Green Living en-US How to Take the World's Most Efficient Shower <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-take-the-worlds-most-efficient-shower" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="shower" title="shower" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Having once been a commercial fisherman on a small boat with little fresh water, and more recently having been a frequent occupant in a rustic Sierra Nevada cabin with unreliable fresh water (much less fresh hot water), I have had the opportunity to develop &mdash; and refine &mdash; what I believe is the world's most efficient shower technique. You may be familiar with the so-called <a href="">Navy Shower</a>, which is similar, as the principles are the same. But whether you're interested in saving water or energy at home (as well as money), or if you find yourself on a small vessel or in a rustic abode, this routine will have you in and out of the shower and back in front of the stove in a couple of minutes &mdash; and under running water for way less than that. (See also: <a href="">How to Shower Less</a>)</p> <p>Ready? Let's go!</p> <h2>1. Arrange Your Tools</h2> <p>Soap, wash cloth, a big plastic cup for extra rinsing power, towel, floor mat. You won't be shaving in the shower, gentlemen, so you won't need that stuff (ladies, see below). If you're at the cabin get your buckets situated; you'll be reusing the gray rinse water in the toilet later. (See also: <a href="">50+ Ways to Save Water</a>)</p> <h2>2. Start the Tap</h2> <p>Depending on the rusticity of your place, you may have enough fresh water to wait for the hot water to arrive. In early summer the mountain spring that provides water to our cabin runs deep and clear, which affords us the luxury of waiting for hot water. By mid August? There's no waiting for hot water &mdash; turn on the tap and in you go.</p> <h2>3. Get Good and Wet</h2> <p>Hot or cold, get yourself nice and soaking, fill up your cup, and then turn off the tap. You're gonna be cold, but that's just more encouragement to move fast. Hopefully some of the water that rinsed off you wound up in your bucket.</p> <h2>4. Soap Up and Wash Off</h2> <p>Work the shampoo into your greasy locks and soap up everywhere else; scrub with the wash cloth. So clean. So cold! (See also: <a href="">DIY Shampoo</a>)</p> <h2>5. Tap On and Rinse Off</h2> <p>You'll spend a little more time here than the first go with the water flowing, but not much. No standing around &mdash; rinsing is work, same as cleaning. Move fast, rinse off, and then shut off the tap. Your plastic cup may be helpful here if your water pressure is lacking; fill it up and douse yourself once or twice.</p> <p>Some of us are done at this point (and glad of it, 'cause it's cold), but if you'd like to continue on to apply hair conditioner or whatever, just repeat steps 3 and 4. See you in a second in front of the woodstove.</p> <p>If you'd like to shave your legs, continue on.</p> <h2>6. Optional: Shave Your Legs</h2> <p>I'm offering this step based on my wife's explanation, and so I apologize if I've missed something. The idea is to get your legs good and wet, lather them up with shaving gel or whatever you use, and then, instead of rinsing your razor in running water, you'll rinse your razor in the cup, just like men do with their razors in the sink. You can even leave that gross stubble behind afterward, just like men do with their razor stubble in the sink. (See also: <a href="">Razor Tricks to Help You Save</a>)</p> <p>Legs smooth and hairless? One last rinse of your gams and also your hair if you were conditioning while you shaved. And you're done. Collect your tools and stow them away. Collect your buckets and store them next to the toilet.</p> <p>The process on the fishing boat was far simpler and used much less fresh water. None, in fact. When the sun was high above at maximum warmth, you stripped down to nothing and plunged over the rail and into the cold Pacific Ocean. You scrambled back aboard and scrubbed down with a piece of old towel and a few squirts from the bottle of <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B0001TSICW&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20">Dr Bronner's</a> and then back in the drink to rinse it all away. Never felt cleaner.</p> <p><em>How do you manage to keep clean and fresh when there's little &mdash; or no &mdash; hot water? Please share in comments.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="How to Take the World&#039;s Most Efficient Shower" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Lars Peterson</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living Travel cleanliness hygiene quick shower Fri, 28 Feb 2014 02:47:42 +0000 Lars Peterson 876 at The 7 Easiest Plants to Grow Indoors and Outdoors <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-7-easiest-plants-to-grow-indoors-and-outdoors" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="spider plant" title="spider plant" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>The benefits of growing plants, whether inside or out, are numerous. Plants freshen and <a href="">detoxify the air inside your home</a> while offering the added benefit of improving the decor of a room. Gardening outside, meanwhile, can provide therapeutic benefits to the grower. The time spent working in the outdoors with the dirt and in the sunshine can rejuvenate the body and clear the mind. (See also: <a href="">10 Gardening Lessons</a>)</p> <p>For those of us who would like to experience the wonderful benefits of growing plants but feel intimidated to start, here&#39;s a list of seven easy-to-care for plants for your inside your home and out.</p> <h2>Outdoor Plants</h2> <p>Spruce up your backyard or add a little color to your entryway with these no-fuss outdoor plants.</p> <h3>Petunia</h3> <p>Petunias come in a variety of colors including white, pink, purple, and many colors in between. They spread quickly on the ground and fill a container beautifully, as well. They can go more than a day without water unless it is excessively dry, and they flower throughout the growing season without needing extra fertilizer. Deadheading (plucking off dead blooms from their stems) does not need to be done for them to re-flower, making this a very easy plant to grow through the spring and summer. (See also: <a href="">Easy Veggies to Plant in Spring</a>)</p> <h3>Coneflower</h3> <p>Like the petunia, coneflowers come in a wide variety of colors. This tough plant is native to the prairie, so they are hardy in the heat and the wind. They require regular watering and deadheading to encourage reblooming. They have the added benefit of attracting butterflies to the garden, as well. Coneflowers are a perennial plant and will return the following year if you cut them back to the base just before spring arrives.</p> <h3>Hosta</h3> <p>Hostas are the perfect plant for shaded areas of your garden. These hardy plants come in many varieties with many different shades of green, white, and even purple on their leaves. These plants can be split and replanted, cut back to deter overgrowth, and even neglected. They can tolerate heat if they are at least partially shaded and watered regularly.</p> <h3>Peony</h3> <p>Peonies thrive if left alone. These perennials are a great addition to a flower bed that receives full sun. Peonies may need to be staked if they get top heavy (and that should be done early in the spring), but otherwise, they can be left alone to grow. Regular watering when the weather dries will ensure that you have blooms well into the heat of the summer. (See also: <a href="">Saving on Summer Garden Flowers</a>)</p> <h2>Indoor Plants</h2> <p>If outdoor gardening space is at a premium where you live or you want to freshen up the inside of your home, adding these low-maintenance indoor plants are sure to brighten your day. (See also: <a href="">The Container Garden Guide</a>)</p> <h3>Chinese Evergreen</h3> <p>Don&#39;t let the name fool you; this isn&#39;t a small Christmas tree. The Chinese Evergreen is a plant with varying shades of green, white, and silver leaves. This plant likes low to medium light, which makes it perfect for apartments and rooms without direct sunlight. It can grow to three feet high and wide. This beautiful indoor plant should be kept moist. Like many other indoor plants, it does have poisonous leaves, so care should be taken to keep it away from children and pets.</p> <h3>Spider Plant</h3> <p>Spider plants are probably the plant you think of most when you picture an indoor plant. This easy-to-grow plant thrives inside in medium to bright light. It trails and shoots off new growth, called &quot;plantlets&quot; at the ends that root well in water to make new plants. The Spider Plant works well as a hanging plant and is not toxic to cats. It also has the added benefit of cleaning the air in your home by removing formaldehyde. (This harmful chemical is found in particle board, wood furniture, and insulation.)</p> <h3>Dracaena</h3> <p>There are many varieties of Dracaena that work well indoors. The &quot;Janet Craig&quot; has bright green leaves while the &quot;Warneckii&quot; has green and white leaves. In addition, the &quot;Massangean&quot; has yellow and green leaves that resemble a corn stalk. Regardless of the variety, dracaena grows well in medium to bright light making it a great addition to a bright room in your home. (If you are fortunate, these blossom once in a while. We had one blossom just once, and they were among the most amazingly fragrant and beautiful flowers we had ever seen!)</p> <p>Whether you are looking to beautify the landscape of your home, the decor of your rooms, or filter the air inside, growing plants need not be intimidating. Many plants are easy to grow, require very little maintenance and will return year after year!</p> <p><em>What are your favorite low maintenance plants? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="The 7 Easiest Plants to Grow Indoors and Outdoors" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Linsey Knerl</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living Home easy to grow plants gardening indoor plants plants Wed, 05 Feb 2014 11:24:26 +0000 Linsey Knerl 1122571 at Get a Great Container Garden Started With This Guide <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/get-a-great-container-garden-started-with-this-guide" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="plant container" title="plant container" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>As the price of fresh, organic produce keeps some consumers away from healthy eating habits, there is a remedy practically anyone can try to keep the crisper drawer full. Even if you don&#39;t have the yard space to <a href="">create a garden at home</a>, you can still use a variety of containers to grow your own vegetables, herbs, and even flowers. (See also: <a href="">Foods You Can Grow in Your Home</a>)</p> <p>Here are some quick steps for getting started on the road to container planting success.</p> <h2>Gathering Your Containers</h2> <p>The general rule of thumb for container planting is the bigger the better. You want to have a container large enough to hold the plant as it grows. A container too small will require replanting but could also hinder the growth of your vegetables.</p> <p>The good news is you can use a <a href="">variety of containers</a> including items you repurpose from around the house like plastic drink jugs, milk cartons, old tubs, and five-gallon buckets. Your local home improvement store will also have starter containers for plants but at a higher cost. (See also: <a href="">Disposable Products You Can Reuse</a>)</p> <p>Each planter will need drainage holes, so before adding soil or seeds, make several small holes at the bottom of your container. Make the holes large enough to release excess water but not so large that you lose all of your soil. You will then need to supply each container with something to catch the excess water like a plastic planter dish or an old baking pan. You may also want to line the bottom of each container with small rocks to aid with water drainage.</p> <h2>Choosing Your Soil</h2> <p>Ideally, you&#39;ll want to choose a soil that is sufficient for containers, which can be found at plant nurseries. Container soil may not even contain soil at all, but often includes a mixture of bark and peat moss. This is to help keep it moist and well aerated for proper drainage since a container is more confined than a backyard garden. (See also: <a href="">4 Things a Vegetable Garden Needs</a>)</p> <p>You can opt for a good quality potting soil that has a mixture of peat moss and sand, but don&#39;t import dirt directly from your yard, as it will not promote plant growth. You can also add extra materials like crumbled Styrofoam to hold moisture.</p> <p>When adding soil to the container, make sure to have a sufficient amount to accommodate the plant. Buy more soil than you think you will need to add when the soil has settled after watering. You&#39;ll need to read the seed packages to determine how much soil to add to a container based on the necessary planting depth.</p> <p>Thoroughly water the soil in each container and let sit for an hour or more to ensure the soil is moist throughout. Fertilizer that is safe for vegetables and other plants can be added to the soil starting about a month after planting them, per the seed manufacturer&#39;s recommendations. (See also: <a href="">How to Plan Your Garden</a>)</p> <h2>Seed Suggestions</h2> <p>You can plant many kinds of vegetables and herbs in containers. Herbs can often be planted in the smaller containers and easily kept on a sunny window sill in pots with a 4&ndash;6 inch diameter. Lettuce, radishes, beets, and onions need larger containers with at least a 6&ndash;10 inch diameter.</p> <p>If you plan to grow peppers or lettuce, you&#39;ll need a container that holds at least one or two gallons of soil. Taller vine plants like tomatoes and cucumbers will require the largest containers and about five gallons of soil. Carrots, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, green beans, and peas can also do well in a five gallon or larger container.</p> <p>Plants will need room to grow in a place that receives at least six hours of sunlight each day. It will be helpful to place the plants in a location that is also easily accessible to you for watering purposes but won&#39;t be bothered by pets or children. During the warmer parts of the day or the summer months, containers can be set outside on the patio for fresh air and sunshine. (See also: <a href="">High Tech Tools to Help Your Garden Grow</a>)</p> <p>When sowing the seeds, follow the package directions and plant the seeds at the same time as you would if you were planting them in an outside garden. Spread seeds out but add additional seeds than you want to compensate for those that do not germinate.</p> <h2>Water, Tend, Thin</h2> <p>Watering is the most important factor in successful container plants. You can&#39;t overwater, and you can&#39;t forget to water. Most container soil mixes have extra materials to prevent soil from losing moisture but you should maintain a watering schedule. (See also: <a href="">10 Gardening Lessons Learned the Hard Way</a>)</p> <p>As plants begin to grow, you&#39;ll need to tend to them to keep them healthy. Remove dead leaves and watch for signs of insect damage or plant diseases. Weed any excess things that grow from the soil. If too many seedlings grow, you can thin out the plants, so you have a reasonable amount left to harvest.</p> <p>As plants become sturdy, you do have the option of transplanting them outdoors into a garden with high quality soil. You can continue growing plants in containers but keep an eye on their growth process to ensure the container size is sufficient.</p> <h2>Herbs</h2> <p><a href="">Harvesting herbs</a> requires a little more detail. Depending on what kind of herbs you grow, you&#39;ll need to know when to harvest them. Herbs used for their leaves will need to be picked before they flower, or they may end up with an off taste. Herbs harvested for seeds will be ready when they change color from fresh green to a brown or gray color and should be harvested before the seeds open up. Flowering herbs like ginseng should be harvested before their leaves die off. You can freeze or dry herbs to preserve them for later use in your favorite recipes alongside your freshly picked container vegetables. (See also: <a href="">Cheap Ways to Flavor Your Food</a>)</p> <h2>Enjoying the Harvest</h2> <p>Producing your own produce is the best part of the process. Watching your plants go from seed to food is gratifying. You&#39;ll want to harvest your vegetables when they are a good size to consumer. It is best to keep picking fresh vegetables and herbs from the plants so they will continue to produce more.</p> <p><em>Have you tried container gardening? Were you happy with the results?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Get a Great Container Garden Started With This Guide" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Tisha Tolar</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living container garden edible garden small gardens Fri, 24 Jan 2014 11:24:12 +0000 Tisha Tolar 1115685 at 8 DIYs For a Sparkling Clean Bathroom <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/8-diys-for-a-sparkling-clean-bathroom" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="cleaning" title="cleaning" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Transform your bathroom into the best room in the house with DIYs that save you money and keep things nice and clean. And all of these cleaners are so easy to put together, which makes having them on hand a big plus. Here are a few of our favorites:</p> <p>RELATED: <a href="">Make These 24 DIY Cleaning Products For Pennies</a></p> <h2>Toilet Bomb Fizzies</h2> <p><img alt="" src="" style="width: 550px; height: 549px;" /></p> <p>Make these <a href="">toilet bomb fizzies</a> to flush away the bad smells &mdash; it works much better than lighting a match.</p> <h2>Counter Wipes</h2> <p><img alt="" src="" style="width: 550px; height: 550px;" /></p> <p>Not only do these <a href="">counter wipes</a> do a great job of quickly cleaning your space, they look pretty nice, too. Don&#39;t have a coffee can hanging around? Use a 64-ounce yogurt tub instead.</p> <h2>Tub, Tile, and Grout Help</h2> <p><img alt="" src="" style="width: 550px; height: 550px;" /></p> <p>Stash a container of this easy and <a href="">eco-friendly tub, tile, and grout scrub</a> under your bathroom sink to keep your bath sparkling.</p> <h2>Commode Cleaner</h2> <p><img alt="" src="" style="width: 550px; height: 550px;" /></p> <p>Keep things spotless with the help of this <a href="">DIY toilet bowl cleaner</a> that helps you scrub away stains and unwanted smells.</p> <h2>Bye-Bye, Hard Water Stains</h2> <p><img alt="" src="" style="width: 550px; height: 550px;" /></p> <p>If you&#39;ve got glass shower doors, <a href="">this DIY</a> does an amazing job of busting through hard water stains.</p> <h2>Happy Drains</h2> <p><img alt="" src="" style="width: 550px; height: 550px;" /></p> <p>Keep your drains flowing with the help of this <a href="">all-natural drain cleaner</a>.</p> <h2>Toilet Roll Trick</h2> <p><img alt="" src="" style="width: 550px; height: 550px;" /></p> <p>You&#39;ll wonder why you didn&#39;t think of <a href="">this smart idea earlier</a>.</p> <h2>Air Freshener</h2> <p><img alt="" src="" style="width: 550px; height: 550px;" /></p> <p>Sometimes you need a little extra help making things smell better in the bathroom, which makes tucking a bottle of this <a href="">eco-friendly air freshener</a> in your medicine cabinet a smart idea.</p> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-blog-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> From air to toilet to tub, keep your bathroom nice and clean with these easy (and effective!) DIY cleaners. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-guestpost-blurb"> <div class="field-label">Guest Post Blurb:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="" style="border:none;"><img alt="" src="" style="height:95px; width:300px" /></a></p> <p><em>This is a guest contribution from our friends at </em><a href=""><em>POPSUGAR Smart Living</em></a><em>. Check out more useful articles from this partner:</em></p> <ul> <li><a href="">8 Smart Ideas for Bathroom Organization</a></li> <li><a href="">Scrub-a-Dub: The Ultimate Bathroom Cleaning Checklist</a></li> <li><a href="">11 Ways to Have a Clean Place Without Cleaning</a></li> </ul> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">POPSUGAR Smart Living</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY Green Living bathroom DIY household cleaners Tue, 10 Dec 2013 10:48:09 +0000 POPSUGAR Smart Living 1098646 at Shrink Your Utility Bill by Plugging These Surprising Home Energy Leaks <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shrink-your-utility-bill-by-plugging-these-surprising-home-energy-leaks" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="washing dishes" title="washing dishes" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average family <a href="">spends more than $1,600 annually on utility bills</a>. This breaks down to about $133 a month. (See also: <a href="">How The Rest of the World Saves Energy</a>)</p> <p>After a close evaluation of your utility bills, you may discover that your annual energy costs are higher than the average. There&#39;s plenty you can do to lower your costs. And while you probably know the benefits of buying Energy Star appliances and replacing incandescent light bulbs with CFL bulbs, you may be unaware of these surprising routines that drain energy and ultimately increase energy costs.</p> <h2>1. Icemaker</h2> <p>I didn&#39;t know this was possible until recently, but you can turn off the automatic icemaker on your refrigerator. Having the icemaker on is certainly&nbsp; convenient, because you don&#39;t have to fill ice trays. And if you&#39;re entertaining guests, an icemaker ensures a generous supply of ice. Yet, there&#39;s a price to convenience.</p> <p>Automatic ice machines work around the clock, constantly draining energy, and they can increase your refrigerator&#39;s energy use by 14% to 20%, says <a href="">Energy Star</a>. But if you turn off your icemaker feature and make your ice the old-fashioned way (with an ice tray), that&#39;s extra cash in your pocket.</p> <p>Look for an on/off switch on the front of the icemaker, or check your manual for specific instructions.</p> <h2>2. Hand Washing vs. Dishwasher</h2> <p>Hand washing may clean your dishes better, but if you&#39;re looking for ways to conserve energy, you better learn to love your dishwasher. (See also: <a href="">Top 5 Dishwashers</a>)</p> <p>You need hot water to clean dishes. And since it takes energy to heat water, it only makes sense that the more hot water you use, the higher your energy costs.</p> <p>Maybe you feel it&#39;s greener and more cost-effective to give your dishwasher a rest and hand wash your cups, forks, plates, etc. But at the end of the day, it&#39;s all about consumption. And since the <a href="">average dishwasher uses only about 4 to 6 gallons of water per cycle</a>, and the average faucet outputs 2 gallons of water per minute, running your dishwasher can save time and money.</p> <h2>3. Electric Ovens</h2> <p>Large electric ovens require a lot of energy, and if you use your stove every day of the week, this will drive up your energy costs. Of course, you have to eat. If you do the math, cooking your own food is probably cheaper than grabbing a bite to eat. So even though the oven is one of the biggest energy drains in your house, you really don&#39;t have much of a choice, right? (See also: <a href="">19 Tips for Efficient Oven Use</a>)</p> <p>Well, not exactly. There is no rule that says you have to use your oven when preparing meals. Several vegetable and meat dishes can be prepared with smaller appliances, such as a slow cooker, a microwave, or an electric grill. You can use a toaster oven for meals you would normally cook in the oven, or maybe a rice cooker or steamer for items you usually prepare on the stovetop. Switch to <a href="">smaller appliances, and you can use about 75% less energy</a>.</p> <h2>4. Taking a Bath</h2> <p>Maybe you prefer a nice hot bath instead of a shower? Sure, baths take longer, considering you have to wait for the tub to fill with water. But what better way to relax and recharge after a long day? (See also: <a href="">Easy Ways to Have Energy After Work</a>)</p> <p>An occasional bath isn&#39;t going to skyrocket your utility bills. However, if this becomes your nightly routine, expect your energy costs to be slightly higher than the average household.</p> <p>Just like running your dishwasher, the cost of taking a bath all boils down to water consumption and the energy it takes to heat the water. Water constantly flows while showering, and like many others, you may feel that baths use less water and energy. But when you compare the average water usage for showers and baths, the facts might comes as a surprise.</p> <p>The average bath requires <a href="">30 to 50 gallons of water</a> &mdash; a major energy drain, especially when a four-minute shower with a low-flow head only uses about 10 gallons of water. Not bad considering how a family of four can each take a quick shower and use less water than a single bath.</p> <h2>5. Empty Fridge and Freezer</h2> <p>If you grocery shop every Saturday and only buy enough for a week, you may not have a stockpile of food in your fridge or freezer. You&#39;re probably thinking&nbsp;&mdash; what does my shopping routine have to do with home energy?</p> <p>Well, there&#39;s a connection. The less you buy, the less items inside your refrigerator &mdash; and empty space doesn&#39;t exactly save energy. Emptiness provides just enough space for warm air to circulate &mdash; an energy killer.</p> <p>The temperature in your kitchen is obviously warmer than the temperature inside your refrigerator. When you open the door, warm air rushes inside; the fridge then works extra hard to maintain a cool temperature. But when you keep your fridge and freezer fully stocked, this doesn&#39;t leave much room for warm air. The cooler your fridge stays, the less energy it uses.</p> <p><em>Do you know of other surprising energy drains not listed here? Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Shrink Your Utility Bill by Plugging These Surprising Home Energy Leaks" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Mikey Rox</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living conservation energy energy consumption utilities Thu, 24 Oct 2013 14:21:06 +0000 Mikey Rox 1044964 at The Only 4 Things a Vegetable Garden Needs <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-only-4-things-a-vegetable-garden-needs" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="seedlings" title="seedlings" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>One of my favorite children&#39;s books is &quot;<a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=067983687X&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20" target="_blank">Bear and Bunny Grow Tomatoes</a>.&quot; The two characters are friends and neighbors. Bear plants a garden the right way (preparing the soil, getting rid of rocks, weeding, etc.) while Bunny throws seeds in a plot of dirt and then relaxes by the pool for the rest of the summer. At the end, the diligent gardener gets a great harvest and the slack one gets nothing, until Bear gives Bunny his extras. (See also: <a href="">Gardening Lessons Learned the Hard Way</a>)</p> <p>I love the book because I so closely identify with Bunny as a gardener. However, as diligent as I tried to be, none of my own gardening efforts ever yielded results. Trying hard didn&#39;t appear to be the magic ingredient in a successful garden.</p> <p>Last year, I decided to make growing a garden a new year&#39;s goal. When a <a href="" target="_blank">Living Social</a> offer on a gardening class popped into my inbox, I quickly signed up. The deal was a four-hour class with the promise that I could learn the basics from a real-life gardener. The instructor overturned conventional wisdom that didn&#39;t work in real life. Most importantly, I learned that if you don&#39;t have four simple ingredients, <em>nothing else matters</em>. Here are the basics to growing a garden.</p> <h2>Soil</h2> <p><img alt="" src="" style="height:303px; width:605px" /></p> <p>Great soil is essential to growing vegetables, fruits, and other plant life. Plants get their nutrients from the soil. So, for plants to thrive, <a href="">they need soil with great nutrients</a>. The first step is to evaluate your soil and, if needed, take steps to improve its composition.</p> <p>The <a href="">three main types of soil are clay, sandy, and silt</a>. To develop loamy soil (the kind you want) from these types, mix in self-made or store-bought organic matter. You can add plant food, just as you can take vitamins and supplements for your body. But the best and cheapest nutrients come from real stuff like grass clippings, dead leaves, chopped-up tree prunings, etc.</p> <p>Soil can also be classified by its pH level, such as acid, alkaline, or neutral. My instructor recommended <a href="">getting garden soil tested to determine its pH</a>. You can try testing yourself using a commercial device or work with your agricultural extension office or similar resource, which should provide testing services.</p> <p>Most plants thrive at neutral levels although some, like blueberries, benefit from lower or higher levels. After you have received test results, <a href="">make adjustments to the soil pH</a> depending on the types of vegetables you hope to grow. If you need help with this step, visit a full-service garden center or enlist help of your local agricultural extension agent. (Note that I skipped this test because my soil looked good to me.)</p> <h2>Sun</h2> <p><img alt="" src="" style="height:303px; width:605px" /></p> <p>Plants need lots of sun. <a href="">The energy from sunlight is converted into chemical energy that fuels growth in a process called photosynthesis</a>. My instructor advised that most vegetables need at least eight hours of sun every day.</p> <p>Based on my experience, the spots on my deck and porch that get about four hours of sun daily do not support vegetable life. However, <a href="">some folks are able to grow certain vegetables, such as lettuce and beans, with three to six hours of sun per day</a>.</p> <p>There are just a few places in my yard that get enough sun on a regular basis. I chose a sunny location with great soil to plant my garden.</p> <h2>Water</h2> <p><img alt="" src="" style="height:303px; width:605px" /></p> <p>Plants need water, which <a href="">is useful for gathering nutrients from the ground</a>. Most importantly, I learned that <a href="">seeds need moisture to germinate</a>. So even if you ignore your garden for most of the season, make sure there is water or moisture immediately after you plant the seeds.</p> <p>We had an unusual amount of rain in our area this summer, so I watered my plants just once during the season. My garden got about an inch of rainwater each week, generally enough to grow vegetables. To determine how much water your vegetables need, check a <a href="">gardening resource</a>. (See also: <a href="">Landscaping for Your Climate</a>)</p> <h2>Seeds</h2> <p><img alt="" src="" style="height:303px; width:605px" /></p> <p>I purchased a seeds-of-the-month subscription from <a href="">Mike of Mike the Gardener Enterprises</a>. There are two options for growing from seed: 1) <a href=",2">plant indoors</a> or 2) wait for the ground to become amenable to seed growth. I followed instructions on the seed packets and waited until the soil was warm enough to receive my seeds and planted directly into the ground, rather than spend my winter cultivating plants indoors. (See also: F<a href="">oods You Can Grow in Your Home</a>)</p> <p>I planted my seeds not being sure that they&#39;d actually grow. But they did! My garden grew a nice harvest of tomatoes and peppers along with amaranth. I wasn&#39;t completely successful, as my cauliflower plants looked like they were destroyed by bugs and my zucchini seemed to be drowned by the overabundance of rain; still I was thrilled to grow something.</p> <p>It impresses veteran gardeners when I tell them I grew vegetables from seed. The truth is that all the vegetables I tried to grow from plants never did anything but die. In fact, the vegetables that grew were so abundant I needed to <a href="">thin my plants</a>. Where I didn&#39;t remove enough tomato plants, for example, they are all tangled up and drooping off the stakes installed to keep them away from each other. (See also: <a href="">How to Plan Your Garden</a>)</p> <p>Next time, I will improve on my techniques. I will space out my plants. I may even keep a garden journal. But the truth is that I needed to learn how to grow something, anything, before I could advance to the next level. My advice is to start with the simple ingredients and grow from there.</p> <p><em>Now that harvest has almost come and gone, what gardening tricks worked for your garden this year?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="The Only 4 Things a Vegetable Garden Needs" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Julie Rains</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living garden gardening vegetables Fri, 18 Oct 2013 09:48:04 +0000 Julie Rains 1031607 at Make Your Own Eco-Friendly Dryer Sheets <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/make-your-own-eco-friendly-dryer-sheets" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="bed" title="bed" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="180" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Not only is this laundry solution seriously smart, it is also awesomely eco-friendly. For only pennies, you'll have dryer sheets that can be used over and over and over again. What makes these dryer sheets better than their store-bought counterparts is they can be personalized with your favorite scent and are free of any toxic additives. Along with leaving your clothes feeling soft and fresh, they'll smell clean and ready for wear. And once you try them, you'll wonder why you never made them from scratch in the first place.</p> <p><a href="">RELATED: Homemade Drain Cleaner</a></p> <h2>What You'll Need</h2> <ul> <li>1/2 cup of vinegar</li> <li>8 drops tea tree or other essential oil</li> <li>Sealabe container</li> <li>Cotton cloths</li> </ul> <h2>Directions</h2> <p>1. Start by cutting your cotton cloths into smaller sections. I used inexpensive dish towels from the dollar store, but old tee shirts or linens would work wonderfully too.</p> <p><img width="350" height="350" src="" alt="Dryer sheet ingredients" /></p> <p>2. Mix together the vinegar and essential oil in a small bowl. Vinegar is a natural softener, and the essential oil gives your clothes a gentle, natural scent. Pour the mixture over the cloths until they are dampened but not soaked. Keep in a securely closed container.</p> <p><img width="350" height="350" src="" alt="Making dryer sheets" /></p> <p>3. To use, simply remove a sheet from the container, squeezing any excess liquid back into the jar, and toss into the dryer. To reduce static cling in clothes, reduce the heat temperature of your dryer. When clothes are dry, simply place the sheet back in the jar for use later.</p> <p><img width="350" height="350" src="" alt="Homemade dryer sheets" /></p> <p><em>Photos: </em><a style="text-decoration: none; color: #888; border-bottom: none;" rel="nofollow" href=""><em>Sarah Lipoff for POPSUGAR Smart Living <br /> </em></a></p> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-blog-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Putting on soft clothes that just came out of the dryer is great — but traditional dryer sheets are filled with chemicals. Instead, make this eco-friendly version. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-guestpost-blurb"> <div class="field-label">Guest Post Blurb:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p style="text-align:center;"><a href="" style="border:none;"><img width="300" height="95" alt="" src="" /></a></p> <p><em>This is a guest contribution from our friends at </em><a href=""><em>POPSUGAR Smart Living</em></a><em>. Check out more useful articles from this partner:</em></p> <ul> <li><a href="">How to&nbsp;Clean Your Stainless Steel&nbsp;Sink</a></li> <li><a href="">Homemade Leather Furniture Cleaner</a></li> <li><a href="">Clean Your Dishwasher With a Baking Soda Bomb</a></li> </ul> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">POPSUGAR Smart Living</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY Green Living Home dryer green cleaning supplies laundry Fri, 19 Jul 2013 10:24:32 +0000 POPSUGAR Smart Living 980712 at Is Your Apple Dangerous? How to Eat Fewer Pesticides (and Save Money) <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/is-your-apple-dangerous-how-to-eat-fewer-pesticides-and-save-money" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="apple" title="apple" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>One of the biggest concerns in food safety today is our intake of chemicals that are sprayed on fresh produce. Fungicides, insecticides, and other chemicals are the price we pay for, uniform, beautiful, and bountiful fruits and vegetables. (See also: <a href="" target="_blank">Eating at the Intersection of Cheap and Healthy</a>)</p> <p>Buying organic is one way to minimize your pesticide exposure, but for the frugal among us, organic produce can often seem too costly. The great news is that you don't have to buy exclusively organic produce to drastically minimize your pesticide exposure. By selecting a combination of organic and conventionally grown items, you can reduce the chemical content in your food without breaking the bank.</p> <h2>1. Buy Organic Where It Counts</h2> <p>The Environmental Working Group has compiled a <a href="" target="_blank">list of produce</a> that should be on everyone's refrigerator door. The EWG warns about the &quot;Dirty Dozen Plus,&quot; a list of over a dozen fruits and vegetables that carry the highest pesticide load or which are contaminated with particularly harmful insecticides.</p> <p>Among the Dirty Dozen are apples, peaches, grapes, strawberries, and celery. You can minimize your pesticide exposure by buying organic or pesticide-free versions of those fruits and vegetables, and choosing more alternative produce from the EWG's &quot;Clean Fifteen,'&quot; a list that includes squash, mangoes, avocados, and other produce that carry few pesticides. Knowing specifically what produce has the greatest pesticide load means that you don't have to buy EVERYTHING organic, <a href="" target="_blank">just certain items</a>.</p> <p>Buying fruit in season also eases the strain on your wallet. For example, organic blueberries are worth their weight in gold most of the year, but become much more affordable when they are in season in the summer.</p> <h2>2. Shop at Farmers' Markets</h2> <p>Much of the local produce at the farmers' markets is pesticide-free, although they do not officially have an &quot;organic&quot; label. That is because it can be more difficult for small farms to comply with all the requirements for getting an organic label, even if their fruits and vegetables are produced without chemicals and with respect for the environment.</p> <p>Next time you're at the farmers' market, ask whether the produce is pesticide-free. Most likely, you'll be able to buy pesticide-free fruits and vegetables at a lower cost than organic produce at a supermarket (and the produce will be fresher, too).</p> <h2>3. Buy Frozen</h2> <p>When I can't afford to buy fresh organic broccoli, I go for the frozen organic broccoli in a bag. It tastes fine in a casserole, and freezing preserves most of the nutrients. Same goes for spinach (which is on the Dirty Dozen list). Sometimes, frozen vegetables are already cut up; perfect for throwing into a stir-fry or adding to a pasta sauce, so they're convenient, too!</p> <h2>4. Shop at Ethnic Markets</h2> <p>My local Korean grocery store has a surprising amount of organic produce for extremely reasonable prices. A huge assortment of organic mushrooms can be had for 99 cents a package! To take advantage of this organic windfall, I've learned to use different kinds of mushrooms in all sorts of dishes, from omelets and risotto to stir-fries and soups.</p> <p>You can challenge yourself to cook new dishes by using whatever organic ingredients are <a href="" target="_blank">available at your local ethnic market</a>.</p> <h2>5. Rinse, Scrub, and Peel</h2> <p>When you can't afford to buy pesticide-free produce, minimize the pesticides in your food <a href="" target="_blank">by rinsing and scrubbing your produce</a> under running water. Forget the fancy vegetable washes &mdash; studies show that <a href=";" target="_blank">plain old water does just as well</a>. Remember, the scrubbing action is the key to removing pesticides, so rub them vigorously with your hands or scrub them with a brush exclusively devoted to that purpose. If you want to remove potentially harmful bacteria, rinse your fruits and veggies in a vinegar solution.</p> <p>Peeling fruits and vegetables can reduce the pesticides on the surface, but thin-skinned fruits and veggies like tomatoes, apples, and potatoes actually absorb pesticides, so peeling doesn't get rid of chemicals entirely. Scary thought, isn't it?</p> <h2>6. Buy Lean Cuts of Meat</h2> <p>Fruits and vegetables aren't the only culprits when it comes to pesticide exposure. Conventionally raised meats <a href="" target="_blank">also contain pesticide residues</a> from the feed given to the animals (not to mention antibiotic-resistant bacteria) &mdash; in fact, the EPA states that meats are contaminated with higher levels of pesticides than plant foods.</p> <p>Many harmful pesticides are fat-soluble and accumulate in an animal's fatty tissues, as well as in the fat content of dairy products. To reduce your exposure, choose lean cuts of meat and trim off excess fat. Choose low-fat milk and yogurt when buying conventional dairy. Choose organic whole milk for young children and organic butter if you can.</p> <h2>7. Buy Organic Meat in Bulk, and Choose Less Popular Cuts</h2> <p>To lower your pesticide exposure, eat less, but better-quality meat (it's better for the planet, too).</p> <p>Some families buy a share of a grass-fed animal (a quarter of a steer, for example) at more reasonable prices than buying organic meat retail. You can also buy organic meat at bulk retailers like Costco. Although stores like Costco may not have much selection, you can stock up on organic ground beef and other cuts that you can rotate through.</p> <p>Buy less popular cuts to save even more. For example, a pound of organic, free-range chicken thighs is half the price of organic chicken breasts (and in my opinion, tastes better too). Note that the label &quot;natural&quot; on meats only means that the meat has been minimally processed after butchering &mdash; the animal could have been fed antibiotics and pesticide-contaminated feed.</p> <p>Exclusively eating organic food would be ideal, but most of us can't afford it. By judiciously selecting which foods you buy organic, and by reducing your exposure to pesticides when you buy conventionally-grown produce, you'll be doing your body a favor and keeping some money in your wallet, too.</p> <p><em>How are you keeping pesticides out of your pantry and fridge?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Is Your Apple Dangerous? How to Eat Fewer Pesticides (and Save Money)" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Camilla Cheung</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Food and Drink Green Living Shopping food shopping organic pesticides produce Thu, 18 Jul 2013 10:36:33 +0000 Camilla Cheung 980556 at 25 Reasons Why You Should Take a Walk <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/25-reasons-why-you-should-take-a-walk" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="walk" title="walk" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I'm always a little amazed when people drive across town to the gym, hunt around for a place to park, change their clothes, sign up for a treadmill, and wait in line to use it, all just to take a nice 30 minute walk. Not that there's anything wrong with walking. Walking's great. But I have a theory that making such a big production of it makes it more work than fun, more exercise than pleasure. Plus, the best thing about walking is that it's so simple. Why <a href="" target="_blank">complicate it</a>? Here are 25 of the best reasons you should head out for a hike. (See also: <a href="" target="_blank">50+ Ways to Have Free Outdoor Fun</a>)</p> <h2>1. It's a Great Way to&nbsp;Enjoy the Weather</h2> <p>I live in Northern Canada, where summers are short and oh so sweet. I just can't wait to get outside, and while I haven't figured out how to be able to spend all day on a blanket at the park, walking somewhere gives me a great excuse <a href="" target="_blank">to savor a few sweet moments of sunshine</a>. I have nothing against the other seasons. I love rainy spring walks, and crisp fall walks. I even love bundling up for an icy winter walk, especially late at night. Every season (and day, for that matter) has its moments. Walking gives you a chance to soak them up.</p> <h2>2. It's Free</h2> <p>Walking is as close to free as it gets. You don't need fancy shoes, or clothes, or equipment. If you head straight out your front door, a walk will only cost you some time and a little rubber off the bottom of your shoes.</p> <h2>3. It's Good for Your Blood Sugar</h2> <p>In terms of the health benefits, even a little walk goes a long way. <a href="" target="_blank">Several studies</a> over the past few years have found that as little as 15 minutes of walking after a meal will improve digestion and even out blood sugar levels.</p> <h2>4. And Your Back</h2> <p>A study by researchers at Tel Aviv University found that walking for <a href=";id=18129" target="_blank">20-40 minutes at a moderate pace was as effective at reducing chronic back pain</a> as the sorts of strengthening exercises that are often prescribed by physical therapists.</p> <h2>5. And Your Brain</h2> <p>A brief walk can <a href="" target="_blank">melt mental fatigue</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">improve memory</a>, and even help <a href="" target="_blank">stave off the progress of Alzheimer's disease</a>. We often spend much of the day thinking and worrying. Taking a walk is a way to leave it all behind.</p> <h2>6. And Your Creativity</h2> <p>English wordsmith William Wordsworth is said to have spent much of his life on foot, walking. Henry David Thoreau often walked up to 20 miles at a time before he put pen to paper (he even wrote a whole <a href="" target="_blank">essay</a> about it). Virginia Woolf was a regular walker. So were Robert Louis Stevenson and James Joyce. In fact, there's a very long list of writers who considered walking part of their craft. If you're a creative type, the walking path might just lead to enlightenment.</p> <h2>7. And Your Weight</h2> <p>A major meta-analysis conducted by the researchers at the University of Michigan and published in &quot;The Annals of Family Medicine&quot; in 2008 compiled the results of nine different studies to conclude that <a href="" target="_blank">pedometer-based walking programs resulted in weight loss</a>. The longer participants kept a regular walking schedule going, the more weight they were likely to lose. It's easy to assume that being &quot;fit&quot; has to involve super-intense &quot;boot camp&quot; classes or marathon training, but the reality is that high intensity isn't for everyone, and it definitely isn't for all the time.</p> <h2>8. And Your Heart</h2> <p>Walking's good for your heart, too. In fact, the American Heart Association calls it the simplest lifestyle change you can make for heart health. It positively impacts <a href="">blood pressure</a>, <a href="">triglycerides</a>, and overall heart fitness. I'd venture to guess that its ability to reduce stress also has heart-healthy benefits.</p> <h2>9. And Your Bones</h2> <p>A 1994 study by researchers at Tufts University found that women with a high risk for osteoporosis who <a href="" target="_blank">walked at least 7.5 miles per week had higher bone density</a> &mdash; not just in their legs, but in their whole bodies &mdash; than women who walked less than a mile per week. Your bones respond to weight-bearing activity. Walking seems almost too easy, but it fits the bill.</p> <h2>10. Not to Mention Your Relationships</h2> <p>I read somewhere that if you're going to argue with a man, it's best to do it walking. (Apparently, they see being looked in the eye as a challenge.) I can't say for sure if that's true, but I did find some evidence that couples who walk together tend to have better relationships. When you walk with someone, you're both going in the same direction, looking ahead, and moving in sync. Those are principles that help move a relationship forward, too.</p> <h2>11. And Your Dog (Kids, Significant Other)</h2> <p>Forget toys and treats; dogs are happiest when they're moving. If you don't have a dog, remember that kids and spouses need walking, too.</p> <h2>12. And the Environment</h2> <p>Every trip (however short) you take on foot is one you aren't taking in your car. That's good for you, and it's good for the environment.</p> <h2>13. You Get to Explore</h2> <p>When you're on foot, you notice all kinds of things you'd never notice in a car. Use your walk as an opportunity to explore your neighborhood, admire the scenery, or just make fun of the stupid-looking addition your neighbors are building.</p> <h2>14. And You Get to Know Your Neighbors</h2> <p>Speaking of neighbors, walking is a great way to meet a few of them. If you do it regularly, you'll find yourself greeting the same people time and again, which is kind of nice.</p> <h2>15. And Find Cool New Businesses in Your Area</h2> <p>There's nothing I love more than stumbling across a new bookstore or coffee shop within walking distance (so you know where my loyalties lie). If I didn't walk, all my neighborhood's hidden gems would still be&hellip; hidden.</p> <h2>16. It's an Excuse to Get Some Ice Cream or Coffee</h2> <p>Walking is a great excuse to pick up a cup of coffee or ice cream cone to enjoy along the way. At least you're burning some of those calories, right?</p> <h2>17. And to Get New Shoes</h2> <p>My dress shoes (read: shoes that are too uncomfortable to walk more than a few steps in) never wear out, which means they pile up in the closet as a reminder that I shouldn't buy anymore. Wearing out my walking shoes means I get to buy a new pair once in a while.</p> <h2>18. And Some Vitamin D</h2> <p>You've probably heard all about the importance of vitamin D to overall health. The best source? <a href="">A few minutes of sunlight on your face and hands</a>. A short afternoon walk should do the trick.</p> <h2>19. You Can Listen to Music</h2> <p>A walk is a great excuse to listen &mdash; really listen &mdash; to a great album. You can even walk to the beat.</p> <h2>20. Or Just Talk</h2> <p>Walking seems to stimulate conversation. There are no clocks and no distractions. Don't come home until you've run out of things to say.</p> <h2>21. Or Spend Some Time Reflecting</h2> <p>We often think of meditation as something that happens when you're sitting still, but in reality, that's very hard to do. The washing machine will chime. The phone will ring. Your kids will find you. If you walk, your brain will be able to do its quiet wandering with less distraction.</p> <h2>22. You Can Work Really Hard</h2> <p>In terms of exercise, walking doesn't have to be a cakewalk. If you want to sweat, try walking uphill, or up stairs, or adding in some lunges. It can be as hard as you want it to be.</p> <h2>23. Or Just Take a Stroll</h2> <p>It can also be as easy as you want it to be. After all, sometimes the exercise we need is the restorative kind.</p> <h2>24. And You Can Do It Any Time</h2> <p>Sometimes I walk first thing in the morning. Sometimes I do it in the afternoon or before dinner. I also love walking late at night. And when I'm up late and can't sleep, I inevitably see some guy walking his dog at 3 a.m. (I guess I'm not the only insomniac in the neighborhood.) The point is that there's really no excuse not to walk because you can do it any time at all.</p> <h2>25. The Best Part? You Never Know Where It'll Take You</h2> <p>It's while I'm walking that I notice the frost on the grass, or a rabbit hiding behind a tree, or the moon peeking out from behind the clouds. It's when I'm walking that I get a great idea, or realize that the one I thought was great is actually pretty lame. I've explored the neighborhood where I live, and admired and fantasized about <a href="">the ones I'd like to move to</a>. I guess that's why walking is such a well-worn metaphor for life. You might not know where you're headed. All you've got to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other.</p> <p><em>Why do you like to walk?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="25 Reasons Why You Should Take a Walk" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Tara Struyk</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living Health and Beauty exercise fitness neighbors outdoor living walking Wed, 17 Jul 2013 10:36:30 +0000 Tara Struyk 980597 at How to Shower Less (and Still Feel Clean) <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-shower-less-and-still-feel-clean" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="shower" title="shower" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>You might be wondering, &quot;Why in the world would I want to shower less?&quot; Well, there are a bunch of reasons. (See also: <a href="" target="_blank">Save Hundreds by Getting Yourself Out of Hot Water</a>)</p> <ul> <li>Maybe you're traveling, and you just can't shower as much as you usually do.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Maybe you've decided your hair looks better with a little grease in it.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Maybe it's all about <a href="" target="_blank">saving a little extra money</a> on your water bill.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Maybe you want to help the environment by conserving water.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Maybe you're too busy to shower!<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Maybe you just had a baby and showering has fallen into the &quot;luxury&quot; category of life.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Maybe you work in a cubicle and don't work up a sweat, so you don't really need to shower that much.</li> </ul> <p>No matter the reason, if you want to <a href="" target="_blank">shower less and still feel clean</a>, this is how you do it.</p> <h2>Do a Bird-Bath</h2> <p>A bird-bath is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You stand in front of your sink filled with water and soap up your rag and then get to cleaning. You will forgo your shower, and you will feel clean.</p> <h2>Use Dry Shampoo</h2> <p>Dry shampoo is great because if you have fine or oily hair you can spritz in on your head, and then all the greasiness instantly goes away. There is the added benefit in that it thickens your hair and gives it texture. Plus it smells nice, so that's a treat too.</p> <h2>Take a Dry Bath</h2> <p>Yes, a <a href="" target="_blank">dry bath</a>. I haven't ever tried this before, but it looks like it might be worth a shot.</p> <h2>Wait Another Day</h2> <p>Extend your showers out an extra day, and gradually try extending them out longer and longer until you can't stand it anymore. You'll build up your tolerance, and you'll shake your shower-a-day habit.</p> <h2>Take Shorter Showers</h2> <p>Pretend you are on a game show, time yourself, and try to <a href="" target="_blank">beat your best time</a>. Thirty second shower anyone? I challenge you to try it.</p> <h2>Collect the Water</h2> <p>Let the <a href="" target="_blank">water collect in the tub</a> from your shower and use it for your next bath. It will obviously be cold by then, but since we're coming up on the summer month's, maybe you will be able to get the added benefit of cooling off, too.</p> <h2>Perfume and Deodorant</h2> <p>If you smell clean, you are half way there&hellip;at least to some people.</p> <h2>Baby Powder</h2> <p>Douse your stinky (or potentially stinky) bits with baby powder. Be sure to rub it in and shake the excess off before going out in public, so you don't look too powdery or &quot;George Washington-y.&quot;</p> <h2>Hang With Stinkier People</h2> <p>If you're the least smelly person in the room then, really, how could you not feel clean?</p> <p><em>Have you ever considered showering less for personal, financial, or environmental reasons? If so, what tips do you have for showering less while still feeling clean?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="How to Shower Less (and Still Feel Clean)" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Anna Newell Jones</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living Health and Beauty hygiene shower water conservation Thu, 06 Jun 2013 10:36:34 +0000 Anna Newell Jones 976334 at Should Your Next Car Be Electric? <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/should-your-next-car-be-electric" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="electric car" title="electric car" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="191" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>With the national average cost of a gallon of gasoline currently hovering around $3.58 (or even $4+ in some areas), filling up your car may seem like a nightmare. Car fuel is one of the most volatile categories under most families' budgets, because prices fluctuate due to a variety of factors, from Middle East tensions to oil spills or refinery fires. (See also: <a href="" target="_blank">5 Simple Ways to Cut Your Car Expenses</a>)</p> <p>Luckily, there is an increasingly popular alternative to driving environmentally unfriendly, gas-powered cars&nbsp;&mdash; electric cars. Forbes reports that at least <a href="" target="_blank">47,500 electric cars were sold in 2012</a> and, although these sales only account for 0.4% of overall car sales in the U.S., electric cars are gaining popularity among American consumers. Whereas a few years ago, SUVs were all the rage, we are seeing a societal shift towards smaller, <a href="" target="_blank">more fuel-efficient cars</a>, and those vehicles powered by electricity are leading the way.</p> <p>But are electric cars right for everyone?</p> <h2>Cost</h2> <p>One of the biggest factors people take into consideration when shopping for a new car is the cost. With electric cars, you're saving money right off the bat, thanks to <a href="" target="_blank">federal electric car tax credits</a>, which can reduce the initial cost of the car by $7,500. You also get to eliminate the cost of gas from your budget (unless you drive a gas/electric hybrid), which leads to long-term energy savings.</p> <p>There are some downsides to the electric car, however. The purchase prices for these vehicles are much higher than similar model, gas-powered cars. For example, the hybrid <a href="" target="_blank">2013 Chevy Volt</a> starts around $31,000, the <a href="" target="_blank">100% electric Nissan Leaf</a> is &quot;as low as $21,300&quot; (<em>after</em> federal tax savings and without all the fancy add-ons), and the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">2013 electric Ford Focus</a> starts at $39,200. Even with the fuel savings, it might take <a href="" target="_blank">several years to break even</a>.</p> <p>These high costs make electric cars unaffordable for many low and middle-income households, and even though they're electricity based, there are still more costs involved. For instance, you will probably need to install a charging station in your garage (factor in $1,000 to $5,000), and don't forget regular battery maintenance or replacement costs. All of <a href="" target="_blank">these costs start to add up</a>, and even without the added car accessories, the final price tag for an electric car is too high for many drivers.</p> <h2>Efficiency</h2> <p>One of the greatest advantages of electric cars is their energy efficiency. A new term was created for electric cars to determine their fuel efficiency&nbsp;&mdash; miles per gallon of gasoline equivalent (MPGe). <a href="" target="_blank">Most electric cars get over 100 MPGe</a>, even larger vehicles like SUVs and station wagons.</p> <p>The downside here is that electric cars can generally go only 250 miles on a fully charged battery. The infrastructure for public charging stations is scarce in the U.S., so long road trips are out of the question, and if you run out of electricity while on the road, you can't simply go to the nearest gas station and fuel up. This makes electric cars more of an inconvenience for their drivers, but they can still be valuable investments if driven locally and charged regularly.</p> <h2>Environmental Factors</h2> <p>There are few, if any, comparative disadvantages to electric cars where the environment is concerned. Whereas the EPA estimates that <a href="" target="_blank">gasoline emits 8,887 grams of CO2 per gallon</a> (PDF), electric cars have close to zero emissions. Regardless of your views on what causes global warming and how serious a problem it is, the fact remains that electric cars pollute the air much less than their gas-powered counterparts, and, as the driver of an electric car, you can vastly <a href="" target="_blank">reduce your impact</a> on the environment.</p> <h2>Final Word</h2> <p>Multiple factors ought to be taken into consideration when buying a car, particularly when you're deciding between a gas or electric car. Although electric cars are more costly upfront, the long-term fuel savings could make it worth your while. And, as technology continues to develop and more car companies produce electric cars to meet the steadily growing demand for them, the cost will likely drop in the coming years.</p> <p><em>Have you bought or are you planning to buy an electric car? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Should Your Next Car Be Electric?" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Kelly Kehoe</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Cars and Transportation Green Living Technology car buying electric cars environmentally friendly gas prices Mon, 20 May 2013 09:48:32 +0000 Kelly Kehoe 974060 at Cut Your Electric Bill With Solar Panels <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/cut-your-electric-bill-with-solar-panels" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="solar panels" title="solar panels" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Thinking about reducing your carbon footprint by going solar?</p> <p>Besides helping the environment, installing solar panels can dramatically reduce your electric bills.</p> <p>Solar panel installers say the panels can cut monthly electric bills by 50 to 90%. The Department of Energy confirms that a solar electric system can meet &quot;nearly all the needs&quot; of an energy-efficient home.</p> <p>A two-kilowatt system could cost $16,000 to $20,000 including installation, or $8 to $10 per watt, according to the Department of Energy. Cheaper PV systems are available, but they only slightly cut electricity costs. At the high end, a five-kilowatt system that completely meets the energy needs of many conventional homes can cost $30,000 to $40,000 or $6 to $8 per watt, installed.</p> <p>What's more, the cost of solar panels has fallen substantially in recent years, due to improving technology and low-cost imports. According to Clean Edge, a renewable energy research firm, solar costs for the panels themselves have dropped from $7.50 per watt to $2.50 since 2000.</p> <p>In addition, photovoltaic, or PV, panels will protect you from rate increases in the future, which run at 4% or more a year, since the sun will never charge more for its power. That means 10 or 20 years from now the cost of electricity may have doubled, but you'll be getting your power for free or for very little.</p> <p>Solar panels also increase the value of homes, so homeowners should get their investment back when they sell their homes. A <a href="" target="_blank">Berkley Lab study of California homes</a> found that homes with photovoltaic panels sold for a premium over homes without the panels.</p> <p>How much you can save depends on how much sunshine you get, the solar system you install, the cost of electricity in your area, and how much electricity you use, all factors that vary widely.</p> <p>If your utility has net metering, you'll be credited for excess energy the PV system creates during the day. In effect, your meter will run backwards. That means your electric bill could potentially be zero. In some areas, utilities may pay homeowners for excess energy.</p> <h2>Tax Credit Where Credit Is Due</h2> <p>Homeowners can currently obtain a federal tax credit for 30% of installation costs.</p> <p>Many states also offer rebates and tax credits. Eligibility criteria, incentives, and installer equipment requirements vary widely. For listings of state, local, utility, and federal incentives, visit the <a href="" target="_blank">National Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy</a> (DSIRE). The Department of Energy also has a nifty <a href="">online tool</a> for finding state incentives for solar energy, as well as other alternative energy sources.</p> <h2>How Much Can You Save?</h2> <p>After getting quotes from installers and calculating the state and federal tax savings, use your past year's electric bills to estimate your savings.</p> <p>Divide the installation costs after tax incentives by 25 years to find the system's annual cost, and compare the annual cost to last year's electric bill to estimate your savings. If you borrow money to pay for your solar system, take into account the interest you'll pay, too.</p> <p>California, the largest solar energy market, is pushing PV panels in a big way with its <a href="" target="_blank">Go Solar California</a> campaign, a joint effort of the state's Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission. The <a href="">California Solar Initiative</a> offers rebates to customers of its investor-owned utilities &mdash; Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas &amp; Electric &mdash; with rebate amounts depending on the performance of the solar panels. All you need is roof or ground space that gets unobstructed sunlight from 11 a.m. to sunset year-round.</p> <p>Customers of municipal utilities may also qualify for incentives through their municipal service providers. For the California Solar Initiative program, you first must complete an energy efficiency audit done through your <a href="" target="_blank">utility's program manager</a>. It can be done online or over the phone.</p> <h2>Buying Sunshine's Electricity on Credit</h2> <p>Installing a solar system may cost tens of thousands of dollars, but you might be able to lease the equipment with little or no money upfront. If you opt for leasing, you pay a fixed monthly fee, typically for 15 to 20 years, while the solar company maintains the panels. Solar leases, or third-party financing, is relatively new and is expected to energize the solar business, says a report from <a href="" target="_blank">GTM Research</a>. To date, leasing is available in 14 states, including California, Arizona, and Colorado.</p> <p>A downside of leasing is that the company, not you, gets the federal tax credit. And you can't be certain the company maintaining the system will be around for 15 or 20 years, especially given the young solar industry's record of turmoil and bankruptcy.</p> <h2>Getting Started</h2> <p>In California, the state maintains a database of solar contractors who are eligible to apply for state incentives; other states may have similar programs. Talk to at least three installers. Ask about their warranties, how many systems they've installed, the average cost per watt they charge, the peak generating capacity, and the total cost including hardware, connecting to the grid, and permits.</p> <p>The contractor will handle the state rebate paperwork. Utility customers get a monthly incentive based on the PV system's output, but owners of systems under 30 kilowatts are also eligible for an upfront rebate.</p> <p>Other states also offer tax credits or rebates. For instance, Arizona, another sunny state, has a 25% tax credit for residents installing solar energy systems, up to $1,000, and Nevada offers a tax rebate of up to $12,500 for residential solar electric systems. Ask your utility company for referrals for installers.&nbsp;</p> <p>So if you live in a sunny spot, you can say goodbye to rising electric bills while feeling good that you're doing something to help the environment.</p> <p><em>Have you upgraded your home or property with solar panels? Are the savings meeting your expectations?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Cut Your Electric Bill With Solar Panels" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Michael Kling</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living Home Real Estate and Housing clean energy conserve electricity electric bills solar panels Fri, 03 May 2013 10:24:34 +0000 Michael Kling 971408 at 10 Easy Veggies to Plant This Spring <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-easy-veggies-to-plant-this-spring" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="carrots" title="carrots" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="157" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Got a black thumb? I certainly do. I think it may have something to do with how I always forget to water my plants. Luckily, there are some herbs and veggies that thrive on neglect, and I&rsquo;m hoping that I&rsquo;ll be able to grow some of them this season. Growing your own vegetables can help save a buck or two, and when you grow them organically, they're healthier too. It's also just plain fun. (See also: <a href="">10 Unique Garden&nbsp;Containers and Techniques</a>)</p> <h2>1. Mint</h2> <p>You can&rsquo;t keep mint down! This lovely herb is delicious in salads, desserts and drinks, and it&rsquo;ll grow like a weed if you give it a chance. Plant it in an enclosed planter or pot to prevent it from taking over your whole yard &mdash; and your neighbor&rsquo;s yard too. It does best with morning sun and afternoon shade &mdash; too much sun will dry it out.</p> <h2>2. Arugula</h2> <p>There&rsquo;s a reason arugula looks like a weed &mdash; it certainly grows like one! Sow the seeds in a cool location with partial sun, water it once in a while, and watch your salad jungle grow. Naturally pest-resistant, arugula will mature in a month and if you let it go to seed, has a good chance of re-seeding itself!</p> <h2>3. Green Onions</h2> <p>Once in a while when I buy green onions at the store, I plant the extras in the yard before they have a chance to go bad. They last months and months this way, getting bigger and bigger until they&rsquo;re the size of leeks. Of course, they taste best when harvested early, but at least they&rsquo;re not going to waste! You can cut them down to the white parts and they will re-sprout, providing you with an ongoing supply of green onions. While I&rsquo;ve read that they do best in full sun, mine are in a pretty shady spot and are doing fine. You can also sow them from seed in the spring.</p> <h2>4. Rosemary</h2> <p>I bought a rosemary plant a year ago, planted it in a sunny location, and have barely watered it since. It has now tripled in size, and I&rsquo;m going to have to prune it back so I can walk past it comfortably! Rosemary does well in sunny, warm, and dry weather (like what we have in Southern California), but you can <a href="">grow it anywhere in a well-drained pot</a>. If you live in a colder climate, bring it indoors for the winter. It will perfume your house and your roasts all winter.</p> <h2>5. Zucchini and Summer Squash</h2> <p>Has your neighbor ever left you a zucchini the size of a baseball bat on your front porch? That&rsquo;s because zucchini and summer squash are easy to grow, <a href="">are enormously prolific</a>, and grow huge fruit if you let them. You can start them from seed, but I find it easier to buy a seedling from a garden supply store. Plant them in a sunny location with rich soil and water when the top inch of soil is dry.</p> <h2>6. Carrots</h2> <p>Sweet, crunchy carrots are easy to grow even in poor soil. Sow them in a sunny spot, and you&rsquo;ll be thinning out the baby carrots in no time. Kids love pulling carrots out of the soil and eating them right from the yard.</p> <h2>7. Rhubarb</h2> <p>This hardy plant thrives even when neglected (in fact, you can often find it growing wild), especially in cooler climates. Sadly, it doesn&rsquo;t do so well in warmer climates, as it needs the chill of winter to develop flavor (or my garden would be stocked with the stuff). It grows well in partial shade with well-drained soil, and as a perennial, it will flourish year after year.</p> <h2>8. Bell Peppers</h2> <p>Bell peppers are pretty expensive at the store, so they make a great addition to your home garden. They are naturally pest-resistant, less finicky than tomatoes, and require less heat than chili peppers. Plant pepper seedlings in full sun, in rich, well-drained soil after the nighttime temperatures get warmer (above 50-60 degrees F) and water deeply. For bigger peppers, fertilize every few weeks.</p> <h2>9. Beets</h2> <p>Beets are a popular choice for the garden because they can take abuse from the blackest thumb, and you can eat the entire plant, including the leaves! Surprised? Chances are, your average supermarket bag of spring mix includes beet greens. Sow them from seed and in about a month, you can start harvesting the tender baby greens. Larger, tougher greens can be cooked. Thin the seedlings as they grow bigger, and at the end of the season you&rsquo;ll have a harvest of <a href="">nice sweet beet roots</a>.</p> <h2>10. Swiss Chard</h2> <p>This sturdy plant can withstand pretty harsh conditions, and it&rsquo;s also incredibly good for you. Sow plenty of seeds in early spring, and thin out as you go for a bumper harvest. Rainbow varieties also add a colorful ornamental touch to your garden.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Easy Veggies to Plant This Spring" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Camilla Cheung</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Food and Drink Green Living Lifestyle frugal gardening grow herbs grow vegetables Mon, 15 Apr 2013 09:48:34 +0000 Camilla Cheung 973373 at 50+ Ways to Save Water <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/50-ways-to-save-water" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="water bucket" title="water bucket" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>You know you live in a First World country when you have the luxury of flushing your toilet with drinking water.</p> <p>Even though most Americans don&rsquo;t spend a good part of their day worrying about accessing fresh water, water in this country is growing scarcer and more expensive with each passing year. Even if you live in a rainy climate, you can do the planet and your pocket book a favor by conserving water. (See also: <a target="_blank" href="">Save Hundreds by Getting Yourself Out of Hot Water</a>)</p> <h2>In the Kitchen</h2> <p>To avoid wasting water from a running tap, <strong>collect it in a bottle or Brita pitcher </strong>and chill it in the refrigerator for drinking. Or, while waiting for the water to warm up, <strong>use the water to rinse dirty dishes</strong>, water the plants, or wash produce.</p> <p>Instead of using the garbage disposal, <strong>compost your fruit and vegetable scraps. </strong>(In turn, adding compost to your yard will help the soil retain moisture).</p> <p><strong>Only use the dishwasher when you have a full load</strong>. Instead of pre-rinsing dishes in the sink, use the rinse and hold setting on your dishwasher.</p> <p>If you can afford to <strong>get an energy star dishwasher</strong>, do it. The best dishwashers and washing machines only use four gallons of water per load. Less water than you&rsquo;d use hand-washing. (See also: <a href="">The 5 Best Dishwashers</a>)</p> <p>If you are hand-washing dishes, <strong>use the least amount of detergent possible</strong> to reduce the amount of water you then have to use to rinse the dishes.</p> <p><strong>Steam or microwave veggies instead of boiling them</strong>. If your recipe calls for boiling vegetables, only use enough water to cover them, and put a lid on your saucepan. Use the water leftover from boiling vegetables as a basis for homemade stock.</p> <p><strong>Make one-pot meals</strong>. Fewer dishes means less water for washing up.</p> <p><strong>Defrost food in the refrigerator overnight</strong> instead of using hot running water. (This is the best food-safe method). If you are in a rush, thaw your food in the microwave.</p> <h2>In the Bathroom</h2> <p><strong>Don&rsquo;t let the water run</strong> while you are brushing your teeth or soaping up your hands.</p> <p>Instead of rinsing it in running water, <strong>clean your razor by swishing it in a cup of water.</strong></p> <p><strong>Install a low-flow shower head</strong> and/or an aerator.</p> <p><strong>Make sure to insulate your hot water pipes</strong>. This avoids wasting water by cutting down the time it takes for hot water to flow through and saves energy.</p> <p><strong>Turn down your hot water thermostat</strong>. In addition to protecting you from being scalded by accident, adding cold water to cool down extremely hot water wastes energy and water.</p> <p><strong>Take shorter showers</strong>. <a target="_blank" href="">Set a timer so you don&rsquo;t cheat</a>. Turn off the tap while shaving, soaping up, or waiting for conditioner to do its thing.</p> <p><strong>Use a bucket to collect water while waiting for the water to heat up</strong>. Use this water to force flush your toilet, shave your legs, or mop the floor.</p> <p><strong>Bathe your kids together</strong> or reuse your bathwater to wash your kids. Or reuse the kids&rsquo; bathwater to wash your dog. get the picture.</p> <p>If you can&rsquo;t afford a low-flow toilet, <strong>put a brick to your toilet tank</strong> until you can afford to add a dual flush system or a flow restrictor to your existing toilet. Also, <strong>check to make sure that your tank isn&rsquo;t leaking</strong>. To check for leaks, add some food coloring to the tank water. If your tank is leaking, you&rsquo;ll see the dye in the toilet bowl before you flush.</p> <p><strong>Flush your toilet less often</strong>. If this sounds disgusting to you, know that in drought areas of Australia, the government is encouraging men to pee in the garden to conserve water. <strong>Avoid using the toilet to dispose of hair, bugs, goldfish, or other random waste</strong> items that can be composted or thrown in the trash instead.</p> <h2>In the Laundry</h2> <p><strong>Use the least amount of detergent that you can.</strong> In addition to making your clothes last longer, your washer will not have to work as hard to wash all the soap out. If your clothes still smell soapy when they come out of the wash, you are using too much detergent.</p> <p><strong>Only run full loads of laundry</strong>. If you have a small household, consider sharing laundry duty with your friends or neighbors to ensure every load is a full load.</p> <h2>In the Yard</h2> <p>Check the weather forecast. If it&rsquo;s going to rain in the next four days, <strong>let nature water your plants</strong> for you.</p> <p><strong>Use a broom to sweep walkways and driveways</strong> instead of hosing them down with water.</p> <p><strong>Use leftover bath water to water non-food plants, wash the car, or clean the siding</strong>.</p> <p><strong>Plant drought-resistant ornamental plants</strong>.</p> <p>Use the <a href="">Square Foot Garden system</a> or permaculture <strong>methods of under-planting and inter-planting tall vegetables with shorter vegetables</strong> to self-mulch. In addition to growing a tremendous amount of food in a small space, you&rsquo;ll also save on water.</p> <p><strong>Don&rsquo;t water your garden at high noon</strong>, in addition to losing more water to evaporation, you run the risk of burning your plants. (Water beads act like little magnifying glasses). Water in the morning or in the evening when it&rsquo;s cooler.</p> <p><strong>Add soil amendments like compost to your soil that will help it retain water</strong>. Mulch your garden to keep water from evaporating quickly.</p> <p><strong>Water the base of your plants using a watering can, a soaker hose, or a drip system</strong> instead of watering the tops of the plants with a sprinkler or hose.</p> <p><a target="_blank" href=""><strong>Install a rain water tank or divert water from your gutters</strong></a> into the garden instead of into the storm drains.</p> <p><a target="_blank" href=""><strong>Replace your lawn with low-water plants</strong></a>.</p> <p>If your neighborhood covenant requires you to maintain a lawn, <strong>install a low-water grass variety</strong>. Deep soak your lawn once a week to encourage deep root growth instead of watering for less time more often. Also, <strong>make sure that your lawn needs to be watered before turning on the hose</strong>. If the grass springs back after you step on it, you don&rsquo;t need to water.</p> <p>Taller grass holds more water than short grass so <strong>wait a bit between mows</strong>. Short lawns will burn because they don&rsquo;t have leaf protection. Don&rsquo;t mow your lawn to less than one inch in height. (See also: <a href="">The 6 Best Lawn Mowers</a>)</p> <p><strong>Aerate your lawn in the summer </strong>to help it absorb more water quickly.</p> <p>When planting a garden, try to <strong>group plants by their watering needs</strong>. Also, sparsely planted areas are more difficult to water efficiently. Try to plant in the spring or autumn when it&rsquo;s cooler.</p> <p><strong>Avoid buying outdoor toys that require constantly running water</strong>.</p> <p><em>How much water do you save every year by conserving water? How many dollars do you save? Please share your favorite water saving tips in the comments section.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="50+ Ways to Save Water" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Max Wong</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living drinking water laundry care tips lawn care water conservation Thu, 11 Apr 2013 10:36:34 +0000 Max Wong 971637 at 18 Awesome, Practically Free Upcycled Craft Projects <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/18-awesome-practically-free-upcycled-craft-projects" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="craft supplies" title="craft supplies" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I like to make stuff.</p> <p>I sew or knit a lot of my own clothes. I cook from scratch. I try to only give handmade gifts. But, because I am on an itty bitty budget, I am constantly on the hunt for ways to reduce the cost of my crafting habit. Seriously, if you look at my checkbook it looks like I have a drug habit. All my money goes to La Knitterie Parisienne. I spend more money for yarn than I pay for gas every year. And I live in Los Angeles. Making stuff by hand can be wildly expensive. (See also: <a target="_blank" href="">25 Gifts You Can Make Today</a>)</p> <p>One of the easiest ways to cut craft costs is to source inexpensive supplies. My favorite source of free supplies happens to be the recycling bin in my house. In addition to providing me with free supplies, by upcycling craft materials from the waste stream, I&rsquo;m doing the environment a favor.</p> <p>Well, okay, I&rsquo;m doing the environment a favor if my finished craft is actually a beautiful and functional item. As my friend Katy, who blogs regularly about treasures (and trash) she finds at Goodwill says, &quot;Just because you can glue glass floral pebbles on something, doesn&rsquo;t mean you should.&quot; Garbage with some glitter glued on it is still garbage.</p> <p>When I&rsquo;m trying to decide whether or not an upcycled craft project is worth my time, I ask myself three questions:</p> <ol> <li>Would I love getting this item as a gift?</li> <li>Is it something I would definitely use?</li> <li>Can it replace something I would pay money for?</li> </ol> <p>If the answer to all three of these questions is yes, then I know that the project is worth my time. However, since any type of crafting involves some level of hoarding &mdash; I mean collecting &mdash; I also ask myself a fourth question:</p> <ol start="4"> <li>Will I generate more trash in the process of upcycling this item than if I just threw it away or donated it?</li> </ol> <p>What follows are 21 upcycling projects that recently made it through my selection process.</p> <h2>1. Upcycled Egg Carton Wreath</h2> <p>I made a <a target="_blank" href="">similar egg carton wreath</a> with my mother when I was in pre-school. Instead of tempura paint we used the cheap watercolor paints that come in the plastic palette box. If you don&rsquo;t have a glue gun, regular old Elmer&rsquo;s glue works just fine. You can get remarkably <a target="_blank" href="">sophisticated results from the humblest supplies</a>.</p> <h2>2. Coasters From Woven Magazine Pages</h2> <p>When I travel, I collect foreign language magazines, maps, and cardboard packaging.</p> <p><a target="_blank" href="">Newspapers </a>and maps get recycled into wrapping paper, cardboard packaging gets cut into postcards, and ephemera like museum tickets get laminated and turned into luggage tags, bookmarks, and placemats. I like <a target="_blank" href="">these woven coasters</a> because they are a good way to use up magazine pages that aren&rsquo;t visually that interesting, are a good travel craft that can be assembled while waiting at the airport or train station (just fold and tear the pages instead of using scissors), and are cheap to ship home.</p> <h2>3. Corrugated Cardboard Lamp</h2> <p> is a great resource for upcycled projects. I am going to use their instructions for <a target="_blank" href="">this cardboard lamp</a> to make a nightlight scratching post for my cats. (I&rsquo;m replacing the bulb with LED tea lights for fire safety).</p> <h2>4. Plastic Toys Transformed</h2> <p>You don&rsquo;t even need to know German to understand these instructions on how to turn a small plastic toy into <a target="_blank" href="">a chic pendant or watch fob</a>. This is a good way to use that lone army man or plastic circus animal you found hiding behind the sofa.</p> <p>And this $1 plastic dinosaur toy plus succulents <a target="_blank" href="">becomes Upcyclasaurus Rex</a>.</p> <h2>5. Eccentric English Grandma To-Do List</h2> <p>Yes. I know this <a target="_blank" href="">tea bag shopping list</a> looks vaguely <em>hoardy bag lady</em>, but as a heavy duty tea drinker, I&rsquo;m so happy to have found a way to reuse tea bag wrappers before I recycle them.</p> <h2>6. Cavity-Free Christmas Light Shades</h2> <p>I started buying Tom&rsquo;s of Main toothpaste because it was the only toothpaste that was still sold in metal, recyclable tubes. So I was really disappointed when Tom&rsquo;s switched to plastic tubes a few years ago. Luckily, the recycling geniuses over at Terracycle have figured out a way to turn plastic toothpaste tubes into cute, <a target="_blank" href="">flower-shaped shades for holiday lights</a>.</p> <h2>7. Upcycled Travel Art Kit</h2> <p>I usually recycle DVD cases by bringing them to my local video store for reuse, but this upcycled <a target="_blank" href="">mobile sketch pad and pencil case</a> is pretty slick.</p> <h2>8. Custom Jigsaw Puzzles</h2> <p>Are you tired of your old puzzles?</p> <p>Spray paint over the design and then <a target="_blank" href="">redraw your own</a>. Or make a two-sided puzzle by creating a new design on the back of a puzzle.</p> <p>I've been pricing custom photo puzzles as a gift idea for my mother-in-law. Instead of paying $75, I am going to enlist the youngest grandkid to help me convert an old 2000 piece puzzle that I already own into a truly brag-worthy piece of kid art.</p> <h2>9. Secret Book Safe</h2> <p>Where do you stash your secret <a target="_blank" href="">book safe</a>? On your <a href=""><em>book </em>bookshelf</a>, of course.</p> <h2>10. Citrus Peel Starter Pots</h2> <p>Before you compost your citrus peels, put them to <a target="_blank" href="">work nurturing seedlings</a>.</p> <h2>11. Old Slide Glass Windows</h2> <p>Transform old slides into a <a target="_blank" href="">modern &quot;stained glass&quot; window treatment</a>. I don&rsquo;t know if this will keep out nosey neighbors or create them.</p> <h2>12. CD Spindle Bagel or Cable Holder</h2> <p>Keep your sandwich from getting squished in your bag. Turn a CD <a target="_blank" href="">spindle into a sandwich keeper</a>.</p> <p>Or use one to <a target="_blank" href="">store and organize cables</a>. (The CD spindle. Not the sandwich).</p> <h2>13. Suitcase Toolbox</h2> <p>No garage? <a target="_blank" href="">Organize your tools in vintage suitcases</a> as a cute storage alternative. No one knows that my grandmother&rsquo;s old train case is <a href="">really my sewing kit.</a></p> <h2>14. Plastic Spoon Mirror Frame</h2> <p>Martha Stewart Living has nothing on Marie Claire Idées, the French DIY decorating magazine. This <a target="_blank" href=",un-cadre-fait-de-petites-cuilleres,2610153,1190.asp">mirror&rsquo;s mid-century mod frame</a> is made from spray painted plastic spoons that are affixed to the inexpensive mirror with epoxy glue specifically designed for glass.</p> <h2>15. Friendship Rug</h2> <p>Did you ever make friendship bracelets at summer camp? Well, you can make a <a target="_blank" href="">giant rug or table runner</a> version out of old bed sheets.</p> <h2>16. Party Favor Gift Tubes</h2> <p>My goddaughter is hosting a tea party to celebrate her confirmation in May. I&rsquo;m saving up toilet paper tubes to reuse as <a target="_blank" href="">little gift boxes for party favors</a>. I&rsquo;m overly pleased that this project will help me use up all my leftover doilies and paper flowers from Valentine&rsquo;s Day, too.</p> <h2>17. Fabric Covered Hangers</h2> <p>No more wire hangers! Even Mommy Dearest would love these <a target="_blank" href="">fabric covered wire hangers</a>, but don't mention that <a href="">the fabric is upcycled old t-shirts</a>.</p> <h2>18. Weensy Photo Fridge Magnets</h2> <p>I&rsquo;ve always loved miniatures, so these <a target="_blank" href="">tiny &quot;Polaroid&quot; magnets</a> are right up my alley. This tutorial includes a downloadable Photoshop template for the Polaroid frames, but these could easily be replicated with just a ruler and matte knife.</p> <p>What&rsquo;s so great about this project is that you can customize this idea for gifts that are personal and easy to ship. I&rsquo;m going to make a set of these for my mom and my mother-in-law for Mother&rsquo;s Day. These would also make a super cute wedding gift.</p> <p>OK, I will admit that this is one of those times that my insane hoarding of craft supplies pays off. Instead of buying adhesive backed magnet tape at the craft store, I am going to use the business card magnets I keep getting in the mail from various local businesses and real estate agents for this project.</p> <p><em>Do you think upcycled crafts are worth the time and effort? What upcycled craft project would you recommend to others? What's your biggest upcycling fail? Share your genius in the comments section.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="18 Awesome, Practically Free Upcycled Craft Projects" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Max Wong</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY Green Living crafts homemade gifts projects recycled upcycling Mon, 08 Apr 2013 10:36:37 +0000 Max Wong 971591 at