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How Your Family Can Easily Transition to a Greener Life



children By vastateparksstaff via Flickr

Regardless of what Kermit may say, being green is a lot easier than you might think. The key to making a successful transition to living green is to do it in small steps — or as Kermit would say, by taking “tadpole hops.” If you set monthly goals for you and your family to take one step toward living a totally green life, it will be no problem to master.

Here are some suggestions on how you can make the change:

1. Clean Green

Whether you clean daily or just once a week, there are options for natural cleaners that will not only make you Martha Stewart’s best friend, but will also be better for you and the planet. There are manufactured products, such as Method, that make biodegradable, naturally derived, and non-toxic household cleaners, laundry soaps and more.

If you don’t have time to run to the store, you probably already have what you need at home to make your own cleaners. You can just do quick search on Pinterest and find a variety of natural cleaning options.

2. Shop Green

You might already savvy at bringing your own bags to the grocery store, but if not, this is the one of the easiest ways to start going green. Most large grocery chains now offer reusable shopping bags, or you can purchase them from a variety of websites.

Because they are bigger than plastic bags, you can put more in them, likely reducing the number of trips needed to unload. These bags also often make attractive choices for storing your items for activities like a trip to the beach or even as a gift bag.

Additionally, if you do have a bunch of plastic grocery bags sitting at home, don’t throw them out. Check to see if there is a drop-off at the store for you to recycle them.

3. Drive Green

When it comes to alternative fuels for cars, the options that will be available in the next decade are incredible. Gasoline will remain the most expensive and available alternative, at least in the short term, but it will soon be left behind by biodiesel, methanol, ethanol, compressed natural gas, hydrogen and electricity. In 2012, Americans used 13% less gas — more than 15.9 billion gallons less, than they had in 2007 because of the availability of alternative fuels.

4. Eat Green

Literally and figuratively, this is one of the healthiest suggestions for going green. Consider starting a garden, either in your yard or as part of a community garden, and grow your own fruits and vegetables. You can be sure your garden isn’t sprayed with dangerous chemicals. Also, if everyone grew a garden, there would be fewer large trucks on the road using gasoline and emitting pollutants to deliver vegetables and fruits to grocery stores.

If you don’t have space for a garden and can’t find a community one near you, consider looking for local farmer’s markets in your area.

5. Dress Green

You don’t necessarily have to dress in green, but be aware of where your clothing is made and from what materials. Buying clothes that are made in your own country reduces the number of times products will need to be flown or shipped in from outside the country. It also provides stateside jobs while at the same time reducing the sweatshop and the underage, underpaid jobs from outsourced clothing manufacturers. It increases the economic purchasing power for the country, too.

Dressing and shopping green also means buying from companies that practice good corporate social responsibility and are mindful of reducing the amount of chemicals and toxic waste they use and generate.

6. Unwind Green

Choose one long weekend a month, from the end of your business day on Friday to the moment you walk in the office on Monday to disconnect from all social media, telephones and televisions. Turn the computers and tablets off and get outside. Go for a walk, a picnic or a bicycle ride. Go watch the kids in Little League play baseball even if you don’t have a kid on the team. No matter what you decide to do, just do it outside.

7. Recycle Green

Recycling is more than just turning in plastic, aluminum and glass. Recycling green also means changing the way you use and purchase those items. For example, instead of getting a paper or Styrofoam coffee cup at your favorite coffee shop drive-thru in the morning, make your own coffee or ask if they will fill your own reusable plastic or glass thermos. Bring a coffee mug from home to use for the office coffee bar. Do you get soda drinks on the go at lunch? Bring your own reusable tumbler.

8. Water Green

Whether you live in a tropical rainforest, or in the desert, there are ways you can both recycle water or use it in a green fashion. This includes harvesting rainwater, showering and washing clothes less often. You can also use the drain-off from washing laundry to water your lawn and gardens.

Additionally, you might want to consider incorporating drought-resistant plants into your landscaping designs and use a hoop or greenhouse for your garden plants so they won’t lose as much water to evaporation.

Living green can be easier than you expect when you take small steps. The options are limitless.

Bobbi Peterson

Bobbi Peterson loves writing and regularly posts on her blog Living Life Green. She’s also a freelance writer, green living advocate and environmentalist. You can find more from Bobbi on Twitter.



Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?



sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees



As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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