Why You Should Take Cold Showers

May 21, 2010 · Filed Under Save and Go Green

As the summer approaches quickly, taking a nice cold or cool shower really helps cool my body down.  It turns out that so many feel quite differently and prefer to take a nice hot, steamy shower.  Well did you know that cold showers have many health benefits and can help save you money on both your energy and water bills?  Let’s find out how.

Water Bottle
Photo by eelke dekker.

Energy Savings

The true cost of a shower is not just the cost of the water, but the cost to heat that water.  Imagine a scenario with a family of 4 and each of the members in the families take approximately 10 minute showers per day at a hot temperature like many Americans do.  This family decides to switch to taking cool showers (approximately 75°) during the warmer 6 months of the year.  With the help of my handy shower water and energy calculator, this family will save approximately $67.73 per person for a total of $270.90 per year.  Not to bad for simply switching to taking cooler showers.  The tough part is going to get your family to buy into taking cooler showers :)

Health Benefits

So many of us hear about the health benefits of taking a cold shower, but don’t really know why it’s good for out health.  Well, here are those reasons:

  • Increase blood circulation.
  • Reduce blood pressure on organs.
  • Clean circulatory system.
  • Strengthens nervous system.
  • Strengthens mucous membranes.
  • Doesn’t dry out skin.

I take cold showers, especially during the summer and I feel more refreshed, have much more energy and my skin doesn’t feel as dry.  One thing to note is that women should not take cold showers during their time of menstruation as it is too harsh on the reproductive system.  Instead, take a luke-warm shower and not a hot one.

Water Savings

Though water is not really expensive for us, it is such a scarce resource throughout the world and we must do our part to conserve it.  Taking cooler showers can help move along the process of showering, no matter how hot it is outside.  It is really shocking for out bodies and those 20+ minute showers will be a lot harder to take.

Try taking a cold shower and you won’t be disappointed.

Love at First Sip: The Journey of a Water Bottle

May 11, 2010 · Filed Under Green, Save and Go Green

Water. One of the building blocks of life. Aaahhh, how I love thee. I love thee so much that I do not drink you when you are bottled in plastic. Now, thanks to some innovative minds, I can drink thee no matter where I am. Not only will you be delicious but you will also taste like a glass of fresh, cool, and delicious…well, you!

Now my journey to find the perfect water bottle has been a long and distracting one. Initially, I had not grown wise to the dangers of plastic water bottles, nor had I known about metals leaching. I was what you would call, naive in the department of ethical, ecological, and down right smart water bottle etiquette. But today I am happy to write to you all to tell you that I have met my match, and although it may not be perfect, it is the best match that I have found in this lifetime and I am not about to let it go. Yes, I am still talking about water bottles. Sometimes you have to know how many bad apples are out there before you can truly appreciate finding ‘the one’.

Beverage Bottle

It all started with a Nalgene, a plastic, durable, easy to measure Nalgene. Then I read about the dangers of BPA leaching into not only baby bottles, but my own water bottle! I had bypassed disposable water bottles long ago since they provide horrific build-ups in landfills and the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch. And truly, who wants to deal with more waste (and plastic)? With tap water being plentiful in the United States, I am opting out of using resources to bottle and transport “portable” water bottles. Why not just wash one I like and plan on keeping (and that doesn’t contain harmful carcinogens)? It doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

So I graduated from my camp-friendly Nalgene to the new and improved metal water bottle. It was free of BPA, durable, and although I couldn’t measure or see the liquid inside, I was sure that I had really made a better choice. Sip after sip I was reminded of my metallic choice and then a little something in the News happened. Metal = Bad. Uh-oh. Now not all metal is created equal, and thankfully I had chosen a safe option but here is the skinny on metal water bottles.

First, like I said before, they are not all bad so don’t throw yours out (recycle or reuse it is what you were really going to do anyway though) just yet. Now the first distinction is between stainless steel and aluminum. Aluminum is known to leach, so I suggest taking any aluminum cookware and water bottles out of your kitchen. Stainless steel on the other hand is the “good” metal. Yet some water bottle manufacturers were coating them with plastic, plastic that contained BPA. Sigg water bottles, once heralded as the most eco-friendly water bottles in the World was taken down by this fact. They had at first denied the claims, but then realized that BPA was in fact present in their water bottles.

So now what? Two options, first buy a stainless steel, non-plastic coated water bottle (Klean Kanteen has wonderful recycled bottles) or see what these ecological and health concerns have spurred in the realm of innovation. I chose the latter and am pleased to announce the happy union of me and my new, improved (and nearly perfect) water bottle. Please meet my glass water bottle, all 22 ounces of bottle.

Isn’t it beautiful?

Now I will let you in on our little secret…why I love this water bottle so much, and why you just may want to get your own.

First, there really is nothing like a cool glass of water. Honestly, every sip tastes like a fresh glass of water. Now I am not a picky customer when it comes to anything outside of ecological or social standards (then, you may have realized, I definitely am hard to please). So the fact that I noticed the difference in taste means that it must be significant.

Second, it is easy to clean. As much as I loved my stainless steel water bottle, the small mouth made it a bit tricky to really clean. This water bottle has a wide mouth, and since it is glass, nothing is lurking in the shadows.

Third, I have won back the option to measure my drink! Now for some of you this may not be a selling point, but for anyone who mixes things in their water bottle from lemonade to iodine to clean it, this can come in very handy. The large loop at the top provides an easy to grasp handle for anyone. It is made out of plastic #5, the only type of plastic that has undergone extensive testing (and passed) for having a benign effect on human health.

Lastly, the silicone (yes, I know, not perfectly sustainable) protective layer really does work. I can only say that after two months of extensive testing (read: dropping, throwing, stepping on, and accidentally kicking). Once it leaped, yes leaped, right off of my bicycle and was still just fine when I came back for it.

Now to address your concerns before making this (under $25) commitment. First, yes it is slightly heavier than a plastic or metal water bottle. Noticeable? Only a little bit. Honestly after the first two weeks, I didn’t even notice and I carried this water bottle everywhere. Next, like I stated before, I am yet to successfully break the bottle, despite my intentional and non-intentional efforts. Lastly, will you forget it? I got in the habit of putting it in my purse (yes this may be a little heavy for some people), and I haven’t forgotten it since. My stainless steel water bottle had a fifty-fifty chance of making it into my bag. Since this water actually tastes distinctly different it helps trigger my mind in the morning that, yes, I would in fact like to have a fresh drink of water throughout the day.

So if you think you may be equally compatible (it is hard to believe that anyone could possibly love this water bottle more than I) then visit Buygreen.com and pick out your dream color. Yes, it’s true. Even though this water bottle and I are truly meant to be together, I am going to share its ‘digits’ with you, so you too can find water bottle love.

They also sell Kleen Kanteen, for the stainless steel lovers out there, as well as glass baby bottles similar to my dear love, pictured above. So you can explore what bottle love may be for anyone.

Cheers!

A Guide to Green Kitchen Remodeling

May 4, 2010 · Filed Under Green, Save and Go Green

Photobucket
Photo Credit: Vetrazzo.com

If you have been thinking about upgrading your kitchen to be more eco-friendly, then spring is the time to do it. Green kitchen remodeling has risen in popularity as more and more homeowners realize the money-saving perks that go along with green kitchen remodeling. While many eco-friendly kitchen improvements require more up-front costs, homeowners will save in the long run. Additional money can be saved through federal tax credits available to those who install certain Energy-Star approved appliances.

Creating a green kitchen involves using environmentally friendly building materials and installing energy-efficient appliances. Just a few years ago, many eco-friendly building materials, such as bamboo flooring, were not as accessible as they are today. But as the green demand grows, accessibility becomes easier and prices begin to drop. All of the “big box” home improvement stores, such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, carry a vast selection of green building materials.

Countertops

Many stone countertops contain petroleum-based plastics or non-renewable quarried stone. Popular green countertop alternatives include concrete, ceramic and recycled glass.

Concrete countertops are eco-friendly because concrete is a widely available and renewable resource. Additionally, concrete countertops resist all types of damage including chipping, cracking and scratching, and they don’t require much maintenance.

Ceramic tile manufacturing doesn’t create pollution, so the tiles are therefore considered an eco-option. They are durable, easy to clean and cost-efficient. Some of the disadvantages include that the surface is not smooth, and regular maintenance is required.

Recycled glass countertops are eco-friendly, as they are made from sustainable, recycled resources and can be recycled. Recycled glass countertops are highly customizable and provide an option to create a distinctive, one-of-a-kind countertop.

Cabinets

Instead of replacing your cabinets, resurface them. Resurfacing your kitchen cabinets will keep the old ones out of landfills. If you do choose to replace your cabinets, give the old ones to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity that will re-use them and thus keep them out of the landfills. Green cabinetry options include those made from reclaimed or recycled wood.

Windows

For ultimate energy-savings, select low-E glazed windows and triple-paned glass windows. Consider a bay window over the kitchen sink. A bay window allows a great amount of natural light into a kitchen and can provide a perfect area for placing small plants.

Skylights

Adding a skylight to your kitchen can reduce the need for lighting in the daytime. The most economical skylight option is a tubular skylight, also known as a sun tube or sun tunnel. It resembles recessed lighting fixtures and blend well with any home décor. Because of its small size, a tubular skylight is more energy-efficient than conventional skylights. The small size means that there is less heat loss in the winter and less heat gain in the summer.

Lighting

Replace old, inefficient light fixtures with low-voltage, energy-efficient fixtures and bulbs. Place fixtures strategically for the most lighting coverage. One of the most versatile types of low-voltage lighting fixtures is the pendant lighting fixture. Pendant lights and mini-pendant lights can be used over an island or the kitchen table. With the right bulb type, such as xenon or halogen, pendant lights can provide just the right amount of light for a room. Halogen bulbs can last for about 10,000 hours.

Flooring

One of the most eco-friendly flooring types is concrete flooring. While most practical for new construction homes, concrete flooring is accessible for all homes. The benefits of residential interior concrete floors are vast, from durability to a wide range of styling options. Concrete floors are an eco-choice for two reasons. First, less energy is used in the production of concrete than any other flooring type. No trees need to be cut down, and concrete is recyclable. Second, concrete floors work to reduce energy consumption. Because they can make one feel cooler, there is less of a need to use the air conditioning. During the winter, concrete floors absorb the heat from the sun, helping to keep your home warm.

Other green flooring choices include bamboo and cork, which are less expensive than concrete. Bamboo is available in a variety of colors, including earth tones and caramelized colors. It is also water-resistant, making it a smart kitchen flooring option. Cork is durable, provides thermal and acoustic insulation and is rot and fire resistant. It also has a soft texture, making it very comfortable to stand on.

Written by Marcy Tate

Marcy is a blogger at Networx, Your Home Improvement Network. She has been working with kitchen remodelers for over a decade learning about affordable green kitchen remodeling.

Grocery Store Experiences

March 23, 2010 · Filed Under Save and Go Green

I just recently into a grocery store (we’ll leave the name unmentioned) after not visiting one for many months.  The only reason I went was to pick up something that I needed at the last minute and it was the only store open at the hour.  The point of mentioning this story is the fact of how much nicer natural food stores are.

Over the past few years, I have almost exclusively been buying my food and cleaning supplies from both an Organic store in my region called MOMs and Trader Joe’s (Aside from buying local produce).  It was not until I went back to an ordinary grocery store that I realize just how much better natural food stores are in comparison.

My Organic Market
Photo by megabeth.

Environment

The organic market MOMs that I normally shop at not only uses 100% wind energy, but they also buy locally whenever possible, conserve energy, compost, use minimal packing and buying in bulk.  Trader Joe’s doesn’t do quite as many things, but they do encourage using reusable bags and support organic products.  I do wish trader joe’s would support more sustainable fish, but anything they have is far better than most grocery stores.

All the things I mentioned are not done at many grocery stores across our country.  The store I went to did not even allow shoppers to bring in reusable bags, which is pretty disappointing.  On top of that, the clerk I had put the item I was buying in a plastic bag before I could even tell her not to.  I did not take the bag, but I would imagine that many grocery stores conduct similar practices.  On top of that, most of the top brands carried in grocery stores use excessive packaging that is just so unnecessary.

Natural Foods

Other factors are nice about natural food stores, but the biggest draw is the food.  The stores I attend almost exclusively sell organic or all natural foods.  Many grocery stores are attempting to get into the organic market.  The only problem is that many of the products they sell are not as ‘organic’ as advertised.  Be sure to always read labels and don’t spend more just because the label says organic.

Prices

There is always the misconception that natural food stores are expensive, much more so than regular grocery store.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

I used to clip coupons to try and get the cheapest price.  From my personal experience, clipping coupons and following the sales are grocery stores are not always the cheapest way to go.  The typical price on items at both stores I go to are usually comparable, if not cheaper than the sale prices in more stores.  The reason is that prices are marked up so much that sale prices make their prices seem cheaper than they actually are.

Some claim coupons can save more.  I would have to disagree completely.  Cutting coupons can be very time consuming and is it really worth the time to save 50¢ not to mention all the paper it takes to print the coupons on.

Atmosphere

This is something that may not environmental factors, but the atmosphere of any natural goods store I have been in is so inviting.  The workers have always been friendly and seem happy to be working there.  The stores themselves are always seem more organized and just seem much cleaner.  Maybe it’s because of the happier workers or because of better management.  Whatever the reason, I have enjoyed my experience shopping for food ever since I switched.

Give natural food stores a chance and you will be surprised that you may spend similar prices to get healthier and more foods.

What are your experiences with both types of grocery stores?

Evaluating the Energy Efficiency of Window Treatments

March 22, 2010 · Filed Under Save and Go Green
Desk

Saving energy is good for the environment and can save you money as well. One of the best ways to make your home more energy efficient is to install window treatments that insulate. Some types of window treatments can be more effective than others at preventing heat loss or heat gain, so it’s good to know the facts about them before deciding.

Curtains and draperies can make any room look more elegant, but because of their pleats and folds, they lose heat through convection. Most conventional draperies can only reduce heat loss by 10% when they are drawn unless they are hung as close to the window as possible, a cornice is installed at the top and the drapery is sealed at both sides and overlapped in the center. However, the fact that draperies lose heat through convection makes them ideal for warm weather when your main concern is heat gain. Medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings have been found to reduce heat gain by up to 33%.

Another type of window treatment that is better suited to warm weather is blinds. Blinds don’t help much when it comes to preventing heat loss because of the numerous openings between the slats. These openings, however, make it very easy to control light and ventilation. Reflective blinds take it a step further as these are designed to reflect the sun’s rays back through the glass before they can heat the room up or cause damage. When completely lowered and closed on a sunlit window, highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by around 45%.

The best window treatments for preventing heat loss are shades. Cellular or honeycomb shades minimize heat loss by trapping air within the “cells” of the shades, but they must be installed correctly to accomplish this. The correct way to install shades is as close to the glass as possible with the sides of the shade held close to the wall. For maximum efficiency in the winter, shades should be raised on the side of the house that receives the most sun during the day and then lowered at night.

Eco-Paints & Eco-Painting: Healthier for You and the Environment

March 18, 2010 · Filed Under Save and Go Green

eco-painting

Eco-friendly painting habits are easy to learn. Proper care of paint and supplies, along with purchasing low-VOC paint will make your painting project eco-friendly.

There has been a lot of hype in the past few years about the harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in paint. VOCs are a group of carbon-based chemicals that easily evaporate at room temperature. Some VOCs have an odor, while other VOCs have no odor. The bottom line is that research now shows that the concerns over VOCs weren’t just hype. Research shows that VOCs are, in fact, harmful and can cause damage to our health and environment without us realizing. According to the Minnesota Departmenmt of Health, “Breathing low levels of VOCs for long periods of time may increase some people’s risk of health problems. Several studies suggest that exposure to VOCs may make symptoms worse in people who have asthma or are particularly sensitive to chemicals.” Long-term exposure to VOCs means an increased risk of cancer, liver damage, kidney damage and central nervous system damage. VOCs are bad for the environment for several reasons, but primarily because the gases they emit harm the ozone.

Until recently, most paints contained dangerous levels of VOCs. However, nowadays, most paint manufacturers produce low-VOC or no-VOC paints. Purchasing low-VOC paint (or non-toxic alternative paints) along with careful paint disposal, will help you and your family stay healthy.

Eco-Friendly Paints

It’s important to distinguish between the different types of eco-friendly paints. Just because a paint is low-VOC doesn’t mean that it does not contain harmful chemicals. Low-VOC simply means that fewer harmful ingredients are present in the product. For a nearly toxic-free paint, select no-VOC paint.

Eco-Friendly Paints:

• Sherwin-Williams – Harmony line of interior latex low-odor coatings.
• The Real Milk Paint Co. – This eco-friendly company developed milk paint (also known as casein paint). Pigmented powders can be mixed into the paint to create colors.
• Benjamin Moore – Natura interior waterborne paints in several finishes.
• Green Planet Paints – Zero-VOC paint in three finishes: flat, eggshell and semigloss.

Also check out these additional eco-friendly paints.

Eco-Friendly Painting

Follow the eco-friendly painting techniques below for a healthier painting experience.

Paint Applicators

Purchase paint applicators made from recycled and renewable materials. There are many green painting applicators on the market. Look for brushes with recycled nylon bristles and recycled roller covers.

Determine How Much Paint You Need

Careful measuring will prevent leftover paint and will help to avoid waste.

Use Cloth Tarps

Cloth tarps are stronger than plastic and can be used more than once. Using cloth tarps helps prevent waste.

Skip the Washing

Instead of washing your applicators, wrap them in a plastic bag. If kept out of the sun, the applicators will last overnight or even a few days.

Clean and Scrape the Paint Cans

Scrape excess paint from cans, rollers and brushes. A stir stick or wall scraper works well. Scraping before washing will make the applicators easier to clean. Wash your applicators indoors and not in a drain on the street or outside in your yard with a hose. The paint can harm your soil and storm drains generally drain to natural water sources, which you should not pollute with paint.

Do Not Pour Paint Thinner Down the Drain

Paint thinner and oil-based painted contain toxic chemicals. Place kitty litter or shredded newspapers right into the paint can. This will absorb the liquid. You can then discard the can in regular waste. If your city has a hazardous waste drop-off center, then take the paint or thinner to the center.

Dispose Paint Properly

Convert extra latex and acrylic paint to a solid by removing the lid. This will allow the water or solvents to evaporate. Then discard in the regular trash. If a recycling program exists in your area, then recycle the empty paint can.

Tightly Seal Paint Cans

Tightly sealed paint cans should be stored upside down. This will help elongate the life of the extra paint.

Written by Marcy Tate
Marcy is a home improvement blogger at Networx. She has been working with house painters for over a decade.

Easy E Cloth

March 15, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Green, Health, Quick Saving Tips, Save and Go Green

Reduce the money you spend on cleaning products and make your house healthier with the “e cloth“. Now most of these are not made with ‘natural’ products per say, but they can significantly reduce the money you spend on cleaning and the resources required for those products. The E-Cloth is very affordable and it only requires water to help lubricate the surfaces for easy cleaning. So it is not an entirely green product, but something I have used and believe works very well.

The E-Cloth is a polyester & polyamide blend. The polyester is supposed to scrub and clean, while the small portion of polyamide, a nylon byproduct, should absorb the water. It works because of this blend and due to the fine nature of the fabric. It is this fineness that is able to break up the ‘dirt’ and then absorb it along with the water. This type of fabric is called a “microfiber” but the company indicates that not all microfibers are created equal.

Now as a skeptic of a “one size fits all” perspective, I was curious to know if the E-Cloth could truly clean kitchens, bathrooms, and cars equally. Although they have developed a few more ‘specific’ cloths since my all out investigation, I found that shockingly it does. I used it to dust, clean dirty stoves, and even wash part of a friend’s car with the E-cloth. All I needed to do was through it in the wash or a bucket to rinse it out and it was ready for the next challenge.

I highly recommend this as a one time investment if the regime of old rags isn’t cutting it. If you are sensitive to dust or other indoor pollutants, the E-cloth is a very good solution. I know many individuals with asthma or environmental sensitivities that use this product as well. It can reduce the amount of time you spend reading cleaning labels. Of course home-brewed cleaning recipes and old rags work well too. But for those who want to cut paper towels out of their own consumer report along with cleaning rags that spread in place of clean the dirt, the E-Cloth could be a great addition to your home.

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