Earth University was founded to reinforce the tenet of triple bottom line – community, environment, profit.
They’re growing bananas organically, paying workers above minimum wage, and making paper from waste!
(click the picture to start the video)
With summer comes mosquitoes. I seem to get bit just thinking about them. So, here are a few tips to keep your yard and your body mosquito free:
Instead of stinky mosquito repellent with harmful deet, we use a mixture of lavender oil and water. It’s so refreshing, and it really works. Other sprays that probably work are eucalyptus oil and lemon oil. You can get essential oils in the “healthy” section of most grocery stores, or in some specialty stores. We mix up a little bottle about 10 drops of lavender oil and 4 oz. of water.
Spring is just around the corner – after all this snow melts! This week and next are the ideal time to start seedlings indoors, to transfer to their outside home in 6 weeks. We also have to plan for grass restoration and other gardening activities. Let’s prepare for those Japanese Beetles before they eat all our roses this year! Here are a few tips I’ve gathered throughout the winter.
The best way to grow and thicken your lawn is to aerate and overseed. NaturaLawn of America is a company that can help you grow a thick, beautiful lawn with no harsh chemicals. They use effective and safe organic products and Integrated Pest Management program to help you grow a healthier lawn, naturally. If your grass is thick, you are less likely to have a weed problem because there’s no room for weeds to grow. Natural approaches like this are better for kids and pets too.
Beneficial nematodes are microorganisms that live 7″ deep in the soil and they kill pests like fleas, grubs (Japanese beetles), several kinds of flies and worms, weevils, ticks, and wood borers.
Pettiti Gardens in Ohio offers some organic spray pesticides, as I’m sure many local garden stores do. Pettiti was a featured presenter at the Akron Home and Garden Show a few weeks ago, and they did a nice presentation on the Green Stage, highlighting some organic ways to fertilize and control pests. I prefer methods that are safe for me, my pets, and the environment, and I’m glad there are so many options available. I’m going to stick with natural, spray-free remedies this spring and summer, and see how it goes.
Here’s the post about Japanese beetles from last summer. Since you can’t put nematodes in your neighbor’s yard (to prevent Japanese beetles), it might be a good idea to have some plants that repel Japanese beetles – see the post for links and more info.
Plant and Flower Fertilizer
This year, I’m going to grow herbs and hanging tomatoes. (Sadly, we can’t grow vegetables in our yard.) I hope you’re able to grow vegetables where you are. That’s the best local food you can get! If you’re planning to have a vegetable garden, you may want to start a compost pile for yard waste, newspapers, and other compostable materials. Composts produce the best organic fertilizer you can find. It makes your plants healthier and more productive. If you don’t want to compost, look for TerraCycle Plant Food (that’s the name, I’m serious!). They make “worm tea” that you can spray on your plants to give them a great organic fertilizer. No worms are harmed in the making of worm tea.
The company’s flagship product, TerraCycle Plant Food™, is an all-natural, all-organic, ‘goof-proof’ liquid plant food made from waste (worm poop) and packaged in waste (reused soda bottles)!
You should be able to find TerraCycle products at Target, WalMart, and Home Depot.
Don’t forget rain barrels! They save water and rain water is better for your plants.
For those of us who want sustainable, environmentally responsible lives, we like to consider all aspects, including clothing.
Think about what your clothes are made of … when evaluating natural vs. synthetic products, a lot must be considered. Pleather is not as long-lasting as leather, but it’s cheap and not made from an animal. Polyester is made from petroleum (=oil!). It also doesn’t breathe as well as cotton. Nylon is also made from petroleum, vs. wool made from sheared sheep’s fur.
Some people are looking for more eco-conscious clothes and finding new (not-so-new) materials such as hemp, soy, bamboo, and organic cotton. They are long-lasting, durable materials and easy to care for.
Many companies, including Great Lakes Brewing Company, are also looking towards these new fabrics as consumers are becoming more eco-responsible. I’ve been looking into hemp and soy clothes, and found these options for companies to outfit their staff, or sell to customers. Along with suppliers Kami has found (see comments), these companies are appealing, and their t-shirts don’t cost much more than a regular cotton t-shirt.
Onno.com seems to be the best option for wholesalers. They have some good options, and put the prices and quantity available right on the website.
Efforts in Canada has a good selection of sustainable clothes, and offers wholesale prices with no minimum orders.
Bamboo Clothes offers a lot of clothing at reasonable prices, and they say their bamboo/cotton blend are the softest t-shirts on the planet (…mmm… tempting).
Rawganique.com has many styles, and unisex t-shirts range from $16-18 retail. (no new wholesale customers)
One problem is that a lot of these companies are small, to avoid sweatshops and poor quality, so they don’t offer wholesale volume yet. The trend is catching on, so look for wider availability soon. Ideal Bite lists several soy clothing suppliers, which seem to be more expensive than the hemp clothes.
Check your label … are you eco-stylin’?
Chrissie Hynde, lead singer of The Pretenders, was featured in this month’s Vegetarian Times. She is opening a new vegetarian restaurant in Akron, called VegiTerranean. It will be a coffee house, bar, and restaurant featuring vegetarian Italian food. Yum! The VegiTerranean preview celebration is this weekend, Sept. 15, and the restaurant will open in October.
In VT, Hynde talks about being a vegetarian for 38 years. She started this lifestyle because of her compassion for animals. We’re now learning about how destructive the meat industry is for the environment – it’s the #2 polluter behind the auto industry.
Hynde wants to know why there aren’t vegetarian fast food restaurants? And why don’t they sell veggie burgers at rock concerts? Thanks to her, we don’t have to ask why Akron doesn’t have a vegetarian restaurant.
We have recently discovered the benefits of composting. I had been thinking about it for a while – every time I threw a banana peel into the garbage -there’s got to be a better use for this. So, we looked more into it at the Burning River Fest. The people from The New Agrarian Center were very helpful, as was the guy from Great Lakes Brewing Company. Both are master composters.
Here’s what we did – it’s pretty simple. We bought a storage container (a big Rubbermaid one), some mesh screen, organic dirt, and 1,000 red worms. Drilled holes in the container – worms need to breathe air – and filled it with 6 inches of organic dirt and wet strips of newspaper and computer paper. This bedding is supposed to be moist, not dripping wet. The compost bin was set up in the basement, to avoid smell and dog curiosity, and so it could be bigger than under-the-sink. We left the light on for the first week to discourage the worms from escaping. Next, we collected all of our food scraps – banana peels, strawberry tops, bell pepper cores, onion peels, coffee grounds, etc. – and buried them under 2 inches of bedding. Now the worms take over. We’re supposed to put the food in a different place each time and add new bedding every 2 months. (Don’t put meat in your compost – it’ll attract rodents)
What’s the benefit of having a pound of red worms chewing up your food? Well, the whole process creates worm castings, which is this magical organic fertilizer that you can use in your garden. Essentially, it’s natural recycling. We eat the food, feed it to the worms, they turn it into fertilizer that we’ll use to grow herbs, which we’ll eat in the spring. Aside from the initial set-up, it doesn’t take a lot of work to maintain, and in about 4-6 months we’ll have some pretty awesome soil for our garden.
Wikipedia does a good job of describing vermicomposting, or you can Blackle it. Worms Eat My Garbage is supposedly the definitive composting guide. The Village Green does outdoor composting, which is an excellent way to get rid of weeds and fallen leaves. If you do start a compost bin, don’t dump your worms in the garden – red worms are not native to North America, and are an invasive species, which can threaten other earthworms.
(Here’s the rest of the worm song)
As students are becoming more concerned about food quality and sustainability and nutrition issues, universities are challenged to adjust their menus to fit the needs of their student population. There are two common options for sustainable eating – organic and local. Organic food is grown without the use of chemicals and pesticides. Local food might not be organic, but has a smaller “footprint” because it travels fewer miles, and it supports the local community.
The University of California, Berkeley has committed to organic salad bars in their dining halls. The largest dining hall on campus, and the three others, have certified Organic salad bars. They have a separate prep station, and the organic veggies are not usually mixed into other meals. Most of the salad bar food comes from a 150 mile radius (sounds local to me).
Kenyon College in Ohio uses local food, including a student-run farm right on campus. Check out Kenyon’s Food for Thought, a program designed to help local farmers and provide quality food at the same time.
Duke University also uses organic and locally grown food. About 20% organic and 35-70% local food can be enjoyed at Duke. Green Mountain College has a Farm and Food Project, which focuses on local foods. They have a student run farm, but like many small farms, they aren’t pursuing organic certification because of costs, and limited options. Plus, they say people know how the food is grown and they trust the students. They do, however, run their greenhouses on solar and wind power, and students can “participate in our internship program with the vineyard, farm, and agricultural museum at Brunnenburg Castle in Italy.” Excellent!