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May 2011


Greener Grasses the Eco Way

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By Melinda Myers

Electric mower 2011 You can have your grass and be kind to the environment too.  It’s just a matter of changing your lawn care practices.

Proper mowing, watering, and fertilization can be the difference between a healthy lawn and a weed patch. Raise the mowing height of your lawn, if haven’t already done so. Grow cool season grasses like bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 inches tall. Warm season grasses like bermudagrass, carpetgrass, centipedegrass and zoysia should be grown at 1 to 2 inches tall, while St. Augustine should a bit higher, 2 to 3 inches, for best results. Taller grass is better able to compete with weeds. 

Mow often, removing no more than one third the total height, in order to reduce stress on the grass.  Leave the clippings on the lawn.  A season’s worth of clippings equals one fertilizer application. And make sure the blade is sharp for a better look and quicker recovery of the grass.  Consider using a push or electric mower. It’s good for the waistline and the environment. 

Proper watering helps keep your lawn healthy and better able to fend off pests and out compete the weeds. But recent droughts, increased water rates, and efforts to conserve water may mean a change of habit. Allow your lawn to go dormant during drought. Minimize foot traffic and play on dormant lawns. Don’t apply herbicides or fertilizer to dormant lawns. The fertilizer will feed the weeds and both can damage the dormant grass.

Those starting a new lawn may want to select a more drought tolerant grass suited to their climate.  Rhizomatous (turf-type) tall fescue uses less water and needs less fertilizer than traditional lawn grasses. The native buffalo grass is a more drought tolerant slow growing warm season grass. It is slow to germinate and establishes and thrives in hot weather. And those with very limited annual rainfall should consider drought tolerant native groundcovers and plantings.

Before fertilizing always start with a soil test so you apply the right type and amount of fertilizer for your lawn. Use a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer like Milorganite. This organic nitrogen fertilizer is only available to the lawn when needed and won’t damage your lawn when hot dry weather arrives

Always sweep grass clippings and fertilizer residue off your walks and drives. This simple step keeps unwanted nutrients out of our waterways and eventually drinking water.

For more earth-friendly tips, visit our Road & Travel Magazine partner site - Earth Tones.


Ten Tips for Taking a Volunteer Vacation

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Volunteer Vacation

These days, many travelers are forgoing traditional vacations in order to take part in a volunteer vacation. Volunteer vacations gives average travelers the chance to volunteer abroad by taking part in a worthwhile project such as helping to preserve endangered wild animals or ecosystems through wildlife conservation programs, often in remote parts of the world, and much more. Dr. Matthias Hammer, Executive Director of non-profit wildlife conservation volunteer organization Biosphere Expeditions, offers his top ten tips on how to choose the right volunteer vacation for you:

1. Make sure it is a well-established organization with a proven track record of making a real difference in the projects it has become involved with – has it won any awards for its work?

2. If, for example, the project is about wildlife conservation, make sure that the program is run on verifiable scientific grounds. While you give your time as an interested traveler who wants to make a difference, you need to have peace of mind that the project you are helping with is being run by a qualified scientist.

3. Ask where your money goes. To truly make a difference, it is best if as much money and resources as possible go to help the local environment in the country the project is in. Reputable organizations will always publish information about how funds are distributed to the public.

4. Make sure that the organization keeps you up to date on how your volunteer project is progressing. Even though you may have only been there for one or two weeks, many volunteer programs run for many years. Make sure that you will be sent regular reports to see what is happening with the program.

5. Many volunteer vacations will take place in remote parts of the world where you may have close encounters with potentially dangerous wild animals. Make sure the organization that you are volunteering with has an excellent safety record and takes the whole issue seriously.

6. Do some background research on your expedition leader and make sure that they are qualified. To some extent you may be putting your life in their hands, so you need to be sure they have all the necessary qualifications.

7. Determine what new skills you will learn on your volunteer vacation and how you will be taught these skills. One of the biggest bonuses of a volunteer program may be learning something new in an exciting environment and you want to make sure that the people who are teaching you are well qualified.

8. Make sure that you have clear goals about what you hope to accomplish out of the whole experience and don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek the views of travelers who have gone before you. Reputable organizations will always offer to put you in touch with previous travellers – if they don’t, beware.

9. Find out who you will be traveling with. As you may be virtually living “next door” to each other for some time, you need to be comfortable with the type of people you are likely to be with. The organization should be able to tell you about the kind of people who typically attends their projects. Facebook, blog pages, and social media outlets can be invaluable information gathering tools for volunteer vacations.

10. Most importantly, determine if it will be fun. Although most volunteer vacations have a serious purpose, you should have fun considering that you are spending your valuable vacation time “giving back”.

For more tips, advice, and information about volunteer vacations and volunteer wildlife conservation programs visit Biosphere Expeditions.


Eco-Friendly Office Habits & Rewards

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Office deskYour nine-to-five may not seem like the most eco-friendly atmosphere, but a recent study revealed that companies are making strides in adopting environmentally-responsible business practices, and many employees make it their personal mission to be mindful of the environment at the office. But as far as the average working American is concerned, U.S. companies and employees could improve greatly when it comes to "going green" at work, and it's up to every single person in the workplace to make it happen. 

Nearly two in three working Americans believe their current employer could do a better job of being environmentally considerate by doing things like recycling paper or refilling ink cartridges. This might result from companies not effectively encouraging green business practices; only one third promote recycling by placing bins around the office, only one in seven assign someone to oversee green initiatives and a mere 8 percent incentivize employee participation. (A reward for recycling? Yes, please!)

All that said, the majority (84%) of working Americans say they personally recycle paper at work, and four in ten are motivated by their desire to set an example for coworkers. And scrutiny is high. Nearly three-quarters of professionals say their current colelagues could improve their habits to reduce their company's environmental footprint. 

So, what do associates want in return for making green choices? Business owners and managers listen up! An extra day of vacation, free lunch or party or a special green gift is all it takes to encourage people to take part and motivate. Are you doing anything at your office to spur eco-smart choices? If so, please leave a comment to share!

Source: Office Max. For more green lifestyle choices, visit our partner, Earth Tones.


2011 Lexus CT 200h Road Test Review

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by Martha Hindes                       

Talk about split personalities. Bordering on brash, yet still subdued, the new 2011 Lexus ct 200h lays claim to a pure, undefiled image while teasing the need for speed.  A five-door (sic hatchback) compact done in Lexus' new "L-finesse" design language, it's meant to add zip to the brand's longstanding understated luxury image. The result, a sleeker, more defined premium sporty car that's a fuel-miserly full hybrid to the core. Whether it contends with blast-your-socks-off driving is another story.

Our Lexus-sponsored test drive at Florida's Delray Beach had slow roads bordering the Atlantic Ocean and a way of life so relaxed a local cop rode (and fell from) a dual-tire Segway. Not exactly a place to mash an accelerator in an expected flat-out run challenge with the likes of Mazda, Audi or Volvo. We'll defer to specs for that. The 1.8-liter, 98-hp four cylinder engine and 80-hp, 60-kW electric motor can morph into sport mode when enthusiastic driving's a must, gas stingier EV, ECO or normal when it's not.

We found it eager to a point, supple and charismatic enough to add some buzz, and firmly comfortable. But we think promised driving thrills could benefit from additional oomph. It delivers about 42 guiltless combined MPG (probably not enough to legally drive some HOV lanes solo like its Toyota Prius cousin). Available Pre-Collision and Radar Cruise Control can boost standard safety features. Initial $29,995 pricing (add $8K fully loaded), shouldn't break an entry-level luxury bank -- especially with fewer fill-ups.

[Read Full Article] For more road test reviews from partner Road & Travel Magazine, click here. Also visit partner, Planet Driven.


Smart Shopping Tips for a Greener Lifestyle

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Grocery Shopping When it comes to green lifestyles, it’s true that the little efforts add up. While buying an electric car or carbon offsets for your vacation are admirable actions, there are also a million, tinier tasks you can easily add to your existing schedule – and budget – that will make a difference. Below, we’ve provided a checklist for you to serve as a remind during your next shopping trip!

  • Buy Fresh, Organic and Close to Home: Not only are fresh fruits and vegetables better for you, you eliminate the manufacturing, packaging and shipping, all of which strains the environment.  By seeking out fresh, organic, local produce you are doing both your body and local economy a favor.
  • Shop in Season:  If you are choosing an exotic fruit or vegetable in the dead of winter you know it comes at a high cost.  Think about the environmental price tag to fly that food to your doorstep and choose fruits and vegetables in season instead.
  • Eliminate Bottled Water:  According to the New York Times, Americans consume 30 billion single-serving containers of bottled water each year – plastic containers that will never biodegrade.
  • Shop Online – Instead of expending fuel and energy driving all around town take advantage of online sites that allow you to make multiple purchases and combine shipping costs.
  • Buy in Bulk:  Buying in bulk is smart on multiple levels.  You save money, time, energy and packaging. What could be smarter than that?
  • Go Vintage:  Rather than rushing out and buying the latest fads consider going vintage. Vintage boutiques are springing up all across the country. Not only can you be fashionable but environmentally conscious as well.
  • Ditch those Plastic Bags:  Opt for recyclable shopping bags whenever possible. Many stores now offer special discounts when you use recyclable bags for your purchases. According to recent estimates, 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used each year. Again, plastic will never biodegrade.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:  This mantra should be ingrained in every consumer's head.  If every American would recycle just one out of every ten #2 plastic bottles we could keep 200 million pounds of plastic out of our nation's landfills each year.

Source: MXEnergy. For more green shopping tips, visit Earth Tones.


The Cleanest Cities in the U.S.

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Clean cities More than half of all Americans live in cities with unhealthy levels of air pollution, most commonly masking itself as smog or soot, according to the American Lung Association (ALA). What's worse is that breathing in partical pollution can increase your risk of early death, heart attack, stroke or serious illness if you already suffer from asthma, cardiovascular disease or diabetes. 

When its inhaled, ozone irritates your lungs, causing a reaction similar to a bad sunburn inside your body.  And shocking as it is, despite the Clean Air Act and our nation's attempts to cut back on emission levels, air pollution has actually become worse in some parts of our country over the past year.

Two cities, however—Honolulu, HI and Santa Fe, NM—ranked among the cleanest in the U.S. in the new 2011 State of the Air report by the ALA. They're not alone. The following areas were ranked as the Top 10 Cleanest U.S. Cities for Year-Round Partical Pollution:

#1: Cheyenne, WY
#2: Santa Fe-Espanola, NM
#3: Tucson, AZ
#4: Honolulu, HI
#4: Great Falls, MT
#6: Anchorage, AK
#7: Amarillo, TX
#7: Albuquerque, NM
#9: Redding, CA
#10: Salinas, CA

Are you lucky enough to live in one of these clean, green cities? To see your state's air pollution grade, visit the State of the Air website

For more earth-friendly tips, visit RTM's Earth Tones. 



Caribbean Cool Destinations for the Eco Chic

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Galley Bay 2 (1) Luxe-loving travelers need not sacrifice the finer things when going green. Instead, they can hit up one of these eco-friendly destinations, tucked in the Caribbean sands, for a bit of R&R—and a whole lot of mindfulness. 

Galley Bay Resort, Antigua (pictured left)
An exotic, all-inclusive hideaway that’s known for its state-of-the-art reverse osmosis water plant, this resort recycles salt water from the sea, purifying it for fresh water uses. Future plans will allow the hotel to bottle the fresh water into reusable glass containers. How cool is that? 

The Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort, Rose Hall, Jamaica
Green-Globe certified for its sustainable operations and conservation efforts, the Ritz is one resort that does more than just talk about greening up. From reusing linens to providing environmental education for its guests and community, the leader in luxury is committed to protecting Jamaica’s natural resources.

Barcelo Punta Cana, Punta Cana
With energy-saving upgrades to guest room air-conditioning units, as well as the installation of an ultraviolet purifier in its water treatment plant, this beachy resort is taking the necessary steps to green up. The company's corporate social responsibility program also launched, assisting schools and students.

For more earth-friendly travel tips, visit Earth Tones.

(You can see more Green Globe certified properties here, or book vacations at any of the above resorts via Cheap Caribbean.) 


Tips to Conserve Electricity (and Money) this Spring

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Electricity bill The drudges of winter are slowly coming to end, and along with warmer temperatures comes longer days (requiring fewer lamp-lit evenings) and open windows (leading to fresh, rather than forced, air flow) throughout your home. And all of these seasonal adjustments add up... to a less expensive electricity bill!

In addition to reducing your eco footprint, a few simple steps can help you to cut your energy usage and keep some cash in your pocket.

Focus on the Fridge
Often overlooked, this appliance is one of the largest consumers of energy in your home. Think about it; it's always on. And while it's running, it can eat up approximately 8 percent of your electric bill. An easy way to help a fridge run more efficiently is to clean the outside coils twice a year.

Don't Forget to Look Up
Don't forget about ceiling fans! Double-check that all are working properly and are dust-free and then redirect fans to circulate counterclockwise in the summertime, pushing from the ceiling down to create a cooling effect.

And then Look Out
Windows, windows, windows. In addition to turning off the therostat when possible, replace your storm windows with screens to allow air to circulate in moderate temperatures. 

Automate It 
If you haven't already, install a programmable thermostat to help adjust to unpredictable changes in temp and humidity. As the air outside heats up, adjust your thermostat to the warmest comfortable temperature for you to save dollars when the bill is due. 

For more eco-friendly tips, visit Earth Tones.



All New for May 15, 2011 - 5 Frugal Tips for Living Green & Earth Friendly Oil Changes

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All new for May 15, 2011 - Our new issue sets its sights on for green-minded travelers, how earth-friendly is your oil change, 5 frugal tips for living green, and how to plan an action adventure vacation while treading lightly on mother earth. Visit EWP's Partner Website - Road & Travel Magazine now!!!


Spring Cleaning: Tips to Greener Vacuuming

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Spring cleaning Spring cleaning tends to churn up a lot of dust. But what's an eco-minded clean freak to do when it comes to plugging in and running the vacuum? That's what I was wondering as I pushed open my windows for the first time this season, pulled out the vacuum and duster, and took a deep breath. 

Turns out, effective spring cleaning doesn't have to be harsh on the environment. We've rounded up some tips that will keep your home humming without sucking up too much energy in the process.

Open those windows
As soon as weather permits, it's critical to air our your house and let in the freshness. This allows toxins that have built up over the winter (especially heavy if you live in a well-insulated home) to filter outdoors again, and will also help to loosen up the dust-filled corners of your lesser-used spaces.

Embrace the doormat
Up to two-thirds of the dust and dirt in your home is tracked in on your feet, according to the Sierra Club. Take a preventative measure and use doormats near every entry, shake them clean or vacuum them often, and save yourself from added trouble elsewhere.

Upgrade to an efficient vacuum
Choosing a quality machine means less time cleaning for you and less dirt in your home. How do you know which vacuum makes the most sense? Choose one that features the Carpet and Rug Institute Seal of Approval and Green Label, ensuring indoor air quality.

Never underestimate baking soda
A sprinkle of soda over your carpet prior to a good vacuum will do just the trick when you're in need of a clean-smelling boost. It's safe, fragrence free and inexpensive, too!

Keep an eye on the belt
Nobody wants to hear the snap of a vacuum belt mid-cleaning session. You should check yours regularly, replacing worn belts when necessary (for maximum effectiveness) and refitting the belt when it's misaligned, causing unintended wear and tear.