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5/18/2015

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average US household spends around $2,700 a year on gasoline. And that’s only if the gas prices stay where they are now and don't rise.

Making your car as eco-friendly as possible makes sense both for your pocketbook and for the environment. Not only does driving more fuel-efficiently often save you gas money, but you’ll also be doing some good for the planet. Check out these simple, easy-to-begin strategies that you can use to make your car even more eco-friendly.

drive eco-friendly
Image by Split Shire.

Drive with a Feather Foot

According to Popular Mechanics, one of the best ways to improve your gas mileage is by changing the way you drive. Basically, drive smoothly, lower your speed and avoid those “jack rabbit starts.”

Check Air Pressure

The US Department of Energy states that keeping your tires inflated to the manufacturer's suggested levels can increase your gas mileage as much as 3.3 percent. For example, if your tire pressure drops by just one psi, you'll lose 0.4 percent on your gas mileage. To find the ideal pressure for your vehicle, consult your driver's manual or the sticker inside your driver's door.

Upgrade to a More Fuel Efficient Engine

Look into upgrading to a more fuel efficient engine for your vehicle. For example, eco-friendly sports car engines can help traditional sports cars gain better mileage without losing performance. Depending on the kind of car that you own, similar options may be available for your make and model.

Add an App

Simply being more aware of your driving habits can impact how you drive and help you change bad driving habits. Adding an app such as Automatic will provide you with a report of your weekly driving habits and offer suggestions for changes you can make to improve eco-friendliness. Just install the app, and when your phone is plugged into the data port in your car it will track different aspects of your travel habits.

Make Maintenance a Habit

The US Department of Energy also points to regular maintenance as an indicator of how many miles per gallon your car might get. Make repairs quickly and get tune-ups on schedule. The Department of Energy mentions that an oxygen sensor that needs repaired can impact your fuel efficiency by 40 percent, and more minor things like an out-of-tune engine can cost you 4 percent in fuel efficiency.

Plan Errands in a Circuit

One simple way to save fuel is to reduce the amount of actual travel you’re doing. When running errands, complete as many tasks as possible in one trip. Look at the places you need to drive to ahead of time and plan your route in a circuit. By planning this way you’re not backtracking and wasting miles driving through the same areas. While this may not always be convenient, you can overcome issues like keeping items refrigerated by planning ahead and taking along a cooler with ice.

Carpool When You Can

Do you see your best friend at the grocery store every Saturday when you go? Make a mundane task into a fun outing and ride together, taking turns driving Not only will you save fuel and the environment, but you’ll spend some quality time with your best friend. Look into options for carpools to and from work, as well.

Some outlying suburbs have programs where you can park your car and ride the bus into the city. See what is available where you live and how much you can save in the course of a year. While you may not save a lot of money after paying for bus fare, you’ll be saving the environment for future generations and that is worth more than cash.

Making small changes now will pay off big in the long run. Start using these tips today and you’ll be on the road to getting the best gas mileage possible.


Kayla Matthews is a health and wellness blogger who loves jogging, yoga and hiking. Follow Kayla on Google+ and Twitter to read all of her latest posts.



5/13/2015

I grew up in a family that would, in today's vernacular, be considered green. My parents were older and had lived in homes where their parents either made or grew everything they needed—and if they didn't or couldn't, they didn't need it! Throughout my childhood, we always did the same thing. My mom made most of my clothes, we recycled and reused as many things as we possibly could, and my dad planted a huge garden so we could can or freeze food. There were multiple fruit trees, livestock animals and plenty of family members with cows and chickens—in other words, we were very organic.

During my younger years, I remember complaining about all the work I was forced to do. I mean, what 10-year-old wants to get up at 7am on a Saturday morning to pick cucumbers and okra? And why did I need to know how to sew? Or crochet? Because of my irritation, I begrudgingly worked and didn't learn nearly as much as I should have.

homemade dishcloth
My latest foray into "make my own"—crocheted dishcloth. Photo by Amy Greene.

Fast forward to present day. After being married for almost 30 years and having four children, I can look back on those years fondly and with gratitude. Although I didn't learn what I could have or should have, I still learned enough to help make a strong start on our journey to becoming self-sufficient. Much of what I learned all those years ago—canning, freezing and dehydrating—have been put to good use during my adult life and our efforts toward having our own mini-farm.

One of my favorite things to do is walk out to my storage shelves and look at all the delicious canned goods, and realize that I made those. Yes, the grocery store might be convenient. Yes, it is hard work. But the satisfaction of seeing the finished product, and serving it to my family or giving it as gifts to friends, is worth more than any amount of money.

canned produce
Some of the canned produce from our garden—green beans and pickled peppers. Photo by Amy Greene.

I am now passing along my knowledge to my children—boys and girls alike. I want them to know how to preserve food they harvest from a garden; how to fix things themselves without immediately calling a repairman; how to make things from scratch whether it is food or clothes; in short, I want them to be self-sufficient. Right now, they sound about as enthusiastic as I did all those years ago, but at least, if they need the information at any point in the future, they will have it and be able to utilize should the time come.

I look forward to sharing this journey with you, my successes and my failures, the latter in hopes that you won't have to make the same mistakes. Be sure and leave any comments below—feedback is always great!


Amy GreeneAmy Greene is a wife, mother of four children and three dogs, and homesteader from North Carolina. She loves to learn about homesteading and self-sufficiency. Her family plants a large garden, preserves as much as possible, and has high hopes of someday fulfilling their wildest homesteading dreams!








4/29/2015

Many people dream of living off the grid and creating their own homestead that doesn’t depend on someone else. But, for those that attempt it, there are some serious hurdles that lie in front of them. For starters, you need to know how to grow some common food items, like vegetables and herbs. Here’s how to get it done.

small homestead
Photo by Fotolia

Have a Backup Plan

First things first: There are times when food will be scarce. If you’ve never been a farmer before, be prepared for these times by keeping emergency food stocked in your pantry. You will want something that’s high-quality, ready to eat, and can be prepared with a minimum amount of fuss at a moment’s notice.

There’s nothing worse than not having any crops to harvest, no chickens to slaughter, and no eggs to eat. A food backup plan will help prevent starvation in dire times.

Be Willing to Learn From Experience

Homesteading and farming are trial and error sorts of gigs, so be prepared to learn from experience. The land that you tend will be slightly different depending on your location, and other farmers’ experiences may or may not help you, but basic guidance will.

If you choose to raise livestock, your animals will inevitably get sick and you may not know how to treat them. You could read in a book how to treat cows that are sick, in a book, but that won’t help you in the field the first time you see it. You may end up losing livestock. If you’re not comfortable with that, this might not be the right lifestyle for you.

Work with Someone Who’s Already Doing It

Of course, you don’t have to learn everything the hard way. You should learn from other farmers as much as you can. Consider working on a farm before you decide to start your own, even if all you’re planning on is starting a hobby farm.

Farmers possess skills that have taken them a lifetime to learn. Some of these skills were passed down from generations and knowledge like that can’t be found in any book. For example, how do you care for cows that live on pasture but end up being milked inside, on a concrete floor? Will their hooves crack? How do you prevent that from happening? You can pasteurize the milk, but what if you want to drink it raw? How do you go about this safely?

Farmers have been doing these very things for hundreds of years. But if you don’t know the proper techniques and sanitation practices, you could make yourself and your family deathly ill.

What about tending a vegetable garden? What should you do to keep it from failing? There are tricks with fertilizer, but beyond that, what can you do? A farmer can teach you how to properly rotate crops, use cover crops,  and if your farm is big enough, how to leave fields fallow and then make them productive again.

Do What You Can, When You Can

Don’t feel overwhelmed. There’s a lot to learn when it comes to homesteading. What you need to do is get comfortable with the idea of living off the land, on your own productive efforts, possibly get used to living without electricity or with reduced electricity, and how to dig your own well for water.

You may want bees, chickens, cows, horses, and all manner of animals, but you can’t just jump into all of it without knowing what you’re doing —not without making very expensive mistakes. Take it slow. Start with a small number of chickens, for example. Then, when you get the hang of them, being learning about beekeeping or how to take care of larger livestock animals. Keep building on that foundation until you’ve built yourself a self-sustaining farm.

What Kind of Lifestyle Do You Value?

At the end of the day, cultivating a lifestyle is what it’s all about. Being a homesteader isn’t for everyone. You have to be the kind of self-reliant individual who never gives up, doesn’t like depending on others, doesn’t care for authority figures telling them what to do, and you must be motivated enough to stick with it when things get tough—and they will.

Sometimes, the land doesn’t cooperate, your plants die, or you don’t get the harvest you thought you would for any number of reasons.

It can sometimes be a spartan lifestyle. Other times, you’re swimming in food that has to be processed quickly. If you’ve never grown up on or around a farm, it can be a challenging and, at times, frustrating experience. Tenacity is a character trait that all homesteaders have.


Allen Baler is a partner at 4Patriots LLC, a Tennessee based small business that provides products to help people be more self-reliant and more independent.  He resides in Nashville with his wife and 3 daughters.



4/27/2015

Earth lovers know that summer is one of the best times to revel in nature. Cultivate a bright, cheery and unique garden in your own backyard. There’s only one catch: What happens when your colorful plants stop blooming?

Whether you’re a green thumb or not, it’s easy to ensure that your backyard oasis stays as beautiful as you envision for the entirety of summer. Read on to learn more about seven flowers that will keep their color all season long. After that, all you have left to do is grab a glass of lemonade, your favorite book and relax among the cheery garden you’ve cultivated yourself.

Hibiscus
Photo via PlantDelights.com

1. Perennial Hibiscus

If you’re looking to make a big statement this summer, look no further than a perennial hibiscus. Their blooms measure up to 1 foot wide, so it’s no surprise that their stems reach anywhere from 2 to 8 feet in height. All they ask for is regular sunlight and lots of water in return.

Shasta Daisies
Photo via Monrovia.com

2. Shasta Daisies

The Becky Shasta Daisy looks small and fragile, but don’t be fooled: They’re extremely durable and long-lasting perennials. They burst forth with crisp white petals in June and stick around until July. They’re also a great option for dry areas, as they’re drought-resistant.

wavy purple petunia
Photo via GlacialRidgeGrowers.com

3. Wavy Petunias

Get creative with the purple wave petunia: Unlike many other flowers on the list, this one grows downward, upward and out, like a vine. That makes it an ideal addition to your next hanging basket.

lavender flowers
Photo by GraphicStock.com

4. Lovely Lavender

We all know that lavender smells great, but it looks beautiful, too. It’s got woody stems, which means that it’s technically a shrub, but all we can see are its light purple flowers. Butterflies will stop by your garden more often with lavender around, too.

Blue Sea Holly
Photo via Paghat.com

5. Sea Holly

The sea holly might not be as pretty as some of the other plants on this list, but, boy, is it interesting to look at. Its spiky leaves and thistle-like center provide great contrast to traditional blossoms, whether they’re sprouting in your garden or sitting in a vase on your kitchen counter top.

Marigold
Photo via Almanac.com

6. Marigold

Did you ever put marigold seeds in a cup and give the small sprouts to your mom as a Mother’s Day gift? If so, you gave her a long-lasting addition to her garden. These bright orange or yellow blooms add pep to any garden bed. They also come with a distinct smell that’s been known to keep otherwise hungry pests at bay. Now, you can really enjoy your garden for the whole season!

candytuft
Photo via FineGardening.com

7. Evergreen Candytuft

The evergreen candytuft is particularly beautiful in summer, when its whitish blooms emerge. Despite the fact that the flowers will wilt come fall, you’ll be able to enjoy your evergreen candytuft year-round; they hold onto their dark green leaves no matter what season it is.


Alicia is a kombucha-sipping writer who focuses on healthy and sustainable living via her family blog, Homey Improvements. She was born and raised in Alaska and dabbles in PR, Pilates, and is a princess for hire for kid’s parties.



4/22/2015

Every year, nearly 2 million deaths occur from contaminated food or water sources and there are more than 200 diseases that can result. Some of these harmful bacteria, parasites and viruses are more dangerous than others. Many cases of foodborne illness will clear up on their own within 48 hours, but for more serious cases medical attention and a round of antibiotics or other medications may be necessary to help eliminate your symptoms. Although you may be feeling unwell, don’t jeopardize your health further by not asking your health care provider some very important questions about the medicine(s) you’re being prescribed.

Prescription drugs 

Aside from knowing how and when to take your medicine, there are a few more pressing questions you may not always think to ask.

1. Are there any side effects? If so, what are they and how likely is it that they’ll occur?
All medications can cause a host of unwanted side effects, from dizziness and nausea to more serious problems such as blood clots. By asking these questions you will know what to expect. You’ll also have a better idea whether what you’re experiencing is normal, and should you have any unexplained reactions your doctor can treat them accordingly.

2. Can I take herbal remedies with this medicine?
Certain herbs, although natural, contain chemical compounds that act similarly or in opposition to those found in prescribed medications. If combined, herbal remedies and prescription drugs may result in unwanted, and potentially harmful, side effects. The only way to know whether your current medications—natural, over-the-counter or otherwise—are going to affect your new prescription is to ask.

3. Have there been any recalls?
The FDA has noted that if a drug lands on the recall list there is “reasonable probability” that it will cause serious adverse effects, including death. The good news: If you’ve recently been given a recalled prescription, most pharmacies have a return/refund policy.

Don’t forget about properly disposing of unused or expired medications! For more tips on safely handling prescription drugs check out the infographic below.

Safely Handle Medication
Courtesy recallcenter.com


Ashley Houk is the web editor for Mother Earth Living. When she’s not producing online content, she’s probably reading or writing blog posts of her own. Find her on and .



4/9/2015

April 22, 2015, will mark the 45th anniversary of Earth Day’s founding. Rachel Carson’s 1962 work Silent Spring, which exposed the harmful effects of chemical pesticides on the environment, fueled a growing momentum of environmental rights activists and preservationists concerned about the plight of earth’s natural resources.

In 1969, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson brought voice and vision to a grassroots environmental awareness movement that would become Earth Day. “Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation’s campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam,” noted a November 30, 1969, New York Times story.

And yet, clear cutting of forest land continues. The burning of fossil fuels has not let up. Millions of gallons of oil have entered our waterways. The timeline shown here is evidence enough that successes and setbacks continue to be a part of this environmental story.

Earth Day shouldn’t be a one-day commemoration. Think of Earth Day as a continuing conversation of environmental stewardship, a core value of the curriculum at Vermont Law School. It’s your turn to lead. What will you say and do to positively impact our environment?

Earth Day Graphic 


Miles YoungMiles Young is a freelance writer, designer and outdoorsman. He’s worked as a roof contractor and part-time engine mechanic. He spends his free time fishing and tinkering in his garage. You can follow him on Twitter @MrMilesYoung.



3/30/2015

Good sleep is key to good health. Yet educated people of all ages and backgrounds all over the world suffer from lack of quality sleep because their minds won’t shut down at night.  In order to retrain the body to sleep when you want it to sleep & reclaim your natural birthright to renew at night, sync with this simple and fun 11 step Ayurveda Healthy Lifestyle ritual.

Floracopeia aromatherapy oils

1. If you want to be in bed slumbering sweetly at 10PM, wake up and get out of bed no later than 6am.  Vata time is 2-6 am/pm, Kapha time is 6-10am/pm, and Pitta time is 10-2am/pm. If you wake up in the Vata time you will feel more energized, whereas if you sleep into the Kapha hours you will have a harder time waking up.

2. Drink a maximum of two (2) caffeinated beverage no later than 2pm and that is all for the day. Consuming caffeine such coffee or tea late in the day is a direct request to your mind/body to stay up all night. If you need more energy in the afternoon, have a little chocolate and a peppermint tea and move on to the next step.

3. Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. We need to get our heart rates up, sweat, and use our muscles every day! I like to lift weights three times a week and do something like hike, cycle, jog, or swim daily. Find something you enjoy and stick to it or switch up if you get bored easily. If you exercise during your lunch break, chances are you will not be tired at 3pm.

4. Get a little sunshine. Our eyes need natural sunlight. Synthetic indoor lighting and wearing sunglasses outside confuses our body’s biological clock. Our body wants to know, “When should I sleep?” So get some sunlight in the early morning and again in the evening when you can skip the shades.

5. Wind down. Don’t do anything aggressive after the sun sets if you want a good night’s sleep. The setting sun is our queue to wind down. Make yourself a nice cup of relaxing herbal tea (chamomile, licorice, skullcap, valerian), turn off all technology and settle in.

6. Practice PM Yoga. Gentle moon salutations, forward folds, shoulder stands, and twists are a delicious way to unwind and prepare your body and mind for a good night of rest. Ask your body what it needs and how it wants to be stretched. Observe. Listen. Do.

7. Cleanse and oil your feet. At night, after I wash my face, brush my teeth and floss, I wash my feet and oil them. Washing and oiling the feet tells the mind, “The day is done. We are going to sleep now.” Use warm water and a gentle soap if needed. Towel dry. Now oil your fee: Take time to rub your arches, heels, and ankles. I use a coconut oil with Brahmi in summer and in winter I use sesame oil with Brahmi. Massage your hands, neck and head too. Your nervous system is beginning to get the idea that it is time for bed.

8. It’s not dark enough. If you live in the city or near street lights, hang dark curtains or a tapestry to make it extra dark; or buy a silk sleep mask.9. Add white noise. Introduce white noise into your sleep environment so you aren’t jumping at every new sound. I find the hum of a small fan is the perfect background noise for sleeping.

10. Add a few drops of aromatherapy. Once in bed, in the dark, with your white noise and clean, well-oiled feet, place a few drops of a very pure essential oil onto your wrists and on your third eye. I like Floracopeia Lavender, Blue Chamomile and Bulgarian Rose. I keep them next to my bed on a nightstand for easy access.

11. Review your day. Go through the day methodically inhaling the delicious aroma you selected. Focus on the things you are grateful for, congratulating yourself on all you accomplished. This works better than counting sheep. Feel yourself drifting ... zzzzzz.


Shar VedaShar Veda is an Ayurveda Lifestyle Counselor & Health Educator, Yoga Therapist, and herbalist living in Ashland, Oregon. She works with at-risk teenage girls and offers compassionate health and lifestyle counseling anywhere in the world via Skype or the good, old-fashioned telephone. Shar has had the great gift of studying with leading teachers in Ayurveda, Yoga, and herbalism for nearly 20 years. However, it was her adopted grandma, Doe (English-American and Blackfoot Native), who instilled within her profound appreciation for the supreme power of loving touch, healing arts, and world family. Visit her website for a video, full bio and photos, or find her on Facebook!





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