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Easy Ways to Make Your Home Green

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Recycle, recycle, recycle -  It is as easy as taking the aluminum can and dropping it in the recycle bin.  Along with plastic bottles, newspapers, and glass bottles this is a simple and effective method.

Low toxic paintsUse Paint that does not contain VOC – Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) are toxic chemicals found in furniture, tables, wallpaper, paint, and basically anything that is manmade or is sprayed with manmade chemicals.   One easy way is to avoid paints and wallpaper that contain VOC.  If you are not sure about the ingredients then definitely buy well known low toxic paints (like Ieko or Earthborn).

Buy Already UsedCraigslist is gold for great products.  Why spend $2000 on a sofa when you can buy it on craigslist for $300 AND avoid the fate of the landfill.  People are always moving in a rush, take advantage of that by buying great furniture products that don’t end up in the garbage and pollute the environment.

Buy Bamboo – Bamboo is a grass not a tree and so it grows quickly and is versatile. Bamboo can be used in flooring, window blinds, or just about any living room furniture.  The only downside to bamboo is that it uses a lot of water during reforestation, but takes little time to reforest compared to trees.

Stop with the Polystyrene Cups – You know it as Styrofoam from the Dow Chemicals Company but actually Styrofoam as a cup does not exist, it’s actually polystyrene .  You go to parties and they have Styrofoam cups and plates and it is terrible.

Take cloth bags to the grocery store – Those little plastic bags used by grocery stores are flimsy and not recycled by people.  Considering that large cities like San Francisco are charging consumers for plastic bags, start now and use nice cloth bags.  Even a backpack is great for filling up heavier items in it.

Stop with the bottle water -  Really? You NEED bottle water?  You’re incapable of putting a filter on your tab for 40 bucks and rather spend $1.20 per bottle every day?  More than 1.6 Billion bottles are not recycled in the UK each year.  Bottled water takes up space.  Bottled water is a waste.  Bottled water use plastics; which in turn use petroleum.   Instead use a hard plastic bottle, fill it with water, and take it to the gym, work, car.  If you are concerned about tap water not being clean, put a filter on.  Remember, just because it’s from a bottle doesn’t make it clean water either; the Perrier scandal taught a lesson there.

Article by Preeti Pradhan

The Book of Rubbish Ideas… Review & Interview

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Book Review and Interview with Author Tracey Smith

As I took an over-ripe pepper and nearly full bag of mushrooms out of the fridge and set them aside for the compost bin I thought about the first few pages from Tracey Smith’s Book of Rubbish Ideas. I don’t feel good about wasting this food but at least I know it will decompose in a matter of weeks and will, in the form of home made compost, go towards growing my own next year.

Book of Rubbish Ideas coverBut what about the other things I’ve thrown out today? A plastic bag from the celery, the coffee packet, a chocolate bar wrapper and how many other people in this country, in fact in the world, have thrown away similar waste today? I need to think more creatively around the products that come into my home and how I deal with the waste from them and this is exactly what this book is about.

How we got where we are today
Tracey starts by educating us about how waste was dealt with historically and why some methods of getting rid of our rubbish might, at first, seem sensible but is in fact wasteful in itself. She describes the steps which have led to to the dire situation we’re in today and addresses the serious issues around waste (energy consumption, landfill, pollution and climate change) whilst giving solutions at the same time.

Room-by-room waste
The bulk of the book takes you room by room (and outside) through the home and shows us how to deal with our waste in a very practical way. Its not all about recycling but thinking about how we can reduce waste in the first place. Tracey highlights that its not all down to the individual but that other parties such as manufacturers, sellers and local authorities have a great responsibility too. Throughout the book she provides excellent example letters to help us give supermarkets, local councils and other bodies a nudge in the right direction.

This environmental book is very different from others I’ve read recently which have focused on telling us which green alternative products to buy. This book questions why we have to consume in the first place and guides us in looking after the things we already have. And, in the current economic climate, that’s not only relevant for the environment but for our piggy banks too.

Full of practical ideas
With the ‘Project Box’ sections interspersed throughout Tracey provides creative tips which make you go “Oh that’s a good idea” and get exercising your crafting skills, which gets a big thumbs up from me! For further motivation the case studies give real life waste dilemmas which we all face and shows us how others have dealt with them. We also get insight into the habits and views of a few celebrities in the ‘Star Struck Celebrity Questions and Answers’ section.

GGG readers can buy the book at a discounted price from www.bookofrubbishideas.co.uk. Check out the website too for even more ideas, tips and reasons to cut the rubbish out of your life!

Interview with Tracey

Tracey SmithNow I’m an extremely lucky GGG editor because I not only got a sneaky preview of the book but I also have an interview with the lady herself, Tracey Smith…

Q – Tracey, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. The first thing I wanted to ask you is about your inspiration. The book is absolutely jam-packed full of really useful, do-able ideas; Where do you get your inspiration and where did you learn all of these wonderful tips?
Hi Vicky – you’re welcome mate – thanks for asking me and I’m really pleased you’ve enjoyed the book! Moving onto your question, it’s 8.30pm here so I can safely say, my inspirations are all tucked up in their beds asleep! I dedicated the book to my kids and at the front of the book I say, ‘It’s for your children and your grandchildren; they are the leaders of the future’ and I meant every word. They are going to face so many sociological changes and perhaps even further climatic chaos in their lifetime. It’s our duty to help get them into the right, green groove long before they step into adulthood, so they are best prepared to lead themselves into ‘their’ future. The tips have been picked up from friends who know their onions and derived from some good old-fashioned common sense; it’s my mission to make it sexy and funky again and to get everyone leaning towards the green!

Q – Its surprising actually how much you can do to reduce, reuse and recycle in the home and really make a big difference. For those starting out, which 3 areas would you say they could focus on reducing waste first in order to have the most impact?
Well the most obvious room to pick on and have an immediate and positive effect on, would be the kitchen. Food waste still remains an enormous problem, despite the best efforts of organisations like the Love Food Hate Waste campaign. We are far too anal about sell by dates too – it’s ridiculous. The food isn’t going to explode if you go a day or two (or MORE) over that bloomin’ date! Cooking will kill anything dodgy, which is very unlikely to be residing on your newly expired food, so stop worrying about it and shove it in the oven! The BOGOFs are part of the problem though. We cannot resist a bargain and go all ‘hunter, gatherer’ and hog the other pack even if we have no intention of eating it. The best way to get over this is go shopping with a friend or neighbour, share the petrol, enjoy the experience a bit more and share those BOGOFs. You can also buy larger quantites of things and split them too, another great money saver. Of course, an extension of the Kitchen is the Garden and if you are able to make use of a composter/wormery or Bokashi, then do so! You’ll cut your bin down dramatically by doing so and you can also sling in loo roll holders, cereal boxes, hair from your brushes, cut up cotton tee shirts that are too knackered for the charity shop and much more besides. Then if you think about your cleaning materials that lurk under the sink you find another area where you can really make a difference. Ditch the chemical options and go for soda crystals, borax, bicarbonate of soda, lemons, salt, eco balls, soapnuts and essential oils, to name but a few. They are all multi purpose cleaners that will eradicate the need for the cornucopia of squirty guns that all bear the ‘X Caution Irritant’ sign on the back of the bottle…

Q – As well as giving individuals and families the tools and inspiration to reduce their rubbish you recognise the responsibilities of those in charge to make big changes too. If you could pass one law in relation to waste what would it be and why?
Oh, that’s a chunky monkey missus! I don’t know about a law, but I would like to change the constitution somewhat. I’d like to see sustainable living lessons be part (a fully integrated part) of the National Curriculum, from nursery age upwards! Kids should be learning how to cultivate and cook some delicious organic fruit and veg. They should understand and respect the importance of composting and recycling and on a scientific point, they should embrace sustainable forms of energy and be tackling the many other layers and levels to living in harmony with our volatile and beautiful planet. That would be a fantastic achievement.

Q – I really liked the celebrity ‘Q and A’ section because it gave us a little insight into how they deal with the less glamorous part of life, their rubbish. If you could ask any celebrity in the world any question about the environment who would it be and what would you ask them?
I don’t think they come under the remit of celebrities (in fact I’m quite sure they don’t) but I would like to see all our emminent politicians and leaders telling us what ‘they do’ to make a difference and they should also show us how they do it! More to the point, there should be a national telly, radio and written media campaign showing us what they and all the ‘stars’ are doing. There’s no doubt about it, the world of the A lister has enormous influence on our more humble existence and it could effect a very positive and almost overnight change on our immediate, local and global environments too.

Q – The book itself is absolutely full of so much useful advice and there is the website too. What is the future for ‘The Book of Rubbish Ideas’ and all that goes with it?
Good question. Well I’ve just started making a few short films for the website and am enjoying doing them very much. I doubt there’s a BBC series on the horizon, but hey, never say never… There will certainly be a daily entry on the website to look forward to and I’m really enjoying doing a few talks and demonstrations extolling the virtues of a bit of simple, green living and rubbish reduction. It’s great when you meet people and you see that penny dropping for them – a whole new world of green opens up which is very exciting and I love being a part of ‘their’ transition.

Tracey, thank you for your detailed and energetic answers. I look forward to seeing your short films and more in the future!

If you liked that post, then try these...

5 Tips for Crafting Green by Vicky on October 6th, 2009
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Earth Day, Ocean Day...Mayday by Lee on June 4th, 2009
What’s in a day? When a day is designated a special day, the intention is to honor the theme of it.

Recycled Filofax inserts by Katie on February 26th, 2009
Every year my resolution is to get organised.

Gerry Hogan – Using Green to Go Green…

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“What’s a nice Irish girl like you doing in a place like this?” might well be the opening line for conversation with me. Twenty-seven years of calling the Sonoran Desert home has me convinced that you can transplant, but you can’t take the green out of the girl. The new green that is.

South exposure before going “green”Recently I downsized from a large house. The search for a two-bedroom house in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains, in Tucson, Arizona, offered few choices. With three weeks to go before handing over my previous home I settled on the smallest and ugliest house on the list. Unloved, lacking in any exterior charm whatsoever, the house had the elements that I was looking for. Namely: small; spectacular views of the mountains; a neighborhood where dog and I could walk in the desert, and, a rarity in these parts, a twenty minute walk to a grocery store, several restaurants and coffee shops. Furthermore, improvements are scheduled for the main artery road to include sidewalks, bike path and noise reduction road surfacing.

The house is brick construction, circa 1983 and a structural inspection, pronounced it “sound”. Built into a hillside with garage below, the steps leading up the front door enforce daily cardio.

Living in the desert affords a blissful climate for eight months out of the year and blast furnace heat June through September. Anything you do to limit direct effects of the Sun’s heat is a bonus. This house has south facing wall of French doors….a conduit for the sun …opening onto a back yard area that housed a shabby, plaster coated pool, and enough concrete on which to drill (even grill) a regiment. Not a blade of grass or leaf marred its jarring horribleness!

South exposure 4 months after going “green”

My first task was to create shade. I did my homework and located a company that made aluminium trellises. One product, touted to look like aged redwood, exceeded expectations. We covered the entire back yard (excluding the pool) with a trellis, 14 ft. high and affording 60 percent shade pattern. I did research on using recycled aluminium but it was not available. Deep awnings now shade the remaining windows on the south side of the house. The pool was resurfaced with a black “Pebbletec’ to retain heat. The aging pool heater and chlorine filtering system went to the dump and I put in a salt filtering system. The concrete surface was coated with a spray -on product “Kooldeck” in a soft terra cotta and softened the concrete. Next came pots and vines. On the east side I put in mature wisteria, which have already reached trellis height and are forming a green wall. To climb the columns I chose an orange trumpet vine and a jasmine…both frost hardy and evergreen. The result is a sala fresca, an outdoor room that is cool, inviting and shady. By this time next year, the vines and wisteria will cover the entire “roof” area. The direct sun into the great room has been eliminated and despite recent 100F plus temperatures, the interior house temperature has not risen above 84F. Compare that to the October morning when I first saw the house and the thermostat showed an interior temperature of 97F.

Dry “river” bed and catchment areaThe front of the house beautification involved carving out a portion of the hillside. The dirt was carted round back to form a “mesa” behind the pool wall on which I planted native Mesquite and Palo Verde trees. A small area was walled in for a front garden; the Irish in me surfaced and I do have a bed sheet sized lawn. I have planted grape vines and a fig tree, creating green surfaces on exposed walls to offset bricks retaining heat from the sun. A tiny side yard off my study has become a vegetable garden and with the help of a large shade umbrella, tomatoes, onions, herbs and other vegetables are thriving and my study is a cool, pleasant spot. Along the perimeter of the property I have planted citrus trees.

Now I can hear the voices : “what about water…she’s created an oasis”. Everything is on a drip system that is carefully monitored to give exactly the amount of water needed. My exterior trees make use of grey water from the washing machine and creating catchment wells around their trunks prevents run-off. Native trees are not watered; I have built dry river beds to carry monsoon rain run off into basins; plantings outside the walls on the west side are the beneficiaries of pool back flow. Plans are in place to monitor rain run-off this coming monsoon season and, based on that pattern, to install a water -harvesting holding tank in the obsolete underground septic tank.

Example of a dry “river” bedMy point is that a girl can have her green in the desert and remain green. So many voices clamor that green demands sacrifice. My contention is that green demands knowing your property and applying common sense management. I made one self-indulgent concession this year…I planted a bed of annual flowers to tide me over whilst the native perennials and treasured roses (brought from the old house) got their toes in the earth. This coming fall that bed will be home to vegetables.

Gerry Hogan has lived in the USA for 43 years. Her primary career was in the manufacture of instruments for observing the surface of the Sun. Her retirement career is the publication of an on-line magazine for women www.connectionsforwomen.com

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No longer a silent night

Recycle Now has teamed up with the resourceful members of the Really Rubbish Orchestra and Hear Me Now to play some well-known Christmas carols and raise awareness of the opportunities and importance to recycle small electronic and electrical goods.

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