July 13, 2015 Family

DIY “UpCycled” Crayons

“Here’s a fun one for the whole family.

What do you do with those boxes of old, heavily used (but loved) crayons?  You turn them into a DYI project with the kids!  They can be melted down and turned into great recycled, different shaped writers that your young and older children can both enjoy.

Here’s what you need:

  1. Kitchen knife
  2. Old crayons
  3. Mini –cake or muffin tins (cute heart or various shapes are fun!)

Directions:

  1. Parents use the knife to chop crayons in to pea-size pieces. Have the kids help remove any remaining paper.
  2. Preheat oven to 150 degrees
  3. Have children fill tins with crayon pieces, mixing colors to make cool designs.
  4. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or just until the wax has melted
  5. Remove the shaped crayons after they have cooled.  If they stick to the tray, place in the freezer for an hour and they will pop out.

Tip:  If you don’t want to devote your tins to the melted wax, line them with tin foil

Now you and your kids can color away!”

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Environment

Fresh-Smelling Air that is Actually Fresh

“Commercials for synthetic air fresheners feature consumers blindfolded in the middle of garbage, innocently sniffing the air, and declaring it... Read

“Commercials for synthetic air fresheners feature consumers blindfolded in the middle of garbage, innocently sniffing the air, and declaring it smells like a spring meadow.  I always wonder what’s more toxic, the garbage or the spray that often contain hazardous ingredients that you don’t want floating around your home.

Consider some non-toxic, economical green products:

  • Orange slices, lemon slices, cinnamon, mint, cloves, or any other herb in boiling water on the stove
    • Create your own “Febreeze” by combining the following in a reusable spray bottle:
      • 12-15 drops of pure essential oil (lavender, peppermint, grapefruit)
      • 1/2 cup white vinegar
      • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Consider an eco-friendly scented candle made from soy or beeswax. They’re eco-friendly and this one from Yves Rocher smells wonderful!

Save money, save the Earth, and save your lungs!”

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Food

Don’t Throw That Out!

“Gourmet foodie or mac-n-cheese bachelor, we all despise cleaning out the fridge. It’s frustrating – and not-to-mention wasteful – to... Read

“Gourmet foodie or mac-n-cheese bachelor, we all despise cleaning out the fridge. It’s frustrating – and not-to-mention wasteful – to throw out everything it feels like we just bought.  Here are some ways to keep food more fresh.

Fresh Herbs
If you’re like us, you’ve probably bought a big bunch of parsley, used a little, and threw the rest back in the bag in the fridge. After a day or two, the parsley starts wilting and not before too long, it’s not worth using anymore. To keep fresh herbs useable for about a week, store the stems in a short glass in about 2” of water and cover with cheesecloth or a plastic storage bag. This will help the plants stay hydrated and humid, and will double the shelf-life of your herbs.

Eggs
True egg lovers despise that funky taste old eggs start to get after a while. Much like your box of baking soda, eggs absorb flavors in your fridge. Who wants that smelly-fridge flavor in their Denver omelet? Instead of keeping your eggs at the bottom of the fridge, keep them out! Eggs stay fresh for up to 2 weeks without being refrigerated – in fact, they’re sold on the shelf in the U.K., not the refrigerated section. You can test the freshness of your egg by gently placing it in a glass of lukewarm water. If it sinks, it’s still fresh.

Potatoes
Many people have taken to throwing out their potatoes after losing firmness or once they begin sprouting.  While this is unnecessary and wasteful, there are ways to cut down on these phenomena. Store apples in a dark place, like in a cupboard. In fact, if you store your potatoes and apples together, the apples will help slow the sprouting of the potatoes

Carrots
While it takes a while for fresh carrots to go bad (i.e. soften, mold, etc), they can quickly become hard and knobby. Unless you plan to use them right away, try to buy carrots with the leaves still attached. Much like fruits, the carrot will stay fresher longer. If not using the carrots right away, put them in a tall glass full of wet sand. Add a few tablespoons of water about halfway through the week to keep the carrots fresh and tender.

Spices
Some spices, after a while, pick up moisture from the air and begin to clump together and harden. This is common in especially warm kitchens – but doesn’t have to be! Cut a 6×6 inch square of a fine-mesh cheesecloth or other porous fabric. Place a tablespoon of dry rice in the center of the square, and bunch up the four corners, forming a small satchel. Tie off with string or a twist-tie, and put in the top of your spice jar. The rice will absorb moisture, keeping your spices fresh and dry.

Follow these tips, and food will stay fresher and flavorful for longer! It will save you money, cut down on food waste, and help you Do A bit Better every day!”

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Housewares

Monday Tip of the Week – Green light!

“If every household in the United State replaced one regular light bulb with one of the new compact fluorescent bulbs,... Read

“If every household in the United State replaced one regular light bulb with one of the new compact fluorescent bulbs, the pollution reduction would be equivalent to removing one million cars from the road.

Don’t like the color of the light? Use these bulbs for closets, laundry rooms and other obscure places where the light is less likely to bother you.  Or try changing your lampshade and light covers where it makes sense. A clear cover or light colored lampshade increases the amount of light that’s distributed.”

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Solar

Solar in the Tampa Community

Tampa Electric is showing the local community how they invest in renewable energy sources by supporting what they call the... Read

Tampa Electric is showing the local community how they invest in renewable energy sources by supporting what they call the Renewable Energy Program. Solar panels produce electricity from the sun’s rays, and installing solar panels is one example of how Tampa Electric is doing just that. They are working with various community-based businesses to provide a portion of the electricity used to support this program.  The following are a few of those highly visible, family-friendly locals.

The Florida Aquarium
In Tampa’s Channelside District, the Florida Aquarium’s Explore-A-Shore pavilion hosts a 10,000-watt solar array that helps support Tampa Electric’s Renewable Energy Program. In addition to the solar installation, Tampa Electric and the Florida Aquarium installed an interactive display to teach children about the benefits of solar energy.

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo
Tampa Electric joined with Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and the University of South Florida’s Power Center for Utility Explorations on a 15,000-watt solar panel system at the zoo. The solar panels are installed atop an elephant shade structure and an adjacent maintenance building. The project includes a Renewable Energy Learning Center that provides research opportunities for USF and Tampa Electric to study the technical, economic and environmental benefits of a renewable, grid-connected photovoltaic system for Smart Grid electric power production.

Museum of Science and Industry
Explore Tampa Electric’s first solar panel system at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Tampa, Florida. This system is directly connected to the same electrical system that sends electricity to your home or business. The entire system consists of 60 solar panels, each containing 216 crystalline silicone cells, with a total rating of 18,000 watts of electricity.

Manatee Viewing Center
Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach, Florida (near Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station) is home to the company’s largest solar panel system, rated at 23,800-watts. A 40-panel system is installed atop the Manatee Viewing Center’s education building and eight pole-mounted panels are located throughout the parking area.

Solar in Tampa is one way that the city of Tampa is taking care of its citizens and its environment.  To hear more about Tampa Electric and renewable energy, please visit www.tampaelectric.com/environmental

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UpCycle

Save the Landfill – AND Your Sanity

“We all hate it. We’ve all complained about it.  After a vacation away, we dread it – Junk Mail.  In... Read

“We all hate it. We’ve all complained about it.  After a vacation away, we dread it – Junk Mail.  In fact, we spend about 8 months of our lives opening junk mail.

So what do you do about all of those credit card offers and catalogs? Sure, we can recycle them – but there’s got to be a way to get to the source, right?

There are several services out there whose main goal is to reduce junk mail, including DMAchoice.org, who can help you opt out of catalogs, donation requests and magazine offers.  There’s also OptOutPrescreen.com, who can help you opt out of all of those annoying credit card offers.

Not comfortable giving out even more personal information? Then consider this neat upcycling idea from CraftingAGreenWorld.com, which demonstrates how to make a notebook out of junk mail!”

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Apparel

Babies are People Too. Expensive Little People.

“A new baby entering your life can create an enormous number of unexpected changes. Along with the little one comes... Read

“A new baby entering your life can create an enormous number of unexpected changes. Along with the little one comes a whole new category of things to purchase — not only the obvious large items like furniture and diapers, but also all the unforeseen extras that seem to accumulate. While having a baby is consumer heaven, the key is to not be gulled into an unnecessary buying frenzy. In truth, a baby has very minimal needs. On the flip side, there is more to a sustainable life with your baby than cloth diapers, organic baby food, and fair-trade clothing.

A few tips for you and your baby:

Diapers-so so many diapers:
Studies are divided on the subject of environmental impact of disposables vs. cloth.  However, knowing your baby will use approximately 6,000 diapers before toilet training, and disposable diapers take 200-500 years to decompose, this is certainly a key issue to think about.  Washing cloth diapers takes water, energy and chemicals.  To this end, you may want to consider a laundering service.  Many studies have pointed to a laundry service has an ecological impact of 25% of you washing diapers at home.

Cloth diapers: Reusable diapers aren’t what they used to be and the days of diaper pins are all but bygone. Go for fitted cloth diapers with Velcro or snap closures for convenience, made from an eco-friendly material such as hemp, bamboo, or organic cotton. Use an organic wool cover that is both warm and breathable, minimizing diaper rash and cold bottoms at night. Use either removable or flushable liners and when washing either use a laundering service or wash at home at lower temperatures. With a new baby around you’ll probably notice a lot more laundry piling up, so make sure you’ve optimized your setup with an efficient machine and non-toxic detergent. If you can line-dry, that is ideal, but don’t bother ironing.

Biodegradable diapers: Made with plant-based plastics (also known as bioplastics), these diapers non-petroleum based and are compostable. While these have been found not to break down under landfill conditions, there are other options to compost them such as using a composting toilet, an earthworm system, or a highly active and properly conditioned composting area. Hybrid diapers, like gDiapers, have removable inserts that can safely biodegrade when flushed.

Feed your little one: From breast or bottle? – This one’s a no-brainer: breastfeeding is best. It’s free, has health benefits for mother and baby, has no environmental impact, and is a precious bonding experience. However, in our commerce-driven society there are products for everything, and breastfeeding is no exception. For breast pads, ditch disposables and try re-usable organic cotton or wool felt pads. While there are many great, organic nipple creams available, some locally produced olive oil or organic lanolin does a great job. If bottle feeding becomes a necessity, pumping your own is the first choice. Beyond that, using a fair-trade organic infant formula is preferable. If this is neither affordable nor accessible, then the next best thing is to ensure the brand of formula you buy is from a company not profiteering from marketing their product to developing countries. These companies disregard or try to get around the marketing code set by The World Health Assembly.

Chow down on solid foods – At about six months, babies starts to eat real food. Rice cereal and mushy veggies turn to combinations of fish, meat, eggs, legumes, and vegetables–yep, a regular person’s diet. Buying jars of food is sure convenient, but as an adult you don’t live out of jars, so why should your baby? For those occasional situations, purchase organic or fresh frozen baby foods. Otherwise, make your own. Cook up veggies, casseroles, or tofu and lentils, whatever is your thing, and freeze it in tiny containers or ice cube trays ready to take out and defrost when needed. (Be sure you discuss any concerns over dietary requirements with your health professional).

Dress your baby in smart green clothing – All those designer baby clothes are cute and oh so hard to resist in their fruity colors. But be careful. Not only does a baby grow out of clothes amazingly fast, but they are constantly sending bodily fluids flying onto those precious outfits. The baby couture might be better replaced with convenient one-piece suits in practical white terry cloth. Choosing organic hemp or cotton, bamboo or wool fabrics made without toxic chemicals are best against a baby’s sensitive skin and last longer with the constant washing. Second-hand clothing is the cheapest and most sustainable option. Get hand-me-downs from friends and family or look in thrift shops, Craigslist, or Freecycle.

Lather up with natural skin care – It’s very easy to get sucked into the constant advertising of baby powders, creams, and lotions. But the best baby lotion is plain old olive oil–cheap, natural, and un-perfumed. As for other products, keep it as natural, organic, and fragrance-free as possible.

Wash up: Green laundry and washing – It’s quite possible that our war on germs is actually making things worse. Studies have shown that children brought up in over-cleaned houses are more likely to develop allergies, asthma, or eczema. The best thing you can do for sensitive baby skin is not to cover it with synthetic chemicals. Wash nappies with pure soap and warm water. Make your own non-toxic cleansers with simple ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar.

Make play-time green-time with greener toys – Get back to basics and try old fashioned wooden toys and organic cotton or homemade teddies. Because babies put most things in their mouths, go as natural as possible, then when baby is a little older, get hold of second-hand toys. Also aim for toys that helps build a child’s bond with nature and the natural world. The sad truth is that the average American kindergartener can identify several hundred logos only a few leaves from plants and trees.

Rest easy with green furniture and accessories – Babies don’t need much–a secure place to sleep, a car seat, a high chair, and a way to be trundled around. Go for second-hand furniture, everything except cot mattresses (some research suggests a link between second-hand cot mattresses and sudden infant death syndrome) and car seats, (which can have invisible accident damage). If you buy new furniture, purchase high quality, durable pieces made of sustainable, low-toxicity materials. Think about some alternatives to the regular old wooden baby bed; try using an organic cotton baby hammock or a cot that extends into a bed and lasts 6-7 years. The most ethical option for stroller (pram) is recycled.

Improve your indoor air quality and maintain a healthy household environment – It goes without saying that alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking while pregnant are bad for a baby. But it is also very important to avoid exposure to the synthetic chemicals contained in everyday products such as paints, carpet, furniture, bedding, and pesticides. When decorating the nursery, use natural and low-VOC paints and don’t lay new carpet before the baby is born. Suspicious new items should at least be left outside to off-gas for a few days before bringing inside.

Wipe out chemical cleaners and disposable liners – Diaper wipes and liners commonly include propylene glycol (a binder also found in antifreeze), parabens (a family of compounds commonly used as preservatives) and perfume, which can be made from up to 600 different chemicals. Try using good natural organic cotton wool and water and avoid disposable changing mats and perfumed diaper bags.”

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Housewares

Recycled Glass Votive- 5 Pk Green

$20.00

5 Pack Green is an exercise in simplicity and sustainability. Handcut from reclaimed wine cooler bottles, these charming votive candleholders... Read

5 Pack Green is an exercise in simplicity and sustainability. Handcut from reclaimed wine cooler bottles, these charming votive candleholders are ideal for wherever you want to add the sparkle of candle light.

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Environment

Monday Tip of the Week: Get yourself an old fashioned rain barrel

“This weekend, we saw our first rain of the season–and it was a big reminder of all the great uses... Read

“This weekend, we saw our first rain of the season–and it was a big reminder of all the great uses for rain water. Rain water is great to use to keep your garden growing and healthy, why? Because rain water does not have any of the additives found in tap water. It’s also great for your wallet–last we checked, rain water was free!

Learn how to install your rain barrel with this handy step by step, here.

 “

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Recycle

Monday Tip of the Week – Getting Green with your Glass

“We’re lobbing you a softball here, people.  If you’re at home or on the road, there are receptacles and programs... Read

“We’re lobbing you a softball here, people.  If you’re at home or on the road, there are receptacles and programs for recycling glass readily available.

Glass is 100% recyclable! It can be recycled over and over again without losing purity or quality. Recycled glass reduces related air pollution by 20 percent and related water pollution by 50 percent. If it isn’t recycled, it can take a million years to decompose.

Glass can also be UpCycled in many ways. Check out these awesome tumblers made from old soda bottles!”

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UpCycle

Monday Tip of the Week – Clip of the Day (literally)

You know those annoying little bread clips that come on most loaves of bread today? Like this one: Well stop... Read

You know those annoying little bread clips that come on most loaves of bread today? Like this one:

Well stop throwing those out!  Instead, we have a clever way to upcycle them which will take 30 seconds of your time, and make all of your friends say “why didn’t I think of that?!”. Write the name of one of your Audio/Video devices on it (such as DVR, Cable box, Wii, Apple TV, etc.).  That way, next time you’re trying to figure out which cord is which, all you have to do it read.

Easy, right? Check back here for more clever ideas on how to upcycle your household junk!

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Family

DAbB-ing at the end of the School Year

As school begins to wrap up for the summer, teachers and students are left unloading everything from their lockers to... Read

As school begins to wrap up for the summer, teachers and students are left unloading everything from their lockers to their classrooms.  What should they do with all the half used notebooks, gently used binders, old pencils, crayons, non-functioning erasers? Don’t just throw them out!  Think about doing the following and share these ideas with your local school.

-Tear out the unused pages of those notebooks for scrap paper, and use the other parts for art projects

-Empty out the binders (recycle the paper) and reuse them in the next school year

-Collect all the half used crayons and melt them into a new reusable shape (see our previous article on UpCycling Crayons)

-Reuse non-functioning erasers by turning them into stamps instead.  Draw a design on them then cut it out with an art knife.

Save a tree, some money, and give your children a note to year end greening!

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Health & Beauty

Home-made beauty products

“Make your own beauty products?  Sounds hard, but it’s actually quite simple.  Aside from saving a little money, many commercially... Read

“Make your own beauty products?  Sounds hard, but it’s actually quite simple.  Aside from saving a little money, many commercially produced beauty products are packed with nasty chemicals that can do damage to your body.  As mentioned in our Caring About Personal Care article  (link to article), there are Parabens, Phthalates, Tricolosan, Oxybenzone and Formaldehyde in many of the beauty products we use every day. We are Doing A bit Better here by making a few of our own. We promise these DYI beauty products are as easy as going to your kitchen and pulling a few things together.

Homemade Perfume

An easy way to smell delicious in a snap is to grab a sauce pan, lemon juice and vanilla extract.  Mix the two, heat them up and you’ll have a sweet homemade fragrance just like that.  Pour the rest in a glass jar for continued use.

Use Vegetable Oil to Condition Your Hair
Is there anything vegetable oil can’t do?  In addition to being used for cooking and fueling some cars, it can also work as an amazing conditioner for your hair.  Grab some all-natural oil (organic is the best), pour in your hand, rub at the scalp and then comb through to the ends.  Let sit a few minutes and rinse.  You’ll be left with soft conditioned hair!

Exfoliate with Strawberries
We can all use exfoliation once and a while – after all, it’s a great way to make your skin feel baby-fresh.  So instead of reaching for store bought exfoliant, why not just grab some strawberries?  Strawberries have natural fruit acid that helps in exfoliation of your skin. All you need is 8-10 berries, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of coarse salt (sea, kosher, etc).  Mix all the ingredients together and then massage it on your hands, feet, face or any place that needs a gentle scrub.

Make Your Own All Natural Lip Gloss
Looking for a clean, fresh gloss to sooth those dry lips and make them shine too?  Make your own lip gloss by mixing 1 teaspoon of fresh aloe vera gel with 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil and 1/8 teaspoon of vitamin E oil. Stir until smooth, then use right away, storing the rest for later.

Homemade Deodorant
Homemade deodorant is easy as sprinkling a little baking soda onto a damp wash cloth, and applying it to your underarms. It’ll keep you fresh throughout the day!

 

These are just a few ways to look and feel good naturally and to know that you are Doing A bit Better!”

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Solar

First Solar Powered Airport

India has achieved a goal that is in the right direction. This past week Cochin International Airport, based out of... Read

India has achieved a goal that is in the right direction. This past week Cochin International Airport, based out of the southern Indian state, Kerala, has garnered praise for being the first airport solely ran off of solar power. The airport, which had installed a few solar panels in 2013, has claimed its right to be the first airport to run exclusively off of solar power. This immense project has led the airport to claim 45 acres of land, and includes 46,000 solar panels spread across the 45 acres. Projections show that if the airport runs functionally for 25 years, than it will be saving roughly 300,000 tons of emissions, which is equivalent to planting three million trees, or not driving 750 million miles. A milestone to say the least, and yet there is still so much we can do. But, it shows that gains are being made, and we’re striving to make our world healthier.

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Solar

Solar 101

“We are often asked the following questions:  What is solar energy?  How do the sun’s rays become electricity?  And can... Read

“We are often asked the following questions:  What is solar energy?  How do the sun’s rays become electricity?  And can you please explain both in common English?

That being said.  Welcome to Solar 101.

Solar terms defined
The solar cells that you see on calculators are called photovoltaic (PV) cells.  Photovoltaic combines two words: “photo” meaning “”light”” and “voltaic” meaning electricity. A solar panel is simply an array of many joined photovoltaic cells. Photovoltaic cells are most often made from silicon semiconductors.

So how does sunlight become electricity?
Now, remember back in 8th grade science when we learned that light is a form of energy?  When sunlight strikes the cell, a certain portion of light is absorbed within the semiconductor.  When the sunlight is absorbed the semiconductor knocks a portion of the lights electrons loose.  (Again, remember that all matter basically has protons and electrons).

PV cells all have an electric field that forces the free electrons to move in one direction. This flow of electrons creates an electrical current.  To light up your living room, your solar wiring simply taps into this current.

And now you can wow your neighbors at the next block party.  Kudos.”

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Solar

Luminalt’s Response to “10 Questions to Ask Your Solar Installer”

“ Last month, we posted our top 10 questions you should ask your Solar Installer when you start the hunt... Read


Last month, we posted our top 10 questions you should ask your Solar Installer when you start the hunt for quality solar installation in your area.  Luminalt Solar Energy Solutions, a San Francisco based Solar Installer, took the liberty of answering all of our questions with the utmost detail!  Here are their responses:

Q:  How long has your company been installing solar electric systems?
A:  Luminalt was founded in 2004, but co-founder Noel Cotter did his first installation in 1980.

Q:  How many of your employees have solar panels on their homes?
A:  How many of your employees have solar panels on their homes? As a local company, most of us live in San Francisco and rent, meaning that solar won’t work for us (or rather, our landlords). Most of us who do own have a solar system – installed by Luminalt, of course!

Q:  How many NABCEP certified employees work for your company?
A:  A whole bunch of them! More than one-third of our company holds some kind of NABCEP Certification. Our CTO Noel Cotter, widely respected as one of the most knowledgeable solar installers around, serves on NABCEP’s licensing board, helping to devise some of the difficult tests administered each year. The pass rate is typically less than 50%, so only the best of the best receive certification.

Q:  Will everyone working on my system be an employee of your company?
A:  Yes! Beware of companies that will sub-contract to the lowest bidder. At Luminalt, we take care of our customers in-house to ensure that they have the best possible experience.

Q:  Can I see a list of ten clients that you have installed solar electric systems for?
A:  Check out the projects section of our website for a few case studies, or look at the San Francisco Department of the Environment’s Solar Map.

Q:  How do you determine your system output data?
A:  We’re in this with you for the long haul. Call us at anytime with questions about your new PG&E bills, your ideal rate schedule, or just to say hi.

Q:  How long is your warranty on all of my components and your work?
A:  All of our work is warranted for ten years. By using the highest quality materials available, we build systems to last for at least 30 years. The warranty on equipment varies by manufacturer, but is typically 25 years.

Q:  Does your panel manufacturer perform quality control audits on your installations?
A:  Only if you want them to! If you don’t want to be bothered, we’ll let them know.

Q:  What is the efficiency of the panels that you are proposing to install?
A:  Depends on how much space you have on your roof. Luminalt typically uses SunPower panels, the highest efficiency panels on the market. Luminalt is a SunPower Elite Dealer, making us one of only a few companies nationally that meet this designation’s customer satisfaction and quality standards.

Q:  How does your company implement its values?
A:  Luminalt believes in the transformative power of solar and the green economy on communities. As such, we have a Community Solar Grant Program and participate in Workforce Development training for those with barriers to entry into the job market.

 

Your search for Solar should lead you to an Installer like Luminalt! For more information on finding the right Solar Installer in your area, check out our Solar page.”

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Hansen Wholesale

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Housewares

Your Easy-access Guide to All-Natural Cleaners

“We all know that green cleaning products are great way to Do A bit Better.  But these products can also... Read

“We all know that green cleaning products are great way to Do A bit Better.  But these products can also be pricey and not readily available at your local supermarket.  But, whether you realize it or not, your kitchen is a virtual cornucopia of terrific all-natural cleaning products!  Here are just a few green cleaners you probably already have on hand:

White Vinegar
White vinegar is your kitchen’s all-purpose cleaner.  Vinegar’s natural slightly acidic properties make it a great choice for disinfecting and deodorizing just about any room in your house.  To create a gentle-but-effective cleaner, simply mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle.  For areas that need a little more “oomph”, simply add a little more vinegar and a little less water.  (But don’t go too crazy with the vinegar, as too much can be damaging.  It’s always best to spot treat your solution on a hidden area, and avoid using on any natural stone such as marble, granite, travertine, or limestone.)

Vinegar isn’t just a surface cleaner – it is also a terrific all-natural fabric softener.  Simply add ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle in place of store-bought fabric softener.  Not only does vinegar reduce the amount of lint, but it also breaks down laundry detergent effectively, which is great for family members with sensitive skin.

Salt & Club Soda
Not just for popcorn and cocktails, salt & club soda are a highly effective duo for eliminating the dreaded red wine stains.  The key to removing red wine stains is to treat the stain as quickly as possible.  To begin, assess the damage: if the stain is on the carpet or table cloth you can work directly on it, but if the spill hit the drapes or an article of clothing, remove and place the stained item on a flat surface.  Next, liberally pour the club soda cover over the entire stain.  The carbonation in the club soda will help lift the stain.  Once the stain has been lightly soaked, pour ¼ inch of normal table salt directly on the stain– just dump it on.  The salt will begin to lift the red wine out of the area being cleaned.  Dab gently with a damp cloth to remove the remaining salt.  Repeat as necessary until the stain is gone.

Baking Soda
Baking soda is a great deodorant.  Simply place an open container in the back of your refrigerator, freezer, or by your trash cans to eliminate the smell.  Got teenage boys at home with that not-so-great teenage boy smell?  Simply pour baking soda into old socks and stuff inside their shoes to naturally deodorize while they are not being worn.

Lemons
Lastly, we have nature’s natural cleaner – the lemon!  There is a reason why so many commercial cleaners are citrus based: the pleasing scent and natural acidity make for an unbeatable cleaning combination.  Lemon juice can dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits, or you can use it to clean and shine brass & copper.  Or, mix 1 part lemon juice with 2 parts olive oil to make to make your furniture shine.  For other surfaces, try mixing lemon juice with vinegar or baking soda to make cleaning pastes – just be aware that lemon juice can act like a natural bleach, so be sure to spot test the lemon juice in a hidden area before using.  When you are done squeezing the cleaning power out of the lemons, toss the peels down the drain to help make your disposal smelling fresh & clean.

 “

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Housewares

Eco-Alternatives to a New Headboard

“There’s something about a headboard that just ties a bedroom together – it’s like wearing a belt.  It breaks up... Read

“There’s something about a headboard that just ties a bedroom together – it’s like wearing a belt.  It breaks up the room while adding depth and style to it.  The only problem is that headboards are expensive and can easily run upwards of $400.

Here’s the thing – we live in a time of great (and abundant) design.  There are plenty of alternatives to a traditional headboard out there with minimal waste.

For less than $40, you can achieve the great style of a traditional headboard with the modern style of a silhouette decal.  This particular decal from Dezign with a Z comes in a variety of colors, and they’ll even let you select your wall color to see how it will look.

Not interested in the traditional looking decals?  Try something a little non-traditional, like branches or grass:

 

Wall Flats have traditionally been used for adding some architectural depth and texture to walls in living spaces, dining rooms, and bedrooms – and they’re incredibly eco-friendly (often made from post-consumer material or renewable sources such as bagasse).  But they’re affordable (about $80-90 for a 10-pack from InhabitLiving.com) and will not only add color to your bedroom or guestroom, but depth and texture as well.

When in doubt, do something simple!  A large piece of solid-colored canvas or a canvas-framed photograph will give your bed the frame that you’re looking for, and can be done for cheap.  If you’re feeling particularly creative, you can stretch a patterned fabric over the canvas and staple it on the sides.

There are plenty of ways to do something unexpected and chic without spending a fortune, and all while being green.”

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Solar

Other Ways to “Go Solar”

“Solar panels are everywhere these days; on your roof, in the fields, on the sides of buildings, on eco-friendly cars,... Read

Solar panels are everywhere these days; on your roof, in the fields, on the sides of buildings, on eco-friendly cars, and even sprawling across hillsides and mountain sides.  You may or may not have noticed that they’re a few more places now.  Check out these additional ways to utilize Solar (no leasing model required):

“Array” Solar Backpack from Voltaic

 

This behemoth of a backpack can charge your laptop while on the go – and store it too. That way, you can charge up while riding your bike, at an outdoor conference, or while camping with the family. It also charges cellphones, portable gaming systems, and tablets – and at a modest $389, it’s a small price to pay to have independence from the outlet.

“Brighta30” Street Lamp

Cities are rapidly adopting this new way to light the streets. It’s not only green, but extremely cost efficient when you consider how many streetlights are in your town or city. We also see them coming up across college and corporate campuses.  The Brighta30 (featured above) is from Greenshine, who specializes in solar lighting solutions – from garden lights to full-scale city lighting.

“Soulra” Solar Powered Boombox from Eton

Solar Powered Boomboxes are a great idea in the summer, considering you don’t have to have an outlet to power it – making your family picnic or weekend bonfire the happenin’ place to be! This one from Eton is only $150 and is iPod and iPhone compatible, but also has an audio input line. Oh and for a limited time, it comes with a free messenger bag to carry it!

There you have it – if you’re not ready to go solar (or even if you are…), there are great ways to still show your love for Photovoltaics!”

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