To Repair or Replace: A Guide

This laptop is probably beyond repair, Flickr: Sean MacEntee

To repair or replace? This question comes up frequently when weighing repair options for cars. It can also apply to electronics, yard equipment, appliances, furniture and other items. While buying a new version of a worn product may be the easiest solution, it isn’t always the best for the environment.

Why should someone consider repairing? It reduces the amount of trash going to a landfill and can cut down on chemicals emitted from e-waste. Plus, it can end up saving money, time and even effort in the long run!

Here are some things to consider when weighing your options on repairing versus replacing:

  • Check your warranty. The product may still be covered and free to fix.
  • Run the numbers by using the 50% rule. If a repair is estimated to cost 50% or less than the amount you paid (or current retail price), repair it. If it will cost more than 50%, replace it.
  • Take into account the life span of the item. Refrigerators should last 15-19 years, whereas a dishwasher lasts about 10-11 years.
  • Will the item appreciate? Some items gain value over time, like certain cars, so it may be worthwhile to hang onto those items.
  • Consider the cost of delivery and removal and/or installation of large items.
  • Research the repair options because each requires a different level of expertise and standards, but also come with a separate set of costs. Will the item require factory service, an authorized service provider or  an independent service provider?
  • Old electronics use more electricity than newer, more efficient models. It may be worth the cost to replace an appliance if energy use decreases.
  • Do your research when making purchasing decisions. Publications like Consumer Reports test products for you and make recommendations on the best brands for most product lines.
  • If you must replace, research rebates for replacing old appliances like a tax credit for new windows.


Intro to Upcycling

Fabric upcycled to make hair clips, Flickr: Caramel Dream

We used the term “upcycling” in a recent post and thought it would be useful to explore this further. Upcyling is different than recycling because waste is converted to a higher quality product.

While developing countries have been upcycling for years out of necessity, the U.S. has embraced this trend with both professional and amateur artists creating extraordinary treasures.

Etsy.com has hundreds of thousands of upcycled wares, and some companies are now selling strictly upcycled goods. There’s even a Facebook game that teaches about the practice.

Want to start an upcycling project? Here are a few resources to get you started:

We also carry upcycled items from Two’s Company, in case you’re not in the mood to get crafty just yet.

Meatless Mondays Takes U.S. By Storm

Meatless Mondays are hitting dinner tables and restaurant menus worldwide, with the goal of improving personal and planetary health by reducing meat consumption 15 percent. The movement is inspired by wartimes  presidents instituted voluntary meatless days created the concept, which was revitalized in 2003.

Now, Meatless Mondays are back with celebrity endorsements like Russell Simmons and media support from outlets such as Cooking Channel. The meatless recipes have come a long way too. Health benefits are described on the Meatless Monday website:

Charleston Grill in our hometown already offers Meatless Monday. What other restaurants are offering meatless options?
For more information, recipes, tips and more, like Meatless Monday on Facebook, follow on Twitter or search hashtag #meatlessmonday.

More Than One-Thousand New Farmers Markets Since Last Year

Farmers Market in Jackson, MS; Flickr: NatalieMaynor

In Charleston, we have a saying that rings true to many residents: buy local, be local. While this phrase is most often used by Lowcountry Local First, a group dedicated to strengthening Charleston’s economy by supporting locally owned businesses, it really illustrates the findings of a recent report by the National Farmers Market Directory (NFMD).

Getting local produce just got a little easier in the U.S., according to the NFMD 2011 annual report, which found that 1,000 new farmers markets were added nationwide last year.

This increase is believed to be linked to farmers increasingly marketing product directly to consumers. In turn, the addition of these farmers markets make produce more accessible to those communities. It should be noted however that this report was compiled using self-reporting, so there may be additional markets that didn’t submit information.

There were several interesting findings in the report:

  • There are currently 7,175 farmers markets operating in the U.S. Last year, there were 6,132 U.S. farmers markets.
  • Alaska and Texas ranked at the top for most growth in farmers markets at 46% and 38%, respectively.
  • The leading states for number of recorded farmers markets in 2011 were spread across the country with California (729 markets) and New York (520) having the most.
  • Nearly 12% indicate they accept SNAP (formerly known as food stamp) benefits onsite. This represents a 16% increase in the number of markets accepting SNAP benefits since 2010.

If you’re looking for a market near you, check out USDA’s database here.

Our Inspiration: Charleston

As you may already known, we embraced the natural life several years ago and decided to pursue this as a career in 2008. We began as an online store, and later decided to open a retail store in Charleston, SC, our hometown. Charm, culture, beauty, history and good health–that describes the town we call home and also guides the purchasing decisions we make for our product lines.

Flickr: waynesutton12

Planet Green published an article, 6 Unexpected Holistically Healthy American Towns, and Charleston, SC made the list! Here’s what they said about the Holy City:

This is another place I called home a time or two. Charleston is by far South Carolina’s most progressive city. Sample raw eats at the Sprout or the best in vegetarian and vegan fare at the Daily Dose. Yoga is all over the place here with studios like Holy Cow YogaSerenity Now, and my favorite, Jivamukti YogaHealing Hands Massage and Body Work features Reiki, Energy Healing, Shiatsu, and a wide variety of massage. You can try your hand at acupuncture at the Acupuncture Center of Charleston.

Other unexpected holistic cities include our neighbor to the north, Asheville, NC; Ann Arbor, MI; Brattleboro, VT; Hanalei, HI and Sante Fe, NM.

There are plenty of holistic businesses, events and organizations that didn’t make the list, so please share your favorite in the comments section!

Bike Interstates May be Expanding into a State Near You

If you want to explore the U.S. by bike, you may have more options in coming years. The U.S. Bicycle Route System began in 1982 with two routes; and now six new routes have been approved.

Four of these will be in Alaska, while the final two new pathways will let cyclists explore Michigan’s lower peninsula and New England with a route spanning New Hampshire to Maine. Click here to view them.

Additionally, 15 other routes are in the planning phase with 42 states participating in the plan. Sadly, if you’d like to bike Alabama, Hawaii, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and South Carolina, you may be out of luck because these states aren’t currently participating.

Has anyone ever cycled on the new, original routes? U.S. Bicycle Route 1 stretches from Virginia to North Carolina and U.S. Bicycle Route 76 goes from Virginia to Illinois?

Flickr via tejvanphotos

California College Produces More Energy Than It Consumes

California has long been known for its sustainability, but now the state has a new claim to fame in that department. It is home to the nation’s first “grid positive” college! Butte College, located on a 928-acre wildlife refuge in northern California, generates more electricity than it uses, so the school is actually sending power back to the electric grid.

Butte College has 25,000 solar panels, which generate over “6.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year– enough to power over 941 average-sized homes, or the equivalent of removing 615 passenger cars from the roadways.”

The college’s use of solar electricity has numerous benefits, like improving student offerings, increasing enrollment and training workers in the green energy sector. The biggest impact, though, is financial. According to the school’s website: “The college estimates that it will save between $50 million and $75 million over 15 years, even after accounting for project costs and interest, by eliminating its electricity bill, getting paid for excess electricity production, and avoiding future electricity rate increases.”

Congrats to Butte College! We hope to see other school’s following Butte’s lead!

Aerial view of Butte College via questpointsolarsolutions.com

Green Travel Tips For Your Summer Vacation

In most areas, children are out for summer break and families are planning a summer vacation. Whether you’re traveling by plane, staying in a hotel or taking an excursion, there are ways to make your summer vacation more eco-friendly.

  • Fat Tire Bike Tour in France, Flickr: Barbara L. Slavin

    Find a green hotel- Is the hotel LEED-certified; does the hotel recycle; does the hotel practice green housekeeping (see below); does the hotel use energy-efficient lightbulbs, low-flow toilets and shower heads; does the hotel utilize solar or wind power

  • Be eco-conscious during your stay- reuse towels; request sheet turndown only when neccassary; turn off lights and unplug electronics when you leave the room
  • Transportation: use electronic tickets instead of paper tickets; purchase carbon offsets for air travel; pack light; take the train instead of flying (trains emit less pollution and carry more passengers); rent a hybrid car or select the smallest class because it uses less gas; use public transportation, walk or ride a bike
  • Activities- select a tour operator that is environmentally responsible; buy local; respect the natural environment

These tips are just a start to planning an eco-friendly vacation. There are numerous resources at  Green.Travel, Go Green Travel Green and Independent Traveler.

Don’t forget to share any green travel tips you have in the comments section!

What You Need to Know about Bottled Water

I read an informative article today called Bottled Water 101. Bottled water is not only bad for the environment, but also can be bad for your health, too. In recent years, the downside of bottled water has been exposed to the public. There are numerous reasons water bottles aren’t green, including:

  • Bottles made from plastics #1, 3, 6 and 7 have been linked to health problems and may contain the hormone disrupting chemical BPA (typically marked with #7)
  • An average of 38 billion water bottles per year–85 percent of all plastic water bottles used in the U.S.—end up in the trash, rather than being recycled (source: the Container Recycling Institute)
  • 60 – 70% of all bottled water sold in the U.S. is exempt from the FDA’s bottled water standards because federal standards do not apply to water bottled and sold within the same state (source: Natural Resources Defense Council)
  • Bottled water produces up to 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year. According to Food and Water Watch, that plastic requires up to 47 million gallons of oil per year to produce.
  • Bottled water was a $15 billion dollar industry in 2007, making it one of the most profitable segments of the beverage industry (source: Fast Company).
  • For every liter of water that goes into a bottle, two liters of water are used to make the plastic bottles and bottle the water (source: Food & Water Watch)

Another thing to be aware of–25-40% of bottled water is actually tap water. According to Greenlivingonline.com, “Companies, like Coca Cola and Pepsi, take the water for free, running it through some filters, pour it into a bottle with a fancy name and then sell it back to us at a price 240 to 10,000 times higher than tap water.”

So I’m sure you’re now wondering about alternatives to bottled water! Adding a water cooler to your home or office and adding a water filter to your sink, or using a portable water filter like Brita, are easy substitutes. If you plan to carry water, buying a reusable bottle is a must.

When you look for a reuseable bottle, it is important to choose a stainless steal, aluminum or BPA-free plastic bottle. In addition to eliminating waste, carrying a reusable bottle reduces the use of fossil fuels and toxic greenhouse gases which are emitted during the plastic bottle manufacturing process.

We carry Klean Kanteen stainless steel bottles and encourage you to do the same! We also invite you to join us by taking the tap water pledge!

via www.onlineeducation.net/bottled_water

When the Clouds Part, the Sun Shines Through


This post is the second of two posts focused on seeking and finding life balance.   In our first post, we asked “what is life about?” and discussed why it is important to create a healthy balance in life.  In today’s post,  we focus on the value and benefits of living life in balance.  Be sure to read the first post, What is Life Really About?

Once you decide to enjoy life more, something very exciting starts to occur.  Your outlook on life in general seems more optimistic and there’s a spring in your step.  You smile more and notice that others smile back.  Life tastes sweeter and takes on a more appealing direction.  When you make the conscious decision to attract positive changes in your life, you open the door to infinite possibilities.

The mind is a sly thing.  It plays the trickiest games and conjures up devious scenarios of the worst kinds – but only if we allow it to; because you see, as well as being quite crafty at pulling at our strings of misery, the mind is also our gateway to sublime happiness.  You only need the will to invite it in to be on your way to a healthier state of mind and being.

Life is really complicated, there’s no doubt about it.  Some people do it really tough and living through each day takes true strength of character and effort; somehow though, they pull themselves through their circumstances and emerge on the other side victorious.  Hope is a powerful source of strength which motivates us to seek alternatives for a better outcome.  Somewhere inside, we all strive for better and when we assess our own personal situations, we find that there is always room for improvement; but that is where most of us get stuck – how do we go about making these positive changes?

Like anything in life, positive change must start with a positive attitude and a plan for change.  If we liken change to a chocolate cake, then we would need to start with really good basic ingredients and build it up step by step, until we can finally put a luscious chocolate ganache on top.  Then all we need to do is serve ourselves a big slice and savour its awesomeness.  Yes, things take time and sometimes progress is slow, but if you are willing to move forward, life will be a lot more delicious.

Self-contentment evades us sometimes – such is life, but it is important not to lose sight of the destination.  Keeping a clear goal in mind and re-affirming your chosen path over and over will keep you focusing on the task ahead.  Go on, live.  Do what makes you happy for a change. Why not try something new? Wear your hair differently, learn to dance the tango, take up French lessons, plant a garden, pay someone a compliment, pick up the phone and make that call, opt for eco-friendly products, complain less, donate to charity, say ‘no’ once in a while – anything that you wish, but make it a positive contribution to your life and to others’ lives.  Doing what you truly love releases your inner-self and when free, it soars high and shows in your smile.

Do you ever notice the parallels between nature and humans?  Plant a seed in fertile soil and it will grow tall.  Starve it of light and water and it will wither away, but with a little sun and moisture, it becomes stronger than ever and eventually blossom into a beautiful flower.  Our soul needs nourishment also and we should nurture it just like a delicate bloom.  Feed your ambitions, fuel your passions, fire up the hearth of your soul and open up those dark shutters.  Allow your emotions to cleanse the doubts you have about yourself.  Only you know you best, and therefore you are the only one in charge of your destiny.  The choices you make every step of the way will determine the outcome.  For those of us fortunate enough to have good friends and people we can count on, decisions come a little easier.  Having those we love and respect around us promotes our sense of self-worth and happiness and we must also nurture these relationships.

Though we may feel as if we are caught up in an awful storm, remember; when the rain finally stops, the clouds will part and you will once again feel the warmth of the sunshine on your face; and that warmth is the hope you carried in your heart all along.