Green Links: Vertical Gardening and Farming

Living walls–vertical green spaces tightly planted with both edibles and ornamentals–have been gaining in popularity for interior urban spaces for the past few years. These designs typically feature water-thrifty, space-efficient, low-light-loving hardy succulents.

The green wall movement now has grown to include urban farms grafted onto the sides and roofs of skyscrapers.

Via grist.org, read this interview with Dr. Dickson Despommier, professor and author of The Vertical Farm on growing up in urban settings for local high-yield food harvests.

Feast your eyes on these small-space vertical edible gardens.

For those who can afford it, top-end green designers can create the green wall of your dreams. The rest of us? DIY.  Inspiration for both.

Green Wall Gifts:

The Vertical Garden: From Nature to the City

The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century

Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls

Gardening Vertically: 24 Ideas for Creating Your Own Green Walls (Coming April 2012; pre-order)

Living Architecture: Green Roofs and Walls

Green Living: 9 Ways to Give Greener Gifts

Greener living means making choices that have a positive impact on people and the planet. This goes double for holiday gift-giving when our impulse is to go completely overboard.

The best present I ever gave myself was completing my holiday shopping before Thanksgiving last year. It was a green gift to me (and my bank account) in reduced car travel, mail-order costs and last-minute impulse purchases.

 

Try these 9 tips for holiday giving:

  1. Give green. Think easy-care houseplants, fast-growing spring bulbs, kitchen-window herbs.
  2. Give independently owned. Check locally owned stores first before buying at a big box or on the Web. Artisan sites like etsy.com offer one-of-a-kind handmade items directly from the artist.
  3. Give less. Ask friends (soon) to curtail or cut gift exchanges.
  4. Give experiences. A gift to pay for extras like dance lessons, sports fees and museum memberships is low-impact on the environment and high-impact for ongoing enjoyment.
  5. Give earth-friendly. Pick gifts that help save water (sleek metal water bottle?), cut down on trash (stylish groceries bag?) and support healthy living (non-toxic cleaning products?).
  6. Give fairly. Fair-trade items balance fair wages with environmental and social impacts.
  7. Give recycled. Choose recycled-paper gift wrap and make your own. Opt for “upcycled” gifts made from items that would otherwise end up in the trash.
  8. Give again. Re-gifting is a delicate conversation. For the right recipient, passing along no-longer-needed items is a very green gift that keeps useful items out of landfills and gives them new life.
  9. Give wholeheartedly. Add a seasonal “R” to the greener living “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” motto — for Rejoice — and spend time with family and friends as the best gift money can’t buy.

When we each give a little greener, we give the gift of a greener world for all.

Green Business: What Do Eco-Labels Mean?

“All Natural”
“Toxin-Free”
“Local”
“Pet Friendly”

What do eco-labels really mean, and are they the better choice for green consumers?

When done well, and honestly, green claims of fewer chemicals, less packaging, recycled content, fair wages or locally produced can provide genuine benefits that the buyer wants.

 

But when it’s not, it’s called “greenwashing”–painting a product or service with a feel-good green benefit that’s not true.

At its worst, greenwashing is deceptive and misleading, and might be illegal.  The U.S. Small Business Administration offers tips for honest and legal greeen marketing regulations.

Even when it’s not outright deceptive, greenwashing tries to trick customers into thinking a product is something it’s not.

Here’s one that isn’t harmful but truly misses the point in my book.

For a fee, you can claim that your website is carbon neutral (the money goes to purchase cabon-offset credits) and post a “Green Certified Site” logo on your site.

Does it really matter if your website is carbon neutral? No. It doesn’t.

Sensing an unmet need created by all these labeling claims, eco-label and green certifications companies have sprung up to theoretically offer consumers objective, trustworthy recommendations. Some are better than others. Here’s a place to start. Learn more.

Small choices do matter, and they add up, but make sure your money is going to what really matters to you.

As with all purchases, caveat emptor.

Green Living: Holiday Choices on the Green Continuum

Being green is a continuum of choices, especially during the holidays.  Air travel to see family or stay-close-to-home? New technology toys or thrift store find? Lights-a-pa-looza or a solo window candle to shine in the darkness?

We might not agree on all points but there’s common ground to be found for saving energy and saving money.

The EPA offers some constructive suggestions for doing both this holiday season, from being water-thrifty when doing the Thanksgiving dishes to choosing earth-friendly DfE-labeled products (readily available at most supermarkets and Big Box stores).

On the greener side of the scale, minimalist Leo Babauta suggests a No New Gifts approach and offers connection-building, creativity-sparking, fun-affirming ways get more enjoyment from the holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Green Living: Sole Sources

Two half marathons this year and one to go, I run in Brooks sneakers. Brooks Adrenaline. Fourth pair. Running happy.

But I might be changing my mind about what kicks I buy. An NPR radio story yesterday caught my ear about how emerging trade deals with Pacific Rim nations might affect U.S.-based manufacturing jobs.

Did you know that New Balance manufactures many of its shoes in Skowhegan, Maine? I didn’t.

While my beloved Brooks come out of a clearly conscientious concern for the environment and fair trade practices, they are stitched a half world away. 

It got me thinking about our buying choices and the ripple impact they can have our global economy.

I’ve test-run New Balance shoes and know that they are a good fit for me.  So maybe in a few hundred miles I’ll give a pair of them a try.

No matter what, I’ll be buying my next pair, and the ones after that, at the locally owned athletics store that is exactly 3.2 miles from my front door.

Whatever shoes you choose, run happy.

(For the  kicks in your life that have lost their bounce, you can send them on to a new life: Soles4Souls has drop-off locations near you.)

Green Business: Cutting Solar Costs

Solar Cost Breakdowns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, as much as half of the price of solar energy is made up of non-hardware costs.  (U.S. Energy Department) These soft costs include getting financing, hiring contractors, securing permits, connecting with utilities and passing inspections. Every trip to the bank, every delay, every snag in the paperwork contributes to the project’s final cost.

To jump start a decline in these non-hardware costs, the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative announced today that it is investing approximately $7 million over 18 months in a new SunShot Incubator Program for Soft Cost Reduction.

Have you encountered hitches, hold-ups and hindrances on the solar path for your home or business? Or even better, what are your recommendations for a smooth, cost-efficient process?

 

Green Living: Clearing Out Old Paint

There is no away when it comes to our trash. There’s only “not here.”

After Tropical Storm Irene gifted my basement with water, it was finally time to properly dispose of the dozen, rusty half-empty and full latex paint cans that have bugged me for years.

Some of these gallons came with the house. Others remained after house-painting and DIY projects. After sorting and separating the soggy cans, I kept a few for touch-ups and resolved to pitch the rest.

A greener life for me includes reducing the amount of chemicals in my home. As someone who is concerned with the environment and how we deal with trash, it was important to me to deal with these cans responsibly and in an earth friendly way.

Sometimes I’m willing to go the long way for greener choices—like composting. Sometimes I want the problem fixed fast. I know I could give away the paint cans via freecycle or facebook, but I really just wanted them gone.

Latex paint can be put out in regular household trash collection only if the paint is completely dry and solid. Liquid paint is not acceptable for household pick up because spilled paint creates a huge mess inside the garbage trucks. As well, liquid paint can spill onto roadways and contaminate local water sources.

So, how to dry out the paint, short of using it? A Google search turned up the suggestion to mix in highly absorbent clay-based cat litter.

Not being a cat owner, I was happy to learn that 20 pounds of generic brand cat litter cost a very affordable $4. I added cat litter to each half-empty paint can a pint at a time and stirred until the slurry reached oatmeal consistency. A day in the sun completely hardened the lumpy mixture.

For the full cans, I was stumped about how to handle them without making a big mess.

A little research turned up that local paint store Rossi and Co. in Orange accepts latex paint for a $2 per gallon disposal fee.

To the best of my knowledge, Rossi and Co. is the only Essex County business offering this service to residential consumers. This solution satisfies all my criteria for a green solution—it’s convenient, affordable, and keeps usable paint and recyclable metals out of the trash.Hat’s off to Rossi and Co. for a valuable, green-minded service.

Don’t let your comfort be another’s burden.

—Recycling slogan from a Brazilian movie theater

 

Green Garden: Beans and Corn

My scarlet runner beans race skywards every year, grown solely for the hummingbirds they bring. Each fall, after they have dried to rattling husks in the chill November breeze, I pick the best plumpest reaching-most pods. These are the winner for that year’s  sun, soil, pest and wind competition.  Not that scarlet runners are hard to grow, but in 5, 0r 10 or maybe 25 years I will have created seeds that are ideally suited for the rotten crabby spot I allot them.

Super magic hummingbird-bringing beans, if you will.  With a little piece of me, or at least my choices, in their genetic code.

In his latest New York Times essay, with his typical mastery, rural-observer Verlyn Klinkenborg charts the journey of the Tuscarora people and the corn they have planted for hundreds of years in whatever ground they call home.

“In the history of the Tuscarora, there is an unbroken garden leading from the past to the present, for the only certain way to ensure the vitality of this year’s seed is to bury it and wait for it to come up as next year’s seed.”

Read the essay.