Monday, January 26, 2009

Vehicle Maintenance

"The Green Year's" tips these past few days have to do with your car. Vehicles are a big problem, especially in the U.S., but they are becoming a bigger problem in China, India and other countries with large population centers.
When we went to Germany, our daughter about ran us ragged, they do walk almost everywhere. And when they're not walking, they're biking or taking mass transit. The best tip is to think before you drive. Only take your car out when absolutely necessary. Here in the country, we limit our trips to town and even if I need to go to my aunt's (which is a quarter mile away), we'll walk instead of drive.
Another tip from "The Green Year" is to ask your mechanic to recycle oil filters. Also, make sure your gas cap is good and tight.
Jodi Helmer says in her book that every year, 147 million gallons of gasoline evaporates into the atmosphere due to leaking gas caps. Make sure yours fits tight and that you click it 3 times after each fill up.

To my friends in the Midwest and in Southern Missouri and Arkansas who are expecting the ice storm, be careful these next few days!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dusty Coils

Great reminder in Jodi Helmer's book today about cleaning the fridge coils. We just finished painting our bedroom and setting up our new bed. Of course, we did a major cleaning of the room and we're getting ready to clean the rest of the house today and tomorrow.
Jodi reminded me it takes a lot more energy for the fridge to produce cold when the coils are covered with lint and dust. She also suggests to clean these at least twice a year. We've had our fridge now a little over a year. Definitely time to pull it out and clean those coils!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Warming up the Car

For most of the country this week, it has been necessary to warm up the car - at least a few minutes - before heading off. Jodi Helmer suggests in her book, "The Green Year," to check the owners manual to see exactly how long a car needs to warm up. As she says in her book, it may be tempting to turn it on and blast the heater while you finish getting ready, but your vehicle is burning more fuel and also causing more emmissions into the atmosphere. Another point: thieves scour neighborhoods just waiting for you to leave your car running, so they can take off in it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Shutting Down the Electronics

"The Green Year" has a few good tips in it this week regarding electronics. First, remember to always turn your computer off at the end of the day. When not using your computer during the day, go to the "sleep" mode.

Since I missed Monday, I'll give two tips today! The one in "The Green Year" for today is great. I've long wondered what to do with all of these old cell phones (and yes, we still have our very first huge bag phone from the late 1980s). If the phone isn't that old, consider donating it to a women's shelter, who gives the phones to their residents for emergency use. Or, if it is too old to be used again, look up a recycling center in your area by going to

Jodi Helmer quotes the EPA in her book, writing there are 130 million unused cellphone sitting around the U.S. Recycling those would save enough energy to power 194,000 households for one year.

Friday, January 09, 2009

All Wet

The original purpose of the title of my post this morning was to talk about water consumption - another topic addressed in "The Green Year" for this week. However, my title is also referring to the op-ed which appeared in the Washington Times that dismisses the green movement as a movement of guilt that can never be won. The author starts off his ideological rant by saying, "But the more 'eco-friendly' you try to become, the more likely you find yourself confused and frustrated by the green message." He then points to the controversy over incandescent light bulbs vs. the new energy saving compact florescent bulbs. The controversy stems over the fact that the newer energy saving bulbs contain mercury. I asked my aunt last week if she had converted to the newer efficient bulbs and she hadn't because they contain small amounts of mercury. "Even if they're disposed of properly, the mercury is still here polluting the planet."
True. And I admit that there are things that are contradictory and confusing about going green. Going green sure isn't all black and white. However, there are things we can do that will help this planet, as well as ourselves, live a healthier lifestyle. It's those things we should be focusing on.
One of those things that is indisputable is saving water:

* Energy efficient dishwashers are said to use less energy than doing dishes by hand. This might be true if you allow your water to run continuously while doing dishes. Because we had a water tank that took hundreds of dollars to fill when we first moved here, we learned a lot of water saving exercises. We wash our dishes by hand (mainly because my husband tricked me into believing you can't have a dishwasher on s septic system, but that's another story...) by filling up two wash tubs about half way and washing the dishes in one and rinsing in the other. The total use is probably less than 5 gallons of water for a normal night's dishes. The dishes are clean, and we use less water.
*Turn off the faucet while washing your face, brushing your teeth or shaving.
*Use energy efficient, low-flow shower heads. If you take baths, don't fill the tub all the way up.
*Finally, make sure your hot water heater is energy star rated. My aunt keeps hers off unless they are getting ready to shower or do dishes.I don't turn the one on over here in my office bathroom unless we have guests coming who will need a hot shower.
It's a little uncomfortable washing my hands here in the winter with ice cold well water, but we're saving energy, as well as money by leaving the tank off.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Adjusting the Heat

'Tis the season for fires in the wood burning stove or fireplace and high heating bills - either gas or electricity. My aunt uses a wood burning stove most of the day and she says that her furnace only comes on when the fire dies down low at night. In the woods, we have free access to plenty of downed trees, and this is a good way to save on money.
We have a wood burning stove, but our place is so small, we've been afraid to use it for fear it would run us out of the house. We use two small oil heaters in the house. My office has a ventless central air/heat system. "The Green Year" recommends turning down your thermostat to 68 degrees when you're home and no lower than 55 degrees at night on a programmable thermostat.
That reminds me of the first night we spent at our new house when we bought it in Kansas City. It had a programmable thermostat and we didn't realize it was programmed to go to 55 at night and we woke up literally freezing. I'm cold blooded and that's way too cold for me. I advise to do what is comfortable for you. Turning it down even a little will help save.
Also, make sure those filters are clean so your system runs as efficiently as possible.

Monday, January 05, 2009

LED Flashlights

Today's tip from the book, "The Green Year," advises consumers to go with LED flashlights, which last longer.
Here in the woods, a trip to my office early in the morning or later than 6 in the evening requires I carry a flashlight. I like them to be bright and dependable, that's why we have an LED flashlight. It's never failed me yet.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Recycle Your Christmas Tree

Today, we start taking some advice from Jodi Helmer's book, "The Green Year." I won't post about the advice from every day here, as you should really buy the book, make your own notes in it (there's places for this) and tweak your own methods of going green.
It's fitting that on January 1, the first piece of advice was to recycle your Christmas tree.
I've always had artificial trees - (except for that one year you insisted we have a "real" tree, Mags!)
Anyway, I didn't do any research this past season into what is more environmentally friendly, cutting a real tree down, or buying an artificial tree. Given my mom only had one artificial tree my entire life, I find it hard to believe it would have been better on the environment to cut one down each year rather than reuse in my family.
Still, if you have a live tree you're taking down now, make sure it finds yet another use. Many cities are offering people the chance to turn their trees in for mulch. Or, in our part of the country, fish and wildlife use old trees to sink in the lakes to create habitat for fish.