Posts filed under ‘Be Green’

How to Make Your Grass Greener

Look outside. Every lawn on your street is a different shade of green. That’s because everybody cuts, waters and fertilizes differently, not to mention the half dozen varieties of common grasses that they may have.

I’ve never been that guy with the greenest lawn, so I asked my lawn specialist friend Mike how to make my lawn greener.

He told me the most important factor was how short I cut it. He said, “the longer you leave it, the better. Set your mower on its highest setting.” I was hesitant because I always cut my grass short and I liked the way that looked.

But, longer grass traps more moisture and reduces the sunlight that gets to the roots, which can burn the grass and dry it out.

Grass reacts to the sun like your skin does. Too much sun without protection will burn it. When you have/had a full head of hair, you don’t put sunscreen on top of your head because your hair protects your skin. The same goes for long grass, it provides shade for the roots and soil.

Long grass also develops a deeper root system which makes the grass more fit for dry and less fertile soil.

I followed Mike’s advice and my grass still looks neatly trimmed, it’s also the greenest grass I’ve ever had. But, there are other reasons why your grass turns brown or yellow. (more…)

June 8, 2010 at 5:00 am 8 comments

The Three Plants That Will Improve Your Home Air

Spring is here and the garden centers are open. It’s time to get some plants, especially for inside your home.

Indoor plants are really important. There are chemicals in and on almost everything you buy. If your air is not replenished with fresh air, it can be mildly toxic. But, with the right mix of plants, your air can be cleaned and oxygenated around the clock.

With as little as these three plants, you can have this perfect mix:

  • Areca palm – (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
  • Snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue – (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’)
  • Golden pothos or Devil’s ivy – (Scindapsus aures or Epipremnum aureum)

The “Areca Palm” removes CO2 and converts it into oxygen during the day. The “Snake Plant” converts CO2 into oxygen at night. The “Golden pothos” removes formaldehyde and other chemicals from your air.

Using these plants has shown significant oxygen level improvements in real world situations. Having these plants in your home can increase blood oxygen levels by 1% in 10 hours. They can reduce headaches, eye irritation, asthma and other respiratory problems.

These three plants are just a few of the many plants that are considered Air Filtering Plants. NASA has identified a number of similar plants in it’s Clean Air Study — an attempt to understand natural ways to purify air in closed spaces, on earth and beyond.

Read about the other plants or watch Kamal Meattle’s talk at TED for more info.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Photo: Leto A (cc)

Sources: TED, Air Filtering Plants

June 4, 2010 at 5:00 am 64 comments

Exhaust Fans Help Cool Your Home During Summer

The upper floor of your home is likely the warmest place in your home. It’s not usually a big deal in the winter, but it can be very uncomfortable in the summer. It happens because hot air rises.

The ceiling of your upper floor also has the most insulation of any place in your home. It’s there because hot air rises — in the winter, you don’t want to lose that heat. It’s the same reason you put a hat on your head in the winter.

In the summer, that thick insulation in your attic is doing the same thing it does in the winter, trapping that heat on your upper floor. If you have a central heating/cooling system, it should suck hot air from the upper floor and mix it with cooler air. But, it’s not always running and it can’t always keep up with the hot air that is produced inside your home, from people, electronics and appliances.

A good solution is to run the ceiling exhaust fan in a central bathroom on the upper floor during the hottest hours of the day. To help, you can get an automatic timer control light switch; these can be used to run the fan and have it automatically shutoff after a certain amount of time — this might also be useful after somebody uses the toilet.

In some regions, it is even part of the building code that an on/off switch for the upper floor hallway bathroom fan is placed next to the thermostat on the main floor. It’s there so you can turn on the exhaust fan when you turn on the air conditioner (there is also a switch in the bathroom to control it from there). This is not a widespread building code, but it’s worth having a look beside your thermostat. If you’ve got a light switch there that doesn’t do anything, try it again and listen for the hallway fan.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: MSU, About.com

June 2, 2010 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

You Can’t Grow Hemp in the US But You Can Import It

Hemp is a plant with a long and interesting history, especially in the United States.

Farmers cannot freely grow hemp in the US, but many companies import hemp products for resale, mostly from Canada and the UK.

The problem is that hemp is from the same plant family (genus) as marijuana. But hemp is not a drug, it is a raw material that is used much like cotton. We all know that cotton is great, we use it for making: t-shirts, socks, denim for blue-jeans, fishnets, coffee filters, paper and many other things. Considering everything we use it for, it’s a miracle plant.

But, cotton has some limitations. It can only be grown in areas that get a lot of sunshine, have consistent rainfall and long frost-free periods. Cotton also requires a lot of pesticides: 50% of the world’s pesticides are sprayed on cotton.

Imagine a plant with all the benefits of cotton, but it has even stronger fibers, could be grown anywhere in the country and doesn’t require pesticides or herbicides.

That plant is called hemp.

At the risk of sounding like a huge hippie, hemp is a perfect plant. Frankly, I am not a hippie — I only own one hemp product: hemp protein powder.

Hemp as a food source is one example of why it’s so perfect. The seeds contain all of the essential fatty acids and essential amino acids required for a human to be healthy. It also contains a lot of fiber, another essential part of the human diet.

When used as a textile, hemp is stronger and more mildew resistant than cotton. For that reason, hemp is an excellent material for making canvas boat sails, and it was used for that exact purpose by Christopher Columbus. (more…)

June 1, 2010 at 5:00 am 11 comments

Some Palm Trees Can Survive Freezing Winters

Palm trees usually symbolize warm and tropical climates. From Hollywood, we know the streets of Los Angeles and Miami are lined with beautiful palm trees. Hollywood portrays New York and Chicago as cold and windy, which they are for part of the year. But, there are real palm trees in both New York and Chicago.

New York has had palm trees in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden since the 1980s. Chicago has palms at the beach on Lake Michigan.

Although we closely associate palms trees with warm climates, there are a some palm species that can survive freezing winters.

Any variety of palm that can survive colder geographies that are not usually considered palm regions, are called “hardy palms.” Many of them are native to higher elevations in Asia and survive freezing weather with little or no damage. (more…)

May 5, 2010 at 12:13 am 6 comments

Extend the Life of Printer Ink Cartridges

If you’ve got an ink jet printer then you’re likely spending a lot of money on ink. Most of these printers use expensive and sophisticated ink cartridges. These cartridges monitor usage and estimate the amount of ink remaining. The estimate is usually conservative, meaning it indicates you are out of ink before you’re really out of ink.

Printer_Ink

If you reset this memory then you can keep printing until the cartridge is actually empty. Depending on the brand and model of cartridge, this reset is actually really easy. If you look above the small circuit board on the cartridge, there is sometimes a pinhole reset button, kind of like the paperclip eject hole on most cd rom drives.

Check out the following video to see a demonstration.

I should also note that not all cartridges can be reset in this way. Here are a couple of sites that show other methods of resetting some cartridges.

Doing a cartridge reset is also useful if you refill your own cartridges, since the cartridge may report that it’s empty even after you refill it. If you do a lot of color printing, you may consider generic cartridges or even a continuous ink system:

Continuous_Ink

I should also mention that laser printers have become extremely cheap. I rarely print in color, so a black and white laser printer is very cost effective for me. When I need to print photos, there are lots of drug stores or department stores that do a great job for a low price. If I need to print color documents, there are many great places to get that done at a reasonable price too. With a $100 laser printer, you’re often able to print thousands of pages of text on the toner cartridge that is included.

Big thanks to Derek Santos for sending the video and inspiring this post.

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April 16, 2010 at 12:28 am 25 comments

How to Increase Shower Water Pressure

There is nothing worse than a low pressure shower. Actually, 1000AwesomeThings said it best, “Not much affects your day every day as much as a good shower.”

In a lot of cases, there is something you can do about it. For example, if a nearby faucet has good pressure then you can probably improve your shower pressure in about 5 minutes.

Modern shower heads contain a flow restriction plate to decrease the amount of water you consume, which saves you money and ensures the city can produce enough clean water for everyone. It’s basically a rubber or Teflon disc that has a small hole in it. The smaller the hole, the less water can travel through it and onto your head. If you want to know what that restrictor looks like, click here to see a 10 pack of them on amazon (great if you own a lot of showers and have a problem with too much pressure).

Sometimes, these flow restrictor get clogged with debris, which reduces the flow further. Other times, they’re too small for your home’s water pressure. In either case, you can remove the restrictor, clean it and put it back in. If it’s not dirty then it may be too restrictive for your water pressure. If that’s the case, you can leave it out entirely or drill the hole so it is slightly larger. (more…)

April 6, 2010 at 11:31 pm 7 comments

Use Blue Food Coloring to Make Green Beer

Yesterday, I talked about the history of St. Patricks Day — why we celebrate it, how the color green and the shamrock became the symbols they are today.

While Chicago dyes the river green, many others will be dyeing their beer.

If you’re going to dye your own beer, pick a lighter colored beer for best color results. Because lighter lagers, pilseners and ales are a yellowish color, mixing blue food coloring will give you a rich dark green color — the color of a real shamrock. Using green food coloring will work too, but you’ll get a much lighter shade of green.

This is actually quite fitting since St. Patrick’s color was actually blue.

Broken Secrets

Written By: Chad Upton

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Sources: DIY Life

March 17, 2010 at 12:13 am 6 comments

The History of St. Patrick’s Day

March 17th is the big day. I’m giving you some notice so you can dig to the bottom of your laundry pile, find your green shirt from last year and put it in the washing machine.

If you can’t find a green shirt, go with a blue one instead. According to historians, blue was the original color associated with Saint Patrick. In fact, the 1912 dress code for Lord Chamberlain specified that the household of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland should wear St. Patrick’s blue.

The 1924 Irish Olympic football team wore St Patrick’s blue and the Northern Ireland team (known then as the “Ireland association football team”) wore St. Patrick’s blue jerseys from 1882 until 1931, when they switched to green.

Let me tell you why… (more…)

March 16, 2010 at 12:28 am 8 comments

The Mall of America Does Not Have a Central Heating System

By Chad Upton | Editor

In case you’re not familiar with the Mall of America, it’s a 2.5 million sq. ft. shopping center in Bloomington Minnesota, a suburb of the “Twin Cities” (Minneapolis and Saint Paul). The mall opened in 1992 and contains more than 520 stores, two seven story parking garages with a total of 20,000 parking spaces, a giant aquarium and of course an indoor amusement park.

Photo by Dave Wallick

I was there in 1993 on a big family road trip and it was amazing. A building of this size seems like it should have a massive heating system to stay comfortable during winter months. But, the engineers had a much more creative solution in mind. (more…)

March 2, 2010 at 12:35 am 31 comments

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