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?

 

 

How You Can Use Natural Products To Care For Your Teeth

Few things warm up a room more than a bright smile. Many studies have shown that nonverbal cues are actually four times more impactful on first impressions than verbal cues, and a healthy looking smile has a lot to do with that. There’s a reason we respond so positively to people with happy smiles.

But your oral health is much more complex than the shine of your pearly whites.

In fact, the health of your teeth, gums, and mouth are actually tied to other aspects of your health, so it’s important to prioritize oral hygiene. But as any green gurus know, taking care of your teeth can be difficult to do naturally. Fortunately, with the right tricks, you can overlook the chemical-filled hygiene products and take the natural route instead. Follow these tips to take a more natural path to your dental health.

#1: Eat well and stay hydrated.
As with many other aspects of your health, what you put in your body directly impacts your health. Drinking enough water will help clean food particles from your teeth, as can eating crunchy fruits and vegetables. Avoiding sugar and consuming acidic foods and drinks in moderation are also a must.

#2: Try oil pulling.
This natural method involves swishing olive or coconut oil around in your mouth for about 20 minutes. By doing so, you can reduce bacteria, whiten your teeth, control bad breath, and curb sensitivity. Of course, you have to be willing to swish olive or coconut oil in your mouth for 20 minutes.

#3: Drink tea after meals.
Herbal and green tea are great for controlling bacteria and for removing food particles from your teeth. While black tea is certainly a healthy option for reducing plaque, it can also stain your teeth like coffee.

#4: Choose low-chemical care items.
With all the natural methods in the world, brushing and flossing are still an essential part of oral health. Just try to choose toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss that are made of more natural ingredients and materials.

#5: Stock up on herbs.
Certain plants and herbs have healing properties for the mouth. Cloves, for example, can help control toothaches. Cinnamon is also known to reduce bad breath. You may find your own herbal tips and tricks as you start your natural oral care journey.

While the above methods and other tricks can be effective in supporting your oral health, it is still essential to visit a dentist regularly. A recent study found that 84.7% of children ages two to 17 visited a dentist between 2014 and 2015. But are you doing the same as an adult? Even if you think you have your oral health under control, nothing can replace professional care and the advice of your dentist.

With a combination of at-home natural care and professional care, you can keep your mouth as healthy as possible. Remember that not every method will work for everyone, so feel free to try out different natural methods to find what works for you. Your teeth will thank you for it.

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.

Families That Garden Together Stay Together (And Learn Healthy Habits While Doing It)

In the U.S., physicians and families alike are making efforts to fight the obesity epidemic, but an increasing reliance on technology, our national love of junk food, and lack of physical activity makes it a bit of an uphill battle. The typical American dieter makes four weight loss attempts every year, but placing severe limits on caloric intake is only a short term solution. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 75% of Americans aren’t eating their daily recommended doses of fruits and vegetables.

Whether family members need to lose the winter weight or simply want to live a healthier lifestyle and enjoy more time together, many experts are proposing a tactic that might surprise you: starting a family garden.

Statistics show that pre-teens and teens spend an average of six to nine hours per day looking at TV, computer, phone, and gadget screens. Those activities lend themselves to a sedentary lifestyle for kids and adults alike. But other promising data shows that families with kids are gardening far more now than they were just a decade ago. From 2008 to 2013, the National Gardening Association found that gardening activities among families with children increased by 25%. And in the spring of 2014, the number of people who gardened within the past 12 months amounted to 113.5 million.

This involvement has a huge impact in multiple areas. Scientific studies have proven that when children are involved in gardening, their fruit and vegetable intake — not surprisingly — increases. Taking part in the process allows them to enjoy the literal fruits (and veggies) of their labor and feel more connected to the produce they come across outside the home. Plus, preparing and eating nutrient-rich meals together as a family can develop a foundation of lifelong healthy eating habits and weight maintenance.

Gardening can even improve academic achievement. Multiple studies cited in the Review of Educational Research found that children who garden at school had a higher affinity for science. Another Chicago-based study found that just being near green spaces — in this case, seeing them from apartment windows — can help improve children’s self-discipline in educational settings. Even when gardening at home, the lessons learned there can translate into multiple educational areas. Parents can easily interweave nutrition lessons as you plant the backyard garden.

Plus, spending time in nature has been proven to produce calming effects in both children and adults. Parents of children with ADD and ADHD reported that “green activities” have a consistently positive effect on their kids’ symptoms. Children who don’t have these conditions can use gardening and other outdoor activities to work off excess energy, develop stronger immune systems, and just recharge.

For families that don’t have a large outdoor space to devote to gardening, other outdoor family activities can be a good substitute. Taking nature walks or biking trips can allow for both physical activity and appreciation of nature. Since 36 million Americans ages seven and up rode a bike at least six times in 2015, it’s a popular alternative or supplement to digging in the dirt.

But in many ways, gardening has those other activities beat. Not only is it physical and rewarding work that can promote better nutrition, but it’s a great way for children to feel connected to the world around them and engage all their senses. Sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch are all involved in gardening. And by allowing kids to have a direct effect on how their garden grows — by picking out seeds, planting and watering them, and helping to harvest and prepare them — that will set the stage for a balanced lifestyle that values both hard work and healthy food.

Although many children recognize produce at the supermarket, that’s often not enough to convince them to try (and stick with) these healthy foods. Gardening at home or school makes kids much more likely to consume fruits and vegetables. More than 30% of schools in the U.S. now have gardens (a 12% increase from 2006), but whether kids garden at school, in a community garden, or right in their own backyard, they’re bound to live healthier lives — and their parents will too!

How to Save Money on Your Air Conditioning Bill Without Even Trying

Now that we’re in the full fledged dog days of summer, chances are that most of us are relying on our air conditioners to keep our home nice and cool. But sometimes cranking the thermostat down can cause our energy bills to skyrocket, not to mention that it isn’t eco-friendly!

So how do you keep the energy bills down and the planet happy, all while keeping your family pleasantly cool? It’s not all that hard, it just requires some creativity and dedication. Here are some air conditioning hacks that will make your wallet smile this summer.

Replace if your AC is more than 15 years old

Technology changes all the time, and HVAC systems are no different. Having an updated machine will lead to major energy savings because the units on the market nowadays work hard to be energy efficient. Plus, older machines have to work harder to do the same job, and their repairs can be costly. On top of that, older machines are often clogged with dust and other allergens. As a rule of thumb, consider HVAC replacement if your air conditioner is more than 15-years-old.

Install a programmable thermostat

There’s no reason that you should be paying to cool the home when no one is there, right? Investing in a programmable thermostat is the best thing you can do when it comes to regulating your energy costs. You’ll be able to choose exactly what times of day it turns on, to what temperature, and when it needs to turn off. By optimizing when it turns on, your machine will be able to work more efficiently, which spells out cost savings for you.

If you can’t afford a programmable thermostat right now, just follow this trick: simply turn up the thermostat at least 10 degrees right before you leave the home. Doing so will ensure the unit doesn’t automatically turn on when you’re gone.

Change your air filters

According to EnergyStar, most HVAC system filters need to be changed every one to three months. But even still, you should aim to change your filter once every month so the air in your home can be as clean as can be. A simple trick to remember is to write the date you replaced it on the filter itself in pencil. Check it periodically, and once you can’t read the date anymore, it is time for a new filter.

Seal windows

That precious cold air can be escaping from your home through tiny cracks around your windows and doors. Don’t pay to cool the outdoors! At the beginning of every season, caulk the windows and doors in your home to ensure nothing is leaking out. Remember, even simple changes like this can add up to major energy savings over time.

Close your blinds and keep the sun away from the unit

The idea behind this is simple: the cooler your home, the less you’ll have to use your unit. Keeping the sun off the unit itself will also prevent it from turning on automatically, and shutting the blinds and curtains will keep your home as cool as possible naturally. Closing your blinds is especially important for when you’re going to be gone from your home for a while, like going to work heading on that summer vacation.

These five simple air conditioning hacks will change how you cool your home, and your wallet will thank you! So go try these tips and tricks out today, and let us know how much you save.

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