Monday, September 29, 2014

How locally grown, seasonal foods help the environment and our health

One of the most green choices a consumer can make starts with their food choices. We're not just talking about the color of the food, although green, leafy food has a number of health benefits. Instead, you have a chance to promote a green planet with every single choice you make about what, where, how, and why you're eating. 

Visit their free green-living tool, One Small Act and join the “Eco Eats” challenge.
One of the most important choices you can start with is to eat seasonal, local food. At the risk of waxing poetic about "the old days", many of us still remember when you could only get certain foods during certain times of the year. If you wanted something out-of-season, it was either canned, frozen or dried. 

The environmental cost of year-round availability of food is tremendous. From the cost of shipping food across the nation from warmer climates to cooler ones to the chemical fertilizer put into the soil to force food to grow out of its natural growing season, to the additional water required to compensate for dry seasons when the soil would traditionally rest, we ask a lot out of our earth for the luxury of year-round unlimited choices. Additionally, the quality of food that is not-seasonal or shipped from faraway diminishes. In order to ship tomatoes for example, they are picked before they are ripened, and then gassed with ethylene so they achieve a "reddish-orange" tomato-esque color. Barry Estabrook, author of 2011's Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, explains.

Fields are sprayed with more than one hundred different herbicides and pesticides. Tomatoes are picked hard and green and artificially gassed until their skins acquire a marketable hue. Modern plant breeding has tripled yields, but has also produced fruits with dramatically reduced amounts of calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C, and tomatoes that have fourteen times more sodium than the tomatoes our parents enjoyed. The relentless drive for low costs has fostered a thriving modern-day slave trade in the United States.
That is just for tomatoes. Extrapolate that same treatment to every choice we are given at the grocery store and you can easily understand how our demand for year-round selection isn't necessarily the healthiest or sustainable decision. Would you join me in the pledge to eat more local and seasonal food?

If you are interested in ‘eco-eating’? NBC’s Green is Universal is hosting an “Eco Eats” sweepstakes from September 29 – October 17. Everyone who signs-up and tackles at least one action by October 17th will be entered to win one of five 6-month subscriptions to NatureBox. No Purchase Necessary. Must be US resident and 18+. Read official rules here.

disclosure: In exchange for participating in the challenge and writing a post with my opinion, I am eligible for a gift package from Green is Universal.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Lighting changes to increase energy efficiency

Whether you're concerned about leaving less of a carbon footprint or you just want to save some money on your energy bills, one simple way to increase energy efficiency in your home or business is to adjust the lighting of your personal or office space. If you're looking for a way to cut costs for your personal or business needs, sometimes just a few changes are needed. An electrician in your local area can assist you with making the changes, so consider these ideas to control your energy consumption.

  • Install motion/light sensors - Installing lights with motion detectors is an easy way to help you save on energy costs. The motion detectors can switch the lights on when movement is detected in the room, and automatically switch off if no motion is detected for a predetermined amount of time. These sensors will help be sure that only the spaces that are being used are lit, saving you money and energy.
    image from: wikimedia commons
  • Replace your switches with timer switches - Timer switches help you automate your lighting by switching on and off based on your schedule. This is a great solution if you have a bad habit of forgetting to turn of the lights before work. Just set the timer to automatically switch of when you know that you will not be home. You can also use timers to switch on outdoor lights during evening hours only, so that your home can be well lit on nights when you leave the office late.
  • Switch to LED lighting - LED lights produce more light without producing a lot of heat of using a lot of energy. Swap out your energy burning incandescent or halogen lighting for eco-friendly LED lighting. Your space will be brighter without sacrificing energy efficiency. Not only will LED lights help you save energy, but it's more cost-effective in the long run. This simple change will do wonders for your home or business.

These three tips are just a few ways that you can take charge of your energy consumption and save money. Your local electrician in Robina may have more ideas of ways to to save you time, money and energy. Energy costs are not likely to decline in the near future, so now is the time to get a handle on your energy spending.

We'd like to thank you today's post sponsor:  If you're not sure where to begin with your lighting changes, the professionals at Ruby Electrical can offer some suggestions. Ruby Electrical is the Gold Coast's leading expert in all things electrical and energy efficient. Whether you need help finding the right fit for your home or office or need to shop for lighting solutions, the competent and professional electricians from Ruby Electrical can help. Serving the Coolangatta, Robina, and Tweed Heads areas, Ruby Electrical is your best bet in updating your home or office lighting. For more information on other electrical solution or for a consultation, check out

Advantages that a fence provides your home

PerthHome ownership is an investment that can pay dividends for decades for you and your loved ones. The safety of those that inhabit it comes first and foremost to the owner. An ability to keep the things you want out and retain those inside your yard is paramount. The best budget friendly and quickest way to do this is with a fence. It will provide another dimension of beauty to your landscape and at the same time increase your property's value. The following are just a few of the facets on how a fence will do this for your own home.

  • Type of Fence - There is a style of fence that will complement the type of home you live in. First of all, most will consider the type of material used in its construction. These can range from bamboo, metal, wrought-iron timber, and even some more exotic materials. This versatility is a key that allows you to get a fence that not only does what it is supposed to do but effortlessly blends into the decor of your home and the surrounding neighborhood. For example, aluminium fences in Perth are all the rage and allow a modern feel to any home.

  • Increase in Protection - Outside elements are often beyond your control but that does not mean that you are helpless in letting them encroach onto your property. A fence performs the dual task of keeping out animals, plants, and people that wish to do harm while keeping loved ones safe in their confines. Household pets and young children are taught boundaries and experience an increased feeling of safety. Meanwhile, predators have a much harder time making it your way with a fence blocking their approach. Peace of mind is increased knowing that the fence is on guard twenty four hours a day making your home even more secure.

  • Your Eyes Only - What happens in your yard is the business of only those that live in the house. Items like aluminium fence slats for Perth fences have caught on to be both decorative and keep the wandering eyes at bay. One of the items on the checklist for homebuyers is the element of privacy that their prospective purchase will afford them. A quality fence will allow that buffer to exist and potentially increase the price you get if you ever opt to sell your home.

Clarity comes to both homeowners and prospective purchasers in regards to the importance of a fence to your property. They add a visual beauty to the landscape that augments the natural d├ęcor of the house. Your loved ones are afforded another layer of protection in their home life. Finally, we live in a much too public world and it is relaxing to have the element of privacy increased when a person is outside on their property.

A special thank you to today's sponsor: learn more by visiting: 
Lattice and Screens enjoys a sterling reputation as having one of the largest selections of fences in the industry. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Some serious potty talk (reprint via

Composting toilets would save water and, uh, resources.

Jill Richardson
There’s a photo-word montage on the Internet in which a little boy, presumably from Africa, looks skeptically at a woman who is apparently from somewhere else. The boy asks, “You mean to tell me you have so much clean water, that you (poop) in it?”
Umm…yeah. Yeah, we do. But why?
Ars Terra Compost Toilet
London Permaculture/Flickr
This probably isn't a question you often ask, because as the wastewater treatment industry says, we have a “flush it and forget it” attitude as a nation. Number ones and number twos disgust us, and we don't want to see, smell, touch, or God forbid, deal with our pee and poop.
Flush toilets magically make all that human waste vanish in an instant, so we can go on with our day in blissful denial that anything unpleasant-smelling ever came out of our bodies at all.
What’s the cost for that modern convenience? An awful lot of water.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, an average American family of four can flush over 100 gallons of water per day down their toilet. That number can skyrocket to 200 gallons if the toilet doesn't stop running, and can decrease by over a gallon per flush if you get an efficient “WaterSense” toilet.
Innovations like low-flow toilets and waterless urinals can decrease the amount of water pouring into treatment plants.
Even the most water-conserving systems are still wasteful in two ways. First, they flush away some clean water. Second, they throw away a nutrient-rich resource. Yes, I'm calling your number twos a “resource.”
Our sewage systems combine everything that goes down the drain in homes and businesses with water, mix it together, and then attempt to clean up that liquid. The problem is, so to speak, you can't put Humpty Dumpty together again. Not perfectly, anyway.
Once human waste and once-clean water mix together with pharmaceuticals, pesticides, flame retardants, antibacterial soap, cosmetics, Drano, and everything else that goes down the drain, it’s nearly impossible to separate it once again.
Our current method involves separating solids from liquids to clean the sewage water, which experts want you to call “effluent.” Wastewater treatment is hard and expensive. No matter how well it’s done, the effluent released into the environment is not simply pure water.
For example, scientists found that a common ingredient in antibacterial soap released into the Mississippi River in effluent breaks down into cancer-causing dioxins.
The solids sent to wastewater treatment plants are composted and treated as thoroughly as possible before they are disposed of using various imperfect methods. One such option is applying them to farm fields as “fertilizer,” even though they still contain many toxins in them. Sometimes they even sell the treated sludge to home gardeners under brand names like Milorganite.
Outhouses aren't a real option in crowded cities, town, and suburbs. What else can you do? Well, you could consider getting a composting toilet. In my experience, composting toilets have no smell or other unpleasant features. You sit, do your thing, and “flush” by adding something like pine shavings to aid in the composting process. That’s it. You probably don't want to fertilize your lettuce with your composted waste, but you can easily use it to plant a tree.
Changing our entire approach to dispensing with human waste wouldn’t be easy. But sticking with the status quo means continuing to waste water and compost, even as several regions of our country are suffering droughts. Using composting toilets won't keep soap out of our wastewater stream, but it will keep it out of our, um, fertilizer.
Maybe it’s time for those who can to opt out of this wasteful system by conserving water and putting our number twos to work by switching to composting toilets.
OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Shopping for a New Truck? Factors to Consider

A pickup truck is a very versatile driving machine that can be used for a variety of different purposes. However, all pickup trucks are not created equal. Not only do pickup trucks vary in size and strength, but they also differ in cost. Here are some important things to consider when shopping for a new pickup truck.

In most instances, pickup trucks are available in full-sized and compact sizes. Although full-sized trucks typically provide more interior room and a greater towing capacity, compact trucks are usually able to deliver better fuel efficiency.

Cab Design
There are basically three cab designs: regular, extended, and crew. Regular cabs are most suitable for the drivers who only need to carry one additional passenger. Although extended cabs provide an additional seat in the rear, some adults will find the available room to be relatively cramped. On the other hand, crew cabs offer plenty of room for the entire family.

Power Output
Pickup trucks are equipped with a variety of different engines. Due to the fact that four-cylinder engines typically have the lowest power output, they are only suitable for light-duty tasks. On the other hand, a six-cylinder engine usually provides the best combination of fuel efficiency and performance. Although an eight-cylinder motor consumes more gas, its enhanced horsepower and torque comes in handy when hauling hefty loads. Diesel-powered trucks are great for pulling extremely heavy loads.

Operating Costs
Before selecting a truck, be sure to research the reliability rating and resale value. Expensive repair work and maintenance can cause the total cost of ownership to rise dramatically. It is also important to research the long-term fuel costs of the truck. Sites such as enable shoppers to view side-by-side comparisons of each truck.

Safety Rating
Do not forget to research the pickup truck’s safety rating. While some trucks are very stable on the road, there are others that are prone to experiencing a rollover. It is also a good idea to inquire about the available safety features before making a final decision.