4 Reasons On Why You Should Grow Your Own Fruits and Vegetables

home-vegetable-gardens-iv3cxjqhYou’ve probably thought about it before. The thought crosses your mind countless times, “I can totally build my own garden,” and you can, you can totally build your very own garden at home. Why aren’t you?

Sure, growing veggies and fruits may seem a little overwhelming at first, especially if you have never planted or watered a plant in your life, but it’s actually much simpler than it sounds. You can’t expect it all to be grand and great at first, there are going to be a few trial and errors. Will it be worth it? Yes, it’s most definitely going to be worth it.

Here are some reasons on why you should stop thinking about it and start growing!

fruitcage_2519133c1.) It’s good for you.

Gardening can be a great form for exercise; planting, weeding, watering and harvesting, and can also reduce your stress and decrease depression.

Growing your own fruits and vegetables can reduce your exposure to pesticides, making them healthier than produce bought fruits and veggies.  They’ll be fresh and rich in nutrients, anti-oxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A and folate.

2.) Good for the environment

Plants can improve the air quality around you and with proper placement a garden can help keep your home cool during the summer and warm during the winter.

You’ll reduce your carbon footprint by not buying produce that has travelled long distances, reducing fossil fuels and the pollution from the transportation.

3.) Reduce waste

Instead of buying more than what you need in order to get a better deal and later throwing away the amount you couldn’t use, you’ll be planting and growing “your own” food and thus you’ll be more unwilling to toss out “your own” produce.

2011-07-07 pc beans, strawberries,kefir14.) Self-satisfaction and Pride

Watching the very first seed sprout and later watching your entire garden flourish with fruits and veggies will bring you great satisfaction. Bask in the glory that is your amazing garden, it took a while but you got there. Eating your very first fruit from your garden and have the sweetness and freshness overwhelm you with joy and pride.

For natural and organic fertilizers check out Neptune’s Harvest. It’s 100% organic and safe for the environment.

We also offer Seedballz, they’re unique and grow in clusters rather than single seeds!

Have a compost near your garden! Composting can be a natural way to dispose of organic waste by breaking down organic material and transforming it into a rich nutrient soil additive. Read our “How To Start Your Own Compost Pile” blog post to get started!

We also have great tips on keeping your garden pest free. 6 Natural Ways to Keep Your Home & Garden Pest Free

For tips on how to make your lawn more eco-friendly check out, Really Make Your Lawn “Green”: Eco-Friendly Tips for a Sustainable Yard blog post.

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Flame Retardants

home-interior-decorating-80In the month of June, Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit health care systems, announced that they will stop using upholstered furniture treated with toxic flame retardants chemicals in their hospitals, medical offices and other buildings. Kaiser Permanente has set an example for everyone, they want manufacturers to switch to more sustainable and environmentally friendly products and this will not happen unless we, the consumers, demand a change.

What are Flame retardants?

Flame retardants are compounds added to manufactured materials, such as plastics and textiles, and surface finishes and coatings that inhibit, suppress, or delay the production of flames to prevent the spread of fire.

Today, flame retardants are used predominantly in four major areas:

  • Electronics
  • Building insulation
  • Polyurethane foam
  • Wire and cable

The two types of flame retardants that cause concerns are; halogenated flame retardants containing chlorine or bromide bonded to carbon and organophosphorous flame retardants containing phosphorous bonded to carbon.

Video Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune

Why are Flame retardants a big deal?

The chemicals don’t break down and generally have long term effects rather than immediate effects and can build up in humans and animals. They are not bound to the foam and can settle into the dust around our homes. Flame retardants have become so pervasive they can now be found in meats, fish, and dairy products.

Image from Green Science Policy Insitute

Flame retardants have been linked to male infertility, birth defects, cancer, reduced IQ’s and other health problems.

Children can carry an average of three times the levels of flame retardants in their bodies than the levels found in their mother. How you ask? Simply put, children spend their time putting their hands, toys, anything they seem fit in their mouths and unintentionally ingest more flame retardant chemicals from the dust.

Do they prevent fire from spreading? 

Flame retardants do not increase overall fire safety. Even though they can delay ignition for a few seconds in products, they will eventually burn and produce toxic gases that cause most fire injuries and deaths.

What can we do?

Keep your home dust free. The Natural Resources Defense Council has some helpful tips on what you can do to reduce flame retardants in your home and your body.

  • Vacuum carpets with a vacuum that contains a HEPA filter.
  • Damp mop floors and damp dust furniture on a regular basis.
  • Wash hands frequently, especially before eating. Don’t eat on your couch!
  • Choose naturally flame resistant fabrics and fill such as wool, cotton or jute.
  • Call manufacturers to ask about their use of flame retardants.
  • Check the label before you buy upholstered furniture and if you live outside of California, don’t buy furniture that carries a TB 117 label.
  • Vacuum and wipe down your car’s interior regularly.
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What is a Carbon Footprint?

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Carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds we produce as individuals, groups, etc., due to consumption of fossil fuels. The greater your carbon footprint is the more affect you have on our planet.

Carbon dioxide is released when we burn carbon based fuels such as:

  • Petrol and diesel- from our cars
  • Gas, oil and coal- from our homes and power plants
  • Jet fuel- from airplanes

How long is Carbon dioxides lifetime?

Carbon dioxide is not destroyed over time, instead it moves amount different parts of the ocean, atmosphere and land system. Some excess carbon dioxide will be absorbed by the ocean surface but some will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years because the process by which carbon is transferred to ocean sediments is very slow.

Watch this 2 minute video explaining carbon footprint.

Why is it important to be aware of your carbon footprint?

We all indirectly and directly impact our environment. A direct impact can be your day-to-day transportation and use of electricity in your home. While an indirect impact can be how far did the fruit you bought at the grocery store travel before it was consumed.

It’s great to know just how much a simple choice in your daily life can impact our planet. The more you know the more you can grow.

How can we reduce our personal carbon footprint?

  • Opt for riding your bike or walking when possible
  • Reduce the amount of trash you use
  • Recycle anything that can be recycled
  • Use renewable energy sources
  • Conserve electricity and heating
  • Use energy efficient appliances, Energy Star appliances
  • Conserve water; shorter showers!
  • Buy locally made products
  • Vacation closer to home
  • Proper insulation for your home
  • Plant trees!

Carbon Footprint Calculators

The Nature Conservancy’s -estimates how many tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases your choices create each year.

EPA Waste Reduction Model (WARM)- helps solid waste planners and organizations track and voluntarily report greenhouse gas emissions reductions and energy savings from several different waste management practices.

EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator-This calculator may be useful in communicating your greenhouse gas reduction strategy, reduction targets, or other initiatives aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

My Footprint-estimates the amount of land and ocean area required to sustain your consumption patterns and absorb your wastes on an annual basis.

Paper Calculator- premier tool for measuring the environmental impacts of paper and discovering the best paper choices

 

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Infographic Friday: Lead in Toys

Infographic Friday: Lead in Toys

Lead poisoning shows no obvious symptoms but with prolonged exposure of lead it can affect a child’s brain, nervous system, heart, and red blood cells. In some extreme cases lead poisoning can cause seizures, comas and death. Children between the ages of 1-6 are at risk of being diagnosed with lead poisoning because they spend majority of their time on the floor putting their hands, toys and other objects in their mouths. Since lead poisoning shows no outer symptoms the only way to find out the amount of lead in your child’s system is to go to a doctor and get a blood test especially if your child has the habit of chewing their toys.

The United States banned the use of lead in children’s products, house paint, children’s toys and household dishes in 1978. However the importation from other countries that still use lead paint and plastics for various products still exists. In recent years the United States has limited the concentration of lead in children’s toys, furniture and other products to .009% (90 parts per million) in lead paint and any other similar surface coating. The only exception is bicycles which are required to have no more than 300ppm of total lead content. Other items such as jewelry, key chains and charms may also contain lead. Swallowing any of these items can also lead to acute lead poisoning or death.

There are in-home lead tests available that can help parents test their children’s toys. It’s not entirely reliable since it can only detect high amounts of lead on the surface but cannot detect lows amount of lead below the surface.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) has released Trouble in Toyland, the complete list of 2013 toys deemed dangerous for small children. Click the link below to view the news report and list of toys deemed dangerous:

http://www.coloradonewsday.com/national/30019-2013-list-of-dangerous-toys-sends-warning-to-parents-this-christmas.html

Dolphin Blue sells toys that are produced without lead paint as they are made without any external coating.  They are also made in the USA!

Just click on the link below to go directly to our toy page:

http://www.dolphinblue.com/made-in-the-usa-green-toys-eco-friendly-children-toys.html

If your child’s toy has been recalled remove the item from the child immediately.

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Why BPA-Free is the Way to Be

By now you’ve probably heard about BPA and how you should avoid it or you’ve seen products advertise that they’re BPA free. But what exactly is BPA and why is it dangerous?

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical found in hard plastics and the coatings of food and drink cans. It is used to make water bottles, baby bottles, medical and dental devices, electronics, sports equipment, and more.

When absorbed into the body, BPA can imitate hormones such as estrogen and have hazardous effects on health. In a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they found that 95% of adult and 93% of child urine samples contained traces of BPA. The US Endocrine Society has expressed public concern over the amount of BPA humans are currently exposed to.

Keep reading to learn about the possible health hazards of BPA.

  • Scientists have shown that BPA can cause reproductive disorders by affecting egg quality and egg maturation
  • Impotence has been linked to BPA exposure among men
  • Scientists at the University of Cincinnati reported that BPA can cause heart disease in women and may reduce the efficiency of chemotherapy treatment
  • Researchers in California have shown that BPA exposure has been linked to type 2 diabetes
  • A study by the Yale School of Medicine found a possible increase in breast cancer risk among women who had been exposed to BPA in the womb

Everyone is susceptible to the hazards of BPA but babies and children are the most sensitive so its very important to limit their exposure to the chemical. Dolphin Blue has always ensured that our toys are healthy for the environment and healthy for kids. Our Green Toys are made from recycled milk containers and are BPA free.

When you’re shopping this holiday season be sure to check packaging on all toys and kitchen products to ensure they’re BPA free and safe for your loved ones!

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Green Eating for a Healthy Home

Creating eco-friendly meals for your family doesn’t have to involve expensive organic produce and pricey fair-trade ingredients. Just by buying local fruits and vegetables, reducing your family’s consumption of meat, and choosing sustainable seafood can help to reduce pollution, carbon emissions, and the strain on our Earth’s natural resources. Dolphin Blue has gathered some great vegetarian recipes to help you green your eating habits. You’ll probably find that what is good for the planet is also delicious!

Veggie Stuffed Shells

Portobello Pizzas

Turkey, Tomato and Emmentaler Breakfast Sandwiches

Responsible eating can start before your meal preparation begins and last after dinner has been enjoyed. Keep reading for some more ideas on how to keep your cooking and kitchen eco-friendly. And don’t forget to try out Dolphin Blue’s environmentally friendly Preserve Kitchenware and Tableware.

  • Research sustainable seafood to ensure the ecological health of the oceans. Read labels or speak to your grocer to see which species are caught and farmed responsibly to make sure you’re buying responsibly
  • Cut more and cook less. The more you are able to cut your food into smaller pieces, the less time it will take to cook and therefore the less energy you will use
  • Put a lid on it. When boiling or simmering, put a lid on your pot and turn of your burner. This will enable your food to cook while also saving energy
  • Try to use all edible parts of your food. Leave the skins on your produce (after your scrub it clean) and eat all parts of your fruits and vegetables if you’re able to
  • Grow your own food! Learn more about sustainable practices by growing your own food and teaching your family how to grow their own food. The distance from your garden to your table is very eco-friendly!

Keep checking the Dolphin Blue blog every week for more eco-friendly tips for your home and garden.

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Natural Remedies From Your Kitchen Cabinet

Instead of taking medicine the next time you have a headache or heartburn, try some natural remedies that you can find in your kitchen at home! Some of the same herbs and spices that you use to flavor your meals can be useful as natural health treatments. Keep reading for natural ways to fix heartburn, headaches, and more.

For Heartburn
Ease the burning with turmeric. This ancient spice is a key ingredient in curry and can help stimulate the digestive system to prevent acid buildup. Add turmeric to your next meal or try taking it in capsule form before eating.

For Headaches
If you have a splitting headache, try brewing a cup of rosemary tea. Rosemary helps to keep blood vessels dilated. Add 1 teaspoon of rosemary per cup of hot water, cover it, and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and enjoy a cup three times a day.

You can also use ginger to alleviate headaches. Ginger inhibits thromboxane A2 which prevents the release of substances that cause blood vessels to dilate. It can help keep blood flowing in order to prevent migraines. For a quick kitchen cure, grate fresh ginger into juice or water, chew on Japanese pickled ginger, use fresh or powdered ginger on your meals, or nibble on a piece of crystallized ginger candy.

For Sinus Pain or Pressure
When your mucus is clear or white, you should seek a drying herb such as thyme. Thyme is a strong antiseptic and is a traditional remedy for respiratory infections. To enjoy a cup of thyme tea, steep 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried thyme in a cup of boiling water for about 10 minutes, three times a day.

For Insect Bites or Stings
Use a drop of peppermint essential oil on the center of a bite or sting to cause quick, cooling relief. Peppermint helps to increase blood flow to the bite or sting area so you suffer from less swelling and itching. Remember to always wash your hands when handling essential oils and keep them away from your eyes. (Poisonous spider or snake bites require immediate medical attention.)

For Toothaches
Rub a drop of clove essential oil directly on an aching tooth for pain relief. If you don’t have oil of clove available you can also rub a whole clove, flower end pointed down, next to your tooth for the same effect.

Sesame seeds are also known for being pain-relievers. You can boil one part sesame seeds with three parts water until the liquid is reduced by half. Cool the water and apply it directly to your aching tooth.

For Cold and Flu
For quick and convenient relief from your next cold or flu, combine 1 oz of sliced fresh ginger, 1 broken-up cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, 3 whole cloves, 1 lemon slice, and 1 pint water. Simmer for 15 minutes, strain, then drink a hot cupful every 2 hours.

Check back often for more natural, eco-friendly tips from Dolphin Blue!

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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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The Taste Test: A Look at the Many Milk Alternatives as a Way to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

The glass of milk that you might have had for breakfast this morning may seem innocuous enough, but the truth is, milk—and the carbon footprint that it bears—is quite complex. The many emissions of the many processes that it takes to produce a gallon of milk (the feed production, the raising of the cows and milk production, the transportation and packaging, the distribution, the consumption, and the disposal of both the product and its container) might make the eco-friendly mind think twice about this ubiquitous dairy product that emits about 17.6 pounds of carbon for every gallon produced. Wondering about the other options out there, I went to my local grocery store to try out some alternatives to this bovine beverage.

Cashew MilkWhile doing research for this post, I found an incredibly easy recipe for cashew milk. There is always a great thrill when you get to eat something you made with your own hands. And it was not bad! It had a very sweet, almost wheaty taste. It was like when you leave cheerios in the milk for too long and then drink it straight from the bowl. Yummy!

Rice MilkThe rice milk was lighter than the cashew milk in both taste and color. It was pleasantly sweet and very delicious. I would recommend drinking this milk with cereal for breakfast. It would definitely wake me up!

Almond MilkThe vanilla flavored almond milk was a huge hit with my family. It was very sweet, and had the most un-milk-like taste of them all, but in a wonderful way. I can’t wait to try it with a big slice of chocolate cake to see if the sweetness of the two complements each other. My dad recommends that all of you put it in your morning coffee.

Hemp MilkAnd, last but not least, was the hemp milk. I’d have to say that this was my favorite, because it was like nothing I’d ever tasted. Still, it was very yummy. It had a brownish color to it and a light, woodsy taste. I’m not sure it would go as well as the others with cereal, but it could certainly stand on its own.

All in all, my safari through the different flavors of not-milk was highly satisfying. It is always fun to expand your food horizons, especially when it leads to sustainably-minded shopping. You can reduce your carbon footprint by buying recycled products from Dolphin Blue, today!

(This blog was written by Dolphin Blue’s amazing intern, Elisa Rivera.)

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Exciting Eco-Eating: The Down & Dirty On Edible Insects

The U.N. recently released a report extolling the virtues of edible insects as an environmentally responsible alternative to meat as a source of protein and other nutrients.  With their high fat, protein, fiber, and mineral contents, edible insects certainly pack a healthy punch! What’s even better is that the cost to our environment to raise insects for consumption is far less than the impact of raising large livestock for meat.

Adding mealworms to caramel apples gives this fun treat a tasty crunch!

Adding mealworms to caramel apples gives this fun treat a tasty crunch!

Even though entomophagy, or the act of eating insects, hasn’t quite caught on in the West (yet!), in many other countries around the world, bugs are eaten with gusto and are often considered a delicacy. So, why should you add bugs to your menu?

The Problem: Meat is Unsustainable
Relying on large livestock (cattle, pigs, and chickens, for example) for one’s primary source of protein means one must rely on highly inefficient, greenhouse-gas-producing, and sometimes cruel practices to obtain nutrients. Not to mention the health problems associated with consuming too much meat.  With the world’s population growing at an incredible rate and the demand for food rising along with it, having enough land to support both people and large livestock will soon become an issue, as well. All this is why many have said that producing and consuming as much livestock as we do is not sustainable.

But, you’re not willing to go cold turkey on your meat and go vegetarian? Why not try substituting meat with insects every now and then? All the nutrients, none of the burden on our environment.

Edible Insects: Less is More
Insects are an eco-friendly food option for a simple reason: they need less—less food (some insects can be raised on human/animal waste, which reduces the possibility of environmental contamination and avoids wasting food that could be eaten by humans), less water, less space. They even release fewer greenhouse gases and ammonia than cows, pigs, and chickens.

Many insects’ feed conversion rates (the amount of feed it takes to put on 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of body weight in an animal) are much lower than traditional meat sources. The feed conversion rates of crickets, chickens, pigs, and cows are shown below:

Crickets 3.7 lbs of feed: 2.2 lbs of body weight gain
Chickens 5.5 lbs of feed: 2.2 lbs of body weight gain
Pigs 11 lbs of feed: 2.2 lbs of body weight gain
Cows 22 lbs of feed: 2.2 lbs of body weight gain

Large livestock create a larger toll on the earth with problems ranging from habitat destruction, loss of biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, and contamination from livestock and feed farms and farming practices. In general, insects are more efficient to farm and their impact on the environment is much less severe.

For something we spend so much time and money trying to exterminate, insects may actually be the first step to a solution to many of our world’s burgeoning social and environmental problems. All we have to do is get past those legs.

Creepy Crawly Recipes
Looking for some yummy ways to try bugs? Check out these sites, and add some environmentally conscious treats to your plate.

http://edibug.wordpress.com/recipes/
http://www.ent.iastate.edu/misc/insectsasfood.html
http://www.insectsarefood.com/recipes.html

For other ways to add a splash of green to your life, check out Dolphin Blue for sustainable office, home, and pet supplies.

(This blog was written by Dolphin Blue’s amazing intern, Elisa Rivera.)

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