DIY Can Be Eco Friendly

Home improvement has been getting greener and greener over the years but this is the first time I’ve heard of a totally green DIY store.

Kbane, a store based in France, is a one stop shop for green home improvement. Every product in its store has a label explaining where it’s from and in-store experts offer expert advice, energy audits and even demonstrations.

The store focus on six areas: gardening, energy efficiency, healthy home interiors, air quality and water, insulation and eco-construction, and solar and new energies. Hopefully it’ll become more and more popular and Kbane’s plans to grow and open new stores comes to fruition.

Kbane
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Matching Business Waste with Someone Who Can Reuse It

Recycling is all well and good but it does take a lot of effort and energy and I’ve often wondered about something that was on Springwise recently – why aren’t companies more linked in together? One company’s waste is another’s raw product.

An American firm based in Houston is now doing just that – helping businesses get connected. RecycleMatch ains “to create an industrial ecosystem in which the use of energy and materials are optimized, waste is minimized, and there is an economically viable role for every product of a manufacturing process”. A noble goal.

Aimed at industrial-sized companies – fees are based on matching firms and then taking a cut of the cost per ton – it works more or less like a small ad in a newspaper or online. A company advertises its waste and someone else buys it. Simple.

According to the site three million pounds of waste materials have already been sold which would have otherwise ended up in landfill.

RecycleMatch

The Art Of Eating In

In America today, more than 50 percent of families no longer share mealtimes together. Many of us are now eating ‘on the move’ – and with microwave dinners, fast-food, drive-thrus and take-aways at our fingertips, it’s no surprise that the act of preparing and sharing a meal at home is falling out of fashion.

The damaging impact of fast food on our health is now well documented. However, the cost of fast food on our environment and our food chain is also devastating. Many of us are unaware of the massive carbon footprint associated with the food we’re eating, not to mention the lack of sustainably sourced produce. All of this is wrapped up in excessive plastic and paper packaging – much of which ends up in methane-generating landfill, continuing its dirty work long after we’ve finished eating.

Cathy Erway, an amateur cook from New York, believes there is another way to enjoy food. In fact, she’s decided to stage something of a cultural revolution, publishing a book called ‘The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove,’ (Gotham, 2010) which aims to encourage people to start cooking in their own homes.

Not eating out in New York
It started with a blog entitled ‘Not eating out in New York,’ where Erway charted her efforts to avoid dining out in any of the city’s over-priced and unethical eateries. If it’s money-saving tips you’re after, then Erway claims that she spent just $25 per week when dining in, compared to over $200 per week when dining out – an incredible saving of $700 per month!

Erway contends that as a nation, we’ve begun to normalize the idea of eating out – it’s no longer considered to be a luxury or a treat; it’s an every day affair. In contrast, cooking at home is now seen as major surgery, with many people afraid or unsure about how to prepare and cook simple, healthy meals. Erway’s book is generous and shares many of her own culinary adventures, including a range of easy to follow recipes for cheap and hearty meals.

Erway also goes in search of an alternative food scene at the heart of New York City. Her book uncovers a sub-culture of people cooking and eating in their own homes, hosting dinner parties, foraging for edible ingredients in local parks, running secret supper clubs and dumpster diving (or ‘freeganing’) at local supermarkets for edible food that’s past its use-by date. It’s an inspiring account of a whole network of people who are returning to their own kitchens, and their own dinner tables to celebrate the joys of a home-cooked meal.

Eat in for a week
Erway’s book is an inspiring story – and demonstrates that it’s possible for all of us to think about dining in a little more often. Following the publication of her book, Erway championed the ‘Eat in for a Week’ challenge, encouraging ordinary people to make a concerted effort to eat in for just one week – with some fantastic results.

So, if dining out is your norm, and eating in is the exception, it might be time to take the challenge. Good luck!

There’s an App for that

Digital technology is revolutionizing our interactions with people and planet. And if you’re committed to improving your green credentials, there’s probably an App for that. It may have taken the developers a little time to catch on, but green Apps are on the rise, putting eco-friendly information at your fingertips.

There’s now a stunning array of applications available to download – with helpful ideas and advice on everything from home energy management and recycling, to transport and shopping. We’ve pulled together a few that we like – but with new Apps sprouting up everyday, there’s never been a better time to explore the potential of digital technology to help you live a greener life!

Ten of the best

1. iGrowIt — $0.99
Learn which vegetables you can grow right now, as well as handy hints and tips for improving your green fingers. Also provides a range of recipes so you can take your produce from the garden to the kitchen table!

2. Seafood Watch — Free
Seafood Watch, developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, is a searchable guide which helps you make responsible and sustainable seafood choices at local grocery stores and restaurants.

3. FindGreen — Free
This little App has aggregated more than 56,000 green and sustainable businesses to help you make positive choices that will reduce your impact on the environment. FindGreen has everything from vegetarian restaurants to local yoga centers, making it easy to choose green.

4. Cruelty Free — Free
This handy shopping App helps you shop for cruelty-free cosmetics and household cleaning products. The App lists over 200 US and Canadian-based businesses that do not test their ingredients or products on animals.

5. Craigslist — Free
Can you imagine life without it? Craigslist is a great place to post your items for sale or freecycle. It’s really user-friendly too, with image previews, maps, searches, forums and more.

6. Zipcar — Free
Reducing the number of cars on the road, this handy little car-hire service allows you to find available Zipcars in your local area, make reservations, and even lock or unlock the car!

7. Carticipate — Free
If car pooling is your thing, hook up with Carticipate. Enter your destination and Carticipate will find people that are going your way. You can hitch a ride or invite others to share your vehicle.

8. Green Charging — $0.99
Instead of leaving your phone on charge all evening, download Green Charging. When you plug your phone in to charge, you can launch the App and it will tell you with sound/vibration when your battery is fully charged. Simple!

9. Get Green — $0.99
Get Green provides you with daily top tips and ideas to tackle climate change. There are tips on going green in your workplace, reducing energy consumption – and even ways to make your Halloween green! And if you’re planning to tie the knot this year, this App can help you plan the perfect green wedding.

10. Green Me — $1.99
This is your own personal green audit. Every day, the calendar asks you to list five green actions you’ve taken. The calendar will automatically change its shade of green, depending on just how conscientious you’ve been that day. A handy way to track your commitment to living a greener life.

The Big Plastic Bag Debate

These days, stepping out with a plastic bag carries as much of a stigma as admitting that you kick kittens for pleasure or actively engage in the torture of insects for fun. Plastic is rapidly becoming the swear word of our green generation, and more and more manufacturers are becoming aware that they are no longer able to rely on this expensive and environmentally-harmful way of packaging goods and promoting their brands.

Despite the huge awareness about the dangers of using plastic bags for groceries and other uses, a study by National Geographic has revealed the following facts about the plastic bag trade, showing:
• To date the only large city to ban plastic bags is San Francisco
• Only Washington DC has elected to tax shoppers that receive plastic bags
• No state has banned plastic bags
• No state has taxed plastic bags.

So it seems that not much changes when it comes to reducing the manufacture and use of the commodity, despite the huge amount of publicity which the use of plastics for bags has generated over recent months.

Why are people so slow to ditch plastic in favour of other materials?
Plastic bags came in to use a quarter of a century ago, and have been immensely popular ever since. Sturdy, cheap to produce and durable, they are the bag of choice for grocery stores and the convenience market. Easy to carry and easy to store, they tend to be more practical than their paper counterparts, regardless of the environmental risks associated with their use.

Plastic bags

Why are plastic bags so awful?
Plastic bags have few redeeming features when it comes to the environment. They are not biodegradable, meaning that any which are discarded end up in landfill clogging up the eco system. They block drains, drift in the sea and get in to the stomachs of creatures such as turtles, killing them. The true cost of plastic bags on the environment is staggering. Data released by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 2001 on US plastic bag, sack, and wrap consumption shows that somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. Of those, millions end up in the litter stream outside of landfills.

A spokesperson for the American Plastics Council has stated that the US is embarking upon a crusade against the use of plastic bags, even if this crusade isn‘t reflected by laws around their use: “We feel it is important to understand that plastic grocery bags are some of the most reused items around the house. Many, many bags are reused as book and lunch bags as kids head off to school, as trash can liners, and to pickup Fido’s droppings off the lawn.”

Once plastic bags are put in to the environment, it takes months to hundreds of years for them to break down. As they decompose, toxic chemicals seep into soils, lakes, rivers, and the oceans. Despite all the evidence against the use of plastic bags, the Society of the Plastics Industry based in Washington DC, states that they are still the right choice for consumers. Compared to paper grocery bags, plastic grocery bags consume forty percent less energy, generate eighty percent less solid waste, produce seventy percent fewer atmospheric emissions, and release up to ninety-four percent fewer waterborne wastes. While a plastic bag costs around one cent to produce, a paper equivalent costs around four.

Regardless of the arguments for and against the use of these items, there is no question but that using a cotton equivalent which can be used again and again will be less harmful to the environment than using plastic bags that are discarded after one use.

A Quick Guide To Eco Symbols

It can be confusing knowing which symbol means what when you are out shopping for green goods. As legislation is constantly changing, you need to make sure your product knowledge is up to date when it comes to knowing which symbol does what.

With a number of things to think about when you shop, including buying Fairtrade products, knowing what you can recycle and understanding what your goods are made of, we’ve decided to make things easy for you by providing a one-stop-shop guide to all the current eco symbols available on the market, and what they mean to you when you go out shopping for products…

Eco symbols guide

Knowing what your symbols and signs mean can lead you to a savvy shopping experience without being concerned about the impact your spending may be having on the environment around you. Print off the table and use it next time you step out for a spree, knowing that you are completely up to date with the latest rules and regulations surrounding your green shopping and eco awareness!

Preparing Your Home For Winter

As we drift into December there can be no doubt that winter is coming – well in this country anyway. So you’re going to put the heating on and use a lot of electricity and/or gas. But there are things you can do to minimise your energy use and I’m not just talking about insulation. Here are a few ideas to keep you cosy this winter.

Ecoflap
An Ecoflap is something to stop cold air getting in you home through your letterbox. It goes on the inside of your door so doesn’t change the way it looks from the outside and it actually uses any draught or wind to keep it closed so no chilly air should get through.

Ecoflap

Chimney pillow
A chimney pillow or chimney balloon is basically a bag that you inflate and place up the chimney to stop cold draughts coming down. It does allow a little air through and can also be bought with a tube to inflate it while it’s up the chimney to get the best fit.

Radiator booster

Draught excluder
Does what it says on the tin this. A draught excluder goes under a door to stop cold air coming through it underneath. It also works the opposite way by stopping warm air leaking out of the room you’re in.

Radiator booster
A radiator booster uses a small fan to better distribute the heat from a radiator into the room you’re in – meaning you don’t have to have it turned up so high. By stopping heat dissipating through the wall behind the radiator it means the room will warm up quicker too – saving you money and energy.