Green Living Tips
"We have met the enemy and he is us." ... Pogo
"Many hands make light work" ... John Heywood
Science tells us the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has increased dramatically over the past 100 years, leading to a warming trend to the Earth's climate.
There are countless ways each of us can reduce our carbon footprints (a measurement of the amount of carbon our lifestyles generate), some absolutely simple, some requiring some radical changes to life as we know it.
With more than 300 million people living in the United States, another three-quarters of a billion residing in Europe, and more than 6.6 billion people calling the planet Earth "home," if each individual simply improves his or her lifestyle - in terms of emission of carbon dioxide - we can push into the gear the kind of progress scientists say the planet needs.
- Energy Savers Guide - From The Department of Energy (EERE)
Energy Conservation At Home - 100 Tips Fron Con Edison
LIST OF SIMPLE TIPS
Below are some simple tips that, in the big picture, can help reduce carbon emissions if they are implemented by enough individuals.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world.
Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." ... Margaret Meade
- Replace frequently used light bulbs with compact fluorescents (CFLs).
- Incorporate task lighting into your lifestyle. Instead of brightly lighting an entire room, focus light where you need it. For example, use fluorescent under-cabinet lighting for kitchen sinks and countertops under cabinets.
- Clean light bulbs and fixture covers/diffusers for optimum illumination.
- Consider utilizing three-way lamps. They make it easier to keep lighting levels low when brighter light is not necessary.
- Take advantage of daylight - aka "Daylighting". Use light-colored, loose-weave curtains on your windows that take advantage of daylight, which can penetrate a room while preserving privacy. Also, decorate with lighter colors that reflect daylight.
- Don't forget natural decorations, as soil and plants add an extra layer of "natural insulation" to your home, keeping it cooler in summer and warmer in winter. City dwellers find this particularly effective, as pavement and buildings reflect heat and raise air temperatures about 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Inspect, clean, or change the air filters in your home's heating and/or air conditioning systems once a month to keep costs down. Cooling and heating expenses account for almost half the average family's energy bill.
- During the summer months, utilize techniques to Cool Your Home Naturally .
- Install an energy saving Whole House Fan .
- During the winter months, utilize techniques to Keep The Warmth In & The Cold Out - Nicor Gas
- In the winter, open your drapes on a sunny day, allowing the sun to warm the room.
- In the winter, lower your home's thermostat to 68 degrees, and to 55 degrees at night or when you're going to be out of the house for more than four hour. In the summer, set your thermostat for 74 degrees.
- To maximize your energy savings automatically without sacrificing comfort, Install An Automatic Setback (Or Programmable) Thermostat . They adjust the temperature setting automatically. While you might forget to turn down the heat before you leave for work in the morning, a programmable thermostat won't!
- Do only full loads when using your clothes washer and dryer. Be sure and clean the dryer lint trap after each use, and check the dryer vent for possible clogging. Whenever possible, dry your clothes on a line.
- Wrap your water heater with an insulating blanket and insulate the first 6 feet of the hot and cold water pipes connected to the water heater. Water Heating - Energy Conservation
- Drain a quart of water from your water heater every 3 months to remove sediment that impedes heat transfer and lowers the efficiency of your heater. The type of water tank you have determines the steps to take, so follow the manufacturer's advice.
- Consider On-Demand (or Tankless) Water Heaters . Researchers have found savings can be up to 30% compared with a standard storage tank water heater.
- Replace any water heater manufactured before 1994. Buy a gas water heater with Energy Factor (EF) of .62 or higher. Buy an electric water heater with Energy Factor of .93 or higher. Selecting A New Water Heater
- Install double-pane windows, or add weather stripping around existing windows and doors to reduce drafts.
- If you do use outdoor lights, use lights with a photocell unit or a motion sensor so they will turn on only at night or when someone is present. Installing a combined photocell and motion sensor will increase your energy savings even more.
- Use the self-cleaning feature in your oven only when absolutely necessary. Be sure and start the self-cleaning cycle immediately after the oven is used to take advantage of pre-existing heat.
- Unplug unused electronics. Even turned-off electronic devices use energy. One idea is to plug home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, into power strips, and turn the power strips off when the equipment is not in use.
- There is a common misconception that screen savers reduce energy use by computer monitors; they do not. Automatic switching to sleep mode or manually turning monitors off is always the better energy-saving strategy.
- Studies show that using rechargeable batteries for products like cordless phones and PDAs is more cost effective than throwaway batteries. If you must use throw away batteries, check with your trash removal company about safe disposal options.
- If every household in the U.S. alone replaced one roll of 180-sheet virgin-fiber paper towels with 100-percent recycled paper towels, 1.4 million trees, 3.7 million cubic feet of landfill space, and 526 million gallons of water, and prevent 89,400 pounds of pollution.
Common household cleaning products do more than clean your home. The chemicals in widely used products can fill your home with toxins resulting in indoor air pollution, headaches, respiratory problems and other long term effects. All products are not created equal so it's important to read labels carefully.
Look for all-purpose cleaners and other items that don't contain the sudsing agents known as triethanolamine (TEA) and diethanolamine (DEA). 1,4-dioxane and Butyl cellosolve or ethylene glycol monobutyl ether are also dangerous carcinogens. Other potentially harmful ingredients are alkylphenol ethoxylates such as p-nonylphenol and one APE.
It's important to note that any item claiming to destroy bacteria and kill germs is probably effective, but at the expense of being highly toxic.
Fragrances can be irritating and cause more severe problems, especially for people with asthma. It's always best to purchase fragrance free products if possible.
The good news is that there are greener, cleaner, household products that pose no serious threats to people, their pets, and the environment. You probably even have some of these alternative items in your kitchen pantry at this moment!
- Baking Soda - cleans and polishes. 87 Green Uses For Baking Soda .
Use baking soda is an effective cleaner for tubs and sinks as well as a polisher for countertops. Simply sprinkle some on the surface and rub with a wet cloth. Adding a little liquid castile soap makes the soda extra effective.
- White Vinegar - cleans and disinfects
To cut through soap scum, try a mixture of white vinegar with a little bit of water to dilute. It removes tea and coffee stains very well and gets rid of lime build-up and rust. It's even known to remove germs, bacteria, and mold.
- Newspaper or Lint-free cloth - Removes cleaning agents
A mixture of 1/4 cup of white vinegar in a spray bottle topped off with water and shook makes a terrific window and mirror cleaner. A crumpled newspaper or cloth to remove the vinegar is recommended.
- Liquid Castile Soap - cleans just about everything
This multi-purpose cleaner can be used on tile, linoleum, wood and more. A few drops on a wet towel will do the trick.
- Olive Oil - Polishes and shines
A teaspoon of olive oil with a splash of vinegar and citrus juice make a great wood furniture polish
A bit of olive oil used with a rag shines stainless steel and brass. Spray on shoes for a just polished look
Spray olive oil on garden tools to remove build-up
- Orange - cleans oven
An orange is part of the recipe used to make an oven cleaner paste. Add 1 gallon of hot water, 1 tsp of liquid dish washing soap, 1 cup of orange juice, and balsamic vinegar together to make a cleansing paste. The acidity of oranges helps to remove tough grease.
An increasing number of dry cleaners are advertising "Earth-friendly" alternatives. This is in response to backlash over the traditional solvent used, perchloroethylene (aka "perc"). According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the chemical compound has been linked to several health issues, including dizziness, fatigue, headaches and possibly even cancer (the EPA calls this a "potential" link; studies are under review).
As businesses move away from perc, what are they moving to? If a shop touts "Earth-friendly alternatives," ask what solvents are used instead. The answer likely will be one of the following:
- Liquid carbon dioxide (CO2). Perhaps the most promising option, this leaves no toxic residue. When Consumer Reports tested the process, it found that CO-2 cleaned with the "best results, even better than conventional dry cleaning."
- Siloxane (D5). This is also effective, but preliminary study results show it's linked to a cancer risk in rodents; pending data should offer more insight.
Water needs to be treated in order to produce potable water fit for human consumption and the water treatment process does have an environmental impact. Consequently, conserving water helps to reduce the amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere.
- Fix dripping faucets or defective plumbing. Faucet drips can cause water loss of up to 212 gallons a month. Hot water drips also waste energy.
- Take shorter showers (reducing energy to heat water). Take more showers than baths. Bathing uses the most hot water in the average household.
- Install a low-flow showerhead. By installing energy-saving showerheads and faucet aerators in your home, you can reduce hot water use and water heating costs by 10-16% without affecting comfort.
- Wash only full loads in the dishwasher, and use the energy saver, air-dry cycle, or, if allowed, open the door and let dishes dry naturally.
- Each time your toilet is flushed, it uses 5 to 7 gallons of water. Reduce that amount by 1 to 2 gallons by placing a plastic bottle in your toilet tank. A small plastic juice bottle or laundry soap bottle filled with water works well (be sure and soak off the label and be careful that the bottle doesn't interfere with the flushing mechanism).
- Water your lawn only in the morning or evening, as water evaporates four to eight times faster during the heat of the day.
- Install A Rain Barrel 1 - - - - Install A Rain Barrel 2
Basically, a rain barrel collects roof water from a home's downspouts. Attaching a hose bib to the bottom of the barrel allows the homeowner to tap the water for use in the garden. An overflow located near the top of the rain barrel takes the overflow and directs it elsewhere.
In The Kitchen:
- Water boils more quickly if there is a lid on the pan.
- Use electric kettles to boil water which consume half the energy needed to boil water on the stove.
- Turn down the heat after water boils. The temperature of lightly boiling water is no different than the temperature of water at a roaring boil.
- Keep a covered container of water in the refrigerator for drinking - you won't have to run the tap until the water is cold every time you want a drink.
- Bring cloth bags when you shop, and if you forget, put your purchases in as few bags as possible - one 15- to 20-year-old tree makes enough paper for only 700 grocery bags.
- The paper or plastic debate has drawbacks on both sides. Plastic bags may be more convenient than paper, but they're not biodegradable. They often wind up in the ocean and can kill marine animals that get tangled up in them or swallow them. Paper bags, meanwhile, may be biodegradable but they are often made from virgin paper because, manufacturers say, the heavy loads require the long fibers in virgin pulp.
- Buy minimally packaged goods and reduce garbage. Buy food in bulk. Not only is it cheaper, but it uses less packaging.
- Choose products in refillable or reusable containers. Avoid plastic containers, they are made of different types of plastic which are costly and difficult to separate and recycle.
- Cooking frozen foods uses more energy - thaw them out first.
- Cook food in glass dishes, which are quicker than metal pans. The bottom of your pot or pan should be the same size as the burner to use the minimum amount of energy.
- Don't waste energy preheating your oven. Most don't need it. For pastries and cakes, preheating 10 minutes is plenty. You can also turn off your oven 15 minutes early for major items like roasts and casseroles # the heat left in the oven will finish the job.
- Live greener by finding ways to leave your car at home: According to the Department of Energy, leaving your car at home just two days a week will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,600 pounds per year.
- Wash your car the natural way - wait until it rains.
- Clear out your car; extra weight decreases gas mileage.
- Drive sensibly. Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gasoline.
- Combine errands into a single trip. Several short trips - each taken from a cold start - can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.
- Warm up your vehicle as quickly as possible. The best way to warm up a vehicle is to drive it. No more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days is needed. Anything more simply wastes fuel and increases emissions.
- Avoid high-speed driving. Above 60 mph, gas mileage drops rapidly. The fueleconomy.gov Web site shows how driving speed affects gas mileage.
- Use cruise control on the highway. This helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save gas.
- Keep tires properly inflated and aligned to improve your gasoline mileage by as much as 3.3 percent.
- Get regular engine tune-ups and car maintenance checks to avoid fuel economy problems due to worn spark plugs, dragging brakes, low transmission fluid, or transmission problems.
- Replace dirty and clogged air filters to improve gas mileage by as much as 10%, not to mention protecting your engine.
- Use the grade of motor oil recommended by your car's manufacturer. Using a different motor oil can lower your gasoline mileage by 1%-2%.
- Reduce drag by placing items inside the car or trunk rather than on a roof rack. While a roof rack or carrier provides additional cargo space and may allow you to buy a smaller car, a loaded roof rack can decrease your fuel economy by 5%.
- Check into telecommuting, carpooling and public transit to help cut mileage and car maintenance costs.
- When traveling less than 2 miles, consider biking or walking.
Outside The House - Yard & Garden Conservation:
Yard & Garden Conservation - aka Greenscaping
- Take advantage of the spring planting season, and plant shrubs and trees that will provide shading on your house, especially on the western side. Energy Smart Landscaping helps keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. See: Energy Smart Landscaping I - - - Energy Smart Landscaping II
- Take advantage of a practice called "grass-cycling," naturally leaving clippings on the lawn when mowing. These clippings quickly decompose and return nutrients to the soil. Managing Leaves & Yard Trimmings
- Cut your grass when it is dry and free of leaves, and mow often enough so that no more than one-third of the length of the grass blade needs to be cut. By doing this, grass clippings can fall easily through the grass to the soil, reducing the need for fertilizers and eliminating a large portion of the waste entering our landfills.
- Consider an electric lawn mower. Cutting an average lawn with a gasoline fueled lawn mower creates as much air pollution as driving a car 50 miles. Electric vs Gasoline Fueled Lawn Mowers - A side by side comparison.
- Twenty percent of the solid waste placed in landfills consists of yard and garden wastes such as leaves and grass clippings. By composting, you reduce the amount of material going into the landfill plus you eliminate the environmental cost of transporting the material to the landfill.
Compost Your Yard & Garden Waste I - - - - Compost Your Yard & Garden Waste II
- Turn off decorative outdoor natural gas lamps. It takes just eight lamps burning year-round to use as much natural gas as it takes to heat an average-size home during an entire winter.
- If your roof will allow it, planting rooftop vegetation provides food and shelter for insects, birds, and other wildlife, and the natural mechanisms for filtering impurities can help improve air and water quality.
- Buy products produced locally - not only is it good for the local economy but it will also save energy because products haven't traveled across the globe to get to you.