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!

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.

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. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tips for a Sustainable Holiday 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.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Let's stay sustainable this holiday season!
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:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Green Halloween

As Halloween quickly approaches, we thought it might be nice to share some tips about how to have an eco-friendly Halloween. The blog Green Halloween is the perfect resource, dedicated to all things spooky and environmentally-conscious.

Although they are retiring this year, a browse through their archives shows tips for everything from Halloween-themed snacks and meals, to last minute crafts, to resources for lead-free face paint. We encourage you to take a peek and get inspired for a fun, safe, and green Halloween!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Green up your workout!

You recycle, use your canvas tote bag when you grocery shop and even plant vegetables and herbs in your backyard – but have you ever thought about greening up your workout gear? Whether you enjoy taking a brisk jog, relaxing with yoga or lifting weights, they all need workout clothes that are performance oriented and comfortable.

Thanks to ecofriendly and forward thinking companies, we can now apply green philosophy to our workout gear:

Monday, June 2, 2014

Ecotourism in North Carolina

As summer approaches and the sun warms us up, people will start planning their summer vacations. Tourism can have a big impact on a region not only financially, but also environmentally, so it is important to be mindful when planning your next vacation. Ecotourism within our state is booming and there are all sorts of options of ways to relax, learn, explore, and have fun, while stimulating the local economy and minimizing negative environmental impacts. The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.”

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

BYOB - Bring your own bag!

We’re all guilty of using plastic and paper bags when checking out at our local grocery store. You forget to put your cloth bags back in your car after your last grocery visit and now have two options: carry everything in your arms or resort to using the plastic or paper bags, it’s only this ONE time right?

The paper or plastic question is an age old debate and our conscience isn’t the only one with a stake in the debate. Grocery stores purchase plastic bags at a cheaper cost with constant pressure from environmental groups to stop offering them.  Worldwide, a trillion single-use plastic bags are used each year with the average American family of four using an overwhelming 1,500 plastic bags a year.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Make Everyday Earth Day

Earth Day celebrations took place worldwide just last week. And while it’s nice to celebrate the environment one day out of 365, we should try to incorporate these practices into our everyday lives. Whether we’re responding to an urgent email or sending a tweet to our followers, we’re constantly on our phones so why not use mobile apps to help us go green?

The Good Guide: Perfect for helping green shoppers, this app gives ratings to more than 200,000 products just by scanning the barcode. The rating combines health, environment and societal factors on a scale of 1-10. Health covers ingredients, health impacts and certifications. Environment includes resources use, environmental impact and transparency. Society measures the company’s social policy and how they resonate with consumers, workers and the overall community.

PaperKarma: Annoyed with junk mail? This app helps reduce junk mail. It’s simple: snap a picture of any unwanted mail through the app and PaperKarma notifies the publisher to take the user’s name and address off of their list. Easy, right?

JouleBug: A social app, launched by the City of Raleigh, rewards users for reducing energy waste. It helps make your everyday habits more sustainable at home, work and play. By giving you simple tips to increase your sustainability, you earn points and badges while saving money. You can compete with your friends through the LeaderBoard, track your impact and earn trophies. So save money and energy and have a little fun by giving this app a try!

You can get even your kids involved with these environmental educations apps and programs teaching them about sustainable design and renewable energy:

1.     Ansel and Clair: Little Green Island
This app does a good job of introducing ideas – students learn about environmental issues, specifically pollution, and have to find solutions to the problems.

2.     Enercities
An educational computer-game, Enercities emphasizes the importance of sustainable planning. Students have to strike a balance among economy, ecology, population growth and quality of life while learning about resource scarcity and green city planning.

Those bright little screens that tend to keep us indoors and distract us from nature can now be put to good use!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A History of Earth Day

As we celebrate the Earth and all of its beauty today, let’s take a moment to look back at a timeline of how this day came to be and the progress that has resulted:

1962: Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring, the best seller that brought to light the potential dangers of widespread pesticide use bringing environmental issues to the public’s attention

1963: Senator Gaylord Nelson (served as the Wisconsin State governor before being elected to serve in the U.S. Senate in 1962) convinced and accompanied President Kennedy on a 5 day, 11 state conservation tour in order to raise awareness about environmental issues

1969: Chemical waste released into Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River causes it to catch on fire bringing to the forefront the damaging effects of industrial pollution

1969: Senator Nelson, inspired by the teach-ins held by Vietnam War protesters on U.S. college campuses, announces the idea for a large scale Earth Day – a grassroots demonstration

April 22, 1970: First Earth Day, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to protest and fight for environmental rights

1970: Environmental advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) founded

December 1970: Congress authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues, the United States Environmental Protection Agency

1971: Environmental activist group Greenpeace founded

1972-73: Congress passes the Clean Water Act (‘92) and the Endangered Species Act (‘93)

1990: Earth Day goes international with 141 countries participating

1995: President Bill Clinton awards Gaylord Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom (highest award given to a civilian) in honor of his environmental work

2000: The 30th anniversary of Earth Day was themed “clean energy” with hundreds of millions of participants in 184 countries

2010: In honor of the 40th anniversary of this historic day, a Climate Rally and Concert was held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Earth Day has grown into a worldwide event with over 180 countries participating. The combined effort of Senator Gaylord, his staff and the participants across the United States helped spring this day into action. We hope everyone takes a few minutes out of their day to commit to a pledge, no matter how small or large, and join the movement of a billion acts of green to continue environmental and sustainable practices throughout the year.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Organic Food 101

Organic food has become a lucrative business with every grocery store trying to get a piece of the pie. Industry experts estimate that organic food sales were $28 billion in 2012 with expectations for continued growth. So what’s the benefit of buying organic? Is it more nutritious? Is it worth the extra cost?

First, let’s define what classifies a food as organic. According to the EPA, organically grown food is food grown and processed using no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Organic livestock must have access to the outdoors, be given organic feed and may not be given antibiotics, growth hormones or any animal-by-products.

Is it more nutritious? What are the benefits? A recent Stanford study shows little evidence to back the claim that organic foods are packed with more vitamins making them more nutritious. Although studies do show that organic foods contain higher antioxidants which have been linked to certain types of cancer prevention. There is also a decrease in negative health effects and issues associated with toxic residues that result from pesticide use. Consistent pesticide exposure has been shown to contribute to deficiencies in neurodevelopment, a factor in autism, ADHD and other neurological impairments in developing children. Eating organic produce and meat could potentially decrease this exposure.

Weighing the costs and benefits in choosing organic foods is up to each individual person. While those unbothered by pesticide use opt for the cheaper conventional items, others take a stand against industry farms fighting for removal of all pesticides. For more information please visit the USDA’s website here.

If you choose to buy organic, it is important to understand the labeling. The USDA issues three categories of labels:

-          100% organic: foods that do not contain any non-organic ingredients
-          Organic: Food containing 95% organic ingredients with the remaining 5% not containing growth hormones
-          Made with organic ingredients: Foods that have at least 70% organically produced ingredients (can contain up to 30% of nonorganic ingredients!)

So keep an eye out for buzz words and companies misleading use of the word ‘organic’, making sure it has a UDSA seal of approval. Keep in mind that organic is not synonymous with healthy; organic food can still be packed in bad fats, calories and sugar!

Be sure to check out upcoming blogs that will give in depth looks at which foods to buy organic, which to skip and recipes for in season produce!

While choosing organic may be important, it is also just as important to shop local in season produce. With asparagus being one of April’s peak in season produce, here’s a simple recipe from the local Durham Farmers' Market incorporating asparagus into an appetizer or side dish.

Fresh Asparagus Salad – (Chef Christy Quirk from Bull Street Gourmet & Market)


-          1 Bunch ASPARAGUS, Thinly Sliced
-          1 LEMON, Zested and Juiced
-          1 SHALLOT, Shaved (you may want less)
-          1/8t LAVENDER BUDS, Rubbed
-          Pinch SEA SALT
-          Pinch BLACK PEPPER, Freshly Ground
-          Pinch NUTMEG or MACE
-          Drizzle OLIVE OIL


Prepare a medium bowl. Combine all the flavoring/seasoning ingredients, mix well, then add the asparagus. May serve immediately or chill until use. 

This salad may also serve as a relish for sandwiches, grilled proteins, etc. 

As a side, welcome additions to the salad might include nuts, goat cheese, fresh tomatoes, or mushrooms.

For more local produce recipe ideas visit
Durham Farmers' Market

Picture source: K Sarah Designs Blog

Friday, March 28, 2014

Environmental Household Cleaning

Spring is in the air! And with it comes spring cleaning, so here is our next blog post with Eco-friendly spring cleaning tips. This time we will look into ways to clean our homes while staying green.

Many household cleaning supplies contribute to indoor air pollution and can actually be quite hazardous when they come in contact with skin, are inhaled, or are ingested. Chemicals from cleaning products can be released into the air and linger because of the limited airflow indoors, exposing you and your family for longer periods of time. Standard cleaning products are often petroleum-based and have negative effects that extend even beyond indoor pollution and personal health problems. They keep their potency long after they’ve gone down the drain, and can potentially pollute waterways and negatively affect vegetation and wildlife. Luckily, we have some alternatives that are natural and will help you to avoid negative toxic side effects. Natural based cleaning products are widely available and usually work just as well as the old standbys.  

It’s Easy Being Green: A Handbook for Earth-Friendly Living by Crissy Trask is a great resource for tips on how to clean green, from conserving water to using alternative cleaning products. Some of her helpful suggestions are:

·         Use old towels and t-shirts  as rags instead of paper towels

·         Fill a bucket with water and mix it with an all-purpose cleaner for general scrubbing, rather than  leave water running

·         Buy products in concentrate when available to use less packaging

·         Use oxygen or hydrogen-based bleaches instead of chlorine bleach and buy phosphate-free laundry detergent – companies that make products that do not use harmful chemicals include Country Save, Mountain Green, Method, Mrs.Meyers, and Seventh Generation.

·         Make your own household cleaners – distilled white vinegar, baking soda, salt, club soda, lemons, and other household products can make effective cleaning products. The Mother Nature Network has recipes for homemade cleaning products here.

·         Wash clothes in cold water, only using warm or hot water for oily dirt and stains (These days, detergents are formulated to work just as well in cold water.)

Small changes of habits and an awareness of the products we use can make a big impact on both our household health and overall environment. Lots of little things can add up to a big impact! For a more thorough review of the effects of toxins cleaning products and environmentally friendly alternatives, visit the OrganicConsumers Association website.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Spring Cleaning: Cleaning Out Your Closet

With spring fast approaching, be on the lookout for a series of blog posts with Eco-friendly spring cleaning tips. To start out, let’s look at how to clean out your closet without adding to landfills.

Fast fashion is defined as a contemporary term describing a clothing chain’s ability to move designs from catwalk to stores quickly at a low price to customers. It brings an end to the two-season shopping; companies like Zara, H&M and Forever 21 can design, manufacture and get new styles into store shelves within a month. Although fast and cheap, our closets can’t keep up, forcing us to throw away the excess of it – approximately 70 pounds per person annually according to the Council for Textile Recycling. This translates into approximately 191 T-shirts per person, totaling 3.8 billion pounds of waste making our landfills pay the price.

Here’s the good news! More than 90% of this discarded fabric, worn or torn, is recyclable:

Resell them – If the tag is still on them or they’re in top condition, the clothes can be resold to consignment or vintage shops such as Plato’s Closet, a nationwide used clothing chain.

Donate – H&M has a recycling policy allowing for shoppers to exchange one shopping bag of clothing, no H&M label required, for a 15% discount on any item of their choice. The Salvation Army and Goodwill have over 2,300 centers and drop-off locations for your gently used goods. Dress for Success accepts women’s professional attire and Donate My Dress accepts formal and special occasion dress donations to others who need them.

Hand them down to younger kids in your family or to your friends.

SwapFind a local public clothes swap and exchange clothes with someone else, trading an unwanted item for a “new” item in your closet.

Recycle – Send your clothes directly to a textile recycler if your clothes are past their prime. In Wake County, your local Convenience Center will accept clothing and shoes.

No matter which option you pick, recycle the stuffed garbage bag full of unwanted clothing next time you clean out that overfilled closet.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Exploring Our Environment – University Events

One of the wonderful things about living in beautiful (and sometimes icy) North Carolina is that residents all across the state have access to tremendous cultural and educational centers through its colleges and universities. Many institutes of higher education are asking serious questions about our energy future and are hosting events that look at current environmental issues and innovative solutions. Universities in the Research Triangle area have several events coming up within the next few months that are sure to inspire and further the discussion about North Carolina’s renewable energy future and environmental concerns.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the UNC Institute for the Environment will be highlighting environmental and resource management issues. For a full view of their upcoming events visit their calendar here.

·         February 26 is the NC Clean Tech Summit that will be held at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill. It is a partnership of the UNC Kenan-Flager Business School Center for Sustainable Enterprise, Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster, Strata Solar, and the UNC Institute for the Environment.  It will highlight North Carolina’s role as a global leader in clean technology and address problems like renewable energy storage, how entrepreneurs can find funding in this field, smart grid technology, and how rural areas and small towns can benefit from clean tech development. This is an incredible opportunity to learn about the future of energy in the state. Registration is open to the public and anyone interested is encouraged to attend! Visit their website to register and view the agenda here.  

·         April 16 is UNC’s Campus Earth Week Keynote presentation This Blue Planet: Preserving and Sustaining a Healthy Earth with speaker Alexandra Cousteau. It is free and open to the public and will be at the Stone Center Auditorium. It starts at 6:00pm and shows the importance of conservation and sustainable management of water in order to preserve a healthy planet.


Sustainability at NC State University will also be hosting several events in the upcoming months. For a full listing, visit their website here.

·         March 19 and 20 is the 16th annual Water Resources Research Institute Conference focusing on Local Governments as Keystone Water Resources Managers. It will be held in the Jane S. McKimmon Center at NC State University. This symposium will explore the role local government plays in managing water resources in North Carolina. To register and learn more about this event visit their website here.

·         April 16 is the 2014 North Carolina Sea Grant Research Symposium on Investments and Opportunities. It will also be held at the McKimmon Center. This event is free and will focus on the research and extension efforts sponsored by North Carolina Sea Grant addressing current and emerging issues. Topics will include healthy costal ecosystems, sustainable coastal development, safe and sustainable seafood supply, and hazard resilience in coastal communities. Visit their webpage to learn more and register.

These are only a few of the great events that are taking place on college campuses in the Triangle and throughout the state. Members of the public are encouraged to come and take advantage of the great opportunities and resources local universities can provide!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A greener new year!

Happy New Year!!! With the holidays coming to a close, it's time to pack up decorations, put away the sweets and take down the tree...

It's a new year - make a resolution! (Studies show that if you just make ONE resolution, you are more likely to keep it.)

  • Not sure what to do with your holiday tree? Most cities offer curbside pickup. Or if you live in a coastal area, you may be able to help with sand dune restoration. My local tiger rescue also accepts trees to give the big cats something fun to play with! Learn more online:
  • Kick off a healthier 2014 and pledge to eat local, eat more veggies or grow your own. Start by shopping more local farmer's markets or go to
  • If you find yourself with some burned-out light strings, don't toss them, recycle them! Search Earth 911 for info:
  • Be sure to store your holiday decorations in containers with some padding to keep them from breaking. It's better to re-use than re-buy! 
  • Did you get new electronics this year? Maybe a tablet or laptop... Be sure to recycle or donate old ones! Check out for info on where to responsibly recycle your items.
  • Depending on where you live in NC, you may be able to place a call for curbside pick up of your old appliances or electronics or take it to a local recycling center for proper disposal. I have small electronics recycling here at NC State. There are also companies who recycle computers for free or at a low cost. Locally, GEEP in RTP manages recycling, and you can also find statewide requirements here: