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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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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Infographic Friday: Guerilla Gardening

Ron Finley is an inspiring gardener in South Central Los Angeles. He plants vegetable gardens in some of the most unlikely places: abandoned lots, traffic medians, even along the curbs of neighborhood streets. Why does he do it? Check out the infographic below and then follow this link to watch his TED Talk. Maybe it will inspire you like it inspired us at Dolphin Blue.

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Party Time: How to throw the greenest bash on your block

Summer is in full swing, and the longer days and warm temps make now the perfect time to throw an outdoor soiree, whether a small patio gathering or an all-out block party. As you can probably guess, though, these kinds of events often produce a lot of waste — each year Americans toss out enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times, says the Clean Air Council.

SeptPoolParty-2

But you don’t have to be a part of those negative statistics — green can be the theme of your party, or you can incorporate eco-friendly principles into an event of any kind. Here are some tips for a backyard bash sure to please Mother Earth:


Invitations

nlg_bbqpoolpartyIf the party is going to be casual, sending an online invite is a great way to save. Sites like Evite.com offer tons of options to suit any kind of soiree, and it takes just minutes to put together something nice, no design skills necessary. But if a printed piece of paper would be more appropriate for your occasion, look for recycled paper and soy-based inks, like the products offered by Dolphin Blue. One especially fun option is to get paper with seeds inside that can then be planted — it makes for an invite that your guests won’t soon forget and sets the tone for your green party. Check out Bloomin’s seed paper, which contain wildflower seeds in every sheet.

Food
Think local, local, local. Buying from a farmers market not only gives you the freshest food Preserve TableWarepossible, it also supports your local economy. Go organic when you can, and serve finger foods — that way you can cut down on the waste of disposable plates and silverware (if there’s no way to get around using throwaway items, go with a company like Preserve Tableware, which offers plates, tumblers, and cutlery made from 100 percent recycled plastic). Try these black bean and corn quesadillas from celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse; see more green recipes here.

If it’s a really big bash and you have tons of food left over, consider donating it to a food bank. Find one in your area at Feeding America’s site.

Décor and Centerpieces
Instead of using cut flowers in vases as a centerpiece, try potted plantsgrp_edr_centerpiece_april, which you can then keep or give to your guests as favors. Fruit (locally grown, of course) also makes for a fun decoration, and artfully arranging oranges, lemons, or limes in a centerpiece adds a bright pop of color to your table setting.

Even branches can make an elegant centerpiece (really!). If the party’s at night and you need a little light, try soy candles. Look around your house or backyard to see what you might have that would work — anything recycled is eco-friendly, and your creativity will be applauded by your guests.

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Really Make Your Lawn “Green”: Eco-Friendly Tips for a Sustainable Yard

Eco-Friendly Tips for a Sustainable YardThe most commonly irrigated crop—the plant that receives 4 billion gallons of potable water a day, the plant that the average American spends 150 hours a year tending, and the plant that North America alone spends $40,000,000,000 a year on—is not the crop that will feed the world. In fact, it is not a crop that will feed anybody, except maybe some lucky cows.

American’s lawns are often more trouble than they are worth. We spend so much time, effort, money, and resources on keeping our lawns green and kempt, yet lawns do not provide us with food, need poisons and fertilizers to grow well, and decrease the biodiversity of the area. Yet, in most residential neighborhoods, the dream of the perfect lawn doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Lawns are the norm. But, maybe it’s time to rethink this norm, or at least adjust our lawn practices to be more environmentally friendly and less work for you.

Some Alternatives to Lawns
These beautiful, healthy alternatives to a lawn can bring a sense of nature’s true beauty to your home.

  • Vegetable Gardens: For all the time you put into your yard, wouldn’t it be nice if you got something out of it? Replacing part or all of your lawn with a vegetable garden would grow food that could support you, your family, and even your community.
  • Native Plants: Growing a variety of plants that are native to your area instead of the monoculture of grass seeds we have today, will end up being less work for you! Native plants need less water and fertilizers, and they will create ecosystems for the local fauna to form a sturdy, healthy environment.

EPA Suggestions
If you’re not quite ready to uproot your whole lawn, but still want to have a healthier impact on your environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has these handy tips:

Mowing:

  • The ideal height for a lawn is generally 2 ½ to 3 inches. The taller the top of the grass, the longer the roots, making for a stronger, healthier grass that can absorb water much more easily and leaves no exposed dirt in which weeds can grow.
  • Use a push mower instead of the gas- or electric-powered kind that causes pollution.
  • After mowing, leave the grass clippings on the lawn as a fertilizer. Less work for you!

Watering:

  • Your lawn only needs 1 inch of water per week. You can measure this using an empty tuna can!
  • Water before 10:00AM so the grass has time to soak it all up. Perpetually wet grass grows fungi.
  • In July and August, let your lawn go brown. Brown lawns are dormant, not dead!
  • The best rule is to water only when the lawn begins to wilt from dryness—when the color dulls and footprints stay compressed for more than a few seconds.

Fertilizing:

  • If you must fertilize your lawn, remember that fertilizers are NOT water soluble! Fertilize right after it rains (not before) so the fertilizer stays on your lawn instead of running off and draining into our water sources.

An alternative to conventional, petroleum-based fertilizers are all-natural fertilizers like those that Dolphin Blue sells. Check out more ways you can make your life more environmentally friendly at dolphinblue.com!

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

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FedEx Kinkos: Definitely NOT Green

maple-trees-12_3I heard a story today that made me ask, “Why not just cut down trees and throw them directly into the dumpster?!”
 
My darling wife-to-be called me this afternoon very frustrated and honestly, quite livid.

As she was walking into a FedEx Kinko’s, which as we all know promotes itself as being green, two employees were walking out to the dumpster, holding three large paper-filled trash bags.
 
Curious, she asked them, “Are you recycling that paper?” They responded, “We always just throw it away.” Margaret immediately called me expressing her great displeasure at FedEx Kinko’s.
 
This prompted me to remember a time when Kinko’s (prior to being acquired by FedEx) was committed to, and used almost exclusively, recycled paper. By doing so, Kinko’s created a market and stimulated economic viability for the recovery and successful recycling of paper that was placed in collection bins. What happened to that environmental stewardship
once so prominent an aspect of the Kinko’s name?
 
It may be that there is no viable market for collected, recyclable paper. I think it is imperative that we all remember, unless we consciously purchase and use paper made of post consumer recycled material, all that recycling is for naught. Successful recycling will only happen when there is economic demand for the “landfill-destined” materials.
 
So, if we’re not willing to purchase and use paper made of post consumer recycled fibers (old paper), we might as well be just cutting down trees and throwing them right into the trash.

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Party Time: How to throw the greenest bash on your block

SeptPoolParty-2Summer is in full swing, and the longer days and warm temps make now the perfect time to throw an outdoor soiree, whether a small patio gathering or an all-out block party. As you can probably guess, though, these kinds of events often produce a lot of waste — each year Americans toss out enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times, says the Clean Air Council.
 
But you don’t have to be a part of those negative statistics — green can be the theme of your party, or you can incorporate eco-friendly principles into an event of any kind. Here are some tips for a backyard bash sure to please Mother Earth:
 
Invitations
nlg_bbqpoolpartyIf the party is going to be casual, sending an online invite is a great way to save. Sites like Evite.com offer tons of options to suit any kind of soiree, and it takes just minutes to put together something nice, no design skills necessary. But if a printed piece of paper would be more appropriate for your occasion, look for recycled paper and soy-based inks, like the products offered by Dolphin Blue. One especially fun option is to get paper with seeds inside that can then be planted — it makes for an invite that your guests won’t soon forget and sets the tone for your green party. Check out the innovative designs from Twisted Limb Paperworks, which offers the option to insert flower petals or wildflower seeds into the paper.
 
Food
Think local, local, local. Buying from a farmers market not only gives you the freshest food Preserve TableWarepossible, it also supports your local economy. Go organic when you can, and serve finger foods — that way you can cut down on the waste of disposable plates and silverware (if there’s no way to get around using throwaway items, go with a company like Preserve Tableware, which offers plates, tumblers, and cutlery made from 100 percent recycled plastic). Try these black bean and corn quesadillas from celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse; see more of his green recipes here.
 
If it’s a really big bash and you have tons of food left over, consider donating it to a food bank. Find one in your area at Feeding America’s site.
 
Décor and Centerpieces
Instead of using cut flowers in vases as a centerpiece, try potted plantsgrp_edr_centerpiece_april, which you can then keep or give to your guests as favors. Fruit (locally grown, of course) also makes for a fun decoration, and artfully arranging oranges, lemons, or limes in a centerpiece adds a bright pop of color to your table setting. 
 
Even branches can make an elegant centerpiece (really!). If the party’s at night and you need a little light, try soy candles. Look around your house or backyard to see what you might have that would work — anything recycled is eco-friendly, and your creativity will be applauded by your guests.

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A word from the CEO

sunThe swelter of summer is officially here — in Dallas, we’ve been experiencing triple-digit temperatures more days than not lately. There’s no better way to cool off — or, at least, brave the heat — than with a summer soiree for your friends, family, or the neighbors. The great outdoors is the best background for such a shindig, and you can easily incorporate earth-friendly principles into your party.

Don’t miss our Industry News, where you can learn about one airline’s step toward reduced carbon emissions, find out about an innovative program in Japan, and see the latest in green motorcycle manufacturing.

Enjoy the opportunity to throw a backyard bash while it lasts — sometimes, there’s nothing like those lazy, hazy days of summer.

Tom Kemper
President & Founder
Dolphin Blue

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