Category Archives: Economy

Renew your home’s spirit with Green Spring Cleaning!

Spring, the season of renewal and rebirth, is in full gear!  Flowers are blooming, butterflies are emerging, and love is in the air! Nature is truly looking it’s best and beckoning us to come play.  However, the grime and dust that has built up since the winter months is staring us directly in the face at home. Dust bunnies of guilt!  To get out and truly enjoy the beautiful spring weather bring some renewal and rejuvenation to your home by conducting a green spring cleaning!  With a clean and organized home you can truly enjoy the season by starting fresh and green clean. By going green with your cleaning you can save money, improve your indoor air quality and thereby improve your health, and help to protect the environment:

The Green Cleaning Triumvirate: with these 3 natural cleaners all your household needs will be covered for a very low cost!

1) Baking Soda: an all around wonder cleaner and deodorizer that can be used for a multitude of home tasks from cleaning carpet to removing stains on almost anything! It can be used to clean in the kitchen, bathroom, and all around the house.  Plus, baking soda is super cheap and never spoils! So get yourself a box of this magic stuff. Check out some great uses for cleaning with baking soda here.

2) Borax: a natural mineral based cleaner that can be used in a variety of ways around the home. Borax can be used as an abrasive for cleaning surfaces and grout, boosting laundry cleaning, to deter bugs and pests in the home (including fleas!) , and more. Check out some uses for borax here.

3) Vinegar: White distilled vinegar can be used for numerous household tasks from cleaning chrome fixtures, to getting rid of pests, disinfecting, removing lime deposits, cleaning out coffeemakers, and more!  Check out all the great uses of vinegar here.

To continue your spring cleaning journey here are some great ideas to clean and de-clutter your home the green way!

1) Clean your pipes! After a long winter your home’s pipes may need a bit of a cleaning.  To de-clog drains and pipes and to give them their seasonal cleanse use this eco-friendly recipe: Pour 1 cup of baking soda down drain followed by 1 cup of hot vinegar.  Wait 5 minutes then pour 2 quarts of hot water down drain.  To declog your disposal use the same recipe but half the amounts.

2) Get rid of old and unwanted clothes by hosting a clothing swap with friends!  A clothing swap is a great way to hang with friends, get rid of that bag of clothes you have been meaning to donate, and get some hip “new” threads for yourself.  You will feel renewed with your new recycled look :).

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Filed under Conscious Consumption, Economy, Uncategorized, Urban Sustainability

Scoobie Snack!

Homemade Dog Food

So Nate and I have finally made the plunge and commitment to adopt a dog. I am more than thrilled. We are big advocates of home-cooking for ourselves, so we have also always been intrigued by making our own dog food. I know we can definitely add more lovin’ to our homemade batches than the store bought. Plus, we are hoping that it is an economical option. From the recipes I have researched, it seems like some of our items can come from the bulk section in our local grocer. There are a slew of recipes on the internet and in raw cookbooks. This is just a basic breakdown. It is noted that dogs need 40% protein, 30% carbohydrates and 30% starch. Protein can be eggs, beef, chicken, turkey, fish or pork. Starch can be rice, pastas, potatoes, oatmeal and anything else you may think of, while carbohydrates are vegetables.

After researching some articles, I was led to www.bornfreeusa.org. This website is not for the faint at heart. They delve into the gruesome details of what is put into commercially made pet food. This shows why so many pets develop tumors and cancers, among other illnesses. Just to give you a taste, the pet food industry is an extension of the human food and agriculture industries. The slaughterhouses have found a way to make a profit on their waste, which is considered “unfit for human consumption.” Some of these unfit ingredients include intestines, heads, hooves, udders, and the possibility of diseases and cancerous animal parts. Rancid meat and oils exist in pet foods. Tons of bacteria exists and is never cooked out during the processing of making pet food. Sometimes, the processing of the food, brings out more bacteria than it kills. However, the pet food market has been swimming in $15 billion annually in profit. Close to all pet food brands are dominated by a bigger entity. Nestle owns Purina, and more. Del Monte owns Meowmix, Kibbles n’ Bits ad much more. Masterfoods bought out Mars which owned Pedigree, Sheba and more. Proctor and Gamble purchased Iams Company. Colgate-Palmolive bought Hill’s Science Diet. Private labelers who make food for Wal-Mart and Krogers are just as grotesque. They have been involved in may recalls in pet food that has killed and sickened many animals. Some of these big names are sometimes no different from each other; literally. Some have joined together to buy their ingredients in bulk, one company processes everything, because it cheaper and they slap a couple of different names on the packaging. It does not sound any different from the many issues we as humans face in our society and in our government, however, we sometimes do not look into the other products or aspects these corporations are thriving on.

What began as a simple curiosity into making dog food, turned into a world of eye opening. Sometimes things that we think we know, but once the gritty details are revealed, it tends to have a whole new impact. Therefore, I think Nate and I will stick to making homemade dog food. I do believe there are some good brands at the natural grocery stores that are aware and humane, but I think it will be fun to make our own. If you want more facts just visit www.bornfreeusa.org and they will tell you what labeling on the packaging means for you to better determine what is best for your pet.

If you already have a pet and would like to change their diet, just remember to incorporate it slowly. Start lessening what you already feed them and incorporate some homemade goodness.

Enjoy.

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Filed under Community, Conscious Consumption, Economy, Natural Health, Uncategorized, 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