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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Family

Monday Tip of the week: Send your kids to school with a waste-free lunch

Did you know that you can adopt an endangered species? There are a lot of animal lovers out there who... Read

Did you know that you can adopt an endangered species? There are a lot of animal lovers out there who just don’t have time to take care of a pet. A great way to help animals if you don’t have a lot of time is by adopting an endangered species. There are quite a few programs out there, but we love the World Wildlife Foundation (or WWF). There are a variety of animals and price ranges to choose from, so no matter how much (or little) you can spend, you’ll still be helping keep these animals alive and well. This is also a great project to do if you have kids–it’s never to early to teach them the importance of taking care of our world. Check out the WWF website for more information here.”We can’t believe it’s that time of year again–back to school! This year, pledge with your kids to have waste-free lunches. It is estimated that school lunches produce 67 pounds of waste per school year per child. Not only is a waste-free lunch great for the environment, but packing your child fresh foods instead of prepackaged is good for their bodies! A waste-free lunch requires the following:

  • Reusable lunch box (preferably bento style so you can easily say goodbye to plastic baggies)
  • Reusable utensils, napkin, water bottle
  • No prepackaged food–buy in bulk and section snacks off in the lunch box

Learn more about waste-free lunches at wastefreelunches.org so you can start Doing a Bit Better.

 “

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Environment

Green Ideas – Gardening in the Back of a Truck

“One of our favorite things to do is watch Kickstarter for Green ideas that also help our communities in some... Read

“One of our favorite things to do is watch Kickstarter for Green ideas that also help our communities in some way.  Even though DAbB is located in San Francisco, this particular Kickstarter just so happened to catch our attention.

Truck Farm Chicago is a Biodeisel pickup with a farm in the bed that drives around to schools to educate children on how to grow, cook and support your own food. The principles they teach include creativity, healthy choices and supporting local food.

For a modest donation of $25, you can receive an autographed children’s book highlighting “environmental mindfulness” written by one of Truck Farm Chicago’s farmers.

We’re always on the lookout for interesting projects going on.  If you’d like to see your project highlighted on Doing A bit Better, email us at LetsChat@DoingAbitBetter.com”

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Environment

Chrysler Recognizes its Green Dealers

In a push to green-up an industry that’s already not-so-green, Chrysler has recognized 30 of its more eco-friendly auto dealers... Read

In a push to green-up an industry that’s already not-so-green, Chrysler has recognized 30 of its more eco-friendly auto dealers across the U.S. – and more than a third of which are in, you guessed it: California.  Some of the achievements recognized include:

– A 2,000 square foot solar system in Arkansas

– A heating system based on used motor oil from oil changes in Michigan

– Collection and recycling of rain water in Oklahoma

For a full list of the honored dealers (just in case you’re in the market for a new Chrysler), check out the press release.

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Family

After school projects to keep your little ones busy—the DAbB way

“It’s that time of year again! The kids are back in school. As the weather starts to change, and your... Read

“It’s that time of year again! The kids are back in school. As the weather starts to change, and your energetic children are confined to the nice, warm, dry indoors, it’s always nice to have activities that keep them busy and their minds off mud puddles.

We are all about reusing and upcycling. There is so much you can do with cardboard and a little imagination – no one knows this better than your kids. We love all of these great simple (and extremely cheap!) ideas for crafting play things out of big boxes, milk cartons, paper towels rolls, and more! Get your imagination going by Doing a Bit Better!

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Solar

Spring Cleaning Your Solar Panels

It’s spring cleaning time.  Aren’t you excited?   We have had a few questions about how to clean solar panels.  After... Read

It’s spring cleaning time.  Aren’t you excited?   We have had a few questions about how to clean solar panels.  After all, dirt, debris, and even bird droppings can quickly reduce the amount of electricity your system will produce.  Please keep in mind, this is how we clean our panels, however, we deeply encourage you to follow the specific instructions outlined in your user manual.

-We recommend you spray down your panels at least twice but preferably four times per year.  In doing so, you will spend a very short time cleaning your panels
–              You should spray in the morning.  You don’t want the water to evaporate due to the heat of the day

-Inspect after you spray.  Yes, this means you will most likely have to climb up on your roof
–              If you see a stubborn stain, typical glass cleaner will remove it quickly
–              Just one other safety note: never climb onto your roof if you are not comfortable with this activity.  Also, never do it alone…have someone hold the ladder

-Inspect the panel while you are cleaning it for cracks in the glass. Solar panels most often malfunction because of water damage. If you notice any cracks, fill the crack with a high-temperature silicon seal.

-Inspect wire connections as well for any sign of damage or decay. If you find a damaged wire, replace it immediately. Keep these connections clean and as dry as possible.

That’s it.  Now, get the kids to clean out the garage!

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Housewares

Quick Fix to Stop the Drip

“An average American consumer uses about 100 gallons of water per day- or 1,600 glasses.  Household water consumption has increased... Read

“An average American consumer uses about 100 gallons of water per day- or 1,600 glasses.  Household water consumption has increased by 200% since 1950, despite our population having only grown by 90%.  As a result, more than 36 states are expected to face water shortages in the next six years.  Stemming the flow is as easy as fixing a leaky faucet or toilet.  A dripping faucet can waste up to 74 gallons of water a day and a leaking toilet up to 200 gallons per day.

In repairing a leaky toilet you can save $30 a year, which may not sound like much, however, it’s also saving 73,00 gallons of water.”

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Environment

Cloth > Paper

When cleaning, like the counters in the kitchen, the first thing that many people go for is the paper towel.... Read

When cleaning, like the counters in the kitchen, the first thing that many people go for is the paper towel. While effective, this habitat can take a toll on the environment. After all, they come from trees! Instead, why not find some old t-shirts stashed way back in your closet that you never wear anymore and use them like you would a paper towel. They get the job done, you use less paper, and you are able to repurpose an item that would have most likely been thrown away.

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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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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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Family

A Greener Lunchbox

“How do you green your kid’s lunch box, but still make them happy?  Although there’s a huge selection of cute,... Read

“How do you green your kid’s lunch box, but still make them happy?  Although there’s a huge selection of cute, eco-friendly lunch boxes out there, finding one that suits you little one’s latest superhero craze may be difficult.  Let’s face it: you’re going to be hard pressed to make your little guy take a nicely decorated, eco-friendly Alien Bento Box to school when all he really wants is Batman!

Luckily, we’ve done some digging and found a number of creative people out there who have developed lunch bags and boxes to make your little one squeal with delight.  Take a peak at what we found:

Canvas Kids Lunch Bag Superhero

From our friends at Etsy, we’ve found the Canvas Kids Lunch Bag Superhero. The natural, reusable canvas bag is eco-friendly, and sports Batman, Superman or any superhero your kid might adore.  Your child’s name can even be added for a personal touch.

   

Superhero Blue Personalized Lunch Box

Another great find from Sweet Mady, these plastic lunchboxes are covered in superhero graphics, while still being lead and BPA free.  The faceplates are removable, interchangeable and can be personalized as well. So when you’re little one wants to be addressed as “Super-Ben”, you can swap the faceplate out in a flash.  Additional reusable containers and ice pack are also available.

Thermos Dual Compartment Superman Lunch Kit with Cape

Your little Clark Kent will love this Superman lunchbox with built-in cape. This insulated lunch box is PVC-free and lined with PEVA material. It cleans up easily and has two compartments to separate lunch items. They’re available through numerous sellers on Amazon.com.

Now send your child off to school sporting a special lunch box that only you know is good for the environment!”

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Garden

Mulching the Funny Pages

“You know those times when you realize your parents were right about something? Sigh… this is one of those times.... Read

“You know those times when you realize your parents were right about something? Sigh… this is one of those times. Many staff members here remember using newspapers in their family’s garden as kids, but never really knew why. We all hate weeds. Using the good ole Sunday newspaper is incredibly useful for keeping weeds at bay, if not completely keeping them out of your garden. This method doesn’t involve chemicals that might harm your produce, damage your plants, or cause health problems for your family. It’s also cheap and super easy.

What You’ll Need
A large amount of newspapers (The size of the Sunday paper finally comes in handy!)
Organic mulching materials such as:

Grass clippings
Pine Bark
Leaves
Straw

Steps
Open up a section of the newspaper and place it right on top of the soil and tightly around your plants. We recommend you have at least 12 pages thick. Make sure you overlap the edges so light and weeds can’t pierce through the paper. (Make sure you don’t use glossy paper from coupons, inserts, etc! These typically contain mild toxins from the ink.)

As you lay the paper down, place 3-4 inches of mulch over the top. This amount of mulch will help to keep the newspaper down and it looks great. And now you’re done!

The newspaper mulch will not only keep the weeds down, it will also fertilize the soil, cool the roots of the plants in the summer heat, add organic material to the soil, and save water. Earthworms will be active underneath the mulch, tilling the ground for you and adding worm castings, which is pure gold for plants.

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Environment

Look Swanky AND be Greener with Eco-Friendly Business Cards

“Okay, so we have a small love-affair with GreenerPrinter.com, and not to present too much of a sales pitch, we... Read

“Okay, so we have a small love-affair with GreenerPrinter.com, and not to present too much of a sales pitch, we would like to sing their praises just a little bit.

Eco-Friendly business cards are not something one just stumbles upon.  In fact, 5 years ago, you would likely not find one, even by means of a search engine.  Nowadays, there are a few companies out there that like to say they’re green, but how green are they really?

Here are a few boons to GreenerPrinter.com:

They use recycled paper – many of which are 100% recycled!
They don’t use chlorine to bleach their papers – which means no chlorine in any waste water
GreenerPrinter uses vegetable and other naturally-based inks, which means no VOC’s
(remember our article about natural paint?)
They have several green certifications for their materials and processes.  We could list them, or you could just view the green certifications here!

Okay.  We’re done swooning over these guys… for now.”

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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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Housewares

Recycled Glass Votive- 3 Pk Green

$12.00

A tale of transformation from trash to sparkling treasure—reclaiming what was once thrown away and giving it stunning new purpose.... Read

A tale of transformation from trash to sparkling treasure—reclaiming what was once thrown away and giving it stunning new purpose. Sparkling with bright, leafy green, evoking summer days and cool drinks with friends. These incomparable pieces are handcrafted by skilled artisans using traditional techniques passed down from generation to generation.

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Health & Beauty

Gentlemen: Green thy Faces

“Shaving is a regular task that not many of us guys like doing, but need to do anyway.  So, the... Read

“Shaving is a regular task that not many of us guys like doing, but need to do anyway.  So, the least we at DAbB can do is help you feel like you are reducing your footprint while you shave.  Here are three quick tips to help make your shaving routine a bit more green:

Turn off the water – this may seem obvious, but shut off the water while you shave.  The average Joe can save up 3,000 gallons a year!

Go Au Naturale – Next time you go to the drugstore, look for all-natural shaving creams and aftershaves.  Just look for plant based products that are certified organic and/or not tested on animals.  Or, you can enlist a bar of organic soap to make a thick lather suitable for shaving.

Ditch the disposable – Between plastic handles, metal blades, rubber grips and god-knows-what’s-in-those-lubricating-strips, disposable razors create a huge amount of waste.  So look for a more earth friendly solution.  The absolute best choice is a good, old fashioned straight razor – it can be sharpened for great results & used over and over.  But we realize that the thought of putting straight razor to your neck can be a bit intimidating – let’s face it, we’re not all John Wayne.  So why not pop for an electric razor to cut down on your waste?  Many new electric razors on the market are gentle on your skin and offer a close shave.  If you must use disposable, try one of the new eco-friendly razors from Schick!

Go forth and shave!”

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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... Read

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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Housewares

Monday Tip of the Week – Coffee to Go, Please!

If you start every morning with a steamy cup, a quick tabulation can show you that the waste is piling... Read

If you start every morning with a steamy cup, a quick tabulation can show you that the waste is piling up. Invest in a reusable cup, which not only cuts down on waste, but keeps your beverage hot for a much longer time. Most coffee shops will happily fill your own cup, and many even offer you a discount in exchange!  Not to mention, they look nicer.

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Doing A Bit Better

Step away from the sponge.

“Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Spongebob Squarepants™!” Rather, more accurately, who lives in a landfill for all... Read

“Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Spongebob Squarepants™!”

Rather, more accurately, who lives in a landfill for all eternity?

The common household sponge may be small, but it can have a pretty daunting effect on sweet Mother Earth. Imagine, if you will, millions of those colorful scrubbers piled up and not rotting away in landfills everywhere. Most sponges are made of polyester or plastic and treated with triclosan (a harmful pesticide that’s a suspected carcinogen) that’s released when it comes in contact with chlorine in tap water.

A smart, recommended alternative is to use cellulose sponges. Cellulose is the primary building material that makes up cell walls in plants, and may be the earth’s most abundant organic compound. But, what you really want to know is how they hold up as house cleaners, right? Cellulose sponges are up to 15-times more absorbent than paper towels, they’re reusable and biodegradable, and you can find them at pretty much any natural food markets.

Polyester/plastic sponges may be a few cents cheaper, but really, at what cost to this marvelous earth? So suck it up and get some cellulose!

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