Green Living

There are many ways you can live a more sustainable lifestyle, from recycling your plastic bags to limiting your time in the shower each morning. However, one of the most effective things you can do is to give your home an eco-friendly makeover. But why would someone want to implement these upgrades? Well, the United State’s energy use is doubling every 20 years, which can result in higher levels of carbon in the air, increasing temperatures, and other undesirable effects. But fear not. Homeowners can take a few simple steps to curb energy waste. To learn more about some of the swaps you can make, and how their effectiveness can reduce your carbon footprint, read on.

Energy Efficient Windows

Most of our heating and air conditioning energy escapes through the windows — a whopping 30%, in fact. However, replacing your older windows with more energy-efficient options can be an excellent way to offset energy waste. You’ll want to do what you can to keep your home comfortable and your energy bills low, so opting for energy efficient windows can be a great way to go.

Energy efficient windows work well since they are double-paned and trimmed with vinyl. Some even utilize Low-E glass, which can keep your home cooler in the summertime and warmer in the wintertime. They work by reducing the amount of infrared and ultraviolet light entering your home. However, they do not obstruct the amount of light permeating from outdoors, so you won’t have to worry about wandering around in the dark. The thin coating on top of the glass also reflects heat, making these windows especially ideal if you live in a hot and humid climate.

These energy efficient windows will also benefit you in a handful of other ways. For example, your furniture will resist fading, while your skin will be safe from the sun’s harmful and damaging UV rays. Therefore, making the switch is a win for the earth, your wallet, and your well-being.

LED Lighting

This is a simple switch. Adding LED lights is another way you can turn your home into a more eco-friendly space because, unlike traditional bulbs, an LED (short for light-emitting diode) bulb is composed of recyclable materials. LED lights are also non-toxic. When you need to throw them out, they won’t pollute the soil, water, or air surrounding the discarded bulb.

But how exactly is switching to LED lighting better for the planet in the long-term? LED bulbs last longer and produce less unnecessary heat. They waste less energy and won’t need to be replaced as frequently. Even though they don’t waste as much energy as conventional bulbs, they actually provide better light quality. In other words, your home will be brighter and you’ll be making more sustainable decisions, all while saving money!

Improved Home Insulation

Though your windows are largely responsible for heat escaping your home, your house’s insulation also plays a big part too. Ensure that your insulation is working properly. If you notice your home gets beyond chilly during the winter, take the time to improve or replace your home’s insulation. Some other signs that the current state of insulation is poor may include:

  • a pest problem
  • excess moisture in the basement or attic
  • hot and cold rooms or spots scattered around the house

Cellulose insulation is regarded as one of the most earth-friendly materials to protect your home from the elements. It’s a recycled material comprised of 85% newsprint. Cotton is another sustainable alternative.

Much like switching to energy efficient windows, ensuring that your house is properly insulated can cut down on energy wasted, and help reduce your monthly bill and carbon footprint.

Energy Efficient Appliances

Upgrading to energy efficient appliances is another easy way to transform your home to a more eco-friendly space. These appliances can include washers and dryers, dishwashers, and water heaters. They work by utilizing a minimum amount of energy required to complete the household task. When shopping, look for Energy Star designations or WaterSense labels to find options that won’t waste energy or water. If your home has older appliances, you’ll want to think about making the switch to save money and energy.

Programmable Thermostats

Although nearly 50% of a home’s total energy is used for heating and cooling, you can ensure your HVAC system operates as efficiently as possible by installing a programmable thermostat. You can set it to your schedule and cut the risk of heat leakage while you’re out of the house at work or while running errands. This heat leakage can happen when the temperature in your home stays consistent for the entire day. There are even some advanced thermostats available on today’s market that let you control your home’s temperature through your smartphone, so you can adjust it while you’re anywhere in the world.

Second-Hand Items

Did you just move into your dream house? If so, consider purchasing second-hand items when furnishing your new space. While you may think this upgrade only applies to new homeowners, you can also implement it whenever you need a new couch or loveseat down the line. Buying secondhand, whether you’re purchasing plates or dressers, dramatically cuts down on waste produced in landfills. Getting into the knack of thrifting can shrink your carbon footprint down since landfills are responsible for 14% of CO2 emissions.

There are so many ins-and-outs of living sustainably. It’s a lifelong journey that requires constant growth on your part. However, with some of these tips and substitutes, you can shrink your carbon footprint significantly.

Your home is one of the most significant places in the world. It’s where you eat your favorite meals, and rest your head at night after a long day. So, why wouldn’t you want to create a more earth-conscious home this year? By upgrading to energy-efficient appliances, improving your home’s insulation, and a myriad of these other tips listed, you can feel better about doing your part for this great planet of ours.

Going green is more important than ever and incorporating eco-friendly building materials into homes is just as important as recycling and using water-saving appliances. While sustainable construction still isn’t the standard across America, the use of eco-friendly building materials and appliances is catching on quickly, especially among millennial home builders and buyers.

But what does it take for a home to be considered ‘green’ and how can you take advantage of sustainable building for yourself? To better understand green construction and homemaking, let’s take a closer look at the core components.

What Makes a Building Green?

To be considered ‘green’, a building must be designed or renovated in a resource-efficient and eco-friendly manner. Green construction is meant to reduce environmental impact, protect the health of occupants, and use resources more efficiently. This can be done by utilizing building materials such as bamboo, recycled plastic, wood, HempCrete, and AshCrete. HempCrete being created from the inner fibers of the hemp plant, and AshCrete being created using the recycled ash from burnt coal. While traditional concrete can last upwards of 100 years, these alternative options can match that longevity while having a lower environmental impact. Materials like this can be used to create modern and stylish structures without using excess materials that aren’t sustainable.

Other materials that are considered green include:

  • Steel Steel, particularly steel roofing materials are environmentally friendly because they can be constantly recycled and reused. Steel roofs can come in many different colors and can be highly durable making them perfect for green building.
  • Natural Insulation Natural fibers such as wool and cotton can be used as good insulation for homes. Likewise, cellulose insulation, created from recycled paper waste, can also be used in the place of artificial insulation options.
  • Non-VOC Paint Paints with low or no VOCs are better for both the environment and your body. Because they contain fewer volatile organic compounds, the chemicals responsible for pungent paint smells, you don’t have to worry about inhaling dangerous fumes. VOCs can also cause a host of problems such as difficulty breathing, headaches, and eye-irritation if exposure is prolonged.
  • Natural Flooring Bamboo flooring or carpeting created from cotton and wool fiber can be much for eco-friendly than synthetic alternatives. Because they are natural materials that can be recycled, you don’t have to worry about them never breaking down in a landfill if you decide to replace them in the future.

In addition to the materials used to build and furnish the home, energy-efficient appliances and fixtures are equally important. The average American home can use upwards of 88 gallons of water every day. To combat this, dishwashers, showers, toilets, and washing machines should all be energy rated to use less water and help cut back on the waste. Likewise, energy-efficient lightbulbs, clothes dryers, and refrigerators can help reduce electricity consumption.

All of these aspects come together to encompass what makes a building ‘green’. While steps can be taken to make previously constructed buildings green, when tackling a new construction it’s important to consider every building material to ensure everything is as sustainable as possible.

The Benefits of Green Construction

By far the largest benefit of green constructions is their reduced impact on the environment. However, building green can also have surprising benefits for homeowners and property managers.

Because green constructions utilize less water and energy, they tend to have lower operation and maintenance costs. For example, by using energy-efficient appliances and less water, the cost of both electric and water bills will decrease significantly. This makes green construction not just beneficial to the environment but also to your bank account.

The quality of the indoor environment is also enhanced with green construction. The conditions can include better lighting, temperature management, and air quality. For instance, green homes tend to rely more on sunlight during the day, while also removing harmful elements like VOCs from the indoor environment. These improvements can help protect the health of occupants, improve the overall quality of life, and reduce stress levels.

Green construction can also be beneficial for those looking to flip houses for a profit, as eco-friendly homes can go for much more on the market. They are also likely to sell quickly due to their desirability. Green homes can also be the beneficiaries of many tax incentives that can help homeowners get more back for their eco-improvements.

Between benefit the health of residents, lowing environmental impact, and saving you money, it’s hard to find a downside to going green. Possibly, the only downside is the chance of higher costs during construction. Additionally, if you’re needing construction site clean up after building, HomeAdvisor estimates that you could be facing an extra $150 to $950 depending on what needs to be done. However, with the money saved in the long-term, the difference can be easily made up.

Are Green Homes Healthier?

In short, yes. Green homes have many notable health benefits when compared to traditional homes. A few of the largest health benefits are as follows:

  • A Lowered Risk of Cancer
    Because green homes do away with VOCs, radon, and combustion appliances, there is a noticeably lower exposure to known cancer-causing chemicals. In Illinois, for example, one out of every three homes contain radon, the second largest cause of cancer behind smoking. By using cleaner and more natural materials, these risks are reduced, if not eliminated making homes safer and healthier.
  • Reduced Respiratory Issues
    Improved heating and cooling solutions, coupled with improved airflow, helps to reduce respiratory irritation and asthma triggers. This is because the air is kept cleaner and free from mold, moisture, dust, and other contaminants that could cause problems.
  • Reduced Cardiovascular Symptoms
    As will respiratory issues, some cardiovascular symptoms can be mitigated with the aid of better circulation and air quality, both of which could impact blood pressure. By being able to positively impact that, you can start to benefit from fewer symptoms and a lowered risk of developing hypertension, and other cardiovascular conditions.
  • Mental Health
    Lastly, green constructions can benefit overall mental health. Green homes can help reduce stress and depression by making home conditions cleaner and more comfortable. By helping regulate temperature and removing air contaminants, the environment itself will be more conducive to positive mental stimulation.

The Way of the Future

It’s no secret that sustainable building practices are only going to become more popular, both by demand and necessity. As more people stop to examine the impact of unsustainable building practices, it’s only a matter of time before most — if not all — new constructions are considered green. If you’re interested in making your home a more eco-friendly location, consider investing in the sustainable materials and appliances mentioned above. You too can reap the benefits of green living, even in your previously constructed home.

There are many benefits to working from home, part-time or full-time. For one thing, you can often make your own hours — to an extent — and work the way that you want to work. For another, you can turn your home office into whatever you want it to be. It can be cozy and comfortable or sleek and professional. You may focus on privacy, or you could want to be easily accessible for your family.

Even if you aren’t your own boss — and not everyone who spends time working from home is — you are the master of your home office. However, with great power comes great responsibility. While you can make your home office whatever you want it to be, that means you must be responsible for furnishing it and buying the necessary office supplies. There isn’t going to be an office administrator in the background who can take care of replenishing supplies and ensure that your office is all that it should be.

A lot of home office workers find themselves growing increasingly concerned with their environmental impact — and this is one thing that they can have control over. While some corporate offices are eco-friendly, many don’t invest the time and money into making sure that their employees are lessening their carbon footprints.

This is where the responsibility of furnishing your own home office becomes a perk again. You can make your home office as eco-friendly as you want it to be. You only need to do the research and make the right investments, ideally from the very beginning. Here are some of the ways you can make your home office as environmentally friendly as possible.

Cut Down On Paper Use

It may seem natural for your home office to be covered in paper. After all, it may seem to be difficult to run any kind of business without using paper — or it did once. In this day and age, lots of businesses are becoming increasingly paperless. They worry less and less about keeping hard copies of records, often only offering paper copies to clients that request them.

Nonetheless, there are still plenty of hard paper documents circulating across the world. The U.S. alone has about 4 trillion paper documents, and those documents are still growing at a steady pace of 22% per year. But the more we take individual steps to cut down on paper usage, the fewer people will rely on hard copies.

In your home office, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll often need to use paper. There are other benefits to cutting down on paper usage, outside of the environmental benefits. The less you use paper, logically, the less you’ll have to pay for paper. Right now, the typical office worker will print around 10,000 pages per year. This results in a cost of $725. But it’s one thing to decide to cut down on paper usage — what will you turn to as an alternative?

Go Completely Digital

Thankfully, the digital world offers plenty of alternatives to paper. Of course, you’ll probably already be used to saving your documents on the computer. But if your computer crashes, you should have a backup made already. Many of us have become increasingly used to using the cloud as a way to back up all of our important documents — and if you aren’t, you probably will be soon.

It was projected that about one-third of all data would pass through the cloud by 2020. If you’re surprised, you’ve probably already backed data up on the cloud without realizing it. While the cloud offers a potentially eternal way to back up important data, it also poses security risks for those backing up sensitive information.

It is possible for information to be accessed by those hacking into the cloud. However, if you establish the right security protocols, both in terms of how people store their information and how they protect that information, you’ll likely have much less to worry about. The benefits of using the cloud, both in terms of how recoverable your information is and the eco-friendly aspects of going digital, far outweigh the risks.

Insulate Your Office

Many people begin creating a home office with renovations. Lots of houses have spaces that work as home offices but aren’t necessarily quite ready just yet. If you’re considering renovating a space to convert it into a home office, you should consider whether or not your office is well-insulated. The insulation of a space can affect its energy efficiency in a big way.

Wasting energy can definitely have a negative environmental impact, of course. It can also have a negative impact on your wallet, which is the last thing you’ll want if you’re already investing in creating the perfect home office and working from home. The more air leaks from your home office, the more money you’ll spend on heating and cooling costs that were completely avoidable.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that air leaks in your windows and doors can add as much as 10% to your heating bills (and occasionally more). With as much time as you’ll likely spend in your home office, you should make sure that it’s completely insulated.

No matter what you ultimately do in order to make your home office environmentally friendly, it’s important to take those steps. Your home office is your workspace. With as much time as you spend in it, you’ll want to make it as environmentally conscious as possible.

Spring is finally creeping into the air, and the effects of winter are beginning to fade. As the breeze starts to warm, and the flowers start to blossom, you will once again remember all the joys that come with the changing season. Children playing outside, barbeques in the backyard, and being able to layout under the stars. With all of the outdoor entertaining you’ll be doing, you may wonder how you can upgrade your outdoor scenery. With these three landscaping tips, your backyard will be the envy of your neighborhood in no time.

Care For Your Lawn

Assessing your lawn care needs at the end of winter can help you keep a green home throughout the entirety of spring and summer. The condition you left your lawn in at the end of fall will determine the amount of work you will have at the cusp of the new season, but here a few basics to keep in mind.

Remove Yard Waste
Allowing yard waste to hang around is the quickest way to kill your lawn before you even have the chance to enjoy it. Removing the waste can include raking any leftover leaves from fall, picking up sticks and rotten tree fruits like crab apples, and throwing away discarded gardening items that may have been left in your yard during the winter.

Inspect For Damage
Once you have removed all of your yard’s waste, you can begin to inspect for damage your lawn may have suffered over the winter. The most common problem homeowners run into is dead patches of grass and surprise holes that animals have dug. To fix dead patches of grass, or to expand the perimeter of your yard, consider hydroseeding. With hydroseeding, grass should start to grow within seven days. Within four weeks, a new lawn will be well established and ready to mow. This is significantly faster than traditional grass growing methods that can take months to produce a well-established lawn. If any holes have been dug, determine if the problem is likely to reoccur due to nearby animals. If not, simply fill the hole with topsoil and hydroseed the area after at least a week has passed to give the soil time to compact.

Maintain Your Lawn’s Health
Prepping your lawn for spring is the most difficult part of the lawn care process. So once you have cleared any yard waste and repaired damages to your lawn, all you need to do is mow your grass regularly. If you mow about every five days for the first six weeks of spring, you will help promote healthy grass. Allowing grass to grow too tall in between mowing sessions can actually stunt the roots and cause your lawn to fade by the end of the summer. This can, in turn, make the prep work next year more difficult and time-consuming.

Repair Your Landscape’s Features

Having a green home means more than just taking care of your lawn. Developing and repairing your landscape’s features can help accentuate your house’s features, as well as help show off your pristine lawn. Check out these top two ways you can improve your landscape’s features:

Install Bushes And Shrubs
Bushes and shrubs are a green home’s best friend because they stick around throughout the changing seasons. This not only keeps your landscape looking maintained year-round, but also gives you a variety of options to choose from. For planting shrubs at the beginning of spring, opt for a forsythia shrub as it will bloom earlier in the season than other types of shrub.

Install Hardscapes
Hardscapes refer to the non-plant components of your landscape. These can include decorative rocks and stone, gazebos, and fencing. Many dog owners opt to fence their perimeter, as most dogs are considered fully grown when they reach 18 to 24 months of age. This not only helps contain the dog when it runs around, but can add a decorative touch to your lawn.

Invest In Your Outdoor Furniture

Nearly 70% of households have an outdoor living area, and it’s not hard to see why. Outdoor furniture is designed to give you a comfortable place to lounge and relax. When investing in your furniture, it is important to keep these two things in mind:

Consider The Climate You Live In
When buying new furniture, it is important to consider the climate you live in. For example, wicker furniture can fall apart if it gets exposed to water too often. And in dry climates, wood furniture won’t be able to withstand the elements either. If you aren’t sure what material will work best for the climate you live in, consider buying aluminum furniture as it is the most versatile.

Caring For Outdoor Furniture
It is important to clean and repair your furniture at least twice every year if you want your furniture to experience its full lifetime. The method you’ll use to clean the furniture will depend on the material it is made out of. For example, you want to avoid using water to clean wicker as it will hinder the integrity of the material. For wood furniture, applying an annual coat of protectant can help your furniture look brand new for years to come. And if you notice any chips in outdoor glass tables, a quick fix with an automotive glass repair kit can have it looking new in no time.

Final Thoughts

Keeping a green home is easy if you know how to care for your lawn and landscape year-round. Little actions like picking up yard waste and utilizing hardscapes can have a huge impact on the health and overall aesthetic of your property. Maintaining additional aspects of your landscape, like outdoor furniture, can give you a comfortable place to relax that feels and looks new for years. Regardless of the aesthetic you choose, enjoy the process of creating a space you want to be in. As with any green home, it will only be as nice as you choose to make it.

We can’t live without our pets — as a matter of fact, most American households have at least one pet in this day and age. Pets offer so many benefits. They help us relax and offer unconditional love and companionship. Another benefit of owning a pet, of course, is the fact that pets give you something to focus on. But this also means that you’re going to have to devote a lot of attention to your pet. As pets are a part of the family, many people want their pets to be fully incorporated into their lifestyles — which is why there is a rising interest in eco-friendly pet ownership. People want to know that they’re still thinking about the environment when they own pets; which can sometimes be a little difficult and certainly easier said than done. Lots of people find that their pet’s food is actually a lot less friendly to the environment than they would think, and many flea and tick prevention treatments used in the home are somewhat unhealthy. The year 2015 alone saw 68% of all pest control service revenue in the United States coming from residential services. What this means is that lots of pesticides — potentially harmful to the environment — were used by average homeowners. This is done with good intent; nobody wants their home or their pets to be infested with pests. But there are better ways to go about handling this type of issue. Considering it truly factors into being an eco-friendly pet owner. Let’s look into some of the best ways that you can be an environmentally conscious pet owner!

1. Invest In Eco-Friendly Flea And Tick Prevention

As you might imagine, we’re first looking at flea and tick prevention. Of course, you’ll want to consult with your vet before using any over the counter flea and tick prevention or medication, as your pet may have specific needs. Nonetheless, there are ways to prevent fleas and ticks in pets without using chemicals that are bad for the environment. Of course, you wouldn’t think that pet-safe flea and tick preventions would be environmentally unsafe. But the fact is that many of them are not as safe as they could be, and certainly not natural. Rather than using harsh chemicals, you may want to use products that utilize earth-safe materials, like certain oils. Don’t assume that whatever you can buy from the grocery store is eco-friendly, or good for your pet. Be careful!

2. Consider Environmentally Friendly Cat Litter

We don’t often think about the type of cat litter we beyond how well it suppresses scents and how easy it is to dispose of. However, many common types of cat litter are not biodegradable. This means that when you dispose of them, they stick around and can harm the environment. Fortunately, there are better cat litters are on the market, and they do degrade naturally. Of course, some of them might be more expensive than the traditional types of cat litter — but it’s important that you keep the environment in mind. Some of the biodegradable cat litter is even made from recyclable materials. If you have even one cat, you’re going to end up using a lot of — and throwing away a lot of — cat litter in the long run. You should definitely try to make it as environmentally friendly as possible!

3. Spay Or Neuter Your Pets

There are so many reasons why people should spay and neuter their pets — but if you care about the environment, you should make it even more of a priority. As much as we love our pets, if the world is overrun with too many of them the environment is negatively impacted. The world isn’t big enough to sustain the number of animals that would exist if pets weren’t spayed or neutered — and for that matter, there aren’t enough pet owners available to take care of them. Therefore, you should spay or neuter your pet as soon as it’s healthy to do so. This will range between dogs and cats, as well as other types of animals. Furthermore, spaying or neutering your pet will make their lives a lot better, and yours much easier. You’ll be able to keep your pet from created unwanted offspring, and spaying or neutering a pet can solve a lot of behavior issues as well. Intact animals can be much more aggressive or anxious, and they’re often at risk for cancers that don’t affect spayed or neutered animals. Therefore, when you spay or neuter an animal you’re ultimately making the best decision for their health in every sense and making an environmentally responsible decision.

4. Adopt, Don’t Shop

Many people think of adopting a pet from a shelter as a humane, moral decision rather than an eco-friendly one. However, when you consider how easy it is for pets to contribute to animal overpopulation, adopting a pet rather than buying one from a breeder — and therefore encouraging irresponsible breeding — is incredibly environmentally conscious. Therefore, you should go ahead and adopt a pet if you’re looking to add to your family. There are so many wonderful pets up for adoption; why wouldn’t you just go for it?

All of these things considered, there are many ways that you can be a more environmentally friendly pet owner. You just need to be careful about the decisions you make, as well as the way that you care for your pet. The more considerate you are of your pet’s impact on the environment, the less of an impact you’ll have on the environment in general.

It’s no secret that going green takes hard work, and not everyone can maintain an eco-friendly lifestyle. However, for those that are truly committed to making an impact and reducing their carbon footprint, there are plenty of ways to make your home an eco-friendly haven. In some cases, a home will need a bit more extensive work to fit a green lifestyle. Remodeling or renovating is a massive undertaking, especially if you plan on renovating your entire home, as is the case in about 35% of remodeling jobs. How can you renovate your home to help you go green? The key is in working harder, not smarter. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Identify The Problem Spots

Not every area in your home is created equal when it comes to living a green lifestyle. Some spaces, like the kitchen and bathrooms, are inherently going to use more energy. After all, a bedroom doesn’t have to worry about energy-intensive appliances. If you’re on a tighter budget and can’t afford a whole-home renovation, focus on areas that will have the biggest impact first. Kitchens and bathrooms can be a great place to start if you’re not sure where to turn.

Prioritize Energy Savings

Sometimes, the problem isn’t conveniently isolated to just one room of the house. In this case, focus on fixes that can decrease the amount of energy used in your home regularly. This usually means making improvements that will help with heating and cooling your home without using as much energy. For example, if your windows are a bit older and drafty, window replacements can make a huge difference. Approximately 30% of a home’s heating energy is lost through its windows, and switching to energy-efficient alternatives can shrink how much energy you’re wasting. Similarly, if you’re already having to make repairs in the attic or on the roof, consider changing out what materials your roof uses. Simply choosing the right roofing material could result in as much as a 30% decrease in your home’s energy needs. The best approach will vary by home, so take your home’s unique traits into account when creating a plan.

Work A Step At A Time

Finally, remember that switching to a greener lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint. Many homeowners attempt to renovate multiple areas of their homes all at once or try to squeeze as many repairs into as short a window as possible. While this method is understandable, it can be incredibly stressful, especially if you’re living in the home while repairs are ongoing. Don’t be afraid to work in smaller sections and spread out the work over longer periods. This will help you reduce stress during renovations and allows you to see the gradual changes that individual projects make on your energy usage.

Having an eco-friendly home can greatly help you live a greener lifestyle, but for many homeowners, it takes a bit of work to achieve that energy-saving, greener home. Working smarter with these tips can help you create the home you dream of while avoiding burnout in the process. How do you plan to update your home to reflect your green lifestyle?

Ecotourism has been gaining popularity in recent years with families looking to travel sustainably in greener destinations. Ecotourism is a kind of eco-friendly travel that involves supporting the local environment instead of exploiting its resources.

While there are many different types of ecotourism that involve traveling abroad, you can take eco-tours right here in the U.S. and learn how you can help your local communities. Here are four eco-tour destinations that are great for families in 2020.

Stonehaven Farm in Westport, MA

Farm-stays in the U.S. are a popular eco-tourist choice among families. It’s not hard to understand why.

Kids can help with chores around the farm including grooming animals and gathering eggs. Your family can also pick berries and vegetables depending on the season when you visit.

Farm-stays are a great way to teach your kids about the hard work that goes into farming like producing crops, raising animals, and taking care of the land. You can even learn about the history of farming tools like how early screws used to be handmade and butter used to be churned by hand.

Elk Mountain Ranch in Buena Vista, CO

If you’re looking for something different from your regular farm-stay, consider vacationing at the Elk Mountain Ranch, instead. On this working ranch, your family can stay in a western-style cabin and eat in a large communal dining room with other guests.

You can play horseshoes, hike along the local trails, look for small animals and birds, look for arrowheads, and go fishing. Your family can even explore a local mining town nearby.

Blue Planet Kayak Eco-Tours in Key West, FL

Many families like to travel to Florida when they go on vacation, but not many take the time to learn about the local ecosystems and the animals and plants that live there. Up to 97% of the earth’s water is saltwater and many creatures call it their home.

In Key West, you can take a guided two-hour kayak tour as a family and explore all the local marine creatures like juvenile fish, crustaceans, dolphins, and manatees.

There are kayak tours offered in the evenings, too, so you can explore the marine creatures that are active at night with headlamps. Just make sure that each member of your family knows how to swim as a safety precaution. About 37% of U.S. adults can’t swim farther than the length of a pool, so it’s good to practice.

Halibut Cove on Kachemak Bay, AK

Alaska may not be the vacation destination that first comes to mind when you think of family vacations. But this enormous state offers 75 parks including national parks, preserves, state parks, and national forests.

Up to 52% of Alaska’s acreage is wilderness, so if you’re looking for a truly eco-centric eco-tourist vacation, Alaska is the place to visit. Your family can explore the natural wildlife, go on hikes, explore bird sanctuaries, go fishing, and explore the local community of artists and craftspeople.

If your kids are older, you can visit Anchorage and take a guided snowmobile tour to explore the local wildlife and take in the incredible scenery. There are over 1.2 million registered snowmobiles in the U.S. and snowmobile tours are offered at varying skill levels so you can find one that works for you.

There are plenty of opportunities to go on an eco-tour vacation right in the states. For your next family vacation, explore what your community has to offer and learn how you can make a difference sustaining local wildlife.

Your wedding day may very well be the most important day of your life. Or perhaps it’s not that big of a deal to you; maybe you’re throwing a wedding to please your parents. Either way, weddings are a fairly traditional part of most people’s lives, with 2.4 million weddings performed each year on average in the United States alone. We devote a lot of time to planning weddings, often at least a year. This is because most couples want their weddings to be memorable, fun, and authentically “them”. They want their weddings to have a unique stamp, rather than reminding people of parties that they’ve been to before. Of course, this often means spending some degree of money — on average, $35,329. Though some couples get help from their parents — and in fact, some parents follow the tradition of the bride’s family paying for the wedding — many have taken on more responsibility for the finances that go along with wedding planning. This makes sense; many couples are waiting longer to get married. Furthermore, paying for your wedding gives you more free rein to do exactly what you want, and to prioritize what is important to you.

For a lot of modern couples, ensuring that their wedding is “green” or eco-friendly is very important. The current generation of young adults is more aware than ever of the issues pertaining to the environment. Some are even conflicted about whether or not to throw a big wedding or not. Planning a big party seems to be wasteful, and at odds with environmental friendliness. Luckily, there are ways that you can be environmentally friendly while throwing the wedding that you want. Let’s dive into what you can to make your wedding as green as possible!

1. Cut Down On Waste

One of the biggest environmental issues that comes with throwing a big wedding is the amount of trash and waste that a wedding can accumulate. It’s not just the reception, either. Even getting ready for your wedding can produce waste. For instance, try skipping the disposable razor to shave and consider a laser hair removal session instead. In some cases, a laser hair removal session can take as little as 30 minutes and cut your waste down to zero.  Most women (42%) even say they prefer natural, waste-free beauty. Never mind all of the excess food that is prepared and ultimately wasted — at least much of this can be broken down, and can sometimes even be donated to those in need. (Which is something you should certainly consider; see if you can work with caterers who donate their leftovers to homeless shelters or charities.) Trash often ends up in landfills, where it cannot be broken down and ultimately ends up contributing to the environmental problems we’re dealing with today. You can compensate by ensuring that your caterers not only use reusable silverware and dishes, but reusable napkins as well. Don’t use products that can be easily tossed aside, and set aside a container for recyclable products. For that matter, rather than using up a lot of plants through centerpieces that will ultimately go to waste, perhaps use ice sculptures, which can melt down into reusable water in about four to six hours.

2. A Vegan Menu

Whether or not you yourself are vegan, you may want to consider serving your guests from a vegan menu. Consider how many guests you’re serving, and how much energy can be used when preparing those meals. It may seem difficult to cut down on that kind of waste at all. Many environmental experts recommend a vegan diet to those who want to minimize their carbon footprints. The benefits of a vegan diet are manifold — but it benefits the environment because it doesn’t contribute to the meat industry. The fact is that the meat industry takes up a lot of land, and the animals themselves can overfeed and harm the land. Of course, the biggest issue is the methane produced by cattle on a large scale. Now, many weddings in this day and age include one vegan meal at least anyway, to accommodate guests with specific diets. While those with vegan diets can’t eat meat, meat eaters can certainly eat vegan meals. Though some have negative associations with vegan diets, the vegan menu has come a long way over the years. There are plenty of amazing vegan meals to choose from, and if you want to take the risk and serve an entirely vegan menu to your guests, there will definitely be an environmental pay off!

3. Paperless Save The Dates

Every year, millions of trees are chopped down to make way for our paper demands. A wedding can potentially use up a lot of paper, especially when it comes to save the dates and invitations. Now, there is much debate when it comes to invitations. Lots of people like to still send out traditional invitations, and with good reason. You’ll want to make sure that your guests can easily refer back to their invitations, and they’re less likely to miss paperless invitations. Furthermore, on a sentimental level you’ll be able to save a paper invitation — and so will your guests. You can still be green by using recycled paper for your invitations. Now, as far as save the dates go — you may want to go paperless. A save the date can be attractive and inviting without being printed out on paper. A soft copy will do just as well, and it may actually be easier for you to reach everyone through an online save the date!

You don’t have to give up on your dream wedding in order to go green — you’ll simply make your dreams fit a green vision too. Take advice from a wedding planner if you have to, but it’s much easier to be environmentally friendly while planning a wedding than you might think!