How to Make Your Outdoor Space More Eco-Friendly This Weekend

Outdoor living spaces are becoming more and more popular. But despite the fact that they’re outside, many outdoor living spaces are not very eco-friendly. While it’s true that plants can reduce stress and negative feelings by up to 60%, planting a few flowers isn’t going to make a space very eco-friendly. So if you’re looking to turn your green space into something truly eco-friendly, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Use Green Materials

When you’re building your outdoor space, it’s important to start with using eco-friendly materials. Whether you’re building a patio or creating walkways, using the right materials is important. You should consider materials like rubber paving stones, permeable concrete, and reclaimed wood. If you’re extending your roof over your outdoor space, choosing the right roofing material can even reduce energy use by up to 30%. Think about using materials that are recycled, have a low impact on the environment when they’re made, and options that will last a long time so you don’t have to replace them. Starting with the right materials is key to building a great green space.

Choose Eco-Friendly Furniture

Another great way to go green with your outdoor area is by choosing eco-friendly furniture. Most furniture is not made with eco-friendly materials, but you can make the decision to ensure the furniture you’re buying is as sustainable as possible. Cushions filled with organic cotton, end tables made from recycled wood, and other sustainable furnishing options are not too difficult to find. Additionally, you can consider making your own furniture. You can use something like stainless steel pipes, which can last longer than 100 years, to create table legs and use other refurbished materials as well. Going green with your furniture is easy to do and you can still have aesthetically pleasing options. Even though furniture is the third most expensive item a person will buy during their lifetime, after a house and a car, spending a little more on eco-friendly materials is worth the investment.

Use Sustainable Lighting

Lighting is an important element for outdoor areas, especially if you’re looking to host parties and gatherings after dark. Unfortunately, using the wrong lighting can simply increase your energy bills and further harm the environment. But there is a wide variety of options for sustainable lighting — solar-powered outdoor lights are becoming increasingly common. You can use solar lights to illuminate pathways, your deck, and even throughout your garden. Solar lights are great because they look good and don’t use any energy. To go along with some solar lights, consider getting some outdoor candles, just make sure they’re all-natural to stick with your green theme.

Creating a great outdoor living space is easy, especially if you already have the perfect area picked out. And while choosing sustainable options may take a little more time and effort, it’s definitely worth it. So keep these simple tips in mind to help you get started on going green at home and you’ll have a great sustainable outdoor area to enjoy in no time.

Green Roofing Ideas to Consider This Spring

According to a recent report conducted by HomeAdvisor, nearly 80% of U.S. homeowners had upcoming plans for home improvement projects. And, of course, spring is the perfect time to set some of those plans into action. When all your landscaping starts to become greener, it might be a good idea to find out how your roofing can be, too. If you’re determined to embrace some sustainable practices this season, it’s often effective to start from the top down. Here are just three ideas that will make your roofing practices a bit more eco-friendly this spring.

Use Sustainable Materials

If you’re building a brand new home or need to completely replace your roof this year, you should give your choice in roofing materials some careful thought. Although asphalt shingles have been used in American homes for over a century, first appearing in 1901, this popular choice isn’t necessarily the most eco-friendly. Despite the fact that asphalt shingles are technically recyclable, most end up in landfills at the end of their lifespan (which is only half that of some other materials on the market). Metal roofing, sustainable wood shake, reclaimed slate or clay, reinforced rubber, and other recycled materials are typically much greener and are sometimes even more durable than asphalt. When choosing greener roofing materials, pay close attention to the materials recycled content, its weight, and any coatings that might be present; these can all play a part in how durable and how earth-friendly your choice really is.

Inspect Your Roof Regularly

Roofs should be inspected once or twice a year under normal conditions, and this is typically a really good way for you to know whether there are issues that could be costing you more money than necessary. If shingles have blown off or there are leaks, regular inspections can ensure you’re notified and can take action sooner rather than later. Not only can this help you to save money and to plan ahead, but it can also keep your energy expenditures down. If you have insulation issues, for example, an inspection can catch that before you lose a lot of energy (and a lot of money). Heating and cooling already accounts for more than 50% of the energy used in an average home. Poor insulation can only increase that number, That lost energy translates into negative effects for the planet; anything you can do to curb your energy consumption and energy loss will be a win/win.

Make Repairs Promptly

Now that you know exactly what kinds of problems you might be dealing with, it’s essential to make any repairs right away. The more quickly you deal with the problem, the less of a negative effect the issue will have on your pocketbook and on the planet. That said, you should make an effort to work with a company that focuses on environmental impact. While the number of jobs in the construction equipment operation industry was approximately 426,000 in 2016, not all contractors and their teams have green initiatives in mind. With so many consumers making environmental issues a priority, business owners are realizing that this can be a way to help their organizations stand out. Choosing a roofing company that’s truly concerned about sustainability will ensure that the hard work you do to reduce your carbon footprint won’t be all for naught.

Having roofing inspections and repairs performed might not be your favorite springtime activity. But taking action early on in the season will ensure that you can keep energy costs low when temperatures start to soar. Plus, it’ll be just one more way to make a positive environmental contribution.

Diesel Disasters: Farmers Struggle To Cope With Increased Fuel Prices

Since diesel engines have been invented, they’ve helped a wide variety of industries thrive. Their fuel efficiency and versatility (there are over 50 different models of diesel engines available to consumers) has made them a staple for farmers in particular. Unfortunately, diesel is not good for the environment, even with fuel filters keeping out the four key impurities water, scale, rust, and dirt, and new regulations pose a serious threat to the livelihood of farmers across the country.

Rising Costs And Rising Concerns

There are over three million farmers in the U.S., many of whom rely on diesel equipment to manage every aspect of their land. Considering the fact that the average farm spans 442 acres, the need for machinery to keep up with such an expansive space is vital. Diesel engines power the majority of them, from planting and seeding equipment to tractors; for example, Kubota, a premier seller of agriculture equipment since 1890, relies heavily on diesel engines. Since you can’t power diesel engines without diesel fuel, farmers are suffering at the hands of rising fuel costs. In California, a gallon of diesel retailed for $3.967 as of April 15, up from $3.778 just one month earlier, and 18 cents higher than the same time in the previous year.

“We live in the West,” said Chris Torres of Princeton, who farms rice and runs a trucking company. “People like myself that live in the middle of the valley, we have to travel 30 minutes to go to a store. Traveling, sitting behind the wheel of our vehicles, is a way of life. It’s a cost that we can’t do anything about.”

The change comes as a result of California’s Senate Bill 1 (also known as SB-1), which expands the focus originally established by the Clean Air Act. In short, they’re interested in preserving, protecting, and enhancing the environment and natural resources in California (which includes national parks, national wilderness areas, national monuments, national seashores, and other areas with special national or regional natural, recreational, scenic, or historic value). Because diesel fuel emissions have been found to contribute to the development of cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory health effects, global climate change, and the pollution of air, water, and soil, they are a prime target for SB-1.

The Farming Financial Fallout

If you are a farmer of any crop — including livestock — you’re at risk for the results of these increased taxes. Currently, Senate Bill 1 has caused a 20-cent boost in the excise tax for on-road diesel, impacting those farmers who handle their own transportation.

“On livestock hauling, the rates are pretty much directly correlated with the fuel prices,” said Tom Stewart, a hay grower, cattle rancher, and livestock hauler based in Tulelake. “I’m sure if the price stays up this way for the next few weeks, or goes higher, then yeah, the rates will start reflecting that.”

As Stewart mentions, farmers won’t be the only ones experiencing the fallout from this bill; if farmers are forced to spend more to grow and transport their crops, the only way they’ll be able to make a profit — or simply break even — is to increase the prices of their products.

“What that means for California agriculture, it’s going to hurt our bottom line –whether it’s transporting from field to processor or whether it’s just being able to run our farm equipment,” said Robert Spiegel, policy specialist on transportation issues for the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Hopefully, the restrictions presented by Senate Bill 1 and others like it will be offset by green incentives — such as government payouts for using energy-efficient vehicles — but not much has been said so far. Only time will tell.

Flying Cars Could Actually Happen — And They Might Be Sustainable

Although there are more than 130,000 limousines currently in service across the country, it might not be too long before an even fancier kind of car takes over. It might sound like an idea straight out of a 1960’s science fiction best-seller or animated series, but researchers are saying that flying cars could be the next big thing in transportation. And what’s more, they might actually be able to protect the planet while bringing you to your next destination.

Currently, there are over 11 million road vehicles worldwide that run on natural gas as fuel. While popular and convenient, there’s little doubt that this practice contributes to harmful emissions and global warming. In other words, our traditional cars and buses aren’t so good for sustainability. And while electric vehicles have become more prevalent in recent years, they still lack the widespread adaptation that could make a discernible difference in the way most Americans get around.

But recent research shows that the midcentury view of the far-off future might not have been so far off after all. In an examination of electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (VTOLs, for short), it was discovered that these flying cars might actually serve an important purpose. Although they use a lot of energy to take off, making them unsuitable for short commutes or running errands, they may actually be a more sustainable option for longer trips. Because it doesn’t get stuck in traffic and isn’t restricted by terrestrial speed limits, the VTOL can arrive at its destination much quicker. What’s more, the flying electric car has 35% less greenhouse gas emissions than the gas-powered vehicle. That said, the electric car that operates on our existing streets still wins out in terms of emissions — but it can be problematic to drive an electric car cross-country, given the unpredictability of charging station availability.

If they were to be put into use, VTOLs would serve a rather niche purpose. But in large cities that are prone to traffic congestion, this type of vehicle could make a substantial difference in terms of safety and the effects of climate change. Since transportation is responsible for 28% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, it’s essential that we start exploring new possibilities. Scientists report that by 2050, net carbon emissions will need to be nearly zero in order to avoid the most drastic and negative outcomes of climate change. But given that VTOLs are in their early stages and the data is in its infancy, we’ll have to wait and see whether or not this formerly futuristic vision will become our reality down the line.

3 Eco-Friendly Materials to Use in Your House

In today’s society, more and more people are choosing to do their part to help the environment. And fortunately, going green at home has never been easier. Something as simple as adding or utilizing your draperies during the winter can help reduce heat loss by up to 10%, saving a ton of energy. But if you’re remodeling, or even building a home from scratch, you have the opportunity to choose sustainable materials for your home. So let’s take a look at a few eco-friendly materials to consider.

Bamboo

Bamboo is quickly gaining popularity as a great eco-friendly building material. Bamboo materials are made from interwoven strips of bamboo — and bamboo plants don’t usually have to be replanted elsewhere; they simply grow in the same spot over and over. And because they take up less land and grow quickly, bamboo plants are very sustainable. This material is super durable, making it a great choice for flooring, but it can be used on walls as well. It can even be used underneath other materials for added durability and insulation. So while bamboo can’t be used as a material for a subfloor in a pier and beam foundation, which should be at least one half inch plywood, it can be used as flooring, wall materials, and even as mats and screens.

Recycled Steel

Metal fabrics, like steel, are also a great sustainable material choice. While producing steel at the beginning uses a lot of energy, steel can be recycled and used again — several times, actually. The materials of metal fabrics are generally 40% new materials and 60% recycled materials, which is already better than brand new materials. But consumers can buy recycled steel and use it for structure in a home. Steel can be used for structural support, like beams, or it can be used for floor or wall panels. All in all, recycled steel is durable and uses a lot less energy to produce.

Cork

Unlike wood and paper, making cork does not require cutting down an entire tree. Instead, cork is harvested from the bark, which leaves the tree to continue to grow. Tree bark only takes about seven to nine years to grow back, making cork an environmentally-friendly material choice. This material is usually found as flooring. Not only is it very comfortable to walk on, but it’s also hypoallergenic, anti-microbial, and adds great thermal insulation. Kitchen flooring is a great place for cork because it offers great shock absorption, making it comfortable to stand on for long periods of time. Cork is an economical material choice and can be a great green option. Fun fact about cork: cells were discovered in 1665 while Robert Hooke was observing a cork under a microscope.

Choosing green materials has never been easier with the wide variety of options that are available today. So if you’re doing some remodeling in your home, consider one of these materials to make your house a little more eco-friendly.