Ok so it’s hardly practical. But that’s not the point. Le-Mentzal’s creation isn’t really about occupancy but rather a means for us all to reconsider how much space and stuff anyone really needs. In an age of consumption excess, that’s truly worth considering. Le-Mentzal is not alone, by the way. There’s an entire small house movement. They’re as adorable as they are thought provoking!
These cozy houses, most of which are legitimately livable, have tiny ecological footprints—as do the lives within them. There’s no room for anything else! We’re not suggesting anyone go out tomorrow and relocate or anything like that, but the less-is-more ideal these homes represent can certainly be used for inspiration to downsize within our own spaces. Need help? Explore our Stuff Actions like borrowing entertainment media, giving away things on Freecycle, and donating clothes to charity. You’ll declutter as your PG points accumulate.
Small can be freeing as well as eco-friendly, and that’s the lesson these mini homes hold. It’s just like that old quantity/quality adage.
Summer is here. The Olympics are here. That means…
It’s my favorite time again!
The Summer Olympic games are the best kind; they’re exciting, entertaining, and best of all, they’re huge! The whole world stops and watches this event, and it brings countries together to cheer for their athletes. Everything about the Olympics is great.
What makes this round of Olympic Games even better is that I’ve actually been to the host city! This round of Olympic games is taking place in London, a place that I’ve held close to my heart since I spent a month living there in high school (which wasn’t nearly long enough). Even then, they were into sustainability. I bought my beloved Twiggy reusable shopping bag there! And true to one of the many things I remember the city for, they’ve made it a goal to host the most sustainable Olympics in history. John Armitt, an ODA Chairman, has said of the efforts:
‘From the outset of the project, the Olympic Park has set new standards in sustainability, including the delivery of lightweight venues, the recycling or reuse of waste materials, using concrete with a high recycled content, and delivering materials by rail or water. We have achieved new standards for a project of this size and scale and have raised the bar for the industry.’
Source: GetSet London
That means Practically Green is especially interested in this year’s Olympic Games. “New standards in sustainability.” How can we resist?
The first thing to notice is that these Olympics were sustainable from the very beginning. And it wasn’t all talk, no action. The plans actually involved sustainable building practices! They reused and recycled what they already had in the park’s future location. They also transported 50% of the materials via ship, and saved all the local roads some heavy-duty travel use. The soil excavated for building was cleaned and used other places within the park too.
If you want to learn more about everything they did, the Being Greener report is a nice summary of all the work!
I was on the edge of my seats during all the swimming drama. Now that Michael Phelps has won the most Gold Medals, it’s time to look at what else London 2012 is breaking records for. Here are a few more things to look for as you’re watching the latest events, and eventually the Closing Ceremony (even though we all never want it to end).
The Velodrome – Cyclists and fans don’t need to worry about how much energy it takes to run their stadium, because it’s been dubbed “the most energy efficient venue on the Olympic Park.” With natural ventilation and some pretty awesome skylights, the Velodrome definitely uses significantly less energy than your average bicycle stadium (if you know of one that is).
The Olympic Stadium – Not to have the spotlight stolen from it, the Stadium is also super sustainable. Less steel was used for the whole venue, making it the lightest Olympic stadium that’s ever been built. The roof? Made out of recycled gas pipelines!
The Aquatics Center – I couldn’t write an article about the Olympics without mentioning the Aquatics Center (because Michael Phelps is essentially the only thing people have been talking about for weeks). Have you ever wondered about what happens with all that pool water? Well, it’s gray water and they’re using it to flush the toilets! (See PG’s gray water actions) The wings that hold seats are only temporary, and the whole building is going to be reduced to a 2500-people capacity after the Games. Good thing too, because why build a huge stadium that might not be filled after everyone leaves London?
David Stubbs, head of sustainability for the whole project, said that they “saw it as a massive opportunity to transform a large part of East London, an area that has been an industrial waste ground for centuries.” The whole area has turned into a huge park, and will stay that way after the Games are over. Public park means more trees and flowers, and that means better air quality and an overall awesome natural destination to explore within London. Interesting fact? More than 4,000 trees, 74,000 plants, 60,000 bulbs and 300,000 wetland plants were planted in the park to create an awesome venue for the Olympic Games. (Makes me want to maybe plant a tree or some flowers. How about you?) So I for one can’t wait to see it up close and personal!
But will London hold their Sustainability title? Rio 2016 is already trying to dethrone the Most Sustainable Olympics Ever. Their goals are just as impressive as the ones London set when they began building three years ago. It looks like every Olympic host city from here on out is going to be competing for the Gold Medal in Sustainability.
And while the athletes are over in London winning Gold medals, we can be winning a Go for the Gold badge at Practically Green. Five awesome actions can get you the badge, and maybe even serve as a Sustainable Bootcamp for the rest of the summer!
Are you over in London viewing the Olympics? Jealous! Why not tell us about the sustainable things you’ve noticed over there! Not in London? I’m sure you’ve still been having awesome sustainable Olympic experiences. Comment and share, please!
Say you’ve got a favorite product to recommend on Practically Green. You want it to go live on the site for bazillions of people to see and maybe buy. We actually have someone in charge of that! Meet Practically Green’s Product Dragon Lady, er, Product Specialist, Rebecca Sama:
Here’s what you do:
1) Go to the Practically Green action that needs the product.
2) Click on the Recommended Products tab.
3) See if your pick is already there.
Assuming it fits PG’s Product Guidelines, she’ll let you know when it’s live! Then you can give it a thumbs up (or down) comment, and share with other PGers!
If you’re one of the 113 million Americans who’ve been under a heat advisory already this summer, with or without wildfires nearby; and if you’re also watching your water due to drought or contamination, a Navy shower may sound pretty appealing right now. It’s a brilliant way to get clean, cool, off, conserve water, and save on energy bills all in one speedy four-minute spritz! Give it a try — you might be surprised how easy it is to shorten your shower time.
WHY? Taking shorter showers is an easy way to significantly reduce your water usage. The average shower length in America is approximately eight minutes. According to the EPA, standard pre 1992 showerheads use over five gallons of water per minute, while standard post 1992 showerheads and low flow showerheads average one and a half to two and a half gallons per minute. You know both how long you shower and your showerhead, so do math. Multiply it by one year. Wow, right?
Navy showers (used on ships to preserve precious water) are a manual way to achieve low-flow showerhead savings without changing a fixture—a great option for the unhandy or for renters.
Using less water bathing allows more to stay in the ground or in a reservoir, which in turn helps maintain a natural H20 balance and saves some for future use. There are many parts of the country that do not have enough water to support the current population and levels of water usage. Even if you live in a place with ample rain, there may be a drought. At least 36 states expect shortages in the next five years.
Taking shorter showers will also save you money on water, heating, and sewer bills.
HOW: Hop in the shower, get wet all over. Turn off the shower, lather up. Turn it back on, rinse off. You’re done.
Navy showers are least painful in warm climates. For those who brave them in cold climates, at least they save hot water.
- U.S. Geological Survey: Water Science Questionnaire–Water Use At Home
- Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense Program
- Treehugger.com: Navy Showers–Water Saving Goes Hardcore
- PracticallyGreen.com: Conservation, Preservation, And Stewardship
* Top photo credit link: http://photos.mlive.com/grandrapidspress/2012/07/triple_degree_heat_in_grand_ra_17.html
We are enchanted by this porch makeover by Jamaica Jenkins — a Casablanca-esque aierie achieved with one trip to the thrift shop, 6 bucks, and a few dusty items from the basement. And it fits perfectly with the PG action to Buy antique and second-hand furniture and home goods: 50 points! Look for yard sales and thrift shop galas this holiday week & weekend!
This “DIY” project just sort of happened. I was in the thrift store looking for bats, balls and spare baseball gloves for the kids when I walked past the linens row. I grabbed a very 70s -super-pumpkin-not sure I even liked it-orange set of sheers — they even smelled like a throwback to mothballs and 30 year old cigarette smoke. Still, I had an idea. Originally, I grabbed only one pair, but upon pondering, left my son to hold my space in line to run back grab the other pair- just in case. Besides, it was sale day at the ARC so they were half off. And $6 later, I went home with a vision.
To be fair, I had just had a BIG dose of inspiration: MEXICO. I’d attended a wedding and the “alter” was decorated with orange and white sheers. I hadn’t consciously connected what I was about to do with my trip to the ocean but now, it’s very clear. And voila — this is what happened.
We have a great deck/porch and we’re lucky to live in the suburbs without rear neighbors. Our house faces West and we enjoy nearly every summer evening facing the Colorado foothills. We are literally the last row in a SEA of suburban homes. Anyway, the sun cooks the deck right about BBQ time so we had bamboo shades years ago and we were thinking of doing that again. That was until I picked up these sheers and decided, hey, for $6, let’s make this an outdoor living room. I’d looked at outdoor furniture but I wasn’t ready to purchase it right now — the deck is partially covered so I opted to use existing furniture to create the space. Here’s how you can dress up any space before any get together or BBQ. Since doing this, people have been commenting, coming to visit and it’s changed the entire vibe. I say, go for it! Enlist the kids, stay cheap and get creative :)
Note: I used an indoor tablecloth, lanterns from the storage room and other existing decorations to pop the colors etc. Have fun!
**** Important P.S. ****
About the contributor: Jamaica Jenkins is a freelance writer, blogger and lead Content Manager for Parenting on Track. She lives in Colorado with her three sons, husband, dog and cat. Follow her @jamaicaj or visit her at http://jamaicaj.tumblr.com/.
Jamaica’s town has since become alarmingly close to some of the worst wildfires in Colorado history. She has already come up with a helpful solution for families who have been devastated via the website Inlu.com, which she co-founded. She sent us this update:
This post was originally written prior to the catastrophic fires that are sweeping the foothills and destroying suburban homes and devastating families in communities. While I’m lucky enough to say the fire is not “affecting me” I can’t say that for thousands of residents. Part of the joy of living in Colorado is that we all share sweeping views, breathtaking sunsets and wide open skies. As I sit on my porch now, looking west, there is a dull haze that covers the dusky sky.
Inlu.com is all about Celebrating Together for Good. Coordinate a backyard event, round up funds from the neighbors, the collection goes directly as indicated: to the Red Cross/Shelter/ Charity; or a person, group or community of choice. *NOTE: All Inlu fees will be donated into the respective Colorado fire group collection. Visit the Inlu Blog or Inlu Community Board for more info! http://blog.inlu.com/2012/06/28/help-colorado-as-a-group/
PLANET FACTOR: CLIMATE CHANGE
Tempted to install solar panels on your building or home? You’ll be joining a wave of adopters:
“Installers, often working through big-box chains like Home Depot or Lowe’s, are taking advantage of hefty tax breaks, creative financing techniques and a glut of cheap, Chinese-made panels to make solar power accessible to the mass market for the first time,” The New York Times reports. “The number of residential and commercial installations more than doubled over the last two years to 213,957, according to Greentech Media, a research firm.”
When it comes to gifts, we like a shiny new toy or sharp outfit as much as the next, but being Practically Green encourages us to be thoughtful about these things. The number one rule is still: will your person love the gift; closely followed by does this gift in any way compromise health, efficiency, or the environment? To the rescue: special curated websites such as Uncommon Goods, where you can vote for new items to be added to the inventory; and Hipcycle ,where you can shop by upcycled material — fabric, glass, chopsticks, railroad parts and so on (please see screenshot at the end of this post).
Also browse chi-chi boutiques such as Priscilla Woolworth’s, and not-so-curated bazaars like eBay and Etsy. (Zoom in on EcoEtsy for a committed and creative band of 300+ crafters with homemade items you’ll click for.) We’ve recently heard about a high-end longboard fabricator who uses leftovers to make cutting boards, butcher blocks “and whatever else.”
Now don’t get carried away! Remember: honestly ask yourself if the birthday boy or bride-to-be really wants a bicycle pedal sprocket candelabra, or a tote bag made of reclaimed fire hoses or retired yacht sails. And if they do, go for it!
Why This is Green
We all want the gifts we give to be meaningful and appreciated. Time to add eco-friendly to that mix. What’s better than giving or getting something that contributes to a healthier, greener planet for all? Whether the person you’re shopping for is a committed environmentalist or your present will be the first time they’ve had the opportunity to try something green they wouldn’t have considered on their own, it’s sure to be a conversation starter.
Eco-friendly gifts also make fantastic party favors. If you’re looking for a small thing to offer to guests at a wedding or big birthday, try something as simple as a CFL light bulb. Talk about making an impact—suddenly a few hundred people will give one a whirl in the next few months when they inevitably need to change an incandescent.
- PracticallyGreen.com: Eco-Friendly Gifts Bring Meaning & Joy To Giver And Recipient! Amazing Guide From Inlu’s Founder
- CDC.gov: Save Energy And Resources This Holiday Season
- The New York Times: EBay Highlights Conservation As A Benefit Of Buying Used
Do you have a suggestion? Email Nikita: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tens of millions will honor Earth Hour by turning off the lights and unplugging from 8:30 to 9:30 PM. We encourage all Earth Hour observers to join Practically Green to find lots more efficient and energy-saving things to do when the lights go back on!
For example, let’s take a look at the top Energy goal for Practically Green users. At 50 points, imagine the collective impact if Earth Hour participants chose to do this one!
While we all have the ability to set and monitor the temperature on our thermostats, we never really know how much money we’re spending until we get our bills. If you’d prefer not to have your gas or electric bill be an unpleasantly large surprise at the end of the month, install a home energy management device. These allow you to monitor the amount of energy as well as cash you are spending throughout the month. When you see you’re spending more than you want to, you can take steps to reduce your usage. Some companies selling energy monitoring devices say you can save around 10 percent on your bills once you start keeping track of your usage.
Home energy monitoring devices are widely available at big electronics stores and are generally easy to install. Some versions attach to the outside of your electric utility meter where they read the amount of electricity your household is consuming in real time and transmit the information wirelessly to a power monitor. Others devices don’t require wiring during installation and display electricity use in your home minute by minute in dollars and/or kilowatt hours.
Be prepared to spend $100 or more on a device. It sounds like a lot but your energy bill will never be an ugly surprise again—and you’ll likely make up the difference in savings once you reduce usage.
For a less expensive monitor, try a watts meter. These measure usage by outlet or device.
- TLC.HowStuffWorks.com: How To Choose A Home Energy Monitor
- PracticallyGreen.com: Energy Vampires 101
- PracticallyGreen.com: Smarter Energy Tools Coming Soon
- GreenLifestyleConsulting.com: First Days With A Home Energy Monitor
- Businesswire.com: GE Smart Home-Energy Panel Tells Customers What’s Happening With Their Power Profile
Did you know that an American home can waste, on average, more than 10,000 gallons of water every year due to running toilets, dripping faucets, and other household leaks? Nationwide, more than 1 trillion gallons of water leak from U.S. homes each year. That’s why WaterSense reminds Americans to check their plumbing fixtures and irrigation systems each year during Fix a Leak Week.
Today, Fix leaky faucets and valves:
Guess what? In the average American home, the amount of water wasted from leaking valves is almost as much as is used to shower! That translates to over 3,000 gallons of water—not to mention money—possibly wasted yearly per house. No joke.
While water has traditionally been a cheap and easily obtained resource, the future is less clear. Decreasing the amount of water wasted by leaks helps to maintain a natural balance and save water for future use. This is smart even in places that currently have no droughts. A least 36 states expect water shortages within the next five years.
If you have a leaky faucet, fix it!
Check for hidden trickles of water by shutting off all of your faucets and checking the reading on your water meter. Leave the faucets off, and after a few hours check the reading again. If the number has increased, you have a leak. Time to play sleuth to find out where it’s coming from.
Check and double-check your faucets and showerheads for stray drips of water. If they’re the culprits, it’s a pretty simple fix.
To check your toilets, put a couple drops of food coloring in the tank. If the bowl begins to turn the color of the food coloring, you may have a leak.
It’s a pain to clean the inside of a microwave. Whatever you have to do to get the zapped on gunk out of there, don’t use a conventional cleaner! When you clean with them, they leave behind residues that can get in the air you breathe but also the food you’re heating. Most chemicals in these products should not be heated to the temperatures generated by a microwave.
It’s difficult to know exactly what a cleaner contains as cleaning product formulas are currently considered government-protected trade secrets. Manufacturers aren’t required to disclose their contents to consumers. So they don’t. Sometimes there are warning labels like “danger” “poison” “toxic” or “hazardous.” These are best not sprayed in a microwave. Generally speaking conventional cleaners contain hazardous, often petroleum-derived, chemicals including ammonia, glycol ethers, synthetic fragrances, and even the synthetic antibacterial agent triclosan—which have been linked to cancer, asthma, hormone disruption, liver and kidney damage, and more.
Using a natural cleaner reduces your exposure to these chemicals and keeps their residues out of our waterways. But when it comes to cleaning a microwave, it’s just as easy—and very safe—to rely on a few household staples.
Either place a half of a lemon or distilled white vinegar with water in a microwave-friendly bowl (preferably glass). Heat for five minutes. The steam generated by either mixture will loosen food residue. Wipe it away with a damp cloth. The lemon will leave behind an especially pleasant fresh natural scent.
What do most people need? On our list: Time.
And this year we have a whole extra DAY. What to do with that extra 24 hours? We decided to throw a Twitter party to chat about the possibilities.
Leap Year Twitter Party
Tuesday, February 28th, 9 to 10pm EST
Use hashtag #PGLeapYear
Please join us for a Twitter party to chat about healthy & sustainable living!
Eat, Sleep, Drink Wine, and Recycle!
Moderated by Elise Jones of @HereinthisHouse & @Mommybites
With Susan Hunt Stevens & Alexandra Zissu of PracticallyGreen @huntstevens @alexandrazissu
* * * Amazing Prizes!! * * *
See them on @Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/practicallygrn/pgleapyear-twitter-party-prizes-to-be-won/
From @Cuddledown @TazaChocolate @ApplegateFarms @HipCycle @TataHarper @Goodebox
Mythic @SafePaint, @LateJulyOrganic Snacks @AnforaNYC wine bar @Weleda @Holstee @FetchDog
Tweet with Special Guests!
Susanna Schultz @GreenDepotLLC
Kerri Platt @WineBottega
Megan McWilliams @GreenDivaMeg
Karen Lee @EcoEtsy
Sarah Badger @Stonyfield
Dawn Woollen @FamDinner
Jennifer Schiff @Foodily
Amy Burba @PeopleTowels
Veronique Pittman & Emily Fano @GreenSchoolsAll
Kimberly Pinkson @KimberlyPinkson
Lori Alper @GroovyGreenLivi
Anneka Wisker, @MomsCAF
Lisa Gosselin @EatingWell
Jennifer Barry @Earth911
@PaigeWolf of Spit That Out
Janelle Sorensen @Honest
Josh Camire @KJWines
Mary Rockwell @DowntownCookie
Chris Chappell @RamblersWay
Gabrielle Melchionda @Madgabsinc
Lori Bitter Publisher, Eons @loribitter
…and lots more! Check the Practically Green Facebook page for updates, follow @practicallygrn and the rest of the participants on Twitter… and please share with your tweeps! SEE you there!
Who wants to zzzzzz on sheets and pillowcases made of cotton that was sprayed with chemicals?
No thank you!
We caught up with our friend Sarah Wissler of Cuddledown in Portland, Maine. It’s our personal go-to for top-quality and frankly lovely bedding and sleepwear. Here’s what she told us. You’ll notice she is a bit biased re: Cuddledown, which is understandable…. If you have another favorite to recommend, please post here or submit it right on the action page!
Nothing says romance like a new set of luxurious sheets – and with eco-friendly bedding, you can show the environment a little love, too. Why eco-friendly bedding? For starters, it is free of harmful substances and safe for your entire family. Cuddledown offers a wide selection of bedding, comforters, pillows, and sleepwear that are Oeko-Tex® certified. These products have met the requirements of the Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 global testing and accreditation program, meaning that they have been thoroughly tested and guaranteed to be free of all harmful substances, including toxins and irritants.
Cuddledown also offers bedding and sleepwear that are certified organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). Not only are these fabrics free of harmful chemicals, the results of their production pose no threat to the environment or the communities in which they were produced. GOTS is a standard used around the world to guarantee that the organic products you bring into your home are healthy and safe for you and the environment – and that these products are manufactured in fair and just working conditions.
At Cuddledown, you can also find Oeko-Tex® certified, made in Maine comforters, pillows, and featherbeds. All comforters are currently on sale – why not save energy by turning the heat down and curling up in a comforter instead!
If you’re in the market for new sheets, choosing organic cotton ones can drastically reduce the impact of what you buy.
According to the Sustainable Cotton Project, conventional cotton farming uses about 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and more than 10 percent of the pesticides. The pesticides used on cotton happen to be among the world’s worst: five of the nine most commonly used have been identified as possible human carcinogens. Others are known to damage the nervous system and are suspected of disrupting the body’s hormonal system. These chemicals aren’t permitted for use on organic cotton.
Beyond sprays, there are other eco-concerns involved with the manufacture of sheets: processing and washing are water-intensive; the chemicals used to bleach and dye cotton can harm our waterways, and some colorants contain heavy metals; formaldehyde is used to create permanent press fabric; packaging and transportation take a toll. Many of these concerns are minimized or avoided with organic cotton sheets.
Most stores that sell sheets offer one or two organic options. Read the find print. The word natural doesn’t mean organic, nor is it regulated.
Just because sheets were made from organic cotton doesn’t automatically mean they’re also low-impact dyed. Choose undyed sheets or, if you want white, colored, or patterned versions, look into how the fabric was bleached or dyed.
Two solid certifications to look for are GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) and Oeko-Tex.
Don’t forget about your blankets, pillows, and mattress. There are organic versions of these, too.
- Treehugger.com: Organic Cotton–For Clothing, Baby, Bedding And More
- Bookmark This Site: Global Organic Textile Standard
- Bookmark This Site: The Sustainable Cotton Project
- NRDC: Responsible Sourcing For The Textile Industry
- AlexandraZissu.com: Q&A — Sheets And Towels
We’ve been obsessed with tasty healthy food all week: lobster rolls, salmon, and sushi; takeout craves you can just as well make at home; hormone-free burgers and chili; and even roasted potato dominos. YUM yum yum. Now let’s get serious: what about the stuff that TOUCHES your food when you store it, transport it, or reheat it? Today’s action rewards you for choosing anything but PVC to wrap and reheat your food!
Cling wrap is an easy solution for leftovers and a common packaging material. But not all plastic wraps are alike: some are polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which environmental groups like Greenpeace refer to as “poison” plastic. From manufacture to disposal it’s highly toxic—for humans and for the earth. Traces of the chemicals used to make it pliable can migrate into food, especially things that are fatty or warm (never microwave plastic, especially PVC!). Exposure to PVC has been linked to dizziness, headaches, asthma, liver damage, brain/nervous system damage, and increased cancer risk. People who work in or live near PVC factories have it the worst.
PVC is particularly difficult to dispose of as it is made with heavy metals like lead and cadmium; less than 1 percent of it is recycled.
Ask your grocery store what kind of wrap they use, especially for meats and cheeses. If it’s PVC, encourage them to change to safer plastic #4. Get your neighbors to speak up; there’s nothing like positive pressure for green and healthy changes!
To minimize exposure, shop for minimally packaged food and things that come in glass; PVC is also found in plastic trays, candy bar wrappers, and bottles.
At home, store food in glass, stainless steel, or lead-free ceramic containers instead of plastic. If you’re going to use plastic wrap, check to see what yours is made of (“3″ or “V” denotes PVC). But truly, a safe plate over a safe bowl tucked in the fridge does the trick.
- Practically Green: Smart Shopping and Conscious Living with Alexandra Zissu
- Green Living Tips: PVC and the environment
- Healthy Child Healthy World: Shopper’s Guide to Plastics & Food: Cling Wrap
- BeSafeNet: PVC The Poison Plastic
- President’s Cancer Panel: Eat Organic, Avoid Plastics
- Rodale.com: Plastic-Free February
- Greenpeace: The Poison Plastic
- PG Picks! Eco-friendly packaging, Laugh Green, efficient factory, green date ideas, nature and architecture, and cool green products
- U.S. Weighs Cancer Risk of Styrene and Formaldehyde
Is your dishwasher a noisy old wheezer? Chances are it’s costing you lots of unnecessary money to run. If you’re in a position to replace it, here’s the scoop on Upgrading to an Energy Star model.
A smart first step: visit TopTenUSA.org, where you’ll find ten dishwasher brands ranked by “Energy Factor (in cycles per kWh), which accounts for both water heating and electricity use.”
Watch this quick video for basics on why energy-efficient appliances will save you money and perform so well…
Energy Star models are on average 10% more energy efficient than non-qualified models. If your dishwasher is pre-1994, you can save 8 gallons of water PER LOAD. That’s enough water each week to do two loads of laundry!
Today’s most energy-efficient dishwashers combine improved energy efficiency with superior cleaning performance. By using less energy and water, high-efficiency Energy Star-rated dishwashers save you a good deal of money while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conserving natural resources.
Energy Star-rated dishwashers are available at major national retailers like Home Depot, Sears, & Best Buy, as well as from local specialty appliance retailers. Use The EnergyGuide label to compare the energy use of similar models. Other tips include:
* Buy the right size for your needs. If you select a small model but operate it more frequently, over time you might use more energy than you would with a bigger model.
* Choose a dishwasher with several wash-cycle options. If your dishes are only slightly soiled, you can use a light or energy-saving wash cycle, which uses significantly less water and electricity.
* Choose a dishwasher where you can turn off the “Heat Dry” option. That will save you 15-50% of the energy used to run the cycle.
Next time you’re inside, look around the floor. Near the wall. You might see something like this:
It’s a smart strip, of course! Ever wonder why they’re called SMART? Or why it’s SMART to switch them off when you aren’t using them? Read on.
Did you know that even after you’ve turned off your TV or powered down your computer, they continue to use electricity? This is referred to as vampire or phantom energy use. Pretty much all electronics do this—unless unplugged from a socket—which is why phantom energy accounts for 10 percent or more of your energy bill each month. Unplugging devices is one way to stop wasting energy and cash, but it’s a very tedious process.
Enter the perfect solution: a smart power strip.
Depending on the kind of strip you purchase, it will either power down automatically or you simply press one switch. Either way, you’ve cut power completely to multiple devices at once—reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of your electricity and saving money. Win-win.
The colorful Smart Strip in the photo is, well, smart. It stops drawing power when your gadgets are turned off so no more wasting money on vampire energy. It’s got ten outlets: a great choice for home offices or entertainment centers. Plug it in, start curbing your energy costs.
Buy a smart power strip at an electronics store or online (this will cost around $30). Plug in everything from your laptop to your phone charger and you’re on your way to saving energy. For bigger savings, consider investing in multiple power strips for your home office, media room, and kitchen.
Plug items you want to leave on into the wall. Or purchase a smart strip equipped with a mix of outlets that are always on, as well as power saving ones. This configuration allows you to keep some electronics on (like your cable modem or DVR), while shutting others off (like your TV or DVD player).
For another 20 points, insulate your ductwork! “Ductwork!?” I can hear some of you renters screaming: “what’s that?”
Okay, we know: if you rent your space, or merely inhabit it as a worker, a guest, a student, or other non-invested person, this set of actions might not be for you. But if you’re a home owner, a real-estate manager, a facilities manager, you know how important it is to insulate. And even if you are a tenant, you might be able to improve upon the stuffing in your walls.
Owens-Corning has a new product called EcoTouch and exacting green building guru Alex Wilson gave it a thumbs up: ”EcoTouch is a large, important step for Owens Corning…. Its introduction last year was the first step of a top-to-bottom transformation of the company’s ubiquitous pink fiberglass insulation, making that a healthier, safer product.” Click here for his February 2011 blog post on it at BuildingGreen.com.
When properly installed, insulation reduces the energy necessary to heat your home in the winter and cool it in the summer. Reduced energy means lower bills, results in fewer emissions, and consumes fewer natural resources. A perfect trifecta.
Almost any insulation can be considered green because of the energy benefits, but some materials are eco-friendlier than others. Some manufacturers use high percentages of recycled content, or substitute natural castor oil for petroleum-based materials. There are versions created from recycled blue jeans, recycled newspaper newspapers, and wool. Some foams are made from renewable products like soy, and avoid use of ozone-depleting chemicals. Steer clear of dangerous ingredients such as formaldehyde, a “known” carcinogen in Europe and a “suspected” one in the U.S., which has also been linked to allergies and asthma and is routinely used as a binder in insulation.
Have an experienced contractor conduct an analysis of your home’s walls, and then walk you through your options.
Air sealing any leaks before adding new insulation is common practice (and highly recommended!). Wall insulation is often installed in combination with added roof insulation.
Tip: ask your contractor if insulation close to R-40 can be added to your walls (the R factor is the measure of resistance to heat flow). This will assure maximum effectiveness, quicker payback from your investment, and provide extra comfort throughout the home. Bonus!
Reading a review of “Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That?,” a new etiquette book, we were reminded of a few green pet peeves: idling delivery trucks, littering pedestrians, and, in our very own house, teenagers and spouses. Specifically: Would it kill you to turn off the motor when you’re inside the building delivering packages? Would it kill you to put your donut wrapper in a trash bin instead of dropping it onto the sidewalk?
And, Would it kill you to turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth? Is the sound of running water essential for sparkly dentals?
Today we focus on Turning off Faucets while Brushing Teeth. A no brainer: it’s free, it’s easy, a quick 10 points, and 60% of the Practically Green community is already doing it.
A standard faucet can use about 2-3 gallons of water per minute. Turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth can save around 20-30 gallons of water per week per person. For a family of four, this can translate into over 6,000 gallons of year.
In addition to saving money, using less water allows more water to stay in the ground or in a reservoir which helps to maintain a natural water balance, support wildlife, and preserve water for future use. Don’t assume that because you live in a place where it rains a lot, there isn’t a water shortage. Even in areas that don’t technically have droughts or even water restrictions, concerns are rising that there may not be enough clean water to support population and water growth due to reduced mountain snow pack. At least 36 states expect water shortages in the next five years.
It seems basic: Turn on, wet toothbrush, turn back off. So why is it so darn hard?? Especially for five-year-old boys?
Like anything, it takes practice to develop a habit and have a routine. If you need a little help in developing this routine, try installing a motion sensor faucet or a foot pedal faucet.
Sometimes when we want the advice of a chic, worldly, bossy big sister, and we mean that in the best possible way, we turn to blogs like Dominique Browning’s Slow Love Life, Zem Joaquin’s EcoFabulous, and Ronnie Citron-Fink’s EcoNesting, … and, Priscilla Woolworth’s Almanac.
These women are stylishly green, intelligently and brilliantly green: they’re strict about ingredients, family, and process; they seem to travel everywhere and know everyone; they always have fresh flowers; and they are ready with sharp poison daggers to stab greenwashers. Also, they almost always have a French grandmother.
We recently caught up with Priscilla for a Q & A. (The first in a series, if you like the idea!)
Q. How did you get started?
A. I started developing the concept for my store 6 years ago, when I couldn’t find the non-toxic cleaning products I needed when I was at my house in Maine in the summer. I started shipping them from Los Angeles to Maine a week before I was leaving! Just nuts! Also, my friends were always asking me where I bought things or asked for advice about my lifestyle. I never imagined having my own store, let alone online and I discovered it was the most natural thing for me to do. Maybe it’s in my genes…
(Ahh, yes… that Woolworth!)
Q. What makes you bounce out of bed in the morning?
A. How did you know that I bounce out of bed in the morning?! I can’t wait to get to work, especially if I’ve just read something fantastic in the newspaper. I must share it right away. I am a compulsive sharer of good, inspiring, exciting information and all of it is connected to my mission of educating and inspiring the public to make changes they can feel good about.
Q. What’s your mission?
A. My mission is twofold: to provide my favorite practical non-toxic, organic, energy-saving, water-saving products in my store; and to be a trusted resource for information about living a more sustainable lifestyle. I am my own best customer and use most of the products I sell. The market bags, reusable produce bags, stainless steel compost pail, African kettle, olive soap, glass water bottles and Valentina outdoor composter are a few of my products I use every single day.
Here’s the “delightful Kettle”: “I keep it by my kitchen sink, where I pour water from unfinished glasses, or saved water from washing lettuce, etc. Do not put any soap in it, only water! When it’s filled up, I use it to water my potted plants outside my kitchen.”
Q. I’m interested in your big thoughts on why sustainable living is important. Why bother?
A. Sustainable living is the way we all need to live if we are going to have a chance at leaving our world a livable and hopefully better place for our children. People need to know that they don’t have to sacrifice their lifestyle but instead can transition easily to something as easy as using reusable market bags or water bottles. I have heard people say that anything we do won’t make a difference, and I strongly disagree. We all have the power to change the world by what we buy… if we all support, for example, the companies that make non-toxic cleaning products or the ones that use recycled paper for paper products, the more those products will become the norm rather than the exception. The awesome United States is a consumer society, so we as the consumers have a lot of power we don’t even realize. Everything we buy is tracked, and when more people spend their money buying non-toxic cleaning products rather than the traditional brands, those environmentally products will become more available and more affordable.
I am inspired so much by my French grandmother, who at 93 years old, has explained to me the way everyone used to live, decades ago: people bought local and produce in season, using market baskets or cloth bags. Very little was wasted and people lived more simply and were content with less. I feel there is a movement to aspire to this kind of lifestyle.
Q. We would love your personal recommendations for products and services that make the process easy and terrific.
A. The easiest recommendations are for things we do on a regular basis, such as shopping for food and personal care. Bring your own market bags with you, buy organic food whenever you can, and buy paper goods made with recycled paper. If you live in an area where water is getting scarcer, get in the habit of keeping a bucket in your shower to catch as much wasted water as possible and use it on your plants instead. EWG.org is a great resource when it comes to checking the safety of beauty products and suntan lotions. Check with your local DWP (Department of Water and Power) and find out what energy saving programs they are offering, and learn ways you can reduce the energy and water wasted in your home, and save money. Add indoor plants like a Spider plant, which acts as natural air cleaners, busting indoor air pollutants in your home or office.
Q. What are you doing posted on the side of that huge building?!
A. Just hanging around…
You can find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @ecowoolworth.
Water: Got too much? Not enough? What are the coolest new products for conserving water? How do the experts view this precious resource?
** Please join our free webinar on November 16, 1-2pm ET to get expert advice and answers. **
Register here: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/458003078
Practically Green has 51 Water-related actions, from Wash only full loads of laundry (99% of PG users have done this already; 20 points) to Install a shower timer (Only 1% of PG has done this one! Why is it the least favorite Water action?)
We’re hosting an online event for a deep dive on the subject.
• Molly Hislop: Program Director, Green Education Foundation
• Michele Hudec: VP of Product and BizDev, American Standard Brands
• Stephanie Thornton: Community Outreach, WaterSense, EPA
• Martin Wolf: Director of Product/Technology at Seventh Generation
• Peter Yost: Director of Residential Services, BuildingGreen
Moderated by Practically Green’s Founder & CEO, Susan Hunt Stevens.
Save money being green
In a skittish economy, money trumps all. Everyone wants to boost efficiency, reduce waste, and be healthy not only because it’s the right thing to do but because it’s miserable watching cash float away any more than we must. Practically Green has 70+ actions you can do that are either free or that will yield impressive financial results.
Check the list! You’re probably doing lots of these things already. You’ll see several to do starting, well… Now!
Here’s a sampling. The point value tells you the relative impact of each action:
Turn thermostat down by 4 degrees in the winter (50 Points)
Turn down hot water heater (20 points)
Turn off the heat dry feature on your dishwasher (20 points)
Switch to reusable towels or dish cloths at home (20 points)
Install one low-flow shower head (20 points)
Use reusable shopping bags regularly (10 points)
Turn off the lights when you leave a room (10 points)
Unplug chargers and appliances when not in use (20 points)
Buy a pre-owned home instead of building new (200 points)
Commit to 25 of these next steps, and you’ve earned the Frugalista badge. Who wouldn’t want this coy pig on their Practically Green dashboard?!
So go ahead, pick your 25 actions and get this savvy oinker on board your green program!