5 tips for beautiful, sustainable Thanksgiving decor

November 16, 2018 by  
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November marks the season of Thanksgiving . With Halloween decor packed up and Christmas trimmings still in totes, it’s time to focus on unveiling the essence of Thanksgiving in your home. Shelves of decor line the store aisles, but many of those options contribute to the destruction of our environment. By making some small, conscientious decisions, you can reduce transport emissions, eliminate plastic consumption and give used items new life while giving your home the holiday flair you envision. While pulling together the look for your Thanksgiving decor, keep sustainability in mind with these tips. Emphasize natural elements The truly wonderful thing about the fall months is the abundance of natural materials you can find and use in your autumn decor. Skip the retail purchases and head outside for organic finds nearby. Curve those grapevines into a circle, and use this as a base for a fall wreath. Adorn it with the colorful red berries that dot the landscape this time of year, and embellish the wreath further with dried leaves or flowers, pine cones or nuts. You could even glue on small apples or pumpkins. Related: How to host Thanksgiving dinner in a tiny home or small apartment Similarly, the same materials can be used to create centerpieces for your Thanksgiving table or as seasonal decorations for your coffee table. Lay out pine boughs and top them with colorful gourds. Grab those still-firm pumpkins, carve them into a bowl and stuff them with fresh greenery. Use clear glassware, jars, vases or water pitchers to hold pine cones, leaves, berries, nuts or colorful rocks. Fresh citrus or apples make a gorgeous centerpiece when placed in simple clear or white bowls. Make a statement by placing a votive candle inside a carved-out mini pumpkin or apple. Set bottles around the house, and fill them with fresh-cut lavender, rosemary or mint. Surround that centerpiece with a eucalyptus ring. Your mantle is another perfect place to add some visual appeal. Thread together orange and red leaves to make a swag, and add small pumpkins painted different colors. Also, remember that Thanksgiving is represented by the colors and products of fall, so take advantage of hay bales, corn stalks and gourds to decorate your front porch. Avoid plastic Anyone who’s spent more than a few minutes considering steps toward sustainability knows that plastic is petroleum-based, which causes problems for the environment — and plastic never goes away. If you decide to purchase decor for your home, look for materials that are eco-friendly and will give you the gift of longevity, resulting in less waste. Find a wrought-iron turkey or hunt down ceramic pumpkins. Buy glass platters and real fabric tablecloths instead of the single-use versions. Upcycle With very little effort, you can find decor that allows you to reuse something that’s already been produced rather than buying new. For example, take those mounting canning jars and etch them with festive designs. Alternately, you could decoupage them with leaves. Fill with orange candles and display them on your mantle or table. Look around your house for a bucket or rusted watering can, and dress it up with bundles of wheat or corn stalks. Hit up the local thrift shop for table runners, used decor and themed dishware. While upcycling might involve plastic items and is not always a zero-waste initiative, the more life we can give to existing products, the less production pollution and post-consumer waste we will have — a win-win for the environment. Get crafty The long, dark evenings of fall are the perfect time to get crafty. Take the kids for a nature walk and collect acorns, leaves, twigs and other natural elements. Once you return home, glue the materials onto fall-colored paper, forming letters on each sheet to spell out, “Give Thanks,” or something similar. Punch holes in the top corners of each paper and thread yarn or rope through them to create a banner for your wall. Crafting can also overlap with upcycling. For example, paint a wine bottle, add a twist of twine to the top and embellish with words. Make a few and group them together. The kids can use toilet paper or paper towel rolls to make hanging turkey decor, place markers or napkin rings. Related: Six yummy, organic pumpkin recipes you can make for Thanksgiving! Turn food into edible art Most people associate Thanksgiving with food, and many would agree that food can be art. Why not give your edibles dual purpose by designing munchable masterpieces? Start with that cornucopia you’re dying to put out and fill it with candy, grapes, apples, pears, satsumas, chocolate, pretzels, bread or nuts. You can carve a watermelon into a boat or basket and fill it with fruit. Head over to Pinterest, and look for ideas that will transform your veggie tray into a turkey pattern. Don’t forget about dessert — make some cookie turkeys or cut out a leaf pattern from your upper pie crust. Remember that the goal is to express the spirit of the season, which is gratitude. Nothing shows gratitude for your home and yard more than using natural elements. Hosting a sustainable Thanksgiving also shows gratitude for the planet and those you love that live on it. Images via Shutterstock

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Japanese cherry blossoms spring into unusual fall blooms

October 22, 2018 by  
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The springtime cherry blossom festival in Japan is an annual celebration that draws in spectators from all around the world. For the Japanese, the ‘hanami,’ or flower viewing, is a moment shared among family and friends who gather to celebrate nature’s beautiful and awe-inspiring rebirth. This week, however, cherry blossoms have been blooming two seasons ahead of schedule following two recent typhoons in the area. The premature fall blooms are extremely uncharacteristic of the sakura trees, which seemed to have been tricked by the extreme weather events to spring before … well, spring. “I have never seen anything like this,” tree surgeon Hiroyuki Wada said to local broadcasters. “This year’s storms affected wide regions, and the strong winds may have caused the blooming.” The strength of the September and October typhoons stripped many cherry blossom trees of their leaves, which experts are saying caused early indications for the trees to bloom. Furthermore, warm temperatures following the typhoons misled the trees by inviting the early flowering. Related: Climate change is causing spring to come earlier in national parks Normally, the earliest blooms are witnessed in the northern parts of Japan , where cherry blossom festivals begin as early as February in Naha. For the rest of the nation, the viewing season is concentrated around the first week in April, and the latest viewings in Hakodate and Sapporo occur in early May. While the current blooms are not expected to affect this year’s spring hanami, the unusual events are drawing attention to the issue of earlier bloom patterns. Last year, a report in The Washington Post shed light on the work of Yasuyuki Aono, an environmental sciences professor at Osaka Prefecture University, who assembled a data set of Kyoto’s blossom-flowering dates . The research chronicles blooms as far back as A.D. 850 and, when graphed, shows an undeniable and worrisome change in bloom periods over the past 200 years. Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann said, “Kyoto is just one location on the planet. But the large-scale warming of the past century is so distinct and widespread that it is increasingly evident from diverse records all around the globe.” Mann isn’t wrong. In 1912, Japan gifted Washington D.C. 3,000 sakura trees as a sign of friendship between the two nations. The National Park Service’s records, dating back to 1921, show a similar pattern of earlier and earlier blooming each year. Meteorologist Jason Samenow explained, “In both Kyoto and Washington, the warming trends and earlier blooms are most likely due to a growing urban heat island effect and increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.” Beautiful though they may be, the second blooming of the cherry blossom trees are not a welcome sight for the Japanese nor for scientists. While there is hope that this is a once in lifetime event, there is still much work to be done in ensuring this anomaly doesn’t become commonplace. Via NPR , The Washington Post  and Japan Specialist Image via Don Kawahigashi

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How to throw a fun, zero waste Halloween party

October 22, 2018 by  
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October is flying by, and Halloween will be here before you know it. To celebrate the holiday, many of us like to throw a party at home, work or school full of pumpkins, candy, costumes, food and decorations. Americans spend billions of dollars on Halloween every year, and many of the things that we buy (plus the packaging) end up in the trash on November 1. But if you love celebrating Halloween with a fun party, it doesn’t mean you have to generate piles of garbage. There are plenty of ways to have a festive holiday without leaving behind a trail of trash. While you put together ideas for your ghoulish celebration, keep the environment in mind — throw an eco-friendly party with zero waste. Invite your guests to bring food and containers Instead of purchasing dozens of baked goods and treats from the store, ask each of your guests to bring a home-baked item like cookies, cupcakes, pies or brownies. They can bring them in containers that can easily be washed instead of thrown away, and this will keep the trash at your party to a minimum while also saving you money. Another bonus of guests bringing baked goods is that it reduces the number of leftovers you will have at your house, since everyone will take home the dish they brought. Speaking of leftovers… also ask guests to bring their own containers if they’d like to take home any food that is left at the end of the night. This way, everyone can enjoy the party even after it ends, and you can keep food waste to a minimum! Use natural decorations Decorating for Halloween is one of the most fun parts of the holiday, but you don’t need to head to your local Halloween mega-store to buy a bunch of plastic decorations that you might never use again. This can get expensive, and the waste from the packaging and the poorly made plastic products with toxic paints and chemicals just aren’t good for the environment. Related: 10 sustainable Halloween decorations for your green home Instead, use pumpkins and other gourds to decorate. You can keep them plain, paint them or decorate them with ribbons and bows. Also, get creative with fall outdoor items like pine cones, branches and leaves. Going natural with your decor and centerpieces keeps with the spirit of the fall season without requiring a ton of money or leaving behind waste. Make recycling bins easily accessible For items at the party that can be recycled, place recycling bins in the room and near the front door, so that people will remember to use them before they leave. Adding recycling bins to the party instead of using just trash cans will help minimize your party waste. This is especially important if you choose to use disposable, recyclable items. If you want to skip doing a lot of dishes and decide to use paper plates or recyclable plastic cups and utensils, having recycling bins in a convenient spot will prevent them from going into the garbage and reduce your carbon footprint . Provide finger foods Try serving finger foods so you don’t need as many plates and utensils, if you need them at all. Deviled eggs, chicken (or soy ‘chicken’) wings, chips with dip, bread, cupcakes, brownies and sandwiches are all great party foods that you can easily eat with your hands. Light your space with natural candles Lighting for an indoor Halloween party can be far from environmentally friendly. Instead of using a ton of electricity, try creating some ambiance with natural candles. Not only do candles nicely illuminate any space, but they can also create a spooky, mysterious vibe. If you want to get really creative, use  pumpkins as candle holders . Compost perishables Instead of throwing away food and perishables, compost them! You can even compost your pumpkin decorations. You don’t want to throw them out and take up all of that space in the garbage (and later, a landfill). Instead, compost everything you can to help next year’s garden. Related: Composting for beginners Offer eco-friendly party favors If you enjoy giving out goody bags to your guests, think about what you are putting inside as well as the type of bag you are using. Instead of buying items at the store, you can make things like cupcakes or cookies that your guests can take home. Use small, reusable gift bags or paper bags that can be recycled. Even tiny glass jars filled with candy make a cute, zero waste gift that doesn’t cost a fortune. It’s never too late to make your Halloween party a big green bash. These simple tips will help you reduce your carbon footprint, and some items could initiate good, thought-provoking conversation topics during your zero waste celebration. Via Recycle Nation and Joy of Zero Waste Images via  Raw Pixel , Helena Yankovska , Imordaf , Damien Creatz ,  Element5 Digital ,  Ben Kerck , Clem Onojeghuo and Shutterstock

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Celebrate the season with this guide to sustainable fall activities

September 28, 2018 by  
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As the leaves and sunsets transition to an autumnal palette of yellows, oranges and reds and a chill fills the air, you’re probably dragging the boots and sweaters from the back of the closet. But the end of summer doesn’t mean the end of outdoor fun. In the midst of temperatures dropping and the smell of pumpkin floating around, fall is the ideal time to plan nature-based activities. When considering your options, think about the potential impact on the environment , and create an earth-friendly itinerary for the coming months. Here’s a list of sustainable fall activities to help you savor the best season of the year. Celebrate fall harvest Fall is an amazing time for produce , and the season brings plenty of sustainable opportunities to preserve and enjoy the delicious food that nature provides. Head to a local farm to pick apples or pumpkins, then bake pies for friends and family or host a cider press party to use up the abundance of crisp apples. Harvest the last of the summer squash and zucchini, and get ready to enjoy fall veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Collect juicy plums and pears for your kitchen fruit basket. To preserve summer and autumn produce for the colder months, can and pickle fruits and veggies or toss them in the freezer. Now is also an excellent time to bake fresh breads to store in the freezer. Remember to enjoy garden fresh food, too. Related: 5 mouthwatering plant-based fall recipes Create DIY gifts and decor It’s not too early to be thinking about the holidays, and fall is the perfect time to make sustainable presents with gifts from nature herself. Concoct herb-infused cooking and massage oils, vinegars and liquors, and be sure to dry any leftover herbs for fragrant satchels or to use in winter recipes. The vibrant hues of the season also make excellent decor for your home. Make fall wreaths with autumn foliage, or create festive tablescapes with homemade pumpkin, pinecone or gourd centerpieces. Related: DIY fall decor using upcycled items from thrift stores Immerse yourself in nature The falling leaves of autumn beckon for company, so lace up your boots and grab a jacket. Go for a hike while the weather is still pleasant, or head out for some final bike rides before it is too cold and snowy to tolerate such activities. Take the kids (or yourself!) out to hunt leaves, and embrace the opportunity to learn and teach about different types of trees and plants. Enjoy a weekend camping trip or an afternoon picnic. Challenge yourself with a visit to a corn maze, or enjoy a breezy day flying kites. Visit a local farmers market, and take time to learn about the food you are eating. Tour a nearby winery. Get active by playing catch with a football or baseball, or throw a Frisbee around the backyard. After a day at the pumpkin patch, enjoy the chill evening air by carving pumpkins on the porch — just be sure to use the guts and seeds, rather than tossing them into the trash! Related: How to cook a whole pumpkin (seeds, guts and all) Prepare your yard and garden for winter If temperatures in your area allow it, plant fall and winter crops in the garden, or plant bulbs for spring. Remember to feed your compost bin during the fall months with scrapped fruit and vegetable peels, cores and rotting pumpkins — compost will help your garden soil and any planted bulbs stay healthy through the colder months. Make a pinecone and peanut butter bird feeder and bird houses to hang on the porch or in the trees for winter. The fall season is full of opportunities to get into nature , so grab a basket, pull on your boots and wrap up in a scarf. The great outdoors await! Images via Ricardo Gomez Angel , Dei R. , Christopher Jolly , Patrick Fore and Lukas Langrock

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What To Do With Autumn Leaves

September 21, 2018 by  
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Ah, fall. Back to school, sweater weather, and warm drinks. … The post What To Do With Autumn Leaves appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Couple turns old toy hauler into a gorgeous tiny home for their family of four

May 28, 2018 by  
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Rusty and Autumn Bailey travel a lot for Rusty’s job, so in order to travel comfortably on the road, they purchased a Keystone Fuzion 416 toy hauler to transform into their dream home on wheels. Surprisingly, it only took about 12 weeks to convert the 300-square-foot camper into a homey, light-filled tiny home with plenty of custom-made features designed to provide optimal space efficiency for a family of four. The couple began to reform the interior of the 42-foot-long camper by incorporating as many  colorful and bright accents as possible. The original interior was very dark and drab, so the ambitious couple painted all of the walls white. Beautiful Persian rugs bought on eBay for less than $100 adorn the interior. Related: 7 beautifully designed tiny homes that fit big families The next major upgrade to the space was the flooring. With a large family, the couple knew that they had to have durable flooring, so they went with a waterproof vinyl plank tongue-in-groove flooring with a cork base for easy installation. The kitchen was also in desperate need of a makeover. The couple updated the space with a butcher block countertop made out of 8? slabs of builder-grade honey maple, then repainted the cupboards a dark slate grey, which contrasts nicely with the home’s contemporary all-white interior. For the bathroom renovation, they used a little bit of the leftover butcher block slab to create a nice vanity space. A beautiful hammered copper sink, found on eBay, completes the sophisticated look. The family also completely renovated the sleeping quarters in order to create the maximum amount of space. They gutted the former  main bedroom and converted it into their oldest child’s bedroom, adding a closet with a sliding door and a tiny play area. Autumn says that they focused on opening up the space as much as possible for the couple’s first child: “We tried to keep it open so he had all the space he needed to romp around in and play with toys.” Finally, the couple gutted the master room to make space for a large bed, instead of the existing bunk beds. With just a coat of new paint on the walls and new flooring , the master bedroom became a calming oasis with natural light flooding in through the windows. According to Autumn, the entire camper renovation , which she and Rusty did themselves, took about 12 weeks and cost approximately $6,000. The family posts updates on tiny home living on their Instagram page, @AutumnABailey. + Asphalt Gypsy Via Dwell Images via Autumn Bailey

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Artist turns golden leaves of Sacramento Gingko tree into inspiring works of art

December 21, 2017 by  
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Gingko trees are renowned for their majestic beauty, but come autumn and a certain artist at Sacramento State University is busy raking those beautiful golden leaves into intricate designs. Joanna Hedrick , a counselor at the university and self-proclaimed “falling ginkgo artist,” spends hours creating her nature-based artwork , turning her design work into an annual campus tradition. Hornet Hive #exploresacstate #fallengforsacstate #sacstate #csus #ginkgo #ginkgobiloba #fallenginkgoart Una publicación compartida de Joanna Hedrick (@joanna_hedrick) el Nov 24, 2017 at 4:58 PST Joanna, who has a background in art and landscape design, began her artistic work years ago in an attempt to create a nice backdrop for family photos. What began as a simple clean up process, however, has turned into an annual tradition, beloved by all on campus. Her leaf art has become quite famous around town, but especially for those students who need a bit of distraction during finals. Related: Artist recycles leaf waste into biodegradable Beleaf chair Sunday Sunburst Labyrinth photo by @golconda1 #fallenginkgoart #sacstateginkgoart #labyrinth #ginkotree #ginkgobiloba #ginkgo #sunburst #fallingforsacstate #csus #sacstate #sacramento #rakingleaves #ginkgoleaves Una publicación compartida de Joanna Hedrick (@joanna_hedrick) el Dic 10, 2017 at 12:41 PST Hendrick uses a rake to comb the leaves into a variety of detailed shapes , from spiraling circles and honeycombs, to a complex golden labyrinth. She estimates that each design takes her about two to three hours, and is usually able to makes about six unique displays during the fall season. Having become something of a local legend, Hendrick is proud of her nature-based artwork . She told Sactown Mag , “[My art] is about taking something that’s already beautiful and making something unique—something you don’t just pass by.” + Joanna Hendrick Instagram Via Boooooom Photography by Joanna Hendrick Instagram

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Artist turns golden leaves of Sacramento Gingko tree into inspiring works of art

France completely bans fracking and oil extraction

December 21, 2017 by  
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The French Parliament recently passed into law a complete ban on the extraction of oil and gas within any of France’s territories. Beginning in 2040, fracking, oil drilling, and other extraction methods will be banned across France . Meanwhile, no new permits to extract fossil fuel in France will be given. Although this law highlights France’s commitment to take action against climate change, it is primarily a symbolic gesture. France imports 99 percent of the oil and gas that it consumes, extracting only a negligible amount from its territory. To put this in perspective, France extracts about 815,000 tons of oil per year, the same amount extracted every few hours in Saudi Arabia . While France’s recent law may not have a large direct impact on greenhouse gas emissions , French lawmakers hope that the move will inspire other European nations to make similar commitments, with Socialist lawmaker Delphine Batho telling the Guardian that she hoped the ban would be “contagious.” Left-wing members of parliament abstained from the vote to ban, while the right-wing Republicans party voted no. The law’s impact will be most felt in French Guyana, France’s South American territory where oil companies had sought to drill. Related: France is the world’s most sustainable food country French President Emmanuel Macron has sought to position France as a global leader on climate change. As the United States has retreated on the world stage, France has stepped forward. Macron has gone so far as to offer grants to climate scientists from American institutions to do research under a government that recognizes the reality of climate change. Internally, France is taking action. Gas and petrol vehicles are to be banned in France by 2040, and the government is working to shift the energy economy away from fossil fuels and nuclear power, and towards clean renewable energy. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1)

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US to lift restrictions on making viruses deadlier and stronger

December 21, 2017 by  
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The United States National Institute of Health (NIH) announced on Tuesday that it will soon end a three-year moratorium on funding research projects that aim to make pathogens more powerful than they are naturally. The restrictions were put in place during the Obama Administration while the NIH created a more comprehensive system of risk-benefit analysis for the research. Now that such a system has been developed, the NIH is moving forward with its plans to develop more dangerous forms of deadly viruses . The goal is to study these lab-grown super-viruses to determine how these viruses might evolve in the real world, enabling experts and institutions to prepare antiviral medicines or other public health responses. Projects that engineer super viruses in the hopes of learning their weaknesses are called “gain-of-function” studies. Scientists seek to learn how a virus interacts with its hosts may change based on evolution . While research involving highly dangerous pathogens is strictly regulated, the potential cost from a mistake or malicious action could be devastating. Former CIA director John Brennan recently highlighted biological weapons, like a weaponized form of the ebola virus , as one of the most pressing existential threats facing the United States. Related: Scientists harness tobacco plants to produce polio vaccine Between 2003 and 2009, there were 395 reported incidents in which human error created a situation in which people were at risk of infection from these deadly viruses. Only seven infections resulted from these 395 events. Although this research is ostensibly to serve the public’s interest, some scientists question whether the risks are worth any potential reward. Gain-of-function studies have “done almost nothing to improve our preparedness for pandemics, yet they risked creating an accidental pandemic , said Marc Lipsitch, epidemiologist at Harvard University, according to Nature . It would seem that the NIH did its due diligence in preparing a comprehensive policy concerning the research of deadly pathogens. Hopefully it is enough to keep these super viruses behind tightly closed doors. Via Motherboard Images via NIAID   (1)  

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US to lift restrictions on making viruses deadlier and stronger

Icelands geothermal Blue Lagoon is getting an amazing new hotel this year

March 30, 2017 by  
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Travelers have been drawn to Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon for decades, eager to take a dip in the steamy, mineral-rich water nestled in the heart of a lava field. Hundreds of thousands of visitors make the journey every year to experience the magical, intensely blue pools for themselves. Now, the spa is making plans to expand into a full-fledged resort with the 62-room Moss Hotel, a new Moss Restaurant, and a new spa called Lava Cove. The man-made lagoon is filled with the waste seawater released from a nearby geothermal power station. While the water is perfectly safe for visitors to take a dip in, the high mineral content makes it unsuitable for recycling and it must be filtered through the porous rock of the lava field before it can be returned to the landscape. The lagoon gets its trademark milky blue shade from the silica, sulfur, and other minerals infused in the water, which is said to aid relaxation and heal skin problems such as psoriasis and eczema. Related: Iceland’s Blue Lagoon is an Incredible Hot Spring Spouting from the Runoff of a Geothermal Power Plant The new hotel will offer visitors stunning views with floor-to-ceiling windows and terraces leading directly to the geothermal waters. For a broader view, guests can visit the hotel’s balconies to see the stunning scenery of the lava field. The goal of the new resort is to make its connection to nature as seamless as possible. The subterranean Lava Cove spa takes advantage of the natural landscape, offering visitors the chance to explore lava corridors, waterfalls, and other geological features while they rest and relax. The new Moss Restaurant will serve up fresh, local, seasonal ingredients inspired by Icelandic cuisine, along with stunning views of the resort. The new resort is currently under construction and set to open in Autumn of 2017. + Blue Lagoon Hotel Via CNN

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