Free Gardening Make and Take

recycled planter
recycled planterPeachtree City Library’s summer reading program for adults, Groundbreaking READS, is presenting a free “make and take” gardening project at the Peachtree City Community Garden on Wednesday, July 17, at 10 a.m.
 

Volunteers from the library and Peachtree City Garden Club will show you how to turn an empty plastic water bottle into a self-watering planter. Attendees are asked to bring an empty plastic bottle (20 oz. or larger), although organizers will have extras on hand.  Every participant will get soil and a small plant to put in their planter.

Registration is recommended.

fresh salsaIf you love tomatoes, you’ll want to enter the Groundbreaking READS salsa competition at the Peachtree City Farmers Market to be held on Saturday, July 20, at 10 a.m. Be sure to read the rules and regulations – prizes will be awarded. Better hurry – the deadline to enter is July 14!

7 Ways to Honor Earth Day

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Earth Day is a reminder to honor our planet, to treat it with love, respect and kindness. Author and positive living speaker Diane Lang does a lot of talking about being kind to others, but this day is dedicated to taking care of our environment. Make a difference on this important day and help make this world a better place for both humans and animals.  Lang offers seven tips to make a difference on this day and help make this wo rld a better place for both humans and animals.

1. Make is a community clean up day. This is a great way to have the whole family spend quality time together while helping the planet. A great way to teach the kids about their environment. It’s a simple activity; just go out into your local community and clean it up.

2. Create a compost with all your food scraps. This could be done at home or in school. You can have all the kids take their lunch scraps and start a compost in the school yard. It’s an educational way to save the planet.

3. Make the little things count. Do the everyday things we should do but forget such as recycle, shut off the lights and leaky faucets. Use energy saving bulbs, don’t drive if you can walk.

4. Just grow it. Grow your own veggies and/or go to your local farmers market where you can support your local farmers also. It’s a win-win.

5. The oldie but goodie idea. Plant a tree as a family activity, suggest it to your child’s school, or do both!

6. Make it a day of education. Teach your kids all about planet earth and treating it kindly. Keep it simple but give them different ways they can make a difference like helping their parents with gardening, turning off their lights in their bedroom, taking shorter showers, recycling, etc. Make it fun!

7. Make it a day to donate or reuse. Use cloth napkins or diapers, take clothes you don’t wear anymore and bring it to the Salvation Army or good will, etc.

“The most important tip I can give is to make Earth Day an every day event. We can make a difference,” says Lang.

Diane Lang – Positive Living Expert and psychotherapist – is a nationally recognized speaker, author, educator, therapist and media expert. Lang is extremely mediagenic and offers expertise on a variety of health and wellness topics about creating balance and finding happiness through positive living as well as multiple mental health, lifestyle and parenting needs. In addition to holding multiple counseling positions, Diane is also an adjunct professor at Montclair State University. Diane is also the author of two books: “Baby Steps: The Path from Motherhood to Career” and “Creating Balance and Finding Happiness.”

Hot Plants for the Spring Garden

Now you can grow berries on your patio in containers! The new BrazelBerries™ Collection features a raspberry and two blueberries for your eating enjoyment.

Each spring, gardeners flock to local nurseries to learn what new plants are available to add color, texture, fragrance and the “wow” factor to their landscapes. To get advice on some of the must-have plants to look for this year, I talked to some local experts who are just as excited as the gardeners about the new selections.

Robbie Martin, owner of Andy’s Nursery in Fayetteville and Newnan, loves the wild new colors you’ll see in perennials this year. She will have these plants at Andy’s, although she suggests you come early for the best selection. Her recommendations include:

Encore Azalea® is releasing four new reblooming selections this spring including Autumn Sunburst™.

Coral Bells (Heuchera) Prized for its colorful foliage, Heuchera is a partial-shade perennial that will brighten dark spots in the garden and has the added benefit of being heat-resistant and drought-tolerant. The Little Cutie™ Series features mini-plants that are perfect for containers or for “fairy gardens,” a popular new trend in gardening. ‘Blondie’ has mocha leaves with yellow spiky flowers and ‘Sweet Tart’ has vivid lime green foliage with hot pink flowers that attract hummingbirds. The City™ series includes coral bells that are mid-size at 8-12 inches. Look for ‘Vienna,’ with orange leaves and pink flowers and ‘Paprika,’ with cherry coral foliage and white flowers.

Coneflower (Echinacea) Favored by gardeners (and songbirds) everywhere, this cheerful full-sun perennial with raised center is easy to grow, drought-tolerant and wonderful in cut flower arrangements. The Supreme™ series showcases ‘Supreme Cantaloupe,’  a deer-resistant flower the color of a ripe cantaloupe with a brown center and flowers that last all summer. Also check out ‘Supreme Flamingo’ in mixed shades of pink and ‘Southern Belle’ in pink.

Tiffany Jones manages McMahan’s Nursery in Clermont, Georgia, which supplies unusual and hard-to-find plants for Garden*

This stunning, sun-loving coneflower is the color of a ripe cantaloupe! (Photo Credit: Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.)

Hood, an urban garden center in Atlanta. Tiffany has a big list of favorites, but has chosen a tree and shade perennial available at Garden*Hood this spring.

Rising Sun Redbud (Cercis ‘The Rising Sun’) This lovely tree grows to 20’ tall and blooms in early spring with lavender flowers on bare branches. Then the real show begins! New leaves emerge pink, changing to apricot, then gold, and finally chartreuse.  This redbud holds up well in full sun and produces a number of flushes of colorful foliage throughout the summer and fall.

Red-stemmed Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum odoratum pluriflorum ‘Jinjugi Form’) Bright red stems emerge in spring and are quickly covered in large clusters of pendulous white bells.  This clumping perennial grows best in partial shade to shade and is tolerant of dry soils.

Linda Butler is the Greenhouse Department Head at Pike Nursery in Peachtree City. She can’t stop talking about the wonderful new selections customers will enjoy this year. Her favorites include:

Blueberries and Raspberries An exciting introduction in edible gardening is the new BrazelBerriesCollection of small fruits, perfect for growing in pretty pots on the patio! The foliage is ever-changing in a rainbow of colors throughout the growing season. BrazelBerries are easy to grow and only need fertilizing in the spring and a winter pruning to ensure maximum fruit production. Peach Sorbet is a compact blueberry that produces fruit in mid-summer with a sweet, tropical flavor.  Raspberry Shortcake is a dwarf, thornless raspberry with variegated leaves that requires no staking and produces full-size raspberries in mid-summer.

Now you can grow berries on your patio in containers! The new BrazelBerries™ Collection features a raspberry and two blueberries for your eating enjoyment.

Azaleas Encore® azaleas have been a hit since bursting onto the scene over 15 years ago. These reblooming azaleas are known to be low maintenance, sun tolerant, cold hardy and pest resistant. Four new Encores® are available this year. Autumn Sunburst™ is a compact rebloomer with flowers of coral pink with white ruffled edges that appear off and on from spring through fall. Autumn Jewel™ is a cold hardy azalea that sports pink blooms and purple leaves in winter. Autumn Lily™ is an upright shrub with deep green foliage and white flowers. Autumn Ivory™ is another profuse white bloomer and its compact size makes it perfect for containers.

 

 

Backyard Chickens in PTC?

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Campaign Underway to Bring Backyard Chickens to Peachtree City

It was really just a fluke that got Peachtree City resident Julee Smilley keeping chickens: a friend was moving and could not find a place for her four pullets (young hens). Julee offered to find them a new home, but she soon became charmed by the colorful hens with appealing personalities, so she gave them names and decided to keep them. She and her husband, Richard, assembled an inexpensive chicken coop they had purchased online and set them up to live in her garden. For 18 months, the Smilleys enjoyed the benefits of their chicken companions and the fresh eggs they provided, but then they were “busted” by Peachtree City for breaking the zoning ordinance that prohibits keeping chickens.

Although chicken-keeping has been around for centuries, it is being rediscovered in urban gardens as people seek to “get back to their roots” and become more self-sufficient. While keeping chickens is now a popular trend, the practice had been out of fashion in previous decades as the emphasis moved to factory-raised chickens, warehoused in incredibly crowded and unsanitary conditions (not to mention cruel). It took trend-setter Martha Stewart to recapture the public’s interest in chicken-keeping when she featured her flock of rare-breed chickens and their colorful eggs in her books and magazine publications. She presented her chickens as family companions with endearing personalities that actually produce something worthwhile and beneficial.

Chickens in Peachtree City…Oh My!

Although she had to find another home for her hens, Julee has not given up on the idea of keeping chickens in Peachtree City and has spent the last few months doing research on the subject. Believe it or not, residents of the city of Atlanta can keep chickens, and other communities, including Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Roswell, Decatur and Duluth, have been successful in passing chicken-keeping ordinances.

On many Saturdays, you will find Julee at the Peachtree City Farmers Market talking to interested residents about keeping chickens. She is amazed at the positive response and already has collected over 300 signatures on a petition that she hopes to present to the City Council to show the support for chicken-keeping in the community.

Rather than working to change the zoning ordinance right away, Julee is requesting the City Council approve a two-year pilot program to test the feasibility of chicken-keeping in Peachtree City. Other cities, including Bonita Springs, Florida, have implemented successful pilot programs. Under the program, a limited number of Peachtree City families will be able to apply for a permit to set up coops and keep a small number of chickens. Selected families will agree to guidelines regulating the program, including the exclusion of roosters, creating setbacks from neighbors’ property, setting maximize size for coop area and allowing Peachtree City Zoning Department to check on the hen houses. Chicken-keepers will be encouraged to invite their neighbors to “make friends” with their chicks and to help educate the public about the benefits of keeping hens by participating in a “coop tour” – much like a home or garden tour.

Myths about keeping chickens

“There’s too much fear and not enough facts known about keeping chickens,” Julee contends. Contrary to popular belief, chickens are not dirty, smelly creatures when owners limit their number and consistently clean the coop and compost the manure. Noise is another perceived problem, but while roosters can make a bit of racket, they are not allowed in chicken-keeping programs and are not necessary for laying eggs. Dogs are much louder than hens, which make softer clucking sounds and are roosting in their coop when the sun goes down. Hens will not attract predators when the rules are followed to provide a predator-proof, enclosed coop area. And rather than being an eyesore, chicken coops have become charming focal points in the garden.

Benefits of keeping chickens

Chickens make great pets. They come in stunning colors and have appealing and quirky personalities. And you get the bonus of fresh and flavorful eggs! During the short time Julee kept her hens, she became more connected to her neighbors as she shared her bounty of eggs.

“Neighborhood kids were particularly fascinated by my hens and loved to help with their feeding,” recalls Julee. “There is a marked difference in the taste and nutritional value of fresh eggs and growing your own fruits and vegetables, and keeping chickens is a way to have some control over what you eat.”

Chicken manure and egg shells are loaded with nutrients, and when added to the compost bin, will become a wonderful soil amendment that your plants will love. Chickens also help control insect problems and weeds in the landscape by eating many garden weeds and pests, including beetles, grubs and ants.

For more information about keeping chickens or to sign Julee’s petition to start a chicken-keeping pilot program in Peachtree City, contact Julee Smilley at chicks4ptc@comcast.net.

 

 

 

Tips on Debris Removal

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Disposal of debris can be a major concern. No matter what state you live in, the type of debris you will encounter will be much the same: damaged buildings, downed trees, building materials, and household and other types of hazardous waste. What varies is the way in which each state disposes of the debris. Some states have particular issues about where debris can be stored.

Consumers should check with their state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) or equivalent or FEMA for information on where debris may be stored. Remember, your main goal is to regain your sense of normalcy while doing so within the guidelines set by each state or federal agency.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers the following tips and information for debris removal:
Debris is hazardous. It often has sharp or rough edges; it may cause falls; it may contain hazardous material such as asbestos, lead or fiberglass; and it may have been contaminated with chemicals or germs by the flood or storm.

When cleaning up debris, one of the first steps is to assess the types of waste you are dealing with, and what the disposal procedures should be. They fall into four main categories and can be disposed of in the following ways:

• Branches, trees and vegetative wastes can be separated from the other debris and later can be sent to the community burn pile. These wastes can also be sent to a permitted disposal site.

• Construction debris – the structural materials from houses and buildings, such as concrete, boards, shingles, windows, siding, pipes, etc. – can be taken to the closest construction and demolition (C&D) landfill or a permitted municipal solid waste landfill.

• Other household wastes, such as trash and furniture, should be sent to a permitted municipal landfill.

• Hazardous wastes – If you believe the waste contains regulated hazardous materials, more care and caution is needed. These wastes should be containerized, labeled, and ultimately sent to a facility that is permitted to store, treat or dispose of hazardous wastes. In these instances, it is important to contact the department to discuss proper disposal procedures.
Items Requiring Special Disposal:
• Pool chemicals
• Tires
• Automobile batteries
• Bicycles
• PVC pipe
• Explosives (ammunition, re-loading equipment, black powder, military ordinance, fireworks)
• Fuel containers, metal or plastic
• Pressurized gas cylinders/tanks (propane tanks, acetylene tanks, refrigerant containers)
• Containers of petroleum based liquids, solvents, chemicals, etc.
• Large household appliances (refrigerators, freezers, stoves, washers, dryers, etc.)
• Off-road, gas-powered equipment (lawn mowers, tractors, edgers, leaf blowers and other lawn equipment, chainsaws, 4-wheelers, etc.
• Lawn and garden supplies (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.)
• Radioactive waste
• Industrial/commercial hazardous waste
• Medical waste
• Automobiles
• Electrical transformers

Any appliances that could potentially contain Freon or other chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) cannot be disposed of until they have been certified as being free of Freon or CFCs.

Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor. Start With Trust. For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and BBB Business Reviews you can trust on local businesses, visit www.bbb.org

 

One Book, Many Seeds

The Seed Underground

The Seed UndergroundIf you read only one book this summer, join the rest of Peachtree City and read The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food by Janisse Ray (Chelsea Green, 2012). The book won’t be available for purchase until June 29, but Omega Books in Peachtree City is taking pre-orders now.

The Seed Underground is the book selected for the first “One Book, One Peachtree City” initiative. This city-wide reading and discussion program encourages all residents to read the same book at the same time to create a citywide book club. But you don’t have to be a resident of Peachtree City to read and attend our free programs – all are welcome! 

In case you aren’t familiar with Janisse Ray, she is the author of four books of literary nonfiction including the much heralded, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood (Milkweed Editions, 1999). She is on the faculty of Chatham University’s low-residency MFA program and is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow. She holds an MFA from the University of Montana, and in 2007 was awarded an honorary doctorate from Unity College in Maine.

Janisse Ray

Janisse Ray

In The Seed Undergound, Ray takes us across the country where a renaissance of local food, farming, and place-based culinary traditions is taking hold. And yet something small, critically important, and profoundly at risk is being overlooked in this local food resurgence: seeds. We are losing our seeds. Of the thousands of seed varieties available at the turn of the 20th century, 94 percent have been lost — forever.

With a signature lyricism that once prompted a New York Times writer to proclaim her the Rachel Carson of the south, Ray brings us the inspiring stories of ordinary gardeners whose aim is to save time-honored open-pollinated varieties like Old Time Tennessee muskmelon and Long County Longhorn okra—varieties that will be lost if people don’t grow, save, and swap the seeds.

Ray also tells her own story of watching her grandmamma save squash seed; of her own first tiny garden at the edge of a junkyard; of falling in love with heirloom and local varieties as a young woman; and the one seed—Conch cowpea—that got away from her.

The Seed Underground reminds us that while our underlying health, food security, and sovereignty may be at stake as seeds disappear, so, too, are the stories, heritage, and history that passes between people as seeds are passed from hand to hand.

Janisse Ray in Garden

Janisse Ray in her garden.

“One Book, One Peachtree City” culminates on Saturday, August 18 at 2 PM, with a book talk and signing with Janisse Ray at City Hall in Peachtree City.

We’ve also teamed up with FW’s own Bonnie Helander and Tricia Stearns of the Peachtree City Farmers Market and Community Garden to schedule other related events including:

• Workshop at City Hall presented by Peachtree City Garden Club on Saturday, July 21, at 10 AM: “Grow Your Taste Buds with Herbs!” Attendees will learn the ins and outs of growing herbs in Georgia and will receive their own herb to take home.

• Guided hike through Flat Creek Nature Preserve on Friday, August 10, at 10 AM sponsored by the Southern Conservation Trust.

 • “Fresh from the Garden Recipe Swap” (and Tasting!) sponsored by Fayette Woman on Saturday, August 11, at 10 AM at the Peachtree City Farmers Market.

More programs are planned and all are free and open to the public. You can find a full schedule of events as well as background information about The Seed Underground and “One Book, One Peachtree City” online at www.peachtree-city.org/library or by calling Peachtree City Library at 770-631-2520.

“One Book, One Peachtree City” is presented by the Peachtree City Library with support from Peachtree City Planning & Zoning Department; Friends of the Peachtree City Library; Peachtree City Garden Club; Peachtree City Farmers Market; Peachtree City Community Garden; USDA-Agricultural Research Division/UGA-Griffin; Southern Conservation Trust; Fayette Woman; and Omega Book Center.

Morgan Grove Nature Area Opens

Ribbon cutting with Jerry Peterson, Southern Conservation Trust Board Chair cutting the ribbon while Fayette County Commissioner, Robert Horgan, Peachtree City Mayor Don Haddix and Trust Executive Director, Pam Young assist. Sharing in the opening are Trust board members, donor Tom Chandler, Scouts, volunteers and Fayette Chamber members.

Southern Conservation Trust officially opened its fourth public nature preserve, Morgan Grove Nature Area, to the public last week.

Numerous community leaders and the Fayette Chamber of Commerce were on hand to celebrate the ribbon cutting for the nature area’s grand opening. Boy Scouts presented the American Flag and led the Pledge of Allegiance.  The ribbon was cut by Southern Conservation Trust Board Chair, Jerry Peterson and Executive Director, Pam Young with Trust board members, community leaders and chamber members looking on. Land donors Brent Scarbrough (represented) and Tom Chandler were also present as their vision of a conserved, public nature area became a reality.

Ribbon cutting with Jerry Peterson, Southern Conservation Trust Board Chair cutting the ribbon while Fayette County Commissioner, Robert Horgan, Peachtree City Mayor Don Haddix and Trust Executive Director, Pam Young assist. Sharing in the opening are Trust board members, donor Tom Chandler, Scouts, volunteers and Fayette Chamber members.

The remote 60-acre property near the Flint River in east Fayette County gives visitors a first-hand glimpse of a retired logged hardwood forest surrounded by a flourishing wetland habitat. The Trust is enhancing the site based on the property’s most recent land management history. By establishing part of the nature area as a reforestation demonstration site, the Trust hopes to educate the community about sustainable forestry practices.

The Morgan Grove Nature Area showcases both natural forest re-generation & active management. The reforestation project actually began in the fall, with help from many individual volunteers of Fayette County Rotary Clubs; many Rotarian volunteer hours have been dedicated to planting Longleaf, Shortleaf and Loblolly Pines.

Visitors can explore the lush greenery and spot wildlife while meandering through a well-designed network of nature trails, a wetland boardwalk, and an observation deck. A native grass meadow of tall grasses and wildflowers serves as an ideal habitat for birds, reptiles and small-medium sized mammals. Additional improvements such as planted food plots, and bat and bird boxes will help attract additional wildlife.

The grand opening represents completion of Phase 1of the park development. This initial phase was accomplished thanks to dedicated volunteers, community support and grants from the Waterfall and Charter Foundations. Additional elements will be added as resources are secured. If you are interested in how you can help, or to download a trail map, visit sctlandtrust.org.

The new Morgan Grove Nature Area is located in east-central Fayette County near the Flint River. From the square in Fayetteville, take Hwy 54 east 0.3 miles and turn right on South Jeff Davis Rd. At 0.2 miles, turn left; continue on South Jeff Davis Rd 3 miles. Turn right on Inman Rd. At 1.6 miles, turn left on Morgan Road. Entrance is on the right at 0.5 miles. South Jeff Davis, Inman and Morgan Road are all paved county roads and provide all-weather access to the property.

Natural Solutions for Spring Pests

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Warmer weather in Georgia brings the blooms we love, but it also brings back the bugs we hate. No matter how clean your home, no one is immune to household insect pests. And while you might consider hiring a professional exterminator to treat your home, there are natural, non-toxic ways to keep pests at bay as well.

Your first line of defense is to start outside the home, clearing dead leaves away from the foundation, cleaning gutters and picking up all the sticks and debris in the yard that provide a cozy cover for insects. Next, remove the things that attract them inside the home: food and water. Keep your counters free of crumbs and sticky spots. Repair any leaky faucets and don’t leave dishes soaking overnight.

Ants are one of the most difficult pests to eradicate. One of the most popular natural substances used to rid homes of ants is borax. There are many recipes out there, but my father was a fan of the following mixture: one cup of water, two tablespoons of borax and two cups of sugar. Boil ingredients for three minutes, then pour in small containers (such as yogurt containers) with holes punched in the lids for ant access. Place containers near where ants are present. Ants will carry the bait back to their colonies where it will eventually kill the colony. Important: Although borax is not considered acutely toxic, it should not be ingested; therefore, keep the mixture away from pets and children.

You can also trace the ants back to their point of entry and try setting any of the following non-toxic items at the entry area in a small line, which ants will not cross: cayenne pepper, citrus oil (can be soaked into a piece of string), lemon juice, cinnamon or coffee grounds.

Another spring pest we love to hate is the cockroach. Catnip is a natural repellent to cockroaches. Small sachets of catnip can be left in areas of cockroach activity. Catnip can also be simmered in a small amount of water to make a “catnip tea” which can be used as a spray to apply around baseboards. This natural repellent should only be used in homes without cats!

Borax can also be used to kill roaches, but the recipe is a little different from the one for ants: Mix borax and sugar together in equal parts (no water). Then apply in cracks, under cabinets, under the sink, behind the refrigerator, and anywhere else you’ve seen roaches. A little known fact about cockroaches is that they like high places, so try placing some of the mixture on top of kitchen cabinets (not inside) if you have space between your cabinets and the ceiling. Again, keep away from children and pets.

Dog and cat lovers know that pets can become a “flea factory” in warm weather. For every flea on your pet, there may be as many as 30 more in the pet’s environment. Before reaching for pesticides, try these safer choices: Bathe and comb your pet regularly. Use pet shampoos containing Neem oil instead of harsh chemicals.

Citrus is a natural flea deterrent for dogs. Pour a cup of boiling water over a sliced lemon. Include the lemon skin, scored to release more citrus oil. Let this mixture soak overnight, and sponge on your dog to kill fleas instantly. (Do not use citrus oil on cats.)

Don’t forget to take care of the carpet too. Vacuum frequently and put flea powder in the vacuum cleaner bag – before you vacuum. When you’re finished, put the bag in an outdoor garbage bin.

As with commercial pesticides, improper use of natural insect repellants can be harmful. Be sure to do your homework first. Ask your local professional exterminator about non-toxic strategies to reduce the amount of pesticides needed to treat your home.

22 Frugal Ways to Go Green

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Attention Earthlings: It’s time once again for that annual celebration of all things green. Earth Day is nearly upon us and, while many people offer advice on being kind to Mother Earth, too many of these tips don’t quite coincide with frugal lifestyles. In an effort to dovetail these two purposes, we offer 22 budget-friendly ways to go green in honor of April 22.

1. Sign up for the “no solicitation” registry.
That way, you can avoid getting credit card offers and other ads which will reduce paper clutter and save trees.

2. Shop online to reduce your carbon footprint and save money.
According to a study by Carnegie Melon’s Green Institute, shopping online reduced carbon emissions by 35 percent. The abundance of online coupons from such sites as FreeShipping.org makes this green practice a no-brainer.

3. Get out of the gym and exercise outdoors.
Freeze your gym membership and save up to 75 percent (or more) per month during the summer. You’ll also rely less on those energy-sucking cardio machines.

4. Close blinds on hot days.
Before you head out for the day, close your blinds to keep the sun from warming your home while you’re gone. Doing so will reduce your dependence on air conditioning and save energy.

5. Send an e-gift certificate for special occasions.
Not only are e-gift cards super convenient, you’re also using less plastic resources and reducing fuel associated with shipping. If an e-card isn’t available from a desired retailer, purchase gift cards at a discount from sites like Gift Card Granny. That way you recycle someone else’s unwanted plastic and score great savings.

6. Eliminate paper invites and digitize your event announcement.
Save on postage and printing while reducing paper by using sites like pingg.com to create electronic announcements and invitations.

7. Use an irrigation controller to manage watering.
20 to 50 percent of your water use goes toward the landscape, even more in certain areas of the country. Invest in a controller to schedule irrigation to reduce overwatering.

8. Swap your stuff!
Use Swap.com to trade books, CDs, DVDs, sporting equipment and other goods. Not only are you saving money, but you’re reducing future trash by re-using someone else’s stuff.

9. Walk or bike to work to save on fuel.
With gas prices peaking at nearly $4 a gallon, you’re doing your wallet and your health some good by walking or biking to work. If this isn’t feasible, try public transportation.

10. Wash clothes with cold water.
Though some clothes suggest warm or hot water for washing, you can reduce your monthly heating bills and save energy by turning all cycles to cold. Don’t worry, your clothes will still get clean.

11. Use mobile coupons to cut paper clutter.
Download the Coupon Sherpa mobile app to access discounts without using paper coupons. You can also save coupons to your supermarket loyalty card for paperless grocery savings.

12. Plug electronics into power strips.
Buy a surge protector for pricey electronics to save your valuables in the event of a lightning strike, and power down when not in use to cut five percent from your electricity bill.

13. Power down cable boxes.
Doing so will save you $40 per box, annually. You can also cut down on DVD waste by opting for Netflix, Hulu and Amazon streaming.

14. Go paperless.
This is a no-brainer — when banks and service providers offer you the option to go paperless, take it. Check out Lifehacker’s guide to going paperless for more ideas.

15. Hang dry your clothes.
Do laundry on the weekends and hang dry your clothes to save energy and reduce your electricity bill.

16. Shop garage and estate sales for clothes and home goods.
Recycling other people’s unwanted items will not only save money but also reduces trash build-up in landfills.

17. Put the blow dryer down.
Consider going “au natural” several times during the week to save on energy spent by blow dryers, flat irons and other electronic hair products.

18. Take short showers.
The feeling of hot water on your skin is often hard to resist, but taking short, cooler showers reduces your heating bill and saves water and energy.

19. Wash dishes in a sink full of water.
Instead of washing dishes with the tap on, fill one side of the sink with soapy water to clean dishes, and only run the dishwasher when it’s full to save energy.

20. Get a water filter and reusable water bottle.
Over 80 percent of plastic water bottles are tossed — not recycled — yielding 1.5 tons of waste per year, according to Mother Nature Network. Invest in a reusable water bottle (or two) and a filter, if your tap water is lacking.

21. Plant native shrubs and plants.
Native plants and shrubs subsist on whatever precipitation occurs in your area, making them an eco-friendly alternative to non-native plants that require additional watering and maintenance.

22. Use an eco-friendly shower head.
Basic showerheads disperse quite a bit of water per use, so investing in an eco-friendly one like the Oxygenics PowerMassage Handheld Shower Head can save up to 70 percent in water and energy consumption.

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Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.

Protect Yards and Gardens Naturally

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Protect Yards and Gardens Naturally with Insect Repelling Herbs from The Growers Exchange

As one of the warmest winters on record eases out and we’ve jumped head first into spring, the flora and fauna are appearing much earlier than usual. This means that many pesky insects like ticks, mosquitoes, ants and termites are waking up earlier, and they’re hungry.

Industry experts suggest with the increased temperature, mosquitoes may increase by a generation or two this year.  And it is estimated that we are about two months ahead of the natural hibernation cycles for most local insects. So we won’t just see these little buggers earlier this year, we’ll see a boom in their populations as well!

You don’t need to start buying DEET to ensure a pleasant outdoors experience this year. Instead, go the green route and plant insect repellent herbs throughout your landscape to keep you and your family safe from the swarms.

Here are a few favorites from Briscoe White at The Growers Exchange to help you have a mosquito free summer.

Catnip

Usually grown by cat lovers, catnip is proven to be ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes and biting insects than the harsh commercial chemical DEET.

According to the American Chemical Society, the active chemical in catnip, nepetalactone, that drives cats crazy also repels mosquitoes.

Plant regular catnip or lemon-scented catnip in full sun and keep it well pruned. Rub the leaves on clothing and skin as a protectant from biting insects.

Basil

Basil also keeps mosquitoes away, as well as repelling house flies, especially when planted near doorways. Whether in containers or mixed into flower beds, basil adds texture, beauty, fragrance, and most importantly a “no fly zone” to homes.

 

 

Mint

Both peppermint and spearmint are excellent deterrents to ants, flies and moths, but they can also keep lice and mice at bay as well. Planting either variety of mint around the foundation of a house makes a natural boundary that many pests won’t go near. Use it near windowsills or beneath sinks, to keep sneaky insects from coming in to visit.

Planting natural herbal defenses against pests eliminates the use of harmful toxins, improves the local ecology in gardens, and provides benefits of many plants that double as culinary, medicinal or aromatic herbs.

Make sure to choose the safe, sustainable insect repellents this summer and think of the garden before reaching for the toxic spray!

Tips to make a toddler’s room sustainable

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Whether you’ve been taking steps toward green living or you’re a newbie and want to jump start your efforts and reduce your carbon footprint on earth, one area of opportunity is your toddler’s room.

Two interior design instructors from The Art Institutes share how to make your toddler’s room sustainable.

“Sustainability is a popular subject, and most experts in design agree sustainability has to be a way of living and incorporated into our every day,” says Kristina Held, interior design instructor at The Art Institute of Charlotte. “Wooden toys are a small investment and a good place to start.” Held recommends Plan toys or Haba toys which are wood and naturally antibacterial.

Wooden toys:
Even Kourtney Kardashian promotes wooden, sustainable toys as opposed to plastic toys on her “mommy blog.” Some of the top reasons to buy wooden toys:

* Conserve energy: It takes more energy and fuel to make plastic toys.
* Plastic toys are made with chemicals – and we all know how toddlers tend to stick toys in their mouths.
* Wooden toys are durable compared to plastic toys (you also don’t have to replace batteries).

Fabrics:
Consider bedding, curtain treatments and upholstery. “Think about choosing natural fibers such as linens and bamboo,” says Kelly Spewock, interior design department director at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. “Bamboo is the most popular at the moment, and it is also a renewable resource.” A blend of cottons with acrylic and rayon make great upholstery fabrics, Held says. Worried about the softness to the touch? Cotton textiles that are brushed are soft on toddler’s skin, and so are terry clothes made of hemp and cotton. Try to avoid dyes. Cotton is the best for preventing irritated skin and breakouts, and it is also easy to clean.

Repurposing furniture:
If you’re taking the room from baby to toddler-friendly, Spewock recommends repurposing your furniture. “Get creative by converting the crib into a bed by taking off the railings and use old wooden boxes as shelving,” Spewock says. Go the shabby chic route by sanding an old desk and painting it white or a pastel color. Then, remove some of the paint with a cloth for an old/distressed look and feel. Saw off half of the table’s legs to make a toddler-accessible play/work area, Spewock says.

Flooring and carpeting:
Carefully consider flooring and carpeting because toddlers are just a few feet off the floor and on their hands and knees all day. “Carpets are tough. You have to constantly steam clean to get rid of the dust mites and dirt they collect. Toddlers are breathing the dust, dirt and the glues on wall to wall carpeting,” Held says. Carpets with natural fibers create less off-gassing (toxins and glue coming from the carpets and furniture). She recommends Amtico floors which can be made to resemble wood, tile, stone and linoleum. But nothing beats wood flooring, Held says. Again, it is naturally antibacterial, easy to clean and warm to bare skin.

Take sustainability to the walls:
Spewock recommend Zero-VOC paint which has no off-gassing and is water-soluble. Paint gives off fumes just like the glue in furniture and fabrics in the carpets. “Ten years ago you’d pay twice as much for environmentally friendly paint. Now, it’s affordable and much more common,” Spewock says.

Show and tell:
Educate children through design and teach them through example, recommend both Spewock and Held. Introduce green plants and teach your toddler how to take care of them, Held says. Plants get rid of toxins you don’t want in your air.

Consider maximizing the natural light in your toddler’s room. “It’s been proven in a classroom setting that children stay awake, more alert, and they are generally happier when exposed to natural light,” Held says. Expose them to fresh air, especially if your home is cooled by central air where toxins are circulated. Open up and freshen up to avoid harvesting viruses, dust mites, animal hair, etc.

Decorate the walls using symbols and imagery such as trees, a globe of the world and other items that represent the natural world. To teach them about energy conservation, paint a sun with its eyes closed for the “off” light switch position and a sun with its eyes open for the “on switch” position. “Celebrate Earth Day and get your children interested in helping to recycle,” Spewock says. “Live it so your child embraces it.”

Kristina Held is an architect by trade, a member of American International Architects, and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP) certified. She teaches residential design and working drawings, perspectives, and architectural details. She also has two daughters of her own, a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old.

Kelly Spewock is also LEED Certified. In addition to her interior design chair duties, she is also owner of Little House designs in Pittsburgh.

This New Year, Resolve to Eat Smarter

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Chances are, you’re probably one of the millions of Americans whose list of New Year’s resolutions include “Lose weight” or “Eat healthier.”

How about “Eat smarter”?

If you’re interested in a diet that is not only one of the most renowned and time-tested approaches to being healthier and losing weight, but is also instrumental for protecting the environment, helping to end world hunger, and saving animals from lives of pain and misery (yup, you knew that would come in somewhere), then perhaps you should consider following a vegetarian diet.

I’m going to tell you primarily about the first two reasons people become vegetarian: being healthier and losing weight. And by the way, nearly half of those who become vegetarians do it mainly for health- and/or weight-related reasons. (The other reasons—environmental, social and ethical—speak pretty loudly for themselves, and if you’re already concerned about them, then you probably already know about the connection between going veg and making the world a better place. For example, most people who consider themselves “environmentalists” are already aware that raising animals for food damages the environment more than just about anything else that we do.) But no matter what your reasons might be, keep in mind that going veg is a win-win; if you follow it correctly, it will improve your health, weight, and your sense of wellbeing, as well as help the planet and all of the other humans we share it with.

Why Going Veg = Eating Smarter

Let’s start with heart disease, the number-one killer of American women. According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), vegetarians and vegans are at a much lower risk of death from heart disease than non-vegetarians. Also, vegetarians tend to have lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes, as well as lower overall cancer rates. The ADA concludes that vegetarian or vegan diets “are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases” (ADA, “Vegetarian Diets,” vol 109, issue 7, pgs 1266-1282 (July 2009)).

And because they aren’t eating near the top of the food chain, vegetarians also have less exposure to heavy metals, DDT, PCBs, and other contaminants, and are less likely to contract a foodborne disease such as e. coli or salmonella.

For all of the above reasons, it should come as no surprise that vegetarians tend to live longer than non-vegetarians—an estimated seven to nine years longer. And they tend to be healthier in those senior years.

And finally, here’s “the skinny” on why vegetarians eat smarter. Because vegetarians typically eat lower amounts of fat, including animal fat, and have increased amounts of vegetables, legumes and fiber in their diets, they tend to have lower body mass indexes—meaning that they weigh less than their non-veg counterparts. In fact, according to Becoming Vegetarian (Melina and Davis, 2003), “Rates of obesity among meat-eaters are approximately double that of vegetarians and triple that of vegans.”

So what is taking the place of all that saturated fat, excessive protein, and “bad” cholesterol in a non-veg diet? The increased amounts of vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, seeds, nuts and soy add up to more fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals (plant chemicals) than diets that contain meat.

Now for the catch (you knew there had to be one, right?) Actually, this is more common sense than caveat. It is possible to eat nothing but cheese pizza, bagels, pasta and potato chips… and still technically be a vegetarian. And obviously, you’d see none of the health and weight loss benefits described above, and undoubtedly be worse off than if you’d had a well-balanced diet that did include some meat.

But with that said, a well-balanced vegetarian diet provides you with everything you need—calcium, fiber (of course), vitamins and minerals, and yes, even iron and protein. The myth of the pale, anemic vegetarian is just that: a myth—unless you fall into the category of “beige vegetarians” described above. Legumes (including beans and soy products), nuts, seeds, grains and vegetables are great sources of calcium, iron and protein.

Which leads to another reasons people shy away from going veg: unless you’re content to be a beige vegetarian or live on veggie burgers, you have to learn to cook a little differently. If you do it right, you’ll find yourself eating more whole, natural, locally produced, unprocessed foods. Personally, I’ve found this to be challenging, but in a good way. Going veg forced me to reexamine my eating habits, do research, try new and different things. But I did, starting off with a couple of vegetarian cookbooks, then adding a couple of vegan cookbooks, building my recipe collection—and my repertoire—one meal at a time. Before I started down this path, I’d never heard of quinoa or tempeh, bulgur or amaranth. I learned.

Nowadays, one of my favorite things to do is to choose a vegan recipe, shop for all of the whole, healthy ingredients, cook it up and serve it to my non-veg family… and enjoy their amazed expressions, watch them go back for seconds. The best part is that it both tastes great and is so healthy for them.

So back to those New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps you’ve gotten this far and are still thinking that going veg is just not something you’ll ever do. That’s fine, but keep in mind that even small changes—say, eating a vegetarian meal at least once or twice a week—can add up to big results for your health and weight. Do a little research about the health benefits of vegetarian diets. Check out the “Meatless Monday” campaign (started by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, by the way, in order to promote better health in our population). Buy a vegetarian or vegan cookbook and try something you’ve never heard of before. Take the vegetarian option one step at a time, going at a pace that you’re comfortable with. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at where it will lead you.

MORE RESOURCES:

Vegetarian Resource Group (www.vrg.org)

Johns Hopkins’ Meatless Monday campaign (www.meatlessmonday.com)

American Dietetic Association (www.eatright.org)

Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group of the ADA (www.vegetariannutrition.net/index.php)

Vegetarian Nutrition Resource List (www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/pubs/bibs/gen/vegetarian.pdf)