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June 23, 2010 — Today’s Way: This one may seem overly simple, but there are a lot of folks who don’t give a second thought to this wasteful habit. Instead of relying on electricity to light a room during the day, why not open the curtains and let natural, abundant, free daylight fill your living and working areas? It just doesn’t make good environmental or budgetary sense to keep the house all closed off on a beautiful day, burning up fossil fuels (the source of most of our electrical energy) that contribute to pollution, the destruction of unique ecosystems and of course, global warming. Besides, our bodies need natural daylight; studies show that natural daylight helps to ward off depression and conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). So, roll up those shades! Throw open those curtains! And let the sun shine in.
June 19, 2010 — Today’s Way: Some of us may be surprised to learn that the amount of fuel savings that can be garnered by adjusting your bad driving habits is significant–on average, anywhere from 10% to a whopping 40%–depending on how much of a lead foot you have, that is. If you’re an aggressive driver (come on, you know who you are…punching the gas pedal off the line, accelerating until the very last moment, then using the brakes heavily to slow down, weaving in and out of traffic like you’re Mario Andretti), you’ll see the biggest savings by easing off on acceleration and coasting your way to a gradual stop. For the average driver, simply being more mindful of your pedal pushing can still bring notable fuel and monetary savings over time, as well as less wear and tear on your car. And fuel savings means less use of petroleum, which means less emissions, which means less green house gases, which means less pollution, which means healthier air and a better future for everyone.
June 17, 2010 — Today’s Way: This one is sooooooo easy, you’ll love it. Get out a tire pressure gauge, check your tires, inflate them to the proper level. This simple bit of maintenance can save you an average of around 10% on your gas budget, and of course, saving fuel helps to save the planet, too.
June 16, 2010–Today’s Way: Have you ever noticed how many roofs are black or a dark shade of brown or gray? The color of one’s roof is something we often might only consider only as a matter of aesthetic concern, yet there are environmental and energy implications that should not be overlooked. When you have a dark colored roof, whether made from shingles or even roof tar on a commercial building, that roof absorbs heat energy from the sun. Think of wearing a black turtleneck in the sultry, August sun…there’s a reason that we tend to wear light colors in the summertime because it helps to deflect heat and keep us cool. If you live in a climate where there is a considerable amount of hot weather, even if for part of the year, it just makes better sense to install a lighter colored roofing material to help deflect some of the sun’s fire, which will result in lower cooling costs and also helps to defend against our planet’s rising temperature. Now, I realize that a roof is something we hope to only have to install or replace a couple of times in a home’s lifetime, but it’s something to consider next time you’re in the market for a roof re-do. It’s really such a small step, and rarely costs much more than an ordinary dark roofing material, but the energy savings make it well worth considering.
June 12, 2009–Today’s way: Hey, it’s warm outside. Drop your socks and grab your sandals! Or flip flops. Or Earth Shoes. Or Uggs. It may seem trivial, but just as most of the little things we do add up to make an impact over time, going socks-less more often can really make a dent in your energy consumption when you add it all up. Think about it: a few less loads of laundry, requiring a few gallons less water, which won’t need to be heated first (thereby most likely requiring the burning of fossil fuels to generate the energy to heat the water), and less detergent produced to wash the socks, and fewer fossil fuels burned in order to ship the detergent to your local store…you get the idea. So remember the little things, and do what you can, when you can. And show us those naked toes.
June 10, 2009–Today’s Way: I just posted yesterday about opening up our homes to let the cool breeze in, and today I’m going to contradict myself. Sort of. When the weather turns really hot, you can keep your home cooler by closing doors and windows and shutting blinds or curtains during the heat of the day. Then, at night when the air cools down, open up all of your windows. When we practice this technique, along with employing our ceiling and window fans, we’re able to avoid using the air conditioner most of the summer. At the same time, we use far less energy and save quite a bit on our electric bills.
June 9, 2009–Today’s Way: It just seems like common sense to me, but I’m a bit surprised at how many people never open their windows to let a cooling breeze waft through their house. Instead, we’ve become hermetically sealed up, as if we’re on an airship and an open window will result in being sucked out into the void. Instead of keeping the house closed up, and having to maintain temperatures through artificial heating or cooling, opening the windows and doors to create a cross breeze on a warm day will allow nature to do your cooling for you, and for free. It’ll also help to bring in fresh air and help to push out dangerous low-grade offgassing from volatile organic compounds inherent in paints, finishes and even rugs or carpet. So throw caution to the wind, and invite it in today.
June 7, 2009–Today’s Way: I find it a curiosity whenever I walk into a building from the heat of summer and the temperatures inside are set to Antarctic. Or likewise, when you come in from the deep freeze of winter and need to strip down into Bermuda shorts because the thermostat is turned up to 85 degrees. Our bodies are highly adaptive, and it only takes a moment for our core temps to adjust with fluctuating temperatures, so while that first blast of cold air does feel good when we come in from the blazing sun, it takes only minutes before our bodies adjust and then even feel cold. In the winter, we probably don’t need the office or house to be so hot you could grow bananas inside. And in the summer, we shouldn’t need to don a fur coat and fingerless gloves just to be able to be able to sit at our desks responding to e-mails.
In fact, scaling back the thermostat in winter and increasing accordingly in the summer can save you about 1% of your overall energy bills for every degree Fahrenheit in either direction. For instance, in winter, if you were to bump the setting down from 74 degrees to 68, you would save about 6% off of your heating bill. That’s a drastic and immediate difference which will save you cash as well as energy.
June 6, 2009–Today’s Way: Every house, no matter how great or small, contains a plethora of of pipes, traveling from our hot water heater out to our faucets, sometimes quite far away, and usually in a cool basement or crawl space. However, by insulating your hot water pipes, you’ll reduce heat loss and even raise water temperatures by 2ºF–4ºF over that of uninsulated pipes. Also, insulating pipes will mean that you won’t have to wait as long for hot water at the faucet or showerhead, whick will help to conserve water at the same time.
For step-by-step instructions on how to insulate your pipes, see this site from diy.
June 3, 2009–Today’s Way: Did you know that the common house plant not only transforms CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) into oxygen in your home, it can also improve the air quality by actually absorbing harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and fumes of benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene? According to a NASA study (they were searching for efficient ways to purify the air on space stations), the following plants provide the most purifying power:
- English Ivy (Hedera helix)
- Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
- Golden pothos or Devil’s ivy (Scindapsus aures or Epipremnum aureum)
- Peace lily (Spathiphyllum ‘Mauna Loa’)
- Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)
- Bamboo palm or reed palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii)
- Snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’)
- Heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron oxycardium, syn. Philodendron cordatum)
- Selloum philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum, syn. Philodendron selloum)
- Elephant ear philodendron (Philodendron domesticum)
- Red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata)
- Cornstalk dracaena (Dracaena fragans ‘Massangeana’)
- Janet Craig dracaena (Dracaena deremensis ‘Janet Craig’)
- Warneck dracaena (Dracaena deremensis ‘Warneckii’)
- Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)
- Gerbera Daisy or Barberton daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
- Pot Mum or Florist’s Chrysanthemum (Chrysantheium morifolium)
- Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica)
You can read more in the book, “How to Grow Fresh Air” by B.C. Wolverton; based on 25 years of NASA research, the author explores how more than 50 common house plants naturally detoxify our environment, indoors and out.
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.