Category Archives: Urban Sustainability

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

Get your Precycle On!

Well we already know about the importance of recycling, but what is this about PREcycling?  Precycling falls into the Reduce part of the old mantra: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  Precycling is the practice of selecting products and consumables that utilize the least amount of packaging.  Much like the adage of “think before you speak”, this reinforces “think before you buy”.

An easy way to light the fire to your precycling mindset is to check out the bulk foods section of your local grocery store, health store or food co-op!  Not only does buying food in bulk reduce a tremendous amount of packaging waste, but it ends up saving money too.  At many stores you can also purchase soaps, detergents, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and other personal products in bulk therefore reducing the amount of waste that stems from personal care products.  To find a local food co-op in your area that has bulk items check out Green America’s (formerly known as Co-Op America) Green Pages.

Many companies are now jumping on the green gravy train and precycling by reducing the amount of packaging in their products; not to mention saving tons of moola while also boasting their environmental responsibility to consumers.  While I am not a fan of Walmart, their move to demand their suppliers reduce packaging on their products has prompted many other retailers and companies to do the same.  More and more companies are starting to value the triple bottom line, but consumers must demand it for real change to occur.  Demand change with the power of your purchase and get in that precycle mindset!

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Filed under Conscious Consumption, Urban Sustainability

Howdy Neighbor, Welcome to the Nest…

I always told myself I would never do it, I would NEVER move into an apartment. Throughout my college career I lived in a beautiful historic cooperative house with a fantastic yard, a tin roof that played the harmony to the rains melodies, great beer drinking balcony, and the best hammock strung Sunday afternoon reading porch. I could garden, compost, collect rainwater, had city recycling and rarely had to use the air conditioner. Friends and neighbors were always around engaging in food and good conversation. Community was fostered and seeds of change were planted. I thought I could never live in a place that didn’t have these wonderful amenities which allowed me to both live well and be environmentally and socially responsible.

Well college has now come and gone, and I have moved from the small town to the “big” city and the reality of adulthood and post college life is settling in. So in other words, the luxury of living in a city and in a house that is affordable is not always a possibility. Therefore I have done what I said I would never and have taken the leap into true urban living; I am officially an apartment dweller. I no longer have the option to garden, compost, select my energy provider, or get city recycling services. However, I can ride my bike to work, utilize public transit, and am helping to minimize sprawl by living in a high density urban setting. As these realizations came to pass for me I began to ponder what more as an apartment dweller I could do to be more eco and socially conscious with the imposed limitations. I commenced my search for such information. I was disappointed to find few sources that provide such insight for urban or renter sustainability. Knowing there are others like me out there I decided something had to be done.

And as the story goes…Urban Eco Nest was born! This blog will be dedicated to small scale sustainability. Check out the Urban Eco Nest to discover the latest tips, ideas, news, and innovations that apply to sustainable urban living. Prepare to be flooded with the latest information in innovative design, technology, products, and methods to achieve sustainability on the urban level. I believe every scale makes a difference in creating true change. I encourage you to join the journey to achieving urban sustainability and to learn some great tips along the way!

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Filed under Urban Sustainability