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Friday, October 23, 2009

Follow these steps to live green

When buying your groceries, remember the four Ns. Choose food that is NATURAL, (meaning no pesticides have been used and it is as minimally processed as possible), NAKED (as little packaging as possible), NUTRITIOUS and NOW (in season).

Buy your food locally whenever possible. Most cities have farmer’s markets where you can purchase produce, meats, breads and baked goods from local vendors. Not only are you supporting your local economy, but these are usually fresher and healthier options. You can also talk to the seller directly to find out their practices when it comes to the use of pesticides, hormones and preservatives. An added bonus is that the food wasn’t trucked in which means less fuel usage and fewer emissions.

Pack lunches in reusable containers. The amount of packaging used for food nowadays is staggering. Help reduce it how you can by opting for reusable containers when packing lunches. There are lots of options available in a variety of different sizes so you can pack everything you need. Be sure to include reusable silverware if needed as well.

Purchase products you use often in bulk. Single serving food products are a huge waste of packaging materials. By buying in bulk you cut down on the amount of packaging that needs to be thrown out and buying more at a time means less trips to the store to pick things up.

Compost your kitchen waste. Composting your fruits and vegetables is an excellent way to cut down on the amount of garbage going in to our landfill sites, and provides nutrient rich soil that you can use in your garden. Some communities are now starting city run composting programs so be sure to check for a program like this where you live.

Don’t waste water while waiting for it to heat up. Running the tap while waiting for the water to heat up is an unnecessary waste. Instead of letting this run down the drain, catch it in a pitcher or pot and use it to water your plants, save it for cooking or put it in the fridge as drinking water.

Use less energy when you cook. There are several things you can do to cut back on the energy you use when cooking. When boiling water put a lid on the pot and it will boil faster. Once it is boiling, turn down the heat (water that is lightly boiling is the same temperature). Most foods don’t require the oven to be preheated so don’t waste energy on this. When using the oven for cooking items such as roasts, you can turn it off for the last 15 minutes and the heat left will finish the cooking. All of these can help you to use less energy in the kitchen.

Thaw foods before cooking them. It takes longer – and uses more energy - to cook foods from frozen. Instead, think ahead about what you will be cooking and when and thaw it first. Likewise, take items out of the fridge before it is time to put them in the oven to bring them up to room temperature.

Keep drinking water in the refrigerator. Instead of having to run the tap to get cold water every time you want a drink, keep a pitcher in the fridge. This will also help you avoid buying individual bottles of water that generate an unnecessary amount of waste.

Run the water less when preparing meals. Next time you cook a meal, put a big bowl underneath the faucet and see how much water is collected every time you wash your hands, rinse your food, etc. You may be surprised how much water is being wasted. Reduce this by instead keeping a bowl of water in the sink to wash your hands in. Keep another one to wash fruits and vegetables in. This way you are only using that one bowl of water instead of letting the tap run.

Look for paper plates that can be composted. The paper plates you are used to seeing in the supermarket are made from virgin tree pulp. They are then coated in a petroleum-based wax, which means that when you are done with them they cannot be recycled. But now there is a new type of paper plate made from “bagasse”. It is a left over from sugar processing and when used to make paper products is compostable. So now you can still be good to the environment and not have to do dishes after the family picnic!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Save Energy For The Future

household energy save

Keep your furnace running efficiently. Your furnace is the most expensive appliance in your house to run. In fact household heating accounts for 60% of all energy used in the average home. Make sure it is operating as efficiently as possible by replacing its filter every two months. A great option is to purchase one of the reusable filters that can be washed on a regular basis. You’ll pay more for them but they last for years so in the end they cost less than disposable filters. The few minutes it will take you to properly care for your furnace can increase its energy efficiently by as much as 50 per cent.

Install a programmable thermostat. Heating and cooling your house when no one is home – or when everyone is in bed – uses an unnecessary amount of energy. This is bad for the environment and bad for your checkbook! Instead of wasting that energy, buy a programmable thermostat and set the temperature to be several degrees cooler (or warmer in the summer) during the night and when the house is empty. You can easily have it back to the temperature you like by the time you wake up or arrive home.

Wrap your hot water heater in a blanket. Every hardware store sells fiberglass blankets that you can wrap around your hot water tank to help it hold in heat. They are easily installed (you can do it yourself) and usually pay for themselves in the first year of use.

Opt for a tankless hot water solution. If your hot water tank is getting old and you’re considering replacing it, choose one of the new tankless hot water options. They heat water as you need it instead of keeping an entire tank heated and ready to go at all times. As a result they use significantly less energy, which is better for the environment. And an added bonus is that you can expect to save about 50% on your hot water heating costs.

Keep your house cool naturally. Closing the blinks and curtains and using ceiling fans can dramatically decrease the temperature of your home during the heat of the summer. If you must use air conditioning, keep it at 75F and reserve its use only for the hottest days. A programmable thermostat is a great option to raise the temperature during the night and when no one is home.

Replace your incandescent light bulbs. Although they cost more upfront, the compact fluorescent light bulbs will save you a lot of money in the long run. They use 75% less electricity than incandescent light bulbs and last up to 10 times longer! That means you pay significantly less for electricity and are not throwing nearly as many light bulbs into the landfill. If you were to change only five of the light bulbs that you use the most often to compact fluorescent bulbs you could save more than $30 per year.

Turn off the lights. A lot of people are guilty of leaving lights on all over the house. But remember that every little bit of electricity you can save counts! Make it a policy in your home to always turn the lights off when you leave a room. Same making sure that the television, stereo and computer are off when not in use. For outdoor lights, consider a timer or use motion detectors instead of always leaving outside lights on.

Make sure your refrigerator and freezer are operating efficiently. Refrigerators that are more than 10 years old use approximately 60% more electricity than new models. To make sure you are not using more energy than needed, keep the temperature of the fridge at 37F and the freezer at 0F. This will keep your food at the perfect temperature without using excess electricity. Another great tip is to clean the condenser once or twice a year so that the motor does not have to run as long or as often.

Use your microwave. Not all foods are great when cooked in the microwave, but there are lots of times you can use it over your conventional oven. Since your microwave uses 75% less energy than your oven, it’s worth it to find new ways to use it when cooking!

Unplug electronics when they are not in use. Did you know that your television, DVD player, computer and kitchen appliances all use some electricity even when they are not turned on? Avoid wasting this electricity by unplugging them if you won’t be using them for a day or longer. And remember to unplug them before you leave home for vacations.

Use countertop appliances over their stovetop equivalent. When you are steaming vegetables or boiling water in the kettle, opt for countertop appliances instead of using your stove. They use significantly less electricity and get the job done faster.

Only run a full load in the dishwasher. Before running a cycle through your dishwasher, make sure it is full. You’ll use less electricity and less water – and an added bonus is that your dishes will come out cleaner! And always be sure to let your dishes air dry or use the cool dry option rather than using the heat dry setting. This alone will cut the amount of energy used for each load by 15% - 50%!

Change to digital dimmer switches. Although having dimmers on your lights is a great way to save energy, some of the older styles are no more efficient than regular switches. If you have a dial dimmer, check to see if the switch itself feels warm. If it does, you are not saving any energy by using it. Consider replacing it with one of the new digital dimmers to increase the amount of energy saved.

Make your swimming pool more energy efficient. Pools account for as much as 60% of a home’s summer energy costs – and more in parts of the world where pools are used year round. Cut this down by as much as 20% simply by using a solar blanket to help keep the pool warm. Save another 20% by turning down your pool heater by a few degrees.

Insulate your hot water pipes. Insulate the first meter of pipe leading into and out of your hot-water tank as well as any metal hot-water pipes running through unheated spaces in your home. This quick and easy project will reduce the amount of electricity you use and save you some money.

Clean out your lint filter. Having a full lint filter in your clothes dryer can result in 30% more energy being used. Be sure to clean it out before every use and scrub it with a soft bristle brush every few months. To check and see if it needs to be cleaned, fill it with water and see whether it drains. Often tiny particles can clog the holes even though it appears that they are clear.

Install motion detectors on your outdoor lights. Instead of leaving on your outdoor lights all evening, install motion detectors so they only come on when needed. This relatively simple change can save as much as 30% of the electricity needed for your outdoor lighting.

Keep your refrigerator and freezer well stocked. A half empty fridge or freezer uses significantly more energy than a full one. If you don’t have anything else to add, fill up bottles of water and put them where needed to keep things full.

Work on weatherizing your home. If your house is drafty you are literally throwing money out the window. Spend a bit of time sealing up doors and windows to cut down on heat loss. Also be sure to check that you have enough insulation. In older homes the attic in particular can benefit from increased insulation. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, it’s well worth it to hire a professional to do an energy audit.

Buy a slow cooker. Also known as “crock pots”, slow cookers can be used for everything from roasts to stews. Because new ones use only the same amount of energy as a single light bulb, they are a very energy efficient way of cooking.

Stop losing heat. There are several places in your home where you are losing heat and may not even realize it. One that most people overlook is the electrical outlets. In particular in older houses where there is not much insulation in the walls. Stop this heat loss by putting in those little plastic child proofing plugs.

Turn down the temperature of your hot water heater. Most houses have the hot water heater set much hotter than it needs to be. As a result you end up having to mix a lot of cold water in to get it to a temperature that is useable. Make sure your hot water heater is set to no higher than 140F. That is hot enough to kill germs but not so hot that it is a huge waste of energy.

Investigate grants that will help you improve your home’s energy efficiency. Changing the way we live is becoming so important that in many parts of the world the government and energy companies are helping homeowners by paying – or at least subsidizing – energy saving measures. Find programs in your area by searching the web, calling your energy supplier or asking your local officials.

Request a home energy audit. A lot of utility companies now offer free energy audits to their customers. Check with yours to see what is available. You may be surprised at what you learn about how you are wasting energy.