7 Unexpected Things You Can Compost

October 16, 2020 by  
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7 Unexpected Things You Can Compost

Infographic: How To Compost at Home

September 4, 2020 by  
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Infographic: How To Compost at Home

Earth911 Inspiration: Trustees of the Earth

September 4, 2020 by  
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Today’s Earth911 inspiration is from J. Sterling Morton, founder of … The post Earth911 Inspiration: Trustees of the Earth appeared first on Earth 911.

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7 easy science experiments for kids at home

August 28, 2020 by  
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Many kids will be spending more time learning from home as the school year ramps up during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without the beakers and test tubes of the science lab, it may seem difficult to provide hands-on learning. But have no fear, we’ve put together a list of easy (and fun!) home science experiments to entertain and educate youngsters at the same time. Lava lamp This experiment is sure to produce oohs and aahs from the smallest scientists. Prepare a clear plastic bottle; inside, fill the bottle one-quarter of the way with water. Then fill the rest of the space (nearly to the top) with vegetable, mineral or baby oil. Wait for the oil to settle above the water, then add a few drops of food coloring. Related: This DIY algae kit is an easy science experiment for kids The food coloring carries the same density or weight as water, so it will pass through the oil and color the water below. Now comes the fun part. Add a fizzy tablet, such as an Alka-Seltzer, to the container. It will plop to the bottom and then begin to release colorful bubbles as the carbon dioxide it produces finds its way to the top of the container. The experiment highlights the laws of science where lighter objects, such as gases, will float to the top while heavier substances will sink to the bottom. Water cycle in a jar The water cycle on our planet is a complex phenomenon to explain. After all, we don’t see water vapor rise. To create a visual expression, place about two inches of boiling water into a canning jar. Parents should handle this part. Then place a ceramic plate right-side up over the opening of the jar, sealing it. Wait about three minutes for steam to accumulate. Put several ice cubes on the top of the plate outside the jar. The warm air in the jar will condense and create water droplets, like rain falling from the sky when moist air from the Earth’s surface meets cold air from the atmosphere. Ocean in a bottle With a clean bottle, water, oil and food coloring, make an ocean in a bottle by replicating waves. Fill a plastic bottle one-third to halfway with water. Use blue and green food coloring to create the ocean color you desire. Of course, you can add a primary, secondary and tertiary color lesson at this time by allowing your child to mix blue and red to create purple or yellow and red to create orange. Leaving a few inches at the top, add vegetable or baby oil and tightly replace the cap. Now rock and roll the bottle to create waves. Volcano There are many ways to create your own volcano at home. You can get creative with papier-mâché or simply use a bottle or upturned box. Better yet, make a simple volcano shaped dome out of dirt, leaving a hole in the top to add ingredients. This is a messy project, so it’s best to create your eruption outdoors. Inside the homemade volcano of choice, place a container near the top to hold your ingredients. Support it from below if necessary. Add two spoonfuls of baking soda to the inside of the volcano. Follow that with a spoonful of dish soap (bubbles!) and about 10 drops of food coloring. Red and yellow make a nice orange color, but let the kids experiment. That’s what it’s all about! Now get ready for your eruption with the addition of one to two ounces of white vinegar. The idea is to replicate the pressure that builds up in nature, so play around with different amounts of ingredients . For a more explosive volcano, you can use a two-liter bottle. Place two teaspoons of dish soap, 6-7 tablespoons of water, a few drops of food coloring and 1 ½ cups of white vinegar. Add about ½ cup of baking soda quickly and step back! This experiment shows how pressure builds the need for carbon dioxide to escape. Create a sundial There was time before there were watches and clocks. Show kids how to monitor time using the age-old sundial technique, right from your yard. Simply find a long stick and insert it vertically into the ground. Begin on the hour, say 8 a.m. Use chalk or small pebbles to mark the shadow created by the stick. Come back each hour to mark the new shadow spot. Do this throughout the day to complete your sundial. Explain to children how the Earth’s rotation around the sun causes the shadow to move. Solar oven Heat from the sun on a hot day can cook lunch with the aid of a solar oven. To show kids exactly how powerful solar energy is, simply line the lid of a pizza box with foil from top to bottom. Line the lower portion of the box with black paper. Cut a window out of the lid, hinging it with about two inches remaining around the border. With the hinged portion open, adhere plastic wrap to the top and bottom of the remaining lid, creating a double pane “window” between the foil wrapped lid and the pizza box bottom. Ensure the plastic is sealed all the way around using tape to hold it in place. Once complete, take your box outside. Put food inside the box and angle the foil-lined lid to reflect light and heat through the clear plastic and onto the food. Prop your lid into place using a stick or straw and check frequently to make adjustments as the planet moves. Bon appétit! Grow veggies and compost While setting up a lab in the kitchen is fun, science is all around us in nature. Observe the changing of the seasons through leaves and plant cycles. Start with seeds and grow some pea plants. Also use your organic food scraps to show kids the magic of composting . + Science Fun Images via Adobe Stock, Adriel Hampton , Oliver Lyon and Jonathan Hanna

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Community First! provides affordable, permanent micro-housing

August 28, 2020 by  
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Community First! Village in Austin, a 51-acre sustainable development, provides  affordable housing  to Central Texas’ chronically homeless. McKinney York Architects recently designed two new micro-house concepts inside the community. These tiny homes are changing lives by providing homes for hundreds of locals who have fallen on hard times. The program, developed by Austin-based non-profit  Mobile Loaves & Fishes , consists of 120 total units. The organization is a social outreach ministry that has worked with the local Austin  homeless  community since 1998 through prepared feeding programs, community gardening and more. Related: Modular, affordable housing project opens in Portland McKinney York Architects founder Heath McKinney and her team chose to design two pro-bono micro-houses inside the community. These homes showcase the firm’s creativity and attention to detail while contributing to a  sustainable  cause. “Being a good neighbor to our local community is an important part of our office culture,” said Aaron Taylor, project manager for the first micro-home . “This, coupled with the firm’s mission to provide quality design for everyone, really made working at CommunityFirst! Village a fulfilling experience.” This first  tiny home  features what McKinney York Architects’ website describes as “humble modular materials” that “lend dignity to the dwelling through a straightforward, logical aesthetic expression.” The home also includes a screen porch positioned to take advantage of summer breezes while providing shelter from winter winds. Openings encourage cross-ventilation, and a double roof creates shaded heat gain reduction during the warmer months. “We try to find opportunities for great design, despite the inevitable constraints, whether it’s the size and orientation of an existing concrete slab or the available construction budget,” said Navvab Taylor, leader of the second home design team. The second home includes a butterfly roof to catch breezes and  collect rainwater  for the garden. Pine paneling accents the interior, and a screened porch keeps mosquitoes away while creating an open public space for socializing. + McKinney York Images © Thomas McConnell

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What to do with banana peels

July 31, 2020 by  
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Banana peels. They’re so associated with comedy, you probably crack a smile just thinking about these famous casings. Bananas are a delicious snack and a little taste of the tropics that just about everyone enjoys, but they’re also an environmental problem. So what can you do with banana peels once you’ve eaten the delicious treats they keep wrapped inside? What’s the big deal? Other than being an obvious slip-and-fall hazard, what’s the big deal with banana peels? For starters, they produce methane gas. This gas is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, which is already pretty bad stuff for the planet. Related: 10 ways to use up mushy, overripe bananas Americans eat around 3.2 billion — yes, billion — pounds of bananas every year. That is a lot of methane-producing peels. But don’t give up on eating bananas just yet. There are plenty of environmentally friendly uses for banana peels. Banana peels as fertilizer and compost If you’re a home gardener, banana peels are a valuable resource. Wrap your peels around the base of your tomato plants. This works as a great slow-release fertilizer that provides your plants with nutrients, namely phosphorus, throughout the season. You can also soak your peels in water overnight. Take the banana-rich water and mix it with standard water to use for all your indoor plants. You want to get a ratio of about one part banana-peel water to five parts normal water. Banana peels are a great addition to the compost pile or bin because they are so rich in nutrients. The peels break down very quickly in compost. These peels are also great for animal feed as well. If you keep chickens, rabbits or any type of livestock, grind up dried banana peels and add them to your feed. Do you have aphids in your garden ? Cut two or three banana peels into pieces and dig one-inch holes near the base of your plants that are damaged from insects. Drop the pieces of peel inside. Ants and aphids will be drawn to the peels instead of to your plants. Home remedies If you have itchy bug bites or a rash, such as poison ivy, these fruit skins provide soothing relief. Rub the peel directly on the area to reduce the itchiness and help your skin heal. You can even use banana peels as a cheap polish. Rub the outer layer of peels on leather items of all kinds, including shoes and furniture, to polish the leather. Blend a peel with water to make silver polish. Need to remove a splinter? Leave the needles in the sewing kit and grab yourself a banana peel. Tape a piece of the peel to the skin directly where the splinter has embedded itself and leave it there for about 30 minutes. The enzymes in the peel will naturally draw the splinter toward the surface of the skin so it can easily be pulled out. You can integrate banana peels into your daily skincare routine, as they may help fade scars and soothe acne. Rub the fleshy part of the peel directly on your face. Let it sit for about 10 minutes before you rinse your face thoroughly. Do this every day, and you could notice an improvement in scars and acne within a week or two. Banish bugs Grab a container with a lid and poke some small holes in the lid. Place the peel inside and cover the container with the perforated lid. This is a great way to attract and trap fruit flies and other little insects. They’re drawn to the sweet smell of the banana, and then they’re trapped by your DIY trick. You can throw the peel away after a day or two and freshen the trap as needed. Cook with banana peels Get creative and start experimenting with cooking banana peels. They can be made into vinegar, pickled in brine, broiled with cinnamon and sugar to become a unique dessert or even turned into a spicy curry. There are dozens of ways to cook with the peels that you once threw away. Once you start using them in your recipes, you’re going to find all kinds of ways to give new life to those peels. Add a peel to any roasting pan when you’re cooking meat or fish. This helps to tenderize and moisten the meat while it’s cooking. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can actually just eat your banana peels. They’re full of antioxidants and nutrients, so they’re actually really good for you. Boil peels for about 10 minutes in water and run it through the juicer or blend it up with other fruits and enjoy! Banana peels make a great chutney ingredient, too. Soak them in cold water, then boil the peels and chop them up to mix in with other chutney ingredients to add a tasty, nutritious burst to your dish. There are several different recipes for banana tea online, or you can play around with your own recipe . If you boil the peels for about 10 minutes, enough flavor will be released into the water to create a great flavor. You can also candy your peels to use as a topping for cupcakes, cakes, yogurt, ice cream and a variety of other treats. Chop up the peel into small pieces and cook it on medium heat with a half-cup of sugar and a half-cup of water. Once it caramelizes, spread the mixture on a cookie sheet or parchment paper to allow it to cool. Then, you can chop or break it into pieces and have a sweet banana topping any time. Getting serious about banana peels It’s no laughing matter — banana peels have too many uses to simply be thrown away. The peels are a great source of both potassium, magnesium and fiber, and they’re packed with Vitamins C and B6. So if you’re throwing out your peels, you’re losing out on an all-purpose personal care product, household remedy, garden aid and cooking ingredient that can be added to just about anything. Images via Louis Hansel , t_watanabe , Vicran and bluebudgie

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12 things you should never compost

July 7, 2020 by  
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Composting is an easy and effective way to deal with food waste and fertilize your garden. Compost bins are readily available for purchase in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. You can also easily make your own composter or even simply create a compost pile. Layers of brown material, food scraps and green material decompose, turning into nutrient-rich soil for your garden. Although composting is simple and advantageous, there are still some items that you should never toss into the mix. Here are some compost no-no’s to abide by. Pet waste Although it may seem like a natural material , dog poop and cat litter are not suitable for the compost pile. Remember, in essence, if it’s in the compost, it’s on next year’s lettuce. Do you want cat poop in your lettuce? Besides the yuck factor, parasites, bacteria, germs and viruses that are harmful to humans can survive in this waste. Fish Even though fish scales and other parts break down quickly, it’s not quick enough if you have cats in the neighborhood. Fish is best left out of the mix mostly because it is likely to attract animals. Plus, the smell is likely to offend the neighbors. Meat Meat is another stinky attractant. Not only will your dogs and local wildlife be unable to resist the temptation, but the internal temperatures created during the composting process might not get high enough to kill pathogens. Related: Compostable, portable Stak pods eliminate the need for individually wrapped snacks Treated wood Pressure-treated lumber is a durable choice for fencing, decking and other outdoor projects. But when that wood has served its purpose, find a disposal method where it doesn’t end up in your compost. The chemicals in pressure-treated lumber can leach into your food and also compromise the balance of your compost mixture. Untreated lumber and bark chips can go into the compost, as can other natural materials, such as straw.  Fire ashes Similar to the reasons explained above, wood ash can contain chemicals that affect the end product of compost. However, if you’re certain the ashes are exclusively from clean, untreated, natural wood , it can be a nice addition to the mix. Dairy products All animal products are likely to attract unwanted attention to your compost pile, so cheese, yogurt, milk and other dairy products should not be composted. Although some critters, such as worms, are useful for composting, the rodents and flies that would go after the rotting dairy would just cause problems for your compost pile. Fat, oil and grease Again, these items attract animals , but they also upset the balance and repel some of the water that is essential to the decomposition process. Diseased plants Although the composter is the perfect spot for plants you’ve pulled from the garden or yard, make sure the plants are disease-free. Any bacteria or other infestations can transfer to other plants down the road, so it’s best to dispose of them instead. Weeds For a backyard composter, the temperatures are often lower than commercial facilities that treat all kinds of yard debris, so use caution with which plants you add. Weeds can often survive the heat limitations of a backyard composter, meaning they can pop up again in the garden after you’ve dispersed the compost. Grass clippings with pesticides Grass clippings are a welcome element and typically make up the “green” portion of the compost recipe. However, if your lawn is treated with pesticides , keep the clippings out of the composter and, subsequently, your food supply. The chemicals in the grass can also kill organisms essential to the composting process. Black walnut components While nearly every organic plant, with the exception of weeds, is welcome at the composting party, black walnut trees produce juglone, a substance that can be dangerous or even deadly to many vegetable plants. Plastics It might seem obvious that these are inorganic materials, but some packaging is deceptive in its phrasing and might claim to be compostable. The truth is that many plastic-like polymers still have to reach temperatures only achieved at commercial facilities. So while the label may say it is compostable, read the fine print. It will usually clarify whether the statement pertains to a commercial facility or is suitable for the backyard.  The advantages of composting are both obvious and extensive, so don’t derail your efforts by adding the wrong materials. Instead, focus on the many options you do have to create a healthy compost pile. All organic food scraps, mostly those from fruits and vegetables, can be combined with eggshells and even coffee grounds. For the second element, include brown items such as unprinted paper bags, toilet paper rolls, unbleached napkins, small twigs, leaves and bark. Finally, round out your ingredients with the green from healthy plant materials and untreated grass. Once you get started, you’ll find out just how many items can be diverted from the street cart to the compost pile — a win for your garden and the planet. Images via Shutterstock

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Cooking for Compost: Thanksgiving

November 20, 2019 by  
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Cooking for Compost: Thanksgiving

The Screen House comfortably and sustainably connects with the outdoors

October 23, 2018 by  
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When Camberwell-based design practice Warc Studio Architects was tapped to renovate and extend an existing Edwardian residence in Victoria, the Australian firm also wanted to open the house to greater connection with the outdoors. To mitigate the site’s potentially harsh western aspect and hot summers, the architects strategically constructed an externally operable screen that inspired the project’s name, the Screen House. Passive solar principles were also applied to keep the home comfortable year-round as were other sustainably minded design decisions, such as low-VOC finishes, formaldehyde-free plywood and the inclusion of a compost and vegetable garden. Completed in 2016, the Screen House began with the renovation of an existing detached weatherboard Edwardian residence. The architects upgraded the bathrooms and private areas while simultaneously improving internal circulation and making room for greater landscaping and a new swimming pool. To make the most of the newly added gardens and swimming pool, the firm designed an addition to house a new open-plan living room, kitchen and dining area overlooking the landscape. The main corridor that connects the extension to the existing house provides immediate views to the rear garden from the front entrance. “Windows, cabinetry, walls and ceilings were strategically placed to unveil views and openings to the outside,” the architecture firm explained. “As the the occupants proceed toward the rear, a series of views unfold: the North garden framed by cabinetry; glimpses of the sky through a strip skylight ; views of trees through high level windows; screened views to the western outdoor areas.” Related: An energy-efficient extension in Melbourne captures the owners’ adventurous spirits Timber hardwood screens envelop the rear additions to mitigate unwanted solar gain without compromising views and can be manipulated to maximize seasonal variation in passive solar radiation. To minimize energy needs and waste, the Screen House has also been equipped with high-performance insulation, double glazing, rainwater harvesting and hydronic heating underfoot. + Warc Studio Architects Images by Aaron Pocock

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The Screen House comfortably and sustainably connects with the outdoors

This geometric cabin in Slovenia is a perfect romantic getaway for nature-lovers

October 23, 2018 by  
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For those looking to enjoy a serene glamping retreat, this tiny geometric cabin in Slovenia is a dream getaway. Located near the region of Maribor, the itsy-bitsy wooden hut is designed to blend seamlessly into the natural landscape thanks to a large glazed front wall that looks out over the expansive rolling hills. Guests can enjoy the fresh air while swinging from a hammock on the wooden deck or soaking in the hot tub. Guests of the tiny cabin , which starts around $170 per night, will enjoy the modern simplicity of the design. A geometric volume expands the space of the compact interior while adding character to the overall aesthetic. The floor-to-ceiling windows on the front facade were used to connect the interior with the exterior. Of course, the swinging hammock on the front deck is the best way to enjoy the panoramic views of the rolling green hills, mountains and valleys that surround the cabin. Related: This itsy-bitsy treehouse in Norway offers the ultimate off-grid escape The cabin comes with everything needed for a romantic getaway for two. The interior is small with just a queen-sized bed, but it is flooded with natural light . There are also a few tables and shelves for personal belongings. The bathroom is located just a few steps away, and linens and towels as well as bathrobes and slippers are all provided. The best part of the tiny cabin is the wooden deck that has a hammock as well as a small sitting area to enjoy the views. This deck is perfect for a morning cup of coffee or a glass of wine in the evening. Guests can also enjoy a community fire pit onsite as well as a large fireplace for barbecues. As an extra bonus, the hosts provide a breakfast basket every morning, filled with products from local farms . + Glamping Hub Via Apartment Therapy Images via Glamping Hub

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This geometric cabin in Slovenia is a perfect romantic getaway for nature-lovers

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