Monday, June 29, 2009

Taking a Bus

Living in my part of the Ozarks is not a place to live if you travel a lot. Fortunately, I only travel 2-3 times a year - and this year will probably just be one major trip. Getting to an airport is 2 hours away, and then the airlines, in my opinion, treat you as if you're lucky they're in existence, and you pay out the nose because you drove two hours to a smaller regional airport, rather than a major one. After checking the price of getting from Springfield to Chicago, where I have a conference and assignment next month, I decided to bus it. I've never taken the bus before, but given it is $300 cheaper than flying and there's practically nothing I can't work on while riding that I can't work on during a ride, I figure I can't go wrong. I'm actually feeling really good about not letting the airlines hold me hostage to their outrageous fares and service!
Besides, next to riding the train or renting a hybrid, taking the bus is the next most eco-friendly option. Win win for my bank account and the earth, can't beat that!

As for our cardinal problem, the little guy is still here, banging my screen and messing all over the place. Even after we tried blocking his reflection, shooting shots in the air to scare him away and putting plastic owls by the window. That all made him mad for about 10 minutes each - and he raised quite the ruckus, but just went back to attacking himself.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Causing a Stir

The thing I love about Jodi Helmer's book, "The Green Year" are all of the factoids she included designed to help the reader realize that they aren't just "ONE," we're all a part of the world, contributing to it in both good and bad ways.

This morning, a tip from her book suggests not using the plastic coffee stirrers every morning. What's the harm you ask?

"Americans throw away 138 BILLION straws and stirrers every year," she says. Think about it, I don't even know how to count to 138 billion, and I'm suspecting not many people do. This plastic ends up someplace - in the landfill. Don't want one in your backyard, reduce waste. Little by little, each straw, stirrer, plastic bag, paper towel and plastic fork adds up!

But I still need to stir my coffee. Can't use washable, reusable silverware at Quick Trip? Put your sugar in first and then your milk, which creates a splash effect and stirs the coffee, Helmer says.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hell Couldn't Be Hotter Than This...

I'm pretty sure. It is hotter than blazes here in northern Arkansas already and it's only June. I'm hoping this heat isn't this bad all the way through September now. It was only a few days ago that it was still cool and raining. Now things are already starting to turn brown. Sheesh.

This kind of heat brings forth some things we can do to try to keep the air quality a little better:
*Fill your gas tank in the early mornings or evenings.
*Do the same mowing your lawn.
*Remember to keep your plants watered, and water them in the morning as well. Evening's are ok, but increase the chance for fungus.
*Try to turn your thermostat up, or program it for a higher temp when you're not home.

Drink plenty of water and stay cool!
Update on the cardinal situation: We put the screens up on the windows (after cleaning everything up, of course). So far, no sign of Mr. Bird. Hopefully, he's gone on to help perpetuate his species, but we'll see.

Friday, June 19, 2009

It's like the Hitchcock movie, "The Birds"

At least all week long, a male Cardinal has been banging himself up against the windows in my office. At first I thought he was like many others, who have flown into the glass, not realizing it was glass. As the days progressed though, I thought he was trying to get in my office. Nothing deterred him, me waving my arms and yelling or the dogs fiercely barking and jumping at the windows. Sometimes he sits right on the sill and seems to look into the window at the dogs.
Turns out Cardinals are very territorial. He's not seeing me or the dogs, he is fixated on his own reflection and he's trying to fight himself.
I've resisted putting the screens up that came with the windows as they are heavy duty and will compromise my view of the beautiful Ozark Mountains here, but we're going to have to do it this least until we can afford the shades I want and then I can just draw the shades part way during mating season.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

To Borrow a Word on Going Green...

We have some very good neighbors who are also great friends of ours. We share quite a few meals and fun times together. We also borrow things from one another, which not only saves money, but saves resources. You see there are things we both need, but not necessarily all of the time. Trading off and borrowing saves the resources it takes to produce new items.
For example, this spring, our neighbor purchases a wood splitter, a great tool that would help us in getting our heating wood chopped much quicker - and with less effort. We were able to borrow his wood chipper when cutting the wood for this coming winter and this week, he is borrowing our trailer.
Jodi Helmer gives the same recommendation in her book "The Green Year." She advises to make a list of the tools and other things you can borrow. As well, you can rent most tools you may never use again at home improvement stores. "Borrowing will save you a lot of money and help conserve resources."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Turning Down the Air is Hot

Like my father, I used to love the heat. I could wait until at least July until I turned on the air. However, the older I've gotten, the earlier the air comes on, especially in the hot, humid south (and I thought no place was more humid than KC!)

The Green Year advises us to turn the thermostat up to at least 76 degrees to help conserve electricity and the environment. As well, you know it will save you some energy $$ this summer. Give it a shot, I am. Jodi Helmer reports in The Green Year that if every American household turned their thermostat up by just 6 degrees, we could save 190,000 barrels of oil PER DAY!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hot Water Heaters

It looks as if our house isn't wired for an electric tankless water heater, so we're going to have to go with the Energy Star rated regular one. That's ok, since we're trying to make this one last until we can get new, I've gotten used to shutting off the breaker when the hot water is not in use. When you think about it, it's amazing how little you need a hot water heater, yet it runs all of the time!

Today's tip from "The Green Year:" Use lemons to eliminate the smell from your garbage disposal. Put the unused rind in with a cup of ice. The lemon will take care of the smell and the ice will sharpen the blades - all without using chemicals.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

First Impressions

I've been sold on the Green Works products ever since I tried the toilet cleaner. I like the smell and it really does clean. Now I've tried the all-purpose cleaner and the dish washing liquid and like them equally as well. I wish they made a non-chlorine bleach, but if they do, I haven't been able to find it. I guess I'll have to keep going to the health food store to pick that up.
What are your favorite green products?

I'd like to also give a shout out for a new book: "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Greening Your Business," by Trish Riley. If you're looking for ways to help your business go green, this is the road map you need!

Monday, June 08, 2009

String 'Em Up

I don't like my clothes to shrink, so when we lived in the city, my house was big enough to hang our shirts in the laundry room to dry. Here, not so much. I hang our clothes out to dry year around. It's much more efficient in the summer of course, when it is hot, it doesn't take a shirt all day to dry, but it also gives a nice summer day freshness to our clothes.
According to The Green Year, dryers account for 6 percent of all energy consumption. If your Home Owner's Association doesn't allow you to hang clothes out on a line, try to at least combine loads - and do your laundry all at once while the dryer is still hot.
Also, you will save money by not using the dryer so much.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Today is a No-Brainer Free Day!

If you're anywhere near a Krispy Kream or Lamar's doughnut shop today, don't forget to stop in for your free sugary treat!
It's days like these that I wish I lived near a strip mall!

Before I give the green tip for today, I'm asking my readers for some help. With all of this talk of topical flea and tick treatments harming pets, I'm wondering if I've missed something. Is there really any natural treatment that will keep the ticks off of my dogs in the deep woods? While the powers that be say that using topical treatments properly isn't the problem, I've never liked the idea of applying pesticide to my dog's skin. However, the tick problem in the woods is unimaginable to suburbanites and we can't have a house full of disease spreading bugs either.

Today's tip in The Green Year: Use an old sock to dust. My mom used to use old underwear, but I'm thinking the sock might be more socially acceptable if someone comes to the door while you're cleaning your house. :)
I've been using those disposable dust cloths you put on a stick. I found out this week that an old sock sprayed with a little dusting spray on the little plastic stick works just as well - and I'm saving money!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

We Needed a Free Beer...

When we found out that our 5.5 year old water heater is already on the skids. The problem is that Sonic isn't giving away free beers of the alcoholic variety, but free root beer floats tonight at all stores across the country from 8 p.m. - midnight.
I guess that will have to do.
As for the water heater, I was hoping to have enough funds back into our emergency account (remember, we had to purchase a generator with enough power to run most of the house during the January ice storm) to get a tankless water heater when the time came. Tankless water heaters are not a new thing in most developed countries in the world, but in the U.S., which is behind in most energy saving technology, it is still a "luxury." The initial cost is much more than a traditional water heater, but tankless water heaters only heats water as needed - eliminating the up to 30 percent of the cost to heat unused water in the traditional models.
However, with our emergency fund still in emergency status, we might have to go with a traditional model one more time.
I have more research to do before our purchase (the old one is still cranking, although we don't know when it will finally die), but whatever we do, we will get the most energy efficient one we can afford.
I'll keep you posted.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Free iPod Touch for Students

Mac is offering a free iPod Touch for students who make another Mac purchase this summer. The catch is that you have to purchase the iPod Touch and wait for a rebate. Take it from me, though, I love, love my iPod and my Mac in general. It's true what they say - Once you go Mac, you never go back!
More info here:

We had to turn our air on yesterday for awhile as the Arkansas heat and humidity is catching up to us. Not a good time to be watching our electrical meter, but I can't suffer the heat either. It's more important now than it was in the past to watch how we use our electricity.

The tip from The Green Year this morning advises to schedule your errands back to back, rather than making several trips out during the day. Save gas (which is heading back up again) and money by doing all of your errands at once.

Happy June!