Junk mail is one of the worst things for the environment that you probably never considered as an environmental factor before. Just think about how much junk mail you get then immediately toss in the trash, just because you can’t be bothered to recycle it, or just don’t think about it at the time. Don’t worry though, you aren’t the only one who does this. The Center for a New American Dream says that forty-four percent of junk mail is thrown away without being opened, and only twenty-two percent is recycled.

The first thing you can do to stop getting Junk Mail is to register with the Direct Marketing Association. The DMA has a “Do Not Mail” list that their members use. Direct Marketers are not required my law to check the list like telemarketers are required to check the Do Not Call list, but most corporations that send out mass mailings use the service, as they realize there is little to no profit it sending their mail to people that don’t want it, and in particular have taken the extra step of trying to make sure they do not get it at all.

A really cool trick to handle your junk mail better is to use slightly different names depending on where you are putting your name. This way you can figure out who’s giving your name to whom. Let’s say for example that your name is Stephen Smith. When you get a subscription to Car and Driver, put your name down as Stephen P.F. Smith, but for your Road & Track magazine subscription put your name down as Stephen V.F. Smith.

There are many other ways to stop getting junk mails, but the methods I’ve listed are fantastic ways to start and get going on the right track.

Eco-Friendly Gift Wrapping

Tis the season of waste! Every year millions of people buy non-recycled virgin wrapping paper to wrap their gifts up. Hopefully, if you’re reading this, you are looking to change this seemingly harmless habit.

If you’ve had a chance to read my post on Eco-Friendy Christmas gift giving then you’re already on track to lowering your holiday carbon footprint. Next, to wrap those crafty home made or battery-less gifts, here are a few ideas to ensure you are being as sustainable as possible.

Reuse, Recycle, Re-purpose

Sure, buying recycled gift wrap is a step in the right direction but don’t forget that anything that is commercially recycled still has to be collected, processed, re-printed, packed and then shipped, most likely in a gas guzzling truck, to your local store. Why not do that recycling locally in your own home and reuse existing paper and packaging supplies. Here are some quick recycled wrapping ideas:

• Reuse packaging from previous gifts you’ve received. It’s not re-gifting if it’s just the box, tin or canister it came in!
• Old magazines are great as wrapping paper. Use old music or fashion magazines that your teenagers have given approval for reuse and I guarantee they will love them more than little elves or Rudolph.
• The relatives will love wrapping paper made from the kid’s coloring books or daily drawings brought home from school. Of course be sure to clear this with the kid’s so they don’t feel like you don’t appreciate all their hard work! Once you explain the benefits of green gift giving I’m sure they will be more than happy to help out.

Reusable Tote Bags

We all can agree wrapping paper looks beautiful under your brightly lite (with energy saving LED lights) Christmas Tree (sustainably harvested or homemade recycled Christmas tree) but you can also find some very beautiful, or holiday themed, creative, or just plain witty recycled tote bags which are always a great replacement for wrapping paper. The wrapping now becomes a gift in it self that they can use in the future in replacement of plastic bags.

Eco-Friendly Kids Building Blocks

In my opinion Christmas gift giving has become insane! For the most part people overspend money they don’t have to buy things that people don’t really need. Don’t get me wrong, I think giving a gift or two is fun and exciting, especially if you’ve made it yourself. But it has just gone too far commercially and there is too much pressure to spend, spend, spend. Even if you aren’t crafty enough to make your own gifts, you don’t need to spend a bunch of money to give a wonderful gift.

First we need to rethink our gift giving and look for gifts that:
• Are non-material objects
• Use natural resources in a sustainable fashion
• Have an extended shelf life

Here are some common gifts from some common gift categories that I consider to be eco-friendly:


Basically anything made from organic cotton, bamboo, hemp or recycled fleece would do. T-shirts, PJs, sweaters, long-johns, hats all come in these eco-friendly materials, you just have to source them.


Recycle all your old wax and make some cool custom candles for your friends and family for gifts. Or if you don’t have any spare wax lying around to recycle then you can purchase some beeswax candles with all cotton wicks or rustic pebble candles. Just be sure to avoid conventional fossil fuel based candles.

Kids toys

Avoid the plastics, which I know really narrows down your choices, but there are still the staples, the toys we grew up on as kids before all the G.I. Joe’s and a million different Barbie dolls. I’m talking about hardwood blocks and building sets. If you are handy enough you can make these yourself from scrap wood around the house, otherwise you can get FSC-certified blocks. Or art supply sets, books, a membership to the museum or local aquarium. Basically anything that doesn’t require batteries to run it.

Sweets and Wine

This one is an easy one, to make the switch to a more eco-friendly stocking just be sure to buy organic or fair-trade when it comes to your treats like chocolate or coffee beans. You can source out organic vineyards for your wine choices as well. If you have the time be sure to do a little deeper analysis of the companies you are choosing to buy from; just because it says “organic” on the package doesn’t always mean they are using all the best green practices rather just trying to jump on the organic band wagon.

Recycled Eco-Friendly Rustic Christmas Tree

It’s a debate that many families have around the holiday season; which is better for the family Christmas tree, real or fake? Both offer pros and cons but in this instance that opens up both options to preference, as long as you take into consideration some facts and make a commitment to your choice.

Real Christmas Trees

Many don’t realize that real Christmas trees bought from local retailers are in fact a sustainably harvested product. All real Christmas trees carried by retailers are not from virgin forests but rather harvested from tree farms. There is however the major downfall of the fossil fuels consumed to cut these farm trees down and transport them to your local retailer. Then of course, unless you are the previous governor of California, you need to tack on the addition fossil fuels you burn from your home and back. Unless you are driving your fully electric vehicle recharged by renewable energy. Baby steps, I know!

Don’t forget, if you do decide to buy a real Christmas tree make sure you check your city’s tree and post-holiday pickup schedule. You city services will pick your tree up, turn it into wood chips and recycle it as mulch. Wouldn’t you be much happier to know that the tree you spent the holidays with went to gardens versus the landfill?

Fake Trees

Fake trees also have there pros and cons. The cons are in the manufacturing process and the amount of fuel, mainly large amounts of petroleum, used. It’s a large impact at first but overall if you were to buy a fake tree and use it during the next few decades you would be reducing your carbon footprint versus buying a real tree every year. If you decide to go the fake root than be sure to find a tree you like, don’t go buying a new tree each year!

Rustic Recycled Home Made Tree

If you’re feeling crafty and can handle not having the typical green, but rather the real green Christmas tree, than you might consider building your own simple tree from lumber you can recycle. You can see in this post’s image an example, it’s quite simple to find scrap lumber around your home, town, or city and you can make the tree as simple or extravagant as you would like. You can still find ways to hang all your traditional ornaments and will make for a great conversation piece around the fire, just be sure not to keep it too close to the fire! : )

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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
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

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.

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.”

IKEA Installing Geothermal at New Denver Store


We love this news! In partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Swedish furniture giants, IKEA, will be constructing a geothermal system for its new store in Centennial, Colorado, reports Sustainable Business. Ikea says it will be the first IKEA store in the United States to be built with geothermal heating and cooling. The store is expected to open in the fall of 2011.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says geothermal heat pumps can reduce energy consumption and related emissions by up to 72% compared to traditional electric resistance heating and standard air-conditioning equipment, according to the article.

DIY Eco-Friendly Bug Spray

bug spray eco

Here are a few recipes for homemade, organic pest control sprays! Let us know if you try them and they work!

Chili Bug Spray – Blend 40 fresh chilli peppers in 1 liter of water. Add 5 grams of pure soap flakes to the blended chilli mixture. Apply as required undiluted.

Elder Flower Bug Spray – Boiling up 500 gm of leaves with 1 litre of water can be an effective solution. Strain it then dilute it then spray it.

Molasses Bug Spray – A spray of molasses can be made by mixing a bit of molasses in a liter of water and then adding soap.

Rhubarb Bug Spray – A spray can be made from soaking the poisonous leaves of Rhubarb. A kilogram of leaves to 3 Litres of water for thirty minutes, to this is added 15 grams of pure soap flakes. The mix is then diluted 1:1 for use.

Microsoft Hohm Rates Home Energy Efficiency


Last week, Microsoft released the Hohm Score, a free Web application that calculates your homes energy efficiency. The estimates are based on its size and location. The software has determined that homes with the worst scores are in Texas and Tennessee, and the best are in Hawaii and Delaware.

The score is “calculated by comparing a home’s actual and potential energy efficiency,” Microsoft said in a press release. It uses home energy-efficiency models generated by the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, which Hohm uses to create recommendations on how to cut utility bills.

Microsoft said that checking out a Hohm score will let people determine their energy use over more than 60 million houses in the U.S.

Green Building Council New LEED Standards


The Canada Green Building Council is about to release the LEED Canada for New Construction and Major Renovations and LEED Canada Core and Shell Development. These updated rating systems include current reference standards, re-weighted credits, and better credit compliance pathways.

LEED Canada NC 2009 will allow for faster review of applications and a streamlined certification process.
Registration for new projects will open on June 21, 2010. Projects registered with the CaGBC before June 21 will have the option to continue certification under LEED Canada NC 1.0 or opt into the new LEED Canada NC 2009 system. Reference guides for the new systems will be available to order at the national conference starting June 9th, 2010.

For more information on the CaGBC visit