New concept: Moving and Box Superstore has people turning green!

Box It, an innovative box supplier located in Doylestown, is good for the environment, and your bottom line.

Box It supplies recycled new, used and overstock boxes at rock bottom prices. This helps consumers and businesses lower their bottom line on box costs and, more importantly, keeps boxes out of landfills!

Since opening, Box It has sold 92,073 USED BOXES.

For every ton of boxes recycled, 7,000 gals of H2O are saved. Box It has saved 501,060 gallons of H2O, 214.74 cubic yards of landfill space, 33,070 gallons of foreign oil, and 1,217 trees.

If you would like to save money while helping the environment at the same time, contact Box It at 215-348-9269 or visit www.boxitstore.com.

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PHS Tree Tenders training program in Bucks County

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) will offer its nine-hour Tree Tenders training course, which empowers and teaches concerned residents how to make dramatic strides toward restoring and caring for the local tree population, in three sessions from 6:00 to 9:00pm on September 12th, 19th and 26th at the Middletown Municipal Center, 3 Municipal Way, Langhorne.

The Tree Tenders program is a vital element of the new PHS initiative, Plant One Million, the multi-state campaign to replenish the tree population of 13 counties in the Greater Philadelphia region, southern New Jersey and Delaware.

The region has lost millions of trees in recent decades to development and storms. The new initiative engages local governments, corporate sponsors, organizations, schools, civic groups and residents in reaching the goal of a 30% tree canopy – the area of land shaded by trees.

The Tree Tenders course offers hands-on tree care training for residents and covers tree biology, urban stresses on trees, tree identification, tree planting, community organizing, tree pruning and root care.

Given the intensity of the training, the training is not appropriate for children under age 16.

A community can form a Tree Tenders group by having three or more people graduate from the course. Benefits include tree grants and volunteer tree planting opportunities.

Fee for the course is $25 and pre-registration is required. Register online at www.pennhort.net/treetenders. For more information, contact Barley Van Clief, 215-988-8793 or bvanclief@pennhort.org.

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Penn State Extension offers four free autumn gardening workshops

Continue growing fresh and nutritious produce from your home garden through the cool autumn weather, plant bulbs for spring beauty and then put your garden happily to bed for the winter!

Penn State Extension Bucks County is here to help both novice and seasoned gardeners with a series of four short courses for those who want to make the most of their gardens in the cool weather.

All classes are from 7:00pm to 9:00pm and free to the public. Pre-registration is required; call 215-345-3283.

#1 – Thursday, September 12th – Planting Fall Veggies

Continue eating fresh, nutritious and locally-grown veggies from your own garden throughout the autumn! Join Master Gardener Mike Gordon as he discusses veggies that thrive in cool weather.

#2 – Thursday, September 19th – Fall Garden Clean-Up

Join Master Gardener Bonnie Olliver as she talks about how to put your garden to bed for awhile … but leave a little something behind for over-wintering birds and next year’s butterflies!

#3 – Thursday, October 3rd, – Growing Great Garlic

Now’s the time to plant garlic for harvest next spring. Learn the simple steps to grow delicious and nutritious garlic in your backyard in this exciting session with Master Gardener Gary Dunbar.

#4 – Thursday, October 10th, – Bulbs for Spring Beauty 

Learn to successfully plant daffodils, tulips, crocus, hyacinth and other types of flowering bulbs now for a gorgeous display in your home garden next spring. Master Gardener Bonnie Olliver will also explain how to force bulbs indoors for an early, magnificent holiday treat. 

Workshops are held at
 Penn State Extension Bucks County, Neshaminy Manor Center – Health Building, 1282 Almshouse Road,
 Doylestown.

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A turning point in history

submitted by Mark Bortman, Exact Solar, mark@exactsolar.com

We have had a lot of good news in the solar industry lately. President Obama just had solar panels installed on the White House. Around the country, it is estimated that a new solar energy system is installed every four minutes. Right here in Pennsylvania, the state grant program is helping homes and businesses cut up to 35% off the cost of a system.

This is all great, but there is more that can be done and needs to be done. Our dependence on fossil fuels is ruining the planet for our children and grandchildren.

While many of the signs of our overuse of fossil fuels seem remote – melting of the polar ice caps, a few degrees of global warming, there are serious consequences right here in Pennsylvania. Bleak, sterile moonscapes are created by mountaintop removal coal mining. Ground water is contaminated by fracking. Nuclear waste and spent fuel rods pile up with nowhere to go.

We need to recognize that we are at a turning point in history. Do we continue down the same path we’ve been on for the past 100 years or is it time to change directions? 

There are some signs that the tide is turning. Is this the beginning of the end for the traditional energy sources and the start of the age of renewable energy? This is what we need to decide.

The entrenched powers of the traditional energy monopolies are not going to go easily into the new age. It is up to us to push. We owe it to ourselves and our future generations. We can slowly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power for our energy needs.

Let’s reduce the amount of energy we use and take advantage of the power of the sun and the wind – energy sources that will be around forever.

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A win-win proposition

submitted by Mark Bortman, Exact Solar, mark@exactsolar.com

Major tornados have killed people in the Midwest. The heat and wind caused by devastating droughts in the southwestern parts of the US have fueled wildfires that are out of control.

Hurricane Sandy rumbled through our area last year. In recent years, our local weather pattern seems to be early snowstorms followed by unseasonably mild winters and summers with extended streaks of high temperatures and humidity.

Are these weather phenomena the result of global warming? Do you even believe in global warming?

Although the overwhelming majority of climate scientists (97%) believe that climate change is real and that human activity has been a major factor in causing it, in the public sphere there is still a debate as to whether this is the case. A response to this discussion is: whether you believe climate change is real or not, what is the harm in energy conservation and increased use of renewable energy? 

There are many benefits to saving energy: improved comfort, reduced costs, less dependence on foreign oil, cleaner air and water and less damage to the environment. The same benefits come from using more renewable energy.

The only argument that people make against measures that save energy and increase renewable energy use is that these will hurt the economy.  Evidence shows that this is not the case at all.

On the contrary many good, local jobs are created, and businesses and homeowners save money. The burning of fossil fuels has costs far beyond the price you pay at the pump or on your heating bill. We all end up paying these costs whether we want to or not. If we can lower these indirect costs while we lower the direct costs, too, why not do it?

There are not many times when a win-win situation is such a slam-dunk.  There are plenty of easy, low-cost (or even no-cost) ways to save energy and use more renewable energy.

The only way to lose is to do nothing.

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The efficiency of solar water heating

submitted by Mark Bortman, Exact Solar, mark@exactsolar.com 

When you think of sunny places, Germany, Austria, China and Japan don’t usually come to mind. But these countries with climates similar to ours are way ahead of us at taking advantage of the energy from the sun. They are global leaders in installing solar water heaters. Almost every new house gets one and many older houses are retrofitted. What do they know that we don’t?

In the United States, solar water heating is not as well known as the other type of solar panels that generate electricity. Solar water heaters, however, are very efficient at taking the sun’s energy and converting it to something useful – hot water for showers, dish washing and even space heating. 

On sunny days, a solar water heating system can easily heat water to above 140 degrees. Moreover, solar water heaters always have a back-up heating system in place, for those times when it hasn’t been sunny. In many cases, the back-up is your existing water heater.

Solar water heaters have withstood the test of time – they have been available for over 100 years. More importantly, demand for them is increasing as PECO rates and oil prices rise. The addition of a rebate from the state Sunshine Program and a federal tax credit reduce the cost of a system by an incredible 65%. Many people don’t realize it, but water heating typically accounts for 15-25% of your overall utility bill. With a relatively small upfront investment, you can reduce your utility bill and help the environment.

There are additional, easy steps you can take to reduce the amount of energy used to heat your water. These are as simple as making sure your dishwasher is full before running it and turning down the thermostat on your water heater, or more involved such as installing low-flow shower heads or heat traps. Other measures include insulating your water heater and hot water pipes and fixing leaky faucets. 

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It’s not easy being ‘green’

submitted by Gary Selleck, owner of C and C Family Roofing

Contractors take a lot effort looking for ways to separate themselves from their competitors in order to get a competitive edge. Product knowledge, ratings with Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List and factory training through manufacturers are all ways for companies to project themselves above the others.

But with people making a more concerted effort to by environmentally friendly, contractors are using this as an opportunity not only to get a competitive edge but also be more responsible to the environment.

“Green Building” design and construction is the opportunity to use our resources more efficiently, while creating healthier and more energy-efficient homes.

Green building is an attempt to leave a lighter footprint on the environment through conservation of resources, while at the same time balancing energy-efficient, cost-effective, low-maintenance products for our construction needs.

Here are a few of the more practical “Green Building” application that roofing and siding contractors are using when remodeling homes:

  • Using products such as cement board siding and ridge-vent material and underlayment’s for roofing that are produced using recycled materials.
  • Using reflective products such as coatings and reflective shingles that reduce the “Heat Island Effect” on the ozone.
  • Using local companies for their materials to reduce fuel consumption and residual effect on the environment.
  • Disposal of construction debris through recycling reducing waste and pollution at landfills.

When choosing a contractor for your remodeling needs ask them if they are employing any of these practices. Select a company that is not only good at their trade but is also environmentally conscience.

The practices we use today will impact our future far more then we realize.

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I Bet Mine is Smaller than Yours

submitted by Mark Bortman, Exact Solar, mark@exactsolar.com

Take a look at your electric bill. How high was it last month?

Ours was less than zero. That’s right – PECO owed us money.

This is due to a combination of factors. First, we are very conscientious with our energy usage. We’ve taken a number of energy saving steps (which cost little or nothing) including replacing light bulbs and only running our dishwasher and washing machine when they are full.

Many other ideas can be found at the government’s Energy.gov website.

In addition, we have 17 solar panels installed on our roof. This relatively small system is hardly noticed by neighbors or visitors.  But the panels are up there silently converting the sun’s energy to electricity and feeding it into our house – right into our circuit breaker box and automatically running anything that needs electricity.

When there are times during the day that the panels produce more electricity than we are using at that time, the extra flows out through our electric meter back to PECO. In essence, PECO buys the electricity we produce. At the end of the month, our electric bill is what came in from PECO minus what we sent out to them.

Most months our electric bills are not negative – air conditioning in the summer and less sun in the winter are the causes – but they are small.

The cost of solar panels has dropped dramatically – the price of a system like ours is less than half of what we paid just three years ago.

[Read more...]

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Get kids growing: Start with strawberries in a patch or pot

submitted by Joan Casanova, Green Earth Media Group

Get kids growing in the garden by starting them off planting their own strawberries. You can let them plant and care for a whole patch, or just one or two plants, planted in a strawberry jar or garden container.

Be sure to engage your kids in the planting process and let them get their hands dirty. Then show them how to care for and water their homegrown tasty treats. You can make this more fun for children by buying them their very own watering can.

Don’t forget to show kids how to pinch off plant runners to reap larger sized berries. And of course have them do the harvesting and enjoy the fruits of their labor!

You’ll find most kids enjoy helping in the garden, they’re allowed to get dirty, they get some good exercise, actually learn and understand, first hand, where their food comes from and they’ll gain a good sense of nurture, nature and responsibility within the process.

Children love watching strawberries grow. They’ll see flowers bloom, garden bees, and fruit develop and turn color. After developing a sense of ownership of their plants, they will especially love eating the sweet fruits they grew themselves.

Here’s some tips to ensure strawberry success:

  • When planting strawberries, be sure the crown is above soil level and the upper most roots are 1/4 inch beneath soil level, buried crowns rot and exposed roots dry out.
  • Have kids measure and then dig holes for placing plants, depending on space and quantity. Strawberry plants should be placed approximately 14 to 18 inches apart from each other in neat rows that are separated by 2-3 feet each. Let runners fill in until plants are 7-10 inches apart.
  • Use mulch to keep berries clean, conserve moisture and control weeds.
  • If you want to keep it simple, plant strawberries in a container. Just remember that container plantings need much more water than in-ground plantings, usually once a day, and if it’s hot, twice. Strawberry pots are the obvious, best container choice for growing strawberries. You can fit several plants in one pot; just make sure whatever type of garden pot you use has good drainage. Strawberries have a relatively small root ball and can be grown in containers as small as 10-12 inches in diameter and eight inches deep. However, the smaller the container, the more frequently you will need to water. Synthetic and light colored pots will keep the roots cooler than dark colors and natural materials that conduct heat.
  • Strawberries like well-drained fairly rich soil, so be sure to add compost or other organic matter when preparing the pot or patch.
  • They need full sun, and frequent, deep soakings. Be sure to give adequate water during bearing season. They will grow in all zones and should be fed twice a year – when growth begins and after the first crop. Use a complete fertilizer high in phosphorous for feedings.

Kick off this gardening season with your kids and get them growing strawberries!

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ECOfest Home Show… where home decor meets sustainability

Impact Thrift Stores’ Feasterville location at 91 E. Street Road will host a day-long First Anniversary event of eco-aware entertainment and education from noon to 5:30pm on Saturday, April 27th. ECOFest, their First Annual Home Show, promises to be a premiere event “Where Home Decor Meets Sustainability,” with interactive lessons on reuse, upcycling and low-impact living.

The celebration features four free workshops:

  • Noon-1:00 – “Get Organized…For Good!” with professional organizer Audrey Cupo;
  • 1:30-2:30 – “Fun & Functional Furniture Refurb” with Nakashima-trained woodworker and upholsterer Roger Foster;
  • 3:00-4:00 – “Fabric Facelifts” for all skill levels from seamstress to no-sew, with Beth Allen of DIY Hip Chicks;
  • 4:30-5:30 – “Design On A Dime” with Jeannie Weber of Oskar Huber Furniture.

611 Metals Recycling will be accepting unwanted electronic and metal items behind the store.

For more information visit impactthrift.org.

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