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Falling Water turns 75 – Green Architecture at its Finest, Decades Ahead of its Time

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

If you think that green architecture is something that has to be plain, simple and boring then you owe it to yourself to make the trip to the tiny Pennsylvania town of Ohiopyle this year to be proved wrong.

2011 marks the 75th anniversary of the construction of Falling Water, an architectural marvel dreamed up by a world famous architect and a department store millionaire that still stands today as one of the most breath taking examples of American architecture in general, and one that made the first use of some of the green building techniques that most of think are so innovative today.

In the 1930s Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann were the owners of one of the finest department store chains in the country Kaufmann’s in Pittsburgh (the flagship store was bought out by Macy’s a few years ago but still exists) Like many Steeltown residents, they loved to get out the city and into the countryside around them, in their case the Allegheny Mountains south of the city.

After years of living in a simple cabin and as their only child Edgar Jr got older, the couple decided they wanted to build a permanent vacation home. And since they has recently made his acquaintance they asked already legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright to build it for them.

And build it he did. His vision though was to create a home that while spectacular did not detract from the beauty of its surroundings but drew from them instead. And it did. Falling Water is built on top of an active waterfall which flows beneath the house.

The fireplace hearth in the living room integrates boulders found on the site and upon which the house was built and ledge rock which protrudes up to a foot through the living room floor was left in place to demonstrably link the outside with the inside.

Lloyd Wright sourced as many of his building materials locally as he could and his innovative use of stone and cork flooring throughout the house is one the first examples of “green flooring” in action in residential setting. When the home was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1939 it was hailed as an international sensation.

In 1978 a few years before his death Edgar Jr tried, in an interview, to sum up what his parents and Lloyd Wright had been trying to achieve. “In Fallingwater, Wright captured the perfect essence of our desire to live with nature, to dwell in a forested place and be at home in the natural world”.

It was the younger Wright who decreed that Falling Water be handed over to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. It is now open to the public and there are a number of camps and workshops available to those want to learn more about Falling Water and the principles behind it.

Green New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

New Year’s resolutions. We all make them but far too often we all break them within weeks as well. Mark Twain once wrote “ New Years Day – the accepted time to make your annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual” and for many of us that definitely strikes a chord.

One of the biggest problems is that in making New Year’s resolutions we set the bar too high. Here are a few eco friendly New Year’s resolutions that you can make that should not be so hard to keep, but will make a difference to your life and that of the environment around you:

I Will Kick the Clutter Habit – While you are finding spots for all the new goodies you got for Christmas take the time to rid your home and your life of some of the forgotten clutter that you have accumulated over the last year.

That two sizes too big sweater you are never going to wear? Donate it to your local thrift store, it will fit someone. That cell phone that has been lying in the back of your kitchen drawer ever since you upgraded over the summer? Donate it to one of the many companies who recycle such things rather than throwing it away to rot in a landfill.

I Will Remember to Take Grocery Bags with me to the Store – The good news is that more and more grocery stores are getting more responsible and offering low cost recyclable grocery bags right at the checkout. And many of us have bought them. The problem is that we forget to take them with us the next time we go to the grocery store and still end up coming home with a trunk full of plastic bags. Getting into the habit of returning those recyclable grocery bags to the car after they have been emptied of their contents should easily solve that problem though.

I will Kill Off my Phantom Electricity Use – No, Phantom Electricity is not the name of a new super villain (although it wouldn’t be a bad one) but the term used to refer to all the electricity we all waste everyday by leaving electronics plugged in when they are not in use. If you cannot remember to turn off each appliance or gadget individually try plugging several into a power strip that you can simply flick a single switch on to turn them all off.

I will outsmart the Bottled Water Companies – You pop at least a couple of bottles of water into your purse or briefcase every morning before you leave for work and then purchase another one after you have been to gym. Add that up over the course of a week and that is an awful lot of money that you could have spent on something else as well as an awful lot of plastic bottles that will spend a long time in a landfill someplace.

Bottled water is not that special. For as much as it costs it should contain gold dust but it doesn’t. And neither does most of it come from some magical bubbling spring in some exotic corner of the world. Several bottled water brands use the same H20 that’s available for free from your faucet. So buy a water filter for your faucet if you don’t like the taste of “neat” tap water and one of those cool looking reusable stainless steel bottles. You will not only be doing the world at large a favor but your wallet as well.

Great Organic Wines that Won’t Break the Bank – Five for $25 and Under

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

A nice glass of wine or two can be a wonderful way to relax after a hard day and there have been numerous studies published over the last several years that demonstrate a number of health benefits that can be achieved by the regular, but moderate, consumption of wine, especially the red variety.

The problem is that much of the wine that is consumed all over the planet is made from grapes that were treated with some pretty heavy pesticides, possibly negating any benefits at all. This also explains why organic wine is gaining in popularity these days.

100% Organic wine carries the USDA seal, and must be made from 100% organically grown ingredients, monitored throughout its entire production process. Wine that is simply labeled organic must meet 95% of the above standards.

If you have been thinking about giving organic wine a try but were concerned about the price, we have good news for you. Here are some great examples of delicious organic wine that won’t break the bank – because they all cost under $25.

Can Vendrell Cava Brut Reserva – This an organic bubbly that is made with Spanish white grapes, green apples, pears and believe it or not almonds. This champagne style organic wine has a slightly dry finish and goes perfectly with cheese dishes and seafood. Best of all it costs just $19 a bottle.

Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Gris – For those who love a good pinot this is a fabulous organic choice. Made from organic produce harvested at Ponzi’s Oregon vineyards it has a creamy texture and a fruity finish that will go with that Thanksgiving turkey perfectly as it is the perfect foil for all that meat And the accompanying rich sauces. This one will set you back a mere $17 at the cash register.

Frey Vineyards Syrah- USDA certified 100% organic grapes combine with plum, blackberry and clove flavors to create a wine that is robust, full bodied and ever so slightly tart. Great with mushroom dishes or a nice piece of pork. Priced at just $11.95 this is a real bargain that tastes wonderful as well.

Bonterra Vineyards Viognier- Resplendent with the flavors of organically grown grapes, nectarines and white peaches this is a wine that goes perfectly with healthy and hearty vegetable dishes like heirloom squash soup. A little more expensive at $25 a bottle but still wonderful value.

Coturri Winery Zinfandel- Good zinfandels are praised for light fruity tastes and this one does not disappoint. It is the perfect turkey chaser and if you close your eyes you can almost taste the California sunshine. This also retails at $25.

By the way, if you really want an eco friendly drinking experience we also found some wonderful recycled glass wine goblets – at Target of all places- for just $19.99 for four.

Nike goes Green

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Nike thinking Green ahead of the World Cup

When you think about companies who are doing their bit for the environment by creating “greener” clothing it is rather unlikely that sports attire giants Nike would be the first one to spring to mind. However in creating the soccer jerseys for a number of teams (including the USA) for the upcoming FIFA World Cup, which kicks off in South Africa in June, the firm is indeed making a significant contribution to the green movement.

The average soccer jersey is made from polyester, which as a petroleum based product is hardly a very eco-friendly material. The new Nike jerseys (which are also being sold to soccer fans for about $70 a pop) are made from recycled plastic water bottles gathered from landfills in Japan and Taiwan. According to the company it takes eight water bottles to make one soccer jersey and to do so requires 30% less energy than usual.

One of the problems with recycled clothing materials is actually convincing people to wear them in a world that still loves its leather. Will the fact that the Nike jerseys are going to be worn by some of the biggest soccer stars encourage people to give recycled fabrics a chance?

The members of the USA team may not be the biggest names in world soccer but one man who is – the very fashion conscious Cristiano Ronaldo aka the world’s most expensive soccer player – plays for Portugal, another team outfitted by Nike. So if it’s good enough for him.

Nike’s efforts are admirable but The 2010 World cup itself has come under serious fire from environmentalists since they estimate that the “carbon footprint” for this year’s tournament is estimated at 2.75 million tons of carbon dioxide, nine times higher than the World Cup in Germany in 2006 and more than twice as high as the Beijing Olympics. Emission levels are high because fans will have to fly between the host cities and because the nation uses coal for most of its electricity.

Have more green stories? Share your wisdom by submitting them to TipthePlanet, the most comprehensive green wiki on the internet.

Greening your Everyday Diet

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Eating and drinking better foods and beverages is great for our overall health of course, but did you realize that by doing so you may also be helping to make the planet a better place to live? TipthePlanet, the green wiki for people looking to educate themselves about the environment while picking up some great advice for greener living offers some great tips for eating and drinking to save the planet and trim your waistline at the same time:

The advantages of buying local produce http://www.tiptheplanet.com/index.php?title=Local_food

Why going organic is good idea for you and Mother Nature http://www.tiptheplanet.com/index.php?title=Organic_food_tips

Understanding Raw Food Diets http://www.tiptheplanet.com/index.php?title=Eat_raw

Ditch the fast food drive through and discover why you should be brown bagging it http://www.tiptheplanet.com/index.php?title=Make_your_own_lunch

Beer is for drinking right? Well, yes, but there are lots of other great uses it can be put to as well.http://www.tiptheplanet.com/index.php?title=Alternative_uses_for_beer

One of the best things about Tip the Planet is that not only can you learn from us but you can share your own wisdom as well. If you have a great green food tip why not share it with us?

7 Tips for a Green Wedding

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

7 Easy Steps to a Greener Wedding from Tiptheplanet (www.tiptheplanet.com)

Want to add a little green as you plan the perfect white wedding? As the big season for brides approaches here are seven ways you can stage an event that is as eco-friendly as it is romantic:

Begin with the Invitations – If you must send paper invitations make sure you use recycled paper, but if you truly want to have an eco-friendly wedding why not go paperless? It’s a very unusual person these days that does not have an email address and there are dozens of free software programs that let even the most creatively challenged person come up with some beautiful looking “e-vitations”

Some couples are going a step further and setting up their very own wedding websites where their guests can RSVP, find accommodation if they are from out of town and view the gift registry all with just a few clicks of a mouse.

Choose a Green Gown – Well, probably not literally but you should be looking for eco-conscious materials when you are wedding dress shopping. Natural cottons, peace silk and even hemp are all great choices and a number of designers are incorporating them into their regular lines. Alternately you could do your bit for global recycling by purchasing a dress from your local thrift or consignment store.

Grow your own Wedding Flowers – Even those without a green thumb can cultivate blooms such as mums, dahlias, daisies, tulips, hyacinths, and miniature roses. All of these flowers are gorgeous and have the added green advantage of being replantable as well.

Make Your Own Green Centerpieces – Table décor can be eco-conscious as well. How about a small potted plant that guests can take home and plant after the occasion is over? Or if you want something that is truly unusual consider an Ecosphere – completely self-contained and self-sustaining miniature worlds enclosed in a recycled glass globe.

Set up Carpools – If your wedding and reception sites are not within walking distance of one another encourage your guests to carpool to save on gas. If you get some of them to travel together to the wedding in the first place you will be doing even more for the planet.

Recycle and Reduce Waste – Donate any leftover food to a local shelter or soup kitchen and take any flowers or other decorations to a hospital or retirement home so that they can brighten up someone else’s day as well.

Have more green wedding tips not included on this short list? Share your wisdom by submitting them to TipthePlanet, the most comprehensive green wiki on the internet.

Natural Remedies in the home

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Who knew that so many of our household items can be so useful, without needing to head out to buy a bunch of chemicals? Tiptheplanet (http://www.tiptheplanet.com) is a green wiki that aims to help people find natural solutions, and learn more about the environment. Here are some of our latest tips:

Vinegar can be used to Kills grass on walks and driveways and weeds, deter ants and fight dandruff (after shampooing, rinse with vinegar and 2 cups of warm water). http://www.tiptheplanet.com/index.php?title=Uses_for_vinegar

Using Chili and garlic as an insecticide – http://www.tiptheplanet.com/index.php?title=Make_your_own_insecticide_with_chillipepper_and_garlic!

Cleaning your shoes with a banana skin – http://www.tiptheplanet.com/index.php?title=Clean_leather_shoes_with_banana_skin

Use Tee Tree Oil as a disinfectant – http://www.tiptheplanet.com/index.php?title=Use_tea_tree_oil_as_disinfectant

If you have any of your own, please go to http://www.tiptheplanet.com and add your own, or find some more!

Home chemicals

Monday, May 14th, 2007
  • Be aware that many chemicals commonly used around the home are toxic. Select less toxic alternatives. Use non-toxic substitutes wherever possible.
  • Buy chemicals only in the amount you expect to use, and apply them only as directed. More is not better.
  • Take unwanted household chemicals to hazardous waste collection centers; do not pour them down the drain. Pouring chemicals down the drain may disrupt your septic system or else contaminate treatment plant sludge.
  • Never pour unwanted chemicals on the ground. Soil cannot purify most chemicals, and they may eventually contaminate runoff.
  • Use low-phosphate or phosphate-free detergents.
  • Use water-based products whenever possible.
  • Leftover household pesticide? Do not indiscriminately spray pesticides, either indoors or outdoors, where a pest problem has not been identified. Dispose of excess pesticides at hazardous waste collection centers.
  • See here for a vast list of non-toxic or less-toxic alternatives to hazardous household chemicals.
  • Look here for recipes to make your own non-toxic cleaning products – from all purpose cleaner to stain remover, bleach and wood floor polish.

Fire-preventer

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

Here are some top fire-prevention tips

  • Fit smoke alarms on each level in your home. Keep them free from dust and test them once a week. Consider buying a 10-year alarm; otherwise change the batteries in your alarm every year.
  • Make a fire action plan so that everyone in your home knows how to escape if there is a fire.
  • Keep the exits form your home clear so that people can escape if there is a fire. Make sure that everyone in your home can easily find keys for doors and windows.
  • Take extra care in the kitchen – accidents while cooking account for over half of fires in homes. Never leave young children alone in the kitchen.
  • Take extra care when cooking with hot oil. Consider buying a deep-fat fryer which is controlled by a thermostat (if you don’t already have one).
  • Never leave lit candles in rooms that nobody is in or in rooms where children are on their own. Make sure candles are in secure holders on a surface that does not burn and are away from any materials that could burn.
  • Make sure cigarettes are stubbed out properly, disposed of carefully and never smoke in bed.
  • Get into the habit of closing doors at night. If you want to keep a child’s bedroom door open, close the doors to the lounge and kitchen, it may well help save their life if there is a fire.
  • Don’t overload electrical sockets. Remember one plug for one socket.
  • Keep matches and lighters where children cannot see or reach them.
  • Take special care when you are tired or when you’ve been drinking.
  • Don’t leave the TV or other electrical appliances on standby as this could cause a fire. Always switch it off and unplug when not in use.

Accidental snares

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

Always think about what your throwing away from more than just a pollution perspective… Those innocent looking soft plastic holders for soft drink cans and other products can entangle birds, fish, and small animals. Snip apart each ring before throwing it in the trash, or inquire whether they can be recycled locally.