Archive for the ‘Green Home’ Category

Conserving water is a simple way to contribute to the resolution of a complex ecological issue.  A general estimate is that the average American uses 100 gallons of water per day, including showers, hand washing, dishes, toilet usage, laundry, etc..  This equates to roughly 3,000 gallons a month.  Extrapolate those numbers out to community, state, and national levels, and you can see where even reducing household water usage levels by 2 – 3 percent a year (or 2 – 3 gallons a day) could have a significant cumulative impact on water conservation efforts.  Not to mention if you conserve water you also lower water bills.

The bathroom and kitchen are two areas of the house with the greatest water consumption.  Some common bathroom and kitchen water efficiency efforts simply include being aware of running water and modifying your behavior accordingly.  Upgrading to more efficient equipment and implementing water flow controls is also an option.

For example, leaving the water run while you brush your teeth (or shave) can quickly add to your monthly usage.  Consider that the average bathroom tap runs at 2 gallons a minute, leaving the tap run while you brush your teeth (assuming brush time at one minute, two times a day) could equate to an excess of 4 gallons of water used per day (or 120 gallons per month).  Along this same line, shortening your showers by a just a minute or two can shave gallons off your water usage.  Choosing showers over filling the bathtub also provides another option to conserve.  As for the kitchen, if you are washing dishes by hand, fill the sink or a bowl with water, rather than washing dishes with the tap continuously running.

Another large water hog is the toilet.  Upgrading to a newer, more efficient toilet is an effective option.  Some older toilets can use between 4 – 7 gallons of water per flush, where as the more efficient, low flow toilets use on average 1.5 gallons of water per flush.  While replacing equipment may not be an option, identifying and fixing your toilet for leaks is another way to potentially save water and money.  A common and inexpensive test involves putting dye in the tank, waiting roughly 30 minutes, and then checking the bowl for dye – if dye has leaked into the bowl without flushing, you have a leak that is wasting water and costing you money.  Check your seals if you’re a do-it-yourself-er, or bring in a plumber to take a look.

For both the bathroom and the kitchen, installing a low-flow faucet shower head and/or low-flow faucet aerators provides a relatively simple and inexpensive means to conserve water.  High efficiency dish-washers and laundry machines also provide a great opportunity.  While these upgrades are more capital intensive, you can realize significant water (and utility) savings over the long haul.  A high-efficiency dish washer also means less pre-washing or rinsing of dishes up front.  Also, minimizing garbage disposal usage helps to reduce water consumption.  For regular tips on ways to conserve water – visit Water Use it Wisely or 25 tips on water conservation at earthyeasy.com.

As a final note, if you are thinking of upgrading to more efficient, water-wise equipment, you should check with your local water utility as some offer discounts or rebates on high efficiency equipment.

What’s your best tip to conserve water?

Production of energy management systems that monitor your residential or business energy use is ramping up to become more accessible and more user friendly – this trend is only expected to continue as utilities conduct pilot programs and early adopters continue to lead the way in demonstrating the benefits of energy management gadgets.

Think of older thermostat models.  Their basic functionality was to adjust the temperature – up or down.  You could easily leave the house or fall asleep with the heat blazing or air conditioning blasting needlessly, for hours on end.  Newer thermostat technology allows for programming, tracking of energy usage, remote functionality, and adjustments based on weather or even adapting to your schedule.

Now think of an energy monitor that displays your real-time energy usage.  If you had a gadget that provided a snap-shot of how much energy your house was using and how that related to your peak usage and utility rates, you would be much more aware of energy usage and more likely to turn off unused lights or appliances or adjust the thermostat accordingly.  The main idea behind using an energy management system in your home is the awareness and readily accessible real-time data it provides and the impact that has on your behavior.

The key advantage to the smart energy monitoring technology is the immediacy of the results.  Energy management technology eliminates the lag time of your energy usage to receiving the monthly utility bill in your inbox or mailbox.  Programmable thermostats are fairly common.  Energy monitors are available today but are not yet considered mainstream.  This is a technology worth researching and staying on the lookout for, as it provides an invaluable tool for reducing your energy consumption and saving on your utility bills.

Increasingly, there are options for you to support the production of electricity from renewable sources from your electric utility by directly purchasing green power or participating in a green pricing program.

Green power refers to electricity supplied (in whole or in part) from renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, biomass, hydropower, and geothermal.  Options to support green power are expanding as electricity markets open to competition and regulated utilities offer green pricing programs.  In an open market, customers are provided electricity supply options, which could include purchasing electricity from a renewable source.  In electricity markets that remain regulated, utilities are increasingly developing and implementing green pricing programs.  Green pricing programs offer the customer an option to pay a premium on their electric bill to support any above market cost for acquiring electricity from renewable sources.

Purchasing green power or participating in a green pricing program can help offset air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions attributed to the burning of fossil fuels.  Your purchase and/or participation of green energy products also helps create and expand renewable energy markets.

Pricing and availability vary widely by market as well as renewable source (e.g. wind, solar, biomass).  If interested in green energy products, your initial step is to determine the status of your market (open competition or regulated) and continue from there.  Green energy products provide a way to leverage individual support in the effort to cost-effectively produce green energy.

Collection of plastic clutter in kitchen sinkI was always a half-hearted environmentalist. I mean, I had girlfriends who were all into the green thing, but I mostly did all those ecologically friendly things when they didn’t really pose that big of a change in my own lifestyle. One of the things that I was ambivalent about was plastics. Sure, I’ve heard how they could be harmful, how they contain chemicals that can be detrimental to your health, how they can clog sewers and affect the respiratory system of marine organisms. But the convenience that plastics offered, as containers, as bags and as a material for me offset all purported negative environmental effects that they had. My room was filled with plastics. Plastic cups, plates and utensils filled my cupboard and sink. I had plastic bags for garbage, for leftover food for my dogs, as well as for stuff I really didn’t know what to do with. Vases, chairs and tables were all made of plastic. It was a part of my personal space as much as it was a part of my life.

Gradually, the “bad plastic” mentality began to sink in. There really was no single pivotal point. I think it started with a couple of articles from writers I really admired which detailed the negative health effects of plastic particles. Then there were those videos showing sea turtles and sea birds mired in plastic, gasping for air as the thin layer of synthetic material clogged their airway. Bit by bit, I became increasingly conscious of the plastics in my surroundings. I began to make a subconscious inventory, of how much and of which kind of plastics I had. I began to think of ways to whittle down the plastics in my home. The plastic plates were eventually replaced with ceramic ones. The plastic cups with glass, the plastic utensils with stainless steel. Bit by bit, I identified, and then replaced plastic furnishings in my home. My indoor tomato plant now resides in a glass vase.  I started bringing my own bag when I went shopping.

Simple things. I began being wary about plastics being in close proximity to anything I drank or ate. It wasn’t paranoia. It was more of awareness. Fully eliminating plastics from one’s life in today’s modern world is difficult. Still, the awareness I had has led to a significant reduction of the role plastic plays in my life and has led me to become more aware, and actually be more comfortable in my plastic-free green home.

Here are some resources to replace common plastic items with BPA free versions or non-plastic alternatives:

What do you do to reduce the plastics in your green home?