Monday, January 28, 2013

Mini Stewards: Teaching the Tots to Go Green

Kids want to go green, too. They hear adults talking about caring for the planet, and they want to do their part. This is where parents, teachers and youth leaders can step in and get kids started on an earth-friendly path. As adults, we need to make the point that eco-friendly living needs to become the norm. There are many activities that will help instill this idea early while allowing your children to be directly involved in shrinking your household's carbon footprint.

Step 1: Empower them. Kids need to know that their efforts matter. This is where you do the research. You might be surprised to find small steps that lead to big changes. For instance, if every household replaced just one incandescent light with an Energy Star-approved bulb, the energy saved would provide light to three million homes for one year. Share these types of easily illustrated facts with your kids to help them draw connections between their activities and the big picture.

Step 2: Buy toys that last. Be aware that toys don't come from toy stores; they are made of resources taken from the earth, and these resources are finite. Next time you take your child shopping for a friend's gift, rate the toys on whether they are built to last or destined to quickly end up in the trash heap.

Step 3: Choose eco-friendly art supplies. Most crayons contain petroleum, which is nonrenewable, and most markers have chemicals in them like ethanol and toluene that are bad for kids to inhale. Buy beeswax crayons and water-based markers, paint and glue. Use recycled paper or scrap paper --- from junk mail to discarded wrapping paper --- for crafts.

Step 4: Reduce trash. Use towels and dishrags instead of paper towels. Reuse plastic bags, rather than buying new ones. Pack waste-free lunches --- invest in reusable lunchboxes and beverage containers, make fresh food instead of relying on prepackaged snacks, and pack all items in reusable baggies or containers.

Step 5: Take time to reflect. Once a week talk with your children about their experiences in reducing their carbon footprint. Find out what they learned and if they are ready to add another task to this effort. Identify areas for further research, and ask them to enter their reflections in a journal --- made of recycled paper, of course.

Friday, January 25, 2013

FIfty Shades of Green

With a gallon of gas costing as much as your morning latte, the idea of “going green” is turning heads as our decisions as consumers and citizens pile up around us. Where “going green”—a reference to the prominent color in nature—once meant an all-or-nothing proposition for which most or all choices were environmentally conscious, the modern definition is more fluid. Minimally a green lifestyle is one in which a person takes active steps to ensure that his or her choices minimize negative impacts on the natural world. The good news is it’s never too late to paint one’s life a deeper shade of green. What can seem daunting is selecting the perfect hue. The key is to shift one’s choices in a way that suits current obligations and preferences while having fun along the way.

Varying Shades of Green Living

Adopting a green lifestyle means doing what you can, knowing that no one is perfect and we don’t have to try to be. Where it’s convenient or possible or fun or inspirational, do give it a bit of extra thought. This means thinking about how your choices impact the environment or about how you can better align your lifestyle with a more earth-friendly way of doing things. For example, a large family who drives an SUV can minimize daily waste by using reusable lunch bags. Recycling and replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents and driving a hybrid car are all to be considered light green lifestyle choices.

Darker green choices might include producing as much food as you can in a backyard garden and supporting local organic agriculture, minimizing use of a car by cycling or using mass transportation and cutting back on electricity use and adopting household alternative energy sources like solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling.

Going Green for the Kids

For many people, parenthood can foster a deeper desire to preserve resources for the kids. It’s easy to try to save the planet when you’re young and without children or a job. Form habits like turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, taking shallow baths instead of showers and recycling.

It isn’t difficult to develop awareness with your young ones; for many, ensuring that the choices they make contribute to a brighter future for their children is enough inspiration to spur them on. When we lead by example, we soon reap the benefits of seeing our children turn off lights upon leaving a room, or picking up rubbish and placing them in the correct bin.

Going Green Mistakes Are Okay

There is no need to try to be perfect when it comes to going green. There are no mistakes. You do the best you can when you can, and when you can’t, you let it go and try to do better the next time. Start out small to avoid burnout, and also to bring consciousness to your everyday actions. Think about the impact of your behavior on the planet and you will find there are plenty of opportunities to cut waste each day.

Develop small habits such as purchasing reusable water bottles for everyone to bring to school and work each day, instead of buying plastic bottles or using plastic cups for the drinking fountain. Take the time to be organized; get your reusable shopping bags and put them in your car, plan your trips to the market and stick to the list of things you need if you can. If you slip into old routines at times, don’t be too hard on yourself – as long as you’re trying to make some changes, it’s alright.

Successfully Living Green

Finding support for your new lifestyle is vital for success, but remember to take it easy – the last thing you want is to end up sounding too preachy and scaring people away! Live by example and have fun with it. If you happen to have any eco friendly clothes or bags, flaunt them! When people take notice, proudly show off how much you know and share ideas on how they might be able to make a change for the green as well.

Ultimately, finding support, having fun, planning and pacing are the best way to bolster new habits. Make green fun. Ask yourself, ‘How green can I be?’ You don't have to sell your car and buy bicycles for the whole family tomorrow. But if you have kids, you may ask them which is more fun—riding in the car or going on a bike ride. It’s only us adults, with half-hour commutes, who find cars more fun. Stay focused on your goals and inspire others to make changes. In this way you’re sure to make an impact.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Learn from Nature: Business in a Down Economy

The natural world knows how to conserve in lean times. Why shouldn’t we practice the same?

Namib Desert beetle leverages the power of attraction.

If you think your budgets are tight, take a look at Namib desert beetle that must find water in one of the driest environments on earth, how the tardigrade can survive for years without water, or how cicadas manage to survive without direct access to critical nutrients for most of their lives.

Nature has the tightest budgets of all and still finds a way to manage and even thrive. Here is a sample of nature’s genius that can teach us a thing or two about dealing with scarce resources.

The Namibian Beetle lives in one of the driest deserts in the world. The Namib lives on the southwest coast of Africa. It collects all of the water it needs from ocean fog due to the unique surface of its back. Microscopic bumps with hydrophilic (water-attracting) tips and hydrophobic (water-repelling) sides cover its hardened forewings, which it aims at oncoming fog each morning. Water droplets materialize out of thin air on its back, then slide down channels into its awaiting mouth.

Relating it to business: Develop a tailored strategy to create an affinity with the resources you need to attract. For example, if you’re experiencing a lack in creative talent, take a look at your work environment and organizational policies and see whether it is conducive to creative thinking, experimentation and collaboration.

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts in the forest.

In wetter and mixed-species interior Douglas-fir forests, Douglas-fir and paper birch (Betula papyrifera) trees can be linked together by species-rich mycorrhizal networks. This fungal network serves as a pathway for the transfer below ground of carbon from deciduous trees to regenerating Douglas-fir seedlings nearby.

This is not a one-sided relationship, though. Douglas-fir support their birch neighbors in the spring and fall by sending back some of this carbon when the birch is without leaves. This back-and-forth (mutualism) flux of resources according to need may be one process that maintains forest diversity and stability.

Relating it to business: Manage stocks and flows through a linked professional network. Acknowledge the importance of collaborators to growing and thriving with you and build resilience as a community through cooperative resource management.

Symbiosis works for the Cicada so it doesn’t have to.

Cicadas have a symbiotic relationship with two species of specialized bacteria that live inside their cells and produce essential nutrients that the insect finds difficult to access in its regular diet while living underground. (The Cicada spends most of its life -- from two to 17 years -- underground before emerging en masse at regular intervals). While underground, cicadas feed solely on the sap of plant roots, the most nutrient-poor and unbalanced part of plants.

Relating it to business: Partner with a complementary product or service for your business instead of expanding beyond your core competency or acquiring such businesses. Acquisition is costly and often disrupts business coherence. Partnership, on the other hand, allows for intense cooperation without the costly overhead.

Tardigrades are at the ready.

The water bear, an arthropod also known as a tardigrade, lumbers across moist surfaces of mosses and lichens. But when those dry up, the water bear goes into a suspended state that could last anywhere from a few months to a century. The key is the sugar trehalose. As water becomes scarce, trehalose inside the water bear loses water. Instead of forming sharp-edged crystals that can damage DNA, membranes, and cells, the sugar transforms into a glassy state. This sugar-glass surrounds the water bear’s molecules, protecting them from high temperatures and also preventing chemical reactions and denaturation. All it takes to revive the water bear is water.

Relating it to business: Don’t lose track of the good ideas and relationships that you still haven't been able to put into action. Develop a system for recording these ideas. Keep them ready to spring to life when the right opportunity presents itself. Good ideas and relationships are an asset that can be cashed in when the moment is right.

Paper wasps avoid expensive materials.

The geometry of a honeycomb -- seen in such structures as wasp nests -- allows minimizing the amount and quality of the material used to reach minimal weight with maximum functionality. A honeycomb-shaped structure provides minimal density and relatively high out-of-plane compression properties and out-of-plane shear properties.The geometry does the work, not the quality of the material.

Relating it to business: The idea is to take low value or off-the-shelf assets and rearrange them is such a way that the emergent outcome is of higher value. Look for critical connections between your assets that are currently viewed as being of low value both internally and externally: Novel arrangements and coupling of undervalued products, services and even people can result in the discovery of new functions and services.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Health 101!

Hi Everyone! As you already know, we are trying our best to find everything eco friendly - from greening your workout, decluttering your home and taking small steps to make a difference, we have tackled them all! Today will be no different. Tell us what you think of these yummy vegan recipes - we're not saying you should cut all carnivorous cravings cold turkey, but why not attempt to have a non meat day say, once a week?

Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce

Don’t miss out on this Mexican chili sauce dish. The sauce has a kick, but if you want fire, add extra ancho chilis. This meal is filling, flavourful, and a great protein substitute for a meatless diet.


• 2 dried ancho chilis, stemmed and seeded
• 2 cups water
• 2 teaspoons olive oil
• 1 cup chopped yellow onion
• 5 garlic cloves, sliced
• 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
• 2 cups organic vegetable broth
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
• 2 tablespoons no-salt-added tomato paste
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
• 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
• 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
• 2 cups (8 ounces) preshredded reduced-fat 4-cheese Mexican-blend cheese, divided
• 3 thinly sliced green onions, divided
• Cooking spray
• 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
• 6 tablespoons light sour cream


1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Combine chiles and 2 cups water in a saucepan; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Drain chiles in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.

3. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add onion; saute 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium; add garlic and salt. Cook 5 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Add broth and next 3 ingredients (through cumin); cook 8 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.

4. Pour onion mixture into a blender; add chilis and reserved liquid. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in lid. Blend until smooth; stir in lime juice and red pepper.

5. Combine the beans, 1 cup cheese, and half the green onions in a bowl. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Warm tortillas according to package directions. Spoon 3 tablespoons bean mixture down center of each tortilla; roll up. Place, seam-side down, in prepared dish. Pour remaining sauce over filled tortillas. Top with the remaining cheese. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Sprinkle with remaining green onions; serve with sour cream.

Orzo Salad with Spicy Buttermilk Dressing

This dish is fresh, creamy, and packed with fresh veggies. When the reviews rave this dish is “delicious,” “excellent,” and “a big hit,” why wouldn’t you put it on this week’s menu plan?


• 1 cup uncooked orzo
• 1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed and drained
• 12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
• 3 green onions, sliced
• 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
• 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, divided
• 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
• 2 tablespoons light sour cream
• 2 tablespoons canola mayonnaise
• 1 teaspoon chili powder
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
• 2 garlic cloves, crushed
• 1 peeled avocado, cut into 8 wedges
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1. Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and rinse; drain well. Place orzo, corn, and next 3 ingredients (through beans) in a large bowl; toss.

2. Combine buttermilk, 2 tablespoons cilantro, and next 8 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle over orzo mixture; toss. Top with avocado; garnish with remaining cilantro and parsley.

Curried Couscous with Broccoli and Feta

This dish collaborates Mediterranean and Indian flavors with a zesty curry, ginger flavor. Mix up your dinner menu this week with this tasty international dish.


• 1 3/4 cups water
• 1 cup uncooked couscous
• 1 1/2 cups small broccoli florets
• 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
• 1/3 cup shredded carrot
• 1/4 cup raisins
• 1/4 cup dry-roasted cashews, chopped
• 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
• 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
• 1 teaspoon bottled minced fresh ginger
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
• 3/4 cup (3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese


1. Bring 1 3/4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually stir in couscous. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

2. While couscous stands, steam broccoli florets, covered, for 3 minutes or until tender.

3. Combine couscous, broccoli, onion, and next 10 ingredients (onion through chickpeas), tossing gently. Sprinkle with cheese.

Gemelli Salad with Green Beans, Pistachios, and Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette

This recipe marries crisp green beans, heat from garlic and shallots, crunchiness of pistachios and the zest from lemons! Need we say more?


• 8 ounces uncooked gemelli (short twisted tube pasta)
• 1 cup (1 1/2-inch) cut haricots verts (about 4 ounces)
• 1/2 cup chopped shelled pistachios
• 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, divided
• 2 tablespoons grated lemon rind, divided
• 1 tablespoon minced shallots
• 2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar
• 3 garlic cloves, crushed
• 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 ounce shaved fresh Parmesan cheese (about 1/3 cup)


1. Cook the pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add haricots verts during the final 2 minutes of cooking. Drain and rinse pasta mixture under cold water; drain well.

2. Place the pasta mixture, pistachios, 1 tablespoon thyme, and 1 tablespoon lemon rind in a large bowl; toss gently to combine.

3. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon thyme, remaining 1 tablespoon lemon rind, shallots, Champagne or white wine vinegar, and garlic in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Gradually add olive oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add salt and black pepper; stir with a whisk. Drizzle over pasta mixture, and toss gently to coat. Top each serving with Parmesan cheese.

Grilled Portobello, Bell Pepper, and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

Pungent goat cheese adds a creamy quality to this delicious and filling sandwich. Balsamic, garlic, and oil acts to transcend the main star of the sandwich – the portobello mushroom – to the next level.


• 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 1 red bell pepper, cut in half and seeded
• 1 yellow bell pepper, cut in half and seeded
• 4 (4-inch) portobello mushroom caps
• Cooking spray
• 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 4 (2-ounce) Kaiser rolls
• 1/2 cup (4 ounces) soft goat cheese


1. Prepare grill to medium-high heat.

2. Combine balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and garlic in a large bowl. Add bell peppers and portobello mushrooms; toss gently to coat. Remove vegetables from vinegar mixture, and discard vinegar mixture.

3. Place bell peppers and mushrooms on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 4 minutes on each side. Remove vegetables from grill; cool slightly. Cut bell peppers into thin strips. Combine bell peppers, basil, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl.

4. Cut rolls in half horizontally; spread cheese evenly over cut sides of rolls. Arrange 1 mushroom cap on bottom half of each roll; top each serving with about 1/3 cup bell pepper mixture and top half of roll.

5. Place sandwiches on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Place a cast-iron or other heavy skillet on top of sandwiches; press gently to flatten. Grill 3 minutes on each side or until bread is toasted (leave cast-iron skillet on sandwiches while they cook).

We hope you enjoy these recipes - let us know what your favorites are!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Eco Fabulous Beauty Products

From green-eyed monsters to green thumbs, the color green has been popping up in recent years to describe different ways of life - and, thanks to the change in the beauty industry, the color green can look good on everyone. Green cosmetics, that is. Here are some of the best eco-friendly beauty brands that will not only make you look and feel beautiful, but help the environment as well.


When it comes to eco-friendly beauty brands, Aveda is a leader on the board. The company is well known for their nature-inspired products, which include hair care, skincare, makeup and even perfume. Aveda strives to connect beauty, environment and overall well-being into one existence while giving back to the world of beauty and the world as a whole. 90% of their essential oils and 89% of their raw organic ingredients are organic certified, assuring you that you are indeed getting an eco-friendly beauty product. The eco-friendly effort doesn’t stop with the product—it also goes into the product packaging. You’ll love the fact that Aveda’s beauty products are 100% post consumer recycled (and 100% of manufacturing energy comes from certified wind power.) Aveda is the first of its class in several green pioneering efforts and can be considered a poster child for a superb eco-friendly brand.

Burt’s Bees

Burt's Bees is committed to natural materials - from their 99% natural formulas (about half of their line is 100% natural), their Post Consumer Recycled (PCR) packaging, and their commitment to preserving animal and human rights with free-trade and fair working conditions. Burt's Bees' biggest goal is to be "the greenest personal care company on earth," which they're hoping to achieve by 2020 with a variety of initiatives - including becoming a carbon-free company that operates on 100% renewable energy. They want no waste in landfills, and they want their manufacturing facilities to be LEED certified. Burt’s Bees puts great effort in assuring that their packages are designed specifically to hold just enough product before it expires to avoid consumers throwing out half-used product.


If you’re familiar with Dubai, you know they have some amazing attractions—so it only makes sense that they are also responsible for an equally astonishing green cosmetics brand. Shiffa Dubai Skincare is a beauty brand focused on providing holistic skincare products (both organic and natural,) in the form of luxury cosmetics for face, body and hair. All awesome eco brands have a similar philosophy, which is to give back while being environmentally conscious. Along with this mentality, Shiffa also seeks to heal based on the principals of dermatology. The brand uses a variety of unique and beneficial natural ingredients: African shea butter, Lebanese orange blossoms and Egyptian jasmine.

Live Native

Live Native claims to produce some of the purest and most nutritious range of skincare products on the market today, and this just might be the case. With a strict promise to never include artificial coloring, preservatives, synthetic fragrances and many other less than natural ingredients in their products, all of Live Native’s ingredients are harvested without heat to assure that consumers are getting the beneficial nutrients that all natural occurring organisms carry.

Elemental Herbology

Elemental Herbology is an excellent example of an eco-friendly cosmetic brand that combines science with nature. High-performing bioactive ingredients meet plant oils that provide an abundance of vitamins, proteins and mineral extracts. This combination helps revitalize damaged skin and protect against harmful environmental aggressors and signs of aging.


Everything that they make - from their masks to their lip glosses, use only biodegradable ingredients. This means no mineral oils or silicones, recyclable packaging, and eco-friendly manufacturing practices such as using a steam generator to heat their facility, rather than electrical heating.


Tarte’s line features wholesome, natural ingredients. Take their wildly popular cheek stain, for instance, which is a water-based formula with "Skinvigorating" ingredients like a T5 Super Fruit Complex (goji, acai, maracuja, acerola, and pomegranate) and mineral-derived pigments. No parabens, sulfates, phthalates, or petrochemicals.

Jane Iredale

Most of the lip colors from Jane Iredale are vegan and gluten-free. Their mineral makeup collection, in general, is designed to be as healthy as possible for your skin.

Yes to Carrots

This is a fantastic skincare line that's packed with organic fruits and veggies with no parabens, petroleum, SLS, and phthalates. They have four different lines: carrots to "nourish", cucumbers to "soothe," tomatoes to "clear," and blueberries for "age refresh."

Juice Beauty

Juice Beauty is committed to using certified organic ingredients, as well as applying their Eco Values to every aspect of production - including manufacturing with solar energy, packaging with recycled paper and soy ink, and supporting USDA certified organic farmers. Plus their products are as effective as they are healthy.

Earth Day doesn’t have to be just one day a year—especially not when you wear your skin 24/7. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but nature is all around us. Take advantage with eco-friendly cosmetics that are just as amazing as they are healthy—for both you and the world you live in.

Our skin can absorb over 60% of what we put on it - that goes for moisturizers, foundations, even lipstick.

What is your skin absorbing?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Eco Friendly Getaways for the Eco Conscious Adventurer

New Year, new plans! If you’re looking to see more of the world while still doing your part for the planet, we just might have the answer. Yes, choosing your destination is very important, but so is deciding where you want to stay. Sometimes a hotel can be just as fascinating to explore. So wherever you book your get away, be sure to check into an eco-friendly hotel. Here are some of the most unique yet sustainable, dwellings that offer a comfortable, earthy and adventurous room for a night.

Whitepod - Switzerland

Awarded the 2005 World Prize for Sustainable Tourism, Whitepod sits in a private ski area in Switzerland where it encourages environmentalism with its 15 spacious pods. Each pod is furnished with beds (with organic bedding), bathrooms and wood stoves. The dome shaped tents are pitched on wooden platforms that are isolated from urban pollution and help minimize its affect on the environment through limiting daily water consumption and electricity, reducing waste production and using renewable resources. Guests can also experience winter activities like hiking, skiing and snow-shoeing. It’s also opened during warm weather, for those who don’t like snow. Now, this is a great way to spend 1,700 meters up in the Swiss Alps.

Bella Sky Comwell Hotel - Denmark

This Scandinavian hotel went above and beyond with its architecture to ensure the utmost sustainability. The Bella Sky Comwell Hotel in Denmark incorporates a dual-tower design, and not just for show. The architecture benefits the environment, as the angled windows are part of the hotel’s energy-efficiency. With 812 rooms, 30 conference rooms, bars, restaurants and spas, it surely lives up to guests expectations. The inside is just as remarkable as the outside. A vertical garden wall wraps around the lobby, which provides air filtration and moisture control. The hotel is very dedicated to the planet and hopes to not only give their guests a warm stay, but also influence and educate them about the environment.

Dasparkhotel - Germany

The Dasparkhotel in Germany isn’t your ordinary hotel, so don’t expect to be staying in an actual building. Each room is crafted from repurposed robust drain pipes; how awesome is that? Within each room, a double bed, a storage space, light and power are available. The rooms are located near a bicycle path and sits on an old purification plant, with only five suites are available. As if this place couldn’t get any cooler, they also offer a “pay as you wish” system, meaning customers leave whatever amount they can afford. Now, that’s customer service.

Cavallo Point - California

Cavallo Point in San Francisco, California provides a luxury lodge housed in Golden Gate National Parks. Named one of the “Top 10 New American Landmarks,” it received LEED Gold Certification for its design and architecture. The lodge re-used historic materials and green building elements to create this homey hotel. In addition, it maintained a beautiful landscape by restoring it with native plants. It also uses energy-efficient appliances and fixtures, along with water efficient showers and many other eco-friendly elements.

There are many other unique, eco-friendly hotels across the globe. So if these don’t fit your fancy, be sure to check out other hotels, motels, lodges and eco-resorts that are truly benefiting the planet.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

One Small Step Towards the Green Life - A Leap for Mother Earth!

We have found a simple yet inspirational article on how to get your family into greening your lifestyle! Read on to see just how easy it really is.

Whether you’re a hard core green mama… or just starting out along the path to a more natural life, it helps to realize we’re coming from different places. What matters is that we are trying to live with a little less impact and show Mother Earth a little more love. Even if it’s just baby steps.

Mary O’Donohue shares her family’s green goals.

Fall is the time of year my husband and I focus on teaching our children – and reminding ourselves – about the importance of making and keeping commitments in our lives.

Throughout the season, we do simple exercises that help our kids understand what it means to be people who honor their commitments, and at the end of the month, we wrap up with a family commitment to protecting the environment.

Certainly the environmental challenges that face our world are huge, but the commitment we make isn’t meant to overwhelm our kids. Through baby steps, every positive change matters. So we focus on practical, concrete things we can do as a family of four to make things better.

You can do it, too! Sit down with your kids and brainstorm several specific ways you can do better environmentally in your own house. Or walk around the house with your kids and play detective! Where are the clues as to how your family can make a more positive impact on the planet? Take note of any ideas your kids suggest. As my son says, often kids come up with solutions where grown ups see obstacles.

Here are a few ideas my family came up with. I don’t necessarily think any of them are groundbreaking, but I can honestly tell you that we were not doing these simple things before we made a commitment to the environment. I truly believe that’s where we started to make a difference.

Here are some of the changes we made:

1. No more plastic bottles!

We now love using glass bottles with an outer sleeve that protects the bottles if they fall. We tote these along everywhere we go. I also bring these up to the kid’s rooms when they get thirsty at bedtime, because they’re safer than a glass of water that can get knocked down and break.

2. Turn off all lights when you’re not using them.

My son got so vigilant with this one that he left me sitting in the dark on more than one occasion!

3. Unplug cell phone chargers from the wall outlet when you’re not actually charging your phone.

4. Turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth.

So simple, but isn’t it great that even a five year old brushing his teeth after breakfast every morning can start the day knowing he can do something good for the environment?

5. Turn off the TV.

If you must have screen time, make sure it’s off when you leave the room. Even better, use a power strip for TVs and other appliances, and turn it off at night and when you leave the house.

I know these are simple things. But when children grow up with an awareness that even small things they do make an impact, they realize that they are indeed powerful. Powerful enough to change the world for the better, one simple act at a time.

Mary O’Donohue is a mother of two and author of the children’s book, When You Say “Thank You,” Mean It.

In addition to writing, Mary is a successful television producer. Her experience includes having worked on The Today Show, Meet The Press, and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

For more stories similar to this, check out!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Healthier, Happier You!

You feel your best when you are rested and ready to face the day. So why not start this year by making some green changes in your bedroom?

It’s easy to overlook the bedroom when you’re trying to go green – what’s the point if you’re asleep in there the whole time anyway? But the bedroom is actually the place where we spend most of our time at home: in fact, you’ll spend about a third of your life in bed! And because getting a good night’s sleep is such an important part of any healthy lifestyle, we want to help you make greening your bedroom a priority. To get you started, here’s a list of five ways you can keep your bedroom safe, clean, and green.

1. Get comfortable

The quickest way to a good night’s sleep is to get comfortable, so take the time to find the right mattress and bedding to suit your needs. Try out an eco-friendly memory foam mattress or a more traditional boxspring topped with natural wool, both of which are made without plastics or fireproofing chemicals that release VOCs. It’s also worth it to invest in organic cotton sheets and pillows to keep yourself cool, comfortable, and allergy-free.

2. Be sustainable

Finding the right bed can be time-consuming and expensive, so you want to make sure you do it right. Look for wooden frames certified by the FSC as coming from sustainably managed forests, and also try to find frames made without VOC-releasing paints and polishes. Another important part of being sustainable is properly disposing of old mattresses – they take up huge amounts of space in landfills, so look in your area for companies that recycle mattresses or places that accept donations.

3. Improve the air quality

You spend eight hours a night breathing the air in your bedroom, which means you want to keep the air in there as clean as possible. An air purifier will remove toxic chemicals like VOCs and smoke as well as allergens that stuff up your nose and disrupt your sleep. You can also prevent VOC build-up by choosing natural carpeting and furniture that is made without the nasty synthetic chemicals found in pressed wood, carpet glue, or plastic fibers.

4. Use your nose

We all know how hard it can be to fall asleep, but before you run out to the pharmacy why not try a natural sleep aid? Aromatherapy candles and sprays use soothing herbs like lavender and chamomile to you put your mind at ease and help you drift off to sleep. Be sure to look for natural air fresheners that don’t release VOCs or phthalates and non-paraffin candles made from beeswax or vegetable waxes. You can also use essential oils to make your own soothing nighttime scents.

5. Clean green

Keep your bedroom clean using safe, natural green cleaning products. Eco-friendly carpet shampoos and natural wood polishes will keep toxic chemicals out of the air, and phosphate-free detergents will keep your sheets soft and clean without leaving behind toxic chemicals that can irritate your skin. It’s good for you and for the environment!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Green Batteries from a Plant

Recent research shows that Common Madder (Rubia tinctorum) can be used to produce rechargable, green batteries. Common Madder, a climbing plant native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean, is also known as Dyer's Madder because a red dye extracted from it has long been used to color cloth.

Purpurin which is extracted from madder root, is chemically lithiated for use as an organic cathode in batteries. The material was developed as a less expensive, easier-to-recycle alternative to cobalt oxide cathodes now used in lithium-ion batteries.

Scientists at Rice University and the City College of New York have discovered that the madder plant (Rubia tinctorum) is a good source of purpurin, an organic dye that can be turned into a highly effective, natural cathode for lithium-ion batteries. The plant has been used since ancient times to create dye for fabrics.

The discovery is the subject of a paper ("Lithium storage mechanisms in purpurin based organic lithium ion battery electrodes") appearing in Nature's online, open-access journal Scientific Reports.

According to lead author Arava Leela Mohana Reddy, a research scientist in the Rice lab of materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan, their team's research is creating environmentally friendly batteries that will solve many of the problems associated with the ordinary lithium-ion batteries widely in use today.

"Green batteries are the need of the hour, yet this topic hasn't really been addressed properly," Reddy said. "This is an area that needs immediate attention and sustained thrust, but you cannot discover sustainable technology overnight." He says the focus of the research community is currently still primarily on improving the features of conventional batteries. Issues such as sustainability and recyclability tend to get sidelined.

Though lithium-ion batteries are the standard, Reddy said, rechargeable units cost a lot to produce. "They're not environmentally friendly. They use cathodes of lithium cobalt oxide, which are very expensive. You have to mine the cobalt metal and manufacture the cathodes in a high-temperature environment.

"And then, recycling is a big issue," he said. "In 2010, almost 10 billion lithium-ion batteries had to be recycled, which uses a lot of energy. Extracting cobalt from the batteries is an expensive process." Eliminating cobalt would mean eliminating a hazardous material, allow batteries to be produced at room temperature, and greatly reduce the cost of recycling.

The team first discovered the special properties of purpurin while they were testing various organic molecules for the ability to electrochemically interact with lithium. Purpurin turned out to be the best at binding lithium ions. To add conductivity they added 20 percent carbon, and then built a half-battery cell with a capacity of 90 milliamp hours per gram after 50 charge/discharge cycles. As it turns out, such cathodes can be made at room temperature.

"It's a new mechanism we are proposing with this paper, and the chemistry is really simple," Reddy said. He suggested agricultural waste may be a source of purpurin, as may other suitable molecules, which makes the process even more economical.

But Reddy hopes to formulate completely green batteries. The team is looking for organic molecules suitable for a working prototype of a complete organic battery within a few years. "What we've come up with should lead to much more discussion in the scientific community about green batteries," he said.

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