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Thursday, 24 May 2012

Green Your Closet: Eco-Friendly Clothing Tips

photo of Colorful clothes hanging to dry on a laundry line and sun shining in the blue sky.
Kermit the Frog told us log ago “it’s not easy being green,” but fortunately times have changed, and it’s easier than ever to Go Green with your purchases, consumption and lifestyle. One often neglected area is super simple to “green up” — your closet!

Laundry tips

  • Wash in cold water whenever possible to save energy.
  • Wash only when clothes are dirty or have odor.
  • For adults, most clothes can be washed on a delicate cycle, which also helps to keep them looking good longer.
  • The more clothes you can hang dry, the more you’ll save energy and wear and tear on your clothes.
  • Look for plant-based, low-to-zero scented, and dye-free laundry detergent to avoid adding unnecessary chemicals on our clothes and into the waste stream — brands to look for are Ultra Purex Natural Elements, Seventh Generation Free & Clear, Green Works Laundry Detergent, Method Laundry Detergent, and Tide Free and Gentle.
  • For dryer sheets, you can use them to do dusting after they are used — a dual purpose! Some brands to look for – Method Squeaky Green Dryer Cloths*, Snuggle Free Clear, Seventh Generation Fabric Softner Sheets*, Mrs. Meyers Lavender Dryer Sheets. The dryer sheets with a “*” don’t have animal-derived ingredients so you can not only dust with them but also throw them in the compost.

Dry Cleaning Do’s and Don’ts

Traditional dry cleaning methods use dry cleaning solvents called perchloroethylene aka PERC or PCE, tetracholorethylene, or tetracholorethylene. These chemicals can cause serious health problems with long-term exposure, which is not good news for those who work in dry cleaning. And some people are sensitive to the residue from these chemicals on a short-term basis — such as dizziness and nose and throat irritation — which isn’t good for you if you dry clean a lot. These chemicals are also hazardous to dispose of — which means they are not eco-friendly.

There are greener dry cleaners, meaning those who provide professional wet cleaning and recycled carbon dioxide cleaning – both methods are environmentally friendly. Some dry cleaners use a silicone-based solvent called D-5 from Dow Corning and say they are green, but the EPA’s studies say there may be a cancer hazard associated with this chemical. And any dry cleaner which uses a hydrocarbon method is also not green, because of the chemical’s VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) release and use of petroleum. If you don’t have a greener dry cleaner near you, make sure you let your clothes air out after picking them up before you wear them. And, whenever possible, handwash items that aren’t “dry clean only.”

Greener Clothing Materials

Don’t just think eco-friendly when caring for your clothes. You have greener options when purchasing new clothes, too. If you can find clothing made out of organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, recycled polyester, or Tencel (made from wood pulp) — these are the more eco-friendly fabrics.

Organic cotton is currently one of the more commonly found eco-friendly materials. To grow and process regular cotton (also called “conventional cotton”), it usually requires a lot of intensive chemicals and pesticides — and some people feel that the residue from those chemicals stay in this cotton after a shirt or pants are made. However, with organic cotton the farmers are required to grow the cotton without toxic fertilizers and pesticides. This is of great benefit to you, so that you’re not exposed to these chemicals, as well as great benefit to our soils, water, and beneficial insects (like bees).

Hemp is not as common but has great promise because it requires little-to-no pesticides or herbicides, less water to grow, and can be turned into several different types of fabrics — faux silk, linen, knit, stretch, canvas, and muslin.
Other fabrics like bamboo, recycled polyester, and Tencel are great for reasons of using less resources to grow (bamboo), re-using (recycled polyester), and being biodegradable and chemical free (Tencel).

Re-use/vintage is also a way to go, but you can be more sophisticated about it. If you love the Boho-chic style, you’ll find loads of style options for yourself at second-hand stores. And, if you’re crafty, it is simple to add a little embellishment, a little extra dart or pleat, or some fun accessories to put together a very happening re-use combo. At Etsy.com and Ebay.com you can find a number of retailers who re-purpose and re-sell vintage wear.

Jewelry for all styles is something that can be particularly green when you source through second-hand stores. A unique piece of jewelry can really turn a plain outfit into wow! And I have found quality re-use pieces even at Goodwill — for just a few dollars instead of big bucks.

(Source: toptvstuffhousehold.com)

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Don't forget to wash that reusable shopping bag

A study finds that reusable grocery bags could carry dangerous levels of bacteria, which can be harmful to humans.

Jabs are currently going back and forth between University of Arizona researchers (whose study was partly funded by the American Chemistry Council) and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental advocacy group which objects to the study’s validity.

The NRDC says it's irresponsible to claim that reusable bags present a serious threat to public health because bacteria are everywhere.

Meanwhile, common sense advocates are reminding us that we wouldn’t wear the same clothes every day without washing them, so apply the same logic to your cloth grocery bags, for goodness sakes.
Amazingly, a full 97 percent of those interviewed for the study never washed or bleached their reusable bags; even thorough washing kills nearly all bacteria that accumulate in the bags.

The UA study tested 84 bags collected from shoppers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Tucson. Fifty percent of the bags were contaminated with harmful pathogens -- 12% of which was E.coli. E. coli can cause a whole host of nasty -- and potentially deadly -- diseases. It’s definitely something you want to avoid eating.

According to the study, cross-contamination within reusable bags is the culprit for most of the bacterial findings. Cross-contamination happens when uncooked items like meat, poultry and eggs leak onto a fabric bag. If the bag isn’t washed after such a leak, the bacteria left by the raw food can contaminate other food stored in the bag on your next grocery trip.

While these findings could potentially scare some consumers, I don’t think anyone would seriously advocate giving up on reusable bags. But you do have to take responsibility for your bags and maintain them properly.

Wash bags regularly to cut down on bacterial contamination.
Let me say this again for those of you who are skimming this article: Washing kills nearly all bacteria that accumulate in the bags. This is a no-brainer, people.

Don’t mix it up where reusable bags are concerned. 
Designate bags for certain uses. Example: Use one bag specifically for meat, one for produce, one for other household items like detergent and cleaning solutions, and one specifically for toting library books and dry cleaning.

Don’t store bags in the trunk. 
I know, I know, this might cut down on convenience, but remember that a hot trunk, filled with soccer shoes and wet beach towels makes an excellent nursery for bacteria. Plus, the higher temperature in your trunk can actually speed the reproduction of bacteria on fresh food. Also, what gets on your bag gets on your hands, and then on your groceries. Do you really want to bring the mud from the baseball field into your kitchen? Think about it.

The UA study is a little alarming, especially when regular hand and clothes washing has been around since the Romans started the tradition about 3000 years ago. But, it always takes some people a little longer to catch up. So remember to wash your reusable bags just like you would any other thing you use frequently.

By recognizing the potential for cross-contamination, and taking steps to prevent it, you can protect yourself, your family and the environment. And that’s something you can feel good about.

(Source: www.recyclebank.com) 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Office recycling: 5 ways you can make a difference

By now everyone (well, almost everyone) knows something about recycling at home. Whether it's simply collecting newspapers or separating everything from wine bottles to garden clippings, I don't know very many people who don't do some type of recycling - at home. I applaud them all. But still, I'm going to ask, "What have you done for me lately?"
What I mean is this, do you recycle at work, too? It seems to me that many people who are fanatical about their carbon footprint at home, forget about it once they leave for the office. And yes, many companies sponsor recycling programs for things like paper but what else can we do?

Here are some tips to help green your workspace:

Trade In Your Staples For Paper Clips
Staples are easy. Staples are convenient. Staples clog up the recycling stream. You know how you have separate different kinds of recyclables? Well, staples have to be removed from each piece of paper for either to be recycled. Instead, think way, way back to the days of paper clips. Yes, it's true Virginia, paper clips hold papers together as effectively as any staple. How to? Well, you write a note on a scrap of paper and attach to another piece of paper with a paper clip. Seems so simple. And they are completely reusable and last a lifetime. You can even link them together and make a chic necklace. BTW, an old mug makes a neat clip holder. Now you're ready for the front office.

Make Your Own Tiny Memo Notes
To complement your newly recycled coffee mug/ paper clip holder, pair it with some tiny memo notes you make yourself. Just take some used paper or outdated letterhead and trot on over to the paper cutter. (If you don't have an office paper cutter, scissors will do fine.) And trim that old paper into 3 x 3 squares. Or any other shape or size you like. Be creative, let your personality show. Cut ovals, rectangles or even kitty cats. Doesn't matter. Pair with your new paper clips and it's business as usual…without all the waste.

Create A Place For Recycling Office Supplies
Set aside a place in a common area with a box for office supplies. Think staplers, paper clips, pens, etc., and ask everyone to add to the box when they've finished using something, and to check there first if they need something. Think of all the rubber bands that won't be leaving the supply closet. The planet thanks you.

Reuse envelopes for internal correspondence
After all, does anyone really care that they aren't getting a new envelope for that memo about the weekly staff meeting? I'd guess, no. Scratch out the name of the prior recipient then write in the new name, and off it goes.

Repurpose file folders, boxes, and packing materials
Instead of getting a new folder for each new job, why not reuse folders from completed jobs. If you turn old folders inside-out, they even look new. Likewise, use old boxes to store supplies. Reuse packing material to send another package. Or better yet, (with your boss's permission) donate used packaging to your local school, retirement community or church and let them reuse it. You can even return it to any packaging store so they can reuse it.

Respect, recycle and reuse your office supplies, and they will last longer, save your company money and help save the planet.

(Source: www.recyclebank.com) 

Monday, 21 May 2012

How to: Recycle a cardboard box into a DIY earring holder

Are your earrings tangled in a mess on your bureau or scattered about your bathroom cabinet? If you have twenty minutes and a few simple household items on hand, you can quickly and easily craft yourself a mod earring holder from a recycled cardboard box in only eight simple steps! By choosing your favorite colors and materials, you can add a funky accent to your closet or match your new earring holder to your bathroom decor.

Step One: Gather your materials
You will need:
A lid from a sturdy cardboard shoebox or similar box
A stapler
String, yarn, lace, ribbon or embroidery thread in assorted colors
Double-sided tape
Fabric large enough to cover the cardboard box lid (you can also use fabric cut from a used shirt, sheet, or scarf here!)
A needle and thread
Measuring tape or a ruler
Assorted buttons or large beads

Step Two: Prep cardboard lid
Make sure the cardboard lid you chose is well-glued and sturdy. We used packing tape to reinforce the corners and inside edges to make sure no part could come loose.

Step Three: Measure and cut your fabric
Measure the length and width of your lid and add a couple inches to each side to ensure that you have enough fabric to fold underneath the rim of the box lid. Cut your fabric and iron it smooth, since this part will make up the front of your earring holder.

Step Four: Position your fabric
Place a few pieces of double-sided tape on the top side of your lid and position the fabric evenly, pressing down in the center of the lid to stick the fabric on. Carefully flip the box over and make sure the fabric is even.

Step Five: Attach the fabric to the lid
Apply a small bead of glue all around the inside rim of the lid. Carefully and neatly fold one edge of the fabric at a time over the edge of the box lid and staple it on. When the glue dries, this will also ensure the fabric is attached firmly.

Step Six: Choose contrasting colors of fabric or yarn
We used yarn in our earring holder, but you could also use string, ribbon, or lace. Cut out several feet of each color and begin wrapping it firmly around your lid, knotting it tightly in the back. Criss-cross several colors or even several different materials – mix lace and yarn – around your new earring holder. Each horizontal loop will provide a space for earring hooks.

Step Seven: Add buttons
Choose several contrasting buttons or beads. Using your needle and thread, carefully attach the buttons at the junctions of your yarn or ribbon. This is decorative but also anchors the string tightly to the lid and the fabric, creating a stronger area to hang heavier earrings.

Step Eight: Hang your new earring holder
You can place two thumbtacks into the wall and simply hang the lid directly. You can also staple a length of string or ribbon to the top edge of your new jewelry hanger as shown in order to hang it from a hook.

(Source: http://inhabitat.com)

Thursday, 17 May 2012

5 hot green jobs available today

There’s been a lot of talk about green jobs over the past few years. Not all the hype has panned out, but there has also been real progress.
The following are some of the hottest green jobs around:
Solar Professionals
The power of the sun is growing green jobs for installers, salespeople, and entrepreneurs looking to tap into a renewable energy market that is dramatically outperforming the economy at large. As the price of this green power source continues to drop, more businesses and individuals may be encouraged to install their own arrays.
The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy organization for the industry, reported that during 2011 solar job growth boomed at nearly 10 times the rate of overall employment gains. And while sunny (and incentive-friendly) California is the top solar state, the technology is spreading far and wide, with less-obvious locations like Pennsylvania and New York both ranking in the top five in terms of solar employment.
“In spite of the recession we’ve seen surprisingly robust growth,” said David Foster, executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance, a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations dedicated to the green economy. “Renewable energy production in this country has doubled in the past 5 years, and in solar and wind we’ve increased the number of jobs by 70,000, while other parts of the economy were losing jobs.”
The automobile industry doesn’t have a very green reputation, but it’s a top success story in green job growth according to BlueGreen Alliance’s David Foster. (The organization counts United Auto Workers among its members, along with environmental organizations like the Sierra Club.)
“The Obama Administration’s three-pronged attack of stabilizing the U.S. auto industry, introducing fuel economy rules, and targeting tax assessments around advanced auto manufacturing has demonstrated how taking an important step towards solving climate change can also have a beneficial job creation rate,” Foster said.
“And a sector of the economy that had historically been very opposed to embracing a clean economy is now seeing a resurgence and the creation of tens of thousands of jobs for exactly that reason.”
Green Builders
These are bad times for many builders but one segment of the industry has been upbeat—engineers, contractors, and other professionals working to build and upgrade buildings to greener LEED standards.
“The continuing interest in energy savings has been very helpful and the growth of green architecture is an area of great interest,” said Foster. “There is value in real estate investment that is directly associated with green standards.”
Numbers from a McGraw-Hill Construction study unveiled at the National Association of Home Builders show earlier this year back up that assertion—and project even greater gains in the future. Green homes comprised 17 percent of the residential construction market in 2011, the report stated, and will reach between 29 and 38 percent of the market by 2016. Older homes are getting greener as well; 34% of all remodelers said they expect to do mostly green work by 2016. That’s a 150% jump over 2011 levels.
Sustainable Farming
We all have to eat, but feeding Earth’s 7 billion (and growing) people is taking an ever-greater toll on the planet’s natural resources. That’s why sustainable farming continues to gain traction, producing more healthy foods while using less of everything from pesticides to energy.
The Organic Trade Association’s 2011 industry survey showed a nearly 10 percent jump in U.S. organic sales from 2009 to 2010, continuing the trend of an industry that soared from sales of $1 billion annually in 1990 to nearly $27 billion in 2010.
And organic experts expect these trend to continue. The Organic Farming Research Foundationprojects that the number of organic farmers in the U.S. must triple by 2015 to meet demands for organic foods. That should provide rewarding green jobs for those who like to get their hands dirty.
Sustainability Professionals
Some of the greenest jobs available involve helping existing businesses, from across the economic spectrum, operate as responsibly and sustainably as possible. That’s where the growing ranks of sustainability professionals come in, armed with sustainable or “green” MBAs and other degrees or concentrations from universities dedicated to educating the next generation of green decision makers.
It’s a rare business that isn’t focused on making money. But each day more corporations are embracing the “Triple Bottom Line” of Profit, People, and Planet, no matter what type of widget they produce. And the growing industries and businesses overtly dedicated to the green economy are also in search of leaders who understand how to create synergy between environmental responsibility and economic success.

(Source: newswatch.nationalgeographic.com) 

Beautify your yard with this one green tip

These days, more and more gardeners are turning to greywater to provide their landscape with needed moisture. 

It’s a frugal practice that can save scarce fresh water supplies, especially during drought conditions.

What’s graywater?

Graywater is all the non-toilet wastewater produced by the average household. This includes bath water and dish water from sinks, as well as water from washing machines, showers and dishwashers. I also include water from the ice left over after a beverage is finished, and water that might have been sitting on your night stand overnight. Don’t laugh. Since my husband and I both need a sip of water during the night and take a small glass with us to bed, collecting that “used” water gives me enough each week to water most of my indoor plants. It’s only a few tablespoons at a time, but it adds up. And remember that houseplants need only a small amount of moisture a day to thrive.

Sounds gross. Is graywater safe?

Although gray water does not need extensive chemical or biological treatment before it can be used in the garden as irrigation water, it still must be used carefully because it can contain things like grease, hair, detergent, cosmetics, dead skin, and food particles. One recommendation, from the University of Massachusetts, is to apply no more than a 1/2 gallon of greywater per square foot of soil. So, if you have a 200 square foot landscape area, use no more than 100 gallons of greywater per week.

According to the Colorado State University Extension, the greatest danger in using gray water is the build-up of sodium in the soil. Most cleaning agents contain sodium salts which can damage the soil structure and create an alkaline condition if used over a long period of time. So, if you use graywater regularly, you might want to have your soil tested periodically to make sure the pH is not above 7.5. 

Soaps and detergents are biodegradable, but they can also present problems when graywater is used over an extended period. Rotate graywater applications with rainfall or fresh water to keep salts from building up within the soil.

How do I collect graywater?

One obstacle to overcome is the collection of graywater in the first place. You can use some kind of a scooper to remove dish water and bath water to fill a bucket or pail, or remove the drain trap to allow for the water to flow into a bucket placed directly under your sink or tub. This is also probably the easiest way to transport your graywater to your garden. 
But for the collection of shower, washing machine and dishwasher graywater, you’ll need to make adjustments to your drainage system to allow for collection. 

You can find some helpful tips for fitting your house with a graywater collection system, and mistakes to avoid at Oasis Design. Be sure and check with the local health department about health codes in your area before before making any plumbing changes.
A few tips for using graywater
- Apply greywater directly to the ground surface. Do not apply on leaves or other parts of the plants
- Some experts suggest using graywater only on ornamental landscapes, and not in the vegetable garden.
- If you need to use graywater for irrigating food plants, restrict its application to the soil around plants such as corn, tomatoes, broccoli, or other vegetables of which only the above ground part is eaten. Never apply graywater to leafy vegetables or root crops.
- Using compost mulches will help decompose contaminants in greywater more quickly.
- Use gray water only on well-established plants. Seedlings can’t withstand the impurities of the waste water.
- Untreated greywater should not be kept for longer than one day. But by adding two tablespoons of chlorine bleach per gallon of water, you can keep your graywater a little longer.
- DO NOT drink greywater.
- DO NOT use greywater in your sprinkler system, or use greywater to wash patios, walkways or driveways.
Conserving our water resources is important. By using water wisely now, you help to ensure that there will be enough water for everyone in the future.

(Source: http://www.recyclebank.com)

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Four food documentaries everybody should watch

It is a strange fact that we know so little about the food we eat and where it comes from. We simply go to the grocery store and pick out what we need without a thought to where it comes from or how it's grown or made. The four documentaries in this article give us insight, not only into how our food reaches the grocery store, but also to how our society has changed as a whole with centralized and industrialized food systems.

When watching these documentaries it becomes clear that the majority of the health problems we face in this country are directly caused by the foods we eat. We now live in a world where where we are surrounded by toxins, from the food we eat and the water we drink eat to the air we breathe. Each of these documentaries has unique elements that touch on different aspects of food, medicine, healthcare, disease, and how to live healthy.

Food Inc
Food Inc. is a great place to start because it steps back and presents a complete picture of our food system. This documentary explains how large corporations like Monsanto have done a complete overhaul of agriculture and farming. Their primary focus is efficiency rather than quality of food. This way of thinking has created problems that didn't used to exist. The corporations then solve these problems with high tech fixes which in turn cause their own problems. It's a vicious cycle that takes us further and further away from nature's design. From GMO's to fast food to the FDA, this film covers it all.

Food Matters
Food Matters is a film that takes a closer look at the fundamental problems we face in our current healthcare system. We have a pill for every ill. The theme of this film can be summed up by Hippocrates - "Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food." Nutritionists and world renowned physicians, including Charlottle Gerson, share their knowledge about how the nutrients in organically grown produce can cure and prevent everything from common illness to late stage cancer.

This documentary features many stand out speakers. One of which is Joel Salatin, a farmer that has defied the flawed principles of monoculture and corporate farming. His farm consists of varied species of plants and animals, all of which thrive together in harmony as nature intended. He clearly speaks from a lifetime of experience as he eloquently depicts the flawed logic behind the centralized and industrialized food system. Joel is also featured in the documentary Food Inc. Fresh really drives home the idea that the more a food substance is processed the less nutritious it becomes.

The Gerson Miracle
This documentary is an absolute must watch for anyone who is suffering from cancer or knows someone who has cancer. The Gerson Miracle films and tells the stories of actual cancer patients; from their unsuccessful chemotherapy and surgeries to their miraculous recoveries at the Gerson healing centers. The Gerson therapy is an all-natural cancer treatment that involves drinking large quantities of vegetable juice prepared in a very specific way. Anyone who has given up hope in western medicine needs to see this film.

Each of these inspiring and powerful films features brilliant individuals who give it to us straight with concepts that just make sense. These aren't your typical boring documentaries. You'll be amazed by some of the facts you hear and some of the things you see. After watching them you'll have the understanding and the knowledge to make a difference in your health, your life, and the lives of your family.

(Source: http://www.naturalnews.com)

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

List of recyclable household items

When you can't reduce or reuse, recycle. Any household item that no longer has a place around your home might just fit the bill for some other household and enjoy a much longer useful life. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that recycling saved over 72 million tons of trash from landfills in 2003, and it creates millions of jobs, reduces greenhouse gases, saves energy and natural resources and decreases pollution. Items that can't be refurbished are remade into new objects with high percentages of post-consumer recycled material. So recycle your castoffs, and keep the cycle going by purchasing recycled products, too.

Everyday Trash: Many municipalities have programs that pick up recyclables several times a week. It's up to you to separate what goes in each recycling bin; a list of those items is available from your local government. Typical non-food recyclables are newspapers, magazines, cardboard boxes, envelopes, phone books and yellow pages, printer paper (tip: use both sides first), most junk mail, empty soda and water bottles, glass bottles and jars, metal cans and aluminum foil. Metal and glass are usually collected separately from other recyclables. Paper and cardboard go in their own flattened stacks. Waxed milk and juice cartons, yogurt and other food containers may not be recyclable, depending on regional programs. Plastic shopping bags can go back to the store for recycling; better yet, bring your own reusable shopping bags.

Tech Trash: It's frustrating that essential technology seems to have a built-in replacement date. When your computer blips the blue screen of death, or the printer jams but never prints, or the television gives it up for the big wavy line or your cell phone is crushed by a car, recycle it before replacing it. Electronic products contain elements like lead, mercury and cadmium that can leech into a landfill. Many stores and some charities will recycle electronic gear safely for a small fee. Cities and towns have tech trash drop-off centers. Old toner cartridges can be slipped into prepaid mailing envelopes and returned to the manufacturer for recycling. Technology that is outdated but still useful should go to a charitable organization that will refurbish it and donate it to a school or other organization. 

Big Stuff and Old Threads: Furniture, appliances and clothing may be broken, dated and outgrown, but still have plenty of use left in them. If the clothing isn't threadbare, wash and donate it to a resale charity like Goodwill Industries or the Salvation Army. An alternative is to consign clothing through a shop or sell it through a neighborhood coop or online resale site. You can create a swap recycling system for children's clothes with neighbors, family or school friends. Furniture can go to charity resellers like Housing Works or Salvation Army, church bazaars, online sales or to The Freecycle Network. If the furniture is trashed enough to be trash, break it down and put appropriate materials in various recycling bins for metals and plastics. Untreated wood and some fabrics might go in your compost pile. Household appliances that no longer work go to scrap metal recyclers or municipal dumps that handle those items.

Hazardous Waste: Some items are too toxic to be recycled and should be disposed of properly. Pesticides, harsh cleaning products, leftover paints, auto lubricants like old motor oil, batteries and even some light bulbs need special handling. Follow local directions for municipal garbage pickup of hazardous wastes. Where there is no designated trash collection, check for community household hazardous waste recycling and exchange centers, annual or seasonal safe-disposal days with temporary collection sites or local businesses that accept certain products, like used motor oil, for recycling. Don't dump corrosive liquids and old paints down the drain, into storm sewers or behind the garage where they can pollute the water table or poison the ground. 

(Source: http://greenliving.nationalgeographic.com)

Monday, 14 May 2012

101 Ideas To Save Energy

Small appliances

  1. Cook with small appliances. Cook with your toaster oven, electric skillet and slow cooker for specialized jobs, rather than the range. Small appliances use less energy.
  2. Use the microwave. Microwave ovens shorten cooking times, which saves energy.
  3. Clean or replace air filters. Replace filters on exhaust hoods, humidifiers, vacuums, etc. Clogged filters impair performance and cause the units to run longer.
  4. Run cold water for disposal. Hot water requires energy to warm the water. Cold water saves energy and solidifies grease, moving it more easily through the garbage disposal and pipes.

Refrigerators and freezers

  1. Purchase an Energy Star model. When buying a new refrigerator or freezer, look for the Energy Star label. Energy Star refrigerators and freezers can save you hundreds of dollars on your electric bill over the life of the appliance. Remember, older refrigerators and freezers use two to three times more electricity than ones that are 10 years old or less.
  2. Select the right size. Determine your household’s needs before purchasing a refrigerator or freezer. One that is too large wastes energy.
  3. Only use one refrigerator or freezer. You can spend up to $120 in electricity per year using a second refrigerator or freezer. If you want to use a second refrigerator or freezer during holidays or for special occasions, turn it on one to two days before you need it.
  4. Don’t set the temperature colder than necessary. Set the refrigerator temperature between 36° F and 42° F. Set the freezer control so the temperature is between -5° F and +6° F. A small thermometer placed in the refrigerator or freezer will help you set it correctly.
  5. Clean the unit. Clean dust off the condenser coils, fins, evaporator pan and motor once or twice a year. A clean unit runs more efficiently. Unplug the unit and clean with a vacuum cleaner or long-handled brush.
  6. Defrost a manual-defrost unit regularly. Frost makes your unit work harder and wastes energy. Don’t allow more than one-quarter inch of frost to build up.
  7. Stay away from direct heat. Place the refrigerator or freezer away from direct sunlight and other heat sources such as ovens or ranges. Heat will cause the unit to use more energy to stay cold.
  8. Do not place the unit in unheated space. Don’t place your refrigerator or automatic defrost freezer in a garage, porch or other unheated space. If the temperature drops below 60° F, the unit will be less efficient and cost more money to operate. Or, the compressor may stop running, causing the temperature inside the freezer compartment to rise. Stored food could spoil.
  9. Check the seals. Refrigerator and freezer doors should seal tightly. Loose seals cause your unit to work harder and use more energy. If you can move a dollar bill through the closed door, the seal is not tight enough. Get the seals replaced or replace the unit if it is an older model.


  1. Run full loads. Always wait until you have a full load before running your dishwasher. Full loads use the same amount of hot water and energy as smaller loads. You run fewer loads and save energy.
  2. Use short cycles. Select the shortest cycle that properly cleans your dishes. Shorter cycles use less hot water and less energy.
  3. Skip rinsing the dishes. Rinsing dishes before loading them into the dishwasher wastes energy. If you do rinse, use cold water.
  4. Clean the filter. If your dishwasher has a filter screen, clean it regularly. A clean appliance runs more efficiently.

Ranges and oven

  1. Reduce the heat. Begin cooking on a higher heat setting until liquid begins to boil. Then, lower the temperature and simmer the food until fully cooked. A fast boil doesn’t cook faster than a slow boil, but it does use more energy.
  2. Don’t peek in the oven. Resist the urge to open the oven door while baking. Every time you peek, the temperature drops 25° F and requires additional energy to bring the temperature back up.
  3. Use retained heat. Turn off cook tops or ovens a few minutes before food has completed cooking. Retained heat finishes the job using less energy.
  4. Consider a natural gas range or oven. Natural gas appliances cost less to operate than electric appliances and offer better temperature control.
  5. Put a lid on it. Cook food and boil water in a covered container whenever possible. This traps the heat inside and requires less energy.
  6. Make sure the oven seals tightly. Make sure the seal on the oven door is tight. Even a small gap allows heat to escape and wastes energy. If you can move a dollar bill through the closed door, the seal is not tight enough and should be replaced.
  7. Check the oven temperature. Test the oven temperature to be sure that the setting matches the actual temperature. If the actual temperature is too high, you will use more energy than needed. Also, your food may not turn out how you anticipate.

Washers and dryers

  1. Adjust the water level. If you have a washer that allows you to control the load’s water level, adjust the level according to laundry load size. You can save energy by using less hot water for small loads.
  2. Run full loads. Always run a full load in your washer or dryer. Running a partial load uses the same amount of energy as a full load – but you get less done. Running full loads allows you to run your washer or dryer less often.
  3. Wash laundry in warm or cold water. Washing laundry with warm or cold water works your water heater less. Use hot water only when the greatest cleaning is needed.
  4. Rinse in cold water. Rinse water temperature has no effect on cleaning. Rinsing with cold water saves money by heating less water.
  5. Place the washer close to the water heater. Water loses heat as it flows through pipes. When the washer is located near the water heater, hot water doesn’t have to travel as far to reach the washer, and less heat is lost. Insulating the pipes between the water heater and washer helps retain heat, too.
  6. Don’t dry clothes excessively. Drying laundry excessively uses more energy than is needed, and is hard on fabrics. If you purchase a dryer, get one with an electronic sensor that shuts off the dryer when clothes are dry.
  7. Clean the lint filter. After each load, clean the filter to keep the dryer running efficiently. Also, periodically check the air vent and hose for clogging. Keeping the air vent and hose free of lint prevents a fire hazard.

Water heaters and water usage

  1. Purchase an energy-efficient model. The initial cost may be more but operating costs are less in the long run. Consider a tankless or instantaneous water heater, which uses energy only when hot water is needed, rather than maintaining 40 gallons or more of hot water all the time.
  2. Purchase the correct size. Consider your family’s hot water needs. If your water heater is too large, it uses more energy than needed. If it is too small, you may run out of hot water.
  3. Purchase a natural gas water heater. If you currently have an electric water heater, consider replacing it with a natural gas water heater. When it comes to heating water, natural gas is less expensive than electricity, and it heats more water faster during heavy use. Consider a sealed combustion or an on-demand water heater. Both types use less energy.
  4. Install your water heater near the kitchen. The kitchen is where you use the hottest water. When the water heater is located near the kitchen, hot water doesn’t have to travel as far and less heat is lost.
  5. Insulate water pipes. Use half-inch foam or pipe tape for insulation wherever pipes are exposed. On cold water pipes, insulate four to five feet nearest to the water heater. Pipe insulation can save you up to $25 annually.
  6. Set the water temperature to 120° F. It takes less energy to heat water to a lower temperature. If you have an electric water heater, you’ll have to remove the cover plate of the thermostat to adjust the temperature. For safety reasons, remember to turn off the water heater at the circuit breaker/fuse before changing the temperature.
  7. Repair dripping faucets promptly. If the faucet leaks hot water, the energy used to heat it is costing you money. (One drop a second can waste up to 48 gallons a week!)
  8. Install a heat loop or in-line trap. If you add a new water heater to your home, consider having a heat loop or in-line trap installed. These mechanisms can be inexpensive to install and keep hot water from moving into the piping system when you are not using hot water. Ask your plumbing contractor for details.
  9. Reduce deposits and build-ups. Drain a bucket of water from the bottom of the water heater once or twice a year to reduce mineral deposits and sediment build-up. This increases water heater efficiency. Don’t drain the water heater, though, if you’ve used it for a year or more and have never drained it. The faucet may have corroded shut and could break if you force it open. Before draining the water from an electric water heater, turn off the water heater at the circuit breaker/fuse.
  10. Install water saving devices. Use low-flow showerheads on all showers and faucet aerators on all faucets to reduce your hot water use.
  11. Install a water softener. If you have hard water, install a water softener to prevent mineral deposits from coating the elements. This helps prolong water heater life and saves energy and money.

Humidifiers and dehumidifiers

  1. Use a humidifier. Humidity makes you feel warmer in colder months. With the proper humidity level, you’ll be able to turn your thermostat down to a lower temperature, save energy and still feel comfortable. About 20 percent to 40 percent relative humidity is recommended.
  2. Remove moisture with a dehumidifier. Use a dehumidifier in warm, humid months. Less humidity helps you feel cooler, allowing you to use a higher air conditioner setting to save energy. A dehumidifier works best when air can circulate freely through it. Place it away from walls and bulky furniture.
  3. Check for frost build-up on dehumidifiers. If your unit is running in temperatures less than 70° F, check it occasionally to see if frost is building up on the coils. If so, turn the unit off until the frost melts and the room is warmer.
  4. Clean the unit. Dust or vacuum the dehumidifier at least once a year before you plug it in. A clean unit runs more efficiently.
  5. Purchase an Energy Star dehumidifier. Energy Star dehumidifiers use 10 percent to 20 percent less energy than conventional models but still offer the same features – effective moisture removal, quiet operation and durability.


  1. Use Energy Star compact fluorescent light bulbs. Energy Star compact fluorescent light bulbs last longer and use up to 75 percent less energy than standard light bulbs. You can cut your electric bill by $60 per year if you replace the standard bulbs in your five most frequently used light fixtures. Properly dispose of compact fluorescent light bulbs at your local household hazardous waste collection site.
  2. Use natural lighting. Open curtains and shades during the day instead of using lighting. Consider skylights and solar tubes during remodeling or new construction design. This allows the maximum use of natural daylight.
  3. Plan your lighting. Not every room needs the same amount of general light. Plan within a room to provide general background lighting and supplementary task lighting. A good lighting plan can reduce lighting costs and still provide all the light you need.
  4. Use a single, high-watt bulb. Using one high-watt bulb instead of several low-watt bulbs saves energy. Do not exceed the manufacturer’s recommended wattage for the fixture.
  5. Control outdoor lighting. To assure only dusk-to-dawn operation of your outdoor lights, control your fixtures with a photocell or a timer.
  6. Turn off lights. Turn off lights when not in use, even for short periods of time. Turning lights off and on uses less energy than if they are left on all the time.
  7. Install a timer on indoor lights. Use timers to turn lights on and off to help regulate use.
  8. Avoid long-life incandescent light bulbs. Long-life incandescent light bulbs are the least efficient of the incandescent bulbs.
  9. Consider LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting. LEDs are becoming more common for can, track, under-cabinet and holiday lighting. Initial cost is more, but the lights use 10 times less energy and last 50 times longer than incandescent lights. They use one-third the energy and last 5 times longer than compact fluorescent lights.
  10. Position lights properly. Try to illuminate the entire activity area without creating distracting glares or shadows. To do this, position your light source closer to the area you want lit. This saves energy by not over-lighting an unused area.
  11. Adjust light level. Higher light settings use more energy, so save energy by using dimmer controls, high/low switches or three-way bulbs to adjust the level of light to exactly what you need.

Central air conditioners

  1. Purchase an energy-efficient model. Select an energy-efficient central air conditioner by looking at the SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) rating. The higher the rating, the more efficient the unit.
  2. Choose the right size equipment. Oversized equipment costs more money. A qualified heating contractor can determine the size of the equipment needed for your home. The contractor uses the size and configuration of your home to determine proper size.
  3. Replace coils. To maximize efficiency, change the indoor and outdoor compressor coils when replacing an older central air conditioner.
  4. Keep the thermostat clear of heat. Don’t position heat-producing devices such as lamps and TVs close to your thermostat. Heat from these devices could cause the thermostat to read a temperature higher than the true room temperature. This may lead to excessive cooling and wasted energy.
  5. Get your unit tuned up. Have your central air conditioner tuned up by a qualified heating contractor every other year. This can help the unit operate more efficiently and may prevent failures in the middle of peak cooling season.
  6. Keep the condenser and filter clean. Keep leaves, grass and other debris away from the outside condenser. Also, clean the filter monthly and replace it as needed. (Your central AC uses the same filter as your furnace.) A clean condenser and filter help the unit run more efficiently.
  7. Increase your thermostat setting. When at home, set it a few degrees higher. When leaving, move the setting even higher -- about 78 to 80 degrees. Cooling the house when you return costs less than keeping it cool all the time. Taking these steps can save 10 percent or more on your summer cooling costs.
  8. Keep the sun out. Closing blinds, shades and drapes on the sunny side of your home during the day will help keep the house cooler, causing the air conditioner to use less energy in bringing the temperature to a comfortable level.
  9. Cool only the rooms in use. Close unused rooms to keep cooled air in areas where it is most needed.
  10. Don’t make more heat. Delay chores that produce heat and moisture until the cooler parts of the day or evening. Limit dishwashing, laundering and cooking on hot, humid days. These activities make your room more uncomfortable and require your air conditioner to work harder.
  11. Use the microwave. Cook using your microwave oven rather than your standard oven or range. It creates less heat and humidity in your home.
  12. Turn off electronics you are not using. Don’t leave electronics, such as televisions, stereos and computers, on if you don’t need them – they produce heat. Extra heat requires more energy to power the air conditioner and increases cooling costs.
  13. Keep vents clear. Keep furniture and drapes away from air vents. This allows the cool air to move out into the rooms and keeps your air conditioner from running more than necessary.
  14. Ventilate your attic. Reduce heat build-up in your attic by installing proper ventilation. This helps keep your house cooler during the summer. A qualified heating contractor can help you do this.
  15. Keep the air conditioner out of the sun. Locate the unit out of direct sunlight and avoid the south and west sides of the house. Placing the air conditioner in direct sunlight causes it to work harder to cool your home.

Room air conditioners

  1. Purchase an Energy Star model. Energy Star room air conditioners cost at least 10 percent less to operate than conventional models.
  2. Use a timer. Set the plug-in timer to turn off the air conditioner when you leave home and to turn it on just before you return.
  3. Purchase a unit with varying fan speeds. Use a room air conditioner with fan speed control. This allows faster cooling when needed and quieter, more efficient operation at other times.
  4. Keep the unit centrally located. To allow better air circulation, install your room air conditioner in the window or area of the wall that is nearest to the middle of the space being cooled.
  5. Seal the unit. Once a room air conditioner is in place, seal the space around it with rope caulk or some other sealant to prevent warm outside air from leaking in.
  6. Don’t set the thermostat at high initially. When you first turn on your room air conditioner, set the thermostat at normal or medium. Setting it any colder won’t cool the room any faster.
  7. Keep the unit out of the sun. Locate your room air conditioner on the shady side of your home. It will operate more efficiently in a cooler location.
  8. Close the fresh-air vent. Make sure the fresh-air vent is closed when the room air conditioner is operating so you aren’t cooling outside air. Open the vent when the outside air is cooler to let in fresh air.
  9. Remove the unit at the end of the cooling season. Take your room air conditioner out of the window when the cooling season is over. If you must leave the unit in place, cover the outside of the unit with a weatherproof cover and fill any cracks around the unit with removable caulk.


  1. Use fans with your air conditioner. Fans help reduce energy costs by circulating the cool air from your air conditioner. This allows you to raise the temperature and still be comfortable. Use oscillating fans for greater circulation.
  2. Use ceiling fans for air circulation. In hot weather, set the ceiling fan direction to blow air down. The air moving across your skin creates a cooling effect, allowing you to raise the temperature on your thermostat and still feel cool. In cold weather, set the fan to blow toward the ceiling. This pushes warm air away from the ceiling and evenly distributes heat in the room.
  3. Use a whole-house fan. These fans are mounted in the attic and ventilate your entire home. Be sure to open some windows before turning on a whole-house fan. A qualified heating contractor can help you determine if you need a whole house fan.
  4. Maintain your fan. Keep your fan in good working order. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for care and maintenance. This helps control the operating costs.


  1. Purchase an energy-efficient furnace. Select an energy-efficient furnace model by looking for an AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) rating of 90 percent or greater.
  2. Maintain the furnace. Clean your furnace filters monthly or replace if necessary. A clean unit runs more efficiently.
  3. Use natural gas for heating. Consider switching to a natural gas heating system. Natural gas is less expensive than other heating fuels.
  4. Use insulation. Insulate your attic to an R-value of 38 for a gas-heated home and 50 for an electrically heated home; your walls to an R-value of 19; and your sill box (upper portion of your basement walls) to an R-value of 10. Proper insulation allows you to use less energy to keep your home warm.
  5. Insulate around windows and doors. Weather-strip and/or caulk all areas of noticeable leaks around windows and doors. Removable caulking is a good option for windows that you open in summer but not in winter.
  6. Change your thermostat settings. In the winter, set your thermostat at 60° F when you are sleeping or gone. Set the thermostat to 68° F when you are at home. This can save 10 percent or more on your heating bills every winter.
  7. Turn down the thermostat when away. If you are going to be away for an extended period of time, turn your thermostat down to save energy but never lower than 40° F. If you have delicate houseplants, keep the setting at 50° F or higher.
  8. Let the sun in. The sun’s energy can have a noticeable effect on the temperature in your home, especially from windows facing south and west. Keep window shades and drapes open during winter months to let in the sun’s radiant heat.
  9. Warm with a space heater. A portable space heater can heat a single room without using your furnace to heat the whole house. Using a space heater to heat all or most of your home costs more. Always follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions when operating space heaters.
  10. Use the fireplace sparingly. Many older natural fireplaces are inefficient and draw more heat out of the house than they produce. Close the flue to eliminate drafts when not in use.
  11. Consider fireplace inserts, doors or covers. If you use your fireplace often, consider these products to help reduce the heat loss in your home when using the fireplace. You save money on your heating bills while still being able to enjoy your fireplace.
  12. Control air flow. If you are building a home, replacing heating equipment or remodeling, talk to your heating contractor about the options available to ensure proper air flow. Controlling air flow into and out of your home ensures energy efficiency, comfort and low energy costs.
  13. Purchase Energy Star windows. When installing new windows, select, at a minimum, double-paned (double-glazed) thermal windows. With existing single-paned windows, make sure you use storm windows during the winter months.


  1. Purchase efficient equipment. Look for Energy Star office equipment, such as computers, printers and fax machines. They use less energy than standard office equipment.
  2. Don’t let the computer run all day. Only power on the computer, monitor, printer and fax machine when you need them. Don’t leave them on after you’re finished working. Computers and other office equipment still use energy in sleep mode.
(Source: we-energies.com)

Friday, 11 May 2012

E-waste: A recyclable resource

In the 1970s, Gordon E. Moore theorized that computer processing power doubles about every 18 months especially relative to cost or size. His theory, known as Moore's Law, has proved largely true. Thinner, sleeker, and faster computers have replaced the big boxes and monitors people once owned 10 years ago.

E-Waste accounts for 70 percent of overall toxic garbage. 

This phenomenon is not limited to computers. Each day, various types of consumer electronics are constantly upgraded or scrapped in favor of technological advancements. In the process, scores of TVs, VCRs, cassette decks, CD players, cell phones and bulky video cameras become what is known as electronic waste (e-waste).

Americans amassed an enormous amount of electronic devices-an estimated three billion total. Given the large amount of potential products involved, e-waste includes a broad range of devices. Unfortunately, improper disposal of e-waste creates a significant burden on landfills because toxic substances can leach into the soil and groundwater. Absent recycling, the problem could escalate.

The total annual global volume of e-waste is expected to reach about 40 million metric tons. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that we generated 1.5 billion pounds of all kinds of e-waste in 2006. This includes an estimated 44 million computers and televisions.

This amount is likely to increase because e-waste is growing at three times the rate of other municipal waste. Although e-waste accounts for only one to four percent of municipal waste, it may be responsible for as much as 70 percent of the heavy metals in landfills, including 40 percent of all lead.

Certain items are particularly harmful. For instance, cathode ray tube (CRT) television monitors contain, on average, four to eight pounds of lead, a highly toxic heavy metal.

E-waste should not be considered "waste." It is a resource. Useful materials such as glass, copper, aluminum, plastic and other components can often be extracted and reused.

With an increasing array of environmentally-friendly options now available, consider recycling or donating old electronic devices. With either choice, we can reduce the amount of e-waste landfilled and put our outdated items to good use.

(Source: www.recyclebank.com)