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8 Tips for Decorating an Eco-Friendly Nursery

December 19th, 2012 No comments

Eco BabyNurseryFrom dozens of dirty diapers to multiple baby bottles, new infants can cost a lot of money and make a lot of messes. When preparing for their arrival, consider how you can best care for your baby without harming the environment. Here are eight tips for decorating a safe, eco-friendly nursery.

Organic Crib Mattress

Most people don’t realize a lot of chemicals go into creating traditional mattresses. These chemicals can be inhaled as you sleep and since your newborn spends the majority of his or her time sleeping, it is especially important you use a natural crib mattress in the nursery. Latex, organic cotton and organic wool are all great options.

Natural Wood Crib

Cheap furniture made out of plywood and particle board uses formaldehyde glue in its manufacturing. According to the Examiner, you should look for cribs that meet the highest regulations for formaldehyde emissions. Most cribs manufactured in Europe or Canada will meet this standard.

Organic Bed Linens

Organic bed linens are a must for your baby’s bed. Synthetic bed linens can be loaded with chemicals, which can weaken your baby’s immune system. Organic bed linens also naturally repel dust mites and mildew.

Window Treatment

Blinds are a great way to make your nursery eco-friendly. They not only help to darken the room so your baby can sleep better, but blinds also help regulate the room temperature. There are many styles and colors of blinds to make your selection from. Consider choosing cordless blinds as a safety measure.

Natural Wood Flooring

Natural-wood flooring is the best option for your baby’s room because it is not made with chemicals. If you want a little cushion for your baby to play on, choose an all-natural area rug, such as one made from bamboo or cork.

Safe Paint

One of the biggest sources of toxins in a baby’s room is from the paint. That is why it is so important you use Volatile Organic Compounds-free and lead-free paint. According to Pure Natural Mom, VOCs have been proven to cause a variety of symptoms like dizziness and headaches. Long-term effects of VOCs include cancer and heart disease. Look for paints made from natural materials, such as soy-based paints. Also, paint your nursery at least two months before bringing your baby home so the paint has plenty of time to air out.

Homemade Cleaners

Use natural cleaners to clean your nursery, especially if your baby is with you while you are cleaning. Vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda can clean just about every mess you will come across.

Energy-Efficient Bulbs

Use energy-efficient light bulbs available from your local home improvement store. You will lower your emissions and save some money in the process. Consider building your nursery on the side of the house that gets the morning sun, so you don’t have to even turn those light bulbs on. The sun will be good for your baby’s health, and it will save you on energy.

About the author of this post, Dana Villanueva. Dana calls herself a world warrior and an earth conservationist. She comes from a family that believes in the importance of sharing information about our environment, with the hopes that it will prevent a larger global crisis.

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Have a holly, jolly (green) Christmas

December 1st, 2012 No comments

It’s that time of year again – Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over and it’s countdown to Christmas.

While you’re adding green to your home with boughs of holly, it’s worth trying to be green at the same time.

Here are some tips for having a jolly environmental holiday:

Reuse boxes you have around the house when wrapping items or shipping gifts, including shoe boxes.

Use recycled wrapping paper or get creative and use newspapers or paper bags from the grocery store to wrap gifts. Save the pretty gift bags and wrapping paper people give you and reuse them to present a gift to someone else.

Send electronic holiday cards.

Use LED Christmas lights to save on energy.

Instead of buying new stockings, decorate old socks (just don’t use ones with holes in the toes or that lump of charcoal will fall out).

Compost whatever ham and stuffing is leftover that you don’t want to eat the next day.

When the holidays are over and the last ornaments have been plucked from the tree, recycle the Christmas tree (unless you used a fake one). Most cities will pick up Christmas trees and other foliage free of charge and mulch the remains.

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Natural Destinations that Inspire Environmental Action

November 1st, 2012 No comments


A founding tenet of the environmental education movement is that to want to conserve and take action to save the planet, we must first appreciate and love the natural world in which we live. By exposing children (and grownups!) to the intricacies of nature, they begin to realize their profound connection to the rhythms of the planet.

That sort of understanding directly correlates to actions as simple as choosing the recycling bin over the trash can when it’s time to dispose of an aluminum can. People that care about and appreciate their role in nature will feel guilty tossing something to the landfill that can be otherwise reused or recycled.

In order to foster the relationship between individual humans and nature, we need wild, preserved places for them to visit and enjoy. Our national and state parks systems provide this outlet, but they’re often visited only on weekends and vacations. Fortunately, it’s likely that a wild preserve may exist closer to your home, perhaps previously unbeknownst to you. For over 60 years, the Nature Conservancy has been protected pristine wild lands around the world. Some of these preserves are only a few acres, while others spread for miles.

During my work travels, I’ve discovered a passion for visiting these places, most of which are only a short drive from significant towns and major metropolitan areas. Spread across the country through all types of habitat, here are a handful of my favorite hidden natural gems in the lower 48:

Aiken Canyon Preserve, Colorado

One of the beautiful aspects of a true nature preserve is that they’ve been protected for animals and plants, not necessarily just for humans! Aiken Canyon, just a short drive from Colorado Springs, is only open for (human) visitation on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. On the other days of the week, it’s left to the birds, over 100 species of which make this their home, including Golden eagles, Prairie falcons, and downy woodpeckers. There are also big mammals, from Rocky Mountain elk to mountain lions. The 1,600 acre plot of land covers a rich abundance of foothill terrain, providing a perspective on the transition from prairie to the Rocky’s Front Range that’s unparalleled.

Waubesa Wetland Preserve, Wisconsin

Literally minutes from Madison, this spring-fed wetland is a haven for migrating birds and waterfowl, as well as spawning northern pike. With cool, clean water originating in deep underground caves, this wild wetland is best explored via canoe or kayak, although visitors on foot should still be able to catch views of wading Great Blue Herons, bitterns, coots, and geese. A favorite escape for water-loving Madison residents, the 230-acre Waubesa is well-worth exploration as a destination in itself.

Apalachicola Bluffs Preserve, Florida

The last thing most visitors to Florida expect to find is a sweeping vista for miles across a river landscape, but the impressive sand hills in this massive 6,300-acre preserve an hour west of Tallahassee provide just that. Follow the 4-mile roundtrip trail through native longleaf pine forests, across streams, through sand hills, and through an impressive natural ravine and bluff topping out at 135 feet over the Apalachicola River. For hiking enthusiasts relegated to the flatlands of Florida, that’s hard to beat.

Sheldrick Forest Preserve, New Hampshire

Finding old growth forest in New England is rare indeed, but this 227-acre gem allows a walk back in time. Somehow, the preserve’s towering white pines, oaks, and hemlocks have escaped the logging saw for centuries. A hike through the preserves four miles of trail system will take visitors past trees with 30-inch diameters, along a steep ravine and ridge, and past the gently meandering Morgan’s Brook. Within an hour of Manchester, N.H. or Boston, it’s a worthy escape from the bustle of city life into a world still much like it existed when settlers first arrived on the nearby shores.

What preserves and natural escapes in your area inspire you to protect and conserve nature? Did an experience in the great outdoors help make you aware of the importance of recycling and conservation?

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Aloha, Recycling

August 31st, 2012 No comments
A new report out about recycling in Hawaii shows that recycling has gone up since the state started reimbursing people for returning beverage bottles in 2005.
Before the bottle deposit program was instituted, the landfill diversion rate was 41%, but it’s now  72%, according to hawaiibusiness.com. That percentage includes other items diverted from landfills, but the beverage program clearly has contributed.
And Hawaiians are finding new uses for many types of recycled goods. Green waste is being turned into mulch, glass is being used to fill potholes and build new roads and paper fiber is being used by local packing companies as filler material. When materials can’t be recycled in Hawaii, they must be shipped at least 2,500 miles away to Asia or to the mainland.
According to the publication, “On Oahu, curbside pickup has made a huge difference in diverting trash away from the landfill. After pilot programs starting in 2007, islandwide curbside recycling and green-waste programs were in full operation in 2010 on Oahu. In its first full year, the program collected 18,000 tons of mixed recyclables and 53,000 tons of green waste, representing a 6 percent reduction in municipal solid waste going to Oahu’s landfill, according to Honolulu County’s recycling office.”
Last year, 52 percent of all recyclables were placed in Honolulu’s blue bins. Honolulu’s recycling office estimates the county can earn another $500,000 annually if it can increase the curbside recycling rate to 75 percent.
Local businesses have been making use of the recyclables. Menehune Magic takes green waste from Oahu’s green bin curbside pickup and produces compost for sale under the “Hawaiian Earth Products” label. Crushed glass is turned into “glassphalt” by Grace Pacific. Battery Bill’s reuses car batteries, EcoFeed Inc. uses food for compost and to Hawaii Mail Box Services reuses packing peanuts.
Mahalo.
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Recycling Man

August 22nd, 2012 No comments
Green might not come to mind when one envisions the Nevada desert. But at the annual Burning Man festival, held in the Black Rock Desert, being green is highly encouraged.
The temporary community, which will run from Aug. 27 to Sept. 3 this year, includes a recycle camp. The mission of the camp is to get festival-goers to recycle as many aluminum cans as possible during the week, use reusable beverage containers as much as possible and practice the ‘leave no trace’ principle.  
“Volunteers meander through the city every day riding one of our new and improved & patented bicycle powered Recycling-trucks.  The trucks make it possible to collect 10 times as many cans as the old shopping cart version, in each trip,” Burning Man’s web site explains.
Burning Man’s recycle camp became an official theme camp at the festival in 1998. Since then, more than 800,000 cans have been recycled, with the proceeds going to the local school district.
The camp aims to teach those in attendance the “6 Noble Tenets of Waste Reduction & Recycling,” which, in the festival’s own words, are as follows:
1.The 6 R’s Respect — Rethink — Reduce — Reuse — Recycle — Restore!
2.Prepare! Leave sorry-ass packaging at home!
3.Never let it hit the ground!
4.Pack it in, pack it out! & Leave No Trace!
5.Separate! Sort your recyclables & trash before you discard them!
6.Create! Supposed “garbage” can be transformed into beautiful works of art!
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5 Ways To Teach Kids To Recycle

August 14th, 2012 No comments

Girls reusing a empty plastic water bottle

Teaching your children how to recycle can be a very worthwhile experience. Not only are you helping our environment, but you’re keeping the environment safe and healthy for their future.
Buying reusable products is the first step towards teaching children how to conserve. Instead of constantly buying them disposable lunch bag products or water bottles, buy them items such as steel bottles and plastic lunch bags that can be reused many times before needing to be thrown out. Kids are known to follow by example, so this could be a simple and money saving technique to show them how to conserve.

More often than not, families will use disposable paper napkins at the dinner table each night. By switching this with a personal washcloth for each family member, you can save money while also reducing your footprint on the environment. This is another simple method that can get your child used to be ecologically friendly.

By allowing kids to run the recycling program at home, you will be able to satisfy their want for being in charge while also teaching them how to recycle. Allow your children to recycle all of your plastic and glass used goods, and then you can even teach them about bottle redemption to really make their mind set on recycling. Taking your child to the bottle redemption machine each week will continue to motivate him to recycle while also giving him some extra money and keeping the environment clean.

Donating your children’s used and unwanted goods is mutually beneficial to both you and those in need. Make your child feel good about himself by donating to the poor and helping those in need. Besides the recycling aspect of this, its also just a nice gesture that many should do anyways.

Finally, trying to start a recycling program around the community or at your local school can be a huge way to get your kids to recycle. By instituting a recycling program in the school, all the children would want to be involved in it and it could have an excellent outcome. The school can also use motives in their program to motivate the children, such as rewarded them with a homework pass when a certain amount of items have been recycled. Starting the habit of recycling in school can carry over to your own home, eventually you will have your child teach you how to recycle!

Recycling can be a great way to keep the environment clean and safe for the future, while being an economically smart decision. By using these five tips to teach kids how to recycle, you can make a huge impact on the environment without having to put in much effort.

Kathleen Hubert is a blogger who writes on a variety of different sites.

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Recycling in Space

July 31st, 2012 No comments

Orbital space junk surrounding earth.

Recycling isn’t just something people do on planet Earth. Satellites orbiting the Earth are about to be recycled by the Department of Defense.

Old or broken satellites that have been floating in space are going to be repaired and put back into use rather than being replaced by new ones. Here’s how it will work, according to the Boston Globe: Miniature “satlets,” equipped with electronics, software, and propulsion, will ride along on commercial flights into space where a servicing spacecraft will then pick them up satlets and stow them approached an old antenna. The robotic arms of the spacecraft will then be used to attach a satlet and transform a piece of space junk into a working satellite.
“There are a good number of retired spacecraft that are perfectly functioning, but either ran out of fuel or got taken over by [newer] technology,” Seamus Tuohy, director of space systems at Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, told the Boston Globe. “Getting a rather large antenna up in orbit is a rather costly thing, so when they’re up there you want to utilize them to their fullest.”
The Defense Department estimates that 140 commercial satellites with salvageable antennas or other equipment sit in a so-called “graveyard orbit” and could be repurposed if the right technology were available.
More than 20 companies and government laboratories are working on the project, which has $44.5 million in funding through fiscal year 2013. If the project is successful, the agency estimates it could provide a way to get satellites into space at a tenth of the cost, with hopes of doing a demonstration in which they turn a defunct satellite into a “new” one in 2015, the Globe reports.
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From One Bottom to Another

June 15th, 2012 No comments
Most people know that all  manner of household items can be recycled and reused, but who knew that the diapers covering your baby’s bottom can be turned into furniture that you could sit on?
Several towns in Scotland are piloting a program by which disposable diapers are being collected to be turned into garden furniture, roof tiles and railway sleepers.
Authorities in the pilot areas will send diapers to a big treatment facility where the waste will be heated up to 125 degrees to sterilize and clean it. Then, the plastics and celluloids in the diapers will be converted into useable products such as park benches, road signage, railway sleepers and decking.
People in the pilot cities will set out their “nappies,” as the Scots call them, at the curb to be picked up. If, after 6 months, the program is deemed successful, it will be rolled out across Scotland.
A company in Canada and the UK that processes the diapers into useful products  is Knowaste (see photo above of their roof tiles).
Disposable diapers are a huge contributor to landfill waste all over the developed world, so other countries should keep a close eye on Scotland’s program for recycling them.
According to some estimates, 3.5 tons of disposable diapers are sent to U.S. landfills each year.
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City of San Diego Offers Free Tax File Recycling

May 18th, 2012 No comments

In the charitable spirit of tax season and spring cleaning, the City of San Diego’s Environmental Services Department has again offered to help local residents recycle their old tax files free of charge.  This marks the Environmental Services Department’s 10th Annual Tax File Recycling event, which has been opened since April 11, 2012 and will not close until April 20th.  The location is the Miramar Recycling Center at 5165 Convoy Street, where residents can drop old tax files off to be shredded and safely secured before being recycled.

Each resident is permitted to bring one “Banker’s Box” worth of paperwork, which is approximately a 10-inch high, 15-inch wide, and 25-inch deep box of tax documentation, which should be plenty for any fine American Tax-payer.

The Director of the Environmental Services Department, Chris Gonaver has said that, “recyclable paper continues to be a large percentage of all waste buried in the Miramar Landfill.  The City now accepts bagged, shredded paper through our curbside recycling program.  For those residents without curbside collection, or home paper shredders, this confidential recycling service ensures that all San Diego residents have a safe alternative for recycling their tax files.”

As the event comes just about five months after the city announced that san diego recycling rates were up to their highest ever at 68% which is a two-percent markup from the previous year’s number.  Hopefully, this latest tax recycling offer will help in at least a small way to push that ever-increasing percentage a little higher.

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The Earth Under Your Feet – Happy Earth Day!

April 22nd, 2012 No comments

Shoe companies are wising up to the fact that shoe manufacturing is decidely un-green. Some of them are making athletic shoes made from recycled materials or lighter-weight materials that reduce waste.

New Balance has made a shoe called newSKY made almost entirely out of fabric from post-consumer plastic bottles. Other than foam, small rubber components on the outsole and some water-based glue, the only material is the recycled fabric.

Usually materials like plastic and leather provide shape and structure for shoes, according to New Balance’s web site, but in the case of newSKY shoes, the heel was reinforced with strategic stitching along the back seam and a thicker weight of fabric. “When we doubled-up the material you don’t need any reinforcement because the material is doing it itself,” one designer said on the web site. http://www.newbalance.com/wellness/newsky/newsky-an-innovative-approach-to-shoe-design/

Nike is also trying to make its running shoes more sustainable, with a new manufacturing process that weaves synthetic yarn together with a knitting machine. The line of shoes, called Flyknit, consists of fewer pieces than other shoes. The amount of material wasted making each pair weighs only as much as a sheet of paper, producing 66 percent less waste than its Air Pegasus+ 28 brand, the company says.

For people who don’t want to buy new shoes, another way to be green is to repair what you already have. You can take your worn out shoes to the local cobbler or, if you own a pair of Cole-Haan shoes, that company will repair them for you. The company has a restoration program in which people can send in their worn pairs (for a fee) and have the soles, heels, tassles, stitching and hardware replaced. Allen Edmonds offers a similar “recrafting” service for worn dress shoes, ranging from simple heel replacement to complete restoration.

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