Going Green at Home: What Will It Cost?

Many people are interested in joining the eco-friendly movement that is sweeping the nation, and indeed, the globe. But most are worried that they simply can’t afford the additional costs associated with environmentally sound products and services. Even if they’re willing to put in time and effort in order to ensure a greener future for all mankind, they might not have the extra cash on hand to make their green dreams a reality (especially with the recession dragging on). But turning your home into a bastion of eco-awareness might not be quite as expensive as you think. With consumers calling for more and more products that do less harm to the environment, the market for green goods has expanded, subsequently increasing competition and causing prices to drop. So while you can certainly drop a ton of money on green living, you don’t necessarily have to spend and arm and a leg to reduce your carbon footprint these days.

You might be surprised by the many ways you can go green at home with no additional cost. And in some cases you’ll even save over what you’re currently paying. The easiest way to start is with recycling, and if you do it right you can actually earn a few bucks in the process. By saving up cans, bottles, and other items to take to the recycling center you can generate large enough loads that the money you earn from turning over these items will pay for your trip and then some. Of course, it’s also pretty easy to conserve, and this could help you to save, as well.

There are two main types of conservation in the home: energy and water. Both are pretty easy thanks to a slew of useful products. Okay, so there’s no denying that replacing your appliances with energy-star models is expensive. But considering that the fridge sucks up twice as much energy as any other appliance, you can start by replacing just this one item to see instant savings on your utility bills. In short, this type of switch could pay for itself in time.

Of course, you can also opt for compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) instead of incandescent bulbs. They may cost a couple of dollars more up front, but considering that they last 10 times as long and use a third of the energy, you’ll quickly see a return on investment. As for conserving water, low-flow toilets, aerated faucets, and cisterns to collect rainwater (for your landscaping) will cost you initially. But contact your local DWP to see if they offer rebates when you purchase these items (you could get up to half back) and then check your next water bill to see the savings.

There’s even more, though. You can also plant your own organic garden (to save over the cost of produce at the grocery store). You can scour Craigslist to find consumer goods to give a second life (virtually recycling them) rather than supporting new manufacturing (and the pollution and waste that go along with it). You can even look into solar energy. Did you know that the government mandate for increased alternative energy has prompted many power companies to offer solar packages? You pay nothing up front for installation; you simply make monthly payments (like a loan) in lieu of your power bill (which is now nothing thanks to free energy from the sun) and in 20 years you will have paid off the solar panels. In the meantime you’re not pulling power off the grid. Of course, these changes won’t likely net you enough of a return to cover your mortgage rate, but they will save you a little, pay for any upfront costs over time, and help you to make your home life a little greener, all of which make them well worthwhile.

Doesn’t the melted Fontina cheese topping this portabella mushroom tempt your taste buds?!

Grilled Portabella Mushrooms with Fontina Melt

Ingredients

1/4 cup NAKANO Natural Rice Vinegar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. soy sauce

1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/4 tsp. dried rosemary

1/2 tsp. salt

4 portabella mushrooms, 5 to 6-inch diameter (or 8 portabellas 3-inches across)*

4 slices Fontina cheese (cut to fit mushrooms)

Preparation

In a small bowl or 1-cup measuring cup, stir together rice vinegar, olive oil, soy sauce, rosemary, and salt. Wipe mushrooms with a damp cloth or paper towel; remove stems. Place mushrooms, gill side down, on a plate; brush caps with marinade. Turn mushrooms over and brush gills generously with marinade. Let stand 10 minutes. To cook, place mushrooms, gill side down, on grill over medium direct heat; brush caps with marinade. Close cover and cook 4-5 minutes. Turn mushrooms over; cook 3-4 minutes more. Place a slice of cheese on each mushroom. Close cover and cook until cheese melts, about 2 minutes. (For smaller mushrooms, cook 2 minutes with gill side down. Turn mushrooms and cook 1 minutes more. Top with cheese; cook until cheese melts.)

Note: Marinade is enough for 8 large mushrooms, or 16 smaller mushrooms.

Serves 4.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Nakano.*

68 loads of laundry done – all in a space-saving, environmentally-friendly bottle from Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day! Available in 4 delightfully-smelling all-natural fragrances, including Lavender, Lemon Verbena, Rosemary and Bluebell, Mrs. Meyer’s will clean your clothing without the harsh chemicals. Phosphate-free, biodegradable, and made with Borax and natural essential oils, “Mom” is loving that 1 tablespoon is all you need to clean a full load of laundry!

Mom” especially loves the Lemon Verbena – it is a light citrus scent that perks you up immediately and the laundry room smells lovely after use!

To learn more about Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day products, to locate a retailer near you, or to order online, please visit MrsMeyers.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

How Our Troops Are Going Green

The military is one of the most important institutions we have. They lead the way into dangerous situations, protecting our borders and defending democracy across the world. With that level of commitment on the table, it’s almost impossible to conceive of another mission taking some level of precedence. But that has actually become the case, as the United States armed forces are making another statement with their focus on environmentally sustainable initiatives. And it’s a lot more than just lip service. Out of the stimulus fund recently allocated to the armed forces, our military leaders are putting $3.6 billion into the greenification of facilities. It’s a far cry from the normal image of our troops rolling around in massive, gas-guzzling machines, but an environmentally conscious armed force is now a reality. And it’s clear they are interested in paving the way towards more government organizations doing the same.

Their reasoning isn’t entirely altruistic. They’ve done the research and discovered that green energy sources can actually save the government money. Technology has caught up to need, and green energy is now as efficient as traditional fossil fuels. The government is one of the biggest energy consumers we have, so any savings that they can manage will impact our country’s bottom line in huge ways.

The Air Force is one military organization that has taken this very seriously. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Air Force actually made their list of the top 25 Green Power Partners, coming in at number sixteen. That’s better than many other massive organizations, including Google and the EPA itself. The Air Force has started their efforts on their bases, which now get six percent of their energy from sources of green power. The government has mandated a minimum of 5%, so they’re currently beating that by no small margin. But it sounds like they’re not going to stop there. The Air Force is looking into a number of cutting edge ways to improve their energy efficiency, including taking advantage of waste energy and landfill gas, and creating new power through geothermal heat pumps, wind, daylight, and solar thermal and solar photovoltaic sources.

The Navy is getting in on the action as well. They’re currently retrofitting a number of their bases with green energy systems. They’ve even done so at one of their most infamous locations, the Guantanamo Bay prison base in Cuba. Since the U.S. still has a chilly relationship with Cuba, the base at Guantanamo gets all of their resources either by aircraft or ship. So the Navy has streamlined how they use their energy in substantial ways. They’ve switched out their gas-operated patrol cars with bikes, and use solar lighting wherever possible. By their estimates, these simple changes are saving as much as $100,000 every day in fuel costs.

Beyond changing to existing technologies, the Armed Forces are also investing in infrastructure that will create more energy down the road. They’ve budgeted to put upwards of $1 billion into solar technology this year, specifically using it in all of their housing communities. They have similar projects in development at bases in Twenty Nine Palms, California, San Diego, Aurora, Colorado, Pearl Harbor, and even the naval base in Guam. All of these investments will leave more resources available for the armed forces to put elsewhere, such as additional military VA home loans for their retiring soldiers. It’s fantastic to see that taxpayers’ money is being used smartly, in a way that helps assure the future of our country, and a lessening of our dependence on foreign oil.

Simple to prepare, yet elegant in taste, this 6 ingredient recipe for couscous goes with just about anything, or is lovely all on its own!

Wine & Rosemary Couscous

Ingredients

1 cup water

1/3 cup HOLLAND HOUSE White Cooking Wine or White Cooking Wine with Lemon

1 Tbsp. butter

1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup couscous, regular or whole wheat

Preparation

In a 3-quart saucepan, combine all ingredients except couscous. Bring to a boil, uncovered, and boil for 1 minute. Turn off heat and stir in couscous; cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir and serve.

Makes 4 servings (3-1/3 cups).

*Recipe and image courtesy of Holland House.*

 

Hitting the road with the family for the annual road trip this summer? Make the trip healthier for everyone with “Mom’s” top choices for nutritious nibbles while traveling!

Healthy Road Trip Nibbles

grombomb

For healthy sipping and rehydration on the road, without the sugar or caffeine, choose grombomb, a new electrolyte enhanced beverage that the whole family will enjoy! All-natural and packed with flavor, we know why they call it the “bomb!” Choose from yummy flavors like pintail punch, seaside sour apple, liptrick lemonade, and wipeout watermelon to keep the entire family hydrated while on-the-go!

Zone Cookies

Craving something sweet while traveling, but don’t want to consume excess calories? The Zone Diet offers 4 varieties of Zone Cookies, which is the ideal snack for those who want sweets but don’t want to experience that exhausted feeling that comes after an initial burst of energy. The cookies keep your blood sugar level and your hunger under control – all in one delicious treat! Zone Cookies are available in 4 flavors, including Chocolate Chip, Coconut Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chunk, & Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Good ‘n Natural Bars

Good ‘n Natural bars are just that – good and natural! These gluten-free, dairy-free, Vegan snack bars were created by an athlete for an athlete to provide energy and nutrition for people on the go who want a whole food and protein-rich snack that is tasty and can be packed easily. Offered in 4 delightful flavors, including Cranberry Almond, Lemon, Chocolate and Peanut Butter, we think you will enjoy them all!

SunRidge Farms Organic Mango Grove

Dark chocolate blends in nicely to this sweet, tropical blend from SunRidge Farms! When traveling, this sweet, salty and chocolate filled blend satisfies everyone’s taste buds! The Organic Mango Grove trail mix is a delicious blend of freshly harvested organic cashews; sweet, ripe organic tropical dried mango; rich and delectable organic dark chocolate chips; crunchy organic peanuts, almonds and sunflower seeds and sweet, smooth organic chocolate raisins.

Sharkies® Organic Energy Sports Chews

Chew on this! Certified USDA Organic, these root-a-toot fruit and sports chews are made to provide adults with energy and stamina when on the move this summer. The perfectly portioned packs can be effortlessly packed in a backpack, handbag, or suitcase to provide you with clean fuel to keep you energized when traveling. Both vegan and vegetarian-friendly, the chews do not contain artificial flavors, dyes, dairy, fat, gluten, wheat or nuts! Available in four flavors, including Berry Blast, Fruit Splash, Citrus Squeeze, and Watermelon Scream.

*Companies generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

Holding Companies Accountable for the Lifecycle of their Products

We all consume items at a ridiculous pace these days. The amount of items we purchase on any given year can be mind boggling. Whether it’s food packaging, clothes and apparel, or the newest technology product, we are constantly faced with the reality of disposing trash and old items on a regular basis.

Which brings up a bigger question of how responsible are companies to their products once a transaction is made? Is the onus on the consumer to dispose of them correctly? Just who is responsible for items as a product nears its end? Do they become our trash or does the burden of responsibility shift back to the companies that produce them?

One of the most shockingly grim look into our future can be found in the popular Disney and Pixar’s feature film, Wall-E.

In it, our tiny robot hero shifts through piles and piles of garbage that humans have left behind and the endless amount of trash has made the planet inhabitable. While this may seem as a radical hyperbole, we are truly not that far off from this reality.

Consumers have done a better job as of late to reduce Earth’s carbon footprint. This includes ramped up recycling efforts, utilizing reusable containers, and disposing of trash in the right locations. But are we doing enough to hold companies and corporations responsible for the lifecycle of their products?

What Consumers Should Demand from Companies

Paperless options – Whether its weekly circulars or billing statements, the continued reduction of paper materials can only benefit the environment. Most companies have enacted programs to communicate via email and for companies who don’t have a system in place, it’s a fair point to suggest going paperless.

Apparel recycling programs – The U.S. EPA Office of Solid Waste estimates that per person, Americans discard clothing materials at an estimated 68 pounds of clothing and textiles a year. It is also estimated that 99 percent of what is thrown away can be recycled. While Americans are doing a fairly good job of donating used clothing materials to organizations such as Goodwill Industries, manufacturers should be held responsible to put a program in place that helps to utilize recycled materials. Nike’s ReUse a Shoe program, exercises sustainability and they are dedicated to finding long-term solutions to help reduce the amount of shoes in landfills. There’s information on drop-off locations and learn about the company’s “closed-loop” business model, where waste is reduced at different stages of their operations.

Sustainable and eco-friendly packaging ­ Because consumers can help determine the fate of the end products we consume, it’s a fair question to ask whether or not the byproducts are eco-friendly. Manufacturers can use more recyclable products and help environment from degrading. This will pay off as the demand of environmentally friendly products is increasing rapidly. Even in economic downturn 35% said they are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products. Companies have already started investing heavily in this area. PolyPak America is a leader in the production and manufacturing of wholesale poly bags. They have taken a lot of initiatives in becoming environmentally responsible. The company products are now made with recycled material. The company also invests in planting trees, sponsoring and using alternate source of energy. There are many companies like Polypak who are now becoming environmentally friendly companies. To improve environmental conditions we need more companies like Polypak. As consumers, if we enjoy certain products and continue to support those companies, demanding bio-degradable packaging materials is a fair question to ask. If they do not provide adequate proof, suggesting eco-friendly alternatives can initiate changes and action that will protect the environment.

Kraft Foods recently did a thorough analysis of the impacts of its products throughout its life cycle. The lifecycle assessment (LCA)helped to implement changes and analyze what is working. One of their findings and analysis led to the use of 60 percent less plastic packaging in their salad dressing bottle. Kraft is actively implementing their Eco-Calculator™ tool toencourage the use of sustainable packaging across their product lines. Kraft exemplifies how more and more brands are taking ownership of the lifespan of their products past consumption.

Information and education on how to dispose of their products – It’s been a year since the state of New York passed a law that requires electronic companies to provide convenient drop off locations for electronic waste. According to eWasteCenter Inc., electronic devices contain high levels of toxic materials such as lead, barium, cadmium and mercury that can have dire consequences when incorrectly disposed. This law is a great example to how corporations should be held responsible for their products impact on the environment.

This is a great apple pie recipe that will leave you wanting more. But, it is also very healthy, and it’s just right for those that are trying to follow the raw food diet. It’s perfect to satisfy your sweet tooth, but won’t make you regret eating it!

Raw Apple Pie

Ingredients

Prepare these before:

Apple Pie Filling:

2 Apples

Cut and skin apples into chunks, put in bowl. Add 1 tbsp. of lemon juice and sprinkle with cinnamon. Mix everything and dehydrate for 2 hours.

For the Crust:

2 cups Walnut
1 tsp Salt
1 cup Cashews
1/2 cup ground Flax Seed
3 Dates
1 tbsp Agave Nectar
2 tbsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Apple Filling:

4 Apples, skin on
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
5 Dates
1 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Agave Nectar
1 tbsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Lemon Juice

Preparation

Blend all of filling ingredients and put in a 9′ pan.
Blend the apple pie filling.
Put in dehydrated apples.
Put in pie crust.
Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Serve and enjoy!

*Recipe courtesy of Neltje Ann, a writer for AspiringNurse.com. Interested in how to become a nurse practitioner? This site will help you choose the best online nurse practitioner programs for you.*