Greener By The Minute: Eco-Friendly Alternatives You’ve Never Thought Of

Green-LivingA Green Ending
Green funerals don’t just mean a woodland burial. Very few people actually know about the green alternatives to steel or hardwood coffins. May private funeral homes present green alternatives to traditional coffins, including wicker caskets and shrouds. Currently, 89 percent of coffins sold are made of chipboard that is manufactured using formaldehyde. When chipboard coffins are cremated, they can release toxic gases. If buried, they disrupt local ecosystems; as the chipboard decays, the formaldehyde and glue leach into the soil and groundwater. Finally, most people opting for a green goodbye will choose a meadow or woodland burial, with only a memorial tree marking the grave. For more information, visit fullcirclecare.org/endoflife/funeral.htm.

Avoid Pesticides
Use natural methods of pest control. Form a log pile-dead wood provides a habitat for many kids of wildlife, such as snakes and ground beetles. Both are natural predators for snails and slugs. If you create a small pond to encourage frogs and toads, they will help mop up the rest of your slug life. In the short term you can get rid of slugs using beer traps (slugs are attracted to yeast). To get rid of whiteflies, buy Encarsia Formosa, small parasitic wasps that eat whiteflies. Grow flowers such as marigolds to attract ladybugs, hoverflies, and lacewings, all of which protect against aphids.

Bat Boxes
Want to reduce the number of mosquitoes in your backyard? Then invest in a bat box. One bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes a night. You will also be making a contribution to our country’s temperate biodiversity: bat populations in America and around the world are declining, especially in urban areas, where they have few roosting spaces. Ideally, group two or three boxes together, place them as high as possible, and face them so the sun directly heats them for six to seven hours each day. If you are making a bat box yourself, use untreated and unpainted wood. It is essential that bats not be disturbed, so make certain your bat boxes cannot be reached by any local cats. For more information, visitbatconservation.org/content/Bathouseimportance.html

Build Green
Before embarking on any home remodeling, make sure your architect has green credentials. Although there is no national organization of green architects in the U.S., that doesn’t mean you can’t get an architect who will build along sustainable lines. Ask where he or she sources materials, and request that energy-saving devices, such as solar paneling, be installed. Visit directory. Greenbuilder.com or environmentalhomecenter.com for more green-building information.

Buy Eggs in Cardboard Cartons
Cardboard egg cartons are normally made from recycled paper, which biodegrades relatively quickly, and are also again recyclable-Styrofoam or plastic cartons take a much longer time to biodegrade and their manufacture produces harmful by-products.

Buy Rechargeable Batteries
Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany electronic gifts, consider giving a battery charger as well.

Buy Recycled Products
There has to be a market for products made with recycled goods. Support this ovement by purchasing recycled goods-you will save virgin materials, conserve energy, and reduce landfill waste. Percycled paper products include tolient paper (which is no longer scrachy, like it used to be), copy paper, paper towels, and tissues. Look for garbage bags and bin liners labeled “recycled plastic,” and buy recycled toner cartridges for your fax machines and printers.

Coffee Grounds in Your Garden
Did you know that applying coffee grounds to your garden can provide a valuable nutrient for the soil? Coffee grounds help vegetables, roses, and other plants. Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen, but are also acidic. Adding brown material such as leaves and dried grass to the mulch will help keep a balanced soil pH. The proper amount to be used depends on the condition of the soil and, more specifically, what you are growing in your garden. Check with your local gardening expert to see what is best for your situation. Adding coffee grounds to your compost bin will generate heat and help speed up the composting process. Coffee grounds act as a green material with a carbon-nitrogen (C-N) ratio of 20-1. Ask your local Culver City barista for used coffee grounds. They usually are more than willing to share with you.

Compost It!
Compost it! Compost helps improve soil so it holds more water and plants grow better. Allow grass clippings to stay on the lawn, instead of bagging them. The cut grass will decompose and return to the soil naturally. Food scraps and kitchen waste also make good compost, and you save money on fertilizers or other additives.

Create a Living Fence
When replacing yard fences, instead of building a wooden fence, opt for a living fence. A living fence is a hedge or a row of trees, which can be groomed to maintain appearance. Not only is a living fence less expensive than a traditional fence, it also never needs to be painted. This saves you money and time and keeps harmful chemicals out of the environment. Try to use native flora and to avoid hedges comprised of only one species.

Discover Your Carbon Footprint
If you think you’re already pretty green, determines your carbon footprint: a measurement of how your lifestyle choices affect carbon emissions. Your footprint will take into account your habits, the food you eat, your gas and electricity usage, your car and air mileage. Your score will be compared to the average figures for your country. These outline tests aim to help you estimate your own carbon emissions and calculate how much of the planet’s resources are required to sustain your lifestyle. They may motivate you to make changes, helping you set simple goals to reduce your negative impact on the planet. To learn about your carbon footprint, go to carbonfootprint.com/calculator.html.

Drink Shade-Grown Coffee
Shade-grown coffee is for the birds, literally. According to coffeeresearch.org, about 150 species of birds live on shade-grown-coffee farms, while only 20 to 50 inhabit full-sun farms. With increased demand for cheap coffee, many Latin American growers have moved toward full-sun plantations, clearing the habitat of numerous native birds and increasing the use of pesticides and fertilizers. By drinking shade-grown coffee, you can help bird habitats and reduce the need for farming chemicals. Shade-grown coffee beans can be purchased at many grocery stores. Starbucks offers shade-grown coffee as well.

Food Miles Matter
Food is traveling farther than ever. Once upon a time people ate seasonally-artichokes in the winter, cherries in June. Now you can buy most fruits and vegetables practically year-round. The average American meal contains ingredients produced in at least five other countries. The transportation of food and agricultural products constitutes more than 20 percent of total commodity transport within the U.S. To help reduce CO2 emissions (released from trucks, airplanes, and cargo ships), it’s best to buy food that’s in season, organic, and grown locally. Go to ams.usda,gov/farmersmarkets to find the farmer’s market nearest you.

Get a Green Roof
A green roof is more than simply a roof with plants growing on it. It functions like a “breathing wall,” consuming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and emitting oxygen. Green roofs generally use low-maintenance, drought-resistant plants. Vegetation is planted or laid down as pre-vegetated mats on a thin layer of soil. More intensive green-roof systems may contain trees and larger plants, but these require deeper soil and are more expensive. One of the biggest benefits of a green roof is water management: it can absorb more that 50 percent of rainwater, thereby reducing runoff, a major source of pollution in our waterways. Plus, it can help reduce air-conditioning costs during the hot summer months. The vegetation looks after itself through the seasons and creates a habitat for insects, which, in turn, provide food for birds. Green roofs can also last more than twice as long as conventional rooftops. They look better too. For more information, visitgreenroofs.com.

Get an Electric Lawn Mower
Surrender your gas lawn mower. Gasoline lawn mowers are among the dirtiest of modern machines. A study funded by the Swedish E.P.A. found that using a four-horsepower lawn mower for an hour causes the same amount of pollution as driving a car 93 miles. The trouble with gas lawn mowers is that they not only emit a disproportionate amount of CO2, they are also responsible for releasing carcinogens such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons into the air. Retire the noisy monster and buy an electric or manual model. Better still, reduce the number of times you mow per season and let some of your lawn grow wild, which has added benefits for bugs, butterflies, and birds. For more information, visit greengrasscutters.com.

Go Vegetarian One Day a Week
To produce one pound of beef require 2,500 gallons of water-that’s 40 times more water than is used to produced a pound of potatoes. Before buying beef, thinking about the immense cost of energy used to raise cattle and to transport meat to your supermarket shelf. Besides all this, cow consume enormous amounts of antibiotics and are a prodigious source of methane, which is the number-two greenhouse gas; livestock are responsible for the almost 20 percent of the methane in the atmosphere.

Green Grilling
If you have a charcoal barbecue grill, make sure you charcoal comes from a sustainable source. Enormous areas of tropical rainforest are destroyed every year to produce the 900,000 tons of charcoal burned annually in the U.S. Chimmey starters are the most environmentally friendly solution to lighting charcoal. They use only a couple of pieces of newspaper, meaning you can avoid the gas-flavored meat that accompanies barbecues started with lighter fluid or fire starters. If you are replacing your grill, remember that using a gas, rather than charcoal, grill is the most environmentally friendly way to barbecue. It avoids forest destruction and doesn’t add to local air pollution.

Green Paint
Most paint is made from petrochemicals, and its manufacturing process can create 10 times its own weight in toxic waste. It also releases volatile organic compounds (V.O.C.’s) that threaten public health. (V.O.C.’s are solvents that rapidly evaporate, allowing paint to dry quickly.) They cause photochemical reactions in the atmosphere, leading to ground-level smog that can cause eye and skin irritation, lung and breathing problems, headaches, nausea, and nervous-system and kidney damage. The best alternative? Natural paints. Manufactured using plant oils, natural paints pose far fewer health risks, are breathable, and in some cases are 100 percent biodegradable. Remember: Never throw your paint away. Check out Earth 911’s “Paint Wise” sections for re-use program in your community; earth911.org

Grow Your Own Garden
In 1826, J.C. Loudon wrote in An Encyclopedia of Gardening, “For all the things produced in a garden, whether salads or fruits, a poor man that has one of his own will eat better than a rich man that has none.” To start a vegetable garden costs nothing but a few packs of seeds and rudimentary garden implements, and it saves enormous amounts of money, to say nothing of the food miles and the packaging that go into food into supplying you with fresh fruits and vegetables. Of course, a vegetable garden is only productive for part of the year, but it is amazing how long that growing season lasts and how much you can produce from one small patch.

Plant a Tree
t’s the simplest thing in the world to gather acorns, chestnuts, sweet chestnuts, and sycamore seeds in the autumn, plant them immediately, and forget them until the following spring. The success rate for acorns is not as high as for the other three, but in a good year about 40 percent germinate into oak trees. There’s little that will stop the others from growing into healthy trees within the first year. Start saplings in Styrofoam coffee cups, which can be split with a knife so that the roots aren’t disturbed when you plant them outdoors. Keep the saplings for four or five years, then plant them in your own garden, offer them to friends, or return them to nature. It may seem like a very small contribution, but if 5 percent of the U.S. population were to germinate one tree in one year, there would be almost 15 million extra trees absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. For more information, visit arborday.org.

Don’t Pitch It, Patch It!
I recently ran across a website thats slogan is “Don’t Pitch It, Patch It!”. Being that I have done construction work for many years this makes sense to me. I have seen countless numbers of rubber boots (used when pouring concrete) just thrown away rather than repaired and reused. I’m fairly certain that rubber boots don’t degrade in a landfill very quickly. This company has made repairing the boot easy, just peel and stick. Every pair of boots that are patched is one less pair in a landfill. I wanted to pass the web site on to others that may be able to use it, the site can be found at rubberbootbandage.com.

Courtesy of Living Green.

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