Monday, December 21, 2009

Welcome To My First Guest Post...from Compostings!

My first guest post...I'm so excited!

Welcome, and special thanks to Steve Jones, who writes a gardening blog I've been following called Compostings. http://compostings.wordpress.com/. Have I mentioned before that I'm an organic gardener? (A hack, but the idea of being self-sustaining, and teaching my kids where food comes from is important to me.) Although we've never met, Steve & I share a gardening kinship. Like me, he's been trying to make his mark on the world one GREEN step at a time. When I needed to ask whether or not I should continue to haul my kitchen scraps out to my garden compost bin in the cold of winter, he said I could find my answer in the following post. Thanks again, Steve!


Oh the joys of composting! It’s like nature has given us permission to litter. Go ahead! Throw out your potato peels! I’ll just be sitting here breaking it all down with the help of microbes.

Still, there are rules and they are pretty simple.

1. Throwing stuff into a compost pile is fun, but it will really only benefit your compost if it’s raw vegetable matter, shells, cardboard, leaves, grass clippings, sawdust, ash, coffee grounds, coffee filters, fruit scraps, bread, bits of old cereal/pasta.

2. A ratio of carbon to nitrogen is important. Carbon stuff (brown things, cardboard, leaves) combined with nitrogen stuff (green things, vegetables, grass, fruit) is what makes it all work. Low carbon/nitrogen ratios (things like veggie scraps have a 15:1) with high (leaves are 55:1 and cardboard is 500:1) need to be combined in a way that creates a balance of about 25:1. Don’t sweat it. You’ll see. Stuff wants to decompose.

3. Some piles of compost burn hot. Others are cool. It’s all about the spot and the carbon/nitrogen mix.

For most of us, it’s easiest to create a slow pile of compost. This requires a few things.

1. As you clean up the garden, mow the lawn or rake the leaves, pile everything in one place that you think is okay for composting. Some sun exposure is okay especially for the winter.

2. The smaller you chop everything, the faster it will all break down.

3. You can add kitchen waste, vegetables etc. to the pile whenever.

This slow building pile will compost pretty slowly. You will probably have a higher concentration of carbon because you have a lot of leaves in it. That’s okay. Just add as much green, nitrogen stuff as you can. Manure is okay (carbon:nitrogen of about 30:1), but you will need to be certain it is very well rotted and composted before you use the resulting compost.

With this kind of slow pile, you can get it wet, turn it every once in a while. It will compost. It just will happen over a year or so. The more nitrogen you add to a big carbon pile (especially if you used a lot of leaves), the faster you’ll cook it. And it will compost through the winter. Don’t stop just because the weather is cold!

If you have a devoted compost bin or a ready pile (a pile that was built with all of the right balance of ingredients ahead of time), you’ll probably be fast or hot composting. This is great! Those kinds of piles take a couple of turns (mixing the ingredients) and happen pretty quickly. And, once again, the composting doesn’t stop just because it’s winter.

If you are interested, I’ve got a quick tutorial on how to turn a plastic garbage can into a little hot composter. The link is http://compostings.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/cheap-garbage-can-composter/ .
There are other articles on my blog about it, but you might want to watch a quick video I did showing what to do with bags, and bags, and bags of leaves. http://compostings.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/old-compost-pile-gets-some-stuff/

That’s about it! There are plenty of other composting/littering techniques to learn about – of particular interest might be vermicomposting (earthworms!). Composting is a simple way to help the environment and it is the single greatest thing you can do for your flower or vegetable garden.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Upcycling?

So I feel as though I may be the last person on the planet to know what Upcycling means. Until a few days ago, I'd never heard the term. Completely oblivious I tell you. Well, it's actually a pretty simple concept, one which I was aware of, I just didn't know it had a name. Apparently my spell check doesn't know it's a real word yet either. Suddenly I don't feel so bad :)

Upcycling is taking an item and using it to make something else. Something you were going to recycle anyway, and making it better. People have been doing this is places like Africa for many, many years. Have you seen the reusable bags or pencil cases made from recycled Capri Sun juice pouches? Same idea. They're colorful and adorable, right? Last Spring I saw some beautiful high-end shopping bags made from upcycled materials in Provincetown and I'm still kicking myself for not picking up a few.

One of my past real estate clients is a very talented local artist who is creating and selling handmade jewelry at her etsy store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/mrskrafty and she has crafted earrings made from the pages of old books! How GREEN is that?!!! (There are other beautiful items not made of paper too. Please visit her site and check it out!)

Here's a quick article that helped me get a feel for upcycling and its possibilities!
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE58T3HX20090930

Enjoy, and take a moment to do something GREEN today!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In a Tight Market, Eco-Friendly Features are Important

This is a pertinent piece that was reported on NPR earlier this week. It touches on some of the challenges we're facing selling GREEN homes, but also on the fact that many home with GREEN or energy-efficient features, or those featuring tax-incentives ARE selling more quickly than those without.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121069093&sc=emaf

(This article appears courtesy of NPR.org)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Eco-Friendly Baby Picks for the Holidays

One of the things I love about Facebook is all the sharing of information between friends. This morning on my friend Lily's page I found a small company in Colorado who sells eco-friendly clothing for children. They haven't even got their website up yet, but they were putting out some good information.

A few links I found interesting:

EcoWorldBaby listed their top picks for holiday gifts:
http://http://bit.ly/2MZCIa

Information on the Sustainable Cotton Project:
http://http://www.sustainablecotton.org/html/who_we_are.html

Those of you who know me know that I'm not an "over the top" greenie. I'm more of a work in progress :) That's why I love learning more about ways to be GREEN or Environmentally Friendly. For most of us, it's easier to take those baby steps, like the reusable bags, recycling, conserving energy, combining car trips, changing the lightbulbs to CFLs, etc. All these small steps can and do make a difference. What GREEN things have you done today?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

My Home Energy Audit

I've always been curious about doing a home energy audit, but my husband beat me to the punch by ordering one this July! Through the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, http://www.ctenergyinfo.com/, 2 contractors came out to my house early one morning and for the price of $75, these 2 gentlemen ran a special fan (the blower-door test) to create a vacuum in my house, identified the areas that were the greatest "energy suckers" by walking around and checking each door, window, staircase, and gap in the floorboards (did I ever mention my house is 100+ years old?) and then went about with their weatherstripping and caulk guns and sealed those leaks.






Afterwards they ran the test again, to determine the new airflow, which had improved significantly. The before rate was 4523, which they said wasn't bad at all for a house our age, and the after was 4163.

In an old house like ours, the worst culprit is usually the windows, but we replaced all of them 10 years ago just after we bought the house. We used wedding gift money and my fantastic uncle (who installed windows for a living) installed them as his gift to us.

The biggest leak of all came from the door to our walk-up attic. When they turned on the fans it felt like the Mistral winds were blowing out from under our attic door! So while the weatherstripping helped tremendously, the company recommended insulating the old part of our attic. We're investigating how to do this without ripping up the lovely old floorboards, and it looks like a blown in insulation will do the trick.

Another big leak came from the staircase that leads upstairs where below it are stairs to the basement. We knew there was a gap - you can actually see the light from the basement through them (it's how we know if Scott's left the light on down there.) Apparently a little caulk from under the stairs will do the trick.

They also offered to check our pipes, which we'd already insulated, and discussed low-flow shower heads, but since we're on well water they didn't recommend it (we don't have a whole lot of water pressure to begin with.) Since we don't have any duct work, they didn't have to test that, but they would have, had it applied to us.

Lastly, they changed out all of our light bulbs that weren't on dimmers (and in our case, my brother Steve the electrician had installed A LOT of dimmers for us) with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs.) I think I counted 14 bulbs.



This is Timothy, from NECS, who very kindly allowed me to photograph him changing the lightbulb in my lamp.

To wrap up the visit, the contractors reviewed everything with us and gave a folder full of information on energy rebates, solar panel leasing programs (because we're interested in that) plus lots of reading materials on lowering energy bills.

As a fun bonus, they also left us a Kill-A-Watt meter, which measures how much energy each of our appliances uses. We're generally very good about unplugging appliances when not in use, but there are certain things like the coffee maker that I'll be curious to check!

For more information on the program, follow this link: http://www.cl-p.com/home/saveenergy/rebates/homeenergysolutions.aspx

What was our favorite part of the experience? The fact that what could be fixed there and then was taken care of. On the spot. Left up to us, it would have ended up on the mile-long "to do" list that comes along with home ownership. That alone was worth the $75.

I'll be watching our oil use this winter to see if this has made a difference!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Clean Energy Expo

I'm certainly not going for the free Nathan's hot dogs, chips or cookies, but I will definitely check out the Portland & East Hampton Clean Engery Expo taking place tomorrow, March 21st, 2009 at Saint Clements Castle (1931 Portland-Cobalt Rd.) in Portland. Hours are 10:00AM - 4:00PM and admission is FREE.

The expo is presented by the non-profit Saint Clements Foundation and the theme is alternative energy and conservation for home and business. I applaud them for putting this together.

The guest speakers will include:

George Fellner, Fellner Associates Architects - "Green Homes: Strategies for Sustainable Design"

Joe Swift, Residential Operations Supervisor from the CT Energy Efficiency Fund/CL&P - Efficiency and Conservation Programs inCT

Dell Smith, CES Consulting Engineering Services - Latest technology in GeoThermal design

Clean Energy Task Force, P.A.C.E., and local Portland & East Hampton Clean Energy Task Force will discuss what's being done in our community.

Happy Spring, Everyone!

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Green Spin on Decorating

An old friend of mine, Lillian Winnail, introduced me to a home decorating blog that I fell in love with instantly. It's www.nestingplacenc.blogspot.com.

So why do I consider her to be Green? What I love about this decorator is that she recycles, repurposes, buys at yard sales, "shops her house" for items to freshen a room, and looks to nature for inspiration. She has such an eye and uses natural elements to create something really special. Well, natural elements plus a glue gun....

As a Realtor, decorating comes into play when it's time to list a house. It's amazing what a little home staging, rearranging of furniture, and de-cluttering can do!

Check out The Nester's blog if you're looking for a little Spring decorating inspiration sprinkled with a sense of humor.

End note: As a thanks to Lily, here's a link to her site. www.padalily.com She's a mompreneur who invented an infant carseat carrier pad that is a gorgeous must-have for new moms!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Finding Green Homes on MLS

So, it turns out finding GREEN homes on the MLS can be challenging. As I'm writing this, there is yet to be a "green" field for searching. I'm thinking it can't be long before one is added, but in the meantime, there are some agents putting their GREEN listings on websites specifically aimed at this niche market.

The first one I found was http://www.greenhomesforsale.com/. While they don't have any active Connecticut listings on there (there was one in Woodstock, but it sold,) I can tell you that I'd happily take either of the homes listed in Fiji. Seriously, you don't have to ask me twice. There are several states with listings at this time though, so if you're looking for a home outside of CT, there's a starting place.

Who do I know looking for homes outside of CT? Certainly people looking for a 2nd home or vacation property (like me, but I tend to look to Europe for my next housing.) Also retirees looking for a vacation or retirement home who won't be able to afford to retire in CT, (and of course people relocating.) I was recently talking to another realtor from West Hartford who is himself building his retirement home in New Hampshire as a GREEN home, including geothermal heating. Pretty forward thinking, since by that time he'll be on a fixed income, and building a home with low utility/heating costs is the answer.

Back to those of us who are looking for GREEN homes in CT. http://www.listedgreen.com/ has some local listings. Another option, http://www.ecobroker.com/ which is a good resource for information and has several Connecticut listings on it.

If you or someone you know is looking for help buying or selling a home, please let me know. I'd be happy to help. http://www.lynnminnick.com