5 ways I’m saving the world

Meredith, director of marketing for Urth TV and a living green pioneer, believes that our planet is about to go through a monumental shift.

Toward the positive.

That’s right. Meredith is joyfully optimistic, even in the face of global warming, an oil crisis and dying polar bears, because the way society views environmental problems is finally changing.

“This is a very exciting time in our lives, and it’s going to be up to each individual person to take a look at their life and see how they can contribute to themselves and the community and to the planet,” she said. “Really, the question is, what does it all mean to you?”

In a quest to come up with a concrete definition for green living, Meredith sat down with lots of different magazines and cut out words, images and pictures of what it meant to her to be living green.

“When I started doing the research, I came across lots of pictures of surfing and of water and of healthy food, of wonderful groups of people connected and spending time together,” she said. “That’s my definition of living green, but each individual has to figure out what living green means to them. Everyone has a different piece of the puzzle, because green living is interconnectedness. Every single person’s unique take on green living is what makes our lives possible.”

Meredith’s journey to living green began when she started paying attention to what she was eating. By focusing on what she was putting into her body, she became aware of how she was affecting her environment. She became conscious of how her tube of toothpaste could be causing harm to someone half a world away, and she decided to change the way she lived.

Here are 5 suggestions Meredith has for cultivating consciousness and finding the value in living a greener life:

1. Tap into your body.
Taking care of her body is the first place that ecology started making a difference to Meredith. You can follow suit by using your body more, doing yoga or martial arts. Use your body more and you’ll appreciate its abilities.

2. Be conscious of what you’re eating.

One of the biggest improvements came when Meredith gave up caffeine, and discovered that without it in her system, her feelings of insecurity and butterflies started to dissipate.

“Food became an experience for me because I was sitting quietly with myself every day for a little bit,” she said. “By being with my meal when I was eating it, I literally started to look up out of my skin and think, “Oh my, there’s this whole environment around me.”

3. Pay attention to what is in the products you’re buying.

“In order to feel comfortable in my body, I had to reconsider the products that I used in my home,” she said. “It was just another layer of choosing to take care of myself and surrounding myself with good things.”

4. Look for ways to cut back on consumption.

While recycling is something everyone should be doing, Meredith says reducing the amount of waste you create is even more of a priority.

“It’s not just about buying green labels, but thinking, how many pairs of shoes do I really need? How many times am I really running the washing machine every week? Can I make a gift instead of purchasing one?,” she said.

Take cloth grocery bags, for instance. Before you buy a dozen in your quest to help the environment, think about if you already have bags that will work? Can you find any at a thrift shop or garage sale before you buy a new one? Can you share with a neighbor?

5. Help your fellow humans.

“When I stopped putting so much attention on myself, I started helping other people out,” Meredith said. “I was like, ‘Holy cow. I’m living on this gorgeous, beautiful earth filled with bodies of water that are being polluted, and if I want my children to have a life here and my loved ones to be healthy, I better take care of it.'”

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Talk the Talk
Meredith plants seeds of green thought in her Living Green podcast. With interviews and a steady eye on the market, she helps listeners get to the root of the issues.

Watch This
Turns out, Meredith makes a great show host for Urth.TV too. She talks green with some of the most vibrant movement revolutionaries, all for your enjoyment.

The Lights Are On
And they’re good for the environment, thanks to the knowledge you got from Low Impact Living. Go on and look. It’s more than just recycling.

Seeing Green
Recipes. Transportation. Fashion. Oh my. Thanks to Green Living Magazine, it’s never been easier to show your true colors.

Just Do It Yourself
Earth-friendly and wallet-conscious, ReadyMade helps you claim your corner of the world and decorate it just the way you want it.

Color Me Happy
At Green Living Tips, you can learn easy lifestyle changes that reduce your impact on the environment.

Sit & Think
Gaiam, a lifestyle company, offers home furnishings and products with the goal of making sustainable living mainstream.

Eco Bites
Bite-sized, affordable and convenient ways to make small changes to affect big change.

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How to set the perfect table

Every single day, Rebecca puts together baby showers and weddings and family dinners that make Martha Stewart jealous. She crafts centerpieces and arranges tablescapes and plans menus, threading together details from the flowers to the favors to create an occasion for inspiration.

And the best part, you’re invited to every single shindig.

“I started my blog Tastefully Entertaining because I love entertaining,” said Rebecca. “Now I get to throw a virtual party every day, I get to throw parties I could never throw on my own because there are too many ideas and I’m not made of money, and I get to inspire other people to enjoy entertaining and think outside the box.”

Part of Rebecca’s quest to think outside the box comes from the fact that she has attention to details in her DNA. Her mom coached it out of her at an early age, showing her how to arrange food and pull together themes, and gave her an appreciation for the ambiance that artful entertaining can evoke.

“My birthday is just before Valentine’s Day, and every year my mom would figure out a way to make each party very unique,” said Rebecca. “She put an extraordinary amount of effort into planning games that went along with the theme and put a personal touch on every aspect.”

The concentration on details is something that can be overwhelming even for a pro like Rebecca. To help her get organized and hone in on her idea, she uses inspiration boards.

“The inspiration board is basically the beginning of an event for me,” she said. “Sometimes I start with colors, sometimes I start with a feeling like romance or whimsy, and sometimes I’ll start with a picture that strikes me. Then I turn it into an event.”

Inspiration boards help answer both the practical and the creative questions about an event. If an invitation inspires you, let that be the first piece on your inspiration board and then fill it in with these basics elements:

  • Invitation

It’s the first thing your guests see and should prime them for what to expect.

  • Table top

Think about the plates, the linens, the colors, the shapes. What could you use as a centerpiece that could bring in elements of your theme or your colors? How should you arrange each place setting? What should you offer as a favor? Are there any unexpected candles you could pull in instead of the typical tapers? The table top is basically the stage for your event, so concentrating on those details is key to creating a cohesive event.

  • Menu

What foods will evoke the ambiance of your event? Having a bon voyage party? Think about seafood. Plan a menu that echoes the design details you’ve decided on.

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Practial Ideas and Inspiration
Visit Rebecca’s website for recommending recipes, cocktails and reasons to get together

Hostess with the mostess
More design driven entertaining ideas!

evite!
Evite guides party hosts through every step of the event planning process – from deciding on the party specifica and inviting guests to preparing the party to finalizing the menu and sending eCard thank-you notes after the event.

Homegrown revolution, so easy a baby could do it

You don’t have to retreat to a cabin in the forest to grow your own tomatoes and raise chickens, you can do it anywhere. People are growing cucumbers on windowsills in a Los Angeles and harvesting honey on the rooftops of New York City. A new way of participating in the food/life cycle is blushing on the horizon. We are living in the dawn of the ecotarian. People want to get back (don’t make me say it) to their roots (gotcha!).

A relatively new movement, urban homesteading takes “simple living” to the next level (sorry Martha) through incorporating small-scale agriculture, sustainable and permaculture gardening, and home food production and storage into every day life. By growing their own food and harnessing natural energy, city dwellers are reconnecting with their land while planting seeds for the future for our cities.

Over the past 4 years Michelle has transformed her tiny “cement jungle” of a patio into an urban homestead complete with compost piles, laundry lines, and edible produce. Pretty impressive for a girl who couldn’t keep a spider plant alive a mere four years ago.

“My grandfather lived during the depression, and that was reflected in the way we were brought up,” said Michelle. “He taught me about our relationship with the land. Waste not, want not. You didn’t move until the food was gone.”

Lover of a good challenge, Michelle couldn’t resist the chance to translate her grandfather’s wisdom into a townhouse in the middle of Florida. It all started with a little dollar bamboo plant she bought in college. After a series of botanical tragedies that tiny ikea wonder broke the one-year survival threshold–the not-so-green thumb would hold her back no longer! Michelle and her daughters carefully composed a 22’x16′ ecosystem one (recycled) container at a time.

“In our world, we are so distant from what is around us. Trees and life and love have been replaced with things: Wii and iPhones and name brand products of every sort. Our food comes to us via truck with no farther thought about where it has been and what it has seen prior to our grocery store shelves,” said Michelle. Shifting our lifestyles to reflect the cyclical processes of nature–thereby appreciating the things that sustain us–is just one more step in the right direction.

Izzy and Sol, Michelle’s girls, are not growing up in an off grid house with living walls and raise chickens, bunnies, goats and open a nursery (at least, not yet). They are growing up in a townhouse in the middle of town, within walking distance to the library, across the street from their preschool and with a cement backyard no bigger than your living room.

But, thanks to motherly wisdom (and a healthy dose of imagination), that backyard has taught them lessons that most people will never know in their lives… and it all starts with a seed.

“Seeds bloom, the animals come, caterpillars munch and butterflies emerge from cocoons, we have tea parties made from herbs we pick from pots on the wall and they help me gather things for dinner,” said Michelle. “The relationship they are building, the understanding of their place in this world beyond what is fed to them from the TV and magazines: this is almost as important of a lesson as the ability to be self sufficient, but even that pails in consideration of the over all lesson they learn: treat everything with respect, hurt none, and watch out for the little guy. You are the keepers of the world.”

Ready to get your kids in the garden? Here’s a few ideas to get your imagination juices flowing:

1. Plant edible flowers and herbs for curious mouths. Try mint, sunflowers, or pansies or visit kiddie garden for a more complete list of toddler friendly plants.

2. Encourage birds to come visit your garden and make a bird feeder (or birdie snack shack). You may even want to head to the library to reserach the specific details on your local birds, their favorite foods, and favorite styles of dining table.

3. Gather caterpillars and build a butterfly garden. Check out these twenty butterfly gardening tips to get you started.

4. Reserve rainwater in large containers to demonstrate between rain and plant growth. You may even want to make an extra rain water bucket for playing in.

5. Grow cuttings and seedlings indoors and transplant them into the garden. Watch Michelle’s instructables video for a quick and easy cutting propagator.

For updates from Michelle’s urban homestead visit her blog at we’re all mad here.com.

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Michelle’s Instructables
Step-by-step directions for creating an easy to maintain small space garden

Avante Yard
75 tricks to get your kids outdoors

Homegrown Evolution
Kelly and Erik are the authors of The Urban Homestead coming out in June of 2008 from Process Media. They have researched and experimented with small scale urban agriculture since moving to their tiny bungalow in Los Angeles ten years ago.

Pick up some homesteading skills
Like how to make a self watering container

A designer’s 5 tips for turning a yard into a living space

Felicia grew up in Southern California with easy access to the mountains and the beach. Mother Nature became a big part of who she is as a child and continues to have a dominant place in her adult life. Every day she hikes, swims or jogs outside in the beautiful weather.

“It’s part of who I am, and it makes me really happy,” she said.

Drawing inspiration from the great outdoors, Felicia decided to pursue a career in interior design and was recently a contender in Bravo TV’s Top Design.

In her design work, she tries to share the joy the outdoors brings her with her clients. Her purpose is not only to create a beautiful home for her clients, but also to help them improve their lifestyle.

And hopefully, that lifestyle can extend beyond the four walls of her home to include outdoor spaces.

“A lot of my clients moved to Southern California to take advantage of the great weather, and I have a few tricks up my sleeve for bringing together indoor and outdoor living spaces,” said Felicia.

  • Choose window treatments that let the outside in.

“When I work with a client, I look from the outside in,” said Felicia. “First of all, I talk to my clients about what type of window treatments or designs they’d like to use so that we can maximize the view from the window or balcony.”

  • Choose the right seating.

If you’re outside space is behind a railing or a fence, choose seating that lets you see over the barrier. Pick a patio set or a bar table that has higher chairs. If you have a big open space, there’s no reason you can’t bring a bed into it to use as seating. Think about what seating will let you make the most of the space and your view.

  • Practice climate control.

There are easy ways to protect yourself from cold breezes with drapes, longer overhangs and fire pits, which you can often find for under $200, and you should consider how you’re going to keep your outdoor environment as cozy as your indoor one so you’ll want to spend more time there. Blankets are easily brought outside on chilly nights, and the gas heaters that restaurants use on their patios are available in a table top size.

  • Understand the difference between an outdoor patio and an outdoor living space.

“If we create a comfortable space outdoors, it will make us want to be out there,” she said.

To turn your outdoor set up into a living space, incorporate things that you would normally have on the inside. It’s amazing what is available to us in terms of outdoor furniture nowadays. No more are you confined to wrought iron tables or plastic chairs.

Find a plush outdoor sofa, bring out a coffee table. You can do anything outdoors that you can do indoors, especially in mild climates or during specific seasons.

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A Breath of Fresh Air
Check out some of Felicia’s outdoor-inspired designs at her web site.

Oh, So Cute
An eclectic collection of modern daily finds for your home or office, including kitchenware, home accents and the most interesting stationary around.

Just Do It Yourself
Earth-friendly and wallet-conscious, ReadyMade helps you claim your corner of the world and decorate it just the way you want it.

Crafty—But Clean
At Family Fun, you can find tons of family craft projects that double as storage and organizing pieces, like a pocket wall organizer made from plain curtains!

How to give old furniture a new look

Alegre grew up in a multicultural household with parents who represented a mix of different cultures. They were always combining different flavors and styles in everything they did – in food, in traditions, and in the way they decorated the home.

“In our house, it was totally normal for us to have tacos and chow mein in the exact same meal,” she said.

Alegre’s father had a lot of big, solid Mexican furniture pieces that would last forever and that he refused to get rid of. There was one couch in particular that spanned the length of two entire walls, and over the course of 20 years, Alegre saw it go through at least five different fabrics.

“My mom’s famous saying was, ‘If it still works, why replace it?'” she said. “The funniest thing is, it’s been decades, and now I have that same couch in my home. It’s as old as I am!”

Like the couch, other pieces of furniture made their way into Alegre’s decor when her parents downsized into a smaller home. She was in her own space, and since she was a designer, she wanted it to reflect her style, not necessarily that of her parents. She didn’t want to waste perfectly good furniture, so she had to find a way to look at old things with new eyes.

“My challenge was to take old furniture that I was familiar with and make it fit into my new setting, to make it exciting and make it my own,” she said. “For example, I’d put a chair against a brightly painted wall, or put a piece of vintage fabric over an old table. Even though I had an apartment full of my parents’ old stuff, I had designed it to really reflect me.”

The appreciation Alegre learned to have for her parents’ old things started to shift her consciousness about design in its entirety. She started thinking about how she could curb consumption while creating inspiring spaces and ultimately packaged all of her ideas in an eco-friendly boutique and design studio, Green and Greener. Alegre hopes to share her philosophy and help shift our concept of Green design.

For 6 tips to make your place more of your own without relying on all things untouched, take a look at this article Alegre did for Apartment Therapy.

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Eco Bites
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Simple Green
At Green Living Tips, you can learn easy lifestyle changes that reduce your impact on the environment.

Do it Thrifty
A journalist/suburban mom dishes on cheap and easy ways to brighten up that place you call home.

Crafty—But Clean
At Family Fun, you can find tons of family craft projects that double as storage and organizing pieces, like a pocket wall organizer made from plain curtains!

Just Do It Yourself
Earth-friendly and wallet-conscious, ReadyMade helps you claim your corner of the world and decorate it just the way you want it.

Living on Sunshine

You’ve probably heard about the rotating skyscraper cloaked in solar panels that’s being built in Dubai. Basically it’s an unmatched feat of architecture and engineering, a sci-fi modernity that makes the suburbs seem otherworldly.

Still not impressed? Consider this: it’s the first skyscraper that’s also a power plant.

The Rotating Tower is what happens when possibility gets more attention than practicality… and what happens when what’s most practical gets incorporated into the what’s possible daydream.

Although Zan Dubin Scott’s house is less than 1% what the Rotating Tower will be, her passion for alternative energy is just as big.

Zan and her husband Paul have added solar panels to the rooftop of their Southern California home and started literally living off sunshine.

“My husband survived bladder cancer, and we decided we didn’t want to put off our life’s dreams anymore,” said Zan. “Having solar panels was on the top of the list, so on his 50th birthday, we had them installed.”

The completely hidden solar panels on the roof of their modest home give Paul and Zan all the electricity they need to run their washer, power their computers, light their rooms and even charge their electric car.

And, as an extra bonus, they’re actually making money of their investment.

“I took a look at the numbers and they actually made sense,” said Paul. “You actually make money with these. It’s an investment. If you put money into the stock market, you expect to get a return. We put money into solar panels, and we’re getting a really high return on our investment.”

Paul and Zan financed their solar panels and expect to have them paid off in less than 10 years (assuming 100+ mph winds don’t blow by and steal them). At that point, they’ll never have to pay for electricity again. They won’t have to worry about Enron scandals or blackouts because they’ll have their own energy source stored neatly on their roof, soaking up rays and turning it into power.

So what’s the biggest burden that comes with solar panels? Hosing off the bird poop once a year.

With companies like Solar City stepping up to the plate to provide leasing options for solar panels and cloudy countries like Germany proving that it doesn’t require year-round sunshine for solar panels to get the job done, electric companies are starting to offer energy alternatives to keep people from skipping off the grid. All you have to do is call and ask for it and agree to pay a couple cents more per kilowatt hour. Or, if they don’t offer clean energy options, demand that they start.

“The whole idea is to break down the barriers to widespread solar adoption,” said Zan. “You know, we’re sitting on this tremendous asset — our own roofs, which can be producing our solar energy.”

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Soul Crushing
See Zan and Paul in action in Who Killed the Electric Car?

Join the club!
Want to find some like minded electric car fans? Take a look at the Electric Auto Association and get info on how to rally for the cause.

A Trusted Advisor
Get the latest news and advisories on green automotives through Edmund’s Green Car Advisor.

Public Relating
Find out more about Zan through her business website.

The 5 biggest landscape blunders… and how to avoid them

Shirley was a stay‑at‑home mom with, crazy as it sounds, lots of leftover energy. When her kids would take naps, she would go to the front yard and start gardening — putting a fruit tree here, mounting a fallen branch there. Basically, it was her playtime.

Shirley didn’t have any formal training, but she used plants and flowers to express her own sense of style. For her, gardening was artistic expression.

“Eventually, my neighbors got curious,” she said. “They would knock on the door and ask, ‘Who landscaped you?'”

That’s when Shirley realized that she had a knack for landscape design. After her kids started school, she decided to pursue some formal training so she could turn those curious neighbors into clients.

For Shirley, there isn’t anything that can stand in the way of her creating a beautiful garden for somebody.

“I think it’s part of being a creative person,” she said. “I don’t see blank slates. I see trees. I see flowers. I see succulents. I see sculpture.”

In her line of work, she also sees mistakes people make when trying to landscape on their own. Here are some of the most common landscape blunders Shirley encounters:

1. Starting without a plan.

It’s not a good idea for a homeowner to start making holes and start tearing things down when they don’t know exactly what they’re doing, especially when they haven’t called utility services first. They may not know where the gas line or sewage line are, and it’s not fun to find them by accident.

2. Forgetting that plants require care.

People forget that plants need to be taken care of. Ask yourself, am I willing to keep up with the garden I have planned? If I want to go on vacation, is there a way to properly irrigate so I don’t come back to a dead garden?

3. Overlooking seasonal changes.

Trees and plants change with the seasons. A beautiful deciduous tree may seem perfect in the spring, but it could leave you feeling exposed in the fall and winter when it drops its leaves. Think through these seasonal changes so you’re not regretting your decisions later.

4. Working without a focal point.

Whether it’s an existing tree or a whimsical piece of art, it’s really smart to plan and design around a single focal area. By making everything around the focal point really subtle and quiet, you force the attention onto the item that you want people to pay attention to.

“When I moved into my house, I inherited a beautiful 40 year old pepper tree, and I absolutely love it. I knew that tree was going to serve as a focal area because it’s so grand,” Shirley said. “I decided to put in a pond and waterfall that would meander right to the side of the tree. Now, when you take in the tree, you also take in a beautiful feeling, a setting. It’s more of a package deal instead of a la carte.”

5. Not anticipating growth.

When you put a plant or a tree in your garden, you have to remember that it is going to need to put down roots, they is going to need room to grow. Many people put in plants without considering how they’re going to mature. When you first install your landscape design, you may finish putting it in, but it’s not in its finished form. Gardens get better with age, and you have to plan for the growing up that they do.

For Shirley, success is having a garden. And she would encourage anyone to try and plant one for themselves.

“With a garden, you see something through from start to finish,” she said. “Gardens, like people, go through ups and downs. They get sick. They look ugly. Sometimes they look beautiful. The point is, hang in there with your garden. Nurture it. Address your problems and issues. Don’t run away from them. Take care of them. And in the end, you’ll have a little bit of heaven on Earth.”

For more stylish insights into landscape design, visit Shirley’s website.

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Garden All Over the World

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Preserving the Beauty
The Garden Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving America’s most beautiful historical gardens.

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