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Archive for November, 2009
Total Read Time: 1 Minute
Yea! Trees not only help reduce pollution but also reduce energy costs for your home. While every home is unique, mature trees properly placed around your home can “reduce air-conditioning needs by 30% and heating needs by 20%. Another study showed that “planting one young tree on the west side of your home can cut energy costs by 3% within 5 years and nearly 12% within 15 years.” Check out The Davey Tree Institute for a handy Tree Benefit Calculator that will estimate the benefits of having trees in your yard.
Placement also plays an important role in reducing energy costs. The best sides of the house for tress are the east and west. But if you can only plant one tree, remember “west is the best” because it better shades your house during the hottest days of summer. The optimal setting would be to have deciduous tress to the west for shade, a small tree to shade the AC unit, evergreens to the north to block winter winds, and deciduous trees to the east for shade once again. Tress on the south side of the house won’t reduce your energy costs because the sun is too high in the summer to be blocked by most tress and in the winter you want the sun to be able to warm the house.
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About six months ago, shortly after Danielle got me hooked on Tim Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Work Week, I discovered one of his video posts about some crazy shoes. These wonky five-toed shoes are totally unique in both their look and their purpose. You can wear them running, climbing, biking, swimming or just walking around town as long as you’re comfortable with getting a few curious looks.
However cool these shoes may be, they’re actually surprisingly difficult to get a hold of. Luckily, there is a shoe store up in Harbor Springs called Heart and Sole and they had them on a specialty rack. They’re currently going for about 80 bucks, but they are a great value! They are super comfortable once you get your feet in them, which takes a little technique.
As far as ergonomic benefits, they are great for several different aspects of your feet and ankles. They spread your toes apart which helps to counteract the curvature you normally get with more confining shoes. This also helps a little with your balance. When running, you put more force on the ball of your feet rather than your heel thus helping with your arch support and building certain ankle muscles. In my case, I have extremely flat feet and get really bad shin splints so these shoes have become an ideal preventative measure.
The one downside to the shoes is how often you’ll need to wash them, especially if you end up running in them. I would suggest 1 wash for every three uses and DON’T forget to let them air dry as opposed to sticking them in the dryer. I also used a little baking soda which tends to kill any extra odors.
You can find Vibram 5 Toed Shoes at BackWoods, which offers free shipping.
It’s that time of year again! I have to say, if it weren’t for the presents I got for Christmas, Thanksgiving would by far be my favorite holiday. The consumption of fine wine, tons of desserts, organic turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and all sorts of other tasty add-ons can turn any family engagement from bitter to appreciative. So… in a tribute to my second favorite holiday, I’ve compiled a list of online-accessible drinks, ready made meals, and of course decor pieces to help keep your holidays a little more ecological
To start the night off right, you’ve got to have some tasty wine. I personally am a red drinker, specifically Cabernet. I found this organic Cab that was rated Best Organic Cabernet for 2008. Fellow sommeliers Tom and Melody described it as “big, dry, fruity and bold” which sounds tantilizing to me. A great start to a sizable celebration.
Next up is the main course, TURKEY! This mouthwatering centerpiece is a popular item at Lobel’s organics and they’ve got all sorts of recipes and tips on preparation. I really liked that these guys had an entire FAQ section about how the product was organic. They also support Amish and Mennonite communities by buying up the free-range, organically fed animals.
I thought I’d skip right to my favorite dessert, pumpkin pie! I found this blog while doing my search for the ultimate recipe. I like Suzanne’s culinary vigor! I’m definitely trying the version with the Trader Joe’s organic puree as I don’t think I have the skills to make my own.
Finally, a fantastic feast wouldn’t be complete without a stylish table runner and matching place mats! Here is our Porter Table Runner with a lovely review from Ari Alderman about her thanksgiving needs. Thanks for the kind words Ari!
Let us know your favorite organic or otherwise eco-friendly thanksgiving item. We’re always interested in hearing new ideas on spicing up the holidays!
Total Read Time: 1.5 Minutes
I just finished a book about green building and one of the things I found most interesting was the number of green options in interior finishes and especially green flooring. It’s not something that we consider on a daily basis but obviously use daily. Yet there are a number of factors to consider when researching options, such as durability, non-toxicity, renewable sourcing, and transportation.
The ones that I thought were most unique were finished concrete floors, linoleum, bamboo, and cork.
When concrete is mixed with fly-ash, it makes use of an industrial by product and saves the expense of installing another flooring material. Also, unlike carpet, it doesn’t harbor allergens. What’s even better, is the variety of finishing techniques that can be applied. Choose the right installer, and the concrete becomes a two-dimensional sculpture!
People often refer to sheet vinyl flooring as linoleum. But linoleum is actually manufactured from linseed oil, pine resin, and wood flour. Its make quite a comeback after years of living in the shadow of sheet vinyl. It also has the ability to heal itself from minor abrasions. While preferable to vinyl from a chemical standpoint, linoleum most be polished occasionally to resist stains.
Bamboo is kind of a given when your talking about green flooring, but there are a few caveats. Of all the varieties of bamboo, only a few are appropriate for flooring. But it’s a great renewable resource and is durable. Bamboo matures in 3 to 5 years, while oak or cherry takes 40 to 60 which substantially reduces the impact on the environment. Another tidbit I learned as well is that bamboo is actually a grass.
Last on my list and one of my favorites, is cork. It has a beautiful finish and also has natural anti-bacterial qualities, is soft under your feet, and a renewable resource. Cork flooring is typically made from the waste left over after bottle stoppers are manufactured. The only downside is that cork only grows in a limited mediterranean area. Another fun fact, is that the bark of a cork oak is first harvested when the tree is about 25 years old and can be harvested every 10 years throughout it’s 150-250 lifespan.
Have you come across other great green flooring options? Feel free to comment below!
Ahh! Don’t look down!
Total Read Time: 3 Minutes
That’s all for now. We’ll keep you posted on where the next local Eco-Tuesday will be and if you live in the area, we’d love to see you out at the event.
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Continuing the theme of home improvement and solar technology, I thought I would focus on solar home improvements!
They also come in unique styles outside of the standard pedestal style. Some are meant to float in ponds or pools. You can have a solar fountain which doubles as a bird bath or lantern! I wonder if a fountain would fit on our apartment patio?
The obvious benefit is reducing your energy costs – “According to the U.S. Department of Energy, lighting consumption is estimated to be 22% of the total electricity generated in the US. Traditional lighting contributes to heat generation, increasing air-conditioning costs and energy expenditure. The most efficient lights are LEDs which reduce energy consumption and costs.”
So how do they work? Solar LED lights use photovoltaic cells to convert streaming daylight into stored electricity for powering energy-efficient light fixtures. The daylight energy is stored in high capacity batteries and released at night or during a power outage. Another cool benefit is that because solar lights generate their own power separate from the grid, they can operate in remote areas of your home where there’s no plugs.
Other solar products you wouldn’t necessarily think of include solar attic fans, water heaters, and pool heaters. Solar water heaters are actually the most cost-effective way to transition into solar technology. The two parts, the solar collector, which is typically mounted on the roof, and the storage tank. As far as cost savings, solar water heaters can reduce water heating costs on average by 60%.
Not necessarily related to home improvement, but still cool are portable solar showers and ovens for those into wilderness adventure. I was most intrigued by the solar shower that uses the sun to heat water for showers and washing dishes. Its really pretty basic though, a five gallon bag with a flexible shower hose and an on/off spigot. All you do is hang the bag in a tree in the sun and three hours later you have heated water! I know, I’m easily entertained lol!
What other solar home improvement products have you found cost effective or unusual?
Total Read Time: 3 Minutes
Dubai is one of the seven emirates and the most populous city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). What differentiates Dubai from other middle eastern economies is that its main revenue comes from tourism, real estate and financial services. Revenue from petroleum and natural gas contribute less than 6% of Dubai’s $37 billion (US currency) economy. Dubai is also known for Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest man-made structure. While Dubai has also attracted attention for it’s self-sufficient architectural designs. Below are just a few projects that I wanted to highlight.
Self-Sufficient Rotating Tower:
The Italian-Israeli architect David Fisher has just unveiled the latest design for his twirling tower, and construction is set to begin soon.
The building has been named Rotating Tower as the floors will be capable of rotating around a central axis. It will be continually in motion, changing shape and giving residents the ability to choose a new view at the touch of a button. The building is actually in constant motion as each floor rotates separately giving a new view of the building as it turns. The building also ensures a very high resistance to earthquakes as each floor rotates independently. The new tower is also the first building of its size to be produced in a factory. Each floor, complete with plumbing, electric connections, and air conditioning will be fabricated in a factory.
Even better, the 59-floor building will be powered entirely by sun and wind energy. And, the architect claims that the building will generate 10 times more energy than required to power it, thus making it a positive energy building. Solar panels will be fitted on the roof to harness sunlight, and a total of 48 wind turbines will be sandwiched between the rotating floors, placed so that they are practically invisible!
This past February, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce authorized the development of a “free zone” called Food City. A green landscape architect firm, proposed a plan for the city to turn it into an off-the-grid, self-sufficient metropolis. Ideas for sustainable urban planning include vertically stacked landscape surfaces, artificial roof landscapes, aquatic farms, and thermal conditioning.
Food City has been described as the “the marriage of landscapes and urbanism“. The project integrates a variety of proposals to decrease overall energy use — concentrated solar collectors, towers covered in thin-film photovoltaic cells, and methane harvesting through sewage percolation tanks. Water conservation measures will also be critical for off-the-grid survival in Dubai, like atmospheric water harvesting, grey water recycling, and application of hydroponic sand to minimize water loss. Essentially, the idea is an combination of nearly every urban sustainability initiative in the past few years. It’s certainly utopian, but it may ultimately prove necessary.
Considering Dubai is surrounded by seawater and relies on imports for nearly all of its food, there is a strong need for addressing the region’s lack of natural resources. So designers have conceived of a Seawater Vertical Farm that draws upon local resources to create a sustainable source of food for a cleaner and more self-sufficient city. Envisioned as a spire that branches off into soaring sky-gardens, the design uses seawater to create an ecosystem conducive to growing crops amid the clouds.
Many areas of the earth are subject to water shortages considering agriculture consumes nearly 70% of the world’s fresh water. Saltwater, on the other hand, is available in abundance, which makes sustainable desalination an enticing option for producing water for food production. Dubai’s lack of fertile soil and fresh water make it a perfect candidate for seawater farms, which stand to cut down on the emirate’s regular import of goods while significantly reducing the region’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Essentially the Seawater Vertical Farm will utilize seawater to cool and humidify the air that ventilates multiple greenhouses, while sunlight distills the saltwater into fresh water to provide life for plants. While the Seawater Vertical Farm offers an interesting source of sustainable agriculture, its implementation may be quite a ways off.
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No matter what room in your home you are remodeling, the key is to use only natural materials that can be reused or recycled.
For the counter tops, there are many manufacturers who make tiles that now use recycled glass. Natural materials such as linoleum can be used both for flooring and counter tops. The idea for any material used is really “cradle to cradle”, that every product should have more than one life. Don’t forget to make sure all the appliances carry Energy Star ratings as well!
Living Room and Bedrooms
Indoor Air Quality
And of course try to stay eco-friendly when it comes to the final touches, like home decor! I would be amiss if I didn’t mention our new recycled glass cheese boards, spoon rests, and candy dishes and popular soy candles. For the month of November, it’s also 15% off our organic bedding, which includes fitted and flat sheets, blankets, and duvets.