Back-to-school is synonymous with pens, paper, books, new clothing and a return to the regimented days of classes and extracurricular activities. Whether you’re the one looking forward to returning to the classroom or you’re busy getting the little ones ready for the big day, you’ll be happy to know that you can stay green, even as the leaves turn brown.
Last year may seem like a lifetime ago, but you’ll be surprised at the amount of school supplies you can use again this year. Check your storage areas for unused stockpiles of pens, paper and other items. It’s easy to forget supplies that aren’t in plain sight; chances are you already have many of the items on your list.
Are old papers and used binders and folders just sitting around? Those are the type of items that you don’t want to throw away but have no idea what to do with. Good news! Try flipping over paper and using the blank sides – staple them together to make a recycled notepad. Gently used folders can be turned inside out and used again.
If you do need to make a shopping trip, take the time to make a detailed list of what you need. Impulse purchases are often unnecessary and result in excess waste. A list will keep you on track and save you money.
Look into buying supplies made from recycled materials. Everything from pencils, binders and paper is available in an earth friendly alternative to traditional materials. Check labels for details.
Opt for nontoxic or vegetable-based ink, paint and other supplies. They are better for your health and the environment.
According to the EPA, waste from packaging is responsible for more than 30 percent of all the waste generated each year. Pretty packaging is nice to look at, but it’s not really necessary and it’s certainly not earth friendly. Buy in bulk when possible – you can always use the surplus next year – or look for items sold in minimal or recycled packaging. If you can’t get around purchasing the lavishly packaged items, remember to save it instead of throwing it away as soon as you get home. Pretty packaging is great for art projects, rewrapping or maybe even retooled as a decoration or table setting. Use your imagination!
Remember the first rule of friendship: share. Do you still have last year’s textbooks? Why not hand them over to a friend or a family with kids that might need them. Consider hosting a textbook swap and encourage neighbors, friends and family to bring their old textbooks to trade. Add some food and adult beverages and suddenly you have all the ingredients for a back to school party!
Are you and your family having fun keeping your back to school preparations as green as possible? Encourage each other to start or join an environmental club at school! From cutting down on cafeteria waste – think of all the wasted paper products, plastic condiment packages, and discarded food – to implementing a building-wide recycling program, there are many opportunities to introduce the same environmental policies you use at home when you go back to school.
Music has come a long way in the last few decades.In the 80’s and 90’s musicians—and millions of their fans–were more concerned with excess than recycling.
These days we know better and thankfully so do many eco-friendly musicians. These artists have realized that they can produce great music as well as promote a message of sustainability.
Seattle-based American rapper Macklemore and his producer Ryan Lewis are best known for their recent hit song,”Thrift Shop,” a hip hop song about the benefits of buying cheap clothing from thrift shops, disdaining designer labels and trends.
Singer Jack Johnson works with the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes environmental education in Hawaiian schools. In 2010, Johnson focused on his social action network All At Once, which pairs fans with non-profits like Sustainable Local Food Systems and Plastic Free Initiatives. Johnson also donated 100 percent of his tour profits from 2008 and 2010 to his Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, in association with All At Once, to art and environmental education. The same Johnson-helmed group donated $70,000 to non-profits working to clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Canadian band Barenaked Ladies was one of the first groups to produce a green tour in 2004. The band offered organic food backstage and biodegradable supplies, as well as repurposing items when they could. For example, broken guitar strings were collected and repurposed into recycled jewelry. Their tour buses were powered with biodiesel fuel (from fat or vegetable oil) and they were one of the first bands to set up informational “Eco-Villages” at live shows; a practice that’s becoming more and more common with a variety of bands.
Sheryl Crow also requires Eco-Villages at her concerts with representatives from up to 50 environmental groups handing out information to concert goers. In the past, Crow worked with StopGlobalWarming.org on a college tour and partnered with ZimRide to encourage carpooling to shows.
By her own estimate she neutralized nearly 1.5 million pounds of CO2 by greening her 2010 tour by using biodegradable and compostable catering, biodiesel fuel and reusable water bottles for the band and crew. The tour’s total carbon reductions were equivalent to 81 homes not using electricity for an entire year.
Sheryl Crow is well known for practicing her eco-friendly lifestyle in and out of the spotlight. She famously joked about “using one square of toilet paper per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required” as an initiative to help save the trees. She even planned an eco-friendly baby shower in advance of her son’s birth.
Of course these are just a few eco-friendly musicians promoting a message of sustainability and environmentalism through their music and their actions.
To find more eco-friendly musicians and musical festivals, check out Green Music Group, a coalition created by the non-profit organization Reverb. Leading by example, GMG facilitates large-scale greening of the music community and magnifies the work of national nonprofits all while building a vibrant community committed to environmental action.
What musicians inspire you to do more to promote a green lifestyle? We’d love to know who you have on your playlist. Send us a link to songs or tweet us the name of your favorite artist on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.
Although the warm weather may continue for a few more weeks, September marks the unofficial end of summer and a return to normal routine. School, approaching holidays, and increased hours at work can be jolting to throw yourself into after a relaxing summer break from your normal routine.
Before you give in to the end-of-summer-blues, try these tips to gently ease your mind and body back into a full schedule of activities and responsibilities.
Get organized: If you’re a parent getting kids off to school or you’re just trying to get yourself back into the work day groove, it helps to keep your home environment organized. Set out clothes the night before, make lunches, check your schedule, and have a morning meal planned or pre-made.
Embrace the schedule: A schedule can be comforting. Knowing when everything is going to get accomplished during the day, week, or month can calm the mind and allow you to focus on the task at hand. Use the calendar function that’s most comfortable for you and plan your activities out as much as possible.
Silence is Golden: Turn off TV, computers, cell phones, video games for a set period of time. A period of silence after a busy day will rejuvenate your mind and allow it to take a break from processing information. Use the quiet time to just sit and relax or interact with family or homework time.
Stick to a bedtime: Sleep is vital to your overall health and success. You require at least six to eight hours of sleep at night, and your school-aged kids require between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night. To help your kids get a good night sleep, be consistent with bedtime and establish a wind-down routine such as reading or storytelling.
Establish a morning routine: If your mind and body know what to expect, it will be easier to sink into a comforting morning routine. Set a wake-up time and stick to it. If you can, stick to a wake-up time every day, including weekends, but at least during the week. Have your morning meal ready to go and clothes laid out the night before.
Categorize emails: If you’ve been on vacation or keeping limited office hours over the summer, be prepared for an onslaught of emails waiting for you at work. The best way to tackle the pile is to get organized with separate folders set-up for projects, correspondence, urgent tasks, etc. If you can, keep your out of office autoresponder on for a few extra days to give you time to plow through your backed emails before you’re expected to start responding promptly.
How are you adjusting to a new routine? We’d love to know how your summer was and what you’re planning on jumping into in September. Let’s chat on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
We spend the equivalent of almost two years in the bathroom over the course of a lifetime, according to Encyclopedia.com. The bathroom has long been considered a refuge from hectic schedules, a place to get away from everyone and be alone for a moment of peace. For such a small room, it has big importance to our state of mind.
Bathrooms can be lavish and luxurious or zen and simple. More than any other room, it is easy to makeover the bathroom to be a reflection of our personalities and ideals. Re-making your favorite room into an eco-friendly haven can mean greater visual appeal and be more cost-effective over the long run. Leaky toilets, dripping faucets and toxic cleaners are costing you money in repairs and higher utility bills. Not to mention the havoc they play on your overall sense of wellbeing.
According to Energy Star, approximately 30 percent of household water consumption comes from the toilet. High efficiency, low-flow toilets conserve water and provide a more calming hygienic experience. Toto toilets is a US-based company that designs gravity-based toilets, low-flow shower heads, automatic sensor faucets, and sinks treated with a patented glaze to prevent debris, mold and bacteria from sticking to porous, ceramic surfaces. Replacing traditional fixtures with green technology such as the Toto® designs, your bathroom is quickly transformed into a high-tech, environmentally friendly oasis.
As you shop for eco-fixtures, look for the Water Sense certification. This partnership program of the Environmental Protection Agency makes it easy for consumers to save water and protect the environment by identifying high efficiency products that perform well.
Maintain a clean, healthy environment naturally by regularly spraying fixtures and tile with an all-natural cleaning product such as the GEC EcoSpirit cleaner, or a simple mixture of lemon and water or apple cider vinegar and water. Regular cleaning will prevent mold from forming, which is not only unsightly but also extremely dangerous to your health.
Replace your plastic shower curtain with an organic alternative. A recent study by the U.S. Center for Health, Environment and Justice found that plastic shower curtains could release potentially harmful materials into the bathroom. Instead, opt for curtains made with organic fibers such as cotton, linen or hemp.
Don’t forget the toilet paper! According to the National Resources Defense Council, if every household in America replaced one four-pack of traditional “virgin fiber” bath tissue with recycled toilet paper, it would save around 1 million trees per year.
Now that you have an eco-bathroom, outfit it with natural bath products made without artificial fragrances, chemicals, preservatives or sulfates. Shut the door, relax and enjoy your new eco-sanctuary.
Basil, mint and thyme are just a few of the herbs that grow fast and furious in a windowsill garden. Easy to plant and even easier to add to recipes, herbs can be eaten fresh or dried, and frozen in between.
Fresh herbs add a burst of flavor to cooked dishes, salads and even drinks. Acclaimed chef, Jaime Oliver shares some great tips on preparing and using fresh herbs in this easy-to-understand video.
ABC’s The Chew, a popular foodie talk show, explains how to dry herbs for use in recipes through the fall and winter.
The Garden Girl, Patti Moreno, shares how to freeze fresh herbs so you can add them to your meals all year ‘round.
Do you need to start from scratch next year? The experts at eHow give a step by step tutorial on creating an indoor herb garden.
It’s a fact, the majority of us love coffee. It’s the potion that gets us up in the morning and keeps us going throughout the day. One of the great things about living and working in New York City is the constant availability of coffee everywhere we go. Coffee stands, coffee carts, coffee trays, all offering paper cups of coffee with plastic lids. Translation: A lot of disposable coffee cups thrown away every year.
The Betacup challenge is a movement founded in May 2009 to reduce the number of non-recyclable cups that are thrown away every year by creating a more eco friendly alternative to the paper coffee cup. Watch this shocking video about the amount of waste caused by disposable coffee cups each year, and get inspired to drink sustainably.
The best choice is to use a refillable travel cup instead of paper cups, but if you find yourself with paper cups, here are five ways to reuse them.
Sphere lamp: (Level: Difficult)
Collect paper cups and use them to make an orb-shaped lamp shade by following this tutorial from Instructables. It’s difficult, but it’s not necessary to be a professional electrician in order to complete this project. The end result is an amazing looking lamp that resembles a designer piece.
Garland of lights (Level: Medium)
A string of fairy lights is a festive decoration for outdoor and indoor parties and special occasions. Use your leftover paper coffee cups as mini lamp shades for the lights on a string. To do it, just decorate and cut the paper cups so they are shorter and will allow the lights to shine through. Poke a hole in the bottom of each cup and stick one light in the hole in each cup. This easy tutorial walks you through it step by step.
Planters: (Level: Easy)
Grow your own herbs or seedlings in leftover coffee cups. It’s simple to create planters out of paper cups. Start by poking holes into the bottom of the cup using a pen or pencil. Fill the cup with potting soil and plant your seeds. Slip a small plate under the cup and water as instructed. When the seedling grows, you can transfer it to the ground and start a new seedling in your coffee cup planter.
Shred it for your indoor compost: (Level: Easy)
Paper cups are great for the dry matter that’s needed in your compost. Instead of shredding newspaper, leaves or sawdust, shred your used paper coffee cups and add it to the compost.
Party Cups (Level: Easy)
A decorated paper cup makes a beautiful and unique party glass. Wash and dry it completely, then use paint, decoupage, or glitter to decorate the cup. The creative editors at Real Simple show you how to create elegant but fun glassware using paper cups and stickers here.
What do you do with used paper coffee cups? Are you swearing off them entirely and sticking to your travel cup? Share your creative ways to reuse paper cups with us on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
If you have 30 minutes a day, you can speed clean your home during the week and leave your weekends free for fun activities or just relaxing. Leave the deep cleaning to the professionals, or set aside one day a month to get down and dirty.
- Keep all cleaning products, large trash bags, and reusable microfiber cloths in a grab-and-carry tote or container so you can take them with you from room to room.
- Start in the back of the house (or the top level) and work your way down to the front.
- Throw the garbage away as you go. Use a large garbage bag to throw away the trash from the bathrooms, bedrooms and office away as you clean the rooms.
- Spritz counter tops and fixtures and wipe clean with the roll of recycled paper towels you are carrying from room to room.
- Forget the broom. Use your vacuum to remove dust and dirt from hardwood and tile floors. Most vacuums have a variety of settings for longer carpet fibers and hardwood floors. Invest in an extra long extension cord and you can plug it in once and take it with you from room to room. If you’re in the market for a new appliance, Dyson vacuums are certified asthma and allergy friendly by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Dusting every knick knack and curio takes too much time; skip those items during your speed cleaning routine and focus on giving them a good cleaning when you deep clean.
- Stick to a cleaning pattern in each room. The repetition will make you faster each time you run through your speed cleaning routine. We recommend starting each room to the left of the doorway, at the top, and moving clockwise and down.
- Focus on what you’re doing. Multitasking with the phone in one hand and the TV on in the background actually slows your cleaning down and makes you lose track of the task at hand. And added bonus is the extra zen experience you get when you breathe deeply and concentrate on improving your environment through cleaning.
The fastest way to speed clean a home is to get help! Regularly scheduled professional cleanings take it completely out of your hands, or you can enlist your family to chip in and help out. Kids should be empowered to keep their beds made and rooms clean, and all family members should routinely clean away their clutter, which often builds up in rooms all over the house.