Chemical and Organic Fertilizers

Digging The Vegetable GardenWe use organic and inorganic fertilizers to grow and add nutrients to our gardens in order for our plants, fruits and vegetables to grow faster and more efficiently. The most common fertilizers are chemical, inorganic fertilizers because they are relatively cheaper than organic fertilizers. Is cheaper always better? Some fertilizers are not as healthy or environmentally friendly as you think they are, they can cause damage to your soil, garden and our groundwater.

Chemical Fertilizer

Chemical fertilizers are produced synthetically from inorganic materials. They provide plants with 3 essential nutrients; phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium. Nitrogen can break down into nitrate and easily travel and seep through the soil, because it’s water-soluble it can remain in our groundwater for a long time diminishing our quality of drinking water as well as the habitat and health of our aquatic animals.  Drinking contaminated groundwater can have serious health effects for us as well; some long term exposure of contaminated water can cause certain types of cancer.

Long term exposure of chemical fertilizers can cause soil dehydration and destruction of plant tissue. The longer you use chemical fertilizers the more you’ll end up needing in order to successfully grow crops.

Organic Fertilizer

Taking a more organic approach with your lawns and gardens. Organic fertilizers are made with remains or by products of organisms like fish extract, seaweed and manure and compost materials. Organic fertilizers can add nutrients to soil, increase soil organic matter, improves soil structures and water holding capacity. They can also reduce soil crusting and erosion from wind and water and slowly and consistently release nutrients to your soil and plants.

Some farmers using organic fertilizers like Neptune have even gone to hold world records for having the biggest vegetables.

Fun Fact- Sewer Sludge in fertilizers

Farmers in some countries use sewage sludge as fertilizers. You read that right. They apply human waste to crops and soils. Sewer sludge frequently tests positive for a host of heavy metals, flame retardants, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, pharmaceuticals, phthalates, dioxins, and a host of other chemicals and organisms. Out of all those and other thousands contaminants found in sludge, the U.S. government regulates exactly 10 of them. Sometimes the various contaminants in sewage are at low levels, some chemicals bind to the soil some don’t, some seep into groundwater others are insoluble in water.

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Giving Thanks: Celebrate Thanksgiving by giving back to Mother Earth

The Pilgrims may have traveled quite a distance to celebrate the first Thanksgiving, but their food didn’t. They learned to source their sustenance locally, a tough task in a new world, and they celebrated with a feast that eventually turned into modern-day Thanksgiving.

Getting food today doesn’t require nearly as much work for most of us as it did for those Pilgrims in the 1600′s, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about where it’s coming from.

Dinner’s Ready
Concerned about the way animals are treated? Try celebrating this year vegetarian-style. There are so many yummy meat-free foods at Thanksgiving, you may not even miss it. But if the big feast just won’t be the same without a bird on the table, look for pasture-raised, free-range turkey. This tells you that the animal lived outside, without harmful chemicals and hormones pumped into its body. Here are some other labels, classified by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, to look for when buying food:

A GOOD Start
“Cage free” (eggs)
“Free range” (eggs, chicken, goose, duck, turkey)
“Grass fed” (dairy, beef, lamb)

The “Good Start” labels indicate a meaningful animal welfare standard, but the standard covers only one aspect of animal care, and compliance with the standard is not verified by a third party.

Even BETTER
“Free range” (beef, bison, pork, lamb)
“Pasture raised” (dairy, eggs, chicken, goose, duck, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, pork)
“USDA Organic” (dairy, eggs, chicken, goose, duck, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, pork)

The “Even Better” labels generally indicate a higher level of animal welfare because the standards are more meaningful than those for the “Good Start” labels, but the standards are either not verified by a third party or cover only a limited aspect of animal care.

The BEST Options
“Certified Humane” (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork)
“American Humane Certified” (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork)
“Animal Welfare Approved” (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, duck, goose, beef, lamb, pork, rabbit)

The “Best Options” labels cover multiple aspects of animal care, and compliance with the standards is verified by an independent third party.

To get your local store to carry products with these labels, just ask. Have your friends do the same, and the store will likely listen. You can download a request card to put in a store’s comment box or mail to its headquarters.

The Ambiance
Decorate your table not with cheesy Thanksgiving-print napkins and paper plates but with pumpkins, gourds, apples, and all the other wonderful edible treats the fall season has to offer. If the thought of doing all those dishes makes you want to scrap the holiday altogether, try Preserve Tableware, an environmentally friendly alternative to the disposable stuff. The dishes and cutlery are made from 100 percent recycled plastic and are strong enough to be reused dozens of times (or just recycled when you’re done).

Top off the look with soy candles and a few sprigs of pine, and you’ll have authentic decor that would make even those who came over on the Mayflower proud.

When It’s Over
After the meal’s done and the leftovers picked through, compost the rest. Of the waste Americans send to landfills, 24 percent of it is organic waste (i.e., kitchen scraps). Keeping that waste out of landfills saves space and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, making it a win-win however you look at it. Making your own compost is easy!

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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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How to Eat Greener: Healthy Food, Healthy Earth

Happy New Year! 2010 is off to a great start!

Here at Dolphin Blue, we’ve hit the ground running, planning some new products and initiatives that we’re excited about. We’re also proud to report that in our first full quarter of participating in the Round Up, Impact Down carbon offset program, we matched our customers’ contributions and offset 1.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Thanks to all those who chose to round up when making a purchase.

Start the new year off right with green meals
It’s January, aka post-resolution time, which means the gyms are packed, the portions are downsized, and resolves are steeled. If you’ve made a goal to get healthier this year, why not begin with eating greener?
 
To help you get started, we’ve rounded up resources on food that’s good for you — and good for the environment.
 
Get a New Cookbook
Got a vegetarian and a meat eater living under the same roof? Make everyone happy with The Adaptable Feast: Satisfying Meals for the Vegetarians, Vegans, and Omnivores at Your Table, which offers tasty recipes with adaptations for both the omnivores and herbivores. The 90 entries include Quinoa-Stuffed Heirloom Tomatoes, Gooey Macaroni and Cheese, Pad Thai with Shrimp/Tofu, and Tagliatelle Bolognese for All. Plus, author Ivy Manning has your best interests in mind, as she pays special attention to the nutritional makeup of each meal, never substituting without thought.
 
Buy Big Green Cookbook: Hundreds of Planet-Pleasing Recipes and Tips for a Luscious, Low-Carbon Lifestyle, and you’ll get a book with more than just recipes — it’s also filled with all kinds of tips, like how to be eco-savvy in the kitchen. Here’s an example: “You don’t need to be skinny! Rather, choose foods that are thin to start with, like skinny-cut French fries instead of thick-cut ones. The slimmer the food, the faster it’ll cook — saving you and the planet energy.”
 
Grow an Heirloom Garden

From companies like Seeds of Change, Victory Seeds, and Heirloom Seeds, you can find open-pollinated, untreated seeds (which helps maintain diversity in seed stocks) for almost anything you’d want to grow, whether it’s melons, corn, lettuce, peppers, or flowers.
 
Take the Coffee In-House
Can’t live without a wake-up beverage in the morning? Then try brewing it yourself at home or at the office, using fair-trade organic coffee and a mug instead of disposable cups. Look for companies that are certified organic and fair trade, like Sacred Grounds Organic Coffee Roasters. Grounds for Change pays farmers in Peru above the going rate for coffee to help support local domestic violence intervention programs and small-business loans for women, while Dean’s Beans only purchases shade-grown coffee, which helps keep migratory birds and farmers safe. (On a side note, if you’re looking for a cool gift for someone, consider an organic coffee of the month club.) If becoming a home brewer doesn’t appeal to you, find a coffee shop that’s committed to fair-trade practices.
 
Do It Yourself
Think outside of the box — the cereal box, that is — by trying your hand at making your own. This recipe from Bon Appétit magazine for Quick Omega-3 Granola earns raves from readers for being both nutritious and delicious.
 
And Then, Relax
After you’ve prepared a nice, healthy meal, don’t worry about the dishes — stick them in the dishwasher (Energy Star rated, preferably) and don’t feel guilty: Studies show that modern dishwashers use about half the energy and only one-sixth the water a person washing dishes does. No matter how hard you try, your dishwasher will outperform you in cleanliness and minimizing resources, so shelve those dishwashing gloves and bust out a green cookbook to find your next eco-friendly meal to try.

***Get ready for our new series: Green Heros, where we take a look at some of the most notable economists, environmentalists, authors and everyday people who are driven to save the planet just like us and the impact they’ve had on so many.

Keep an eye our for our first two upcoming heros: John Perkins and Helena Norberg-Hodge

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CEO’s Green Wedding

In anticipation to the upcoming wedding season, Thomas Kemper (CEO of Dolphin Blue, Inc.) answered an email from a writer about his wedding and how he made it green and environmentally friendly. Throughout the courtship of Thomas and Margaret, the couple made eco-friendly items a priority, with Margaret changing her outlook on the environment and sustainability, and utilizing it in her medical practice. It seemed only fitting to bring their ideals to their wedding once Tom proposed.

The wedding was a three-day celebration held on a ranch here in Texas. Guests enjoyed the outside weather, the basic but elegant wedding setting, and the sustainable and earth-friendly attributes combined with the traditional wedding aspects.

To green their wedding they used the following:

  • Wedding invitations were printed on paper that is 100% post consumer recycled, FSC-certified, processed chlorine free and made carbon-neutral with Green-E certified renewable wind energy.
  • Envelopes were made of paper with the same environmental attributes (All thank you cards sent after the wedding were also made of the same paper and envelopes).
  • The food was locally-grown, organic, and came from small farmers.
  • Wine and beer served were from a Llano, Texas (hill-country) winery and a Ft. Worth microbrewery.
  • On the wedding day, the catered lunch was prepared and served by Kozy Kitchen, a local Dallas-based family restaurant that offers a gluten-free, locally-grown fare.
  • All plastic plates, cups and utensils we used were made of 100% post consumer recycled plastic yogurt cups, collected by the manufacturer through a successful take-back recycling program, as well as all napkins and paper towels.

Overall, the weekend was a success and a great start to Thomas’ marriage to Margaret and, inevitably, their commitment to sustainability will continue to grow throughout their relationship and within both their businesses.

Have you been a guest at a green wedding or had your own? What is some advice we can give to others to help make their wedding a sustainable one?

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Giving Thanks: Celebrate Thanksgiving by giving back to Mother Earth

thanksgivingThe Pilgrims may have traveled quite a distance to celebrate the first Thanksgiving, but their food didn’t. They learned to source their sustenance locally, a tough task in a new world, and they celebrated with a feast that eventually turned into modern-day Thanksgiving.

Getting food today doesn’t require nearly as much work for most of us as it did for those Pilgrims in the 1600s, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about where it’s coming from.
 
Dinner’s Ready
Concerned about the way animals are treated? Try celebrating this year vegetarian-style. There are so many yummy meat-free foods at Thanksgiving, you may not even miss it. But if the big feast just won’t be the same without a bird on the table, look for pasture-raised, free-range turkey. This tells you that the animal lived outside, without harmful chemicals and hormones pumped into its body. Here are some other labels, classified by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, to look for when buying food:
 
A GOOD Startcert humane
Cage free” (eggs)
Free range” (eggs, chicken, goose, duck, turkey)
Grass fed” (dairy, beef, lamb)
 
The “Good Start” labels indicate a meaningful animal welfare standard, but the standard covers only one aspect of animal care, and compliance with the standard is not verified by a third party.
 
Even BETTER
animal welfare“Free range” (beef, bison, pork, lamb)
Pasture raised” (dairy, eggs, chicken, goose, duck, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, pork)
USDA Organic” (dairy, eggs, chicken, goose, duck, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, pork)  
 
The “Even Better” labels generally indicate a higher level of animal welfare because the standards are more meaningful than those for the “Good Start” labels, but the standards are either not verified by a third party or cover only a limited aspect of animal care.
 
The BEST Optionsamerican humane
Certified Humane” (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork) 
American Humane Certified” (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork) 
Animal Welfare Approved” (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, duck, goose, beef, lamb, pork, rabbit) 
 
The “Best Options” labels cover multiple aspects of animal care, and compliance with the standards is verified by an independent third party.
 
To get your local store to carry products with these labels, just ask. Have your friends do the same, and the store will likely listen. You can download a request card to put in a store’s comment box or mail to its headquarters.
 cornucopia2
The Ambience
Decorate your table not with cheesy Thanksgiving-print napkins and paper plates but with pumpkins, gourds, apples, and all the other wonderful edible treats the fall season has to offer. If the thought of doing all those dishes makes you want to scrap the holiday altogether, try Preserve Tableware, an environmentally friendly alternative to the disposable stuff. The dishes and cutlery are made from 100 percent recycled plastic and are strong enough to be reused dozens of times (or just recycled when you’re done).
 
Top off the look with soy candles and a few sprigs of pine, and you’ll have authentic décor that would make even those who came over on the Mayflower proud.
 
When It’s Over
After the meal’s done and the leftovers picked through, compost the rest. Of the waste Americans send to landfills, 24 percent of it is organic waste (i.e., kitchen scraps). Keeping that waste out of landfills saves space and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, making it a win-win however you look at it. Making your own compost is easy!

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A Green Halloween: The scariest holiday doesn’t have to be scary for the earth

halloween_pumpkinHolidays can wreak havoc on the planet with their travel, treats, and trimmings, and Halloween is no exception. Fortunately, there are plenty of small steps you can take to reduce the impact of this spooky day on the environment. Read on to find out how to keep Halloween a treat for Mother Earth.
 
The Costumes
Instead of buying a new costume, make one from items you already have in your home, trade last year’s costume with someone else for the night, or rent an outfit. Homemade costumes are creative and often more memorable than store-bought ones. If you aren’t handy with a needle and thread, don’t worry — there are plenty of do-it-yourself projects out there for the domestically challenged. Get some ideas from iVillage and about.com, or try a thrift store for vintage finds. If you do decide to go the store-bought route, look for something that may be useful later on, like for a theme party, your kids’ dress-up chest, or even for everyday wear.
 
The Trick-or-Treating
When trick-or-treating, walk instead of driving from house to house. If it’s too cold or houses in your area are spreadtrick-or-treat-766190 apart, drive to one central location, like a mall that offers trick-or-treating. This is also a great alternative when rain or frigid temperatures make going outside difficult. If you do go outdoors, outfit your flashlight with rechargeable batteries.
 
And, of course, give the kiddos a recyclable bag to use. The old standard of a pillowcase still works well for this function, or they can take a reusable shopping bag or a paper bag they’ve decorated.
 
For something more outside the box, have your kids participate in Global Exchange’s Fair Trade Cocoa Campaign, a kind of reverse trick-or-treating. Instead of just taking candy when knocking on doors, kids hand adults a sample of vegan-friendly, fair-trade dark chocolate with a card that details the poverty and child labor problems in the cocoa industry that affect mainstream candy enjoyed at Halloween and year-round.
 
The Candy
When trick-or-treaters come to your door, show off your eco pride with candy that’s at least kind of good for them. (For an alternate idea, hand out non-edible trinkets, like stickers, pencils, and temporary tattoos.) Here are a few candy ideas:
 
The Organic Trick or Treat Candy Mix from NaturalCandyStore.com has 100-plus pieces of USDA-certified organic goodies, including mixed fruit lollipops, root beer float candy, and cinnamon rocks.
 
Green & Black’s Organic Miniature Bar Collection has everything from cocoa-rich milk chocolate with crunchy butterscotch or roasted almonds to bittersweet dark chocolate with sour cherries or crystallized ginger.
 
Chimp Mints Chocolate are bars of vegan chocolate sure to satisfy sweet tooths. All profits support the Jane Goodall Foundation.831-L
 
Candy Tree Lollipops are made from all-natural, organic ingredients in cherry, lemon, orange, raspberry, and strawberry flavors.
 
Sjaak’s Fair-Trade Organic Chocolate Mini-Bites are vegan chocolate bites packed with a punch in the middle — either caramel, mint, açaí berry, orange, or ginger.
 
The Decorations
Don’t forget that nature offers up plenty in the way of fall decorations — think pumpkins, bales of hay, and gourds, which all can be composted when you’re done. When buying pumpkins, look for organic and pesticide-free choices. The pumpkin seeds inside can be a good treat for humans and birds alike. If you buy a few decorations, try to get things that can be reused from year to year or are easily recycled. Set the ambience with soy-based candles and scary music.

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