Monday, June 29, 2009

Plastic Bags ... by Kelli

After the plastic bag challenge, our bloggy friend Kelli, from Thoughts of a Sober White Women, had a couple of interesting things to share. The first was a post she did about a recent trip to the beach. Kelli, on a regular basis, walks the beach and ... cleans up trash as she goes. On this particular trip, she took pictures and then wrote about what she found. It is a real eye-opener:

Next, Kelli shared one of the ways in which she uses plastic bags. While she says "no" to plastic or paper and uses a reusable bag, she explains that friends and family aren't as conscientious as she is so ... a few bags make their way into her home. With a true recycler's heart, she has found a way to repurpose these bags. Well ... here ... I'll let her tell you all about it (and be sure to check out the pictures at the end of the post):


I do not write an eco blog, but I make an eco entry once a week, and I do an eco friendly Friday tip of the day on face book.

So when I was asked about some of the ways I reuse my plastic bags I was happy to share them with everyone.

Let me first say that I only use reusable when I shop, but the rest of my family and our friends bring in plastic bags. This is where I get my all my plastic bags from.

First of all lay all of your bags out and separate them by which store they came from. You will notice that some are smaller and thinner than others. Once you have the bags separated you can do so many things with them.

You can cut them up and make Plarn. Once you make the Plarn you can knit or crochet them into anything that you would like. Last year for Christmas my girlfriend made me a crochet rug from the plarn and I loved it! If you have never made Plarn I would suggest watching a youtube video on it. There are so many out there, so watch several of them and see which one you like the most.

I also take my bags and fuse them together. This is where separating the bags comes in handy. I take a stack of bags and I cut off the bottoms and the handles. Please make sure you recycle them! Then I line my ironing board with wax paper. You can also use parchment paper or regular paper, but I like wax paper the best. Then place your stack of bags between sheets of wax paper and iron them together. Sometimes you have to turn the stack over and never leave the iron the one spot. I have seen videos where they say to make sure that the printed side does not face the iron, but I have not noticed a difference.

Now you may be asking how many bags do I iron together? That is a good question. The video I watched said to use eight, but I thought it was a little too thick so I use four bags. If the bags are thick bags then I only use one. This is really a system of trial and error. If you mess up or you don't like the way it turns out then you can recycle the bags.

I am a quilter so I look at my fused bags as material. I cut them down into same size squares and I then sew them together to make a rug. Just a little note. The plastic does fine on a sewing machine, but it will dull your needle.

The last thing I do with my bags is I cut them up as if I was going to make Plarn. I decided from there how long I want something to be. Example: if you are going to make a jump rope then you want it to be longer then a rug.

I am working on a rug right now. To make a braided rug just figure out how long you want it and then take three strands and tie a knot in one end. Then just braid it down until you reach the end and then tie another knot. I will then take the braids and tie them together with another piece of plastic.

If you do a youtube search you can find so many neat things to do with your plastic braids. I usually watch several and then take a little something from all the videos. I think it is important to be creative and just go by trial and error. If you get frustrated don't give up, just try something different.

So how do wash a plastic rug? Well, all I do is dunk them in my mop bucket, rinse them and then hang them up to dry. There is no major work involved.

Where would you use a plastic rug? I have one under our litter box and one by our trash can.

When do I find the time to do all of this? That is a good question. I am a very busy stay at home, and I have four teenagers in the house, so I don't have a ton of time. I make plarn while I am watching t.v. I iron my bags when I am ironing other stuff. I just find a way to work everything in.

We just talked about plastic grocery bags but lets not forget that our bread bag, some newspapers come in plastic bags, or any old zip lock bags that you have can also be cut up. If it is a plastic bag then you can make Plarn out of it.

Some of the other way's I use my bags:

1. I keep all my plastic silverware in a bread bag. I do not use plastic silverware but when other people bring it I wash it and keep it. I will usually end up sending into my son's teacher so she can use it for class parties.

2. I also keep my Campbell soup labels and box top for education in a grocery bag.

3. I keep a couple of the thicker bags in with my reusable bags in case I run out of bags.

4. I use them to carry wet clothes in.

Here is a link that has some really good uses for those plastic bags, and it also talks about a lot of the stuff I have mentioned.

This is my fused rug. My daughters think it looks so cool! LOL

This is the rug that my girlfriend made for me. I love it!

This is what the strings look like before they are tied together.

Wasn't that great? We try to avoid plastic bags altogether ... but when a plastic bag finds it's way into your life, it's important to use it for as long as possible before recycling it or tossing it out. Since plastic bags take forever to biodegrade, I think Kelli's "rugs" will last for a long time.

Thanks, Kelli!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Comments Of Note

This has been a wonderful month. It's actually been ... exciting! We started our weekly challenges and wow ... so many of you are participating. It's a beautiful thing! :)

We've also had some great comments this month ... thoughts that add to the conversation and educate us. Thanks to everyone who took the time to write ... I wish I could feature each and every one of you.

Now ... here are our ten "Comments of Note":

From Green Gardening Tip - Mulching:

Inge' said...

I have a compost bin and I was able to completely fill my planter box which is almost 6 ft long with compost from my own bin this year!

On the sawdust issue. You need to make sure that the sawdust is not from pressure treated wood. The chemicals used in treating wood can harm your plants so make sure and ask first!

From Banana fanna fo fanna:

Thomas Goodall said...

I heard criticism of the "fair trade" designation.

The 2 main points put forth were that it was condescending because farmers have to provide and accounting of where their money is spent. As if we should have the power to tell them where they should spend their money. And 2, it was a 1 way street. That we have the power to tell them how to spend their money, but they don't have any control over who their consumers are. Maybe farmer A isn't interested in selling his bananas to customer B because Customer B spends his income on cigarettes and then smokes them in the car with his children.

It wasn't my argument, but I thought it was meritorious.

rewinn said...

Thomas, I can't comment on the anti-Fair Trade argument you make since you don't link to it, but it does not sound like any Fair Trade program I have ever heard of. Perhaps you can link to an example?

I have little doubt that there are political factions opposed to Fair Trade because keeping small farmers in debt bondage or the like is highly profitable. History tells us that they will come up with all sorts of academic arguments against fixing the situation. Land reform and so forth is a complicated matter and there's always the possibility that outside efforts can screw up, but more facts would be helpful before condemning Fair Trade.

From Goin to the chapel ...:

The Green Bride Guide said...

These are all great ideas! There are so many ways couples can reduce their impact on the earth and save money too. In addition to what you mentioned - couples can offset their carbon emissions (see for example).

The Green Bride Guide

EcoGrrl said...

I love this post - very thorough. Especially about gift giving to charities and other ways besides "stuff". Giving the gift of time or an incredible experience -that's what's lovely. I stopped doing holiday gifts several years ago and now don't even think about it - my mom and I now have our annual holiday lunch or dinner and I host a Solstice Party (winter and summer) to celebrate friendship and the start of a new season. Most of us would love just more time with those we love and focusing our energy in that way is just plain good for the soul. When a couple is going forth into their new life together, there are so many ways of gifting them with your presence, with words of encouragement and wisdom, with things you've made that really signify the giver and the recipient - NOT Starbucks or

From Summer Solstice:

Project Savior said...

The Tip about turning off your computer when not in use not only saves energy cooling your house but they use a surprising amount of electricity.
I've stopped leaving my home office computer on at night and my electric bill dropped by $20 a month. That's $120 a year.
BTW: another way to save on cooling costs is to take cold showers. I've got my hacked together solar hot water heater and on a hot day like today I can use it all and get blasted by super cold water for a minute. Even at 85 degree air temperature it takes a half hour or so to warm back up.

rewinn said...

I cannot say enough about the joys of line-drying. Even in our tiny apartment, we forgo the electric dryer except for emergencies.

It took a little time to figure out how to get everything to dry, but who doesn't like a puzzle? (This is a big principle: make the challenge into a puzzle, so solving it is fun!)

We learned, for example, that socks dry fine on a set of over-the-door hooks; t-shirts dry fine on coathangers hanging on the shower rod. We have a folding rack for towels and such; it's paid for itself many times over in electricity saved.

The one lifestyle adaptation is that airdried/sundried towels are crisper, more exfoliating, less fluffy. Frankly, we've learned to love them that way but it's a change.

One you go airdrying, you'll never go back! Even in a tiny apartment, it pays!

Yanic said...

Wonderful ideas, as always.

My tip to add to the stove-top cooking, try not cooking at all! Make it a point to fresh, no-cook meals a couple of nights a week. Summer is the best times for for fresh, local, often organic fruits, veggies, cheeses, breads... most of them available from you local farmers markets!

Thomas Winther said...

Great list :-)

About clothes drying: Did you know clothes will dry just fine outside on a clothes line in the winter, too? I dry my clothes in the attic, which is so drafty it's almost as cold up there as outside. It's frequently somewhere around -5 degrees celcius (23 degrees Fahrenheit). Admittedly it might take a while for the clothes to dry, but they do. The most important thing when it comes to drying clothes is that there is ample air circulation around them.

Also, if you want even more tips for staying cool in the summer, I'd like to offer my recent series of posts about green home cooling.

From Kicking the habit ...:

K.B. Keilbach said...

Anyone who is on the fence about using plastic bags should look up "Pacific Gyre" on the Internet. By some estimates, the Pacific Ocean Gyre or "Garbage Patch" covers an area roughly twice the size of the continental United States with as much as 100 million TONS of plastic. This "plastic soup" not only pollutes the beaches our children swim in, it poisons the fish we eat and kills birds and other sea life who mistake it for food. Just think about that the next time you're tempted to say, "Plastic, please."


Thanks, again, to everyone who commented! Keep them coming because ... you know I love hearing from you!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Change The World Wednesday

What is Local??

Some of you have asked the definition of "Local" in this week's challenge. It's a good question and there doesn't seem to be a definitive answer. Some say it's the food you can get in your region of the country ... NE, SW, NW, etc. Others are comfortable with foods that can be driven to your location within 8 hours. Local foods can also be defined as foods within the state, county or city borders. The most common definition I've come across is food which is grown/produced within 100 miles.

My personal choice is the 100 mile rule ... that seems reasonable and doable. Naturally, the tighter we can make the circle, the better it is for the planet. And remember ... these challenges are all about awareness and trying something new ... to take ourselves out of our comfort zone and ... well ... challenge ourselves.

So ... let's say ... for the purposes of this challenge ... we use the 100 mile rule. If that doesn't work for you, expand the circle a bit. But again ... go for the tightest circle you can achieve.

Okay ... if you've just arrived here and haven't read this week's challenge, you can scroll down to Wednesday's post or click on the picture within this post.

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Special Thursday Post ...

Hi everyone!

Typically I don't post on Thursdays but ... I have something to share with you. My "significant other" and best friend, Art Ist from One A Day, sent me this video. It's really interesting and will further our resolve to give up plastic bags. I hope you enjoy it!

Tomorrow we start a new challenge ... I think you'll find it most interesting! "See" you then!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kicking the habit ...

How are you doing with the current Change The World Wednesday challenge? Good? Bad? Struggling?

Since plastic bags seem to be such a part of life in our society, kicking the habit may be tough. So ... here are a couple of videos to help us along.

With most green living tips, we say Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. But when it comes to plastic bags, we need to say "no thanks".

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer Solstice

This weekend marks the official start of summer. With warmer weather, vacations and outdoor activities, it's a great time to switch from the Eco-friendly tips we adopted in the winter to those that will keep us, and the earth, comfortable all summer.

Here are some ideas:
  • Turn your A/C thermostat to 75 degrees or higher. Better yet, don't use it at all.
  • Use ceiling fans. Adjust them so that they run in a counter-clockwise direction (stand under the fan and if you feel a breeze, it's set correctly).
  • Use box fans or small space fans to help circulate air. And here's a tip ... when it's cool outside, put a fan in the window facing in and blow cool air into the room. When it's hot inside, reverse it ... put a fan in the window facing out and blow the hot air outside. It works amazingly well.
  • Adjust the curtains and windows. Open them when it's cool and the sun isn't shining in. When the sun comes around, close both the windows and the shades.
  • Turn off all electrical devices when not in use. For example, when you're not using the computer, turn it off ... you'd be surprised at how much heat a computer puts out (there's a reason there are little fans inside of computers). And don't forget lights ... they generate quite a lot of heat as well.
  • Eat local and organic. Summer is the perfect time to eat fresh, local, organic produce. Support farmer's markets, CSAs and roadside stands. Or, start a garden and grow your own.
  • Get some exercise and leave the car at home. This is the perfect time of year to walk or ride a bike ... so give the car, and our air, a break.
  • Are you planning some landscaping this summer? Be sure to opt for native plants ... they'll require far less water and fertilizer.
  • If you use large appliances like dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers ... operate them either early in the morning or late at night ... you'll not only save money by not running them during peak hours, you'll save energy.
  • Consider using a clothes line and make use of the sun.
  • Going on a picnic? Be sure to use reusable dishes and utensils ... no paper plates or plastic forks. And don't forget cloth napkins instead of paper. When the picnic is over, be sure to clean the area ... leaving nothing but your footprints.
  • Opt for counter top cooking rather than using an oven ... toaster ovens and crock pots make wonderful meals without using a lot of energy.
  • Are you planning a vacation? Consider a "staycation", playing tourist in your own town. If you decide to leave town, check out this post first: Vacations - The Eco-Friendly Way.
  • When buying typical summer products (sun lotions, swim suits, pool toys, etc.) be sure they are Eco-friendly.
  • Forgo expensive souvenirs and take digital photos instead. If you really want a souvenir, consider something from nature ... a rock or piece of driftwood.
  • Start a compost bin ... summer is the perfect time for composting.
  • Planning a little hiking or camping this summer? Remember to carry out what you carry in ... no littering. In fact, it's a pretty good rule for any activity, anytime.
I haven't forgotten those of you who are moving into winter. For our friends on the other side of the world, check out these posts:
With just a little effort, any season can be Eco-friendly ... and wonderful!

Happy Summer (or Winter) everyone!

Just a reminder ... this week's challenge is still in play. Click on the picture to the left to read all about it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

It's a Hair Affair ...

My family is THE BEST!! Not only have they supported and encouraged this blog ... they actively participate. Case in point ... this post. The idea for this article came from my California family (a special thanks to R for always being on the lookout for new, green ideas).

You've heard the "green" mantra a gazillion times ... Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. You'll notice that "contribute to the landfill" isn't included. That's because living a green life means trying to avoid garbage. We even try to avoid biodegradable garbage because landfills are anaerobic environments and without air, items can't decompose. So, we find new uses for things ... we recycle, we compost ... we try, very hard, not to toss out anything.

And that brings us to today's subject ... Hair. Yep, hair! If you have hair, then you probably cut it ... and comb it ... and brush it. And that means that there is hair ... cut hair, hair in combs and brushes ... which is no longer being used. What happens to it? Usually ... it gets tossed out. But did you know that it can be reused and recycled? Yes indeedy ... here are some ideas:

  • Nests. Birds love hair for nesting material. Scatter hair from brushes and combs, and hair clippings, in the yard for their use. Don't forget the hair from your dog or cat ... it can be tossed in the yard as well. Birds will pick it up and use it. And don't worry about what they don't use ... it'll decompose.
  • Snail Repellent. Having trouble with snails in your garden? Just toss some hair around the plants ... snails will go elsewhere.
  • Deer Repellent. If you're lucky enough to have deer in your area, you might not feel so lucky when they start munching on your plants. To discourage them from using your yard as their favorite buffet, scatter hair around.
  • Hair Mats. Here's an amazing video about cleaning up oil spills with mats made from human hair. If your salon isn't already participating in this program ... ask them to:

  • Locks of Love. If you have long hair, 10 inches or longer, and are considering a shorter "do", donate your hair to Locks of Love. This organization helps kids with cancer who have lost their hair due to cancer treatments.
  • Compost. Did you know that human hair can be composted? Yep ... it makes a great, slow release fertilizer. Who knew!
  • Stuffing for pin cushions. Human hair, because of it's oil content, makes a great stuffing for pin cushions. The oil keeps the pin from rusting.
  • Arts and Crafts. Okay ... this last one is for the die-hard repurposers among us. I've read that hair can be used in weaving and needle felting. It can be used to make clothing and furniture. Some people have used it to stuff pillows and even mattresses.
Hair ... it's one less thing in the landfill.

By the way ... be sure to stop by on Wednesday for another "Change The World" challenge. And there's still time to accomplish this week's challenge (to read it, click HERE)

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Goin to the chapel ...

It's June ... one of the most popular times in the U.S. to get married. If you aren't planning a wedding for yourself, chances are that you are planning one for a relative, participating in one or have been invited to one. And that means opportunities to "go green".

Here are some ideas for having an Eco-friendly wedding:
  • Elope or go to City Hall. Seriously! Weddings, even the most environmentally conscientious events, still have a larger carbon footprint than simply eloping. So consider a very small ceremony ... and save the planet.
If eloping or City Hall won't work, here are a few more ideas:
  • Instead of paper invitations and thank you notes, use electronic versions ... no paper, no stamps, no waste. If the electronic varieties don't work for you, opt for 100% recycled materials. And rather than include more paper and envelopes for RSVP purposes, ask your guests to email you or call.
  • Minimize the amount of driving your guests will need to do. Plan for the ceremony and reception to be in the same place or close to each other. Take your guest list into consideration and choose a location close to the majority of guests.
  • When choosing wedding attire, consider buying vintage clothing. Check with family members or second hand stores for dresses, suits, etc. How about renting wedding attire? After all, how much use will one get out of a wedding dress or tuxedo? If new frocks and suits are decided upon, make sure that they are made of earth friendly materials such as cotton, hemp or other organic blends. Taffeta and Polyester, traditional wedding dress material, may be beautiful but ... they are oil based materials.
  • Exchanging rings? These days diamonds are not anyone's best friend. Choose Eco-friendly and conflict-free gems, made with fair labor practices. Better yet, consider second hand jewelry or have rings made from recycled pieces.
  • Most cut flowers are anything but Eco-friendly. So, when choosing flowers, opt for certified organic varieties. Consider using flowers from your garden or perhaps carry a special item and forgo the bouquet altogether. For decorating guest tables, consider potted plants or herbs which could be given away at the end of the night.
  • Forgo things like wedding rice, party favors and place cards. If you must have these things, consider giving your guests bird seed to toss at the happy couple, packets of flower seeds as favors and names written on rocks instead of paper place cards.
  • Instead of traditional gifts, ask guests to make donations to a favorite charity, buy carbon offsets or contribute to such things as a house purchase, the honeymoon, or a fun experience (like diving or horseback riding). If gifts are appreciated, register with a "green" company like VivaTerra.
  • Are you providing your guests with a meal? How about beer, wine or other beverages? Be sure to opt for local, organic food and beverages. If possible, serve a meatless meal. If meat is a must, be sure to include enough meatless options so vegetarian/vegan guests will be accommodated. For toasting the newlyweds, choose organic champagne or sparkling cider. And remember to donate leftover food, or give it to guests, rather than throw it out.
  • If candles will be used in the ceremony or to decorate the reception, choose soy candles.
  • When the event is over, recycle everything possible or donate it to a local charity.
If you are attending a wedding, here are some ideas for you:
  • If you know of other guests living in your area, see if you can share a ride to the event. Or, consider public transportation instead of driving.
  • When giving gifts, choose Eco-friendly items and forgo wrapping materials. If you feel you must wrap a gift, use "green" wrapping such as cotton towels.
  • If you're given the choice, choose a meatless meal over the usual chicken or beef.

These are just a few ideas for having, or attending, a green wedding. As with anything, environmental consideration, when making choices, is the key. With a little thought and a little planning, saying "I do" won't hurt the earth ... and that's a match made in heaven.

Before we close, I'd like to offer a little reminder ... Wednesday's "Change The World" challenge is still in play. So make a commitment today. Click HERE to get the details. By the way ... you don't have to have a blog to participate ... the challenge goes out to everyone. If you don't have a blog, email your friends and family with the challenge or talk to co-workers ... put the challenge on a bulletin board ... scream it from the mountain tops (okay ... that last one was a bit over the top). :)

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Banana fanna fo fanna ...

Look what I found this weekend ...

Now take a closer look:

In February I wrote an article about bananas ... you can read that article HERE. After researching the subject, I made the decision not to buy bananas until I found organic, fair trade varieties. The problem was ... I like bananas. They are healthy, available all year long and they taste good. So, when I saw the "produce guy" stocking shelves, I asked him if they had organic, fair trade bananas. He took me to the organic varieties ... but sorry ... no fair trade. So, I started writing letters and asking questions. The store I normally shop in forwarded my letters to Del Monte who sent me a beautiful, long letter saying ... well, not really saying anything. They used a lot of words ... but never once said they would provide either organic or fair trade produce. So I wrote more letters.

In my favorite whole foods market, I looked ... organic but no fair trade. I asked ... I wrote ... I waited. And then, this weekend, I saw them ... beautiful, organic, fair trade bananas. Yes, they were a bit more expensive than the usual variety ... 20 cents per pound more. But ... they were available. So, I used the power of my purchase to send a message ... I WANT ORGANIC, FAIR TRADE BANANAS.

Now, I'm not saying that my letters and requests were the sole reason for seeing these little jewels in the store ... but maybe they helped. As I've said many times before, I"m a firm believer that if we ask, providers will try to accommodate us. After all ... it's their bottom line that's being affected. And I also believe that if we pay a little more for the "good" bananas and refuse to buy the "bad" bananas, the price will eventually come down.

So ... today's tip is easy: Write an email to your grocery store and ask them to stock organic, fair trade bananas ... or coffee ... or chocolate. If you see a produce guy stocking the shelf, ask him if they carry them and when he says "no" (as he probably will), tell him you're interested in them. And make a commitment not to buy bananas if you can't find organic, fair trade.

Today, I'm going to write a letter to the grocery store, thanking them for stocking these bananas ... and then I'm going to enjoy one.

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Vegan Recipe - Strawberry Shortcake

Before we take a look at this month's recipe, I'd like to let you know that today, June 5th, is World Environment Day (WED). WED is a program, developed by the United Nations, to stimulate worldwide awareness of the environment. The program focuses on large scale awareness ... getting governments to care and act. But it also makes an appeal to individuals ... people like us ... to do what we can to protect our environment. So, today, spread the "green" word ... blog about it, talk about it, act on it. For daily tips, suggestions and a lot of wonderful information, check out the WED website HERE.

Okay ... on to our recipe.

Eating local and in season is very "green" ... so here's a wonderful recipe to get you started.

I hope that you and your family enjoy it.

Strawberry Shortcake

2 & 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
4 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup oil or shortening
1 egg substitute (Ener-G), prepared and beaten
2/3 cup soy milk
3 pints fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups whipped topping of your choice (Hip Whip, etc.) or Vegan Ice Cream

  • Slice the strawberries and sprinkle them with 1/2 cup of sugar. Let stand.
  • Preheat oven to 425 F
  • Grease and flour one 8" cake pan.
  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, 2 Tbs. sugar, and salt.
  • With a pastry blender (or two knives), cut in the oil or shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Make a well in the center and add the beaten egg sub. and soy milk. Stir until just combined.
  • Spread the batter into the prepared pan.
  • Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Let cool partially in the pan on wire rack.
  • Slice partially-cooled cake in half, making two layers.
  • Arrange the strawberries on one layer, and the top with the other layer.
  • Top with remaining strawberries, and cover with the whipped topping or ice cream.

As always ... I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Green Gardening Tip - Mulching

It's spring ... and for many of us, that means heading outside to the garden. We start vegetable and herb gardens ... we plant trees, flowers and shrubs. Whatever one plans to grow, spring seems to be the perfect time to get started because, for the most part, temperatures are warm without being too hot and rainfall is adequate for root growth.

Then we move into summer, with long, hot days and little or no rainfall ... and our plants and trees, now well established, begin to require more attention. They require more water, more protection from pests, and more fertilizer. Sure, we can spend every day watering ... we can buy pesticides to control critters ... and we can spend a lot of money on fertilizers. Or, we can use natural materials to handle it all ... we can mulch.

Mulching is simply placing a layer of organic material around plants. You'll notice that I said "organic". There are non-organic mulches on the market such as black plastic, landscape fabric, etc. While these man-made materials might keep weeds out of a garden, they don't do anything to enrich the soil. Organic mulch slowly decomposes providing important nutrients for plants and creating an ideal environment for earthworms and other organisms which help enrich the soil. It also protects the soil from erosion, prevents weed growth, conserves soil moisture, stabilizes soil temperature, reduces compaction, encourages root growth, and keeps any fruits or vegetables, which touch the ground, clean and dry (preventing rot and/or disease). This means less watering, less fertilizing and less chance that destructive critters will harm your plants. Best of all ... it's Eco-friendly.

Organic mulch materials include dry grass clippings (from grass which hasn't been treated with weed killer or other chemicals), broken dry leaves, straw or hay, shredded hardwood, sawdust, pine needles and wood chips. Many of these items are readily available from our own yards. Other sources include local farmers and feed stores ... they often are more than happy to get rid of old hay and straw. If there is a saw mill around, check with them for inexpensive sawdust.

Applying the mulch is easy. Once the plants are established (4-5 inches tall) and the soil is warm, mulch can be applied. First, remove any weeds. Then, water the garden well (or wait until after a rain). Place a layer of mulch around the plants. For most mulches, a 2-4 inch layer is sufficient ... dry leaves (which have been broken up to prevent matting) should be about 6 inches deep. Adding too thick of a layer may smother the plants ... so start with a couple of inches and then, throughout the growing season as the mulch breaks down, add more material to the top.

Once the growing season is over, mulch can be worked into the soil or just left on the surface to decay naturally. Either way, it'll continue to nourish the soil.

Mulch cools, protects and enriches the soil ... and for most of us, is readily available on our property. What once was something to haul away each spring, becomes a beneficial ingredient to successful gardening. Now that's what I call brilliant re-purposing.

As always ... I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, June 1, 2009

The urgent need for Green Energy by Gopal Ganapathy

Today I would like to introduce you to Gopal Ganapathy, the author of a very fine blog entitled Is it true? Amazing facts and Strange discoveries. Mr. Ganapathy writes about everything from a Chinese Cave House to the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World to, most recently, a post on The Visayan Spotted Deer of the Philippines. Is it true? is an amazing collection of unique posts about unusual subjects.

Today, Mr. Ganapathy has kindly agreed to share his thoughts on Green Energy with us. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

The urgent need for Green Energy

What is greenhouse effect? Very simple truth. Though solar heat mostly radiates back into the outer space, some of it is retained in the atmosphere itself, a process called the Greenhouse effect. This retained heat is essential for the survival of the Earth as otherwise the average temperature here in our planet would be a chilling minus 18 degrees Celsius. It is this greenhouse effect that provides us a comfortable average temperature of 14 degrees.

Now greenhouse gases are chemical compounds contributing greenhouse effect. They radiate sunlight back into the atmosphere as heat. The three man-made greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are the major culprits since the Industrial Revolution in the Western countries caused mainly by fossil fuel combustion, rise in global population and resultant increase in agriculture. While methane concentrations are on the decline, human-made CO2 and nitrous oxide are likely to increase most in the next 100 years. Remember, in climate science, though methane is a more damaging greenhouse gas, its life in the atmosphere is only about 10 years as against 100 years for a molecule of CO2.

But all is not lost. We do have hopes and options. The concept of green energy is fast catching up across the world and several organizations are now actively promoting the concept of clean or green energy as against dirty energy like coal and oil, which affect our health and wealth with their toxic pollution as well as climate changes that we are all now greatly aware of. This green energy concept concentrates on numerous extremely simple options that each one of us can and should adopt. Yes, these involve lifestyle changes and policy changes. Avoidance of the need for new energy plants by energy recycling and also by more efficient buildings is likely to gain acceptance gradually. Fuel economy measures will reduce gasoline consumption dramatically by whopping 43%!!! Evaluation of energy loss in homes can be taken up. The recent stimulus package announced by President Obama offers financial benefits of up to $1500 for adopting home efficiency measures like solar water heaters or photo voltaic cells at 65% less than their cost last year thus making a $20,000 solar installation to cost as little as $6,000. Let us all grab this opportunity and save the Earth by adopting green and clean energy. Probably USA may take the rest of the world into the Green Energy Era where energy is going to be clean and cheap.

The benefits? This green energy will greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create new green jobs thereby improving the sagging economy of the nations. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates a saving of $168 billion in utility expenses as well as creation of about 222,000 new and permanent jobs in various fields and most importantly prevent the release of 262 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, which is equivalent of taking 48 million cars off the road for one full year!!! This will completely avoid new 390 polluting plants from coming up. Imagine how the green earth will shine when this happens. Simple but true.

Source: Google

I'd like to thank Mr. Ganapathy for sharing this information with us ... and I'd like to encourage you to head over to his blog for some very interesting reading.

As always ... I would love to hear from you!