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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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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Upcycling: Turning Waste into Wonder

Upcycling is a growing trend in DIY crafting that takes an item or material that is past its useful life and transforms it into a new creation, usually with a higher value. Upcycling is a good way to reduce waste by reclaiming objects or pieces of objects and turning them into a product that gives the parts renewed value. Here are a few fun projects that you can try yourself with everyday household items:

By taking pages from an old newspaper, magazine, or book, you can upcycle a regular old picture frame into a piece of art itself! If you still have any leftover paper, you can also create a beautiful bouquet of flowers that will never wilt.Upcycled Paper Flowers and Frame

Come the holiday season, Dolphin Blue gets crafty by upcycling scrap sheets of paper into beautiful and festive decorations to bring joy to all! All you need is a little glue, and you have yourself some holiday cheer.Upcycled Paper Christmas Tree

Looking for a delicious way to display your jewelry? Try upcycling an old box of chocolates into a jewelry box for your pieces. This is a fun and easy project, as well as a great conversation piece!Upcycled Chocolate Box for Jewelry

If you want to find more ways to reduce the waste in your life, check out Dolphin Blue’s supply of recycled products of all kinds—made with fewer resources and less energy than their virgin counterparts. Make green waves in your life!

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

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Freeganism: A Waste-Free Way of Life

Freegans dumpster diving for re-usable items.Freeganism is a movement that focuses on reducing and making use of society’s waste by decreasing one’s participation in an economy of consumption and instead obtaining the resources needed to live—food, materials, shelter—through alternative means that are both free and produce minimal waste. Freeganism is very community-centered and demands to know why so many people starve every day or freeze to death out in the streets when at the same time tons of edible food is being thrown away and buildings lie vacant because the owner could not turn a profit on them. By standing up for these values in a variety of ways, Freegans promote sharing, food independence, and decreasing waste.

    • Waste reclamation/minimization: Rather than adding to the waste generated by consuming new materials, Freegans often acquire many of the materials and food that they need from dumpster diving and from community sharing programs like Free Stores. If there is a needed item that cannot be obtained from dumpster diving or community sharing programs, buying from second-hand stores is another way to reduce the waste coming from our society.
    • Alternative transportation: Buying gas and other necessities and accessories for cars contributes to our world’s dependence on greenhouse-gas-producing fossil fuels. Therefore, Freegans forgo the money- and resource-suck that are cars and choose alternative means of transportation like bikes, hitchhiking, and train jumping.
    • Rent-free housing: The waste in our society can also be seen in our communities’ willingness to let livable spaces remain empty when thousands of us live on the streets. Freegans recognize that housing is a right, not a privilege, and so practice squatting in abandoned buildings and house-sharing programs.
    • Going green: Freegans often plant community gardens (or, guerilla gardens) to gain food independence from giant agribusinesses, as well as to be able to share safe, free food with others. Freegans also forage for food and medicinal plants in the wilderness, proving that one can live independently from supermarkets and pharmacies as people once did not too long ago.
    • Working less: By living outside of the consumer-driven economy, Freegans don’t find the need to participate in monotonous, demanding work in order to earn a paycheck. Time could be better put to use volunteering in the community or doing something you enjoy. By working less or not working at all, Freegans refuse to be a cog in the corporate machines only to earn money to throw back at the many corrupt and wasteful companies.

Everyone in our society can work to reduce the exorbitant waste that we produce in our daily lives by learning from the Freegan example. By buying less, buying second-hand, and/or buying recycled we can all reduce the trash that threatens to bury us all. By growing our own garden, we can develop a relationship with nature while also becoming food independent.

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

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Heroes of Sustainability: Harvey Lacey

Harvey Lacey. Photo by Beccalyn Photography.

Harvey Lacey, a grandfatherly looking Texas inventor in his 60s, has found a simple and elegant solution to a problem that others have found to be completely unsolvable — housing the most desperately poor people on earth. Lacey teaches Haitians how to build dry, well-insulated, and sturdy dwellings made from trash. The basic element of construction is what Lacey calls Ubuntu-Blox. (“Ubuntu” means “humanity to others.”)

Trash to Treasure
Ubuntu-Blox are building blocks made from recycled plastic and Styrofoam. The plastic and Styrofoam are cleaned and then compressed. Later, dwellings arise when the blocks are layered and reinforced with wire and rebar to form walls. Roofing can be done with scrap lumber. Finally, the walls are sealed with a coating of mud or stucco.

Surprisingly, dwellings constructed from Ubuntu-Blox have been shown in tests to be capable of withstanding hurricane-speed winds and a level of shaking found during strong earthquakes.

More about building with Ubuntu-Blox can be seen in a video from the Memnosyne Foundation and a recent article by Gail Bennison published in the Collin County Business Press.

In Haiti, Lacey teaches Haitians (generally women) how to make Ubuntu-Blox and how to use them in construction. One woman described her motivation to become a student of Lacey by saying that she simply did not want to have to stand in water when it rained. Lacey’s students can use the skills they learn in constructing a dwelling for themselves to earn income that will take them out of extreme poverty. They can make and sell Ubuntu-Blox and sell their labor to construct buildings for others.

A Humanitarian
Lacey is supported in his travels by a small grant from Memnosyne Foundation. Lacey’s reward for his work is helping people who desperately need help. He does not want royalties from those who choose to build with Ubuntu-Blox. He conceives of what he is doing as going beyond the familiar parable about teaching a hungry man to fish. He teaches a more advanced technology — a technology that is more like teaching a hungry man how to use a fishing net, not just a fishing pole.

Lacey is now getting calls from all over the world from people who want to find out more about how trash can be used to provide well-constructed dwellings for almost no money. He is very happy to take those calls and to offer his help and encouragement.

Lacey’s work is beginning to have a worldwide impact. That is important in light of a struggle that more and more poor people now have to stay out of extreme poverty. Turning recycled trash into decent housing is an exceptional advance in both humanitarian action and sustainability. If you like what Lacey is doing, you can let him know by sending a message to ubuntublox(at)gmail.com. You could also send a contribution to Memnosyne Foundation, 2902 Maple Avenue, Dallas, TX 75201, and let them know you appreciate their support of Harvey Lacey.

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Building it Green: Wood from Deconstructed Homes

1front door and kitchen

It’s simply wonderful, and a total joy to watch our tiny house as it approaches completion.

The wood being used to build the cabinetry, window trim, the ship ladder to the loft space,  countertops, shelves and all other interior and exterior details is longleaf pine, reclaimed  from a tear-down, slated for demolition due to highway expansion through Luling, Texas.  Estimated age of the wood is approximately 100 years.

2Kemper tiny house ancestor 43lofts over kitchen in progress

Most satisfying is knowing that every last bit of wood, windows, doors, fixtures, and flooring comes from very old houses gently deconstructed, rather than being sent to a landfill or waste incinerator.

The beauty, richness, and character of this energy-filled wood will absolutely jump to life once rubbed with Tung Oil, the final step prior to our taking delivery, around January 15.

Brad Kittel and his crew at Tiny Texas Houses (www.tinytexashouses.com) is doing an amazing service for us, and for our planet. 

For more photos of the wainscot bead board inside our Tiny Texas House, please visit our facebook album.

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Building it Green: Wainscot Bead Board

interrior walls 2

Our tiny house is taking on its character, a character with the energy of its ancestors.

The ceiling boards are reclaimed from a home built in the 1860’s, the wainscot bead board from another home constructed in the 1880’s, the door from a home welcoming those who entered through during the 1850’s to 1860’s.

The “bubble gum” bead board in our tiny house is covered with old milk paint, in very light hues of blue, lavender, pink, yellow and green, kind of like old-fashioned Easter egg colors, or, the colors of bubble gum. Once paneled along the base of the walls in wainscot fashion, the bead boards will be lightly sanded and treated with Tung Oil, natural oil derived from the Chinese Tung Tree.

The striping look of the bead board comes from letting the natural unpainted board show up, providing contrast and showing the beautiful rich Long Leaf Pine with 140 years or more of natural patina. Both the bead board and the ship-lap boards (oriented horizontally above the wainscot) are at least 100-years old, and originate from materials salvaged from once stately homes, deconstructed to make room for new development. There is a fair number of cheesecloth tacks still present in the ship-lap boards, which once held the wallpaper in place for a century. Wallpaper was used in part to be fashionable, but mostly to stop the wind from penetrating the walls into the living areas of the former home.

We’re ecstatic as we joyously anticipate receiving delivery of the Kemper Tiny House in mid-January. The most wonderful things about the creation of our tiny house are the history, living memory, and embodied spirit of those who have resided among the beautiful wood and glass that now make this little house the sanctuary it will be. Perhaps what is most meaningful is that our Tiny House embodies the resurrection of the former homes that otherwise may have ended their lives in a landfill or incinerator.

For more photos of the wainscot bead board inside our Tiny Texas House, please visit our facebook album.

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Building it Green: Our Tiny Texas House

1tconcept drawing Kemper kitchen end 2tKitchen end framing of Kemper

Recently, Margaret (my wife) and I bought a 1940’s “Austin stone” house in an eastern Dallas neighborhood. Upon buying our home, we immediately decided to remodel, and were faced with the decision to temporarily rent elsewhere, or live in a home filled with dust. Reluctant to disrupt our lives completely, we opted to build a backyard studio where we could temporarily live while our house was being remodeled. Since we had previously discussed building a space where visiting friends, musicians (www.eastdallashouseconcerts.com), and family could stay, the decision was easy.

After researching several options, we soon came across a magazine article featuring builders who were committed to building green, sustainable, small footprint homes. As we read through the article, we were immediately attracted to a company called Tiny Texas Houses in Luling, Texas, owned by builder and artist extraordinaire, Brad Kittel.

My wife and I quickly fell in love with Brad’s exceptional works of art, craftsmanship, and keen sense of design and we made a trip out to Luling. Upon arriving, we knew that we would soon own one of Brad’s amazing creations.

Unlike a typical home, a Tiny Texas House is built from salvaged materials, collected from deconstructed old homes, usually found in the path of economic development and highway projects. These wonderful old homes are typically 100 years or older, and yield thousands of feet in timber, boards, windows, fixtures, hardware, stained glass, and many other one-of-a-kind resources.

3cKemper tiny house ancestor 4stained glass kitchen window

In addition to Brad’s use of reclaimed materials, every Tiny Texas House is energy-efficient, insulated with Isonene Foam, so that heating or cooling is unnecessary, except during extreme temperature conditions. Every salvaged door and window is rebuilt, re-hung, re-weighted, and resealed with silicon stripping, ensuring that the entries are weather tight. The houses are then plumbed and wired to exceed municipal and state codes, as well as federal standards in the U.S.

Brad’s eco-friendly homes average 336 square feet, and house two people comfortably…perhaps more if you’re OK with sharing a small space. Once complete, our tiny home will be 252 square feet, and will house three cats, our cowdog Hank, as well as Margaret and I. We anticipate that we will live in our Texas Tiny House for a total of nine months while our house is being remodeled.  To see the beginning stages of our Texas Tiny House, visit the Dolphin Blue facebook page.

front from kitchen endfront from living end 2

Although it may be small in size, we are excited to live in a unique structure that will allow us to dramatically reduce our carbon footprint. I’ll keep you informed over the next several months.

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