Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ Category

Shades of Green: More on Cars

Friday, October 7th, 2011

The all-American pastime – driving our cars. While a small portion of us has already moved to hybrids and low impact vehicles, most of us have not. Yet it just isn’t has hard as you think to do better. Let’s keep in mind that this is one of the most important things we can do to reduce our human impact on the environment. In the U.S., about 20 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions come from cars and light trucks. Of course, this contributes significantly to climate change through global warming. If you want to do something to impact the footprint we are making on the environment, this is it. Look at your car, and the use of your car, and start making changes. So what can we do? Continuing from last Friday, here are some final thoughts and ideas:

  • Get a dramatically different car. Look into AFVs (alternative fuel vehicles) or NGVs (natural gas vehicles). These are natural gas vehicles. Many companies are switching to them for their fleet cars and trucks. The great weakness with these vehicles is the lack of fueling stations. Most of these vehicles are converted from regular gas engines. There are some tax incentives for the purchase of some AFVs and some states allow use of HOV (high-occupancy) lanes for these vehicles.
  • If you live and work in an area where you don’t have to use major highways to get to and from work, consider a scooter or moped. They cost under $10,000 (and that’s for a plush number) but get 50 miles to the gallon or better. They’re not great for cold or rainy weather, but fine if you live in a warm climate.
  • At your next oil change or service, ask for re-refined motor oil. Producing five quarts of re-refined lubricating oil uses only two gallons of used oil. Producing and refining five quarts of new oil takes two barrels of crude oil. Re-refined motor oil is just fine for your car. If only 5 percent of cars used re-refined oil at every oil changes we would save 2.5 billion gallons of oil a year!
  • Haven’t gone hybrid yet. Do it!
  • Dump the car! OK, maybe not, but strongly consider keeping it parked and using it only for special occasions or for trips you can’t make any other way. Use public transportation. Walk or ride a bike.
  • Move. Yes, move to a location closer to work – like walking-distance close. Then use the car only when you have to. And you can more easily use some of the ideas in the point above.
  • Campaign for new technologies. Write your Senator and Congressperson to support hydrogen fuel cell technology. It’s out there and it’s coming. Let’s get it done sooner, not later! If not hydrogen, push for electric cars. The technology is improving steadily.

By Julie Vincent, APR and Bob Dittmer, APR From: Shades of Green, available at Amazon.com

Shades of Green: Cars 2

Friday, September 30th, 2011
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The all-American pastime – driving our cars. While a small portion of us has already moved to hybrids and low impact vehicles, most of us have not. Yet it just isn’t has hard as you think to do better.

CarsLet’s keep in mind that this is one of the most important things we can do to reduce our human impact on the environment. In the U.S., about 20 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions come from cars and light trucks. Of course, this contributes significantly to climate change through global warming. It also contributes to air pollution (ask anyone who lives in Los Angeles!), ground pollution as particulate matter is washed out of the air and into our soil, and to disease and medical conditions suffered by many.

If you want to do something to impact the footprint we are making on the environment, this is it. Look at your car, and the use of your car, and start making changes.

So what can we do? Continuing from last Friday, here are eight more ideas:

  • It’s a lifestyle change, but consider car pooling. Find people at your office or around your neighborhood who work in the same area and set up a car pool. If you cut down just one trip a week, you’ll save one-fifth of your gas expenditure, carbon emissions, etc. And money.
  • Try telecommuting if your company and business will allow that. Working from home saves you the trip. Sell the idea to your boss as not only green, but more efficient. Remember, you can always go to the office when necessary. Any number of trips to the office you save is a positive step. Think this won’t save anything? The average rush-hour commute in 2000 was 62 hours! What a waste of time!
  • Use mass transit. Use the bus instead of driving. If your city has light rail or subway, use it. It will end up being significantly cheaper than driving even though you still have to pay for the ticket. Remember that a 20-mile round-trip commute costs about $2,000 a year in gas alon

    e for your cars. Anything less than that is savings. And, you  are not spewing emissions into the atmosphere. Even if you have to drive a short distance to a bus or rail stop, there are still significant savings involved.

  • This one will surprise you. If you have a reasonably efficient car now, keep it longer. It actually costs four tons of carbon emissions and almost 700 pounds of other pollutants spewed into the atmosphere to manufacture just one new car! Let's hold on to our cars longer. Each additional year makes a big difference.
  • Consider biodiesel if your car has a diesel engine. It’s renewable, biodegradable, and has none of the sulfur of regular diesel. Biodeisel B20 (a mix of 80-percent conventional diesel and 20-percent biodiesel; biodiesel comes in ranges of B5 to B100, with the higher the number signifying the higher the biofuel content; B20 is the base at which realistic fuel economy savings begin) saves 50 gallons of oil per year and will reduce your carbon emissions by 30 percent.
  • If you drive a normal gas-driven engine, explore E85 ethanol. Made from corn and other renewal resources, ethanol can be used by many modern, flex-fuel engines. There are millions on the road now and you may have one and not know it. Ask you dealer.
  • Get a different car. Find the highest mileage vehicle you can that has a flex-fuel engine and buy it. Use it for most of your commuting and errands. Cut your emissions and your fuel costs dramatically.
  • Get a really different car. Go for a hybrid. These cars get excellent mileage and have very low emission rates. Yes, they are a little more expensive, but you’ll get that back in fuel efficiency. If you can’t do the hybrid, find a small car with a high-mile-per-gallon rating.

By Julie Vincent, APR and Bob Dittmer, APR

From: Shades of Green, available at Amazon.com

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Shades of Green: Cars

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

carsThe all-American pastime – driving our cars. While a small portion of us has already moved to hybrids and low impact vehicles, most of us have not. Yet it just isn’t has hard as you think to do better. Let’s keep in mind that this is one of the most important things we can do to reduce our human impact on the environment. In the U.S., about 20 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions come from cars and light trucks. Of course, this contributes significantly to climate change through global warming. It also contributes to air pollution (ask anyone who lives in Los Angeles!), ground pollution as particulate matter is washed out of the air and into our soil, and to disease and medical conditions suffered by many. If you want to do something to impact the footprint we are making on the environment, this is it. Look at your car, and the use of your car, and start making changes. So what can we do? Here are eight ideas:

  • Start by simply driving less by driving smarter. Make it a goal to drive 10 miles less each week
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    results in a savings of 520 miles a year. That’s a significant saving in air emissions and, by the way, you’ll save about $225 in gas costs over that same year.

  • Don’t idle the car to warm it up. First, it’s not necessary for today’s cars, and second, you don’t spew more emissions into the atmosphere while going nowhere.
  • Keep your engine tuned up. The difference between a properly tuned engine and one that is not can run from 15 to 50 percent in fuel efficiency!
  • Keep your tires at the right pressure. Check monthly, because the average tire loses about one pound per square inch each month. Tires that are under-inflated produce drag, lowering fuel efficiency. They wear out faster too. Keeping your tires properly inflated could save you about a tank of gas a year.
  • Drive sensibly. Stay off the gas pedal. Jackrabbit starts cost gas mileage. Speeding above 55 mph costs gas mileage. Aggressive driving with lots of acceleration and deceleration costs gas mileage. Here’s an example: at 55 mph you will use 15-percent less fuel than at 65 mph. Aggressive driving increases fuel consumption by up to 33 percent! It also results in five times more exhaust emissions than normal driving.
  • Don’t drive at high speeds with the windows down. This causes drag and reduces fuel efficiency. In fact, go ahead and use that air conditioner. It’s actually more fuel efficient than opening the windows (at high speed).
  • Don’t keep the car loaded down with “stuff.’ Every extra 100 pounds of stuff will reduce your fuel efficiency by 2 percent.
  • Gas. Buy the cheap stuff. Unless you experience problems with regular gas, or your owner’s manual specifically requires it, your car was manufactured to run efficiently on 87 octane. Don’t go for the 92 octane premium. You will get no improvements to fuel efficiency, engine power, speed or performance. But the price is usually about 20 cents per gallon higher. Save that 20 cents and let it add up. Then buy a hybrid car.

By Julie Vincent, APR and Bob Dittmer, APR From: Shades of Green, available at Amazon.com  

Shades of Green: Recycle Ideas

Friday, September 9th, 2011

recycleRecycle—it’s a noble thing to do. And it’s getting harder and harder to tell people—maybe even your kids—that you don’t recycle. However, the national recycling rate is only about 30 percent, according to the EPA.

Learn what to do and get your business or house recycling program going. The time has come for many people to do some things rather than for one person to do many things. Whatever you do will make a difference.

Some more ideas:

  • Get rid of all those extra clothes! Someone once said that we wear 20 percent of our clothes 80 percent of the time. Rings true, right? So, be honest and pull those clothes from your closets that you know you have not worn in the last two years. Then give some thought to how many people could use them. High-end items might be appropriate for a consignment shop. That’s great. But for most of your clothes, look for worthy charities in your area and make donations. You won’t miss what you let go of and you’ll feel good about the people you will help. The planet has enough clothes—spread ‘em around.
  • Plan a garage or yard sale. Think big and make it a larger neighborhood or family garage sale. Set goals for what you’ll do with the money and know, in advance, how you will dispose of what doesn’t sell. Don’t bring things back into the house once the sale is over. Take it all right to your charity of choice.
  • Take the time and effort to try to sell or donate many of the items you no longer want. In our desire to de-clutter our lives, we must be conscious of what would happen if we all took everything we were discarding to the dump. There are people out there who need what you no longer want. Take the time to find them. Let the Internet work for you and find homes for those things you no longer want. You know what they say—one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
  • Be responsible when getting rid of things like old batteries, pesticides, chemicals and other hazardous materials. Find out where to take these items and never put them in your regular trash.
  • We all have obsolete computers and computer components, televisions and cell phones in our homes. And, if you’re willing to take the time, you might be able to find good homes for these items. Many school, churches and non-profit organizations have a need for working computers. Some women’s shelters welcome cell phones. But getting rid of these items safely is becoming a real nightmare on a global scale. There are between 300,000 to 400,000 tons of electronics collected for recycling in the U.S. each year. And activists report that more than half ends up overseas in countries like China, Nigeria and India. Workers there dismantle these electronics by hand, exposing them and the environment to toxic chemicals. So, before you take your electronics for recycling, ask the tough questions and find out where these items are going, as more U.S. landfills are banning this type of waste. There may soon come a day when U.S. manufacturers will be required to take back and recycle their own equipment. If that happens, manufacturers will begin making their products with fewer toxic chemicals, which will make them easier to recycle.
  • Remember that when we “throw away” items, there really is no “away.” All of our trash ends up somewhere—in our land, air, water or in living things—that means in us, too. Landfills are reaching capacity and it’s becoming harder to find new sites for landfills. Incineration, another alternative to landfills, has its own problems in terms of producing highly toxic residue ash. And guess what? That ash has to be taken away and put somewhere—like in a landfill. Think globally by giving thought to where your trash is going. Just because it’s out of your sight doesn’t mean it’s really out of your life and the lives of your family.

By Julie Vincent, APR and Bob Dittmer, APR

From: Shades of Green, available at Amazon.com

 

Shades of Green: Recycle means Reuse

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

recycleRecycle—it’s a noble thing to do. And it’s getting harder and harder to tell people—maybe even your kids—that you don’t recycle. However, the national recycling rate is only about 30 percent, according to the EPA.

Learn what to do and get your business or house recycling program going. The time has come for many people to do some things rather than for one person to do many things. Whatever you do will make a difference.

Some more ideas:

  • Rent, borrow, trade or pass along things like tools, DVDs and books. It just doesn’t make sense to purchase a tool you may use only infrequently. And, most times, we just watch a movie or read a book one time. These things take up valuable space.
  • Coordinate with your friends and neighbors to swap baby clothing. The average amount a family spends on clothing and other things for a new baby the first year is more than $5,000! That’s crazy when you stop to think about it. Really give some thought to how much baby clothing you should buy new that first year, considering babies change sizes about
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  • Now think the same way about adult clothing. There is no better way to save resources and fend off clothes clutter than to buy clothes someone else isn’t wearing anymore. Plus, the work has been done and the energy has been spent. Today consignment stores are everywhere…and they are lucrative.
  • Reduce the amount of junk mail and catalogues that come into your home. Many states have programs where you can sign up to get yourself removed from junk mail lists. If you have time, you can call vendors who send unsolicited catalogues and ask that your name be removed from their mailings lists. It’s so easy today to find desired items and order them online. You don’t need the paper catalogue and neither does the environment.
  • Stop subscribing to those magazines and newspapers that you probably don’t have time to read, anyway. Or coordinate with neighbors, friends and co-workers to share a subscription and route the magazines.
  • You can always recycle your phone books, but you can take things a step further by calling to stop your phone book delivery altogether. Today, there are good online phone directories available. It will make a difference, considering telephone books make up almost 10 percent of waste at dump sites.
  • Don’t accept paper and plastic bags from grocers and retailers and bring your own reusable shopping bags with you. That way, you don’t have to deal with the extra bags that come into your home and you might save a tree or two along the way. Plus, the landfill has enough plastic bags to last a lifetime…or two…or three.
  • When buying gifts for people, think consumable and useful! Give food items, movie tickets, vegetable plants, or even a homemade coupon for babysitting or help cleaning. Most people have been given too many things that serve no purpose or are just more knickknacks to dust.
  • Mend, fix, reupholster, update and refinish! Many items still have life left in them if you’re willing to invest a little time and effort.

By Julie Vincent, APR and Bob Dittmer, APR

From: Shades of Green, available at Amazon.com

 

Shades of Green: Recycle – Part 2

Friday, August 26th, 2011

recyclingRecycling—it’s a noble thing to do. And it’s getting harder and harder to tell people—maybe even your kids—that you don’t recycle. However, the national recycling rate is only about 30 percent, according to the EPA.

Learn what to do and get your business or house recycling program going. The time has come for many people to do some things rather than for one person to do many things. Whatever you do will make a difference.

Some more ideas:

  • Plastic—Since it doesn’t break down in a landfill and it’s a great recyclable item from which many products can be made, try to recycle all plastic waste. But not all plastics are created equal. Plastics #1 and #2 are used for things like milk jugs, liquid detergent and plastic soft drink bottles. Most recyclers want you to rinse these containers out and remove the lids. Lids are not recyclable and should be put in your garbage. Plastic #5 is the least recyclable and is used for packaging items such as cottage cheese,, margarine and vitamins. These containers may have more value for you to reuse than recycle. So how do I know the number of my plastic item? The number should be stamped on the container.
  • Glass is recycled according to color—clear, green and brown. Most recycling centers prefer donated glass separated by color. It’s okay to leave the paper labels on the glass, but you should rinse the bottles and put the lids in the trash. But not all glass is created equal. Light bulbs, Pyrex and mirrors, for example, have a different composition from glass bottles and will be accepted for recycling. These items just shouldn’t be mixed in with regular glass items.
  • Last, but not least, are the metals—aluminum, steel and copper. Everything from aluminum cans to car engines can be recycled. Aluminum cans, foil and foil packaging are all recyclable items. Paint cans and aerosol cans are recyclable, but the former contents are considered hazardous. So be sure to leave the labels on paint and aerosol cans so recyclers know what used to be in there. Copper is one of the most recyclable of all the metals. In fact, it’s 100 percent recyclable. Since bronze and brass are alloys, they’re totally recyclable, too.
  • Send e-cards instead of paper ones. This saves you paper and money.
  • Buy products like condiments, liquids and cleaning products in large quantities instead of in smaller sizes to reduce packaging that you just have to throw away anyway. And most times, purchasing in bulk is less expensive.
  • Have reusable food storage containers on hand for leftovers and wean off the plastic storage bags.

By Julie Vincent, APR and Bob Dittmer, APR

From: Shades of Green, available at Amazon.com

 

Shades of Green: Recycling

Friday, August 19th, 2011

recycleRecycling—it’s a noble thing to do. And it’s getting harder and harder to tell people—maybe even your kids—that you don’t recycle. The truth is, though, if it’s inconvenient it’s a deal breaker.

Done well, it doesn’t require much time or effort and it sure can make a big difference for you and the environment. However, the national recycling rate is only about 30 percent, according to the EPA.  Let’s face it—most folks won’t drive across town with a car full of recyclable items just to make their contribution to the cause. But more and more community and city leaders are taking a proactive stance and have pushed through local initiatives like curb-side recycling and established drop-off points. And there’s every reason to believe the trend will continue.

So, join the cause, learn what to do and get your recycling program going. Hopefully, this series of ideas will make it easier for you than you think. Go at your own pace, but get movin’! The time has come for many people to do some things rather than for one person to do many things. Whatever you do will make a difference.

Many regular day-to-day activities produce materials that should be recycled. But what to recycle and what to just throw away? Here are some quick and easy ideas:

  • The first thing you need to do is “think recycling.” Energy savings do add up. For instance, it takes 95 percent less energy to produce an aluminum can from recycled aluminum than from bauxite ore. It takes 40 percent less energy to make a glass bottle from recycled glass than it does to make one from sand, soda ash and limestone. An added bonus? Recycling means less littering.
  • The second thing you need to do is understand the entire recycling loop. It’s just not enough to send items away to be recycled. You must also purchase recycled products or the process just doesn’t work. Read the packaging and do your homework and you can find recycled products and materials.
  • Now you’re ready to recycle. Set up containers for the following recyclable classes of items: paper and cardboard; plastics; glass; and metals.
  • Let’s talk paper and cardboard first, since paper takes up about 50 percent of all landfill space. Newspapers should really be saved in its own container as newspapers go directly into newsprint recycling. Recycling a four-foot stack of newspapers saves one 40-foot fir tree! Corrugated cardboard is a highly valued recyclable. But please keep it dry. Plastic or waxy coated cardboard, such as pizza boxes, cannot be recycled.
  • Magazines, glossy paper, envelopes, phone books, computer paper and paper packaging can be saved together in one bin. Paper with staples still attached is okay, but remove all rubber bands and plastic overwrap.

By Julie Vincent, APR and Bob Dittmer, APR

From: Shades of Green, available at Amazon.com