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Winter is Coming: What You Need to Do to Your Garden to Be Prepared!

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There’s a certain thrill to seeing a ripe, fully colored tomato in your garden and using it for homemade salsa the next week. However, the time for soaking in that feeling is over, and as the seasons change, so must our gardening habits. As winter draws near, here are a few different things you should think about doing to protect your garden during the offseason.

  1. Make sure that your gardening tools are polished. It doesn’t matter if you have a brand new leaf collector or the dirtiest wheelbarrow east of the Mississippi. Your equipment needs to be cared for and put away, so make sure everything from pocket snips to weeders goes in the shed as soon as you don’t need it anymore. If you take care of good equipment, you won’t need to be wasteful and continually buy new tools.
  2. Try not to rake your leaves. While raking can be a solid workout, it can also damage your yard. Research has proven that mowing leaves on and around your garden is more efficient and better for the soil, and unraked leaves in planting beds seldom smother shade-tolerant perennial plants.
  3. Not everything needs to be cut! Some flowers and tall plants should stay standing tall. Sunflowers and thistles are especially important to butterflies and birds during the winter. Some plants and flowers can still be used as food and sanctuary. While some plants need to be eliminated, keep a few around for our fellow nature creatures.
  4. Cover up with compost. One to six inches of compost should do the trick when covering up the garden. This can be made of many different things, so get creative! It doesn’t just have to be manure or leaves.

You can find more in-depth tips here.

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25 Easy Ways to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

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Did you know that levels of common pollutants in indoor air can be 2-5 times higher (and sometimes up to 100 times higher) than outdoor air? Given the fact that we spend 80-90 percent of our time indoors, every step we can take to clean up indoor air counts. Breathe easier using these 25 ways to improve your indoor air quality.

Here are two tips from our free “One Small Act” social gaming platform that has hundreds of ways to green your life.

Get a houseplant to improve indoor air quality.

Houseplants are always a welcome addition to any home. But they can leave us with more than beauty. Choose the right varieties and you’ll grow healthier indoor air, too. Pretty cool.

In the 1980s, NASA scientists researching air quality in space discovered that many houseplants excel at absorbing common toxic substances like formaldehyde, benzene, and acetone from indoor air. Studies also show that rooms filled with house plants typically contain 50 to 60 percent fewer mold spores and bacteria. These air quality improvements can make a big difference. According to researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, cleaning up indoor air pollution could save the country up to $4 billion by reducing asthma and allergies, and another $14 billion in medical costs associated with respiratory disease.

The more plants you use, the healthier your air will be. But it doesn’t take a lot—one study found that small groups of Janet Craig (if you’re no gardener, that’s actually the name of a plant) and sweet chico plants placed in indoor spaces reduced levels of certain gases up to 75 percent. Bonus: they look nice.

Here are the top 10 most effective purifying plants:

1. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata Bostoniensis)

2. Areca Palm (Chyrsalidocarpus lutescens)

3. Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)

4. Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)

5. Rubber Plant (Ficus robusta)

6. Dracaena Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis)

7. English Ivy (Hedera helix)

8. Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii)

9. Ficus Alii (Ficus macleilandii alii)

10. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum sp.)

Find a DIY cleaning recipe.

The ingredients in some conventional cleaning products can negatively impact both personal health and the environment. While green alternatives from natural product companies tend to be free of the worst offending chemicals, and are usually plant (not petroleum) based, consumers should still read ingredient lists and fine print when shopping.

There’s another alternative: to truly know what’s in your cleaning products, make your own using safe-for-the-environment-and-you household staples like vinegar, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, washing soda, salt, and baking soda. Many of these ingredients and DIY formulas have been used for generations and get the job done. Bonus: making your own can save you money.

Laundry detergents, window cleaners, furniture polish, the internet is filled with “recipes” for safe and effective cleaning products you can make at home. Get started today using some of the recipes below!

Check out all of these awesome ideas from some of our favorite green bloggers:

Learn more and take action on One Small Act – our digital platform where you can earn points for living lighter on the planet and connect with others doing the same!

(Are you a blogger? Sign up here to learn about future opportunities to be featured on our blog.)

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Creative & Unexpected Ways to Reduce, Reuse & Recycle

 

You’ve probably heard the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra about a million times. That’s because it’s been a key pillar of the green living and conservation movements since the first Earth Day in 1970. By now, you might respond with a mental “I know, I know, I know.” But are you doing, doing, doing? You probably recycle your aluminum and paper. Maybe you reuse glass food jars for future food storage. And perhaps you take steps to reduce by being a conscious consumer. Anything and everything you’re doing deserves a pat on the back! But today we’re challenging you to do a little more – and we have plenty of ideas and inspiration to get you going.

Here are three tips from our free “One Small Act” social gaming platform that has hundreds of ways to green your life.

Recycle a pair of old running shoes or sneakers.

If you think your smelly old athletic shoes are good for little more than stinking up a landfill, here’s some news that will send you running for the closet: just like your used bottles, cans, and newspapers, athletic shoe soles can easily be reincarnated as something new after they’ve crossed their last finish line.

Most athletic shoes are made from synthetic rubber and other materials that are perfectly recyclable no matter how dreadful their condition may seem. From running tracks and basketball courts to playgrounds and carpet padding, even the worst offenders can be turned into the very things they once played upon. The midsole foam from 2,500 pairs of sneakers, for example, can be recycled into a tennis court. And it takes up to 75,000 pairs to make a soccer field!

You can’t toss old footwear into your curbside bin along with your usual recyclables because most recycling operations aren’t set up to handle their unique materials.

That said, with more people realizing that shoe recycling is a great way to tread more lightly on the earth, it’s becoming simpler to do. Check out RecycledRunners to see if there are resources near you.

Use a reusable moving box instead of cardboard.

Moving is a drag. It’s also not the eco-friendliest experience. To lower the eco-impact of your move and save some trees—not to mention tape—try renting reusable plastic moving boxes.

Plastic boxes aren’t perfect. They’re heavy—which adds up when you load them into a gas-guzzling truck. They’re made from a nonrenewable resource (though some are recycled plastic) and must be carefully recycled at the end of their useful life. Some companies say their lifespan is 200 uses, others claim 400. But on average they’re a better bet than cardboard boxes, even ones containing recycled content—whether you take them from your local supermarket and liquor store or you buy them new. Recycling cardboard does eventually produce waste. And there’s a considerable amount of shipping involved between recycling plants, cardboard manufacturers, and the stores that sell the boxes.

There are added benefits to reusable bins that cardboard can’t match. First, if it rains, you’re in luck. Plastic bins don’t get soggy. Second, rental periods are usually a few weeks, which means you have a set unpacking date. No more leaving boxes unopened for months post-move! And no more breaking down and recycling empties.

Find a local reusable moving box company. They’re easier to find in cities. Rental fees are similar to buying cardboard boxes, depending on where you live. The system works best if you’re moving close by. It’s trickier if your move is cross-country.

Opt for towels and clothes for packing fragile items, instead of bubble wrap and other disposables.

Challenge a co-worker to a day of going paperless.

Offices are involved in the world’s greatest paper chase, a race our forests end up losing.

The average office employee generates approximately 1.5 pounds (.7 kg) of waste paper every workday for a less-than-grand total of 350 pounds (159 kg) per year. In an office with just 30 people that’s an annual waste stream of five tons. Not all of this waste gets recycled. According to the EPA, about 37 percent of the paper we use is entombed forever in landfills as pure waste.

Some 42 percent of the industrial wood harvest is used to make paper, and the industry itself is the 4th leading manufacturing-related emitter of greenhouse gases in the U.S. If America could cut its office paper use by just 10 percent, we’d prevent 1.6 million tons of those emissions. That’s like taking 280,000 cars off the road!

Challenge a co-worker to a day of going paper free (you have to do it, too)! See if you can make it the whole day. It may require the focus and determination of an Olympic athlete, but you know what they say: practice makes perfect.

Here are some tips to help you in your quest:

  • Suggest meeting hosts email agendas and any necessary information to attendees electronically instead of as paperwork.
  • Encourage meeting attendees use smart phones, tablets, or laptops instead of paper for note keeping and document sharing.
  • Post-meeting, remind hosts that meeting minutes or reports can be sent electronically as well.
  • Edit files electronically instead of printing them out.
  • Try taking notes digitally instead of in a notebook.

Need more inspiration? Check out all of these awesome ideas from some of our favorite green bloggers:

Learn more and take action on One Small Act – our digital platform where you can earn points for living lighter on the planet and connect with others doing the same!

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Water Conservation & Drought Busting

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From California to Australia, many people find themselves in the midst of a drought so serious, some researchers have cited it could be the worst in the last half century. So while you may not be able to make it rain, there are some things you can do to help conserve water both at home and at work.

Help out with the drought: let’s work together to complete as many actions to see how many gallons of water we can all save together! Here are five tips from our free “One Small Act” social gaming platform that has hundreds of ways to green your life.

1. Take a quick quiz to see how well you’re conserving water and where you can improve.

2. Read your home water bill. If your bill lists historical usage, a quick glance at your water bill will tell you how many liters or gallons you use each month, as well as the amount you are paying for each liter or gallon. Seeing your monthly spend can be a powerful incentive to cut down on water waste. Use what you learn to motivate you to reduce the amount of water you’re using.

3. Skip meat for one meal this week. According to a global study cited by the Environmental Working Group, it takes an estimated 1,857 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef (and 469 gallons of water for a pound of chicken), and that doesn’t include processing!

4. Be a member of the empty glass club. When dining out at a restaurant, make sure to drink all the water that is in your glass before having it refilled. Water is oftentimes wasted by the excess that is leftover from each glass. Now multiply that by the number of people who eat out, and that’s a lot of water that could be saved! The same also holds true for the water you drink at work–make sure that if you do have any excess water leftover from your water bottle or glass that you don’t intend to drink, you use it to water any plants that might be in the office.

5. Write ‘Don’t clean me’ in the dust covering your car. Enduring a drought is no laughing matter, but the simple act of writing “Don’t clean me” on your car can provide a good opportunity to spark a conversation with someone about the different and sometimes easy ways, we can all save water. Take washing your car for example. This International Carwash Association (ICA) says that using a garden hose, home washers use more than 60 gallons (227 L) in as little as five minutes and toxic wastewater containing things like motor oil and ammonia usually ends up going untreated down the storm drains, too.

For tons of other tips, check out these blog posts that cover everything from rain barrels to aquaponics and much more!

Learn more and take action on One Small Act – our digital platform where you can earn points for living lighter on the planet and connect with others doing the same!

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The Ultimate Guide to Eco-Travel and Green Vacations

Love of travel and love of the environment do not need to be mutually exclusive. Enter eco-vacations! You can absolutely enjoy yourself without a tinge of green guilt with some thoughtful planning. Whether you’re headed halfway around the world or just camping around the corner, bookmark this page as your ultimate guide to eco-travel and green vacations.

Happy family travel boat ( Guilin of Thailand )

Here are five tips from our free “One Small Act” social gaming platform that has hundreds of ways to green your life.

1. Look for the Green Globe Certified stamp of approval to ensure you are staying at an establishment that takes sustainability seriously. And to make life easier, Green Globe has an easy to use hotel search to help you find certified hotels in locales all around the world–hello Barbados! Oh, and there’s an app too!

2. Eat local and sustainable while you’re traveling. Seek out and make reservations at sustainable restaurants before you leave home. Certain organizations, including the Green Restaurant Association, the Sustainable Restaurant Association, and the Eat Well Guide, make this easy on eaters. Certification criteria varies but most reputable organizations consider water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable furnishings and building materials, sustainable food, energy, disposables, and chemical-pollution reduction. If your hotel room has a fridge or a mini kitchen, stock up at local farmers’ markets for breakfast and snacks.

3. Choose a train over a plane for a short trip. Air travel is now the fastest growing contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Not flying or avoiding a flight when there is an alternative is one of the biggest single steps that any individual can take to limit their impact on the environment.

4. Take public transportation when traveling. If you have a choice when traveling, choose a hotel near public transportation. Familiarize yourself with the schedules by securing route maps online before you go.

5. Find an eco-vacation destination. Supporting sustainable tourism helps the countries you visit ensure they are protecting their natural resources and preserving cultural heritage. Visit the International Ecotourism Society website to start planning your trip.

 

For tons of other tips, check out these blog posts that cover everything from family road trips to cruises, camping and more!

Learn more and take action on One Small Act – our digital platform where you can earn points for living lighter on the planet and connect with others doing the same!

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Eating Local & Seasonal Foods is Easier Than You Think!

Fresh market fruits and vegetables

Take advantage of the season’s bounty! Shopping locally and seasonally are two great ways to lessen your impact on the environment and support your local community.

By eating locally grown produce, you reduce the transportation related impact of your food choices. You’re also supporting local farms, and getting tasty food that was harvested and transported closer to peak ripeness. Plus, the nutritional content is also likely to be higher.

It’s getting easier to find local produce at your grocery store, too, and not only at natural food markets. Many post signs announcing if a lettuce is locally grown or not, with details on where it was grown. FYI: there is no standard distance for local. Many “locavores” eat a 100 mile diet, or go up to 150 or 200 miles. Others use the “one day drive” rule—less than 400 miles. Do what works for you!

Eating local doesn’t have to be an all or nothing endeavor. Being practically, not perfectly, green means buying whatever amount of local food makes sense for you and your family. If you have a favorite non-local recipe and want to keep it in your repertoire—by all means!

Eating local and seasonal foods is easier than you think and here are tons of tips to get you started (or keep you going)!

Our friends at Sustainable America have a bunch of great advice, too:

Ready to live la vida locavore? Learn more and take action on One Small Act – our digital platform where you can earn points for living lighter on the planet and connect with others doing the same!

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Enter the Eco Eats Sweepstakes, Win a NatureBox Subscription!

Green is Universal will be hosting a fun, three-week “Eco Eats” sweepstakes from September 29 – October 17!

To join, visit our free green-living tool, One Small Act, and join the “Eco Eats” challenge. Everyone who signs-up and tackles at least one action by October 17th will be entered to win one of five 6-month subscriptions to NatureBox.

Interested? Get started on One Small Act today, and enter the Eco Eats challenge on September 29!* Read official rules here.

*Eco Eats will not be live until September 29.

 

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Refer Friends to One Small Act, Win Prizes!

OSA goodies

Green is Universal’s free One Small Act platform helps you green your life by providing little actions that have a big impact on the environment.

Right now, we’re giving away green goodies to our One Small Act users who invite friends to join. If you’re not already a user, simply sign up and start referring friends!

  • If one friend joins, you get a Green is Universal t-shirt.
  • If two friends join, you get a glass water bottle.
  • If three friends join, you get an umbrella.

Plus, all your friends will receive a Green is Universal reusable bag!

Start referring your friends, now!

Giveaway runs through November 21, 2014. Prizes will be sent after that. See terms and conditions here.

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