Friday, September 21, 2012

39 Tips For Fall

This weekend marks the beginning of fall in our part of the world, which is a good time to take a look at ways to green our routine. We've been compiling this list of ideas over the past several years ... they are tried and true. Some are major and may require planning and budgeting ... others are minor and only require a bit of our time. All of them are Eco-friendly and help us walk a little gentler on the earth.

If you're moving into spring instead of fall, click HERE for some ways to get ready for the warmer months.

Here are your fall tips:
  1. Check the air pressure in your tires. Cooler temperatures lower tire pressure and that, in turn, lowers fuel efficiency. So check your tires and make sure that they are properly inflated.
  2. If you have a garage, park the car in it. As the weather gets colder, using a garage will alleviate the need to warm up the car before driving ... and will save fuel.
  3. Clean and test the furnace. Did you know that your furnace needs cleaning? Yep ... it collects all kinds of dust and debris which not only affects it's performance but could cause a fire. Before you really need the heat, get out your owner's manual for instructions on how to clean it. No manual? Check here or call a furnace maintenance company. If you have a gas furnace, have it professionally inspected once a year.
  4. Install a programmable thermostat and set it for 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 Celsius) ... it'll save money and use less fuel/electricity.
  5. Move furniture or any obstructions from vents, baseboard heaters, registers on the floor or radiators so that air moves freely. This is also a good time to vacuum these areas to remove any dust or debris. And here's a tip if you have a radiator ... place a reflecting panel behind it ... you can purchase one at a home center or make one yourself with a plywood panel and aluminum foil.
  6. Remove window air conditioners for the winter. If they can't be removed, seal them with caulking or tape and cover them with an airtight, insulated jacket.
  7. Open blinds during the day to attract warmth. Close them at night to retain the warmth. If you're making a change, opt for honeycomb blinds which are especially insulating.
  8. Vacuum the refrigerator coils to keep the compressor running efficiently. It's also a good time to check that the refrigerator is level ... the door should automatically swing shut instead of staying open.
  9. Check the seal on the refrigerator door ... try closing it on a piece of paper. If you can pull the paper out easily, it's time to replace the gaskets. Repeat this process at several spots along the door to ensure that the entire seal is working.
  10. Here's another tip for running the refrigerator efficiently ... don't over fill it. Allowing room for cool air to circulate will keep everything at the right temperature.
  11. And how about another refrigerator tip ... plan ahead and defrost frozen items in the refrigerator instead of on the counter top ... the frozen items will help keep your refrigerator cool thus making it run less.
  12. Clean the ducts and area behind the dryer. And don't forget, clean the filter after every use and every once in awhile, give it a good wash.
  13. Check windows for proper caulking. If you have single-pane windows, add storm windows. Even a plastic film over windows will reduce heat loss.
  14. Consider installing new, efficient windows.
  15. Check doors for weather stripping and replace as necessary. If drafts sneak in under exterior doors, replace the threshold or block the drafts with a rolled-up towel or blanket.
  16. Hang a thick curtain in front of the door to block cold air from entering the house. Use a shower curtain rod and loop hangers so that the curtain can be easily pushed to the side to open the door.
  17. Electrical outlets, especially on outside walls, and light fixtures are prime places for cold air to leak into your home. Add foam gaskets behind covers and switch plates, and use safety plugs in unused outlets. Be sure to shut off the power at the fuse box or circuit panel before doing this.
  18. If your home has no sidewall insulation, place heavy furniture like bookshelves, armoires and sofas along exterior walls, and use decorative quilts as wall hangings. This will help block cold air.
  19. Perhaps it's time to get new insulation ... if so, consider getting blown-in recycled cotton/denim insulation.
  20. Check your roof for any missing or damaged tiles or shingles.
  21. If you make any roof repairs, consider painting your roof white or installing light colored roofing.
  22. Clean the roof gutters and make sure downspouts are pointed away from the house. Now would also be a good time to install a rain barrel ... rather than allow water to drain into one spot, a rain barrel would allow you to direct the water to where it's most needed. One tip, a 50 gal barrel fills with just 1/2" of rain from the roof, so drain the overflow from the barrel far away from the house so that it won't flood the basement (if you have one).
  23. Keep weeds and shrubs trimmed. Keep them away from outside heating/cooling units for best airflow.
  24. Install foam covers over outside water spigots to prevent freezing.
  25. Check for water leaks both inside and outside.
  26. Wrap the water heater in an insulating blanket.
  27. If you have a ceiling fan, reverse the direction ... the fan should be run in a clockwise direction (stand under the fan and if you feel a breeze, reverse the direction so that air is being drawn upwards). This pushes the air up against the ceiling and down the walls, to gently re-circulate the warm air without creating a cooling "wind chill effect."
  28. Do you have a fireplace? This is a good time to have the chimney cleaned and get vent systems checked.
  29. Bring in any houseplants that have spent the summer outdoors. They'll help clean the air. Hint ... for about a week, bring them in at night and then put them out during the day. This will ensure that they aren't "shocked".
  30. Do a little outdoor landscaping. Trees and bushes, planted in the fall, have ample time to develop strong, deep root systems before the heat of the next summer. This increases their chances of surviving and typically means less watering during hot months. For a discussion on fall gardening, click HERE.
  31. As the autumn leaves begin to fall, consider raking them up rather than using a "blower" (it's great exercise). Once raked up, use them as mulch to protect plants throughout the winter or add them to a compost pile.
  32. Preserve summer produce for use in the winter.
  33. Even though fresh, local produce isn't as abundant during this season, there are still many options available. Visit local farms or farmer's markets and find out what's available and then, eat locally and in season. Visit Sustainable Table to learn which crops are growing in your area.
  34. Before packing away those summer clothes, go through them and determine which items to keep, which items to repurpose into something else (cleaning rags, craft projects, etc.) and which to donate.
  35. Bring out all those warm sweaters, socks, slippers and blankets so that when the temperature falls you'll be ready to bundle up instead of raising the thermostat.
  36. Are your kids returning to school? Consider buying clothes, backpacks, etc. from second hand stores and/or thrift shops. If you're buying new items at a store, opt for earth-friendly products and don't forget to pay attention to packaging. Also consider investing in reusable lunch items (beverage bottles, utensils, napkins, etc.) to further minimize your child's impact on the planet.
  37. Do your kids ride the bus to school? Often buses sit in front of a school, idling while they wait for kids to climb aboard. Suggest, to your school or the bus company, that bus drivers turn off the engine when waiting for their passengers. And, of course, if it's possible for your kids to walk to school ... all the better (for them and the earth).
  38. Speaking of school buses, as the weather gets cooler, there's a tendency to drive kids to the bus stop. To save that fuel, bundle up and walk your kids to the bus stop instead.
  39. In the fall, entertaining moves indoors. There are football parties, cozy dinner parties and later events like Halloween and Thanksgiving. When planning your fall event, consider reusable plates, napkins and utensils, decorations from nature, clean burning soy candles and plenty of plant-based foods on your menu.

Do you have any fall tips that we haven't covered? We'd love to hear them!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Vegan Recipe - Big Honkin' Chopped Salad

One of my favorite features on Reduce Footprints is our monthly vegan recipe. Meatless meals are good for the planet and good for our health. And ... it's a terrific opportunity to meet talented chefs who whip up delicious dishes to tempt our taste buds. This month's Guest Chef is, indeed, very talented!

Please meet Sam, author (and head chef) of The Quantum Vegan. The Quantum Vegan is a wonderful blog with a variety of interesting posts ... interviews with authors and chefs, product and restaurant reviews and even discussions on eating disorders. And then there are recipes ... lots of recipes ... lots of delicious recipes ... things like “Cheesy” Sweet Potato Hash Browns for breakfast, Toasted Zucchini-Cabbage Sandwiches for lunch and, one of my personal favorites, Millet Salsa Bowls for dinner. Looking for a desert recipe? How does a Mocha Brownie Torte sound? Or maybe “Dandy” Chocolate Chip Walnut Bars? Maybe you're just in the mood for a snack and would find Tangy Shredded Salad to your taste ... or Garlic-Dill White Bean Hummus. Is your mouth watering? Mine is! Each recipe is clear and concise and includes ingredients which most of us have in our kitchens. More importantly, each recipe (at least the ones I've tried) are fabulous ... they meet my main criteria: 1) they are easy to put together and 2) they taste great. The Quantum Vegan is for anyone who loves good food. I hope you'll check it out!

Sam has graciously agreed to share a recipe with us. It looks delicious!

Big Honkin' Chopped Salad

After seeing Forks Over Knives, I was inspired to start swapping out the vegan convenience foods in my diet with more whole foods. Without frozen burritos or ready-in-4-minutes organic ramen to rely on, I had to start being more creative about lunch. It was time to seek out new recipes!

Inspired by the "Hugh Jass Salad" in the Peas & Thank You cookbook (we won't mention how long it took me to work out that joke), I started making big salads with lots of add-ins, which evolved into big chopped salads with crunchy toppings and improvised "dressings." Chopped salad is a great way to get in a lot of vegetables at once, plus the chopping mixes everything together so you get a little bit of each flavor in every bite. Add some grains and beans, and you've got a whole meal in one bowl! Another bonus is that it's extremely portable, so if you're in need of a healthy lunch on the go, you can't go wrong with a big honkin' salad.

This is my basic recipe, but you can mix and match depending on what you have on hand. Sometimes I swap out some of the summer squashes for a few brussels sprouts or throw in some pea shoots. Quinoa and chickpeas is my favorite grain/bean combo, but I've used red rice and pinto beans, millet and white beans and bulgur and kidney beans in the past. Uncle Sam cereal is my favorite topping since it's just wheat flakes and flax seeds, but you can use anything healthy and crunchy. Chopped walnuts come to mind!


2 cups mixed greens (I use spring mix)
1 cup kale, roughly chopped
1 cup red cabbage, roughly chopped
1 cup zucchini, summer squash, or a mix, sliced
1/2 cup bell peppers, diced large
1/4 cup carrots, sliced
1/4 cup cucumbers, sliced
1/2 serving cold cooked grains (usually about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup beans of your choice
2Tbsp. Uncle Sam cereal
2Tbsp hummus, homemade or store bought, thinned with water to desired consistency
pepper to taste (optional)

1) Dump the greens, kale, cabbage, squashes, peppers, carrots and cucumbers into a food processor. Pulse until chopped but not mushy. Transfer to a big salad bowl.

2) Add the grains and beans. Drizzle on the hummus "dressing" and mix until well combined.

3) Sprinkle on the pepper and Uncle Sam cereal, grab a fork, and enjoy!

Sam, a.k.a. the Quantum Vegan, has been vegan for three years and has spent that time experimenting with recipes in a quest to discover as much delicious vegan food as possible. She loves sharing pictures and comments via the Quantum Vegan blog and finding new recipes from other amazing vegan bloggers around the web!

MMM ... I can't wait to try out that recipe! Thanks, so much, to Sam for stopping by today and sharing this dish with us!

If you have a vegan recipe which you'd like to share, please send it to me HERE. And for all the recipes we've shared so far, be sure to visit our recipe page using the tabs at the top of this blog ... or by clicking HERE.