Green Living

With the climate crisis on the horizon, it’s more important than ever to be eco-friendly in your everyday life. But there are a few common mistakes people make when trying to reduce their carbon footprint.

From incorrectly recycling to wearing the wrong sunscreen, here are a few mistakes you don’t want to make when you’re trying to be more eco-friendly.

Eating processed and non-organic food

Many people equate eating organic, non-processed food as something that people do strictly for their health. And while it’s true that 76% of American organic consumers cite the health benefits as their main reason for purchasing organic food, that’s not the only reason to buy it.

According to Columbia University, organic farming is more sustainable than non-organic food production. There are written records of using plants for treating various ailments that date back approximately 5,000 years and soil quality was a major part of growing those plants.

The wider variety of plants and the lack of pesticides in organic farming increases the biodiversity of food production. This results in reduced pollution, reduced pesticide run-off, and improved soil quality.

Not recycling properly

It’s important that you become familiar with your community’s recycling program because not all recycling programs accept the same things. Some items can’t be recycled at all while others need to be recycled through a special service.

For instance, e-waste makes up only 2% of the trash in America’s landfills. But it makes up 70% of the world’s overall toxic waste.

Some of the most common recycling mistakes include:

  • Recycling food-soaked packages/containers
  • Recycling non-recyclable glass
  • Recycling egg cartons and other Styrofoam containers
  • Including plastic bags
  • Leaving lids on plastic containers

Wearing the wrong sunscreen on vacation

Coral reefs occupy less than one-quarter of 1% of the marine environment, but they’re the home to over 25% of all known marine fish species. Last year, Hawaii passed a bill banning common sunscreens beginning in 2021 that contain chemicals that are harming coral reefs.

Whether you’re vacationing this winter in Hawaii or somewhere else hot, avoid using sunscreens that contain the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. These chemicals increase coral bleaching and can also be bad for your own health. Instead, opt for reef-safe sunscreens.

Getting your bills in the mail

Many people still get their utility bills in the mail to keep for their records. But chances are those bills often stay in the envelope unopened in a pile for weeks on end.

According to StopWaste.org, approximately 17% of everything printed is considered waste. Instead of letting your utility bills add up with your junk mail, consider contacting your utility companies to have your bills e-emailed to you instead. This way, you reduce paper waste and clutter in your home while also having the bill for your records.

You might be conscious of how much energy and water you’re using around your home. You might even be taking measures to make sure your HVAC system is as efficient as possible. But you’d be surprised by how simple actions can have such a big impact when it comes to your carbon footprint. By avoiding the mistakes above, you can be more eco-friendly throughout your day.

Yes, you read the title correctly. This couple grows custom furniture. The couple, Alice and Gavin Munro, started their farm Full Grown back in 2012 when they became fully dedicated to the business of custom grown furniture. Gavin got started back in 2006 when he first started an attempt to grow a couple of chairs. Now, the company grows chairs, lamps, and tables.

This idea isn’t anything new. Glass mosaics date back to 300 B.C. and, as with numerous forms of art, shaping trees and greenery dates back to ancient times from the Chinese, Japanese, and Romans.

Gavin’s inspiration was two-fold. He was born with a curved spine and, throughout his youth, he spent a significant amount of time wearing a corrective metal brace that was meant to gradually guide his spine into the correct direction. This, combined with seeing a Bonsai tree that resembled a throne sparked his interest in guiding nature into creative shapes.

“Instead of force-growing a tree for 50 years and then cutting it down and making it into smaller and smaller bits, the idea is to grow the tree into the shape that you want directly. It’s a kind of zen 3D printing,” said Gavin.

He also reflected on the care and excellence of the medical staff who helped him at a young age and aims to make Full Grown a place that emulates those behaviors. Of course, guiding nature to grow into particular shapes, namely furniture, is no easy feat. The couple has seen their fair share of disasters, including an initial attempt being stomped by cows and chomped by rabbits.

There’s also the direction of nature to consider. They discovered that forcing a tree in a direction it didn’t want to grow would stunt its growth. Learning this, they discovered the best way to effectively grow things in the right direction was to guide the trees into shapes using their naturally occurring growth patterns/directions.

The main idea of their process of live-sculpting growing trees into furniture is environmental sustainability and one-of-a-kind design. Manufacturers use 30% of the energy in the United States and the furniture industry is a notorious global contributor to logging and deforestation. Lessening environmental impact while providing uniquely beautiful pieces of art that grow naturally is what they’re looking to do.

“You know the damage that we do with forestry. We’re only just starting to really understand that. This is kind of the opposite really, we use ancient techniques that we used in the stone age,” Gavin said.

Still, the furniture growth process is time-consuming, labor-intensive, and more than a little delicate, so the price points are fairly hefty. By 2030, some 20% of the U.S. population will be over the age of 65, but, in a statement about Full Grown back in 2017, author Richard Davies reflected on the words of writer Annie Dillard: How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our time. How we spend our time certainly transcends how much time we spend; something the Munros understand quite well.

The average attention span of online shoppers is eight seconds, but the uniqueness of Full Grown’s products has had no problem grabbing attention across the world from individuals to museums to art and design houses. The pieces to come from the Munros are already commissioned out through 2030, though the first round of ready-to-purchase lamps and chairs will be ready by 2022 or 2023.

After a house and a car, furniture is the third most expensive thing we’ll buy in our lifetimes. This furniture is certainly no exception, but for good reason. They estimate that a grown chair will take between six and nine years to grow, then another year to dry out before being ready to sell. This meticulous of a process has price points to match: lamps range between $1,120 and $2,780, tables between $3,120 and $15,600, and chairs sit just under $12,500.

“Once we can get our Furniture Orchard having regular harvests then we can begin to plan a whole farm and start some larger-scale experiments in production and ecosystem design,” said the Munros.

As nature is ever-moving, so are their plans to bring its beauty to those who would most appreciate it. You can invest in their company and help its future. By purchasing shares, investors will receive payments from the sales of the furniture. They expect that those payments will begin with the first round of furniture that’s ready to sell.

“By buying a share in our chairs, you are investing in 180 increasingly desirable and unique pieces of art and design. At the end of each year when the chairs are harvested and sold, investors will receive payments. We expect payments to begin around 2021-22 and to continue over the following 5-7 years until all the chairs are sold,” said Gavin Munro.

This investment in art, design, sustainability, and an irrefutably unique idea is something that we don’t often see in a lifetime. You can learn more about Full Grown here.

With the holiday season looming closer, it’s all too easy to forget about your carbon footprint and choosing the greener options when it comes to travel. But making eco-friendly choices during the holiday season isn’t as challenging as you think.

Here are some eco-friendly, energy-saving tips you can use throughout the holiday season to keep your carbon footprint small and your spirits high.

Choose a sustainable airline

If you travel for the holidays, you’re not alone. Although the average American only lives 18 miles away from their parents, up to 107.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home between December 23 and January 1.

Unfortunately, depending on where you live (up to 45% of homes sold in Maui in 2016 were bought by out-of-state home buyers), travel can get expensive. Your first instinct might be to book the cheapest and most convenient flight.

Before you book, consider switching to an airline that’s more eco-friendly and sustainable. In 2015 alone, there were 24,142,000 general aviation flight hours logged. But some of those hours produced fewer carbon emissions than others.

Here are a few airlines that have been reducing their carbon emissions in recent years:

  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Air France/KLM
  • Alaska Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Delta

DIY your holiday decorations

If you’re trying to be more sustainable this holiday season, DIY-ing your holiday decorations is a great way to do it. Holiday decorations can sometimes contain toxic chemicals and the plastic they use isn’t the most environmentally friendly.

By DIY-ing your holiday decorations, you can make decorating your house that much more special for you and your family. You don’t need to go over-the-top with your decorations, either. Simple snowflake garlands are a great way to bring out the holiday cheer in anyone.

Replace your holiday lights with LEDs and use a timer

The holiday season is a time for festive holiday lights, especially with the days getting shorter and nights getting longer. But although these lights can make your house feel cozy and warm, they can actually use up to 6.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year.

To reduce your energy use, consider replacing your traditional holiday lights with LED lights. You can use a timer, too, to reduce the amount of time the lights are on.

Avoid cranking up the heat

It’s important to stay warm as the weather outside gets frightful. But cranking up your heat can increase more than just your utility bills. It can also kick up your carbon footprint and your fire risk.

Every year, approximately 890 people die in winter home fires. Electrical issues with lights and dry air are some of the biggest culprits for these fires. And, with the global market demand increasing by 2% every year, gas space heaters are a problem too.

To keep your fire risk, utilities, and carbon footprint down, consider bundling up instead of cranking the heat and keeping a sharp eye on your holiday lights. Never let a space heater run unsupervised.

Carpool with friends or family

The holiday season can get hectic when it comes to buying gifts and food from many different stores. But you can cut down on how much gas you’re using by carpooling.

If you don’t have friends or family nearby, consider using public transportation to save gas and reduce carbon emissions when you don’t need to carry anything heavy home. Approximately 98% of public transportation buses can accommodate wheelchair-users, too, if you use one.

When you’re focused on finding the cheapest plane tickets to get to your parents’ house or finding the cutest wrapping paper for gifts, it’s all too easy to forget to make eco-friendly choices. But by following the tips above, you can make your carbon footprint this holiday season just a little bit smaller.

It’s no secret that now is one of the most important times to go green. With the climate crisis on the horizon, many Americans are turning to Energy Star appliances and cutting back on their everyday energy use.

But there’s more that goes into your carbon footprint than the energy you use in your home. Your vehicle also produces its own fair share of toxins into the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the budget to invest in a new electric vehicle to be more eco-friendly. Here are a few tips you can use to reduce your carbon tire tracks alongside your carbon footprint.

  1. Avoid driving when you can. You need to drive your car sometimes, but you don’t need to do it all the time. Consider how near certain destinations are and whether or not you can take alternative transport. For instance, there are 12 million locomotives, rail cars, trucks, and vessels that move goods over the transportation network in the U.S. and Americans use public transportation up to 34 million times every weekday. By taking public transportation once a week or walking to destinations with shorter commutes, you can not only reduce your carbon footprint but also save on gas.
  2. Keep your car in good shape. As of 2018, there were approximately 100,000 bulletproof vehicles on the road worldwide and 276.1 million vehicles on U.S. roads. However, not every vehicle on the road has been properly tuned, repaired, or maintained. Regular maintenance can decrease your car’s emissions, increase your fuel efficiency, and make your car run better as a whole.
  3. Make sure your gas cap isn’t cracked or broken. This is one of the simplest ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. Cracked or broken gas caps allow your fuel to evaporate, which is not only bad for the environment but also costs you a lot of money. Keep your fuel where it’s meant to be and invest in a new cap if yours is broken.
  4. Plan your trips ahead of time. Whether or not you’re using your phone’s GPS while you’re on the road, you can waste a lot of fuel and unnecessary acceleration when you don’t know where to go. A GPS can take you in a round-about direction and an unexpected turn can put you in traffic. That said, be sure to plan out your trip ahead of time and check for traffic online.

You don’t need to invest in a specialty vehicle to be more eco-friendly with your driving. By planning ahead, using public transit, taking walks when you can, and making sure your car is in good shape to drive, you can reduce your carbon footprint and save yourself some hard-earned money while you’re at it.

The summer heat is fading fast, and soon you’ll be crunching leaves under your feet and enjoying a hot drink indoors where it’s warm and cozy. But the end of summer isn’t just about the trees changing color and the kids going back to school.

The end of summer also means there are a few things that need to get done around the house. About 80% of homeowners mow their lawns weekly or bi-weekly, but your landscaping needs may change quickly with the seasons. These four tips will help you make the most of the changing weather so you can be ready once fall arrives.

Inspect, clean, and repair your roof and gutters

Your home needs a lot of TLC before winter comes and the end of summer is one of the best times to give it. Your roof ought to be inspected once or twice a year, and your gutter system ought to be cleaned twice a year.

A clean gutter system keeps water from collecting on your roof and along your siding, which can cause water damage, flooding, and mold. A working roof helps to keep your home safe and dry throughout the year.

Inspect and repair your siding if necessary

There are up to 15 different types of siding. Your siding may not need the special attention that your roof and gutter system needs, but it’s good to inspect your siding just to be on the safe side.

Cedar siding needs to be repainted or stained at least once every five years. If you have vinyl siding, give it a good wash with your garden hose to keep it clear of dust and dirt.

If you have fiber cement siding, make sure to re-caulk the material every year to keep it free of any gaps. Homeowners insurance may provide financial protection against natural disasters, but you’ll need home maintenance insurance for other types of home-related issues.

Invest in a programmable thermostat

A programmable thermostat is one of the best ways you can reduce your energy bill and your carbon footprint all in one. Programmable thermostats make it so you have more control over your home’s temperature.

If you already have a programmable thermostat, check your temperature settings. You can set your thermostat to lower the temperature automatically at night and when you’re away from home so you’re not paying for more than you need to.

Check for drafts

Leaks and drafts from your windows and doors could be causing you to pay more for your utility bills every month. With fall fast approaching, now is a good time to look for drafts around your home or to have your house inspected by a professional.

Nearly two-thirds of homeowners say they’re planning on renovating, according to a recent survey. Once you’ve identified the areas around your home where the drafts are coming from, you can prioritize your projects. For instance, you want to focus on insulating your attic first and then your basement and crawl spaces.

Summer is nearly over, which means now is one of the best times to get your home ready to take on the cooler weather. By following the tips above, you can reduce your utility bills and ensure your home is safe from water damage.

As a society, we rely on plastic. From the medical equipment and household goods created by the reaction injection molding process (wherein two liquid components are mixed, injected into a mold, and cured) to the bottled beverages we bring home from the grocery store, the convenience we love is often tied to this material. In recent months, single use plastics — particularly those found in shopping bags — have come under fire, prompting many people to make the switch to reusable options instead. But is your tote bag actually any better for the environment?

A lot of people assume so. After all, if you purchase an item that you can reuse again and again (especially if it’s created from a natural resource), it must be inherently more eco-friendly than a product you use only once and throw away. And with 127 different countries and cities banning the use of single use plastic bags, it’s no wonder that consumers are turning to totes as a more sustainable alternative.

The problem, as it turns out, is that the process involved in making and distributing cotton tote bags comes with an even more significant carbon footprint than other kinds of bags. Although U.S. manufacturing accounts for 18.2% of the world’s goods, a report conducted by the UK Environment Agency found that no matter where these bags are manufactured, they’re probably not as good for the planet as you’d think. The cotton needs to be grown, which requires an immense amount of energy, fertilizer, and water. It also needs to be manufactured, which involves chemicals during the processing phase, and transported. And because cotton totes are heavier than plastic bags, estimates show that up to 80 times more fuel is needed to distribute them.

Ultimately, the report found, you’d have to reuse a cotton tote bag 393 times in order to equal out its environmental impact to that of a plastic bag you’ve used only three times. A separate study published by the Danish government was even less forgiving, as researchers there found that a biodegradable cotton tote bag would need to be used 7,100 times for it to have less cumulative environmental impact than a plastic one. And if the tote bag is made of organic cotton? You’d need to reuse it a staggering 20,000 times to even things out.

Of course, people aren’t throwing away these cotton tote bags at nearly as high a rate as we see with single use plastic bags, which means our landfills and waterways are still dealing with the negative effects of widespread plastic litter. In other words, this doesn’t mean that plastic bags are better for the environment. But ultimately, research suggests, the type of bag you’re using might matter less than whether you’re bringing home locally grown produce and you’re riding on a bike instead of in a car.

If you’re determined to switch out your plastic bags for reusable totes, you shouldn’t necessarily be dissuaded from doing so. But opting for a reusable bag made of recycled plastic — or constructing your own tote out of old clothes or fabric you already have on-hand — is a much better alternative than purchasing a new cotton tote. If you really care about the earth and don’t simply want to follow green trends, it’s a good idea to explore the true impact of these choices, rather than merely assuming that anything has to be better than plastic.

Sometimes the best intentions have unintended consequences that swiftly remind us that we live in a vortex of unpredictability. So it goes with the planet we live on. The recent conversations surrounding the environment have been louder than ever. For good reason, too. As long as we live on this space suspended rock that sustains our very existence, we should treat it with respect.

From the industrial scale, right down to our own personal practices, environmentally conscious living has been on more minds than ever before. For instance, wood is the number one most energy efficient material to make products with. Meanwhile, we’re trying to curb our use of plastic. We have a pretty big global plastic pollution/waste problem, so industries across the world are taking steps to do their part in reducing or getting rid of their disposable plastic products.

Independent coffee shops accrue $12 billion in annual sales and when we stopped to consider the number of straws, plastic cups, stirrers, etc. that were going into landfills, it was pretty clear change was needed. Grocery stores enacted this change by offering reusable grocery bags or getting rid of plastic grocery bags altogether. One market had a humorous take on this that sort of backfired.

In Vancouver, East West Market sought to discourage single-use plastic grocery bags by public shame. If you didn’t bring your reusable bag to their market, you had to use their single-use bags which all feature a variety of different, embarrassing things emblazoned on them.

“It’s hard to always remember a reusable bag. We redesigned our plastic bags to help you never forget again!” reads the caption of their Instagram video introducing the bags.

Wart Ointment Wholesale, Into the Weird Adult Video Emporium, The Colon Care Co-Op are the three bags you’ll get if you forget your reusable one. Store owner David Kwen thought this would dissuade shoppers from being wasteful. After all, would you want to be seen with a grocery bag that says Dr. Toew’s Wart Ointment Wholesale?

Turns out that people love the bags and think they’re hilarious. Which, they are, but now more people are getting the single-use bags. Unshakeable in his efforts, Kwen insists it’s a positive thing and he has a great point to back that up. After his embarrassing bags went viral, he realized that the story itself and the intent behind the bags has reached more people than he had ever hoped to.

“The underlying thing is that it creates conversation, and that’s what we actually wanted to get across to the general public,” said Kwen.

About half of people enter a business because of signage but Kwen now had droves of people coming in to get his single-use plastic bags that were meant to keep people from using plastic bags. Still, it opened so many avenues for conversation. Not merely from him, but from all the people who took them. It’s a great talking point. His solution to the popularity of the embarrassing bags is discontinuing the plastic ones and getting canvas grocery totes with the messages printed on them.

Reaching people with humor in the name of the environment? I’d hardly call that backfiring.

No one enjoys being faced with a high energy bill. Unfortunately, with summer just around the corner and temperatures heating up, your home may soon be facing off with your electric company.

The good news is there are plenty of ways you can keep your home cool this season without digging into your savings account. Here are a few tips you can use to stay cool this summer while still saving energy.

  1. Have your HVAC inspected in advance. The early bird catches the worm with energy savings when it comes to your HVAC system. In fact, efficient HVAC systems need maintenance inspections at least twice a year. Maintenance ensures your system doesn’t have any issues that could cause it to overwork itself or malfunction when you need it the most. Be sure to change out your system’s air filters every three months while you’re at it to keep your home clear of allergens and debris.
  2. Use natural ventilation to your advantage. If you live in an area where the air cools down at night, consider turning off your HVAC system and opening your windows while you sleep. You can shut the windows again in the morning and close the blinds or curtains to keep the air cool. Certain air coverings such as blackout curtains can help to prevent heat gain through your windows.
  3. Use your water wisely. The average family of four uses up to 400 gallons of water every day. To help save on your water bill, turn off your sink or shower when you’re not using it such as when you’re brushing your teeth, applying soap to your skin, or scrubbing the dishes.
  4. Use fans to circulate the air. Ceiling fans and ENERGY STAR fans are a great way to get the cool air in your home circulating without turning down your thermostat. However, it’s recommended to turn these fans off when you’re no longer in the room to use them. Fans are designed to help cool down your skin by creating a wind chill effect. ENERGY STAR ventilating fans are recommended for areas where heat and humidity can build up in your home, too. These areas include your laundry room and your bathroom if you don’t have fans installed there already.
  5. Lower the temperature of your water heater. The last thing you want during a hot summer day is to get into an even hotter shower. As it turns out, water heating accounts for up to 18% of the energy that’s consumed in your home. To keep from scalding your hands when you turn on the sink and to help reduce your energy costs this summer, lower your water heater to the warm setting. This setting is around 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, make sure your water heater is in good condition in the first place — the standard water heater lasts 10 to 15 years before corrosion causes wear and tear.
  6. Make sure your attic is insulated. When you have poor insulation in your attic, your home attempts to equalize the temperature inside your home with the outside air. Your home’s heat or cool air escapes from the attic, leading to your home feeling too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. Call in your local professionals to seal up the cracks in your attic and you’ll reduce your energy expenses year-round.

There are many different factors that can increase your home’s energy bills. By following the tips above, you can help to keep your energy bills down this summer without foregoing your comfort.