Ecofriendly Holiday Decorating Tips

It’s easy to go overboard buying new decorations when the excitement and anticipation of Christmas sets in. Instead of purchasing new decorations that may be thrown out after Santa returns to the North Pole, check out our eco-friendly holiday decorating guide for simple tips to make the season extra green.

Keep It Real
When it comes to your Christmas tree, just say “no” to artificial firs. Artificial trees can’t be recycled, are often made of harmful chemicals, and take up a lot of unnecessary space in landfills. Try a pine tree from your local tree farm instead. These trees are replanted every year so you’re not negatively impacting the forest. And many counties offer tree recycling locations where your retired tree can be turned into mulch or wood chips for gardens and hiking paths.

Living trees are another great option for the eco-conscious decorator. Many local nurseries keep a variety of evergreens on hand to be kept in a pot during the holidays and then planted in the yard afterwards.

Let LED Light the Way
Switch out your old strands of incandescent bulbs for energy efficient LED lights! LED lights can last up to 25 times as long as incandescent bulbs! They’re also extremely durable and don’t emit any heat, thus eliminating the holiday fire hazard. Although LEDs have been expensive in years past, prices have decreased and many styles of LEDs are now available from most local hardware stores and retailers.

Don’t forget about LED candles to add that special touch to kid and pet friendly holiday centrepieces. Lightweight and reusable LED candles are made from wax just like a real candle. Some even flicker without the flame and can last up to 1,000 hours.

Homemade is the Best Adjective
Instead of buying a wreath that might get tossed in trash later, create your own with old fabric by following this simple DIY guide. You can also make your mantle look fabulous with a homemade stocking! Check out these cute DIY Christmas stocking projects using recycled materials. But don’t stop there! Why not create your own ecofriendly ornament? Browse these creative, ecofriendly ornaments for inspiration and start crafting your own.

Look Local
Ditch the typical big box retail stores and opt to buy your holiday decorations from a local source. Check out a local craft show or swap meet. Browse your classified listings for holiday decorations or check esty.com for nearby artists.

If you want to keep it local and save a lot of money, take a walk outside. Pine cones, cinnamon sticks, pumpkins, gourds, fallen branches, pomegranates, cranberries and citrus fruits are all beautiful, seasonal items that you can use to decorate your home with.

Let us know what your favorite ecofriendly holiday decorations are and keep making green waves!

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Disposing of Autumn Leaves: An Eco-friendly Guide

There are lots of great things about the fall season but cleaning up tons of leaves is not one of them. Don’t let all of those crispy leaves on the ground get you down! Dolphin Blue has pulled together some great tips on having some autumn fun and disposing of leaves the eco-friendly way.

DON’T FORGET TO HAVE FUN FIRST
Who needs a gym membership when you can get great exercise at home just by raking your front yard? If you’ve never jumped into a giant pile of autumn leaves you’re missing out on some green fun and a great photo opportunity with the kids! And if you want to get those creative juices flowing, why not go on a hunt for the prettiest or biggest leaves around and make them into an art project to remember. Check out some of these craft leaf activities for kids!

USE FALLEN LEAVES AS MULCH
Protect your vegetable or flower garden from harsh winter weather. Spread leaves over bare garden soil during winter for an extremely cost effective, eco-friendly mulch! Decaying leaves will deplete garden soil of nitrogen so in the spring make sure to add an organic source of nitrogen like Neptune’s Harvest Organic Hydrolyzed Fish Fertilizer.

MOW OVER LEAVES TO SHRED THEM
To keep bags of leaves out of the landfill gather dry leaves into low piles with a rake then mow over them with your lawnmower. Leaves will decompose on their own, eventually turning into compost. And if you spread them evenly over your yard they’ll disappear in no time!

CHECK OUT COMMUNITY COMPOSTING
If your bags of leaves are piling up, check to see if your neighborhood offers curbside leaf collection or maintains a central area where residents can drop of unwanted leaves. Bag your leaves using compostable bags and drop them off or leave them curbside. Leaves will typically be composted by your community center and then made available to residents as free compost!

WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T BURN YOUR LEAVES!
Even though you may have seen neighbors burning huge piles, burning leaves is a terrible idea. Even smaller piles of burning leaves can release large amounts of toxic fumes that can aggravate respiratory problems such as allergies and asthma attacks. The air pollution caused by burning leaves can also corrode paint and metal siding and release a chemical called dioxin that causes cancer. The American Lung Association found that burning a pound of leaves produces more air pollution than burning a pound of coal! Burning leaves can also spark brush fires, forest fires, or even house fires. So remember to mow them, mulch them, or bag them but never burn your leaves!

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10 Tips on How to Green Your Halloween

Halloween is that fun time of year when you can dress up as anything you like, decorate as crazy as you want, and eat as much candy as your heart desires. Dolphin Blue has pulled together 10 tips on how you can make sure this year’s Halloween is eco-friendly, fun, and safe for you and the environment!

1. Go Organic
When choosing the treats for all the brave kids that come to your door this Halloween, choose organic candy such as gummy bears or lollipops from companies like YummyEarth. Other great options for trick-or-treaters are LARABAR minis from Whole Foods, tasty Veggie Chips, or junior packs of organic nut butter such as Justin’s Nut Butter. You could also hit two birds with one stone by handing out organic chocolate squares like Endangered Species’ “Bug Bites” which feature educational insect trading cards and help to fund species and habitat conservation.

2. Choose Your Bag Wisely
Skip the impossible-to-recycle-cheap-plastic-pumpkin this year and opt for a reusable Halloween “ChicoBag” to store all of your night’s loot. This bag can hold up to 25 lbs of candy and fits into a small pouch so you can easily store it for next year’s outing. Another timeless green idea is to use a pillowcase to store all of your candy. But if you already have a plastic Halloween pumpkin from last year but it needs an update, don’t buy a new one. Just grab some non-toxic paint and give it a face-lift.

3. Remember the 3 R’s for Costumes
When you are choosing your costume this year remember to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Reduce waste from costume packaging and make your own outfit. It’s easy to make a 60′s, 70′s, 80′s, or even 90′s costume from clothes you already own. Or get together with friends and family and host a costume trade so you can reuse costumes that are old to your friend but new to you! You can also gather recyclable items such as cardboard, foil, and paper to make all sorts of great costumes. Remember to only use water-based face paint and to buy face masks made from natural latex.

4. Get Creative in the Yard
Don’t waste money on pricey lawn decorations that can be hard to recycle. Grab some black trash bags and fill them with leaves to make a giant lawn spider. You can also use old bed sheets stuffed with newspaper or leaves to create ghosts by tying them with a string to form a head. Hang them from your trees to create a spooky yard. Old black pantyhose or cotton balls can also make great, inexpensive spiderwebs!

5. Light the Way with Solar or LED
Solar-powered lamps are a great choice to light the path to your front door for all the ghosts and goblins that come knocking. You can also choose LED lights which last up to 133 times longer than incandescent and cost a fraction of the price. Solar and LED lights are much safer than candles or regular bulbs because they don’t generate heat so they won’t start fires or burn anyone that touches them.

6. Keep Your Monster Bash Eco-friendly
If you host a party this year make sure you use reusable plates and cups for your guests to reduce waste. If guests will be throwing away plastic cups, cans, or bottles make sure you set out recycling bins where they are easy to see and encourage party-goers to recycle. Browse our selection of eco-friendly plates and kitchenware to make green waves at your Halloween party!

7. Exorcise Energy Vampires
When your electronics and appliances are off but still plugged in they can drain energy and cost you hundreds of dollars every year on your energy bill. These “Energy Vampires” or “Phantom Loads” not only cost you money but they lead to unnecessary carbon emissions, which is scary! Before you leave the house to trick-or-treat, make sure to unplug any items that you won’t use while you are gone.

8. Skip the Car and Take a Walk
Instead of driving the kids around this year, choose to walk instead. Walking will allow you to get a great look at all the cute and creative costumes your neighbors have put together and you will get great exercise in the process (allowing you to eat more candy!) If you don’t plan on trick-or-treating in your neighborhood, park your car in a safe place and walk from there. Always remember to stick together and think about providing your little ones with rechargeable flashlights that run without batteries and provide bright LED light from a simple shake.

9. Donate the Day After
If you don’t plan on reusing your costume and it is not recyclable, think about donating it to a school theater program or community center. Odds are they will be able to give your costume new life through one of their productions or you’ll help some imaginative kids have a great drama class.

10. Don’t Trash Your Pumpkins
Pumpkins are one of the best parts about Halloween. Whether you carve them or just set them out on your porch for all to admire, make sure you don’t throw away your pumpkin after the festivities are over. Many people like to roast their pumpkins seeds or use the pumpkin innards in different tasty recipes. Your pumpkin can easily be composted. If you need advice on how to start your own compost pile, check out Dolphin Blue’s blog about it here.

Check the Dolphin Blue blog often for more eco-friendly tips and green news. We wish you all a happy, safe, and green Halloween!

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China is Drowning in Smog: One Man May Have the Solution


Air quality in China is bad, it’s really, really bad. The air quality is so poor that residents rarely see the sun and in some cities, the dense air pollution is mistaken for snow! What is causing all of the pollution? It’s coal-burning smog. And until China can ween itself from fossil fuels and implement more sustainable energy practices, other energy solutions are desperately needed. One designer named Daan Roosegaarde may have an ingenius solution.

Roosegaarde has an idea to create what he is calling an “electronic vacuum cleaner”. Copper Tesla coils buried underground would help to create an electrostatic field that would pull smog particles down from the polluted sky, creating a clear space above where sunlight could shine through.

His smog vacuum would attract pollution particles much like a strand of hair is pulled toward a statically charged balloon. Copper coils would create a field of static electric ions which would magnetize the smog, causing it to fall down to the ground below. Roosegaarde plans to capture all of the smog on the ground and compress it, hopefully making it easier to create awareness of how much smog residents are living with and to rally opposition to the causes of the polluted air.

This week Roosegaarde created a working prototype with the help of the University of Delft. They were able to take a 5×5 meter room full of smog and create a smog-free hole of one cubic meter with their device. Now the challenge is how to apply it on a grander scale. Roosegaarde would like to see it installed in parks and public spaces where everyone can enjoy a smog free sky.

Over the course of the next 12 to 18 months, Roosegaarde will be working to perfect his device and many will be watching, waiting, and hoping for his success. Roosegaarde acknowledges that the smog plaguing China is “a human problem not a technological problem” and he hopes that his smog-cleaning vacuum will help raise awareness off the issue while also taking a small step to make the air quality and quality of life a little better for the residents of China.

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Costa Concordia Salvage A Success

Protecting our oceans and keeping them trash free is sometimes easier said than done. Take for instance the story of the Costa Concordia, a cruise liner that crashed into the Italian Giglio Harbor in 2012. It sat for 20 months in the harbor, molding to the rocky perch beneath, before salvage experts were able to right the partially submerged ship.

According to ABC news, “the most spectacular salvage operation in shipping history” has been completed as the 114,500-ton Costa Concordia was pulled upright. While the catastrophic wreck happened in January 2012, the ship was not righted until September 17th, 2013. The salvage crew was able to accomplish this feat by building a platform under the waves and moving the ship from a position that kept it in danger of slipping down the sloping seabed.

Captain Richard Habib, director of Titan Salvage, led the $800 million project over the course of 18 months. For the salvage workers, the operation was risky and complicated, but for the residents of the Italian harbor, the operation was a life-saver. Removing the massive ship from the harbor was long overdue and many residents and salvage workers alike popped champagne bottles in celebration as the 19 hour operation to roll the ship vertical came to a close at 4am.

After the successful righting of the ship, it will stay in the harbor as further inspections are made. On October 10, Dockwise Vanguard, a semi-submersible heavy lift ship able to carry up to 110,000 tons, was awarded the removal of Costa Concordia. After the ship is re-floated, it will be towed to an Italian port to be scrapped.

Dolphin Blue is happy to learn that crews were able to avoid a catastrophic event by removing the ship’s oil and fuel supply before it leaked into the harbor waters. Taking responsible steps to ensure the safety of the animals that call Giglio Harbor home is one more piece of this story that give it a happy ending.

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Hope for the American Energy Crisis

In an op-ed published this month in the New York Times, Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, declares that our energy productivity and energy security are the best they’ve been since the 70’s. This opinion finds itself in stark contrast of those who think we need to construct the massive Keystone XL pipeline, or create a surge of oil and gas drilling, or start a nuclear power renaissance. Keep reading to learn more about Cavanagh’s article.

Cavanagh says that we have President Obama’s climate action plan to thank for the new-found positivity surrounding our nation’s energy news. Obama’s climate action plan gives top priority to the most productive and lowest-cost options for energy, which includes the “energy efficient resources” that come from getting more out of oil, natural gas and electricity with efficient equipment and vehicles that are used more carefully.

According to government data, energy-saving efforts in the U.S. have resulted in a steady decline in energy use since 2007. In 2012, energy use was lower than it had been in 1999, despite the 25 percent growth spurt the economy experienced since then. Cavanagh states that this trend is the result of factories and businesses producing more products and value with less energy, the main goal Obama’s climate action plan.

American oil use is also in decline, down 14 percent compared to a peak in 2005. The U.S. used less oil last year than in 1973, even though the economy is now 3 times as large as it was back then! This is thanks to better mileage from our vehicles and driving those vehicles less. Greenhouse gas emission, energy costs, and gasoline use have also declined; saving billions of dollars and helping the American economy compete in a global market whilst helping to make the U.S. more secure.

To continue this progress, Cavanagh says that the federal and state governments must keep increasing efficiency standards for buildings, equipment, and vehicles. And the Environmental Protection Agency must reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by implementing standards that focus on energy efficiency to reduce pollution. He also states that utility companies should be rewarded by state regulators for helping customers utilize energy efficiently instead of penalizing those companies for not increasing their sales. Annual rate adjustments should be instituted by regulators to allow for unexpected changes in energy utility sales.

Over the past 40 years, the U.S. has found many innovative ways to save energy; we have more than doubled the economic productivity of our oil, natural gas and electricity. America’s most productive energy resource has been efficiency all along and it starts with the everyday decisions we make at home and at work. By simply trading out our old light bulbs for energy saving bulbs and updating our homes and buildings with energy-saving products and appliances, we will continue to see our energy productivity and energy security increase in America. If we focus on achieving more energy savings, we will also reduce costs and pollution. It seems the future of energy is not as dark as it once seemed.

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Germany Breaks World Record for Solar Power Generation

At Dolphin Blue we love clean, green energy! That’s why we love solar power. This past July, Germany set a world record by producing 5.1 terawatt-hours (TWh) of solar energy. To put that in perspective, a terawatt is equal to 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion) watts or the average amount of energy that a lightning strike gives off. You get the picture; it’s a lot of energy to generate! The U.S. only produced about .764 TWh this past July, but according to market reports, U.S. solar power is on the rise.

Solar power capacity per capita in Germany was about 400 Megawatts (MW) per million people in 2012 compared to about 25 MW per million people in the U.S.  This is mainly influenced at the local, state, and national levels by countries like Germany incentivizing solar adoption through long-term policies, which have in turn helped to reduce the costs of installing solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems. In fact, the costs to install PV systems in Germany are nearly 40% lower than in the U.S.

Despite the drastic cost differences between solar power systems in the U.S. and Germany, the cost of solar modules in the U.S. is decreasing rapidly every year. In 2012, the U.S. installed a record 3,313 MW of solar power systems and the market size for the solar power industry grew from $8.6 billion the previous year to $11.5 billion.

As the U.S. continues the trend of increasing installed PV systems and solar power generation, the solar power industry will hopefully be able to reduce installation costs. As it becomes more affordable to install solar power systems, global solar energy adoption will allow us to generate clean, green electricity worldwide.

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Save Money by Making Green Waves at Home

Dolphin Blue isn’t just your favorite online store for green products for your home, garden, and office, we’re also a great resource for tips on how to make your home more eco-friendly. Keep reading to learn how you can save some money this fall and help save the Earth!

1. Turn off the lights when you leave a room and especially when you leave your home for the office or school. Turning off light bulbs can make a huge dent in your electric bill.

2. Use cold water when you wash your clothes. Your washing machine uses up to 90% of its energy heating water for warm or hot wash cycles. Using cooler water also helps your clothes last longer.

3. Remember to clean the lint trap in your dryer after every cycle. The lint that builds up can cost you on your electric bill and can also turn into a fire hazard!

4. If you want the freshest linens, use a clothesline to dry your laundry in the sun. You can purchase a clothesline for a few dollars and keep your clothes dryer shut off completely.

5. Research your local utility companies and choose one that offers ‘green energy’. Some companies offer a discount for purchasing power created by green generators such as windmills.

6. Move your fridge if it sits next to a stove or dishwasher. The refrigerator has to work harder to keep your groceries cool if it sits next to something that gives off a lot of heat. Relocating your fridge can help you save energy and keep your snacks cool!

7. Replace pricey cleaning products with a mixture of hot water and white vinegar. If that doesn’t cut it, watch for eco-friendly cleaning products like the ones that Dolphin Blue offers. They are easy on the Earth but tough on dirt. Don’t forget to recycle the bottles!

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How To Start Your Own Compost Pile

If you’re planning your fall garden this month why not add a compost pile to the mix? Composting is a natural way to dispose of organic waste by breaking down organic material and transforming it into a nutrient rich soil additive, known as compost. Compost is a great, eco-friendly fertilizer for your garden. It loosens heavy clay so plants can thrive and helps sandy soil hold onto nutrients and moisture. Compost also encourages beneficial microorganisms that help your plants grow strong and healthy.

Getting your compost pile started is easy. Dolphin Blue has put together an easy to follow guide to help you take your fall garden to the next level!

Choose a spot. Select a warm, sunny spot for your compost. The composting material you put in will break down more quickly if the compost pile is warm and higher temperatures will help kill off any weeds that try to grow.  The microorganisms at work in your compost breaking down organic materials prefer warm temperatures as well.

Build your compost bin. You can create a successful compost pile directly on the ground but many people choose to keep a compost bin because it looks neater, can discourage animals from getting into food scraps, and also helps to regulate moisture and temperature. Your compost pile or bin should be at least 3 x 3 x 3 feet. A pile this size will have enough mass to decompose whether in a bin or on the ground.

Gather your composting material. Start by gathering two shovel-fulls of garden soil to help introduce the correct bacteria to start the compost cycle. Then collect a balanced mixture of “green stuff” and “brown stuff” for your compost pile.

  • Green stuff is high in nitrogen and helps to activate the heat process in your compost. These materials include young weeds, barnyard animal manure, grass cuttings, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, teas leaves, and plants.
  • Brown stuff is high in carbon and helps to serve as the fiber for your compost. These materials include autumn leaves, dead plants and weeds, sawdust, cardboard, dried flowers/straw/hay, and animal bedding.

Fill your compost pile.
Start by spreading a layer several inches thick of dry brown stuff, like straw or leaves, where you want to build your pile. Add a layer of several inches of green stuff on top. Then add a thin layer of garden soil and another layer of brown stuff. Moisten the layers with water. Continue layering green stuff and brown stuff with a little garden soil mixed in until the pile is 3 feet high. Aim for a mixture of anywhere from 3 parts brown stuff to 1 part green stuff to half and half, depending on what composting materials you have.

(Click here for a list of things you can and cannot compost.)

Turn your compost pile every week or two. The goal of turning your compost is to keep air flowing inside the pile which encourages aerobic bacteria and decomposition. Anaerobic decomposition will smell very sour (like vinegar) and decomposes materials more slowly than aerobic bacteria. Turning the pile helps to encourage the growth of the right kind of bacteria and makes for a nice, sweet-smelling pile that will decompose faster.

  • Move your composting material from inside to outside and from top to bottom. Break up any clumps. Add water or wet, green materials if it seems too dry. Add dry, brown materials if your pile seems too wet.
  • Take the opportunity while you turn your pile to introduce new composting matter and mix it well with the older matter.

When you first turn your pile, you may see steam rising from it. This is a sign that the pile is heating up as a result of the materials in it decomposing. If you turn the pile every couple of weeks and keep it moist, the center of the pile will turn into black, crumbly, sweet-smelling “black gold”. When you have enough finished compost in your pile to use in your garden, shovel out the fertilizer you have created and start your next compost pile with any material that hadn’t fully decomposed in the previous one.

Composting Tips:

  • For faster break-down, shred leaves or clippings and crush egg shells
  • Add some red worms to your compost pile to aid in the decomposition process
  • Keep a mini compost bin indoors near your meal preparation area that is easy to fill up, transport daily to the compost bin, and keep clean
  • Collect the grass trimmings when you mow your yard to compost, unless you have a mulching mower
  • Cover your compost pile with a black garden cloth to help raise the temperature. If you live in town, this keeps the area looking tidier while still allowing the necessary airflow
  • Don’t add materials to the compost pile that are marked as “never compost”
  • Add more garden soil to help reduce any smells coming from the compost pile
  • Keep your compost heap moist, but not soggy or wet. The precious microorganisms can die if they dry up and the composting process will slow down

For eco-friendly gardening products such as organic fertilizers and seeds, be sure to check out the lawn and garden section of DolphinBlue.com!

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6 Natural Ways to Keep Your Home & Garden Pest Free

Catnip

Most cats adore catnip but this herb has been found to be very effective in repelling mosquitoes.

There are many ways to keep your home and garden pest free this summer without the use of harmful chemicals found in common pesticides. Check out Dolphin Blue‘s eco-friendly solutions below and let us know what you think!

  • Basil. Keep flies away by planting this great smelling herb in small pots along windowsills and doorways. Don’t forget to keep some of your basil in the kitchen in case you need to add some to your next meal.
  • Catnip. Add some of your cat’s favorite plant to your garden to keep mosquitoes away. Studies have shown that catnip can repel mosquitoes more effectively than the controversial pesticide DEET. You can also crush the leaves and rub them directly on your skin for added protection.
  • Citrus. Mix fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice with water and spray along your windowsills and doorways to keep out pesky spiders. Spread the remaining citrus peels out in your garden to keep spiders at bay.
  • Vinegar. Fill a small dish with vinegar, a few drops of liquid dishwashing soap, and water to trap and kill fruit flies. You can also use vinegar to create a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water to wipe along surfaces in order to destroy the scent trails that ants use to navigate.
  • Cinnamon Bark Oil. Mix several drops of this essential oil in a 1:1 solution of water and denatured alcohol to help control dust mites in your home. Spray the mixture wherever dust collects.
  • Irish Spring Soap. You can hang, spike or sprinkle this soap near the areas of your yard that fall prey to hungry deer. They don’t like the smell and will stay away from your tasty lettuce, beans, and pansies.

Dolphin Blue’s lawn and garden section is ripe with sustainable products for your indoor and outdoor garden. Check them out on DolphinBlue.com!

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