Wednesday, February 11, 2015

5 tips for a greener Valentine’s Day – Love is in the air!



Valentine's Day. It’s the time of year when roses are received from a secret admirer, gifts are exchanged between friends and couples in love enjoy romantic candle-lit dinners. On the other hand, plenty of couples ignore the over-commercialized holiday and do nothing… Or feel forced to do something.
theOatmeal.com


Whatever your opinion of the holiday is, please love the earth and have an eco-friendly celebration! We’ve pulled together 5 tips for you:


  1. Look for recycled paper Valentine’s Day cards or create a handmade one. Around a billion Valentines are sent each year globally, making the day the 2nd largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. NOT including cards exchanged in classrooms between children, 180 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged in the U.S. alone. Plenty of crafty spots have some great ideas for recycled paper cards. (like Pinterest) I especially like this idea from Merriment Design that uses recycled security envelopes!   
  2.  Giving flowers? Look for locally-grown or pesticide-free organic buds. It’s easy to find some local flowers at your neighborhood farmer’s market. The NC Farm Fresh website lets you search by product (like “cut flowers” or “roses”) in your area of North Carolina or for nurseries and garden centers near you. The FlowersFor Good line by Organic Bouquets will send 5% of your purchase to selected nonprofit charities. You can also shop through Goodsearch and get 25% off your Valentine’s gift AND a donation will be made directly to NCGreenPower! 
  3. Not a flower person? How about a rose bush or a potted plant! Instead of traditional flowers for Valentine's Day, give a potted plant from a local supplier. Just as beautiful and lasts much longer. An estimated 120 liters of water (about 32 gallons) is used to produce a dozen roses. Plant a rose bush instead - You'll conserve water and save money. WIN-WIN 
  4. If chocolate is his/her weakness, be socially responsible and make a smart choice. Send your sweetheart organic fair trade chocolates this V-day. Visit Equal Exchange Coop to learn more about organic sweets. You probably also have a local chocolatier in your city! 
  5.  Big spender? Eco-friendly and people-friendly jewelry choices are easy to find. If you’re really splurging this year and want to get jewelry, find a jeweler who uses conflict-free diamonds or recycled materials from an online retailer, like Brilliant Earth or BlueNile. For the socially conscious jewelry buyer, consider estate jewelry from a local retailer.
Remember to consider your loved one along with the environment with your Valentine’s Day purchases this year. Natural fragrances, soy candles and dinner at home are also some great ideas! Taking a trip? Green up a vacation with your loved one and donate to NC GreenPower carbon offsets for your trip. 

And during the month of February, donate$36 on behalf of a loved one and your valentine will receive and NC GreenPower local organic cotton tee shirt! Give $48, and we’ll send you a t-shirt, too!



Thursday, January 15, 2015

Eco New Year’s Resolutions

We at NC GreenPower hope you had wonderful holidays! Now that we have welcomed the New Year, it’s time to reflect on some ways you can make small changes to live more environmentally friendly. We’ve compiled a list of ideas for New Year’s Resolutions you can make that will help you live a greener life. A lot of the time, small behavioral changes make a big difference!

1) Pledge to never buy bottled water again! Ok, you can in a pinch, but make a real effort to remember to bring your own bottle. This will not only be good for the environment, it will help your wallet, too. Watch this video from the Story of Stuff to learn more.


2) If you live close enough to work, resolve to make an effort to bike or walk to work (if you don’t already!). It depends on your own personal biking experience and level of athleticism, but you could aim to bike to work once a week, once a month, or even just a few times a year. Biking or walking to work accomplishes two things at once: it cuts down on pollution and it gives you a little exercise, which boosts your mood. Studies have shown that those who commute to work by bicycles are the happiest of all commuter transportation groups (verses single person cars, carpooling, or taking public transportation). Visit bikeleague.org to learn about biking safely.



3) Resolve to buy more locally produced food. Visit your local farmers’ market more often! Buying local not only reduces the transportation impact of the food, it also helps support the local economy. And you get yummy food out of it – sounds like a good deal to me! Find a market near you at NCFarmFresh.com


  4) Transition to using only LED lighting. It would be pretty wasteful to throw out all of your current incandescent light bulbs if they still work, but whenever you replace a bulb or install new lighting, resolve to use LED.

  5)  Make your own home cleaners. This can save you money and greatly improve the air quality in your home in addition to keep unwanted chemicals out of the water supply (notice a theme here? A lot of these changes have many additional benefits, not just for the environment!

 6) Eat less meat (or become vegetarian/vegan/pescetarian). Many countries have introduced meatless Fridays in their public schools in an effort to teach kids about the negative impacts that meat production and consumption has on our environment. Why not embrace that message and adopt a similar policy yourself? Choosing one day to go meatless is a very small commitment but if followed consistently it could have significant effects environmentally, financially (saves you money!), and for your health.

To me, New Year’s Resolutions are best when they are rather small and manageable. Then it’s much more likely that you will actually follow them! I hope you have gotten some good ideas of how you can make your 2015 more green. 




Wednesday, December 31, 2014

9 Tips for End-of-Year Giving



Thanks to the good folks at KFOR channel 4 in Oklahoma City for putting this story together!  

https://www.ncgreenpower.org/donate/now/


OKLAHOMA CITY – It is the season of giving and many are volunteering their time, goods or money to charities. In fact, this time of year is when many non-profits receive a bulk of their donations.

This is also a great time for taxpayers to get a tax break for making those contributions to charitable organizations.  The OSCPA recommends following the following tips for donating.
The Oklahoma Society of Professional Certified Accountants, OSCPA, recommends these tips.

Do your research first.
Only donations that are made to qualified charitable organizations are tax-deductible. If you aren’t sure whether an organization is qualified, ask to see its letter from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS.) Many organizations will actually post their letters on their websites. You can search online using IRS Exempt Organizations Select Check at www.irs.gov. Churches, synagogues, temples and mosques are considered de facto charitable organizations and are eligible to receive deductible donations, even if they’re not on the list. You can learn more about a charitable organization’s tax exempt status online at Guidestar.org and Charity Navigator.org.

http://www.guidestar.org/organizations/22-3895009/nc-greenpower-corporation.aspx
[NOTE: NC GreenPower is a 501(c)(3) designated Guidestar Gold-rated charity and all donations to our organization are eligible for a tax-deduction.)

Get and keep your receipts. 
Cash deductions must be substantiated by a bank record (such as a canceled check or credit card receipt, clearly annotated with the name of the charity) or in writing from the organization. The writing must include the date, the amount and the organization that received the donation. You don’t have to submit the receipt with your tax return, but you need to be prepared to show it if you are audited.

Be an itemizer.
In order to claim charitable deductions on your tax return, you must itemize your deductions on Schedule A of your Federal Form 1040. Deductions aren’t available to individuals who choose the standard deduction. This includes anyone who files a short form (Form 1040A or 1040EZ). You can use the 2014 Form 1040 Schedule A to determine whether itemizing is better than claiming the standard deduction.

Do the math.
If you happen to receive something in exchange for your donation—no matter how big or small—the donation is deductible only for the amount the donation exceeds the value of any goods or services received.

Don’t forget documentation.
Be sure to document every time you give. Be sure to keep good records of all donations. If you donate non-cash items, you’ll need to be able to substantiate the value of your donation. If you leave a donation at a charity’s unattended drop site, keep a written record of the donation that includes the fair market value of the property at the time of the donation and the method you used to determine that value. There are additional rules that apply for a contribution of $250 or more.

Know your limits.
There are limits on the amount of charitable contributions you can deduct. The specific limitations can be fairly complicated, so consult your CPA if you contribute more than 20 percent of your adjusted gross income.

Keep an eye on the calendar.
All donations must be made by the end of the tax year for which you want to claim the deduction. If you put a check dated December 31 in the mail by that day, you’re okay. The same goes for donations charged by year’s end to your credit card—even if you don’t pay the bill until next year.

Keep your paystubs.
If you have elected to have money taken directly out of your paycheck for charity, keep your paystubs, Form W-2 or other document showing the total amount withheld, along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity.

Donate appreciated property.
Appreciated property can be donated to a charity instead of cash, which can yield double the bang for your buck, because an individual can deduct the property’s fair market value on the date he or she gives the gift and avoid paying capital gains tax on the appreciation. The deduction of appreciated property is generally limited to 30 percent of adjusted gross income. If the claimed value is more than $500, the organization must provide you with a Form 1098-C or a similar statement and it must be attached to your tax return.

Full story and video available online here:
http://kfor.com/2014/12/16/9-tips-for-end-of-year-charitable-giving/

Donate to NC GreenPower today!

 https://www.ncgreenpower.org/donate/now/



Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Top 10 Ideas!



It’s not too late for some holiday tips!! Here are 10 ideas to keep sustainability on track:




Holiday tip #1: Act like a boy scout & be prepared. Make lists. Try to do all of your shopping in one trip.  Save on gas & stress!

Holiday tip #2: Knows store return policies and get gift receipts so they can be returned or exchanged if needed.

Holiday tip #3: Look for gifts that are not over-packaged, labeled energy efficient, made with recycled materials, or recyclable. 
Image courtesy of Terraskin












Holiday tip #4: Think durability and length of warranties!  How long will the item last? Will it just end up in a landfill?

Holiday tip #5: Give a gift of time: Take someone to a concert or movie. Make gift cards for a special dinner, pet-sitting or house cleaning. 

Holiday tip #6: Plants make excellent presents and help to reduce indoor pollution.  Herb-growing kits are also a great idea.

Holiday tip #7: If you give a gift that requires batteries, include the rechargeable kind – and a battery recharger. 
Holiday tip #8: Give the gift of charity this year. Sponsor a child refugee, support a homeless shelter, or protect an acre of rainforest.

Holiday tip #9: Give the gift of yourself.  Volunteer in your community! Join the NC GreenPower Speakers Bureau.

Holiday tip #10: Turn holiday lights on only when people are around to enjoy them. Avoid leaving them on all day and use a timer at night.


Still looking for a last minute gift? Buy used! There are many local consignment shops that specialize in “gently used” items.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tips for a Sustainable Holiday Part 2




Tips for a Sustainable Holiday Season Part 2

The Holidays are a time for gift giving, sharing meals with friends and family, and decorating your home in merry holiday splendor. While all of these activates are fun and good for the soul, sometimes this increased consumerism isn’t so good for the environment – according to the EPA the amount of household garbage from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day can increase by 25%, or 5 million tons! NC GreenPower has some suggestions below for ways to decrease your holiday environmental impact while still spreading holiday cheer.

Reduce waste

Food waste reduction is one goal that is relatively easy to accomplish; simple behavioral changes like composting, always using reusable plates, silverware, napkins, etc. (as opposed to disposable), saving leftovers, buying in bulk and buying local can all have profound impacts. Visit NC State University’s Sustainability page to learn more.

Waste reduction can also be accomplished by tweaking the gift-giving process. Recycling favorite wrapping paper and nice ribbons from year to year, or using quirky wrapping paper like newspaper or an out of date map both reduces the amount of paper produced and thrown away, and adds fun character to your gifts.
This Huffington Post article has several more ideas of how to reduce holiday waste, from giving home-made gifts to paying attention to a gift’s packaging.

The Tree

There are several approaches to having an “eco” tree. My favorite is what my family used to do back home in Colorado. We’d buy a $5.00 permit from the USDA National Forest Service and go into the woods to cut down our own tree! Unfortunately, the National Forest Service in North Carolina does not sell permits to cut down your own Christmas tree. Many other states do have this fun option, however, which helps reduce forest fire danger and allows people to have a fun experience searching for their perfect tree in the woods. If you are spending the holidays in a different state, this might be something to consider – you’ll not only be helping our national forests, but you’ll also create a fun memory! States with this opportunity are: WA, OR, CA, ID, WY, CO UT, KS, MT, SD, NB, AZ, NM, VT, FL, and possibly more.  Visit your state’s National Forest Service Website to find out more.

Since that isn’t an option for most North Carolina residents, the decision comes down to real vs. fake. This article from Mother News Network does a good job at laying out the pros and cons of both. Its top suggestion is to get a tree from an organic farm, and a list of NC farms selling organic and low-spray trees can be found here. If that isn’t viable for you, the final decision is still that real trumps fake, all things considered. And following the holidays, be sure to recycle your live tree! (We’ll remind you about this part after Christmas.)

There are other less traditional options as well, as outlined in this Good Housekeeping article. They too recommend organic trees in addition to plantable trees, using a living tree outside (if you live in a mild climate!) or making your own “tree” (think: Charlie Brown-type tree). You can also decorate a small Rosemary tree, usually available at any grocery store.  And Inhabitat shares 6 fabulous faux Christmas tree ideas, such as a 100% recycled cardboard tree from Cascades. Essentially, what it comes down to is how traditional you are and what resources are at your disposal.




Finally, this tip page from the EPA has some good general guidelines to be more environmentally conscious during the holidays (and many tips apply for year round, too!).

We hope you consider implementing some of these easy changes to make your holidays greener – or maybe you already do them! Regardless, we at NC GreenPower send you warm wishes for a happy holiday season!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Let's stay sustainable this holiday season!



http://www.givingtuesday.org/
Tips for a Sustainable Holiday: 
Take 1 – After Thanksgiving
We've shared our green ideas for Halloween, and Thanksgiving is just a faint memory... It’s finally that time of year when the weather begins to get a little nippy and the leaves are falling, hinting that winter is right around the corner. Here are a few friendly tips to make your December a green one:

1. Plan Ahead:  Feeding America estimates that we throw away over 70 billion pounds of food each year, costing over $100 billion dollars. To help lower this, plan ahead when shopping for your family or for a crowd. Cooking enough to feed an entire village may be a little extreme if you plan on only have a few friends and family members over. Why not lessen the burden and have a potluck? You have less to cook, more time to relax and in the end results in a good food portion to people ratio.
 
2. Shop Local: Before we all get too close to the holiday rush, take a minute and think about where your food comes from. When preparing your shopping list, think local. Organic is healthy, too, but either of these greener options are sure to guarantee a fresher, more complete meal. Visit the NC Farm Fresh website to find a farmer offering local fruits, vegetables, and even ethically-raised, free range local turkeys! (Plan ahead and order today) 

http://www.ncsu.edu/project/nc10percent/

3. Reduce Energy Consumption:   If you must go over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house, make sure to turn down that thermostat, turn off the lights and unplug any unessential electrical appliances before you leave to go out of town. Planning your holiday shopping to combine errands and drive in a loop rather than a zig-zag will also cut down on your fuel use. It's less expensive right now, but that doesn't make it any less of a polluter.

Last but not least, keep it simple by going back to basics:  
4. RECYCLE all packaging and beverage containers which will significantly reduce how much garbage you send off to the landfill. Not sure what to recycle? Check out Recycle More NC for where to take your recyclables.


 
Have a safe and happy holiday and don’t forget to think sustainably during the season of consumption!