recycle or repurpose. Look for clothes made from organic and sustainable fabrics. Also keep in mind that a single T-shirt takes about 2,700 liters of water to produce, so shop mindfully.
Electronics: Flat screen TVs and heavily-discounted gizmos dominate Black Friday door buster deals. When selecting the best deal, look for repairable electronics from sustainability-minded companies. Greenpeace has done all the heavy-lifting for you and ranked the top eco-friendly electronics companies (you’ll never guess the #1 company on their list!). Back home, make sure you recycle your old electronics.
Home Goods: Stores often use cheap kitchen gadgets to lure shoppers into their stores. Ask yourself: do I really need a mini doughnut maker ? Resist those cute, unnecessary gadgets and focus on high-quality, durable kitchen tools. You should also consider using Black Friday discounts to score Energy Star appliances and replace older, inefficient models.
Do you or your family participate in Black Friday? Or do you have any green holiday traditions? Let us know by commenting below. DING! You are now free to be Green!
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We usually complete our everyday tasks on autopilot, but by changing just one thing, we can make a big impact on the environment.
Check out these everyday tasks—and the easy ways to make them more eco-friendly:
Routine : Going through the drive-thru.
Make it green! If you’re waiting in line for more than ten seconds, turn off your car’s engine. An idling car wastes an enormous amount of fuel—two minutes of idling uses as much fuel as it takes to drive one mile! It takes less fuel to restart the car than it does to keep it running, so just turn it off if the line is moving slowly. Remember, an idling car gets zero miles per gallon!
Go the extra mile: If you want to be an eco-overachiever, park your car and walk in for service. In addition to avoiding the idling issue, it’s much easier in-person to refuse some of the extra items like huge wads of napkins or extra packets of salt. What a waste! Take what you need inside and stop all that extra stuff from ending up in a landfill.
Routine : Doing the laundry.
Make it green! Skip the dryer sheet. We often think of them as disposable, but these single-use sheets clog landfills and can contain harmful chemicals. If you’re addicted to the extra boost of fragrance, look for environmentally-friendly, biodegradable sheets or give your clothes a quick spritz of a homemade freshener after they’re done drying.
Go the extra mile: Instead of just putting everything from the washer into the dryer, try sorting it and letting your clothes air dry. Since the dryer is the second biggest energy hog in the average home (right after the fridge), it can greatly reduce your energy consumption. Air drying is much gentler on your clothes and helps them last longer. It’s especially true for quick-dry athletic clothing, which can shrink or pill if exposed to high dryer temperatures.
Do you have any simple green tips to share? Let us know by commenting below!
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Eat local. Eat organic. Those are great goals, but you can make a positive impact on the planet even if you’re eating cheese-whiz. Don’t believe me? It turns out that 40 percent of food produced in America is ultimately wasted.
Considering all the land, fresh water, and other precious natural resources that go into food production, reducing your food waste will go a long way to helping the planet. Here are some simple tips for saving some of that food:
Ignore “sell by,” “best by,” or similar labels on food packages: These dates are confusing, (some say) meaningless, and cause consumers to needlessly toss food. The labels indicate “freshness,” not when the item becomes unsafe to eat. Since proper food handling is a better indication for how long your food will last before it spoils, focus on storing it correctly instead of following an arbitrary date. Watch out! There’s one major exception to this rule: baby foods and formulas. Unlike their grown-up counterparts, baby food labeling is much more strictly regulated by the F.D.A. You should always follow the “expires on” date on baby food packaging, since after that date, it’s no longer safe for Junior to consume.
Ice, ice, baby: The freezer is an often-forgotten way to extend the life of your leftovers. You can freeze just about anything, from meats to fruits to sweets. In fact, a list by the University of Georgia lists only 15 things that don’t freeze well. And in spite of the list’s suggestion, I’ve successfully frozen buttermilk (perfect for Sunday pancakes), so you can take the list as more of a guideline than a mandate.
Shop your pantry: How many times have you looked in your full fridge, freezer, or pantry and declared that’s there’s nothing to eat? It’s tempting to believe this, but try “shopping” your freezers and pantries. By making an effort to use up those canned and frozen foods that accumulate, you’ll save some green and be able to take inventory of what foods you’re actually eating.
Share! If you’ve ever gotten one of those community produce boxes and absolutely panicked when you received four pounds of kale, see if you can spread the LUV by passing them along to a friend. Likewise, your local food bank would also happily accept your canned and packaged food.
Do you have ideas or fun recipes that reduce food waste? Let us know by commenting below. DING! You are now free to be Green!
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Can you guess what type of trash only accounts for two percent of the total in landfills, yet makes up about 70 percent of the toxic waste in America?
You might picture barrels of noxious goo or streams of factory runoff, but the answer hits surprisingly close to home—it’s discarded electronics! Also known as e-waste, this toxic trash leaks mercury, lead, and other hazardous materials into the environment. Luckily, we can reduce, repair, and recycle our way to a less toxic world:
Reduce: Have you ever camped out overnight to score the latest gadget? Electronics can have a powerful influence on people’s lives, so it’s especially important to shop mindfully and choose your devices carefully. You can make a difference by taking good care of the electronics you already own and extending their lifespans. That way, if they’re still working when you’re ready to replace, you can donate or sell the old devices. And, since a large portion of e-waste is actually perfectly usable parts, double-check before you chuck!
Repair: You may think your device is toast after it kisses the concrete, but common problems like shattered screens can often be fixed. Many web sites offer step-by-step instructions tailored to your particular device and offer inexpensive replacement materials. If you’re not comfortable with the DIY approach, there are many local repair shops who often offer free quotes.
Unfortunately, many times it’s simply not cost-effective or feasible to repair electronics. One fascinating viral video explores this concept and suggests an idea for Phonebloks, cell phones of the future made entirely of fully-replaceable, customizable, and upgradeable parts.
Recycle: Fortunately, the EPA has compiled a great resource for finding the right e-waste recycling program. If your device isn’t included, check with your municipality for more information on your local options. Recycling electronics can have a huge impact on the environment; if we could recycle one million laptops, we’d save enough energy to power 3,500 homes for a year!
What do you think of Phonebloks? Could this concept of fully-repairable electronics become a reality? Let us know by commenting below. DING! You are now free to be green!
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Pop quiz! What uses less water: Hand washing plates or running them through dishwasher? In this edition of myth busters, we’re tackling some of the common misconceptions about cooking, cleaning, and all things kitchen-related.
Find the answer to this—and more busted myths—below:
Myth: On the stovetop, it doesn’t matter which burner you choose. Confession time: I used to only use the largest-sized burners, because I thought the larger the burner, the more quickly my water would heat and boil. In actuality, putting a six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner wastes a whopping 40 percent of the heat produced. So, make sure you put the pan on the correct burner. And, if you’re impatient like I am, just cover your pots and pans for a quicker cook time.
Myth: You always need to preheat the oven. This was the hardest habit for me to break, but it turns out that preheating the oven is often pretty useless. Ovens work by heating the air in the oven, which cooks the food. Once you open the door to place your dish inside, hot air rushes out, and the temperature drops. Seems kind of silly, doesn’t it? Most dishes will turn out just fine if you pop them in a cold oven and let it rise to the correct temperature. Just be extra careful when it comes to more finicky dishes like baked goods or pastries.
Myth: Hand washing is more efficient than using the dishwasher. Retire those rubber gloves and scrubby sponges; National Geographic Magazine reports that your dishwasher uses about 35 percent less water than hand washing. You can also save an additional 15 percent of your dishwasher’s total energy consumption if you switch your settings and select the “air dry” option.
Do you have any tips to make your kitchen a little greener? Let us know by commenting below. DING! You are now free to be green!
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When I think fall, I think of falling leaves, apple cider, and, of course, football! No matter the season or the sport, you can always find ways to make your favorite events a little more environmentally friendly.
For all the fanatics out there, I’ve gathered a few great tips you can use to make your next game a little more environmentally friendly—and FUN!
Ditch the disposable: Replace paper and plastic with reusable flatware when tailgating. It’s both eco- and wallet-friendly, so you can spend your money on what really matters: more food and drinks … or even better seats!
Choose organic face paint: Getting your “game face” on is a tried-and-true tradition, but be careful which paints you select for your transformation. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics raised the alarm when it discovered that many commercial face paints contain lead and other heavy metals like nickel, cobalt, and chromium. Avoid these health hazards by selecting organic face paints or by making your own. By mixing a little cocoa butter and natural food colorings, you can create an environmentally-friendly option that’s the perfect shade of crimson, green, or (in my case), Carolina blue!
Select smart transportation: Organize a carpool or use public transit when going to/from the game. If you’re lucky enough to live in a college town, try walking to the stadium. Transportation greatly contributes to air pollution and smog, so you can feel good about keeping the skies clear—and saving a bundle on parking fees.
Reuse, recycle that beer: In the unlikely event that you have some leftover brew, check out these 21 inventive ways to repurpose it. Turns out you can use it as a cleaning product, hair conditioner, or an eco-friendly pesticide. Bonus points if you toast to a local brewery or buy organic.
How have you made your game day greener? Let us know by commenting below. DING! You are now free to be green!
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