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The Downside of Ice Melt

This blog post was originally published on Keen For Green in February 2011, but it's such useful information that we like to repost it every winter.

http://www.analogphotography.comI don't know about the rest of you, but I can tell you that we in the Midwest have had the snowiest, iciest, coldest winter in decades, and it's really gotten me thinking. Since I became a dog mom in January of 2002 I've heard that ice melt is bad for dogs. This has led me to always keep a mat at my front door and religiously take off my shoes the moment I enter the house. I've also stopped using any ice melting product in the back yard, my dog's domain. But is there any truth to this ice melt rumor? If so, what exactly can ice melt to do a dog? 

According to the ASPCA, it is the sodium chloride and calcium chloride in the most common ice melts that is potentially damaging to the puppy in your life. If your dog walks on an ice melt containing one of these chemicals, her paws can become dry and cracked. And if she licks her paws or eats the ice melt (the ASPCA cautions that she can also ingest it by drinking from a puddle of melted snow containing ice melt), her problems can get worse. The ASPCA lists symptoms from as mild as excessive drooling and loss of appetite to as severe as decreased muscle function, coma, and death. ... read more

Keeping Your Drafty House Warm - On a Budget

insulating a house in the winter on a budgetI live in an area where most of the houses are about 100 years old - ours is 140 years old!  A lot of us battle drafty windows and doorways, but doing renovations are not always in the budget.  

Before you get started, look into state programs that help make costly energy efficient renovations more reasonable.  I live in Massachusetts, so we have the Mass Save program which offers loans and rebates.  Check your area to see what's available.

If renovations are still too costly, if your area doesn't offer incentives, or if you rent your home, there are still lots of ways to make your house a little warmer.  My tips are cheap, easy, and quick!

Before we talk about drafts, my first recommendation is to buy a programmable thermostat.  Set it so that the heat goes down during the day when nobody's home and at night when you're sleeping.  This doesn't help with drafts, but it will help with heating costs and wasted energy.  In the past few years, there have been some awesome developments in programmable thermostats.  There are a new type called "smart thermostats" which have wifi capability so you can adjust them from your phone, tablet, or computer.  They're a little more expensive than your average thermostat but you will save money on your heating bills.  ... read more

Are Gift Cards Recyclable?

Every holiday season, you're bound to end up with a few gift cards.  The gift card market is a multi-billion dollar industry, with sales expected to climb to $52.2 billion by 2012!  That's a lot of gift cards that need to be disposed of properly.  

Unfortunately, gift cards are often made of PVC.  PVC is toxic to produce and seldom accepted through curbside recycling plans.  Because of this, I was surprised to see gift cards listed as the greenest gift choice in Country Homes Magazine.  ... read more

Keen For Green Holiday Gift Guide

20 more shopping days 'til Christmas!   I’m sure there are many of you who barely started your shopping.  (Like me!) Stumped on what to get friends and family?  I’m here to help!  Here are some of my favorite green gift ideas:

eco-lovers tea cupFor the coffee lover:

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Real vs. Fake Christmas Trees & the Environment

real vs. fake christmas treesWho is planning to deck the halls this weekend?

You might be wondering what the most eco-friendly solution is in terms of buying a Christmas tree.  Is buying a real Christmas tree bad for the environment?  Or what about the fake ones?  What are your options to keep your Christmas tree, well, green?... read more

Environmentally Friendly Wrapping Paper Options

'Tis the season to start Christmas shopping! There are plenty of ways to keep your holiday shopping green, but how can you wrap your gifts in a festive way that is also eco-friendly?

A lot of times typical wrapping paper is not recyclable, especially if it has tape on it, so be aware of that before wrapping your gifts in that. There are lots of recycled and sustainable giftwrap options out there, so if you like the traditional look of wrapping paper, go that route! ... read more

Don't waste those Thanksgiving leftovers!

Previously, I wrote a post about how much energy is used on wasted food.   With the beginning of the holiday season arriving, it's hard not to end up with lots of leftovers.  The green thing to do is to make sure you use up those leftovers!   Wasted Food says:  Be Thankful, Not Wasteful!  

First, don't make more food than you don't need.  Here's a chart of how much food will feed how many guests.  

Second, try to give as much to your guests to take home as possible.  Put together little doggie bags for everyone so they can enjoy the leftovers as well.

Even so, you might still end up with leftovers.  After your green Thanksgiving, you may choose to stay home on Black Friday instead of braving the crowds while enjoying all of that leftover turkey, pumpkin pie, and sweet potatoes.   But by Saturday, you might be tired of the same old turkey and mashed potatoes.  Time to get creative!... read more

Make Black Friday a Little Greener

Black Friday a.k.a. the day after Thanksgiving a.k.a. one of the biggest shopping days of the year.  Stampedes, traffic jams in parking lots, and BIG sales.  I've never been one to brave the shopping crowds; I always devoted the day after Turkey Day to alternating between stuffing my face with leftovers and lying on the couch in a carb and tryptophan coma, but Black Friday is incredibly popular.  Over recent years, there's been a Black Friday backlash and Adbusters dubbed the day Buy Nothing Day

Obviously, shopping on Black Friday is not the eco-friendliest way to spend a day.  But, let's say you wake up the morning after Thanksgiving, pumped up on adrenaline and ready to shop 'til you drop, that's cool, too.   How can you make your Black Friday shopping spree a little greener?

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Green Your Turkey Day!

Less than three weeks 'til Thanksgiving!  If you're having Thanksgiving right now, you might be thinking about ways to make your Thanksgiving dinner a little greener.

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  • Look into getting a local free range turkey.  You may need to order one in advance, so start making calls now!  Lower your Thanksgiving's carbon footprint and support a local farm!

  • Make as much at home as possible.  Things like cranberry sauce often come in cans, creating more waste.  Find some fresh cranberries and make your own sauce.  (And if you're near cranberry bogs, get some yummy local ones!)  

  • Use up the whole turkey.  My husband loves those giblets, but I can't stomach them.  You can always use them to cook things like gravy.  As for the bones and stuff, consider making some soup the following day.  My husband is half Chinese, so his tradition is to make jook (Chinese porridge) the next day with the turkey carcass.  Check out this recipe.  


Fun Fact Friday - Stop Junk Mail

junk mailAre you sick and tired of coming home from work and seeing that your mailbox is full of with unsolicited mail, including those particularly annoying preapproved credit card applications?  Well, for today's Fun Fact Friday, I'm here to tell you that there's a way to put an end to that - or at least to lessen the stacks of junk mail you receive.  ... read more