Little (or big) green houses for you & me!

Green building and remodeling offer opportunities to save energy, cut greenhouse gas emissions, conserve natural resourses, improve air and water quality, and reduce waste. If all buildings in the U.S. met leading green building standards, national energy use and global warming emissions would drop by 10%. Here are a couple of books that can help you make your home green.

building-green.jpgIf you are considering building a small new home, take a look at Building Green: A Complete How-To Guide to Alternative Building Methods: Earth Plaster, Straw Bale, Cordwood, Cob, Living Roofs. The book starts with building fundamentals, has a short course on design, and then moves to hands-on building. It has lots of great color photographs that made me yearn for that straw bale house I’ve been dreaming of for years. It should be noted that the plans in this book are for a guest house, but the techniques could undoubtedly be used for larger construction.

Thinking about doing some remodeling and want to make your green-remodeling.jpghome a little more eco-friendly? Green Remodeling is a good place to start. This book covers a wide range of topics such as reducing home energy use, selecting nontoxic products, saving water, and supporting the environment through the use of products that support responsible manufacturing and the sustainable harvesting of natural resources. Projects have step-by-step guides as well as detailed pictures and drawings. Even if you aren’t planning a do it yourself remodel, this book can serve as starting point for going green in your home.

Plant a Tree

Set aside to celebrate trees, National Arbor Day has been observed since 1872. In most states it is observed on the last Friday in April, usually a good time of year to plant throughout most of the country, and it is a state holiday in Nebraska where the founder of Arbor Day, J. Sterling Morton, was born.

Best Trees for Your GardenTrees add tremendous value to your home – they shade your house in the summer (cutting your air conditioning bills), they add oxygen to the air (significantly reducing pollution) and they add beauty in every season. Planting a tree is simple really – just make sure you put the root end in the ground! – but there are a few points you should keep in mind.

-Take some time to pick the right tree for your yard. Think about how big your choice will be when it’s mature. White oaks and sugar maples are magnificent trees, but are they really appropriate for the average suburban plot? Take a look at Best Trees for Your Garden by Allen Paterson which can help you choose from one of the many beautiful small to medium trees that are available.

-Choose the right tree for the right spot. Some prefer some shade, some need full sun. If it’s a flowering tree, will it bloom reliably in our cold springs? Does it require special care, or have problems with pests and diseases? Growing Shrubs and Small Trees in Cold Climates by Nancy Rose is an excellent source for answering these questions and more including planting for wildlife, how to prune and recommendations of best varieties to grow.Growing Shrubs and Trees in Cold Climates

-The number one reason that trees fail to live is improper planting. The number one cause of improper planting is planting the tree too deeply. Do not plant your tree too deeply. Do not pile mulch up around the trunk of the tree. These practices will slowly but surely kill your tree. Remember how you drew a tree when you were a little kid? You probably drew a straight trunk and where it met the ground, you’d draw slanting lines to indicate the roots. That’s called the tree “flare”. You need to plant your new tree so that this shows above ground – just like in your drawing!

Check out the Iowa State University Forestry Extension for lots of tips and information on the best trees to plant in Iowa and how to plant them. Also, try calling the Scott County Extension office at 359-7577 where the Hort Clinic, staffed by Master Gardeners, will answer your tree and gardening questions.

How Does Your Building Grow?

Green Roofs and Living WallsWith the growing concern for the environment and its health, the relatively new (to the United States) practice of installing plants on roofs and walls is beginning to take off. Called green roofs, they provide several environmental benefits including:

-reducing pollution and water run-off

-insulating against heat and cold

-reducing the maintenance needs of buildings

You can see examples of green roofs in action right here in Davenport, including the new Davenport Police Department and and a demonstration garden on the roof of the pump station (located near the fountain) at Vander Veer Botanical Park. Pictures and descriptions of these roofs and others throughout Iowa can be found at Iowa Life Changing, a division of the Iowa Department of Economic Development.

To read up on how to add a green roof to your property, including how to install it and what to plant as well as lots of examples of successful green roofs, check out Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls by Nigel Dunnett, and Noel Kingsbury.

Green Garden Tips

Black-eyed susansGoing green in the garden (so to speak) isn’t hard, and you’ll save money as well. Try one or more of the following:

1. Reduce your lawn. Keeping that putting-green-worthy swath of grass pristine takes more water and fertilizer than any other area of your yard.

2. Mow what lawn you do have less often. Because they are unregulated, gas-powered lawn mowers emit more pollution than driving your car to work. Plus, it’s better for the grass if it’s kept a little long.

3. Plant natives. They are better adapted to our unique climate, more resistant to diseases and pests and they help support native wildlife. For information on what to plant, take a look at Native Plants in the Home Landscape: Upper Midwest by Keith Nowakowski or Easy Care Native Plants by Patricia Taylor.

4. Don’t use herbicides or pesticides in your garden. Most plants need little or no fertilizer. And unless you are visited by a plague of locusts, most insect damage is relatively minor. Plus, pesticides will also kill the “good” bugs and are hazardous to the birds which, if left alone, will often take care of the “bad” bugs. If you must use chemicals, use the absolute minimum amount. Runoff from overuse of herbicides and pesticides used in home gardens is a serious threat to local water sources.

5. Mulch your flower and vegetable beds to conserve water and improve the soil. Use chopped leaves from your yard or take advantage of Davenport’s compost program; they sell finished compost by the bag or by the truckload.

6. Go organic. It’s easy, fun and it’ll save you money. Not to mention the planet.

Green Tips for Earth Day and Beyond

EarthHere are some small changes that will not only reduce your ecological footprint, but may even save you money and help you live a happier, healthier life!

1. Bring your own bags when shopping. An average American family acquires 60 plastic bags per week and rarely reuses them.

2. Buy local. Produce at a local farmer’s market may be more expensive, but you are almost always guaranteed a high quality product. Buying goods produced locally reduces the fossil fuels needed to transport items across the country and around the globe. Do you really need to eat that banana from Central America?

3. Green your coffee habit. Each year Americans throw away 138 billion straws and stirrers, 110 billion cups, and 58 billion plastic utensils. Many coffee shops give a discount if you bring your own receptacle, so buy a couple of mugs and keep one in your car.

4. Yes you can drive 55! Slowing down really does save gas. For every mile per hour faster than 55 mph, fuel economy drops by 1%. The drop-off increases at a greater rate after 65 mph. Also to remember to keep your tires inflated to the correct air pressure.

5. Stop buying bottled water. Consider buying a reusable container and drinking tap water. Bottled water is an incredibly wasteful product. It is usually packaged in single serving bottles made of fossil fuels. It then travels miles to its destination using more energy. The Earth Policy Institute estimates that the bottled water industry consumes the equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil annually, the same as having 3 million additional cars on the road.

For more ways to go green at home, check out Easy Green Living: the Ultimate Guide to Simple, Eco-Friendly Choices for You and Your Home by Renee Loux for lots of tips and ideas and which urges you to start with small steps that anyone can accomplish. Earth Day is for everyone, every day.

What’s Your Favorite “Green”Book ?

Broken Kettle Grassland, IowaVote for the novel with an environmental or nature theme that affected you the most – by adding a comment below. Some ideas to get you started:

Sick Puppy by Carl Hiaasen (or any Hiaasen book)

The Appeal by John Grisham (ditto)

Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver

The Postman by David Brin

State of Fear by Michael Crichton

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

The Day After Tomorrow by Whitley Strieber

The Talking Earth by Jean Craighead George

Vote through Sunday, April 27th. We’ll let you know the winner next week.

National Hanging Out Day

The Clothesline

clothes·line [ klṓz ln, klṓz ln ]
noun (plural clothes·lines)
Definition: line for hanging laundry: a cord on which clean laundry is hung to dry,usually outdoors.

It is a simple word that is causing much discussion these days. The act of hanging out clothes in the fresh air brings back many memories for me. Days with my grandmother and mother, the smell of fresh sheets on the bed at night. I still hang out my clothes, rarely using a dryer. I read an article in the New York Times about a year ago about clotheslines and how some areas, mostly new house subdivisions, have banned the use of clotheslines. The article led me to Project Laundry List where founder Alexander Lee gives the top reasons why you should hang out your clothes, the first and foremost being to save money – about $100 per year on electricity for most households. The organization has designated April 19th as National Hanging Out Day to encourage everyone to hang out their laundry and save energy.

There is a beautiful book on the subject, The Clothesline by Irene Rawlings and Andrea VanSteenhouse, which discusses the history of drying laundry, types of clotheslines, laundry rooms, laundry collectibles and clotheslines as art. The illustrations alone make it worth a look.

This is How it Happened by Jo Barrett

This is How it Happened by Jo BarrettSometimes the only way to get over a guy is through revenge. And the more painful the ending of a relationship, the more elaborate the revenge. Madelaine spent four years with Carlton, financing his education, creating the ideas and energy behind their business, devoting everything to their relationship. When he dumped (and fired) her the only thing she could think about was getting back at him. This is How it Happened by Jo Barrett will have you laughing out loud as Maddy experiments with poisoned brownies, voodoo spells and hiring a hitman. Don’t worry, no blood is spilled, but everyone gets their due in the very satisfying end.

What to Read Next…

booksLooking for that elusive next great book to read? I like to look at what’s popular with book clubs; the books they read are usually timely, well-written, thoughtful and provocative, all ingredients for a great read.

Reading Book Choices, a website that reviews books with an eye toward book clubs, has just released their list of the top book club books of 2007. Have you read any on this list? All of them? Would you recommend them to a friend? Any that were missed? Any you need to add to your to-read list?

1. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

2. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

3. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

4. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

5. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

6 TIE Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

6 TIE The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

7. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

8. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

10. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Don’t forget, the Davenport Library offers Bookclub in a Box, kits which include multiple copies of a single title, information on the author and sample questions to get your discussion started. They can be checked out for six weeks. We have more than 40 titles and we’re adding new ones all the time. Visit the library catalog and type in “bookclub in a box” for a complete listing.

Things I Learned from Knitting (Whether I Wanted to or Not) by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Things I Learned from Knitting (Whether I Wanted to or Not) by Stephanie Pearl-McPheeThis little book is filled with essays on life lessons, often learned the hard way, as shown through the craft and art of knitting. Things I Learned from Knitting is sharp and funny, written with a dry sense of humor and underlined with truth and generosity. Stephanie, a self-described knitting humorist and philosopher, has been a long-time presence on the internet with her very popular blog where she’s known as the Yarn Harlot.

Examples of Stephanie’s observations that are true in life as well as knitting include:

-Babys grow

-Beginning is easy, continuing is hard

-Everything is better so long as it’s happening to someone else

-Idle hands are the devil’s workshop

She also includes a list of the health benefits of knitting, what to do if the airline won’t let you fly with your knitting needles and 5 reasons why knitting is better than video games, all delivered with tongue firmly in cheek.

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