Earth Day: Top 10 ‘Greenest’ States

Earth Day calls to mind the importance of protecting the environment—but some states, according to a new analysis by WalletHub, are doing a better job at it than others.

The analysis took into account three factors: environmental quality, which encompasses aspects such as energy efficiency; eco-friendly behaviors, such as water consumption and solar panels; and climate change contributions, such as carbon dioxide emissions.

Based on those parameters, WalletHub ranked the following states greenest:

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  1. Vermont

No. 1 for Environmental Quality
No. 2 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 9 for Climate Change Contributions

Vermont has the second-lowest municipal solid waste per capita and the third-highest air quality of the 50 states.

  1. Massachusetts

No. 4 for Environmental Quality
No. 12 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 6 for Climate Change Contributions

  1. Oregon

No. 9 for Environmental Quality
No. 1 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 24 for Climate Change Contributions

Oregon is tied with four other states for the highest percentage of energy consumption from renewable sources and has the fifth-highest amount of LEED-certified buildings per capita of the 50 states.

  1. Washington

No. 3 for Environmental Quality
No. 7 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 20 for Climate Change Contributions

Washington is tied with four other states for the highest percentage of energy consumption from renewable resources and has the second-highest water quality and the third-highest soil quality of the 50 states.

  1. Connecticut

No. 7 for Environmental Quality
No. 22 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 3 for Climate Change Contributions

Connecticut has the highest water quality of the 50 states.

  1. Maine

No. 11 for Environmental Quality
No. 6 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 10 for Climate Change Contributions

Maine is tied with four other states for the highest percentage of energy consumption from renewable resources and has the highest percentage of recycled solid municipal waste of the 50 states.

  1. Minnesota

No. 2 for Environmental Quality
No. 5 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 31 for Climate Change Contributions

Minnesota has the second-highest percentage of recycled solid municipal waste, the second-highest soil quality and the third-highest water quality of the 50 states.

  1. New York

No. 12 for Environmental Quality
No. 11 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 5 for Climate Change Contributions

New York has the lowest energy consumption per capita and the lowest gasoline consumption per capita of the 50 states.

  1. New Hampshire

No. 29 for Environmental Quality
No. 10 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 2 for Climate Change Contributions

New Hampshire has the fourth-highest amount of LEED-certified buildings per capita, the fourth-lowest municipal solid waste per capita and the fifth-highest percentage of recycled municipal solid waste of the 50 states.

  1. Rhode Island

No. 15 for Environmental Quality
No. 16 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 4 for Climate Change Contributions

Rhode Island has the second-lowest energy consumption per capita, the third-lowest gasoline consumption per capita and the fifth-lowest municipal solid waste per capita of the 50 states.

How does your state rank on the green scale? View the full list here.

Source: WalletHub

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5 Tips to Declutter Your Closet in a Day

Streamline your wardrobe, and help others at the same time.

I recently had a closet collapse. I came home from a day at the office to find heaps of once-neatly-hung, color-coordinated clothes in one giant, messy mound on the floor. Worse than picking up the pieces of chipped drywall? Admitting that maybe it was time to get rid of that favorite shirt of mine — from college. In the ’90s.

So I sought the help of style expert Darcy Camden to find out what she tells her clients. Camden has been cleaning out closets and styling men and women for more than a decade (read: she spends a TON of time in strangers’ homes). The busy fashionista (she’s a mother, too) insists there are easy ways to declutter that tangle of t-shirts or pile of old papers. And you can do it in as little as an hour.

A little goes a long way

Purge a little at a time, says Camden, who has helped more than 900 clients in her career.

“Most of my clients think that purging a closet is a huge all-day endeavor, but it often makes more sense to do a little at a time,” she says. “I encourage everyone to keep a Goodwill donation bag in their closet or bedroom, and add to it here and there as you discover items that don’t fit or have gotten worn out.”

If it doesn’t fit, you can’t wear it

“It rarely makes sense to keep something that physically doesn’t fit you — even if you love it,” Camden says. Put it in a pile to donate, and imagine how much joy the next person will get from that item.

New season = new chances

When the weather warms up or cools down, it’s a great opportunity to think about what you’ve worn — and what you haven’t. “If you didn’t wear it last winter, you probably won’t wear it next winter,” Camden says.

Use the “plus one, minus one” method

Fab new pants? Great! But only put them in the closet after removing a pair that’s collecting dust.

“I tell my clients to subtract one old item for every new item you purchase,” Camden recommends. “If you spend an afternoon shopping and come home with five new things, spend some time reviewing your closet. Remove five older things you’re no longer wearing.”

Finally, donate!

Think of how much you can keep out of the landfill by gifting your giveaways to a good cause.

“I’m constantly amazed that my clients are worried their castaways aren’t good enough for Goodwill,” Camden says. “Will they really want this stained old t-shirt? Or this single sock? Yes!”

“Working closely with Seattle Goodwill over the years has given me tons of insight into what happens to donations,” she continues. “Your smelly socks and stained clothing provide jobs and can be recycled or reused. Never throw away clothing to a landfill.”

Last year, Seattle Goodwill kept more than 53 million pounds of useful goods out of landfills. In addition to helping the planet, those donations also help fund job training and educational programs, adds Seattle Goodwill’s Katherine Boury.

Happy cleaning!


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Iconic ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ House Listed for $8.995M

The elaborate Italianate-style villa is on the market for a new family.

Hundreds of millions of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” viewers have watched the Kardashian clan call this Italianate-style mansion home — despite the fact that no Kardashian has ever actually lived on the grounds.

The 7,800-square foot Studio City home has served as the public-facing facade for Kris Jenner’s residence, as well as the central family gathering place, since season 4 of E!’s zeitgeist franchise (now in its 13th season).

This iconic piece of pop culture history, known as “Palazzo Dei Sogni” and listed for $8.995 million, is now on the market for a new family.

Keeping Up With the Kardashians” viewers never got to see the interior of the opulent estate, which is very clearly fit for a queen (or Momager).

Inspired by the Medici castle in Florence, Italy, the 7-bedroom, 8-bathroom mansion includes luxurious features rich with history — including sconces imported from the Paris Opera House, a centuries-old stone fountain, a saltwater pool with a waterfall, and chandeliers adorning just about every room.  

Iredell Kardashians House

Photos courtesy Steven J. Magner Photography

Built in 1983 and extensively remodeled in 2005, the villa extends its opulence to its modern elements, from one-of-a-kind murals hand-painted by local artist Giorgio Tuscani, to indoor and outdoor chef’s kitchens complete with state-of-the-art Viking ranges, and a 2,000-bottle wine cellar.

The outside living spaces are just as luxurious as the indoor amenities, offering sweeping views, intimate gathering spaces, and a covered veranda accessible from the master suite. The estate is situated on nearly an acre of land, and the entrance’s intricate steel gates provide ample privacy (not to mention a driveway with room for up to 10 vehicles).

Photo courtesy Steven J. Magner Photography

A haven for TV buffs, Palazzo Dei Sogni has also appeared on the HBO shows “True Blood,” “Entourage,” and “Rome.” Appropriately, the property includes an HD/THX theater with a 12-foot screen — the perfect setting for binge watching “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”

Robert E. Howell of Keller Williams Beverly Hills holds the listing.


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10 Spring Cleaning Projects to Tackle This Weekend 

Welcome warmer weather with a spotless home (in just one weekend).

Spring cleaning is all about getting our homes ready for a new season of sunshine, warmth, and time outdoors — and indoors, too! Now’s the time to wipe off the grime, clear out the cobwebs, and get those living spaces ready for the year ahead.

When you put together your spring cleaning checklist this year, consider adding the following tasks, if you aren’t already planning to do them. These projects will not only put the cherry on top of the clean-home sundae, but also make your home more functional.

Best of all, you can knock out most of these jobs in a weekend.

Wash windows, inside and out

Some say clean windows make your whole home look better, and we think it’s true.

For a DIY cleaning job that yields professional results, use a solution of water, ammonia, and white vinegar. Apply the solution to your windows with a large sponge, and remove it with a professional-grade squeegee.

Clean refrigerator and air conditioner coils

These appliances create a cooling effect by circulating air through the coils. Over time, dust builds up on the coils and decreases their efficiency, making your refrigerator or air conditioner work a lot harder.

Unplug the appliance, then vacuum out the coils with your vacuum’s crevice tool. You can also use a special refrigerator-coil cleaning brush, available at most hardware stores.

Check ceiling fans

Clean your ceiling-fan blades to remove winter dust build up.

And if you reversed your ceiling fan’s direction to clockwise for the winter, turn it back to counterclockwise for the warmer months. This sends the air straight down, creating a cooling effect.

Clean dryer vent

Cleaning a dryer vent is easier than you might imagine. First, unplug the dryer from the power source. Next, clean out the vent with a special dryer-vent cleaning brush or a vacuum.

Deep-clean carpets

Even if you vacuum regularly, a thorough carpet cleaning once a year will reach deep down into the fibers to clean out debris, dust, and food particles.

You can hire a professional to do the job, or rent a professional-grade carpet cleaner from a home improvement store.

Inspect roof, gutters, and chimneys

Spring is the perfect time to check your roof for damage that may have occurred over the winter. If you can’t use a ladder to get up on the roof, try inspecting it with binoculars.

Check decks and patios

If the finish on your wooden deck still looks good, that’s great! You might just need to clean the deck to get it ready for summer.

If the finish appears to be worn, then you’ll want to consider both cleaning and resealing the deck. For decks made of composite material, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and preserving the deck.

Prep lawn equipment

Get those lawn mowers, weed whackers, and pressure washers out of storage, turn them on, and make sure they are running properly. If they’re not, now is the time to take them to a shop for repairs.

Clean outside furniture

Use Murphy Oil Soap for wood furniture. For most other types of outdoor furniture, a solution of dishwashing liquid and water should do the trick.

Freshen up your front entrance

Sweep and/or wash the front porch and steps. Put out a new welcome mat. Add a pot or two of brightly colored annuals, and your home will be ready for spring!


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New Frameworks: Building Earth-Friendly Homes While Shaping a Better Future

Construction that heals the environment? It can be done. See how these builders bring a social justice-driven ethos to home building.

When the folks at New Frameworks set out to build or restore a home, they aren’t just thinking about the individual needs of their client — though that is central to their work, of course. They also take the bigger picture into account, particularly their ecological and social impact, which weaves its way into every facet of the business.

Based in Vermont, New Frameworks places an emphasis on using locally sourced, low-impact materials in their projects. These have become trendy buzzwords in construction, but New Frameworks takes them seriously, looking for materials that not only don’t harm the environment, but can, in fact, help restore it — and contribute to the local economy to boot.

“Our real goal is to build regeneratively, meaning that our projects actually grow good things rather than result in bad things,” says co-founder Ace McArleton. “For example, we live in Vermont and are based mostly in Vermont, and it’s a pretty forested region. So for us, wood — when managed sustainably and responsibly — is a resource that we believe can be worked with and harvested in a sustainable way. We work with sawyers and loggers and millers in our region, which also supports our small economy here and economy of place.”

In addition, since wood comes from trees, “it’s carbon sequestering,” explains McArleton. “So the trees utilize carbon dioxide to grow, and therefore fix, carbon in the body of their wood,” and can ultimately help mitigate global warming.

New Frameworks uses natural, sustainable materials from local suppliers to further their mission of natural building and energy efficient construction.

New Frameworks often uses straw as an insulation material in the walls, employs primarily natural paints and plasters, and opts for sand from local quarries. Sometimes they even source sand or clay onsite at the project. Reclaimed materials play a large role as well, and the builders are often able to repurpose discarded items, like timbers from a barn, both in the current project and future ones.

“It’s really wonderful,” says McArleton, “creating relationships with the materials that we work with and feeling passionate about those social relationships that produce them, as well as the farmers and loggers and foresters and people in our area and community, which is the whole experience.”

A natural touch

As an extension of the company’s earth-friendly philosophy, natural motifs often find their ways its designs. “Our lead designer, Ben Graham, loves to do a touch of natural wood elements,” explains McArleton. The builders will incorporate a natural tree fork branch to hold up a beam, for example, or have the clients select a tree from the property to use as a round tree post with “some visual scribe.”

Or, if the client has a more clean, modern aesthetic, the design might incorporate recurring natural patterns, like curves and honeycomb. “We like to find even that little hint of it somewhere in the project,” McArleton says.

The three co-founders of New Frameworks — McArleton, Jacob Deva Racusin, and Ben Graham — apply their ethical building philosophies to their own homes. “Some of us have built our own from-scratch, timber frame, straw bale homes off the grid using solar, etc.,” says McArleton. “And then some of us have chosen to be in more town or urban settings where we have worked with existing buildings. Then we rework with natural solutions, interior finishes, doing retrofit work on existing homes — which is another aspect of our work.”

Graham, for example, bought an old home in downtown Plainfield, VT, then made additions like sheep’s wool wall insulation and a thermally high-performing door that New Frameworks designed and built.

New Frameworks creates green homes and spaces using low-impact, locally sourced, durable, and beautiful natural materials.

The company’s social justice-driven ethos goes well beyond building, and is represented in the very structure of the company. They place an emphasis on mentoring women and trans folks in this male-dominated industry, and are a worker collective. “We just feel so strongly about organizing ourselves internally in a democratic and inclusive way that shares ownership and builds leadership in our organization,” explains McArleton.

So often construction results in an unconscionable amount of waste. But New Frameworks believes that building a home doesn’t have to make a negative impact, and can, in fact, contribute positively to the environment, society, and the local community.


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