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

TimeBanks

Today i attended a meeting about TimeBanks. I had never heard of them and didn’t even know they existed. I had read an article in the local rag which sparked my interest on the subject. They are like the barter section of craigslist, but far more intimate.

TimeBanks are organized throughout the United States. I am participating in the one in Durango. This is how they work. For every hour you spend doing something for someone in the TimeBank community, you earn one TIme Dollar. This is especially excellent if money is tight and you always wanted to take piano lessons. Piano lessons can be pricey, but rightly so. So, there is a woman that offers piano lessons, you can earn a time dollar by doing something for her, or for someone else. Let’s say you are a great gardener. You spend some time helping someone in their garden, you earn the time dollars for the amount of time spent helping and you use them to take piano lessons. Just like the monetary world, instead, with services. My thoughts are that the people who participate and the services they contribute will be completely genuine and open.

This is a great way to meet people and become more of a community. It’s a great way to offer your services and in exchange do something you have always desired to do. i am excited. There are people of all ages participating. No one age group is represented more than any other. People are offering babysitting, knitting, dance lessons, piano lessons, driving you to an errand, gardening skills, computer knowledge and the list pours on.

The group in Durango is just getting started. Their first plan of action is to spread the word and create a large community. Who knows what can happen from here. It is just so nice to know people are coming together to help each other. It’s a good feeling.

Check to see if there is one in your area. Go to the website and click on search TimeBanks. They are listed alphabetically. Enjoy!

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Drink up and Fuel the Nation!

…At least that is what some beer companies are aiming for.  According to a recent article in Environmental Leader, the companies E-Fuel Corp and the good folks at Sierra Nevada have teamed up to start producing ethanol from discarded beer waste!  Pretty darn innovative right?  Well turns out that Molson Coors, yep the folks that bring you Keystone and Coors, have been producing ethanol from beer waste since 1996 and produce almost 300 million gallons a year!  Woah!  Surprise to me!  Well, at least those beers are good for something, right?

In fact, it was some ethanol produced by the Coor’s beer waste that fueled the vehicles at the Democratic National Convention last year!  This was just one of the many green initiatives that was taken on by the DNC last year.  To further, the convention had green events happening everyday to encourage attendees to live with a lighter footprint.  As a planner I am so happy to see events like this, and to see so much waste be diverted with a little progressive planning!

So if Sierra Nevada and Coors beers are not your thing, you can always reduce your beer’s footprint by buying organic beer, locally brewed beer, or even brewing your own!  Check out BeerTown.org to find a local brewery in your area and help save some transportation resources while supporting your local economy.  If you enjoy projects and libation, then home brewing your own organic beer may be for you!  Check out Seven Bridges Co-operative for all your home brewing needs.

So drink up folks and re-power America!


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Filed under Conscious Consumption, Renewable Energy

Carrotmob

carrotmob

So, one day while I was perusing the internet, I stumbled across a group called Carrotmob. They are incredible. They are a group of individuals who believe global warming is a real problem. They also believe that corporations and businesses use the most energy and would do anything for money. That being the problem and solution; they would do anything for money.

For their first event they polled 23 liquor stores in a San Francisco neighborhood. They told these liquor stores that they would bring a crowd of people to buy from them, if they would give a portion of their sales that day towards making their business more energy-efficient. The liquor store that bid the highest percentage, at 22%, won the deal. So, Carrotmob brought in an environmental specialist to investigate the store, it’s energy consumption and the appliances being used. As a result, the environmental specialist provided an estimate as to how much money it would take to make the liquor store energy efficient.

The big day arrived, a Saturday afternoon and a crowd lined the entire block leading to the entrance of the liquor store. Two hours later the last people entered the store to buy some goodies. Luckily, the liquor store sold food and household items as well. People from the crowd were interviewed and all seemed genuinely motivated and touched that an organized buying event could have so much impact. Talks of moving to bigger corporations and making other demands started to sprout.

The store, owned by the Lee family, stated that their average weekday earnings equaled $1800-$2000 and their average weekend earnings equaled $3000. Their hopes were to earn $5000 the day of the Carrotmob event. Believe it or not, they earned over $9000. Three hundred sixty-six pounds of food that was bought, was donated to the San Francisco area food bank. With the help of rebates, enough money was raised for the store to completely redo its light system, lamps, ballasters, pay for the labor for the retrofit, buy new gaskets for the refrigerators and pay the hazardous waste disposal fee.

How incredible is that! All it takes is some organization and bringing people together to demand for greener business choices. Take it to the corporate level and let’s see what can happen. Funny enough, we are the consumers and the reason why things are created. That’s a pretty good position to be in. Let’s collect our money and start negotiating!

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Filed under Community, Conscious Consumption

Meet the New Urban Eco Nester!

Please welcome Kasi Schnell to the Urban Eco Nest!  This lady bird is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to sustainability and green living and will be a co-nester on this blog.  Check out her biography on the Nesters Page and look out for her posts!

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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