Monthly Archives: March 2009

Keep Earth Hour going by slaying some vampires…energy vampires that is!

On Saturday March 28, 2009 the citizens of the world stood up and called for action on climate change with a simple flip of a swtich.  All over the world people turned out their lights for 1 hour from 8:30pm-9:30pm to make a statement to the leaders of this world that it’s citizens are ready to take the challenge of climate change head on!  Check out this video from Earth Hour 2009 rolling out across the globe:

Why not make every hour Earth Hour?  Well, living without lights everyday could be pretty hard in modern society, but we can at least cut back on our energy use right?  An easy way to save energy as well as money on your monthly bills is to slay some vampires…at least the ones plugged into your house!  That’s right, I am talking about energy vampires also known as any electronic device plugged in when not in use.  Even though the device may not be ON it stills draws energy from the circuit which leads to higher energy usage and bills.  According to the EPA the average US home spends $100-$200 extra dollars a year on energy vampires.  Just think what you could do with that cash!

Some of the most notorious energy vampires include TV’s, DVD players, cell phone chargers, computers, stereos, kitchen appliances like blenders, toasters, coffee makers and microwaves. How does one slay an energy vampire?  Do you throw garlic at your TV? No way! An easy solution to stop those vampires from leeching off the planet is to plug everything into a power strip.  Then you can simply switch the powerstrip off or unplug it when not in use.  This is especially important in the home entertainment and office areas since that is where many of the really thirsty vampires leark….muahahaha.

If you are in the market for some new appliances or other electronic devices consider purchasing Energy Star qualified products.  Energy Star products meet strict energy efficiency criteria set by the US EPA and the US Energy Department.  Energy Star rated products include products ranging from home appliances and electronics, to office equipment, lighting, heating and cooling products, and more.

So continue your commitment to Earth Hour by slaying those energy vampires and reap great savings for your wallet and the planet!

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Filed under Conscious Consumption, Renewable Energy, Urban Sustainability

Effective Microorganisms: Probiotics for the Planet and your Indoor Compost

We all hear about how great probiotics are for contributing to a healthy digestive system for humans and other animals, but could it be possible that these bacteria could have the same effect on the planet?  The company EM America has developed a series of products that utilize probiotics which offer safe, natural, and dramatic results in the areas of household uses, agriculture, health, and the environment! It is truly a cure all for the planet!

Probiotics, which comes from Greek and means “for life”, are living microorganisms that when administered to a host reap positive effects on the health of the host.  The purpose of probiotics to bring balance to the good and bad bacteria in a host.  The probiotic bacteria will reproduce until a homeostasis is met between the two.  Adding probiotic supplements to your diet is reported to have positive effects on gastrointestinal health, lactose intolerance, immune function, blood pressure, prevention of colon cancer, and more.  Now this same principle is being applied to treat the ailments of the planet.

EM America’s probiotic products can be used for everything from bio-remediation of soil that has been severely polluted, to waste water treatment, to treating odors in households and in livestock arenas, as fertilizer for gardening, as natural household cleaners, to prepare with raw foods, and more! As for urban sustainability, EM has created a product called Bokashi that is extremely helpful for those who want to compost in an urban setting but do not have a lot of space to do so, or have hesitated due to fear of odor and pests. Nobody wants their neighbor to say their house smells!

Bokashi is a fermented rice or wheat bran that has been inoculated with the EM probotic formula and is then dried and used in indoor composting containers to help food to break down quickly with less odor.  The probiotics in this miracle mix can even break down foods that many compost fans traditionally steer clear of, such as meat and animal products, due to the smell and pest issue.  This is because the Bokashi actually ferments the food waste so that there is no rancid smells!

In order to use this you need to purchase or make an indoor composting bucket.  EM America sells fancy Bokashi Buckets on their website, but you could easily make one for yourself.  All you need is two 5 gallon buckets, one lid, and a drill.  Check out this video on the EM America site that shows you how to make your own.  Once you have your bucket system, you pile the food in there, sprinkle in some Bokashi, and continue to layer food waste and Bokashi until the bucket is filled.  Let the food ferment for one week in the bucket, then after the waste has pickled you can add it to a worm bin, existing compost pile, or bury it directly in a garden with no worry of pests or smells.  It is as easy as that!  Plus, if you purchase the liquid version of the probiotic formula you can make your own Bokashi and then use the liquid for a plethora of other household applications!

So say goodbye to fear of bugs, flies, and smell in your compost and hello to a happy, healthy, and balanced system for the planet!

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Filed under Agriculture, Community, Conscious Consumption, Natural Health, Permaculture, Urban Sustainability, waste minimization

Texture and Color, ooh and you can eat it too!

ELT Inc. living wall in private residence

ELT Inc. living wall in private residence

Ever since moving to Durango, Colorado, I have become fascinated with the concept of indoor gardening. I am used to being outdoors working on gardens year round in the forgiving Austin climate. Durango is another case. I am patiently waiting until April 1st, to begin my new landscaping job. In the meantime I have been filling my days trying to pursue and fulfill my creative endeavours. That is where indoor gardening came to mind. Of course. I’m sure it is old news to many people, but the only indoor gardening that I was used to were the typical spider plants and ferns found in every office and most homes. Don’t get me wrong, all plants are beautiful, and actually spider plants are one of the top plants which help purify the air. The point is, no matter how small your space, or how cold the climate, you can grow edibles and beautiful, beneficial plants in your home.

There are countless varieties, so I will mainly focus on the concept of indoor gardening. I’ll leave it up to the reader to familiarize themself with a local nursery and have some fun mixing textures and colors amongst plants and vines, edible, aromatic or just aesthetically interesting. Just be aware of which plants may be poisonous to little beings.

First of all, my intrigue was sparked with a company by the name of ELT Easy Green. Their  creation was spawned from the idea of green roofs. Some roofs are too steep to grow vegetation, so they designed a system where they pre-grew plants and implemented them on steep slopes and then walls. While many of their designs have been on the grander, high-rise scale, they have designed a smaller version for the individual.

Their walls are a cedar box frame with cubby holes. The cubby holes are formed using a recyclable black plastic call HDPE ( High Density Polyethylene). This plastic is commonly used as pond liner. It has a long life and can be recycled back into itself fully. ELT living walls are easy to install and plant yourself. Their irrigation system is simple, allowing you to pour water through an opening in the top and it filters through the cubbies, to a catchment at the bottom. The water caught, can be reused to water the plants immediately or at a later time. I wish I had invented this!

If you cannot afford a living wall system, which currently I cannot, there are still numerous, innovative ways for you to grow plants indoors. If space is limited, then vertical is the key. Vines! You can train them to follow any direction or form, or let them hang from baskets. As long as there is a window nearby that allows about five hours of light, then you are set. Some vines that are edible include peas, passionflower and runner beans.

Other indoor vines include Purple heart, pothos and many varieties of ivy. Pothos is an excellent plant and will grow vigorously with little water and medium light. You can think of vines as another decorative element to your home or apartment and train them to grow all over the walls, mirrors or doorways. I have always loved the idea of the bathroom mirror being draped in some foliage.

Most plants which are variegated are good options for indoors. They can most likely withstand more shade than the average plant. Plus, the light and dark greens and whites of their leaves offer a dramatic contrast indoors.

As for other indoor plants, herbs are excellent! Especially in a window planter. Basil, bay, thyme, sage, rosemary, dill, parsley, chives, lemon balm, mint, oregano and savory to name a few. Herbs will definitely need about five to six hours of light, so you may think of a south facing window. Plus they will need more water attention. However, to make a mojito and use fresh mint from your window garden can not be beat. Or making pasta and garnishing it with fresh basil! YUM! The aroma from the herbs alone would be well worth the effort.

For indoor plants, take care to watch their water needs and know their water needs when you purchase them. They will most likely need to be watered more often than if they were in the ground, and an organic fertilizer would be beneficial to use on them a few times a year. Know, they are not receiving the same level of nutritive recycling as if they were in the ground. So, love them and nourish them. A good way to salvage some water is to use water from your shower, before you shower. We all let the water run a bit until it gets to that desirable temperature, well in the mean time precious water is swimming down the drain. Place a bucket under the shower head while it warms up and catch that water. Then move the bucket so you can enjoy a nice wash. Another option is to use the water used from steaming or boiling vegetables like potatoes, beets or broccoli. Even from cooking pasta. Let the water cool before using it on your plants. At least this way, you can make the most of the nutrients lost in the boiling process and recycle them onto your plants!

Be creative! Use anything for planters, just make sure the containers are big enough and do not leach out toxins. Do not use anything painted or stained. Although, you may use old plastic bottles, cans, water troughs from the feed store, terra cotta pots or make wood planters. Yes, the wood will eventually deteriorate, but not for a few years. You may also line it with some pond liner if you can salvage a bit and extend the life of the wood. Wine barrels! Not only are they excellent to use as a rain barrel, but they can be used as a mega planter! Look up a local winery and see how much they’ll sell their old barrels. I’ve inquired and the price was always pretty agreeable. Make sure there are drainage holes at the bottom of your containers. Plants do not like to be soggy, well at least not these plants.

I hope with spring approaching that this will inspire some people to bring some color and life into their homes, despite the square footage. Being innovative with your plant purchases and designing where they go is definitely a fun spice up your space and beat out any winter blues.

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Filed under Agriculture, Conscious Consumption, Economy, Urban Sustainability

Credit Cards for the Planet?

Credit seems to be the word on everyones mind lately.  It seems to be the one thing that everyone wants, but no seems to be able to get…unless your AIG it seems!  As for the rest of us, many people are worrying about finances in this shaky economy.  Debt is a big issue these days, and unfortunately we have been living past our means for too long.  With credit card companies targeting young people, personal debt has skyrocketed in past 20 years.  A healthy stable economy built on solid foundations is key to a sustainable world, and it starts with getting rid of personal debt.   If you have high credit card debt, now is the time to start thinking about working that debt down!

One way to do this is to consolidate your credit card debt onto one card with a lower interest rate.  If you have a high interest rate card with a balance it is going to take years just to pay off the interest on your card.  Now is the time to look for safer cards with better interest rates and more amicable contracts.  There are many cards out there that offer great steady rates, and some even do good for the planet!  The Working Assets card is one such card.  This group donates a percentage from each purchase you make to  support 50 non-profit organizations!  How great is that?  Not to mention it still offers the other benefits of other credit cards such as travel rewards, gift points, etc.  While I am not sure about the interest rates on these cards, Discover has come out with a truly green credit card: a biodegradable credit card!  So when you finally cut up and throw away that card, you don’t have to feel guilty about it sitting in landfill for thousands of years as a testament to consumer culture!

If you are like me you may be contemplating the tenacity of your banking institution.  Many banks out there are not secure, and remember some have even shutdown and their customers lost their money!  If you want a much more secure system to put your money into consider a credit union.  However, you must meet certain criteria to join some credit unions.  This can consist of being a member of a professional organization or being a member of a co-operative.  Credit Unions offer lower interest rates, member perks, and they do not engage in high risk loans.  So that means your money is more secure!  Check this map for credit unions in your area.

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Filed under Conscious Consumption, Economy, Urban Sustainability