Infographic Friday: Aluminum Cans & Their Infinite Recyclability

Did you know you could keep recycling the soda can you’re drinking out of forever? Well, you CAN (get it?) and here are some reasons why you should:

  • It takes the same amount of energy to create 1 new can as it does to create 20 recycled cans
  • Even though it accounts for less than 2% of the weight of USA’s recycling stream, aluminum generates 40% of the revenue needed to sustain all recycling programs – about a $1 billion a year
  • Recycling aluminum cans diverted 1.7 billion pounds from landfills
  • Used aluminum cans are recycled and returned to store shelves in as few as 60 days
  • Aluminum never wears out and can be recycled forever

So make sure the next can you drink from ends up in a recycling bin and keep the infinite aluminum recycling process going strong!

If you’re looking to add more green to your life, check out www.dolphinblue.com today.
Aluminum can be recycled an infinite number of times.

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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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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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Infographic Friday: Buzzing Off, How Dying Bees Affects You

Honey bees are super pollinators and have an enormous impact on the environment.  Since the mid 2000′s their numbers have been declining rapidly. Scientist are unable to explain their disappearance but one thing is for certain, the absence of bees would leave much of the world’s food supply in question. Without pollinating insect life, fruits, vegetables, and field crops would be obsolete causing extreme hardship for the farm and food industry and leaving their future, and our survival, in question.

See the infographic below to find out more about why honey bees are so important to us and what you can do to save them.

How the disappearance of bees will affect you.

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Heroes of Sustainability: Philippe Cousteau Jr.

Philippe Cousteau Jr. once told Elle magazine that “it takes more than a birth certificate to be a Cousteau.” The 30-something certainly isn’t resting on his famous name, but he is living up to it, carrying on the work of his father, Philippe Cousteau, and grandfather Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Heroes-of-Sustainability-Philippe-Cousteau-Jr.html

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Building it Green: Shelving & Rainwater Collection

The Kemper Tiny House almost done!

The hand-built shelfing system, where we’ll plug in our laptops, store our books, and house our music and audio, has just been completed.  Brad’s team has done an exceptional job with the detail finish work and trim, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the craftsmanship of our shelving system.

1center of bookshelf system 2kitchen cabinets3shelf system living room

In addition to the shelving, a recovered metal V-roof has just been put on our Tiny House.  It will be nice to hear the rain fall on the 80 to 100-year-old roof, and collecting the rainwater in our collection barrel.

One of the final touches on our home will be the front porch, which is almost finished as well.  Our Tiny House arrives this month, and we cannot wait to start the New Year in such as environmentally friendly, sacred structure.

To view more pictures of our Tiny House, please see our Facebook album.

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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: The Richness of Ancestral Wood

1ceiling view to gable on bathroom-kitchen end

As we anticipate with glee, the receipt of our tiny house, it is exciting to see the progress being made day-by-day.

The richness of the ancestral wood has given new life in the birthing of our new tiny house is becoming so obvious, as the milk paint emphasizes the wood’s energy and character.

The bathroom and kitchen walls are being erected, and both gable ends are now at the point of completion, with
the beautiful wall boards, ceiling boards and wainscot being finished or nearly finished.

To bring forth the final finish of this deeply rich wood, the surface will be lightly sanded, then finished with
Tung Oil.

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

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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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