Natural Landscaped Oasis Right in Your Own Backyard

Natural Landscape Pix

Native plants and natural landscaping provide an ecosystem that when left to its own devices, can pretty much thrive on its own. While much of nature can figure things out for itself, you can play an important role in your very own backyard in sustaining our vital ecosystems. If you are considering redesigning your backyard, using native plants and natural landscaping is a really important choice for so many reasons. Not only will you be doing a good deed for Mother Nature, you will also reap the benefits of your own private ecosystem oasis right on your doorstep.

What Is Involved: From Beginning to End 

Natural landscaping does not just involve nice plants, tall grasses, and a lily pond. It needs needs several components to it in order to survive and thrive: * Microorganisms * Minerals * Nutrients * Water * Air * Leaves, twigs * Plants * Insects * Birdlife * Wildlife

As you can see, there is more than meets the eye to just simply redecorating your yard with pretty plants and flowering shrubs.

The Lay of the Land

First, you need a good design for your natural landscape oasis. Seeking the advice of a professional is always helpful, as you will need to know where to plant your oasis, what types of soil you will need, and how to get water to that section to properly care for your garden oasis. The best type of soil will probably be a complex soil that contains microorganisms, minerals, and nutrients. Learning how to make compost is also beneficial to the process. Soil becomes the foundation of your natural landscape design. First Soil, Then Plants

The plants that you choose should of course be attractive in their natural beauty, but moreover should incorporate space for the ecosystem to continue. Various groups of plants grow alongside other plants and have similar needs as part of a similar community. Insects, butterflies, birds, and wildlife are attracted to these different communities for different reasons. You can group many different plants together to attract different types of wildlife. This is how you can turn your backyard into a naturally landscaped community for critters and wildlife alike. Once you see how many butterflies you have attracted because of your choice of plants, you will be amazed. You have the power and potential to create a sanctuary – not only for yourself but for local wildlife as well.

How to Make and Use a Compost Bin

compost-bin

Compost Bin – see URL in Post for How To Build This Bin

Compost is typically any natural matter that has come from nature and is being decomposed in order to return it to nature with its many benefits intact. Things such as leaves, grass, and certain food skins such as banana peels are common items used for the purpose of composting and recycling.

Composting is an excellent way to fertilize the soil of your garden with its many natural nutrients. It can provide fertile soil for your vegetable garden or even as a backdrop for your landscaping project.

Composting is not all that difficult; as you go along you can pick up more tips and advice from those around you who have compost bins and the success that goes along with it.

What to Use for Your Compost Bin

Many of the ingredients that you would naturally consider ìgarbageî are excellent items for composting. Certain fruit and vegetable peelings are wonderful for composting. Just try to stay away from citrus fruits as they will have an acidic background and may interfere with the natural bacteria growth necessary for proper composting.

Things such as eggshells, coffee grinds, and table top scraps are perfect for adding to your compost bin. Natural additions for your compost bin come in the form of leaves, grass, pine needles, and even some weeds.

Shredded paper, newspaper, and cardboard are also considerations for a compost bin.

How to Compost

Once you have a mix of ingredients, choose a spot where you would like to set up your compost. You do not always have to have a bin at first, but it helps to purchase or build one.  There are many sites that show simple and low cost directions to make a compost bin. Here is one:  http://andrewsigal.blogspot.com/2013/09/building-2-bin-composter.html.  Using a layering method of straw first typically aids in aerating your compost. Thereafter, layer your compost bin with alternating layers of compost and soil. If you can, utilize soil that is from the earth so that the microorganisms will aid in the compost process. Alternate wet table ingredients such as tea bags, moist soil, and coffee grinds with dry ingredients such as leaves and grass.

Many individuals also add manure such as buckwheat or wheatgrass to help their compost bin to be more efficient. Make sure that you place your compost bin in a slightly shaded area as to not dry out in the hot summer months, but somewhere where there is ample rain.

You may need to invest in a cover for your compost bin so that the rain does not drown your compost bin out too much.

Every once in a while give your compost bin a good turn to aerate it.

These are just a few starter tips that should get your compost bin up and running. Composting offers benefits for the soil and also for the environment. Composting reduces landfill waste and provides you with a bountiful vegetable garden.

Decrease Your Electric Bill – Tips For Using Green Energy

Green-lite-bulb

This planet is the only one we have, so it is essential that we care for it by using green energy when possible. Environmentally friendly energy comes in many forms, such as solar and wind power. What are ways that you can be more green on a day-to-day basis? Reading on will help you learn more.

Get Involved with Green Energy

With the popularity of green energy these days, new jobs are always being created. Be receptive to the idea of entering the green energy field. This could be a transition that benefits you or your family. Discover new jobs that are connected to green energy, such as a wind technician or solar technician.

Think Green in Your Home

Get your home greener by being more responsible with how much light you are using. When the days are longer, leave your lights off as long as possible. Install dimmers so that you can adjust how much light you actually use. In other areas, consider using sensors or timers to make sure that lights are not left on for longer than needed. Make your own ice in the freezer, forget your fridge’s ice maker and save energy. Though automatic ice makers may seem convenient, they often break a lot and waste a lot of energy. The ice maker may not be sealed properly; if the seal leaks, your freezer’s internal temperature will rise. Avoid these issues altogether by making ice in trays. Switch to a solar water heater to heat your pools, showers, hot tubs and kitchen faucets to save money. Solar water heaters use solar energy in an efficient way to heat your water. While many of these upgrades have high up-front costs, they may qualify for tax credits or other rebates.

A good tip in order to save energy for people who cook is to make use of lids while cooking. You can trap heat in your pans using lids so that you can keep the stove’s burners on lower temperature settings.

You can use ceiling fans in the winter. Switch them to rotate in a clockwise position, which pushes warm air back down where you need it, and reduces your overall heating needs. Running the heater less frequently will more than compensate for any electricity used by the fan. Install solar panels to face the sun. The Northern Hemisphere has to have panels facing the south. The angle should be placed at equal to your latitude plus 15 degrees. This will help you get the most energy from the sun. If you want to have hot water, but at a lower cost, then check into solar energy. Purchase a hot water system that uses solar energy. There are direct circulation systems and also direct ones. You’re better off with an indirect system if you are worried about pipes freezing during the winter. Tankless water heaters still require power to heat the water, but they heat only the water that you want to use, rather than heating a tank of water that you’re not always using. You can either get a tankless heater for your entire house or for a only one faucet. You can get rid of your old, tank style water heater and switch it out with a new, greener, tankless one. 

A good green energy tip that will also save you some money is to reduce the temperature to 120 degrees on the water heater. This way, you can save up to ten percent on your energy bill for a four-person family. You will still get enough hot water and it will be safer for children as well. Not only should you reduce energy use, you should try to produce your own energy. This helps cut down energy costs, reduce pollution, and it also makes you an independent energy consumer. This a big step towards better energy efficiency, and there are many options at your disposable to accomplish this. You may want to consider using a geothermal system if you are going to upgrade your heating or cooling system in your home. Underground pipes are used in alternative HVAC systems to run refrigerant along with the water. They then enter a device which either heats or cools your home as necessary. HVAC systems are more efficient due to underground temperature being more steady than above ground temperature.  

Green-Up Your Wardrobe

Wear lightweight, natural fabric during the summer instead of running your air conditioner. Fabrics like cotton naturally draw moisture away from the skin, allowing it to stay cooler. Light colored clothing can also help you to feel cooler.

Green Living Outside

Consider installing solar powered lamps for outdoor lighting. These lamps are inexpensive and do not require any kind of power source other than exposure to the sun. This does more than just save energy. As an added benefit, you are spared the trouble of running an outdoor wiring system.

Conclusion

Green energy helps protect our environment. Every source of power has some sort of effect on the environment, but green energy has the least impact. Now that you have learned a few tips from this article, you will be better able to save money and make the planet friendly for future generations.

Why You Should Unplug Your Appliances

Unplug appliances

If you’re like the typical American, you’ve probably got about 40 household appliances that you routinely leave plugged in – even when these devices aren’t actively being used.

But did you know that even when they’re turned off, appliances and electronic gadgets gobble up energy, costing you money?

The average U.S. household spends about $1,900 a year on energy costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. And the DOE says that anywhere from 5% to 10% of your residential electricity is sapped by devices that are plugged in 24 hours a day.Experts say that most plugged-in appliances generally only eat up low levels of electricity, just about a watt or two. But some electronics – like computers and TVs – consume a lot more power, even when they’re just in standby mode. And it’s the cumulative effect of having so many devices plugged in around the clock that can really add up – hurting your efforts to be eco-friendly and cost conscious.

So here’s a quick rundown of a dozen household appliances and electronics you should unplug to save both energy and money:

  • Desktop computers
  • Laptop computers
  • Televisions
  • DVD players and VCRs
  • Modems
  • Cable TV boxes
  • Cordless phones
  • Stereos and radios
  • Coffeemakers
  • Lamps
  • Toasters
  • iPods and electronic gadgets sapping energy from a plug-in transformer

Things like your DVR and alarm clock need to stay on for obvious reasons — you don’t want to miss a TV program you meant to tape or wake up late for work because your alarm clock wasn’t plugged in.

Alternatives to Unplugging Household Appliances

While it’s smart to unplug to save money, some devices don’t lend themselves well to being constantly unplugged and then re-plugged. Take your cable box, for instance. Unplugging it means the cable box may need a few minutes to reprogram once you plug it back in. That’s kind of a pain, especially if your box doesn’t reboot itself automatically and you have to do a manual reconfiguration of everything.

And what about your washer and dryer? It could certainly help to unplug those mammoth appliances, too. But depending on where and how your washer and dryer are set up, it may not be easy – or even possible – to push those heavy-duty appliancesto the side and get to the plugs on a daily basis.

These are just a few reasons why it can be a hassle to go around unplugging devices and then plugging them up again the next day. Besides, who has time to do that every day? So here’s another option: Use a power strip for various devices, and simply flip the power strip switch, rather than unplug everything.

Another tip: Opt for devices with built-in, energy-saving features. For example, some cell phone chargers “unplug” internally when no phone is connected. Also, various retailers offer plug adapters or power strips that only use power for a pre-set time (like three or six hours) After the pre-determined time ends, these gadgets stop eating electricity.

Finally, if you don’t want to go through the trouble of unplugging electronics around your house, think about ways to tweak your energy use. For instance, say you and the kids are big Wii fans. If you keep the Wi-Fi connection active on your Nintendo Wii even while the game isn’t in use, it’s sucking up about 10 watts of power. But by turning off the Wi-Fi connection, your energy usage drops to just 1.3 watts.

Keeping The Environment Safe From Harmful Chemicals

Harmful-Clening-Chemicals

Think about recycling and maybe the first thing to pop into your head isn’t damage that’s done to the earth when we use products with harmful chemicals, but that’s part of the cycle, too. As well as reducing waste, recycling products and reusing what can be reused, protecting the earth from harm is all a part of the same cause. It’s not something we set out to do, at the beginning of the day; the thought isn’t, “Hmmm, how can I hurt the Earth today?” It probably sounds something much more like, “Gee, I need to clean today, let me reach under the cubboard and see what I have,” not realizing that whatever is done with the products I use to clean, once I’ve cleaned, can be harmful to not only the earth itself, but any living things that may come in contact with the wash off.

We live in a sterilized world, where the idea of a clean home, clean work place and clean where ever we take our children is the first order of business. But we need to stop and think about what harm we may be doing in our quest for the cleanest living area. Is it worth a colony of ants to clean your kitchen floor with a harmful chemical, and that when you dump out the bucket that contains those chemicals, onto the ant hill, you risk wiping out the entire population? Maybe you don’t like ants, and maybe that wasn’t the best example, but you know what I mean. We have a responsibility to the other creatures that share this Earth with us to not purposely do it, and them, harm. We need to be mindful of what our actions are producing and how our actions affect all other living things.

There are so many options for safe-cleaning on the market today that you don’t really have to look much further than your local grocery shelf. Pay attention to the words that describe the items you are buying. Do they contain the words, toxic, poisonous, or dangerous? If they do, then keep reading the next product’s ingredients, there is a better choice out there. Many chemicals are unable to breakdown after they have been used and may make their ways into the streams and have a disasterous affect on any forms of life that inhabit the stream. It will only take a little effort on the part of consumers to prevent something like this from happening, but we must start somewhere. We need to be careful with the chemicals we have easy access to and become more responsible for what happens as the result of our choices. It really isn’t all that hard to make an informed choice and help the Earth; we certainly don’t want to hurt it but being irresponsible with basic cleaning products can do just that; we can end up causing great harm to the planet on which we live. Remember, it doesn’t take much more than a little awareness to be an advocate for the health of the place we call home.

Be Smart. Shop Smart. Clean Smart.

 

 

Eco-Friendly Wall Treatments on a Budget

paper-sheet-wall

One of the great things about eco-friendly wall treatments is that they tend to be budget-friendly as well. This is partly because eco-friendly wall coverings can be made from recycled material you have in your own home, making them extremely affordable.

Store-bought, eco-friendly wall treatments can get pricey – vegetable dyes for wallpaper and fabric, chemical-free adhesive, “green” paint, sustainable wood panels…but there are budget-friendly options at your retailer, too.

So here are some ideas for eco-friendly wall treatments on a budget.

Newspaper_Wall

Scrap Paper

If you need a wall treatment, particularly on one wall, scrap paper may be your answer. What a functional way to use some of those junk mail catalogues and old phone books. You may even be able to tear into some old books, like those 1973 encyclopedias. Raid your basement and attic and look for interesting paper items, and sift through those piles of paper and junk mail. You may be amazed at what you’ll find!

If you are doing this in the summer, look at yard sales and garage sales for scrap paper. You may find some actual wallpaper that someone didn’t need – usually left over from wallpapering a room – that may cover one wall in your home.

Used Covering

If you have a second-hand store or home supply store that sells used items in your area, this is a great place to look for wall treatments. Habitat for Humanity has “Re-Stores” around the country that are in this vein. These are great places to find used paneling and other potential wall treatments for little money.

Papier Mache

Yes, you can papier mache your walls! Soak strips of newspaper in flour and water paste, apply the strips to the wall, allow to dry, and then paint (with eco-friendly paint, of course). This is a great way to recycle those old newspapers, too.

Scrap Fabric

You don’t have to be an expert in needlework to have scrap fabric around. What about old scarves? Clothes that don’t fit? Using liquid starch or a cornstarch paste, you can apply all kinds of fabric to your walls in various designs. Other ideas might include old t-shirts (great for a game room), lacy scarves (imagine a light-colored scarf on a dark wall and vice versa), doilies, and old blankets.

Used Wine Barrel Slats

Used Wine Barrel Slats

Purchased Wall Treatments

Don’t have anything around the house you can use? There are still budget-friendly options that are good for the environment. Look at antique stores, second-hand stores, and other places where people sell used items for little money. Look for materials like old road maps, books (like old encyclopedias and dictionaries), and even used paneling and wallpaper. If you have something in mind, you can often find an eco-friendly “steal” at some of these places!

Green Cleaning Tips

ann-taintor-magnets

If you have taken the time and effort to remodel or redecorate your home and going green, then it is important to remember that you have to maintain that greenness afterwards as well.

Cleaning green is an excellent way to honor your going green choices. Many individuals think that going green is something new; however, if you speak to some elders you will see that being green has been around for quite some time ñ at least in the cleaning department.

Our grandmothers probably used things like lemon juice for laundry stains and baking soda to clean out the refrigerator.  Sometimes something old is something new again.

Paper Products

It really is not necessary to go through a case of paper towels every month for the sake of cleaning your home. Saving paper by avoiding disposable paper towels is a top-notch way to save trees. When you save trees, you save the environment.

* You can use newspaper and a vinegar and water solution for sparkling clean windows.
* Use washcloths for wiping down countertops and tables instead of disposable sponges.
* Use old clothing cut into squares for polishing furniture and throw them occasionally into the washing machine.
* Use cloth baby diapers for cleaning your car and throw them into the washing machine along with your other rags.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice has long since been used for cleaning in a variety of ways around the house.

* Lemon juice can remove tough stains such as cosmetics from your bathroom countertop. (Of course, spot test a small area and speak to the manufacturer before applying.)
* Instead of using bleach, try a half cup of lemon juice in the rinse cycle for brighter whites.
* Water, vinegar, and lemon juice will tackle the inside of your refrigerator and leave it smelling, well ñ lemony fresh.
* A little squeeze of lemon mixed with your dish detergent will help when you scrub pots and pans.

Baking Soda

Baking soda has many uses around the home, some that you may never have tried.

* Put some baking soda on a damp sponge with a little kosher salt and watch your bathroom sparkle.
* Baking soda is an excellent cleanser for your refrigerator mixed with water and some lemon juice. The lemon juice gives your refrigerator a nice, clean scent.
* Baking soda added into your rinse cycle of your wash will create a soft, clean feel to your clothing.

Common things found in your home such as baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar go a long way in green cleaning.

You can also learn tips and tricks for creating your own laundry detergent and soap. All-natural essential oils such as lavender or tea tree oil are excellent additives to a homemade laundry detergent or a homemade furniture polish.

Here are a few basic “recipes” and techniques to get you started:

  • Glass: Mix 1/4 cup vinegar with 1 quart of water in a spray bottle. Spray on glass and wipe clean with old newspaper or a lint-free cloth.
  • Countertops and bathroom tile: Mix 2 parts vinegar and 1 part baking soda with 4 parts water. Apply with a sponge, scour, and wipe away.
  • Floors: Mix 4 cups of white distilled vinegar with about a gallon of hot water. If desired, add a few drops of pure peppermint or lemon oil for a pleasant scent. After damp mopping the floors, the smell of vinegar will dissipate quickly, leaving behind only the scent of the oil.
  • Wood furniture: Mix equal parts of lemon juice and olive and oil. Apply a small amount to a cloth, and rub onto the furniture in long, even strokes.
  • Toilet bowl cleaner: Sprinkle a toilet brush with baking soda and scrub away! Occasionally disinfect your toilet by scrubbing with borax instead. Wipe the outside of the toilet clean with straight vinegar.
  • Disinfectant: Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar, 3 cups hot water, and 1/4 teaspoon liquid castile soap. Wipe on with dampened cloth or use a spray bottle. Wipe clean.
  • Mold and mildew: Wipe with straight vinegar.
  • Air freshener: Sprinkle essential oil on a cotton ball, and stash it in a corner of the room. If you have kids, make sure it is out of their reach as essential oils are very strong and could irritate their skin. Lavender is a relaxing scent that is great for bedrooms, and cinnamon, clove, and citrus oils are great for the rest of the house. You can stash a few in the car too—try peppermint, which may help you to stay alert.