Thursday, October 25, 2012

Saving energy made easy (really easy!)

Here’s a scenario. When my family goes on a ski trip to Tahoe, my wife and I disagree about whether to turn our home heating on or off.  She wants the house warm for our kids when we return; I want to save energy. Well, what if we turned off the thermostat, but on our return drive an hour away from home, I use my phone to direct an Internet-enabled thermostat to turn the heat up in my home!

GreenWave Reality's light bulbs can be controlled via computer, iPad, iPhone or Android.Such technology is beginning to  mature, whether it’s smart thermostats from startups like Nest Labs or Honeywell, or things such as lights you can control with your iPhone.
Screw in a light bulb today, and all you can hope for is illumination. But GreenWave Reality claims its new light bulbs will also offer control. Without any additional wiring in the home, the energy-efficient compact fluorescent and LED bulbs can switch on and off at specified times or connect with motion sensors to turn on when people enter a room and off when people leave, CEO Greg Memo says. The bulbs also will all be dimmable, he says, and – using light sensors – users will be able to set them to automatically adjust to natural light.
Essentially, the lights include chips that give each bulb an Internet IP address so they can be monitored and controlled wirelessly online. They’re the newest additions to the trend of the Internet of Things, in which objects – and not just people – communicate via the Internet.  ”Everyone talks about the Internet of Things; we’re actually doing it,” Memo says.
Some may dismiss this technology as something for techies, but Portland General Electric states on their website that Low-cost projects including occupancy sensors, timers and dimmers are all good ways to save. When combined with products such as the Green Wave control you can use from your iPhone the energy savings can add up.
Here are some of the recommended lighting solutions:

Here are energy-saving replacement options for traditional incandescents:
  • Good: Energy-saving incandescents. These halogen incandescents are about 25 percent more efficient and last up to three times longer than old-school incandescent bulbs.*
  • Better: Compact fluorescent lights. ENERGY STAR CFLs are about 75 percent more efficient and last up to 10 times longer than standard incandescent light bulbs.* CFLs are generally the most cost-efficient replacement right now.
  • Best: LEDs. Light emitting diode bulbs are 75 percent to 80 percent more efficient and last up to 25 times longer than incandescents.* Since LED technology is still maturing these bulbs are more expensive, but prices are starting to come down.

Technology is fun. Saving the planet through energy use reduction is smart.
Doing both together is cool and easy.

Be Smart! Start your own Garden!

 By Mathew Grubb

In this day and age many people find it imperative to be cautious concerning the food they consume. This has been the effect of a transition in social thought concerning what we put in our bodies, how it affects us, and what amount of control we can exercise over what we eat. The term 'Organic' has risen from this social phenomenon and though many grocery stores these days still sell vegetable products sprayed with chemicals and pesticides, there has been a noticeable upturn in the number of people growing their own food. Fear of contamination is a huge concern for those not wanting to purchase food that has not been certified by the FDA as 'Organic'. Recent tests commissioned by the UK government have found that washing pesticide sprayed vegetables thoroughly at home, might not even be enough.

 "Researchers looked at apples treated with the
 insecticide chlorpyrifos, fungicides captan and 
carbendazim, and antioxidant diphenylamine. 

They found: ‘The residues of diphenylamine and 
carbendazim were not decreased by washing, 
but were decreased in the peel and core samples by
 cooking.Diphenylamine is not dangerous, however 
carbendazim is banned in the US as it has been linked to 
cancer, birth defects and disruption of cell development."  

Research such as this, provides steady reasoning and incentive to avoid these pesticide ridden vegetables, and begin planting your own, pesticide free. Vegetables grown without added chemicals, will grow slightly slower and risk more chance of being eaten by bugs, therefore making it more expensive in stores. Another reason why organic produce is more expensive, is that it often comes from local farms which have less infrastructure and funds readily accessible to help them sustain their businesses. 

A Healthy Garden in 6 Steps!

1: Finding a Spot

Scout out a location that receives adequate sunlight that you will have easy access to for maintaining and watering. 

2: Choosing Plants

 While keeping in mind your region and time of the year, choose the proper tasty vegetables you enjoy.

3: Making a Home

By properly fertilizing your soil. You can create and ensure your plants are in a healthy "bed".

4: Feeding

By feeding your plants compost by making from scratch or buying for cheap, you can give your plants essential organic nutrients that will help them grow.

5: Watering

Having a good source of water is key to the plants survival. Watering your plants often is key to their growth. Often can seem tedious, but watching them grow can be rewarding!

6: Protection

Making sure your plants don't get eaten alive is key while maintaining a sustainable organic practice. Here is a great list of potential sources for your garden

Monday, October 22, 2012

Small Change from Plastic to Reusable = Big Impact

Use reusable water bottles versus plastic… PLEASE! One small action with a HUGE impact! PLASTIC=VERY BAD
By: Rachel Bauman

TOP 3 REASON WHY: (My personal opinion)

#1 Plastic NEVER "dies"! All un-recycled plastic ends up in landfills: Tons of people do not recycle due to lack of education and inconvenience. It is averaged that around 28 billions bottles of water are sold a year and in the U.S about 86% of those are NOT recycled. (THAT LEAVES 24 BILLION IN LANDFILLS/YEAR, 66 MILLION/DAY.. NOT GOOD!)

True but Sad Fact: Plastic never biodegrades completely, it only turns 
into smaller and smaller bits of plastic through photodegradation (a process from sunlight) never truly going away. These small 
bits of plastic end up in the ocean and birds and other marine life consume them and die.

The Pacific Trash Vortex is a prime example of the lack of recycling in our world today and the mass amount of plastic humans use. This mass of plastic garbage is twice as big as Texas and is know as the biggest landfill on Earth made up of 90% plastic bottles. It is found between Hawaii and California and another between Japan and Hawaii. This is only 1 of 5 plastic vortexes that cover 40% of the worlds’ oceans. =(

    #2 Personal Cost $:
Sure it's convenient to have plastic water bottles ready to go when you’re running out the door and you don’t have to worry about losing it, but did you know the recommended 8 glasses/day costs you around $.49/day while the same amount of bottled water will run you $1,400? Easy to see that having a reusable water bottle will pay off shortly after purchasing it. Install a filter on your sink or use a refrigerator with a filter. It takes 1-2 minutes to fill up!! Stop paying for WATER! Be grateful that we live in a place where it is easily accessible and available to us! And STOP WASTING your money! 

Crazy fact: Worldwide bottled water market is estimated to reach $65.9 billion by 2012, and is growing twice as fast as the economy itself.

   #3 Manufacturing wasting TONS of a NON-renewable resource... PETROLEUM!
Just to make bottled water is a huge expense to our environment. Production of plastic releasing tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and is a huge threat to global warming. In 2006 Americans alone bought enough plastic water bottles to use up 17 millions barrels of oil which is equivalent to fueling over 1 millions cars for a whole year!

Another “fun” fact about how much energy it cost to have bottled water is to picture filling the bottle of water 1 quarter full of oil. Crazy right?

MY POINT? Stop being lazy and find more ways to recycle plastic and reduce your consumption. Here are a few tips!

  1. Use canvas bags at grocery store and stay away from the plastic ones.

  2. Educate yourself as to which plastic containers go into your curbside recycling and find places that take the other kinds. (yogurt cans & such) If you put the wrong things in your recycling many times garbage companies will just toss it ALL into the trash, so be SMART!
    3. Ask local grocery stores if they can recycle your old plastic bags.
And remember, every small thing you change in your own life DOES make an impact on our environment. Be conscience of your actions and do your best to recycle and ultimately consume less plastic!
Thanks! =)

PLEASE RECYCLE PLASTIC (and all other materials!)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

In the United States, consumption is not a foreign idea. Its what drives our economy, its what makes businesses thrive and provides jobs to the millions of people that live here. From another perspective there is a failure to notice what negative impacts our consumption habits are having on the natural resources that supply our way of life. Today, the United States makes up only 5% of the worlds population, but in turn uses 20% of the worlds resources (Population Reference Bureau). This shows the completely disproportionate relationship between our population and how much we consume, and what we consume eventually becomes waste. The average person in the United States consumes more than the average person in any other country. In many cases, this is due to personal choice. We drive farther, are less likely to car pool, build bigger houses, consume more water, buy more products, and produce more waste than we ever have before. To reduce the consumption rate each person needs to take responsibility about how much and what kind of resources they are using. Carpooling to work, using public transportation, buying local foods, using less water, and turning down the thermostat are all easy choices that a person can make. At the same time, efforts need to be made on a national scale to provide better recycling facilities, and develop better water conservation strategies. The Environmental Protection Agency is a governmental agency that helps to regulate factors that affect the environment. They are working to pinpoint ways to recycle water, and discover how consumption choices of different kinds of families are contributing to CO2 emissions and how these choices will grow and develop in the next 50 - 100 years. These results will then be used to assist in policy making decisions and future research.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Bright Idea

Doing your part for the environment can be as simple as changing a light bulb.

by Jeana Malcolm

Lighting represents twenty percent of energy costs in a typical home, so choosing the right kind of lighting can make a big impact  for both the environment and your pocketbook.   If your home is full of traditional incandescent bulbs, consider switching all of them out for some of the newer, more energy efficient types of light bulbs, such as compact fluorescent, light emitting diode and halogen bulbs.  Here's a comparison of each type of bulb to help you choose which types of bulbs you want to use in yor home, and where:

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs):   These are great general-purpose bulbs for your home, and they come in a variety of strengths and colors; some can even be used for 3-way or dimmable lighting (just be sure these usages are specified on the package).  These bulbs use a smaller wattage to produce equivalent brightness, measured in lumens, to incandescent bulbs.  For example, a 13-watt CFL bulb produces 800 lumens, the same as a 60-watt incandescent.  In addition to using much less energy to produce the same light, CFLs also have a significantly longer lifespan, some of them lasting up to 15,000 hours compared to a mere thousand hours in an incandescent bulb.  To ensure that your CFLs last as long as possible, be sure to install them only in open fixtures and in locations where lights will be turned on fairly often and for longer chunks of time (hall  and closet lights, for example, are not the best places for CFLs as they are used for infrequent, short bursts, which diminishes a CFL's lifespan).  And finally, when your CFL finally does burn out, it is important to recycle it, as these bulbs contain small amounts of mercury and should not be disposed of in landfills.  Visit this link to find your nearest CFL recycling drop-off.

Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs):  Another great general-use bulb, a well-designed LED can be significantly better in both efficiency and lifespan than even a CFL.  An LED producing 800 lumens would use only 6-8 watts and can last up to 25,000 hours, or about 12 years!  As with CFLs, you can purchase LEDs to be compatible with 3-way and dimmable lighting.  Additionally, these bulbs are not affected by short on-off bursts as CFLs are, so they can be used just about anywhere, and do not contain any mercury.  Not all LEDs are created equal, however, so look for an Energy Star label on the packaging to ensure the maximum efficiency and lifespan of your bulbs.  The only real downside to these bulbs is the up-front cost, ranging from $20-$50 per bulb.  But the long-term energy savings are significant.

Halogen Bulbs:  If you're looking for a relatively inexpensive bulb that's more efficient than an incandescent but you don't want to use a CFL for whatever reason (such as for use in a closet or if you simply want to avoid mercury), then halogens may be the right choice for you.  An 800-lumen halogen bulb will use about 40 watts and will last around 3000 hours, or 3 times as long as a traditional incandescent bulb.  

In sum, here's a handy chart comparing energy usage, lifespan, and cost of all of these different bulbs, based on 800 lumens, or a standard 60-watt incandescent bulb:

Lifespan (Hours)
Up to 1,000
Up to 15,000
Up to 25,000
Up to 3,000
Cost per Bulb


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Reusable bags...why bother?

By: Angela Chambers

That is a question that I have asked myself time and time again. For fiscally minded individuals, the monetary incentive ranging from 1 cent to 6 cents does provide motivation. However, that alone can make the decision of whether or not to run back into the house to grab your trendy reusable shopping bags a difficult one. First understanding the basis for the increasingly fervent transition to fewer plastic shopping bags is helpful. The harsh reality is that even enough the attempt is made to correct the error of our ways by recycling a plastic bag, it may “take anywhere from 15 to 1000 years to decompose.” In addition, the petroleum oil used to create the bag in the first place could be used as fuel for cars. It takes a mere “14 plastic bags to drive a car one mile”.

All to say, by making the extra effort to use fewer plastic bags, we can improve our environment: present and future. While some days this extra effort may seem insurmountable, there are several helpful tips to make this more manageable:

*Keep them in your car
*Purchase a bag that fold neatly into your backpack, purse, messenger bag, etc
*Give them as gifts. Never underestimate the power of peer pressure as you watch your family and friends use them too
*Put a reminder at the top of your shopping list (written or virtual on your phone)

Erdos, Joseph. (April 9, 2012). “Why You Should Use A Reusable Grocery Bag.” The Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Time to make some changes...

Who has time for change?

By Autumn Huggins

The health of the environment is one of the major concerns of life today. It seems you cannot make it through the day without seeing evidence of the efforts being made to improve the overall health of the Earth and her ability to sustain life for future generations to come.  At some point, the question most of us will ask ourselves is, “What can I do to help”?

While our desire to do our part in keeping our home livable may genuine, many people lose their aspiration to do so because of either a lack of knowledge, or a lack of time. These two barriers can easily stifle the most committed of people. To get to the heart of this problem, we can take a look at two components, the first being the impact one person can make, the second what are the most effective ways to make an impact with little time available to do so.

Our daily activities as individuals do contribute to the environmental problems we are facing. The little changes we make every day will make a difference. Many people will rationalize that as one person, they aren’t likely to be the cause of the problem, nor any effective solution. However, we know that in combination with others, our individual actions play a part in the whole.

According to the Personal Environmental Impact Calendar at          the average American generates 4.4 pounds of household and commercial waste daily. That adds up to being about 30.8 pounds a week and roughly 132 pounds a year! Americans are literally generating millions of pounds of household wastes every year!

So, other than our garbage, what is the greatest negative impact we make on the environment? According to the EPA, “Driving a private car is probably a typical citizen's most "polluting" daily activity.” Other than the obvious solutions of finding a “greener” way to travel, or buying an eco-friendly new car, they offer many suggestions on their website which you can do for your own car to reduce the emissions and even save gas and improve mileage. Just a bonus for you!

These, of course, are just two basic examples of our personal impact on the environment. Looking at them, it is not too difficult to see where we can make some changes that will not take much time or effort to make.

Paying attention to the impact you and your family are making on the environment is the first step in making a change. Being more mindful of the products we purchase makes us more aware of how they will be discarded and being sure to discard them in the most responsible way possible. Reduce, reuse, recycle… and compost! This will not only lighten your garbage output, but likely your conscience as well.

Here are a few additional ideas if you want to make a change:

1)      Learn more about what you are doing and can do!

2)      Prevent energy leaks in home (seal up doors, get double pane windows etc.)

3)      Lower thermostats

4)      Use low-flow shower head and toilets, if possible

5)      Plant trees (in your yard or someone else’s)

6)      Use organic materials in lawn and garden

7)      Turn off lights, appliances and water when not in use

8)      Fix water leaks in home

9)      Invest in solar energy

10)   Choose different transportation methods

11)   Get involved! ( either locally or globally, from community cleanups and other volunteer work to bigger global projects)

12)   Invest! ( If you have more money than time…donate!)

 There are many ways we can get involved and do our part to keep our home clean and livable. Small changes that we make can make a difference. Whether we have a lot of time to offer, or seemingly none at all the simple awareness of our actions and the changes we can make can mean all the difference in the world.