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Some thoughts on green living, renewable energy and how we can help preserve this plannet.

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Green Giant

 

Hardwood is one of the most popular flooring options. It is warm and natural looking, automatically adding some class to any room. Hardwood flooring can also last for decades if it is installed and maintained properly. Unfortunately life happens and it can get scratched ruining the look of the hardwood. These extensive scratches dont mean that you have to redo the entire floor though, there are a couple options available to restore the flooring to its original glory. Making these options even more enticing is the fact that restoring the floor is significantly less expensive than redoing the floor, whether hardwood or otherwise. But before you get started you need to determine the depth of the scratches to the floor. Whether they require buffing or sanding depends on the severity of the damages.

 

The difference lies in the work each requires. Sanding means that the polyurethane finish and some of the damaged wood needs to be sanded down and removed, while buffing just require the removal of the finish. If the scratches don't reach the wood beneath the finish, all you need to do in this case is to use a buffer on them and then apply a couple coats of finish to have them looking as good as new in no time at all. Needless to say, this would be ideal because buffing is significantly easier, less time consuming, and less expensive than sanding them down to the wood. Nevertheless, both practices follow the same steps.

 

Tools

The first thing you need to do is rent the proper tools, which can often be found at most tile stores and hardware centres. Depending on the extent of damages you'll want either a buffer or an orbital sander. Youll also want a high-quality vacuum that can clean up all of the dust that there will be left when you're done. After the floor is evened out you will need a finish to put on the wood to protect it. The water based polyurethane is a good option. It takes three hours to dry and might require a second coat. The finish should be reapplied every few years for continued maintenance, or when the floor begins to look worn. Oil based finishes are also available for a lower price, but take longer to dry.

 

Prep Work

Once you have all of your equipment the room needs to be cleared of furniture for the work to be completed. Then clean the floor with either specialty wood cleaning products, or a homemade mixture of one part vinegar to ten parts water. Dry the floor after with with a towel or soft mop.

 

Baby Steps

Begin the sanding the floor along the perimeter and corners of the room with a power hand sander loaded with 30-40 grit sandpaper. Four to six inches from the baseboard is typically fine.

 

The Main Event

At this point, if buffering, attach a buffing pad to the bottom of the buffer and be sure to use a dust mask to shield from the powder it will create. Begin the process at the side of the room furthest from the door. Move the buffer along the grain, overlapping each lap by a few inches. Itll be easy to keep track of what you've done by the dust created. Keep the machine running the entire time but stop occasionally to clean the pad. Be sure to buff the whole floor and not just the scratches to ensure that it will be even when you're done.

 

Follow the same steps if you are sanding them down more extensively with the orbital sander. You will do this over the course of three session with gradually lighter grit sandpaper. Begin with a coarse 30-40 grit, then a medium 50-60 grit, and finally a fine 80-100 grit. If the floor is rough after this, gently buff until it is smooth.

 

Clean Up

Let the dust settle for a little bit before bringing the vacuum and broom in to sweep up. Clean with the flow of the boards at first, then across them to get everyone you missed. Finish by using a micro fibre cloth to collect remaining particles.

 

Refinishing the Floors

Staining the wood is only necessary if you want to alter the colour of the wood. To do this apply it evenly along the edges of the floor are then use a roller to spread it evenly on the floor until achieving the desired depth of hue. Once it is dried, then apply the polyurethane in the same manner. Go with the grain and overlap each pass slightly. Continue like this until the floor is covered, and wait three more hours before recoating. Wait a couple days before moving the furniture back in.

Green Giant

 

Going green has been a huge trend in recent years as the next generation of tastemakers ramps up the pressure on manufacturers and governments to protect the environment and our health. In fact, going green isn’t so much of a trend as we think about it in terms of fashion – it’s often a total lifestyle revolution that lasts much longer than, say, the lifespan of the latest viral YouTube challenge.

 

Truly going green not only takes into account things like food and transportation, but also has means considering other aspects of your life, such as the very home you live in. Some people opt to dive right in, installing everything from the best solar panels to painting their walls only using eco-friendly brands. However, there are so many ways to go green that you can opt for baby-steps if you so choose. For instance, if you’re renovating your house, you can start by selecting certain areas of your house to go green first. Bathrooms are one place that can particularly benefit from becoming eco-friendly, given how much water expenditure is directly related to this area of your home. Here are a few tips to get you started.

 

Greener Renovations

If you want your bathroom to be eco-friendly, you should consider starting from the ground-up. There are plenty of ways to make the actual renovation process itself much more eco-friendly, with next to no additional effort.

 

Hire the experts

You can choose to hire professionals who specialize in ecofriendly renovations. From architects to contractors, there are many people offering to fill this particular market niche. Green professionals will know all the best environmentally-friendly and/or non-toxic brands of paints and other products. They’ll also be able to advise you on how to reduce your energy bills by recommending appropriate product choices and design ideas for your home. You can consult local and national directories to find accredited pros with proven credentials and recognized affiliations in your area.

 

Become an expert

You won’t become an architect overnight, but you’ll be better off in many ways by doing research on going green yourself. Focus on learning about things like government incentives and rebates. Conversations with your hired professionals will be a lot more productive and informative if you know what they’re talking about. You’ll also be able to articulate exactly what you’re looking for without leaving them to do guess-work. Many resources exist online, and you can even attend green trade shows and conferences. Alternatively, simply contacting your utility company for information on how to reduce your energy usage can be quite helpful as well.

 

Use clean, green materials

One of the more obvious steps to take when going green is to choose materials that in themselves are already made in a safe, environmentally-friendly manner. For instance, opt for linoleum over vinyl. This goes for everything from vinyl wallcoverings to shower curtains, because vinyl is the most damaging plastic to the environment.

 

On another note, you don’t want to skimp out when it comes to choosing non-toxic products over their toxic counterparts. These products will be certified by one or more environmental and/or governmental bodies, proving that they are all that they claim. Do your research to make sure that labels are not merely fluff, and that there is an actual rigorous certification procedure behind any given claim.

 

The reason why non-toxic bathroom materials are important is that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) release poisonous emissions into the air over time. These compounds become particularly concentrated indoors. Unfortunately, they are often found in glues and paints, fabrics, caulks, floorboards, carpets and more. Can you just imagine having a nice steamy shower as you inhale a lungful of VOCs? Going green is definitely the better choice when it comes to creating a non-toxic home environment.

 

Waste not…

There are plenty of people on the hunt for used materials to do their own home renovations at a lower cost. If you’ve just invested in some custom bathroom vanity cabinets made of sustainable forest wood, using non-toxic glues and paint or what have you, don’t just chuck the old ones onto the curb. Local donation centres are always happy to take on used items that can be put to use in someone else’s dream home. Just be sure to call in advance to see what items they will and won’t take, so that you don’t waste time hauling things across town!

 

Long-term Ecofriendliness

Beyond making the renovation process more ecofriendly, the key to having a green home is by maintaining it in a healthy and environmentally-friendly manner long after the contractors have left your place for the last time.

 

Reduce water waste

Install low-flow toilets, which are both functional and often come in beautiful designs. They can save you up to 7 gallons of water a flush. Dual-flush toilets are also a great option, and if you don’t want an entirely new toilet, you can opt for a dual flush converter for less than $25. It’ll take you less than ten minutes to install and can save you up to 55,000 litres of water per year. Given that toilets alone use up just over a quarter of all water in your home, this is something you’ll seriously want to think about when it comes to going green in the long run.

 

Similarly, low-flow showerheads will bring the average 5 to 8 gallons of water a minute down to 2.5 gallons, without you losing that water pressure you love. Some even come with built-in water filters, removing things like chlorine, which can have a drying effect on your hair and skin. This is another quick and easy fix that can help reduce your annual water bill.

 

Be energy efficient

Another easy upgrade you can make is to invest in LED light blubs, which can come in cold or warm tones. These will consume 80 percent less energy and can last up to five times longer than other types of bulbs out there. What’s not to love? Shop for them in terms of lumens instead of watts. If you’re partial to incandescent lights, “warm white” and “soft white” are popular colours which give you a very similar warm glow.

 

An energy-efficient fan is also a great way to bring down energy costs. Furthermore, a strong but silent fan can reduce the chance of mildew and mold growing in your new bathroom. This should make you jump for joy – not only does it bring down the time you spend scrubbing those grout lines, it reduces the chance of you suffering adverse health effects from breathing in nasty mold.

 

Are you convinced yet? Going green is definitely the better option when it comes to bathroom renovations. As you can see, there’s an option for everybody, so even a small budget doesn’t stand in your way of making small changes. Your health and the environment will thank you for doing your part!

 

 

 

 

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Green Giant

 

Summer is on the horizon, which is welcome news to many people across North America. It’s time to finalize vacation trips, organize camps for the kids, and open up cottages. It is a fun time of year, but can also be a costly one between the time off work and the expenses. But oddly enough, an easy way to save a little bit of cash can be done by making some small adjustments to the transportation that will be ushering you between all of these destinations. I am of course, talking about your car.

 

We all know that fuel and gas prices have steadily been on the rise for over a decade now, and with the amount of ground that we all cover over the course of the summer with our vehicles can add up. Because whether it's a road trip or driving to the cottage every weekend, it is easy to spend a small fortune on gas. Due to this it is important to do what you can to your car - from Ford Transit Connects down to two-seated convertibles - to do what you can to get the best gas mileage you can in order to keep a couple extra dollars in your wallet. Luckily, weve compiled a cheat sheet of quick and easy little things for you to do.

 

Oil Change

Oil is responsible for making sure that all the pieces within the engine run smoothly. It lubricates everything so that they can do their jobs easily, without any issues, and utilizing as little fuel as possible. Unfortunately oil gets old and becomes less effective as time goes on. It gets thicker, making it a less effective lubricant.

 

Essentially what this means is that more energy is expended making all of the parts of the engine operate because they become more difficult to move without effective lubrication. Meaning that more gas is expended. If oil goes unchanged for too long it can actually cause damage, and reduce the lifespan of the engine. It will become a sludge that serves as insulation for these parts, putting them at risk of overheating.

 

Making Your Car More Aerodynamic

This may seem like a very simple solution, but often the simplest ones are among the most effective. In the same way you want oil for your car that will make the engine parts run smoothly, you want a car that will pierce through the air with the least resistance. It is the same principle as before; the less resistance there is, the less energy is needed to make to car do the task. So a vehicle that pierces through the air is more fuel efficient than one that pushes through it.

 

Now, we arent suggesting you purchase a new car to achieve this, but there are some things you can do to make your current vehicle more aerodynamic. You can start by removing things that cause excess drag like storage bins or bike racks when they are not in use. Adjusting the angle of your mirrors and installing a side skirt will also help.

 

Overall Maintenance

It is important to stay up to date on your car maintenance as well. Efficient parts will equal fuel efficiency. It’s the little things that count, like pumping up your tires. Full tires will have less drag on the road than flat ones, improving gas mileage. You should also go to the mechanic at least once a year for an engine tune up. This will ensure that everything is working the way that it should be, as well as prevent any serious damage down the line. If for nothing else, it ensures that you and your loved ones are safe driving in the vehicle.

 

Driving Efficiently

When you're doing the actual driving, there are a lot of things that you can do to maximize gas mileage. You want to avoid excess idling for instance. If you are going to stop for more than a couple seconds, it makes more sense fuel-wise to turn off your car completely. It takes only 10 seconds worth of gas to restart the engine. You should also observe the speed limit to save some money. Acceleration and driving over 50 miles per hour both will expend excess fuel. Finally, dont shy away from cruise control. It will help you maintain a constant speed while also conserving gas.

Green Giant

 

Everybody knows that California is one of the biggest producers of agricultural products in North America. In fact, despite having been in a drought situation for five years in a row, the agriculture industry generated record revenues in 2014, and employments levels reached a record high.

 

But that’s short-term stuff. Experts and concerned voices of the general public have been asking what are the long-term effects of such a long drought? Despite the crisis having been officially declared at an end on April 7th, the legacy of California’s water crisis can already be felt across industries, from the agricultural sector to the state’s symbolic golf courses, as well as in both urban and rural areas. As a result, water conservation practices continue to play an important role in the state, as there is no doubt that there will be more droughts in store. It’s just a matter of when.

 

Drought agriculture

Despite the drought being declared “over”, the state’s ecological and economic future continue to remain at risk. Sustainability is a particular issue at hand. Record agricultural revenues and employment records invariably come at a cost when a region happens to be suffering from long-term drought. If the state has fared relatively well thus far, it is only because farmers have resorted to pumping up astounding amounts of groundwater – a practice that most certainly has a deadline drawn by Mother Nature.

 

Pumping groundwater has already caused visible effects across the state. Rural areas in particular have been hit hard as households that are dependent on wells have been left without water. Meanwhile, parts of the state have begun to sink at increasingly rapid rates from over pumping. Up to 18 native fish species and water-bird populations are also at risk of total extinction or decline.

 

All in all, it is clear that the agricultural sector’s attempt to thrive despite a drought has wreaked havoc on the environment. Unfortunately, a lack of data makes it difficult to propose regulations that could deal with disastrous over-pumping. Though the latest drought is technically over, if harmful watering practices continue, there may not even be a habitable California in the future for there to be a legacy left behind at all.

 

A culture of conservation

The frequency and duration of California’s droughts has led to the development of a culture of conservation in recent years. Regulations developed since the last disastrous drought have resulted in water conservation practices becoming the default behaviour of many Californians. Studies have conducted in order to identify how much energy is saved as a result of water conservation practices, in addition to evaluating the impact of conservation culture on municipal water treatment plant operations.  

 

This water conservation culture is extremely important given that rural and urban areas are often at risk of destruction due to wildfires. A disproportionately large number of wildfires have occurred in California over the drought years, permanently damaging the ecosystem and destroying lives in the process.

 

As such, conservation strategies also involve advocating for better forest management practices, which could potentially save lives and the ecosystem with proper execution. This includes both suppressing existing fires and preparing for potential fires in the off-season. That said, recent cuts to the Department of the Interior amount to $1.5 billion. Vaguely worded promises to responsibly budget the wildfire suppression program make it difficult to say just how this already underfunded initiative will be able to contribute to safeguarding California in a meaningful manner in the years to come.

 

Golfing goes green

The negative effect of droughts on California’s legacy can also be seen on the state’s iconic golfing greens. While dead grass is perhaps less important than a raging wildfire, the fact remains that golf courses have been an important part of the state’s identity. Continued droughts could do lasting harm to this particular aspect of Californian culture.

 

With Californian golf courses using close to 300 million gallons of water a year, there is no question as to why Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive 25 percent water reduction order across the state, with special attention given to golf courses. However, up to three-quarters of the state’s golf courses have been using high-tech, responsive sprinklers that are water-efficient for many years. Another one-third of golf courses are watered specifically only using reclaimed, non-potable water.

 

Unfortunately, a certain number of regions have been lackluster in their efforts to champion conservation culture. Some regions have implemented far more aggressive water-reduction measures than others, meaning that conservation efforts vary from golf course to golf course and that the burden is not shared equally.

 

Ultimately, golf greens will matter very little to California if the state continues to suffer from serious long-term droughts as it has over the past five years. No amount of water reduction orders or last-ditch efforts to pump out groundwater will be able to save the region if widespread agricultural practices don’t change and conservation efforts aren’t stepped up a notch. An increase in wildfires during drought periods will also continue to pose another major risk to Californian homes and businesses. It remains to be seen how President Trump’s new budgets will affect the current state of affairs – and just what will become of California’s legacy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green Giant

 

It’s a fundamental law of the universe (actually, the Second Law of Thermodynamics) that entropy increases over time in an isolated system – practically, this means that a system will only ever lose energy over time. This has fundamental consequences for your home: no matter what you do, you’re going to lose energy, and with energy bills rising, it’s as good a time as any to do a full energy audit on your property to see where you can make the most savings.

For example, a full energy audit can save you a huge amount off your heating bills each year: between 5 and 30 per cent, which can add up to a thousand dollars in winter. The idea is to do a series of tests that check the efficiency of your household heating and cooling systems, as well as check the overall efficiency of your home.

You can hire a professional to do this for you… or you can do it yourself. Here’s how.

 

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Checking Equipment

Your first job is to check your house’s heating and cooling equipment, which should be inspected annually, or as often as the manufacturer recommends. Check and replace filters in a forced air furnace about once every month or two – and if your unit is more than 15 years old, consider replacing it with a newer, energy-efficient unit. Ductwork should also be checked for dirt streaks, which may indicate air leaks, especially near seams. Seal these with duct mastic, and insulate any exposed pipes or ducts.

Next check the lighting, which can cost up to 10% of your electricity bill. You may wish to replace your light bulbs with the most efficient versions available, like compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light emitting diodes (LEDs). Also, try and reduce lighting use by using dimmers or timers. Similarly, try strategies to reduce your use of appliances and electronics, and aim for energy-efficient versions of these as well.

Checking for Leaks

Air leaks, also known as drafts, can be a huge issue and when sealed can save between 10 and 20 per cent of your energy per year. Leaks can occur both indoor and outdoor: for indoor leaks, check the wall and ceiling junctures and the gaps along the baseboard, and for outdoor leaks, prioritize areas where two different types of materials meet. Also consider windows and doors, as well as lighting and plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, and switches.

Leaks should be sealed where they are found, plugging or caulking for pipes, faucets, wiring, and electrical outlets. Seal cracks in mortar, foundation and siding with the appropriate material. However, it’s important to note that you should consider appropriate ventilation if you have a furnace that burns fuel (like propane, wood, or natural gas) – otherwise indoor air quality can suffer and might become dangerous, especially if exhaust fans pull combustion gases back into the living space, in what is known as a ‘backdraft’.

Checking Insulation

Losing heat through the walls and roof is often a consequence of insufficient insulation. Particularly if you have an older home, you may find that the insulation initially installed is not enough for your needs. Check that all openings for pipes and ducts in the attic are well sealed, that the attic vents aren’t blocked by insulation, and set up a vapour barrier under the attic insulation if one doesn’t exist already. A vapour barrier keeps moisture out; too much moisture reduces the effect of insulation and can damage your house’s structure, so consider using vapour barrier paint on interior ceilings in a pinch.

Wall insulation is trickier: ensure that your outlets are not receiving any electricity, and then remove a cover plate from one and probe the wall with a long thin implement. If you feel some resistance, then there is some insulation present. You may have to check in several areas to be satisfied that all of your walls are filled with insulating foam.

Conclusion

Once you have audited your property, you can start to make changes based on what you find – like ensuring that the walls are insulated, and making sure that all air leaks and drafts are sealed. You should start to see a noticeable difference in your energy bills, as well as a change in your comfort level once all those drafts have gone!

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