Top 5 Tips for Building a Sustainable Deck

Building your own deck is the perfect DIY project for the warmer months, and it will really enhance your outdoor space. Decks are functional as well as attractive and you’ll be able to enjoy many hours entertaining guests or relaxing in the yard. If you’re undertaking a big building project such as this, however, it’s important to consider the environmental impact. The best way to reduce this is by making your deck as sustainable as possible. This will depend on the materials and design you choose, and how you maintain it.

Use sustainable materials

First of all, you need to select your materials carefully. They need to be durable enough to support your Outdoor Furniture but also an eco-friendly choice. A couple of common sustainable decking materials to opt for are reclaimed wood or composite decking. Reclaimed wood is timber that has been salvaged from other projects and structures. It looks gorgeous and each piece tells a story. Composite decking, on the other hand, is a mix of recycled materials including wood fiber, plastic, and binding agents. Both are very sturdy and easy to maintain.

Choose locally-sourced options

You also need to check where your building materials come from. The more locally sourced they are the better. This way you’ll be able to reduce any transportation emissions caused by your project. You can look up where to find reclaimed wood near you online. If you hire professional help to install your decking, look to local businesses as well.

Minimize the environmental impact

It’s also possible to reduce your carbon footprint by choosing the right design. Try to be minimal in your design and reduce waste. Avoid excessive digging or changes to the surrounding environment. Your deck should be built in harmony with your landscaping and so as not to disturb the natural ecosystem. Plan your design carefully in regards to sunlight and shade. This way you won’t need to build more structures to protect your deck and you’ll be able to get maximum enjoyment from it.

Search for advice online

If you’re not that experienced with DIY, you can find plenty of videos on how to install decking online. There are also several communities you can join to get advice on where to source recycled materials or sustainable living in general. You could also hire an eco-conscious deck installation company to help you. With a quick Google search, you should be able to find one near you. 

Carry out conscious maintenance

Once you’ve built your sustainable deck, continue to carry out conscious maintenance of the area. Avoid using harmful chemicals to clean it, you can even DIY your own homemade deck cleaner. It’s as easy as mixing a few household items such as white vinegar and baking soda. This will remove mold and stains. Be cautious with using pressure washers, instead, you could try scrubbing your deck, or hiring a professional deck cleaning service from time to time. With proper maintenance, you can enjoy your beautiful, sustainable deck for longer.

Benefits of Making Your Business Eco Friendly

It doesn’t matter if you are a large business or a small business or what industry you are in, looking into making your business eco-friendlier can have a lot of benefits for the world as a whole and your business specifically. While you will need to look into what exactly will be best for your business like cutting down on paper use or changing up how you use utilities, here are some going green ideas that you might want to consider.

Increased Demand

More and more consumers are starting to take an interest in eco-friendly goods. Because of this increased demand in the market, you are more likely to attract a larger client base if your company places an emphasis on going green.

Having goods that are made from natural and organic ingredients is appealing to a large number of people. You will also be seen as an environmentally friendly brand which will increase your public opinion. You will be recognized for the value you bring to society in addition to the products you offer. This kind of good press will help you attract more customers and customers that will remain loyal to your brand.

Financial Incentives

In addition to increasing public opinion, there can be some financial incentives for going green. Because the U.S. government places a positive emphasis on sustainability, there are many tax advantages to implementing eco-friendly strategies into your business. You can get tax breaks, rebates, or other monetary enticements. These could be offered at the state or federal levels depending on the criteria you meet.

Some changes you can make to get these incentives are installing HVAC systems, lighting options, or hot water systems that reduce the amount of power you use. Using alternative energy properties may give you tax credits or grants up to 30 percent. You may also qualify for tax credits if you use alternative vehicles for your business that meet certain fuel-efficiency standards. Things as simple as recycling and reusing equipment can also bring financial incentives for your business.

Government Subsidy

In addition to the tax breaks you might receive for going green, there are other government advantages to consider. There are grants, financing programs, and subsidies that are only available to business owners striving to be eco-friendly.

The Environmental Protection Agency also offers grants for programs that qualify in relation to being environmentally responsible. There are financing solutions for businesses with green solutions in new construction and retrofitting existing buildings through The Small Business Administration.

Increased Savings

In addition to all of the financial incentives listed above, using organic and natural materials in your business, along with smart energy use, will naturally lead to more savings for your company. Energy conservation means spending less on utilities than your competitors. Talking to a someone with knowledge, like Edward Harner, can help you take full advantage of all the benefits.

Things like recycling, water-saving devices, energy-efficient equipment, reduced waste, and solar power will all benefit the environment, but will also help save you money as well. Being responsible when it comes to energy use is a win-win for everyone involved.

Clever Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint This Summer

There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint in the summer months. You can exercise more and use the car less frequently, grow a garden, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and conserve energy using energy-saving devices. Below are some specific ideas of how your and your family can reduce your carbon footprint this season.

Try a New Mode Of Transportation

Just one gallon of gasoline emits tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Cut down on using your car this summer and walk and bike in your neighborhood instead. Think about walking to the mailbox instead of driving to the local post office to mail letters. When you drive somewhere and park, walk an extra few blocks rather than drive around to nearby destinations. You do not have to park as close as possible. Consider using the bus for local transportation, as choosing public transit can reduce the number of other vehicles on the street. There are over 6 million car accidents in the United States yearly, partially due to overcrowded roads. Choose local parks and trails in your state and walk and hike locally or enjoy taking a stroll around the block instead of a nightly drive to clear your head.

Not only do cars come with harmful emissions, but they can also be expensive to maintain. Around 96% of Subarus sold during the past decade are still on the road, which means many drivers may also have to deal with expensive vehicle maintenance to keep their cars operable. You can cut down on necessary repairs by ditching your car for a bike this summer whenever possible. Biking is a great way to exercise or get from point A to point B. If you live close to where you work, walking or biking to work in good weather can be a great way to burn calories, shed a sedentary lifestyle, and reduce your environmental impact. You can bike or walk in parks, local college campuses, the neighborhood, or in the heart of the city. Don’t forget to learn the safety rules and follow them when biking or walking. Walk and bike to places a few miles near your home to start; you might find you love it so much that you try not to take the car if you don’t have to!

Plan a Garden Or Grow Plants in Pots

Plant a garden this year and start growing some herbs and vegetables. Go to a local garden center and purchase native flowers, vegetables, and herbs. You should also stop using chemical pesticides and buy organic pesticides made from natural ingredients (or make your own at home!). While Oklahoma has over 540 common pests, they can be kept out of your garden in ways that won’t harm the surrounding environment if you stick to natural pesticides and insecticides. Your garden center can tell you how to care for the plants you buy. Buy plants for the deck or patio if you don’t have the time to care for a garden. You can use the vegetables and herbs you grow when cooking. This can help you reduce the environmental impact associated with purchasing groceries that come from far-away farms. You might even consider collecting water in a rain barrel to use to water the lawn and your plants at home, thus saving water!

Use a Programmable Thermostat and Fans to Reduce Energy Consumption

Installing a programmable thermostat will help you save on your electric bill when cooling the house. This handy device can increase or decrease the temperature, even when you’re not at home. Other ways to cool the house include closing the shutters, blinds, and shades during the day. You can also use a fan instead of an air conditioner or to supplement your AC. You might even think about switching to a green energy plan powered by renewable energy. Remember to unplug appliances you’re not using and cook on the outdoor grill instead of using the oven to reduce your overall energy consumption and to keep your home more comfortable throughout the hotter months.

Eat Local and Reduce Meat Consumption

This summer, shop at your local farmers’ market where they sell local produce grown in your region. You should always aim to buy seasonal produce, as it is less expensive and can be transported in a more environmentally-friendly way. You can always prepare your vegetables in large batches and freeze for later use to reduce waste. Find some new recipes for vegetable, fruit, and pasta salads or soups and try them out this summer. Be sure to try some new fruits and vegetables you have never eaten before every week. You can also reduce meat consumption in your diet, as the meat industry can be incredibly harmful to the environment.

These tips will help you reduce your carbon footprint and help you find a way to promote green and natural living in the warmer months.

15 Sustainable Gardening Tips for an Eco-Friendly Backyard

If you would like to do your part to help the environment, why not begin in your very own backyard? Creating a more eco-friendly garden is easier than it sounds, and if you’re mindful of the products and methods you use, you can even encourage the ecosystem to thrive. The key to sustainable gardening is to try to maintain a zero-waste attitude, as you would in other aspects of your life. Recycle and reuse materials to decorate and maintain your garden, and you can even DIY ornaments, flower beds, and wildlife habitats and feeders. Here are few more gardening tips that will not only make your yard more sustainable but also beautiful and inviting all year round.

Choose native plants

First things first, the most eco-friendly choice for your garden is native plants. These will thrive in the natural climate and be compatible with local wildlife. By opting for locally sourced alternatives, you can also avoid the environmental impact of importing non-native plants. If you’re not sure which species are indigenous to your region, you can use this native plant finder to help you. 

Allow the garden to overgrow

A well-kept garden isn’t always the most sustainable. If you allow it to get a little wild you’ll encourage important insects and pollinators, and even small animals and birds. Try letting certain areas overgrow and keep other parts neat, for example. Allow the lawn to grow a little longer and set up zones for wildlife. This could include a rock garden, or pond even for any amphibians. Make the most of the space you have. Even upturned logs and branches will give the local wildlife a safe place to forage.

Plant trees

If you have space, plant trees in your yard. Trees can be very beneficial for your garden. They release oxygen and help to prevent soil erosion. If they’re strategically positioned they can also provide shading and privacy. This could even help keep your home protected from the elements and reduce your energy bills. Remember to choose native trees as well. If you or anyone in your family suffers from seasonal allergies, it’s also worth finding out if they’re caused primarily by tree pollen before planting more trees. You can find out more about common tree pollen symptoms from Allergy Insider

Plant ground cover not grass

There are several ground cover alternatives to a grass lawn that are actually better for the environment. Some examples include moss or clover. These both provide an even soft covering and will stay green throughout the hot months. They also attract bees and other pollinators more than freshly cut grass. These will help to maintain the local ecosystem. You could also consider fragrant creeping perennials as well.

Grow your own crops

Another perfect addition to your eco-friendly backyard is a vegetable garden. Growing your own allows you to live a more sustainable lifestyle in general. You’ll save money in the supermarket and won’t have to worry about excessive packaging. It’s also a very satisfying hobby. If you’re new to gardening, start with a herb garden or some summer salad seeds. This will grow quickly and easily. You can then try planting seasonal vegetables throughout the year.

Use recycled materials

In order to keep your yard as eco-friendly as possible, you should try to use recycled materials whenever you can. Keep old tubing, wood, or groundsheets from any DIY projects as these are very useful in the garden. Wooden crates are also very versatile. You can turn them into vertical gardens, compost heaps, or even animal habitats. You can also build raised beds from recycled materials, such as crates, upcycled drawers, and boxes. 

Make upcycled ornaments

Another way to decorate your garden with recycled materials is by upcycling household items. This one of the best eco-friendly family activities for the warmer seasons. Look for items you can repurpose as planters, these can be anything from a watering can to wellington boots. Get the kids involved looking for old objects to turn into plant pots, hanging baskets, or other decorations. Even mason jars, for example, can be very versatile. 

Create a haven for wildlife

You can also DIY your own feeders and habitats to create a wildlife-friendly yard. Try making a bird feeder from a recycled plastic bottle and a couple of sticks as perches. You could also make a butterfly or hummingbird feeder from a glass bottle with sugar water inside. Gather some recycled wood and bamboo and make a bee hotel. The little holes are all they need to create a makeshift hive. 

Provide a water source

Providing a water source is another way to attract local wildlife. Different types and animals will come for a quick drink and a place to refresh. If you haven’t got much space, you can create DIY water features from repurposed household items. All you need to build a miniature pond, for instance, is a simple container such as an old plant pot, bucket, or even sink, filled with a layer of pond covering, and few pebbles. Fill your pond with rainwater, not from the faucet, and add a couple of plants like miniature water lilies. Build your pond somewhere that gets plenty of light but not intense sun all day, and it should thrive and attract wildlife.

Reduce waste

Try to be mindful and consider all the ways you can reuse and recycle yard waste. If you mow the lawn, you can actually leave the clippings directly on the grass. These will decompose quickly and the nutrients will be given right back to the soil. This helps reduce the need for fertilizer. Other types of garden waste can also be used as mulch including twigs and leaves. Fall is the perfect season for making mulch. This can be used to enrich your soil while reducing the growth of weeds.

Make your own compost

Compost can be made from food waste. This includes vegetable and fruit peelings, eggshells, and tea. You can then use this homemade compost to fertilize your eco-friendly garden.  If you want to use other items such as bread or grains they should be treated first to help them decompose more quickly. You also will need to monitor your compost and keep it moist with water. Here is a complete guide on how to make compost. It’s much easier than it sounds.

Cut down on chemicals

Avoid using pesticides and fertilizers that contain harmful chemicals. Instead, look for organic products or make your own. Chemical fertilizer and herbicide will strip the soil of nutrients and will be damaging to the environment over time. The more organic matter you can integrate with your soil the better and you also need to keep it aerated. With a bit of natural food and care, your lawn and flowerbeds will thrive.

Level out slopes

If you have slopes or dips in your yard, the most eco-friendly way to level these out is with terracing. Terracing is a way to level out a sloped yard into flat planted areas. Rainwater will soak into the beds and this process will help to prevent erosion and stormwater runoff which are both bad for the environment. Filling your slopes and dips with flowerbeds, shrubs, or even herb gardens will also add to the appeal of your landscaping. 

Harvest rainwater

Harvested rainwater is perfect for watering your eco-friendly yard. If you successfully collect your own rainwater you can greatly reduce the amount of household water wasted. You could try out any number of rainwater harvesting system ideas. Find the one that best suits your home and landscaping design. Most systems will collect rain that runs out of your gutters and roofs allowing you to reuse this in your garden. Once set up, it’s easy to use a rainwater harvesting system all year round.

Go with the flow of the garden

The best way to maintain an eco-friendly backyard is to go with its natural flow. This means doing what you can to support the local ecosystem by cultivating native plants in the right way and encouraging the environment to flourish. Plant according to the garden, not your own personal landscaping preferences. If you try to use this approach, you will work with the natural characteristics of your yard rather than against them. Rather than over pruning, let your yard grow a little messily from time to time and it will help to preserve plants, and local wildlife.

Always aims to collaborate with the natural ecosystem to create a sustainable space to enjoy. This will help you build the perfect environment for growing flowers and crops and a lovely place to relax. By making your yard as eco-friendly as possible, you’ll also be able to welcome a few wild visitors and provide them with the ideal habitat they need. Natural, sustainable gardens are also cheaper to maintain. You’ll even save money making your outside space even greener this year. With a few simple sustainable gardening tips, you can transform your yard into an eco paradise.

10 Realistic Ways to Stop Using Paper in Your Business

It’s no secret that the continued use of paper in the world is a growing problem for the planet. In 2019 alone, the United States consumed around 73.1 million tons of paper, and some of that paper will have gone to waste for various reasons.

There was once a time when a paperless office was nothing more than a ploy by some companies to persuade consumers they are ethical at heart. Nowadays, the business world realizes the scale of the problem, irrespective of an enterprise’s size.

How Bad Is the Problem?

You’re likely reading this blog post today because you want to make a significant improvement to your firm’s green credentials. But, you’re possibly not sure why you need to ban paper from your business.

After all: there are loads of trees in the world for producing paper, right? Let’s take a look at the scale of the problem, according to some calculations from the Conservatree website:

  • One ream or 500 sheets of paper equates to around 6% of a tree;
  • One tree produces approximately 17 reams of paper;
  • One ton of non-recycled paper is the equivalent of 12 trees.

The earlier mentioned figure of 73.1 million tons of paper used in the United States alone equates to approximately 877.2 million trees. With all that in mind, here are some realistic ways to stop using paper – many of which can even save your business money:

1. Issue Electronic Invoices to Customers

The first practical step you can take to stop consuming paper in your business by ceasing the practice of issuing paper invoices to your customers. It’s so easy to generate electronic invoices from most modern accounting systems.

Plus, email delivery of invoices typically takes seconds, and the cost of invoicing each customer is minimal compared with the traditional alternative, so your business will save on postage costs.

2. Manage Your Payroll Online

If you employ several people on a shift basis, you’ll undoubtedly want to monitor their time and payments to ensure efficiency. Stop using paper records as evidence of their shift work, and start managing your payroll online using one of the many different available solutions.

Also, take a look at these 8 payroll reports every business manager needs to know so you can ensure your business isn’t wasting money or incorrectly paying its staff.

3. Use Only Recycled Card for Product Packaging

Does your business sell physical products? If it does, you’ll undoubtedly have each product packaged using a mix of card and cardboard. Preventing the use of such material isn’t an option as it protects your products in transit before they reach consumers.

However, you can opt for 100% recycled product packaging and not use any plastic with the packaging so that it can be wholly recycled by the end users.

4. Don’t Include Paper Instructions With All Products

You want to make sure that your customers know how to use your products when they purchase them. Plus, you also want to let them know about your firm’s warranty and returns policies.

Usually, you’d include some paper supplements inside of the product packaging with that information. Instead, you should direct your customers to view the information online. For example, you could ask them to scan a QR code that redirects them to the documents.

5. Notify Suppliers of Your No-Paper Policy

It might surprise you to learn that many companies still issue their business customers with a raft of paperwork. For instance, they might incorporate paper-based shipment manifests with each order and several sheets of printed invoices or delivery notes.

With that in mind, you should open a dialog with your suppliers and inform them you’ve got a no-paper policy at your business. Most, if not all, suppliers should be accommodating of your policy and only send you electronic documents.

6. Provide All Customer Documents Electronically

Receipts, returns notes, contracts, and other paperwork are often printed out and sent out or given to customers for their records. As you can appreciate, such processes generate an enormous amount of paper each year.

Your business can cease those processes and elect to provide all customer documents electronically. You could even set up an online platform for your customers where they can download any documents at their leisure.

7. Use a Fax to PDF System

Believe it or not, some organizations still use fax machines and have fax numbers. If your business has valid reasons to use faxes, did you know you can partially digitize such communications?

These days, it’s possible to use software or online solutions that receive faxes and convert them into PDF documents. With many of those solutions, it’s as simple as diverting your fax number to an online fax service provider.

Some unified communications systems will automatically email those PDF faxes to one or more recipients or scan the details into a CRM system.

8. Don’t Take Telephone Messages on Paper

Everyone at your business isn’t going to be at their desks all the time. If someone gets a phone call and a colleague picks up the call, they might need to leave their workmate messages from their callers.

The traditional way of relaying that information is by leaving a paper note at their desk or something like a Post-It Note. But, that obviously means using paper. In those circumstances, messages can get transmitted electronically.

For example, they could send their colleagues brief email messages. Or, if everyone uses a unified communications solution, they could pass on messages through those systems.

Apart from not using paper, another advantage of electronic telephone messages is that the call message recipients always record the call to hand. In contrast, paper notes can end up getting lost or ending up in the wastepaper basket.

9. Return to Sender All Postal Communications

Sending all postal communications back to their senders might seem like a somewhat extreme and potentially time-consuming yet annoying process. But, it’s an excellent way of enforcing your no-paper policy at your business.

The trouble that many businesses face, even small enterprises, is how they receive large volumes of paper-based communications in the mail every day. Some of those communications are junk mail, and others provide out-of-date information.

Refusing to open all postal communications will send a clear message to your suppliers and other people that you operate a strict no-paper policy at your organization.

You might be wondering what could happen if some of those communications come from government sources. The reality is official paperwork from the government often gets communicated online, either through online portals or via email.

10. Set up Recycling Stations at Your Premises

The above ideas will reduce your paper usage and waste significantly. However, there will be times where paper is unavoidable in your organization. For example, products your business buys will have paper, card, or cardboard contents.

Employees might purchase sandwiches from nearby food outlets, and those sandwiches might be contained in a protective card-based enclosure. What can you do about such situations, you might ask yourself?

With such unwanted paper products entering your premises, you can make sure that it all gets recycled. It’s easy to set up recycling stations at your premises for all your employees to use.

What’s more, your staff could even recycle other items like plastic and glass. You may need to pay for such recycling provisions, but you can usually offset the costs against your organization’s tax bills each year.