Thursday, April 30, 2009

There's a vampire in your house!

Not that kind of vamipire

This kind of vampire

Energy Vampires.
Between 5-30% of your electric bill is for energy used after you turn an electrical appliance or device "off." Most of our electronics are not really turning off, rather thay are going into standby mode, thus continuing to draw electricity.
Forget the garlic or holy water, these vampires are a lot easier to vanquish.
1). If you don't use it very often, it doesn't need to remain plugged in. Do you use the blender or toaster more than once or twice a day? How about leaving it unplugged until you are going to actually use it.
2). If the items purpose is to recharge something, say a cell phone, why not just plug it in while you are charging it, then unplug it.
3). Consider gettting power strips or surge protectors. You can plug multiple devices in and when done using them for the day, you can flip one switch and stop them from sucking down wasted power.
4). Consider getting a Smart Strip. These surge protectors are a fantastic advancement. Let's use your home office as an example. You plug your computer, printer, speakers, etc. into this strip and when you turn your computer off, the strip recogonizes that the computer is not in use, so it powers down all the peripherals, atuomatically stopping your cash loss. This also works great on entertainment systems. Is the TV off? The do we really need the vcr, dvd player and game consols to be still drawing power?
I've found that the cost to make this change is minimal, the most expensive would be a Smart Strip which costs around $30.00. I haven't gotten one of those yet, but when I consider my savings on the electrical bill, a Smart Strip is not far away.
Let's all be vampire slayers today!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

One more new green discovery and a resolution

When I went out to The Lazy Goat Friday night I saved half of my meal as usual. I was pleasantly surprised though when the waitress brought the box back to me after putting the leftovers in for me. Instead of a typical white styrofoam to go box I received was tan with a very cool weave type composition.

I knew at first sight that this had to be some sort of "green" material. I was right. I opened up the box and written on the inside of the lid was written "100% Compostable. Monogram. Sustain. Made from Sugarcane Fiber". The sugarcane fiber part I thought was incredibly cool. Now if only I could find a compost heap. Anyone know of one?

That night I also made a green resolution. My cousin and I stopped at Starbucks and the conversation drifted to topics of conservation and "going green". We both hated the fact that because we didn't have any mugs with us we had to use paper cups. I decided then that from now on I will always have a travel mug or other sort of mug with me so that when I go to Starbucks or Liquid Highway I can present the mug and save a paper cup from going in the trash.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Yes, I'd like a box for this.

I eat out a good bit and since I'm trying to eat better, I sometimes only eat 1/2 my meal at the restaurant. I could probably re-pave my town home community parking lot with the Styrofoam to-go boxes that have graced the inside of my fridge over the last couple of years. I know that Styrofoam and the environment are not on speaking terms, but I really like my food, so what to do?

A few weeks ago, I read a brief article at about ways we can re-use things and reduce the amount of solid waste we create. One of the suggestions was to take your own "to-go" container when you dine out. This struck me as ludicrous at first. It would be embarrassing, carrying some plastic bowl or dish into a nice establishment. People would stare at me. They might even point and snicker.

I spent a day or so mulling over this idea. I concluded that my fears were most likely overrated and even if folks thought I was odd for bringing my own "to-go" container, that would be their problem.

It has taken me about 1 month to actually bring my own doggie bag. This has been like my fun with reusable shopping bags. On 3 separate occasions, I planned on using the old Chinese delivery dishes as my new "doggie bags", only to walk into the restaurant empty handed.

Tonight, I finally did it. We went to TGI Fridays and Laura couldn't finish her meal, so she got to use the plastic container you see above. Now her "second" meal sits comfortably in a washable, reusable "doggie bag."

Oh, and those laughing observers? I didn't see any.

So grab that old cool whip bowl, delivery tin, or tupperware bowl and let's eat out!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Day

Gaylord Nelson and Denis Hayes, do these names ring a bell. Today would simply be another spring day, if not for the actions of these two men. At a time when America was ripping itself apart over war and civil rights, these two managed to draw together nearly 20 million Americans from all walks of life, from all political leanings, and all ages to focus on making the place we live more livable.

Democratic Senator from Wisconsin, friend of small business and consumer advocate, Gaylord Nelson was the founding force behind Earth Day. In the early 1960's, Sen. Nelson became increasingly concerned about the way we were treating our planet; oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage and toxic dumps. He was esp. concerned about the total lack of interest in the political community with anything to do with the environment. He was convinced that if the public could be harnessed to focus on the environment, the politicans would open their eyes. After a conservation tour by President Kennedy in 1963, visiting 11 states in 5 days, but resulting in no ground swell of public support and no sense that the political community had an inclination to address even obvious environmental concerns, Sen. Nelson knew that he had to find a different way to fan the few sparks of public concern into a blazing bonfire.

In 1969, while speaking on the West coast, he saw the means to fan the flames. He observed some "teach-ins" in protest of the Vietnam War and realized what was needed was a massive grassroots movement that would provide Americans with the venue to express their concerns and if they could infuse this movement with the energy of the anti-war protestors, the environment would force its way into the politicans' vision. Sen. Nelson announced in Sept. of 1969, that there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on April 22 to bring the environment to the forefront. He made it clear that the invitation to this demonstration was open to all Americans. Once the media got a hold of this story, it spread across America with a fury.

The organizing for this nationwide demonstration started out with just two of Sen. Nelson's Washington staff, but as Americans caught the fever, the organization soon outgrew the senator's office. A coordinator of events was needed and Sen. Gaylord tapped Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University student, Denis Hayes. His work on this campaign resulted in 2000 colleges and universities, about 10,000 primary and secondary schools and hundreds of communities giving the environment and responsible living a resounding voice!

Let's keep resonsible living and the environment on the front burner.

Happy Earth Day

Sunday, April 19, 2009

New Green self-discoveries

I discovered a few weeks ago that I am becoming a "closet" environmentalist. For years I have been frugal and everything that goes along with it.

Since starting this blog and focusing on going green I have become so much more aware of everything that I use.

I made the discovery when putting a lean pockets in the microwave for supper. I cringed as I threw away the box, the plastic wrapping and then two minutes later the sleeve that I cooked the Lean pocket in, all for a mere 270 calories.

Looking back at the decision I realize that I'm making a change, not necessarily for the planet but a lifestyle change. I think it is better to make it part of a healthy lifestayle rather than...oh yeah I should probably recycle this.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fun with Government Agencies "Going Green."

Today, a trip to a local government licensing department presented me with an opportunity to witness how the government Goes Green.

As you can see, they were using their recycling bins, One was for plastic, the other two were for paper. It was nice to see the government practicing what it preaches.

The photo on the right made me smile and be proud of some inventive person (Yes, there is at least one inventive person working in the government...:D) This office deals with a lot of blue prints and land plats. Flexible drainage pipes have become an ingenious filing "cabinet."

As I waited for the paperwork to be processed, I reflected on these green activities and I began to get the "warm and fuzzies" about a collection of bureaucrats being responsible residents of Planet Earth.

Wouldn't you know it, they had to rain on my parade. First, they made a copy of my application (2 pieces of paper). Then they printed out a permit AND COPIED IT (2 more pieces of paper). A receipt was next, yes, they copied that as well. (We're up to 6 pieces of paper). Just when I think the trees are safe, they makes a copy...OF THE CHECK I USED TO PAY FOR THE PERMIT! Let's do the math: 1 transaction = 8 pieces of paper.

What have we learned today? You can lead a government employee to the recycling bin, and they'll fill it with excessive paper and red tape.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Could you answer that please?

April 6-10 is Plug-In to eCycling Week. A week dedicated to recycling an American obsession-the cell phone.

The Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) estimates that in 2007, only 10% of all cell phones were recycled. Their primary concern is that landfills don't end up the final resting place for mobile communication, we all,however, know that our junk drawer in the kitchen, the work bench in the garage or under the bed is where most cell phones usually end up.

Most of the nation's cell phone providers are joining with the EPA in encouraging recycling or reusing old cell phones.

AT & T was the first onboard with the EPA in sponsoring Plug-In to eCycling Week.

Sprint has set a goal of collecting 250,000 old phones in April.

Verizon and Alltel have longstanding programs where they collect old phones and either refurbish and resell them or recycle them. With the proceeds from the sale of the refurbished phones, they donate phones and airtimes to victims of domestic violence.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence(NCADC) has been partenered with the Wireless Foundation for over 7 years on the Call To Protect program. Victims of domestic violence get access to an emergency lifeline from donated working cellphones . Visit this site for directions on how to participate in this program:

Whether you drop off those old phones at a recycling drop site, (like the 7 located around Greenville County), take them to your service provider, mail them in to the NCADV or take them to your local women's shelter, why don't you join me this week and find a new, useful home for the phones you've left behind.

I have 3 old phones and by Friday, they'll be joining the fight against domestic violence. What about you? How many do you have? Where are you going to take yours? Let me know.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

So what did we do with all that paper? According to the American Forest and Paper Association (AF & PA), we set a record in 2008. The results of their survey show that the U. S. paper recovery rate hit 57.4% last year.

Bravo America!

Keep up the recycling efforts, but remember the other end, buying recycled products. The AF & PA married a strong global demand for recovered fiber with our recycling efforts to explain this new record.

The AF & PA also recognized some outstanding recycling groups throughout the country and I want to pass along those award winners:

  • AF&PA School Recycling Award: Wake County Public School System, Wake County, N.C. Wake County’s Department of Environmental Services’ FEED THE BIN paper recycling program provides recycling services to over 150 local schools. During the 2007-2008 school year, 800 tons of paper were collected for recycling.
  • AF&PA College/University Recycling Award: Stanford University, Stanford, Calif. Stanford students recovered 3,000 tons of paper for recycling and earned an estimated $450,000 in revenue from its recyclables.
  • AF&PA Community Recycling Award: Orange County, N.C. In 2008, the 128,000 residents of Orange County, N.C. recovered an estimated 8,750 tons of paper due to a comprehensive education and outreach recycling campaign.
  • AF&PA Business Leadership Recycling Award: Giant Eagle, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pa. In 2008, Giant Eagle collected nearly 555 tons of mixed office paper and more than 42,000 tons of corrugated containers for recycling.
Congratulations to these programs. I hope that folks like these might inspire us.

I want to give a special "thank you" to for providing me this information.

This is how it happens.

I mentioned in a previous post that folks say that they are only one person, so they can't change the world. I went on to point out that changes usually starts with individuals and grows. from there. I had that lesson reinforced today.

I manage 2 town home communities. At the one I live in, I was able to work with the local sanitation commission and get us involved with the curbside recycling program. We have about 25% of our community that consistently participate and close to 50% that sporadically participate.
In the other property, no curbside program exists for multi-family housing, so I take an extra recycling bin from where I live and use it in my office.

Over the first few weeks of collecting recyclables in my office , if I reminded the maintenance men at lunch time, they would hand me their empty soda bottles or cans. Then they began remembering on their own. One father /son team who works on my property sporadically, took to recycling right off, always remembering to drop off their recyclables from lunch.

After a few weeks, when they had not worked on my property, they came in to do some work and dropped about 10 empty soda bottles in the recycling bin. They had been saving them in their truck because they figured they would be back around me sometime. Today, my regular maintenance man walked in with a large trash bag slammed full of crushed soda bottles. The father/son team sent them.

This is how change happens.