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eco halloween

It’s Halloween, every kid’s favorite holiday and a great opportunity to go green! Some of the best ways to make Halloween a more eco-friendly event is to really pay attention to how much plastic you are using. Plastic shows up everywhere at this time of year, from decorations, to costumes, to the treat containers your kids use to collect their loot!

Instead of giving your kids one of those plastic pumpkin loot buckets, get them to use a re-usable grocery bag that you’ve sewn or glued some Halloween fabric shapes onto!

Another thing to try and avoid are those throwaway plastic costumes that you can get almost anywhere these days. They barely last one Halloween and end up in a landfill – not decomposing ever. Make your kids costumes out of old fabric, and then get into trading costumes with other parents!

As far as decorations go, try to use as little plastic as possible, and if you can, try and save and re-use those plastic decorations for as many years as you can get out of them. Don’t buy new, cheap plastic ornamentals every year and throw them away once the season is over, the earth can’t handle all our garbage as it is!

Top 10 Eco-Friendly (Green) Jobs

Top Ten Green Jobs

Over the past couple of years I’ve had quite a few people emailing in asking about schools that specialize in environmental studies or “green education” so I thought is was time that I put together a thorough list of the top ten environmental (green) jobs. Included in the list are some great schools to get you started in your research.

1. Urban Farmers – Believe it or not, the number one green job is the urban farmer (gardener); and I must stress urban. Sustainable agriculture means no gas guzzling tractors and farm equipment; no petroleum based fertilizers; no genetically altered tomatoes that’ll end up bigger than my noggin. It means local, relatively small-scale production using organic processes; which in turn means there’s a high demand for urban farmers and farmers market coordinators.  Did you know that only two million Americans are farmers and that their age is 55 on average? This means that there is already a need for urban farmers and soon to be even more of a need when the current farmers retire. That is why the urban farmer is top of the list!

Schools
Stone Barns Center For Food & Agriculture
Evergreen State College: degree in Sustainable Agriculture
Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture: University of Oklahoma
Center for Sustainable Agriculture: University of Vermont

2. Forester – 1.6 billion people are dependent on the forestry industry for their livelihood. With no mediator the timber industry would surely cut down and destroy all it’s assets. With deforestation attributing to about one quarter of all global warming this is something we (planet Earth) just can not afford. This is where you (the new forester) comes in. Through a combination of conservation, international project finance, and development, foresters help people realize the transition from cut-and-burn to silviculture. Calculating the impact on the environment while educating on cultivation of higher value, faster growing species for timber or fruit for example. So much to learn, so much to teach with our number two spot on the list.

Schools
Nicholas School of the Environment: Duke University
Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
School of Natural Resources & Environment: University of Michigan

3. Solar Power Installer  – Where ever the sun shines there should be panels of photovoltaic cells capturing that energy, and you could be installing those solar panels or solar-thermal water heaters! And why not, the jobs are high-paying ($15 – $35 / hour or more with construction or roofing skills) and they already account for over 770,000 jobs globally. With government tax credits for business and home owners getting better and better the demand just keeps rising.

Information and Education
Solar Energy Industries Association – Events & Education
Solar Energy International – Renewable energy education

4. Energy Efficiency Builder – With 48% of all America’s energy use accounted from buildings, it’s no wonder energy efficient builders are number four on the list. The LEED has certified over 43,000 builders with their green building certification but over and above that, by far, is Germany’s Passivhaus and Switzerland’s MINGERGIE-P. With standards that use between 75% and 95% less heat energy US code. To make the US building code green enough to compare with the competition it will take not only skilled architects and engineers, but also a workforce of retrofitters.

Schools
The Earth Institute at Columbia University
Energy Performance Climate-Responsive Architecture: Arizona State University School of Architecture
Alfred A. Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning: University of Michigan

5. Wind Turbine Fabricator – This is a big one. 300,000 jobs worldwide. Since wind turbines are 90% metal by weight, that allows for re-purposed metal manufactures to get in on the action. Check out this wind energy job board to get started on your search.

6. Conservation Biologist -Teaching, research, fieldwork, non-profits. All avenues the conservation biologist can pursue. The preservation of ecosystems around the world — and to quantify the value of — ecosystems services.

Schools
Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington
Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University
College of the Atlantic

7. Green MBA and Entrepreneur – This one’s all about sustainability. With a green MBA you could be in charge of making sure a global company is being run in the most sustainable way possible.

Schools
Stanford School of Business
San Francisco’s Presidio School of Management
The Bainbridge Graduate Institute in Washington
Leeds School of Business

8. Recycler – There will always be a huge demand for the recycling of paper, plastic and most of all – steel. Therefore there will always be a need for companies specializing in the recycling and repurposing of these material.

Information and Education
Rumpke
Greenstar Recycling

9. Sustainability Systems Developer – This is the backbone of alternative energy systems. These are the software engineers who develop networks and create models of future wind farms or smart energy grids.

Information and Education
IBM
V2Green
WindLogics

10. Urban Planner- Making it easier for the public to ride their bicycles to work versus using their car with new bike lanes; creation of sophisticated transit systems; someone who thinks outside the box and can continually plan for the comings of floods, garbage and heat waves. These problems are what the urban planner deals with in their job every day.

Schools
Penn Institute for Urban Research
Department of Urban Planning and Design: Harvard
Nohad A Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning: Portland State University

Coming To London in 2012 – IKEAville

ikea housing development london

Okay, so it’s not called IKEAville, but, the Swedish super company has already begun work on building its first housing development in Britain, right beside the Olympic Park, just in time for the 2012 Olympics. The housing development is comprised of 1,200-homes in Strand East, built around canals by Inter Ikea, which is the company’s investment arm. The concept is said to be modeled after Venice, complete with moorings, a water-taxi service and a floating bar.

Harald Muller, who is the head of business development at Inter Ikea, stated that “it will be the newest and most interesting development in the whole area. The estate will be the antithesis of the converted athletes’ village, where it has been claimed properties are so close you can “spit from one balcony to another”.

The development will also be home to a 130ft-tall illuminated wooden tower which will also act as the gateway to the Olympic stadium and the Mayor’s “Hubble Bubble” 2012 observation tower, called the ArcelorMittal Orbit.

Almost half of these houses will be three-bedroom mews homes, all surrounded by courtyards and large public green spaces. Everyone will have underground parking, which will minimize noise pollution in the development and encourage the use of the transit system. The development will include a school, nursery and health and wellness facilities, a 350-bedrooom hotel, and 480,000 square feet of offices will also be built on the 26-acre site.

Costs for these homes have not yet been disclosed, but the developers insist that these eco-homes will be affordable. According to Mueller, this is just the beginning. “Our ambition is to be seen as one of the biggest development players in the U.K. in the coming years. We are able to invest huge sums of money — we are talking about billions instead of millions.”

Eco Friendly Lemon Polish

Furniture polish is a great way to clean and shine wood, it’s also a great way to breath in some nasty chemicals or really irritate your eyes. Not to mention the irreversible damage that can be made to furniture if the wrong polish is used. There is no sense in sourcing those beautifully reclaimed pieces of furniture if you are just going to ruin them with some random chemical polish you picked up at your local hardware store.

That’s why I suggest creating your own eco-friendly furniture polish made from fresh lemons! It’s really easy to make, won’t damage your antique furniture, leaves a wonderful scent and most of all won’t hurt the environment.

Here are the instructions for How to Make Eco-Friendly Lemon Furniture Polish:

You Will Need:

  • 5 Lemons
  • Measuring Cup
  • 1 Cup of Olive Oil
  • One Spray Bottle

Instructions:

  1. Cut the lemons in half
  2. Squeeze out 1/2 cup of lemon juice into measuring cup, making sure to keep seeds and pulp out of the juice
  3. Pour lemon juice into spray bottle
  4. Measure 1 cup of olive oil and pour it into the spray bottle
  5. Mix it up
  6. Spray and wipe on furniture for a non-toxic, petroleum-free polish for all your furntire
eco friendly candles

The first thing I like to do on a chilly fall night, is light a few autumnal scented candles around my house. I love the warm and comforting light they give off, and the delightful scents that permeate by little home for hours. Of course, I want to make sure that I’m choosing the best candles for the environment, so I did a little research on which ones are the least harmful.

But are regular candles actually harmful? Some are! Candle soot is a form of indoor air pollution. The US Environmental Protection Agency has found that paraffin candles release carbon soot, which in addition to blackening walls, ceilings, and furniture, can contaminate ventilation ducts and add potential carcinogens to the air. Never use candles that have metal wicks and look carefully at aromatherapy candles – as they are notorious for serious soot. Another candle ingredient – paraffin – is a petroleum product, which is not a renewable resource and is a polluting material.

For the green home, I recommend three kinds of candles: Beeswax, soy and palm oil. Beeswax candles smell wonderful, they are nontoxic, soot-free, and non-allergenic. They’re completely renewable and they burn much longer than regular paraffin candles. Candles made from soybean-based wax are often vegan, they do not create and they are biodegradable. They also super slow burners – so they will last longer, making them far more economical! Palm oil candles get their wax comes from coconuts so they are wonderfully renewable. They burn super clean and they last a really long time.

Read the label carefully, especially if you are vegan. Many candles are made with stearic acid, which is an animal-derived fat that comes from meatpacking plants.

thanksgiving-global-local

Thanksgiving is a time to be with family and friends, to enjoy each others company and be thankful for everything you enjoy day to day. It’s actually the perfect holiday to make eco-friendly choices, as one of the things we must be most thankful for, is the planet we all live on.

One of the easiest ways to go green on Thanksgiving is by getting a free-range turkey. Free range turkeys come from farms that treat animals fairly and that don’t use hormones in the animal’s feed. Stores such as Whole Foods and Williams and Sonoma sell free-range turkeys or you could also find one from a local free-range farm.

Once you’ve gotten your turkey, try to shop local and organic for the rest of your meal too – milk, cheese, vegetables and fruits. Something you could try is called the 100-Mile Challenge from Treehugger, which asks that you try and get all the food for your Thanksgiving dinner using only ingredients found within 100 miles of your home.

If you have kids, a trip to a local market or farm is really educational. Your kids can find out where our food comes from, and best of all, they get to pick the food from the harvest for their special, local dinner!

reclaimed dining room table

When you start to make the move towards an eco-friendly house, you want to choose products that are built with our planet’s well-being in mind. This means you want to choose furniture and decorative items that are recycled, reclaimed, or made from sustainable materials that have been responsibly harvested. Luckily for you, there are now more companies than ever than strive to design and build these kinds of pieces for your home.

The dining room is a great place to start when going eco-friendly in design choices. Take for example this incredible Drop dining table from Structured Green. It’s called the Drop table, because the wood that is used to make it comes from the extra discarded wood pieces that are “dropped” on the floor of the shop! Gorgeous wood like mahogany, cypress and bamboo, are all used together to create this eye-catching table.

Roost is another company that makes amazing furniture from older wood, like this reclaimed wood dining room table, which is made from railroad ties from India. They’ve added some simple steel legs, and created a simple, amazing, and eco-friendly solution for your dining room.

Cleaning Your Fireplace

fireplace cleaning

As winter rolls in, it’s a time to reflect on one of the best things about winter, a warm, crackling fire. If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace in your home, you want to start using it as soon as you seen the leaves start to turn.

It’s a good idea to start the season with a clean fireplace. Make sure that all the debris and ash has been removed, even using a dust buster to get it completely free of ash.

Then, remove the fireplace screens, or andirons, and take them outside to clean them with a wire brush – this is a dirty job, so make sure you aren’t wearing your favorite white t-shirt! Once that’s clean, use your wire brush to clean and soot and tar from the damper as well as lower part of the chimney, before moving on to the main firebox.

You can clean out the main firebox using a simple mixture of vinegar, water and cleaning powder, and getting at the grime with a hard-bristle brush. Inside the firebox itself you do NOT want to use that wire brush. Once its been scrubbed to your satisfaction, rinse it out with warm water, and you’re ready for your first fire of the season!

Care and Cleaning of Bamboo Rugs

bamboo rug cleaning

Bamboo rugs are a wonderful and eco-friendly choice for your home. They come in a wide variety of sizes and patterns, and will bring your space a natural, organic and warm feel. It’s important to remember that bamboo is a wood product, essentially, and so some special care must be taken. Since it has a wood-like grain, it is more susceptible to scratches and nicks, so keep sharper edges away from the rug. Eco-Friendly bamboo rugs should not really be used outside unless the area is covered. Rain and other elements can cause exposure damage to the bamboo, and should be avoided.

To clean your bamboo rugs, keep it simple. We recommend that you just use water and a mop. First, give the rug a good shake outside and then a thorough once-over with a dampened mop. If you accidentally spill something on the rug, treat it right away. Blot any liquid spillage with a clean, white cloth to absorb the liquid and then dry the cleaned area with another cloth or with the low heat setting on a hair dryer.

Another maintenance tip to remember is to turn the rug around every few months, to make sure that foot traffic is properly distributed, and that one section of the rug isn’t getting worn down. To alter the traffic pattern on the rug, rotate the rug periodically every six months.

All in all, a bamboo rug is just as durable as hardwood flooring, and as tough and beautiful as other natural fiber rugs. Just take care of it, and it will last you a generation.

Recycled Stainless Steel Countertops

stainless steel recycled countertops

For the perfect eco-friendly design in your kitchen, you want to choose a material for your counter tops that is not only sustainable, but durable, and of course – great-looking.

Stainless steel is a super option, and there are more recycled sources for stainless steel than ever. It gives your kitchen a modern industrial look, as it is so often used in commercial kitchens. It is easy to clean and is resistant to the growth of bacteria.

The best thing to do is to try and get reclaimed stainless steel sheets at a fraction of the price than buying pre-built counters, then having them customized to fit your space. If not, you can find places that make their counter tops from up to 60% post industrial scrap aluminum combined with a resin compound. These can get pricey and start at $70-$80 per square foot.