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A Beginners GuideTo Making the Perfect Homemade Compost

Composting is more than a heap of trash; it is a carefully developed mix of elements. With the right balance, a compost heap will decompose, creating a nutrient rich substance that can then be spread over a garden or allotment to facilitate growth. Compost can enhance any plant or green space and, unlike many other fertilisers, it is safe and free of chemicals.

We all know that fertilizers can improve the appearance of our plants, and, more importantly, make them grow bigger. However, they can also create health and environmental dangers. Fertilizers have a real negative impact on the environment:

  • Groundwater Pollution – fertilizers can contaminate groundwater, which in turn leads to the pollution of lakes and rivers. This can seriously harm wildlife, as well as potentially harming human health.
  • Health Dangers – Fertilizers can also be dangerous to pets and children, causing increased risk of leukaemia, asthma, allergies, birth defects and decreased fertility.

However, fear not. You can still grow fantastic vegetables and beautiful flowers without harming the environment in anyway. In fact, by growing your own produce you will be helping the environment as it means less transport around the globe. And the best way of getting the most out of you vegetable patch is by using your own homemade compost.

Like so many things, getting started is all about location, location, location. The most important element when placing a compost bin is direct sunlight. A compost bin should be placed in a moderately shady area in order to help with the breaking down process. For this reason, many individuals choose to place their compost bin behind garden sheds or near the back of the property. However, I would certainly recommend having it down wind, as the smell of rotting vegetables isn’t for everyone! No matter where the bin is placed, it is probably ideal to anchor it, possibly using the ground, garden sheds or trees in order to prevent anything from tipping the bin and causing an unseemly mess.

Once you’ve found the ideal location to place your compost heap, it’s important to find the right container for it. Now whilst there are specialised compost bins out there on the market, it is also possible to make a bin out old garbage cans or barrels.  And, obviously, using any recycled material will only add to the environmental benefit of your compost heap. Make sure to drill holes in any container, in order to provide proper oxygen to the compost inside.

The next step is to create the right balance of elements in the compost bin. There should be two distinct layers in healthy compost. First, there should be plenty of carbon which is basically dry leaves or dead plants from the garden or shredded paper. The carbon should alternate with nitrogen layers. These layers consist of grass clippings or fresh weeds as well as scraps from the kitchen. A healthy compost heap will have a three to one ratio of carbon to nitrogen.This basically means three to one ratio of dead vegetation to live vegetation.

Many people also opt to add a compost starter, such as manure, in order to accelerate decomposition. Either way, a compost bin must be watered consistently in order to keep the environment damp. While water is critical, the bin should never be sopping. Then, every few days, it is important to mix the compost with a shovel in order to maximise the breakdown process. New scraps may be added to the pile but should always be thoroughly mixed in, if only to avoid creating too much stench.

This cycle should be repeated until the compost is ready, which may take up to a year in cooler climates. Compost is ready to be used when it has a fine, consistent texture. At this point, compost may be added liberally to a garden or allotment in order to enrich the ground and help plants grow. Ultimately, compost is an environmentally friendly way to save money and reduce waste, with the benefit of creating the best fertiliser possible.

(Guest post by Dave Harrison)

(Image Created 6/12/2006 Photographer: Kessner Photography, GNU Free Documentation, via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Top 5 Green Cars in 2011

Recent developments in alternate fuels has sparked interest in green cars that are able to compete favorably with conventional vehicles. Experts believe that the trend in adapting alternate fuel technology will spark a worldwide competition to produce highly efficient cars. These technologies include conventional ICE, bio-diesel, electric, hydrogen, and hybrid car engines. Green-car owners should not forget to compare car insurance quotes online to find the best price, since the rising demand in alternate fuel has also forced insurance providers to offer lucrative deals to customers buying fuel-efficient vehicles.

In fact, the best selling green car, Toyota Prius, has sold more than 2 million units. Such is the buying frenzy that Toyota is already planning to introduce two new versions of the Prius brand by the end of year 2011. It seems that the competition is heating up further because consumers are aware of the rapid advances in green car technology.

The rivalry has prompted car manufacturers to produce a variety of attractive green cars in 2011. Here is a rundown of top 5 green cars for 2011 that are sure to make an impact.

1. Chevy Volt

It has been a while since General Motors has made a huge news splash in the motor industry. Last year, the introduction of the Chevy Volt was enough to made headlines across the world. The futuristic looking Chevy is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle that can travel 50 miles without recharging.

The fuel economy is an astounding 93 mpg. Its diesel engine automatically takes over after the depletion of electric charge allowing the car to travel 379 miles without interruption. Chevy is a serious competitor to Nissan’s Leaf.

Unlike Nissan’s Leaf, the Chevy Volt is suitable for long journeys. The electricity is also produced by a regenerative braking system. The price tag is $40,000 in the United States, but some states are now offering federal tax credits and discounts of $8000.

2. Nissan Leaf

Just a couple of years ago, few had envisioned Nissan to seriously challenge Toyota and Honda for the revolutionary green car. This car is truly a vision of the future because the electric batteries provide a whopping 99 mpg and a range of almost 109 miles.

Furthermore, it is built from recycled materials including plastic bottles and trash cans. Yet, the design is enough to inspire the harshest critic. Nissan has been testing these cars since 2002 by using it as a maintenance vehicle driven by its staff.

Designers claim that the price range of only $32,000 may reduce further. Amazingly, the price tag includes a recharging kit. Most European countries are also providing tax relief on buying these environmental friendly cars. The car does not produce any tailpipe emission or green house emissions.

3. Volkswagen Golf TDI

There are few cars on the street that can match VW Golf’s 42 highways miles per gallon. Fuel economy is only one factor that has contributed to the overwhelming success of the model. Consumers also love its roomy interior, cargo capacity and acceleration.

The 2.0 liter four cylinders clean turbo diesel comes with either a 5 speed manual or 6 speed automatic transmissions. Music lovers will love 8 speaker surround sound system compatible with WMA and MP3 players. Likewise, families are sure to endorse safety features including 6 airbags and an electronic stability control system.

4. Ford Focus Electric

The very first Ford electric vehicle was showcased at recent Las Vegas and Detroit auto shows. Equipped with 23 kWh electric battery, the car can travel 100 miles without recharging. Interestingly, it takes only 3 to 4 hours for the 240 volt charger to recharge.

The Ford Focus Electric is designed for families who should be satisfied with a top speed of 84 mph. Its stylish looks imitate recent Ford models. Likewise, its interior is crafted to provide all the basics provisions. An onboard navigational system featuring eco-routing is among the many extras that designers have thrown in to attract potential buyers.

5. Lexus GS 450h

The star attraction of this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show was the Lexus full-hybrid sedan that can produce 338 hp to accelerate 60 mph in just 5.6 seconds. Its hybrid drive system is already been tested by various processors including Toyota Prius. Next year, when it will be tested for fuel emissions, Toyota hopes that the car will be certified as Super-Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle.

The 3.5 liter engine is powered by electric motor. For families, Lexus GS 450h can easily accommodate five passengers. As for sports buffs, the innovative drive mode selector can convert this vehicle into Sports S or Sport S+ modes.

The Rise of Green Cars

More than 43 million alternate fuel cars have been sold worldwide as of 2011. At least 52 different cars are available in the market. A popular company in California has already started offering a 10% discount on alternate car insurance. Earth-conscious drivers should shop around to find the best green car to fit their needs, and can receive discounts in other ways for going green.

Guest author Susan B.

(Image by R34SkylineGT-R V-SpecⅡNür (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons)

Unusual ways to save energy

If you are looking to reduce your energy bills or are simply concerned about the environmental issues associated with high energy consumption then you may well benefit from some of the more unusual ways to save energy that you just might not have thought of.

It may sound strange but a well located tree can reduce your air conditioning costs by as much as 25%.  As a rule of thumb, evergreens should be located on the north side of a property and tree that forms a thick canopy should be located on the south and west sides of the property. This will maximise their effectiveness.

When an air conditioning unit is located at low level it is important that plants and shrubs do not restrict airflow to the unit. Trim back any branches etc and you will allow the unit to work with less effort therefore running more efficiently.

If your property does not have insulated cavity walls, try installing ornamental quilts to the walls and placing large furniture such as wardrobes or sofas against them. Although not extremely effective, every little saving helps.

Add a reflecting panel behind radiators to ensure they are as cost effective as possible to run. A reflective shield works by reflecting the heat that would normally go into the wall behind the radiator back out into the room. You will probably be able to turn down the thermostat a degree or too as a result.

If your home has a bedroom over the top of the garage then consider installing high quality, insulated garage doors. These types of doors are generally sectional garage doors or insulted roller garage doors.

Rather than working your air conditioning unit to the max, try running it at half power but use a couple of table fans as well. They will use much less energy to run but still give the desired effect of moving cool air around the room.

In order to reduce your motoring bills, ensure your car tyres are inflated to the correct pressure. Underinflated tyres are not only dangerous but will also increase your car’s petrol consumption as the engine has to work harder to make the wheels move.

Leave your car in the garage at night during the winter as garage doors help to create a barrier against the cold. This means that when you come to start the car in the morning, the temperature will raise much faster, making for a fuel saving.

When making a hot drink, only fill the kettle with the desired amount of water. This way you are not paying to heat water that you will not be using.

With most households now having at least on electrical item in each room of the house a massive energy saving can be found if you ensure the items are turned off at the plug and not left on stand-by when they are not in use. Do this for a whole year and you will be amazed at the cost savings.

To conclude, the list is pretty endless when it comes to tips to saving energy. Look at the way you live and really examine every detail to see how best you can reduce energy consumption.

 

This article has been written by Dan Joleys @ www.rollerdoors.co.uk  and often writes about green products for the home.

(Image by Anton Fomkin, CC by 2.0, via Flickr)

 

The Best Eco-retreats in the World

Holidays can be a slight source of stress for the ecologically minded. Flights, cars, rampant waste – every step of your vacation appears to increase your carbon footprint or damage Mother Earth in some way. But now you can take a break while doing a good deed for the planet. Eco-resorts and retreats have sprung up the world over, blending luxury with sustainability. Here are a few of the finest.

CESiaK – Mexico

Sounds confusing, but it stands for Centro Ecologico Sian Ka’an and sits on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. This centre provides a model for global ecotourism as well as offering accommodation and activities that are dedicated to the conservation of the fragile Sian Ka’an biosphere close to Cancun. Built on the concrete ruins of a former hotel, the site now tries to maximise luxury while minimising the impact on the beautiful surroundings. Visitors can enjoy fly-fishing, bird watching kayaking or a tour of the nearby Mayan Ruins of Tulum, while staying in comfortable deluxe or double tent cabins.

Jungle Bay Resort & Spa – Dominican, WI

If you like your eco-visiting with a touch of pampering then this jungle paradise is the perfect place for you. Thirty-five huge tropical hardwood cottages sit amongst the Cedar, Gomier and Galba trees, in complete isolated luxury. The resort attempts to provide the finest possible service and attractions while working within the International Ecotourism Society guidelines. As well as the cliff-side spa offering massages and treatments using local Caribbean ingredients, there is also a private beach, hiking trails, excursions to local beauty spots, kayaking, snorkelling and much more.

http://www.junglebaydominica.com/

Vanua Levu – Fiji

This multi-award winning green hotel and resort is nestled in the South Pacific and can fully claim to be a paradise on Earth. Pick one of the twenty plus cottages, built from local sustainable materials and enjoy a number of environmentally friendly activities. Take an expert guided dive to the local coral reefs, take a rain forest hike to local waterfalls, drift away in the freshwater swimming pool, take a morning yoga lesson, or just look at the incredible scenery. The on-site expert chef uses organically grown food to create a wide-range of culinary delights and you even get a free foot massage when you turn up! Who could ask for anything more?

www.fijiresort.com

Shergarh – India

For a unique, exclusive and intimate wildlife experience, the tented Shargarh lodge sits on the Kanha Tiger Reserve, where hundreds of tigers and untold other animals roam. There are just six of these luxury tents, ensuring the local environment isn’t unduly affected by visitors, with each accommodation featuring it’s own private veranda, built from local materials. There are game drives twice daily to explore the incredible wildlife around you, or you can even view the tigers from the back of an elephant! Take a hike through the forest to the Banjar River, enjoy the local villages and markets or just relax in these magical surroundings.

Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa – Australia

Head to Australia’s oldest rain forest to revel in this unique resort and spa run in conjunction with the local Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal tribe. This focus on local culture, means Daintree is one of the only places where visitors can experience Aboriginal culture in its element. You stay in one of fifteen forest located ‘tree-houses’, all secluded and designed to be both eco-friendly and to utilise fully the magnificence of the surroundings. As well as hiking and waterfall tours, Aboriginal Cultural Guides lead you through activities sacred to these indigenous people and the spa offers specialised massages and therapies inspired by the local tribes and environment.

 

About the Author: Dale Shaw writes for Wish.co.uk who specialise in experience days, spa days and other exciting unique gifts. To see what they have on offer, simply browse the website and see if anything takes your fancy!

(Image by RodBland, CC by 2.0, via Flickr)

Leave No Trace – Protect the Environment

How to Leave No Trace Outdoors

Going green and living an environmentally friendly lifestyle is a familiar 21st century concept to consumers now, however the actual movement of environmental responsibility has been around for decades.  It is known as “Leave No Trace“.

The movement traces its beginnings to the 1960s when the number of visitors to the wilderness areas of our country [ed. note: this is US-based, but the principles are global] began to multiply.  Later, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management began an educational campaign to teach our wilderness visitors how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly.  The effort was soon joined by the Sierra Club and the Boy Scouts of America.  The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics was founded in 1994 and their educational efforts have spread throughout our states as well as many foreign countries.

Leave No Trace is a set of seven principles or guidelines designed to protect our environment as we enjoy the outdoors.  Here are the seven guidelines that are the basis for environmental responsibility in the outdoors.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Whether you are car camping or backpacking, you should research the potential campsite.  There may be restrictions on firewood due to invasive pests.  Open fires may not be allowed due to dangerous drought conditions.  If the water isn’t drinkable, you may need to bring some type of water purification system.
  • Choose your meals carefully.  There are many options for easy to prepare, lightweight meals.  Since you must pack out what you bring in, eliminate as much packaging as you can before you leave home.  Put your meals in zip loc bags and carefully label them with directions for cooking.  Use the empty zip loc bags to pack out your waste.
  • Be realistic about the abilities of your companions.  Plan your hikes or other activities based upon their physical strength.  This is especially important if you have children in your party.  If you are backpacking, allow plenty of time to find a backcountry site and to set it up.  If you are in a campground, give yourself enough time to eat and clean up before it gets dark.

Travel and Camp On Durable Surfaces

  • If you are camping in a traditional campground with prepared sites, you want to keep your tent, camp kitchen and fire ring fairly close together.  Avoid spreading out and trampling new vegetation.  The loss of vegetation causes soil erosion and water runoff which can pollute the surrounding waterways.
  •  If you are backpacking, you want to spread out as much as possible to prevent unnecessary destruction of the vegetation.  Try to vary your routes within the campsite as much as possible.
  • As you are leaving your campsite, restore it to the way it was before you arrived.  If you are in the backcountry, it is especially important that your former site becomes invisible.  That makes it more likely that backpackers will choose other sites, lessening the impact on the environment.

Dispose Of Waste Properly

  • Do not toss your leftovers from meals, paper or tin foil into the woods.  If there are trashcans available, use them.  Otherwise, you will have to pack your trash out.
  • Dispose of human waste properly.  Dig a cat hole at least 200 feet from your campsite and from any water source.  It should be at least 6 inches deep.  You use it only once.  When you are finished, put your toilet paper in the hole and fill it back in.

Leave What You Find

  • Do not remove any rocks, flowers or plants.  Follow the motto, “Take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints.
  • If you are in a historical area, don’t pick up rocks or other artifacts.  Leave them for others to enjoy.
  • If there was a fire ring at your campsite when you arrived, leave it as it is.  However, if you built your own, you should dismantle it and restore the site to its original look.

Minimise Use and Impact Of Fire

  • Use a cooking stove to prepare your meals.  The Coleman Road Trip Grill-Blue gives you many cooking options.  If you must have a campfire, build it on rock, sand or gravel.  Another option is to use the bottom of a barbecue grill or an old trash can lid.  That makes it easy to remove any trace of the fire.
  • Collect only firewood that you find on the ground.  Never strip live wood off of a tree.  Any unused wood should be returned to the forest.
  • Make sure your fire is completely out when you leave.  Let it burn down to ashes and then douse it with water.  Scatter the cold ashes in the woods.

Respect Wildlife

  • Do not feed any wild life and do not try to get closer for a better look.  Have a good pair of binoculars on hand so you can observe the wildlife safely.  The Nikon 7294 is an excellent choice.
  • Keep anything that has an odor out of your tent.  This includes toothpaste, deodorant and any snacks that you might have.  Animals are attracted by the scent and you don’t want to have a surprise visit from a critter in the night.

Be Considerate Of Others

  • If you must listen to radios or MP3 players, use earphones.  People go camping to get away from noise pollution.  Don’t bring it with you.
  • Avoid loud games and rough housing at the campsite.  Most campgrounds have a play area set aside for your children’s use.
  • If you bring pets, you must clean up after them.  If they make a lot of noise, perhaps they should be left at home.
  • If you are camping in the backcountry, make your campsite out of sight of the trail.

These are easy to follow guidelines to help you to “go green” in the outdoors.  Environmental protection should be the concern of everyone.  By following the Leave No Trace rules, we can be sure that we are protecting our outdoors and leaving it for the enjoyment of others who come after us.

Author Bio:  Stephanie lives near the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia where she loves to hike.  She has a website, Always Outdoors, where she writes about outdoor activities and reviews the Coleman 3 room cabin tent.

(Image by krayker, stock.xchng)

 

Save by Reusing: Original Ideas for Old Car Usage

Can’t decide what to do with your old car? If it’s not worth selling, try one of these unconventional ideas:

1. Go Green

What’s greener than potted plants? You can always remove the seats to make the world’s largest flower box. If the neighbors aren’t thrilled with your new showpiece even if it is sprouting award-winning petunias and forget-me-nots, give them an hour-long lecture on the value of recycling. They’ll be so embarrassed their old car ended up in the trash that they won’t say another word!

2. Burglar Repellent

Leaving a car in the driveway will keep the burglars away! It won’t even matter if old newspapers are piled up higher than the flat tires. If they manage to see through your ruse, your old clunker will still convince them your house simply isn’t worth robbing. They’ll go to your neighbor’s home instead. You know, the one with the shiny Mercedes parked in the driveway.

3. Yabba-Dabba-Doo!

Now’s your chance to make a childhood dream come true! Who didn’t want that cool car from the Flintstones? Simply cut out the floor-board, and you’re ready to go! You’ll even kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. Your new ride will be both environmentally friendly and health conscious as you save gas and burn calories at the same time!

4. Put It to Good Use

If you really want to be responsible, donate your old car to a good cause. In addition to feeling good about helping out someone less fortunate, you may also qualify for a tax deduction and receive a free hotel voucher to use during your next vacation. This is a great way to get rid of an unwanted car or truck once and for all!

5. Convert It Into a Rental Property

If the rent in your neighborhood is sky high, some thrifty individuals might resort to anything to save a buck or two. Simply hang a few curtains in the windows and rent your old ride out as a spare bedroom. Of course, this always works out best if you’re partial to larger sedans with comfy back seats! If your car is a sub-compact, you’ll definitely have to lower your rates until they’re really close to the ground.

6. Spread the Wealth!

If nothing else works, do a little self-recycling. Wouldn’t your kids love four new tire swings? And that bench seat would look awesome on your front porch! If you see anyone taking pictures, you can bet it’s a reporter from Better Homes and Junk-Piles or Backwoods Living! Of course, once your showplace hits the front page, everyone will want a piece of your prized possession. Why not make their dreams come true? A bolt here, a gasket there, and your car will simply disappear before your very eyes!

If you’ve ever had a car that was too far gone to trade in, you’ve probably dreamt of creative ways to get rid of it. Short of throwing a match in the gas tank, let us know your creative solutions.

Annie is a sustainable and frugal blogger for Credit Card Finder, the free credit card comparison for Australians.

Cheap Tricks for a Greener Home

Canada is a first world country that is at the forefront of cutting down carbon emissions and encouraging a green lifestyle. Solar technology, wind power, electric cars – all of these amazing technological developments are starting to find a serious foothold in Canada. But what can the average Canadian do to help to save the planet? Perhaps a few tricks from the third world can help.

Firstly, let’s consider some options for saving on your heating costs for those who have to contend with bitter cold. There are a few little tricks in impoverished countries that might help lower your costs and your impact. First up, keep your geyser warm. The pipes that speed the hot water around your home are thin and often lead to the water losing a lot of heat on the journey from the geyser to the tap. Use old clothes and blankets to wrap your pipes, so that heat is saved. Also, check the insulation along the links of the pipes. Doing this properly means that you can afford to lower your thermostat, reducing costs and your electricity demands. The next tip is about personal warmth. Heaters and electric blankets are great, but they burn fuel, be it oil, coal, or electricity. Why not go old school and use more blankets. Layering blankets will insulate you from the bitterest cold, and encourage companionship. Also, blankets made from recycled materials are available, which also means lowered environmental impact during production.

The converse is true, and there are lots of ways to keep yourself cool that won’t impact on your wallet or the world’s climate. In countries without air conditioning, the easiest answer is to open a window. The breeze is often enough to cool you down, especially in Canada’s temperate climate. Drinking lots of water will also help ease the discomfort during warm spells. And finally, go for a swim. This is a great family activity that promotes good health and an active lifestyle, and it will definitely keep you cool!

Sometimes the easiest solutions are to be found around the house. Look for easy ways to cut down your green footprint. Switch off appliances, have a candlelit dinner, read instead of watching TV, carpool, walk more, use your own shopping bags … the list is endless. Keep it simple; make it a lifestyle, and help to save the world from itself and us.

This guest post was written by Victoria. She is a freelance writer who is learning about employment in Canada.

(Image by sundstrom, stock.xchng)

Celebrating Green Canada

Big business is responsible for massive carbon emissions and environmental damage, but luckily there are a lot of ways that they are trying to reverse this trend. Canada is one of many countries across the world that is incorporating various strategies in order to encourage big business to change their ways. Initiatives such as the Golden Trash Awards reward companies for making green websites and business decisions. But what can your business do to join in?

Business people enjoy compartmentalising, and so you can structure green drive at work in the same way. Why not give each department a week in order to come up with a unique green strategy? They will come up with ideas for recycling, using organic food, creating company carpools etc. Then, incorporate all of these strategies and make sure that the employees are excited about making real, important changes.

Here are a few ideas that might get you started:

Firstly, paper waste. The majority of Canadian businesses have already moved from manual to digital recording, but there is always the need for paper in any business. The first step is to recycle used paper instead of throwing it away. Also, you can start off by switching to recycled paper in the first place. If big business all makes an active decision to do this, the effect can be drastic.

Secondly, keep local where possible. You need the best for your business, and this is understandable. Whether its computers, stationary or carpeting, there is a certain standard that you wish to maintain. But this doesn’t mean that you have to ship in these items from across the borders. Transport has a massive impact on the environment, so try to see if you can get what you need locally. This will also build up partnerships which will benefit your business, and boost the area economy.

Finally, let’s talk lunch. Try to incorporate organic local produce where possible. A sandwich that is made from local produce is greener to transport, and green, organic farming methods are far better for the environment. Also, urge your employees to use their own water bottles at work instead of using plastic or polystyrene cups.

These tips may seem minor and somewhat silly, but the whole idea is that implementing small change on a big scale will lead to significant change. Brainstorm and see what you and your employees can come up with.

 

This guest post was written by Victoria. She is currently studying the Canadian economy.

 

(Image by jaylopez, stock.xchng)

 

Largest Solar Park in the World Nears Completion on Former Mine – Race to Overtake It Already On

For lovers of all things solar, the news seems to get better every day. Hot on the heels of Greece’s announcement of a massive investment in solar energy (to secure the nation’s future energy needs) comes the announcement from Germany that they have just finished connecting a new 78MW section to an existing solar plant that will make it the world leader in terms of solar output and capacity. The new Senftenburg Solar Plant in East Germany will not be at the top for long as there is one being built in San Antonio in the US that is aiming for a colossal 400MW; but what will bring joy to the hearts of environmentalists is both the fact that the plant went up in only 3 months, and better still, that the title of largest solar array seems to be broken every few weeks.

The Senftenburg plant is an example to industry and governments around the world of how quickly large scale solar plants can be up and running, particularly compared with the long delays and problems associated with opening traditional power plants.

Of more symbolic importance is the fact that the solar plant was constructed on the site of an old open pit mine, which had both run its course as a productive mine and left the landscape scarred and useless. Indeed the owners of the new solar plant have also set aside a portion of the land for conservation, returning some of the landscape to its natural state.

The race for the next largest solar plant is now between a 100MW plant currently being built in France and the aforementioned 400MW plant in San Antonio. Furthermore, the utility scale developer, National Solar Power (NSP), has chosen seven communities in the southern US as possible sites for another 400MW project which will be vying with the San Antonio array for the world record, and to see who can get the project built first. NSP selected the sites based on the terrain, the political and local support for such a project, tax incentives and a workforce that is sufficiently skilled to work on the project. Communities competing for the project include Guidford County in North Carolina, Tatnall and Sumter in Georgia and Suwannee, Osceola, Hardee and Gadsden in Florida.

Alex is a journalist and blogger. He writes regularly about the environment and clean energy and blogs about everything from solar panels to passive house design.

 

(Image by sykicktb, stock.xchng)

Top 10 Tips for Going Green at Home

“Going green” is a very broad philosophy that can be intimidating in its vagueness. Don’t be scared, though! Turning your house green doesn’t mean a huge overhaul of your family’s lifestyle. The practice is all about the little, conscious efforts you make to be a better steward of your environment. Here’s a list of easy ways to “go green” in your home. Choose a few and see the benefits in your daily life.

1.     Compost

Composting is an incredible use of your household waste. You put in items that would normally be thrown away, and you get back extremely fertile soil. So not only are you reducing your household waste, but you are also saving yourself money by eliminating the need to buy fertilizer or nutrient-rich soil from the garden store. Plus, you help the environment by reducing drives to the store, reducing landfill trash, and reducing chemicals that go into the ground. Check out this list of items that are good for composting – you’ll be surprised to see how much of your daily waste can go in your composting bin!

2.     Use cloth over paper

Eliminating paper waste in your home is a great step towards being greener. It reduces waste and saves trees. Keep old t-shirts to be cleaning rags; always use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins, and you only need to wash them once a week; use dish towels, instead of paper towels for drying your hands or dishes.

3.     Donate old clothes

Take a look through your closet, drawers, and shoes, and honestly consider when the last time you wore each item was. If it’s been over a year, chances are that you’re not going to wear the item again. No matter where you are, there’s always someone who will wear it. Instead of throwing old clothes away or selling them, donate them to a second-hand clothing store or a homeless shelter. If you take them to a store, you’re helping the local economy; if you take them to a homeless shelter, you’re saving money for a wonderful outreach program. And either way, you’re recycling usable items that you did not need.

 4.     Unplug appliances

Do a walk-through of your home, and take note of all your outlets. You’ll be surprised to see how many electronics, like a computer printer or toaster, are plugged in, yet only get used every few days. If an appliance is plugged in, it’s using energy – even if it’s not turned on. Unplugging them saves energy and cuts down on your power bill.

5.     Keep your thermostat at recommended temperatures

The recommended thermostat temperature is 78° in the summer; turn it up when you’re not in the house. If it’s too hot, take off layers. In the winter, the recommended temperature is 68°, but turn it down at night. Wear layers if you feel cold.

6.     Make use of natural heating and cooling

In the winter, open all your blinds or drapes to let in natural sunlight. You may be surprised how much heat this can add to your house, thus reducing the work of your heater. Conversely, keeping sun-facing windows covered in the summer reduces the work your air conditioning has to do.

7.     Shop at a local farmer’s market

Find a farmer’s market or a co-op in your area. Supporting local farmers is great for the economy. It’s also great for your family, as fresh produce will have more nutrients than produce flown into your grocery store. Plus, you will probably save money by buying the food directly from the market, than from the grocery store.

8.     Plant an herb garden

The thought behind an herb garden is similar to the goal of shopping at a farmer’s market. Herbs are fairly expensive at the store, and tend to go bad before you are able to use the whole pack. With an herb garden, you take exactly how much you need from your own backyard. Plus, it’s always nice to know from where your food came.

9.     Use a reusable water bottle

Rather than buying plastic water bottles to stay hydrated on the go, buy a cheap reusable water bottle. If you buy plastic water bottles because you prefer the taste, buy a water filter, as well. You can install a filter on the faucet of your kitchen sink or have a water pitcher that filters. Either way, you can get the taste of filtered water in your reusable water bottle, and reduce plastic waste.

10.  Keep your lights off

This is one of those “green” tips that is almost as basic as recycling, but it’s so easy to forget. Always turn off the lights when you leave a room. Take it a step further, and use natural light as much as possible; you may be surprised at how much brighter a room is with open windows, than with the lights on. Both of these steps save energy and helpto reduce your power bill.

 

Liz Childers is a recent college graduate, who is trying to be green in her first apartment. She is also a freelancer who writes about tents for Camping Gear Outlet and wine totes for Picnic World.

 

(Image by jaylopez, stock. xchng)