Monday, March 26, 2007

Organic Lawn Care

It's that time of year - tune up your lawn mower and get out your fertilizers. Wait, before you get out your fertilizers, do a little research into natural or organic lawn care and make some educated decisions about your lawn. Or, just use this search that I already did for you.
There are some easy basics that everyone can use even if still using petro-based fertilizers and pesticides: mow to about 3", water thoroughly only once per week.
Looking for an organic lawn service to replace Chemlawn? I heard a radio ad for Child's Play Organic Lawns while driving through South Bend, IN. Unfortunately they're a little far from my place, and I like to do it myself anyway. The search I linked above and the Child's Play site are both good resources for you if you're interested in not only reducing harmful chemical exposure to your family, pets, and the environment, but if you simply want a healthier and less maintenance-extensive lawn.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Please Consider the Environment Before Printing This ...

Do you know anyone who prints nearly every Email they receive? Do you print them? Have you ever thought about how wasteful that is? Do you cringe when paying $35 for an ink cartridge?

A few suggestions:
  • Keep a "used" paper box under your desk for all those useless memos and messed up letters that only have print on one side. Take them home or use them again at the office if you must print Emails.
  • Save or export your Email as a .txt file or Word doc so it's always there if you need it. Most Email programs allow this, but print to file works no matter what you have. Honestly, you don't need that much hard copy CYA (cover your a$$) material!
  • If you're going to send a letter or report, scan the original and keep your copy electronically instead of on paper.
  • Explore electronic signatures
  • If you have trouble reading the small print: try adjusting your monitor's resolution, or hold the "Ctrl" button while rolling your mouse scroll wheel - it zooms.
  • Add this statement to your Email signature: Please consider the environment before printing this email
  • But, for heaven's sake, stop printing every Email!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Dryer Balls

I always see adds for dryer balls in eco catalogues but never paid much attention. Then my wife got some from Gaiam (the manufacturer's site is more interesting) and we've been using them for probably a month now. Basically, the spiny oblong balls are supposed to do the job of fabric softener and decrease drying time. Believe it or not - it works! We haven't used fabric softener since using the balls and the laundry is comparably soft.

I have not gone to the extent of a side-by-side softness or drying time test, but there is no doubt that we're saving money and exposure to chemicals (not to mention all the upstream pollution avoided). One important thing we've learned since starting our kids in cloth diapers almost 3 years ago is that fabric softener seriously reduces cloth absorbency by literally gooing up the fabric. 'Stripping' them is a very water and energy intensive process. So another benefit to eliminating fabric softener is that our towels, and our workout clothes, are more absorbent.

I see that there are 3 or 4 other brands out there, and I read some mixed reviews on them. I did not find a review for the brand we have. I'll let you know what happens.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

My Favorite CFL

I wrote about lighting and compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs here and here before, as any treehugger should. The conflict comes when people (clear throat) actually use them. The complaints immediately spew forth as their delayed-on flickering blueish white light comes alive. I have a few of those crappy bulbs as I've made unconscious grabs at the 'energy savers' section at Lowe's or Home Depot. BUT, the very first CFL I ever bought, around 7 years ago, is still with me today and performs just as well as any incadescent - well except for the fact that I've had it 6 more years than any incadescent.

I finally, weeks ago, looked at it to see the brand and to finally be able to buy more CFLs that I can actually stand to have on in the living spaces of my home. The brand is Commercial Electric. So, since I didn't need any bulbs I completely forgot about it until a trip to Home Depot a few days ago where I picked up a round vanity light Commercial Electric bulb. It's now in the bathroom and it the brightest bulb in the row (the wasteful row of 6 bulbs when the room only needs 2; I have the rest unscrewed and just sitting there). It's instant on and the color is right.

I just did a quick search and found that a pile of Commercial Electric bulbs were recalled in 2004 because they can spark and burn up. I trust that problem has been solved by now.

So if you're like a lot of people and want to have CFLs in your home but are tired of the junk, go get some Commercial Electric bulbs.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

$0.05 per bag @ IKEA

Beginning March 15th, customers at all US IKEA stores will have to pay 5 cents for each plastic bag. Finally a significant chain has adopted this policy! All the proceeds will go to American Forests, the nation's oldest non-profit citizens conservation organization, to plant trees to restore forests and offset CO2 emissions. Also, to help alter customer behavior and endorse environmentally responsible habits, IKEA will be selling its iconic reusable 'Big Blue Bag' for 59 cents, a cost that has been reduced from 99 cents.

IKEA gave away 70 million disposable plastic bags last year and they expect that to be cut in half during the first year of this new program. IKEA launched this program in the UK in the spring of 2006 and achieved an amazing 95% reduction in bags!

IKEA has been at the forefront in a number of environmental initiatives. IKEA specialists work diligently to promote healthy forestry practices. Wood used for IKEA products comes from well managed forests and not from intact, natural, or old-growth forests.

I've been planning on stopping at the Chicago store on one of my trips through, and now I have another reason to.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Bye Bye Incandescent

A congressman in California recently discussed his intention to propose a bill to outlaw incandescent light bulbs, which received quite a lot of press. Well now, Australia is planning on outlawing incandescent bulbs by 2010. I think the population of southern Cali exceeds that of Australia, but it's still a huge step. They estimate a reduction of 4 million tonnes of greenhouse gases as a result. Thanks BBC.

I spent time in Australia and one quickly obvious differences is that nearly every toilet has the full and half flush buttons on top of the tank. These are just starting to show up in the US - why has it taken so long? It's a very simple, yet very effective, method of saving water.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Feng Shui Paint

Just look at this picture for a second.
Any guesses on what that turquoise greenish color is? Nope, not valuable turquoise stones.... it's paint. According to this article, this quarry in southwestern China was painted green for $60,000 at the request of the forestry department, if for nothing more than to increase the feng shui. I just don't know what to say.
On another, more believable note: the state of Florida has decided that the artificial tire-reefs they created 35 years ago are not working. I have to admit that I would have made the same mistake - dump a bunch of tires offshore and wait for the corals and fish to arrive. Well, it didn't happen. Now those tires look like they were dumped there last week. Worse, they've broken from their steel or rope bindings and are being smashed into real reefs by waves and currents. This same mistake has been made all over the world, and it seems that nobody has had any luck. Now we're spending millions to begin cleaning them up. The good news is that the ships they sink are usually successful as artificial reefs.