Category Archives: Green

How to protect your plants this winter

When the colder months settle in, there’s no reason to sacrifice all of your plants. Depending on the type of plants you have and the severity of your winter, there are ways to help ensure your favorite decorative greenery sees another spring.

Before it’s too late, take the time now to plan your plant protection strategy. These tips selected from gardening experts from around the web should help many of your most beloved shrubs, bushes, trees, and potted wonders make it through the harsh weather.

Move potted plants off concrete and onto the earth. Protecting the roots of a plant can be key to its survival. The top of a plant can often endure more trauma than the roots. Concrete can warm considerably in the sun, and then become very cold at night. This heat/cool cycle and the rapid swings in temperature it brings can damage roots.

Plant in big pots. Soil is insulation for root systems. In a 10-gallon pot you’ll have ten times the protection a 1-gallon pot provides. It can also be useful to buy a pot with a thickness greater than one inch as a means of helping further shield the roots.

During winter, water at the warmest point in the day. When temperatures climb above freezing, water your plants. Water is often used as a defense against freezing temperatures, in part because when water freezes it releases heat. Also, wet soil does a better job protecting from invasive cold than dry soil (which contains air pockets).

Position plants where temperature swings are lower. Often southern exposures will experience the greatest temperature fluctuations, so consider northern or eastern positions around the house.

Group plants defensively. Gather your plants together, placing the “weakest” of the bunch in the center and the heartiest selection on the outside, forming a border. You can also create a barrier around the group to help shield the plants from excessive wind.

Mulch for additional insulation. Mulch can help create a blanket of protection. Hay or a thick layer of leaves can also work.

Consider bringing some plants indoors. Certain potted plants might have the best defense inside. But if you do bring them indoors, bring them in before it gets too cold. The shock of moving from a chilly autumn night to a heated home can be dangerous.

With a little planning and luck, you can extend the life of your plants and the beauty of your home.

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The Benefits of LED Lighting

Do you want to make your home as energy efficient as possible, but you find the light from CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lights) unappealing? It’s time to take a new look at modern LED lighting.

Advancements in LED lighting have completely changed the face of energy efficient lighting. When they were initially developed, LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) were solid bulbs first limited to single-bulb use. Gradually manufacturers began to cluster these bulbs to create more powerful light sources for flashlights and directional lighting. Now, however, advancements in clustering, lens design, and positioning have made these bulbs suitable replacements for almost any home lighting scenario.

While they used to be very expensive, research breakthroughs as recent as 2009 made the manufacture of LEDs drastically cheaper. With this breakthrough, LEDs rapidly became competitively priced with CFL bulbs.

Benefits of LED lighting include:

High durability: While traditional bulbs have a filament which is fragile and subject to damage, LEDs handle shocks extremely well.

Lower temperature: LEDs run cool, producing significantly less than 4 btus/hour, compare to more than 80 btus for incandescents. This is a real plus in the summer months when ambient heat from lighting can build up.

Longevity: LEDs can live ten times longer than CFL bulbs and outstrip even the heartiest of incandescent bulbs.

Energy efficiency: LED bulbs typically draw between two and 17 watts of electricity. CFLs and incandescent lights can consume three to thirty times more energy.

Both cool & warm light available: Advancements have made it possible to choose “cool” lighting for big, task-based areas of the home and “warm” for accent lighting and more cozy applications.

Standard, dimmable, and 3-way available: Many people don’t realize that there are LEDs now for a full range of switching applications and don’t necessarily require switch replacement (i.e. for dimmable applications).

If you’re looking for greener choices with a long-term benefit to your bank account, consider LEDs.

Permission to Dream

One of the casualties of adulthood and all of its responsibilities is the tendency to abandon dreams. It seems as though somewhere in our 30s we begin to submit to the overwhelmingly practical, setting aside the big goals we so easily traded in as kids.

Pragmatic compromise is natural, of course. No, we’re probably not going to compete in the Tour de France. And sure, okay, maybe we’re not going to invent the next Apple Computer. But I wonder if the degree to which we trade in big dreaming for fighting fires isn’t a bit extreme. Why are we content to cash in all of our dreams when the biggest ones become unrealistic or out of reach?

Yes, there’s much to appreciate in the simple pleasures of companionship, parenthood, and creating a comfortable life. But without kindling a dream to fuel some excitement, are we truly living?

Michelangelo, the famous Renaissance artist is quoted as saying, “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we hit it.”

Even if you are content with your life, I’d ask you today to search yourself and see if there isn’t some dream which you’ve shelved in your past. Even if it seems too lofty, is there some part of it, some bit of its DNA which might inspire you to find a reasonable dream to pursue? What if you admitted this reasonable dream into your life, gradually setting goals for moving closer to its realization? Might it stoke your zeal in all things?

We are all looking for new sources of energy, new reasons to keep playing the game. Donate a little dream time to yourself this week and see what you turn up.

If your dream is to own your first home or upgrade to a new neighborhood or larger space, I’d be happy to help you pursue it!

Lower Water Bills and Conserve for the Future

Water is our most precious resource. As our planet becomes more crowded and the demand for clean drinking water grows, it’s increasingly important that we look for creative ways to reduce needless waste. You might underestimate how small changes can really add up. Did you know simply by turning off the water while you brush your teeth, you may save up to as much as 25 gallons per month? (A great way to make this point with kids is to show them at the grocery store what 25 gallons of milk looks like… that’s a lot of water!) Even shortening your shower by two minutes can add up to 150 gallons per month.

Below are some creative tips you can use to cut down on your water consumption, lower your water bills, and preserve a resource we truly can’t live without:

1. Keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap. Instead of waiting for cold water, every drop ends up as part of your drink.

2. Wash veggies and fruits in a pan of water, then gather the water you use and reuse it to water indoor plants.

3. Consider installing an instant water heater near your kitchen, so you don’t have to run the water excessively when you need hot water. (This can also reduce overall energy expenses.)

4. Remember: Washing dark clothes in cold water saves on both water and energy, and it helps your clothes retain their vibrancy.

5. Rather than following a set watering schedule for your lawn and garden, check for soil moisture two to three inches below the surface before watering. If it’s still moist, hold off on running those sprinklers.

6. Reduce the amount of lawn you have to water by practicing xeriscaping, which is landscaping and gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental water from irrigation. (Rocks, natural, local vegetation, etc.)

7. Does your shower fill a 1-gallon bucket in less than 20 seconds? Replace your shower head with a water-efficient model.

Share these seven tips with others and encourage people in your neighborhood to join you in your support of water conservation. If you’re interested in looking at eco-friendly homes, give me a call! I’d be happy to show you what’s on the market: [YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION]

7 Tips for Making the Most of Your Farmers’ Market Visit

With the rise of sustainability and “locavore” movements, farmers’ markets are growing in popularity almost everywhere you look. Farmers’ markets are a great way to lay hands on some of the freshest fruits and vegetables while supporting farmers and their families right in your community.

Though you might not be aware of it, there’s probably a farmers’ market near you. A good place to start is the Local Harvest website (http://www.localharvest.org/) which can help you find a variety of markets in the U.S.

If you’ve never shopped a farmers’ market before, don’t be intimidated! Below are some helpful tips to make your experience fun, affordable, and convenient:

1. Be sure to bring small cash bills (and change, if you have it). Typically ATM/Debit cards are not accepted. Payment is usually handled at farmers’ stands, not through a check-out line.

2. Having your hands free is a big plus, so consider carrying a fanny pack for securely storing your money. (Prevents you from having to put your wallet down… a big reason wallets get lost!)

3. Old strollers can make for handy shopping carts, plus they fold up nicely for transport to/from the market. Don’t forget any reusable bags you may have at home, too!

4. Don’t haggle for small lots of fruits and veggies. Looking to buy a big box? Then you might suggest a deal.

5. Some of the best tasting fruit may not look waxy and “supermarket fresh.” Don’t let this deter you. Often quality fruit from the farm is never shipped to supermarkets because it’s fragile. Handle gently, and don’t be afraid of minor cosmetic flaws.

6.If you want to ask farmers lots of questions, try to time your visit for very early when the market isn’t slammed.

7. Remember that fresh means seasonal! Go with an open mind, not a “must have” list. Part of the pleasure is discovering what’s at its peak and getting creative with ingredients.

Have you been to a farmers’ market in Indianapolis? I’d love to hear what your favorites are!

Green Home?

“Green” home staging can mean a variety of things, but one emphasis is on creating a “green story” for prospective buyers.

With green home staging, companies usually try to reuse or integrate as much of the seller’s original furniture as possible. In instances where new pieces are needed, green stagers will often reuse furniture from their own collection, or select pieces which are on consignment from local shops.

This can actually save a seller a fair amount of money in the staging process. A green staging company will also be sure to recycle all packaging associated with new furnishings used to stage the home.

In terms of paint and carpeting, green stagers will recommend eco-friendly replacements. One of the advantages of making green replacements is a home is the added selling point an agent can use with prospective buyers. Consider, for example, a couple looking to raise their first child in a new home. It’s not hard to imagine how fresh, non-toxic, environmentally friendly paints and flooring might favorably improve their view of the listing.

In addition to cosmetic recommendations, green stagers are specialists in pointing out improvements a seller might consider to both improve the energy efficiency of the home as well as further the green story for potential buyers. Air filters, weather stripping, and programmable thermostats are just a few details green home stagers often recommend.

What do you think? Can green staging matter? Do you think green staging ever presents an edge over traditional staging approaches?

(By the way… If you’re interested in green staging, I’d be happy to help you research the option for selling your home. Contact me today for more information.