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It’s a New Year: Resolve to Reduce Your Impact on Mother Earth

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year? What did you resolve to do? If you’re like many folks, you may have resolved to quit smoking, to exercise more, or to keep in better touch with far-flung family members. Whatever resolutions you made (or even if you didn’t make any at all) we have a great suggestion to add to your list: make a commitment to do three things to make your life a little greener.

We’re not talking major, life-changing adjustments here. We mean making simple, but effective changes that have a real impact on your life, on the planet, and in many cases, on your wallet.

To get you started, we’ve put together a list of simple things that you can do to start or sustain a greener, healthier life. Pick three, and see what happens! Of course, there are hundreds of little changes you can make that result in greener living – we’ve compiled a few to get the ball rolling.

  1. Recycle. If you don’t do it already, then start. If you already recycle, then kick it up a notch. Yes, it can be a bit of an inconvenience at first, but with practice you’ll be experiencing “recycler’s guilt” (hanging onto a soda can during that entire 50-mile drive so you can recycle it at home) in no time. Remember to close the loop and buy recycled!
  2. Limit the use of paper products – especially things like paper plates, napkins, paper towels, and cups. Sure, these products make sense at times — but when you do need them, try to use unbleached products. Paper’s natural color is brown, so chlorine bleach is used to whiten it. Chlorine is bad for you and the earth, and there are plenty of unbleached choices out there. If you must have white paper, look for items that are peroxide bleached – it’s a much healthier and environmentally friendly choice. Also, consider items that have recycled content. This can be disposable dinnerware, copy paper, scratch pads or even toilet paper. They’re a smart consumer choice.
  3. Revisit your throne. Call it what you will – the loo, the toilet, the porcelain god, the john – they all are huge water wasters. If you need to replace your toilet, be sure to choose a water-saving model. If you’re not ready to replace it, take a quart-sized plastic bottle, fill it with water, and place it in your toilet tank (make sure to keep it clear of any moving parts). This displaces enough water to save up to 8 gallons a day for the average family. That adds up to a whopping 3,000 gallons a year.
  4. Install compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)(click here). CFLs have come a long way in producing flicker-free, bright lighting. They also can help you save big bucks: on average, they last eight times longer than standard incandescent bulbs, and they cost significantly less to run. Today, there are many styles and shapes to choose from.
  5. Buy organic milk. If you or your kids are dairy drinkers, then this is a must. Dairy cows are routinely fed pesticide-laden grains, given antibiotics to fend off illness, and injected with hormones to create a higher yield. All of these unnatural products are transferred into the milk. Organic milk is priced competitively, and sends a definite statement to the dairy industry to clean up their act. To answer the most common question we get regarding organic milk: yes, it tastes the same as regular milk! In fact, many argue that it tastes better.
  6. Buy organic produce. Many stores stock certified organic foods at competitive prices. At the market yesterday, this author purchased organic Granny Smith apples at $.30 less per pound than the conventionally-grown ones in the next aisle. The most common, pesticide-laden produce items include strawberries, green beans, apples, grapes, and peaches. Buy local, and buy in season. That way, you not only reduce pesticides, but you also help reduce the gas and resources required to get the products to the market.
  7. Buy organic or shade-grown coffee. Shade-grown coffee producers employ many of the same practices as organic coffee producers, but their practices offer a few added benefits. Shade-grown coffee is grown under a large canopy of multi-tiered trees, as well as under crop trees such as avocado, citrus, and various hardwoods. The combination creates an environment similar to a natural forest, and encourages birds and wildlife to create habitats there. Other benefits include: minimal or no pesticide use, since the canopy is home to a multitude of insect-eating bird species; no fertilizer use, since the trees find nutrients in compost from falling leaves and animal droppings; and alternation of crops, which brings stability to local communities and reduces dependence on a single crop. Farmers and local inhabitants benefit, too, because they are not surrounded by dangerous chemicals. Look for shade-grown coffee in your local market or check out www.uncommongrounds.net for online ordering. Organic and shade-grown coffee tastes fabulous and is available in many flavors and decaffeinated.
  8. Terminate your weekly or monthly pest control. Pest control treatments frequently perpetuate an ongoing problem rather than solving it for good. In short, they act like a band-aid but don’t actually get to the root of the problem. The solution: load your caulk gun (or you can use white glue – it’s even less toxic) and take a careful look around your house for cracks, crevices, and holes where critters and insects can enter.For ants, put out a little cornmeal – when they eat it and then drink water, they’ll pop. Or, you can put boric acid ant traps deep into cabinets (avoid these if you have curious children or pets – they can be harmful if eaten). Another effective way to rid ants is to use dish soap. If you can locate the ant hill, simply take a bucket of hot water with an environmentally friendly dish soap added and pour directly on the hill.For rodents, a great solution is cats. If that’s not an option, professionals recommend the old-fashioned mousetrap. The best bait is peanut butter with a little cornmeal added. Place the trap in a brown paper bag and disposal is a snap. Don’t be stingy on the traps – the more the better until the problem is under control. After you have taken these steps, put out a few sticky traps and start to keep track: if you stay on top of it, after about two months you’ll probably have solved your insect/rodent problem and you’ll save a lot of money as well.
  9. Plant a tree (or two). Trees help clean the air, provide shade, and supply a much-needed habitat for birds and other wildlife. Check out American Forests Historic Tree Nursery to get a tree with a past.
  10. Use a green cleaning service. Green cleaning services are popping up all over the country. The cleaning service is the same – they simply use “green” cleaning products. The result? A clean and healthy home! Prices are usually competitive with traditional cleaning services, and you’ll be doing a service to yourself, the planet, and the cleaning people. Check your local yellow pages under “Cleaning Services” for listings.
  11. Switch to natural household cleaners (click here). If you don’t have a cleaning service (and the majority of us don’t), then make the healthy choice for cleaning supplies. There are many companies that produce superb, competitively-priced cleaners. These products are very effective, can help reduce the suffering of those with asthma or chemical sensitivities, and can improve the general overall health of you and your family. (See this month’s article on indoor pollution) Better yet, consider making natural cleansers yourself. The recipes are easy to make, and after a few weeks you’ll be throwing them together in a flash. We promise you’ll be shocked by how much money you can save each month by making your own safe, effective cleaning products.
  12. Patronize eco-friendly dry cleaners. “Wet” cleaning is the environmentally-friendly way to dry clean clothes. Dry cleaning itself actually involves washing clothes with a detergent and solvent that prevents the water from penetrating the fibers, but still removes dirt and grime. Wet cleaning uses a similar process, minus the toxic solvents. If that’s not enough to change your mind, then here’s another good reason to support eco-friendly dry cleaners: Perc, the solvent most commonly used in dry cleaning, is a known carcinogen, and has been proven to permeate walls into adjoining spaces and products. Many supermarkets are rethinking the idea of having dry cleaners as immediate neighbors. Perc and other dry-cleaning chemicals are not only bad for the environment, but they can also directly affect the health of workers and even customers. Most of the time, clothes are dry when bagged; but if they are damp, the solvents stay trapped, and when brought home create a common source of indoor pollution. The solution? Check out the Greenpeace directory for eco-friendly cleaners in the U.S. If you don’t have an eco-friendly dry cleaner in your area, then unwrap your clothes when you get home and let them out (preferably in a well-ventilated area).

Pure Drinking Water from Air

A couple of years ago we reported on a water from air unit we used in the Caribbean island of St. Maarten (http://www.green-trust.org/wordpress/2008/06/13/air-water-generators/). This was a compressor based unit, that works like a dehumidifier and extracts the humidity and purifies it for drinking. We recently came across a non compressor unit, which reduces cost, and energy consumption. We have a sample coming next month, and the technology looks exciting. It uses a hygroscopic film, with electrostatic and carbon filters. We will keep you posted.

Standing Seam Metal Roof with Solar Panels

A metal roof with built-in solar panels is the most energy efficient and longest lasting solar roofing solution. A metal roof will usually last in excess of 50 years, and solar PV panels usually last 30+ years with minimal loss of efficiency or or electric power production. The combination of the two creates a one-time green roofing investment that will pay for itself over time, and then it will produce free electricity. Such a smart combination eliminates the chance of roof leaks, since there are no roof penetrations, and gives a homeowner piece of mind and confidence in their green metal roof.

Why go with a metal roof, instead of asphalt shingles:

Why would you want to install PV solar panels with a metal roof, instead of installing it on the existing asphalt shingle roof? The answer is very simple; asphalt shingles last an average of 15 years, while your solar panels should last at least 30 years. That means that even if you install your solar panels over a brand new asphalt shingles roof, you will have to remove the whole solar system in 15 years, replace the roof, and then put the solar panels back onto the roof. With the installation costs of a solar PV system being about $2 per watt, and an average solar system size of 3 KW, you will have to pay an extra $6000 (in today’s dollars, before any inflation is calculated) to reinstall your solar panels, and another $1500-2000 to
remove the panels, so that the roof can be replaced. With today’s average solar system price of $9-11 including solar panels, inverter, all wiring, rack-mounting system, permits, installation, etc.), the removal and re-installation price amounts to about 25% of the total solar system cost.

A properly installed standing seam metal roof will easily outlast any asphalt shingles roof by 3 time or more, and it will also outlast a warranty period on any solar panels. When your solar panels get old, and start producing less electricity than what they were designed for, you will have an option to either keep the old solar panels or install the new ones (as a side-note – average efficiency loss of a solar panel is 0.5% per year or 10% over a 20 year warranty period). All your infrastructure will already be in place, and you can simply swap the old solar panels for the new ones. You may also have to swap the charge controller / inverter. In 20 or 30 years, as technology progresses, the efficiency of solar panels and inverters will be much higher, and the cost per watt will be considerably lower. At the same time you will still have your metal roof, performing at 100% efficiency – being leak free and beautiful, that is.

Installing solar panels on a standing seam metal roof

Solar panels can be attached to a standing seam metal roof in two different ways. One is to use a thin film Solar PV panel laminated inside the pan of a standing seam metal roof – a so called solar metal roofing concept, when solar panels are integrated with the roofing material. The limitations of solar metal roofing include lower efficiency (per sq. foot or sq. meter) of the solar PV laminates. Therefore you would need double the roof area to get the same number of kW of a solar system. Also the size limitation of each solar PV laminate (18 feet long panels) make it impossible to install them on roofs with a roof run of less than 18.5 feet.

A better way to install solar panels onto a metal roof is to use S-5 clips or mounting brackets, specially designed to add adequate strength and support of rack-mounting systems installed on standing seam metal roofs. S-5 clops are made of cast aluminum blocks, with stainless steel tightening screws. S-5 clips are attached to the ribs or locks of a standing seam panel, and provide great pullout ratio, meeting and exceeding Miami-Dade county building code requirements for wind uplift.

S-5 Solar Panel mounting clamps allow for a quick and inexpensive installation of the solar rack-mounting system. Solar panels can be attached directly to the clamps, or to horizontal / vertical rails. The overall cost of such solar racking system is reduced from about $1 per watt, to about 50 cents per watt, or less. Also, you do not have to worry about any roof leaks, as there are no roof penetrations, and all mounting hardware is attached to the ribs of the metal roof panels.

You can also get a double tax credit for your solar roofing installation – Your first tax credit would be a 30% tax credit for solar panels, and and another one – up to $1500 cool roof tax credit. An average cost of metal roofing materials will exceed $5000 per roof, so you will be able to get a full 30% cool roof tax credit. With today’s metal roofing prices for steel standing seam ranging from $15000-20000, a $1500 tax credit will save you about 7-10% off your lifetime metal roof.

The Benefits of Compact Fluorescent Lighting

CFLs have several advantages over incandescent light bulbs: they last from 8-10 times longer, use about 75% less energy, and produce 90% less heat while delivering more light per Watt. For example, a 25 Watt CFL provides about 1800 lumens, compared to 1750 lumens from a 100 Watt incandescent lamp.

CFLs have come a long way since their introduction. They provide a flicker-free, soft-white light and come in a variety of styles. The traditional “twist” bulb is the most popular, but if you need a more stylish version, consider the household style. This bulb is similar in design to a standard incandescent bulb but uses significantly less energy. The 3-way CFL is perfect for reading lamps or conversation areas where ambience is a factor. The globe style is designed for bathroom fixtures.

Here’s a groovy advantage – CFLs save you money! One 20 Watt CFL (replaces a 75 Watt incandescent bulb) will save you $66 dollars over the life of the bulb (based on $.12 KWH). Replace one 100 Watt incandescent bulb with a 25 Watt CFL and save a whopping $74 dollars over the life of the bulb (hey – that’s 21 extra Mocha Latte’s).

Not only are CFLs the smart choice – they’re hip too. The EPA reports that CFLs are the environmentally responsible choice. Replacing one incandescent light bulb with an energy saving CFL bulb reduced carbon monoxide emission to the atmosphere by 1,000 pounds.

According to the Department of Energy, as a nation we spend about one-quarter of our electricity budget on lighting, or more than $37 billion annually. And while traditional incandescent light bulbs are less expensive to purchase, they are much more expensive to operate. Incandescents aren’t such a bright idea after all (sorry – couldn’t resist).

The infinitely Renewable Energy Future

We are aware that our life is closely tied to electricity. When the power goes out, we have almost nothing, as the work of most of the devices we use to power instructed. Therefore, it is not surprising that a city is a dead city without electricity. Almost all human activities that work. Can continue to work only a few activities. If today we are very current need, surely we will be more dependent on electricity in the future. Meanwhile, most of the electric power plants throughout the world rely on fossil fuels, non-renewable energy for the production of electricity. Recognizing that fossil fuels are not renewable, but sooner or later we will have no fossil fuels to generate electricity. If we do not create another alternative instead of using fossil fuels, it is very likely that we are able to provide crisis in the future will be limited our activities. Some countries, has now moved some of their sources of power from fossil fuels to hydropower. You’ll leave some of their electricity needs in hydropower. Until now, China is a country with the highest use of electricity from hydropower. The three largest power stations of hydroelectric power generated in China, Brazil and Venezuela. The countries concede that the hydroelectric energy produced is much greater than current production of fossil fuels at the same budget. Also, hydropower is renewable so there are good prospects for the future for its continuity. However, the shift in hydroelectric plants does not seem to be easily performed.

The revolution of electricity can be as difficult as the revolution in politics, because people have been the last system. People need to adapt to new alternatives. It is only a matter of time when the switching process complete, since it can be carried out for reasons of human life and the continuity of human life and better generation. Some years ago, the consumption of these alternative source of electricity has reached 16% worldwide and some 150 countries started to move on as a source of hydroelectric power station. Now they are trying to make up their minds to move completely on hydropower, once all the preparation, the society and the environment ready for the big change.

People always have the hope of a better life in the future, so that they understand that the sources of non-renewable energy is low or the next. Therefore, think of other alternatives that are not used because they may be renewable, and one of the alternatives is to hydropower. Since two-thirds of the earth’s water, it is very possible to make hydropower as an energy source. Therefore, people do not need to worry about the electricity in the future will be a necessity expensive. To maximize the efficiency of the production of hydroelectric power to produce electricity, some big countries are among their need for power while continuously carry out a study on the best switching of hydro electricity. In short, it is only a matter of time in the power of water is the primary energy source.

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