September 2014 - Our Daily Green

Monday, September 29, 2014

How locally grown, seasonal foods help the environment and our health


One of the most green choices a consumer can make starts with their food choices. We're not just talking about the color of the food, although green, leafy food has a number of health benefits. Instead, you have a chance to promote a green planet with every single choice you make about what, where, how, and why you're eating. 


EatHealthyEatGreen
Visit their free green-living tool, One Small Act and join the “Eco Eats” challenge.
One of the most important choices you can start with is to eat seasonal, local food. At the risk of waxing poetic about "the old days", many of us still remember when you could only get certain foods during certain times of the year. If you wanted something out-of-season, it was either canned, frozen or dried. 

The environmental cost of year-round availability of food is tremendous. From the cost of shipping food across the nation from warmer climates to cooler ones to the chemical fertilizer put into the soil to force food to grow out of its natural growing season, to the additional water required to compensate for dry seasons when the soil would traditionally rest, we ask a lot out of our earth for the luxury of year-round unlimited choices. Additionally, the quality of food that is not-seasonal or shipped from faraway diminishes. In order to ship tomatoes for example, they are picked before they are ripened, and then gassed with ethylene so they achieve a "reddish-orange" tomato-esque color. Barry Estabrook, author of 2011's Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, explains.

Fields are sprayed with more than one hundred different herbicides and pesticides. Tomatoes are picked hard and green and artificially gassed until their skins acquire a marketable hue. Modern plant breeding has tripled yields, but has also produced fruits with dramatically reduced amounts of calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C, and tomatoes that have fourteen times more sodium than the tomatoes our parents enjoyed. The relentless drive for low costs has fostered a thriving modern-day slave trade in the United States.
That is just for tomatoes. Extrapolate that same treatment to every choice we are given at the grocery store and you can easily understand how our demand for year-round selection isn't necessarily the healthiest or sustainable decision. Would you join me in the pledge to eat more local and seasonal food?

If you are interested in ‘eco-eating’? NBC’s Green is Universal is hosting an “Eco Eats” sweepstakes from September 29 – October 17. Everyone who signs-up and tackles at least one action by October 17th will be entered to win one of five 6-month subscriptions to NatureBox. No Purchase Necessary. Must be US resident and 18+. Read official rules here.


disclosure: In exchange for participating in the challenge and writing a post with my opinion, I am eligible for a gift package from Green is Universal.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Lighting changes to increase energy efficiency

Whether you're concerned about leaving less of a carbon footprint or you just want to save some money on your energy bills, one simple way to increase energy efficiency in your home or business is to adjust the lighting of your personal or office space. If you're looking for a way to cut costs for your personal or business needs, sometimes just a few changes are needed. An electrician in your local area can assist you with making the changes, so consider these ideas to control your energy consumption.

  • Install motion/light sensors - Installing lights with motion detectors is an easy way to help you save on energy costs. The motion detectors can switch the lights on when movement is detected in the room, and automatically switch off if no motion is detected for a predetermined amount of time. These sensors will help be sure that only the spaces that are being used are lit, saving you money and energy.
    image from: wikimedia commons
  • Replace your switches with timer switches - Timer switches help you automate your lighting by switching on and off based on your schedule. This is a great solution if you have a bad habit of forgetting to turn of the lights before work. Just set the timer to automatically switch of when you know that you will not be home. You can also use timers to switch on outdoor lights during evening hours only, so that your home can be well lit on nights when you leave the office late.
  • Switch to LED lighting - LED lights produce more light without producing a lot of heat of using a lot of energy. Swap out your energy burning incandescent or halogen lighting for eco-friendly LED lighting. Your space will be brighter without sacrificing energy efficiency. Not only will LED lights help you save energy, but it's more cost-effective in the long run. This simple change will do wonders for your home or business.

These three tips are just a few ways that you can take charge of your energy consumption and save money. Your local electrician in Robina may have more ideas of ways to to save you time, money and energy. Energy costs are not likely to decline in the near future, so now is the time to get a handle on your energy spending.

We'd like to thank today's post sponsor:  If you're not sure where to begin with your lighting changes, the professionals at Ruby Electrical can offer some suggestions. Ruby Electrical is the Gold Coast's leading expert in all things electrical and energy efficient. Whether you need help finding the right fit for your home or office or need to shop for lighting solutions, the competent and professional electricians from Ruby Electrical can help. Serving the Coolangatta, Robina, and Tweed Heads areas, Ruby Electrical is your best bet in updating your home or office lighting. For more information on other electrical solution or for a consultation, check out rubyelectrial.com.au . 

Advantages that a fence provides your home

PerthHome ownership is an investment that can pay dividends for decades for you and your loved ones. The safety of those that inhabit it comes first and foremost to the owner. An ability to keep the things you want out and retain those inside your yard is paramount. The best budget friendly and quickest way to do this is with a fence. It will provide another dimension of beauty to your landscape and at the same time increase your property's value. The following are just a few of the facets on how a fence will do this for your own home.


  • Type of Fence - There is a style of fence that will complement the type of home you live in. First of all, most will consider the type of material used in its construction. These can range from bamboo, metal, wrought-iron timber, and even some more exotic materials. This versatility is a key that allows you to get a fence that not only does what it is supposed to do but effortlessly blends into the decor of your home and the surrounding neighborhood. For example, aluminium fences in Perth are all the rage and allow a modern feel to any home.


  • Increase in Protection - Outside elements are often beyond your control but that does not mean that you are helpless in letting them encroach onto your property. A fence performs the dual task of keeping out animals, plants, and people that wish to do harm while keeping loved ones safe in their confines. Household pets and young children are taught boundaries and experience an increased feeling of safety. Meanwhile, predators have a much harder time making it your way with a fence blocking their approach. Peace of mind is increased knowing that the fence is on guard twenty four hours a day making your home even more secure.


  • Your Eyes Only - What happens in your yard is the business of only those that live in the house. Items like aluminium fence slats for Perth fences have caught on to be both decorative and keep the wandering eyes at bay. One of the items on the checklist for homebuyers is the element of privacy that their prospective purchase will afford them. A quality fence will allow that buffer to exist and potentially increase the price you get if you ever opt to sell your home.


Clarity comes to both homeowners and prospective purchasers in regards to the importance of a fence to your property. They add a visual beauty to the landscape that augments the natural d├ęcor of the house. Your loved ones are afforded another layer of protection in their home life. Finally, we live in a much too public world and it is relaxing to have the element of privacy increased when a person is outside on their property.

A special thank you to today's sponsor: learn more by visiting:  Latticeandscreens.com.au 
Lattice and Screens enjoys a sterling reputation as having one of the largest selections of fences in the industry. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Some serious potty talk (reprint via Otherwords.org)


Composting toilets would save water and, uh, resources.

Jill Richardson
There’s a photo-word montage on the Internet in which a little boy, presumably from Africa, looks skeptically at a woman who is apparently from somewhere else. The boy asks, “You mean to tell me you have so much clean water, that you (poop) in it?”
Umm…yeah. Yeah, we do. But why?
Ars Terra Compost Toilet
London Permaculture/Flickr
This probably isn't a question you often ask, because as the wastewater treatment industry says, we have a “flush it and forget it” attitude as a nation. Number ones and number twos disgust us, and we don't want to see, smell, touch, or God forbid, deal with our pee and poop.
Flush toilets magically make all that human waste vanish in an instant, so we can go on with our day in blissful denial that anything unpleasant-smelling ever came out of our bodies at all.
What’s the cost for that modern convenience? An awful lot of water.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, an average American family of four can flush over 100 gallons of water per day down their toilet. That number can skyrocket to 200 gallons if the toilet doesn't stop running, and can decrease by over a gallon per flush if you get an efficient “WaterSense” toilet.
Innovations like low-flow toilets and waterless urinals can decrease the amount of water pouring into treatment plants.
Even the most water-conserving systems are still wasteful in two ways. First, they flush away some clean water. Second, they throw away a nutrient-rich resource. Yes, I'm calling your number twos a “resource.”
Our sewage systems combine everything that goes down the drain in homes and businesses with water, mix it together, and then attempt to clean up that liquid. The problem is, so to speak, you can't put Humpty Dumpty together again. Not perfectly, anyway.
Once human waste and once-clean water mix together with pharmaceuticals, pesticides, flame retardants, antibacterial soap, cosmetics, Drano, and everything else that goes down the drain, it’s nearly impossible to separate it once again.
Our current method involves separating solids from liquids to clean the sewage water, which experts want you to call “effluent.” Wastewater treatment is hard and expensive. No matter how well it’s done, the effluent released into the environment is not simply pure water.
For example, scientists found that a common ingredient in antibacterial soap released into the Mississippi River in effluent breaks down into cancer-causing dioxins.
The solids sent to wastewater treatment plants are composted and treated as thoroughly as possible before they are disposed of using various imperfect methods. One such option is applying them to farm fields as “fertilizer,” even though they still contain many toxins in them. Sometimes they even sell the treated sludge to home gardeners under brand names like Milorganite.
Outhouses aren't a real option in crowded cities, town, and suburbs. What else can you do? Well, you could consider getting a composting toilet. In my experience, composting toilets have no smell or other unpleasant features. You sit, do your thing, and “flush” by adding something like pine shavings to aid in the composting process. That’s it. You probably don't want to fertilize your lettuce with your composted waste, but you can easily use it to plant a tree.
Changing our entire approach to dispensing with human waste wouldn’t be easy. But sticking with the status quo means continuing to waste water and compost, even as several regions of our country are suffering droughts. Using composting toilets won't keep soap out of our wastewater stream, but it will keep it out of our, um, fertilizer.
Maybe it’s time for those who can to opt out of this wasteful system by conserving water and putting our number twos to work by switching to composting toilets.
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, September 16, 2014

Shopping for a New Truck? Factors to Consider

A pickup truck is a very versatile driving machine that can be used for a variety of different purposes. However, all pickup trucks are not created equal. Not only do pickup trucks vary in size and strength, but they also differ in cost. Here are some important things to consider when shopping for a new pickup truck.

Size
In most instances, pickup trucks are available in full-sized and compact sizes. Although full-sized trucks typically provide more interior room and a greater towing capacity, compact trucks are usually able to deliver better fuel efficiency.

Cab Design
There are basically three cab designs: regular, extended, and crew. Regular cabs are most suitable for the drivers who only need to carry one additional passenger. Although extended cabs provide an additional seat in the rear, some adults will find the available room to be relatively cramped. On the other hand, crew cabs offer plenty of room for the entire family.

Power Output
Pickup trucks are equipped with a variety of different engines. Due to the fact that four-cylinder engines typically have the lowest power output, they are only suitable for light-duty tasks. On the other hand, a six-cylinder engine usually provides the best combination of fuel efficiency and performance. Although an eight-cylinder motor consumes more gas, its enhanced horsepower and torque comes in handy when hauling hefty loads. Diesel-powered trucks are great for pulling extremely heavy loads.

Operating Costs
Before selecting a truck, be sure to research the reliability rating and resale value. Expensive repair work and maintenance can cause the total cost of ownership to rise dramatically. It is also important to research the long-term fuel costs of the truck. Sites such as toyotacostofownership.com enable shoppers to view side-by-side comparisons of each truck.

Safety Rating
Do not forget to research the pickup truck’s safety rating. While some trucks are very stable on the road, there are others that are prone to experiencing a rollover. It is also a good idea to inquire about the available safety features before making a final decision.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Warm red cabbage salad

right before we picked it... isn't it beautiful? 
Our Daily Green knows it's fall because the red cabbage has beautiful tight little heads, and is ready to harvest. We have patiently watched it forming, waiting for one of our favorite fall recipes. It's simple and delicious, you'll want to add it to a list of permanent recipes. 

According to the World's Healthiest Foods website, red cabbage is a nutritional powerhouse.
While green cabbage is the most commonly eaten variety of cabbage, we highly recommend trying red cabbage because of it added nutritional benefits and its robust hearty flavor. The rich red color of red cabbage reflects it concentration of anthocyanin polyphenols, which contribute to red cabbage containing significantly more protective phytonutrients than green cabbage. Interest in anthocyanin pigments continues to intensify because of their health benefits as dietary antioxidants, as an anti-inflammatory, and their potentially protective, preventative, and therapeutic roles in a number of human diseases.
...The vitamin C equivalent, a measure of antioxidant capacity, of red cabbage is also six to eight times higher than that of green cabbage. Red cabbage is one of the most nutritious and best tasting vegetables around.
This dish is complemented with pecans, which are another nutritional powerhouse, according to Pecan Nutrition Facts:

  • Pecans are one of the very few sodium-free and fiber-rich nuts in the world.
  • Pecans are a rich source of gamma tocopherol which is a chemical compound derived from vitamin E. It supports heart health, prevents heart diseases, promotes respiratory health, helps in blood circulation and is very good for your brain.
  • Pecans also contain some of the phytochemicals.
  • 90% of the fat content in pecans contain unsaturated fats.


RECIPE: Warm Red Cabbage Salad

  • 1 medium-sized head of red cabbage, halved
  • 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped pecans (I like to toast them)
  • 3.5 oz. crumbled white cheddar cheese
  • 4-6 slices of diced and cooked bacon
  • 1/4 c. olive oil 
  • 1/4 c. vinegar (apple cider, red wine, or balsamic)
  • salt and pepper to taste

the finished salad... colorful and delicious
Place cabbage halves flat side down on a cutting board. Starting at the top of the head, slice across in very thin strips. Do not use the thick white core portion. Toss the cabbage and the pecans in a large bowl. In a large pan, cook bacon until crispy and brown. Drain the bacon and discard the grease, but don't wash the pan. Heat olive oil in same pan, until warm, but not smoking. Reduce the heat and stir in the vinegar, salt and pepper. Add cabbage mixture and toss for a minute to warm the salad. Transfer to serving bowl and toss with bacon & cheese.

ENJOY!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Changing your furnace filter

Many people forget that their furnace has an air filter just like that of their air conditioner. The air conditioner is run so often during the year that people forget to handle their furnace filter when the weather turns cold. The best furnace filters do the same job as a good air conditioning filter, and they provide the same benefits to the family.


Air Cleanliness


Most families will notice that they have musty air coming through their vents when they turn on their heaters in the winter. This is likely due to a lack of service to the furnace during the warmer months. Items like 3M furnace filters need to be changed regularly to make sure the furnace is always putting out clean air.

Changing In The Summer


The best time for a family to maintain their heater is the summer. When the weather is warm outside, there is no need for the family to use the furnace. This is the perfect time to have a technician clean and service the furnace. The technician can change the furnace filter, and the family can make a change to a stronger filter if they need.

Air Quality


The service technician may complete an air quality survey in the house, and the homeowners can make changes to their furnace system as a result. The furnace filter may need changing, but the technician may also need to service the unit. The air quality that is brought about by a simple filter could lead a family to making greater changes in their home. Changing the air quality in the house can lead families to healthier lives.


Changing During The Winter


Every family should plan to change their furnace filter at least once during the winter. Harsh winters can be especially hard on furnaces, and families need to make sure they take extra steps to keep their furnaces clean. Simply changing the air filter in the middle of the winter can make a big difference for the family's health while they are trapped inside by the cold weather. Making just one proper filter choice will go a long way for the family.

A special thank you to today's sponsor for this timely reminder to change our furnace filters while the weather is still warm. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Seven reasons people don't recycle

waste balers
photo from: Easi recycling

From time to time, the topic of recycling will come up in a casual conversation with friends. Recently, someone had saved some cardboard tubes for a project for me, and when I had a surplus, I said, well I can always recycle the rest. The person commented, "I know it's bad, but I just don't recycle."

It got me to wondering "why not?", and how to overcome those "why nots". While the reasons differ from person to person, there are some common themes among those who do not recycle. 
  • They cannot be bothered. For some folks, they just don't want to think about what to do with each piece of garbage they generate. 
  • It is easier to clean up if everything just goes into one garbage bag and is tossed. 
  • They have no financial incentive. In the days when there were can and bottle deposits, it was a common sight to see folks walking back into the store with empty bottles and cans and getting their deposit back. 
  • Out of sight, out of mind. Unless someone lives next to a landfill or remembers the days of floating garbage barges because there was no landfill space available, there is nothing unsightly about throwing out garbage.
  • Time consuming to wash out empty containers and separate them. 
  • No recycling offered at work or school, without a large scale buy-in, it seems futile to try at home. 
  • Inconvenient recycling locations. Confusion about what can or cannot be recycled. 
It is estimated that nearly 75% of the material in landfills could be either composted or recycled. Landfill fees increase annually, so the financial incentive could be about cost savings from generating less trash. Another consideration is to rethink any single serve or disposable packaging, which reduces the number of times/daily that a consumer even has to think about where and how to throw something out. 

In whole, it seems that for many people recycling just is too much work. So we'd like instead to propose a proactive approach where instead of having to think about how to recycle items, creating a climate where fewer items even need to be recycled. 

Our Daily Green wants to reset the way our readers think, so we move away from the idea of having to recycle and instead think how to reduce or reuse. If reduction and reusing are taken more seriously, there is less to recycle and therefore less barrier, but also less waste. 

What are some ideas you have for reducing or reusing? 






Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lacto-fermented pickles

The most successful plants in my garden this summer have been my cucumbers and dill. The universe clearly was hinting that dill pickles were in order. Actually, every summer, I make dill pickles, but I typically make them with store-bought vinegar

I have read quite a bit the past year about the health benefits of lacto-fermentation. The process is actually the old-fashioned way of preserving foods. With growing concerns about factory processed food safety, many folks are making their own food from scratch and rediscovering what our previous generations knew.

Growing up on the farm, we always had a big crock of dill pickles in the basement. While times have changed from plunging my hand right into the crock and fishing around for a pickle, I thought it would be fun to resurrect pickles I remember growing up. I had a lot to learn, but you'll see the results are quite amazing. 

Some very important things to understand about making pickles this way. You need to use either oak or grape leaves to keep the pickles crisp. I sent my young nephew stomping off through the woods to find the oak leaves for me. My little naturalist didn't return empty handed, although I do apologize to his mom & dad for the poison ivy and thank them for their continued indulgence of borrowing their children for my reviews

Oak leaves contain tannin and without them in the layered crock, the pickles will not stay crisp. The other key is that the water must not have chlorine, which inhibits the growth of the healthy bacteria. To dechlorinate tap water, just boil and cool it, which will cause the chlorine to evaporate. You also can leave the water sitting out for 24 hours and the chlorine will dissipate.


layers of cucumbers, dill, garlic, oak leaves, and pickling spices


pickling spices include: 
mustard seed, peppercorns, red pepper flakes

The cloudy water of the finished batch

Yesterday, we happily munched on the lacto-fermented pickles as we enjoyed the last summer barbeque. The crisp dill flavor was well worth the wait. I think I may try to make one more batch before the weather changes.

I based my pickles on a recipe from Cultures for Health. Check it out and enjoy! Happy September!

Repurposed outdoor furniture

The repurposing movement has inspired scores of people around the world to reconsider what they take to the landfill. Repurposing or upcycling has given many cast-off items a second life. I began to research upcycling in earnest when I realized that while the Daily Green crib was no longer used for sleeping babies, there may be another life for it.  I wished I had been so inspired when I was able to buy a beautiful, but unable-to-be-fixed antique piano. I was so thrilled to discover the piano for literally a song at a thrift store, I never considered the cost of rehab. The "almost free" beautiful piano would have required $10K in custom repairs to be functional again. I opted to re-donate my find instead of repurpose it. I wish I had done a little more research.

In fact, people are turning beautiful pieces of days gone by into useful and interesting furniture around their house. We enjoy seeing patio sets created from empty steel drums, shutters, or baby cribs.

Successful upcycling projects do not happen without the appropriate materials. Once inspired by a castoff, it's important to find the right supplies for rehab. In the case of outdoor furniture, Dryfast foam is a fantastic product that can be custom cut to any project and is designed for outdoor use when moisture and precipitation is common. The foam has large, open cells to offer airflow not present in other foams which allows it to dry quickly, even after complete saturation.

Your imagination and a desire to maintain a product's usefulness and keep it from landfills are your only limitations when it comes to repurposing unique objects.

Have you ever upcycled or repurposed something? What did you use and what did it become?

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