Friday, February 28, 2014

Morehead Home and Garden Show

Please visit us at the Morehead Home and Garden Show today and tomorrow. We're in booth #73. This show is always a lot of fun. Stop by and see a sample of our wonderful compost and mulch.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Solar Power for Your Home - A Bright Idea

Solar Power for Your Home - A Bright Idea

Chase Ezell

Project in Nieuwland Amersfoort consists of solar panels on over 500 homes and utility buildings. Photo: flickr/enecomedia
Project in Nieuwland Amersfoort consists of solar panels on over 500 homes and utility buildings. Photo: flickr/enecomedia

Homeowners looking to lower their utility bill and environmental footprint are finding a bright idea in solar power generation. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Americans added more solar power generating capacity during the third quarter of 2013 than ever before – 186 megawatts, up almost 50% year over year! Increased consumer demand and advancements in technology are leading homeowners to strongly consider installation.

For some homeowners, solar panels are still simply too expensive. However, you shouldn’t let initial sticker shock scare you off. Some retailers and utility companies offer lease (vs. buy) options, lessening the upfront investment costs. According to a recent FoxBusiness personal finance article, ‘Experts say the leasing process of a solar panel system is similar to leasing a car or even getting cable service. Most don’t require a down payment, but will lock in a rate homeowners will pay each month for as long as 20 years. The rate may be fixed over the contract period or it may rise on an annualized basis. Either way, experts say the savings compared to consumers’ current and future electricity rates will be greater during the life of the contract. The solar panel company or installer is responsible for any panel maintenance or repairs.’

DSIRE, the Database of State Incentives for Renewable & Efficiency, offers comprehensive information about federal and state incentive programs for implementing solar and other renewable energy projects at home. Tax credits, rebates and other incentives may be available in your area so check out this important resource.

Some utility providers even allow homeowners to sell unused solar power generation back to the grid, also helping offset costs of implementation.

CNNMoney Editor-at-large David Whitford recently installed a 15-panel, 3.75 kilowatt system on the roof of his Boston home. He shares that the system replaces about 80% of his family’s grid draw. And, over the promised 25 year life span of the equipment, the system will cut his household’s footprint by 62 tons of CO2 – not to mention the $25,000 in utility bill savings. Whitford’s total upfront cost was just under $13,000. But, thanks to state and federal incentives, his ROI will be less than five years.

In a newly formed partnership, Phoenix homebuilder Taylor Morrison and retailer SolarCity announced a solar option on all new Phoenix-area homes. The partners outline that homeowners can reap the benefits of solar power generation for little to no upfront costs. The partnership will make it possible for home buyers to save up to thousands on their utility bills, and will also enable them to lock in their solar electricity costs for decades into the future. Taylor Morison is the first national homebuilder in Arizona to offer SolarCity’s solar systems to homebuyers without increasing the purchase price of their homes

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Waste Disposal and Recycling

Waste Disposal and Recycling

For many years direct recycling by producers of surplus and defective materials constituted the main form of recycling. However, indirect recycling, the recycling of materials after their use by consumers, became the focus of activity in the 1990s. For some time, most solid waste has been deposited in landfills or dumps. Landfills are filling up, however, and disposal of wastes in them has led to environmental problems. Also, government (which had little authority over disposal of wastes until the 1970s) now has extensive regulatory powers.

A growing alternative to such disposal is recycling. Industry has found that when it undertakes serious recycling programs, the savings can sometimes be considerable. In addition to reducing manufacturing and materials costs, such programs can insulate the companies from liability for environmental violations. Agriculture, which is the cause of much environmental degradation, can use organic recycling, or the reuse of manure and crop residues (sometimes called "green manure").

Water, in one sense, is always recycled, inasmuch as there is a finite amount of it available on earth and it constantly moves through its cycle of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. Deliberate programs for recycling water include use of wetlands as areas to filter harmful wastes from the substance, or using partly treated sewage for raising fish. Municipal sewage- and water-treatment plants, of course, are fundamental recycling agents.

The individual consumer plays a large part in recycling. Originally, household containers such as beverage cans and bottles were recycled as a matter of course, with a glass beer container or milk bottle being refilled as many as 30 times; in 1935, brewers began putting their products in nonrefillable, "one-way" cans for the convenience of customers, and soon glass containers were declared disposable as well. With the rise of environmentalism in the early 1970s, recycling regained favor. Several states instituted deposit laws for beverage containers; a 5- or 10-cent deposit was charged the consumer at the time of purchase for each can or bottle, then refunded when the container was returned to a store or recycling center. Newspapers take up much volume in landfills, and some recycling programs seek to collect them (along with other sorted categories of waste, such as organic matter, bones, and plastic).

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Use of Recycled Materials

Use of Recycled Materials

In 1996, 27% of solid waste in the United States was recycled. Products that are recycled in large quantities include paper and paperboard, ferrous metals, aluminum and other nonferrous metals, glass, plastics, and yard wastes. Although many local communities have instituted comprehensive recycling programs, these remain expensive. Because the quality of recycled items is often inferior (often due to the mixture or age of the materials in the items being recycled) and not suitable for their original purpose, the price for many recycled materials remains low and makes recycling economically nonviable in some instances. In an attempt to solve this problem, new uses have been created for recovered waste material. Crushed glass, for instance, can be substituted for gravel or sand in road surfacing and other construction applications; the resulting product is called "glassphalt." Scientists and entrepreneurs are also working on ways to turn the world's growing piles of discarded automobile tires into new products or to use them to generate safe energy

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Three R's of the Environment

The Three R's of the Environment

Every year, Americans throw away 50 billion food and drink cans, 27 billion glass bottles and jars, and 65 million plastic and metal jar and can covers. More than 30% of our waste is packaging materials. Where does it all go? Some 85% of our garbage is sent to a dump, or landfill, where it can take from 100 to 400 years for things like cloth and aluminum to decompose. Glass has been found in perfect condition after 4,000 years in the earth!

We are quickly running out of space. It's time to learn the three R's of the environment: reduce, reuse, recycle. Then practice what you preach: don't buy things you don't need or items that come in wasteful packaging or that cannot be recycled. Reuse and recycle whatever you can.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Making soap: 5 tips for homemade soap

Here are five tips for making soap at home.

DIY: Making soap at home can be a fun and rewarding experience.

Until around 1916, making soap at home was commonplace. Using wood or plant ashes and leftover animal fats, families produced their own soap for cleaning their clothes and themselves.

During World War I, when animal fats were in limited supply, German scientists developed synthetic detergents — and commercial soap was born. Homemade soap became less of a necessity, and gradually the practice dwindled.

In recent years, back-to-the-landers and simple-living adherents have revived the homemade soap-making process — but it’s not only in favor with those who leave the big city for rural life or those with an anti-commercialist bent. For anyone interested in living as self-sufficiently as possible, it makes good sense to make your own soap.

Homemade soap is good for your wallet: you can make big batches of soap from scratch for less than it costs to buy bar after bar at your local drugstore, and you can reuse leftover bits to make new soap.

It's good for your body: without all the potentially harmful chemicals in commercial soap, homemade soap is of superior quality; people with sensitive skin often find relief when they stop using store-bought soap and start making their own.

And, homemade soap is good for the environment: it lacks the synthetic materials in conventional bar soaps that eventually accumulate in our waterways and put natural resources at risk.

Step-by-step instructions for making soap at home are widely available online and in various DIY books.

If you’re ready to start making soap at home — and reaping its many benefits — read up on the process and follow these five soap-making tips.

1. Make sure you have everything you need at hand before you start.

There’s nothing worse than trying something new and realizing halfway through that you’re missing something — especially when you’re attempting something as involved as making soap.

Aside from the essential ingredients (lye, water or another appropriate liquid, and fat), you’ll want to set up your soap-making station with these must-have tools:

•Rubber gloves and protective eyewear, such as goggles or glasses
•Two large mixing bowls made of a material that will not react with lye: strong plastic, stainless steel, glass, enamel. Do not use flimsy plastic, aluminum, tin or wood. One bowl with a lip for pouring will be helpful.
•Assorted mixing and measuring spoons. You’ll want at least one heat-resistant plastic or stainless steel spoon for stirring the lye/water mixture, as well as another wooden spoon, wire whisk, or rubber spatula for combining the elements. An electric stick blender, while not necessary, will save you time and energy. Measuring spoons will come in handy if you plan to use additives such as essential oils.
•An accurate scale for measuring liquids.
•Two accurate candy or meat thermometers for determining the temperature of your liquids.
•A mold for shaping your soap. The best materials for soap molds are glass, plastic or stainless steel. Wood or cardboard works if you line it first with waxed or greased paper.
•Rags or paper towels to wipe up spills. Especially if you’re working with lye, you’ll want something within reach to quickly clean up messes.

This list will vary depending on the type of soap you're making (see tips 4 and 5) and whether you're adding elements to your soap like essential oils, fragrances or natural decorative items.

2. Measure every ingredient accurately.

No matter if you’re making soap from scratch or are reusing scraps to make new bars, you will want to follow your recipes strictly.

One inaccurate measurement could result in a foul-smelling, unattractive, or otherwise ruined batch of soap.

Three guarantees against a mishap are an accurate scale (measuring to 1/10th of an ounce, if possible), a lye calculator (many are available online; for one example, see The Summer Bee Meadow Soapmaking Calculator), and two accurate thermometers (to ensure the temperature of the lye/water and of the fats are the same before combining them).

Different oils require different amounts of lye to become soap, so make sure you know their saponification indexes — a measure of how much lye is required to turn that oil into soap — before starting.

3. Educate yourself about the dangers of lye — or avoid using it.

One of the main ingredients in soap is a caustic substance — sodium hydroxide, or lye.

People have been making soap at home with lye for centuries without incident, but it is a dangerous substance, and handling it requires a lot of care and attention.Lye

Lye, in whatever form — grains, flakes, or pellets — can degrade materials, strip paint, weaken textiles, and, most gravely, burn skin or eyes.

Prevent the latter by wearing long sleeves, rubber gloves, and goggles or glasses (raw soap residue is also potentially dangerous, so take care even when cleaning up).

If lye does get on your skin, apply vinegar immediately to neutralize it; if lye is spilled on a surface, wash it right away with water and detergent.

Even lye fumes can burn, so work in a well-ventilated area. For those who want a simpler, and safer, approach to making soap at home, there are options.

One way to ease into soap making without the worries of using lye is by melting down blocks of soap base and then adding essential oils, fragrances, or colors to it in a process called melt and pour, or soap casting.

4. Try different techniques for making soap at home.

One great thing about making soap at home is that you get to control what goes into it.

You also have a number of options when it comes to how you make your soap. You aren’t limited to the standard process of making soap by adding lye/water to a fat such as tallow, lard, or olive oil — a method known as cold process.

Another, less well-known technique is hot process, in which the lye/water and fat are heated to boiling together and cooked until they are saponified.Try different soap making recipes.

Hot-process soap doesn't take as long to cure as cold-process soap, and it can be made in an oven or crockpot.

Intimidated by the thought of using lye, or just want a simple, enjoyable craft project to do with kids? Try melt and pour soap, which is made exactly as it sounds: by melting down blocks of soap base, adding whatever elements you want, and then pouring it into molds.

Rebatching, or hand milling, soap is yet another option; soap makers often use this process to correct an error in a cold-processed batch of soap, but you can create hand-milled soap with a bar of plain, fragrance-free store-bought soap and a few other ingredients.

You grate the soap, combine it with a liquid, melt it, put in your chosen additives, and then pour it into molds.

It's an easy way to try your hand at soap making — and it lets you turn a boring bar of processed soap into something special.

If you want to go the other way and try more complex, inventive soap techniques, think felted soap, liquid soap, and the classic soap on a rope.

5. Experiment with different recipes — or create your own.

If you're going to make your own soap at home, you should take full advantage of the freedom it affords.

When it comes to making soap from scratch, you can use animal-product oils, like beef tallow, or vegetable-based oils, like sunflower or canola, and liquids other than water, such as milk, tea, and even beer.

Homemade soaps Aside from the basic ingredients in soap, opportunities for additives abound: essential oils, such as rosemary, bergamot, and lavender; vegetable-based oils, such as palm oil, coconut oil, and olive oil; fragrance oils, such as vanilla, rose, and peppermint; natural color, from clay, botanicals, oils, spices, or herbs; and even decorative items, such as flower petals.

The best approach is to find a basic recipe for soap that you like and then add to it.

Be sure to research the additives before you use them — some may not be effective in soap, others might spoil once they’re added to soap, and essential oils should be blended with a carrier oil, such as olive oil, to neutralize their irritant properties.

Popular homemade soaps include coconut milk soap, which substitutes coconut milk for water and gives a creamy lather; castile soaps, made of pure olive oil; and lavender soap, enriched by combining other essential oils such as patchouli and orange.

Once you get comfortable making soap at home, you'll inevitably end up with leftover bits of soap or batches that didn't turn out quite as expected. Instead of tossing it, reuse it: rebatch the soap and make gifts for friends, sprinkle shavings in the tub for a luxurious bath, or add bits of leftover soap to new batches to create a colorful speckled effect.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

10 uses for cornstarch outside the kitchen

From stain removal to dry shampoo, cornstarch isn't just for cooking.

Sure, it's great for cooking and making oobleck, but did you know that cornstarch actually has some really cool, and handy, uses around the house? It's time to get this ingredient out of the kitchen and put it to work — because, let's face it, do you really use more than a few tablespoons of it a year otherwise?

1. Removing fresh stains from carpeting

Apply a mixture of milk and cornstarch to ink and other carpet stains. Allow them to dry completely before vacuuming up the mess, and your stain should come right out! This trick also works on fabric and leather (but skip the milk -- just use cornstarch and water).

2. Dry shampoo (for you and for Fido)Woman brushing her dog

cornstarch is a great dry shampoo for greasy, slightly stinky hair, no matter what species is involved. Dust some cornstarch in and then brush it out, allowing this lightweight powder to lift away grease and dirt.

3. Carpet freshener

cornstarch picks up odors well, so if your carpet is smelling a little funky, scatter cornstarch on it, allow it to rest half an hour, and then vacuum to pick it up. The house should smell cleaner, and the carpet will feel softer and silkier as well.

4. Desqueaker

Have a squeaky floor or obnoxious step? Dust the offending area with cornstarch, allowing it to penetrate the cracks. You should notice a significant improvement!

5. Silver polish

As a gentle silver polish, a cornstarch and water paste will lift stains and tarnish without scratching. Simply scrub, wash, rinse, and hand-dry.

6. Soothe irritated skin

Have a baby crying with diaper rash, or sunburned skin aching at every touch? Add a little bit of cornstarch to bathwater, apply cornstarch between diaper changes, or use a paste of cornstarch and water to relieve the sunburned area.

7. Cleaning cards

Are your playing cards a little too well-loved? Shake them in a bag with cornstarch to lift dirt and grease and then wipe them dry to remove the excess.

8. Too much furniture polish? No problem

If your hand slipped with furniture polish or wood oil, don't panic. Dust the area with cornstarch and buff; the cornstarch will absorb the fluid and lift it up, leaving a clean, shiny surface behind.

9. Detangler

Stubborn knots can be a pain. Apply a little cornstarch to act as a dry lubricant so you can more easily pull knotted thread, string, ribbon, and other materials around while you're working to pull them apart. Handy for those of us who constantly seem to end up with our shoelaces in a knot!

10. Destinker

If you have dirty shoes, you could try an enzymatic cleaner...or you could bust out the cornstarch. Dust the shoes with cornstarch, allow to sit overnight, and then knock the shoes clean. The cornstarch will absorb the odor, leaving a much better scent behind! The same goes for sports equipment and socks, too.

Katie Marks originally wrote this story for It is republished with permission here.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What Is the Environment?

What Is the Environment?

The environment is something you are very familiar with. It's everything that makes up our surroundings and affects our ability to live on the earth—the air we breathe, the water that covers most of the earth's surface, the plants and animals around us, and much more.

In recent years, scientists have been carefully examining the ways that people affect the environment. They have found that we are causing air pollution, deforestation, acid rain, and other problems that are dangerous both to the earth and to ourselves. These days, when you hear people talk about “the environment”, they are often referring to the overall condition of our planet, or how healthy it is.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Engagement Ring Shopping

Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Engagement Ring Shopping

Are you planning on popping the question this Valentine's Day? Then this guide is for you.

With February in full force, the hopeful dreams of spring blooms and warmer temperatures aren’t the only things floating in the air. Everyone’s favorite winged, diaper-wearing archer is at it again this Valentine’s Day, piercing both the love skeptics and the love saturated with equal amounts of courage and passion.

It’s not just conversation hearts and chocolaty confections being doled out to loved ones — an estimated 6 million love-struck Americans are planning to propose or are expecting a proposal on Valentine’s Day, according to one CNN report. That’s great news for couples looking to celebrate their love and seal their commitments, and even greater news for the titans of the jewelry industry, who are expecting an estimated $4.4 billion worth of sales in silver, gold and diamonds.

But succumbing to cupid’s potent charms doesn’t have to mean falling prey to the social and environmental costs associated with many fine jewels and precious metals. The gem trade is plagued with financial civil wars, pervasive brutality and potential chemical spills from harmful mining practices. This guide to eco-friendly engagement rings — covering everything from conflict-free diamonds to environmentally safe metals — is a good place to start when shopping for that perfect symbol of sustainable love.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Natural Alternative to Plastic Wrap Creates a Buzz

Natural Alternative to Plastic Wrap Creates a Buzz

Bee's Wrap provides an all-natural alternative to plastic wrap or aluminum foil for safer food storage. As a stay-at-home mother of three living on a farm in Vermont, Sarah Kaeck had two things on her mind: keeping her children safe in an increasingly toxic environment, and finding a way to bring in a little extra income. With one product, she has managed to do both.

Kaeck is the founder of Bee’s Wrap, a safe and reusable alternative to plastic wrap. Experimenting with pieces of muslin, old flour sacks, scraps of trimmings, lace and yarn, Kaeck found that by coating her creations in beeswax, they could become functional alternatives to plastic containers or plastic wrap for food storage. She says that combining fabric infused with beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin gives the material antibacterial properties that not only keep food fresh but allow it to be used multiple times.

After finding success with it in her own home, Kaeck realized that she might have a great idea on her hands. The food-storage product is easy to clean and reuse — all it requires is being washed in cool water with mild dish soap. It can then be air-dried and folded for storage. Although it is not recommended for use with meat, it can be used to seal food in a bowl or wrapped around cheese, vegetables, bread and baked goods. In other words, it can virtually replace that plastic wrap or aluminum foil that you’ve been using to keep food fresh.

Now, Kaeck and a small group of women have created an industry out of making Bee’s Wrap, which is sold online and in stores in about a dozen states as well as in Canada, Mexico and Sweden. The wrap comes in various sizes and is also available in a “starter kit” that features an assortment of sizes

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Girl Scout cookies are taking an eco-friendly turn

Today marks the start of National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend, and we don’t know about you, but we’re pretty stoked. And this year, we have more to look forward to than the cookies.

What could be better than shoveling an entire sleeve of Girl Scout cookies down your pie hole in one fell swoop? Knowing that those cookies came from eco-friendly packaging, of course!

Instead of a paperboard box covering, three cookie varieties will come packaged in a thin film shaped like a box (the little plastic tray that keeps the cookies nice and organized also helps the film hold a box shape). The new packaging cuts 150 tons of paperboard and allows more cookies to fit on a truck, saving fuel.

The Girl Scouts have been tinkering with the new lower-waste design for several years, but this year the packaging will be found on more varieties. The Lemonades, Thanks-A-Lot and Cranberry Citrus Crisps will be wrapped in the low-waste packaging.

Also, while not touted as eco-friendly, the Girl Scouts’ Cookie Finder app will help you locate the cookie booth sales closest to you, saving you time and fuel. The app covers all zip codes in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Another good thing about Girl Scout cookies? You never have to worry about what to do with leftovers.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A look at recycling paper


Paper is made of tiny fibers. Because these fibers eventually become weak, paper cannot be recycled forever. Most types of paper can be recycled, but some types—those with a glossy or waxy coating—are too expensive to recycle. When you recycle paper, you should try to separate newsprint, white paper and cardboard. Here’s a look at the recycling process for paper.

•You bring your paper to the recycling center.
•The paper is sorted and transported to a pulping facility.
•The paper is soaked and heated in huge vats, becoming pulp. Chemicals in the liquid separate the ink from the paper.
•The pulp is screened and cleaned to remove glue, other debris and any remaining ink.
•The pulp is refined and beaten to make it ready to become paper again.
•The pulp is fed into a machine that spits out the pulp onto a flat moving screen where it forms sheets.
•The sheets are rolled and dried and ready for their new life.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A look at recycling Aluminum


Aluminum can be recycled quickly and easily. In fact, a soda can you recycle today could be back on a store shelf in about two months! Making an aluminum can from recycled aluminum uses 96% less energy than it does making one for the first time. Here’s how it is recycled.

•You bring your aluminum cans to a recycling center.
•They are moved to a recycling plant and shredded and melted.
•The melted aluminum is cooled and formed into block called an ingot.
•The ingot is made into sheets and used to make new products.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A look at recycling glass


Unlike glass, which is made entirely of natural substances—minerals--plastic is composed of man-made and raw materials, including petroleum and crude oil. Here’s how plastic is recycled.
•People bring their used plastics to a recycling center.
•The plastic is brought to a recycling plant where it is washed and inspected.
•The recyclable plastic is washed and chopped into tiny flakes.
•The flakes are separated in a flotation tank.
•The flakes are dried and then melted into a liquid.
•The liquid is fed through a screen for even more cleaning. It comes out in long strands.
•The strands are cooled and cut into pellets.
•The pellets then make their way to manufacturers who use them to make new products

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Look at the Recycling Process

A Look at the Recycling Process

Did you ever wonder what happens to the objects that you toss into recycling bins? Here’s a look at how glass, plastic, aluminum and paper are recycled.


People have been using and reusing glass for thousands of years. As long as 3,000 years ago, Egyptians used glass to make jewelry, cups and other items. Glass is made of sand, soda ash and limestone and is one of the easiest materials to recycle. Here’s how it works.
•People bring their glass to recycling centers.
•The glass is sorted by color at these centers.
•The glass is transported to a processing facility where it is cleaned and crushed into what is called cullet.
•The cullet is brought to a manufacturing plant and mixed with more sand, soda ash and limestone.
•The mixture is heated in a furnace and turned into a liquid.
•The liquid is then poured into molds and shaped into new products.

Monday, February 10, 2014

How to Recycle

Many of the things we use every day, like paper bags, soda cans, and milk cartons, are made out of materials that can be recycled. Recycled items are put through a process that makes it possible to create new products out of the materials from the old ones.

In addition to recycling the things you buy, you can help the environment by buying products that contain recycled materials. Many brands of paper towels, garbage bags, greeting cards, and toilet paper, to name a few examples, will tell you on their labels if they are made from recycled materials.

In some towns you can leave your recyclables in bins outside your home, and a truck will come and collect them regularly. Other towns have recycling centers where you can drop off the materials you've collected. Things like paper and plastic grocery bags, and plastic and aluminum cans and bottles can often be brought to the grocery store for recycling. Whatever your system is, it's important to remember to rinse out and sort your recyclables!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

How to Reuse

Instead of throwing things away, try to find ways to use them again! For example:
•Bring cloth sacks to the store with you instead of taking home new paper or plastic bags. You can use these sacks again and again. You'll be saving some trees!
•Plastic containers and reusable lunch bags are great ways to take your lunch to school without creating waste.
•Coffee cans, shoe boxes, margarine containers, and other types of containers people throw away can be used to store things or can become fun arts and crafts projects. Use your imagination!
•Don't throw out clothes, toys, furniture, and other things that you don't want anymore. Somebody else can probably use them. You can bring them to a center that collects donations, give them to friends, or even have a yard sale.
•Use all writing paper on both sides.
•Use paper grocery bags to make book covers rather than buying new ones.
•Use silverware and dishes instead of disposable plastic utensils and plates.
•Store food in reusable plastic containers.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

How to Reduce

Reducing the amount of waste you produce is the best way to help the environment. There are lots of ways to do this. For example:

•Buy products that don't have a lot of packaging. Some products are wrapped in many layers of plastic and paperboard even though they don't need to be. You can also look for things that are packed in materials that don't require a lot of energy or resources to produce. Some products will put that information right on their labels.
•Instead of buying something you're not going to use very often, see if you can borrow it from someone you know.
•Cars use up energy and cause pollution. Some ways to reduce the environmental damage caused by cars include carpooling with friends, walking, taking the bus, or riding your bike instead of driving.
•Start a compost bin. Some people set aside a place in their yard where they can dispose of certain food and plant materials. Over time, the materials will break down through a natural process called decomposition. The compost is good for the soil in your yard and means that less garbage will go to the landfill.
•You can reduce waste by using a computer! Many newspapers and magazines are online now. Instead of buying the paper versions, you can find them on the Internet. Also remember that you should print out only what you need. Everything you print that you don't really need is a waste of paper.
•Save energy by turning off lights that you are not using.
•Save water by turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth.
•Lots of families receive a large amount of advertisements and other junk mail that they do not want. You can stop the mailings and reduce waste by writing to the following address and requesting that they take your name off of their distribution list:
Direct Marketing Association Mail Preference Service
P.O. Box 9008
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008

Friday, February 7, 2014

New Bank Creates Currency from Plastic Waste in the Ocean

New Bank Creates Currency from Plastic Waste in the Ocean
Feature from Maria Carter

What if all the plastic trash currently polluting waterways could be used as currency? Photo: Shutterstock
By some estimates, the world’s oceans contain 46,000 parts of plastic for every square mile.

In fact, Earth’s largest landfill floats in the middle of the Pacific. And every day across the planet, people contribute an additional 13,000 to 15,000 pieces of plastic to the ocean, leading to the demise of the hundreds of thousands of marine creatures and seabirds that ingest or become entangled in the plastic.

“There’s more plastic on the face of the earth today than we could ever use,” says David Katz, founder of The Plastic Bank, a new social enterprise committed to curtailing ocean-polluting plastic by encouraging people to treat it as currency.

How does it work? The organization sets up special repurposing centers in countries where there’s an abundance of both plastic waste and poverty. Locals then trade in recyclable plastic — harvested from land, waterways and oceans — in exchange for education, micro-credit loans, tools, household items and 3-D printing.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

New Uses for Fire Hoses

Fire stations are fixtures of our communities, but like any operation, they produce waste. Once a fire hose no longer passes tests for effectiveness, it must be decommissioned, and there is no simple way to recycle those hoses.

Enter Oxgut Hose Company of Emeryville, Calif., which salvages old fire hoses from fire stations in California and turns them into one-of-a-kind chairs, mats, phone cases, slippers and other accessories, keeping this previously landfill-bound material in use.

“That was the discovery, the realization that not only is this
material amazing and resilient, but there’s so much of it, even from one small station, that really gets sent to landfill,” LauraLe Wunsch, Oxgut Hose Company’s founder, tells Earth911. “There’s not really a system or a process in place, so through no fault of the fire department, through no fault of anyone, that’s just the situation.”

That discovery, Wunsch says, is where Oxgut Hose Company began.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Helicopter-borne, aerial saw

Helicopter-borne, aerial saw to be used for power line trimming at William B. Umstead State Park

RALEIGH – Duke Energy Progress will be using a helicopter-borne aerial saw to trim limbs on a transmission power line right-of-way that transects William B. Umstead State Park, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

The work should be completed on a date yet to be determined in early February.

On the day of the project, Duke Energy personnel and park staff will alert visitors entering the park and will be stationed at points where the right-of-way intersects park trails to warn visitors of potential hazards. Use of the aerial saw will be much faster and offer better protection for visitors and the natural resources than past procedures for maintenance that relied on power line crews and bucket trucks for several days.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Chimney Rock State Park primary visitor area to close For Repairs

Chimney Rock State Park primary visitor area to close for road repair project

RALEIGH – The Chimney Rock Access at Chimney Rock State Park will be closed beginning Tuesday for up to three weeks as repairs are made to the main entrance road, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

This closure affects the Chimney Rock spire and its elevator access, the Outcroppings Trail and all other visitor facilities in the vicinity.

In May, a 75-foot section in one lane of the road collapsed during a period of heavy rainfall. A contractor will be replacing a retaining wall that supports the section of roadway near the park entrance. After a 21-day construction period, single-lane access to the park will be available as road repair continues.

Throughout the period, the park’s Rumbling Bald Climbing Access will remain open.

For more information, contact the park office at 828-625-1823.

Monday, February 3, 2014

NC Zoo Reopens

N.C. Zoo reopens Saturday

RALEIGH – The North Carolina Zoo will reopen Saturday morning and resume its regular schedule after being closed to the public since Tuesday in the wake of this week’s winter storm.

The zoo, which is one of North Carolina’s most visited attractions, resumes its regular schedule starting at 9 a.m. Saturday. The zoo had been closed for four days due to frigid temperatures and icy roads leading to the Asheboro park as well as ice-covered walkways in the park considered to be unsafe for visitors. The zoo’s regular winter operating hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. For information on daily operational status, the public can call the zoo’s toll-free number at 1-800-488-0444 or visit the website at

As of Friday afternoon, most state parks and recreation areas had reopened, but a number of parks have trails and facilities that remain closed to the public due to icy conditions. Officials with the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation will reopen parks, recreation areas, trails and facilities at different times as conditions warrant. Current information on a park’s status can be found on that park’s web page, which can be accessed from the state parks’ website,

Also, the state’s three coastal aquariums at Fort Fisher, Pine Knoll Shores and Roanoke Island and the state-operated Jennette’s Pier opened on their regular schedules Friday. The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences and several of DENR’s other offices reopened to the public Thursday.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

More DENR offices, attractions reopening after winter storm

More DENR offices, attractions reopening after winter storm

RALEIGH – The state’s science museum in Raleigh has reopened to the public, but the North Carolina Zoo will remain closed Friday as roads leading to the popular park in Asheboro as well as walkways in the park remain icy.

The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh reopened at noon Thursday on its regular schedule. Also, the state’s three coastal aquariums at Pine Knoll Shores, Fort Fisher and Roanoke Island will reopen at 9 a.m. Friday on their regular schedule. The state-operated Jennette’s Pier also reopens for its regular hours, starting at 8 a.m. Friday.

The state’s zoo will remain closed for a fourth consecutive day Friday. Staff members will determine Friday if roads accessing the zoo and sidewalks in the zoo are safe enough to accommodate visitors this weekend. An announcement about whether the zoo will be open this weekend will be made Friday. The public can learn about the zoo's daily operating status by calling the park's toll-free number at 1-800-488-0444 or by visiting the website at

Meanwhile, offices of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries in Morehead City, Elizabeth City, Nags Head and Manteo also resumed normal operating hours after reopening to the public at noon Thursday.

Offices of the Division of Coastal Management, including coastal reserve sites, resumed their normal operating schedule after opening at noon Thursday.

DENR’s regional offices in Raleigh, Washington and Wilmington also reopened to the public Thursday. However, staff members are urging visitors to use caution as large portions of the parking lots are covered by ice.

Officials with the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation will reopen parks, recreation areas, trails and facilities at different times as conditions warrant. Current information on a park’s status can be found on that park’s web page, which can be accessed from the state parks’ website,

Saturday, February 1, 2014

N.C. Coastal Resources Commission's Science Panel to meet Feb. 4 in Washington

N.C. Coastal Resources Commission's Science Panel to meet Feb. 4 in Washington

RALEIGH – The N.C. Coastal Resources Commission’s Science Panel on Coastal Hazards will meet from 11 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Feb. 4 in Washington, N.C., to discuss issues related to Mad Inlet as well as an erosion rate methodology for all developed inlets in North Carolina.

The panel will meet in the hearing room of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Washington Regional Office, 943 Washington Square Mall, Washington, N.C. The meeting is open to the public, and the public is welcome to speak during a comment period scheduled for 11:10 a.m.

The panel provides scientific advice to the state Coastal Resources Commission. It was created by the CRC in 1997, and is composed of coastal engineers and geologists.

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