Sustainability Tips

Image result for axe handle

Got a big drill or screw hole in a piece of wooden furniture, wood paneling, or door or window framing? Stick dip the tip of a wooden golf tee in wood glue then tap it into the hole with a hammer. Cut the excess off with a saw then repaint or refinish the wood.

If you’re worried your UPS or FedEx packages will be stolen from your porch, put a large beat-up and unattractive cardboard box, cooler, or other container with the bottom removed on your porch and have your package delivery company put your packages underneath it. Out of sight, out of mind.

Next time an axe, rake, shovel or other tool breaks, don’t buy another tool, just buy a replacement handle. Also, remember to keep those tools sharp! Sharp tools work much better than dull tools.

Use C-Clamps on your ladder at whatever height you need to keep tools just as a hammer at your fingertips.

Dip woodscrews in dishwashing liquid before driving them in to make them turn more easily.

To reduce splintered edges as a saw blade exits plywood, press masking tape onto the back side of the cut. The cut won’t be absolutely clean, but it will be better than without tape.

Have you ever pulled a drawer too far out and had the contents and the drawer itself crash to the floor? Here’s a solution – pull the drawer out as far as it’s safe to go then put some tape on the rail right where it protrudes from the cabinet. Look for that tape the next you pull the drawer and don’t pull it out past the tape!

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Ollas and Watering Stakes

Ollas (pronounced “oy-yahs”) are an ancient, highly efficient watering system in use for over 4,000 years. They are unglazed terracotta pots that are buried in the ground with the neck exposed above the soil surface and filled with water for sub-surface irrigation of plants.

The way it works is that the microporous (unglazed) walls that do not allow water to flow freely from the pot, but the water seeps down near the roots only as the plant needs it, never wasting a single drop. Ollas nearly eliminate the runoff and evaporation common in modern irrigation systems, allowing the plant to absorb nearly 100 percent of water.

To use ollas in a garden or farm, burry ollas in the soil leaving the top slightly protruding from the soil The olla is filled with water and the opening is then capped with a lid – such as rock, clay plate or other available material to prevent mosquito breeding, soil intrusion and evaporation. Depending on the size of the ollas, watering could be done weekly, or twice a month instead of daily.

A modern take on ollas are Terracotta Plant Watering Stakes. They are inserted into the ground near the plants, and then a bottle is filled with water and inserted upside-down into the hollow terracotta stake.

The advantages stakes have over ollas are numerous: they can be added to existing plants indoors and out, you can easily adjust the bottle size to accommodate how thirsty your plants are, they don’t need a lid as the bottle provides a good seal, and it’s much convenient to remove the empty bottle, fill it elsewhere, then put the now full bottle into to stake.

Also, if you’re planning to be away for a long time you can replace the normal wine bottle with a magnum to achieve a longer unattended watering cycle.

Ollas cost between $20 and $50 each depending on the size, whereas Watering Stakes cost as little as $3 each and do the same job (wine bottle not included).

Plants benefit tremendously from the use of this ancient technology. Plants do much better when they are watered deep near the roots, and when their water supply is regular rather than sporadic. So expect not only to use a fraction of the water you do now, expect your plants to grow bigger, healthier and to produce more flowers and better fruits and vegetables.

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Dealing with Allergies

   Warm days are upon us The trees and flowers are bursting into bloom, and you’re spending more time outside enjoying the sun. But hours later you start to sneeze and cough, your eyes water, and soon you have other cold-like symptoms thanks to common allergies. Here are some tips for natural relief:

You may have heard the old wives’ tale that eating a spoonful of honey a day will cure your allergies. Well, it won’t cure them but it can significantly decrease your susceptibility to local allergens. Eating small, regular doses of local honey or bee pollen supplements can help your body build up a tolerance to pollen allergens, reducing the havoc they wreak on your sinuses. You can find locally produced honey and bee pollen at farmers markets in your area, as well as in many organic chain markets. It’s important that you choose local honey. The top three imported honeys in the US comes from Vietnam, Argentina, and India. You can be sure their pollen is going to different than the ones here. (For really local honey, try Springerville farmer’s market or Bee Chama honey from Southwest Feed in Socorro.)

In your diet, avoid melons, bananas, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, chamomile, and any herbal supplements containing Echinacea, as these can make symptoms much worse. Garlic and ‘butterbur’ may help relieve or ward off symptoms. Apples, broccoli, and cauliflower are also known to help as these tend to be low in histamines.

    Onions, peppers, blueberries, and parsley all have quercetin. Dr. Elson Haas who practices integrative medicine, says quercetin is a natural plant chemical that can reduce histamines, which are part of any allergic reaction.

Nasal rinses can wash out the allergens that get in your nose. Irrigation with squeeze bottles, sterile water and saline solution will moisturize your sinuses. Some experts think the treatment is even more effective than medication! This is a cheap and easy way to alleviate allergy symptoms.

A recent study found that eucalyptus oil and frankincense oil are effective to reduce symptoms when used in laundry and rubbed on the chest.

Also check out local herbalists. In New Mexico, we have The Cactus Company in Quemado or Ember’s Herbs in Socorro, which specialize in local treatments for allergies.

If all else fails, visit your doctor to see what kinds of relief are available.   ●◊●

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Spring Compost/Vermiculture Cleaning!

Breaking down the strawbale walls

It’s Spring! And that means it’s time to harvest the rich black soil from the Compost/Vermiculture system.

First let’s review what the system is and how it works. All of the organic waste on the ranch is digested by the system. It is similar to a compost pile, but it’s supplemented by vermiculture — which is to say worms — red wigglers to be precise.

The worms consume everything that the composting bacteria don’t — which includes paper, cardboard, human and animal waste, and nearly anything else.

The straw bales provide insulation to keep the worms comfortable, and the placement under the south side of the tree provide shade to keep the worms cool in the summer and sunshine to keep the worms warm in the winter.

The old bales are used to cover the compost, and to line the bottom of the composting toilet buckets

Each spring we remove one wall, move the compost, take the enriched soil from the bottom, and rebuild the walls.

The soil created by this system is dark and rich. We put it into our cold-frames and container gardens and use it to grow vegetables for the ranch.

 

 

What the finished job looks like

 

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Adoption of Sustainability in Business

Over the past two decades, sustainability has become more than a fad or just a buzz word. Research shows that sustainability has real business benefits when conscientiously integrated into business operations. Five major advantages for practicing sustainability are:

1. Being sustainable improved brand image and competitive advantage. Surveying more than 53,000 U.S. consumers, the Natural Marketing Institute discovered that 58 percent of consumers consider a company’s impact on the environment in considering where to purchase goods and services and are more likely to purchase from companies that practice sustainable habits. That translates into a client base of 68 million Americans who are favorably predisposed to companies showing positive track records in personal, social, and environmental values.

2. Sustainability increases productivity and reduce costs. Critics of sustainability claim that sustainable business practices eat into corporate profit. Development of sustainable business practices lends itself to efficient operation that streamlines effort and conserves resources, which enhances employee productivity and reduces cost. Reducing cost also encompasses energy conservation strategies that can be as simple as turning off unnecessary lights and insulating walls to more sophisticated efforts such as installation of geothermal heating and cooling systems.

3. Increase business ability to comply with regulation. With all the discussion regarding climate change, dwindling energy resources, and environmental impact, it’s no surprise that state and federal government agencies are enacting regulations to protect the environment. Integrating sustainability into your business will position it to meet changing regulations in a timely manner.

4. Sustainable companies attract employees and investors. People like to be associated with the positive, especially younger generations raised on a steady diet of environmental protection messages. They do not want to be linked to companies implicated in ecological disasters and social welfare scandals. Show your company as respectful of the environment and of its employees and it will attract the caliber of people whom you want to employ and the funds your business needs to expand.

5. Sustainability reduces waste. This is likely the simplest and most obvious way to engage in sustainable practices. Beginning in the 1990s with offices collecting empty cans for recycling, the effort has grown to encompass waste mitigation in paper (conserving trees and forest habitats), value engineering of products (reworking or developing new processes that use less raw materials, waste less material in production of goods), to changing out incandescent lights for LED lights (greater efficiency combined with fewer bulbs used).

The old truism that anything easy isn’t worthwhile applies to sustainability. It takes dedication, commitment, and follow-through from the president to the employees to jump on board the sustainability bandwagon and make it succeed. However, if your business can do it, morale and productivity will improve even as sales increase and costs decrease. It’s the ultimate win-win achievement for the business owners, the consumers, and the employees. “We are witnessing an important shift in how companies in the United States view sustainability,” Gerald Walker, CEO of ING Americas, said. “Our research shows that it is no longer just about cutting costs or creating positive brand awareness ­— sustainability strategies are being deployed as true revenue drivers.”

Sustainability strategies are starting to play an integral part in overall growth strategies, with 48 percent of executives reporting that sustainability concerns have at least some influence over a business’s growth strategy.

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Dead and Down

electric chainsaw

The Little Electric Chainsaw that Could

One of the reasons that we chose this location for our ranch was because the land here is littered with cypress, pinon pines, red cedar, and juniper trees by the hundreds.

These trees are regularly hit by lightning, and this causes them to die, or to lose branches. This type of wood is referred to as “dead and down” as we can harvest it without cutting down and killing trees.

Although most of our heat comes from the sun with our passive solar building design, there are times when it is cloudy and we need to additional heat. To generate this head we use a kiva-rumford fireplace and we burn dead and down wood from the ranch.

In the six years we’ve been doing this, we’ve used less wood than the lightning is providing – so our system is fully sustainable.

To harvest this wood we have been using a traditional gasoline chain-saw that we purchased from smile.amazon.com, the “Poulan Pro PP5020AV 20-Inch 50cc 2 Stroke Gas Powered Chain Saw With Carrying Case” for $231.14.

Initially this gas chainsaw worked fine, but after less than a year it began developing problems. We spend a lot of money buying parts for it (fuel filter, primer bulb, spark plugs, etc), and finally gave up and took it to a repair shop. At that point we’d spend over $150 and the saw still didn’t work reliably or cut particularly well.

Tired of the smell of gasoline, leaking oil, unreliability, difficulty starting and very high expense we finally gave away the Poulan and bought an electric Earthwise chainsaw. The Earthwise saw was on sale for $62 down from $109 (which was less than the $83 we spent on our last repair bill on the Poulan).

We bought a 100 foot extension cord and with either our Honda EU2000i generator or our truck battery and a 2,000 watt inverter. The result was amazing!! No more need for hearing protection! No struggling to start the saw! No worries about having put Stay-bil in the chainsaw gas can! No more mixing fuel!!

The Earthwise runs instantly without hassles. It’s much lighter than the Poulin, and that means less fatigue when cutting. It slices through 10 inch and 12 inch logs with ease — just as fast or faster than the Poulin. And we don’t have to stop every few minutes to re-fuel, tighten the chain, and guess if the bar/chain oil is out. The Earthwise has a bar/chain oil reservoir that is visible, so you can see at a glance when it needs to be refilled. The chain can be tightened with a turn of a nob. Why didn’t we do this years ago?!

We’re working now on creating a little solar generator on wheels that we can use to power devices like this saw with free solar energy and deep-cycle batteries. This will make the process even more sustainable and clean

I recommend that you look into this new generation of powerful plug-in chainsaws, as well as the new cordless chainsaws with high-voltage battery packs. This saw has dramatically improved winters here on our ranch and we’re thankful to have found it.

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Sustainability Holiday Tips

Did you know that you can celebrate Christmas with an eye toward sustainability?

First, try to buy your gifts from local family-owned stores and businesses. When you buy from a national chain, you’re helping to pay an executive’s bonus. When you buy from your neighbor, you’re helping them feed their kids, pay their rent, and you’re keeping local business alive.

Given that many of us live in rural settings, we have the choice of having a Christmas tree inside our home, or we can decorate a suitable tree outside on our property. If you use outside decorations, consider stringing cranberries and popcorn to attract and feed the local birds, and you can easily enjoy the fun of bird watching from inside by the fire.

With either an indoor or outdoor tree, if you haven’t already, switch to LED light strings. The LED lights burn very cool, use less than 10% of the power than the old incandescent variety, last for many years, and the frustration of trying to find the one burned out lamp is gone forever. In fact, they use so little power you can buy solar LED strings that charge during the day and come on automatically at night. Solar lights like these are perfect if you choose to decorate an outdoor tree.

If you have an indoor tree, consider some of these great ways to reuse and recycle the tree after the holidays. Take the tree outdoors and hang bird feeders and suet cages to turn the tree into a wild bird feeding station.

After the tree has seasoned outdoors, chop the tree into firewood, or chip it into mulch. Use the leftover greenery for winter wreaths, or to decorate planters. A whole tree provides shelter for birds and animals in the garden or over a pond. And use the tree branch for coat hooks.

You can also cut the trunk into thin slices and use these in many crafts. You can make:

  • a garden border edge (use wood slices or branches and tree trunks, cut into short blocks)
  • garden path stepping stones (but this really only works with a very large tree)
  • a decorative wreath (hollow out the middle and decorate the round edges)
  • garden signs (burn a letter on each wood slice or if you’re really handy, cut the slices into letters)
  • coasters (use butcher block varnish to give them a thick coating)
  • a clock (you can buy clockworks and hands at any hobby store)
  • a decorative snowman (pick a small, medium and large slice, paint them white and glue them together)

You can also turn the best Christmas cards into fun projects:

  • cut off the back of the card and paste in a blank card to reuse it and resend it
  • cut off the back of the card and use the front as a postcard, but make sure it fits postcard regulation size or between 3.5 inches and 4.5 inches in height (measured vertically, perpendicular to address) and must be between 5 and 6 inches in width
  • create gift tags for next years gifts.
  • create bookmarks and laminate them to make them last longer
  • create placemats by cutting out images and sayings and putting them between contact paper or laminate them
  • make a collage out of your favorite images and messages and add to a scrapbook
  • frame your favorite cards to create art for gifts
  • cut to the size of an index card and write favorite holiday recipes on the back—use this for any cookie gifts you make and give away
  • for photo Christmas cards, punch holes in the cards, buy some metal rings and create a ringed album

With gift wrap, think about using cloth gift bags with colorful tissue. The person receiving the gift bag will often re-use the bag to give a gift to someone next year, so the bag is a gift that keeps on giving and saving paper and reducing waste.

If you end up with torn-up wrapping paper, consider making bows out of it, or wrapping the paper around ornaments to give them a fresh new look.

 

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Extend Your Growing Season

Gardening is not just a great way to get some exercise—it’s also a great way to put fresh vegetables on the table for a very low cost. Now you may be thinking August is far too late in the growing season to get a garden growing, but there are ways to extend the fresh food you grow.

And just think how wonderful it would be to have lettuce in December, plucked from your garden.

Now you don’t need to invest in an expensive greenhouse for this either. You want to be thinking about using straw as your helper.

The first option is to create something called a ‘cold frame’. This is simple since it uses straw bales and windows plucked from Habitat for Humanities Restore or even from that pile of window headed for the landfill. Arrange the straw bales in a square. Put the windows over it, and you have an instant cold frame that will allow you to grow carrots, lettuce and spinach, as well as other vegetables all winter.

The other way to keep growing even when it gets cold and snow starts to fall is to set up some containers to keep your plants warm.

A straw bale is a basic container. The bales releases heat as the straw decomposes, so they keep plants warmer. You just may need to cover plants with a tarp for any really cold nights.

To get a straw bale garden going, buy a few bales. You can set them up in a row, or an even better way is put them into a square and use the center to compost. Put some red wiggler worms into the compost pile and the worms will turn your kitchen scraps into great soil.

Condition your bales over two weeks with about 2 cups of blood meal per bale (or about 3 pounds total for each bale), and wash the blood meal into the bale so water comes out from the bottom of the bale. After 2 weeks, you can plant seeds or seedlings. Water on the days there is no rain.

Old metal drinkers that have holes in the bottom also make great containers Or use lick tubs, clean them out, and drill holes in the bottom.

If you’re using a container, add wood to the bottom, and newspaper soaked in bone meal. The wood will decompose over time, but it will also help retain water, so you will have to water less.

Now is the time collect rain water, or simply put your containers under your roof line to have your garden watered with the monsoon rains. And then you can look forward to fresh greens this winter.

 

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Add Some Solar to Your Life

   Going solar used to mean spending a lot of money. It is now possible to add in solar energy to your place in both small steps and inexpensive ways.

Go for solar outdoor lighting. Solar lamps can be bought almost anywhere, from online stores such as Amazon.com to big box stores, to the local hardware store. Best of all, they provide free light and direct the light down so there is no light pollution of our dark skies. And they come in many sizes, ranging from on the ground to lamp posts. And a lot of these lamps work great in the house, too.

Buy rechargeable batteries—and then some solar panels to charge them. These days you can get small solar panels that will recharge a laptop, a cellphone, or any other small electronic device, including a battery recharger. These can sell for between $20 to $200 depending on the size and wattage. You can search for “solar recharger” on almost any retail site to find them. Be sure to check the reviews to see they work with your electronic equipment—and you’ll save money in electricity bills.

You can get a solar panel gate opener at Costco for about $200, if you’re inclined not to open your gate manually.

Solar backup generators are also available these days. If you buy one ready made and set to go, expect to spend about $2000 to $4000. But if you’re handy, you can build one for around $500.

To build a solar generator, you’ll need a solar panel for about $150 (and you only need 1), deep cycle batteries (at least 2), a solar charge convertor, which is about $80, a heavy-duty cart to carry everything, an invertor for about $100, and the wiring (and DC wires need to be thicker than AC wires—and the wiring must be done correctly). You can build your own mounting with wood or metal—you do need some mounting hardware.

For help in putting it together, go to Google and search for “How to build your own solar generator”. There are plenty of good articles.

A great place to get your batteries is at Recon Battery Warehouse (505-750-0276) in Albuquerque. They sell reconditioned batteries that are fully sealed—meaning no maintenance. They’re perfect for a small solar system—either a generator or for a greenhouse, or to add a solar system. They’ve got some of the lowest prices for batteries, too.

   And for a great deal to get your cabin or RV off the grid, Home Depot offers a full system (it’s only missing batteries) for about $1000.

You can also get a solar powered water heater for about $200, which can save in propane costs.

Remember when buying a solar panel you want to look at the watts produced. You really want something that produces the watts you need—not something low cost that only puts out 5 watts (meaning it could charge a cell phone over a very long time). A typical lightbulb is 60 watts, so keep that in mind when buying solar.

For a list of even more ways to start going solar, head to: theconnectable.com/coolest-solar-gadgets.

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Spring 2016 Sustainability Tips

If you’ve got a computer, and most of us do, you can do a simple thing to simplify and unclutter your life. Take a few minutes to receive and pay your bills electronically. Almost everything from your phone bill to your credit card statement can be viewed online and often these companies will discount you a few dollars for going paperless.

To save more pennies, turn off your electronics when not in use. A computer left on for 24 hours can use a lot of electricity—up to 1000 kilowatts. And, even when your TV or computer is off, it is still using power. Many appliances aren’t really off when you turn them off—they are in low power “sleep” mode instead. Either unplug all your electronic devices or use a power strip and flip of the switch when you’re done.

Use less disposable items to save on having to re-buy the same things. Go for eating ice cream in a cone rather than a cup. Use your travel mug when buying coffee. Keep your water bottle handy. Don’t forget your reusable shopping bags.

It’s a fantastic new trend to say no to disposable shavers and go back to an old fashioned “safety razor” like the one your dad used. They’re just as safe and handy as disposable razors, but much cheaper to use and produce much less waste. A single blade will give between 10 to 15 shaves on each of its two sides.

Upgrade your lights. Changing light bulbs with the new low cost LED lamps can save ten times the amount of energy than a regular bulb while lasting for many years. Don’t for-get to turn off lights when not in use.

If you can get motion-sensitive lights, give them a try—they turn off when no more motion is detected. Also, if you like using outdoor lights go for the solar powered ones.
Are you a hoarder? A hoarder in training perhaps? Simplify your life as much as possible.

Only keep belongings that you use/enjoy on a regular basis. Making the effort to reduce what you own, you will naturally purchase less/create less waste in the future.

To reduce what you have—and give your old items a chance at a second life, visit GiveBackBox.com.

From there you can print a label that you can apply to a box from Amazon.com or other online retailer. Put your donations in the box, add the label and ship! You can even print a donation receipt from GiveBackBox.com, and you don’t have to deal with old boxes.

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