Green Living Ideas is happy to welcome our newest writer, Jami Scholl. Jami is a Life Coach for WellBeing with a passion for creating beautiful permaculture gardens and food abundant communities. She is co-developing the area of PermaCoaching, and has experience in the areas where food, health and politics meet. She is an all-around creative, hiker, and a mom gifted with the superpower to to create beautiful solutions. Follow her on Twitter @jamischoll, on Facebook, www.MyEdibleEden.com, www.elanterra.com and on GoodVeg’s A Subversive Plot.
How would you like to have yummy vegetables growing in every area in your yard, even those that don’t seem to get a fair amount of sunshine? It’s definitely possible, if you grow the right selection of plants. Though shade has always been thought of as the antithesis of gardening for food, I have learned in the past five years of growing in a shady spot (one with only two to three hours of direct sun per day) is that it is possible
The best crops to grow in the shady places of your garden/yard include the following:
You probably noticed that this list consists mostly of leafy greens and root vegetables (plus one plant that is often considered a weed, although a very pretty and nutritious weed!) Many herbs may also be added to this list, as well as various types of beans such as green beans and lima beans, although they are not quite as successful as the greens and root veggies. Root vegetables do not require nearly as much sun as everyone usually expects, although growing in the share may delay the maturation of your harvest as compared to those grown in more direct sunlight.
Although this list does not include the vegetables that most people consider as essential to the garden– such as tomatoes, cucumbers and corn– the foods here will feed you and your household quite well. And if you do want to grow some tomato plants, these can be grown in large pots in the sunny areas that get at least six to eight hours of full sun.
Not only does shade gardening produce good good, it makes your gardening easily because weeding is nearly non-existent in comparison to areas which have access to abundant sun. The soil stays more moist with the broad leaves of the cabbage to hold in moisture. One last benefit I’ll add for food shade gardening is this thought – climate change is creating more drought conditions and given the intensity of the heat, plants are not easily able to grow in more desert-like conditions. With proper soil conditioning, shade gardens, with greater water holding capacity and less intense heat , may give cause to change how we eat seasonally.
And some additional information: don’t feel that all the planting need happen at once. If you plan your plots for a spring, summer and autumn harvest you will find that you will have different planting times throughout the seasons.
To create the best schedule, simply count backward from the estimated harvest date to determine when to plant. Another benefit to staggering you’re your planting is that you will have an overall more productive garden. Since plants have differing growing habits (celery versus a cabbage for example) you will be able to fit more food into a smaller space by inter-planting.
More homeowners today realize the importance of having an energy efficient home. A decade ago, heating and cooling expenses created the bulk of energy bills. Today, appliances also make a significant impact on home performance. By implementing a deep energy retrofit for your home, you can reconfigure the way your dwelling uses energy so it’s more comfortable, healthier and cost-efficient.
What is Deep Energy Retrofit?
A deep energy retrofit involves getting a professional energy audit of your home and completing the suggested changes to achieve maximum energy savings. A retrofit uses integrative designs that take a whole-building approach – it requires more than merely making simple, fast changes, like upgrading an HVAC system or using energy-saving light bulbs. The following steps are included in a deep energy retrofit.
1. Home performance audit. When a professional conducts a home energy audit, he or she tests all areas of the dwelling to see how air-tight it is and how well the systems work together. The tests conducted include:
2. Building envelope optimization. The second step of a deep energy retrofit is optimizing the building envelope so there are no unnecessary air leaks. To properly seal a home, you must align the pressure and thermal boundaries. The pressure boundary is the surface that separates the inside of the home from the outside. The thermal boundary is the insulation between living spaces and non-living spaces of a home. Other ways to seal a home include installing proper insulation, weather stripping and energy efficient windows.
3. HVAC performance test. By measuring your HVAC’s performance, you’ll learn if there are any leaks or other inefficiencies in the system.
4. Renewable energy sources. An energy auditor can review the different forms of renewable power for which your home may qualify. Such forms of energy can include solar, wind, hydro and geothermal power.
How a Deep Energy Retrofit Improves Home Performance
Image from EcoFriend.com
The last time I wrote, I was traveling around Japan, taking note of all the recycling practices that are in place countrywide and wondering how these practices might be replicated in America. One place in particular that I found myself most awed was Starbucks, the iconic American coffee house.
The difference of recycling that Starbucks offers in Tokyo versus here in the USA is large; and quite honestly, I’m appalled that Starbucks doesn’t offer the same kind of recycling in the US. While recycling might be more ingrained into the culture in Japan, Starbucks is an American company, and for all of their “sustainable and responsible business practice as a company” talk, they should reflect it globally, not just depending on local cultural practices and rules. (I did read their website, by the way, and they are working to have Front Store Recycling in every store by 2015.)
I also don’t want to sound like I’m bashing Starbucks, because I am not. I enjoy my caramel macchiato and instant coffee packets as much as the next person, but with each coffee cup stopper I’ve been given to keep my beverage warm, I’ve wondered, “how am I going to recycle this thing?”
Upon my return to the United States in January, I discovered that Starbucks was selling a reusable grande size plastic cup, complete with lid, for $1.00. Every time I visit Starbucks and bring my cup, I receive a $.10 discount! Hardly a deal, but I compare it to bringing my own bag to Whole Foods when I shop. It’s a $.10 discount, but it reminds me to carry a bag.
When I purchased my cup the barista told me as long as I didn’t put the cup in the dishwasher, I’d have it for a while. I’m proud to say that my cup lasted four months, even though an article on Forbes stated that the cup would last only a month. What made it even better, is that the plastic used to make the cups is a “5” plastic, meaning that while I can’t easily recycle it, I could drop it into the bin at Whole Foods for recycling through Preserve’s “Gimme Five” Recycling Program. Once that was done, I went to a local Starbucks and bought a replacement.
Now, this is all good direction and it made my heart just a little bit happier, especially considering that my personal situation is a bit rocky – I don’t have a kitchen – and I’ve been drinking instant coffee instead of buying whole coffee beans, grinding them for my French press, and then composting the used grounds – but I am still bothered that if I don’t have my coffee cup with me to use at various Starbucks around the USA, I end up with a paper cup and a plastic lid, and nothing but a garbage can for disposal. It also bothers me that many others won’t think to recycle the number five plastic at a Whole Foods; they may just trash the damaged cup and move on.
And so it goes back to my question of how do we make this a cultural shift without demanding too much from our American culture? How do we softly ask for people to make changes to their daily lives instead of making them feel like they are being forced to do? We only have to look at the recently failed attempt to ban excessively large sodas in NYC to see how much of a challenge we have ahead of ourselves. I know, these examples are two separate sides of a coin here, but my point is that that when people feel they are forced to do something, give something up, or act differently, they rebel.
I love that Starbucks is working to make changes and to then put those changes in the hands of the millions of customers globally, but the peril of climate change is real and we need to urgently work to make positive changes.
What I loved most about Starbucks in Japan was that I knew where to drop my plastic lid, paper cup, extra liquid, and paper products without a thought. I truly believe that that is what we need to implement here in the US. We need to make Recycling less of a personal choice and more of a priority, a cultural priority, but one where it seems like it’s always been the way.
If Starbucks takes the lead in creating action – where people automatically have the tools to recycle at their hands and then do it without thinking – then they can be more of a leader in this area and will impact greater change, even when you factor in those individuals who will not participate.
Packed house last week, making the Green Divas’ studio absolutely buzzing with boundless activity. The show was all about plastic — the good, the bad, the ugly, and what you can do to upgrade your own plastic habits. Green Diva correspondent Julie Hancher, publisher of the Green Philly Blog had some updates on her initiative to get her city to reduce plastic bag usage. Green Diva Mizar’s DIY segment was on up cycling the plastic materials that we already have around the house, plus Eco Ed Schwartz enlightened us about the harmful effects of the chemicals in plastic.
Meanwhile, please listen to the whole show and/or read about the details below!
She started the Green Philly blog in 2008 to encourage Philadelphia’s sustainability. She wants people to go green in the most stress-free way (hey, kinda like the Green Divas!). She wants to implement a fee for one-time plastic bag use to help consumers become more aware of their plastic use, while also educating them that they have a choice by making reusable bags widely available. Philadelphia has tried unsuccessfully twice now, but she is determined that now is the right time for this type of legislation. They have a city council person who will likely introduce it this Fall, so she is gathering community support and raising awareness about this important issue.
Listen to the podcast to hear Julie’s great report!
Eco Ed just came back from Hawaii. He was working with the mayor of Maui to help make their local tourism industry more sustainable. Now that he’s back and a bit jet-lagged, he was in the studio to inform us about what exactly is in plastic. So many things are manufactured with it, but there are many harmful chemicals in it that can get into our bodies. Bi phenol A (BPA) and Phalates are chemicals commonly found in plastic that have some pretty risky side effects in terms of human health. The chemicals leech into the food or fluid stored in a plastic container, and are absorbed in our bodies, but these toxins are known endocrine disruptors — NOT good. These chemicals are found in all types of food containers and packaging, shower curtain liners, outer coatings of many pharmaceutical pills, lubricants, modeling clay, waxes, paints, inks, and yes, even sex toys (hee hee hee). 96 percent of women have BPA in their system and babies are now being born
pre-polluted with these types of toxins. YIKES! Some alternatives? Ceramic, glass and stainless steel work great for food and fluid containers.
Get those canvas bags out too! Check out GD Mizar modeling Eco Ed’s bag in the studio.
Listen to this excellent Green Dude segment on the harmful effects of plastics!
GD Mizar is ALWAYS thinking of things to do to reuse whatever plastic ends up in her house. After ranting a bit about the plastic scourge and making us laugh, GD Mizar talked about a few ideas for up cycling and repurposing all those plastic bags that persistently find their way into our lives. She talked about her latest DIY tutorial and show she made some colorful beads by fusing plastic bags together.
Listen to GD Mizar’s DIY segment on creative ideas on how to reuse those plastic bags that you already have!
Anyone else feel that at every turn we learn about more things that are going to kill us? The berries from Costco are contaminated, indoor air is polluted, and now we have to wonder if toilet paper is toxic. A few stories prompted me to look into this issue, and I was actually pretty confused by what I found.
According to this article from Bottom Line Secrets, “Researchers looked at hundreds of samples of common paper products—paper towels, napkins, newspapers, magazines, flyers, tickets, luggage tags, business cards, envelopes, currency, facial tissues and, yes, toilet paper—and found that the vast majority contained BPA and/or BPS.” But why?
As we’ve all become more conscious of recycling, increasing more things are being recycled, including potentially contaminated thermal paper receipts (the ones from most grocery stores). This thermal paper (and potentially the ink) has a solid amount of BPA, and when it get recycled with regular paper, the final result is contaminated as well.
A scientific aside: For those of you new to this topic, BPA and BPS (bisphenol A and bisphenol S) are endocrine disruptors, a type of chemical that is often confused with our natural hormones. BPA can interrupt normal connections between hormones, and it has been linked to numerous diseases, including childhood obesity. It is most commonly found in the linings of canned foods, but also in other bottles and containers. It can enter our body by ingestion (like the canned food) but it also is transmitted through out skin too, which is why it’s important to NOT have it in our toilet paper! According to this article on Mother Earth News, “BPA is derived from petroleum [and] is an extremely reactive chemical that has the shape that any biochemist will look at and say, ‘This chemical will act as an estrogen-mimicking hormonal chemical [and] a cancer-causing chemical.’”
A related article on The Healthy Home Economist suggests that in order to avoid the dangers of recycled toilet paper, we should be buying toilet paper from virgin pulp. But is this really the best solution? According to this post from the Guardian UK (which is too funny not to post in full): “The tenderness of the delicate American buttock is causing more environmental devastation than the country’s love of gas-guzzling cars, fast food or McMansions, according to green campaigners. At fault, they say, is the US public’s insistence on extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply products.” And in this article from the New York Times, Greenpeace notes that, “Kimberly Clark, the maker of two popular brands, Cottonelle and Scott, has gotten as much as 22 percent of its pulp from producers who cut trees in Canadian boreal forests where some trees are 200 years old.” Apparently it’s the Americans to blame (again) for the destruction of forests for our poor, sensitive booties; in the same Guardian article Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council says, “I really do think it is overwhelmingly an American phenomenon. People just don’t understand that softness equals ecological destruction.”
These 10 little tips and tricks will help save heaps of energy in the kitchen AND you will save lots of money on your electric bills throughout the year, too!
Here are 10 easy tips to help you save energy in the kitchen:
1. Get thermometers for your refrigerator and freezer.
Proper temperature for a refrigerator is 35-40ºF and proper temperature for a freezer is 4-5ºF. Any more or any less and you could be wasting energy and wasting food. Read more here about the proper temperatures and humidity in your icebox.
2. Defrost your freezer and keep it stocked!
If ice is more than ¼-inch (about 1 cm) thick. Defrost according to manufacturer’s directions. A thick layer of frost makes your freezer work super hard and is a huge energy suck! Once your freezer is defrosted and set to the right temperature, make sure your freezer is stocked properly. Keep the freezer mostly full, while making sure there is ample air space around most items. An empty freezer (ahem, bachelors and bachelorettes!) can actually waste energy. Keep it stocked with real food, or use containers filled with water to keep the freezer full (or bottles of vodka, whatever).
3. Clean out the vents and coils on your refrigerator.
Dust accumulates on the bottom and the back of the refrigerator, making it run harder and waste more energy. Use the fuzzy vacuum attachment and remove all the sticky dust to allow proper airflow. Read more here about how to clean your refrigerator coils.
4. Let food cool completely before putting into the fridge or freezer.
When you make your own soups or iced herbal teas, don’t put them in the refrigerator right away. Let them cool to room temperature, then store in the fridge. This keeps the refrigerator from heating up (and running harder!), and it keeps the food inside nice and cool and not too humidified.
5. Boil water in an electric tea kettle.
According to the always wise Umbra over at Grist, using an electric tea kettle is the most energy efficient way to prepare your favorite warm beverage. An electric kettle has a heating element in direct contact with the water, which means it heats the water more directly and loses less heat to the surrounding environment. You can even find really cool kettles that let you select the proper temperature for varieties of tea or coffee, which makes tea nerds like me happy!
Today in our series of Companies we Love, Green Living Ideas features Well-in-Hand herbal remedies, which has been one of my favorite companies for over a decade. I am so happy to be sharing them with you today.
I first came across Well-in-Hand over a decade ago when struggling with skin issues and yeast infections issues. After trying a million remedies for both problems, I found Well-in-Hand. It was as close to a miracle as I could have imagined– their skin cleansers and soaps cleared up my problematic skin, and their Yeast Rescue cleared up my lady problems. Since that time both issues are mostly solved, thankfully; but I am a little bit sad that I don’t have a need for these awesome products any longer! These really are the best herbal remedies I’ve ever tried!
Well-in-Hand Herbal remedies began in the early 1990s with Master Herbalist Linda Doby. She created a healing oil that won many awards, which brought her company into the spotlight. Using only the freshest, purest ingredients in their formulations– and blending each batch by hand!– Linda ensures the potency and effectiveness of each product. Not only are the products totally natural and super effective, their company is cruelty free too! They note on their site that, “Critters play no role in our research, production, or testing of Wellinhand products.”
As found on their website, their philosophy is simple:
Well-in-Hand’s product list is extensive: they feature the best herbal remedies for lice, yeast, herpes, warts, pain management, and sleep issues too. Their products come in various sizes and flavors. In my early 20s I was pretty dependant upon the Zero Zitz line of toners and cleansers, especially the Tangerine Vanilla flavor, which not only made my skin look amazing, it made me smell like dessert! I’ve also had many years of great luck with the Yeast Rescue products. Rather than relying on potentially dangerous chemicals in your most sensitive areas, Yeast Rescue uses natural olive, calendula, and camomile to naturally balance the flora in the vagina and heal a yeast infection almost immediately (yes, really!). I’ve also seen the affects of the Wart Wonder wart treatment, which cleared up a friend’s wart in just a few weeks.
Note: This series of Companies we Love is totally real! We always want to share the work that great companies are doing to produce quality items that are good for both people and the planet.
For more companies featured in this series include:
With so many technological advancements readily available at our fingertips, modern life has never been easier. An example of this technology is the adoption of home automation systems. These smart homes not only save you money, they can make your home more eco friendly. Here are some reasons that it might be a good choice for your home.
Home automation allows you to control a selection of your home’s features while you are away. Many systems work with only an app on your Smartphone or tablet. Whether you’ll be away for a day or a week, home automation can let you control everything that happens in your home, including lighting, home security systems, temperature monitors, and electricity usage.
Motion sensors are the most basic home automation features. Although they have been utilized for quite some time, they continue to provide homeowners with a lighting solution that prevents energy waste, both indoors and out. Other systems can reduce the energy drain that appliances tend to create when not in use. For example, outlet timers and remote controls can be controlled via Wi-Fi so you’ll be able to easily control which appliances should be left on while you are gone. Many companies also offer systems that track the amount of power used in the home, which gives you a better idea of your electricity usage and lets you make smarter decisions about power consumption. Some studies show that you can enjoy up to 40% – 60% reduction in your overall energy use with home automation system.
Home automation will not only help you save energy and money, combining home automation technologies with a home security system can help you keep your family and property safer. Rather than worrying about your home security, you can go about your daily routine and focus on the more important things, like protesting chemical companies, building an earthen home, and growing veggies and cooking them into healthy meals!
This is a guest post from Lara Chamley, head of security at one of Melbourne’s luxury apartment villages. She conducts a yearly talk on home security and has recently started a business training women in self-defense techniques.
Hot time in the GD studio last week! It was 95 degrees and the air conditioning vents in the studio weren’t flowing – ahhhhh. We managed to keep our cool and have a great show anyway. ALWAYS fun to have Jeff Yeager, the Ultimate Cheapskate on the line to talk about how saving green is GREEN. He had some great tips for cool summer green living. We also got to talk about his new video series – The Cheap Life with Jeff Yeager.
Jeff had some great ideas for saving green, while having a healthy green summer. Please listen to the Green Divas Radio Show podcast featuring our favorite Ultimate Cheapskate to hear all the great tips (and to have a good laugh!).
We also had a wonderful GD Correspondent report from our fellow Green Sister (from the GreenSisterhood.com), Jenny Bradford (ConscientiousConfusion.com), who did a great report on her local March against Monsanto in Dallas, Texas. Please visit our post for this show to read more and see a video of Jenny at the march.
But, if I had to choose my favorite segment from this week, I’d say it was GD Mizar’s DIY Tiki Torches segment! Aside from gardening and other fun stuff, this is on my agenda this weekend.
I do not know why or how this works, but it does. I’ve been doing it for several years and while it’s a little time consuming, it’s well worth the wait simply because torch wicks can be costly.
1. Combine 1 Tbsp. of salt with 2 Tbsp. of boric acid.
2. Add 1 cup of water and mix very well until the salt and the Borax are dissolved.
3. Pour the mixture into a jar.
4. Add the string making sure it’s completely submersed. If you wish, you can cut the string to your desired length – at least long enough to hang down the entire length of the bottle you are using.
5. The string needs to soak at least 12-hours.
6. Remove the string and hang it out to dry. Now it must dry completely – some website “tutorials” will say 5-days. If your string it thicker then yes. If not, leave them out as long as necessary. The thinner string takes about 2 -3 days.
7. Braid three pieces of string together.
1. Gather your washer and your bottles. The idea here is to first choose a washer large enough to cover the bottle opening. More than likely the opening in the washer is going to be too large to hold the wick in place. That said, keep adding washers or nuts with smaller and smaller openings until the last opening is small enough to ensure the wick fits snugly and will not fall out.
2. Take the braided wick, bring it through the openings in the washers/nuts until you have just enough poking through on the top to create a flame.
3. Fill the bottle half-way with torch fuel making sure to saturate the the entire wick. This is pretty easy as whatever the boric acid and salt mixture does, the fuel easily travels the entire length of the wick. Get your matches and light away.
For images to go along with these instructions, more details and a great recipe for DIY torch fuel, please visit GD Mizar’s original post!
You can also listen to the 5-min podcast of GD Mizar’s DIY segment, where she describes this all in good detail!
Organic pest control in an organic garden can be a frustrating, endless task. Without the use of artificial chemicals and pesticides you need to be at your best to outsmart the pests. Luckily, there are a lot of unique tools and techniques developed to help keep pests off plants and out of your life, some of which are organic and effective. Following are two such techniques.
Floating Row Covers
You can actually block pests from getting at your plants with Floating Row Covers that are just white, porous, polyester fabric. This fabric is placed over the rows of plants in a garden and supported with wire cages to keep it from weighing down on the plants. The edges of the sheets are pinned to the ground to create a sealed cover. These work to keep the plants safe from beetles, aphids, cabbage moths, and tomato horn-worms.
Another tool help you gauge what kinds of pests are moving into the organic garden are pheromone traps and sticky traps. Pheromone traps put out pheromones to attract the male insects of a species which are then trapped and die. The sticky traps catch any insect that crawls over them. These traps don’t catch all of the pests in a garden, but they can indicate an incoming invasion so you have time to prepare.
Oil sprays are a way to kill pests by suffocating them as they crawl up onto the plants. Insects breathe through their skin, and when the oil covers the skin it blocks those air pores. Only spray in the morning and avoid spraying the flowers of these plants to keep from harming beneficial insects like honey bees. A Dormant Oil can be used to kill insect eggs and spores on plants during the dormant season, and the Summer Oil is used during the growing season to kill insects. The summer oil is lighter and evaporates more quickly.
Other insects may be a good way to keep the pest population down. This technique involves using beneficial insects to keep bad insects at bay via natural pest control. Beneficial insects are usually predators like Ladybugs, which are carnivores and eat other insects. Parasitic Nematodes can be used to keep insect populations down too. The nematode infects insects and releases a bacteria that kills the host within a couple of days. These nematodes are mixed with water and applied to the soil around the plants by the millions.
Organic gardening is a way to ensure that you get fresh produce that is not covered with pesticides. However, you still need to keep ahead of the pests. Use a few of these tools and techniques to keep the pests under control and your garden organic and pesticide free.