July 13, 2015 Solar

Rainbows Could Double Solar Energy Output!

Increasing the amount of electricity a solar panel produces is one of the most effective ways to reduce the cost of solar power.

MIT’s Technology Review reports on a new $2.4 million project funded by the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy aims to greatly increase the amount of sunlight that becomes electricity.

Harry Atwater, a professor of applied physics and materials science at Caltech, is working on cells to sort sunlight into eight to 10 different colors (a rainbow!) and direct those to a second layer that contains an array of solar cells matched to each color. Light is absorbed more efficiently, and more energy is converted to electricity, rather than heat.

Most solar panels convert less than 20 percent of the energy of the sunlight that falls on them into electricity.  Atwater’s goal is a conversion efficiency of more than 50 percent, which would double the amount of power generated by solar panels of any size.

Rainbow solar power!  This technology will make solar more affordable for homeowners and industries, alike.

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Garden

Letting the Lawn Lay is the Best Way

“We all want the best looking lawn on the block- but it may be surprising that spending less time on... Read

“We all want the best looking lawn on the block- but it may be surprising that spending less time on your lawn will actually make it greener.  Most grass species are best kept at least 2.5 inches tall.  At this length, the lawn is able to absorb more sunlight into it’s overall surface than that with a shorter length.  With more sunlight absorption, you will get a thicker turf and deeper roots which also means you don’t have to water as often.

Another little lawn tip is let the lawn clippings lay.  Lawn clippings actually add nitrogen to the soil, and discourages weeds from germinating.  You will therefore use less fertilizer and herbicide.

So the next time you see “”Cut the Lawn”” on your honey-do list, you can tell your significant other that you’re Doing A bit Better by not cutting it.  You’re welcome!”

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Doing A Bit Better

Groupon Gives Back

We love finding good deals as much as the next person.  So when we found out that Groupon launched a... Read

We love finding good deals as much as the next person.  So when we found out that Groupon launched a group action fundraising program called Groupon Grassroots, you can only imagine our excitement.

 

According to Groupon, the new program (which just launched in April, 2012) is “a new way to discover local causes, rally together, and lend a helping hand”.

We did some digging and found out that Groupon Grassroots isn’t just a good idea on paper – it’s actually working.  On this year’s Earth Day, the donations through Grassroots resulted in some pretty impressive numbers!  Here are some of the highlights:

-$126,000 in cause-related donations were made
-4,400 trees planted across US and Haiti
-443 bike light sets and helmets sent to locals in Austin & Portland
-1,400 attendees to environmentally focused programs
-40 volunteers traveling to Zambia
-18 vacant lots in Cincinnati were filled with over 25 raised garden beds
-5 cities were treated to improve water quality through trash removal and training volunteers  to test water

And that was all in 1 day!

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Family

Eat, Grill and be Green

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  No, no, the OTHER most wonderful time of the year.  That’s right... Read

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  No, no, the OTHER most wonderful time of the year.  That’s right – it’s almost Summer, which means barbecue season! Unfortunately, barbecues can mean a lot of waste.  Here are some ways to green up your barbecue for those festive occasions:

-Go Local! Buying local ingredients supports your local farmers, but it also has benefits to you. It usually means fresher veggies and fruits – which means it hasn’t been on the truck as long.  If you shop at your local farmers market, you can usually talk to the farmers or their family directly about how their food is grown and which of their produce is organic.

-Consider Solar Lights. They’ve come down in price quite drastically in the last few years, and come in many forms.  Consider some solar light stakes, or these lovely Pagoda Solar Lanterns from Bambeco.  Just think how nice they would look strung all across your back yard!

-Get a Keg. Okay, if you’re going to serve beer, it makes way more sense to get a keg!  Your beer cost goes way down, while the sustainability factor goes way up. Drinking out of mason jars is also a great idea, as they’re reusable, washable, and it’s not as big of a deal if someone writes their name on one or breaks one.  If you absolutely insist upon the red cup, just wash them afterwards.  They’re not dishwasher safe but will hold up in the sink for 5-10 more uses.

-Use Those Disposables Up. We’re not a fan of using disposable anything.  Even if it’s recycled, it’s still so wasteful!  But you’ve undoubtedly gotten plenty of disposable napkins and cutlery from your favorite takeout place. Now’s a good time to use those up.  You can even wash those afterwards and use them a few more times.

-Consider Cloth. Cloth napkins will really class up your party, and won’t end up in the landfill.  They’re not expensive, and you can even make your own out of fabric scraps, old jeans, etc.
Now get out there and show your green gang just how well you grill!”

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Pets

Squeaky AND Sustainable?

“We love our dogs, and even though we shouldn’t, it’s too hard to resist buying him new toys. That said,... Read

“We love our dogs, and even though we shouldn’t, it’s too hard to resist buying him new toys. That said, we can buy eco-and-dog-friendly toys.

What defines an eco-friendly toy?  For the most part, eco- friendly products are manufactured from raw materials that have been grown or developed without the use of chemicals or pesticides. You have to depend on the manufacturer’s label for the most part, but here are some additional guidelines to help you make your selections.

Avoid
-Toys containing polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
-Toys that use chemical dyes that may contain heavy metals

Do look for
– Toys made from unbleached fabrics
-Toys made from organically-grown cotton or hemp
-Toys colored using natural botanical dyes

Note that no toy should be assumed organic unless it is certified so (check the label)

Finally, there are many sellers of eco/dog-friendly toys which are made here in the USA.  Some of our favorites are Dog Toys and PurfectPlay.”

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Mom & Baby

Ditching Disposable Diapers

By the time a child is toilet trained, a parent will change between 5,000 and 8,000 diapers, adding up to... Read

By the time a child is toilet trained, a parent will change between 5,000 and 8,000 diapers, adding up to approximately 3.5 million tons of waste in U.S. landfills each year. Whether you choose cloth (like gDiapers) or a more environmentally-friendly disposable, you’re making a choice that has a much gentler impact on our planet.

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UpCycle

Green Gift Wrapping? Try Furoshiki!

The holidays mean something a little different to everyone, but one thing is almost universal: wrapping paper piles as far... Read

The holidays mean something a little different to everyone, but one thing is almost universal: wrapping paper piles as far as the eye can see. This year, instead of wrapping gifts in paper that will end up in the trash, consider the Japanese technique of Furoshiki. Using a single piece of fabric with no extra tape or materials, you can wrap gifts of any shape or size. It’s a fun project and the result is a beautifully wrapped gift that your friend or family member won’t soon forget.

 

Watch the YouTube tutorial here!

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UpCycle

Monday Tip of the Week: Use a tea can to grow a garden

“There are a lot of great uses for old tea cans–you can use them for storing little things like buttons... Read

“There are a lot of great uses for old tea cans–you can use them for storing little things like buttons or safety pins. Here at Doing a Bit Better we like to use them to make an indoor garden! It’s simple. First step, drill (or punch if the metal is thin) a small hole in the bottom of the tin to give you plant proper drainage. Step two, plant your garden. We like to plant herbs and keep them in our kitchen so we have easy access to fresh seasonings! Check out the picture below.

 

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Environment

From Wood Scraps to DIY Door Mat

We saw a great article on Shelterness recently that talked about a DIY doormat made from 9″ long blocks of... Read

We saw a great article on Shelterness recently that talked about a DIY doormat made from 9″ long blocks of wood, and painted a plethora  of rainbow colors.  This got us to thinking about how we could make this project a little more eco-friendly, and we were pleasantly surprised with what we came up with!

 – Use reclaimed wood or wood scraps from your work bench, rather than buying wood.  Reclaimed wood will already have a nice vintage look that will still feel warm and welcoming.

– Instead of paint, use beeswax or mineral oil. Both of these will give your new doormat a nice almost butcher-block-esque look, and also protect the wood without the use of harmful lacquers.

– Don’t buy the threaded rod.  Instead, use natural hemp or jute string. This will help the mat stay flexible enough to roll up, and will give it that nice naturalistic look.

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UpCycle

Green Crafts – 4th of July Popsicle Stars

Praise this glorious country’s independence by upcycling something new out of something old! With school coming to an end and... Read

Praise this glorious country’s independence by upcycling something new out of something old!

With school coming to an end and the next big holiday approaching, here at DAbB we have been thinking about what kind of green crafts we can create for the 4th of July.  As the sun shines brighter and the temperatures rises, we know your kids will be consuming many, many summertime treats with a big one being popsicles.  After enjoying these delicious cool treats, why not collect the sticks and make a fun decoration with the kids?  We like the idea of a colorful star.

Supplies Needed:

-5 popsicle sticks
-Red, white and blue paint
-Glue
-String (optional)

Directions:

-Paint the sticks individual colors according to your design
-Glue the sticks together the shape of a star
-Once dry, add stars and stripes with more paint if desired
-If desired, glue on the string for hanging

Done!

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Family

The Eco-Friendly Easter Basket – Fact or Fiction?

“Hippity, Hoppity, Easter’s on its way!  What better way to Do A bit Better this year, than to prepare an... Read

“Hippity, Hoppity, Easter’s on its way!  What better way to Do A bit Better this year, than to prepare an eco-friendly Easter basket for your little ones?  Here’s how:

Start by skipping the fake grass.  It’s usually made out of non-recyclable and non-biodegradable plastics which we just toss out the week after Easter.  And then what?  It sits in the landfill.  Dried grass gives a naturalistic look – or you can make your own paper grass from colored paper with a paper shredder.  It’s bouncy enough to keep Easter-eggs from breaking, and can be recycled afterwards

Speaking of Easter-eggs, consider dying your eggs naturally this year.  Egg shells are surprisingly absorbent when it comes to color, and the dye doesn’t have to last long! Consider boiling the eggs in some of these to color your eggs “au natural” this year: Pomegranate Juice, Blueberries, Spinach Juice, and Yellow Curry.  Boil these things in some white vinegar and you’ll get vibrant, natural colors!

Localize your candy!  Support your local Chocolatier for better chocolate, local economic stability, and less manufacturing / transporting / packaging waste.

Consider a better basket. Pick a basket you’ll like, reuse and keep (for guest towels, décor, gardening) instead of buying a cheap one you’re just going to throw out.  It may not be pastel colors, but a few ribbons will make it all-the-more festive!”

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Doing A Bit Better

Monday Tip of the Week- Eight Eco-Friendly Laundry Tips

Control the temperature About 90% of the energy associated with doing laundry involves just heating up the water. The solution:... Read

  1. Control the temperature
    • About 90% of the energy associated with doing laundry involves just heating up the water. The solution: turn that dial cold.
  2. Wash full loads
    • Even the most energy efficient loads use 40 gallons of water. Reducing the number of loads you do each week will save water and money. If you find yourself doing eight or more loads of laundry each week, skipping just one will save over 10 percent on your laundry costs
  3. Upgrade to energy efficient washer and dryer
    • This is not permission to go out and replace your current machine that’s running fine. (But nice try!) If you’re in the market for a new washer or dryer, buying an energy efficient model can save both water and energy, and lower your bills.
  4. Switch to natural detergents and stain removers
    • Natural products tend to be free of chlorine bleach, synthetic fragrance, dyes, and optical brighteners. What’s in them? They’re usually plant (not petroleum) based, contain biodegradable surfactants, and are often specifically formulated to perform well in cold water. Be sure to read the fine print when shopping.
  5. Choose non-chlorine bleach
    • Use in the home isn’t quite as detrimental for the environment as industrial use (like bleaching paper), but chlorine bleach can irritate skin and eyes. Most non-chlorine bleach is hydrogen peroxide. You can buy branded versions, or just stick to the three percent version sold in drug stores. And doing so will really add up. In fact, if every US household replaced just one 64-iunce bottle of chlorine bleach with non-chlorine bleach, we could prevent 11.6 million pounds of chlorine from entering our environment
  6. Rethink dryer sheets
    • The chemicals-including synthetic fragrances-found in conventional dryer sheets and fabric softeners are similar to what is found in conventional detergents. They’re largely questionable for human health and the environment. Plus, don’t even think about recycling those dryer sheets/ Either skip them entirely or choose eco-friendly ones like Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day lavender dryer sheets
  7. Hang clothes to dry
    • Keeping your clothes out of dryer extends their life, reduces energy use, and cuts costs. Whether indoors or outside, line drying can be done year round. Just don’t put dark colors in bright sunlight or they’ll fade. Bonus: Indoor rack drying during the winter doubles as a humidifier
  8. Make your own laundry products
    • The only real way to know what’s going into your laundry is to whip up your own solutions. Use safe-for-the-environment ingredients that are already in your pantry like vinegar, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda. Many of these DIY formulas have been used for generations and get the job done
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Family

Ways to Reuse that Expired Interior Paint

So you painted your bedroom last year and have some leftover interior paint.  Now it’s expired, and won’t mix well... Read

So you painted your bedroom last year and have some leftover interior paint.  Now it’s expired, and won’t mix well enough to use in any other rooms. What to do?  If you throw out your expired interior paint, it will end up in the landfill and some runoff will probably end up in the water.  No good for mother Earth. It’s not recyclable, even though the can is – but first, we have to figure out what to do with the paint inside!

-Make Art!  Grab a piece of canvas or reclaimed wood and slather it in your expired paint. Use masking tape to parse out lines for styling, or add in some sand for texture. Then, you brag to all of your friends that you made it.

-Do some last minute touch-ups. Chances are you’ve missed a spot or scratched the wall at some point.

-Paint some furniture. You can buy unfinished furniture at a fraction of the cost of finished furniture, and while we think stains and lacquers look great, consider making a great accent piece with your leftover paint.

Not only will you have a fun project for the weekend with all of your leftover paint, but you’ll also make some space in the garage.  Up next: How to upcycle that old paint can!

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Food

Huntington Beach Students Do A Bit Better

We want to give a great big “way to go” to the students of Greg Goran’s sustainability class at Huntington... Read

We want to give a great big “way to go” to the students of Greg Goran’s sustainability class at Huntington Beach High School in California. Over the past three years, these students have planted, nourished, and picked their own fruits and vegetables at their school. It has become such a successful garden that they now sell their produce to Slapfish, a local seafood restaurant. These students truly are, doing a bit better. If you want to read more about their efforts, click here.

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Food

Put a Cork In It

“Nothing says “Sonoma Countryside” like an abundant collection of wine corks filling a tall glass floor-vase in the corner. What... Read

“Nothing says “Sonoma Countryside” like an abundant collection of wine corks filling a tall glass floor-vase in the corner. What happens, though, when corks (inevitably) overflow? What do you start to do with all of those extra corks?  Well we found these inspirations for DIY projects that will make you regret any of those corks you’ve ever thrown out.  Sorry, we don’t have any DIY projects lined up for boxed wine (no judgement!)

The first place our minds went was to the material – cork – traditionally used for wine, insulation, and… corkboards! So how does the cork make it from your Pinot Grigio to the wall? Check out these instructions from Wineintro.com. The hardest part will be finding corks that are exactly the same size. After not much work, you’ll have a great looking corkboard for the office or the kid’s room, or for recipes in the kitchen.

A similar but less expected way to reuse those same-size corks is to make a DIY bath-mat, which will add a touch of elegance and spa glamour to your bathroom. Freshhomeideas.com published this great step-by-step guide for creating such a luxury for your home.

Now that we’ve covered the office, the kid’s room and the bathroom, what about the kitchen?  One of the great properties of cork is its ability to diffuse heat – which makes it perfect for a Trivet and will be sure to impress your friends during the next dinner party. While you can use the same square-frame concept as the corkboard or the bath-mat, but if you want to step outside the box (get it?), try a circular pattern instead, and for about $3 you can have one like this one from greenluv.org.

Interested, but not a drinker? Corks are often available from wineries if you ask – they may charge a small premium or shipping on the used ones from the tasting room, but it’s still a lot cheaper than buying them from the craft store!

There you have it – now you can empty out that trophy-jar of corks and start over again, but with a few neat accessories around the house – accessories that you made yourself – and accessories that helped you Do A bit Better!”

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Family

Turn Off the Water, Buy Yourself Dinner

“Did you know that according to the California Energy Commission, about 75% of the water used in the average home... Read

“Did you know that according to the California Energy Commission, about 75% of the water used in the average home is in the bathroom?  Leaving the water running while we brush our teeth or wash our faces only increases this number. It can be a tough habit to break, but putting a price-tag may aid you in getting your family to change their habits.

Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth in the morning and at night saves a whopping 8 gallons of water each day, according to the EPA. If each member of a family of four nixed the water-running habit, you’d save about $13.75 per person or $55 each month.

That savings can buy your family dinner at your favorite restaurant.”

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Solar

Good Karma

“Justin Bieber got one for his birthday.  Leonardo DiCaprio’s got one.  Even Ashton Kutcher’s internet billionaire character on Two and... Read

“Justin Bieber got one for his birthday.  Leonardo DiCaprio’s got one.  Even Ashton Kutcher’s internet billionaire character on Two and Half Men drives one.  Yup, we’re talking about the Fisker Karma.

At first glance there is no denying that it is one sexy ride (just look at those curves!). But we here at DAbB know that beauty is more than skin deep – and are consequently drooling like crazy.

Touted as “the world’s first premium hybrid electric vehicle”, the Fisker Karma employs a ton of awesome green features. Here are some of our favorites:

Reclaimed Wood Trim: From the get-go, buyers get to choose from a trio of certified wood trims that range from wood retrieved from the 2007 firestorm in Orange County, CA, sunken wood sourced from the bottom of Lake Michigan, or certified fallen wood from California storms.

One Hot Roof: The Karma features the world’s largest seamless solar glass roof for a production vehicle, which converts sunlight into stored electric energy to charge the battery, regulate interior climate systems, and increase the car’s electric driving range.

That Eco-Suede: Slip inside the cockpit and experience 100% recycled post-industry virgin polyester Eco-Suede, which reduces energy consumption and CO2 emissions by 80% during the recycling process. What does that mean to you and me? Soft, supple, & eco-friendly

Adios, Gas Pump: To top it all off, the Karma sips gasoline, resulting in an impressive 52 MPG on the highway plus an additional 32 miles on a single electric charge! All those savings should come in handy when you’re making payments on a whopping $102,000 base price tag!

 “

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Food

Monday Tip of the Week: Mayonnaise: Not Just for Sandwiches!

“If you’re looking to cut fat and cholesterol from your diet, don’t be in a rush to throw out that... Read

“If you’re looking to cut fat and cholesterol from your diet, don’t be in a rush to throw out that lurking jar of mayonnaise.  It has a surprising number of beauty-boosting possibilities.

Shiny hair. Forget expensive leave-in conditioners! Massage some mayo into your scalp, cover with a shower cap, wait five minutes, and shampoo.  Your hair will be all sorts of shiny.

Strong nails.  It’s this simple: plunge them into a bowl of mayo for five minutes. Rinse with warm water.

Glowing complexion. Gently spread whole-egg mayonnaise on the visage.  Rinse after 20 minutes.

You’ll look fabulous when you head to the curb to recycle the jar!”

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Food

Monday Tip of the Week – Being a Greener Professional

“Sometimes we get so caught up in our day-to-day, that we forget about our better-living-goals when we’re on the go. ... Read

“Sometimes we get so caught up in our day-to-day, that we forget about our better-living-goals when we’re on the go.  Here are some reminders and possibly new ideas that can get you going!

Morning Coffee
If you’re not the type to make your own coffee in the morning (which could potentially save you over $300 a year), then you’re probably stopping into the local coffee shop before you hit the office.  Here are some ways to Do A bit Better at your java-stop:

-Bring your own cup.  You’ll get a discount on your coffee, and you’ll stop seeing those white paper cups pile up in your recycling bin

-Skip the sleeve – If you insist upon the paper cup, consider not using the sleeve or reusing the sleeve.  There’re also a variety of reusable silicone sleeves for sale across the net.

-Pour it, don’t packet! Sugar packets and stir sticks add up. Pour your sugar from the provided dispenser instead of tearing open a few packets, and let nature do the stirring for you. If you keep your sugar and milk at the office, it will stay hotter longer.

Lunch time!
If you work downtown, you’ll notice how many people scuffle around in a hurry to get their lunch and go. You’ll also notice everyone carrying a paper bag, with a sandwich also wrapped in paper inside – followed by a paper soda cup. That’s a LOT of waste. Consider this, instead:

-Bring a reusable bag – they’re not just for grocery shopping anymore!

-Skip the soda – on top of it being incredibly bad for you anyway, those soda cups pile up in the landfill. We have a water carbonator in our office to substitute for soda, and the carbonated water helps trick our bodies into thinking we’re drinking something more sugary! Win-win.

Meetings
You’ll impress your clients and business partners if you look a little greener!

-Don’t provide bottled water – leave some empty glasses and a pitcher of water on the table for all to enjoy.

-Put your presentation on a thumb drive – all of those paper versions you pass out will likely just get tossed out anyway.  If you HAVE to print it, print on both sides to use half as much paper!

Now you’re on your way to being the model professional for a better world!”

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Men

Summer is here guys-and your lawn is waiting.

It is that time of year again when your weekend “honey-do” list contains “mowing the lawn”.  But if you are... Read

It is that time of year again when your weekend “honey-do” list contains “mowing the lawn”.  But if you are looking to get out of this chore, here are our recommendations for eco-friendly grasses.  These attractive grasses  require less watering, less mowing, and less fertilizer, all of which helps cut down on your carbon foot print-and give you more time on the weekends.

  • Ecolawn: This blend of fine fescue grasses is highly drought-tolerant and requires less fertilization than traditional grass. It can be grown anywhere in the United States.
  • Buffalograss: As the native grass of the Western Plains, this variety thrives in drier areas of the country such as California and Nevada. It only needs to be mowed once a month.
  • Seashore paspalum: This is an eco-friendly grass for Southern states with warm climates. It doesn’t even like fertilizer, and it tolerates recycled water, or even salty water.
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Recycle

Can You UpCycle 20,000 Plastic Cups?

New York City is about to find out! Between February and May, CDR Studio will collect 20,000 cups from concerts,... Read

New York City is about to find out! Between February and May, CDR Studio will collect 20,000 cups from concerts, sporting events, and collection boxes. They will then be assembled into a giant serpentine structure in the pavilion of this year’s Figment Art Festival on Governor’s island in New York City. The pavilion will serve as a meeting place for attendees of the festival.

In previous years, the festival has featured pavilion installations made of other recycled materials, including upcycled milk crates, water bottles, and milk jugs.

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