Green

Your Relationship with Your Home

 

This is a guest post.

Why when you get back from a vacation does it feel so great to be “home”? How can you have this connection to what is materially a set of walls and roof?

Where you live inevitably and undeniably becomes a major part of your life, so much so that your house almost becomes a family member to you. People’s emotions are tied into the places where they live – even a block of 1,000 uniform flats represents 1,000 unique experiences, each the stage to a different story, and each place a customized space. Whilst some people may love a tailored suit, a home is an experience many times more personalized. Even when we’re not at home, we’re usually investing time and emotional energy to keep that home up and running, and it’s something for which most people will spend almost half their lives paying.

Having a happy relationship with where you live will make a very large difference to your well-being. Your home surrounds you, and so the amount of happiness you can experience if you’re happy with your home is very significant. How can you work on this relationship?

Tend your garden

Plants are a medium between humans and our surroundings – whilst they grow, live and die, they are symbiotic with the very soil under your feet. Growing your food means you can live using your own property – a feeling of independence that is becoming increasingly rare in a society that favours fast food and cheap mass-produced solutions. You’ll even save money whilst you watch life spring up thanks to your labor.

Cook

The kitchen is the room you can interact the most with. Taking the time to cook decent meals for yourself or your family means your movements around the kitchen will become fluent as you become increasingly in harmony with your surroundings. It’ll get quicker and easier to prepare the same meals as you learn more about how your kitchen works best – the feeling of then cooking in someone else’s kitchen is a quick reminder as to how alien you will otherwise feel. Your relationship with your friends and family will also benefit from this process – taking the time to talk is wonderful.

Play music

Envelope yourself in a room’s atmosphere by picking an album which suits the room and sitting in a comfortable chair to read, to write or just to listen. It’s the closest you can be to dancing with your house!

Consider renewable energy. It’s an unsettling fact that the light and energy for your surroundings are harming the environment, and the surge of guilt that many people have when switching on the heating or running a bath can be easily avoided. Small scale renewable energy, whether that’s solar power, a mini wind turbine or a heat pump, means you can generate most or all of your energy at home, and relax knowing you’re not harming future generations.

Written by James Hawkins

James works for a solar panels company in the UK, encouraging renewable energy use on a national basis.

 

 

 

 

Sunflower photo by Nick Ares

 

Green | March 8th, 2012 | Comments Off | View post page →

Five Green Tips For De-Cluttering Your House

This is a guest post.

De-cluttering your house and/or office space can have a restorative effect on you outlook.  Clutter and general messiness can be distracting.  Use green strategies for your de-cluttering project to help the planet as well as enhance the inherent positive effects of a clutter-free living space.

Here are five green tips for a de-cluttered living environment:

1. Hold a garage sale/sell your junk at a local flea market.

Essentially, the key to making your de-cluttering project green is to avoid throwing things away.  Almost everyone has seen the pictures of overflowing landfills.  Don’t add to the problem if you don’t have to.

Holding a garage sale is a tried-and-true method of making some extra cash off items you no longer use. Some areas have flea markets where, for a small fee, you can set up a booth and sell your junk to a larger crowd of people.  Your local newspaper would be a good place to start looking for flea market information.

2. Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose!

Repurposing can be defined as the act of taking an everyday object and using it for something other than its originally intended purpose.  Coffee cans can be painted and reused as pencil holders, etc.  Think creatively and you’ll be surprised by the variety of ideas you’ll generate.

3. Donate to a good cause.

If you can’t sell your junk at a garage sale, or if you’re feeling philanthropic, donating clothing and other items to organizations like Goodwill is a great opportunity to help your community. Be sure to ask for papers documenting your donation, as these can be used for a tax write off at the end of the year.

4. Make your own green cleaning products.

Traditional cleaning products can leave toxic residues in your home, and contribute to ozone layer degradation. Check out the variety of home-cleaner recipies available online.  A clean home can now be a non-toxic home, something any parent/pet owner can appreciate.

5. Catch up on your recycling.

Bottles, newspapers, and magazines can sometimes end up hanging around long after their period of usefulness has been accomplished. Take these to your local recycling agency or organization. Some states even offer small amounts of compensation for recycled goods.

Written by Alexis Bonari

Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is a passionate blogger on the topic of education and free college scholarships. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Photo by Criss!
Green | August 3rd, 2010 | Comments Off | View post page →

Beat the Heat: 8 ways to stay cool this summer without burning a hole in your wallet

This is a guest post

Temperatures are starting to rise, and energy prices show no sign of cooling off. Air conditioning is usually the first thing most people turn to for relief, but the high bills for that usage often have the opposite effect. As summers are getting warmer, we are in need of better, cheaper ways to keep the heat at bay.

Here are a few ways to stay cool without burning a hole in your wallet.

1. Jump on the fan-wagon

You’ve probably heard it before, but using ceiling or portable fans are one of the cheapest, most practical ways to cool a home on less energy. They can make rooms feel up to seven degrees cooler, and cost $10 or less to run each month, even if you leave them on for 12 hours a day. Ceiling fans are a great investment; they can seem expensive for initial cost and installation, but will save you a good amount when used instead of or even in conjunction with your existing air conditioning unit. 

2. Insulate before it’s too late

If your home isn’t insulated properly, you could be spending a lot more money cooling it than you should. Air conditioners have to work extra hard when there isn’t proper insulation around ducts, or when cool air escapes through cracks in the seals of doors and windows. If you don’t know where to start, an energy audit with a professional can help to determine where your home is leaking as well as identify other ways you can save energy. 

3. Just turn it off

Sometimes it’s not just about keeping the heat outside, but eliminating the heat generated inside. All appliances, lighting and electronic devices generate heat while running, so be sure to turn them off when you don’t need them. Remember the Easy-Bake Oven? That used an incandescent light bulb to bake those tiny treats. Try switching your incandescents to compact fluorescents, which use 1/5 the energy and heat. 

4. Dress your windows for success

Become familiar with which sides of the house the sun hits at certain times of the day. Before you go to sleep at night, close the blinds or curtains of the windows that the sun will hit in the morning. Use light-colored window treatments that will reflect light and heat away from your house. Energy-efficient double-glazed windows can help in some cases, but you can also apply heat-reflecting film to the interior surface of windows which can reflect up to 70% of solar heat.

5. Go green with more green

Don’t forget the area surrounding your house! Trees and other plants are nature’s own way of keeping us cool. Planting shade-providing plants around windows and air-conditioning units (without blocking airflow) can reduce utility bills by over $100 per year. 

6. Escape the heat by escaping the house

Instead of sitting around in the hot box all day, go out for a picnic in a shady area or go for a beach trip where you can cool off in the ocean. Visit places that are already air-conditioned, like the mall or a local café. These places will have their air conditioning on regardless, and the money you save from not using your own will pay for a few extra lattes.

7. Watch what you’re cooling

Don’t cool empty rooms. Some homes have basements that receive conditioned air through vents, even though basements are typically already dark and cool. In addition, there usually aren’t people in them. Close the vents in any rooms in the house that aren’t being used; a household can save up to 5-10 percent of energy costs this way.

8. Yes, changing your thermostat does work

Another tried and true method, setting your thermostat just one degree higher will save you about two to three percent on your energy bill, and you probably won’t notice any difference.

Written by Tom Debin

Tom Debin is the CEO of Equity Thru Energy, an energy management firm that helps businesses save money on energy bills through innovative technology that monitors energy use and prevents energy waste.

He is a board member and past president of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA), and has always been passionate about the business of wise energy use. Tom has recently launched his own blog, Worth the Energy, where he hopes to share his knowledge and passion for energy savings and the environment.

Article photo by bredgur
Green | May 15th, 2009 | Comments Off | View post page →

Dreaming of a Green Christmas: tips for greening up your holidays

This is a guest post.

Cold weather, colorful lights, visits from family and friends, and the aroma of sweet confections in the oven. These things can only mean one inevitable yearly occurrence: skyrocketing energy bills. Oh yeah, and the holidays.

With energy prices reaching record highs this year and the environmental crisis that has everyone checking their carbon footprints, it’s impossible not to worry about what number will appear on your monthly gas and electric bills when the weather starts to get chilly.

Thankfully, there are some practical and low-cost ways to keep those bills from cutting into more important expenses, such as gifts, gingerbread and knitted sweaters.

Lights and other Decorations

- Decorative lights use a good amount of energy, but that doesn’t mean you have to scrap them altogether. Use LED Christmas lights, which are smaller and use 90% less electricity than regular Christmas lights.

- To save even more energy, be sure to wait until dark to turn on your Christmas lights; then, turn them off before you go to bed. Do you have trouble remembering to turn your lights on and off? Then set a timer, and forget about it.

- Try out a cool, fiber optic tree this year. Fiber optic trees have lights that come from a single source, piping light down through a fiber optic cable. This cuts energy use significantly, and you can still enjoy a beautifully lit tree.

Entertaining Family and Guests

- Guests can be useful, and not just to wash dishes for you. Some heater use is inevitable, but extra bodies in the house mean that you can usually lower the thermostat.

- Rather than driving through the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights, grab a coat and take a walk with your friends and family. This is a festive and fun, yet green activity that requires no gas, is good for the environment and a good way to burn off those holiday calories.

In the Kitchen

- A full refrigerator and freezer can be energy efficient because the cold items help keep the temperature inside the fridge or freezer low after the door is opened. However, an overstuffed freezer or fridge will guzzle more energy trying to keep foods cold because air is unable to circulate.

- There is no need to preheat the oven when cooking ham or turkey, since they usually cook at a snail’s pace anyway.

- Use the energy-saving cycles on dishwashers. Machines that have air power or overnight dry settings can save up to 10 percent of dishwashing energy costs.

Saving energy during the holidays is a great way to cut costs not only during the winter season, but it’s a good way to get your family to practice energy-efficient habits all year long. Keep the ball rolling and make a New Year’s resolution to save energy in 2009!

Have any other tips? Share by posting in the comments below.

Written by Tom Debin

Tom Debin is the CEO of Equity Thru Energy, an energy management firm that helps businesses save money on energy bills through innovative technology that monitors energy use and prevents energy waste.

He is a board member and past president of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA), and has always been passionate about the business of wise energy use. Tom has recently launched his own blog, Worth the Energy, where he hopes to share his knowledge and passion for energy savings and the environment.

Article photo by kevindoooley

Related article:

- Seven, stupid, simple ways to be green and save green

Green | December 8th, 2008 | Comments Off | View post page →

Seven, stupid, simple ways to be green and save green

Buying an eco-friendly car or outfitting your house with solar panels and the latest green tech can be costly and time consuming. Perhaps this is why many are reluctant to go green. However you can be green today with these seven simple ways. Some may seem stupid but they are often overlooked for that reason.

1. Don’t turn your faucet on until you’re ready

This is an interesting habit many of us have. When we want to rinse our toothbrush or fill something with water, we turn on the faucet before the brush or cup is under the water. Think of how many times this is done and how much water is lost over time. It adds up. Hold your cup or toothbrush under the faucet before turning it on and turn off the faucet before moving anything.

2. Take it easy when driving

One of the best ways to save some gas is just to be more relaxed. No tailgating or pushing the petal to the metal. It’ll keep your blood pressure down as well. Also if you’re driving downhill, let your vehicle coast and when you’re coming to a stop don’t slam on your brakes, slowly reduce your speed.

3. Have a dehumidifier? Use the water

It gets very humid in basements during the summer, so you might have a dehumidifier to take the moisture out of the air. Don’t toss the water that fills up the bucket out the window, use it. You can water your flowers and plants. Perhaps you can even use the water to fill a bucket for suds to clean your car.

4. Reuse trash bags

Obviously you can’t do this with your kitchen garbage but you might be able to reuse your bathroom’s trash bag. Most bathrooms have a small can that you throw paper waste in. Well dump that waste into your kitchen garbage and save the smaller bag.

5. Attach funnels to your watering cans

If you’re a gardener, place your watering cans out in the open with some type of funnel in the can’s opening. Then when a rainstorm comes the funnels will catch the raindrops and fill the can.

6. Take the time to start tissue and paper towel rolls

This might seem stupid but when you’re the first one to use a new roll of paper towels or toilet paper, you know what I’m talking about. It always seems impossible to use the first piece of the roll. It always get ripped and shredded, and sometimes if you keep pulling it tears through 5 more sheets. The next time you have to start a roll, relax, breath, and take your time to save that first sheet.

7. Water plant roots, not leaves and flowers

You’d be surprised at how many people don’t understand this. You have to water the plant’s roots, not the leaves and/or flowers. A large percentage of water will evaporate off the leaves and flowers, without the plant getting what it needs. Because of this your plants will probably die. Make sure to water the base of the plant to reduce evaporation.

There are plenty more ways that you can be green. It doesn’t take much and after you practice new ways over and over, they’ll eventually become habits for you.

Photo by Frank E.
Green | July 16th, 2008 | Comments Off | View post page →