Energy Saving Home Improvement Tips

In this week’s post I want to step a little away from the landscaping and talk about some home improvement tips that I have embarked on in the last few years. All these projects were started with the main intention being to save energy and become a more environmentally friendly household. Some of these will cost quite a bit of money, but there are many that can be quite inexpensive and will prove a huge benefit. On this page I want to give you some ideas and resources that you will be able to use to make your own home more energy efficient.

Attic Insulation

Ensuring that your attic is properly insulated is one of the best ways to increase your energy efficiency. In the colder climates of the northern states such insulation upgrades have been popular for a long time. But what people in the hotter climates don’t realize is that attic insulation will also benefit energy efficiency as there is less thermal exchange of cold air in the house and hot air outside.

One of the simplest ways to do this as a DIY job is to use blow in insulation and pump it directly into the attic. The pumping machinery can be rented at many hardware stores that will also be able to provide you with the insulation material. In most cases you will be using a fiberglass material which provides a great thermal barrier and the job only needs to be done once.

Solar Panels

If you live in a state which is blessed with lots of sunshine and dry weather then solar panels will make a huge amount of sense. Some of the installation costs can be offset against tax so don’t be put off by advertised prices. When it comes to solar panels there are two main types that you can have installed.

The first one is a solar water heating panel, and its objective is to absorb solar rays and pass the resulting heat onto water that circulates the system. Such panels are a great way to provide your household with pretty much all the hot water you could need. But for very sunny areas electricity producing solar panels will probably be the best option. The reason is that you get to use solar produced energy wherever it is needed. And in the summer months it can great help with the cooling of your home as well.

One thing to keep in mind though is that solar panels can still be quite an expensive project and are probably not a DIY job for most households.

Upgrade Heating and Cooling Systems

Many people install central heating systems and air-conditioning units and then just go and forget about them. The first important task for you to consider is to get the equipment regularly serviced, just like you would have your car serviced. This first of all will ensure that it operates efficiently, but will also ensure safety and longevity. When I moved house about 10 years ago we go the boiler serviced and everything seemed fine. Only after a couple of years I decided to find out more about our boiler and it turned out that it was over 20 years old, which kind of explained the amount of oil it was using.

The same was the case with aircon which was so old that the service guy couldn’t get adequate parts. I bit the bullet and had them replaced and the energy usage plummeted. So, if you have older boilers or aircon units then it may be sensible to check out how efficient they really are and get an estimate how much energy you may be saving. You may be surprised how quickly an upgrade will pay for itself, not to mention the benefit it will have on the environment and climate.

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Make Your Pool Environmentally Friendly

With rising energy posts people have become more aware of how much their pools are costing them. Everything from regular cleaning and servicing to the operation of pumps and filters costs money, and eco-friendly solutions can greatly help reduce those costs. In this post I want to show some solutions you can consider when planning a new pool or making changes to your existing one.

PhotoShare / Pixabay

PhotoShare / Pixabay

First of all the majority of pools are chlorine based where you would regularly check the chemical balance of the water and then add more chlorine as needed. This is hugely important to provide for safe and healthy water and to avoid the spread of disease and infections. But there are some alternatives that may suit you.

Consider a salt water pool instead of chlorine. Most of you will have been for a swim in the Ocean and noticed that you do not encounter a green swamp of algae. This is due to the salinity of the ocean. For backyard pools there are two options. One is to create pool water using a machine that controls salinity. It is just like swimming in the ocean. The other option is to use a machine that naturally chlorinates the water using salt in a chlorine generator cell. Both solutions will provide a clean and safe environment for people to swim in and you can contact Orange County Pool Service for some information on setting up such a system.

Cover your pool when it is not in use or have vegetation provide shade from the sun. This will reduce the amount of water that vaporizes and reduce the amount of water you need to refill the pool. Water shortages are becoming ever more common and predictions are that this will only get worse in the coming decades. With some pretty simple planning you can reduce this problem quite considerably.

Solar powered pumps are a fantastic solution for most people in California. The systems are set up in a way so that the pumps and filters do most of their work when there is abundant solar power, i.e. during the day. Then at night time they go into an eco-mode that only uses very little energy. The great thing is that you can have solar panel installed on the roof of your home and potentially get a tax rebate on the costs. This makes it a lot cheaper and once it is installed you will effectively get free energy.

For some of the best priced environmentally friendly pool solutions I have worked with the guys over at OraangeCountyPoolService.net. They are extremely reliable and in my option have the best and most high tech systems in place to make your life easier.

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Eco-Friendly Transmissions

Every time you dump your transmission fluid you affect the environment in a negative way. That black sludge that is dumped into the waste, is filled with chemicals and toxins that affect our whole ecosystem. In addition an inefficient transmission increases your fuel consumption, further adding to the ecological strain on our planet. For that reason we are going to round up ways to improve the ecological friendliness of common car transmissions. Check here for a complete primer on transmissions.

CVT

The Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVT – Wikipedia) of today allow for the onboard engine computer to use a range of transmission engagement to utilize the most efficient torque for the current situation.  Honda claims the current gold standard with the CVT included in its “Earth Dreams Technology”. They claim that it can improve fuel efficiency by over 5% of current CVT transmissions!

Laird Gogins:

Laird Gogins of Infinity Transmissions claims he has invented a transmission that will decrease fuel usage by over 1/3.  His transmission has gears that keep the engine running at the most efficient speed possible. His transmissions do not use converters, coolants, radiators, or hoses, all which increase friction and cause waste of fuel. Eliminating those things is what helps boost the efficiency by so much. His transmissions are under contract to some of the industry heavyweights and those titans have first dibs on the transmissions when the technology becomes commercially viable.

Eco Maintenance

Perhaps the best way to help the environment with your transmission is with proper maintenance.

Make sure you check your transmission fluid frequently, (about every 4-5k miles, and replace it at 30k at least).  When you are checking it look for shards of metal in the fluid. These are signs your fluid is dirty and can hurt your engine, and cause premature wear.

If you end up needing to replace your transmission there are great ways to stay as green as possible. If you need more details about transmission repair vs. rebuild check here

Used Transmission:

Buy a used transmission. Many times a car that was in an accident will still have a transmission that is perfectly good. It’s wise to be careful because sometimes used transmission could have defects that are not obvious at first glance, but on the other hand sometimes they are perfectly good.  Make sure you have the seals and transmission fluid replaced on your used transmission.  You are both recycling and re-using when you buy a used transmission.

Rebuilt Transmission:

A rebuilt transmission is usually a kit that is ordered from the auto manufacturer. The mechanic will assemble the transmission using the kit parts and instructions.  These kits are usually extra transmissions from the manufacturer, so you are getting a warrantied product, at the same time you are helping the manufacturer use all the available transmissions, instead of wasting some of them.

Remanufactured Transmission:

Often the manufacturer of a transmission will get transmissions from cars that are damaged or surplus. The manufacturer will completely break down the transmission and replace all clutches, gaskets, seals, bands and other parts. The transmission is then tested to be compliant with the manufacturer’s standards for quality and warranty. The benefit of this, is that instead of throwing away transmissions, the manufacturer is instead upgrading them to be in working order comparable to their off the shelf transmissions.

Conclusion

In this age of water shortages, global warming, high fuel prices, and stress it is important that we look for every possible way to reduce the stress on our earth.  Use these tips, and you can improve the ecology even when shopping for your transmission and transmission repairs.

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Three Destinations For An Urban, Eco-Friendly Hike

The notion of a vacation around a city may give rise to images of traffic packed streets and sidewalks devoid of vegetation, but there are plenty of areas which are actually quite eco-friendly in spite of this.

Public transport systems have reduced carbon emissions from cars, bike lanes are just as popular as coffee shops, and city officials are lowering costs by increasing energy efficiency. Moreover, travelers can often use public transport to reach popular destinations. Here are three cities in the US that will make for an excellent urban, yet ‘green’ adventure:

  • Portland: This city often tops the charts when it comes to green rankings. Portland recently was at the top of America’s greenest cities, according to the Travel + Leisure magazine’s vote. With an astounding 288 parks, and a quarter of its area covered by trees, the city has a repute for cycling culture – there are 318 miles of off street paths and bike lanes. It also was on top of Mother Nature Network’s green cities ranking that examined the city’s carbon emission including the quality of air and water, recycling efforts, green space, renewable energy use and LEED certified buildings. The city’s Climate Action Plan encourages the residents, as well as the city, to lower carbon emissions through the use of green electricity and climate friendly foods in their homes.
  • San Francisco: This city has environment friendly attitudes growing in it from the mayor’s office – that has, for years, been making efforts for solar power – to its residents (with their famous eco-friendly lifestyles). 2011 saw the city being named the greenest in North America by Siemens Corp – this accolade was given after the assessment of 31 sustainability factors that included land use, transport, waste, energy use, air and water quality, and, of course, CO2 emissions. The city was rated highly for its low electricity use thanks to the efforts for the installation of energy efficient machines and heating/cooling systems, the stringent standards of efficiency for the buildings, and the waste recycling program. The city was the US’s first to mandate composting and recycling in 2009, and had reached a 77% rate of recycling by the next year. The well received (and growing) bar on plastic grocery bags was enforced in SF in 2007.
  • New York City: Although it is more famous for congested traffic and brightly lit Times Square, NYC is nonetheless quite famous for being eco-friendly. Why is this so you may ask – the city is densely populated, but per head carbon emissions are low. The extensive public transport and subway systems provide transportation for lots of people, and not having a car is the norm rather than the exception in downtown NYC. The city was ranked first in green transportation by Siemens Corp, which noted that 37 percent of all commuters use public transport to get to work. NYC also has the largest hybrid-electric bus fleet in the world. Biking is quite popular as a result of the city’s environmental efforts – there are thousands of bike racks, hundreds of miles of bike tracks have been installed since 2006 and tens of thousands of bike helmets have been handed out. NYC was also recognized for these efforts by Bicycling magazine.
  • Kelowna BC: I know, I know, this isn’t overly urban, but come on, if you want an eco-friendly hike then this is where you go. The mountains, the rivers, the lakes, the wild life… endless opportunity to really kick your hiking up a notch. If the hiking wasn’t enough you might as well go boating on some of its massive lakes, or even live on the lakes for a while house boating.

By now, you must be looking forward to an urban adventure to one of these cities, but before you head out, make sure you hire a professional house sitter like the ones in Kelowna BC who know how to minimize the energy footprint of your home while you’re away – every little bit counts towards saving the environment! They’ll even watch your pets and take them for a daily walk!

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Things to Consider Before Implementing a Landscape Project

A lot of people want to have landscapes on their yard or garden. This is because of the added aesthetic appeal that these beautiful designs bring. The problem is that majority of these people do not consider that landscapes, just like almost everything we have at home, demand maintenance. This is why after sometime, their plants and landscapes will look unattended.

It is true that the kind of lifestyle we have today demands so much of our time that maintenance tasks on landscapes, no matter how much we want to work on them, are becoming much more difficult. There are ways that you can design your landscape that would ultimately help you lower down maintenance tasks.

Remember that you will be handling most of the maintenance on your yard. Before jumping unto having a landscape set up on your yard, consider the following tips:

Choose the right plants

The first question that you need to answer is how much time you can spare to maintain your yard. Considering this will help you choose the right plant for your landscape. Maintenance should be considered even before you have the whole setup. If you can have very little time to spare in working on your plants and yard, then it is wise to choose plants that are easy-to-care. You also need to look for a plant that would complement the amount of time you can spare for maintenance work.

When building your landscape, choose variation of plants that require the same amount of maintenance. The plants need not be exceptional because when put together, your yard would still be stunning. The upside to this technique is that all the plants demand the same amount of care.

Make a schedule

When you put up something like a landscape, you have to understand that it would require your presence and effort. It is therefore very helpful to come with a list of things you will do for your yard and schedule them appropriately. This will give you enough preparation for the activity ahead of time. Most importantly, it will ensure that you can spare needed time to care for your landscape.

For example, regular weeding can prove to be very helpful in controlling weeds. Weeds can sometimes appear harmless, especially during early in their lives. If alone however, they can be very troublesome to the point that they could easily kill your plants. Schedule the weeding regularly and you’ll be well on your way of ensuring balance in your yard.

Consider the location

Above all else, consider your location. What kind of climate do you have? How big is the space that you can setup a landscape on? These questions will prove to be helpful especially in identifying the plants to put in your yard. If you do not have enough space, don’t go for plants that would grow too big. Stick with miniature plants. Putting a fast growing plant in tight spaces will demand constant pruning. If you do not have time for such, your landscape, or your whole yard would be a jungle in no time.

After the landscape project…what?

As you see your project progress, you also need to look into maintaining the plants in the yard. Among the best ways to do this is prune them so they would not grow out of proportion and cover the beauty of the landscape. You can use pruning shears or a handy pruning knife for this task. If you need to buy the best knife sharpener go to http://www.knifesharpenerhq.net/ so you can keep your pruning knife sharp at all times. Know how to maximize the effect of the sharpener on your blade by reading about the knife sharpening system in this site. This will lead to less sharpening time in the future.

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Finding Bats In Our Rooftop Garden Project

As a landscaper I often come across a wide variety of wildlife when working in certain parts of the garden – you would be amazed at how many creatures call your garden home! Recently when designing and building a rooftop garden for a client we came across a colony of bats living in the roof-space, and after doing some research into these creatures we were able to remove them safely.

Bats are important to the environment but they can carry diseases that can be a health risk to you and your family. Bats like to live in secluded and dark areas; they often nest in places where they feel safe from extreme weather and predators, and this is why they loved our roof-space and attic which we were working from.  A gap, around 5/8 of an inch is large enough for a bat to squeeze into your home, and these gaps are usually found near the chimney flashing and under eaves.

Although Bats are beneficial to the general environment, they should not cohabit in a house with humans. Here are a few telltale signs that you have bats living in your home:

1. One of the most common way to find out that you have a bat problem is to find them roosting in the eaves or inside your attic during the day. Bats are nocturnal animals so if you find them during the day in your attic; you most definitely have a problem with bats. You might also notice a large number of bats flying around outside of your house at dusk: this is a sign they could be taking up residency inside your attic. Station people at the four corners of your home and watch for bats leaving your home at dusk when they go out to feed.

2. Another common sign that you have a bat problem in your attic is bat droppings, also known as guano. Bat guano was the number one reason why we suspected bats, as each day we would find a new pile in and around our work in progress. The droppings look very similar to rodent droppings but they will not be as scattered. Bat droppings tend to be more clumped together when compared to rodent droppings. If bats are roosting in your house then their droppings are likely to build up and by the time you smell it, it’s probably a pretty serious problem.

3. If you hear an unidentified scratching sound coming from your attic at night or during the day, this is a typical way to find out you have bats living in your home. Yes, other animals can make unidentified scratching noises also, but it’s pretty common for bat to do so.

4. You might find unexplained stains on your walls or ceilings, and sometimes on the floors. When bats are nesting, stains from bat urine can be found on the walls or ceiling and generally everywhere. Bat urine has a very unpleasant smell just like guano and it can attract other insects or pests. Crystallized urine, which is a powdery white material, may be found on furniture or floors in unused parts of the building. After so much urine is present, stalactites and stalagmites will start to appear, so this problem needs to be rectified immediately.

5. You might notice rub marks or scratches on the outside of your home around small holes or openings: when bats are entering and exiting the home they might leave marks indicating they are using these spots to enter or exit your house.

It’s important to get rid of bats immediately if you find them living in your home – however make sure you do not harm them as there are certain rules in different states and counties regarding removal. While we were brainstorming ideas of how to get rid of them, my client came across this DIY guide to bat removal, which was very helpful. If you do not feel that you are capable of eliminating the pest on your own, call a professional pest removal serviceman as they will most likely do a better job of removing them.

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How Landscaping Can Help You Get Top Dollar For Your Home

This article was written by Zach Riggs, a leading realtor for Keller Williams Realty In Springfield, MO. You can find more info about Zach at his site entitled Trusted Realtors of Missouri, LLC.

There are many things that landscaping can do for your home. It can increase its overall value, boost the its curb appeal, and can even help you get more for your home if you’re looking to sell your home for top dollar. Recent market trends indicate that landscaping can help sell a home for 10% more compared to what it would have gotten without proper landscaping. There are some pretty solid strategies that you can try with your landscaping that will help you in this regard. These strategies are also cost effective.

Do Your Research

Is landscaping your home a task you are willing to take on yourself, rather than hiring out professional help? If so, you’ll want to do your research about the best ways to maximize your space with the smallest cost. Visit home improvement stores, ask a gardening friend, or stop by a nursery or gardening business for some advice. These people know what they are talking about!

Add Some Mulch

One of the best ways to spruce up a front yard landscape on the cheap is to add in some mulch in some specific areas. Mulch works great because it brings in great color and there are many different color options you can go with. It’s also one of the more cost effective things you can do to make the curb appeal of a house stand out. You can use mulch in flower beds, around trees, and along walkways to name a few.

Trim Those Trees and Bushes

If you have trees and bushes in your front yard, you’ll definitely want to keep up with trimming them occasionally, especially if you are looking to sell your house for top dollar. Bushes are fairly easy to trim up, but just want to be sure not to trim them up too much. Trees can be a little more difficult to trim correctly and may require you to call in an expert. This may cost you some money but I could almost guarantee that it’ll be a wise investment, as it will help you get more for your house than you would otherwise.

Kill Those Weeds

You don’t have to have a championship golf course type of lawn to sell your home for the most money, but a yard with decent grass will go a long way. This means getting rid of any weeds. This works for two reasons, the first being that a yard with no weeds just looks better, and the second being able to show potential home buyers that if the yard that is well taken care of, then so is the inside of the home. You can get some good weed killer spray for under $20 and it’s something that will help your house and yard look much better.

Add Some Flowers

One of the best ways to make a yard really stand out is to plant some flowers with some vibrant colors. Flowers tend to look really good along the front of a house below windows and around bushes. This is another easy and cheap thing that you can do to help increase your home’s curb appeal. Just don’t over do it.

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Dealing with Yellow Jackets in an Eco Friendly Way

Believe it or not, yellow jackets have a purpose. Nonetheless, they can pose a threat to you and your family. Here are some ways to get them gone without putting your family in harm’s way with unnatural chemicals:

Soap and Water

Wait until dusk before attempting the eradication of yellow jackets (reference: pestkilled.com/how-to-get-rid-of-yellow-jackets/). This is when most of them are apt to be in the nest. If the nest is above ground, mix a generous amount of soap in water and put the solution in a spray bottle. Twist the nozzle onto it’s highest setting. Standing as far away from the nest as possible, coat the nest with the solution. This will weigh down their wings and bring about eventually suffocation.

For a nest in the ground, identify the entry points. Cover all but one. Pour the solution directly into entrance to the nest and stand back. You may see yellow jackets flying around the entrance for a period of time. You should notice a significant decrease in activity by the next day. Repeat the process the next evening and cover the last entry point with a rock. This will cause the colony to suffocate.

Build a Non-Toxic Wasp Trap

This is like a minnow trap, only instead of catching minnows, you will be catching potentially painful insects which can sting multiple times when agitated, so it’s important to do it right. Cut the top off a two liter bottle and coat the sides of the bottle with jelly or syrup. Fill it with soap and water and leave it in an affected area early in the morning. Yellow jackets with fly in for the sugar and get stuck, which causes eventual suffocation. WARNING!: Yellow jackets can use the bodies of other trapped yellow jackets as a means to escape. Replace the trap often to prevent this.

Eradication of an Underground Nest

With yellow jackets nest underground they always have more than one entry point. From a distance, watch the affected areas carefully to identify as many entry points as you can. Often, there are more than two. CAUTION: Do not attempt to drown yellow jackets by inserting a garden hose into one of the entry points and flushing them out. This could provoke an attack from the entire colony. Rather, once you have identified all of the entry points, cover each with a clear plastic bowl. This will trick the yellow jackets into believing that there is an escape, as the presence of light suggests an opening.

Yellow Jacket Prevention

Yellow jackets have been proven to believe what they see, and they are competitive with one another. They will not build a nest where one already resides. Take a large brown paper bag and crumble it up. Open the bag and suspend it from entry points in your home. Create a surrogate nest for each entry point. Yellow jackets will stay away.

To keep yellow jackets away from a gathering, put plates of cucumber at six or eight foot increments (one on each side of the table). Cucumber sends off an off-putting aroma that tells yellow jackets to stay away!

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Being Eco-Friendly and Energy Efficient for the Benefit of Future Generations

Being eco-friendly is no longer a fad or trend. It has become a mindset, especially for architects and developers. In recent years there has been an emphasis on being eco-friendly, low carbon footprint, and the use of renewable energy for the home and for buildings. For most home builders, this trend is no longer reversible, whether climate change is true or not. The trend is based mainly on common sense construction methods, which would result in long-term benefits to the home owner or building management.

A lot of the things being implemented nowadays are a step forward in an evolutionary process. Simple things like the orientation of the home, materials used, the location of glass windows, and others. On top of these, there are the other considerations, including using the natural environment to the fullest, like having trees strategically placed to provide shade and insulation, or the use of soil to insulate against the heat.

Added use of new technology helps a lot in creating an even smaller carbon footprint. These include solar water heaters, solar panels, photosensitive or photochromic laminated glass, as well as next generation on-building wind turbines, can lower heating and air conditioning costs and increase the energy generation for the building space.

Appliances can also be used to help lower electric bills. The latest generation of appliances make use of both passive and active energy saving methods and devices. Even simple appliances can all help lower electricity consumption like washing machines and dish washers, which use less water and detergent, as well as energy efficient refrigerators, freezers, ovens, as well as the best rice cookers. Check out this site to see you better options.

Home gadgets reviews usually have a detailed specification for the appliance which not only include features and benefits, and comparisons, but also an in-depth study of the power consumption, and cost of ownership. These are the things, which a buyer would want to know. These also happen to be the same things a builder would want to know. Builders, contractors, developers, architects and engineers are deeply invested in the total energy cost of a house or building. In addition to thinking in terms of what the future owners would want to have in their home, these people make it their business to ensure that they construct a house or structure which is future proof.

Ultimately, the aim is still the so-called smart home. However, developers and planners are not too intent to push design to incorporate the features of something like a future home. Rather, they make sure that the home is affordable, with current technology, but with provisions for future improvements. Energy efficiency, for instance is not a static goal. What is energy efficient now, might not be enough in the near future.

Provisions for a future home, today, would include pipes for future cabling; walls which would allow better WiFi reception; multi-access to electrical outlets where part of the power comes from home generated electricity; charging facilities for hybrid or electric cars; as well as space for a home network or file server which would also monitor the home power consumption and security.

In many ways, being eco-friendly really means that you might be living today, but you make sure that your habits and creature comforts would benefit a lot of people in the future.

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Constructing a CrossFit Box at Home

Over the past eight weeks I have been helping a close friend construct a brand-new garage on the side of his house. This is no ordinary garage designed to store household items and vehicles. This garage is going to be a workout building for a small group of dedicated CrossFit fanatics.

My good friend Martin has been attending CrossFit training for the past two years, but the Box (gym), has recently relocated to the other side of the city, giving Martin a very long journey every time he wants to workout.

I suggested that a more practical solution would be to build a garage on the side of his house and install a range of workout equipment, saving time and money.

To get an idea of what is required to build a CrossFit Box I attended one of the sessions two months ago and quickly realized a CrossFit Box is very minimalistic. I have attended a number of regular gyms in the past and I imagined the design was going to be the same; however the Box is really just a concrete room with a range of workout equipment, so building a similar room should be fairly simple.

When designing a building it’s important to understand the function, and in this case, keep in mind the number of people that will be using the Box at any given time. This design is going to be created for a group of six people, so we intend to have three to six pieces of each equipment. This will ensure everyone can workout at the same time and avoid waiting for equipment to become available.

The garage is a standard design with a concrete floor, four bay windows, a push button door and a roof that matches the house’s roof. Inside the new garage is where it becomes more interesting, with a range of grounded workout equipment designed just for CrossFit.

The priority equipment list includes:

A power rack — This is attached to the left-hand side wall and we also drilled it into the floor. In total there are six power racks, as these units can be used for a number of different workouts including weightlifting, bench training and pull ups, to name a few.

Squat boxes — Again we opted for six in total, as some of the WODs require a fair amount of Box use by everyone in attendance.

Glute Ham Developer — This is an optional addition to anybody’s gym, but we only purchased three, mainly to save money.

Additional equipment list includes:

Medicine balls — We purchased six in total, as they are also used frequently in WODs.

Kettlebells — A range of kettlebells were required in a number of different weight classes, and we built a storage station for safety.

Once all the equipment was installed we added padding to the bare floor space and the only other addition was a chalkboard attached to the back wall. We also hired an electrician to install a tablet for tracking the progress of each athlete.

The project took a total of 12 weeks including planning, applications and a few construction material delays, but it was worth the effort once finished.

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Tips to Travel in an Eco-Friendly Way

Travel broadens the mind, but unfortunately far too many narrow-minded travelers don’t consider the consequences of their traveling. Conventional tourism often has negative effects on the local economies, cultures, and environments that are visited. How many times have you been to a touristy beach and seen it strewn with litter?

Even worse are the people who actively seek out ‘new’ and ‘undiscovered’ places, but make no effort to try and conserve and maintain these places in their original condition. They reap the joys of visiting a pristine, untouched area, and then quickly work to degrade that area. For example, I was once at a relatively secluded waterfall in a South American country. I was with a local guide who was also leading a couple of other tourists. One of the other tourists literally said something along the lines of ‘God, I’ve never seen a place so untouched by people’ – after which he promptly just casually put his water bottle on the floor and left it there.

While I’m not comparing my readers to that particularly unconscientiously tourist, there are many conventional/common tourist habits that aren’t conducive to conservation, both in the environmental and cultural sense. Here are some basic tips to help you make sure you’re travelling in an ethical and sustainable way.

While air travel is sometimes unavoidable, you should always seek to minimize it. It’s by far the most damaging way to get around. Trains are a much better option, particularly if you’re travelling from city to city (rather than internationally). While driving is better than flying, it’s also not ideal. I’ll list out the environmental-friendliness of each transportation method here: Walking & Cycling > Trains & Buses > Boats (this can have a negative effect on marine life) > Driving a Motorcycle > Driving a Car > Air Travel.
It’s not just the method of transportation that can damage the environment. Many common tourist activities are also pretty bad for the planet when you consider just how many tourists participate each year. Have you ever ridden an All-Terrain Vehicle? These use gas, which comes from carbon, which contributes to global warming. You can also disturb and damage the ‘terrain’ you’re in. Same thing for boat trips, jet skis, and all sorts of other things. Basically, if you’re riding around on a vehicle that’s powered by gasoline, it’s not going to be good for the environment.

Consider alternatives to these carbon producing activities. For example, rather than riding an ATV through the jungle, go on a hike instead. Not only is it more ethical, it’s also healthier. Rather than riding around on a jet-ski, consider swimming or snorkeling. Here’s a list of ideas and tips to help you travel in a more sustainable way.

• Horseback riding – this can be a ton of fun, and you can learn a new skill along the way. Humans have been riding horses for thousands of years, so it’s not unnatural or inhumane to do so. Here is an . You can even find specific places where this activity is available.
• Try rockhounding – this is a less well known activity that can fun and informative. Rocks and stones are also one of the few things you can safely take out of the environment without damaging it (as long as you’re not taking away huge quantities of rocks). Who knows, you might even find something valuable – if you manage to find an unusual looking stone, you can look it up on this chart
• Hiking/Camping is a fantastic alternative to staying at a hotel/lodge if you’re out in the middle of nowhere. Hotels, hostels, and inns that are located in places far from civilization are very taxing on the environment – they have to ferry supplies back and forth, have to lay wires for electricity, and have to build and do things in otherwise pristine areas. All these things are damaging. The less demand there is for this kind of lodging, the less of these kinds of place there will be. By camping rather than staying in jungle/mountain resort, you’re voting with your dollar. Here’s a pretty good resource that talks about this problem (amongst other things)
• Don’t feed the animals. Don’t interact with the animals. Don’t do anything to the animals. Anytime you do, you’re creating risk for both the local wildlife and people. Animals that are fed by tourist will start expecting to be fed when they see humans, and can get aggressive when they’re not. In general, when it comes to travelling responsibly in ‘natural environments’. You want to observe rather than interact. One great way to observe without disturbing the natural flora/fauna is to use binoculars. They can help you to really see the surrounding areas up close without being near enough to disturb them, and I consider them a pretty essential item in my travel pack. In fact, here’s a pretty comprehensive guide for buying binoculars. Watch the birds. Don’t feed the birds. Observe the monkeys. Don’t throw things at them. Don’t interact with the local wildlife unless it’s trying to eat you.

Hopefully this post has informed you a little bit and you’re inspired to try and travel in a more eco-friendly way going forward.

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Battling Mold Naturally: 5 Eco-Friendly Ways to Kill Mold

Ever since I’ve switched to the eco-friendly lifestyle and decided to give back to the environment, it has become a personal goal to find solutions to common problems that are both economically feasible and benign to Gaia. A household problem I’ve frequently come across, particularly when visiting the homes of friends who share a love for everything organic, is mold. It thrives on organic matter such as wood and cotton, and requires humidity for just a couple of days to start growing; mold can become more than a small nuisance if allowed to spread, causing serious health problems to those exposed to it. Many of my friends have found natural solutions to fighting mold, that don’t require the use of harmful chemicals such as borax and bleach. In fact, you will be surprised at how readily available some of these natural anti-mold materials are:

  • Vinegar: You can mix it with water to bring down its sharp smell, but if it you can tolerate it, it is best to use it unmixed. Pour it in a spray can and spray it on the mold affected area to kill the growth. Let it do its job for some hours after which you can scrub the neutralized mold using a brush. The strong smell of vinegar can also be reduced by pouring in it, a few essential oil drops. In any case, the smell won’t last for more than half a day and by the time you’re done with your household errands, it will be gone. According to research white vinegar can kill 82% of the mold spores, besides bacteria and viruses. Moreover, when sprayed on organic surfaces and dried, it will prevent mold from growing.
  • Solution of tea tree oil: This is one of the more expensive natural mold removers but it can work its magic with just two teaspoons of the stuff mixed with 2 cups of water! Spray this mixture onto the mold spores, do not rinse the area. This mold remover, too, has a strong smell which can take a few days to go away.
  • Water and citrus seed extract: This mold remover is odourless. Mix twenty drops of the extract with two cups of water and spray the mixture on the mold affected area but don’t rinse.
  • Baking soda: Combined either with a water/vinegar mixture or with pure water, this is an effective natural mold removal. Spray the mixture on the mold affected surface and let it sit for a while. Next, scrub the surface and wipe it with a slightly wet piece of cloth. It also acts as a disinfectant, and because of its mild nature, does not leave scent behind.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: 3% hydrogen peroxide sprayed from a bottle on the mold affected area and left for around ten minutes can kill the mold growing on it. Afterwards, scrub away the mold spore residue using a damp piece of cloth. It can also be combined with vinegar to yield a more effective mold combatant. Remember to store the solution in a dark cupboard since light can reduce its effectiveness.

Although you can use these techniques as your first line of defence, sometimes, the mold problem can get out of hand – consult Mold Remediation Experts in such an eventuality.

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