Divide and Conquer – Cleaning after Christmas

522620_35507155An easy way to start your holiday clean up is to divide your holiday debris into three piles; reusables, recyclables and trash.

Reusables – Bows, ribbon, wrapping paper, boxes, gift bags, tissue paper, Christmas cards, all can be reused in its former state or repurposed into an ornament or new Christmas card. There are so many possibilities.

Recyclables – Wrapping paper, gift bags, Christmas cards and boxes that are ripped or crumpled can be recycled with your regular household recyclables. You dont have to remove the tape from the paper either. Cardboard boxes, styrofoam, tins are all recyclable. Also your holiday food scraps can be put in a composter for your garden.

Trash -Ribbons, bows and tissue paper, if not reusable, go into the trash bin. Foil wrapping paper, cardboard contaminated with food, paint or glitter, plastic toys all go in the trash bin.

The Greenest Christmas Tree

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In the 20th century, around 98 percent of Christmas trees came from the forest. Today, most Christmas trees are grown on tree farms, which can benefit and harm the environment.

In an article from care2 I found what the Eco-benefits of tree recycling is, why buying a live Christmas tree is best for the environment and how Christmas tree farms benefit the environment.

Christmas trees

If you do go out and cut down your tree or buy from the lot, remember to recycle your tree. This will help reduce waste and avoid consuming much needed space in landfills.

  • Christmas trees can be ground up and used as mulch in gardens.
  • They can be used as sand and erosion barriers on beaches or lakes.
  • They can be sunk in lakes and ponds to provide refuge for fish.

Living Christmas trees

How awesome to be able to plant your Christmas tree in your yard year after year. A reminder of Christmases past.

  • Trees clean the air and provide oxygen- planting 30 trees can offset your home and car’s annual contribution to global warming.
  • Tree root systems hold in place soil that, if washed away by heavy rains, flow into streams and rivers, making them shallower and causing flooding.
  • The EPA claims that planting trees is the best way to reverse the global warming effect.

Christmas Tree farms

  • While trees grow they replenish the air with oxygen; just one acre of Christmas trees produces enough oxygen to support eighteen people.
  • Tree farms provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.
  • Christmas trees can be planted where few other plants grow, increasing soil stability.
  • For each tree cut on tree farms, 2 or 3 new seedlings are planted.

For the complete article click here.

10 Tips for Preventing Stormwater Pollution

318454_9151Last week on Dirty Jobs, Mike Rowe helped clean storm drains, which made me a bit sick to watch, I guess that’s why they call it “Dirty Jobs”. It made me think about how important it is that we put our trash in the proper place and keep our drains free of pollution as much as we can. Below are 10 tips to preventing stormwater pollution. We don’t want this pollution going to our rivers and streams, harming fish and wildlife along the way. Did you know that a single cigarette butt can take 25 years to break down? So please don’t litter, it doesn’t take much to look for a trash can and dispose of trash properly.

  1. Never dump anything down storm drains or into streams and report anyone who does.
  2. Replant bare spots in your yard and preserve streamside vegetation.
  3. Direct rooftop downspouts away from paved surfaces.
  4. Take your car to a car wash or wash it on an unpaved area.
  5. Check your car for leaks and recycle your motor oil and antifreeze.
  6. Pick up your pet waste; it can carry harmful bacteria and parasites.
  7. Have your septic tank pumped and system inspected regularly.
  8. Choose low-maintenance, native plants that require fewer chemicals and less watering and sweep up debris from driveways and sidewalks.
  9. Consider alternatives to impervious surfaces such as pervious pavement, paving blocks, gravel cobbles, brick and natural stone.
  10. Get a rain barrel to collect stormwater and install an approved rain garden or green roof.

Start From Scratch

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Stay away from the frozen food aisle!

So many of us grab the easy to pop in the oven, pre-made food for dinners and when baking desserts, but with a bit of planning on your part and food prep ahead of time you can have wonderful made from scratch meals all through the Holidays. This time of year is my favorite time. I love homemade cookies, desserts and savory goodies. Start planning now and you will be glad you did. And with a smile on your face you can say “I made this!”

First you have to have knowledge of what freezes well and what doesn’t.

Food that can freeze:

  • Breads & Baked Goods
  • Butter & Margarine
  • Beans
  • Rice
  • Potatoes – Cook before freezing.
  • Fruits & Veggies – Will soften when frozen and should only be used for cooking after being frozen.

Food that can’t freeze:

  • Veggies – Such as lettuce, celery, radishes, cabbage and cucumbers.
  • Melons – They become very soft and lose much of their juice.
  • Mayo – Seperates
  • Fried Foods – Lose their crispness.

Favorite Freezer Foods has a plethora of information to help you if you are wanting to cook once a month, once a week or even batch cooking.

Pulling a meal out of the freezer is faster than the drive through, delivery or your favorite eat in restaurant.

Homemade meals are cheaper than eating out and since you control all the ingredients you can rest assured that your family is eating healthy food.

So drive past the line at the drive through, put down the phone, step away from the boxed entrees in the grocery store and get a healthy homemade dinner on the table.

Favorite Freezer Foods will teach you how to freeze each type of food, they have recipes available for freezer foods, and instructions on how to defrost the freezer foods.

So take on the challenge and start from scratch and enjoy the holidays and your savings.

Save Money on Heating

672782_62368245Reading through an article from Divine Caroline, I found 7 tips to help save money on heating this winter. Who doesn’t want to save money, especially during the holiday months.

1. Replace all your filters. In addition to not being as effective at filtering the air you breathe, dirty filters cause several problems for the furnace. They make the blower work harder getting enough air into the heat-exchange chamber so that you have enough warm air in the house. 

2. Clean the area around the furnace and inside the filter box. While you are replacing the air filters, vacuum around the furnace unit. Most furnaces are stuck in an out-of-the-way spot and get minimal cleaning during the year.

3. Check your fan belts. Fan belts that are too loose or too tight can cause problems with the blower and the fan motor. The tension in the belts should be set so there is about 1” of deflection at the center of the span.

4. Lubricate the blower (fan) motor shaft. Most electrical motor shafts have lubrication ports at one or both ends of the shaft that runs through the motor. Use a good quality, lightweight motor oil to fill these lubrication ports.

5. Check to be sure the blower (fan) cage spins easily. Check your blower (fan) cage by spinning it. As long as it spins easily, everything is fine. If it seems to rub or bind while it spins, you could have something stuck in the fan or you could have a worn out fan.

6. Turn on the pilot light. Most gas furnaces require a pilot light to function properly (some of the more modern furnaces have electronic flame starters). Make sure your pilot light is lit.

7. Check your thermostat. After you have done the mechanical maintenance on the furnace and made sure the pilot light is lit and working, check the thermostat to make sure that it is working. Set your thermostat control to ‘Heat’ and the furnace temperature control to higher than your current room temperature. Make sure the burner lights and the fan starts blowing. As soon as you have done this you can turn the furnace thermostat control back to a cooler setting and the status control back to either cool or neutral.

For the complete article click here.

Natural Ways to Repel Mosquitoes

mosquitoCamping, cooking out, picnics, swimming at the lake, and whatever other fun thing you love to do in the summer, seem to all come with those pesky mosquitoes.

Here is some helpful ways to keep those mosquitoes at bay.

Try Planting Marigolds

Place the fragrant flowers in a garden bed to keep the insects away, their odor may deter mosquitoes, but to be sure they stay off you, its still best to apply repellent directly to your skin.

Other mosquito repellent plants are, Rosemary, Catnip, and Citronella Grass. Make sure and do some research before you buy these plants, do to the different needs of each plant. Some may not be right for your garden. Another help can be to plant basil near your doorway to keep the mosquitoes away. Another great tip would be to throw some herbs on the fire – Next time you barbeque throw some sage or rosemary on the coals to repel the pesky insects.

Mosquito Sprays –

Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Spray

eHow has a How to Make Pesticide Free Mosquito Spray that you can try. Made with Thai Lemongrass, which contains citronella oil and is safe and effective in repelling mosquitoes.

EcoSmart Insect Repellent Powerful, all natural formula is made from organic plant oils, and keeps bugs away for hours.

So the next time your in need of some mosquito help, try some of these suggestions for a natural, safe repellent and enjoy the summer as it was intended.

How to Pick the Perfect Produce

1158748_48029256Its summertime and fruit & veggies are abundant, many people are making their way to farmers markets to get the freshest of the fresh. But even with beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables available at every corner, its still tough to pick out the best if you don’t know how. Here are 7 tips to help you pick the perfect produce and get what you pay for.

1. Have a taste. If it tastes good than you know its good, so ask for a sample.

2. Take a sniff. Fruit should have a sweet aroma; veggies should smell fresh. If they are bad, certain vegetables like asparagus tips will have a foul odor.

3. Do the bend test. To make sure veggies are crisp and fresh, bend them. If anything is even slightly soft or pliable its past its prime. This works best with vegetables like green beans, celery, asparagus, or zucchini.

4. Give it a squeeze. The freshest, ripest stuff has a slight spring or squeeziness to it that older produce doesn’t.

5. Weigh it in your hand. In general the heavier the fruit feels when you pick it up or cradle it in your hand, the juicier it will taste. Especially helpful when picking pineapples, melons or citrus fruits.

6. Ask whats good. Always ask the produce clerk, or farmer for recommendations. Everyday is a new day with new items coming in, one day the melons may be good while the next batch may not be as good.

7. Return the bad ones. And sadly with some fruits and veggies there is no way of telling if its good or bad until you slice it open. So to make sure and not lose money on your purchases, take any produce that is not up to par back to the store/market. Most stores have money-back return policies.

Take a Volunteer Vacation

192069952_c37416e100_oSchools are letting out and kids and adults alike will have some time off this summer. In lieu of or in conjunction with your regular vacation, why not take a volunteer vacation?

A volunteer vacation is one way to take a break and help a good cause at the same time. Allowing travelers to experience conditions and issues first-hand, giving volunteers the chance to deepen their concern and commitment to problems that previously seemed far-away.

Before you decide where and when to volunteer, first consider the causes that are important to you. What are you passionate about? Love to work with children? Fair trade a concern? Interested in organic farming? Whatever the  cause is, you should be able to find an organization that fits with your concerns.

While you can personally contact the organization of your choice, it’s often easier to work with a reputable eco-travel business that will take care of all the details such as lodging, ensuring good working conditions and trip planning to make sure your volunteer vacation is safe, productive and enjoyable. Check out Eco volunteer or Sustainable Travel International for help.

Volunteer Vacations can change your life and the vitality of the planet long after the actual trip. Consider developing a long-term partnership with the organization by sending regular donations, staying in contact with volunteers you met on your trip and by trying to raise awareness for that cause.

Some other helpful sites:

Wilderness Volunteers

Planeta

Celebrate Earth Day

1154378_15133135This next Wednesday, April 22 is Earth Day. Take time to celebrate Earth Day this weekend, either by getting outside and enjoying the great outdoors or by taking action and conserving energy, water and recycling. There is so much we can do. Below are sites that can help you get started.

The Nature Conservancy has a preserve map and tips to get you inspired! Then use Facebook to get your friends outside, too.

EarthDay.gov has a list of ways to take action At Home, In Your Classroom, and While at Work. They also have volunteer programs for helping reduce soil loss, protect water supplies and volunteering with government at all levels.

Earth Day isn’t just for adults, there is a lot that kids can do to help on Earth Day. Check out this list of Incredible Kids and Cool Ideas from EarthDay.Wilderness.org.

For all the Earth Day events going on in your area check out the United States Environmental Protection Agency. They have a map with click-able regions to find out whats going on in your region.

The Sierra Club has a list of Seven Ways to Heaven on Earth Day 2009. Helping you organize a fun event for your community, how-to advice, take the “How Green is my..” quiz and much more.

And for all your Earth Day information from the history of Earth Day to anything else you could ever possibly want to know, look up Earth Day on Wikipedia.

Garlic’s Health Benefits

Garlic clovesGarlic, a member of the Allium family, is believed to be one of the oldest cultivated plants, with a history going back over 5,000 years.

Recent studies show that garlic contains a powerful antioxidant that is good for cardiovascular health, that garlic can in some cases reduce LDL or bad cholesterol, and it can be a good blood thinning agent with the potential of reducing the risk of blood clots.

Here are some other garlic health benefits:

Cancer Prevention – Population studies have revealed that eating garlic regularly, along with other alliums such as onions chives and scallions, reduces the risk of oesophageal, colon and stomach cancer.

Heart – Garlic is renowned for its abilities to lower cholesterol and blood pressure naturally and protect against heart disease and stroke. Garlic has also been found to stimulate the production of nitric oxide in blood vessels aiding their dilation, and assist the body’s ability to dissolve blood clots.

Diabetes – Some of the damage that can result from the degenerative effects of diabetes such as diseases of the kidney, retina and nervous system, may be deterred by garlic.

Anti-Inflammatory – The sulfur compounds in garlic have been found to have anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting the activity of inflammatory enzymes. Along with vitamin C this can make garlic a protection against the pain associated with arthritis and asthma attacks.

Try this great Roasted Garlic Recipe from Simply Recipes.