Tuesday, November 22, 2016

5 easy ways to 'charge up' your recycling habits

(BPT) - Americans generate about 254 million tons of trash annually, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) most recent figures, and only about one-third of that waste is recycled. For many, one of the main barriers to recycling is not knowing how or where to recycle certain items.
For instance, many household cordless products we use every day are powered by rechargeable batteries. These batteries are not only recyclable, but contain materials that are potentially harmful to the environment if thrown in the trash. In fact, at least 20 percent of people are holding on to their used batteries because they know they shouldn’t be tossed out — but they don’t know where to dispose of them.
You can be part of the solution to reduce waste by learning how to properly recycle the products you use every day. Celebrate America Recycles Day — Tuesday, Nov. 15 — by incorporating the following into your recycling routine.
Check household “recyclable” items.
Aluminum cans and plastic bottles are the most commonly recycled items, but lots of other items found around the house can be recycled, as well. Start recycling plastic bags and paper towels right in your curbside bin. Pin a sign in the kitchen to remind kids they can throw napkins and sandwich baggies in, too.
Designate a separate container for rechargeable batteries from old cordless products and look up the nearest participating collection site so you know exactly where to go when the container is full.
Dump your stash.
Are you a battery hoarder? Do you have a drawer in the house filled with dead batteries? You aren’t alone. Establish a monthly routine when you sort through the junk drawer and gather up old electronics and used batteries to drop off while running other errands.
A study commissioned by Call2Recycle, Inc. found that an estimated 6.7 billion batteries were sold into U.S. markets in 2014. Of that number, 30 percent were rechargeable batteries available to be recycled. The Call2Recycle program makes it easy to be a responsible battery user with its network of more than 30,000 drop-off locations including retail stores in your own community that you may already visit regularly, like Best Buy, Lowe's, Sears, Staples, The Home Depot and more. Find a battery collection site near you by visiting www.call2recycle.org/locator.
Buy recycled products.
Recycling gives new life to old products by turning them into new ones. By using recycled materials in their products, manufacturers conserve energy and natural resources and reduce waste in landfills. Checking the labels for products that are recycled and eco-friendly when making a purchase is the easiest way to be a responsible consumer.
Participate in a local community recycling event — or create your own.
Thousands of events are organized nationwide on America Recycles Day to raise awareness about the benefits of recycling and buying products made from recycled materials. Get involved!
Host your own battery-specific recycling drive and invite your community to contribute their battery “hoards.” Your neighbors will thank you.
Take the #BeRecycled pledge.
Take the “I Will Recycle” pledge and commit to incorporating more green activities into your everyday routine. Start by selecting a specific item you use frequently and pledge to recycle more of that item in the future. By starting small, there is a greater chance you’ll continue throughout the year. Your efforts can inspire your family and friends to take the pledge and join you in incorporating environmentally-friendly behavior into their everyday lives.
These eco-friendly activities are simple and easy to incorporate and can help you lead a greener lifestyle, not just on America Recycles Day, but all year. By including one new item into your recycling routine — such as batteries — you can make a positive impact. Not only does this keep batteries out of landfills, but when recycled, valuable materials can be recovered and used in new stainless steel products, such as golf clubs, batteries and other products.

Get growing and plant cool crops for an extra inning of healthy harvest

(BPT) - The growing season isn't over with the arrival of cool weather. Until the first hard frost hits, you have time to plant, pick and plate delicious homegrown cool-weather crops - and save yourself some money in the produce aisle.
Favorable fall conditions mean growing cool weather crops is comparatively easy, with less care needed for a successful garden. Cool crops will start out strong, growing quickly and then slow their growth as days become shorter and cooler. You'll also need to work less to protect your garden from destructive pests, as both insect and animal populations will taper off in fall. And since weeds will germinate less frequently, growing slower, weeding won't be a time-consuming task. Finally, more rain and less sun and heat reduce the risk of crops falling victim to drought or too much heat.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of fall gardening is that you'll have fresh, healthy produce on hand well into the cooler season. Many autumn vegetables can endure the first few frosts if you provide them with proper protection, like row covers, cold frames or cloche. Some varieties - like spinach, collards and kale - actually taste better when nipped by frost.
Fall growing tips
The first step to success is to know your growing season. In warm climates, fall crops can actually thrive throughout winter. In colder areas, the growing season will be shorter. Not sure when frost will arrive in your area? Check out the USDA frost map on the Bonnie Plants website.
Next, you need to ensure your growing spot is in tip-top shape. Regardless of where you choose to plant your garden - in the sunniest spot in the yard or in containers - it's important to get the soil in shape; test the soil and add amendments if needed. Clear the ground and containers of any left-over garden debris, then add a 2-inch layer of mulch or compost, plus a balanced, natural fertilizer like Bonnie Plant Food, for a strong, healthy start.
Since fall's growing season can be unpredictable, it's important to give your garden every possible advantage. Get a jump-start and use transplants, like those offered by Bonnie Plants, in biodegradable pots, available at most garden retailers. They're already six weeks old, so you'll start growing right way, skip the volatile seed starting process and you'll harvest six weeks sooner than if you start from seed.
Fall variety favorites
The plant pros at Bonnie Plants recommend some top performers for fall:
* Artwork Stir-Fry Broccoli - Also called stem broccoli, produces multiple long, edible stems with tender, bite-size heads instead of a single large head. This means you can harvest the small heads -perfect for stir-fries and sautéing.
* Brussels sprouts - Brussels sprouts are high in protein and vitamin C. These hardy "mini cabbages" grow along a thick stem and can stand up to frost.
Bonnie hybrid cabbage - Cabbage heads will be ready to harvest when they're firm and solid to the touch. Although they can withstand temps below 28 degrees, cabbages that go through a hard freeze won't store as well, so be sure to harvest before temperatures drop very low.
* Georgia collards - The sweet, cabbage-like flavor of collards make them a favorite in southern dishes. Frost sweetens their flavor further, making collards a nutritious and delicious fall favorite.
* Spinach - A chill-loving green, spinach can produce abundant leaves ready to go from garden to table. Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse, and is high in vitamins A, C, K and E, as well as iron, maganese, folate and calcium.
* Cauliflower - Rich in vitamin C, cauliflower can withstand light frost and Bonnie's can resist colder temperatures. Cauliflower is naturally low in calories and high in fiber.
Plant herbs too, like parsley, rosemary, thyme and onion chives; they're wonderful culinary additions and they're ready to harvest right away.
If you put proper practices into place this fall, you'll get your garden off to the right start and reap an extra inning of a healthful and productive harvest. For more information on fall varieties and planting tips, visit www.bonnieplants.com.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Simple tips to save money, conserve energy as the heat rises

(BPT) - With temperatures — and therefore, electric bills — on the rise, American homeowners are looking for the most effective ways to make the biggest dent in their energy bills; however, many may be overlooking some of the most important energy-saving strategies.
Homeowners are more likely to do simple things around the house to conserve energy, according to the Lennox Home Energy Report Card Survey. Those simple things may include changing air filters in a heating and cooling system on a regular basis, unplugging electronics when not in use and turning down the temperature setting on a hot water heater.
While these activities can certainly help save energy and money, Jennifer Franz, an energy efficiency expert at Lennox, a home heating and cooling manufacturer, says homeowners need to take a close look at how they heat and cool their homes if they truly want to make a substantial dent in their energy bills.
“More than half of a home’s energy costs comes from heating and cooling the house,” says Franz. “If you can heat or cool your home more efficiently, then you’ll be well on your way to seeing lower energy bills.”
The first step is to have a professional evaluate the age, performance and efficiency of your heating and cooling system. The Lennox survey found that only slightly more than half of homeowners (51 percent) had taken the proactive step of replacing an old, inefficient heating and cooling system with a new, energy-efficient model, yet doing so can dramatically help conserve energy and reduce utility bills.
Franz says if the air conditioning system is more than 10 years old or the furnace is more than 15 years old — the average life spans of cooling and heating equipment — then it’s time to consider replacing the aging unit with a new high efficiency system.
Energy-saving technologies
Significant advances in energy-efficient technologies have enabled homeowners to save hundreds of dollars a year on their energy bills. One example is the Lennox SunSource Home Energy System — a solar-powered central heating and cooling system — that uses energy from the sun, collected from roof-mounted solar modules, to reduce the electricity consumed by a high-efficiency heat pump or air conditioner.
When the SunSource heating and cooling system is not in use, the solar energy can operate other appliances and electronics. Any excess energy that’s not needed is sent back to the utility company, possibly entitling the homeowner to a credit on their utility bill.
Other energy-efficient ways to cool and heat a home
In addition to replacing an old heating and cooling system, Franz says there are a number of other ways to make heating and cooling your home more efficient. She offers the following energy-saving tips:
* Seal cracks around windows and doors with caulk or weather stripping to prevent indoor air from escaping.
* Keep blinds, shades and curtains closed during the day in the summer to block sunlight from entering the home, but open them up in the winter to naturally warm the house.
* Install a smart thermostat, which can be controlled via an app from anywhere at any time, to adjust the temperature based on when residents are at home or away.
* Add extra insulation to the attic, which will help prevent your home’s heating and cooling system from having to work harder to regulate the indoor temperature.
For more energy-saving tips, visit www.lennox.com.