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4 Green Living Cleaning Tips

 

green cleaningMost people never really stop and think about all the chemicals they’re spraying all over their homes when they try to clean up. While these sprays and solvents certainly get the job done, there are easier, less expensive, and more natural solutions that won’t leave behind a residue or impact the health of anyone living in a given home.

#1: Catching Flies With Vinegar

No one likes it when midges, flies, and other pests get in the house. But for those who don’t want to break the bank or leave poisons around in their homes, this simple green living formula will help you catch all of the pests in your home. Take an empty glass or jar (pickle jars work quite nicely), and pour a quarter inch of apple cider vinegar into it. Cover the top with cellophane, and punch small holes in it. Secure the cellophane with a rubber band to keep it taught. The pests will be drawn to the scent, and once they get in they won’t be able to get out. No chemicals, no danger to pets or children, and it even smells rather pleasant.

#2: Get Rid Of Smells With Half an Onion

Onions may not be quite a dime a dozen, but they are cheap. If you happen to have an onion laying around the house then you can use it to absorb some of that musty odor hanging around in your basement. Simply cut an onion in half and set it on a plate overnight. By the time morning comes around you should notice a marked lessening of any smells in the room. No need to pump your air full of perfume when you can suck the bad smells right out.

#3: Use White Vinegar to De-Scent Your Trashcan

Whether you live in a big house or a small apartment the trash can be an affront to the nose. Rather than throwing out your trashcan and getting a new one every couple of months though, all you need is some white vinegar and a piece of bread. Soak the bread with white vinegar (put the bread on a paper towel first), and leave it in the bottom of the empty trash can overnight. Come the morning the smell will be gone, and you didn’t need to use anything more artificial than a piece of bread.

#4: Cleaning Counters and Cutting Boards With Lemons

While most people only use lemons for livening up their drinks, they’re actually powerful cleaning agents. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze the juice onto stains on either a cutting board or a laminate counter top. Use the fruit like a scrubber, and let the citrus eat away at the stains and mess. Rinse the counter top off a few minutes later with water, and you’ll notice that the stains are gone. Lemons also disinfect an area, and leave it smelling of natural citrus.

For other green living tips and life hacks simply contact us today!

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4 Green Living Tips For Apartments

indoor plant

It isn’t easy to make positive green living decisions when you live in an apartment. As a renter you don’t have the ability to make construction decisions, or to install Energy Star appliances much less to put solar panels on your roof. However, if you want to live an eco-friendly apartment dwelling life there are still steps you can take.

Pay Attention To Your Windows

While natural daylight is a great way to not burn electricity, windows are also an unfortunate source of heat loss. That’s why when winter comes it’s a good idea to put shrink wrap over older windows, and to make sure you have a set of insulating blackout curtains. While the shrink wrap will need to be taken off for warmer weather, the blackout curtains will also help keep the heat of the day out if you keep them pulled. This will help reduce your need for artificial heating and air conditioning.

Keep Your Fridge Clean and Stocked

Everyone knows that keeping your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as often as possible will reduce the amount of electricity the appliance uses. What you might not know is cleaning the dust, dirt, and build up of ice in your unit can help it run more smoothly and while using less power. Not only that but if you keep your fridge and freezer stocked it uses less power to keep everything cold because there’s so much less empty space that has to be kept cool.

Get Some Plants

While hanging a plant or two in your house might seem like missing the forest for the trees, it’s actually a really good idea. Houseplants freshen up your air at no cost to you, and what’s more then can actually keep a place cooler by acting as small, green heat sinks. You will need to make sure the house doesn’t get too cold for them, but indoor plants can be a life saver for a green apartment.

Buy Recycled Products

It seems like a no-brainer, but in addition to recycling glass, cans, and plastic it’s important for consumers to purchase materials made from recycled content. Whether it’s napkins or toilet paper, glassware or bottles it’s important to put your money where your mouth is and to make a statement to retailers that you want more products made with post-consumer recycled material. Just check on the packaging, it will tell you what percentage of the product used to be something else.

For even more green living tips for your home contact us today!


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Ten Helpful Tips For Making Your Rental Into a Sustainable Home

2013-04-15-green-living-tips-lightbulbs-april-29-2013-photo

Once you’ve signed a lease on a rental, it is important to protect the integrity of the owners’ property to avoid any claims once you move on. Yet, making “green,” energy conscious improvements is very much within reason and can save you a substantial amount of money and make your new apartment more planet friendly. Here’s a list of ten simple tips that can help make your rental into a sustainable home, without breaking the bank. If you make a small investment in changes, remember that your contributions will save you money over the long run, and can serve as a bargaining tool with your landlord, or future leasers.

Climate control: A lot of energy is spent in heating and cooling your home during the changing seasons. Insulation is the key to control and maintain a regular, comfortable temperature and indoor climate.

1. Properly seal windows with caulk or plastic coverings. A visit to the hardware store will equal sizable returns in energy savings once the heat or air conditioning is no longer leaking out of cracks or damaged window frames.

2. Invest in a Thermostat. Programmable thermostats will help you control your apartment’s indoor climate. The majority of energy is expended in heating from a cold temperature, or cooling down from a very high temp.

3. Curtains, blinds, window shades. A lot of heat is lost or gained through glass. Simple decorative window solutions can help you manage this heat gain/loss to your advantage.

Energy efficiency: Your appliances are huge culprits in wasteful energy consumption, but with a little attention, you can take matters into your own hands.

4. Dust! Yes, by dusting the vents in your computer’s tower, your stereo equipment, your refrigerator’s coils, you can vastly improve the efficiency of these machines and help them to run better and perform better.

5. Use “green” light bulbs. The green light bulb revolution is already underway. Just jump in and find the products that suit your needs. You’ll find there is more variety now in light color.

6. Replace filters. Whether it’s for your furnace or air conditioner, maintaining clean air filters will support efficient ventilation, maintain your appliances running smoothly, and will provide better air quality in your home. Check on these filters every 3 months for best results.

7. Power strips. Newer “smart” power strips are out on the market. They help in cutting off energy to whatever is plugged in that is not in use. Also, by turning off the strip, it automatically cuts off energy to several appliances at once, when you are not using them or when you are away.

Water efficiency: If you are paying for water utilities and most renters are, these tips will be helpful in savings. Whatever the case may be, lower water consumption is a green initiative and a global concern.

8. Retrofit to a more efficient toilet. There are converter kits for renters that can change your regular toilet into a more efficient “dual-flush” toilet. A small investment will help your save a month or two of water utility bills, annually.

9. Low-flow shower heads. These products provide adequate and strong shower pressure while not wasting as much water.

10. Make use of a humidifier. The quality of the humidity in your apartment can mean big savings in heating during the winter. It’s not only good for your wallet, but also your health. Some modern HVAC systems have a built-in humidifier, otherwise an inexpensive purchase of a portable humidifier will resolve the dry conditions that are harmful to delicate possessions and your body.

These tips should provide inspiration for home improvement projects that are truly worthwhile and that support a better financial outlook, promote good health practices and look out for the environment. Contact us to inquire if your ideas for green changes may or may not be within reason as a renter.


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These plants will clear the air

House Plant Photo Spider PlantThe pictures on up, the furniture is arranged and now it’s time to bring a bit of the outside inside.

Houseplants are a punctuation mark for your décor, adding a natural touch to your home.  They have few needs other than watering, pruning and a dose of fertilizer from time to time.

But decorative plants are more than just a pretty face.  They actually help clear the air in your home.

A 2009 study by a research team from Pennsylvania State University looked at how certain houseplants can reduce ozone levels in a simulated indoor environment.  For this study the team used three common indoor varieties: snake plant, spider plant and golden pothos.

From the Science Daily website:  “The researchers set up chambers in a greenhouse equipped with a charcoal filtration air supply system in which ozone concentrations could be measured and regulated. Ozone was then injected into the chambers, and the chambers were checked every 5 to 6 minutes. The data revealed that ozone depletion rates were higher in the chambers that contained plants than in the control chambers without plants, but there were no differences in effectiveness among the three plants.”

The authors concluded, “Because indoor air pollution extensively affects developing countries, using plants as a mitigation method could serve as a cost-effective tool in the developing world where expensive pollution mitigation technology may not be economically feasible.”

NASA has studied ways to purify the air in space stations. The space agency recommendeds using “15 to 18 good-sized houseplants in 6 to 8-inch diameter containers to improve air quality in an average 1,800 square foot house,” according to the University of Minnesota Extension Service.

The website Mother Nature Network has a slide show of  “15 houseplants for improving indoor air quality.”  On the list are snake plants, spider plants and golden pothos.

But other plants, including Aloe (helps clear formaldehyde and benzene), Red-edged dracaena  ( combats xylene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde, which can be introduced to indoor air through lacquers, varnishes and gasoline) and Bamboo palm (“It tops the list of plants best for filtering out both benzene and trichloroethylene.”)

So, head down to your favorite nursery or big-box story and pick up a few plants for your house.

You’ll breathe easier.

 


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Staying dry: Drought renews interest in water conservation

2013-05-28 Water Conservation - showerEveryone has at least a little bit of green in them.  It might be as simple as switching off a light to save electricity or as committed as recycling every scrap of paper, plastic or aluminum foil that comes your way.

But what about water? Are you as careful about using only what you need as you are about, say, turning off the iron when you leave your apartment? (Or going back to make sure you did.)

As author Charles Fishman notes in his book, “The Big Thirst,” water is the most familiar natural resource and the most important substance in our lives.  But we often take it for granted.  It’s cheap, safe and always there when we turn on the faucet.

“The ease with which water enters and leaves our lives allows us an indifference to our water supply,” he writes. “We are utterly ignorant of our own water-mark, of the amount of water required to float us through the day, and we are utterly indifferent to the mark our daily life leaves on the water supply.”

But the images of cracked fields and withered crops resulting from the drought that still grips a good deal of the country has nudged water – or more precisely the lack of it – into the national conversation.  And the word that keeps popping up in that conversation is conservation.

Let’s begin with one way we all use water. The typical American, on average, flushes the toilet five times a day at home, using 18.5 gallons, Fishman says. Every day as a nation 5.7 billion gallons of clean water is flushed down the toilet, according to Fishman.

Now consider what happens if you place a filled plastic water bottle in a conventional toilet water tank, one that uses three to seven gallons per flush. That simple act will displace enough water to save half a gallon to a gallon each use – and that’s no drop in the bucket (sorry).

Here are a few more tips from Water – Use it Wisely that every apartment dweller can employ to save H2O:

  • Run your washing machine and dishwasher only when they are full. You can save up to 1,000 gallons a month.
  • Collect the water you use for rinsing fruits and vegetables, and then reuse it to water houseplants.
  • Shorten your shower by a minute or two and you’ll save up to 150 gallons per month.
  • Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and save 25 gallons a month. Turn off the water while you shave and save up to 300 gallons a month.
  • Drop your tissue in the trash instead of flushing it.
  • For hanging baskets, planters and pots, place ice cubes under the moss or dirt to give your plants a cool drink of water and help eliminate water overflow.

The freshwater initiative of National Geographic has plenty of information and tips and an eye-opening water footprint calculator.


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Carpet spots? Try a green clean

2013-02-04 Green Living Tip - Carpet Cleaning imageMany commercial spot and pet-stain removers work well on carpets and rugs, but they can come with risks.

Occasionally, they discolor or bleach carpets, and many are made from environmentally unfriendly chlorine- or petroleum-based solvents.

Often, a trip to the kitchen cabinet is often all you need to remove all traces of that little mishap on the rug.  Vinegar is a workhorse when it comes to green cleaning. Here are some common culprits and their solutions:

Catsup, chocolate, coffee and cola:  TLC’s “How Stuff Works” website http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/home/5-green-carpet-cleaning-tips5.htm advises the following:  Mix a solution of one part vinegar to two parts water. For catsup, blot liberally and repeatedly into the spot until it disappears. Chocolate stains should be treated in the same way, but it’s important to blot with a clean cloth, rather than rub, to avoid spreading the stain further. Again, rinse and wring out your sponge repeatedly until the water runs clear.  For fresh coffee and cola spills, use plain water. If the stain has set, use the vinegar and water solution.

Red wine:  Sprinkle immediately with salt and let sit for 15 minutes. The salt will absorb the spill and turn it pink, says TLC. Then vacuum or brush away the salt and clean the area with a solution of 1/3 cup vinegar and 2/3 cup water.

Dog urine:  According to the folks at Dog Chat, http://www.dogchatforum.com/dog_urine_odor.htm#.UP7cw7vChFE, here’s how to remove it: Absorb as much as possible with old towels, or if the area is already dry, use this same procedure: Mix a solution of half vinegar and half water. Work it into the carpet with a scrubbing brush to penetrate the fibers. Blot with towels or paper towels.  The vinegar will neutralize the ammonia in the urine. Use a wet vacuum if you have one to remove excess moisture.

When the area has dried, or almost dried, sprinkle a handful of baking soda over it. Then, mix a half cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide with a teaspoon of dishwashing detergent (not dishwasher detergent.) Do not use hydrogen peroxide that is stronger than 3% or stronger than 10 volume, to avoid possible bleachingA spot test in an inconspicuous area is advised.

Slowly pour the hydrogen peroxide and dishwashing detergent mixture over the baking soda, and work the liquid mixture and the soda into the carpet with your fingers or brush. Allow the area to dry completely. Once the area is thoroughly dry, vacuum up the baking soda. Use a hard bristled brush to loosen up the baking soda if necessary. Your carpet should smell fresh.


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Pool, clubhouse, workout room … bicycle fleet

2012-12-17 Zagster bikesApartment communities may someday soon offer bicycles to residents as part of their amenities packages.

That’s the idea behind a Massachusetts start-up that hopes to deliver fleets of bikes to university and corporate campuses, apartment communities, hotels and resorts.

The company, Zagster, already operates in about 55 locations, including Yale University and the Hyatt hotel in Cambridge, Mass., the company’s home.

Last month, Zagster received $1 million in investment funding to take its bicycle-on-demand program nationally.

Bicycles have proven popular in many cities, where they can bridge the transportation gap between home and station, and station and workplace – sometimes call the first- and last-mile problem.

City-sponsored bike-share programs help alleviate traffic congestion, parking shortages and crowding on mass transit.   Currently, more than 60 university campuses and many corporate campuses also run bike-sharing programs, and demand appears to be growing, say officials with the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

Zagster charges clients a monthly fee to supply and maintain the bikes. The company also provides the software to manage the fleet. The client can decide whether to charge residents and guests for access or offer the bikes as a free amenity.

Each bike has a lock box, which users open with a code they receive via cellphone text message.  Inside the box is a key to the bike’s lock.

Environmentalists have long argued the virtues of bicycles over gas-engine cars.

Zagster has developed a way to calculate the emissions avoided by bicycling instead of driving.  Company executives told the New York Times they are in discussions with the World Bank on the potential use of Zagster’s system during the 2014 Summer Olympics and the 2016 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, which has created a low-carbon city development program in cooperation with the World Bank.

Bicycling has numerous other health, environmental and financial benefits.  Here are five of them, according to David Fiedler at About.com:

— Improved health, in the form of increased cardiovascular fitness, strength, balance and flexibility, endurance and calories burned.

— Improved mental state.  Riding a bike is a proven stress releaser and energizer.

— No harm to the environment from noise, exhaust or emissions.  Bikes don’t consume oil or gas.

— Less time wasted in traffic.

— Financial savings.  It costs between 20 and 30 cents per mile just to operate a car. This doesn’t include the hidden costs of vehicle ownership such as depreciation, taxes, and insurance. If your daily round-trip commute is 16 miles, for example, riding a bike twice a week will result in savings of over $400 in operating costs alone in the course of a year.