2013 - Our Daily Green

Monday, December 30, 2013

Power washing wood surfaces without harsh chemicals

image courtesy of: wikimedia commons
(this post has been brought to you by a sponsor)

Power washing is something that any homeowner can do. That doesn't mean it is the optimal way to approach it. While anyone can buy a power washer and use it properly, there are distinct advantages to professional techniques that may not be immediately obvious. Here are three of the top advantages to having professionals handle your power washing.

The first is that professionals can safely power wash a bigger variety of surfaces. Power washing well is about material sciences. There are many surfaces that simply aren't safe for power washing by default unless you know exactly how the material will respond to the pressure. Renew Crew is a company that boasts being able to power wash wood, for instance. Ordinarily wood is too soft and would be damaged by power washing. This improved versatility means that hiring a power washing team just once can cover a lot more ground than individually utilizing different cleaning processes on different surfaces. If they can handle the whole thing, they will.

The next reason is precision. There are circumstances under which you simply can't afford to have the pressure of the power washer hit certain surfaces. Professionals are well-trained in cleaning with precision. It allows them to clean tighter spaces than an amateur safely. In many cases they are also willing to guarantee the safety of their power washing and take care of any damage that might result from error on their part. There is no such guarantee for those that simply purchase a power washer.

Finally, professionals are capable of power washing with much more powerful tools. The power washers that are available in hardware stores are effective for rudimentary tasks but aren't capable of standing up to the deeper cleaning professionals can offer. This is because professionals can afford the outlay required for top-end equipment that uses and can safely maintain higher pressures. This often requires the use of expensive air compressors or high-pressure tools that can be very dangerous to handle without training.

These are just a few of the advantages that professionals have. In large part this simply indicates the advantages that can come from better training, practice and equipment and the depth of power washing as a task to perform. It's more complex than simply spraying down a surface with high-pressure water. It takes care and awareness of what different pressures can do, the appropriate angles to spray at, and so forth. Hiring professionals is therefore more than just a matter of convenience; it's a matter of quality as well.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Utility company expands past fossil fuels to solar energy

solar panels to lease
photo courtesy of: Wikimedia Commons
The future of energy for both commercial and residential use is the area of sustainable energy solutions. This simply refers to the use of energy that can be renewed as well as used cleanly. Fossil fuels are not clean to use, and the supply is limited. This presents a problem for energy providers who want to continue to supply their customers with adequate power, but recognize the growing problem with reliance on fossil fuels. Innovative suppliers are exploring their options beyond heating oil and coal.

Plymouth Rock Energy is one such company. After 60 years of servicing the Northeast with heating oil and coal, now they are leading their customers into the future with renewable energy, including increased development of solar energy. They delivered 38 megawatts of solar energy to their residential sector in the third quarter alone in 2013. Families are now able to save money on their electric bills while at the same time reducing their carbon footprint.

For qualified families, Plymouth Rock Energy will install solar panels free of charge. They also offer customers the option to lease the panels instead of buying them. The electricity generated by the panels will not only supply the home with power, but eventually pays for the cost of leasing of the panels. It is not uncommon for customers to save as much as 50 percent on a utility bill.

Plymouth Rock Energy continues to deliver natural gas to its customers in both the residential and commercial sectors. Natural gas represents a 50 percent reduction in carbon versus what is seen with traditional fossil fuels such as heating oils. Plymouth Rock Energy figures to continue with its growth in the year 2014.
This post has been sponsored by Plymouth Rock Energy, providing sustainable energy solutions to customers in MD, NY, NJ, PA, IL, and OH. 

Eco-friendly beanie from REPREVE

As prevalent as plastic bottles have become, unfortunately, over two-thirds of them wind up in landfills. But the ones that are recycled, become amazing products, many are already probably familiar to you. In fact, when I was invited to write about REPREVE recycled fibers, I remembered a swimsuit I reviewed last year that was made from REPREVE, so I was very excited to participate in this campaign.

Some of your favorite brands already use REPREVE fibers, including popular companies such as Patagonia, Haggar, and The North Face. A Patagonia fleece jacket, for example, uses 40 recycled plastic bottles. Haggar Life Khaki pants use 7 recycled bottles, and REPREVE sent us two beanie hats, which we promptly chose to share with the youngest member of our family and his father. We care about the future we leave for the next generation and want to inspired them to keep plastic out of landfills.

recycled fiber beanies
While we may not be able to eliminate plastic use, we can reduce it, and what we don't reduce, we should recycle. Our Daily Green's brother and his son agree, as this photo clearly shows. They love being green! (the shirts were coincidence, but one we couldn't resist snapping a photo) 

Stay tuned for some of the ways our family tries to be green and some tips you can incorporate into your daily choices to live more in harmony with our planet for a cleaner, greener tomorrow.

Today's post has been brought to you by our friends at REPREVE, but we are always thrilled to share new and innovative ways to green your life. Please visit their site to learn more about the fantastic things they are doing with plastic bottles and fiber! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Introducing Causora: get rewards for charitable contributions

Our Daily Green is a tremendous advocate for charitable giving. One of our most popular seasonal columns is the 12 Days of Green Giving, where we encourage our readers to donate to worthy causes represented by the traditional song the 12 Days of Christmas. Several of the charities that are listed on Causora, are charities we've already supported in the past, including water.org, and Donors Choose. Other green minded charities include As You Sow, California Wilderness Coalition, and Coalition for Clean are to name a few.
Charity rewards

Our new affiliation with Causora is even more inspiring. For every $20 donated to one of over 150 charities, they will match with a thank you reward good at several different retailers.

This month, Causora is featuring the Red Cross's efforts to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

To encourage you to participate, Causora has given Our Daily Green TEN $20 credit codes good toward merchandise through their different retailers. Our Daily Green will send the first 20 folks who donate through Causora and additional $20 credit code. Just leave a comment at the end of this post and you will receive the code by email within 24 hours. Additionally, you receive a $5 credit for signing up for an account. Get rewarded for generosity!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Food politics (repost from GIMBY)

GIMBY (via www.gimby.org)
There are plenty of different diets out there, and new ones appearing every day — pescetarian, vegetarian, vegan, Kosher, Atkins, paleolithic, Mediterranean, South Beach, and even cabbage soup. There are nutritional experts in abundance, too — eat…
Government in My Backyard (GIMBY) is an interactive digital space where Americans can engage with their government and each other about federal agencies and issues that matter in their daily lives.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mill City Bread Company (review)

Mill City Bread
Rustic Artisan White
One of our family's fondest memories growing up was the continual supply of fresh-baked bread at Grandma's house. She loved to mix up the yeast, knead the dough and shape it into delicious loaves of love.

Bread baking for today's generation is an infrequent occurrence, perhaps for a special occasion. There are several keys to baking bread properly, including measuring the ingredients, correct kneading technique and activating the yeast at an accurate temperature. For a novice cook, this can be an intimidating process.
Mill City Bread
Bauernbrot (German Farmer's Bread)

But what if the ingredients were already measured, the bread didn't require kneading, and water from the tap worked just fine? Mill City Bread Company has developed mixes that take all the guesswork out of baking bread and is bringing back the art of artisan bread baking with their simple mixes and easy to follow instructions.

In 1999, the method was popularized in a cookbook called "No Need to Knead", and Mill City Bread company has taken it one step further by pre-measuring the ingredients. The most difficult of the break baking is the wait time. By using longer fermentation in a moist dough, the gluten strands form, bringing the bread a typical yeast bread texture.

Look how bubbly it is after 12 hours! 
We agreed to review their line of bread mixes because the idea of slow, home baked food, void of chemical preservatives or GMOs is in line with the mission of Our Daily Green. We appreciate this company's commitment to the environment with their minimal packaging, formed with wind energy. Mill City products are packaged by individuals with disabilities at a non-profit empowering nearly 2,000 people a year to achieve greater independence through employment.

So far, we have tested the first two of their five delicious breads, as pictured above:
  • Bauernbrot (German Farmer's Bread)
  • Rustic Artisan White
  • Whole Wheat
  • NY Deli Rye
  • Ciabatta
These breads are as simple to make as stirring water into the mix, letting it rest 12 hours, and following the baking and resting instructions, which come with each package. The results are an old-world flavor, with a new-world convenience. The breads are made from only 4 ingredients, flour, salt, yeast, and water. 
Danish Dough Whisk
Artisan Bread baking kit

The bread can be baked in a clay baker, a Dutch oven, a slow cooker, or a bread machine. Mill City sells the bakers to ensure the best quality bread possible. For a limited time, they are offering a clay baker and dough whisk at a discounted price, lower than if each product was purchased separately. 

Our Daily Green loves the Mill City Bread mixes. Our house smells like an old fashioned bakery and it couldn't be easier. The hardest part is waiting to eat it!

Disclosure: We received a complimentary sample of each type of Mill City bread mix. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Homemade holiday gift: Spiced Nuts

disclosure: this post has been brought to you by our sponsor, McCormick. Our Daily Green is thrilled to bring you a gift idea you can make yourself. 

One of the most stressful parts of the holidays is choosing gifts for people. It's so easy to fall into the trap of an impersonal, overpriced, useless gift. Not to mention the embarrassing moment when someone gives you an unexpected gift and you want something to reciprocate. 

One of our solutions is the gift of non-perishable food. Everyone eats, and during the holidays, it's nice to have something fancier than usual. With busy schedules, not everyone has the time to cook so a gift from the kitchen is sure to be a hit. We love making Spiced Nuts and putting them in pretty jar to have a ready to give gift with a personal touch.

Nuts are healthy. A 30-year Harvard study recently concluded that nuts lower the risks of cancer and heart disease: “... people who ate nuts everyday appeared to be protected from cardiovascular disease. There are good things in nuts – healthy fats, omega 3s, fibre, good plant phenols and health-promoting compounds,” said Dr. Rena Mendelson. (Global News, November 21, 2013). Cinnamon has been shown to improve blood sugar control as well as protect against heart disease.

Sounds like a solid reason to "go nuts" this holiday season. Enjoy!

Thanks, McCormick!

Spiced Nuts

Serves: Makes 3 1/3 cups or 18 (3-tablespoon) servings.
(images are from a doubled recipe)


Spiced Nuts, cinnamon, allspice, seasoned salt, cayenne
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons McCormick® Cinnamon, Ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Allspice, Ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon Lawry's® Seasoned Salt
  • 1 egg white  or *vegan substitute* = 1 Tbsp. plain agar powder dissolved in 1 Tbsp. water, whipped, chilled, and whipped again
  • 3 cups nuts, such as almonds, cashews, peanuts and pecans (we used walnuts, pecans and almonds)
  • optional: a dash of McCormick® Cayenne Pepper, Ground
Preheat oven to 250°F. 

Beat egg whites until they are frothy, but still liquid. This allows the sugar/spice mixture to stick to the nuts. 

Thoroughly mix sugar with spices. 
The optional cayenne pepper addition is my own, it gives the nuts a spicy, sweet, savory zing.  

Toss nuts with frothy egg whites. 

Add sugar spice mixture and stir to coat evenly. 

Spread in a single layer on a lightly greased cookie sheet. 
Bake for 1 hour, at 250°F, stirring once. 
Let cool & break nuts apart. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rethinking food and nature (guest post)

More than 70% of our global freshwater is used for agriculture and aquaculture every year. This makes sense right? Fish, fruits and vegetables have always been a huge part of our diet and we need resources like fresh water to produce these products.

But what if the vegetables we’re eating are covered in pesticides and the farmed fish we are eating are pumped with growth hormones, artificially colored and have lived in filthy environments their entire lives? What if while we are producing our food, we are actually destroying the natural world around us? Releasing excess fertilizer and pesticides into our lakes and rivers and dumping billions of gallons of waste water into our oceans.

It’s time to take a step back and rethink the way we are feeding our growing populations. We need something efficient, sustainable, and organic.

The future of this kind of food is in aquaponics.

Aquaponics is the combination of plant farming and fish farming. The fish provide fertilizer and nutrients to the plants from their waste and the fish filter and clean the water the fish live in. This creates a sustainable ecosystem that produces almost no waste, uses over 90% less water than traditional agriculture, and grows vegetables up to twice as fast.
With all of these benefits, how is it that no one seems to know anything about aquaponics? Aside from a few enthusiasts here and there, most of America just seems to look over such a simple yet brilliant method of food production.

Aqua Design Innovations is an undergraduate startup from UC San Diego that wants to spread awareness and educate more people about aquaponics.

They did so by scaling down a commercial aquaponics system into an accessible, compact aquarium kit that grows plants like herbs and flowers. They call it the EcoQube.

photo courtesy of: EcoQube
By introducing a beautiful, easy to maintain aquatic ecosystem into people’s homes, Aqua Design Innovations hopes to inspire people to learn more about aquaponics and live closer to nature.

“We believe that the first steps to solving any problem, is being aware and then to be educated. Help us make aquaponics mainstream and a part of everyone’s homes by supporting our Kickstarter campaign where you can pre-order an EcoQube” 

-Eric and the ADI team.
Eric and Kevin, company founders

Our Daily Green donated space to EcoQube to promote their Kickstarter campaign.We received no compensation for the post. 

Who deserves our thanks for truly American food? (reprint from Otherwords.org)

Until 1492, Europeans had never tried potatoes, cranberries, corn, or turkey.

Jill Richardson
What do turkey, sweet potatoes, and cranberries have in common?
Yes, you eat them on Thanksgiving. Additionally, they are all distinctly American foods. So are potatoes and the corn in your corn bread.
Believe it or not, the day that Columbus blundered into the Americas back in 1492, Europeans (and Asians and Africans) had none of those foods.
Thanksgiving is perhaps the one day a year when we Americans celebrate with truly American food.
For me, and many Americans, Thanksgiving isn’t really a time for remembering the saccharine and inaccurate historical event we are supposedly commemorating. (You know, the Pilgrims and the Indians.) Nor is it really a time to celebrate a bountiful harvest. In this age of supermarkets, few of us rely on the whims of nature to produce enough to make it through the winter.
In our family, Thanksgiving means celebrating being together. We cherish the warmth generated by love as much as the delicious meal. There’s no distraction of Santa Claus or anything else. We’re all there for the food — and for each other. (And, for some, for the football on TV.)
But what about those Pilgrims and Indians?
Perhaps you haven’t thought too much about them since grade school, back when you made paper turkeys by tracing your hand in art class. But they are more relevant than you might guess.
No part of the traditional Thanksgiving meal would be possible — save perhaps the cranberries — without the ingenuity of Native Americans. Centuries before the Pilgrims arrived on American shores, Native Americans domesticated all the crops (and turkeys) we now take for granted.
For Native American cultures, the arrival of the Pilgrims wasn’t exactly the beginning of the end — because Native Americans and their cultures are still alive today — but it did mark a moment when their continent was no longer their own.
Truthfully, the turning point had already come and gone. Tisquantum, the friendly Indian that children learn about as “Squanto” in the Thanksgiving story, was actually a Patuxet man whom Europeans kidnapped and brought to Europe long before the Pilgrims sailed to Plymouth.
Years later, when he returned to his home in Massachusetts, he found that his people had been wiped out by an infectious disease brought by Europeans.
As Europeans fanned out on this continent, they displaced Native Americans as they went. Often, they destroyed the ecosystems the Native Americans relied upon to survive.
I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know the tribe near my home in San Diego, the Kumeyaay. I consider myself lucky not only because they offer fantastic classes on their language and culture, but also because they are here, in their homeland. Many tribes were forced to give up their land and move somewhere else — often to Oklahoma.
Another stroke of luck: The ecosystems of San Diego remain relatively intact in large stretches of the county. It’s not too hard to find elderberry, mesquite, acorns, quail, or anything else one needs to cook up a Kumeyaay feast. Tribes that once relied on bison cannot say the same.
The very plants, animals, and landmarks of Southern California represent more to the Kumeyaay than their food or building materials. Their religion is also based on this very land. It’s a part of their identity.
The Native Americans we superficially commemorate on Thanksgiving aren’t just a part of this country’s history. They are here in the present, and often the injustices against them from the past remain uncorrected.
This year, we should all give thanks to Native Americans, who have contributed so much to your holiday meal and to this nation. And consider: How can we right the wrongs of the past committed against them?
OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. OtherWords.org

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

eMeals: save money, time, and your health by cooking at home

Our Daily Green readers save 35%: use code cyber35
Our Daily Green was recently invited to review the eMeals menu planning and recipe service. With our continual encouragement for our readers to cook more at home and eat healthier, this was a perfect fit. In order to properly review this service, Our Daily Green received an entire year's worth of eMeal plans, courtesy of the company. One of the things that struck us most was how easy it is to customize and subscribe to meals based around not just your family size, but also your food preferences and lifestyle.

eMeals offers 12 different meal plans, including Low Carb, Low Fat, Slow Cooker, Simple Gourmet, Gluten Free, and Vegetarian to cite a few. There is a menu for every eating style. We chose the Natural and Organic menu plan.

What really stood out to us was the comprehensive meal planning service, including shopping lists and coupon links. Armed with our list, we headed to the grocery store, after checking for items already in our pantry. Following our list was easy and we shopped for exactly what we needed, avoiding the temptation of picking up something "in case" we needed it. eMeals told us what we needed, removing the guess work to menu planning. Shopping went quickly and painlessly and our bill was approximately 10% less, simply by following the list. This confirms advice of financial planning experts, such as TV show host, Dave Ramsey, who endorses eMeals, suggesting it will help families save around $1,000/year.

We really appreciated the simple and quick meals. So many times, families think fast food is the answer to a harried lifestyle. Instead, a little pre-planning and system is the true answer. Our Daily Green's family generally eats at home and we have a few "go-to" quick dinners. eMeals gave us several more options. Here is a new, quick, one-pot favorite:

Vermicelli with Sausage and Spinach

2 teaspoons olive oil
12 oz package smoked sausage, cut in half
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
32 oz carton reduced-sodium chicken broth
8 oz uncooked vermicelli, broken in half
15 oz package fresh baby spinach
¼ teaspoon pepper
⅓ cup heavy cream

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cut sausage into ½-inch thick slices. Add sausage to oil with onion and garlic. 

Cook, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until onion is tender.

Add broth and ¼ cup water; bring to a boil. Add pasta; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
 Add spinach, stirring in a little at a time until wilted, and pepper; cook 1 minute.

Stir in cream and cook until thoroughly heated.

 It was that simple! Not to mention tasty and healthy. One pot, 30 minutes, dinner is ready. 

disclosure: Our Daily Green was compensated for this post, including 1 year of eMeals for free. 

Efficient home heating with rocket stove mass heaters

A few years ago, a family member bought a small "as seen on TV" newspaper grill. It was a novelty item that got hauled out at family get togethers to cook a few items with only newspaper for fuel. The newspaper grills have quite a cult following among outdoorsman and survivalist sorts. The newspaper grill is based on the engineering of a rocket stove.

A rocket stove is a specially designed efficient wood burning stove with a well insulated chimney and a side feeding fuel space. The rocket stove concentrates the heat that burns off the noxious smoke from the high temperatures. Rocket stoves have grown in popularity with permaculturists and they have been adapted to whole house heating systems. The first time I saw a rocket stove was when Our Daily Green visited the Community Greenhouse Partners in Cleveland, Ohio. They utilize a rocket stove system to winterize one of their hoop houses.

Rocket stove mass heaters revolutionize the way we heat our homes with fuel. While they are not available to a mass market, with good instructions and a few simple supplies, many folks have built their own.
illustration: Wikimedia Commons

Rocket stoves are not commercially available, but have been utilized around the world to cook and heat. The fire burns sideways and the stove pipe/combustion chamber ensures a high temperature and efficient burn. The resulting heating system is similar to a condensing gas boiler.

Paul Weaton has developed a series of 4 DVDs either available as live streams or via mail order. He has worked closely with Ernie and Erica Wisner, who have built over 700 rocket stove mass heaters. The videos detail exact plans on building a rocket stove mass heater, as well as the physics of how it works and the implications for sustainable heating. Safety measures are discussed throughout the series. Done properly, a home can be heated with minimal fuel and maximum heat. A rocket stove mass heater can heat a home with 10% of the fuel a conventional wood stove uses.

Our Daily Green has worked closely with the permaculture forum, Permies.com to bring our readers information about rocket stove mass heaters. We have received a live streaming code of the DVDs as well as financial compensation. All opinions are our own and all information has been carefully researched. We recommend learning as much as possible before you begin building a rocket stove for home heating. Paul Weaton's comprehensive video series covers every possible question someone interested in building a rocket stove mass heater could potentially have.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

JayBird Sports BlueBuds giveaway

For many athletes, listening to music helps with training in the way of motivation as well as diversion. An informal survey among friends indicated a variety of ways music motivates them during their training.
Power walker Linda explains, "I power walk to HEART. Even if I ran, I would probably listen to them. Empowering. Motivating. Keeps me moving at a fast pace," while bike rider Robert finds another sort of music motivating, "I tend to listen to soundtrack scores...James Bond, Man of Steel, etc. The action movie music is intense, I visualize myself as the characters, and it motivates me to be tough...like them. Weird, but effective." Marathon runner Annmarie finds that "[she] listen[s] to all types of genres, depending on [her] mood and how far [she has] to run," and distance runner Molly explains her, "love [of] high energy dance music! [She] ran track in high school, kind of fell away from running and picked it back up in her early 30's....have been running at least 3-4 days a week since, sometimes more..."
BlueBuds Headphones

Whatever the genre of music, one thing is certain among many athletes. Music is an integral part of the workout. Jaybird headphones are designed with the athlete in mind. In fact, their BlueBuds X Bluetooth Headphones are the official training headphones of the USA Triathlon.

Jaybird headphones are state of the art. Beginning with the unique, patent pending customized X-FIT™, the wearer can use the versatile buds either over or under the ear with nothing on the neck, but still maintaining a secure fit. Patented voice prompt technology allows for hands-free operation, keeping the training stride smooth and unhampered by the need to manually adjust volume or music. The SHIFT premium bluetooth audio™ brings state of the art sound through a custom implementation of the native Bluetooth SBC codec to deliver a level of pure sound that is often only heard in wired headphones. Lastly the Jaybird BlueBuds have a lifetime warranty against damage from sweat, by utilizing Liquipel, a super hydrophobic process that provides added protection from exposure to sweat and the elements. With a remarkable battery life of 8 hours, Jaybird headphones leave nothing to chance to elevate an athlete's training from mundane to inspired.

Jaybird has a special promotion giving away one set of BlueBudsX Bluetooth Headphones, daily. To enter to win, click the drop down menu on the top right corner of their home page. With a retail value of $169.95, they can be used with any blu-tooth enabled device. Whatever sport you choose, if music moves you, this is the headphone for you.

By submitting your information, you agree to receive communication from JayBird about this giveaway, as well as occasional JayBird products & lifestyle information. We DO NOT send spam, & do NOT share your personal information with any 3rd parties. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. MUST BE 18+ YEAR S OF AGE TO ENTER. ONLY ONE ENTRY PER DAY ALLOWED. EVEN THOUGH PRODUCT IS GIVEN FREE TO WINNER THE STANDARD TERMS OF SALE APPLY. USA & CANADA RESIDENTS ONLY.

Our Daily Green has been compensated for sharing this giveaway. Good luck! 

Winterizing lawn sprinklers saves water

Ways to set your sprinkler system timer for Arizona's winter

Picture courtesy of: AZ Sprinkler
Grass is difficult enough to grow in Arizona because of the unique climate. We deal with cracked mud, intense hot temperatures, and so much more that is a killer on your backyard landscape. Then when winter comes it is a whole other issue. Many people have to plant a different type of grass for the winter season. If you are planning on tackling winter grass this year at your Arizona home, here are ways to set your sprinkler timer.

It seems like common sense to think that in the winter months your sprinklers will use less water, less often and help avoid freezing or root rot. In the summer months you also have to set your set the timer to be reoccurring, but on a much more frequent basis. The less water used, the more efficient you are.

The first way to prep the system for winter is to turn off the water supply. This can be done by turning off the water supply to the main valve. Usually for anti-freezing purposes, the main valve is buried a bit into the ground or soil. This will keep water from remaining in the pipe as well, which will easily freeze. 

Timers can be extremely confusing when it comes to sprinkler systems, so knowing you can worry less about configuring it in the winter is a big relief. If you are lucky enough to have a “smart” timer then it can set itself based on the current weather at that time. The winter grass in Arizona, also called Rye grass, can be watered much less frequently than summer or spring grass in this climate. From the months between December and March, you can get away with not watering Rye grass anywhere between 7 and 14 days. Even in the months before that, like October and November, you can go nearly two weeks without watering.

It is not just grass being watered either. You have to think about the timing set up for the trees, shrubs and maybe even cacti. Cacti, which are prevalent in Arizona, do not even need watering in the winter months, and this can save you a lot of money. The timer should be set on the first date of the beginning of the season. In Arizona that can be March, May, October and December. Even though setting up the timer can be a pain, it is a necessity for landscape in all seasons that Arizona faces.

If your attempt at timer set up did not go well, consider reaching out to a local sprinkler repair company in Arizona. AZ Sprinkler is one of the most known sprinkler repair specialists in Arizona and specializes in setting up your timer system for the appropriate climates. 

FTC disclosure: today's post has been brought to you by a sponsor 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Saving lives by addressing severe acute malnutrition

One of the most useful treatments in cultural cases of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) is Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF). RUTF is a peanut based spread that meets specifications set forth by UNICEF to supply nutritional therapy for severely malnourished children. SAM is the number one cause of death to children under the age of 5 years, over 3.5 million annually.

Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods do not need water to be prepared. They are soft or crushable and can be easily eaten by children of 6 months of age up. Peanut butter paste is a popular ingredient in RUTFs along with a blend of powdered milk, sugar, vegetable oil, and nutrients. The mono-saturated fats are easy to digest and contain high levels of zinc and protein, which help the immune system. Additionally, this food does not require refrigeration or cooking.
In March 2012, humanitarian and business person Stan Smith partnered with four other concerned friends (Brian Hunsaker, Donna Wertz, Heather Premac, and Haley Hunsaker) to pool resources and time to find a sustainable solution for production and distribution of RUTFs. They founded PB+J Foods, Inc., a non-profit organization established to combat SAM in a way that not only nourishes the children, but also helps nurture the local economy where SAM is most prevalent.

photo courtesy of Swathi_Sridharan 
licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0
PB+J's first efforts were in impoverished Republic of Malawi, a landlocked area of southeastern Africa, bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. Their success in Malawi saved nearly 1,200 lives from March 2012 to August 2013, 17 months. Encouraged by their success, they want to expand the work of PB+J to work more closely with local hospitals, farmers, and manufacturers.

In 2012, PB+J increased production and partnered with the Nkhoma Hospital to expand from 600 square feet to 1600. Based on this expansion, their projections for 2014 are promising. PB+J hopes to serve over 11,000 children, including 1,000 children at Nkhoma Hospital for no charge and increase Malawian Employment at the production facility.

In addition to physical food, PB+J Program participants will also be educated about food safety and storage, malnutrition management, hygiene and sanitation, family planning, HIV/AIDS prevention, childcare, nutrition, and agriculture, to promote broad scale healthy habits.

Because PB+J is a non-profit (EIN #46-0893794), monies raised directly benefit the children and families in the African villages. PB+J's dedication to saving and improving lives, starting with the very smallest people through adulthood is a noble cause. To learn more about supporting this non-profit, PB+J has a tax deductible program for either a recurring or one time donation to support their important work in the prevention of SAM. Follow along with their Facebook or Twitter accounts to track their progress, including recent photos of their newest production equipment.

A special thank you to PB+J for sponsoring Our Daily Green to share their message. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Controlling natural light in a home

skylight deals
image courtesy of Wikimedia commons
When potential home buyers make a wish list of features they desire in a home, rooms with a lot of natural light are often on the list. No doubt, walking into a room filled with sunlight has a more positive affect on one's mood that entering a dark, depressing room with tiny windows. Large windows and skylights are also frequently included in a home remodeling project to make a room feel more spacious.

There are two sides to almost everything,
and a flood of natural light in a room is one of those two-sided home design features. The warm sunlight that you consider a bonus on a winter day can be a contributing factor to higher utilities bills in the summer. The glare from the sun that makes viewing the TV or computer difficult can be a source of frustration. While there isn't always an easy solution to a two-sided problem, that isn't the case with windows that allow natural sunlight to fill your home.

Once you discover convenient Velux window blinds at SkylightDeals.com, you will have no regrets about choosing a home with lots of natural light or including skylights in your home remodeling design. These easily manipulated blinds put you in control of the lighting situation. You can darken a room or allow a flood of sunlight in anytime you wish with a wall mounted keypad or a manual or electric controlled Velux blind. These blinds can make a positive impact on your utility bills in all seasons.

Today's post has been brought to you by a sponsor 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Why we should care about climate change

photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons:
5-foot world globes on display to urge everyone to
"take action against global warming"
As the autumn leaves turn in many parts of the nation and the weather gets colder, the inevitable jokes about climate change are waiting to be hauled out again. Every cold day, inevitably, someone will remark that it doesn't seem very warm for a planet that is warming. The scientific history of climate change is well noted.

Carbon emissions do affect our planet, even if the effect is not immediate. Carbon emissions can stay in the atmosphere for nearly 100 years and they serve as a type of gaseous insulating blanket surrounding the globe. While warmer weather may sound like a great idea to folks, it changes how our eco-systems function. Compare it to baking something in the oven. The difference in a recipe between baking something at 300 degrees versus 400 degrees changes the texture, the taste and the amount of time until the food is finished, and it could ruin the recipe. 

A recent survey from Time Magazine discovered that one of the reasons that folks do not take climate change seriously is that the majority of the effects will likely be a generation or two from now.  With the exponential development of new energy supplies, including wind and solar, since the 1973 energy crisis, our concerns about availability of fuel are assuaged. Plentiful availability does very little to encourage continued conservation. And yet, the question should not be "Will we run out of fuel?" but instead, "What does this rate of use do to the atmosphere?" 

Today's post is brought to you by a sponsor. Our Daily Green works hard to bring you information that will enlighten, encourage and educate you in all the different ways we can be eco-friendly. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Do you know who actually owns the organic brands? (from repost.us)

Do You Know Who Actually Owns the ORGANIC Brands? (via http://faroutradio.com/)
by Catherine J. Frompovich as republished from Natural Blaze  Money is being spent BIG time in offensives against GMO labeling bills introduced in various states. One humongous battle—over $7.2 Million worth and counting—that currently is going…

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

McDonald’s takes its time cooking up a new menu (OtherWords.org)

The fast-food chain swears it will offer plenty of healthy choices at all its restaurants but not until seven years from now

Jim Hightower
The appeal of fast food chains isn’t their food: mostly fat, salty, sugary, empty-calorie mush. It’s their speed.
Order, pay, and — bam — your warmed-over burgerpizzachickentaco delight is instantly handed to you.
Yet, for a mega-chain based on speed, McDonald’s has proven to be embarrassingly slow in one key way, leaving it with flat sales and declining appeal. The executives in charge were so stuck on peddling obesity and diabetes for fat profits that they completely missed a mass shift in today’s marketplace: the rise of health-conscious consumers.
But look out. Here comes the McDonald’s marketing machine with a blur of ads and promotional gimmicks touting “A new global commitment to make a world of difference.” Using endearing pictures of children, the Big Mac chain now claims to be all about fresh veggies, fruit, salads, juices, milk, health, and a fuzzy happiness for all.As a result, McDonald’s has been losing out to Subway, Chipotle, Panera, and other chains that figured out years ago how to cater to the growing leaner-and-greener customer base.
The Golden Arches Empire is even teaming up with Bill Clinton to give its PR hype a sheen of sincerity. For an undisclosed splash of cash, the fast-food marketer says it is now “global partners” with the Clinton family’s foundation in its bid to sell more nutritious Happy Meals to the world’s kiddos.
However, the fast-food giant is in no hurry to deliver on this pledge. Claiming that getting healthier foods into its supply chain is hard, the CEO snickered that, “We don’t go down to the grocery stores” to stock up on fruits and veggies.
Well, maybe they should. Doing it the McDonald’s way, he says, will take until 2020 to get the more nutritious stuff into every store in the chain’s 20 largest markets.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. OtherWords.org

Monday, October 21, 2013

Planning an allergy-free Halloween (from repost.us)

Dairy can be scary — planning an allergy free Halloween (via http://www.eastvalleymomsblog.com)
Halloween is by far my favorite holiday! Between the ability to add pumpkin to every dish I prepare, costume planning and neighborhood fun, I can’t wait for my calendar to flip to October every year.  When I found out that my son Garrett could not…

Do you need a water heater blanket?

Today's post has been brought to you by water heater installation experts, Aramendia Plumbing Heating & Air in Houston
Consumers looking to cut their monthly utility bills and save some energy are often advised to insulate their water heater with a blanket. In some instances, this is not a necessary or useful purchase. An improperly installed water heater blanket can violate local building codes by covering operating instructions, controls, and possibly blocking combustion and draft passages. However, for a nominal investment, a properly installed water heater blanket can reduce energy loss by 25-45% which will quickly pay for itself.

The simplest test to know if a water heater tank is losing heat is to touch the surface of the tank. If it is warm, the tank is losing heat. Many tanks are in cooler places in the home, such as a basement or garage and that lost heat can add up to many dollars over the course of a year. The temperature difference between the cooler area that is exposed to the elements and the temperature of the hot water can be significant.

Many newer water heaters are adequately insulated already and require no further insulation. Tanks with R-values of 16 or higher are already efficient. Less expensive water heaters may have an R-value of as low as 6. The R-value may be on the tank sticker or can be found with an internet search engine. ASHRAE's (The American Society of Heating and Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) standards for performance, efficiency and stand-by loss require at least an inch of foam insulation.

Check with your local energy company about possible incentives or discounted water heater blankets.

Beyond insulating the tank, a lot of stand-by heat is lost during the journey through the pipes. The further the outlet is from the tank, the greater the heat loss. If the water has to travel a long distance through the pipes to reach the outlet, it may be worth insulating the pipes.

Maintenance is another important factor in efficient water heater usage. When hard water is heated, the minerals such as calcium and lime dissolve and then settle into the bottom of the water tank, building up and burning out the elements or overheating the bottom of the tank. If you have unusually hard water, or utilize low-flow faucets and shower heads (which slows the flushing of the tank), regularly draining and flushing the tank for maintenance will keep it running efficiently.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Is your phone smart enough to not poison the people recycling it? This one is (from YES! Magazine)

Our throwaway electronics harm people overseas, but new trends in responsible design are not just smart—they’re kind.
Cell Phone Pile by Shutterstock
Photo from Shutterstock.
When Ted Smith looks at a smartphone, he doesn't see a multipurpose gadget. He sees faces. He sees the face of the Indonesian or Ugandan miner who unearthed the raw materials. He sees the face of the factory worker who lives on a corporate campus in China and works long shifts, exposed to hazardous chemicals while assembling minuscule components. He sees the face of the salesperson at Best Buy or Target, and the face of the customer. He sees the faces of those who encounter the product after it’s been jettisoned and shipped halfway around the world to regions awash in electronic waste.
Imagine a phone that’s made using conflict-free minerals and is encased in a shell made of nontoxic chemicals.
Smith, 67, began tracking the electronics industry in the early 1970s. Seemingly overnight, a swath of California morphed into an epicenter of new technology. As massive semiconductor and consumer electronics manufacturers sprang up and churned out cutting-edge products, Smith rounded up community members to take a stand against the industry’s lack of transparency about the chemicals used along the production line and the threats these substances posed to workers, the environment, and nearby residents. In 1982, Smith founded the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. Twenty years later, he expanded his activist scope and co-founded the International Campaign for Responsible Technology.
“We realized early on that this industry was going to be a major engine of the future,” Smith says. “And we had broad-based concerns. It wasn’t just environmental. There were labor-rights issues, health issues, the need to preserve neighborhoods.”

Over the past 40 years, Smith’s worries have manifested on a global scale. The consumer electronics industry is now a multibillion-dollar juggernaut that churns out new products year-round. In 2012, sales of electronics in the United States topped $200 billion, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, an industry group that represents 2,000 companies, including Sony, Samsung, and Apple. The average American household now owns 24 electronic products, many of which will be rendered obsolete within a few years.
So it should be no surprise that consumer electronics is the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. waste stream, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2009, the most recent year for which the EPA has data, 2.37 million tons of electronics were ready for “end-of-life management,” yet only a quarter of them were collected for recycling.

It doesn't just disappear

Cell Phone Graphic
Every year, heaps of American e-waste, from smartphones to computers to stereo systems, are shipped to India, China, Ghana, Pakistan, Peru, and other developing countries. By some estimates, 80 percent of the U.S. e-waste collected ends up on foreign shores, where regulations are lax and incentive for risk high.

The goods are generally auctioned off in bulk to scrap companies and smelters. These companies pay locals—often including children—meager wages to strip smidgens of gold, copper, and palladium from the discarded devices. Sometimes, this involves concocting a noxious stew of cyanide and nitric acid, then burning the remaining plastic in crude firepits. Throughout the process, workers are exposed to lead, mercury, and cadmium, among other toxic substances.

One place our waste ends up is Guiyu, China, a port city of 150,000 on the South China Sea. As documented by the Basel Action Network, Guiyu is home to more than 5,000 small, mostly family-run businesses that trade in e-waste. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives found that children living in Guiyu had significantly higher levels of lead in their blood than children from Chendian, a nearby city with no e-waste processing.
Meanwhile, the ill effects of e-waste may be circling back to U.S. dinner plates. Researchers at Monmouth University released a study this spring that found high levels of lead in U.S. rice imports. One possible cause is the electronic waste industry, the lead author said in an interview with the BBC.

Benign by design

But to make meaningful progress on the e-waste crisis, Smith says, we can’t just focus on the waste. From mining to manufacturing to recycling, consumers, corporations, and governments need to rethink the life of our devices from beginning to end.
Imagine a phone that’s made using conflict-free minerals and is encased in a shell made of nontoxic chemicals. Imagine if that same phone, which looks and works like every other touchscreen smartphone on the market, was manufactured under the supervision of labor-rights organizations and in close collaboration with an established, reputable e-waste recycler that made sure every reusable and recyclable component was recovered safely.
That’s the ambition of Fairphone, a Dutch startup that’s currently producing its first batch of 20,000 phones—half of which have already been pre-ordered. The Fairphone is one of the most palpable examples of “benign-by-design,” a school of thought that aims to make products less harmful throughout their entire life cycle.
So far, the most significant benign-by-design achievements have been in the field of green chemistry, buried in academic journals. A small tweak in how a plastic is produced could make a product safer to build and disassemble. Fairphone is an instance where the benign-by-design mentality is helping meet a blossoming demand for sustainable electronics.
While Smith sees promise in Fairphone’s approach and the sustainable electronics movement, major manufacturers “living under the dictate of the quarterly profit” remain the largest obstacle. He says, “To really develop benign-by-design, we have to change the business model.” And that includes compelling manufacturers to devise effective take-back programs that are widely publicized and easy for consumers to access.

States lead the way

Wisconsin’s program, launched three years ago, has already collected more than 100 million pounds of e-waste.
One persistent barrier in the United States, however, is the lack of federal legislation to make sure e-waste is properly recycled. Compare that with the European Union, which last year imposed a strict directive requiring that by 2019 member countries collect 65 percent of the weight of all electronics put on sale in the preceding three years or 85 percent of all e-waste generated per year. Under the EU’s policy, retailers will be required to take e-waste from consumers. Companies—retailers, manufacturers, and recyclers—found to be in violation could be hit with stiff fines.
Further complicating matters is that the United States isn't a signatory of the Basel Convention, an international treaty regulating how hazardous materials, including e-waste, are transported and disposed of. Fortunately, a growing number of states are implementing e-waste recycling programs. If done properly, they can steer millions of pounds of potentially harmful electronics into sustainable, regulated channels rather than overseas where there’s minimal oversight.
“Every state is very different and poses unique opportunities and challenges for increasing electronics recycling,” Sarah Murray, coordinator of E-Cycle Wisconsin, said in an email.
Wisconsin’s program, launched three years ago, has already collected more than 100 million pounds of e-waste. With budgets tight across the country, however, she warns that some states may not have the resources to staff and implement an e-waste program. “We were … fortunate that the legislation gave us dedicated positions for this purpose. That has meant we've had enough manpower to do necessary administrative tasks, educate stakeholders and the public, provide compliance assistance, and conduct inspections.”
As the piecemeal push to alleviate the effects of e-waste becomes more cohesive, Smith and the International Campaign for Responsible Technology are homing in on a handful of specific objectives that could usher in a future of sustainable electronics. One of their biggest ambitions is to see a requirement that companies disclose all of the chemicals used in a product’s lifecycle.
“Nobody I know knows the number of chemicals used in the manufacturing of electronic products. It’s probably in the range of several thousand. Some are very standard, run-of-the-mill chemicals, but others are exotics … and many are extremely hazardous,” Smith says. “We need disclosure of the entire chemical footprint. Until we understand that better, it’s difficult to push.”
But perhaps the biggest catalysts for change are the faces Smith sees. He mentions the possibility of building an app that shows the faces of all the people who’ll encounter the phone along the supply chain, from the miners to the factory workers to the smelters.
“I do believe if people could see the harm, they wouldn't support it,” he says.

Chris Sweeney MugChris Sweeney wrote this article for The Human Cost of Stuff, the Fall 2013 issue of YES! Magazine. Chris is a Boston-based writer interested in global health and science.