Merriam-Webster describes an icon as a widely known symbol. Icons can be things; Disney’s Mickey Mouse ears and McDonald’s golden arches are American icons. They can also be people; Sarah Jessica Parker is a fashion icon, Michael Jackson, James Dean and even Benjamin Franklin are pop icons of their own respective eras. Now, icons have gone green.
Eco-awareness has reached a tipping point, with more everyday people choosing to reduce waste and pollution for the greater good. It’s no longer just celebrities discussing the ozone or high-end specialty food stores selling green products. This shift, according to trendwatching.com, went something like this: eco-ugly became eco-chic, which then became eco-iconic. Simply put, eco-friendly looks, functions and advertises better than ever and is a staple of our society.
The shift. Remember the first reusable grocery bags? They were plain, not pretty, and their function left a lot to be desired. If you were an early adopter, you didn’t care about the looks; you just knew it was the right thing to do (with the added bonus of stopping the growth of your collection of plastic bags!)
The scales have tipped and larger segments of the population choose reusable bags when they shop. Grocers have stepped up their games, too, offering a stylish line of bags that happily broadcast our greenness while demonstrating our individuality. Function has evolved as well, signifying these once eco-ugly products are now eco-chic; stylish and functional versions of those once used. And iconic reusable bags are wedging out the enemy; three U.S. states are considering a statewide ban on single-use bags and eight are consider legislation that would allow charging a fee for use of plastic or paper bags.
Eco-iconic today. Being green makes a statement, a statement people want to make about what’s important to them. We believe in our eco-friendliness and want people to know about it. More that the humble grocery sack, the Toyota Prius is probably the perfect representation of an eco-iconic item. This hybrid pioneer is now the standard by which all others are judged. Other car manufacturers have ventured down the hybrid road less successfully, so far. In many cases, manufacturers released new, green versions of existing models, resulting in consumer skepticism or confusion. In contrast, the Prius is the original, trusted hybrid innovation of the industry. It’s an eco-icon.
Eco-iconic is about much more than being a green product, it’s about products that literally show they’re green through their appearance, function or the stories they tell. Choosing eco-iconic products tells others we care about the world around us, labels us as eco-friendly and simply put, does good.
Talk to us: In your mind, what are the most successful, eco-iconic products? Which products tell you and the world that they are, by their very nature, green? Which are you most proud to use?
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Let’s face it, there are loads of tips and tricks online for homeowners who want to green their lives and living spaces, but rarely do we see articles aimed at renters. In our area, renting is a way of life and those folks are extremely concerned with protecting our environment. Renters hold the same passions and bear the same responsibilities as homeowners do. They also have some unique opportunities to pay their greenness forward. Here’s how:
Search smart. It’s becoming more common for property managers and landlords to advertise online as eco-friendly, so search them out. If you are using search engines such as Trulia or Street Easy, customize your search by looking for places marked “eco-friendly” or “energy efficient”. And when you’re looking, make sure that the right location is at the top of your list of must-haves. Being near work and places you often frequent goes a long way in decreasing your carbon footprint.
Utility management. In many rental situations, the property owner covers the cost of some utilities. For some, that may take the pressure off when it comes to the bills, but for those of us with green minds, it makes perfect sense to keep usage in check. Simple awareness of turning items off when not in use—think lights, computers and small appliances—make for big savings of natural resources down the line. Also, consider purchasing a solar charger for small appliances or a portable solar panel which allows the energy from the sun to go directly into your apartment’s wiring system.
Conserve water. We realize using less water conserves energy and reduces greenhouse gases, but how can you do this in a place where installing low-flow shower heads or toilets is not an option? We love this idea from Beach Bums Realty—place a 2-liter soda bottle filled with water in your toilet tank to displace some of the water, reducing the amount used in each flush-refill cycle. You can also use monitors such as ShowerTime to track the amount of water you use in the shower and to set off an alarm when you reach your limit.
Green maintenance. Treating your home—rented or not—with environmentally friendly products and procedures means you’ll pass your green environment on to the next tenants or owners. Start on the right foot by opting for a green cleaning prior to moving in, such as the services offered by GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning and consider having them visit regularly. If you’re a DIYer, choose environmentally friendly products to do the job. And when you move, be sure to share your home’s eco-friendly history with whoever takes ownership after you.
Green your landlord. Even if your landlord is not the earth-loving type, appeal to his or her business side—show the cost-effectiveness of creating a more green space. Some ideas you can share: replace outdoor lights with LED or motion-activated lights, install timers for sprinklers, replace old appliances with Energy Star products, caulk windows and add programmable thermostats—all of which will not only make your building more earth-friendly, but will lower overall costs for your landlord.
Talk to us: What do you think? Is being green as important in a rented home as it is in one you own? We’d love to learn how you’re keeping your rented home or apartment green.
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We are proud to announce that GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning has become a Certified B Corporation. While you may be familiar with other types of corporations such as C Corps, S Corps and LLCs, a B Corp might be something new to you.
A “Benefit Corporation” (B Corp) is a company that engages in socially-beneficial practices and considers how their business decisions will impact their employees, suppliers, community, consumers and the environment. To become certified, B Lab, the nonprofit behind B Corporations, conducted a rigorous evaluation of GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning and determined that we met the comprehensive performance standards to qualify for certification.
This certification aligns perfectly with our overall mission to do well by always doing good. Since 2006, we have been making homes and offices safer, healthier and of course cleaner, without the use of dangerous chemicals. We do that by researching the best products, developing our own and empowering our expert cleaners with extensive training and education. We became a B Corporation to unite with likeminded companies that share our values and to find a community where our commitment to employ, educate and empower people is celebrated.
Click here to read our official B Corporation profile and see our Impact Report.
We are proud to be one of the more than 1,000 businesses that have joined the Certified B Corporation community and look forward to continuing to use our business as a force for good.
Talk to us: How can your business do well by doing good?
The Royal Baby will turns 1 today and although we are pretty sure his parents will have no trouble finding clothing and toys for him to enjoy, we wanted to share our list of top eco-friendly toys for toddlers. After all, you never know if you might be invited to the big birthday party bash at the castle!
Top 5 Eco-Friendly Toys for Toddlers
Green Toys Dump Truck
The Green Toys Dump Truck is ready to go to work hauling and dumping all the wonderful treasures only a toddler can find. Like all Green Toys products, the Dump Truck is made from 100% recycled milk jug plastic. The recycled HDPE (#2 plastic) meets FDA food contact standards and does not contain BPA, phthalates, or PVC.
PlanToys Dancing Alligator
This fun push & pull toy is not only fun for children, but it enhances early childhood development. PlanToys practice the three Rs of green living: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Toys are made from non-toxic materials such as organic rubberwood and their manufacturing processes are designed to reduce waste and save energy.
Green Sprouts Stacking Cup Set
These PVC, phthalate, BPA and nitrosamine free toys are a great addition to your diaper bag—just take them along and you have instant entertainment when you are stuck at a restaurant or waiting for the pediatrician. Best part? Each of the 8 cups includes draining holes—meaning this fun stacking game works just as good in the tub as out of it.
zoe b Fantastic Beach Toys
We are big fans of zoe b (we mentioned them in a previous post) for not only are they made from non-toxic materials, but if washed out to sea, their toys will fully break down in 2-3 years—it is the world’s first biodegradable beach toy. Parents can finally really relax at the beach even if they lose a shovel or pail in the sand.
Wooden Beads Grasper
From a store in our neck of the woods—Acorn, a Brooklyn toy shop—we found this lovely tactile delight. The beads are made from naturally stained, unvarnished wood and joined together by an elastic string. Not only is this a great toy for keeping toddlers hands busy, but it is a great stress reliever for parents.
Talk to us: What is your favorite eco-friendly toy for toddlers?
It seems folks blame the polar vortex for everything this summer, from delayed but sky-high pollen counts to low corporate earnings for organizations. But there is a polar vortex upside; some areas are claiming the deep chill wiped out some of the most dreaded summer bugs and insects, like ash borers and stink bugs. Unfortunately, it didn’t take out summer’s most annoying bugs, mosquitos and ticks. But, never fear, we have the latest tips for repelling pests the natural way:
Cover up. It’s common sense for sure, but if the bugs are out, keep your skin covered. When hiking, wear thin, breathable pants and long-sleeves (in light colors—mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors) to keep bugs from getting close and go with high top hiking boots which will not only ward of ticks, but provide better ankle support.
Fight with nutritional supplements. Mosquitos might be the most dreaded summer pest, but don’t reach for that can of spray loaded with DEET just yet. Instead, try some of these recommended natural mosquito adversaries:
- Consider supplementing with one vitamin B1 tablet from April to October to ward off bites.
- Avoid bananas. Might sound silly, but some naturalists believe people who eat bananas attract mosquitos.
- Dot your skin with the clear liquid vanilla that comes from Mexico. It smells great—just not to mosquitos!
- Garlic pills deter these critters, but try the odorless ones or you may repel more than just bugs!
Create a breeze. According to the Mother Nature Network, mosquitoes are weak flyers and will not be able to navigate properly within an air stream. Strategically place fans on a patio or deck to throw them off their flying game.
Use unscented products. Yes, we all love when our hair smells like a fresh field of strawberries, but mosquitoes will love that smell as well. Choose unscented bath and beauty products such as those created by Nurture My Body and skip the added perfume in your laundry soap.
Plant strategically. When selecting plants for your outdoor space, be smart. Choose varieties that do double-duty, providing protection while also looking good. Consider a marigold border around your sitting area; mosquitos don’t care for their smell. Lemongrass plants keep pests away as well. Citronella grasses deter mosquitos and look great. This clumping grass is perennial in zones 10-12, but can be grown in pots on casters and wintered indoors in northern areas. Experiment with other plants, too, to see what works best for you. Try these other plants: bee balm, Ageratum and catnip. In 2010, entomologists at Iowa State University reported that catnip is ten times more effective than DEET in repelling bugs and insects. That’s definitely worth a try!
Talk to us: The bugs are out in force this summer! How are you keeping them from bothering you?
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Going green isn’t just for the home front. It’s true, businesses everywhere are implementing changes that keep costs down and carbon footprints low. The kitchen, big or small, is at the heart of any great organization. Here’s how to get yours as green as possible.
- Choose energy efficient appliances. Office kitchen appliances get a harder workout than those at home, so make sure yours are up to the challenge. Select those with an Energy Star rating and place them in an area with as much ventilation as possible. Space and airflow around appliances will allow heat to escape, reducing energy costs and likely extending the life of the appliance. And think about whether or not you need bells and whistles; a refrigerator without an automatic icemaker saves 15% to 20% in energy costs.
- Stock with green goods. If you offer fresh foods and drinks to your employees, make sure you practice what you preach. Select offerings that are locally produced and organic, not those that have traveled a long way to wind up in your kitchen. If you don’t supply refreshments, consider a Green Lunch incentive for those employees who make the choice to act and eat with eco-friendliness in mind.
- Compost. (Yes, at work!) Implementing a three-stream waste system at work means, you provide receptacles for garbage, recycling and compost. Use the compost created to fertilize green space or plants around the office. If your office doesn’t have those areas, give the compost to employees to use in green spaces at home. Encourage employees to compost items like coffee grounds, tea bags, vegetable waste and eggshells into a sealed bin, which can be as simple as a marked 13-gallon (or less) garbage can with a liner. Select a composter that works for your business and learn the ins and outs of office composting in books like “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Greening Your Business” and “Greening Your Office: From Cupboard to Corporation: An A-Z Guide”.
- Clean green. Encourage team members to keep the office kitchen clean and green by providing eco-friendly cleaning supplies like those in the Ecospirit line of products. Better yet, consider the ongoing care of a green cleaning service like GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning to keep your kitchen in top shape.
- Name a Green Team. If you’re interested in ways to green your office kitchen, it’s likely that you’ve already implemented recycling and energy efficiency programs. Take your eco-friendliness to the next level by electing a Green Team to keep your green organization running as efficiently as possible. Giving this responsibility to just a few employees helps keep you abreast of the latest eco-friendly ideas and ensures all team members are onboard and informed about green policies and procedures at work.
Talk to us: Is your organization implementing eco-friendly processes and procedures? If so, please share your latest and greatest workplace eco-successes!
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‘Tis the season for weddings and if you are invited to celebrate the nuptials of an earth-conscious couple—or, if you are an earth-conscious wedding guest—you might want to consider giving a gift that goes along with a green living lifestyle.
We have given an eco-friendly twist to some of today’s most popular wedding gift items:
Traditional Gift: Pots & Pans
Eco-Twist: Eco-Friendly Cookware with CSA Farm Share
There are several eco-friendly cookware options available and you could always splurge on a complete set like Cusinart’s Green Gourmet Cookware. But, we love the idea of spending a little less on the eco-friendly cookware (checkout Green Pan’s Focus Turquoise Non-Stick Open Frypan) and adding a gift that will keep on giving the green all season long—a CSA farm share. Checkout sites such as Just Food (for New Yorkers) or Local Harvest—both provide lists of local CSA options and farmers. If cost is an issue, consider splitting the weekly CSA share with the bride & groom or ask the CSA if they have gift certificates available.
Traditional Gift: Crystal Candlestick Holders
Eco-Twist: Couples Cooking Class with Organic Candles
Nothing says romance like a candle-lit dinner, but instead of focusing on the candles (order some great eco-friendly non-scented candles from Way Out Wax), we suggest focusing on the dinner. CourseHorse offers a list of cooking classes in New York (and Chicago or LA) that include numerous healthy food options. Or, checkout The Brooklyn Kitchen, a cooking store that offers a Couples Dinner Class where guests learn creative ways to enjoy seasonal produce & locally farm-raised meats (they have gift cards available!).
Traditional Gift: Towels & Linens
Eco-Twist: Organic Towels with Drying Rack
Organic linens have come a long way. Today, towels made from sustainable materials such as organic cotton or bamboo not only feel wonderful against the skin, but come in every color and design imaginable. West Elm even offers towels you can monogram with the new couple’s initials. Go one step further with your organic purchase and include a drying rack like these we found from Bed, Bath & Beyond. A small drying rack is the perfect addition to even the smallest of New York apartments—allowing the couple to use less energy when keeping those organic towels clean.
Traditional Gift: Traveling Gear
Eco-Twist: Eco-friendly Backpack w/ National Parks Pass
If the newlyweds are adventurous, give them a gift that will get them moving and help protect the environment. A National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass allows users free access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites—this pass covers entrance fees as well as standard amenity fees for a driver and all passengers (did you know there are 10 National Parks with 22 unique destinations in New York City and northern New Jersey?). Throw in an eco-friendly backpack such as those by EcoGear, and you have a gift that will help the couple celebrate nature all year long.
Talk to us: What is the most unique wedding gift you have ever received and/or given?
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Warm summer nights are one of the best things about this sultry season, unless you’re stuck indoors. Even the most eco-friendly of us has a tough time roughing it in the heat at home; it’s just no fun. There’s nothing quite like the AC to cool you down, but there are steps you can take to keep your house cool, minimize electrical usage and keep big summer bills at bay.
Ventilate naturally. It may sound simple, but think about the breezes around your home and which direction they blow. With a little trial and error, you can use those natural winds to your advantage, creating a cooling wind tunnel through your home. With double-sash windows, experiment with both the top and bottom open slightly. Keep windows closed as much as possible during the hottest daytime hours and open at night for easy sleeping.
Cover windows. White blinds, shades and curtains help reflect the sun’s rays and keep the inside of your home cool. Line colored fabric with white for this cooling property.
Cool with vegetation. According to www.energy.gov, trees and shrubs reduce the temperature of a home’s exterior by as much as 9 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in an area that allows it, add shade-providing vegetation, especially on the sides of your home that withstand the longest hours of direct sunlight. Deciduous trees are best at shading your home, but both leaved and evergreen trees cool the air around them as water evaporates from the surface of the leaves and needles.
Fan yourself. Fans can make a big impact on air temperature. Ceiling fans use about as much energy as a 100-watt light bulb and allow users to raise the AC temperature about four degrees, which equates to a 30 percent reduction in electricity usage. Remember to use fans for comfort and turn them off when not in use. And be sure to adjust the fan blade direction during cool months: blades should move counter clockwise in warm weather and clockwise to push warm air downward in cool seasons.
Get airtight. If you’re looking for ways to stay cooler this summer, perform a quick air leak evaluation. Check all entrances and windows for proper caulking and weather stripping to keep warm air out and cool air inside where it belongs. Check for and seal any cracks around your home’s perimeter.
Go outdoors. For evening hours before bedtime, create an inviting outdoor living space that allows you to escape the stuffiness that builds indoors. Transform whatever space you have, a small balcony or rooftop patio, into your own personal cooling oasis with comfortable chairs and an end table to hold an ice-cold drink.
Get eco-cool. If you’re fully committed to keeping cool without AC, check out the latest technology in indoor cooling, green air conditioners. Many models boast decreasing single room air temperature by as much as 18 degrees Fahrenheit in moments, using only 10 percent of the energy needed by traditional air conditioning.
Talk to us: It’s hot in the city! How are you keeping things cool on the home front?
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While there are many ways you can green your 4th of July celebration (see a previous post for some great ideas), it really does all start with the grill. While you are already prepped with your organic meat options, fresh local produce and reusable utensils, there are other ways to make sure your grilling efforts stay earth-friendly.
Here are 5 ways to take your grilling to the next green level:
Green Your Charcoal
Gas or electric grills are the more earth-friendly options, but if you use charcoal there are still ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Avoid petroleum-based lighter fluids (opt for a charcoal chimney) and use natural charcoals and lump charcoal (avoid briquettes and self-lighting charcoal).
Trim Your Fat
In addition to being a healthier food option, trimming the fat from meat prior to grilling is also a greener option. Less fat reduces flame flare-ups and the release of harmful chemicals into the air. Read: “Green Grilling”
Marinate, Marinate, Marinate
Organic and grass-fed meat is usually leaner and may lose moisture while grilling. To combat the moisture loss, Treehugger suggests marinating your meat before grilling and continuing to baste during the grilling process or adding moisturizing ingredients such as caramelized onions. Some great marinade recipes and tips can be found from Organic Valley.
Reduce Cooking Times
According to About.com, most gas grills are ready to cook in 5 to 10 minutes while charcoal takes 15 to 20 minutes. Have your food ready when your grill is ready to avoid additional burn time. Also, put as much food on the grill as possible so you can be as efficient as possible and note placement of foods on the grill—such as moving grass-fed beef farther away from the flame so it doesn’t overcook.
Use the Grill When It’s Off
Once you’ve turned the grill off, you can use the heat to reheat desserts such as pies. Place the pie on the barbecue rack, close the lid and once you’re done with dinner, dessert will be ready. When you are completely done with your cookout, clean your grill while it is still warm—this will make it easier to remove grease and food particles. Click here for a great, green grill cleaning solution.
Talk to us: What will you be grilling this 4th of July holiday?
Summer is the perfect time to enjoy the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables available through your local CSA (community supported agriculture). However, not everyone thinks it is possible to enjoy the literal fruits of the farmer’s labor—especially for those of us living in urban areas such as New York City. Even if we know how to connect with a CSA and can afford the upfront costs, our city commute may make it difficult to meet produce pickup times.
The solution? Organize a workplace CSA . Here’s how:
Gauge the interest of your co-workers by sending out an email or memo that explains the CSA concept and see how many are interested in participating. It is recommended you have at least 15 or more employees interested—if you don’t feel you have enough, consider collaborating with another nearby business. Once you have co-worker support, you need to gain the support of your superiors as well as any of the departments that may be asked to play a role in the CSAs operations such as payroll (some companies offer a payroll deduction to cover the CSA participation fee for each employee).
Assign a Point Person
You should assign one person to be the primary contact and organizer of your workplace CSA. This person will be the direct contact for the farm as well as your employees—managing details such as signing up new members, collecting payments and setting up the distribution site. Consider creating a CSA leadership team and divide other tasks such as planning educational events and implementing internal outreach.
Find a CSA
Workplace CSAs are beginning to pop up throughout New York City thanks to CSAs like Local Roots NYC, an organization that already has numerous workplace distribution points included on their list. See what CSAs may already be in your workplace neighborhood (here’s a great NYC map) and contact them to see if they would be willing to work with you and your company. Can’t find one that fits? Consider creating your own with these great tips from Just Food. You can find a list of potential farms by visiting Local Harvest.
Focus on Distribution
Work with the farmer and/or CSAs schedule to determine when your shares will arrive and make sure you have a distribution site that will not only accommodate the delivery, but will make it easy for employees to participate. A lunchroom, conference room or even a spare office space could be a great option. If your office is located on an upper floor, consider making the distribution site close to a freight elevator so no one is climbing stairs. Also, consider how you will handle distribution—what time employees can pick up their produce, what happens when someone doesn’t pick up their produce and rules for handling when employee’s go on vacation.
Think Outside the Pick Up Box
Don’t just stop with organizing fresh produce distribution—get everyone involved with the fun! Consider hosting fun, educational events that will help alleviate the fears some have with taking home a box of new veggies every week. Share recipes via your internal communication networks, host cooking classes before or after work hours, set up a “swap table” where employees can swap out vegetables they don’t particularly care for with those they find more tasty (there’s always a beet lover in the group!) and have a once-a-month lunch where everyone brings one dish made from veggies from that month’s share. If you really want to think outside of the box, plan a field trip to the farm—there is nothing like getting to see exactly where that tasty produce is coming from every week.
Talk to us: What is your favorite vegetable to find in your CSA delivery?
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