Thursday, October 30, 2008

Download an eBook from EcoBrain and Save the Environment

Are you looking for a green book to spur some eco-friendly inspiration? Look no further than eBooks from EcoBrain.com!

This website has hundreds of eBooks about natural health, outdoor activities, green cooking, eco-friendly kids, climate change, and so much more. Browse everything from serious eBooks (like Climate Solutions) to sassy eBooks (like Sex in a Tent).

EcoBrain eBooks are greener than traditional books because they are paper-free books that you download and read on your computer or handheld device. This not only cuts down on paper consumption, but it also boosts energy and fuel conservation efforts. No printing, no binding, no packing, no shipping...just point and click, download, and read. It doesn’t get much easier (or greener) than that.

Prices range from a mere $1 to over $300. Plus every two weeks, EcoBrain features a new eBook that is totally FREE. You can browse by topic, price, or publisher. Or do a search for a more targeted approach. You can read customer book reviews and add your own two cents as well.

I will warn you that the text on this site is rather small but you can bump up the font size by holding the Ctrl key while you press the + key. You can bump it down again with the Ctrl key and the – key.

The only thing this eBookstore is missing is a cyber coffee shop! Nothing like sipping a steamy cup o’ joe while perusing a bookstore. But I guess I can settle for my own home-brewed java.

EcoBrain eBook Giveaway:
Leave a comment and enter to win a FREE copy of Radical Simplicity from EcoBrain and New Society Publishers. Just visit EcoBrain now and browse their selection. Then return to this post and let us know which title strikes your fancy. But hurry! This giveaway ends November 6, 2008 at 11:59 PM (PST). The lucky winner will be announced here and notified via email so be sure to leave your email address in your comment. View our contest rules for more info.

Bloggers
Bloggers can also receive a 2nd entry by promoting the EcoBrain eBook Giveaway on your blog. Just copy and paste the URL of your blog post in the comments section.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hang Up Your Phone Book Deliveries

I just added yet another phone book to my teetering stack of phone books. Does this pile look familiar to you?

According to Earth911, 540 million telephone directories are distributed each year. I personally have six phone books in my kitchen alone. For some reason, it appears I'm on the super distribution cycle and I receive a new phone book (or two) every few months.

So what's a girl to do with these growing stacks of phone books? Apparently a lot of people simply trash them and 660,000 tons of phone directories end up in landfills each year. Yikes! That's a lot of trees.

I've been recycling old phone books as I receive new ones but decided to take it a step further and simply cancel my deliveries altogether. Yes, you can do that!

It just dawned on me that I have NEVER opened a single phone book since I moved into my house four years ago. Why is that? I use the Internet to lookup everything. The Internet is faster and more accurate than printed directories and it provides customer comments, pictures, directions, and maps.

Want to cancel your phone book deliveries? Simply call the phone numbers listed in your directories and asked to be removed from their distribution list. They will be sad to see you go (and so will their advertisers) but just think how happy the trees will be! I recommend that you hang on to at least one directory in case your power goes out or your Internet connection is down. Or you need a booster seat for your little ones.

If you're the type to "let your fingers to do the walking" and want to keep your phone books, please recycle your old directories instead of throwing them in the trash.

What do you do with your old phone books? Leave a comment and let us know!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ten tips for decorating green this Halloween

Please forgo the paper and disposable plastic Halloween decorations and invest in spooky decorations that you can use year after year. Or go all-natural!

1. Decorate your home, inside and out, with locally grown pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn, and brightly colored fall leaves. These natural decorations will provide a splash of season-appropriate color all the way through Thanksgiving.

2. Make homemade luminaries to light your pathway or place along your windowsills. Save a few tin cans, wash well, fill with water, and put in freezer. Once frozen, you will be able to pound a simple pattern into the can using a hammer and a nail. The ice will keep the can from collapsing as you create your masterpiece. Make simple jack-o-lantern faces, a cat, the moon, or the word “BOO”. When finished carving, remove the ice and dry well. Put some sand, dirt, or rocks in the bottom to weigh down. Place a tea light candle or a glow stick inside. Note: if you use a candle, place your luminaries up and away from your Halloween traffic. Windowsills are the perfect location for these recycled luminaries.

3. What to do with all those glass jars you've been saving? Why not decoupage them with orange tissue paper and add black shapes to create a glass jack-o-lantern? Drop a candle inside and you have a glowing masterpiece. Get creative and decoupage with purple tissue paper and add a white ghost. Use all different shapes and sizes of jars to make your collection interesting. The day after Halloween, you can use your jars to store all that Halloween loot.

4. There are many solar-powered Halloween lights on the market. These are great because you aren’t using energy to light them and you don’t have to worry about extension cords.

5. Make a simple ghost for your yard by putting a bike helmet on a hat stand. Attach a broom or a long stick to form a cross. Drape a white sheet over the hat stand and say “boo”.

6. Create a scarecrow with jeans and a shirt, stuffed with old newspaper, straw, or leaves. Leave it headless for a scary version or add a pumpkin on top with a funny face.

7. Find other home d├ęcor items made from natural materials, like our Acorn Baskets made from natural seagrass. These are not only adorable but functional and can be used year-round.

8. Banish the home fragrance sprays and fill your home with the scents of homemade cookies or a fresh-baked pie. Don’t have time? Light a fragrant soy candle with all-natural essential oils. There are several mouth watering holiday scents.

9. Light the path for trick-or-treaters with an orange CFL bulb.

10. Remember to carefully wrap and pack all of your Halloween decorations so you can continue to use them for years to come.

How are you decorating for a green Halloween this year?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Green Halloween Costumes

My green Halloween theme continues this week with Halloween costumes. Remember when we used to actually MAKE our costumes? I would spend WEEKS planning the perfect costume, scouring the house and garage for the appropriate materials, and building my masterpiece.

This year, let's get back to the basics and steer clear of the costume-in-a-bag. Sure the bagged costumes are easy but are they fun? We know they are not so great for the environment either. Get your child’s creative juices flowing with homemade costumes and have some fun in the process!

1. Make your own costume from items in your closet or garage. Do you have an old uniform that you can repurpose? What about those 80's prom dresses hanging in your closet?

2. It’s amazing what you can create with a large box, some paint, and your imagination. Cut wings out of cardboard and paint red with black dots. Add a headband with feelers, black pants, and a black shirt and you've got yourself a ladybug. Or do yellow and black stripes for a bumble bee. Or multicolored wings for a butterfly.

3. If you’re not feeling creative you can buy a used costume at a 2nd hand shop or find one on Craigslist.

4. Prior to Halloween, organize a costume swap with your friends, family, and neighbors. Invite everyone to bring their gently worn costumes to exchange for a "new-to-them" costume.

5. Keep those batteries out of the landfills and use a crank powered flashlight to light the way during trick-or-treating or for a game of flashlight tag.

6. Bust out an old pillowcase for trick-or-treating instead of buying a plastic candy pail.

Share your memories! What was YOUR favorite Halloween costume?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Green and Yummy Halloween Treats

I never thought I would say this but, "When I was a kid..." Halloween treats were usually homemade and gobbled up as soon as they were dropped into our Halloween sacks (aka pillowcases). We would bob for apples, snack on popcorn balls, tell scary stories, and play flashlight tag in the dark.

Admittedly, times have since changed and there are some safeguards that we must now take to keep our children safe. But we can still make this a Halloween a little greener with a few easy tips.

Let's face it, kids expect candy but we can deliver on that in a responsible way.

1. Yummy Earth makes truly yummy lollipops that are certified organic. Pomegranate Pucker is my fave. You can find Yummy Earth Lollipops in nearly every grocery store but if you can’t find them near you, they are currently offering free shipping if you buy on their website.

2. Endangered Species Chocolate sells individual milk and dark chocolates wrapped in festive orange and brown wrappers for Halloween. These chocolates are all-natural and ethically traded. Plus, 10% of their net profits are donated to help support species, habitat, and humanity.

3. Panda Licorice is made in Finland with all natural ingredients. We conducted an entirely non-scientific taste test in our home and the former household champion, Twizzler, was beat hands down by Panda Licorice.

4. Newman’s Own Peanut Butter Cups are simply yummy goodness.

5. Don’t want to dispense candy this Halloween? Why not give unexpected goodies like soy crayons, smencils made from recycled newspaper, stickers, or other spooktacular goodies.

Stay tuned for more green Halloween tips over the next few days but in the meantime, let me know what YOUR favorite green Halloween goodies are!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

This green backpack is too dog-gone cute

To me, going green is all about making wiser decisions and modifying my shopping behavior. I continually ask myself...do I really need that? If so, I look for a green option when possible.

So when it was time to buy my son a new backpack, I was on a mission to find a super cute eco-friendly bag for the little guy. Alex is turning one tomorrow so I can still make the decisions (or that’s what I’m telling myself at least).

After some online searching, I found this adorable puppy backpack made by EcoGear. It’s made with organically-grown cotton canvas, non-toxic dyes, sustainable wood closure, and recycled plastic components.

The size is perfect for all the "mission critical" stuff he needs to take to daycare everyday like a change of clothes, sippy cup, and a toy. The cotton canvas is sturdy yet has a nice softness to it. I think I can throw it in the washing machine but will have to double check on that when he gets home tonight.

Most importantly, Alex lights up whenever he sees his new puppy bag. And I feel great knowing that it was produced responsibly and isn't releasing toxins into the air.

EcoGear also sells Panda, Pig, and Elephant backpacks in their EcoZoo line. They’re not cheap (came in around $40 after tax and shipping) but I think it was a great investment that should last him a few years.

So the next time you are in the market for that next bag, pair of shoes, cutting board, or whatever...do a quick search online to see if you can find an eco-friendly alternative. You would be amazed at the options that are at our fingertips!

Monday, October 6, 2008

How to recycle those CFL bulbs

I just noticed the CFL bulb on our front porch has burned out. Not only is it time to replace it, it’s also time for me to finally figure out what the heck to do with the expired bulbs that I’ve been collecting over the past year.


I’m sure you are well versed in why CFL bulbs are a better choice for our environment and energy conservation but not many people know that they need to be disposed of properly. Each bulb contains a trace amount of mercury, which has been proven to cause kidney and brain damage. So it’s critical that we dispose of these bulbs properly and keep that mercury out of our landfills.


It’s not only a healthy decision; it’s a lawful decision in some states. Did you know that it’s illegal to throw away CFL bulbs in California, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana?


There are several options for disposing of your CFL bulbs properly:


1. Stores like IKEA and Home Depot are now accepting expired and unbroken CFL bulbs. Simply take your bulbs into the store and give them to the person at the returns desk.


2. Visit Earth911 to find a recycling center near you. They have a cool search box at the top of their site where you can enter what you want to recycle (CFL bulbs, batteries, paint, etc.) and your location. They will give you a list of options in your area.


3. Check with the bulb’s manufacturer. Many companies now offer a free mail-back program. Just call the phone number listed on your bulb to see what kind of recycling programs they offer.


4. Contact your local waste management company to see if they accept hazardous waste materials.


When you are ready to recycle your used CFL bulbs, take the following steps to ensure your safety and a cleaner environment:


1. Place the old bulbs in the packaging from your new bulbs to prevent breakage. If these aren’t available, wrap your bulbs in newspaper or plastic shopping bags to cushion them and prevent them from breaking.


2. Store your old bulbs together in a box until you have time to take them to the recycling center.


3. Mark your calendar for hazardous waste recycling. Some areas only accept hazardous waste once or twice a year. Don’t miss out! Check now and save the date so you aren’t stuck with a box of hazardous waste for another year.


4. If a CFL bulb does break while storing or transporting it, follow these important clean-up steps from the EPA.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Reverse Trick-or-Treating with FREE Fair Trade Chocolates


Want to surprise your neighbors this Halloween? When you take your kids trick-or-treating, give a treat back to the adults this year with fair trade chocolates. Best of all, it's FREE!

I am a fan of chocolate. I am a big fan of fair trade chocolate. I am a huge fan of FREE fair trade chocolate. Does it get any better than that? I didn't think so.

Global Exchange is running their 2nd annual "Reverse Trick-or-Treating" Campaign in an effort to raise awareness about the poverty and child labor among cocoa farmers. They are providing these reverse trick-or-treating kits for free - you just pay $4.95 for shipping. The kits consist of 20-25 pieces of fair trade chocolate and information cards.

Why is fair trade important? Despite years of promises from major chocolate manufacturers little has been done to tackle the issue of forced child labor on many farms that supply their cocoa. In addition, low cocoa prices have left cocoa farmers in poverty year after year. The Fair Trade certification prohibits the use of abusive child labor and guarantees a fair price paid for cocoa. This raises farmers' incomes and creates hope for a better future for their children. You can read more in their article about child labor in the cocoa industry.

The deadline to order your kit is October 13 but I encourage you to place your order today as supplies are limited. I just ordered my reverse trick-or-treating kit today and can't wait to share the goodies with our neighbors.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

10 Tips to Go Green and Save Green


With the financial crisis looming over the country, and unemployment rates rising, it’s only natural for people to be less concerned about greening their habits and more concerned about keeping green in their wallets.

It’s important to note that the two are not mutually exclusive. You can have your green cake and eat it too with the following eco-friendly tips that will also save you money.

1. Conserve energy! This is an obvious one but necessary. Save energy by turning off unnecessary lights, lowering your thermostat, cleaning your refrigerator coils, unplugging unused electronics, and washing laundry in cold water instead of hot. Prep your house for winter by sealing drafty windows and doors.

2. Conserve water by taking shorter showers, watering your lawn less often, washing full loads of laundry, and fixing leaky faucets.

3. Organic produce is not always the most expensive option. Watch for sales when you shop – you will find some organic bargains. Maximize your food budget by opting for organic on the items that typically have the highest amounts of pesticides and herbicides including: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes.

4. Buy in bulk or in larger sizes to reduce the amount of packaging that goes to our landfills and lower your grocery bills.

5. Save on gas by going the speed limit, keeping your tires properly inflated, and avoiding the “idle” waiting. Carpool with neighbors when you can. Better yet, use mass transit, ride a bike, or walk.

6. Visit your local library instead of buying a new book.

7. Invest in a water filter and drink tap water instead of buying bottled water.

8. When it’s time to cleanup, use cloth towels, washcloths, or napkins rather than paper towels.

9. Skip the expensive and abrasive chemical cleaners and opt for more natural (and less expensive cleaning alternatives like vinegar, baking soda, and ammonia.

10. When a light bulb goes out, replace it with a CFL bulb. It does cost more than a regular bulb but it lasts ten times longer and uses a third less energy which will lower your electrical bill each month.

As you can see, you don’t have to spend green to go green. Tell us what you think! What do YOU do to save money and the environment?