Posts Tagged ‘Green Tips’

Kicking Off the Year with Green Resolve

January 12, 2011

In the United States, the most popular New Year’s resolutions fit into a few predictable categories: getting fit, saving money, reducing stress, and getting organized. Unfortunately, environmental sustainability doesn’t even grace the list of the top ten most common resolutions.

Imagine what a huge impact we could have if everyone added just one “green” resolution to their list (and then kept their promise!) This year, identify one pragmatic step you can take to reduce your personal environmental footprint. Your resolution doesn’t need to be life-changing, but it should be meaningful and make a measurable impact. The New Year is the perfect opportunity for a fresh start.

Here is a short list of ideas to get your creativity flowing!

  • Pledge to take alternative transportation to work at least once a week
  • Skip the daily disposable coffee cup by making java at home
  • Finally get around to planting that garden in the spring
  • Call your local utility to arrange for a home energy audit
  • Reduce your shower time or invest in low-flow faucets and shower fixtures
  • Purchase a basket for your bike so you can run errands without burning fossil fuels
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Back to School in Sustainable Style

August 23, 2010

It’s hard to believe, but the long days of summer are already getting shorter, and before you know it, kids will be zipping up their backpacks and lining up outside to wait for the school bus. Back-to-school shopping is a celebrated tradition for students and parents alike. But with more families trying to reduce their environmental footprint, many eco-savvy shoppers are starting to seek out lower-impact options. Here are few easy tips to “green up” your back-to-school experience this year:

  1. Paper products. The bad news is that 1 billion trees worth of paper is thrown away every year. The good news is that there are a variety of high-quality recycled-content paper and notebook options to choose from. Mainstream brands like Mead offer stylish options, or check out an emerging paper company like “Ecojot,” which makes notebooks from 100% postconsumer waste and vegetable-based dyes. Or go the extra mile by opting for paperless with an energy-efficient, EPEAT-certified laptop.
  2. Writing utensils. Did you know that six billion pens are thrown away in the U.S. every year? Break the cycle by opting for recycled-content options, like Paper Mate’s EarthWrite pencils, which are made from newspaper and cardboard, or biodegradable pens made from cornstarch or recycled paper.
  3. Books.  Seek out used books whenever possible, especially for college students, where books can be a significant expense.
  4. Other supplies. First, before you head to the store, don’t forget to check your junk drawer – it’s easy to collect multiple pairs of scissors and staplers over the years! When you do need new supplies, look for options with recycled content. Or get creative and start a materials reuse program to hand down supplies when kids leave elementary school.
  5. Clothing.  Show your kids that vintage t-shirts are more fun when they’re actually vintage. Secondhand clothing retailers like Plato’s Closet have been growing in popularity in recent years, and it’s easy to see why (you can buy more with less!)

Green Grilling Guide: Easy Tips for a Low-Stress, Low-Impact Barbecue

June 28, 2010

More than 60 million households will fire up the grill every holiday weekend this summer. A little advance planning can turn those typically wasteful events into a stress-free and sustainable fete. Here are some easy steps for “greening up” your grilling this year!

  1. The Green Grill
    The particulate matter from burning charcoal briquettes contains carbon monoxide and other harmful VOCs, so use a propane, gas or electric grill where possible.  If you do use coal, choose all-natural lump varieties, which eliminate the additives contained in briquettes. 
  2. Ditch those Disposables
    Opt instead for reusable plates, cups, and traditional cutlery. If you must use disposables, look for options made from bamboo, sugar cane or other renewable materials. Then, when your event is over, reuse, recycle or compost as much waste as possible.
  3. Seasonal=Sustainable
    BBQ season is the best time of year to find locally grown fruits and vegetables. Feature fresh produce on the menu – drawing  from your backyard garden, CSA share or local farmers market!
  4. Opt for Organic
    Where possible, choose bulk sizes of organic drinks, or whip up your own fresh iced tea or lemonade. Organic beers and wines are also readily available in most traditional liquor stores. (Seek party planning inspiration from Organic Shaken and Stirred: Hip Highballs, Modern Martinis, And Other Totally Green Cocktails, by Paul Abercrombie.)
  5. It’s all about the Meat
    For many, vegetarian barbecues are simply not a realistic option, so visit sustainable meat retailers in your area to purchase delicious organic and grass-fed options. Because it tends to be leaner than traditional meat, marinate the meat before and during the grilling process to keep it juicy and tender.
  6. Dish up some Dessert
    Try reheating baked goods in a closed grill after the heat is turned off. By the time you are ready for dessert, that rhubarb pie will be at the perfect temperature for a dollop of whipped cream!

Offsetting and Offsets: the basics of carbon neutrality

May 19, 2010

“Carbon neutrality” is a phrase that many people have heard, but few really understand. Essentially, going “carbon neutral” means achieving net zero carbon emissions, or balancing the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset.

To further complicate matters, carbon offsetting can mean a couple different things: (1) using renewable energy instead of burning fossil fuels for power; or (2) purchasing carbon offset credits. Offset credits can fund a variety of activities, like large-scale tree planting efforts or innovative carbon reduction projects, such as installing anaerobic digesters on farms to capture methane (a global warming gas estimated to be 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide).

The best practice for individuals or organizations seeking to achieve carbon neutrality is to reduce the amount of carbon emissions released in the first place. However, purchasing carbon offset credits is also an easy way to invest in a healthier planet. To learn more about how to calculate and offset your personal or professional carbon footprint, visit www.terrapass.com or www.greenmountainenergy.com/carbon_offsets.shtml.

From Farm to Front Door: Local Food Made Easy

April 21, 2010

What could be better than farm-fresh, mouth-watering produce delivered directly to your doorstep?

Community Supported Agriculture provides a direct link between local farmers and consumers, cutting out the cost, waste and pollution associated with the “middleman.”

CSA Memberships are growing in popularity every year, and it’s easy to see why! CSAs offer weekly delivery of sustainably grown fruits and vegetables during the June−October growing season. Some CSAs also offer unique options like honey, herbs, flowers, eggs, wool, meat or even firewood.

CSA members pay a subscription fee at the beginning of the season to help mitigate the risks associated with operating a small farm.

Here are some factors to consider when selecting a CSA:

  • Location
  • Pick-up or delivery site and time
  • Length of season 
  • Number of deliveries
  • Opportunities for farm visits or other involvement

To learn more about CSA opportunities near you, visit: http://www.landstewardshipproject.org/csa.html.
 

In Hot Water – Reducing Water-Related Energy Consumption

February 12, 2010

Save energy and money at work! Did you know that a standard hot and cold water cooler can use more energy than a large refrigerator?

Water coolers in businesses consume about 4 billion kilowatt hours of energy every year. Fortunately, there are better options available, including Energy Star qualified models, which use about half as much energy as a standard unit.

So if you discover your water cooler is an energy hog, consider changing to a more energy-efficient model that will save you money in the long run.

And at home! Reduce your energy costs at home by adjusting the settings on your water heater. The average household spends $400-$600 per year on water heating – second only to heating and cooling.

If you lower the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees (many are set at 140 degrees), you won’t notice much of a difference, and for each 10 degree reduction in water temperature, you can save between 3-5 percent in energy costs. Reducing the temperature to 120 degrees also helps to slow mineral buildup and corrosion in your water heater and pipes – helping it to run longer and more efficiently. 

Zapping Phantom Energy Loads

January 4, 2010

Did you know that many of the electronic devices in your home and office remain “on” even when they appear to be “off?” Unfortunately, appliances in standby mode still draw electrical power – in some cases, a lot of power! Many call those energy drains “phantom energy loads” or “energy vampires.”

The typical home has 20 energy vampires, including televisions, computer monitors, DVD players, video game consoles, and kitchen appliances. Overall, phantom energy drains account for about 5 percent of home electricity use. And according to Cornell University, energy vampires can add about $200 to your annual energy bill.

Save energy – and money – by taking the following steps in your home and office:

  1. Identify your biggest energy drains: An appliance watt meter can be used to find out how much electricity an appliance is drawing in standby mode. Watt meters can often be borrowed from the local power authorities or a public library. Measure devices in your home and office while “on” and in “standby” mode to determine where you are wasting the most energy. 
  2. Where feasible, unplug electronic devices while not in use – Unplug easily accessible appliances whenever possible, especially before you leave on vacation. Where unplugging individual devices isn’t feasible or realistic, plug a couple devices into one surge protector that can easily be switched on and off. 
  3. When purchasing new electronic devices, select energy-efficient or ENERGY STAR products: When shopping for new products, reference the Federal Energy Management Program’s online database of products rated by their standby energy use: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/technologies/standby_power.html.  You can also look for ENERGY STAR-labeled products, which use about half the electricity of standard appliances on average– both on and off!

Sustainable Seasons Greetings

December 9, 2009

During the Holidays, many of us tend to consume a LOT more than usual and forego the “green” habits we follow during the rest of the year.

Following are a few easy tips for ensuring a greener Holiday season and a more sustainable lifestyle as we head into 2010!

  •  Switch to solar-powered Holiday lights. Traditional electric lights are a big power drain and can use more than 100 watts of energy per string. Solar-powered LED lights produce a bright, clear light and automatically switch on at sun down.
  • Make your own wrapping paper! Most wrapping paper is used only once and then ends up in the landfill. Instead of purchasing mass-produced paper, look around your house for other creative options, such as the inside of brown shopping bags, newspaper, magazine collages or even handmade artwork. Use natural items from your yard or leftover pieces of ribbon to create a beautiful package that would make even Martha Stewart proud.
  • Reuse gift bags. More and more people are starting to take advantage of the ease of reusable gift bags or boxes in lieu of wrapping paper. Make sure to take good care of the bags you receive so you can “re-gift” them to others, and then encourage your gift recipients to do the same!
  • Recycle your Christmas tree. If you celebrate Christmas, take the time to investigate the tree-recycling program near you. You can locate your local program by visiting www.earth911.org. To be even more sustainable, select a pesticide-free tree from a farm near you.
  • Go Green and Give Back! Save the money you would usually spend on Holiday cards, and donate it to a local charity. Send out an electronic greeting with your favorite 2009 picture instead!

Composting 101

October 30, 2009

compostingDid you know that yard and kitchen waste make up almost 30 percent of the waste stream in the United States?

Removing compostable materials from our garbage cans can significantly reduce landfill space and also has excellent benefits for the health of your garden. Backyard composting has experienced a dramatic rise in popularity in recent years, as more and more people have discovered the environmental and economic benefits of composting (and that it’s not as difficult as it sounds!)

Basic Steps for Successful Composting:

  • Identify a location convenient to the garden and the source of your raw materials
  • Select an open bin or enclosed container  for compost materials
  • Layer a selection of “green” and “brown” materials to balance the moisture content – an ideal blend is approximately 4 parts of browns to one part greens
  • Maximize your compost efforts by turning the heap every few days using a garden fork
  • “Cook” for several weeks
  • Use the composted material in your garden for mulch, potting soil and more!

Typical “green” materials include fresh grass clippings, weeds or leftover kitchen scraps. Typical “brown” materials include dried leaves and grass. Don’t add meat, fish, animal fats, ashes or paper.

You can also purchase compost activators or try vermiculture, which is composting with the aid of worms, to improve the effectiveness and speed of your composting process. But adding a shovel-full of good garden soil will also do the trick. To learn more, visit www.howtocompost.org. Happy composting!

Get Water Wise!

September 9, 2009

file000988688026Did you know that the average U.S. home uses 260 gallons of water per day – and up to 1,000 gallons of water during peak watering season?

Fortunately there are a variety of easy ways to significantly reduce water use in your home, garden and workplace. As just one example, if one out of every 10 American homes upgraded to EPA-approved “WaterSense” fixtures, we’d save more than 120 billion gallons of water and $800 million dollars a year!

Here are a few other simple tips to help conserve water in your daily life:

  • Fix that leak! Just one leak can waste up to 200 gallons of water per week.
  • Wash only full loads of laundry and dishes, and don’t pre-rinse dishes before loading them into the dishwasher.
  • Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the fridge instead of running the tap water until it turns cold.
  • Use the garbage disposal sparingly – try composting instead!
  • Adjust sprinklers so only the lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk or street.
  • Adjust your lawnmower to cut grass no shorter than three inches; taller grass encourages deeper roots and helps counteract moisture loss.
  • Be creative! Try collecting the water you use for rinsing fruits and vegetables and reusing it to water potted plants.