nature conserve

As we close out the last issue of the Green Living Newsletter for the year, we like to go back and review past issues to discover which stories generated the most interest, were clicked on most often, and generated the most feedback. Below you will find reprints of our most popular stories of 2017. We want to take this time to thank all of our readers, advertisers, and supporters for helping to make this year another great one. If you have a product you would like us to consider for review or have some exciting news to share, please contact us.

We wish you all a wonderful new year filled with all great things.

What Happens to Slightly Used Soap Bars From Hotels?

Choice Hotels International, Inc. recently announced that it has entered into a partnership with Clean the World to collect and recycle hotel soap and bottled amenities that will help fight the spread of hygiene-related illnesses. Clean the World is a social enterprise dedicated to changing lives while simultaneously diverting hotel waste from landfills. The discarded items collected from Choice properties will be hygienically recycled and then distributed to people who are at risk of contracting preventable diseases.

"At Choice, we have a comprehensive platform – Room for Responsibility – that outlines our key corporate social responsibility initiatives. One of its pillars is our Room to be Green® initiative, which focuses on reducing, reusing and recycling as well as promoting environmentally friendly practices throughout our hotel system and corporate offices. We're pleased our partnership with Clean the World helps further our efforts while supporting those in need," said Steve Joyce, chief executive officer of Choice Hotels.

The other pillars of Choice's Room for Responsibility program include Room to Give (volunteering and philanthropy), Human Rights and their signature cause partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Clean the World is a social enterprise dedicated to the mission of saving millions of lives around the world while simultaneously diverting hotel waste from landfills. The organization collects discarded soap and other hygiene products from more than 4,000 hotel and resort partners and operates recycling centers in North America, Asia, and Europe. Clean the World provides hygiene education and microlending to make hand washing and local soap purchases a lifelong habit in developing regions. Through its hygiene kit program, Clean the World provides personal care items to relief organizations throughout North America. Since 2009, more than 35 million bars of Clean the World soap have been distributed in 100 countries. 

"It's hard for most of us to imagine how important soap is to people who are struggling," said Shawn Seipler, founder and CEO of Clean the World. "The folks at Choice Hotels get it, and we are thrilled to have them join us at this level. By making a commitment to our sustainable, socially responsible program, Choice will turn trash into treasure and help change lives around the world."

More information: and 


8 Spring Home Maintenance Projects That Will Save You Money

Abby Hayes, freelance blogger and journalist who writes about personal finance for USNews, shares a list of 8 springtime projects that can help save you money…

1. Clean the refrigerator and air conditioner coils. Your fridge and air conditioner work in nearly the same way – by exchanging heat through a system of coils. When those coils are dirty and dusty, they can’t exchange heat as efficiently, so the system has to run harder and longer to have the same cooling effect.

Luckily, cleaning these coils is simple. Just take a vacuum hose to the coils on the back of your fridge. For an outside air conditioner unit, you’ll need to disassemble the casing (making sure the power to the unit is off first), and clean using canned air and/or a stiff brush and spray bottle.

2. Schedule routine heating, ventilation and air conditioning maintenance. Yes, it costs money to get an HVAC professional to look over your system. But routine maintenance costs much less than major fixes down the road. So call and schedule your HVAC maintenance now. To save even more, check websites such as Groupon, Amazon Local and Angie’s List for deals with local HVAC companies.

3. Inspect and repair your roof. Spring is the time to get out on the roof to check for ice, hail or water damage from winter. Repairing minor damage can be a quick do-it-yourself fix, and staying on top of your roof’s condition can save you money by avoiding water damage later on.

4. Clean gutters. This can be a Saturday-long spring chore for many, but it’s important, especially if you live in an area with April showers.

Water doesn’t properly pass through clogged gutters. And that means more water gets near the foundation of your home. This may not cause immediate problems, but over time, too much water near the foundation can cause damage and weakening, which are expensive problems to fix later.

5. Clean the dryer vent. Just like your refrigerator doesn’t work properly with dusty coils, your dryer is less efficient with a lint-filled vent. Even if you clean the lint trap before every load of laundry, you’ll still get some lint in the vent hose, which builds up over time.

To clean the vent, just remove the vent hose from the back of the dryer and vacuum it well. Then, remove the vent cover on the outside of your home, and vacuum it from that side, too.

6. Check the washing machine hoses. Over time, washing machine hoses can crack, which can cause leaks. Sometimes, these inconspicuous leaks go on for weeks or months unnoticed, usually because the washer is pushed back into a corner. This can cause mold problems, water damage and more.

So while you’ve got the dryer pulled out to clean the vent, pull out the washer, too. Check that the hoses are still flexible, and they show no signs of cracking. If they do look worn or cracked, just replace them. It’s an easy fix!

7. Re-caulk windows and doors. You might have caulked your doors and windows before the winter chill set in. Unfortunately, even the best caulk can harden, crack and shrink when it’s cold outside.

So check your windows and doors, and replace as needed. Keeping the hot air out during the summer is just as important as keeping it in during the winter.

8. Plant trees in strategic locations. As you think about landscaping this spring, consider planting a new tree or two. Mother Nature will certainly thank you, and your heating and cooling bills might, too.

If your house gets hit with a lot of sun during the day – which causes the inside to heat up – plant a fast-growing deciduous tree or two on the west, east or northwest side of your home for cooling shade.

And if you noticed wind whistling through the cracks of your home over the winter, an evergreen windbreak on the windiest side of your home might do the trick and block the wind.

Before you plant, make sure you understand how large a tree will grow when it reaches maturity, so you avoid potential costly issues from a tree planted too close to your home.


4 Foods That'll Re-Grow from Kitchen Scraps

You recycle your bottles and newspapers, you upcycle thrift store finds into decor treasures, and you reuse all your plastic bags. But do you upcycle your food scraps?  We’re not talking compost here, we’re talking re-growing food from scraps you might have tossed.  Turns out, several odds and ends you might have tossed can be re-grown into more food!  Here’s a great list compiled by the folks at Organic Authority.

When your recipe only calls for the green part of the scallions, don’t toss the white end with the roots. Stick it in a glass jar with a little water and the greens will grow back. You can just snip off what you need as you go. This also works with leeks.

This delicious, aromatic herb is really just a grass and will grow well in a pot in a sunny spot. Take the root ends (after you’ve used the rest in a recipe) and put in a jar of water in a sunny spot. After a week or so, you’ll start to see roots appearing. Once the roots look healthy, transplant your lemongrass to a pot and let it grow. You can start harvesting when the stalks get to be a foot or more tall.

The next time you’re chopping a bunch of celery, save the root end! Place itin a shallow bowl of water, and after a few days, you should start to see roots and new leaves appear. As soon as you see these, you can plant the celery—leaving the leaves just above the soil.  The plant will continue to grow, and soon you’ll have a whole new head of celery!

Did you know that ginger makes a beautiful (and useful) houseplant? If you’ve got a piece of fresh ginger going spare in your fridge, you can plant it in potting soil. Ginger is a root, and before long, you’ll notice a lovely plant sprouting from it. Once the plant is big enough, you can actually pull it up, whack off a piece of the root, and replant it whenever you need fresh ginger—or just enjoy your culinary houseplant.

Organic Authority is a trusted ally and the web‘s leading resource for all things… delicious and organic! Come chill in their kitchen as they test-drive tried-and-true mouthwatering recipes and chat about the organic lifestyle. From the most mojo-rific of foods, juicy of spirits to your eco chic entertaining table, energetic health and the most scrumptiously delicious beauty, they’ve made it their job and passion to cover organics from the inside out, the outside in and all the way around. At OrganicAuthority you‘ll discover how to grow your first apartment herb garden, how to host a summer BBQ your friends will rave about for seasons to come, which natural deodorants actually work, and so much more.

9 Tips for Zero Waste Entertaining this Summer

Summer is the season for outdoor entertaining. Unfortunately, this can result in excessive amounts of waste, as many hosts set out piles of Styrofoam plates, plastic cutlery, and plastic cups in order to reduce the amount of cleanup and broken glasses in the backyard. It might be convenient and easy to entertain in this way, but it’s unsustainable.

Consider the following zero-waste options when planning your next party. It does take more effort to use reusable items – you have to wash and store them till next time – but there won’t be a plastic garbage bag full of trash at the end of the night, which is a pretty great feeling. Reusable items add a touch of class and decoration to a party, making it more memorable for your guests. Here are some ideas:

1. Use a cloth tablecloth or placemats instead of a plastic table cover.
There’s something about a tablecloth that makes any dinner look stylish and beautiful. Wash, hang dry, and iron soon after use, and it will last for many years. For something even simpler, try colourful placements made of natural fibres.
Ten Thousand Villages sells gorgeous fair-trade tablecloths and placemats.

2. Reusable plates are a necessity.
Buy a second set of cheap ceramic plates at a thrift store that you won’t worry about breaking, or pick up a set of enamel tin picnic dishes. If you’re really stressed about having to wash all those dishes, check out VerTerra’s compostable plates made of pressed leaves and water.

If you have a large crowd to feed, consider renting plates from a local church or community center. Some places might even take the dishes back dirty, for a fee. You could set up an outdoor washing station where guests wash their own plate, which makes a huge difference in the amount of cleanup, or ask guests to bring their own reusable dishes.

3. Use cloth napkins, which add decorative accents to a table.
It does mean extra laundry, but these will last for years. Plus, they’re much more absorbent and generally useful than grabbing a handful of paper napkins to wipe up a mess. Buy them anywhere (it’s best to stick with 100% cotton, which is most durable), or repurpose old fabric to make your own. Etsy has some attractive handmade options.

4. Ditch the disposable straws and try some reusable ones.
Did you know that 500 million plastic straws are tossed daily in the U.S.? Here's a much better option. Simply Straws makes these cool straws with borosilicate glass, which is tough and resistant to thermal stress, making them great for cold and hot beverages. They come in 3 sizes, and you have the option of bent or straight. The company guarantees 100% satisfaction and will replace broken ones.

5. Serve iced juice or water in a large communal dispenser.
Not only is it practical and elegant, but it also eliminates the need for a cooler full of dripping wet plastic water bottles or soda cans.

6. Serve drinks in small glass canning jars, which adds a rustic touch.
Write guests’ names on the side in permanent marker, or tie a ribbon around to differentiate. If you want to invest in something permanent, go with non-breakable stainless steel. You can get pint cups from Klean Kanteen, and stemmed wine glasses from Eco-Friendly Cookware.

7. Provide reusable cutlery.
Not only is it eco-friendly, it also much more pleasant to eat with sturdy cutlery; cutting food on a Styrofoam plate with a flimsy plastic knife is very frustrating. Visit the thrift store for an extra set, if you’re don’t want to use your own. Another option is to buy wooden or bamboo sets of cutlery, which are great for travelling and camping. Verterra also sells compostable wooden cutlery that supposedly breaks down in two months.

8. Buy alcoholic beverages from local wineries and brewers.
Some wineries offer wine-on-tap and let you fill your own bottles, which is an excellent zero waste option. Use old wine bottles or buy some of these pretty glass bottles with ceramic lids. If not, be sure to return empties for a refund and reuse.

9. Metal skewers are useful and versatile.
Use long ones for grilling vegetables and meat. You won’t have to soak them ahead of time or deal with splinters in your food. Use little metal skewers instead of toothpicks to serve finger foods; wash and reuse.


Recycling Gone Wrong: Weird Things Found in the Bin, the UK's waste management agency, compiled a list of the most bizarre and problematic recycling people have tried to do at home, after surveying the public about their recycling gone wrong.

After collecting information from people up and down the country, it seems “we’re a nation of very baffled binners” if the confessions made to are anything to go by. People admitted to having tried to recycle their dead pets, not through tasteful taxidermy but in their recycling bins.

One respondent recalled trying to recycle a full Christmas dinner for a family of eight, saying: “We had a huge row – as is traditional at Christmas – and when everyone was screaming at each other I just threw the whole dinner into the recycling bin, including the crackers, plates and party hats”.

Another respondent said they tried to put their car door in the metal recycling, saying: “I figured it was basically just a huge tin can, but the bin men didn’t really see it that way and I got an earful about taking it to the scrap yard instead.”

And while one respondent didn’t claim responsibility for it themselves, they did claim they saw a blow-up doll in their recycling, saying: “I’m going to put it down to my housemate having a big night out, but I definitely saw a blow-up doll’s head poking out of the bin still fully inflated and staring at me. I was quite hungover myself at the time and it scared me half to death.”

Mark Hall spokesperson for said: “We surveyed over 3000 people from all walks of life and amazing over 80% of people said they’re confused about what to recycle in their home bins, with 99% of people admitting to having made a mistake with their recycling in the past”.

“Bearing that in mind, it’s no surprise we’ve found some of these strange stories where people know they should dispose of something, but don’t know whether it counts as recycling or not”.

“While we admire people’s efforts to help save the planet, it’s obviously important to only recycle the appropriate things in the right places, otherwise you can cause more problems than you solve for the people processing waste at the other end.” advises people to ask their local council for clear instructions on what to put in which bin, and to keep them on display at all times, saying: “We know that 75% of all recycling mistakes could be solved by having the information clearly visible, and anything that’s not mentioned we’d advise people to put in their general waste or take to the tip”.


5 Tips for Traveling in an Eco-Friendly Way

Living an environmentally conscious lifestyle can be easy enough from day to day, but it can become a bit more challenging when you're traveling. Whether you're backpacking for months on end or taking a quick weekend trip, it's all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new place and forget to take care of the environment.

At the recently held series of talks and discussions by cause-oriented community MUNI, Dave Albao, who manages protected marine sanctuary Danjugan Island, and eco-friendly traveler Jen Horn shared some tips people can practice while traveling:

1. Do not disturb the wildlife!
When snorkeling, swimming in the ocean, or trekking, for instance, it is important to minimize noise and movements, and be careful about disturbing what may be the natural habitat of wildlife.

"We don't want people to come here out of convenience," Dave said of Danjugan Island, which is a protected 1.5-kilometer-long island that is home to thriving marine and terrestrial wildlife. "When people come here, they need to adjust, they need to respect, and the first thing they have to adjust to is the wildlife."

Dave said people need to adjust their attitudes towards travel and stop expecting a destination to adjust to them.

"If we travel, we should prepare ourselves to immerse oneself in the area," he said.

2. Quit straws, stirrers, and other single-use plastics.
Straws, stirrers, and single-use plastics are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to water pollution. What makes them especially frustrating is that they're used only once and thrown away – but take forever to degrade.

Whether you're traveling or staying home, this is a number one rule for going zero waste, but it can be especially difficult to follow when you're going on a trip and need to bring travel-sized versions of everything. For toiletries, instead of bringing shampoo and soap sachets, buy small reusable containers and refill from your container at home. Having a metal or bamboo straw with you at all times, or refusing straws altogether, is another habit to practice. Switching from a plastic toothbrush to a bamboo toothbrush also helps.

3. Resist the temptation to max out your accommodations.
It's time to quit trying to "get your money's worth" by hoarding all the free toiletries and keeping the air-conditioning running all day. If you're staying in a hotel, switch off all the lights and appliances, as you would do when you're saving on electricity at home. Also, be sure to tell the hotel staff not to replace your towels or change your sheets until you absolutely have to.
"We feel so entitled because we paid for a service and we want to max out what we paid for, but the cost of that is not just to the hotel, but to the community and environment as well," Jen said.

4. Bring your trash home.
If you absolutely cannot avoid producing trash, make sure you take it with you when you leave the place, especially if your destination doesn't seem to have a proper waste facility.

"If you think you're throwing your trash in the proper bin at the hotel, think twice because they will still likely end up in the landfill," Jen said. She also reminded smokers to mind their cigarette butts, because these are not biodegradable and are full of harmful chemicals that can pollute water.

Smokers can bring around a portable ashtray with them, or throw their cigarette butts in a used plastic bottle, which, when stuffed, can then be turned into an ecobrick for low-cost builds. (WATCH: How to repurpose plastic bottles into ecobricks)

5. Choose your souvenirs wisely.
While it is important to support the local community, Jen and Dave said travelers should be conscious of the souvenirs that they buy because not all of them are environmentally friendly. For instance, those small accessories with shell inlays are not the most eco-friendly souvenir to bring home. Getting zero-waste items such as fruits or local dishes are a much better choice, though it is important to bring a reusable souvenir so you can avoid packaging waste.

By keeping these 5 habits in mind, you can make sure that your next trip isn't just good for your soul or sanity, but also for the environment.