Migrating Robins Make A Pit-Stop At The Office

316671358 5656aea8ec 300x225 Migrating Robins Make A Pit Stop At The OfficeWashington Hawthorn trees line part of the driveway outside my office, and every year around this time attract flocks of migrating songbirds who feast on the berries before moving further south.  Last year I missed seeing the Cedar Waxwings who appeared by the hundreds to polish off the fruit.  This year I happened to be driving by in my corporate pick-up truck, and caught about 70 Robins standing both around the trees and in the branches wolfing down the red berries.  It was cute to see the cooperation with the birds in the tree eating a few berries themselves and pulling others loose to drop to the birds below.

It’s particularly satisfying to see that the migrating songbirds have our headquarters on their mental list of places to pit-stop at on their southern migration. I’ll have to see what stops by next year for the 2009 crop of berries.

Photo courtesy of audreyjm529

Recycling How To: Donate Gift Cards To Charity

img 0529 300x225 Recycling How To: Donate Gift Cards To Charity

Nine Million dollars worth of gift card cash goes unspent every year in the USA. This year all nine million of those dollars can now be donated to charities who accept new and used gift cards as tax deductible donations. 

If you’ve got a giftcard you will never use, or want to give to charity after the post holiday rush and find yourself short on cash, you can donate your holiday giftcards and make a difference in the way someone else begins 2009. Most charities that welcome gift cards will accept both unused cards and those with a little balance left on them, so even cards that only have a few cents left on their balance can become change in the pocket of a worthy cause.

A few noteworthy causes that accept gift card donation are:

Check out  Gift Card Donor.Com for more great donation opportunities, or check with your favorite charity or environmental cause to see of they accept gift card donations, and try this new way to recycle.

Green News: Is ‘Clean Coal’ A Future Reality?

2381084047 d3984765c2 b 300x300 Green News: Is ‘Clean Coal’ A Future Reality?“Green energy” technology has made great strides in recent years, and will become a primary source for our nation’s energy needs in the years leading up to 2020. As the technology has become a more cost effective and viable option, the coal industry has promised a version of “clean coal” that may not actually be a reality for another 20-30 years according to some sources. The PR firm that assisted Las Vegas city in developing their popular phrase “What happens here, stays here” has helped bring the idea of “clean coal technology” to the forefront with a holiday rendition of ‘Frosty the Coalman’, designed to bring attention to the idea of a greener coal industry.

Heavy support from the Obama campaign has made “clean coal” the apparent favorite green energy solution over wind and solar power for the coming years, but the price tag attached to “clean coal” is far higher, and the carbon sequestering technology needed to make this an environmentally friendly solution is still unavailable in the US. Is the coal industry ready to roll out “clean coal”?

Writer, commentator, and Guggenheim Fellow award winner Richard Conniff examines the factuality of the “Myth of Clean Coal” in his article for the webazine Yale Environment 360, and his thought provoking article is a great read!  Check it out for another well informed opinion about the future of American energy!

 

Photo courtesy of booleansplit

AeroGarden Review: Make Indoor Herbs A No-Brainer

aerogrow aerogarden 6 black w gourmet herb seed kit 200411746016 AeroGarden Review: Make Indoor Herbs A No Brainer

By far one of my favorite gifts under the tree, the AeroGrow AeroGarden with Gourmet Herb Seed Kit was a welcome surprise for a green thumb like me, who misses gardening during the winter months. A solution for year-round indoor herb and flower growing, this all containing unit consists of growth lights, seed pods, and fertilizers that work together in a soil-less counter-top garden. The premise of the system is built on aeroponic technology, which allows for a more bountiful crop when plants are grown in a highly oxygenated and nutrient rich pool of water. AeroGarden has perfected this technology for the average consumer by creating a product that more or less runs itself when set up correctly, and is family and novice gardener friendly.

The kit can be assembled in five minutes or less, with or without the detailed directions, and is up and running as soon as you plug it into the wall.  The hood lamp is adjustable, and can grow in height along with your plants, and the center piece of the garden kit holds within it the water basin, and air bubbler. The base of the unit contains a pre-programmed computer that will monitor the water level, growth light timing, and fertilization for you, once the variety of seed being planted is selected from the menu (ie: herb, veggie, flower, etc.) Once the initial set-up is completed, lights on the base of the unit will alert you to a need for fertilization or water, taking all of the guess work out of indoor gardening. This also assists the novice gardener by preventing two of the main causes of house plant death, over-watering, and fertilization problems.  The Nutrient tablets that come with the kit are well labeled and rationed for you, needing only to be added when the garden system alerts you to a need for either. Seed pods consist of small, pre-planted baskets, with a peat moss lining, that snap into the open holes over the water basin.  All the pods are well labeled with the plant’s name and future height (short, medium, tall), along with a hint as to when the first sprouts should appear.

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A Composting List For Your Holiday Leftovers

77287995 2d5d768c72 o 300x225 A Composting List For Your Holiday LeftoversThe Holidays can be hectic, and once the fever pitch of Christmas activity cools down you may find yourself unable to eat all the leftover odds and ends from your holiday dinner parties!  The moment you begin to stare dubiously at your aging leftovers is usually when composting starts looking like a good idea! This year don’t despair when your turkey soup starts showing its age, or you aunt’s untouched stuffing dish starts sprouting hairs, and use them to compost your way to a better backyard this spring and summer!

 

Before you brush your leftovers and spoiled food down the garbage disposal or into the trash can, sort out the useful garbage from the true trash. Make sure to leave the dairy products like the macaroni and cheese and the meat products out of the compost pile, as they can attracts pests to your yard, and actually slow down the composting process.  Grains, fruits and veggies are all great additions to you garden “home brew,” and below is a great list of compost friendly leftovers that you can add to your compost pile this holiday season.

  • Sweet Potato Pie
  • Apple Pie
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Collard Greens
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Stuffing
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Salads
  • Sauerkraut
  • Beets
  • Rolls
  • Toast
  • Muffins
  • Veggies (even spooned from soups or pot roasts)
  • Candied Apples
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Cooking Broth

Top off your compost pile with any of these dinner staples and “green” up your post-holiday routine!

 

Photo courtesy of alexdecarvalho

Gardening Your Cares Away – Effects of Nature on Human Behavior

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As the fall season grinds to a sudden chilly halt and I prepare for winter, my garden offers me less hands-on time while extending to me instead a few months to re-group and re-evaluate the past year.  As I briefly alluded to in my previous post, my home was under total renovation from October ’07 through October ‘08, after a neighbor’s house-fire severely damaged my own. Most of the yard work around Casa de GreenGardenista this year was simply the bare minimum maintenance work of mowing, and repeatedly cleaning up broken glass and the never ending parade of nails that perpetually appeared in my yard and garden. (Where does it all come from!?) Aside from wondering if any of the nails in the reconstruction process ever made it into the actual timbers of my house, I had plenty of time to re-evaluate my garden plan, and plan out my goals for the coming year.  A few short Saturday morning visits to the house for maintenance work turned into 6 hour stints of weed pulling, and restless re-arranging of garden plants, as I wrestled with my garden, and tried to make sense of both it and the situation I found myself in. It was a strange feeling, being a visitor in your own yard, but in some way the actual “doing” process of the yard work became a therapeutic exercise.

Many of you are like me, and find the learning exercise involved in gardening a grounding experience that soothes the soul and works out the kinks of the day’s stresses. Not everyone can take the same enjoyment from labor intensive outdoor work though. I used to wonder what it was that drew some people to the garden to relax, while other people wanted nothing to do with the hands-on aspect of gardening, and who found great enjoyment instead in something less time intensive, like a fresh bouquet of flowers. If we all reap some benefit from nature, is what we receive really that different from each other?

I was attending a symposium for the partners of the Wildlife Habitat Council recently, and attended a session dedicated to the study of the natural world and its effect on mental and physical wellness. The speaker was a doctoral student named Jason Duvall, from the University Of Michigan School Of Natural Resources And The Environment, and he shared both his own research and that of colleagues on the measurable effects nature has on human behavior.

He studied both the aspects of what the scientific community considers “active participation” with nature, which involves physical involvement with the outdoor world, and “passive participation” with nature, which involves simple things like a good view out an office, or hospital window, and attractive landscaping outside a school yard. He found, in studies spanning several decades, that active participation in gardening, hiking, and outdoor volunteerism resulted in higher levels of overall satisfaction with life, fewer colds, flu’s, and illnesses, and heightened ability to adjust to stress without being overwhelmed. Those results may seem common knowledge, with our understanding of the effect of exercise and endorphins in the body and in human psychology, but the documented results of passive interaction with nature on humans across the age, race, and career spectrum are what really impacted me. The studies Jason Duvall cited focused on a diverse population of people in a variety of walks of life, including the caregivers of AIDS patients, inner-city students, the elderly, and the common office worker. A passive interaction with nature was linked to everything from a reduced severity in symptoms in patients suffering from mental illness, to reduced crime in urban areas, and higher test scores in inner-city schools. The complete picture built from the results of this study showed our dependence on nature, and it’s profound and invisible effect on human physical and mental wellness.

In the lecture sessions I found a few answers to my own questions about nature’s impact on the hands-on garden or outdoor enthusiast, and the passive participant, and I’ll share with you some of the specifics of the study in the next few posts, so you can judge for yourself the impact our immediate environment has on our own behavior.

Your Thoughts: Are you an active or passive participant with nature, and do you feel that the environment around you impacts your day, and your outlook?