People love coffee: In some countries, average consumption per person per year totals more than 10 kilograms – that’s nearly a thousand cups per year!
When composted, all those coffee grounds make a great source of slow-release nitrogen, or can be diluted with water for a fast-acting liquid fertilizer. Worms love the grounds too, so they can be added to vermicompost systems or directly to the garden to naturally promote worm activity. The acidity can also help correct alkaline soils while simultaneously promoting larger plants and blooms. The beans shouldn’t get all the glory, though – wet filters also degrade quickly when composted, but unfortunately end up in the trash all too often.
But there’s an easy solution: reusable coffee filters. Even better than being merely reusable, filters made from hemp are also sustainably-sourced. Some even insist that hemp fibers contribute to a better-tasting cup of coffee, too. The filter simply needs to be rinsed after each pot is brewed for a long-lasting, durable alternative to conventional paper filters. And at less than $10 a pop, reusable hemp filters are good for your wallet, too. –Holly Young
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In a ideal financial market, we’d all love to be able to buy all organic foods all the time. It’s been well documented by now that conventionally-grown produce contains pesticide residue, which is harmful to both farm workers and consumers, and can even cause allergic reactions in some people. Some fruits and vegetables contain more than 50 different types of pesticides.
While purchasing exclusively organic isn’t always a viable economic option, since it’s pricier, certain produce is worth splurging on. Some types contain significantly higher amounts of pesticides, while others contain very small amounts. By switching to organic varieties on just a handful of fruits and vegetables, studies have shown that you can reduce your overall pesticide consumption by up to 80%. Here are the top foods to buy organic:
These items contain HIGH amounts of residue and are worth spending the extra buck on:
These items are relatively clean, containing little to no pesticide residue:
Keep this list on your smart phone or print it out (on recycled paper, of course) the next time you go grocery shopping to help you make smart choices in terms of your grocery budget and your family’s health! –Holly Young
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What is Aquaponics? It’s a growing movement. It’s a Millennium Development Goal. In short, it’s sustainable agriculture, and it’s becoming an increasingly big deal.
To meet the food needs of a growing population– including the nearly one billion people around the world who are currently undernourished– the future of agriculture will need to include more sustainability-minded efforts. What if two different production systems could be combined to increase output and reduce input? In the case of aquaculture and hydroponics, it can.
Aquaponics is the combination of tank fish production and traditional hydroponic horticulture. Though it’s in the early stages of implementation, it clearly has huge potential. The cycle begins with the fish: A tank of tilapia or other easily managed species is fed, and their waste subsequently travels to the plants and nourishes them. In turn, the plants filter the water as they absorb the nutrients and nitrogen, and clean water is returned back to the fish. It’s an ingenious solution that turns two forms of waste into two forms of nourishment, creating an efficient symbiotic relationship.
There’s even better news: ANYONE can do it. DIY Aquaponics systems range from small indoor setups to large commercial units, making aquaponics suitable for everyone from small-scale gardeners to large-scale farmers. Aquaponics systems are surprisingly cost-efficient: Small systems cost merely the price of a fish tank, water pump and growing media. Even larger setups are relatively inexpensive, with a single-tank commercial system and equipment totaling about $5,000.
In addition to being sustainable, eco-friendly and energy efficient (using just 2% of the water and 1/10th the energy of traditional farming), outdoor Aquaponics systems also encourage farmers to use native fish and plant species, as they require little temperature correction and environmental control. Expect to see more of these systems being implemented in the next few years, and don’t be surprised if Aquaponics emerges as the future of food.
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Chances are that your New Year’s goals include getting things under control, whether it be your body, work or home. The holidays leave many of us with too much stuff and too little space to store it. But what do to with all the old stuff without wasting it and filling up landfills? De-cluttering is a great way to get your household organized while putting your resolutions into action. Here are our favorite ways to de-clutter your home the eco-friendly way:
ORGANIZE & STORE HOLIDAY DECORATIONS
• The wrap-around-your-arm strategy for bundling Christmas lights is a recipe for a tangle tantrum next year, but with the help of an egg carton you can easily keep them tangle-free. Using the egg dividers as guides, wrap the lights around the inside and bottom of the carton then close and secure with a rubber band.
• Toilet paper, paper towel and wrapping paper rolls are the perfect size for storing small- to medium-sized ornaments and serve as good protection, too. Once the roll is full, just cover the ends with a piece of tape and your ornaments will stay safe and organized until next year.
• Use any boxes from opened presents for storing decorations, rather than buying new baskets or containers. If you’re feeling crafty, used Mod Podge to decorate the boxes with all that used wrapping paper—it’s surprisingly resilient when glued on.
CLEAN OUT THE KITCHEN
• Despite your best efforts to consume everything before it goes bad, there’s probably something lurking in the fridge that shouldn’t be. Checking dates is especially easy at the start of a new year: everything dated 2011 and earlier should go—but that doesn’t mean you have to toss it. Compost what you can, then rinse and recycle the containers.
• If you have craft supplies, beauty products or other knickknacks in need of organization, clean and save old glass jars.
• Check your pantry for any empty boxes or out-of-date canned goods. Anything going out of date in the near future should be placed at the front of the pantry so it gets eaten sooner. There are lots of ways to reuse old tin cans, such as garden planters, pencil holders or scoops for pet food—but recycle anything you can’t find a use for.
ORGANIZE THE LITTLE STUFF
• Craft rooms, offices and other hobby areas are easily cluttered, but there are some easy ways to combat the mess. Use old glass jars (such as that moldy pasta sauce at the back of the fridge) for small items such as buttons or beads. Shoe boxes are great for organizing papers in the office, and can easily be stacked and stored as needed.
• Reuse the out-of-date tin cans from your pantry: large cans work well for holding pencils in the office or crayons in the playroom, and smaller tuna-sized cans work well for erasers, clips and other office supplies.
STOP THE MAIL MADNESS!
• Sorting mail isn’t fun, but it’s best done sooner than later. Junk mail clutters a room quickly, so try using 2 small repurposed containers where you normally place your mail: one for important items and one for junk mail to be recycled. Gift boxes, clementine crates and shoe boxes work well for this and can be decorated or painted to match any décor.
• Opt-out of any catalogs or subscriptions you don’t read or could read electronically instead.
• Choose paperless bills—companies make it easy to switch to online banking and electronic statements. Not only is it easy and convenient to pay your bills online, but you’ll be doing the trees a favor too. –Holly Young
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Over the years, Christmas has transformed from the “Season of Giving” to a season devoted to conspicuous consumption. We’re sick of the manipulative toy ads, the Black Friday sales, the mall madness, so years ago we simply decided to opt out. We still love Christmas and giving, but we want to celebrate the season in a more sustainable, eco-friendly way. Here are our Top 5 Tips for a Green Christmas season.
• BUY GREEN- There’s been a lot of debate about whether real or fake Christmas trees are more environmentally friendly, but it turns out that keeping it real is the best option. Fake trees consume significant energy and use petroleum-based products in their manufacturing process, plus they’re usually made in China and have carbon emissions associated with transport. Real trees are more sustainable, are typically grown on farms that replant 3 trees for every one cut, and can be recycled pretty much anywhere nowadays.
• TAKE THE GREEN LIGHT- Studies have found that LED Christmas lights, which use semiconducting material rather than incandescent filaments, are 90% more energy efficient than traditional lights. According to a Department of Energy study, if everyone in the United States replaced their old light strings with LEDs, at least two billion kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved– enough to power 200,000 homes for a year!
• MAKE IT GREEN- Few things have brought our family closer together around the holidays than making our own Christmas presents. Not only does it show people you put time and effort into their gifts, but it saves money as well! In the last few years, we’ve made homemade soaps, photo calendars, Christmas candles, baked goodies (recipes to come), mosaic tile picture frames, beaded jewelry and concrete stepping stones. It’s the one gift you can be sure people will never want to return, and it takes a lot less time and effort than you might think!
• WRAP IT GREEN- My family used to make fun of my grandmother for saving all the bows and wrapping paper, then reusing it the next year, not to mention her proclivity for using the Sunday comics to wrap our birthday presents. Turns out Granny Love was WAY ahead of her time! Americans throw away a million extra tons of garbage during the holidays, including wrapping paper and packaging. But wrapping paper/ribbons can be reused with a little ironing, and consider non-traditional approaches, like wrapping a gift inside another gift (i.e. a scarf or colorful sweater). Of course it goes without saying that anything you DO throw out should be recycled!
• GIVE GREEN- Let’s face it: Most people in the Western world have WAY more stuff than they need. This year, consider giving some of that Christmas cash to the less fortunate via international non-profit charities such as Heifer International, Water.org, or Oxfam International. For the price of a gift your friends/family members could do without, you can provide people in developing nations with food, water, shelter and other tools they need to live a healthier, happier life. And, at Christmastime, isn’t that the greatest gift of all? –Bret Love
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