Capitalists with Heart

5 New England Based Sustainable Clothing Companies

Thanks to organic and locally sourced foods many of us are able to align our diets with our values. Fortunately we can also we align our values with our wardrobes. Looking for an alternative to mass produced and synthetic clothing? Shop local and you'll find many options across New England.

With the growing popularity of organic, sustainable and local foods, conscious consumers have more options than ever to align their diets with their values.

And just as the “slow food” movement has raised awareness about where food comes from and the importance of making ethical dining decisions, “slow fashion” has likewise given consumers an alternative to synthetic, mass-produced garments.

Whether using organic materials, responsible manufacturing practices or sustainable farming, here’s a look at five New England companies producing or distributing sustainable clothing:

  1. Arrowhead Clothing: Based in Yarmouth, Maine, Arrowhead Clothing uses sustainable fabrics such as hemp, bamboo rayon, silk and organic fabrics in its line of simple, timeless pieces that are handmade in owner Suzanne MacFadyen’s home studio. MacFadyen has launched several fashion lines, and began her fashion career as designer for Rhode Island’s India Imports line.
  2. Rambler’s Way: Launched by the founders of Tom’s of Maine, Rambler’s Way sells worsted wool garments using wool from its 75-acre sheep farm in Kennebunk, Maine. Rambler’s Way Farm uses sustainable, organic and humane farming techniques, including bringing the farm’s 50 ewes in every night and housing them in the barn to protect them from predators. The company also uses green energy including geothermal heating systems and solar energy.
  3. Hatched: This children’s clothing and toy boutique is located in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts and specializes in natural and organic products from responsible companies (none of its products are made in China). The shop strives for Zero-Waste and is painted with low- and no- VOC paint. Products include organic cotton onesies, merino wool booties handknit in Peru and organic French terry swaddle blankets.
  4. SONY DSCBrook There: Maine College of Art grad Brook DeLorme launched this clothing and lingerie line in 2007. Brooke There uses local sewers in greater Portland, Maine and uses ethical fabrics such as US-milled organic cotton, organic wool, silk and bamboo rayon. Some pieces are vegan, without any silk or wool materials. The brand features pieces ranging from lingerie and T-shirts to accessories like arm warmers and eye masks.
  5. Molly Miller: Boston College junior Danielle Dalton started Molly Miller, her eco-friendly clothing and accessories line, after raising over $4,000 on Indiegogo earlier this year. Her vision was to launch a fashion line that allows women to be their authentic selves instead of presenting idealized, Photoshopped images. All items are produced in socially responsible factories based in the United States, and 7 percent of profits are donated to the National Eating Disorder Association.

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Do Rooftop Solar Panels Make Sense for Your Home?

Solar can save you money on energy costs over time, it’s good for the environment, and perhaps you’ll even start a trend on your block. Of course, the decision isn’t so simple as that, since solar panels are a long-term investment. You’ll want to consider a few factors before you take on the up-front costs.

In theory, adding solar power to your home sounds like a great idea. It will save you money on energy costs over time, it’s good for the environment, and perhaps you’ll even start a trend on your block.

Of course, the decision isn’t so simple as that, since solar panels are a long-term investment. You’ll want to consider a few factors before you take on the up-front costs.

Can you afford it?

There’s no getting around the fact that solar panels are expensive. The good news, however, is they are way less expensive than they used to be, and there are some pretty attractive tax credits available right now to help make them more affordable. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) states that the average price of solar panels decreased 65 percent since 2010, while installation costs dropped about 40 percent.

In addition, Uncle Sam is willing to help too, in the form of tax incentives. As of now, the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit allows taxpayers to claim 30 percent of the cost for solar systems, but that benefit is up at the end of 2016. In addition, states also provide their own perks, rebate programs, and other tax breaks, but you’ll need to do your homework to figure out what your state offers.

Is your home in an ideal location?

How much benefit you’ll get out of solar panels will really depend on how much sunlight your home receives. Depending on where you live, how your home is situated (such as if there are any trees or taller homes blocking the sun), can make a huge difference in your decision. Keep in mind that even moderate sunlight exposure can turn out to be cost-effective for you if you pay a lot for your electricity, simply for the fact that you won’t be subject to the ever-fluctuating energy costs you’re dealing with now.

What about your roof?

Not all roofs are created equal, and depending on the type you have, it could bring up the installation costs, or it might not be ideal for solar panel arrangement. If you’ve got a standard shingled roof, you’re probably OK, but Spanish tiles, for instance could complicate matters. An installation consultation will help you figure out if your roof poses any challenges.

What are your future plans?

Remember, that although you’ll begin enjoying lower electric bills right away, it does take several years to recoup the investment of a solar panel system. In other words, you should think about if you plan to stay in your home for a few years before you move forward. That’s not to say that adding solar and then moving will be a devastating loss, since doing so will add to your home’s value (and selling price).

However, once solar panel installation is done, you can’t take them with you if you decide to move on.

Solar panels have proven to be a growing consideration among homeowners over the last few years. While they may not be right for everyone, it’s worth looking into, especially if your home enjoys ample sunlight year round, you’re currently paying high electricity prices now, and/or you live in a state that offers strong perks for solar installation.

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Here Comes the Sun. Will We Ever Really Embrace Solar?

Based on two recent studies, the sun has the potential to become the biggest electricity source by 2050. Will society and economics ever let it happen?

Could Solar Energy Be The Largest Source of Energy by Mid-Century

At the risk of overusing a pun, the future of solar energy looks bright, based on two reports recently issued by the International Energy Agency (IEA). At the center of both reports’ findings is the notion that the sun has the potential to become the biggest electricity source by 2050. If all goes according to plan, that is.

Here’s how it breaks down, and what has to happen in order for solar power to take the center stage spotlight away from fossil fuels, wind, hydro, and nuclear energy.

The Growth of PV

With the right set of variables, the IEA projects that solar photovoltaic (PV) systems could generate up to 16 percent of the world’s electricity by 2050, with solar thermal electricity (STE) from concentrating solar power (CSP) plants providing an additional 11 percent. Put together, that would make solar the leading source of electric power, preventing more than 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

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As has been widely reported, sales of solar photovoltaic systems have skyrocketed in the last few years alone, thanks to significantly reduced costs. In fact, as the IEA reports, the gains made since 2010 has been more than that of the previous four decades. This is happening on a global scale, with China and the United States leading the way.

The benefits of solar PV are clear: there is no fuel price risk, no greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or other pollutants during operation, and little or no water is consumed. In order to reach the level of PV capacity that the IEA is hoping for by 2050, however, regulations, policies, and electricity markets will have to remain on board to support its steady rise, as well as a growing investment in the technology.

In other words, these hopeful projections are not written in stone.

On Deck: STE

As far as STE, which has had a slower ramp-up than PV, the growth of solar overall will depend on it gaining traction in the future. Especially in regions of the world that have a lot of sunny skies – like Africa, India, the Middle East and the United States – STE has the potential to expand, and work in conjunction with PV technologies to supercharge solar’s growth.

STE is needed in the long term because of its ability to store thermal energy that can be used to create electricity during times when there is no sunlight. In that respect, it’s a great complement to PV, since it limits the need for other energy sources.

The key for continued growth is for costs to keep going down, as pointed out by IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven. “Both technologies are very capital intensive: almost all expenditures are made upfront,” she said in a press statement. “Lowering the cost of capital is thus of primary importance for achieving the vision in these roadmaps.”

Only time will tell if solar technologies can continue their rapid expansion, and light the way for a future powered by clean energy.

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Capitalists with Heart

6 Great Farm-to-Table Restaurants in New England

New England restaurateurs have always taken great pride in using the freshest, local ingredients. Here are some fantastic restaurant options for that special evening or holiday meal- where locally sourced items dominate the menu.

When you’re dining out, would you rather eat fruits and vegetables that were grown thousands of miles away—or right in the restaurant’s backyard?

Today’s gourmands are shying away from the exotic offerings that characterized fine dining years ago in favor of locally grown fruits and vegetables, local pasture-raised meat, and sustainably-fished seafood.

While New England may not have the year-round bounty of California, it’s got plenty of restaurants showcasing the best of farm-to-table dining. Here are a few of our top picks in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.

Maine

Fore Street

Since 1996, Fore Street has been showcasing the best food that Maine has to offer, with an open kitchen and wood-fired stove that serve up local rotisserie chickens, pizzas topped with locally foraged mushrooms, fresh roasted vegetables, and other delicacies sourced from around New England.

The Well at Jordan’s Farm

Visit this seasonal, outdoor eatery, and chances are, you’ll be eating vegetables that were picked just a few feet away. On this picturesque farm in Cape Elizabeth, you can sit at a picnic table or bring your own blanket to enjoy your meal—pets are welcome, too. The menu offers a changing medley of local meats, seasonal veggie dishes, and fresh-picked fruit desserts.

Vinland

This Portland, Maine restaurant has an ambitious mission: Save for its wine menu, all ingredients used in its dishes are grown in Maine. That means olive oil, lemons, or chocolates, among other verboten ingredients. The restaurant rises to the challenges imposed by its limitations by crafting fresh, innovative meals that include pasture-raised meat, locally foraged mushrooms, farm-fresh vegetables, and seafood caught out of Portland’s harbor.

New Hampshire

Republic Café

Located in Manchester, New Hampshire, this restaurant was “certified local” by the state’s Farm to Restaurant connection. The establishment partners with more than 20 local vendors to supply meat, vegetables, seafood, cheese, and other ingredients for its Mediterranean-inspired menus, featuring antipasti, small plates, tagines and other larger dishes, and an extensive wine list.

Massachusetts

Just Right Farm

Located in Massachusetts’ South Shore area, Just Right Farm offers a screened porch for dining on a 300-year-old farmstead. The restaurant serves up seasonal, home-grown dishes, such as beet and apple soup and fingerling potatoes, along with local seafood and meat, such as Maine mussels and pasture-farmed pork.

The Farmer’s Daughter

This restaurant in North Easton, Mass., serves more casual, but still fresh and local, fare for breakfast and lunch. Using ingredients such as farm-fresh eggs, local bacon and sausage, and grass-fed organic beef, the menu offers something for everyone—even a kids’ meal with free-range, organic chicken tenders.

If you know of a great farm to table restaurant, please tell us about it.  Perhaps we’ll write about it and more than likely we’ll also be sure to eat there too.  To share your ideas, comment here or share with us on our Facebook pages.  Thanks!

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5 DIY Ways to Insulate Your Home on the Cheap

Did you put off insulating your home? So, yah, colder days have arrived. No worries! Here are some "it isn't too late" things you can do to insulate your home this winter.

Like it or not, winter has arrived.  Like it or not, it will stick around for a long time.

If your house isn’t well-insulated, you’re likely to spend a lot on heating bills: The average heating oil bill in Maine last winter was $2,046.  While it is true that the cost of oil has dipped since last winter, do you really think it will stay that way all winter?

And if your heating source doesn’t heat your entire house adequately, you’re likely to see a hike in your electricity bill if you need to supplement with space heaters.

While wall insulation is the best remedy for making the most of your home’s heating source, if it isn’t in the budget this year, you have numerous other options for DIY home insulation fixes.

Try these tips for a warmer winter:

Cover any air leaks with weatherproofing.

Use weatherproofing strips and caulking to seal any air leaks in your doors and windows. Window insulation kits can typically be purchased for under $20, and can be installed in a matter of minutes.

Add thick curtains to your windows.

Options such as the Thermaliner blackout curtains will help contain the heat in your home. If you don’t want to spring for all-new curtains, you can add a cheap liner to your existing curtains, such as fleece or even a PVC shower curtain. Keep the curtains open during daylight hours to let the sunlight in and add natural heat to your home, but when the sun sets, draw the curtains to contain the warmth.

Fix drafty doors with a door snake.

You can use common household items to create a “door snake” that sits at the bottom of your door and blocks the cold air from entering. Door snakes can be crafted out of materials such as old socks, pillow stuffing, and popcorn kernels—find step-by-step instructions for making one here.

Plug your chimney when not in use.

One study found that a household heating bill was 30 percent higher when the home had a missing or broken fireplace damper. If your fireplace flue doesn’t seal properly, you could be losing a lot of heat through your chimney. Plug the hole with a “chimney balloon”—a balloon covered in laminate that can be inflated once it is inside the chimney to provide an effective seal. Such balloons can be purchased for $40 to $50, or you can make your own chimney balloon out of household items such as cardboard and bubble wrap. (Just remember to take the balloon out before you plan to light a fire!)

Seal your attic air leaks.

In most homes, a lot of your heat will escape into the attic, where it’s not doing you any good. While insulating your attic space with foam can be an effective way to lower heating costs, you can use a simple reflective foil material as a cost-effective alternative.

Gable View of Ongoing House Attic insulation Project with Heat a

By stapling the foil sheets to your attic roof rafters, you can reflect the heat that hits the rafters back down into your home’s living space.

Any time or financial investments you make this year should provide a nice return on investment for years to come.  While it is a one time expense, your’ll enjoy the savings, and be warmer over the long haul.

 

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Can Changing To LEDs Pay for College?

Using LED lightbulbs can save you money. How much? Switch all the bulbs in your home to LEDs, in 18 years save almost $7- thousand dollars. Perhaps not enough to pay for college, but enough to pay for books?

OK.  Perhaps you won’t save enough money to pay for your kids’ college tuition, but changing out all the lights in your home to LEDs can save you a good hunk of cash.  What other investment can you get that kind of return?

The United States Department of Energy is a great resource for all things LED, including changes to technology, energy savings, and available products.  For more visit www.energy.gov

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How to Actually Save Money During the Holiday Season

The holidays are the most wonderful time of year. This year, you can make them even better and more cost effective by just changing a few simple things!

I’m not sure about you, but for me, it feels like the months of November and December are the two busiest months out of the entire year. They are spent shopping for gifts, attending family functions, planning, and decorating. All of this can take a huge toll on our wallet, and for most, can leave us feeling stressed out and tight on money.

Don’t get me wrong, the holidays are the most wonderful time of year—we get to celebrate multiple different events, cheat on our diets, and most importantly, spend time with loved ones. With that being said, I am here to give you some tips on how you can save a little bit of cash during the months that take us on a financial roller coaster ride.

What a bright time, it’s the right time…to buy LED Lights

Get rid of those old incandescent light strings—they are sucking up way too much energy! Instead, decorate your house and trees with LED lights. Not only do they consume less electricity, but they are safer (LEDs do not generate as much heat) and last longer.

Find out everything you need to know about the benefits of having LED lights here. Your investment now CAN and WILL add up over multiple winter seasons.

holiday lights

Self-Timers

Once you have purchased those energy saving LED light strings, I’m guessing you’ll want to decorate your tree and house with them. Let’s be real—no one wants to go outside at night when it’s freezing cold to turn off the holiday lights. It’s easier and more convenient just to leave them on overnight. But, this method is not cost effective. Consider purchasing a self-timer for the lights that would otherwise stay on during the wee hours.

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Use Smaller Appliances As Much As Possible

We all know that the kitchen is where we spend most of our time during the holiday season. Entertaining, eating, cooking, and baking delicious treats for our guests. During this time, the kitchen appliances can be working overtime, which means more electricity usage. Whether you’re having a cookie baking party with friends, or just cooking that big Thanksgiving meal, everything from the electric mixer to the blender can be in use. If possible, try using the smaller appliances to get the cooking done. For example, use the toaster oven instead of the regular oven for baking smaller dishes. Heat things in the microwave if you can, and don’t forget to use the crockpot! Even better—try making food that doesn’t require any baking at all, like these fantastic looking Candy Cane No-Bake Cookies.

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Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire…

Lying next to the fireplace with a hot chocolate is always one of the many joys of winter, right? If you have a fireplace, try heating your living room with that instead of blasting the electric heater. Now that it’s November, the cold weather has arrived for us New Englanders. Since they are predicting another bad winter, start by getting into the habit early. Not only will it be a relaxing activity, but you will not have to worry about the extra costs of a space heater.

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By just changing a few simple things, you will now be spending less on your electricity bill during the holiday season. This can ultimately make time spent preparing for the all those festivities much more enjoyable for you and your family.

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What Does It Mean To Be Energy Literate?

A survey conducted by the National Environmental Education & Training Foundation (NEETF) found that only 12% of young adults could pass a basic energy quiz. The same survey revealed that most of us overestimate our knowledge of energy. Where does electricity come from and how is it produced? What is the difference between a utility and a supply company? What drives the cost of electricity? How much energy do you use in a day, month, or year? If you can answer those questions, you are ahead of the curve.

The following piece was written by Will Fessenden, Provider Power’s director of content & media, and was published in the November edition of Bangor Metro Magazine’s “Energy Section”.

Where does electricity come from and how is it produced? What is the difference between a utility and a supply company? What drives the cost of electricity? How much energy do you use in a day, month, or year? If you can answer those questions, you are ahead of the curve.

A survey conducted by the National Environmental Education & Training Foundation (NEETF) found that only 12% of young adults could pass a basic energy quiz. The same survey revealed that most of us overestimate our knowledge of energy.

Few would disagree that everything revolves around energy. Look around you. Our ability to produce the stuff we buy—the food we eat, the water and oil we take from the ground, the computer screen you are reading this on, all of these require energy.

In spite of its importance, few of us truly understand energy; many American’s don’t even care. According to a University of Texas at Austin Energy Poll conducted in March of 2014, less than 70% of Americans “consider energy issues important.”

Fortunately there are efforts underway to reverse course. This involves education and engagement.  The United States Department of Energy has developed an energy literacy framework. Parents and educators can access tools, lesson plans, and resources focused on 7 “essential principals” of energy.

The Department of Energy defines an energy literate person as someone who can: trace energy flows, knows how much energy they use (and where the energy comes from), can assess the credibility of information about energy and communicate about energy use in meaningful ways.

Closer to home there is a much more hands-on approach to educating about energy.

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s “PowerHouse” program includes working with smart electrical meters (already available in some Maine households) to enable Maine students and their families to investigate and manage home electricity use.  Students review their household electricity use on an hourly, daily, monthly and yearly basis. They then participate in family discussion about energy use at home.

This premise is a very simple one. Use technology to measure and document energy use, and make desired changes based on available data.

The energy crisis of the 1970’s led to a School House Rock cartoon titled “Electricity-Electricity.”

You may remember the lyrics, “Burning fuel and using steam, they generate electricity-electricity. Turn that generator by any means…You’re making, uh…electricity, electricity.”

Some of the nation’s leading energy researchers have called for a greater investment in educating, or at least engaging young people about energy.

President Obama sought the assistance of Hollywood a advertising agency to produce a series of YouTube-style videos designed to highlight the role energy plays in our everyday lives. The project failed to get enough support.

In order to make informed decisions about energy efficiency, renewable energy solutions, energy production and research, we need a higher level of energy literacy.

Without a greater understanding of energy and electricity, history is bound to repeat itself.  Few of us want a repeat of the 1970’s with an energy shortage.  Greater energy literacy means we will be better suited to respond to fluctuations in the market and how to mitigate the effects of those changes.

Hopefully we will not need what they called for in the School House Rock video, “if we only had a superhero who could stand here and turn the generator real fast, then we wouldn’t need to burn so much fuel to make . . . electricity.”

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