7 ways to conserve water and reduce your water footprint

January 17, 2019 by  
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When it comes to conserving water , making small changes can have a huge impact. But many of us don’t really think about water shortages unless we are in the middle of a heatwave, when temperatures are consistently at 85 degrees or more. Extreme heat or not, the water system is overstretched, and with climate change , we can expect to put even more pressure on the depleting water supply. Here are some ways to do your part in conserving water. According to Friends of the Earth , 97.5 percent of the world’s water is locked in oceans and seas, which means it is too salty for humans to use. The remaining 2.5 percent is mostly in the ice caps, so we are all relying on a tiny amount of freshwater to survive. Water isn’t just for drinking. We use it for bathing, cleaning and producing everything from crops to clothing. It’s time to save water, and we need to do it fast. Here are seven ways that you can start conserving water now. As an added bonus, these ideas can also save you money. Change your diet It takes a lot of water to grow, process and transport food. Raising animals for meat and dairy products is also incredibly water-intensive. To reduce your water footprint , reduce your meat and dairy consumption, switch to shopping local and grow food in your own garden. If more people do these things, they will not only lead to a reduction in total water usage but also in less food waste . Related: Vegan diets deliver more environmental benefits than sustainable dairy or meat Have a plan for your garden If you do have a garden , water your outdoor plants early in the morning or at the end of the day, so the water doesn’t immediately evaporate in the sunlight. Also, make sure to water the soil, so the roots get the much-needed liquid. If you water your plants manually instead of with automatic sprinklers, it can cut your water use by 33 percent. American lawns consume a large amount of water, so reduce how much you are watering your lawn. Installing rain barrels to capture rainwater can also be a huge help and can save you up to 1,300 gallons of water every year. Related: New study suggests it’s time to replace modern, grassy lawns Turn off the tap When you let the water run while you brush your teeth, you are wasting over 1.5 gallons of water. If you have leaky taps, you could be letting up to 15 gallons a week go down the drain. Every minute you spend in the shower burns 4.5 gallons of water. So turn off the tap water when you are brushing your teeth, set a timer on your shower to keep it short and fix those leaky faucets. Don’t forget about the outside of your home. Leaky outdoor faucets, pipes, hoses and broken lawn sprinklers can waste water, too. Also, monitor your water bill for unusually high usage so you can discover leaks. Save your dirty clothes When you wash two half-loads of laundry, it uses more water and energy than washing a full load of clothes. Wait until you have enough dirty clothes to fill up the washing machine. This will not only save water and electricity, but it will also lead to lower utility bills. Related: 10 money-saving tips for a green home Use the dishwasher It may be hard to believe, but if you fill up the dishwasher every time you use it , you will use less water than if you washed the dishes by hand — even if you fill up your sink and clean your dishes without the water running. If you use water- and energy-efficient appliances, you will save even more. When you have extra-dirty pots and pans, let them soak first instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean. Wash your car at home Instead of going to a car wash, wash your vehicles at home on the lawn, so you can water your grass at the same time. Use a hose nozzle or turn off the water while you are scrubbing your car so you can save up to 100 gallons of water each time you give it a wash. Recycle ice cubes When you have leftover ice cubes in your drink, toss them into a houseplant instead of pouring them into the sink. When you are washing fruits and veggies , save that water as well to use for watering your plants. Via Friends of the Earth Images via RayMark , Jerzy Gorecki , Pierre Gilbert , Charles Deluvio , Steve PB , Conger Design , Sasin Tipchai and Hans Braxmeier

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7 ways to conserve water and reduce your water footprint

Planning Your Raised Garden

January 14, 2019 by  
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Raised beds have many advantages. Unlike planters, which are containers, … The post Planning Your Raised Garden appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Planning Your Raised Garden

9 sustainable living tips to take from our grandparents

January 7, 2019 by  
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Our grandparents and great-grandparents lived in a simpler time, and we aren’t just talking about technology . During the Great Depression, many rural areas didn’t have running water or electricity, and things like proper refrigeration, freezers and air conditioning were a luxury. What’s more, big-box chains and massive supermarkets didn’t exist, and you didn’t have the option of throwing a pre-packaged meal into a microwave or hitting a drive-thru for lunch. Many modern conveniences are great, and in many ways, living in 2019 is much more enjoyable than 1935. But there are a lot of things we can learn from older generations to help live a more sustainable life. Here are some things our grandparents and great-grandparents did to live a simpler life that was a lot more eco-friendly. Make meals from scratch For the first time in American history, people are eating at restaurants more than they are cooking at home . In 2016, sales in restaurants passed grocery sales, meaning that people are spending more on eating out than eating in. Cooking from scratch is starting to become a skill that fewer and fewer of us know how to do, and that is resulting in people not knowing where their food comes from or how it was prepared. Related: 10 tasty and easy vegan dinner ideas Not only is cooking a survival skill that everyone should have, but preparing food at home makes you more self-sufficient, and it leads to a healthier diet. Plus, it saves your family a ton of cash, and it is much more environmentally friendly. You will use less packaging when you buy fresh ingredients, and when you skip the restaurant, you can reduce your food waste . If it breaks, fix it We admit that things are made differently than they used to be. With the strategy of planned obsolescence , products aren’t designed to last as long and can break rather easily. From fashion to cars to appliances to electronics, things break, go out of style and become obsolete faster than ever. This can lead to spending money on the newest gadgets and trends, even though we could easily fix what is broken or alter what we have to fit our needs. Our grandparents knew how to mend their clothes and fix broken items, or at least knew where to go to get things fixed. Instead of tossing things out the moment they aren’t perfect, take the time to fix or mend them. Bring your lunch Remember when having a sweet lunchbox was an important part of your life? I loved my old-school metal Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox when I was in first grade, and I didn’t even realize that I was eco-friendly while being stylish. Instead of hitting a vending machine or drive-thru for lunch, avoid the single-use plastic packaging and pack your own sandwich and sides at home, or brown-bag last night’s leftovers. For our grandparents, eating out was a special occasion, not something you do every day. Plant a garden Now this is one popular trend that is rooted in the past. Buying local or growing food in your own garden was a staple of life for our grandparents and great-grandparents. Growing veggies and herbs is something you can easily do, no matter if you live in a rural or urban area, and it is friendly to the environment and your wallet. Related: How to grow a lush garden in your tiny kitchen windowsill Shop smart Those who lived through the Great Depression knew what it meant to be smart with their purchases. If they couldn’t afford it, they didn’t buy it, and they never bought more than they needed. Buying in bulk and using up everything that you buy is a much more sustainable way to live. Buy less and use it all. Go to the store with a specific plan, and reduce those impulse buys. Downsize Less stuff means less worry, and that is what minimalism is all about. That doesn’t mean you have to get rid of every modern convenience, but saying no to some things will help reduce your waste and make life tidier. Huge homes, closets full of clothes you don’t wear and cupboards full of food you won’t eat were foreign concepts to our grandparents. Those things would just give you more things to pay for, service and clean. You don’t have to downsize absolutely every aspect of your life, but simply getting rid of excess clutter can make a big difference in your quality of life and environmental impact. Use a clothesline One of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to give your dryer a rest and hang up your clothes to dry. This option will keep your clothes from shrinking, and your sheets, blankets, shirts and tees will smell clean and fresh. Start sewing During the Great Depression, nearly every household had at least one person that knew how to full-out sew . But now, it’s hard to find people that even know how to sew a button. Get the most out of your clothes and shoes by learning how to patch a hole, replace a zipper or fix a hem. We aren’t saying you have to make all of your own clothes, but knowing how to fix basic problems can lead to more a sustainable lifestyle with less waste. Related: How to sew buttons onto pants and shirts Rethink disposables Ziploc bags didn’t show up until the 1960s, so our grandparents and great-grandparents would store things in jars. After they were done using them, they would wash and reuse. Instead of using single-use plastics to store food or pack your lunch, use containers that you can use over and over again to help reduce waste. Images via Oldmermaid ,  Bruno Glätsch , Maxmann , Priscilla Du Preez , Maria Michelle , Monika P , Monicore and Shutterstock

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9 sustainable living tips to take from our grandparents

Triangular windows bring light and drama to a stunning Bogota bakery

December 26, 2018 by  
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The site of a former house in Bogota has been reborn into a gorgeous bakery and cafe that respects the surrounding residential context. Designed by New York City-based Studio Cadena , the sculptural building draws the eye with oversized triangular windows, a monolithic concrete envelope and contemporary interiors featuring playful terrazzo floors, timber furnishings and pops of greenery. With an area of 7,500 square feet, the restaurant marks Studio Cadena’s second and largest commission for Masa, a popular bakery chain in Colombia. Inside, the building comprises a cafe and bakery along with a dining area and separate retail space. Outdoor seating can be found along a street-facing patio as well as in the rear garden area that overlooks the kitchen through a large circular window. To achieve an airy and open feel, the architects used an open-plan layout and delineated spaces with strategically placed elements such as a long concrete bar, cylindrical wood-clad service station and multi-tiered seating platform at the entrance. “The idea is that everything is connected, but the spaces remain fragmented for intimacy,” explained Studio Cadena founder and principal Benjamin Cadena. “In any space in the restaurant , you might hear or smell things that give a sense of the adjacent spaces, but it isn’t completely open. The design defines distinct spatial volumes yet allows you to move through them with the freedom of an open plan.” Studio Cadena designed all of the surfaces, fixtures and furniture. The variety of lighting designs also distinguish the different spaces, from the large paper globes in the corner cafe to the hand-painted metal mesh that hangs down in the middle of the building. Related: An ancient Jaipur palace property is transformed into a modern restaurant The building volume is built with textured cast-in-place concrete walls inside and out. Triangular windows of different sizes punctuate the concrete envelope and open the restaurant up to natural light while establishing a connection between the street and the interior. + Studio Cadena Photography by Benjamin Cadena and Naho Kubota via Studio Cadena

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Recycling Mystery: Garden Hoses

November 7, 2018 by  
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As winter approaches, it’s time for many homeowners to put … The post Recycling Mystery: Garden Hoses appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Former convent in Valencia is reborn as an ornate entertainment hub

October 30, 2018 by  
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In the heart of Valencia, Spain , the old convent of San José has undergone a sensitive transformation that has turned the historic site into a vibrant gathering space for civic events, a food market and a soon-to-be hotel. Barcelona-based interior design practice Francesc Rifé Studio was tapped for the adaptive reuse project and inserted modern updates while preserving the property’s architectural integrity. The renovation project was completed this year under the name of Convent Carmen. Built in the 17th century, the church has been modified into the main access point for the site and been remade into a multifunctional venue and “21st-century sculpture.” Metal framework was installed to give the space a contemporary edge and to house all new light fixtures and other elements in order to leave the original church walls untouched. New audiovisual technical elements, for instance, including an adjustable color lighting system with RGB, was fitted into the structure. The designers also took cues from the church’s layout and emphasized the dome with three metal circles, from which a sculptural light fixture hangs. “Through this element was intended to develop an obvious past-future connection, and as it happened in the Renaissance the dome takes an essential role,” the architects wrote in the project statement. “This space for the celebration of the religious rite now becomes a privileged place for musicians, lecturers and a multitude of actors, which will make this one of the main participatory focuses of the city. The simplicity of this intervention demonstrates the importance of holding back and making little noise when the context already expresses its memories with force.” Related: Architects convert old Dutch church into a gorgeous library Outside the church, the garden has been redeveloped into a “gastronomic market.”  Shipping containers were repurposed into small-scale restaurants offering different types of cuisines, from fried Andalusian to Japanese sushi, all coordinated by Michelin-star chef Miguel Ángel Mayor. The casual setting, illuminated by fairy lights, features shared and varied seating options built mainly of tubular metal and phenolic surface boards dyed black. The addition of palms and other trees give the outdoor space an oasis-like feel. + Francesc Rifé Studio Photography by David Zarzoso via Francesc Rifé Studio

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Earth911 Podcast, Oct. 15, 2018: Sustainability in Your Ear — Fall Garden Planning

October 15, 2018 by  
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Join Evelyn Fielding-Lopez, Mitch Ratcliffe, and Sarah Lozanova as they … The post Earth911 Podcast, Oct. 15, 2018: Sustainability in Your Ear — Fall Garden Planning appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Podcast, Oct. 15, 2018: Sustainability in Your Ear — Fall Garden Planning

War ruins are reborn as a sustainable home in Lebanon

October 11, 2018 by  
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Having survived the Lebanese Civil War as a torture and detention center for militia forces, The House With Two Lives has a colorful past to say the least. So when Lebanese design practice Nabil Gholam Architects was asked to renovate the structure — originally built as a resort building in the 1930s — the firm took its time to sensitively pick apart the site’s history and breathe new and positive life into the property. Described as a “difficult exorcism,” the design process saw the reuse of the historic ruins and the insertion of a brand new home celebrating nature and sustainable design, from rainwater harvesting systems to passive cooling strategies. Located near the Lebanese mountain village of Bois de Boulogne and surrounded by beautiful pine forests, the House With Two Lives was designed to blend in with its idyllic surroundings. To “cleanse the house of its troubled history,” the architects introduced new plant growth to camouflage the building into the landscape, from vines that climb over the ruins to more than 1,000 pine trees planted in the garden, including umbrella pines, oak trees, cork trees, Lebanese cedars and more. The site has also gained a new rose garden. The theme of regrowth and revival has also been applied to the architecture of the house, which comprises a three-story main house of 2,000 square meters as well as an annex and guard house of 850 square meters. The new additions to the existing 1,500-square-meter stone ruins of the main house were articulated as a series of Corten steel -clad boxes that will develop a patina over time and are perforated with tree-shaped patterns. Sustainability guided the design of the renovated structure, which is built with high-performance insulation and follows passive solar strategies. The home also harvests solar energy for winter heating and uses rainwater collection systems. Related: Modern alpine home is built on the ruins of an old rustic structure “The case of this house is as dreadful as it is beautiful,” said the architects, who spent months stripping the existing structure of leftover torture devices, black ashes and graffiti. “The story behind it and the testimonials backing it makes it stand as a powerful message. The House With Two Lives restores faith in man’s will to fight and is with no doubt an example of an architectural work of high precision.” + Nabil Gholam Architects Photography by Geraldine Bruneel, Nabil Gholam, Joe Kesrouani and Richard Saad via Nabil Gholam Architects

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War ruins are reborn as a sustainable home in Lebanon

War ruins are reborn as a sustainable home in Lebanon

October 11, 2018 by  
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Having survived the Lebanese Civil War as a torture and detention center for militia forces, The House With Two Lives has a colorful past to say the least. So when Lebanese design practice Nabil Gholam Architects was asked to renovate the structure — originally built as a resort building in the 1930s — the firm took its time to sensitively pick apart the site’s history and breathe new and positive life into the property. Described as a “difficult exorcism,” the design process saw the reuse of the historic ruins and the insertion of a brand new home celebrating nature and sustainable design, from rainwater harvesting systems to passive cooling strategies. Located near the Lebanese mountain village of Bois de Boulogne and surrounded by beautiful pine forests, the House With Two Lives was designed to blend in with its idyllic surroundings. To “cleanse the house of its troubled history,” the architects introduced new plant growth to camouflage the building into the landscape, from vines that climb over the ruins to more than 1,000 pine trees planted in the garden, including umbrella pines, oak trees, cork trees, Lebanese cedars and more. The site has also gained a new rose garden. The theme of regrowth and revival has also been applied to the architecture of the house, which comprises a three-story main house of 2,000 square meters as well as an annex and guard house of 850 square meters. The new additions to the existing 1,500-square-meter stone ruins of the main house were articulated as a series of Corten steel -clad boxes that will develop a patina over time and are perforated with tree-shaped patterns. Sustainability guided the design of the renovated structure, which is built with high-performance insulation and follows passive solar strategies. The home also harvests solar energy for winter heating and uses rainwater collection systems. Related: Modern alpine home is built on the ruins of an old rustic structure “The case of this house is as dreadful as it is beautiful,” said the architects, who spent months stripping the existing structure of leftover torture devices, black ashes and graffiti. “The story behind it and the testimonials backing it makes it stand as a powerful message. The House With Two Lives restores faith in man’s will to fight and is with no doubt an example of an architectural work of high precision.” + Nabil Gholam Architects Photography by Geraldine Bruneel, Nabil Gholam, Joe Kesrouani and Richard Saad via Nabil Gholam Architects

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War ruins are reborn as a sustainable home in Lebanon

How to grow a lush garden in your tiny kitchen windowsill

October 2, 2018 by  
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Envision a garden — you probably picture rows of corn neatly spaced across a field or lettuce coming to life in large raised beds. What you might not realize is that produce can grow very well in limited spaces, too. You can transform the confined windowsill in your kitchen into an oasis of herbs, greens and other goodies. In addition to growing flavorful herbs and fresh food, you also bring visual appeal to the space and produce a natural  air filtration system . By growing plants organically, you know what you are eating, and you can save money. It’s also nice to be able to easily pluck fresh flowers, herbs or produce any season of the year. When you’re ready to tackle the challenge, here are some tips and tricks to get you started on growing your own windowsill garden. Picking the best plants for a windowsill garden There are myriad possibilities when it comes to selecting plants for your indoor garden. First, consider your preferences. Are you looking for unique, conversation-starting plants that draw interest, or is your goal to produce as much food as you can from your space? Also think about the amount of time you can dedicate to the garden. Since vegetables need frequent attention, consider durable houseplants if you have less of a green thumb. You can start plants from seed, cuttings or plants. Plants are the easiest and most productive option. Cuttings are started from existing plants. Simply trim off a 3-4 inch section and place it into a jar or glass with the bottom in water. Change your water about once a week to avoid bacterial growth. After roots appear (in a week or two), transfer your cuttings to soil. At first, help your cutting adjust by keeping it quite moist, and then gradually cut back the water as it stabilizes in the soil. If you want to start with seeds, seed trays are a good way to develop individual plants. Use a seed soil or potting soil rather than heavy garden soil , which can be too dense for seeds to grow through. Related: 6 foods you can regrow from kitchen scraps Most compact vegetables will do well in a windowsill garden. Look for dwarf varieties that remain small in size but produce a quantity similar to outdoor gardens . Snow peas, cucumbers, radishes, different types of lettuce, spinach, bush beans, green onions, garlic, chilies, sprouts and microgreens are all examples that will perform well in the right indoor conditions. Also consider porch tomato options, such as cherry tomatoes. Just about any herb will grow happily inside the kitchen. Some great options include basil, dill, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, dill and tarragon. Choosing plant containers The containers you choose can make a unique, artistic statement or create a peaceful, uniform landscape. Consider whether you want them all to match or if you prefer an eclectic blend. Use terracotta pots in their natural form, or give them a fresh coat of paint.  For a DIY look, cover them in chalk paint and label each pot with the plant it contains. Alternately, select your favorite ceramic pots, baskets or vases; use an old canister, tea kettle, bowls or jars; or gather standard store-bought resin planters. When choosing your planting containers, size is the biggest factor. Make sure you have room for each plant to spread out its root system without confinement. Plants will not be happy with compressed roots. Also make sure that the container you choose will fit on the windowsill. Whether you’re using a rain boot or an antique tea cup, make sure you have a drainage hole in the bottom of your container with some sort of saucer to catch the water that filters through. Finding a home for your indoor garden The location of your windowsill garden can be the difference between success and failure. South-facing windows are best, because they do not suffer from the harsh afternoon heat or struggle to find light. Many plants will thrive in an east-facing window as a second option. Wherever you locate your plants, they should receive at least 5-6 hours of direct sunlight daily. If your space doesn’t allow adequate sunshine , artificial light via heat lamps can do the trick. Set them on a timer to help you out and also to provide more consistent light for the plant. Make sure that your plants don’t come into direct contact with the cold window glass during the winter months, and protect them from the blazing greenhouse effect on hot summer days. Also stay away from areas with drafts, such as fireplaces or central heating vents. Tending to the garden Once you’ve selected your plants, containers and location, it’s time to pamper, watch and wait. Label all of your plants for easy reference. You can also include any care instructions that you want to keep close at hand. Keep your plants moist without providing too much water . You can set up drip systems for consistent watering or simply dip your finger in each pot every few days to feel for moisture. Offer your plants fertilizer every few weeks to boost health and productivity. Watch for signs that your plants are not getting the proper amounts of food, water or sunlight, and make adjustments as needed. Related: Why are my plants turning yellow? After herbs are well-established, pinch them back frequently to encourage bushy growth and keep them from going to seed. If the air in your house is dry from a wood-burning stove or other heat source, lightly mist around your plants weekly to improve humidity. Also rinse your plants every few weeks to deter insects, and be sure to look under the leaves for evidence of bugs. When your garden is thriving, propagate your next round of plants. Take cuttings and get them in water. Cut your green onions without pulling them out of the soil, and they will regrow. After harvesting your garlic, replant individual bulbs to grow again. Windowsill gardens are a great way to enjoy your garden all year without concern for outdoor weather conditions. Plus, it keeps your harvest within arm’s reach, adds variety to your meal plan and sparks visual appeal. Start your own windowsill garden and discover the many joys of indoor gardening for yourself. Images via Till Westermayer , Gemma Evans ,  Cassidy Phillips and Shutterstock

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