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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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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Tips to Save Energy & Keep Cool This Summer

As summer temperatures rise, often so does the electricity bill. If you’re looking for some ways to beat the heat and save energy this summer, check out the tips below.

  1. Keep shades closed when the air conditioner is on.
  2. Use cold water to wash dishes and clothes.
  3. Raise your thermostat to 78 degrees.
  4. Turn lights off when exiting a room.
  5. Unplug equipment or appliances not in use.
  6. Use weather-strip and caulk.
  7. Install low-flow shower heads and faucets.
  8. Install ceiling fans and make sure they are flowing down.
  9. Check and clean filters.

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MillerCoors Stops Getting Wasted

MillerCoors Golden, COBetween Denver and The Rocky Mountains of Colorado sits the quaint city of Golden, home of MillerCoors, the largest brewery in America. Back in 1873, Adolph Coors chose the site to brew his famous beer because of the high quality Rocky Mountain spring water available in the area. And now, MillerCoors has entered into sustainability history books as the first brewery of its size to become landfill-free.

MillerCoors has been taking steps over the past two years to increase their recycling efforts, investing $1 million for balers, choppers, compactors, colored cans and signage.  Efforts to move to a no-waste facility started by removing personal trash cans then lead to a strict color-coded recycling bin system: yellow for aluminum, white for plastic shrink wrap, gray for scrap metal, and green for wood to eventually be ground into mulch.

Company leaders tracked monthly employee progress to gradually reduce the amount of waste they were sending to landfills. As goals were met, they were celebrated with gifts of T-shirts and tree saplings.

MillersCoors is now diverting 135 tons of waste out of landfills every month. Spent grains from the production of the 346 million gallons of beer are used to feed cattle. Discarded glass is sent to a nearby plant to create new bottles. Cardboard is sent to mills. Plastic wrapping is made into grist for composite decking at homes. And metals are taken to scrap yards for re-sale into global commodities markets.

The brewery in Golden is now the fifth of MillerCoors’ eight U.S. breweries to gain landfill-free status. According to the company, no other breweries in the U.S. have managed to achieve this milestone.

Like MillersCoors, Dolphin Blue is also strongly committed to sustainability. We only carry products that are made in the U.S. and are, at minimum, made of 20% post-consumer recycled material. We should all cheers MillerCoors for their green efforts and toast to their conscious capitalism. Visit the Dolphin Blue store to purchase eco-friendly products for home and office.

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Recycle, Reuse, Recaffeinate

Nothing says “welcome back to the work week” quite like an extra long line at your favorite coffee shop on Monday morning.  This could brighten your day: get a discount by bringing in your own reusable coffee mug or tumbler.  To curb the excessive waste caused by all the disposable coffee cups they sell, many coffee shops offer discounts to their eco-conscious customers.  Check out the infographic below to learn more and contact your local coffee hangout to find out what kind of discount you can get by bringing in your own cup.  The savings for your pocket book AND the environment can really add up.

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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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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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Just Plant a Piece of Paper, and Watch it Grow.

         

The whole concept sounds like our grade school experiments with avocado seeds and toothpicks and a glass of water . . . or a bit of slow-sleight of hand.  What is seed paper?  It’s just what it says – paper embedded with seeds.    Put it in the ground and with luck and good weather you’ll have a small garden of annuals or wildflowers.

 

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Just-Plant-a-Piece-of-Paper-and-Watch-it-Grow.html

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Governmental Buying Practices and Sustainability

Recently, the staff at Dolphin Blue began questioning the buying practices of our government, and evaluating their overall impact on sustainability.  As more corporations continue to manufacture their goods in foreign countries, many tax-supported agencies have jumped on the “low-cost” bandwagon, creating a governmental bidding system with little regard to sustainability.  To answer some of our questions, we consulted with our in-house expert, Dolphin Blue  Founder & President, Thomas Kemper.

  

How does corporate outsourcing hinder the environmental health and welfare of our economy?

When we support the manufacturing of low-cost goods originating from distant places (i.e. China, Malaysia, Vietnam, India), the costs we ultimately incur are numerous, and detrimental to our natural world, local economies, and to the long-term health of our economy.  Every time a tax-supported entity procures an item provided by giant conglomerates, we continue to chip away at the sustainability of our planet (incurring a heavy carbon footprint), our communities (by eroding the local, regional and federal tax base), and our economies (local, state, and national).  Have you ever wondered why our roads, bridges, highways, school systems, county and state hospitals and park systems are in such disrepair, while the tax-supported jurisdictions responsible for their upkeep and maintenance are screaming that they are broke? How much longer can we continue to provide Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and favorable treatment to our largest corporations, so they can continue providing inexpensive foreign goods to the very tax-supported agencies that are responsible for maintaining the infrastructure and systems that are paid for, by us, the tax payers? As we, the payer of the taxes, continue to see unemployment rise, factories close due to unfavorable treatment, and the degradation of our natural resources’ health (clean air, fresh water, soil quality, forest and food stocks), while our very own taxpayer dollars continue buying cheap, resource-depleting foreign goods, creating a huge burden on the sustainability of our planet.

 

Corporate outsourcing clearly damages our nation’s infrastructure, but how do low-cost supplies produced in foreign countries harm our environment?

Products being procured with no understanding of our environment, affect our human health and global ecosystem in ways we are only beginning to understand.  The use of chemicals, such as chlorine and chlorine-containing compounds, affect the human endocrine system, and compromises the immune system’s ability to do what it was biologically designed to do.  The havoc being wreaked upon the health of our children is a cost seemingly hidden in our out-of-control healthcare system, which continues to grow as the fastest sector of our economy.  I saw this issue arising back in 1994, and made a personal and business decision to provide papers that are processed chlorine free, as well as being derived from 100% post-consumer recycled fiber and made in the USA with Green-e certified renewable wind energy.  Thus, it is incumbent upon all of us, as citizens of our local communities first and foremost, to get involved in the decisions being made by our tax-supported government representatives, and demand that they purchase only socially and environmentally responsible products.

 

Many governmental agencies purchase their supplies at a low-cost from large corporate conglomerates.  How does this practice create an unfair advantage for small businesses of all types?

Many of the corporate giants (whose supplies produce an annual revenue of $15 BILLION and upward ), have the financial ability to provide a catalog with as many as 45,000-50,000 items, of which only 5-10% of those products are actually certified as “green”.   Although Dolphin Blue  has the capability to provide a catalog containing approximately 4,000 items, ALL made in the USA, and ALL made with post-consumer recycled materials, other small businesses are unable to offer such a catalog when a tax-supported entity (municipality, county, state, or federal government) requests pricing from the vendor community.  Consequently, if a small business responds without providing a full catalog, that small supplier is deemed non-responsive to the government agencies’ Request for Quote (RFQ), giving the large giants a tremendous advantage in the marketplace. 

When governmental agencies purchase products and services from corporate giants moving goods globally, with little regard to anything but profitability, the tax-supported entity is doomed and destined for failure.  In my experience, very few government agencies leave the door fully open for those who qualify through the GSA contracting system, where buyers can select goods and services through a “best value” contracting criteria.  While it is regrettable that some agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have granted monopolistic exclusive contracts to some suppliers, a true environmentally conscious buyer will go shopping elsewhere, seeking the products and services truly aligned with the EPA’s stated, charted mission. 

 Is there a “Watch Dog” system in place to monitor and measure the environmental degradation, loss to society, or economic erosion of such “full service” catalog purchasing relationships? 

Unfortunately, there is no program in place to monitor these relationships, and if governmental agencies continue to support the taxpayers who fund its existence, the tax-supported agencies will continue to thrive in the marketplace, while we continue seeing our planet’s health degrade.

 Yes, but don’t some of the larger corporations offer “green” products?

Many “green” items being offered by the giants are not certified for the environmental attributes being claimed, and many of the so-called “green” products are not green at all.  They are usually being shipped many thousands of miles to gain business at a very low invoice expense, which further degrades our planet’s sustainability by imparting a very heavy carbon footprint on the health of our planet.  What might that cost be, to our society, our planet, and, to future generations? We’ve already keenly aware of those costs. We see them around us every day. The longer we bury our heads in the sand, the more devastating the costs.

Additionally, many of the purchasing contracts do not require the products to be made in the USA, thus sacrificing American jobs for a few nickels.  While these large “full service” catalog transactions are rampant among many levels of our government, there are many buyers within these agencies that truly understand the meaning of sustainability (meeting the needs of our generation, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs), and practice responsible procurement methods.  For these buyers, I applaud and acknowledge your pioneering spirit.  Thank you.  You understand that we are all in this together, and without us working together to achieve a sustainable planet, we will only be continuing to paint ourselves into a very precarious corner.  As citizens of our neighborhoods, local communities, country, and planet, we must be good stewards, and be responsible with all items, goods, and services we purchase.  We owe it to our children.

Tom is founder and CEO of Dolphin Blue, an online retailer of environmentally sustainable green office supplies and green printing products.

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Going vs. Living Green

Have you ever heard someone say “We’re already green”?

Already green? How does someone quantify being completely green? In reality, being green is an unending and constant process of improvement, one that can never be truly finished. So why is it that so many people who are talking about how they’re environmentally minded are opposed to new ways to better themselves? What is it about the process that makes it so easy to cling to the status quo? Is it the cost, the time, the labor…? I think the whole issue of this pushback begins in how we label the process of living more responsibly – GOING GREEN

The main culprit here is the word going. First off, going to do something implies that you’ll be coming back from doing it.

I’m going to the store.

I’m going out to eat.

I’m going to work.

These actions are momentary, and they all result in coming back to where you started once they’re complete.

Going is also temporary, fleeting, easy to push-off, non-committal, and lacks personal accountability.

I’m going to lose weight.

I’m going to quit smoking.

I’m going to drink less.

By pushing these events into the future and away from the present, it becomes easy to forget about them and lose the passion behind why you were dedicated to them in the first place. It’s the “New Year’s Effect” 365 days a year.

Worse of all, these going actions all have finite ends. You expect to start them, finish them, and forget about them. Going doesn’t have a permanent place in your day.

So how does this effect green living? Everyone touts how they’re living responsibly.

I’m going green by recycling.

I’m going green by driving less.

I’m going green by buying organic.

There’s that pesky going word again. The problem here is that just like the earlier examples, going green makes it a whole lot easier to avoid going green. Chances are, for every 10 things you’re going to do, only one of them is done. An environmentally minded lifestyle, however, is a constantly evolving one. Recycling, driving less, and buying organic are all PARTS of the green process, but they are not the end result. It’s never a finished task. It’s not something to simply be done.

What if instead of going green we live green? Think of the power a single word change can make. When we live something, that choice becomes a whole lot more prevalent in our lives. It reminds us of why we’re making the change in the first place. It rekindles the passion. It helps transform our resolutions into more important ones.

I’m going to lose weight.

I’m going to quit smoking.       =     I’m living healthier

I’m going to drink less.

No longer are you measuring your success by pounds, cigarettes, and drinks. By living, you expand your approach and see the many other things you can be doing.

I’m not decrying a war against going green. I’m glad that the concept is so mainstream that we all have an ability to discuss, learn, and grow from it. But we should never hear “No, I’m already green. Been there, done that.” No one has gone green. If they think they have, then we know that they surely haven’t. Instead of going green, let’s try living green and see where that takes us.

How do you think we can keep green mainstream without diluting its impact? Let’s hear your thoughts!

Jeff Eyink is the Marketing Manager of Dolphin Blue. He can be reached via email at jeff@dolphinblue.com

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