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Recycle Sponges in Potted Plants

December 3rd, 2009 Idelle Posted in Green Tips No Comments »

Recycle your old sponges in your potted plants. Especially good for keeping outdoor soil pots moist, old cellulose sponges make the perfect bottom component of planted pots.

1. Rinse the old sponge throughly to remove any soap residue.

2. Cut sponge to fit into plant pot, place in pot, then cover with potting soil, and add plant(s) and top off with soil. Compress soil gently with hands.

3. Water in!

The great thing about sponges is that they will absorb and hold excess water and slowly release it to the soil – so it essentially create a home made self-watering pot. The sponges also hold dirt in (for those pots with larger drainage holes).  Plus, now you finally have something to do with your old sponges!

Batteries Not Included

March 5th, 2009 Idelle Posted in Good Environmental News, Green Tips No Comments »

Solar ToyThis is a neat toy – and also a good learning tool – a jumping frog toy that runs on solar power. The kit teaches about solar energy through the assembly of the solar cell, plastic body, gears and parts.

Check out this solar frog toy plus other solar toys & lights at:

Clover in Lawns

May 28th, 2008 Idelle Posted in Green Tips No Comments »

Clover is good for lawns. Really. It is considered by some to be a weed, but the reality is that clover is good for the soil as it’s roots slowly release nitrogen. If you’ve seen a lawn with clover patches in it, you’ll notice that the grass is always greener near the clover.

So don’t think of clover as a weed – consider it the perfect lawn addition. Green, drought-tolerant and pest-free, a clover filled lawn will require less cutting, little watering and no feeding, unlike traditional turf. This means less work and fewer chemicals.

A word of warning about weed killers (herbicides) including those from Scotts, Ortho, RoundUp and others – they kill clover, flowers, vegetables, and even can harm trees – they are not selective in their destruction. Herbicides are popular because they work well at the outset. They do the job and kill target plants. However, they can also kill and maim non-target plants and animals, and can have undesirable long-term impacts. So it’s not a good idea in the long run – I dig out dandelions before they go to seed, and that seems to do the trick just fine. Don’t forget, it’s a good workout, too!

Using Rechargeable Batteries

March 14th, 2008 Idelle Posted in Green Tips No Comments »

I use rechargeable batteries in all my appliances. Who wants to throw away battery after battery? I use NiMH rechargeable batteries in our wall clocks, my wireless keyboard, our digital cameras, and any other battery powered electronics. I find it strange that disposable batteries are still so popular and have the widest selection, while the rechargeable selection is limited, and it’s difficult to find rechargeable C and D batteries and chargers in many stores. I figured everyone would like to save money and the hassle of buying new batteries all the time. You use a rechargeable battery for years whereas you use a disposable battery only once. So over the years (and with millions of other people doing the same), using disposable batteries equals a LOT of batteries in the landfill.

Ni-Cads or nickel cadmium provide adequate energy however; the disposal is more hazardous to the environment because of toxic metals. The best rechargeable batteries are (NiMH) or nickel metal hydride. They perform well and are less toxic to the environment. Rechargeable NIMH are actually better than Alkaline disposables for high drain applications such as in digital cameras, as they last much longer on a single charge and don’t have to be discarded after a single use.

Rechargeable batteries will save money: According to Real Goods, throwaway batteries cost $0.10 per hour to operate, if you figure in energy and replacement costs. In contrast, rechargeable batteries cost only $0.001 per hour. Real Goods recommends nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeables, which contain no toxic metals, unlike rechargeable alkalines, and offer almost twice the capacity per cell compared to nicad rechargeables.

Go one step further to encourage the green energy future and buy a solar battery charger. Except — I have yet to find a good one that stops charging when the batteries are full, or switches to a trickle charge. I don’t want to accidently overcharge my batteries. Anyone know of any?

Here a good (plug-in) universal charger and conditioner that I use for several battery types: Visit

This site also sells rechargeable batteries if there are sizes you are having a hard time finding.

A couple other tips:

Keep charged batteries charged while storing: NiMH and Nicad batteries start to lose power when stored for only a few days at room temperature. But they will retain a 90% charge for several months if you keep them in the freezer after they are fully charged. Store your charged NiMH cells in the freezer or refrigerator and keep them in tightly sealed bags so they stay dry. Let them return to room temperature before using them.

NiMH Rechargeable Battery Disposal: NiMH batteries are 100% recyclable and use no toxic materials (lead, cadmium, or lithium), making them the only rechargeable battery that can be legally disposed of in a landfill. However — it is still recommended to recycled them – check out this website for battery recycling in your area: h

I’ve pulled an excerpt of what is recommended when buying rechargeable batteries and their chargers.

Rechargeable Batteries: What to Do, in Brief

If you want to cut to the chase and keep it simple, then do these three things:

1. Buy a battery charger that has these five features (In order of importance.):

(a) Charges NiMH batteries, or better still, charges both NiMH batteries and NiCd batteries. Almost all chargers sold today charge NiMH batteries, but check to make sure, especially if you are buying a used charger. All chargers designed to charge NiMH batteries are perfectly compatible with the new LSD NiMH batteries, described in the introduction.

(b) Has an optional discharge cycle, more commonly called a reconditioning cycle. For reasons why, see #3 below.

(c) Switches to a trickle charge or shuts off or automatically after the batteries are charged. This prevents you from over cooking your batteries and dramatically shortening their life.

(d) Charges each battery individually. Many chargers only charge batteries in pairs. That works OK if you use batteries only in pairs. But wall clocks and some remote controls use only one battery. Some flashlights use one, three, or five batteries. Additionally, you will find in time that supposedly identical rechargeable batteries differ slightly in their capacity. Allowing each battery to recondition and recharge individually assures that each battery will last as long as it can. More importantly, if a rechargeable battery goes bad, and if your charger charges each battery individually, it can tell you precisely which battery is the bad one.

(e) Automatically switches from recondition mode to recharge mode, without requiring you to go to the charger to flip a switch half-way through the process. This is a tremendous convenience. Without this feature you will find yourself either repeatedly going to the charger to see when you can start the charging process, or you will forget to switch to the charging process and not have charged batteries when you want them. Worse still, you may get frustrated by the reconditioning cycle, stop reconditioning your batteries, and thus shorten the life of your batteries.

Paperless Marketing – Email Newsletters

February 21st, 2008 Idelle Posted in Green Graphic Design, Green Tips No Comments »

The web has opened up a large selection of new paperless marketing methods that not only save trees and resources, they also save you money! It costs anywhere from 40 cents to several dollars to physically mail out printed pieces to your client – and most likely it will end up in the trash (or, ideally, in the recycle bin). Today, more than ever, businesses have the ability to send out beautiful email marketing pieces that never waste one sheet of paper — and cost less than a penny per customer to send.

Email Newsletters have become a mainstream way for companies to advertise their products, events and news. Email clubs have become popular with customers, who love to sign up with their favorite stores and restaurants so that they can get exclusive “member only” discounts and invites to special events. Email Newsletter software has also come a long way — businesses can now track to see how many people opened their emails, what they clicked on, and can even test to see what email Subjects perform best (such as “Free Wine Tasting Tonight” versus “Wine Tasting Tonight”).

IJDesign offers full service email marketing so that you can collect members on your website through simple signup forms, and then send them colorful, designed emails that will get their attention and drive traffic to your website or store/restaurant. Contact Idelle at 720.260.3541 to discuss email newsletter marketing.

Houseplants Help Clean Indoor Air

January 25th, 2008 Idelle Posted in Green Tips No Comments »


By: Deborah L. Brown
Extension Horticulturist

English IvyOur space program has led the way to a fascinating and important discovery about the role of houseplants indoors. NASA has been researching methods of cleansing the atmosphere in future space stations to keep them fit for human habitation over extended periods of time. They’ve found that many common houseplants and blooming potted plants help fight pollution indoors. They’re reportedly able to scrub significant amounts of harmful gases out of the air, through the everyday processes of photosynthesis. Some pollutants are also absorbed and rendered harmless in the soil.

Plant physiologists already knew that plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen as part of the photosynthetic process. Now researchers have found many common houseplants absorb benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene, as well.

Chances are, all houseplants are beneficial in this regard, at least to a certain degree, though they haven’t all been tested. Of those tested, not all have proven equally efficient cleaners. Nor can we assume all harmful pollutants can be removed in this manner.

Some houseplants are better at removing formaldehyde from the air, while others do a better job on benzene; none is much help when it comes to tobacco smoke. But there are enough known plants that do a good job of removing pollutants from the air we breathe to cause us to view houseplants as more than just an attractive feature in decorating the interior environment.

These are three of the worst offenders found in relatively new homes and offices. Newer buildings are constructed largely with man-made building materials and furnished with synthetic carpeting, fabrics, laminated counters, plastic coated wallpaper, and other materials known to “off-gas” pollutants into the interior environment.

The advent of the “energy crisis” a number of years back has increased the problems associated with indoor pollutants. Newly constructed buildings are better insulated and sealed tightly to conserve heat or air-conditioning. While it does save both money and energy, this new found efficiency has its downside in that pollutants may be trapped indoors and have less opportunity to dissipate to the outside. The phrase coined to describe this unfortunate result is “sick building syndrome.”

If your home is old enough to be leaky and drafty, you may not need to worry about “sick-building syndrome.” But if you live in a newer, energy-efficient home with windows and doors tightly sealed, or you work in a building where the air feels stale and circulation seems poor, the liberal use of houseplants seems like an easy way to help make a dent in the problem.

NASA scientists studied nineteen different plant species for two years. Of the specimens studied, only two were primarily flowering plants; chrysanthemums and gerbera daisies. Though commonly used to bring a touch of color indoors, particularly for holidays and special occasions, these plants are generally not kept indoors very long. After they’re through blooming they’re usually discarded or planted outdoors.

Most of the plants tested are “true” houseplants, kept indoors year-round in our climate, though they may be placed outdoors during warm summer months. One is the common succulent, Aloe vera (now renamed Aloe barbadensis), also known as “medicine plant.” Many people already have one in a bright kitchen window because of the soothing, healing properties its viscous inner tissue has on burns, bites and skin irritations.

Most of the plants listed below evolved in tropical or sub-tropical forests, where they received light filtered through the branches of taller trees. Because of this, their leaf composition allows them to photosynthesize efficiently under relatively low light conditions, which in turn allows them to process gasses in the air efficiently.

Soil and roots were also found to play an important role in removing air-borne pollutants. Micro-organisms in the soil become more adept at using trace amounts of these materials as a food source, as they were exposed to them for longer periods of time. Their effectiveness is increased if lower leaves that cover the soil surface are removed, so there is as much soil contact with the air as possible.

Best results were obtained with small fans that pulled air through a charcoal filter in the soil, cleaning more than foliage could alone or in combination with a “passive” pot of soil. Even without the fan and filter, however, houseplants did remove trace pollutants from the air.

The NASA studies generated the recommendation that you use 15 to 18 good-sized houseplants in 6 to 8-inch diameter containers to improve air quality in an average 1,800 square foot house. The more vigorously they grow, the better job they’ll do for you.

With the exception of dwarf banana, a fairly unusual plant in this area, the bulk of the list of plants NASA tested reads like a “Who’s Who” of the interior plant world. They are:

* Hedera helix English ivy
* Chlorophytum comosum spider plant
* Epipiremnum aureum golden pothos
* Spathiphyllum `Mauna Loa’ peace lily
* Aglaonema modestum Chinese evergreen
* Chamaedorea sefritzii bamboo or reed palm
* Sansevieria trifasciata snake plant
* Philodendron scandens `oxycardium’ heartleaf philodendron
* Philodendron selloum selloum philodendron
* Philodendron domesticum elephant ear philodendron
* Dracaena marginata red-edged dracaena
* Dracaena fragrans `Massangeana’ cornstalk dracaena
* Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig’ Janet Craig dracaena
* Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii’ Warneck dracaena
* Ficus benjamina weeping fig

(Information taken from the NASA report Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement, September 1989, by Dr. B.C. Wolverton, Anne Johnson, and Keith Bounds, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, John C. Stennis Space Center, Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000.)