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7 Sustainable Ways to Welcome Fall with Your Family

7 Sustainable Ways to Welcome Fall with Your Family Jennie Lyon

Fall is my favorite time of year, it seems like we start to slow-down as family and spend more time reconnecting with each other. Since the days get shorter and it gets dark outside so much earlier, we really focus that time on family time. This is the time of year that our bowl on the dinner table gets filled with card games and brain teasers, and our nightly dinners get dragged out by long conversations and hot steamy beverages for dessert!

It is also the perfect opportunity to go green together as a family. To get you in the autumn mood, while getting your excited about sustainability, check out my 7 favorite eco-friendly ways to welcome fall.

1. Make it Family Dinner Night
One of my favorite fall family traditions is to have make-your-own organic pizza night a few times a month. There is something fun about kneading the dough, cutting up vegetables and pulling hot vegetarian pizza’s from the oven. We like to make ours look like sweet, smiling faces and it always ends in a night of laughter and fun!

2. Green Your Overall Health
Fall is the perfect time to amp up your healthy lifestyle before winter hits – because with winter comes sniffles, colds and the flu. You can start by boosting your immunity, packing healthy, organic school lunches, adding some super-foods to your marketing list and by doing a whole-body cleanse. You want to stay healthy through all of the fun fall and winter holidays, right?

3. With Fall comes Leaves, Lots of Them
When it comes to the leaves that fall in your yard, the way that you dispose of them can have a huge impact on the environment. The best options would be to mulch them and use them as ground cover for your garden. The worse option would be to blow them around with a noisy, emission polluting leaf blower. If you want to have fun with leaves, consider making leaf prints for your family room or you can always jump in piles of them.

4. Enjoy Your Natural Environment
One of my favorite ways to enjoy a lovely fall day with my family is by taking a bike ride. In fact, I think we should take our bicycles on our fall family trip to this year. Another fun thing to do this time of year is to visit your local botanical garden – you could try one of these surprising ways to make it a day of full of fall fun.

5. Prepare for Winter
Before you know it, winter will be here – and fall is the perfect time to prepare. When we lived in Colorado, I liked to stock up on non-perishable organic goods so we didn’t have to go marketing as often. It is also a great time to weather-proof your doors, windows and prepare your garden for the cold, winter ahead. I also like to think of fun ways to cozy up our home – this usually means bringing out stacks of books, blankets and pillows and sipping hot organic tea and cocoa.

6. Green Your Halloween
Whether you are making plans to make your own Halloween costumes, decorations or you want to turn your home into the ultimate eco-friendly haunted house– now is the time to get started. We like to scour our local thrift stores and tag sales for fantastic Halloween decor well before the holiday. It always gets us in the mood for Halloween and when the holiday actual gets here, we are completely ready!

7. Go Local 
In Florida, our farmer’s market season starts at the beginning of October – which is the perfect time to stock up on those yummy fall vegetables. I love when the mister whips up a batch of one of his fantastic soups during the fall months using local vegetables from the farmer’s market. And pumpkins from the farmer’s market, oh my, they are my favorite. If you live in a cooler climate that doesn’t offer a farmer’s market during fall, consider joining your local food co-op.

How do you welcome fall with your family?

The World’s First Flower Most Likely Looked Like Today’s Water Lily, Researchers Find

How would you feel if someone told you that all of the flowers in the world come from one ancestor? While it may seem dramatic, it’s true, according to a new study published in the British journal Nature Communications.

A group of international scientists has discovered that the world’s first flower sprouted about 140 million years ago. It looked similar to the common-day water lily, with circles of petals and protruding pollen spikes in the center of the bud. While scientists say that it is similar to one of the most widely known lilies, the Madonna lily, which is also the oldest lily on record, dating back 3,000 years, the head scientist explains to USA Today that it is hard to really compare pre historic flowers to flowers of today.

Herve Sauquet, an evolutionary biologist at the Paris-Sud University explained:
“All flowering plants have evolved and changed since that ancestor, that’s how evolution works. So there is no single species or group of species that would have existed some long time ago and still exists today unchanged.”

For their study, the scientists used an evolutionary tree to connect all species of plants, 792 in particular, to this one flower. Interestingly enough, the scientists were able to find that what they originally thought concerning the flower’s sexual organs was false. This finding actually was able to help the scientists plot out a whole new vision for exactly how pre historic flowers evolved to the flowers of today.

However, Sauquet points out that while no fossil exists from 140 million years ago, the researchers were able to compare the oldest finding, from 130 million years ago, and link it to 10 million years prior simply because they could link the flower’s sexual organs to similar flowers they know to existed at that time.

So while this was a great finding, the researchers are still trying to figure out where and when the first flower formed in the world. But with this information, they’re hopeful that they’re close.

Green Tip: Pick an Organic Pumpkin

Green Tip Pick an Organic Pumpkin

Did you plant your pumpkins and gourds last spring? If so, you should have a bounty of them to use for decorating and baking this fall. If not or if you live in Florida like me, that’s alright, you can find lovely organic pumpkins and gourds at your local organic farm, farmer’s market or organic grocer. Do you need help locating great organic pumpkins in your area? Check out Local Harvest to locate a farm in your area, and enjoy autumn!

Where do you get your pumpkins?
Do you purchase local organic ones?
P.S. My favorite place to pick pumpkins is in the North Carolina mountains at the New River Pumpkin Patch. Hurricane Irma made it possible this year! We happened to be evacuated at the time and were able to stop by before heading home! 

7 Green Tips for Reducing Your Carbon Footprint this Autumn

fall

Fall is almost here! Last week my family had to evacuate for Hurricane Irma. It took us 2 days, but we finally arrived in the North Carolina mountains. The leaves were just starting to change colors and every front porch was stacked high with pumpkins. We stayed at a cute little cabin and stayed toasty by snuggling up by the fire, sipping hot cocoa, and hopping in and out of the hot tub.

The mister and I chatted about buying a little mountain cabin in the next couple of years when Eben goes off to college. But WOW – it is chilly here. I haven’t had to think about winter proofing since we have lived in Florida for so long and decided to write up a little post on ideas for reducing your carbon footprint this autumn.

Fall is a great time to give your home and car an energy audit. Nothing is worse than finding out in at the beginning of winter that your home’s heating system is faulty, or the tread on your tires isn’t ready for snow. So spend the next few weekends taking a closer look at your home and vehicle to make sure that they both are ready for those cold, winter months ahead. Get started by reading on for 7 tips to prepare for colder weather while reducing your carbon footprint.

#1 Keep the Heat Low
As the temperature outside begins to drop, we tend to turn the thermostat up. Before you reach for that dial, try layering with sweaters, thick socks, and extra blankets on the bed. It’ll save energy and heating costs, and you can save the toasty heat for winter.

 #2 Give Your Heating System a Checkup
Before the cold sets in for the rest of the year, have your heating system inspected by a professional to see if any tune-ups are in order, filters need replacing, or if it’s time to exchange your older furnace for an energy efficient model. It’s best to do it now while the weather is still tolerable – having a heater go out in the middle of a freezing December night is no fun!

 #3 Turn Down Your Water Heater
Many water heaters are installed at a default setting of 140 degrees, which can pose a scalding risk and waste energy by heating water much hotter than you’ll need it. Turn your heater down to 120 degrees to save energy and bring the water down to a safer temperature. You can save additional energy by wrapping your water heater in a blanket to keep heat in.

#4 Save Baking for the Cold Days
Fall is a transitional season, so some days feel like summer while some foretell winter’s coming with a bite in the air. If you’re planning to use the oven for cooking your favorite pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, save the recipes that need to cook in it for colder days. Chances are the oven will heat your kitchen enough that the rest of the house will raise a few degrees in temperature, too, and avoiding baking on hot days will prevent you from having to crank the AC.

#5 Check Your Tire Pressure
When the temperature drops, tire pressure lowers and brings fuel efficiency down with it. Check your tires and inflate them to the proper setting. Fall is also the perfect time to have the tread on your tires checked – if you need new tires, get them put on now before you find yourself stuck in the driveway the morning of that first snow storm.

 #6 Check Windows and Doors
Check the weather stripping around your windows for leaks and caulk or replace where necessary. Check for drafts under doors and use a draft snake or replace the threshold if necessary.

#7 Arrange Furniture Warmly
Many older homes have at least one wall that lacks proper insulation, allowing the cold to seep in and taking too long to heat up in the day time to prevent the room from feeling freezing at night. Line up heavy furniture like sofas and armoires or use decorative quilts to help insulate the room.

How does your family reduce its carbon footprint when cold weather rolls around?

 

 

Autumn Approaches: Is Your Home Ready for Cooler Temperatures?

September is here, heralding the approach of fall. And while autumn might have a lot to offer, from multi color foliage to pumpkin spice — well, everything, it can also bring its own unique set of difficulties. Many of us find that as the temperature gets lower, our heating bills begin to skyrocket. Additionally, less sunshine means that you will need to rely on artificial light a great deal more, driving up your energy costs.

While there are very few people who view a higher utility bill as a good thing (outside of your utility company, at least), those of us who are concerned with reducing our environmental impact are especially eager to avoid the increase in gas and electricity consumption.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to help keep your fall heating and energy costs down.

#1: Resealed Ducts
According to ARLNow, poorly fitted ducts are a major cause of heat loss in homes. In fact, up to 30% of the air flowing through your ducts can be lost due to leaks, holes, and bad construction.

That is because your metal ducts will expand and contract with the weather: for instance, a duct system that was perfectly fine in summer might have small gaps, which allow your heat to escape and cause a serious energy waste.

Or as the Department of Energy puts it, “Your air ducts are one of the most important systems in your home, and if the ducts are poorly sealed or insulated they are likely contributing to higher energy bills.”

#2: Solar Heating
Solar power is a great way to save money on your electricity bill; in fact, the average home saves around $84 per month with solar panels. But solar energy can be used for other purposes, too.

Solar space heaters are a great way to cut down on your overall heating costs. From full sized retrofits to small, portable space heaters, you can easily harness solar power to help heat your home. According to the Energy Saver office of the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save as much as 40% to 80% on your heating bill with solar space heating.

#3: Energy Star Lighting
Even the most outdoorsy of us end up spending a lot of extra time indoors during the winter, and the lack of natural light means you will be reaching for that light switch much sooner than you would during the summer.

But did you know that in 2016, 10% of all residential energy was used for lighting, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency? By switching to LED Lights, you can save 85% of the energy used for standard halogen lighting.

As Autumn approaches, it is important that you take the time to prepare your home. Make sure that your heating and cooling vents are properly sealed, replace any less-than-efficient lights, and explore the possibility of solar heating. Otherwise, you might be in for a nasty shock the next time you open your utility bill.

Simple Life Changes to Better the Environment!

NOTE FROM SWEET GREENS: Thank you supporting the companies that keep Sweet Greens in business.
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The idea of “green” living involves being less reliant on synthetic products, but from an economic standpoint, “keeping it green” can be pretty costly. However, when the environment is overrun with plastic containers and Styrofoam, all of the trees are removed, and the air has been polluted by synthetic aerosols, the cost of healthy living in this world might exceed any pocketbook pain resulting from pricey green products and services. Fortunately, today’s consumers might find they can save more money by adopting simple green habits that preserve and improve the environment.

Change through energy and water consumption
The first place consumers might see cost savings while improving the environment is in the home. While a person can go green and go big by converting their energy supplier from electric to solar, on a smaller scale, daily lifestyle changes reduce the cost of utility bills. For example, instead of running the air and heat on high throughout the day, keep the heat running a few degrees lower in the winter and the air running higher in the summer. Better yet, install fans that run in conjunction with the air to prevent it from cycling so frequently during the summer. Consumers can also make energy-saving upgrades to a home by installing cheap shutters or applying plastic window shades to keep the home cool in the summer. Instead of using incandescent bulbs, opt for compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). In addition, it is a good idea to exchange synthetic household cleaners with natural cleaners such as vinegar, lemon, and baking soda.

Wise husbandry of water resources can also improve the environment while saving money. Very minor changes, like line drying as opposed to using a dryer for clothes, can save energy, money and the environment. You should also consider washing clothes in cold water to offset heating costs, as most of the energy used in a cycle goes to heating water. Homeowners can also install water-saving fixtures and faucets to reduce the amount of water used when bathing and using the restroom.

Those who find they spend an inordinate amount of water while watering plants and the grass might consider planting environmentally-friendly plants that do not require a lot of water. Finally, pay attention to programs the city might have to reduce hot water usage during non-peak hours. A simple device can be attached to a water heater that regulates energy use throughout the day.

Change through consumer purchasing power
Developing green habits that include purchasing green groceries and other personal items can also improve the environment and your health. Simple habits like reducing the number of meals where meat is served can save on groceries while bettering the environment. Because most vegetables are cheap, people and families who reduce meat consumption not only save money but also develop healthy eating habits. It’s even better if you can purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from local farmer’s markets in the area. If meat is a must-have staple in the diet, consider purchasing organic or free-range meat and eggs. If you’re feeding a family, consider purchasing popular groceries in bulk to save on money and reduce waste. Consumers can also save money on water consumption and reduce waste by avoiding bottled water and using a water filter that only needs changing every couple of months.

When purchasing products for the home, consumers should adopt a “borrow instead of buy” policy to reduce consumption. For example, instead of purchasing brand-new books, consider borrowing from libraries or visiting second-hand bookstores. Consumers reduce waste by borrowing and exchanging magazines as opposed to spending on subscriptions that add up. Better yet, purchase online subscriptions to get rid of hard copies entirely.

Other ways to conserve and save
Use online bill payment and e-statement options. Online bill pay and e-statements reduce paper waste, and some financial institutions do not charge a monthly fee for e-statements.

Maintain appliances in the home. Whether it is servicing a heating system or cleaning the coils behind the refrigerator, these maintenance habits save energy and money in utility costs.

Reuse and recycle plastics. Reuse plastics by converting them to storage containers. Furthermore, many garbage companies offer recycling programs in addition to garbage collection.

Ultimately, the planet, the human being, and the pocketbook will all benefit from adopting green habits that encourage conservation. Simple changes that cost no more than the effort it takes to adopt them can save consumers thousands in the long run. More importantly, conservation is one of those now-or-later situations. Humans, as a collective, can either conserve the earth’s resources now or pay costs related to a polluted environment later.

Photo by Natalie Collins on Unsplash  

3 Efficient Ways To Add Some ‘Green’ To Your Cleaning Routine

These days, more and more of us are slowly but surely changing our day-to-day routines to adapt to the needs of our beautiful Mother Earth. But despite all the progress we’ve made, many people are still wary about ditching their chemical-filled cleaning products for more environmentally-friendly alternatives. However, the truth is, there are countless ways to clean using natural substitutes that are just as effective as traditional, store-bought solutions. Even better, these tips can also save you money.

Here are some tried-and-true ways to add some ‘green’ into your cleaning routine.

Floors:
Hardwood floors are one of the most popular types of flooring. So popular, in fact, that data from the National Association of REALTORS found that 54% of home buyers are willing to pay more for a home with hardwood flooring. And while most people choose artificially lemon-scented polishes, you may be surprised to learn that you can make your hardwood floors shine like never before using nothing more than tea bags. Just boil some water and add two tea bags, letting them steep for a few minutes. Get a soft cloth damp with the tea and wash away. Soon enough, your floors will look like new!

Windows:
It’s true that flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours. But instead of using harsh, ammonia-based cleaning agents, consider using a mixture of vinegar and warm water to get your windows and other glass surfaces sparkling clean.

In fact, vinegar has a number of viable uses in the green cleaning realm. Baking soda and vinegar isn’t just for home science projects; this mixture can also be sprayed on almost any bathroom tile, making it easier than ever to wipe away dirt and grime. Bathroom surfaces should also be disinfected with rubbing alcohol at least once a month to prevent excessive bacteria buildup. The average child catches between six and 10 colds a year, so it’s easy to see why parents are reluctant to give up their chemical cleaners. Even so, you can keep household surfaces disinfected without resorting to toxic chemicals.

Laundry:
Laundry is one aspect of keeping clean that traditionally uses harsh chemicals. If you’re seeing the word “fragrance” listed as an ingredient in detergent, fabric softener, or even air freshener, be aware that it’s basically code for harsh chemicals (magical smelling harsh chemicals, to be fair). Luckily, baking soda makes an effective and safer option for laundering and air-freshening. To make DIY laundry detergent, Natural Living Ideas recommends dissolving one cup of baking soda and one third cups of salt into two cups of warm water, pouring it into a gallon container, adding one cup of liquid Castile soap, and filling the rest of the container with water. One quarter of a cup is enough for one full load.

It’s also important to note that some products labeled with ‘fragrance’ can affect fertility rates in women. One in eight couples (or 12% of married women) have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy as it is. Ovia Health says, “Chemicals called phthalates, used in various products to make smells last longer, are often found in the synthetic fragrances of common laundry detergents. These products can disrupt important hormones that cause ovulation, so try more natural brands instead. Other chemicals found in laundry detergents can lead to reduced sperm count — stick to vegetable-based products to minimize chemical presence.”

Ultimately, cleaning green is more than just substituting products for other products. It’s all about staying vigilant, being aware of which ingredients can be dangerous, and thinking critically to come to a more eco-friendly solution.

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