Green Pages — Solar Garden Lighting; Vegan Shoes

Circa 2008
Wording Green Pages


Everyone loves a beautifully lighted garden, especially during the summer months, but do you really need the lights on all night? How much is that costing you? How does “nada” sound?

Enter solar garden lights. These handy lights charge all day and will keep your garden or walkway glowing beautifully all night. Once again, of course, there’s an initial investment, as prices for four lights start at about $40, but you can easily recoup the costs in the amount of energy you save.


This, I think, is one of those ideas that is so basic, I actually kicked myself for not already having done it.

If you have an older water heater—and most of us do—simply installing an insulating blanket around it can dramatically reduce the stand-by heat loss that occurs during the colder months. This will lower your energy costs and save about a 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, to boot. In addition, you’ll get more hot water out of the tank, and who doesn’t dig that idea? It only takes about a half-hour (or, if you’re like me and handymanimpaired, an hour) and a kit costs around $25 per heater. Learn from my mistake and be sure to get a helper on this one.

A couple of tips:

• If your water heater is electric, make sure you shut off the power.

• Clean off the top of the heater so that the tape will stick.

• When measuring, remember to mark the position of the thermostat at the bottom of the u tank, make sure there’s plenty of clearance around the thermostat and burner access.

Last, most water heaters are factory-set at 140 degrees, which may be more than you need. If you find that your hot-water supply is adequate, try lowering the thermostat to 120 degrees. You can save up to 550 pounds of carbon monoxide, per year. But if that temperature leaves you shivering, experiment in the 120 to 140 range to find what works for you, as every degree you reduce will save energy costs and reduce pollution.

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I confess. I spend way too much time (not to mention money) on books that are read once and then collect dust afterward. Don’t get me wrong, I love the library (remember those?). Problem is that it can be tough to get new publications.

Ta-Da! Along comes to solve both those problems! This is just an awesome idea! is an online, free way to swap books with club members. Basically, you just need to register and list nine books you’re ready to blow the dust off of and get out of your house. This gets you three credits, and then you can start trading away. All it costs is the postage to send a requested book to another member. Every time you do that, you get another credit. Easy, cheesy!


Nowadays, recycled printer paper is available in a wide range of colors, weights and styles, including the brightest whites, which can meet the requirements of businesses and professionals. However, keep in mind that the bleaching of paper, whether virgin or recycled, is a leading cause of toxic water pollution in the United States. Chlorine, used in the bleaching process, is a byproduct of an extremely toxic family of chemicals known as dioxins, which are linked to several human health conditions.

You can further reduce your environmental impact by purchasing chlorine-free recycled paper. The optimal post consumer content (PCC) content is 30 percent, but really even 10 percent is better then none! Making this step even easier is the fact that most chain office stores offer plenty of recycled options.

According to the California Department of Conservation, one ton of 100 percent recycled paper saves:

17 trees

7,000 gallons of water

4,100 kwh of energy (enough to power the average home for six months)

60 pounds of air pollution

2.5 cubic yards of landfill space

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Actress Natalie Portman is not only stepping out and into her own line of “vegetarian” shoes, but she’s also inviting you to take the journey with her. The proceeds of her new line with Té Casan (as in Take Us On) will benefit various non-profit organizations dedicated to environmental preservation and animal rights.

The Israeli born Portman, a Harvard graduate and star of such films The Other Boleyn Girl and The Darjeeling Limited, has been a vegetarian since age 8. She noticed the lack of what some call animal-friendly footwear in the luxury designer marketplace. Té Casan, a two-year-old women’s specialty footwear brand, collaborated with Portman for her 100-percent vegan collection.

“As a vegan, it’s been challenging finding designer shoes made of alternative materials,” Portman has said. “It’s the perfect opportunity to design high-end footwear free of animal products.” The limited edition collection is hand-crafted.

Portman not only lent her name to the collection, but also worked closely with Té Casan’s think tank throughout the entire development process to maintain consistent quality within a design aesthetic.

Personally, Portman has been wearing alternatives to leather shoes for some time, including Beyond Skin, a footwear label that produces classical vegan shoes handmade in England.

Going designer green from the ankle down will cost you: Count on $200 and up.

by Kristen McCarthy Thomas

Kristen McCarthy Thomas is a public relations specialist with an integrated marketing communications company in Southern California. She leads her company’s Environmental and Sustainability Task Forces, helps its 70-plus associates “green up” and writes a related blog at

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