After the birth of my children, I found myself having reactions to certain synthetically-scented products. This motivated me to switch to many unscented household cleaners, as it can be difficult to tell from a bottle what is natural.
I recently started periodically hosting overnight guests in my home. One guest made a comment that the sheets didn't seem freshly laundered. Since I had actually laundered them that day, I realized that lack of scent can make fabrics appear to be unclean. I had recently received some free samples of ECOS products and I decided to give them a try.
Eco Breeze Fabric Refresher by ECOS has been a great solution. I can apply a mist of this wonderfully-scented lavender product to my sheets, curtains, bedspreads, and towels, It even did a good job job in combating shoe odors.
I enjoy the relaxing scent and have had no sensitivity issues to it. It's great to have a few naturally-scented products in my cabinets to liven things up.
By Sarah Lozanova
There is nothing like carelessly frolicking in the sun during the summer. As summer progresses however, avoiding sunburns and sun damage becomes increasingly important. Many people like to avoid repeatedly applying thick layers of sunscreen to much of our bodies multiple times throughout the day. It can also be hard to know which sunscreen is safest, with countless products available on the market today. Although concern about skin cancer and damage has grown in recent decades, vitamin D deficiency is also an important health issue. Lack of sun exposure can cause vitamin D deficiency, with numerous associated health risks.
There are no simple answers to the complex topic of preventing sun damage, enjoying the sun, and overall well being. A balance of spending some time in the sun to enjoy the great outdoors and absorbing some vitamin D is important, while also avoiding excessive sun exposure and damage.
Here are some tips and helpful hints in finding the right balance between carefree fun and healthy living.
By Sarah Lozanova
I love to make and drink my own DIY kombucha. Kombucha is a fermented beverage with lots of beneficial live bacteria, b-vitamins, and antioxidants. I personally enjoy its sweet tangy taste, and the little pick-me up that it gives. It comes a wide variety of flavors and is available in most health food stores, and occasionally in restaurants or cafes.
Kombucha consists of sweetened tea that is then fermented with scoby, a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Although it is relatively new to the West, kombucha was called the “Immortal Health Elixir” in ancient China for its reported ability to prevent cancer, arthritis, and other degenerative conditions. This beneficial beverage has been used for over 2,000 years and has become popular in the United States in recent years.
By Sarah Lozanova
Many of us insulate our homes to save money, increase comfort and help the environment. It only seems logical that retrofitting houses to use less fossil fuels would also help combat climate change, right?
Sadly, the opposite is true when certain types of rigid foam insulation are used. Many builders and consumers seem largely unaware of the issue, helping it to persist.
“Putting up blue board insulation all over a house is worse for the climate than not insulating at all,” says Jonathan Fulford, president of Artisan Builders and a candidate for the Maine Senate. “It is actually better to have no insulation and to just crank up the heater and the air conditioner because of the global warming potential (GWP) of many types of home insulation.”
By Sarah Lozanova
The average cost of electricity from wind and solar energy could drop by 26 to 59 percent, according to a new report released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The report, entitled The Power to Change: Solar and Wind Cost Reduction Potential to 2025, finds policy framework and the regulatory environment to be key unknown factors in the future cost of electricity from wind and solar energy.
The report explores the global weighted average levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) of different forms of renewable energy today and in the near future. The LCOE of solar photovoltaic (PV) for example fell by 58 percent from 2010 to 2015, making it more competitive at the utility scale. The estimated LCOE in 2025 is expected to be a mere 6 cents per kilowatt-hour for solar PV and 5 cents for onshore wind energy.
Although concentrating solar power (CSP) and offshore wind energy are “in their deployment infancy,” falling costs have already made them attractive in some markets with an LCOE of 15 cents and 18 cents per kWh respectively, IRENA found.
The fashion industry is said to be the second dirtiest industry in the world, second only to big oil. When most of us think of pollution, we think of auto exhaust, factories, or power plants — not our clothing. In fact, cotton production is plagued by environmental and social issues. The scale of the issue is immense, with 150 million tons of clothing are sold worldwide every year, with the majority ending up in landfills. Cotton must be cultivated, traded, dyed, sewn, and shipped before it ends up on our backs — each with its associated pollution and potential social consequences. Major fashion retailer H&M is on a mission to save your fashion from ending up in landfills, and its closed-loop textile recycling initiative with I:CO is the first step in doing so.
Cotton is a demanding crop. It can require 20,000 liters of water to produce just one t-shirt or pair of jeans. Most cotton is grown on irrigated land to satiate the needs of this thirsty crop, which can threaten water security in some areas. Although a mere 2.4% of cropland cultivates cotton, it accounts for 24% and 11% of the world’s pesticide and insecticide use respectively. In addition, the dying process is both energy and very chemically intensive. Discharge water contaminated with chemicals from the dying produces threatens waterways and fresh water supplies. To top it off, the garment industry in general is tremendously wasteful, as most clothing is not recycled and rather ends up in landfills. So many resources go into clothing with only one life.
By Sarah Lozanova
Greater energy independence, freedom from fluctuating energy prices, and environmentally friendly living are alluring concepts that motivated my family to examine our housing and our lifestyle. We recently purchased a high-performance home and installed a solar system, making our home net-zero. We now produce as much power as we use over the course of a year.
Realizing the Dream of a Net-Zero HomeTo realize the dream of a net-zero home, we bought a superefficient home atBelfast Cohousing & Ecovillage, a 36-unit multigenerational community in Midcoast Maine with triple-pane windows and doors, virtually airtight construction, a solar orientation and lots of insulation. The sun, appliances and occupants provide a majority of the heat needed to keep our home cozy.
On sunny winter days, our heaters remain off, as the sun gradually warms the house. Electric baseboard heaters kick on as needed, primarily at night or on cold, cloudy days. The home is all electric—with an electric range, hot water heaters and space heaters. Because we don’t use propane, natural gas or heating oil, a solar system can produce all the energy that our home consumes.
By Sarah Lozanova
As the US economy improves, the size of most new homes continues to expand. The average new home is now more than 2,600 square feet, compared to less than 1,000 square feet in 1950. Keep in mind that the average family size has shrunk considerably in recent decades.
This highlights a cultural shift, as many Americans are giving each child their own bedroom, and bathrooms are becoming more plentiful, sophisticated and spacious. Many families buy the largest house they can afford, which is encouraged by low interest rates. It is common for families to pay 1/3 to 1/2 of their income on housing. As homes become larger, the environmental impact typically expands as well, as more resources are needed to construct, maintain, heat, cool, and furnish them. Is there a green living alternative?
There has been a green living, tiny house and small house movement underway since the 1970s driven by environmental, financial, and time concerns related to the ever expanding American dream house. Tiny homes are typically less than 400 square feet, while small homes are usually under 1,000.
Some of my friends and family raised an eyebrow when I announced that my family of four (with a son and daughter) were to live in a new two-bedroom, 900-square-foot home in Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage (BC&E)—a multi-generational community and ecovillage in Midcoast Maine, located 2½ miles from the town center and the Penobscot Bay.
by Sarah Lozanova
Did you know that Americans use 50 billion plastic water bottles each year, with a recycling rate of only 23%? From an environmental standpoint, it brings up numerous concerns. Kicking our bottled water habit can conserve resources, but what are we going to do with the billions of plastic bottles that are recycled? How do we boost stubbornly low plastic bottle recycling rates?
Luckily, Patagonia has been looking at this issue for decades and has made considerable progress in turning plastic trash into polyester fabric for apparel. The company has found a way to actually upcycle plastic bottles, finding a good use for this waste stream by turning it into a higher value goods.
In 1993, Patagonia produced the first polyester fleece jacket from recycled bottles. It had a green tint, from green soda bottles. Now, manufacturing waste, plastic bottles, and worn out clothing is recycled into new apparel, literally closing the recycling loop. Patagonia's product line has expanded from fleece jackets to include 82 products with recycled polyester, including insulated pants, down jackets, and beanies.
By Sarah Lozanova
The U.S. has enough installed solar energy capacity to power 4.6 million homes. Solar energy accounted for 32 percent of total new power generation in 2014, exceeding coal and wind energy but lagging behind natural gas. In just nine years, the installed cost of solar energy has fallen by more than 73 percent – setting up the industry for explosive growth.
TriplePundit spoke with Vikram Aggarwal, founder and CEO of EnergySage, the so-called “Expedia of solar,” about solar energy trends and what to expect for 2016 in the residential market.
1. Unprecedented boom continues
Last year, analysts predicted that solar would grow by 57.4 gigawatts in 2015. The recent five-year extension of the investment tax credit (ITC) in the U.S. for both residential and commercial installations further enhances the growth trend. Now that solar manufacturing capacity has expanded significantly, the price of solar equipment has plummeted – making solar energy cheaper than grid-supplied power in many markets.
“The residential solar market is a vibrant $7 billion industry, and on track to generate more revenue by year-end 2016 than Major League Baseball,” Aggarwal said. “The economics of solar are rapidly changing for solar shoppers, installers and financiers alike.”
Freelance clean energy writer