Spring Garden Tips and Tricks

The days are longer and our plants are loving that warm sun photosynthesizing time. However much the plants enjoy this growing spree, our jungle of a front yard can only last so long. This Spring, green your landscaping routine by using less water, energy, chemicals, and best of all, our favorite type of green, money!

Be wise about watering: 50%-70% of a typical American family’s water usage per year goes to the lawn and garden. To save, make sure your sprinklers are set to water your garden, not the cement around it. You can keep your grass lush by not cutting it so short. Longer grass keeps the moisture in because of the shade that is crated by the long blades. Also, make sure that the ground is dry before you water it, more plants die of over-watering, rather than under-watering! Watering your plants midday, when the sun is at its hottest, evaporated up to 30% of what you sprinkled on it. Set your sprinkler for early in the morning, and watch your garden thrive!

Be energy efficient: In just one year Americans will use 800 million gallons of gas to mow their lawns. Even worse, we spill more gas trying to fill up our lawn equipment each year than the Exxon Valdez spilled in 1989! You have three options to mow your lawn; the most common gas-powered mower, electric mowers, or reel mowers – these are the ones you push by hand. Electric mowers cost about $5.00 USD to run all year, where as $5.00 USD will only get you two mows with a gas-powered mower. Reel mowers are practically silent, yet electric mowers make only one tenth of the noise that gas-powered mowers do. Push mowers also help you burn calories, up to 400 an hour! Also the grass clippings left over from a reel mower help fertilize the soil naturally, no Miracle Grow required!

Help the soil: To get rid of small weeds, like in your walkway cracks, you can simply pour boiling water or white vinegar on them. For peskier weeds there are many eco-friendly weed-killing options that won’t poison surrounding plants and the ground water. For larger areas, you can lay down old fabric or recycled newspaper to block the weeds from ever sprouting!

Ditch the stress and walk.

I was returning to work after lunch today and realized just how much I like walking instead of using my car. It is much more relaxing then sitting at red lights and having to deal with other drivers. Unfortunately most people’s routines fall into our on-the-go lifestyle that our society has created and I think it weighs very heavily on work related stress and our health. As I walk home it gives me time to relax and think about other aspects of my life outside of work. The exercise is an added bonus, plus the fresh air. 

Selfishly I also wish more people had the ability to walk because then I would be breathing in less exhaust from cars passing by. Maybe I would even meet a few new faces and exchange in some light friendly conversation. If people walked between work and home, maybe it would allow more time to connect with the natural world and develop a few more environmental advocates. I challenge you to examine your day and add up all of the hours you spend inside a building or car; you may be surprised by how little of your day is spent in nature. It this is not the case, then consider yourself one of the lucky ones.

Another negative aspect of our lifestyle choices is the amount of garbage we create by always eating out and not spending time cooking at home. Both of my roommates work during the day and feel that fast food is their only option with the little time they have at lunch. They jump in their cars and speed to the nearest drive thru. Over time I see so many problems developing. It is not healthy for you or the environment.

By walking and preparing healthy meals at home you can greatly improve your daily life, help the environment, and curb stressful habits that affect so many people in our country.

Eco-Fashion

Eco-friendly items have come a long way. “Fashionistas” may have scoffed at the idea of hemp clothing, envisioning it to be something close to a scratchy burlap sack, but now Eco-friendly clothing widely accepted. Green is the new black.

From hemp and organic cotton to soy and bamboo to safe-silk, products are changing as we know it. Many new companies are working toward having minimal to no negative environmental impact and protecting labor rights along the way. Yoga clothing is not the only Eco-friendly product available, you can purchase anything from bedspreads and towels to fabulous jackets and dresses.

With winter rapidly approaching staying warm and dry is becoming more and more important. If you ski, snowboard or just sled and frolic in the snow you know that staying dry is the key to enjoying your day outside. Cotton doesn’t dry quickly and when it gets wet it stops keeping you warm. Try something like Patagonia’s polyesters and fleeces made from recycled soda bottles, or something made from lyocell or TENCEL® which are fabrics made from plant cellulose, usually wood pulp. It is said that lyocell and TENCEL® can move like linen, keep you warm like wool, but be as soft as silk. With all the options out there, you can find many ways to keep yourself happy in the snow this season.

To find out more about Eco-friendly fabrics and what to look for next time you go shopping check out this Eco-friendly Fabric Guide.

Eco Art

Today I was looking through the website www.ctgreenscence.com and came across an Eco Art Exhibition at Eastern Connecticut State University. It is a collaboration of eight artists who transformed recycled materials into works of art. The description points out that ” the common thread in this exhibit is the art’s ability to function as gentle forms of ‘protest’ art, what we interpret as beautifully packaged political statements.”

I wanted to post this because I am already thinking about plans for Earth Day and this would be a great idea to “put in the back pocket” until the event planning actually begins. I encourage each of you to look around your community from time to time and take note of future project possibilities. In some cases planning this far in advance can really pay off.

My regret lately is that I didn’t plan an event like this prior to the holidays. I read a statisitc last week that said between Halloween and New Year’s, we throw away over 900,000 tons of garbage each week! This includes packages from food, decorations, dinner party tableware, and wrapping paper. Yikes!

Check back next week for my post on specific eco-friendly ideas that decrease the burden on mother earth.

How to inspire the resistant, AKA my roommates

On the very first day that I moved into my new house in Virgina, I was warmly welcomed by one of my lovely roommates proclaiming that he didn’t believe in recycling. I asked, “How does recycling work in Virginia?” he promptly responded, “I don’t know, but there won’t be any recycling in this house.” Now, I am from one of the most community-based, liberal, Eco-conscious towns in not just Oregon, but probably the US too. I don’t think the idea of not recycling has ever really crossed my mind, much less being outright against it. So after a little more discussion I found that my roommate believed that it costs more to recycle then to make things from our remaining natural resources or synthetically.

That was two months ago. I have yet to convince my two male roommates to recycle, so I spend my evenings letting my crazy environmentalist inner bag lady come out by going through the recycling pulling out trash, and going through the trash pulling out the recycling. It is so mind boggling to me that recycling wouldn’t be innate.

So, how can I inspire my roommates without sounding like I am critizing them for their lifestyle? It is a hard task. I don’t want to sound like their mother complaining all the time. But how can I resist when they don’t fill up the ice trays but put them back in the freezer empty? Or when their dishes sit in the sink and stink up the kitchen expecting someone else, me, to scrub them? Or when they take 30 minute showers? Or when they throw their cans and bottles in the trash?

It is a delicate balance between just living with someone and being friendly too. I know that I use the least amount of energy and water yet I pay for a quarter of it all. This is when I start to think that it would be so much easier to just live on my own. It would be so nice to know that how I live is directly proportional to how much my bills are.

Learning to live with total stangers has been a chore. But I am starting to learn a little more about give and take. I have yet to have a moment with all my roommates at the same time, but my idea is to do a trade off for recycling. I am willing to sweep one a week, or keep the kitchen counters clean. I am open to suggestions.

Have any of you ever had roommate or even family problems trying to convince them to be more environmentally friendly? Any advice is warmly welcomed!!

Special Report

I read this ariticle and just had to share it…..

How our economy is killing the Earth

http://www.newscientist.com/channel/opinion/mg20026786.000-special-report-how-the-economy-is-killing-the-earth.html

This is a pivotal topic. Any comments?

Focus the Nation: Global Warming Solutions for America

Last week, on January 31st, more than 1000 Colleges and Universities across the U.S. hosted teach-ins for Focus the Nation. This was a momentous event, the largest teach-in in history, and it was all about one thing. Global Warming. Western Connecticut State University was one of the schools that participated. All day there were debates, movies, discussions, and lectures all about Global warming. I had the pleasure of participating in a panel that was titled, “A Climactic Happening: An Open Discussion- What must we do? What’s likely to happen? How can we cope?” We had a rousing discussion about the nature of Global Warming, whether or not humans have the abilities necessary to reduce its impacts, and what people can do specifically to make that change. The panel was chaired by Dr. Wynn Wilcox, WCSU History Faculty, and joining us were Dr. John Briggs, WCSU Writing Faculty, Dr. Albert Owino, WCSU Physics, Astronomy and Meteorology Faculty, and Jennifer O‘Brien, WCSU Library Staff.

It seemed, from my observation throughout the day, that at least in this community we are mostly beyond whether or not Global Warming is happening. Now we are in a place where we are focusing on whether or not its being caused by humans. So at least we are making progress. I don’t admit to be an expert on Global Warming, but I have done a bit of reading, saw “An Inconvenient Truth”, and have listened to a number of lectures on the topic. While I understand that climate changes happen all the time, and are very cyclical, never have they been more off the charts as they are today. That is the data that helps me believe its being caused by something other than natural cycles. Never has our population been larger, and never in the existence of the earth (that we know of) have we experienced climate like we are today. In any case, even if you don’t believe in global warming, or human’s role in it, I don’t think that anyone can deny that we are facing serious problems across the planet, and we have to play some role in fixing them if we want life to continue on our planet.