During the holiday season, nearly one-fourth of all retail goods fly off store shelves and into America's homes between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Other than opting out of gift giving entirely, and risk being ostracized by friends and family, there are a number of things you can do to green up the process, proving you can be both thoughtful and socially responsible. With a bit of foresight, it is possible to stay in the gift-giving spirit while also showing some love to Mother Earth.
Rather than heading to the mall when a gift-giving occasion presents itself, head to your local artisan's shop instead. Websites like etsy.com include "search local" features that make it easier to find local craftspeople if you are unsure where to shop. Buying local allows you to reduce the environmental toll of fuel used in shipping and manufacture, as well as excessive packaging materials which often involve petroleum-based plastics. In addition to shopping local artisan shops, consider such venues as craft shows, swap meets and flea markets.
Opt for Edibles
Sourcing locally may mean your own kitchen. If you have a crafty cook inside, choose a homemade gift you create yourself. If you are void of any culinary skills, turn to companies that offer the perfect personalized birthday gift basket, complete with gourmet goodies, flowers or spa products. The gift recipient can reuse the gift basket to make their own earth-friendly creation. Dry organic ingredients for cookies, uniquely shaped and colored pastas and organic fruit are some other holiday gift ideas. All can be packaged using earth-friendly materials.
Besides buying locally sourced and handmade gifts, you can also improve the eco-friendliness of what you choose to give by ensuring your gift is made from sustainable materials. That means avoiding petroleum-based materials commonly used in product manufacture, like plastic and polyester, as well as conventional electronics which cause concern over electric and magnetic field (EMF) pollution. Electronics also contain chemicals that are harmful upon disposal. Instead, look for products made of renewable materials like cotton, bamboo, wool and renewable woods. You will also want to avoid toxic paints and varnishes.
Give the Gift of Giving
There are a number of organizations, such as Heifer International, that have gift catalogs allowing you to make a socially responsible gift in someone else's name, such as a flock of ducks for a family in a third world country or the gift of clean water to an impoverished community. These gifts are perfect for those who have everything and help others in need.
Wrapping It Up
To top it off, avoid the store-bought gift wraps and ribbons, and opt for eco-friendly paper wraps instead. You can make your own using recycled paper decorated with non-toxic paints or explore online resources for environmentally-friendly wraps. For example, tree-free wrap and accessories are available from sites like OftheEarth.com.
The appeal of having an environmentally friendly car has led many consumers to purchase a hybrid. With the onset of global pollution and the need to find a healthier solution to transportation, these vehicles became available to keep the air clean and make an individual feel good about their driving habits. They can either be powered by fossil fuels, or electricity, and can put an ease on the amount of gas that is consumed. The market for hybrids was relatively tiny in 2003, but is now booming, with Americans annually buying them by the millions.
Before you decide to purchase a hybrid vehicle, there are a few things you should consider. Firstly, what is your price range? This is a far less painful question now, than it used to be a few years ago. Don’t be fooled, even though prices have become more competitive, hybrid cars are normally set at a higher price than their gas fueled counterparts. However, because this green vehicle can ultimately save you money in the long run, the money you’re saving can offset any monthly car payments if you can’t provide payment upfront; Auto Credit Express can help you with an auto loan calculator that will provide further insights.
It is up to you to do research prior to buying about the fuel efficiency of the vehicle. A dealer may not tell you this information and you don’t want to find yourself unpleasantly surprised when you first visit the gas pump. As the price of gas continues to make many drivers pale with fright, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy the perks of driving with minimal 40 miles per gallon. Next, you should consider the importance of the vehicles battery. Find out what state is the battery in and how long it has been sitting? No matter how new a battery is, it can still cause problems if it has been sitting for over three months. Make sure to ask the salesman for the lowdown on the battery, and know what kind of driving you’ll be doing.
When searching, take into consideration how unique a hybrid might be. Because they are not as prevalent as a normal ride, the list of specialists and mechanics equipped to handle fixes and inspections may be limited. This will likely lead you to maintaining your car through the dealership you bought it from. When talking to a salesman, find out the details of your warranty, as you may be able to have some work done for free by an authorized dealer. Hybrid cars tend to have better longevity than their gas-guzzling cousins; while they will still need routine maintenance checkups, you won’t have to deal with the pain and money strains of frequent repairs that are necessary to keep many older, traditional vehicles.
Because of the reduction in consumed resources and the lessened carbon footprint of these vehicles, both local and national governments often provide tax incentives for hybrid drivers. There are other geographically based rewards as well, like being able to drive by yourself in the carpool lane and cheaper parking. Even those car insurance companies so many of us love to grumble about, like Farmers Insurance, provide financial breaks to those who make the environmentally friendly leap.
Now is the fun part, when you select the type or brand you would like to buy. Toyota, Nissan, and Mitsubishi are just a few of the companies to make top class and affordable vehicles for the hybrid consumer. Nowadays, Nissan is the leader in electric-powered vehicle sales with the Nissan LEAF that requires not a drop of gasoline. So feel good as you pull into the driveway with a new hybrid vehicle; after all, you’re doing your part to ensure that both the earth and your wallet retain plenty of green.
More solar panels were installed in 2012, than any previous year, according to a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research. Homeowners who create an energy savings plan will combine energy sources to make the biggest impact on their electric bills. When looking for energy providers, review options on comparison sites such as www.electriccompanies.com to find one that meets your needs and offers the best price. The same goes for when you're considering adding solar capability to your house and looking for an area contractor. Here are some tips for finding the best one for your home.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Use Your Network
The best way to find a reputable solar dealer is through word of mouth. Put the word out to your friends, family, and social networks that you're looking to get into solar power for your home. People who have already made the investment will be eager to share their experiences with you.
You can also drive around the neighborhood looking for homes with solar panels on the roofs. Stop and ask if the homeowners will speak with you about their solar projects and the installers they worked with. Again, you'll find most people are eager to talk about their own solar projects.
The key to success in the solar business is educating people to have a new way of thinking about energy. Unfortunately, solar power has suffered from the reputation of being a "new age thing" — something people don't take very seriously.
Look for companies with many years of experience designing and installing solar solutions. These companies are working with the facts of solar energy efficiency and not the myths. These companies can confidently tell you what will and won't work for your home.
Get the Right Solar "Fit" for Your Home
Find a dealer who takes the time to do an energy assessment of your home before recommending a type of solar panel, since you could cover your roof with inexpensive panels that don't produce the output you need. Avoid the dealer who takes you over to the "sale table" or who says, "We have a special this month on such-and-such panel."
Installing Your Solar Solution the Right Way
A good dealer has years of experience working on roofs. That's where the solar panels sit, and if not done right, you may deal with years of problems. A site survey by a professional installer is the only way to do this right, The Seattle Times reports. The roof must be able to handle the load of the panels.
One consideration is that the solar panels may have up to a 25-year warranty on them. If your roof only has five good years on it, you may be looking at a reinstallation of panels not long after you first put them up. A reputable dealer will have this conversation with you before you sign any contracts.