Friday, April 29, 2011

Happy Arbor Day 2011!

Did you know that the last Friday in the month of April is National Arbor Day?  That's today!

 I love trees.  Since I was very little, I've loved looking at trees, drawing and writing poems about trees, climbing trees, planting trees, and enjoying how beautiful they are.  During the hot summer months, I used lay at the end of my bed, staring out the window at the silhouette of trees.   They truly are a gift of nature, a gift of our planet.

So what is National Arbor Day all about?   According to the National Arbor Foundation, "Arbor Day is a nationally-celebrated observance that encourages tree planting and care."  It was founded by J. Sterling Morton in 1872, and each state, as well as other countries around the world, celebrate in some way.  

Arbor Day Foundation's mission statement is, "we inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees".  According to the World Resource Institute, there are approximately 100,000 reasons to celebrate, or 100,000 known species of trees that exist throughout the world.  If you need a reason or two to celebrate trees besides them being aesthetically pleasing, here are my top 10 reasons to plant a tree:

1.  Trees remove CO2 from the air, reducing the impacts of greenhouse gases and climate change.

2.  trees produce oxygen that is necessary for life on Earth, and are good for your overall health.

“One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.” —U.S. Department of Agriculture

“In laboratory research, visual exposure to settings with trees has produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension.” —Dr. Roger S. Ulrich Texas A&M University

3.  Trees can add value to your home.

 “Landscaping, especially with trees, can increase property values as much as 20 percent.” —Management Information Services/ICMA

4.  Trees help cool your home and neighborhood.

5.  Trees break the wind, and reduce both  heating and cooling costs.

“The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.” —U.S. Department of Agriculture

“Landscaping can reduce air conditioning costs by up to 50 percent, by shading the windows and walls of a home.” —American Public Power Association

“If you plant a tree today on the west side of your home, in 5 years your energy bills should be 3% less. In 15 years the savings will be nearly 12%.” —Dr. E. Greg McPherson, Center for Urban Forest Research 

6. Trees improve water quality.  Trees help to filter water, improving water quality and groundwater recharge. 

7.  Trees reduce runoff, which also increases groundwater absorption, and allows for groundwater recharge, which in turn is a source of drinking water for many Americans. 

8.  Trees prevent erosion.  The roots of trees help to prevent soil erosion which can lead to the siltation of streams and wetlands, and loss of property.  

“The planting of trees means improved water quality, resulting in less runoff and erosion. This allows more recharging of the ground water supply. Wooded areas help prevent the transport of sediment and chemicals into streams.” —USDA Forest Service

9.  Trees provide food and shelter for wildlife and birds.

10.  Trees help to maintain biodiversity by providing shelter, food, and habitats for wildlife and birds.

    You can become a member of the National Arbor Foundation for as little as $10, and they will send you 10 free 6-12" trees that will grow into beautiful mature trees as a thank you (you even get to choose from a list of trees).  I'm looking out the window now at my beautiful flowering tree that looks like it's decked out for the spring prom.  I received this tree as a gift from National Arbor Foundation many years ago, and it's grown into a stunning beauty that I'm still enjoying today, and hopefully will be for years.

    There is tons of great information on the Arbor Day Foundation website where you can learn about tree care and planting, tree identification, free landscaping ideas, join the tree forum, and much, much more.  It's worth checking out at There is also an amazing glossary of tree terms

    I hope you'll decide to celebrate National Arbor Day in some way too, whether it is today, tomorrow or in the future because without trees our planet just wouldn't be the same :)  Happy Arbor Day!

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    T is for Twist

    Twist my arm and I'll gladly tell you a new green secret!  I've discovered a few new green products by Twist LLC out of Boulder, Colorado at WholeFoods.  The 100% biodegradable* products are now part of my green cleaning routine.  I've been using them for a few months now, and one of my favorites is the Naked Sponge

    First of all, the name is catchy in and of itself :)  And I admit, I chuckled when I read the product description for the Twist, Naked Sponge.  It reads, "Naked Sponge - Normally things with nudity might not be appropriate for all audiences.  In the case of the Naked Sponge, that couldn't be further from the truth.  Because by naked, we mean without colors and any of the adulterating stuff you might find in traditional sponges.  So please feel free to show these to your family and friends without risk of offending anyone."   So based on the description alone, and the promise of green cleaning, I decided to give it a try.

    I like the fact that the Naked Sponge 100% biodegradable, and it can be sterilized by boiling it, popping the damp sponge into the microwave for 1 minute, or running through the dishwasher on the top-rack.   Compared to other sponges it has held up very well, hasn't gotten smelly, and since they come in a two pack, it's easy to keep rotating one into the dishwasher while still having one available for use. 

    So, whether you like nakedness, cleanliness, green-ness, or all 3, give this "green" sponge a try (as you can see from the picture, it's actually white and matches all decors :)

    * biodegradable -  A biodegradable product can dissolve easily in the environment without destroying nature.

    Sunday, April 24, 2011

    Happy Easter 2011

    Don't forget to green your Easter by composting the Easter egg shells after you enjoy a yummy hard boiled egg :)  As they decompose, calcium is released back into the soil. It has also been reported that crushed eggshells help prevent  slug and snail damage because they don't like to cross them.  I will definitely have to give this a try in the garden this year, and see how well it works  :)

    Egg cartons can be reused or recycled as well.  Use your cardboard type egg cartons for crafts, to store and organize jewelry or small items in your desk drawer, to store golf balls, to cushion ornaments, make fire starters (add laundry lint, some old broken crayons and/or used up candle bits), or make some seed starters just by adding some compost (or potting soil)!

    For craft ideas, check out|_recycled-t75.html .             

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    Happy a la carte Earth Day!

    Happy Earth Day Everyone!

    What will you do to celebrate Earth Day?

    Here are 10 simple ideas that you could adopt today and forever.  In a la carte fashion, you choose what will work best for you, and what you can stick with for lasting change!

    1. Reduce - reduce what you consume.  When you are at the store, take a critical look at your cart and think, do I really NEED this item, or is this purchase retail therapy?  Reduce what you consume for the good of your pocketbook and the planet, and only buy what you really need.
    2. Reuse - reuse items you already have.  If you are done using an item, think about how else you could use it.  This could be as simple as, reusing a ziplock bag, or reusing your lunch bag.  How about reusing those velcro lettuce/veggie gizmos? The possibilities are endless, and reusing things also adds green to your pocketbook because it reduces what you consume.  Win, win :)
    3. Recycle - we all should be doing this, but America lags far behind other countries in what we do recycle vs what we can recycle.  Did you know that we import plastic water bottles to be recycled into fabrics for fleece, t-shirts, and carpet because we do not recycle enough in the US?  That is just sad!  Do your part and recycle all you can, it's a matter of retraining yourself, and putting those recyclables out to the curb!
    4. Spring is here, and that means getting outside more, and being in our yards.  Think about reducing the amount of yard waste that ends up in the landfills.  Did you know that 20% of municipal waste comes from yard waste, mostly grass clippings?  Why not add those clippings to your compost heap, and creating some rich soil.  Or use the clippings to mulch around the base of your trees, adding back nutrients, shading the tree roots, and helping to maintain moisture for the tree?
    5. Take a waste-free lunch.  Instead of throwing out lots of lunch waste, how about packing smart, and reducing your environmental footprint?  Bring your sandwich in a reusable pouch, or if you don't have one, how about recycled aluminum foil?  Then turn around and recycle the foil you've used.  For your sweet, salty, and fruit/veggie items, use reusable snack bags, or reusable plastic containers.  Better yet, bring fruit that's in it's own packaging such as clementines, bananas, apples, or pears.  Don't forget to compost the "packaging"!
    6. Use both sides!  Don't recycle that paper yet...instead, reuse the other side for notes, in the printer, or for drafts.  After you've used both sides and are done with the paper, THEN recycle it.  You'll be helping to save trees twice, once by reusing, then by recycling.
    7. Vanquish the vampires!  What is vampire power?  It's known as standby power, vampire draw, phantom load, or leaking electricity, and refers to the electric power consumed by electronic appliances while they are switched off or in a standby mode.  A common type of vampire power is a power adapter which has no power-off switch. So unplug things that are not in use, or install power strips that can turn off multiple items with the flick of a switch, and bye bye vampire power, and hello green in your pocket.  
    8. April showers bring May flowers.  All the spring rain, can be saved for watering those flowers if you capture it in a rain barrel.  They are simple to make, or they are available at many home improvement stores.  You can conserve gallons of water, reduce your water bill, and keep your flowers, and veggies watered at the same time :)
    9. Green your spring cleaning.  So many of us are ready to fling open the windows, and do some spring cleaning.  Why not use products that won't add to indoor air pollution, and your chemical load?  There are many options available to purchase, and even more options to make your own green cleaners.  Happy green cleaning!
    10. Get outside!  Pick up the trash that's blow into your yard.  Take a few bags (recycled of course), take a walk down the street, and beautify the neighborhood while doing a good deed for Mother Earth.  If it's misting or drizzling, consider it a free facial from Mother Nature.  Do some yard cleanup, get your hands a bit dirty, prep your gardens.  Just think, you'll fill your lungs with fresh air, get some exercise, and feel good about helping.  There are proven benefits to getting outside and working the Earth!
    Happy a la carte Earth Day!  I hope you decide to give one or more of these ideas a try today, or in the future :)

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    It Ain't easy being green

    So it's been awhile since I've posted.  

    Basically, we got stuck in project purgatory, but at least there was green intent behind it! 

    Remember "A is for Air Quality"? Well, in an effort to improve the indoor air quality, we embarked on removing the dust mite laden carpet in Tiger Lily's bedroom, and replacing it with bamboo flooring.  

    In terms of "green" flooring, bamboo is extremely sustainable because it can grow between 1-2 feet a day.  It does not need to be replanted after harvesting because it has an extensive network of roots, and spouts new shoots continually.  In addition, bamboo perpetually converts greenhouse gases as it grows, filters the air while making oxygen, and doesn't need pesticides or fertilizers to grow at amazing rates.  This is one rugged, useful, rigid, sustainable grass!  Not only was our choice of flooring "green", but it saved us some green too.  Compared to the oak hardwood we'd originally considered to match the first floor, the bamboo cost significantly less, approximately half as much per square foot. 

    As a result of the difference in price, the flooring replacement extended into the hallway, and the next 2 bedrooms.  These areas also desperately needed to be replaced, and by removing the dust laden carpet and padding, and installing the green, clean bamboo flooring we've improved the air quality, as well as increased the value of the house.

    To complicate the project, we took the opportunity to remove the horrible, contractor-special, "popcorn" ceiling that is sprayed on quickly and cheaply.  Besides the fact that we hate the look of the popcorn ceiling, it's impossible to clean off spider webs and dust because the "popcorn" flakes off.  So, the unhealthy ceiling needed to be scraped off before the carpet was pulled up.  Talk about labor intensive and messy!  Fortunately, the ceiling dust that didn't make it in the bag while scraping, fell on the carpet, which was rolled up and removed.  

    Oh, and lest I forget...after removing the horrible popcorn ceilings, the entire upstairs ceiling had to be primed and then painted (low odor paint).   And just for good measure, we added to project purgatory, and primed and painted the walls in two of the bedrooms. 

    Suffice it to say DIY projects, have many bumps along the way, both human (hubby smashed his finger, I wrecked my shoulder, and we both ached for weeks) and projected related.  As we did each room, the kids had to endure being displaced from their rooms, and having their stuff mostly inaccessible in piles and boxes.  In addition, we all put up with tools, project mess, and the inconvenience of it all.  Even with great planning there were extra trips to the store, plenty of snags along the way, and days it felt like it we'd never finish.  

    Although it ain't easy being green, and we were in project purgatory for weeks, I can honestly say the rooms look AWESOME, and the pride in greening and beautifying our home is something that can't be measured :)