Tips and tricks to make spring cleaning more eco-friendly

April 3, 2019 by  
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When the spring cleaning season comes around, many homeowners turn to their favorite cleaning products to tidy up. But not all of your go-to cleaners are good for the environment. Many products on the market feature harmful chemicals that leach into the ecosystem, causing harm to people and the environment alike. If you are looking to get into spring cleaning mode without potentially hurting your health, here is a quick guide on what chemicals to avoid and how to clean with the environment in mind. Chemicals linked to health problems Cleaning chemicals may eliminate harmful bacteria from your home, but they also can lead to serious health problems. This includes irritating eyes, skin and respiratory systems. The most obvious health issues that arise are due to skin contact with toxic chemicals that are absorbed by the body. According to AcuuWeather , harmful chemicals can also enter the air and cause respiratory problems. Individuals who clean on a daily basis are more susceptible to these issues, especially when it comes to long-term health concerns. Identify harmful chemicals There are a number of different chemicals that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deemed volatile. According to SF Gate , this includes ammonia, nitrogen and phosphorus, all of which are commonly found in household cleaning products. For example, most dishwasher detergents contain about 40 percent phosphorus, while nitrogen is a common ingredient in glass cleaner. Related: How to decode confusing labels on common household cleaners Keep chemicals out of the water Many of the chemicals you use in the spring cleaning process end up in the sewage, whether they are rinsed down the sink or flushed in the toilet. Fortunately, the majority of chemicals are filtered out in sewage plants before the water goes to rivers and lakes. That said, nitrogen, ammonia and phosphorus are not removed in treatment plants. Instead, these three chemicals usually end up in waterways, where they contaminate larger bodies of water like lakes and oceans . Once they enter freshwater environments, they can wreak havoc on aquatic life and plants. These chemicals can also contaminate water supplies if they are dumped in large concentrations. Avoid air contamination As noted earlier, harmful chemicals in household products can enter the air and cause respiratory issues. If you open windows while cleaning for better ventilation, you are simply pushing these volatile chemicals into the atmosphere. In fact, the EPA has found that cleaning chemicals contribute to pollution and smog, which is why some are restricted in select locations, such as California. Ventilating the harmful chemicals outside may be better for the indoor air quality , but it is more harmful for the environment in the long-term. Although using harmful chemicals has major side effects, there are plenty of ways you can keep your house clean without harming yourself or the environment. Use eco-friendly cleaners The best way to avoid harmful cleaning products is to look for non-toxic chemicals. These products are usually equipped with an eco-friendly or biodegradable label. You should also avoid buying products that are known to irritate skin or are flammable. Related: Truman’s wants to reduce single-use plastics in the household cleaner industry You can also make your own eco-friendly cleaning products with a few household staples. Ingredients like lemon, vinegar, baking soda and glycerine are great at combating dirt and grease. A mixture of soap and water or water and vinegar can easily remove tough stains while eliminating germs. You can also add a little baking soda for some added abrasion. Get rid of paper towels You can burn through a lot of paper towels during spring cleaning, which is not great for the environment in the long run. As an alternative, try buying reusable towels to clean. You can pick up some affordable towels at your local grocery store or cut up old T-shirts. Using old clothes will also keep waste out of the landfill. Clean up the laundry There is no denying that dryers are a big convenience of modern society. But, according to Planet Aid , you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint by hang-drying your clothes on a regular basis. Dyers consume a lot of electricity, so only using them on rainy days helps the environment and puts some money back in your pocket. Related: Get ready to use soapnuts for everything from cleaning to self care When it comes to washing, look for detergents that have an eco-friendly label. Although these cleaners used to be expensive, the costs have come down considerably, and you can usually find natural alternatives at competitive price points. You can also purchase cleaners in bulk to save even more money. Reuse household items for cleaning Instead of throwing away old clothing items or toothbrushes, use them for cleaning. Toothbrushes are great for reaching tight corners, and even an old sock can be put to work dusting. If you are really creative, you can even sew together old towels to create a makeshift mop cover. Once you are done with these items, you can either wash and reuse them or put them in the recycle bin. Images via Public Domain Pictures , Fotoblend , Pasja1000 , Alex and Stevepb

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Tips and tricks to make spring cleaning more eco-friendly

The problem with coffee pods and the eco-friendly alternatives to use instead

March 28, 2019 by  
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Many Americans have become accustomed to using single-serving brewers to make their morning cup of coffee. Not only are these coffee pods — such as K-Cups and Nespresso pods — convenient to use, but they come in an assortment of flavors and coffee types to meet anyone’s taste. While coffee pods are a convenience of modern times, they come with a dark side. The vast majority of these plastic capsules end up in our  landfills  every year, contributing to the  growing problem of plastic pollution . Fortunately, there are viable alternatives to the  single-use  coffee pod — and even coffee distributors like Keurig are doing their best to address the problem. What are coffee pods? Coffee capsules, like K-Cups and Nespresso pods, are typically filled with enough coffee  grounds for a single cup of a caffeinated (or decaffeinated) beverage. They generally consist of small plastic containers fitted with an aluminum foil lid. Once the coffee has been dispensed, the containers are no longer of use and are disposed of in the trash. The coffee pods end up in a variety of places after they are thrown away. The majority of them end their lives in landfills, though a good amount ends up in rivers, lakes and ultimately oceans. The plastic containers eventually break apart into smaller chunks, which can endanger  wildlife . Why are they so popular? Coffee pods have been around since the ’90s , but they only recently boomed in popularity. The rise of single-use coffee pods happened in 2012, when the number of pod users jumped to around 10 percent. That number has steadily risen over the years. According to USA Today , over 40 percent of residents in the United States have purchased a single-cup coffee brewer at some point in time. Convenience is the biggest reason people are switching over to coffee pods, and companies, like Keurig, Folgers, Starbucks and Kraft Heinz, have made them more accessible than ever. Coffee pods are difficult to recycle One big issue with coffee pods is that they are frequently too small to recycle . The sorting systems used in recycling plants have trouble picking them up, which means most of them end up in the trash. Related: This British cafe is serving to-go coffee in ceramic mugs to combat waste There are a few companies that use aluminum coffee capsules, which are easier to recycle. The downside, however, is that aluminum exposure is a health concern. Luckily, companies are looking into making pods out of polypropylene, which can be shredded and recycled. How many coffee pods end up in landfills? It is difficult to determine how many coffee capsules end up in the trash on an annual basis. Some researchers estimate that there were enough coffee pods buried in landfills in 2014 to go around the Earth 10.5 times, though other estimates put that number at 12. In 2018 alone, Keurig sold close to 10 billion K-Cups, though its new multi-cup pods are recyclable. Speaking of recyclable pods, more and more companies are offering these eco-friendly alternatives . In fact, Keurig plans to become completely recyclable by next year, though it is still up to users to actually put them in the recycling bin. Compostable and biodegradable options There are a few companies, such as San Francisco Bay Gourmet Coffee, that offer biodegradable and compostable pods. These pods can be placed in compost bins, or users can put them in their home compost piles. Related: HuskeeCup is an eco-friendly cup made entirely from coffee waste The downside to these pods is that you need to have a public composting facility in your town if you are not composting at home. You should also know that the biodegradable pods still take a long time to break down and are not that beneficial to the environment. Refillable pods With  plastic waste  continuing to be an issue around the world, the best way to improve the environment is to curb our dependence on single-use plastics altogether. To that end, the better alternative is coffee pods that are  refillable and reusable . These pods are not thrown away after use and can be cleaned and refilled on a daily basis. There are several companies that offer reusable capsules, including Keurig, Fill ‘n’ Save and Eko-Brew. Just ensure the refillable pod fits your machine before purchasing one. Single-serve alternatives For those who have not purchased a Keurig coffee maker or are looking to switch things up, there are single-serve systems that do not use plastic pods. In fact, several coffee makers have features that enable users to make anywhere between one to 12 cups of coffee at a time. This includes Cuisinart and Hamilton Beach. French press systems are another good alternative to using coffee pods. A few companies even have single-serve French press machines, some of which attach themselves on top of a coffee mug. What does the future hold for coffee pods? Given the environmental concerns, the future of coffee capsules remains in question. If companies are able to produce more eco-friendly alternatives to the plastic model, it is possible that single-serve pods will continue to grow in popularity. If the environmental concerns are not addressed, there are fortunately other alternatives that will hopefully replace the single-use pods once and for all. Images via Shutterstock, Tony Webster and Inhabitat

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The problem with coffee pods and the eco-friendly alternatives to use instead

These bold, eco-friendly bathrooms reduce water usage by 80%

August 3, 2018 by  
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Hong Kong-based design practice Ida&Billy Architects have completed an unusually eye-catching bathroom redesign for a Guangzhou shopping mall that boasts striking looks and sustainable elements. Crafted with human comfort in mind, these renovated toilets at the TaiKoo Hui mixed-use development are almost a destination in themselves due to the colorful patterned aesthetic, sculptural clean lines and adherence to green design principles. In addition to the use of recycled materials and gray water recycling systems, the eco-friendly bathrooms also feature air-purifying indoor plants. Tucked underground, the bathrooms at TaiKoo Hui are designed to embrace their subterranean location with a modern grotto-like appearance featuring curved doorways and openings. White paint brightens up the curved walls while LED strips illuminate the space. The original bathroom layout was preserved during the renovation to minimize structural and piping changes. The original sandstone and gray tiles were crushed and turned into aggregate for the newly cast dark gray terrazzo floors. “The sustainable design toilet aims to raise the environmental awareness in the public realm and to become the role model of sustainability in the commercial and retail sector,” the architects explained in their project statement. “The design aims to tie back to nature, formally as well as environmentally. Sustainability, spatial sculpting and human comfort drive the whole design.” Related: 8 toilet designs that could save millions of lives around the world The architects chose glass fiber reinforced gypsum (GRG) panels (made with recycled content) to create the curved surfaces that seamlessly connect the walls to the ceilings in the eco-friendly bathrooms. Aided by two fans for circulation, indoor plants improve indoor oxygen levels and bring a splash of green to the windowless space. Collected and filtered gray water is used for irrigation. The waterless urinal and water-saving toilets are estimated to save water usage by 80 percent and reduce waste by 60 percent on a daily basis. + Ida&Billy Architects Via ArchDaily Images via Ida&Billy Architects

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These bold, eco-friendly bathrooms reduce water usage by 80%

The Goldtree House is designed for sustainable family living

August 3, 2018 by  
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When kids hit their teens, your house suddenly feels smaller. The atmosphere is hectic, groups of friends traipse in and out, and parents often retreat to a bedroom for peace and quiet. However, one clever family with teenage twins got ahead of the curve, asking Hartree and Associates Architects to remodel their home to accommodate these changes and create a private apartment for the parents down the road. The owners of the Goldtree House, a 1950s home in East Fremantle, Australia, wanted the renovation to include ample space for their children to entertain guests, as well as help the house withstand frequently inclement weather. They also needed a revamp that adhered to their firm budget while providing the best views of nearby Fremantle Harbor. The first step was removing the existing roof and constructing a new top story. The added level includes a new master bedroom, plenty of living space, and a kitchen with sweeping views all around. The owners envision this level as their private “apartment” many years in the future. The ground level is devoted to the needs and tastes of teenagers and their friends. The internal spaces were simplified and revamped to include ample views of the surrounding landscape as well as optimum sunlight and a current of internal breezes. The floor plan easily flows from the entryway to the great room for adolescent games and socializing. It also provides easy access to the terrace, thriving garden and pool, the latter of which was designed to eliminate the need for a privacy fence. Related: A 1950s house receives a bioclimatic renovation in Mexico Besides a photovoltaic solar panel array , the home also includes eco-friendly water and energy management through natural air ventilation, energy-efficient fixtures and equipment, and native garden plants that require minimum watering. Two wind turbines and storage batteries for power are also part of the home’s green technology. The twins were involved in the renovation from inception through completion, which gave them a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. They proudly share the outcome with their friends. + Hartree and Associates Architects Images via Robert Frith

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The Goldtree House is designed for sustainable family living

Architects build their own rammed-earth office around existing trees

August 3, 2018 by  
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Paraguay-based design firm  Equipo de Arquitectura has created a number of innovative structures, but when it came to constructing their own office space, its designers decided to go back to basics. The team has just unveiled the Caja de Tierra – a beautiful,  rammed-earth construction that was built around existing trees. When the architects set out to build a new office space for themselves, they decided to focus the design on nature, with the goal of fostering a sense of connection to the earth. As the structure’s concept began to take form, the architects decided they would employ just three basic materials: earth, wood and glass. Related: Striking rammed earth home blends into the hills of Santa Fe The architects built the cube-like structure on-site themselves. First, they had to sieve the earth to eliminate rocks, roots and large particles. Once the soil was “clean”, they mixed it with cement and placed it in mold-like modules. The mixture was then pummeled with a pressure tool to get rid of air and pack it tightly into place. When the elongated, 30-cm-thick earthen blocks  reached a sufficient consistency, the team placed them on top of each other, forming four beautiful rammed-earth walls. The result? A gorgeous facade with red and orange tones that blends seamlessly into the natural surroundings. Contrasting with the all-earthen walls is a large glass skylight, cut into one of the corners in order to flood the interior with natural light – a feature that also reduces the structure’s energy usage. In keeping with the environmentally-conscious design, all of the furniture and doors were made out of reclaimed wood. With a lot surrounded by greenery, the team did what it could to protect the existing plants growing on-site. Specifically, the architects designed the layout to leave space for two existing trees . A flame tree is framed in an all-glass box that juts into the interior while a majestic guavirá tree holds court right in the middle of the office space. + Equipo de Arquitectura Via Archdaily Photography by Leonardo Mendez and Federico Cairoli via Equipo de Arquitectura

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A goodbye from Inhabitat founder Jill Fehrenbacher

June 7, 2017 by  
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After 12 years as the Editor-in-chief of Inhabitat.com, I say goodbye today — as I step down from running Inhabitat in order to focus on my soon-to-be-expanding-family. This change is bittersweet for me, as Inhabitat has been one of the central focuses and passions in my life for more than a decade. I started Inhabitat.com back in 2005 as a way to explore the power of design to improve the world for the better – first quitting my digital marketing job and then dropping out of grad school to focus on all of my energy, money and attention on growing the website. For years I put all of my blood, sweat and tears into growing Inhabitat to be the premiere website for green design and innovation, and I believe that our website has really made an impact in shaping the global conversation around what design can and should be. I worked on Inhabitat through the births of my two children, and even launched a parenting website the day before my first son was born – merging my personal and professional lives in a way that might not have been entirely healthy! I roped my husband into penning columns for Inhabitat , my kids made videos and starred in sponsored promotions , and this endeavor has always been more like my third child rather than just a job for me for more than a decade. But now that I have a real third baby coming, I realize I needed to make more time for my growing family. Inhabitat’s wonderful Managing Editor Mike Chino , who I have had the pleasure of working with for almost 10 years, will be taking over the leadership of this website moving forward. I want to thank him, and all of the amazing and inspiring people I have worked with over the past 12 years, who helped to make this site what it is today. First, the current Inhabitat team of Mike Chino , Tafline Laylin , Kristine Lofgren and Lucy Wang – thank you guys so much for all of your hard work, creativity and amazing ideas that you bring to Inhabitat on a daily basis. I know the site will be in great hands with their talents and I can’t wait to see how it evolves. I also want to give shout outs to my early partners in the fledgling years; creative-powerhouses Sarah Rich and Emily Pilloton – you guys have both gone on to do so many incredible and inspiring things, but Inhabitat to this day is still shaped by your input from so many years ago. I have so much gratitude for the Inhabitots and Ecouterre Managing Editors Jasmin Malik Chua and Beth Shea , and the many awesome editors and project managers I had the good fortune to work with over the years. And thank you to our early investor Thomas Ermacora for supporting the website, business advisor Shayne McQuade , and the folks at out parent company Internet Brands for taking a chance on our boutique website back in 2011. Finally, thank you to all of the readers, without whom Inhabitat wouldn’t be possible. I have met so many amazing people, and had so many inspiring conversations through the course of this project, and Inhabitat owes a lot to all of you. I look forward to seeing how Inhabitat evolves in the coming years. If you want to reach me, you can find me on social media and at my personal email address JillFehrenbacher at gmail.com

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A goodbye from Inhabitat founder Jill Fehrenbacher

50 Days In: How Trump Is Handling Eco Issues

March 13, 2017 by  
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With the Trump administration inspiring plenty of heated debate on a daily basis, one of the hot-button topics remains the earth. In the immediate aftermath of the election, environmentalists were worried about several issues, including climate…

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Eco Living Expedition: Why Two City Slickers Chose Off-The-Grid

May 26, 2016 by  
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What on earth could inspire two city slickers to shun the city life and set out on a new adventure? One that would challenge their knowledge and survival skills on a daily basis? Meet Jesse and Alyssa, who decided to leave behind their comfortable…

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Eco Living Expedition: Why Two City Slickers Chose Off-The-Grid

Flow Batteries for Household Power Storage

March 31, 2016 by  
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Residential power storage options are starting to get more competitive with a flow battery being introduced to the market in Australia. Flow batteries have been something we’ve looked at for grid-scale storage , and the research into the technology has been making advances. But it has been primarily a utility-scale technology. However, the technology has been developed to suit a smaller scale, and a commercial version of a household-scale flow battery is coming to market in Australia with a 10kWh flow battery called ZCell . The ZCell uses a zinc bromide flow battery developed by the parent company Redflow . The Redflow battery offers several advantages over lithium-ion battery packs, including high temperature tolerance without a need for active cooling; full cycle depth available and no cycle depth limitations; no concern about thermal runaway; and an electrolyte that is also naturally fire retardant. The system has been announced with an installed price of “between $A17,500 and $A19,500 a system” (around 14,000 US dollars or 12,500 Euro). The annual average household energy demand for Australia (in 2010) of 7,227 kWh translates to about 19.8kWh per day, so the ZCell would only account for half of that if it was fully charged and then discharged on a daily basis. However, it is likely that many of the homes and businesses with the greatest interest in the ZCell would be more efficient than average. Local power storage such as the ZCell or the Tesla Powerwall allows direct storage of energy produced by solar panels or other on-site generation when that production exceeds demand, and then allows that stored energy to be used later, when needed. Local power storage can also be used for load-shifting in areas with tiered electricity rates, where higher prices charged for power during peak periods and off-peak periods have lower rates. In cases like that, the battery is charged during less expensive, off-peak times, and then the battery is used instead of the higher-priced grid power for things that need power during the peak periods of the day.

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Flow Batteries for Household Power Storage

Study Reveals That World Cash Supplies Are Contaminated With BPA

August 10, 2011 by  
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When you heard that the increasingly controversial plastics ingredient Bisphenol A, or BPA , was found in credit card receipts and other thermal copies you probably thought, Fine, I’ll use cash . But now there’s evidence that your good cash money is also contaminated with the stuff. Whether you’re using Euros, dollars, rubles or yuans, you’re being exposed to BPA on a daily basis. Read the rest of Study Reveals That World Cash Supplies Are Contaminated With BPA Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: bisphenol A , BPA , cash , currency , environmental health , toxics

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Study Reveals That World Cash Supplies Are Contaminated With BPA

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