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June 2, 2009–Today’s Way: If you’re considering planting some new trees in your own yard, or looking to expand your gardens, you can save yourself a great deal of money (and likely watering, fertilizing, tending, etc…) by planting natives from your own region.  Native shrubs, plants and trees have evolved over time to withstand the conditions of your area, and as such require little or no care at all from humans.  They are naturally disease resistant, and will be uniquely predisposed to thrive in your climate and soil—such as being drought tolerant, or being able to withstand heavy rains and hard winters.  And natives are beautiful as well as diverse; offering of themselves beautiful flowers and nuts and fruits for humans as well as wildlife to enjoy.  Most importantly, by planting natives, you’ll be helping to preserve and protect ecological diversity among developed areas.  You can obtain low-cost native plants and trees as well as get plenty of information on how to plant and care for them through your local conservation district.

June 1, 2009–Today’s Way: If you have a hot water heater, it’s most likely installed in your basement (if you have a basement, that is), which is typically the coldest place in the house.  So, you’ve got a huge tank of water fighting to stay hot in the one place where it’s coolest, and losing a great deal of heat in the process.  A simple and inexpensive solution is to insulate the water heater tank to help it retain its heat, and thereby saving 25–45% of standby heat loss energy at the same time.  There are special hot water heater jackets, which are pre-shaped insulated blankets that you can purchase for under $35 at your local hardware or home improvement store.  Over the course of a year, the blanket can pay for itself on your water heating bills.  Also, you may want to check with your utility company for any available installation programs, discounts or credits—you may be able to have an energy auditor install the jacket for you, or even receive a credit for improving your energy usage.

To learn more about installing water heater jackets yourself, visit this helpful tutorial from energysavers.gov.

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