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Monday, September 30, 2013

New Perspectives: Green Cooking Habits

source image courtesy of Indiana Public Media

Many do not realize the impact cooking can have on the environment. Food is transported over thousands of miles, energy is used to prepare meals, and huge quantities of food are wasted.
Here are a few tips for mitigating your contribution to these issues:

1. Buy Local – The first habit we should develop is to purchase locally produced food. This not only supports your local farmers and economy but it also helps to reduce emissions caused by transportation. Instead of hitting the grocery store, why not hit  farm stands or farmer’s markets for locally grown produce. There are many places you can also buy meat and eggs that have been locally sourced. They are often fresher and better tasting since they have not had to be transported over thousands of miles.

2. Cook Seasonally – Another aspect of going green is to cook seasonally. Why not cook meals using in-season, local foods. Seasonal food tastes better and is also be more affordable. Use Pinterest to find new recipes and you might even find new foods to love.

3. Work With the Weather – Last but not least,  keep the weather in mind. From the heat of the summer to the chill of the winter there is a lot of variation that we often ignore in our cooking. One idea is to focus on fresh salads and cold dishes for summer and keep the oven off. That will help reduce the energy you use and the amount your air conditioner or fans have to work. In the winter, you can open the oven once it has been turned off and release the heat into your home instead of venting it outside (Please be careful when doing this that the oven is not still on - particularly if you have a gas oven). This can potentially help keep your home warm without straining your heater.

Cooking with the environment in mind does not have to be inconvenient or difficult. It takes only a few small changes in your cooking habits to make a big difference.

Author: This article is contributed by Madoline Hatter. Madoline is a freelance writer and blog junkie from ChangeOfAddressForm.com. You can reach her at: m.hatter12@gmail.com.

Friday, September 27, 2013

New Perspectives: Most Affordable Boston Neighborhood


ZipRealty, Inc. has teamed up with Walk Score to rank the most affordable places to live in Boston without a car. To create the list, ZipRealty analyzed data provided by WalkScore.com and current median home sales prices to produce a carless/affordability ratio. The 10 highest-ranked communities have  a Walk Score, Bike Score and Transit Score of 60 or higher, which means they meet or exceed the following criteria: They are “very walkable,” have “good transit” and are “bikeable,” according to Walk Score. Most of the Boston communities reviewed in this study, however, have “excellent transit” options and are a “walker’s paradise.”

WalkScore.com assigns a number between 0 and 100 −with 100 being the highest −to rank the ease of walking, biking or using public transit from an address, whether it’s a single-family home or rental apartment. To calculate city- or neighborhood-level scores, WalkScore.com calculates the Walk Score of approximately every block across a city or neighborhood and then weights the Walk Score of each point by population density. Therefore, the walkability ranking reflects where people actually reside.

“Walk Score helps people find great neighborhoods to live that are close to the places and people they love and that offer easy access to public transit and shorter commutes,” says Walk Score CEO Josh Herst.

“Home shoppers are increasingly looking for places to live where they can be less dependent on their cars,” says Mr. Herst. “The average American spends over $9,000 per year on their car. This is the equivalent of a $135,000 mortgage and the second-largest expense for many households. Moreover, people who live in walkable neighborhoods report being happier and healthier and, on average, way six to 10 pounds less.”

Author: By Lanny Baker, CEO and President of ZipRealty, Inc.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Spotlight: Seaport Hotel

image courtesy of Boston's New Waterfront

Hotels aren't traditionally very green - it is an industry where things are disposable or intended for short-term use. But Boston's Seaport Hotel is turning that reputation around with their comprehensive sustainability initiatives. They have a whole portion of their website dedicated to information on these initiatives, which include green cleaning practices, farm-to-table/organic options, and information on how to have an eco-friendly event in their space. Because of its efforts, it was named one of North America's Five Greenest Hotels in 2012. I look forward to seeing the Seaport Hotel continue to set an example for all Boston-based businesses. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Green Tip Tuesday: Landscape Architect's Guide to Boston



"Boston has long been a trendsetter when it comes to urban renewal and sustainability. Its landscape architects have played a crucial role in making the city a better place to live, starting in the late 19th century, when Frederick Law Olmstead designed the Emerald Necklace, to today’s generation of landscape architects creating waterfront parks and beloved green spaces. Boston has become a “supersustainable” city in which its designed landscapes are integral to its urban fabric."

Monday, September 16, 2013

New Perspectives: 5 Companion Plants for Organic Gardens

When it comes to keeping your gardens chemical free you may think you can’t be pest free too. However there are many plants that ward off pests naturally. Planted alongside your vegetables these plants can help keep your garden bug free.

1. Sweet Alyssum – This tiny white flower has a pleasant smell that not only enhances your garden but also attracts natural predators to garden pests. A member of the mustard family, this plant can also be eaten and added to dishes. It has a horseradish-like flavor.

2. Marigold – A great flower to plant throughout your garden, marigolds act as natural pesticides to repel a variety of pests. You can even use the leaves to make a spray pesticide that is completely organic and works great.

3. Rosemary – Not only is rosemary a great herb to add to dishes but it also is a great companion plant for carrots, sage, cabbage, and beans. Rosemary wards off carrot flies, cabbage moth, and bean beetles.

4. Basil – Another great herb for cooking, basil is great at defending tomatoes, cabbages and beans. Basil naturally repels a variety of pests that snack on these plants; it is also supposed to improve the flavor of tomatoes.

5. Yarrow – Last but not least is this tall flower. Not only does it attract pest predators like ladybugs but it also helps to improve the vitality of the plants around it. Plant throughout our garden to fight off a variety of pests, even underground ones like nematodes. This flower also helps herbs to produce more essential oils.

These are just a few of the companion plants that can help to make your organic garden flourish.

Author: This post is contributed by Linda Bailey from housekeeping.org. She is a Texas-based writer who loves to write on the topics of housekeeping, green living, home d├ęcor, and more. She welcomes your comments which can be sent to b.lindahousekeeping@gmail.com.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fun Friday: Vote For Nature's Plate Awards


Click here to nominate your favorite "green" restaurant in Massachusetts for a Nature's Plate Award.

Nominations will be open September 3-16, semifinal voting will begin October 1, and the winner(s) will be announced October 17.

Wondering which restaurants to vote for? Consider eateries that are using sustainable seafood, free-range and grass-fed meat, organic produce, locally sourced food and tap water (rather than bottled water). The Nature Conservancy is to working with food producers everywhere and bringing together traditionally unexpected partners in the name of healthy food and a healthy environment, finding solutions that are good for their businesses, for consumers and for nature.

Nom, nom, nom! I can't wait to find out who the finalists will be!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Spotlight: BostonEco


So you want to get more involved in sustainability initiatives but don't know where to start or even what you're particular interest is? Start by following BostonEco on twitter and facebook. BostonEco is a social media community that centralizes information for all green initiatives in and around the city. Following BostonEco is an absolute must for green-minded people in Massachusetts.



BostonEco's mission to further healthy, sustainable ideas and initiatives locally and globally. The community is knowledgeable on the basics of healthy, natural living. BostonEco supports and promotes green initiatives, news, and events happening in the Boston area and suburbs from like-minded local organizations.

BostonEco was one of the first feeds I began following when I started Boston Green Blog. Through them I learn about upcoming events, job openings, local policy issues, and more. 



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Green Tip Tuesday: How to Navigate a Flea Market


Inspired by my recent trip to Brimfield Flea Market, I've decided to share my tips on second hand shopping at flea markets!

1. Early birds pay more for the worm. Later in the market, dealers are rushing to get rid of their goods and are more likely to give you a good price.

2. Curate carefully. Don't make hasty purchases, you don't want to end up having to get rid of the item yourself.

3. Bring cash. It is easier to haggle with!

4. Look out for toxic materials. Just because something is second hand, doesn't mean its green! Be wary of lead based paint, bpa, mercury, etc. 

5. Know what you want. Go to the market with a list. Surf pinterest for DIY/upcycling ideas before you go. 

6. Make sure you can fit everything in the car before you pay. Many flea market vendors offer delivery services, but don't waste the gas if there's no need. 

Most of all, have fun. You know what they say, one person's trash is another's treasure!

Monday, September 9, 2013

New Perspectives: Green Ideas for Home Improvement


The green movement isn’t just for environmentalists. It’s for everyone, including people like me. I’m a mother of two and a wife who’s trying to save some money. I care about protecting the planet, and I’ve learned that the going green can also protect your pocketbook. Here are some of the ways I’ve made my home greener and saved money in the process.

Green Appliances
I remember when the old refrigerator in our basement froze its last container of ice cream and then died. The next electric bill came in and had dropped by nearly $15. Those old appliances are incredible energy hogs. While we don’t rush out to buy new ones, we do invest in Energy Star appliances when it’s time for a replacement. Over time, I’ve watched my electric bill drop even as utility costs have risen.

Improve the Curb Appeal
New windows and doors make your house look better on the outside, and they also lower your energy usage. We replaced an aging wood casement with an energy efficient bay window. I immediately noticed that the room was more comfortable in the summer heat. We’ve also seen a significant drop in our cooling and heating bills. The older your windows are, the more you can save with energy efficient windows.

Water Conservation
There’s nothing quite like opening the water bill and being in for a huge shock. We scrape leftover food off dishes to limit how much they have to be rinsed, turn off the faucet when rinsing toothbrushes and have taught the kids how to take shorter showers. All of these changes are behavioral, and that makes them very cost-effective. Install aerators on sinks and invest in low-flow showerheads. You can also install rain buckets on the downspouts to capture rain from the roof and put it to use in irrigating the garden.

Add Insulation
Insulation makes the home warmer in winter and makes it easier to cool the home in summer. In addition to putting extra insulation in the attic where your old batting has crushed down, there are a few other areas you should bolster. Use a stick of lit incense to check for drafts around windows. If you find one, remove the frame and use spray foam insulation to fill the space. Do the same thing around doors. Buy special foam sheets that go around light switches and outlets on your exterior walls.

Go Green with Cleaning
Green isn’t just about saving money and the planet, it’s also better for the family. Green cleaning compounds do not have dangerous fumes, and they won’t harm your furniture or your children. Green cleaners cost a little more to purchase, but you don’t go through as much of them, and the peace of mind they provide you with is priceless.

There are countless ways to improve your home and go green. You can teach the kids about recycling and embrace a green lifestyle that reduces waste. You can also go green while improving your home by adding insulation, updating windows and investing in Energy Star appliances. Even little changes can make a difference, and it’s better for your family, your finances and the environment.

Author Bio: Karla Jennings is the writer and owner of The Home & Moms, a home improvement blog all about home improvement, renovations, organization, and DIY decorating. She is also a freelance writer for Maid Brigade, a home cleaning service. Her work can be found on various interior design and remodeling blogs around the web.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Huffpost Goes Green


I've always been impressed with the Huffington Post's coverage of "green" issues. They are a must-follow on twitter and a great resource for breaking eco news. They recently featured a great piece (including a video) about water scarcity on their main site. This week, Huff Post announced it would continue this type of content under the expertise of Jem Joaquin of Ecofabulous! I am so excited about this collaboration, and look forward to seeing how the Huff Post Ecofabulous page develops. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pencil it in: Bee Day


WHEN: Tuesday, September 10, 2013, 1:00pm to 9:00pm

WHERE:  1 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA

WHY: Participate in a day of events and activities highlighting the importance of honeybees and beekeeping to biodiversity, the food supply, and human health. Learn more about the alarming decline of beehives (colony collapse disorder) widely documented in the U.S. and Europe. Check out the schedule of events for more info. All Bee Day activities are free and open to the public.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Recap of BASG September Meetup


Last night was the Boston Area Sustainability Group meetup regarding the eccentricities of solid waste. It was a fun, inspiring, and educational evening. If you couldn't make it, here is what you missed:

1. "Zero-waste" means no burning or burying at the end of a product's life.

2. "recycling" is a specific process, whereas "zero-waste" is more encompassing of reduce/reuse/repurpose practices.

3. In 2010, each person in Massachusetts produced about 5 million tons of trash. 

4. Only a third of all waste is recycled, though most of the rest of it can be recycled/reused/composted.

5. The climate change / waste nexus is complicated and often undiscussed by policy-makers and legislators.

6. Single stream recycling is controversial since the recyclables are of lower value and more likely to be contaminated than in a dual stream recycling system.

7. Recycling rates are lower in urban areas.

8. Recycling can be cheaper for some businesses than traditional trash pickup.

9. Recycling/Repurposing clothing and textiles is easy because there is already infrastructure for in place for processing these materials. 

10. "Pay-as-you-throw" systems are very effective, and usually reduce a town's trash by about 40%.

BONUS: Reducing the amount of waste you create is THE most important thing you can do to address the issue of solid waste. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

New Perspectives: Shape up your house with high-efficiency plumbing fixtures


We’ve all probably had that bill that made us really take a step back and examine where our money is really going. Unfortunately, I’ve had that happen, and it was on a water bill! Turns out that for a while, I had been feeling the effects of lagging plumbing fixtures. In addition, water conservation is an increasing global concern, so I wanted to do my part to remedy this problem.

Here are some quick replacements that will help conserve both water and money:

TOILETS
It makes sense that the toilet is the most popular choice among consumers when it comes to going green. In fact, most of the time, the other fixtures in this article are favored in the other direction, with low-efficiency setting and builds. Toilets often flush up to six gallons of water per use, which can account for up to 30 percent of a home’s total water usage. Here are some options to lower that number.

Dual Flush Toilets:  This kind of toilet allows you to choose between flushing for liquid or solid waste.

Composting Toilets: This is exactly like an outhouse, except it is sanitary and comes without the smell. These toilets store waste for one year to allow it to decompose naturally. The smell is eradicated with a
special mixture, and VOILA! No water in your toilet.

High-efficiency Toilets: Even the EPA is getting in on this action, releasing their own WaterSense labeled toilets. It’s said that these toilets save people around 4,000 gallons of water each year.


SHOWERHEADS
Toilets are water hogs, but so are showers. These account for about 20 percent of a home’s total water usage, and that probably doesn’t include those people that take hour-long showers…Typical showers use about 2.5 gallons of water per minute, but bigger showerheads can use up to 20 gallons of water per minute. I shudder when I see these types of stats. Ultra-low-flow showerheads reduce the shower’s water output by about 70 percent, which means less strain on your overall plumbing system.


FAUCETS
Faucets are routinely left on to run at-will. Just like with anything else on this list, this puts a toll on the water heater. If you can’t break your habit of leaving the faucet on, check out high-efficiency faucets. They use 1.5 gallons of water per minute. Not bad at all. It’s a small change, but it adds up in the long run. Now imagine with me for a moment – every person in America (just America) made the switch to these types of fixtures, the country would save three trillion gallons of water per year and around $1 billion per year. If one out of every 100 homes made the switch, 80,000 tons of greenhouse gases would  be eliminated!


Author: Diane Kuehl is a home improvement professional and owner of DIY Mother. She lives in Springfield, Illinois with her husband and two kids.