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permaculture principlesPermaculture design principles are tools that, when used together, allow us to creatively design our environment with less energy and resources. Permaculture mimics the efficiency of nature – the input equals the output – and because of this, it is the strongest model we have for sustainability.┬á Permaculture principles can be applied to all areas of our lives, culture, economy, agriculture and government, but here we’re going to focus on local small agriculture.┬á In other words, our backyard gardens.┬á Permaculture practitioners have identified 12 encompassing principles, but we are going to focus five basic principles that will best apply to a small garden.

1. Conservation – Use only what you need
This is a simple concept that we hear often.┬á Don’t waste precious resources.┬á If you live in a semi-arid climate, focus on drought-tolerant plant species to help conserve water.

2.┬á Stacking functions – any single element in your system may have many functions.
For example, a tree might be an element in your system. A tree can provide shade, shelter wildlife, produce mulch and building materials, be a wind break, fertilize the soil, prevent erosion, raise the water table, etc. A tree can do a lot of different work for us in our system, and that’s what we mean by stacking functions.

3. Reciprocity – Utilize the yield of each element in the garden system to meet the needs of other elements in the system.
This means there is a give and a take between elements. The output from one element can be an input for another element. A good example of this is composting. Kitchen scraps are the output from our kitchen which becomes input to our compost pile. It will turn into valuable fertilizer which we can then input to our garden. Then our garden outputs food which would again be an input into the kitchen. The elements support each other.

4.┬á Diversity – Create resilience by utilizing many elements.
We can contrast diversity with planting a single crop (monocropping). If you have a drought year or a wet year or if you have a certain kind of pest, one crop will probably be susceptible to that weather condition or pest and you might lose your whole crop. But if you have a system that’s mixed, with a variety of crops or plants, they might not all be susceptible. You might have some plants that are drought tolerant, others that do better in wetter conditions.┬á So, by varying your garden’s elements, you give the whole garden a better chance for survival.

5.  Give away the surplus
At the heart of permaculture is the maxim that we should support and care for each other. Create systems that are abundant and share the abundance rather than hoarding it for ourselves.

Our oceans and rivers are suffering from ever-growing amounts of toxic chemicals that are shed and transported with rain and sewage.┬á One of the largest pollutants in our water is cleaning solution.┬á This includes body soap, shampoo, detergents, air fresheners, glass cleaners, de-greasers and stain removers.┬á All of the products we use in our home and on our bodies get washed down the drain and end up in the water supply.┬á You can help curb this problem by switching to biodegradable, non-toxic cleaners.┬á As I heard it said recently, one grasshopper on the tracks won’t stop a freight train, but a billion grasshoppers will surely slow it.

One of the best and most gentle alternative cleaners and household products is vinegar.  Vinegar is readily available in several forms and is good for replacing all of the above mentioned cleaning products, plus more.  All forms of vinegar are suitable to replace some chemical or another for household purposes, except perhaps brown cider vinegar, which may stain some porous surfaces.

Here I have accumulated a list of several useful ways to use vinegar that replace those toxic and sometimes expensive chemicals.

1. Weedkiller – pour undiluted on weeds or unwanted grass to get rid of it.┬á Works great for killing grass on the driveway.

2. Flea and Mange deterrent – add a little vinegar to your cat or dog’s water to keep fleas and mange away.

3. Rust Remover – soak rusty tools, bolts, spigots and showerheads in undiluted vinegar overnight to remove rust and corrosion and unblock any clogs.

4. No Frost – Coat car window with a solution of 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water to keep your windows frost-free.

5. Salve – Relieve sunburn, itching, and insect stings by pouring some vinegar on a cotton ball and applying to affected area.┬á If you’re itchy all over, add a few tablespoons to a bath.

6. Hair Care – Add 1 cup of vinegar plus 1 cup of warm water in a glass and rinse your hair with it after conditioning to add natural highlights and relieve dandruff.┬á It also restores the pH of your hair and scalp, and removes excess oil and shampoo residue.

7. Miracle Cold Cure – Soothe a sore throat by adding 1 teaspoon to a glass of warm water and gargling and swallowing.┬á To cure a cold, mix 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar with 1/4 cup honey and take 1 tablespoon every two hours. This cure is also said to help relieve arthritis. (My dad used to mix one teaspoon vinegar with hot water in a shot glass and take that every morning.┬á I swear, I’ve never seen that man get sick!)┬á You can also treat sinus and respiratory infections by adding 1/4 cup vinegar to a humidifier.

8. Cough Relief – get rid of a cough by mixing 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 1 tsp cayenne pepper and 4 tsp honey.┬á Take 1 tablespoon every hour until cough subsides.

9. Color care – To keep colors bright in clothes, soak in full-strength vinegar before the first wash.┬á You can also add 1/2 cup vinegar to the rinse cycle to brighten fabrics.

10. Stain remover – Gently rub on fabrics to remove most organic stains, then wash as usual. You can also remove perspiration and deodorant stains, as well as smoke smell and other persistent odors, by adding 1 cup of vinegar to the wash cycle. You can also remove scorch stains from your iron plate or coffee maker by heating equal parts vinegar and salt in a small pan and rubbing the solution on the cooled surface.

11. All-purpose cleaner – Use vinegar to clean and disinfect your dishwasher, garbage disposal, kitchen counters, refrigerator, stainless steel surfaces, china and glassware, microwave, cutting boards, dishes, and teapots.

12. Deodorize or unclog your kitchen drain by pouring a handful of baking soda down the drain and adding 1/2 cup vinegar.

13. Make buttermilk by adding 1 tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of milk and let it stand for 5 minutes.

14. Substitute lemon with vinegar in a recipe by adding 1/4 teaspoon vinegar per 1 teaspoon lemon juice.

15. Prevent grease buildup in your oven by wiping it down (while cool) with a rag that has been moistened with vinegar and water.

16. Naturally Antibacterial – Vinegar will naturally kill any bacteria it comes into contact with.┬á Use it to clean surfaces and fixtures in the bathroom by mixing it half and half in a spray bottle and use on sink, counters, toilets, and even floors.

17. Remove soap scum and film on showers and bathtubs by spraying or wiping on vinegar and ten dust with baking soda.  Rinse with water.

18. Air freshener – Vinegar is a natural deodorizer – spray into the air to freshen it up.┬á You can also set out a bowl of vinegar to rid a room of paint fumes or cigarette smoke. To add a scent to the air, place a bowl of vinegar in a warm spot and add spices or scented oils.┬á This takes the bad smells out while scenting the air with the good smells!

19. Remove bumper stickers and decals by soaking a cloth in vinegar and then pressing it over the sticker for a few minutes.  The sticker should peel right off.

20. Leather can be easily cleaned with a mix of distilled vinegar and linseed oil.  Rub the mixture in and then polish with a clean cloth.  Also wipe onto patent leather to make it shine brilliantly.

21. Create your own wood polish to remove water stains and make surfaces shine. Mix equal parts distilled vinegar and olive oil.  Apply with a soft cloth and rub with the grain for best results. You can also use this mixture on wood paneling to clean and remove dust and grime.

22. Prolong the life of cut flowers by adding 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 3 tablespoons of sugar per quart of warm water.

23. Increase the acidity of your garden soil by adding 1 cup of vinegar per gallon of tap water.  This will release iron into the soil for plants to use and increase acidity in clay or alkaline soils.  Some acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons, gardenias and azaleas will benefit from adding diluted vinegar to the soil.

More that 1 billion people participate in Earth Day activities, making it the largest secular event in the world. You can participate and make every day Earth Day by taking small steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

10 Tips to Be Green at the Office

1. Set computers to energy-saving settings and shut down every day at the end of the day. Leaving them on sleep or standby mode continues to draw power.

2. Unplug peripheral equipment such as printer and scanners until they are needed.

3. Turn off the lights in unoccupied spaces.

4. Store files electronically rather than as paper copies in file cabinets.

5. Review documents onscreen rather than printing them out.

6. Send emails instead of paper letters. (Email is much faster, anyway!)

7. Bring your lunch to work in a reusable container.

8. Avoid office furniture and supplies that are made with harmful chemicals, and consider buying used office furniture to make an even smaller impact.

9. Carpool, bike or walk to work or take public transit when possible.

10. Implement a recycling program at your place of work to encourage every member in your office to live more sustainably.

10 Environmental Statistics

1. Using recycled paper for just one print run of the Sunday edition of the New York Times would save 75,000 trees.

2. If every American recycled just one tenth of their newspapers, we would save about 25 million trees a year.

3. Although water covers two-thirds of the surface of our planet, all the fresh water in lakes and rivers represents only one-hundredth of the Earth’s total water.

4. The typical American home uses about 300 gallons of water each day.

5. By turning the heat down, Americans could save more than 500,000 barrels of oil each day.

6. Americans throw away 25 billion styrofoam coffee cups every year, and 2.5 million plastic beverage bottles every hour.

7. Personal financial stress is estimated to cost businesses $100-$150 billion annually.

8. 84% of a typical household’s waste – including food scraps, yard waste, paper, cardboard, cans and bottle – can be recycled.

9. Each year, 40 million acres of tropical rainforest are destroyed through logging or burning.

10. Only 10% of the 35,000 pesticides introduced since 1945 have been tested for their effects on people.

Most types of plastic bottles are safe to reuse at least a few times if properly washed with hot soapy water. But recent studies about chemicals in Lexan (plastic #7) bottles are enough to scare even the most committed environmentalists from reusing them or buying them in the first place. Studies have indicated that food and drinks stored in such containersΓÇöincluding Nalgene bottlesΓÇöcan contain trace amount of Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic chemical that interferes with the bodyΓÇÖs natural hormonal messaging system.


GoodLifeBottles - 200x200
The same studies found that repeated re-use of such bottlesΓÇöwhich get dented through normal wear and tear and while being washedΓÇöincreases the chance that chemicals will leak out of the tiny cracks and crevices that develop over time. According to the Environment California Research & Policy Center, BPA has been linked to breast and uterine cancer, an increased risk of miscarriage, and decreased testosterone levels. BPA can also wreak havoc on childrenΓÇÖs developing systems. (Note to Parents: Many baby bottles and sippy cups are made with plastics containing BPA.) Most experts agree that the amount of BPA that could leach into food and drinks through normal handling is probably very small, but there are concerns about the cumulative effect of small doses over time.

Aluminum bottles, such as those made by SIGG, are alternatives to plastic bottles, but have been shown to have harmful effects. Aluminum bottles are not resistant to stains and corrosion, and therefore they require a lining of some sort in order to be reused. For years, Sigg promised that their products were free of the harmful chemical BPA, but an independent study found that their proprietary resin coating actually contained harmful amounts of BPA.

Stainless steel water bottles such as the Good Life Bottle are probably the most cost efficient drinking container that you could ever buy. Not only are they made out of a material that is resistant to stains and corrosion, but they will last nearly a lifetime, and since they are made from steel, they are completely recyclable and will never rust. One of the biggest advantages of purchasing a stainless steel water bottle over an aluminum Sigg water bottle is that there is no need for any sort of resin coating.

Stainless steel is used in many commercial kitchen applications and many other kitchen tools such as bowls and kitchen knives. It is the safest alternative to plastic, and provides you with the cleanest and longest-lasting storage for your drinking water.

cold-frame

South facing filtered light helps trap heat inside

If you live in a part of the country that gets heavy frosts during the winter or that has a shorter growing season, a cold frame may be just what you need to help extend your growing season, grow veggies during the winter or start seedlings early.

Most gardening manuals recommend starting your seedlings in a greenhouse, but for many people, a greenhouse is not an option due to limited space or the cost of buying one.  If this is the case for you, consider buying or building a cold frame to put in your yard.  They ccan be made in any size, from something as small as a tabletop to something as large as a small greenhouse.  Ideally, a cold frame is built to specifications to sit atop a raised bed, as shown here.  We built this one to extend our growing season into winter and grow salad greens even during the coldest months on the year.  We fortunately live in a region that gets heavy frost but steady, strong sunshine year round.  So, without the need of a heater and only using the energy from the sun, a cold frame was a perfect option for growing cool-weather crops in the winter.

coldframeThe materials we used for this structure were primarily recycled wood from an old deck, a piece of corrugated tin to reflect sun off the back, and we bought a large piece of corrugated translucent plastic for the cover, which hinges open and closed.┬á During the summer months when we don’t need the cold frame, we remove it from the raised bed and store it on the shady side of house, hidden from view.

This cold frame has been great for starting all of our seedlings for the year.  While consistently harvesting salad greens, we also have plenty of room to place several trays of seedlings in as well.  The even, warm temperature and filtered light are similar to the conditions in a greenhouse and are absolutely ideal for starting nearly any kind of plant.

Currently in our cold frame we are growing: mesclun salad mix, rosemary, sugar snap peas, shelling peas, cowpeas, tomatoes, watermelon, pumpkin, beans, onions, morning glory, moonflower, marigold, sunflower, sweet pea, foxglove, daisy, poppy, cosmo, and bee balm.┬á That’s right, we’re growing all of that in just one cold frame.┬á By the time they outgrow this space, it will be warm enough to transplant them outside.

In some climates that have a shorter growing season, a greenhouse is almost essential for a good harvest.  You can give your plants a great head start and extended growing season with a small backyard greenhouse.  A greenhouse structure can also allow you to grow a greater variety of vegetables and fruits that your growing zone normally would allow.  mobile greenhouse tabletop small greenhouseThe thought of building a structure in their backyard intimidates most people, but with a few pictures, simple instructions and a some common supplies that can be bought at any hardware store, you can build a small table-top or a large greenhouse to get your spring planting started early and protect your plants from frost.

Mobile or Mini Greenhouses

For hobby gardeners and the summer grower, a mobile greenhouse may be perfect for you.  You can construct a small dome out of plastic sheeting wrapped over a PVC or wood frame and secured to the ground or weighted to a tabletop with something heavy like bricks, as shown here.  A structure this small can easily be stored during the late summer and mid-winter when its not in use, or even disassembled for storage.

Cold Frames

For winter growers or hobby gardeners in colder climates, a cold frame lets you grow vegetables all winter long, even in deep snow.  A cold frame is like a mini-greenhouse that you can put over a raised bed.  They are ideal for growing green leafy vegetables and other smaller food crops.

Coldframe propped open to let sunlight in.

Cold frames usually require sturdy surfaces if they are going to withstand the weight of accumulated snow, but they are also smaller than a greenhouse and so planning and building one is generally less labor intensive.  Cold frames, like greenhouses, are available to buy prefab, but you can easily construct one yourself with some scrap wood and either plexiglass or corrugated plastic.  For our cold frame (see photo below), we used recycled wood from a scrap pile and bought some corrugated plastic and hinges for a few bucks at Home Depot.  We constructed the frame to sit high on one end and hinge open so that we could grow taller crops during the winter.  The frame faces south to optimize sunlight and a strip of metal sheeting on the inside back wall reflects and intensifies light inside the structure.

Greenhouses

For year-round gardeners or large-scale growers, a full-sized greenhouse may be a better solution and worth the extra efforts.┬á Prefab and assemble-from-kit greenhouses can get very costly, and if you don’t mind putting a little elbow grease into the construction yourself, then building your own will probably be much less expensive. You can build it out of the same materials – PVC pipe and plastic sheeting- but may need a few extra supplies and a bit more planning for its layout and construction.┬á Below is a list of parts and plans for building your own greenhouse.

How to Build a Greenhouse Resources:

Build a GreenhouseInexpensive greenhouse plans.

How to Build a GreenhouseGreenhouse Construction Plans

Advice on How to build a GreenhouseShort Review on How to Build a Greenhouse

Greenhouse BuildingGood overview on Homemade Greenhouse Construction

Build a Backyard GreenhouseA backyard greenhouse building site with detailed photos.

Tom’s Garden Greenhouse – Build a lean-to style Greenhouse

How to build a Greenhouse, with pictures – Build a greenhouse construction photo slideshow.

Build your own greenhouseGreenhouse plans detail materials and includes an illustrated guide on how to build your own greenhouse.

Ask How to Build A GreenhouseForum on Gardenweb dedicated to the subject, “How to build a Greenhouse”

Build a PVC GreenhouseWebsite detailing construction of a PVC pipe Greenhouse

How to Build a Greenhouse InformationBuild a Backyard Greenhouse Information

Build a Solar Greenhouse PlansExcellent Tips on how to build a greenhouse

Building a Small Backyard Greenhouse - An easy to build small backyard greenhouse. This website explains how to build a greenhouse using PVC.

Build a PVC Backyard GreenhouseAnother simple greenhouse to build in your backyard.

How to build a greenhouse on a budget - A few tips on how to build a greenhouse on a budget.

Build a PVC Greenhouse Plans - Detailed plans for building a PVC Greenhouse with parts list.

Non-Traditional Greenhouse for $200 Using Local and Salvaged Material, these folks learned to how to build a greenhouse (Pictures only, but worth the visit)

How to build a greenhouse inexpensively – Plans on how to build a cheap and easy greenhouse

How to build a Greenhouse, PlanningWest Virginia U.E.S. article explains how to build a greenhouse, but more importantly, the planning process.

How to build a Passive Solar Greenhouse – View the building of a Solar Passive Greenhouse

Additional Related Greenhouse Resources:

Starting a Greenhouse BusinessA foundation for getting your greenhouse business off the ground

Buy a Used GreenhouseIf you don’t want to learn how to build a greenhouse, here is a classifieds section of nothing but used Greenhouses.

Composting, like recycling, solves a problem.  In fact, composting solves some of the greatest environmental issues at all levels of our society: waste, landfills, soil erosion, food production, food distribution, poor soil quality, limited ecology, etc.

composting growingAny city could be green if they implement a mandatory composting program in residential, commercial and municipal levels.┬á Food waste and biodegradable paper products account for a significant percentage of the daily amount of accumulated trash in any city.┬á Imagine the benefits of composting ALL of that waste and converting into nutrient-rich soil instead of adding it to a landfill.┬á Not only do you get a renewable source of soil suitable for agriculture, but you open up a whole new world of vitality in the natural life within a city.┬á For example, a surplus of compost, or ‘black gold’ as gardeners often call it, encourages creation of neighborhood vegetable gardens, urban homesteads and farms, flower gardens which leads to greater ecological diversity of flora and fauna.

In short, composting addresses drought commonly found in urban landscapes which limits plant growth.  Compost naturally holds far more moisture than the sterile potting soil commonly bought for gardens, and thus it requires less water to maintain a crop. It enables  sustainable urban food production, which is a vital element for any resilient community.

How would mandatory composting work? Well, it must be treated like regular recycling and trash removal services. Food and biodegradable waste would be kept in a separate bin and hauled away by trucks adapted to handle this kind of cargo. It would be brought to a facility to be turned into compost. Composted soil will be distributed or perhaps sold back to citizens and urban farmers with a priority on keeping as much as possible within the city to restore soil health, until compost reserves are sufficient enough to start repairing the lands damaged by industrial agriculture practices.

Mandatory composting will more than adequately address a myriad of environmental problems that every community faces.  Its implementation will enable cities to create a community of sustainability.

We’ve all heard the “buzz words” of the Green Revolution.┬á Most of them are self-explanatory, but I’ve come across some phrases that are either scientifically complex or culturally elite.┬á To avoid any further confusion, here is a list of the lesser known (or just infrequently explained) terms for your general knowledge.┬á If you can think of any I missed here, send them in and I’ll add them.

Air Pollution
Particles in the air which have a negative affect on human health and the environment. Air pollution comes from toxic gases released during the manufacturing process, during transportation and from off-gassing.

Biodegradable
A product which is made of natural, raw materials that will decompose or rot into the earth without having a negative affect on the environment.

Carbon footprint
A measured amount of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide which are released into the atmosphere by manufacture, transport, products, materials, activities etc. Footprints are described in CO2 equivalent grams.

Carbon Neutral
Human activities which have reduced the creation of greenhouse gases together with carbon offsetting, which overall do not increase the amount of CO2 already in the atmosphere.

Carbon Offsetting
A way to reduce the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere by balancing or cancelling out the amount of these gases through investments made in environmentally friendly projects.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
Man-made chemical compounds that contain carbon, fluorine, chlorine and hydrogen. CFCs are found in cooling equipment such as freezers, fridges and air-conditioning units. These compounds damage the earthΓÇÖs stratospheric ozone layer. This layer is the earthΓÇÖs protection from UV rays.

Close the Loop
To buy a recycled product which has been remanufactured / reprocessed / reused on more than one occasion. This eliminates waste and creates a complete product cycle.

Daylighting
Integrated design and use of natural daylight at the beginning of the build process. This optimizes the position of a building and allows as much natural light into the interior as possible to reduce energy costs and encourage resource reduction.

Dioxin
A substance that is created when plastics that contain chlorine (e.g. PVC) are burnt: A highly toxic substance.

Eco (Ecology)
The relationship between organisms and their environment. Commonly and informally used as a term for products and materials which are environmentally friendly.

Eco-chic / Green Chic
The trend and fashion of being environmentally conscious and buying sustainable and/or ‘greenΓÇÖ products.

Eco-consumerism / Green Consumerism
Environmentally conscious people buying ‘green’ products and manufacturers producing them for that demand.

Eco-elite
A person who is environmentally conscious and who has the finances to support their environmental preferences.

Ecological Footprint
An amount of land needed by a person or population to sustain their lives with the consumption of natural resources including waste. This is then calculated and compared to the earthΓÇÖs ability to generate these resources.

Ecological Rucksack
The background historical information on how an end product is generated in materials, manufacture and energy input. Similar in meaning to the Ecological footprint but concentrating on material efficiency over the lifecycle of a product.

Environmental Management System (EMS)
A documented system that companies use internally to look at environmental issues, which highlights the impact of their business actions on the environment. . The standardisat9on systems for Europe are EMAS and ISO14001.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) / Genetically Engineered Organisms (GEOs)
Organisms from bacteria, plants or animals which have been genetically changed in a laboratory through DNA technology.

Geothermal power/energy/heating
A natural heat source found underground that can be used by technology for heating systems and energy.

Greenhouse Effect
The continual increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere destroys the ozone layer which allows radiation from the sun to reach our atmosphere. The sunΓÇÖs heat cannot escape and becomes trapped as if within a closed greenhouse. This heats the earth and is linked to climate change and negative changes in eco systems.

Greenhouse Gases
Gases present in the atmosphere which absorb the sunΓÇÖs energy and heat; water vapour, carbon dioxide CO2, methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), halogenated fluorocarbons (HCFCs), ozone (O3), perfluorinated carbons (PFCs), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Green Washing
Manufacturers who make false claims that their products are eco friendly, sustainable or organic etc.

Life Cycle Analysis / Life Cycle Design
To look at or design a product or material from the beginning to the end of its life to assess the environmental standards and the impact had on the environment. A typical lifecycle: raw material, manufacture, end product, use, reuse, recycling, disposal.The phrase ΓÇô from the cradle to the grave ΓÇô is commonly used.

Life Cycle Inventory (LCI)
A way to document the amount of energy used and how much waste is created in a product or material.

Off-Gassing
Gases released from building materials, finishes and products which are inhaled by humans and animals. Off-gassing causes interior air pollution and is connected to poor health and illness.

PETE / PET
Polyethylene terepthalate is a kind of plastic which is found in fabric, soft drinks and hard containers. Made by a chemical process which releases emissions during the production process. This material can be recycled. Read more this type of plastic and others that can be recycled.

Post-Consumer
A product or material which has been recycled or reused after its original purpose has completed. An example would be PET plastic bottles which have been recycled into new plastic bottles. The label may say ΓÇ£made with 95% post-consumer wasteΓÇ¥.

Pre-Consumer
A product or material which has been recycled or reused before it has become a consumer product. An example would be collected PET plastic bottle waste from a factory floor which is put back into the production process to be used to make new plastic bottles.

Product Take-Back
A manufacturer who considers their products once they reach the end of their lifecycle; disposal, reuse, recyclable and sustainability. An example from Germany is the extra cost charged on glass bottles, which is then refunded when you return the bottle to the shop for recycling with the manufacturer.

Sustainable
To lead a good quality of like, through a lifestyle which makes as much as possible from what we have as well as making something last indefinitely. Sustainable human activities will not adversely affect generations in the future. An example of a sustainable material is timber supplies, the rate of felling and growing of trees must be balanced so that felling does not outweigh the time needed for growing new trees. Forests which are in balance are called sustainably managed forests. Another aspect of this lifestyle choice is to conserve as much as possible.

Triple Bottom Line, People/Planet/Profit, TBL, 3BL
Companies who add environmental and social standards into their concerns for profit and performance.

Vermicomposting or Vermiculture
A compost system that uses worms to help decompose vegetable and biodegrable household scraps ΓÇô producing soil which is full of nutrients.

Virgin Product
Products that do not contain any recycled content, manufactured with 100% new materials.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
A toxic chemical contained within and then released as a gas from materials such as paint, glue, sealant, solvent and petrol over time. Found in most items of furniture and surface finishes.

Aquaponics is an emerging farming technique that produces year-round vegetables, herbs and fish on a small or large scale.  A constant local food source like this seems like the future of the food industry.  Consumers are already demanding for locally sourced meat and produce, but our current monoculture farming industry has conditioned us to depend on distant and even foreign sources for our food supply, and in the process we have lost the art of small agriculture.

aquaponics-systemAquaponics is the future of the food for both the local organic gardener and the small impoverished villages of the world.

Because of the extreme scalability of this closed-loop system, it can produce high crop yields to feed a small family or a large community.  Such high quality, organic and local food sources in such abundance benefit everyone involved.

Not only is it an easy food production system, it is also far more sustainable than the average backyard garden.┬á It requires 80-90% less water than a traditional growing system, which is shy aquaponics has grown exponentially in Australia, where drought has always been a major obstacle to growers.┬á In the US, it is a growing trend, although just as much in a science classroom as in residential applications.┬á But for the enthusiastic backyard gardener and the “green crowd”, the aquaponics solution is a giant fix for the problems that face our current farm-to-consumer production process.

Travis Hughey, a self-proclained ΓÇ£agri-missionaryΓÇ¥ who hopes to help feed the developing world, offers a free step-by-step plan to build your own Barrel-ponics system at home (already downloaded over 15,000 times since 2007).

aquaponics growing tubesThere is something exciting about aquaponics that inspires a blend of entrepreneurialism, environmentalism and survivalism. One can just imagine a day when aquaponics set-ups are built into every new apartment complex, fed by municipal waste and run on geothermal power.  It gives everyone the chance to be self-sustainable, and that is something we innately enjoy.