July 10, 2015 Doing A Bit Better

UpCycling 101 – What Is It?

“A term that’s popping up more and more in the green world is “upcycling”. But what is it, and who does it benefit?  More importantly, who’s leading this movement and what are they doing?

Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials into something that’s usable and “new”. It’s like recycling but not in the sense of turning glass bottles back into glass bottles.  It’s more like turning old soda cans into jewelry, or old barn wood into a coffee table.  While people have been upcycling for years, the movement has lately grown – it’s no longer just for the hardcore DIY’ers – in fact, anyone can do it.

Instead of ending up in a landfill or being processed through a recycling center (which does waste energy and water), our waste products gain new life through upcycling at home. These projects make great gifts, and are sold through various outlets such as Etsy.

Alchemy Goods is another leader in the space of upcycling, and produces messenger bags, wallets and totes using old tarps, banners, seatbelts and tire tubing.

Another company, Terracycle, has made its sole purpose to upcycle all of those things that can’t necessarily be recycled or are difficult to recycle (such as Capri Sun packages). Their products are made from crowd-sourced materials and donors are credited for future purchases.

These aren’t the only games in town, and you should certainly explore some home-friendly upcycling crafts on your own or with your family! It’s one more way that you can do a bit better!

 

 “

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Housewares

Monday Tip of the Week – Reduce, Reuse, Recharge

“Each year, 15 billion batteries are produced and sold, and most of them are disposable alkaline batteries. Only a fraction... Read

“Each year, 15 billion batteries are produced and sold, and most of them are disposable alkaline batteries. Only a fraction of those are recycled. Consider buying a charger and a few sets of rechargeable batteries. Although it requires an upfront investment, it’s one that should pay off in no time. And, on Christmas morning when all the stores are closed? You’ll be fully stocked.”

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Family

Tin Can Art Supply System

“Our kids all seem to be little Rembrandts. They love to color, draw, paste and paint – and sometimes stick... Read

“Our kids all seem to be little Rembrandts. They love to color, draw, paste and paint – and sometimes stick pencils into play dough.  But at times storing these items can be less than ideal. Thankfully, we found a practical (and, may we say, beautiful) way to store your art supplies.

What You’ll Need
8 Clean tin cans
Metal sandpaper
Green metal cleaner
Heavy-duty magnets
Hot glue gun
Steel cookie sheet
Label maker or a sheet of paper
Pan head screws (optional)
Drill (optional)

 Steps
1. Sand down the open edges of the cans with the metal sandpaper. Make sure the edges are nice and smooth to avoid any ouchies later.  Bandages also optional. You can find metal sandpaper at your local hardware store.

2. Using a green cleaner, go to town on the cookie sheet to get it clean and make it look nice.

3. Hot glue the magnets to the outside of the tin can.  The magnet should be vertical, going along the vertical length of the can.

4. Using the label maker, create some nice labels to keep things clearly organized. Or, be creative and help the kids make nice labels!

5. Using the magnets, attach the cans to the cookie sheet.

6. If you plan on hanging your masterpiece storage facility, drill a small hole into each corner of the cookie sheet. Lastly, mount it to the wall with 4 pan-head screws.

7. Let the kids pick which can they want each of their art supplies in – it’s more likely that they’ll put things away if they get to decide where they go.

If the cookie sheet you’re using is particularly old, here’s a great way to make it look brand new: Line your sink with aluminum foil and place the cookie sheet inside. Sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda over the cookie sheet (somewhat evenly), then pour boiling water over it. Putting some elbow-grease into it, scrub particularly aged spots, making sure to push the baking soda into it. Finally, pour 8 cups of white vinegar over the mixture and let sit for 10 minutes. Give it one last scrub with the bubbly mixture, and then rinse.

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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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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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Solar

PV Local History 101: California History of Solar

At times we like to fly our “Nerd Flag”.   Go Solar California has a great history of solar in the... Read

At times we like to fly our “Nerd Flag”.   Go Solar California has a great history of solar in the Golden State.  Here are just a few fun facts we enjoyed:

-The origins of the PV Cell are found in the work done by Chapin, Fuller and Pearson from Bell Laboratory in 1954

-In 1978, the US Congress passed the “Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act”.  This law established the right for independent power producers to interconnect with the local utility distribution systems.  So for people who today get a nice monthly check from their local energy company can thank the efforts made by Congress nearly 35 years ago.

-In early 1979 the world’s largest PV manufacturing facility in Camarillo, California started producing more than a megawatt of PV modules in one year.

-The Sacramento Municipal Utility District generated 1.0 MW of photovoltaic power in 1984.

Go to Go Solar California to read the entire history.

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Housewares

Corks, Pas Deux – Bourbon-cork Coaster / Trivet

“After our last article about crafts for reusing corks, we couldn’t help but get excited to try something. We opted... Read

“After our last article about crafts for reusing corks, we couldn’t help but get excited to try something. We opted for bourbon corks, this time, as they’re usually made of real cork (instead of that synthetic stuff), and have the neat wooden tops that give them a real rustic look. It also helped that we had a few laying around.

We also opted for ease, in this case. There are plenty of materials to use if you want to avoid using any sort of bonding agent – but thanks to the magic of a hot glue gun, we were able to whip this coaster up in about 10 minutes. And it shows.

What You’ll Need
9 Corks of the same height
A hot-glue gun
hot-glue sticks
Right-angle
Jute twine (optional)

Steps
1. Using the right angle, glue the first two corks together.  If there’s a label on top of the wood, hopefully you’ll do a better job of lining them up than we did.  Continuing to use the straight edge to make clean lines, add additional corks one by one until you’ve created the desired shape.  Allow the glue to fully cool/dry before picking it back up.

2. Once all 9 corks are glued together, flip the coaster over and bind with jute twine. To do this, simply glue the end of the jute twine to center of one side of the coaster, and begin wrapping around the cork portion, alternating gluing on every other side.

Easy enough! Now you can enjoy a frosty beverage in style.

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Mighty Leaf Tea

Tea Drinkers Rave

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Recycle

Do a Bit Better with Homemade Dryer Sheets

We love this eco-friendly project from Pinning Gals. Save money and the planet by creating your own reusable natural dryer... Read

We love this eco-friendly project from Pinning Gals. Save money and the planet by creating your own reusable natural dryer sheets. Commercially produced dryer sheets are made with lots of chemicals, but you can use an eco-friendly liquid fabric softener and upcycled fabric from old clothes to create homemade dryer sheets that can be used again and again. Check out the step-by-step instructions here.

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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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Solar

Solar Calculators – Meet Computer Calculators!

“You’ve seen the Solar calculator.  Now check out the Computer calculator. No, it’s not in your “Start” menu.  Rather, it’s... Read

“You’ve seen the Solar calculator.  Now check out the Computer calculator. No, it’s not in your “Start” menu.  Rather, it’s a calculator created by Utah-based firm, Xi3 – to show you how much you could be saving (not by going solar, but rather, by going modular).

 

Xi3 claims that their new “modular” computer uses up to 95% less energy than the average household computer – at a modest 20 Watts of electricity to operate.

In fact, the savings calculator isn’t the only thing they have in common with solar installers. Xi3 also offers a leasing option (cleverly named “ecolease“), in which it claims that the potential energy savings (mostly for small-medium sized businesses) actually offset the monthly lease payments – which they call “Getting a Free Computer”.

Another added benefit of the system is its ability to run multiple instances of the operating system on several linked-up machines.

So if you’re looking for a way to cut down on the power bill and you’re not quite ready to go solar, maybe green-tech is the way to go!”

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Food

The PB&J Campaign is Doing a Bit Better!

Ready to save the world one peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a time? The PB&J campaign is all about... Read

Ready to save the world one peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a time? The PB&J campaign is all about pledging how ever many meals a week you can to a plant based meal. Every time you choose a plant based meal, you reduce your carbon footprint by the equivalent of 3.5 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. You conserve 133 gallons of water–5 PB&J lunches a month saves more water than switching to a low-flow shower head! You also save 24 square feet of land each time you have a plant based meal.

Read more about how you can Do a Bit Better with the PB&J campaign here.

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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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Doing A Bit Better

5 Tips for Doing Better for Your Pet

“Don’t reach for the bleach – Next time your furry, little friend leaves a special present on the living room... Read

Don’t reach for the bleach – Next time your furry, little friend leaves a special present on the living room carpet, use vinegar to clean up the stain instead of bleach.  Vinegar is an eco-friendly odor-remover and effective at killing mold and bacteria.

Bio-bag-it! – Instead of using plastic bags to pick up after your pet’s poop, grab a biodegradable bag.  In addition to NOT immortalizing your pet’s #2 underground, biodegradable bags come in easy to use refillable dispensers that can be easily attached to any leash.

Dump the Junk –Many pet food brands you find at the supermarket consist of reconstituted animal by-products, otherwise known as low-grade wastes from the beef and poultry industries–you know, inedibles you wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot fork. So treat your pet to some natural or organic pet foods!  The potential benefits are numerous, including the reduction of skin ailments and allergies, more energy, healthier weight, fewer digestive disorders, better overall health, and a stronger immune system.  Don’t know where to start?  Just look for foods marked with USDA certification symbol proving that they have met the requirements.  (And don’t forget to recycle the bags and cans!)

A Sustainable Pet – Like babies and trophy wives, pets require an unusually large amount of gear.  So let them Do A bit Better by buying products and supplies made from sustainable materials.  Just about everything that your pet uses can be produced from sustainable materials: collars, leashes, beds, toys, and grooming products can be made out of hemp, recycled or organic cottons, and even recycled PET bottles!  Even better, enlist a little upcycling to turn old tube socks into puppy tug toys and yarn scraps into great cat toys!

Adopt! – Rather than buying your pet from local pet stores or breeders, adopt your next pet from a local shelter!  In addition to providing animals with loving homes, shelters tend to use donated or recycled materials for animal bedding. If you don’t know where to start, check out www.Petfinder.com to find a shelter near you.”

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Housewares

E&E (Easy & Eco-friendly) Ways to DAbB Your Child’s Birthday Party

“You bring your own bags to the grocery store, wash your clothes on cold and have switched to high efficiency... Read

“You bring your own bags to the grocery store, wash your clothes on cold and have switched to high efficiency light bulbs.  Why is it, when it comes to a kid’s birthday party (and yes we are guilty of it, too) we are far from being “green”.  Here is a “use this” “not that” check list for your next party.  These ideas will make your next party both green and easy to clean up afterwards.

Plates
-Use 100% post-consumer paper plates, bagasse plates, or bamboo plates.  You can throw the recycled plates in your compost and the bamboo plates can be wiped clean with soap and water.
-Don’t use non-recycled plates.  Why would you?  The kids don’t know the difference.  If the kids insist upon plates with Spiderman on them, why not let them decorate their own with non-toxic crayons?

Napkins
-Again, use 100% post-consumer napkins or cloth napkins made from old shirts (kids love these)
-Don’t use your good napkins (for obvious reasons) or non-post-consumer napkins.

Cups
-You can ask the parents to bring their own cup for their child.  Or if that is not possible, many paper cups are made from post-consumer paper.  They are stronger than in years past, and again, can go right into your compost bin when the party is over.

-Clearly do not go out and buy cups.  Four year olds have no idea nor care if the cups they are drinking out of match a color theme.  (Of course, we have had kids color on white cups using eco-friendly crayons.  The kids love it and again the cups can go into the compost).

Companies like Acme Party Box offer great party favors and reusable cups that the kids can take with them.

Wrapping Paper
-Use the Sunday Comics.  We have yet to meet a child that did not love their present being wrapped in the Sunday Comics.  I know this is a bit of a throwback to the 70’s, but honestly, it’s true.  They will just love it.
-Don’t use actual wrapping paper.  Have you ever seen a six year old give great attention to the quality of the wrapping job you’ve done?  In our experience, wrapping paper is ripped from around the present in under a second.”

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Environment

The multiple uses of glass jars

Glass jars come in all shapes and sizes and are used to hold and contain many different types of products.... Read

Glass jars come in all shapes and sizes and are used to hold and contain many different types of products. When we are done with the product inside of the jars, we believe that the jar has served its purpose and now can be thrown out. Think again! This is an opportunity to become more eco-friendly. Instead of throwing the jar out, why not use the jar again as storage or to contain another product. It could even be used as a cup for beverages. Repurposing objects in the home will also show your children the importance and the practicality of reusing for the sake of our planet.

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Solar

Massachusetts is Doing a Bit Better!

Did you know that Massachusetts has the nations eighth-highest electricity rates? It’s no wonder the residents are installing solar left... Read

Did you know that Massachusetts has the nations eighth-highest electricity rates? It’s no wonder the residents are installing solar left and right! In 2012, Massachusetts ranked the sixth highest in solar installation–generating $500 million dollars spent on solar energy!

2013 is going to be a great year for Massachusetts solar. Great job Doing a Bit Better!

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Men

The Honey-do List: The Almighty Oil Change

“We have all been asked to change the oil in our family’s car.  Since this activity is a “normal” part... Read

“We have all been asked to change the oil in our family’s car.  Since this activity is a “normal” part of our husbandly duties, the staff of DAbB wanted to give you some ideas on why/how you should recycle the oil.

The facts:

-In nearly every town in the US, it is against the law to throw used motor oil out in your household garbage.  So just don’t do it.

-One gallon of used oil can contaminate up to 1 million gallons of water.

-Recycling used motor oil keeps the oil out of our ground water, which means you and your kids won’t be drinking what you just dumped out of your car.

How to:

-Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual for specific instructions on changing your oil.

-Remove the drain plug underneath the vehicle (again, follow your car makers’ instructions) into a pan large enough to hold the entire contents of the crankcase.  Most cars hold between 5 and 6 quarts of oil.
(Just one other note here.  We recommend changing your oil when the car has had a chance to cool down for a few hours.  The draining oil may be hot otherwise. You can also buy a drain pan specially made for recycling oil.  We really recommend buying these pans.  It makes the entire project really easy.  We like these from Oilfiltersonline.com.)

-Once the oil has completely drained, we recommend changing your oil filter. Your oil filter will have residual oil in it, so be careful not to let any of the oil spill on the ground.  Place the open end of the filter face down over the drain pan.  If possible, let the filter sit in this position for at least 12 hours to ensure all of the oil has drained from the filter.

-Once the used oil has drained, replace the drain plug as directed by the owner’s manual.  Make sure to clean up any drips with rags.

-After the used oil has been drained, the old oil filter removed, and the new filter is installed, add the new oil. Your owner’s manual provides recommendations on the viscosity grade, performance level, and amount of oil required for your vehicle. Most automobile manufacturers recommend that you use an oil meeting the latest International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC) specification.
(Oils certified by API as meeting this specification may display the API Certification Mark “”Starburst”” (API’s Engine Oil Program) and API Service Symbol “”Donut.”” Diesel engine manufacturers typically recommend oils meeting a specific API diesel oil service category. Oils certified by API as meeting one or more of these categories may display the API Donut.)

-The owner’s manual will also help you find the oil fill cap. Remove the oil cap and add the amount of oil required by the instructions in the owner’s manual. Do not overfill. Use a funnel to prevent drips and make sure to completely empty each container of oil.

-Carefully remove the oil drain pan from under the vehicle (take care not to burn yourself with hot oil or spill any on the ground). Using a funnel, pour the used oil into a clean container with a lid that screws on tightly (for example, an empty milk or water jug or the empty oil bottles from the oil just added to the engine).   But again, if you use one of the recycled pans this step is very easy as the drain spout is built into the pan.

-Lastly, go to earth911.com to find where to drop off your oil and oil filter!

You’re done.  Now, only 82 more things on your Honey-Do List.”

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Health & Beauty

Monday Tip of the Week – Getting in Shape the Green Way

As the New Year begins and it’s time for our resolutions, we’re pretty sure that getting into better shape is... Read

As the New Year begins and it’s time for our resolutions, we’re pretty sure that getting into better shape is on a lot of lists. Gym memberships spike in January, with everyone trying to drop those holiday pounds. If you are thinking about joining a gym to use the various machines, consider this: treadmills can use up to 7 times as much power as stationary bike and elliptical machines.

Many of those machines are even completely carbon-neutral, and just the effort of pedaling powers all the lights and displays. Choosing machines that consume little or no power is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Now that’s doing a good thing for your health and the planet.

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Housewares

Remodeling Your Home?

“If you are looking to do any home remodeling this year, do yourself (and the planet) a favor and opt... Read

“If you are looking to do any home remodeling this year, do yourself (and the planet) a favor and opt for a few green upgrades.  Now, we’re not saying you need to tear down your house and rebuild it to be Leed Certified.  But there are a few choices you can make to add value to your home and to Do A bit Better for Mother Nature.

Seal It Up
One of the biggest wastes of energy comes from window & door drafts.  Sealing off these leaks can reduce your energy usage & costs by anywhere from 5 to 30 percent!  Solutions vary – some small leaks may be solved simply by adding weather stripping or caulk, but more extensive jobs may require repairing or replacing windows & doors

Look for the Energy Star logo
Appliances are going to be one of the bigger expenses on a remodel list, so if you are going to invest in them, make sure to purchase Energy Star certified models.  The certification, managed by the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy, helps consumers take the guesswork out of finding an appliance that is highly efficient (read: saves you cash) and also good for the environment. Plus, with over 18,000 certified products across 35 different categories, you won’t have to go searching high & low to find one that fits your budget & style.

Low Flow
We’re not going to bore you with facts about how much water is wasted each year from showers & toilets in the US.  So just know that low flow toilets and showers are a great way to save money and cut down on water waste.  For your porcelain throne, look for 1.6 Gallons/flush and 2 button flush option.  And for the shower heads, look for options with volume dials or buttons – in doing so, you can save up to 70% each time you bathe.

Lay Down the Bamboo
Bamboo’s not just for red ceramic pots with gold Chinese characters anymore! If you are going to do some more extensive remodeling and start replacing your floors, bamboo is a great choice.  First and foremost, bamboo is a highly sustainable product, so you don’t have to feel like you are chopping down the rainforest to freshen up your living room.  Secondly, they look great and are available in a wide range of sizes & colors.  Lastly, carbonized bamboo is hard and durable, so you’ll worry less about scratches when you put your furniture back in place.”

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