Green Tip of the Day: Radon in your home may give you lung cancer

Did you know exposure to radon in the home is responsible for an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year? The U.S. Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. today followed by smoking.

Radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil and rock, and the gas decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in a person’s lungs when they breathe. These particles as they break down release small bursts of energy that can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer over the course of a lifetime.

It can be found all over the U.S. and can seep into any type of building. However, not everyone exposed to elevated levels of radon will develop lung cancer. In addition, the amount of time between exposure and the onset of the disease may be several years. But exposure can be deadly to some. The average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L, and about 0.4 pCi/L of radon is normally found in the outside air. Congress has set a long-term goal that indoor radon levels be no more than outdoor levels, referring to studies that say lower levels stave off the disease.

Ready to test your home to see if you and your family are at risk? Click here to get a radon test.

USDA unveils SuperTracker online diet and exercise tool

Ready to lose weight? Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack unveiled the USDA’s SuperTracker, a federally funded free online diet and physical activity planning, assessment and analysis tool. The tool lets users track their diet, activity and weight over time. It is designed to assist individuals as they make changes in their life, help them reduce chronic disease and encourage them to maintain a healthy weight.

“Overcoming the health and nutrition challenges we face as a nation is critical and the SuperTracker provides consumers with an assortment of tools to do just that,” Vilsack said. “This easy-to-use website will help Americans at all stages of life improve their overall health and well-being as they input dietary and physical activity choices into the tool."

The online tool offers the following:

■ Personalize recommendations for what and how much to eat and amount of physical activity.
 ■ Track foods and physical activity from an expanded database of foods and physical activities.
 ■ Customize features such as goal setting, virtual coaching, weight tracking and journaling.
 ■ Measure progress with comprehensive reports ranging from a simple meal summary to in-depth analysis of food groups and nutrient intake over time.
 ■ Operationalize the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines.
 ■ Support family and friends by adding their individual profiles.

Watch the YouTube video featuring Administrator Vilsack to learn more.

Give an eco-gift idea 25: A free homemade quilt for a family or person in need who you nominate!

By Mary Rose Roberts
One way to be green is to reuse items that might otherwise be thrown away. For example, when I do craft projects, I pick from the bottom of the barrel. I visit the local fabric store and head straight to the remnants bin. The remnants bin holds pieces of fabric at the end of the roll that haven’t been sold. The pieces are usually less than a yard but sometimes as much as two yards—if you’re lucky—and are often at a significantly reduced price.

I’ve been using remnants in my homemade quilts. I finished and donated my first quilt last year and have been under the tutelage of my grandpa-in-law since I married back in April. These quilts are tough to do and truly are labors-of-love. But what makes them worth it is finding someone who needs it more than me.

I also will donate the red, white and blue queen-sized quilt pictured above when finished to a needy family. But I would like readers of Next-Gen Green to help. I am asking each of you to nominate a needy family or person who could benefit from the quilt and matching pillow shams.

Binding my first quilt with grandpa.
Leave a comment below to nominate someone or an organization. Please provide as much detail as you can about why your nominee is in need and how my quilt could help. Our editors will review submissions left below, posted on Facebook and tweeted on Twitter then pick the winner on Jan. 9. Check the blog or Facebook on that day. We will announce our decision and ask the nominator to contact us with the address to ship the quilt.

Don't forget to "Like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Happy holidays! 

Give an eco-gift this season idea 24: Recycled glass clocks made in the USA

One of our last eco-gift suggestions is a recycled glass and pottery clock from Washington-based Paloma Pottery. Founded in 2000, the company and its artists combine broken recycled glass into pottery to develop one-of-a-kind pieces. Artists use traditional pottery techniques and then add broken pieces of recycled glass into the kiln to melt. The crackle glass surface is smooth to the touch. Other textures and designs in the clay are achieved with natural objects, such as impressing or drawing with rocks or shells, for a natural design, according to the company.

The clock was $49 but is now $42.50.

Give an eco-gift this season idea 23: For the firefighter guy’s guy all USA-made

As part of our give an eco-gift series, enter the firefighter in your life. Do they need a one-of-a-kind belt? How about this one handmade in Colorado by the wife of a firefighter? Each belt is handmade and often bears distress marks from being in service and passing quality testing.

The belt's heavy-duty design now contains the original rubber lining of the fire hose for extra strength and durability. Length from tip-to-tip: Small 36.5", Medium 40.5", Large 45.5". Small fits waist sizes: 27-33"; medium fits waist sizes: 31-37"; large fits waist sizes: 35-41". It costs $38.

Does your firefighter need a wallet? From the same Colorado designer comes a one-of-a-kind wallet, also created from retired hose. It costs $36.

Finally, for the firefighter in your life who appreciated the finer things, how about a rusted fire extinguisher cleaned up and hand-painted to become a one-of-a-kind vase? It is handmade in Florida. It costs $65.

Yosemite has a dam? Help reverse the damage and support Restore Hetch Hetchy

By Kathy Schrenk
Have you heard about the dam in the national park? Yep, a dam and reservoir in a national park. And not just any park, in Yosemite, located in California's Sierra Nevada mountains--one of the jewels of the national park system.

Hetch Hetchy Valley has been compared favorably to the famous Yosemite Valley by none other than John Muir, who was instrumental in getting the park protected. Muir considered Hetch Hetchy to be Yosemite's twin. But that valley is under 300 feet of water and is being used as a storage tank for the city of San Francisco. Even though there were better ways to store that water when the dam was built, as there are now, Woodrow Wilson signed into law an act letting the city flood the valley 98-years ago this week.

But the damage can be undone. Restore Hetch Hetchy is fighting on several fronts to get San Francisco to "un-occupy" the Hetch Hetchy Valley. Numerous studies have shown that the valley could be drained and everyone who gets water and power from the reservoir would see a 5% or less reduction in what they get from the system, an amount easily recovered in conservation and water recycling. (San Francisco does virtually no water recycling, in marked contrast to cities and counties in other parts of California.)

The movement is gaining momentum, and there are lots of ways you can help. If you live in California, consider hosting a house party to educate folks on the cause. If you know anyone who lives in the city of San Francisco, please send them the link to the Restore Hetch Hetchy site. Because San Francisco controls the Tuolumne River water system, the city's voters have a better opportunity than anyone to change the status quo. And, of course, you can make a donation.

Green Tip of the Day: Why BPA-free?

By Mary Rose Roberts
In 2012, ditch the plastic bottles and invest in stainless steel, eco-friendly sports bottles that are BPA-free. I purchased my two-bottle set through the Discovery Channel store, and my husband and I take them everywhere we go. But why choose BPA-free bottles? According to the National Resources Defense Council, BPA, or bisphenol-a, is a chemical used to make polycarbonate—a type of plastic that’s commonly found in clear rigid containers, including baby bottles and reusable water bottles. It also is found in the lining of most canned foods.

Recent research suggests that BPA is toxic to animals and may impact human hormones. According to the Washington Post, a draft report from the U.S. National Toxicology Program expressed concern that BPA could cause behavioral changes in infants and children and trigger the early onset of puberty in females. In fact, in April 2008, the Canadian government banned the use of polycarbonate in infant bottles. It’s almost 2012 and the U.S. still has not followed suit.

Why do I choose to go BPA-free? Because it is a simple way to protect myself from toxins and, truly, it saves me money. I take my water bottle everywhere I go—on road trips, to the gym, out hiking and more. If I bought bottled water, I would use one 365 days a year. At about $1.25 a pop, skipping the plastic bottle saves me about $456.25 annually.

In addition, it is good for the environment. More than 60 million plastic bottles end up in landfills and incinerators every day – a total of about 22 billion last year. Six times as many plastic water bottles were thrown away in the U.S. in 2004 as in 1997—and the waste keeps on growing.

A simple solution? Buy a BPA bottle for everyone in your family. Worried your kid will lose it at school? Attach a tag that says, “Please return to if lost.” If someone keeps it, just think of it as paying it forward, as another person will be using it instead of purchasing plastic bottles.

So save money, live non-toxic and be nice to the environment by going BPA-free.

Give an eco gift this season idea 22: Resale gift card

By Kathy Schrenk
The greenest of all ways to shop is resale. You’re giving new life to something someone else didn’t want and keeping it out of a landfill. You’re also saving the resources that would go into producing, packaging and shipping the new item. And while it may be tough to shop for a gift for someone at a resale shop, most of these stores offer gift certificates. In my town, Savers is a favorite, and they’re a nation-wide chain. Many major cities around the country are home to Buffalo Exchange, which, like Savers, sells gift cards. If your gift recipient doesn’t live near one of those, many local thrift stores offer gift certificates. For the truly picky on your gift list, google “upscale resale” for their city. Hopefully you’ll discover a store that consigns designer clothes.

Give an eco-gift this season idea 21: On-sale, free shipping Patagonia gifts your lady will love

Patagonia is offering free, two-day shipping for orders over $75. So I found three items your lady will love—all that are on sale and meet the minimum shipping dollar amount.

First up is this adorable synthetic jersey-knit with brushed interior tank that wicks sweat. If you have an active girl who loves to ski, hike, yoga and more, it’s the perfect stylish tank. It has adjustable straps in back and is recycled through the company’s Common Threads Recycling Program.

It was $49, but is on sale for only $25.

Next up is a cardigan made from a 62% organic cotton and 8% Tencel plaited jersey that places the moisture-wicking Tencel next to the skin—meaning you can wear it for fashion or for sport. It also is recycled through the company’s Common Threads Recycling Program.

It was $55, but is on sale for only $30.

Finally, check out this cute and functional long-sleeve pullover Madeira Sweater. It's made from a lightweight blend of 70% organic cotton and 30% Lenzing Modal. The sweater features a deep scoop neck, two front pockets and cuffs – all with rib-knit detailing. It also is recycled through the company’s Common Threads Recycling Program.

It was $55 and now is only $30.

Give an eco-gift this season idea 20: Long-sleeve men's shirt and free two-day shipping from Patagonia!

Our newest West-Coast blogger, Kathy, thought Patagonia would be a perfect fit for our give an eco-gift series. We wrote about the company a few months back, but I thought I might be able to find some items on their website for a loved one. So I took a look and found this lightweight, yarn-dyed men’s long-sleeve 100% organic pima cotton shirt. Organic cotton is produced using techniques that are safe for the environment and is never grown with synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or defoliants—nor is it genetically modified in any way.

The company is offering free two-day shipping for orders over $75—meaning you’ll get it in plenty of time for Christmas! It costs $75. 

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Give an eco-gift idea 19: Ditch the plastic sippy cups with BPA–free ones

Your friends and loved ones will appreciate a thoughtful gift like Special Holiday Glasses from Siliskin. These 7 oz., four-pack white and aqua glasses are an alternative to plastic drink-ware because they are BPA-free silicone covered glass. They are hypo- allergenic, have no open pores to harbor bacteria and are dishwasher safe. They are perfect to teach your child about BPA free, and helps you ditch the sippy cup for toddlers who are ready for a big-kid cup.

The set costs $25.95.

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Give an eco-gift idea 18: On-sale Eco Craft set from The Land of Nod

I love The Land of Nod. I love even more that they have eco-conscious gifts, if you look closely, like this Eco Craft set. The product lets kids create 20 easy, earth-friendly crafts using recycled stickers, papers and pencils.

It’s on sale for $15.95.

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Give an eco-gift idea 17: A farm animal puzzle set that’s 40% off!

Promised to be shipped by Christmas, check out this eco-puzzle gift. It’s actually six puzzles. The set consists of sixteen solid wooden cubes with a colorful farm animal pictured on each side. Just rotate the cubes in the wooden tray to complete the puzzle. This is a great gift and a great value at currently 40% off until Dec. 21.

It costs $9.91.

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Give an eco-gift this season idea 16: Buy a used dog

By Mary Rose Roberts
Being conscious when giving gifts is not always about staying away from Big Box stores, making a homemade gift or buying a recycled gift. It means shopping smart, especially if you plan to buy a dog for a loved one.

Before you purchase a new pet for a loved one, you first have to find out if they even want a dog. Next, you have to determine whether they will have the time to walk the dog before and after work and have someone available to let it out at lunch. Pets aren’t cheap, so they also must have the means to buy high-quality dog food that is meat, not corn-based, as well as pay for veterinarian bills.

When you go out to buy a dog, please skip the pet store. Oftentimes, pet stores sell puppies from puppy mills, which have been around for decades. Puppy mills house dogs in shockingly poor conditions and keep them in cages their entire life while they are forced to breed over and over. After their fertility wanes, breeding animals are often killed, abandoned or sold cheaply to another mill to try and get one more litter out of the dog. The annual result of all this breeding is millions of puppies, many with behavior or health problems.

Instead, go to your local humane society. That’s where I got my dog, Bella. I always joke that she is a chowdador. No, she’s not a special hybrid dog that costs $2,000. She’s just half labrador retriever, half chow and cost a lot less—around $70.

If you have a specific breed in mind, you can always Google it with the word “rescue” and find local shelters or rescues with that breed. You can get the dog you want, save it from certain death and get a great deal at the same time.

You can always luck out and get a great used dog from the humane society. Don’t spend the extra dollars. Don’t support puppy mills. And help give homes to special dogs like Bella.

Give an eco-gift this season idea 15: Make a homemade snowman

You will need:

1 package baby socks
1 package of 1-inch wooden plant pots, painted black
1 bag of cotton balls
1 package of rubber bands
1 package of googlie eyes
Black marker
2 brown pipe cleaners
Needle and white thread
Super glue (or glue gun, if you have one)
  1. Cut off the ankle part of each sock.
  2. Stuff each white sock with cotton balls until full.
  3. Sew bottom of each sock closed, by either folding one end over the other and sewing or by holding both ends together and sewing.
  4. Take two rubberbands and use to section the sock in three, like the three parts of the snowman. Make sure the top portion is slightly smaller than the other two.
  5. Using either Super Glue or a glue gun, run the glue along the bottom edge of the flower pot that is painted black and then turn upside down and press onto the snowman’s head. This will be the hat.
  6. Again, using Super Glue or glue gun, put a dab on the back of each googlie eye and affix to face of snowman.
  7. Cut two pieces of brown pipe cleaner, about 3 to 4 inches long. Along the right side of the second section of the snowman, cut a small hole and insert pipe cleaner. Do the same to roughly the same place on the left side. These are the arms.
  8. Using the black marker, draw a large dot for the “coal” nose of the snowman, and then dotted lips.

Nikki Golden is a full-time association marketing manager and a part-time crafty wannabe. You can find her on Twitter @lucy1375 and on Pinterest @nikki_golden.

Give an eco-gift this season idea 14: Skip the Big Box store and make homemade ornaments

By Nikki Golden
During the holiday season, it’s always nice to create traditions that get the whole family involved. Homemade ornaments will be memories that last a lifetime. Clear glass ornaments can be turn into a decoration in a large variety of ways. Filling them with beads or painting the outside are two ways you can go. What I find the easiest, though, is creating a tie-dyed look. 

You will need:
  • Clear glass ornaments with removable tops, which can be found at any of the major craft supply stores. You will have a choice of sizes.
  • Paints. For each ornament you will need three to four different colors. I like to always include a metallic silver or gold in my color choice. I like using regular acrylic paint because it washes off of hands easily. Try to pick up eco- or soy-based paints.
  • Small disposable cups. These will be used to allow the extra paint to drip out.
  • Ribbon. This is an optional finishing touch. You probably don’t want to use ribbon much thicker than 2".

1. Remove the metal clasp at the top of the ornament. By this point, you will have chosen the three or four colors you will be using in this ornament. If you’re using a metallic paint, start with that one. After shaking the paint to mix the color, you’re going to squeeze a drizzle of that paint into the ornament and then turn the ornament as it snakes down the side. Don’t worry about squeezing in too much paint because you will be turning it over to remove the excess. Drizzle in this color along several sides of the ornament before using the next color. 

2. Once you’ve used squeezed in all the colors you’re using for that ornament, turn the ornament on its side and turn it, so that the colors mix and all parts of the glass are covered from the inside. At this point, if you need to add more paint to cover the inside, you can choose the color to use and add it.

3. Once all sides of the ornament are covered in paint, take the ornament and turn it upside down into the small disposable cup and leave it as you finish the rest of the ornaments.

4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 for all your ornaments.

5. You can turn your ornaments periodically to keep the patterns changing inside. You also can rest the side of your ornament on the opening of the disposable cup, but make sure that cup is on newspaper because paint might still be dripping out.

6. Leave ornaments draining overnight.

7. Once the ornaments are dry, you can put replace the removable top and tie a bow using ribbon around the top of the ornament.

Voila! Now enjoy using these to decorate your tree.

Nikki Golden is a full-time association marketing manager and a part-time crafty wannabe. You can find her on Twitter @lucy1375 and on Pinterest @nikki_golden.

Give an eco-gift this season idea 13: Men's wash bag made from recycled fire hose

What should you get the man who has everything? How about an Elvis and Kresse waterproof wash kit from The wash bag is made from decommissioned British fire hose, which was used in UK firefighting efforts for up to 30 years. Because the hose is vintage, the shade of red varies from bag to bag—making each one unique. Even better? The artists donate 50% of the proceeds from the sale to the British Fire Fighters' Charity.

It costs $89.

Give an eco-gift this season idea 12: Choose green electronics

Before you buy that next wiz-bang gadget for the electronics lover on your list, why not check out Green Electronics? The Seattle-based company designs, sells and installs leading brands and system solutions for those green-minded consumers who seek better performance, while being more energy efficient and less harmful to the environment.

So don’t just run to Wal-Mart because you can get a cheap deal on a TV. You are just stocking up on junk and may but be hurting your loved one with exposure to toxic materials. Make the right choice this holiday season! Less is the new more!

Green Electronics Terms
ENERGY STAR: A joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. Energy efficient choices save families about one third on their energy bill with similar savings in greenhouse gas emissions. An ENERGY STAR product does not sacrifice features, style or comfort. 

The 80 PLUS: This performance specification requires power supplies in computers and servers to be 80% or greater in energy efficiency at 20%, 50% and 100% of the rated load, with a true power factor of 0.9 or greater. This makes an 80 PLUS certified power supply substantially more efficient than current power supplies. 

Product operates using alternative energy sources i.e. Solar, Wind, Wind-Up: Alternative or renewable energy refers to the harnessing of clean and unlimited power sources like the sun, wind, water or even human power and converting that power into electricity through a device or system. Renewable energy is clean energy and does not emit any CO2 emmisions associated with climate change.

Electronics are RoHS compliant: RoHS (Restricted use of Hazardous Substances) is a European standard that restricts the use of six hazardous materials found in electrical and electronic products.  With some exceptions RoHS compliant products do not contain any Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, Hexavalent Chromium, Polybrominated Biphenyl and Polybrominated Biphenyl Ethers deemed harmful or toxic to human health and the environment. Although not currently legislated in the U.S., consumers still benefit from many manufacturers who have transitioned their overall manufacturing to meet the RoHS compliant standard in all markets, including the U.S. 

Optimized Design: Electronics are designed with sustainability and long term customer value in mind. Electronics design advances multi-functionality while reducing size, weight and material use. Packaging materials are reduced and incorporate recycled or recyclable materials. Product lifecycle is extended through upgrades, trade-in, trade-up, refurbishment and resale.
Repurposed/ Recycled: Product is WEEE compliant (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment). Manufacturer offers or sponsors an end of life, trade-in, take-back, recovery or recycling program ensuring hazardous electronics waste does not end up in landfills. Products, components, materials and packaging are either refurbished for resale, recycled or reclaimed for reuse in new or additional products.

Manufacturer has an environmental charter: Electronics manufacturer has an environmental charter with goals and objectives that embrace environmental policies, practices and incentives for employees and suppliers to achieve a more sustainable business model. Company typically publishes an annual environmental report card or audit of its progress in these areas.

Give an eco-gift this season idea 11: Wrap your loved one in bamboo sheets

Green Earth Bamboo, a family owned business based in Plainfield, Ill., offers a plethora of organic and environmentally correct products. For example, do you have a mother or mother-in-law who suffers from night sweats? Then I recommend getting her this holiday season a set of bamboo sheets from Green Earth. The bamboo has wicking and absorption abilities and is naturally antimicrobial and hypoallergenic.

It also is an extremely environmentally friendly product. Did you know that bamboo can grow at an rate of 3 to 4 feet daily? That’s sustainability at its best!

Green Earth Bamboo’s sheets start at $188.

Green Tip of the Day--Water 12 of 20: Fill up your sink.

Here's an easy one. Do you hand-wash dishes? You actually will save water if you simply fill up your sink instead of letting the faucet run the whole time you’re scrubbing dishes. It's just like grandma used to do!

Give an eco-gift this season idea 10: Make a donation in someone’s name

By Nikki Golden
This is the time of year in which we strive to find meaningful gifts for the people who are important to us. Why not make a donation to a charity in that person’s name to make the money you spend go further.

For instance, the Alzheimer’s Association is a non-profit close to my heart because both of my grandmothers died of this disease. This holiday season, I’m going to make a donation in my family’s name so we can make a difference in both the fight to stop this disease as well as in the lives of those who have this disease. Better still, in the month of December, three generous, anonymous donors have agreed to match each donation made. That means my gift now goes twice as far.

If Alzheimer’s disease is something you’d like to eradicate, you can donate here. If there is another cause you think is important to a loved one, a quick Google search will help you find the appropriate non-profit or charity. If a present is something that you’d still like to give, you can still make a difference as you shop online. There are sites out there through which stores will make a percentage donation to a listed charity. I have used for many years to donate money to a colon cancer group. But there are others, such as and On some of these sites, they will even donate a penny for each product search you conduct on the site.

Nikki Golden is a full-time association marketing manager and a part-time crafty wannabe. You can find her on Twitter @lucy1375 and on Pinterest @nikki_golden.

Give an eco-gift this season idea 9: Made in the USA recycled glass earrings, necklace

Check out this made inthe USA necklace and earring set that are made from recycled Jagermeister, Tanqueray or beer bottles. These Sundrops are created in Minneapolis, Minn. The artist uses a 3-foot magnifying glass to capture sunlight in order to produce a 3,000-degree hot spot that turns recycled glass naturally into a droplet shape. Recycled silver is threaded around the droplet and can be purchased as a necklace or earrings.

The necklace costs $27. The nickel-free and hypoallergenic earrings are $22. 

Tell them you found it on!