Monday, December 13, 2010

Winterize to Save Energy & Money

photo used with permission under morgueFile Free License





Lowering your energy usage is not only good for the environment, but it saves you money. With winter energy bill looming, take advantage of a few tricks to bring the costs down without giving up anything.



Remember, greater energy efficiency equals lower energy consumption.

Sounds like a win - win situation for everyone.



Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Electric Cars More Affordable with Tax Credits

photo used with permission from morgueFile Free License

Sometimes you just can’t afford to be as green as you want to be.

While there are countless inexpensive and sometimes even money saving ways to eliminate waste and reduce dependence on non renewable energy resources like fossil fuels, some proven ways involve a purchase that can’t be worked into the average green consumer’s budget.

An example is the electric car.

A new compact sedan that runs on fossil fuel can be purchased at an average starting price of approximately $17,000.

Compare this to an electric powered vehicle such as the Nissan Leaf with a price tag of over $32,000. That’s often just too high a price to pay no matter how committed you are to environmental issues like the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

But things might be changing now that more people are recognizing that our dependence on foreign oil is a national security risk.

Federal tax credits and state tax incentives are becoming available for those shopping for an environmentally friendly vehicle. Read more about Tax Incentives for Electric Cars

Tax Incentives For Electric Cars

photo used with permission from morgueFile Free License
Federal tax credits and state tax incentives are becoming available for those shopping for an environmentally friendly vehicle.
A $7,500 federal tax credit is available for purchases of a plug in car.
California residents can get up to a $5,000 tax rebate plus access to carpool lanes when they buy a zero emissions vehicle. Some local areas in California offer free parking for these vehicles as well as additional incentives and tax breaks.
For Hawaii residents, 20% of the purchase price of the vehicle can be claimed by rebate, up to $4,500. Additional rebates are available if a charging station is also purchased.
Residents of Colorado can get a tax credit on the purchase of a charger of up to 20% and the qualifying vehicle offers a credit up to $6,000.
Carpool lane access is offered to Georgia residents who purchase electric vehicles, as well as up to $5,000 income tax credit with an additional charging equipment purchase tax credit of 10%.
So, before you decide that you can’t afford an electric car to accompany your environmentally responsible lifestyle, check out the tax incentives in your area.
Be aware that all plug in cars do not qualify as a zero emissions vehicle, but companies are working on engineering of vehicles to qualify them for the benefits now being offered.



Thursday, November 4, 2010

Grocery Budget, Time Management and the Environment

photo used with permission from morgueFile Free License

How far is the drive to your favorite grocery store, and how often do you go there? 


Do you usually stop on your way home from work or do you schedule a special trip because the chore of grocery shopping with the additional labor of lugging all the groceries into the house and then putting them all away is so exhausting?


You didn’t know this was going to be a pop test, did you? But as long as I have you answering questions, here are a few more. The answers may let you find ways to save money on your grocery budget as well as cut down on your gas usage.

And isn’t that the whole point? Saving money while being environmentally responsible?


How would you answer these questions:

  • How often do you make a special trip to the convenience store to pick up just one or two items? 
    • How often do you leave the convenience store with just those one or two items?
  • Do you plan your driving route when you’re running errands to find the best route, or do you drive back and forth from one end of town to the other as you think of new things you should attend to?
  • Do you make a list of items you need before you go shopping?
    • Do you remember to take the list with you and refer to it?
  • How often do you find yourself at the store and realize you’ve left your earth friendly reusable bags at home?
  • Do you stock up on staple items for the home when they are on sale, or do you run to the store each time you run out of peanut butter, salt, flour, sugar and ketchup?

By now you should have a pretty good idea of how you usually deal with grocery shopping and running errands. You should also be able to see a pattern emerging on how your habits have a big impact on your household budget and the environment.


With just a little tweaking, you can change your habits and save time, money and the environment.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Green Technology Using Rare Earth in Jeopardy







Since my last post on rare earth, more people globally have been discussing the subject of this natural resource as an environmental and economic concern, as well as political tool as China reacts to a currency disagreement with the US by reducing shipments.


In an article posted on the BBC website, Olivia Lang of BBC News writes:

In a New York Times op-ed last month, economist Paul Krugman wrote: "On one side, the affair highlights the fecklessness of US policymakers, who did nothing while an unreliable regime acquired a stranglehold on key materials."
"On the other side, the incident shows a Chinese government that is dangerously trigger-happy, willing to wage economic warfare on the slightest provocation," he added.
Using the same argument on reliance of rare-earth from China as is used with oil from the Middle East, Professor Animesh Jha from the University of Leeds is quoted in the article as saying:
"It's very dangerous to rely on limited resources from politically unsafe places. I don't think we should be held hostage to China."
Rare earth minerals are a collection of elements that are used extensively in the manufacture of products including large wind turbines,  flat screen TV's and strategic US weapons. China supplies most of the rare earth minerals to the United States.  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

China and Rare Earth Minerals Crisis?

Rare earth minerals are a collection of elements that are used extensively in the manufacture of products including large wind turbines,  flat screen TV's and strategic US weapons. China supplies most of the rare earth minerals to the United States.

The reliance on foreign countries for a natural resource that so depended on for the US military has had scientists and the defense department alike looking for alternatives for the China supplied rare earth minerals for quite some time, according to an August 31, 2009 article at wired.com.

According to the article:

China is the world’s dominant rare earths producer, and strategic thinkers are starting to worry about this strategic supply — particularly amid concerns that China may hoard or restrict access to the rare-earth materials that the military depends on.
Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009/08/defense-geeks-fret-over-rare-earth-metal-supplies/#ixzz12qNuYZJg
And why should you care about rare earth minerals and China? According to recent reports, in the NY Times:
"China, which has been blocking shipments of crucial minerals to Japan for the last month, has now quietly halted shipments of some of those same materials to the United States and Europe, three industry officials said on Tuesday."

 photo used with permission under morgueFile Free License Agreement

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Can't Afford a Green Roof? Think White








Green roofs have been getting a lot of attention in the U.S. lately, though they've been popular in Europe for quite a while now. The thought of replacing the life giving natural air cleaners and temperature regulators that we are clearing for building space with a rooftop garden is very appealing. But it has its considerations that could be costly.

The structure has to be strong enough to support the rooftop garden, or green roof. And then there's the cost of planting it. I love the idea of green roofs, but it's not an option for everyone.

That's why I was so excited to learn about white roofs. And especially excited today when I read an article that said simply painting a dark roof with reflective white paint could bring down the temperature on the roof by 50 to 60 degrees F.

With the roof temperature lowered, the inside of the building will remain cooler, reducing the need to run the air conditioner, which in turn cuts down on emissions.

According to the article, the writer painted a square of a dark gray roof white and a colleague measured the temperature with an infrared gun. The newly painted square had a temperature of 98 degrees and decreasing. The colleague then  used the gun on an unpainted area 5 feet away, and the temperature was 143 degrees and rising.

The astounding results came with just one coat of paint.

A cool roof movement is starting in urban areas. It combines the use of cool roof material along with the white paint for government buildings.

But for the average homeowner, the existing roof can be painted white and keep the home cooler. This saves us money on air conditioning and gives us the satisfaction of knowing we have cut down on the production of carbon dioxides.

A win - win proposition.

photo used with permission under morgueFile Free License

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Redecorate with Recycled Materials



As summer winds down, it seems that we start to dread the chill winds of fall and winter, even though the thermometer is proving that it is still the summer season.

But the kids are back to school and many of us are taking advantage of the extra time during the day to regain possession of the house, lawn and garden and put everything to rights. Before tossing anything into the trash headed to the landfill, consider its use to bring warmth to the house by means of changing the decor with homemade crafts.

Recycled materials from closets and gardens are ideal for bringing warmth and coziness into room d├ęcor. Country, primitive and rustic styles make good use of previously used materials. Worn clothing can be cut into quilting squares for pillows, wall hangings, curtains and blankets. Nothing invites relaxation like the site of a quilt draped over a chair, sofa or bed.

The stack of crafts the kids assembled during rainy summer afternoons can be incorporated into rooms as works of art. Frame those old pictures, display the clay sculptures and painted rocks and create a welcoming display in the guest bedroom, or even on the stairway wall.

Bring the outdoors in to create a rustic look in the home. Cut and dry flowers to display during the winter months. Cut back the grapevine and create wreaths. They’re not just for Christmas display and not just for walls. Hang them from any hook or finial. Decorate them with the dried flowers and you have country charm for any room in the house.

Tie flower stems together with twine, dry them and use them as an aromatic homemade fire starter this winter.

If the fence or gate needs replacing, use the boards to create rustic shelving or picture frames. Larger pieces can be used as headboards for the bed.

Large planter pots can be cleaned and used by the entry to hold the umbrellas that will need a handy place to live during autumn showers. The picnic basket is the perfect place to store and display dried flowers and pine cones. Both will also serve as charming organizers for extra gloves, mittens, hats and scarves during the winter months. Double duty means the containers will be available for their original use when winter is over.

There is no limit to what you can do if you remember to use it well, use it up, and then find another use for it.

Photo used with permission under morgueFile Free License

Friday, August 27, 2010

Recycle Art Projects






As the kids go back to school, you know that art projects will soon be making their way from the classroom to the home. Although some of these beautiful examples of artistic talent will immediately gain prominent display on the refrigerator or family communications cork board, there are just too many pieces of creativity to be displayed.

Packing them away in boxes just invites damage, a thought the proud parent of an artist can't bear to contemplate.

Idea


Save the cardboard tubes from paper towel, aluminum foil and plastic wraps used in the kitchen. Roll up the childhood memory and tuck it in the tube. Label the tube with the child’s name, date and the subject matter and the treasured can be stored without worry of accidental damage.

Sooner or later the accumulation of drawings makes it necessary to be a bit more discriminatory when determining what to choose to save and take up valuable household storage. Even the artwork that is not chosen to be vaulted away forever can be given new life.

Idea


Consider giving the drawings another use as wrapping paper for small gifts.Not only will the kids get a lesson in recycling,  grandmothers and other close relatives may find just as much enjoyment from the artful wrapping as they do of the gift inside.

And, speaking of school art projects, many art programs are always in need of material remnants, buttons, scraps of wrapping paper and ribbon for art projects. Before tossing the scraps that have accumulated in your work basket, speak to the kindergarten teacher to see if there is a use for them at the local school. If not, contact activity directors at nursing centers and senior groups.

Like everything else, even school art projects fit into the category of use it up, then find another use for it.

photo used with permission under morgueFile free license

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

First, Do No Further Harm

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It’s really hard to think about doing small things to help the environment when hourly updates about the oil spill are being broadcast on all of the cable news networks. I haven’t had the will to even post here for weeks because it seemed so futile with the overwhelming environmental crisis unfolding in the Gulf.

I have finally come to believe that no matter what type of misinformation is coming out of the Gulf, it is what it is.  No matter how tragic, it is what it is---it has already happened. No amount of hand wringing or finger pointing can change what has already happened. No amount of lies and cover-ups can change the fact that a disaster of this scope will be studied for decades, perhaps even centuries, and hard to digest truths brought to light.

It is time to turn our attention to dealing with it. To get our brains working toward solutions, we need to accept the fact that political and financial agendas will be behind a lot of proposed solutions.

  • While berms and dredging my look like a good idea to keep oil out of wetlands, what is the long-term effect? 
  • Will the toxic sand migrate? 
  • Will the tides, storms, currents move the toxic oil and chemical contaminated sand to a new area after a time? 
  • Do environmentalists have a good reason for not approving these plans because of unknown future repercussions down the road?
The ever-failing plan of the week coming from BP doesn’t take much effort to dismiss anymore. They just keep moving down the list of possibilities so that they are perceived to be doing something. In my opinion, if it was a good idea, it would have been higher on their list of ‘solutions’ in the first place. It’s not as if they’re saying they have new information that makes the new attempt promising. BP just can’t afford to appear to do nothing as the crude continues to gush at who knows what rate.

The dangers of the dispersants will be brought to light in many unknown ways. From dead sperm whales washing upon beaches to human health problems to the people exposed to the toxins. Dead zones in the Gulf, already a major concern before the BP fiasco, will get larger and spread far beyond the Gulf area.

There are other consequences, some of them which are already being studied and addressed, others that have yet to be imagined. It’s a disaster and a crisis. It’s on going. It’s difficult to wrap our minds around. But it has happened.

As unlikely as it seems, recycling your plastic refuse will still make a difference.
Conserving energy will still make a difference.
Each person must continue to carry on the effort to clean up their tiny spot of earth by doing what they do best.

  • Those who know how to grow things without chemicals – continue and share the knowledge.
  • Those who car-pool to reduce carbon emissions – continue to do so.
  • Those who don’t use more electricity that they need – continue to do so, and share your tips.
  • Let the scientists and environmentalists work on what they do best – continue to work on the tremendous effort of dealing with the Gulf crisis.
As solutions are found to the individual problems left behind by the oily devastation, lend support in any way you can.

If we become discouraged, we fail. Failure is not an option.

Friday, April 30, 2010

210,000 Gallons of Oil a Day Spewing into Gulf, and it can get Worse?





The words "Drill, baby, drill" and the cries of opposition to a wind farm off the New England coast are still ringing in our ears as we watch the frantic efforts to control an oil slick come ashore in the Gulf of Mexico.


With the spewing 210,000 gallons of crude oil a day from an underground BP oil well from at least 3 leaks into the gulf, the worst U.S. environmental disaster t began with the tragic explosion of an oil rig that claimed 11 lives.


News about the disaster just keeps getting worse. Now we learn that there are fears that main pipelines in the actual well itself might give, resulting in what amounts to an open oil well gushing into the fragile waters of the gulf.


Rupture of the pipe is the worst case scenario as of this writing, but before the catastrophe, the possibility of an explosion and resulting spill of this magnitude was considered remote.


Weather this weekend may interfere with the efforts to skim the oil and move it away from the main area of the spill to burn it off. Heavy winds and high tides will also serve to drive the oil toward the coastal marshlands.


It's impossible to forecast the danger the spill will have on the environment because no one knows how big the spill will get, how the leaks can be stopped, or how and where most of the oil will come ashore.


Once the oil comes ashore, the most immediate impact to wildlife will be the birds. Reproductive failure and possible death to large numbers of birds is expected. Fisheries will also be greatly impacted, as the oil moves into coastal marshes and inshore ecosystem. Oyster beds, fish nurseries and shrimp populations could be devastated. The long lasting economic impact from this environmental disaster cannot yet be calculated.


Yet, people can still cry foul that a wind farm is ugly.


photo under morgueFile free license


Have you considered how this BP oil rig disaster will affect you? Please comment.


.





Thursday, March 11, 2010

Obama to Ban Sports Fishing? Really????



According to Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, President Obama is moving to ban sports fishing. They are, of course, outraged. Check out Glenn and Rush. But come back and read more.





According to the International Game and Fish Association, conservation efforts are needed to insure that the next generations know what fish even tastes like. No matter. Did you listen to Beck? What’s more important? The fish or your right to fish?

And how about Rush? Obama can do whatever he wants to do.

People actually listen to these two. They get the information they use to vote at the polls for the people who will lead our country from these guys. Is it any wonder so many Americans believe that it’s arrogant and unchristian to believe that man has anything to do with climate change or global warming, but instead would rather embrace the idea that it’s a sign of the End of Days?

So, a few of us have gotten a chuckle today from Glenn and Rush. But a lot of people have listened, believed, and emailed and tweeted their broadcasts to other like minded voters.

What have you done today to stop the flood of misinformation that is contributing to a global environmental crisis?

Some ideas: When you see an article about a cause you believe in, with credible information, reliable sources and common sense ideas, post the link on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg, or and other social media.

If you have a blog, write about the article, linking to scientific studies and credible organizations.

Talk it up at the water fountain.

Don’t let American voters be educated by clowns.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

New Name Needed for Idiot String

Remember those homemade crochet mitten strings mom or grandma made to keep mittens from being lost? They were usually a simple chain stitch frugally made from whatever leftover yarn was available from a recent homemade project, run through the sleeves of the coat and attached to the mittens.


I remember the taunts from older kids because we needed these ‘idiot strings’ to keep track of our mittens, and I remember that we carried on the tradition by taunting younger kids once we 'matured enough' to get out of the house without them.

Those homemade mitten strings, although accomplishing their purpose, would wind tight around my arms, causing physical discomfort along with the emotional abuse that was heaped on me.

Now, there are elastic straps with fasteners to attach expensive gloves to expensive jackets, but the clasps fray the cuffs of both, and often come undone.

My 8 year old granddaughter has lost several gloves because of this, and, as often happens with dramatic 8 year old girls, suffers greatly with each loss of the favorite glove in the whole world.

My exasperated daughter-in-law crafted several one inch wide knitted ‘idiot string’ and fastened each pair of ‘favorite’ gloves. Of course, she made sure to use matching yarn and called it a homemade accessory, but I still remembered the taunts of ‘idiot string’ as my granddaughter proudly set off for school with her new homemade accessory.

Imagine my surprise when her best friend asked if she thought she could have one made for her.

Now my daughter-in-law is busy knitting the homemade glove accessories for several 8 year old girls who are tired of losing their favorite gloves in the whole world.

A name has to be thought up for these homemade children’s accessories before someone slips ups and calls the idiot strings and another generation shuns them.

Any ideas?

photo: morgueFile Free License Agreement

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Save the Environment with Leftover Recipes


Wasted food, like any other wasted product is a waste of the resources used to provide it. Using up every scrap of food that comes into your house not only saves you money, but it helps to save the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and water and energy use.


You may think wasted food would compost easily and give nutrients back to the earth like in the garden compost pile. Food scraps in both the compost heap and landfill are decomposed by aerobic bacteria that deplete the oxygen.


Once the oxygen is depleted, anaerobic bacteria take over the job, producing methane. A green house gas more powerful than carbon dioxide, methane gas can be produced from this waste in a landfill for up to 60 years.


According to a recent study, 39% of the available food supply, 1,400 calories per day per person in the US, is wasted every day from food left on the plate, spoilage and food disposed for other reasons.


So, what can you do to save money and resources?


  • Plan your meals so that there are no leftovers, or so that you can turn leftovers into another tasty meal. If someone in the household turns up their nose at leftovers, explain how they are helping to save the environment, and your food budget.
  • Store your purchased food properly so that there is no waste due to spoilage.
  • Order a smaller portion unless you know you’ll consume what’s in the doggie bag when you eat out. Many appetizers make a good meal, and a lot of restaurants will allow their menu items to be shared.


How do you handle your leftovers? Share your tips and recipes in the comments section below.






Source:


Hall KD, Guo J, Dore M, Chow CC (2009) The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact. PLoS ONE 4(11): e7940. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007940


photo under morgueFile Free License

Friday, January 15, 2010

Naturescaping-Good for the Environment, Good for the Pocketbook


Gardening season is here in many parts of the country, and fast approaching in others. While I think gardening is good for the environment, traditional gardening can be made even better.
Gardens that need a lot of maintenence usually are full of plants that are not native to the area. That means they need additional water and nutrients to thrive.

A lot of non-native, or exoctic plants need chemical filled pesticides that can harm other valuable vegetation simply because they cannot tolerate the insects that live in their new environment.

Gasoline powered lawn and garden tools also endanger the environment.

Naturescaping with native plants can reduce time and money spent in garden maintenance.

Native plants have evolved to adapt to climate conditions. The root systems of native plants have developed over the centuries to find and trap moisture and nutrients from their surroundings, eliminating the need for fertilizers and additional water except in extreme climate conditions like drought. Money in the gardeners pocket and protection of the environment.

Plants also evolve to live with the insect population in the native area. In fact, many insects not only help in the pollination process, but aid in keeping the population of harmful diseases, and larvae of other insect pests. Harmful chemical pesticides that can also harm beneficial insects are not needed in Naturescaping. Another saving to the environment and budget.

Imagine a garden with no weeding or mowing. Now that's an energy saver.

Tips for energy saving, mechanical or human, are always welcome

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Can Renewable Energy be Affordable?



President Obama thinks economical and green go together, too as he announced that $2.3 billion in tax credits to be awarded to renewable energy manufacturers and other green technologies. This means American made wind turbines, energy cells and solar panels to aid in America’s production of energy.


The money, coming from the 2009 $787 billion stimulus program should create approximately 17,000 green jobs.

Getting Americans back to work while trying to catch up with the rest of the world in clean energy sounds like a win-win prospect. The development of green technology gets a boost, consumers can buy economical renewable energy products manufactured in the US rather than imported and pay for them with wages earned from new American green jobs.

The past and future seem at war as we watch politicians try to bend the trends of renewable energy in the US. From the fight about the realities of human effect on global warming to the arguments that xxx number of new jobs is just a drop in the bucket to our unemployment woes, the fact that even baby steps in catching up to the rest of the world in clean, affordable renewable energy goes right over the heads of many people.

China, on the other hand, seems to have embraced the idea that development of renewal energy is an economic winner as they move forward with incentives to grow the industry.

It’s not just the tree huggers demanding renewable energy anymore. Economists are starting to be won over.

photo under morgueFile Free License Agreement