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6 Eco-Friendly Gadgets and Accessories for Your iPhone (Guest Blog by Sookie Lioncourt)

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Electronic devices have their fair share of negative impacts to our planet. Frequent and excessive charging, using power-inefficient peripherals, and purchasing plastic-based accessories are some of the common practices associated with using too many electronics. If you can’t leave without these gadgets but want to stay true to your green living goals, then we have six of the most eco-friendly accessories and gadgets you can use with your iPhone.

1) iBamboo iPhone Speaker

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The iBamboo Speaker is a one-of-a-kind audio device and iPhone stand made entirely from a single piece of bamboo. It’s crafted with a small dock or opening to hold your Apple device in place, as you listen to your favorite tracks in an amplified sound. It doesn’t require any electricity source in order to function. Once your iPhone is mounted on the speaker, the bamboo’s hollow interior will naturally amplify the intensity of the sound coming from your iPhone’s speakers. It doesn’t give you extra loud bass beats similar to a full-fledged speaker set, but it provides you with enough volume to fill a standard-sized room.

2) SLXtreme 5 Solar-Powered Waterproof Case

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According to the specifications listed on the consumer page of the iPhone 5 on O2, the 1440 mAh battery of the current Apple flagship is designed to last for 225 hours of standby time and 8 hours of continuous calls. But, if you’re a heavy mobile user, there’s a great chance that you may need to re-charge your smartphone’s battery frequently throughout the day. This is especially true when you factor in how many apps you keep running at all times. The SLXtreme 5 is a rugged case for your iPhone that doubles as a power source. Unlike any other third-party battery packs, this one doesn’t need charging, as it boasts a self-sustaining solar panel on the rear side to capture sunlight and automatically store energy to fully power up your gizmo. This case is available for $129.99.

3) BioLite Camp Stove

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If you are fond of nature-hiking and camping activities, the BioLite Camp Stove combines a charger and a burner in a single device that you can transport with ease. Its small stove is ideal to cook food, to create a warm and cozy bonfire, or to boil water. It’s lightweight, durable, and 100% safe. It only uses small scraps of wood and dried leaves to start a fire. This useful machine comes with a $129.95 price tag.

4) ReCase Ergonomic iPhone 5 Casing

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As work to combat global warming, we challenge you to abandon the use of mobile casings made of plastics, especially PVCs. Bumpers and rear shells made of Polyvinyl Chloride take several years to decompose and become toxins when released to the environment. Miniwiz Sustainable Energy Development has designed a wide variety of fashionable iPhone containers called “ReCase,” with the prefix pertaining to recycled thermoplastic wastes. Their products include shells, bumpers, and 2-in-1 ATM and gadget holders. What makes it even greener is the fact that they don’t use ink, glue, and carbon products during production. You can own one of these casings for as low as $49.99.

5) Bracketron Mushroom GreenZero

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The Bracketon Mushroom GreenZero is a tiny charger for your mobile device that automatically switches off and breaks the connection between the power source and your gadget the moment your battery gets full. The Mushroom GreenZero’s main goal is to save energy and your money from paying excessive electric bills. By constantly using this wall charger, you are also minimizing the risk of fire accidents resulting from excessive charging. Its current price is $28.95.

6) Kinesis K3 Wind and Solar Powered iDevice Charger

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Solar and wind electricity have become the two most popular renewable energy sources in the energy industry, especially as prices to generate and transmit the energy have been steadily dropping for the past few years. The Kinesis K3 is a portable tool that combines both technologies into one. It includes a wind-propelled tiny fan that functions as a turbine. On its body, there’s a tiny solar panel to capture the sun’s energy.  Just let it stand in your balcony as you charge your phone using an adapter cord. Its rechargeable battery holds up to 4,000 mAh of charge and has a maximum output of 1 amp.  Priced at $57.89, this one is a keeper.

We understand that electronic devices like the iPhone are a part of our daily lives, whether it’s for work, personal entertainment, interpersonal communications, or something else entirely.  With the above gadgets and accessories, you can minimize, if not eliminate, its negative impact to our planet Earth.

About the Author:

Sookie Lioncourt is a technology novice who advocates eco-friendly usage of mobile gadgets. She has a great passion for photography and fashion. Follow her on Twitter @sookielioncourt.

4 Energy Efficient Appliances That Will Revolutionize Your Home Budget

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Because of the escalating cost of energy today, energy efficient appliances and products have become the number one choice for homeowners and businesses. From washers, dryers, refrigerator, and freezers, to televisions, air conditioners, heaters, fans, office equipment, and more, energy efficient technology make it possible for home and business owners to conserve valuable energy resources in order to save money, reduce your home budget and electricity bill, and help the environment. The following are examples of four such products that have earned the ENERGY STAR rating for their energy conserving efforts.

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1. Refrigerator and Freezers

Due to advanced improvements in refrigerator compressors and insulation, today’s contemporary designs utilize much less energy than their former counterparts. Homeowners who invest in an ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator or freezer can save up to 15% on their energy consumption. Taking into consideration a 10-12 year refrigerator lifespan, your ENERGY STAR appliance could save you from $200 to $1,000 over the life of the product, which means your home budget will love not replacing appliances all the time.

Currently, there are about 170 million models of refrigerator/freezers in use within the U.S. alone; about one third of these are 10 years of age or older. Older appliances consume much more energy, which makes them more expensive to use in your home and creates a negative impact on the environment. Modern energy-efficient refrigerators and freezers provide greater variety in features, size, color, and style at reduced operating costs. At the same time, you become an active participant in reducing energy consumption and sustaining the environment. ENERGY STAR refrigerator/freezers can be purchased at reasonable costs from top manufacturers such as Frigidaire, Blomberg, LG, Liebhen, Kenmore and more.

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2. Air Conditioning and Heating Systems

Heating/cooling costs can cost the average homeowner up to $1,000 a year – for some households, this amount is nearly half of their entire energy bill. When you invest in an energy-efficient air conditioner or heater, it helps cut your costs by up to 30%. If your AC unit is over 12 years of age, it pays to upgrade to an ENERGY STAR rated product that can help you save money. ENERGY STAR products and appliances are required to meet stringent EPA guidelines for energy efficiency. In the case of AC units, they have much higher SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) ratings than their conventional counterparts. By meeting these requirements, energy saving air conditioning and heating systems maximize your energy usage while reducing carbon pollution to protect the environment.

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Energy efficient air conditioners and heating systems were designed to save you money without compromising on performance. With an ENERGY STAR air conditioner and heating system, you can continue to enjoy a relaxing, comfortable home environment all year round along with great savings on your electricity bill. You can purchase this equipment from such leading manufacturers as Broan, Bryant, Carrier, and Coleman, just to name a few.

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3. Ventilation Fans

Ventilation fans have much to contribute towards improving the ambiance of a home or small business environment. Enhanced blade designs and improved motors make ENERGY STAR ventilation fans more efficient to use, giving them an edge over their competitors. These features also help to improve the fans’ level of performance. Energy-saving ventilation fans with lighting and humidity features are also available within the ENERGY STAR package. With good ventilation, you can eliminate such problems as excess moisture or odor buildup in your home.

In addition to providing excellent service, ENERGY STAR ventilation fans can contribute to home décor, adding that final classy touch to your home. In hotels, energy efficient ventilation fans that run continuously within the bathrooms can save hotel owners as much as $75 annually. There are many makes and models of ENERGY STAR ventilation fans to choose from, including such brands as NuTone, Broan, Hoover, Delta Breez Greene Builder, and Panasonic Whisper Green.

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4. Televisions

Taking into consideration the high rate of television viewing in the U.S. today, it only makes sense to invest in an energy saving product. This is especially important if you have more than one TV in your household. Today’s consumers are investing in larger televisions with screens of 40 inches or more in size. Naturally, these larger screened sets consume more energy. When you purchase ENERGY STAR models, you can help reduce the cost of your TV viewing as you enjoy their advanced features and modern conveniences.

On average, contemporary ENERGY STAR TVs consume 25% less energy than their conventional counterparts. You can find ENERGY STAR televisions in all makes and models to include LED and LCD flat screen TVs and those equipped for 3D and Internet connectivity. Using energy-efficient televisions in conjunction with other energy-saving home entertainment equipment can shave off as much as $200 off your electricity bill over the lifespan of these products.

Your investment in this type of home entertainment equipment lets you enjoy the best that modern energy efficient technology has to offer at a fraction of the operating cost. You can purchase top of the line ENERGYSTAR televisions from such qualified manufacturers as LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Vizio and TCL.

These are but a few of the many energy saving appliances and products available on the market today that can help save you money on your monthly electricity bill. The more you learn about energy efficiency, the more you can contribute to reducing our day-to-day impact upon the environment.

Energy Star Logo on Room Air Conditioner image courtesy of 3tonairconditioner.net and AC Home X.

All other images courtesy of energystar.gov.

Green Fall Activities for the Entire Family

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With kids back in school, families may be in search of fun activities for when everyone does spend time together. And since its fall, a season full of changing leaves and weather, why not incorporate nature into these activities? So, here are some green fall activities for the family.

Shop at a Farmers Market. Find fresh seasonal produce while supporting your local farmers. Look for items fresh for the fall season like apples, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash. Then decide as a family on which recipes to use so you can make it a fun activity for everyone. To find your closest farmers market, visit FarmersMarket.com or the USDA National Farmers Market Directory.

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Visit a Corn Maze. Nothing will get you in the fall spirit quicker than navigating your way through a corn maze.  Not only is it fun for the whole family, you are also supporting your local farmers as they earn extra money this time of year by creating these corn mazes. To find a corn maze in your area, visit The MAiZE website.

Organic Apple Picking. Apples grow well in the fall, so grab the family and head to the nearest apple orchard.  Best of all, when you are done, bring them home to make candy or caramel apples, apple pie, or strudel (yum!).

Go on a Bike Ride. Take in the changing leaves while riding your bike. It’s carbon-neutral, which is great for the environment and good exercise for you and your family. 

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Head to a Pumpkin Patch. Before you pick up a pumpkin at your local grocery store, head to a pumpkin patch instead. There, kids can learn about where pumpkins come from and see how they grow. In addition, pumpkin patches usually offer other activities like hay rides, petting zoos, and more outdoor activities.

Family Outdoors in Fall image courtesy of blulikejazz88.

Happy Little Girl in Corn Maze image courtesy of Beth Rankin.

3 Kids in Pumpkin Patch image courtesy of pinmonkeypress.

What are some green and eco-friendly ways that your family celebrates the arrival of fall each year?

hilker:

Rooftop Farming Is Getting Off The Ground : NPR

This is a fantastic article outlining many of the current projects taking root in our urban centers. It seems people are really taking the local food concept to new and unusual heights, all under the auspices of reclaiming post-industrial blight and providing new purpose to these burnt-out spaces.

hilker:

Rooftop Farming Is Getting Off The Ground : NPR

This is a fantastic article outlining many of the current projects taking root in our urban centers. It seems people are really taking the local food concept to new and unusual heights, all under the auspices of reclaiming post-industrial blight and providing new purpose to these burnt-out spaces.

(via urbangreens)

We all love the conveniences provided by our fancy smartphones, but it’s easy to forget that these devices aren’t inherently the greenest products on the market. Thankfully, engaging companies like Verizon have set up programs where people can recycle their electronics with ease and with the betterment of others in mind.
According to its “Electronic Device Recycling" program page: 
“Recycle your used devices with Verizon and you may be eligible to receive a Verizon Wireless gift card. We accept cell phones, tablets, netbooks and mobile hotspot devices from any carrier. For every device recycled, we will also make a $1 contribution to HopeLine® from Verizon.”
The best parts of this program are pretty great:
Verizon will take products from any other carrier
Victims and survivors of domestic violence will receive some much-needed assistance and support.


"More than a million pounds of e-waste have been collected at Verizon Recycling Rallies," which means that plenty of junk has been kept out of landfills and the appropriately re-used and recycled.
Even if you’re not a Verizon customer, this is a fairly excellent program that looks to benefit all the people, plants, and animals that live on our lovely planet. And be on the lookout for similar programs from your city, phone provider, and/or favorite retail outlets. We use lots of electronics in the 21st century, so it’s important that we understand the environmental impact of the technology we love.
This post does not reflect an endorsement of Verizon as a phone provider or retailer. It merely seeks to highlight a worthy program that looks to help reduce the waste and environmental impact of electronic devices, while spreading awareness for the environment.

We all love the conveniences provided by our fancy smartphones, but it’s easy to forget that these devices aren’t inherently the greenest products on the market. Thankfully, engaging companies like Verizon have set up programs where people can recycle their electronics with ease and with the betterment of others in mind.

According to its “Electronic Device Recycling" program page: 

Recycle your used devices with Verizon and you may be eligible to receive a Verizon Wireless gift card. We accept cell phones, tablets, netbooks and mobile hotspot devices from any carrier. For every device recycled, we will also make a $1 contribution to HopeLine® from Verizon.”

The best parts of this program are pretty great:

  1. Verizon will take products from any other carrier
  2. Victims and survivors of domestic violence will receive some much-needed assistance and support.

"More than a million pounds of e-waste have been collected at Verizon Recycling Rallies," which means that plenty of junk has been kept out of landfills and the appropriately re-used and recycled.

Even if you’re not a Verizon customer, this is a fairly excellent program that looks to benefit all the people, plants, and animals that live on our lovely planet. And be on the lookout for similar programs from your city, phone provider, and/or favorite retail outlets. We use lots of electronics in the 21st century, so it’s important that we understand the environmental impact of the technology we love.

This post does not reflect an endorsement of Verizon as a phone provider or retailer. It merely seeks to highlight a worthy program that looks to help reduce the waste and environmental impact of electronic devices, while spreading awareness for the environment.

Plant Your Fall Crops Now and Enjoy Tasty Food Later

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Most folks associate the fall with harvest, not planting – and this is especially true for our local deer, as they pack away as many dropped apples as they can.

However, depending upon where you live in the United States, there are still a few crops that fare much better during the cooler autumn weather than in the summer heat. Specifically in New York, Pennsylvania, and similar Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states, you have time to plant and harvest fall crops before the snow falls.

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We built a small greenhouse from a kit last year in which to house our fall crops.  It’s all cleaned up and ready for our young starts of spinach, lettuces, radishes, and broccoli. While it is a bit late to begin from seed, you can build a simple cold frame to begin your growing efforts.

One of the tricks we found that helps ward off freezing was wrapping a piece of black plastic around a 5 gallon bucket of water. This creates like a heat sink and keeps the ambient temperature just above freezing to help the plants survive. Of course, when it’s -10 outside, everything freezes.

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These little lettuces will grow quickly into nice ones in a few weeks, just like the ones in the image below from last year.

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Combined with the spinach and some of summer’s cherry tomatoes, they make a delightful salad.

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While it might be too late for tomatoes and peppers (though our summer batch was excellent), it’s just right for fall crops like broccoli, as well as cauliflower, cabbage, squash, chard, collards, carrots, and of course, okra. Check out the Aggie Horticulture fall garden list.  

If you’re in Texas, however, you’ve still got plenty of time before winter temperatures get too cold to set out young starts.

Rodale’s Press’s Organic Gardening has its September planting list based on your hardiness zone list. Don’t remember your hardiness zone? The USDA has an interactive GIS Plant Hardiness zone map. Just type in your zip code and it will display your zone.

What are your plans for planting fall crops that you can harvest enjoy throughout the winter and into next spring? Anything you’d care to share with the readers?

8 Questions to Ask before Going Solar (Guest Post by Jayde Ferguson of Infinite Energy)

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Concern for the long-term health of our environment has been growing over the past decade as more people than ever before have made the decision to “go green.” One of the better ways to contribute to a greener world is installing solar panels at your home or business. However, there are a few questions that you will need to ask yourself before you make the switch to solar power. In order to ensure you are making the right decision, take a look at the top eight questions that you need to ask yourself before going solar.

Do you have a lot of storms in your area?

Solar panels are typically fitted to the roof of your home or business. In most areas of the world, they sit undisturbed for years, soaking up solar energy without any day-to-day attention from you. On the other hand, if you live in an area that has the capacity to experience regular tornados or hurricanes, your solar panels run the risk of being compromised.

In order to ensure you will not need to replace them periodically, you will need to invest in extra materials that affix your solar panels permanently in place. There are also specialized solar panels that are meant to be used near beaches and other areas that experience frequent high winds. With these precautions, storms are unlikely to cause the same issues to solar panels as they did 10 years ago. When all else fails, please check your homeowner’s insurance policy to ensure that it covers damage to solar panels.

Does your local community allow solar panels?

In most areas of the country, you shouldn’t have too many issues with having solar panels installed. Nevertheless, if you live in a gated community or a deed-restricted neighbourhood, solar panels may be restricted. While you may not be able to have solar panels on top of your roof, other alternatives might be available, and there may also be a way to conceal solar panels from the street view. We recommend that you check with your Homeowners Association to learn what is and is not permitted regarding solar panels

Where will the solar panels go?

Most people will put the solar panels on the roof of their home, since the roof is the closest point to the sun generating all that solar energy, but they can be installed other places. As an alternative, some people with extra acreage can use portion of your yard, while others might the top of the garage. For homeowners that live in the country, using an empty field along with a barn or outdoor building with a metal roof is often the best solution.

Do you need a new roof?

Before you install solar panels, you will need to have a stable place to put them. In most cases, the roof of your home or business should be sturdy enough for this task. Regardless, you will need to have your roof checked for rot by a specialist before the solar panels are put in place. We’d recommend not installing solar panels if you have roof issues, since it would be costly to remove them in order to have roof repairs done at a later date. Get the roof fixed before installing the panels.

Will you be able to produce enough power?

No matter how energy efficient you think you are, there’s always something in your house that needs to be powered. Keeping your energy consumption low can be a challenge, especially true if you have children. Frequent power needs can cause some homeowners to think that they may not be able to produce enough solar power in order to power their home. The biggest misconception here is that you do not need to solely rely on solar; instead, we suggest that you use a combination of electrical utilities and solar to ensure you always have the power your home needs.

Should you lease or own your solar panels? 

It is not uncommon to find homeowners that want to buy solar panels or switch to solar, but they do not go through with it because they cannot afford the upfront costs. In these scenarios, one option available in many areas is leasing, where you pay a solar panel company a small instalment each month. One of the advantages of leasing solar panels is that you don’t need to be responsible for maintenance. When the solar panels wear out, the company comes in and switches them out. Most of the time, the price of the monthly solar bill is far less than the typical utilities bill.

Are you prepared to turn a profit?

Solar panels are directly linked in to your current electrical system. When too much energy is produced, it can be stored in batteries or sent back to the utility company that services your area. When the meter is read by the utility company each month, if you generated more electricity than you used, the difference is credited back to you as the homeowner. Although this can vary by region, it’s best to check with your utility company to determine if they will buy back the extra solar energy you collect.

Does the cost outweigh the benefits?

When you see how much it costs to initially install solar panels, the numbers can be shocking. Regardless, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average solar panel lasts for 25 to 40 years. Along with that, there are several tax breaks for installing solar options in your home. In addition to the federal tax breaks, state and local tax credits may be available.

In the end, several studies have shown that installing solar panels is cost-effective. By consulting a solar panel installation company, you can review your needs and concerns with a professional to determine if your home is fully ready to make the transition. Of course, if your main goal is to protect the environment, going solar is one of the best, most sustainable ideas available.

Author Bio

This article is written by Jayde Ferguson who writes for Infinite Energy – a market leader in quality solar power systems and solar hot water in Perth, Australia.

Harvesting Your Spring Crop – The Results Show!

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After a long, hot summer of watering, fighting off insects, and pulling weeds it’s now time to enjoy the fruits of your hard labors. Literally. I have been watching our apple tree all summer. Technically, it’s a 30- or 40-year-old mongrel that grew wild from a sapling. We didn’t spray or treat it with anything. The last few weeks have been hot and dry and helped concentrate the sugars. These are delicious — like eating pie right off the branch.

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So, we picked just a few. We hope to get to pick some more.

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I have also been watching our tomatoes and peppers all summer. Tomatoes have been growing nicely for most of the summer. More than once, I went out into the sunshine to snack on the yellow salad tomatoes right off the vine. Warm, juicy… aaahhhh! We keep a chili pepper plant in a pot by the back door. When we want to sauté a fresh one, it’s only a few steps away.

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With late summer comes canning season. Here, my wife is blanching them to remove their skins for canning whole or in pieces.  We grow about 6 or 7 varieties, including Amana Orange and Jeanne Flamme. Ever have yellow spaghetti sauce?

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Take a gander at some of our sweet bell peppers, Bloody Butcher corn (for grinding into meal), an eggplant, and a couple of squash (one was a volunteer). Don’t all those fall colors just make you hungry?

Did you have any success harvesting your spring crop? If so, please share any links or images you might have to your produce!