Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ten Things to Do During Earth Hour

The Earth

Earlier last week, we posted about Earth Hour and what it is, how it's growing, and what cities worldwide are participating. Here, we're going to give you some ideas on what to do during Earth Hour this year:

1. Catch up on your sleep. If you have no kids, this is the perfect time to hit the hay a little early and catch up on some sleep.

2. Go outside and view the stars. How often do you actually do this? Walk to somewhere where the light pollution levels are low if you can. If you have a telescope or some binoculars, bring those along. How about some nighttime shots of the sky, or the outdoors?

3. Take a walk outside. Taking a walk at night is a far different experience than during the day. Try having some recorded owl sounds on hand, you never know what might call back.

4. If you're near a beach, walk on the beach at night. There's a whole bunch of things you can do.

5. Make Smores on the grill or by a campfire. Or, have a late BBQ.

Stars in the Night Sky

Buy at

6. Extend Earth Hour to an all-day event and challenge yourselves to think of ways to entertain yourself without electricity for an entire day. It can be done (and will make a great inspirational story for other people!).

7. Play hide and seek in the dark with your family. Ten times harder, and it will make your rely on your other senses to find people!

8. Tell scary stories by candlelight. Need some ideas? Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is an classic that scared the crap out of everyone, whether you like to admit it or not!

9. Play board games at night. But watch out, it's easier to cheat with the lights out!

10. Catch up on some reading. There's no distractions around you, so what better time to get caught up?

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Growing your Own Spices and Herbs Indoors

Picture by Galant on flickr.
If you're an avid cook, you know the importance of herbs and spices in dishes, especially fresh ones. Unfortunately, fresh spices often cost much more than dried, and don't last nearly as long. If you could take the spices as you need them, fresh off the plant, this would be ideal.

Not everyone has the luxury of a fresh herb garden in their backyard, or the time to keep up with one. There are a few solutions to this problem that make it possible to enjoy fresh spices in your home all the time.

Grow your Own Herbs Indoors.

This is easy enough to do. Get some seed packets from your local store, along with a container (reuse one of your old plastic containers to be extra green), add some soil (or even some coffee grinds from your old coffee), and place them in a sunny area according to the directions. The key is to put give them plenty of sun year round, so if you have a skylight, that's perfect. A sliding glass door also gives plenty of light.

The AeroGarden.
Yes, you've seen it on TV, you've seen it in the stores, but these really do work. You can grow your own lettuce, tomatoes, herbs and spices from these small machines. While not as green as growing your herbs in the window, over time, you could be saving some cash, as well as enjoying fresh greens all the time.

Get Local with your Produce.
Last May, we wrote a post on supporting your local farmer and buying locally to get fresher produce. Some of these co-op farms also allow you to work on the farm (that actually sounds fun!) for a share of the crop.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Get Ready for Earth Hour 2009

Picture by Aussiegal on Flickr.
Earth Hour first started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, and is quickly becoming a worldwide event and precursor to Earth Day. The cities of Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, Atlanta, Nashville and San Francisco are all participating in the Earth Hour event this year, as well as international sites like Russia, Poland, Turkey, Singapore, South Africa, Brazil, India, United Kingdom and France, as well as many others.

Created by the World Wildlife Fund, Earth hour aims to raise awareness on taking action to do something about climate change. This year, Earth Hour will be Saturday, March 28 2009 at 8:30 pm, local time.

Earth Hour is a great way to get kids involved in thinking more green. In actuality, they love it! Turning off the lights for an hour is a fun way to get your kids excited and to show them how people lived before the day and age of electricity. Hard to imagine, but there was once such a day.

This week, this post will be followed up with some ideas on what you can do this Earth Hour to make it fun and more worthwhile for you and your family.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spending Habits Gone Green

Part of the reason that's making the economy even worse than it should be is that everyone is deciding to cut back all at the same time -- in a big way. This is good, but bad for the economy and for businesses everywhere. Our economy relies heavily on businesses to keep it afloat, and if we aren't buying, the economy will dip lower yet again.

A lof of us are cutting back on groceries, cutting out restaurant purchases, staying home more, and pushing off vacations. We've banished the impulse buys and occasional splurge on a piece of artwork or a the latest magazine to the stands, and we've definitely put the kibosh on upgrading to a new car. We're still cutting back on gas (which is great), keeping the electricity levels low, and the thermostat is being kept a close eye on.

But the economy has to persevere and move on in order to recover, and for this to happen, we need to start spending again -- in moderation. The first thing that we need to start doing is supporting local businesses. The businesses directly around you impact your life, your taxes, and the people around you. If you have any green home improvements to do, start with your locally owned hardware store. And while you're at it, order a pizza for your family at the end of the day from the pizzeria, or go out to eat on the cheap. You still have to live life, even in this horrible economic situation. The key is to make a budget for yourself and stick to it. Allow an expense for splurges like these every week.

When you shouldn't spend is when you're in severe debt or have a situation where your home is in jeopardy of being seized. When you cut back, you're actually shrinking the economy, so do this wisely!

If there's anything that we can learn from this current economic situtation, it's how to spend your money. Right now, there are several things you can do to green your spending habits.

1. When you shop for groceries, stay out of the middle aisles as much as possible. This is where most of the packaging lies for products. Cookies, individually wrapped 100 calorie packs, and convenient mini juice bottles use large amounts of wasteful plastic. They also cost much more than you should be paying for them. Buying larger sized containers and buying fresh ingredients can eliminate waste and save you money.

2. Get rid of the bottled water! This is huge! The average gallon of water costs around $1.09, and if you're drinking the recommended 8 glasses of water a day (which most people do not), you'll be consuming nearly a gallon a day per person. If you have a household of four, that's probably around $10-30 a week just on water! Buying yourself a tap water filter can provide cleaner water than bottled water, believe it or not, since most tap water has much higher standards and testing. A decent water filter to stick in your fridge and some replacement filters won't run you more than you would spend in a month on water. Think about the waste from bottled water -- the transport of the heavy liquid, the extraction of the "spring" water, the filtration, the gas used to transport the water, and the gas you use to bring the water back home. Doesn't sound worth it, does it?

3. Use coupons for your grocery shopping, restaurants, and virtually any purchase you make. Google the name of the company or brand that you typically buy from and there will most likely be some results for either an online coupon code or a printable coupon. Sunday newspapers are also a great source for coupons. Sites like,, and of course,

4. Research the companies that you currently buy products from and see if there's information out there about how eco friendly they really are. Even if you're skiing, there's google search results for blog posts titled "least eco friendly ski resorts." The information is out there, you just need to read it!

5. Don't let the economy trick you into your old ways. Just because the economy is shrinking, that doesn't mean that you have to stop buying organic, fair trade and sustainable products. Prices have come down for some of these products, so take a look and see what makes sense for you to purchase.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Benefits of Eco Friendly Road Salt and Deicer

If you live in an area with heavy snowfall during the winter months, you know the after effects from every winter: a huge mess of road salt. Road salt is extremely corrosive and destroys everything it comes into contact with, like:

  • Roadways

  • Sidewalks

  • Landscaping

  • Waterways (runoff causes huge environmental damage)

The end result is that the road salt may be causing more destruction than it is preventing, with potholes, pollution and cleanup. However, road salt is necessary to ensure safe walkways and roadways and does prevent some slips, falls and accidents during the icy winters.

But is there a green alternative to road salt?

The Chicago Sun Times reported that Mayor Daley is pushing for a more eco friendly alternative to the destructive road salt that is currently being used. One product that was mentioned in the article is Geomelt, which contains less chlorides and corrosive compounds. For personal use, you can try using Scotwood Industries Eco-friendly Clean Melt or Keep it Green KIG8 Snow & Ice Melter. These products also contain less corrosive elements and won't be as harmful on your driveway, walkways, and the surrounding environment.

Typical ice melt is very destructive wildlife as well. The salt is often so corrosive that it can damage pets' paws, so imagine what it's doing to other wildlife. Salt can also pollute our drinking water, which is unhealthy and costs more money to filter out the pollutants.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

7 Reasons Why you Should Invest in a Hybrid

It's been months since the gas prices finally went down, and boy did they plummet. From a peak of near $5 per gallon, we saw a decrease of gas prices to near around $1.50 per gallon. That price hadn't been seen since 2005.

So why should you even care at this point to make a more energy/fuel conscious decision with your next vehicle purchase?

  • There's still only a certain amount of oil left in the world. We're getting closer and closer to that amount by the day, so at some point, gas prices will go back up like they did before.

  • Just because you aren't saving as much money doesn't mean you won't be saving any money. Hybrids sales sunk when gas prices sunk, so you can find a much better deal now than you could have a few months ago.

  • Used hybrids are an even better deal. Why not see what's for sale? Used hybrids are an even greener option than brand new ones.

  • Ever year, progress is being made on hybrid technology. The latest hybrids are more efficient than last year's models, and the technology continues to grow.

  • Hybrid sales have fallen 9.9% since the rapidly climbing gas prices of 2008. Car sales in general are falling. Dealers want to move these cars, so if you can negotiate, you might be able to snag a good deal on some of these hybrids.

  • Oil companies have steadily been raising prices on barrels of oil, even though the economy is in a huge slump. Oil companies are greedy. Expect those gas prices to go back to the way they were when you're least thinking about it.

  • Toyota, Nissan, Ford, Chevrolet and other major car companies are pushing forward with hybrid technology to reduce the cost of parts, batteries, and the overall sticker price. They haven't lost faith, and neither should we.