Category Archives: Green Materials

E. Coli Could Convert Sugar to Biodiesel

E. coli could convert sugar to biodiesel at ‘an extraordinary rate,’ say Stanford researchers

Researchers studying how biodiesel can be generated using E. coli as a catalyst have determined the bacteria have what it takes to produce high volumes of the fuel. Now they need to figure out how to tweak its cellular controls in order to kick it into high gear.


Bamboo is the New Black in the Eco-Friendly Building Trade

One of the most prevalent materials in any home is wood but with growing concern for deforestation, choosing an ecologically responsible alternative such as bamboo has gained in popularity. Wood is commonly used for cabinetry, flooring, furniture, trim and even unseen items such as frame work. Bamboo is a rapidly replenished and sustainable material that can be used to create many of these items, is surprisingly durable even though it is technically a member of the grass family and is beautiful when finish-treated properly.

Typically, bamboo suitable for construction can be harvested in just five years while most tree species require upwards of fifty years to fully mature. The beauty in this is that ten times as much bamboo can be produced in the same amount of time it takes to grow one tree. Spatially, it is a smaller radius than a tree so it requires less acreage to harvest an equal amount of material. In addition to rapid growth and a small footprint, bamboo displays similar benefits to those of trees — it helps prevent soil erosion and releases oxygen which protects against pollutants to provide clean breathable air.

The durability and beauty of this material are two of the main draws in the realm of interior design. When properly treated natural bamboo will be a similar hardness to natural maple wood. Maple is a well known hardwood and has grown in popularity for its light blonde color and soft graining which makes it a perfect backdrop to many of today’s modern furnishings and bold fabric colors. Since bamboo is a grass there are few options for color (the material technically can not be stained) and natural blonde is a common choice. It will be extremely durable when a proper finish is applied. The second is known as carbonized bamboo which often has similar coloring to red oak. This is a popular choice because of the warmth in color however it is important to remember that the carbonization process of boiling the bamboo tends to weaken the material. When properly finished however, either is ideal for flooring, cabinetry or furniture.

There are a slew of bamboo manufacturers in existence and they carry a variety of products ranging from kitchen cabinetry to flooring to furniture and everything in between. AlterEco, a San Francisco based company, specializes in creating beautiful cabinetry from bamboo. Their online showroom is full of gorgeous installation photos which truly display that bamboo, although limited in color, can be a perfect choice in either a traditional or ultra modern setting. Flooring is one of the most prevalent installation selections for bamboo and iFLOOR is a company offering a very wide variety in style and color of flooring planks. Reviewing their prices it is clear that not only is this material friendly to the planet, it is friendly to the wallet as well. A carbonized alternative similar in color to Brazilian cherry is almost 2 dollars less expensive than that same cherry per square foot. The Bamboo Showroom carries a bar and stool set that would provide a fun and tropical feeling to indoor or outdoor spaces for about half the cost of similarly styled solid maple sets.

It is easy to see why bamboo is gaining attention in the world of design and construction. As a resource that grows up to ten times as fast as a tree, helps to produce clean air and a material that displays many similar qualities to wood it is an Earth friendly alternative. On the next shopping trip for household amenities consider bamboo as the trend that is here to stay.

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Artist Spotlight: Erin & Gavin Thompson of Dinner Time Chimes

Dinner Time Chimes, based in Clinton, NC, is an eclectic collaborative of Erin & Gavin Thompson. Their focus is on creating functional and beautiful house wares and accessories from recycled or reclaimed items. If you have been looking for a low profile recipe stand or a funky birdhouse like no one else in the neighborhood it is likely they will have just the thing. They are known however for windchimes made from silver plate flatware and unique bases. Very fun way to repurpose!

Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

I (Erin) work at home so it’s a just a few steps of a commute for me. I try to be finished up with my “real” job by the time Gavin gets home from work. Recently it’s been evenings working on remodeling our house and then to bed late. We try to spare a little time on the weekends to work on making windchimes and bird houses.

Who or what influences your work and why?

Our crafts are influenced by what we can find in thrift stores and at estate sales. People are always getting rid of what they consider “junk” but they make perfect materials for us.

Is it your personal belief that creativity and the ability to create art is innate?

Someone can teach you how to hold a pencil or a brush (or in our case, how to use large machinery), but what do and make after that point is the true art.

Explain your art- what exactly is it you do? How do you describe it?

We make windchimes and other assorted goodies from silver plate silverware that we purchase at thrift stores, flea markets, auctions and the like. We also create a few birdhouse out of found objects, such as boots and cooking pots too. It’s certainly unique creations, but we like to think of them as practical things created from trash that are sure to make people smile!

When did you first become interested in working with dinnerware?

I first became interested in working with the silverware when I was in middle school. My dad saw the chimes somewhere and thought that it would something good for us to make together. On family outings to flea markets and antique stores it gave me something to look for and it taught me about “business” early on.

Who are the other members of Dinner Time Chimes?
We are a husband and wife team, Gavin and Erin.

What is it like working as a team?

It certainly makes the work go quicker!

When did you first discover your talent and artistic ability?

I’ve always loved making things with my hands and I think that stems from spending most days with my grandparents while my parents were at work. I learned so much about life, sewing, and baking for starters.

Can you tell me about your creative process?

Our creative process starts at the thrift store or estate sale when we find the silver plate. Generally when the price is reasonable that also means that the silverware is black with tarnish. After flattening, lots of polishing, and drilling the assembling begins. A random assorted of flatware with a few beads and wind chime is made!
Were you influenced by the Green Movement?

We were both raised in farming families so it comes pretty naturally to us.

What have you done to incorporate an eco-friendly approach to your house wares?

Thrift stores and gifts from family have contributed greatly to our home. I love the stories that come with the things shared by family.

What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?

We are relying more and more on home-grown veggies and meats. It’s quite refreshing to know exactly where everything came from.

Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you specifically admire?

I’m really not into work by ‘famous’ artists, but I absolutely love creations from ordinary people such as quilts and needlepoint that were created by people many years ago.

What is important to you about conservation and preserving our environment?

It’s the only one we’ve got and it’s very important for us to take care of it. We live in the country and thus the conservation of farm lands is closest to our hearts. It’s amazing how many children don’t know that food doesn’t actually come from a grocery store!

What is your favorite project or work you’ve completed thus far?

I really like the large windchimes that we’ve created lately.

What challenges have you had in your work?
A fellow crafter on the web offered glass beads to anyone who could use them, instead of throwing them out. I was able to get them, thinking that they’d be perfect for adding some color to the windchimes. When I made the first one I was disappointed that it made it sound horrible and would barely ring. After a little trial and error I learned that the beads had to be specially suspended. Perfection! A wind chime with a little splash of color, which sounds just as wonderful as the regular chimes.
Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art? How does the Internet affect your work?

The internet has helped us reach customers that would have never otherwise found our wind chimes. We’ve even sent one internationally to Ireland! One thing that has worked to our advantage with non-local customers is the addition of a slide show of our windchimes with SOUND on our website. Without the sound, it’s hard to convince potential customers that silver plate spoons actually do sound great, but now they can hear for themselves.

What is your greatest ambition as an artist?

To make people smile.

What are your long term career goals?

This craft business will probably always remain a hobby, but we hope to always enjoy it and the wonderful people we meet as a result.

What are you currently working on?

We’re working on gathering supplies to make more windchimes, in hopes of stocking up for the holidays.

What advice would you give a young artist just getting started?

Follow your heart and make what you love. If it feels like work, it’ll never be worth the time!

What green product would you recommend to our readers?

Vinegar + Water does wonders when you need to take down old wallpaper. It’s been a huge time saver for us while remodeling our home.

What is your best going green tip?

When it’s time to plant your garden and flower beds, ask around to see which neighbors or family members have plants that need dividing. You do them a favor, spend almost nothing and end up with a lovely yard filled with plants that you know will grow in your area!

How would your friends describe you?

I’m the crafty one of the group.

To see more of the amazing items offered by Dinner Time Chimes please visit their Online Storefront.
To listen to their windchimes in action click here.
Smart Energy Technology:

Bamboo The New White Picket Fence: That Could Save The Planet

When you think of fences most of us conceptualize the traditional white picket fence. There is a new more eco-friendly fence which countless green consumers are investing in. This up-to-date design of the ordinary fence is constructed from bamboo. Although bamboo furniture has been around for years few people recognized bamboo’s potential as a long-lasting outdoor fence. It is actually one of the toughest cost effective natural materials you can use. They are extremely environmentally friendly. It has been stated that if everyone planted and utilized bamboo within six years global warming could be reduced.

The average consumer has no idea how many benefits there are in using bamboo fencing. Unlike hardwood trees harvested for fences which take up to 50 years to regenerate drastically effecting the planet’s oxygen bamboo is one of the quickest growing plants in the world. Within three years once planted they can be re-harvested without causing any environmental harm to the planet. There is no soil erosion or other damages that occur when harvesting standard trees. Bamboo is a renewable resource. It grows practically a meter per day and belongs to the grass family.

According to the Home Builder’s Association of America bamboo is the strongest fence material when compared to other natural woods. The association has given three different bamboo commodities their coveted Gold Ribbon Award over other standard wood fencing items. Structures built with bamboo has been known to withstand earthquakes and many other natural disasters. The durability that you receive with a bamboo fence is priceless. Speaking of prices, bamboo is very inexpensive in comparison to other forms of fences available. The combination of simple installation and lighter than air weight dramatically cuts down the cost of bamboo. Another benefit of bamboo fencing is the breathtaking beauty it adds to every home. Natural beauty always stands out a little higher than the rest. The rich color and texture of bamboo creates an entirely different appearance to a home owner’s yard. We all want to reflect our sense of style into our homes. Bamboo fences come in various styles to allow you to do just that. It gives green consumers a way to have natural beauty, privacy, protection, preserve trees, conserve soil, and save money all at the same time.

If you are trying to renovate your home to look considerably du jour and green you must have a bamboo fence. Adding a bamboo fence not only helps the environment but it will give any yard an exotic alluring appeal. The ambiance that a fence of this caliber can give to a space is one of complete relaxation. You can truly become one with nature when your surroundings is natural. Having a fence made out of authentic matter that is not from a depleting resource is important. As the world becomes more environmentally conscious bamboo will be the new white picket fence for homes across the planet. If you’d like to learn more about purchasing a bamboo fence for your home visit Calibamboo.

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Artist Spotlight: Ron Ames, Decorative Wall Artist from Art Nous Faux

Ron Ames, Decorative Wall Artist located in Silver Springs, MD, has been completing specialty wall finishes for over twenty years, has had his work featured in numerous publications and teaches classes to students eager to learn about the world of decorative finishes and he does it all with a strong sense of our planet. When asked which photos from his website showcase an eco-friendly example of his beautiful work, Ron enthusiastically responded: “All of the work[s] shown on my site use only eco-friendly products”. With close to 100 images on his website, spanning the past twenty years of work, that is quite impressive.

Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

The night before, get materials ready for next day project. Wake up at six am, meditate till seven, make lunches and breakfast for my mamacita and adolescents, brew up some coffee, sit, chat, and watch the wildlife until we are ready to leave.

Is it your personal belief that creativity, and the ability to create art, is innate?

The ability to create is not only innate, but is who and what we are. How that creativity is expressed is an individual discovery.

Who or what inspired you to become a Decorative Painter and Finisher?

Back in the mid-80′s, when I was working for a painting company, I observed another member of the crew creating a faux marble effect and I felt such an excitement seeing how it was all coming together that the very fact that I was excited made me realize I should pursue this, so I asked him for info on where I could learn some more and he turned me on to a book which had Ina and Allan Marx’s school address in the back, so for two years I commuted from Washington DC to New York to take most of her classes.

What prompted your shift from use of oil paint to latex or other Earth friendly products?

In the late 80′s to the early 90′s, I began to experience physical symptoms such as red eyes, dry skin, runny nose and headaches. My wife works in the health field and suggested that I could be allergic to the petroleum solvents in the oil paints. It was then that I started to explore the water based products using Floetrol as a glazing medium.

How do you find that water soluble products hold up compared to their oil counterparts?
There are pros and cons to each, but as the demand for environmentally friendly products increases, the quality and durability of water soluble finishes will catch up to the standard reputation of oils, if it hasn’t already done so.
How did you approach your first client with green design concepts? How long ago was that and were they immediately receptive?

In the 90′s, I began to suggest to clients that they use water soluble products mainly because I was allergic to petroleum, but many were already unhappy with the off-gassing of oils, not to mention that, because of the long wet time of oils, brushing up against the finish leaves marks that have to be fixed.

When teaching classes, how much emphasis do you place on green concepts with your students?

100% emphasis

What are some of the important green issues you feel must be emphasized to your students?

Recycle water based paints by letting the cans dry out then take them to the recycling center or donate unused paints to shelters, high schools, etc.

Do you find more students have a focus on being ecologically responsible now than say ten years ago?
Can you tell me about your creative process?

For me, creativity is about being in a playful mood first. Ones’ attitude or approach to the creation of something is vital. Being tense inhibits the opportunity for creative ideas to flourish. Don’t be tentative which can only come from having expectations and with that comes the fear that you may not live up to those expectations and therefore you will judge yourself as a failure. The creative process is about tuning into an energy that can’t be described, but certainly felt. Tuning into it requires letting go of preconceptions of…whatever.

Were you influenced by the Green Movement?


What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?

Recycling materials, using reusable bags for groceries, using recycled products for countertops, floors, cutting boards, kitchen cabinets, using energy star appliances, energy efficient light bulbs. We plan to purchase a hybrid vehicle in 2009.

What is important to you about conservation and preserving our environment?

Conservation and preservation of our environment begins with the understanding of conserving and preserving our selves. We can only conserve and preserve ourselves when we acknowledge that which is life giving, and when we are in touch with that, there is a natural extension of it in out external environment. As within so without.

What challenges have you had in your work?

Whatever challenges I have had in work has to do with the fundamental ability to relax and realize that there is a solution to all problems. Things get worse if my mind is in an agitated state. Solutions arise when the mind is quiet.

Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art? How does the Internet affect your work?

It depends on how one uses it for it to be positive or negative. For exposure, it has helped me tremendously.

What is your greatest ambition as an artist?

To keep on growing in knowledge and spread the joy that I experience from doing something that I love to do.

What are you currently working on? Can you tell us about it?

I am currently working on writing a book that has to do with wood graining. Nothing much to tell at this point.

Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you specifically admire?

For historical Trompe L’Oeil, definitely the Flemish Masters, the Impressionists, Joan Miro, Kandinsky, for contemporary Masters in my field, I would have to include the legendary Marx’s, William Cochran, Pascal Amblard, Pierre Finklestein, Sean Crosby, Nicole Vigini, Kaltoum Maroufi-Colle, and many more that are out there that I have not had the privilege of learning from.

What advice would you give a young artist just getting started?

Ask yourself: What do I want, how bad do I want it, what am I going to do to get it?

What “Green” Product would you recommend to our readers?

Benjamin Moore Aura, Milk paints, American Clay Plasters, Faux Effects products

What is your best “going green tip?
What we do today affects our tomorrow

How would your friends describe you?

Deep, eccentric, thinker

Do you have a website or online presence that showcases your work?
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