Green Living

A volunteer-led collaborative effort saw teams at The College of New Jersey come together and plant 15 hazel trees as an exercise in permaculture.

Permaculture is an alternative solution to traditional agriculture. Crops that are popular today are farmed on a flat plot of land. Corn fields stretch across the Midwest, taking up miles of land that can only be used to grow and harvest corn. Even peanuts are exported in mass volume. In 2013 the USDA found that there were 350,000 tons of peanuts exported.

The ways permaculture differ from the land-intensive system we use today are sustainability, self-sufficiency, and biodiversity. All of this on top of producing something (or things) that humans can consume.

Taking a layered approach to agriculture is the way of the future for Natalia Da Silva, one of the student volunteers for the hazel tree project, who told The College of New Jersey Newspaper, “The trees require very little input on our end, which is great for the environment and great in terms of water conservation.”

Though they aim to prevent pesky squirrels from stealing the hazelnuts, the fact that there are squirrels at all shows the effectiveness of ecosystem building, one of the tenets of permaculture. This idea is gaining steam.

Ecomodernism is based on a collaborative manifesto suggesting the cessation of destructive relationships between humanity and the environment as a necessary step toward future positive environmental relationships. The eco modernists take a scientific approach to solving these very real problems.

Under a permaculture system it wouldn’t matter if a square foot of soil contained between 98 and 3,068 viable weed seeds. The added biodiversity of a permaculture farm would provide more variety for sustainable life that would either eat the weeds or out-compete them for sunlight.

Many positive environmental impacts could be made through permaculture, but there still remains resistance to these new ideas.

Until these ideas are widely adopted, volunteers like those studying at TCNJ will continue environmental sustainability efforts in hopes of impacting the way we farm globally.

Energy is something we use every single day of our lives. We use it to charge our phones, drive to work, and run our businesses. In fact, energy audits conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy show that over 50% of compressed air systems at small to medium-sized industrial facilities have energy conservation opportunities that are available at a low cost. This is important as it can help save money while still utilizing the energy a business needs to succeed.

For homeowners of mainly older homes, it can be hard to find ways to cut costs, and it can also be a challenge to find the money for investing in a home. While it’s true that older homes possess a certain charm and character, they often lack the energy-efficient amenities that newer, more modern homes offer. Despite that, there are some things that can be done in older homes to help you save money and energy as a homeowner.

Evaluate Your Insulation Situation

Adding insulation to an older home is one easy way to help save money and energy. You may be thinking that all homes already have insulation, and you’d be right! But unfortunately, the real question should be whether the insulation is good or not. Older homes tend to have poor insulation made from outdated and even dangerous materials. According to The Daily Courier, the United States Environmental Protection Agency says that adding insulation can cut energy costs by 50%. That gives the homeowner a lot more room to spend their saved money on other things. If you’re not sure whether your home has good insulation or not, it’s important to have it tested and take immediate action if you need to improve or replace it.

Invest in Home Energy Audits

Another thing you can do as a homeowner that can save you money in the long run is invest in a home energy audit. Those conducting the audit will be able to tell you if there are any problems in your home that need to be fixed, or if there are ways that you can cut down on energy. This is a particularly efficient strategy for homeowners in older homes, as some issues may be overlooked to the point where they become a bigger issue than they initially were.

Check for Leaks

Finally, it’s always a good rule of thumb to check for any leaks in your home. This includes any small cracks where warm or cold air can escape, as well as plumbing leaks. If you find any, plug them immediately. The most common places for air leaks include windows, doors, chimneys, and any other places in your home that have direct contact with the outdoors. Don’t leave anything to chance!

Older homes are good investments and idolized by many potential homeowners. Don’t let the fear of energy issues stop you from purchasing an older home! With these solutions, you should have nothing to worry about.

Leather has long been a fashion staple, loved for its classic look and ability to stand the test of time. It’s also very easy to care for: as long as you use a conditioner every six to 12 months, wipe up any spills right away, and avoid harmful cleaning supplies, you’ll be good to go. However, leather isn’t an eco-friendly choice, prompting many fashion brands to find vegan alternatives to animal hides. But it may surprise to you learn that many cruelty-free substitutes actually aren’t as sustainable as you might think.

Vegan shoe brands are becoming more plentiful by the year, featuring all kinds of styles and source materials. There are even high heels being made from apple peels. And while certain brands get PETA’s stamp of approval, consumers should approach their shopping experience with a healthy dose of skepticism. Just because PETA says it’s vegan-friendly doesn’t mean the production process is actually earth-friendly.

Despite the fact that many companies will use direct cargo services to ensure their products can be delivered in a more eco-friendly way due to decreased time and stops, some fast fashion brands highlight vegan products as a means to sell cheap, poorly made products and take advantage of a specific group of consumers who want to feel like they’re making a difference with their money. Truth be told, “vegan” is not the same as “ethical” or “eco-friendly.” While many companies offer both, others will use the vegan label as a marketing ploy to attract customers.

It works, too. David Dietz, founder of an ethical fashion e-commerce site called Modavanti, explained to Craftsmanship Quarterly, “One of the interesting things is that we don’t get as many purchases for organic cotton, which is vegan. If it’s not labeled vegan, they ignore it. When we tag a t-shirt as vegan, sales will spike.”

Unfortunately, many consumers will simply take companies at their word when they promote something as eco-friendly. Rayon has largely replaced silk in the fashion market within the last decade due to the fact that it was touted as being less harmful to animals. But rayon manufacturing is so toxic that it can’t even be done in the United States. According to a 2006 report by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, rayon and acrylic are the most toxic fabrics to produce. Workers who are exposed to fumes during this process have increased risks for heart disease and strokes and often suffer nerve damage and even mental health issues. And of course, when these toxins are released into the environment, entire ecosystems have suffered as a result. In many cases, these vegan brands may be friendlier to cuter, more visible animals, but they don’t do anything to protect wild animals, many of which may be endangered.

There have been cases made for leather alternatives in recent years, due to the fact that the leather production process not only harms animals used for hides but also releases toxins into the environment. One designer has found a way to use pineapple leaves, which are usually discarded as waste materials, to create a leather-like material. But because these alternatives are so new, we don’t yet know how long they’ll last or when they’ll be available for purchase. Actual leather can last for decades, but the non-animal options currently on the market may not be nearly as durable. In the end, if these materials can’t be saved and consumers are forced to buy replacements, that’s not representative of true sustainability.

Until further strides are made, earth-loving fashionistas need to conduct their research before buying clothing items touted as being “vegan.” Otherwise, you could be purchasing a product that does more harm than good — and won’t even last until next season.

One easy way to reduce your environmental impact at home is rethinking the way you store food. Many consumers buy food in extremely environmentally unfriendly, single-serve packaging, and then throw that packaging away. By choosing to store food in a different, more eco-friendly way, you can reduce your environmental impact and help break our country’s addiction to individually wrapped everything.

Here are a few quick tips to help get you started.

Glass, glass, glass

Glass is an easily accessible, eco-friendly storage option when it comes to storing food at home. While glass containers may be a little more expensive than plastic, they are nontoxic, recyclable, and extremely long-lasting. Glass containers can easily be reused for storing a variety of foods and other household items. Not only does glass keep food fresher, but it helps reduce waste. Using glass also lessens the amount of energy used to make plastic. Glass containers are a solid investment because you won’t have to replace them frequently and if you happen to break one, you can easily recycle it without feeling guilty.

Eco-Friendlier Plastic

Plastic definitely should not be your first choice for food storage, but there are some plastic containers, like the ones made from recycled polypropylene, that are easily reusable. These containers are recyclable, dishwasher safe, and BPA free. It’s important to only use BPA free containers — otherwise, you’ll be putting yourself and your family at risk of being exposed to harmful chemicals. These containers can be made using materials found at plastic recycling programs or centers, which 60% of us, or 148 million Americans, have access to. This is a great way to turn old plastic products into new, better products.

Reduce Foil Usage

Aluminum foil is one product you should be wary of, surprisingly. The production of aluminum leaves behind tons of nasty chemicals, polluting both surface and underground water supplies. Additionally, the energy costs to produce the material are substantial. Fortunately, there are recycled foil options that you can use and still feel good about.

Additional environmentally-friendly food storage options can include:

  • Silicon containers
  • Pyrex containers
  • Natural parchment paper
  • Stainless steel latch containers

With a little time and effort, you can easily transform your food storage process into an environmentally-friendly one. You probably already have plenty of containers and storage options around the house, you just haven’t thought of using them yet.

4 Green Home Building Tips

There are many benefits to building a custom home, and one of the main benefits is being able to make your home as green as possible. Green homes are becoming more and more popular, and with today’s technology and innovations, it’s easy to build a green home. While there are high standards for green homes, it’s easy to simply improve your home’s efficiency and decrease your environmental footprint, while sticking to your budget. If you’re planning on building a custom home and are looking to make it as green as possible, here are a few tips to help get you started.

Build Smaller

If you haven’t found a place worth buying, this is definitely one of your options. It is more work but may well be worth it. No matter the amount of green technology, a smaller home with the same green technology will always have a smaller environmental impact. It’s important to be thoughtful about how you use your land. With that in mind, consider planning your home around your lifestyle. While there are over two-thirds, or 68%, of people who want to include a recreational area in their custom-built home, according to the 2016 Houzz and Home survey, some people opt for a much simpler, realistic home. Keeping the space manageable and cost-effective will help keep your home green.

Use Sustainable Materials

Building a home requires the use of many resources, so it’s important to integrate sustainable materials. Fortunately, that’s fairly easy to do. Using locally-sourced materials will cut down on transportation costs and fuel, and using materials like recycled wood, steel, metal, and others will make a huge difference in your home’s environmental impact.

Consider Water Consumption

Water conservation is becoming increasingly important and there are many ways you can contribute to saving water in your home. Installing fixtures and appliances like low flow faucet aerators and tankless water heaters will help you conserve water. Additionally, you can consider capturing rainwater on your property to fill water features and maintain landscaping.

Install Energy-Efficient Windows and Doors

Windows and doors have a major influence on your home, besides the aesthetic impact. Properly sealed and energy-efficient windows and doors can make a huge difference in the amount of energy you use to heat or cool your home. They can have upgraded features, like double-pane windows, that not only reduce the sound that travels in and out of the home but will greatly reduce heating and cooling costs.

Nowadays, there are many green products and options you can implement into your new home to reduce your environmental impact. These smart technology options can also add value to your home and make it perform better.

“Nothing’s built to last these days,” says my dad when I explain that I’m on my third vacuum cleaner in five years. Of course, it’s partially my fault for having 20 cats and a bad temper, but I’m not going to tell him that!

Thankfully, there are many options nowadays for dealing responsibly with our broken householdappliances. Simply throwing away your broken appliances is bad for the environment. But the truth is that broken appliances can be extremely difficult to dispose of in a safe manner. The components of many household appliances can contain hazardous materials or gases, and the many countries have strict guidelines governing their disposal. Improper disposal of household appliances is damaging to the environment and
can carry a hefty fine. So, let’s look at some other ways of responsibly dealing with your ailing appliances.

Repair It

Instead of disposing of your appliance, why not have it repaired by a reputable handyman? Many
problems with appliances are minor and the repairs are relatively inexpensive. Why buy a new appliance if the old one just needs a new wire or a simple repair? A company like Service Force, for instance, has more than 500 approved engineers and can offer free quotes online!

Even better, try not to let it get to the broken stage by having your appliance serviced on a regular basis? This may sound like a bit of a lecture, but regularly servicing and looking after your appliances is the best way to keep them running for years without any major problems. If you put in the effort, you’ll get the extra mileage.

Recycle It

Many household appliances have some parts that can be recycled. The downside? This involves not just knowing what materials make up the parts, but and having a lot of time on your hands to dismantle the appliance piece by piece. This suggestion won’t be practical for the vast majority of people, but it’s worth mentioning if you’re the type who likes taking things apart.

Return It

Many manufacturers have a system for the return and/or proper disposal of their products. Call the manufacturer of your appliance and find out if they run such a program or if they can recommend a local disposal center. Beware, however, that the cost of returning the item could be very expensive depending on the type and size of appliance. Find out if their return program includes free return shipping or local pickup.

Sell It

We are talking about broken or outdated appliances here, but you might be surprised how many people are interested buying your old junk! Of course, many of people who would be interested in buying it are also people who may know a thing or two about the appliance and may be able to salvage it or some of the parts for repairs. The bottom line: Your junk could be somebody else’s treasure. Post it on Craigslist, the Facebook Marketplace or one of the many apps available for selling local items. You might get lucky.

Donate It

Many organizations repurpose all kinds of old and broken appliances and use them for a good cause. Contact local charities and non-profit organizations to see if they have any use for your broken appliance. Do make sure they understand that the item is not functional and would need to be repaired or used for parts.

So, before you chuck out that broken down microwave or dodgy drier, have a think about the best,
most responsible option before buying new!

When it comes to tying the knot, more and more couples have been doing their best to incorporate eco-friendly and sustainable solutions into their decor and activities. However, many people are still under the impression that eco-friendliness and affordability simply don’t mix, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! There are plenty of ways to make your dream wedding come to life while keeping Mother Nature — and your wallet — in mind.

Here are just a few ways to include some eco-friendly and affordable elements into your big day.

Go Paperless

This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to cut down on wedding waste. Save-the-dates can easily be transformed into eye-catching emails that will yield just as much excitement and anticipation as traditional letters. Another common trend is for couples to make their own free website to advertise not only the details of their wedding, but their registry too. Finally, if you do choose to send out paper invitations, consider directing guests to RSVP and fill out their food options online instead of including a card to mail back. It may not seem like much, but considering the fact that 27% of Americans have no savings at all, even small steps can make a big difference in the financial and environmental costs of your wedding.

Consider An Outdoor Venue

About 35% of weddings are now outdoor occasions, and for good reason — the outdoor ambience adds something that even the best indoor venue just can’t. Choosing an outdoor venue cuts down on electricity costs, since sunlight is always free. Not to mention, the photo ops that result make a beautiful keepsake, and knowing your wedding pictures won’t look generic is even better.

Cater With Care

When discussing your catering needs, don’t automatically dismiss the idea of sourcing locally. In fact, it’s probably cheaper than you think. The Knot explains, “The farm-to-table movement is in full swing, meaning it’s more accessible than ever to source healthy, earth-friendly food. When you’re budgeting, keep in mind that organic foods may cost more, but asking your caterer to source from in-season, locally-grown products will help keep the cost down and guarantee the freshest finds.” Plus, you can inquire about sourcing your cake from a baker in your neighborhood to maintain as much freshness as possible. Foods purchased from farms tend to stay fresher longer without packaging. Plus, not as much gas will be needed to transport it.

Ultimately, keeping these eco- and budget friendly tips in mind during your wedding planning process can help you incorporate sustainable practices without costing a fortune.

From plastic pollution to carbon emissions, human activity has a profound effect on the Earth’s oceans. Of this precious ecosystem, the deep sea is perhaps the most vast. Comprising the area of the ocean below 650 feet, this region covers two-thirds of the Earth’s surface. It is undeniably significant and home to a wide array of species.

And as it turns out, we know very little about it.

new review by the University of Oxford found that there have been only 77 studies published on the population genetics of deep ocean invertebrates since 1970. This means that ocean scientists have little knowledge about the wildlife living in the deep sea, and these creatures are the ones that will be affected by human activities.

Oceans Deeply reports that Michelle Taylor, lead author of the study, said that it is “shocking” how limited researcher knowledge is.

“Unfortunately, as it is so rarely studied, we have no grasp of background diversity levels, let alone rates of species loss,” she said in a statement to Oceans Deeply. “Even conservative estimates state that we have only looked at a tiny portion of the deep sea floor.”

Animals that live closer to the surface may be easier to study and conserve. For example, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries halts the commercial harvest of blue crabs for 30 days every year. This allows populations to regenerate. But without knowledge of the reproduction and other patterns of deep sea invertebrates, scientists may not know what conservation efforts to push forward.

“I don’t know if time is running out, but certainly things are changing much faster than we can appreciate,” Lance Morgan, president of the Marine Conservation Institute and chair of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, said in a statement to Oceans Deeply. “I think we all know we’re dealing with a very data-poor environment and as a result, we don’t have a lot of confidence that what we’re doing is at all sustainable in the deep sea.”

Taylor told Oceans Deeply that commercial fishing now occurs at 2,000 meters (just over 6,500 feet) below sea level, one of the examples of how human activity is creeping deeper. So, what is the solution? More research. Scientists have only studied 5% of the ocean, making it less understood than even the farthest reaches of human exploration, Morgan told Oceans Deeply.

“We may know more about the surface of Mars and the moon than what’s going on in the deep sea.”