12
May

The Scoop on Indoor Air Pollution

by Tiffany in A Green Home

When you think about all the pollutants we breathe outside from the cars, factories, and businesses all around us it may come as a shock to know that in general, INDOOR air pollution is more likely to be a problem for us. Not only do the indoors have their own serious issues, as much as 25% of outdoor pollution can follow us indoors. Inside of doors you will actually find 2 to 5 times the amount of air pollution. Scary! Think about how many hours we spend inside. According to the graphic below it is 90% of our time.

What exactly are we breathing in during that 90%?

Dust mites, pollen, pesticide residue, carbon monoxide, pet dander, VOCs from furniture and paint, dust, mold, mildew, radon, carbon dioxide, car fumes, and much more. Yuck!

The healthy air checklist highlights some ways you can clean up indoor air and it serves as a great reminder about what products to avoid so we can make our homes less toxic. With a few changes in some of our habits and our consumer spending we can clean up our indoor air!

Indoor Air Pollution Infographic

Indoor Air Pollution infographic from AirFilterBuy.com

11
May

Growing Healthy Minds – Why Gardening is Educational

by Tiffany in Gardening

Why Gardening is EducationalGardening is more than just a fun and productive activity. It is more than just a weekend hobby or a way to add a little extra food to the budget menu. For homeschoolers and for those interested in furthering the practical education of their children, it is also a great activity for helping kids to learn. Kids who garden and learn how to feed themselves and nurture the soil around them are learning practical life skills. It makes for a “groundbreaking” education.

How so? Here are some of the ways. Gardening:

Teaches Planning and Goal Setting – Great gardens actually begin months before the digging, planting, and harvesting. It is not only a great lesson in patience, it is also instrumental in teaching them that good things come to those who have goals and plans. Help your kids lay out their garden plan and decide which plants will go where, keeping in mind that companion planting will help a garden thrive. They also need to think about ways to attract pollinators and which plants and flowers will work best. They are creating a balanced mini ecosystem and that doesn’t happen by accident.

Teaches Them to Grow Food – Recessions happen. Times get tough and we need to live frugally and on less. It is always advantageous to know how to grow your own food. Relying on grocery stores exclusively makes you a somewhat of a slave. Growing food on the other hand teaches self sufficiency and survivalism.

Teaches Math Skills – Do some simple math to determine how much money it took to grow the garden and how much you saved by not purchasing that same food at the grocery store. Kids can also calculate square footage, create garden plan blueprints, measure spacing between plants, plot plant growth, and calculate how much wood is needed for raised beds.

Teaches Language Arts – Small children can read garden themed storybooks and then plant what they’ve read about. Older kids can be called upon to research native plants species, weed and pest control tactics, and other topics such as biodiversity and permaculture.

Teaches Science – What better classroom than a garden? Kids can learn about rainfall, climate change, life cycles, seasons, insects, animals, and soil conditions just to name a few.

You may just want to get the kids involved in gardening to make them more well rounded individuals. That is an awesome goal. If you are interested in pursuing the garden as an educational tool with some sort of curriculum then I suggest starting with this school garden curriculum. Also the book The Garden Classroom: Hands-On Activities in Math, Science, Literacy, and Art is amazing. Enjoy!

 

30
Apr

Sweat Green – Eco Friendly Gym Gear

by Tiffany in Eco Tips

Eco Friendly Gym Gear

When you think of helping the environment picking the right gym gear is not usually the first thing that comes to mind, but eco friendly gym gear can be a big step towards living a greener existence. Just think about how many people go to gyms each day. Each of those people might be packing a big bag full of stuff that they will use while they are there. Think about all the folks who have home gyms. It really adds up.

Lots of the gym gear you see is made from plastic, even the clothing. While I may not be able to avoid all plastic and other planet-cringing materials, I like to think that you can keep it to a minimum with some careful planning. It also goes to follow that someone who cares about planetary health will also want items that are healthier on a personal level too. The exercise industry has sprung onto the green living bandwagon with aplomb, generating a whole host of eco-friendly equipment and gear that can be used by those who want to integrate green living into every aspect of their lives.

So what eco friendly options can you find to replace the mainstream gym bag and its contents?

The Eco Friendly Gym Bag – If you walk down the isle of a Wal-Mart or a Target to find a gym bag you will like end up with some sort of polyester (from plastic) gym bag. I have avoided this issue by just making do with a reuseable shopping bag I already had. I think it is made of some poly material but it is not new. If I do decide to get another one at some point I already have my eye on one made from recycled materials… this one from Gaiam. To hold wet things like swim suits you could get a wet bag like is used for diapers but I have just opted to wrap my wet stuff in my towel and hang it when I get home.

Organic Towels – If you have any beach towels at home you can just grab one of those to use after some pool time. If not you may want to check into organic beach towels like these from DreamSacks. They are made from bamboo and cotton. If you need something smaller, perhaps for yoga or the treadmill, a small hand towel from your towel closet will work or you can get a small bamboo gym towel.

Sustainable Workout Clothes – Workout clothing that is ‘environmentally conscious’ is widely available now; all it takes is a little research.  Keep your eye out for workout clothes made from organic and natural fibers OR recycled materials which are great for removing moisture. A minimal amount of synthetic fibers is preferred but sometimes you need something that wicks better than natural fibers and that is where recycled synthetics come in. Just be aware that synthetic fibers can become really stinky over time.

If you want to take it a step further, check into the businesses that sell or produce the products and make certain that they have sustainable business models and/or fair labor practices that correlate with your own world view.  Patagonia and Gaiam are two companies that are known for their eco-friendly practices and ideals. I love yoga pants, which is what I wear. They’re organic!

Eco Gym Shoes – Footwear is another area where you can choose eco-friendly products.  The same ideals as those expressed in workout clothing apply, make sure that the products and company fit with your ecological ideals. One that comes to mind is the Green Silence. It is made with soy-based inks and recycled materials. The packaging is also 100% post-consumer recycled. I have read numerous reviews of them and all have been favorable. I also really like barefoot shoes and wrote a whole post about those and Okabashi recycled flip-flops for the gym showers and locker room.

Eco Water Bottles – It’s not cool to drink out of disposable plastic bottles so the best choice will obviously be to get a good reusable bottle. I love my glass water bottles but those aren’t very practical for the gym. This Klean Kanteen Stainless/Bamboo bottle would be awesome for the gym.

Other Stuff – Wood Earbuds and Eco Yoga Mats.

And if you really want to green your gym experience write a letter to management or chat them up while you are there about using green cleaners to sanitize the machines and wash the towels or using less chlorine in the pool. If their customers consistently make these demands they may just rise to the challenge.

How do YOU green your workout routine?

29
Apr

Five Tips for Reducing Paper Clutter

by Tiffany in A Green Home

Tips for Reducing Paper Clutter

There is nothing that says “clutter” like the bales of paper that swamp the average home. With just a few simple steps, however, you too can finally get your head above water and rid yourself of the unsightly paper clutter that seems to be a by-product of modern life and free yourself some precious space. While these are by no means the only ways to go minimalist when it comes to paper, by following these five steps you’ll find yourself well on the way to controlling the paper clutter monster in your life.

If you struggle with clutter in general I highly recommend reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It is the final chapter, the end all be all solution in my opinion. I own it on audio (no clutter) and I listen to it every couple months to stay inspired but in truth if you follow the method in the book, clutter just stops being a problem for you. I feel that every highschooler should be required to read it!

On to the tips…

Tip #1: Do Your Bills, Taxes, Investing, and Banking Online

One of the largest sources of paper clutter is financial paperwork. While there are still some individuals holding onto the idea of getting paper bills and bank statements in the mail, it is becoming far more common to do all of your financial work online. In fact, it is a rare business or bank that doesn’t offer its customers the opportunity to receive their monthly statements by email. I receive most of my bills via email too. I pay all my bills online via a business website or through direct online bank payment. I still have a book of checks but it will probably last me 5 years. When it comes to taxes, consider doing them online too. Scan receipts into digital photocopies so you don’t have to keep lots of little pieces of paper.

I track and make investments online and through my smartphone. I use an application called Acorns to round up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and invest the change. I also use Betterment (love them!). They take a specified amount each month from my checking account and invest it for me. I have been pleased as punch with the results and it literally took me minutes to set up online. I track all activity online and access my tax records there too.

Once you have made the switch, you can then go through and purge your filing cabinets. Make sure that you shred any paperwork that contains your personal information. Any paperwork you have left over after the purge you can keep in neat, stackable boxes. Decorative video and photo storage boxes are great for this. You can also scan these items and keep them as a digital file. If you decide to go that route just make sure you backup your files daily.

Tip #2: Subscribe Online

With the advent of smartphones, iPads and tablet computers it won’t be long until hard copy newspapers, magazines and newsletters will be a thing of the past. Now you can enjoy your favorite periodicals right on the screen of your electronic gadgets. If you prefer the look and feel of ‘real’ magazines and newspapers make sure that you rid yourself of those you’ve read instead of leaving them sitting in dark corners where they tend to multiply exponentially. If you want to save a single article, or two, rip them out and keep in a binder.

Tip #3: Organize Your Memories

Another source of paper clutter are mementos, things like greeting cards, letters, homework papers, kids artwork, movie stubs and all manner of other interesting things. It is understandable that you don’t necessarily want to toss these things the way you would old bank statements and dog-eared magazines, there is a way to reduce the visual mess. Simply buy yourself a number of scrapbooks and start getting creative. Condense all of your paper mementos for one year into one book. You’ll be surprised at just how much you can fit in one scrapbook, and the scrapbooks look great lined up on a shelf in your living room.

Tip #4: Be Selective With Your Books

With e-Readers so readily available now, there really is no reason to keep stacks of paperbacks, most of which you’ll never read again. With so many reference materials online now there is also no real reason to keep space-eating dictionaries and reference manuals when they will probably just come out with a new edition next year anyway. Instead, choose the books you want in your home to reflect your tastes and aesthetics. Display them proudly, and don’t waste your precious space on books you don’t need or want.

Tip #5: Condense Your User Manuals

With so many gadgets and gizmos in our homes and lives, chances are you sometimes feel inundated by user manuals and warranty information. The first thing you might do after purchasing or receiving a product with a user manual is see if that same manual is available online. Many times it is. Then you can save it to your hard drive and recycle the paper copy. After you have established what you need to keep, you can use a three-ring binder and a couple folders to store the others. Put user manuals in one and warranties in another. After six months you may want to revisit the issue and see if in fact you do really need to keep the manual for your rice cooker or toaster…if not, let them go.

It is vastly important to see how we can avoid all the paper coming into our lives in the first place and these tips offer ideas on how we can do that. After you’ve tamed the paper beast you will have less clutter and more peace of mind.

25
Apr

Ditch the Bottled Water – It’s Easy!

by Tiffany in Eco Tips

green living tipNo doubt you have heard by now that some of the popular bottled water brands are actually glorified tap water. There is just nothing like a cold, refreshing bottle of $2.00 tap water right? Not!

Save yourself some money and bottle your own “public water source” water in a nice resuable bottle. I recommend Klean Kanteen or Life Factory. Not only will you stop funding greedy and manipulative corporations you will also help to reduce the amount of plastic bottles entering the market and our landfills.

And if you are worried about the quality of tap water you can always look into a water filtration system for your house and drink your very own “aquafina”.

Do you have an quickie green living tip? Send me a guest post with your tip and I will post it here!