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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Celebrity

Actress Jessica Alba Starts Green Parenting Company

“Working mom Jessica Alba is adding entrepreneur to her many titles, shifting from movie star to businesswoman with a venture... Read

“Working mom Jessica Alba is adding entrepreneur to her many titles, shifting from movie star to businesswoman with a venture that provides parents easy access to eco-friendly natural products for babies and homes.

Alba, who wed husband Cash Warren in 2008, has taken motherhood to heart, and mind, focusing on being a hands-on parent to her two daughters, 4-year-old Honor and newborn Haven.

“”Motherhood has affected me greatly and in so many ways,”” the Fantastic Four actress told Reuters.

“”I didn’t know that I would feel so comfortable and so at ease and so natural. When I became a mother, I felt the most comfortable in my own skin than I had ever felt in my life.””

While preparing for motherhood four years ago, the 30-year-old actress found that her biggest challenge was trying to find eco-friendly natural products for her baby and her home.

“”There are a lot of toxic chemicals in baby products, and these toxic chemicals are linked to not just allergies and asthma, but also autism and ADHD and lots of childhood cancers, and I was horrified that products that were made for babies and children would have these toxic chemicals,”” said the actress.

Alba founded The Honest Company along with Christopher Gavigan, former CEO of non-profit group Healthy Child Healthy World, after discovering that toxic chemicals were often disguised as “”fragrances”” on product labels and finding that not all eco-friendly and natural products worked efficiently.

Together, they came up with an online business model to launch an eco-friendly range of baby and household products, tried and tested by themselves and their own babies. They are toxin-free, aesthetically pleasing and can be delivered straight to your door.

“”I really wanted to make a company that was for parents, by parents,”” said Alba, adding that Honest Co. was “”one company parents could go to that had household products and products to clean your kid with, and also fulfill diapering needs.””

The actress took her fight against toxic products to Washington D.C. in May 2011 while pregnant with her second child to lobby on behalf of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition that supported the Safe Chemicals Act.

“”Even government officials aren’t aware that chemical companies don’t have to test their chemicals before they sell them to product companies. They can just put them in there, and we are the guinea pigs,”” said the actress.

While Alba’s energies are focused on her children and new business, her fans will be glad to know she has no plans to retire from acting. She voices a role in animated film Escape from Planet Earth due out next year.

“”I’m excited to get back into movies and I feel more adult and more grown up and ready to get back into it. And my mentality is different,”” she said.”

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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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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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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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Family

A Little Green Mother’s Day Love

“Another Mother’s Day is just around the corner.  Why not think about it a little differently this year?  Sure moms... Read

“Another Mother’s Day is just around the corner.  Why not think about it a little differently this year?  Sure moms like store bought gifts, but you can make her day extra special (and green) by simply doing a few of the following:

-Let mom sleep in – nothing like 8 hours of sleep to make her happy!

-Give mom control of the TV remote – If she wishes to watch cooking shows all day, let her be

-Handmade cards – always a winner

-Skip brunch out and prepare a special meal in – just make sure you do all the heavy lifting!

-Use eco-friendly frames with pictures of mom and her all her favorite people (that’s you!)

-Create special memories, a nice nature walk with the family, trip to an art gallery, etc.

-Bake her cookies – with organic flour!

-Give her a five minute foot massage

 

Remember – a little love goes a long way!”

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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

Help your CA neighbors Do a Bit Better

Are you up on your California state law? Trees that are tall enough to block solar panels can cost the... Read

Are you up on your California state law?

Trees that are tall enough to block solar panels can cost the tree owners up to $1,000 fines (daily!). State Law requires homeowners to keep their trees, or other plant-life, from shading neighbor’s solar panels between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is at it’s strongest.

Help your neighbors Do a Bit Better, it’s the law!

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Doing A Bit Better

5 Tips to make your Fall a little bit better

The heat is still upon us, but not for long! As fall is right around the corner, the days will... Read

The heat is still upon us, but not for long! As fall is right around the corner, the days will start to get shorter and the sidewalks will become littered with leaves. Here are some tips for your home and your family that will help you do a little bit better during the changing of the seasons:

  1. Check the furnace
    • One of the easiest ways to make sure your home is efficient is to test and make sure your furnace/fireplace is clean. Not only does this make winter stress free because you know that your furnace or chimney will work throughout winter, it’s also a money saver.
    • Cleaning around the furnace will allow it to run smoothly thus giving you more heat with less energy during the winter.
  2. Insulate the house
    • Check the windows around your house for proper caulking, make sure your windows are sealed tight and no breeze is coming through. Plastic film can sometimes work as an alternative.
    • Make sure doors are weather stripped and replace strips if necessary. If there’s a draft coming through replace the threshold of the door or use towels, blankets, or old sweaters (we will discuss these items further below) to place under the doors.
    • Hang a thick curtain or blanket in front of your doors to block cold air from entering the house.
  3. Create/purify air flow
    • If you have a ceiling fan, adjust the settings so that the fan is going in reverse. If you’re standing underneath the fan and can feel the breeze from it then make sure to turn it the opposite way. This maneuver allows for air to be pushed up against the ceiling and down the walls, allowing the air flow to re-circulate the warm air without causing a chilling effect.
    • Clean vents to ensure debris and dust aren’t getting into the air flow of your house. You’re going to essentially button up your house during the winter and you don’t want to have to open windows because your house is too stuffy.
    • Move objects away from vents, baseboard heaters, registers on the floor, or radiators so that air moves freely around your house. Also, as said above, make sure to clean around these areas.
  4. For the kids (Going back to school)
    • Buy clothes and materials from second hand stores/thrift shops. There’s chic thrift stores for all ages now!
    • Bring your own reusable bags to go shopping.
    • Avoid single use packaging food when preparing lunches. Also, try and reuse Ziploc bags for however long you can.
    • Make sure to not buy school materials in bulk.
    • Have a “Swap” party: invite families to exchange clothing and usable school supplies.
    • If you drive your kids to the bus stop, bundle them up and walk them to the bus stop as an alternative.
  5. Everyday Stuff
    • Clean the gutters and make sure that your downspouts are pointed away from your house will provide piece of mind when the weather is unfavorable. And while you’re up there, why not check out the roof’s condition to make sure it’ll last through the upcoming seasons?
    • Open blinds in the morning/during the day to attract heat and then close them at night to retain the heat. Honeycomb blinds are especially efficient.
    • Go through the family’s wardrobe and re-purpose items. For example, use old t-shirts as new kitchen rags for cleaning, or old sweaters and towels as a way to ventilate your house.
    • Organize the kitchen, the refrigerator should be checked to ensure it is sealed tight as to not let cold air into the house. And food that is old or not needed should be composted or thrown out. Room in the refrigerator is needed for ample air flow.
    • Get rid of cleaning products that contain harmful chemicals, especially triclosan. DIY cleaning products using baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice are highly accepted. If not able to make cleaning products yourself, Method and Seven Generations cleaning products are great alternatives to conventional cleaning products.
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Pets

Do a Bit Better by Adopting an Endangered Species!

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.

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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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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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Men

Eco-friendly Lawn Renovation tips

So one of our staff came in to say his lawn has seen better days.  If you also notice your... Read

So one of our staff came in to say his lawn has seen better days.  If you also notice your lawn needs a bit of TLC, here is our eco-friendly lawn renovation process:

1. Rake lawn to remove thatch and dead grass, which creates good seed-to-soil contact.

2. Apply grass seed; and use it liberally.

3. Cover with layer of compost; this helps retain moisture and keep the birds away, and it’s a lot cheaper than spreading straw.

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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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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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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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UpCycle

Upcycle Your Old Neck-tie Into a Curtain Tie

Recently, a team member here at DAbB remodeled their bedroom, painted it blue, and bought translucent white curtains.  The problem?... Read

Recently, a team member here at DAbB remodeled their bedroom, painted it blue, and bought translucent white curtains.  The problem?  What to use for curtain ties!  She tried jute rope, she tried denim, and she tried

 

 the scraps of the curtains themselves after being hemmed, but nothing was looking quite right.

 

Then the idea came – we’re all bound to have old neck-ties that we don’t wear anymore – so why not upcycle them into something actually usable?
The steps were pretty easy.
1. Measure out 2 equal lengths of the neck-tie, preferably parts of the same width (a skinny tie works really well)

 

2. Sew the ends of the lengths.  We got lazy and used white thread, which stands out – but it’s in the back of the curtain, so who cares?
3a. If you don’t have a snap setting kit, you can glue two pieces of velcro onto each end3. Add a snap using a hole-punch and a snap-setting kit
4. Take a picture and send it into DAbB!
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Mom & Baby

UpCycle Spotlight: The Almighty Baby Food Jar!

“We are always interested in clever ways to upcycle everyday products into new and useful items.  Today we are going... Read

“We are always interested in clever ways to upcycle everyday products into new and useful items.  Today we are going to showcase some of the coolest uses for all of those baby food jars you go through feeding your little one.

Spice Racks

   
Candle Jars & Holders
   
   
Pin Cushions & Sewing Storage
   
Herb Planters
Holiday Decorations
 
 

 

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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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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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