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All things green, eco-friendly, and seriously sustainable

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Dixie Somers
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Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons via Halfrain

When a home leaks energy, the result is typically higher energy costs and causing your central heat and air to work harder than it should. For this reason, many homeowners actively seek for practical ways to improve the energy efficiency of their home. Keeping more of your home's heat and air inside will lead to lower energy costs. In the interest of helping homeowners make their home more energy efficient, here are four excellent tips on how to keep energy leaks from eating into your wallet:

Create a Draft Snake

The area at the base of a door leading outside the home is a major issue for a lot of home owners. This is more noticeable in the winter time, when a stream of cold air is pouring in through the open space between the door and the floor. One action a homeowner can take is to create a draft-snake to place in front of the base of their front or back door to prevent air flow. Making a draft-snake is relatively easy and fun. Simply sew up a long tunnel shaped piece of material, fill it with some type of cloth or foam padding, and sew up the end. The draft-snake should be long enough by measure to cover the entire base of the door it will be blocking. Some people even go an extra step and make their draft-snake look like a stuffed snake or other type of stuffed animal for decorative purposes.

Energy Loss through Sliding Glass Doors

Another major source of massive energy loss is energy loss that occurs through a sliding glass door. Because the outside of the home is usually at a different temperature than the inside of the home, the glass becomes an effective medium of energy transfer. Since the surface of the glass is relatively large by area, this allows for more energy transfer than a small window. When the frame of a sliding glass door is metal, this will allow heat loss through conduction during the winter months. One action a home owner can take to remedy this problem is to switch out the aluminum frame for a fiberglass frame, thus eliminating a significant amount of conductive heat loss. To prevent even further thermal loss, another step a home owner can take is to use a thicker insulated curtain to cover the sliding glass door with. Using a reflective material to reflect incoming sunlight back outside during the summer months will help prevent external heating from making your home too warm as well.

Sealing Cracks and Replacing Old Windows

It is inevitable that cracks will form around aging window frames and sills. To prevent energy from leaking through these cracks, it is possible to purchase calking agents to help fill and cover any cracks around a window. Installing seals at closing points on an old window is another action a home owner can take to help keep leaks from being a problem. If a home owner wants to update their home, installing quality energy efficient windows is another way to improve your homes energy efficiency. Newer frames and seals around the closure points of windows will prevent energy leakage for years to come. Installing double pained glazed windows will allow for a thermal gap between the two pains that prevents energy loss from occurring. Professionals who offer Winter Park, FL shutters suggest that you use lighter window treatments as well, in order to keep the home cool and energy efficient.

Insulation

Insulation is an important key to preventing a home from experiencing energy loss. Poorly insulated areas, such as walls, the attic and a crawl space will inevitably create situations for major energy loss to occur. In fact, since heat rises, an attic that is not well insulated will allow heat to escape through the roof at an alarming rate; consequently, applying a layer of insulation in an attic is one of the most cost effective methods for preventing heat energy loss in winter.

Energy has numerous opportunities to leak out of your home; however, by taking a few simple steps, you can significantly reduce the amount of energy loss your home is experiencing. By reducing energy loss, you will begin to see that your heating and cooling bills will reduce significantly. If you have difficulty identifying ways energy is leaking from your home, it may be necessary to contact a professional who specializes in inspecting and troubleshooting energy leak issues associated with residential homes.

Dixie Somers

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How big is your water heater? Twenty? Thirty? Fifty gallons? How many times have you run out of hot water before your hair was rinsed? Every time you take a shower or bath, your tank has to refill. It also has to kick on throughout the day to keep the water inside hot. If you're looking for ways to cut back on your utility bills, losing the tank is a good place to start.

How do Tankless Water Heaters Work?

Tankless water heaters are manufactured in both gas and electric options, each of which have their advantages. Tankless heaters operate by running water through a heating source at the point of use rather than heating large amounts at one time.

Save Energy

If you live in an area that regularly receives winter weather, you might consider a gas tankless heater. It will keep you in warm water despite power outages and save money on your electric bill. According to the Department of Energy, on-demand heaters can be 24%–34% more energy efficient.

Save Space

On top of the energy savings, tankless water heaters are ideal for homeowners with limited space. Many tiny house owners opt for tankless heaters because they can hang on the wall, taking up very little space without creating a fire hazard like large water tanks can in small spaces.

Flow Rate

Most tankless heaters provide a flow of 2–5 gallons of hot water per minute. For larger houses and larger households, more than one tank is recommended, especially for simultaneous use. Considering on-demand heaters tend to last longer than conventional water heaters, purchasing multiple point of use units is still an excellent investment.

Extending Life

Tankless heaters have the advantage of using running water rather than holding calcium and lime ridden hard water constantly. Thus, they can last up to twenty years. Replacement parts are readily available, often easier to install than traditional water heater parts, and can extend unit life for another 10–15 years.

Go Tankless

If you'd like to save energy, money, space, and hassle, a tankless water heater may be the best choice for you. Be sure to consider heating capacity, energy star rating, and price in your decision. Contact a company like First Class Plumbing of Florida Inc. for more information. Be sure to shop around; it's high time you took the tankless leap!

Dixie Somers

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You don’t have to invest in a hybrid or electric car to make your vehicle greener. Certain driving habits, proper vehicle maintenance and a few small changes or accessories can go a long way to improving a car’s efficiency and reducing its overall carbon footprint. The best news of all is that these green car tips are likely to save you money in the long run by reducing your need for fuel or expensive repairs.

 

Control Speed

About 75 percent of a vehicle’s carbon emissions are due to the fuel they burn. There are many ways to reduce a car’s fuel consumption. Two of the easiest ways that require little more than a change in habits is speed and car weight.

Reducing speed is one of the best ways to improve fuel economy. This is because of some simple physics known as liquid thermodynamics. Basically, as a car moves through the air, it is compressing that air just a little bit. This creates drag that tries to slow the car down. The faster a car is going, the more it compresses the air and the more power it needs to get through that air. No matter how aerodynamic the vehicle is, this air compression increases remarkably at about 60 miles per hour. Those speed limit signs aren’t just a matter of safety. Following them will improved your MPG.

Consistent speed is also important for mpg. Gasoline engines are extremely inefficient when they are accelerating and work best when they run at a continuous speed. This is one reason that freeway driving tends to result in higher mpg than town driving. Every time you hit the brakes, you are wasting some of the car’s energy. By driving moderately, and avoiding a lot of starting and stopping or fast acceleration, you can improve fuel economy by quite a bit. Safe driving also happens to be better and more efficient driving.

 

Reduce Weight

Your car’s weight has a major impact on how much fuel it consumes. Every 100 pounds of weight tends to reduce fuel efficiency by about 2 percent. Stripping off extra racks and cargo containers and emptying out the trunk of unnecessary stuff may have a surprising effect on fuel efficiency. The impact of weight is more noticeable the smaller the engine.

 

Be Mindful of Your Tires

The next biggest factor in fuel efficiency is the amount of friction created by your tires. Friction creates drag that requires more energy to overcome. Unless you need heavy-duty tire tread for off-road or harsh weather conditions, it is most beneficial to equip tires with low-resistance tread. This may mean switching your tires seasonally. Equip low-resistance tires in the summer and switch to heavier tread in the winter only when you need it.

Tire inflation is also a critical factor. As a tire loses pressure, more of the tire is pressed against the roadway, and it creates more drag and friction to overcome. Underinflated tires have other problems as well. The tire is going to wear more quickly and require replacement. If the tire becomes severely underinflated, it is a road hazard that may cause a dangerous blowout or loss of vehicle control.

 

Regular Maintenance

For many people, car maintenance is like a pass or fail test. If something breaks completely and the car won’t run or the check engine light comes on, then it’s time to take it in for service. Unfortunately, the truth is that most cars don’t break down completely unless something serious or catastrophic happens. Instead, the car’s systems slowly wear down and become less and less efficient before finally breaking.

Proper maintenance and tune-ups ensure that a car continues to run in its most efficient state. Problems with the fuel and exhaust system or coolant system may not immediately cause a breakdown or even a check engine light, but they are still causing problems.

You can help ensure that your engine continues to run efficiently by using fuel additives that clean the engine as it runs. States and companies vary on their laws regarding fuel additives. California tends to regulate more additives, but most states have little to no regulation on additives.

 

Be Smart with Oil

Used engine oil is a huge factor in the environmental friendliness of your car. The first step is to only get an oil change when you actually need it. Most synthetic oils are designed to run at least 10,000 miles or 6 months, and the highest qualities may last even longer. Mechanic stickers suggesting oil changes every 4,000 miles or less or just trying to keep their income, wasting oil and your money. The only exception is with non-synthetic oils that have much shorter lives and should probably be avoided anyway.

When you do change your oil, be sure that it is recycled properly. Most municipalities offer free oil recycling with garbage collection, but the oil must be disposed of properly. It should not be included in regular garbage and it should never, ever be put down the drain or just spilled onto the street. In most areas, improper disposal is illegal and has steep fines.

Visit car dealerships in St George for more information on your specific car and how it can be made friendlier to the environment. By changing some of your basic habits and keeping your vehicle well-maintained, you can increase your fuel efficiency and reduce your car’s carbon footprint. You even stand to save quite a bit of money in the process.

Dixie Somers

Renewable energy has a long history. Since the mid-1950s, it has been a boiler plate for future energy initiatives. Designs for wind, geothermal and solar energy can be traced back to scientific concepts of men like Nicola Tesla and Thomas Edison. As it continues to gain supporters and traction, the quest for renewable energy sources isn’t slowing down any time soon. In 2015, renewable energy will become an even bigger deal for several reasons.

Reduction in Costs of Renewable Energy

Formerly, the cost to convert to renewable energy was prohibitive. The average cost to purchase solar panels for the average home in 1990 was approximately $30 to $60,000. For larger, commercial buildings, the costs reached as high as $1 million, depending on the size of the building. The reason for the higher costs was due to having to import solar panels from foreign countries of manufacture, namely China. Wind turbines have always been less expensive to purchase, although the volume of power supplied determines the size of the turbines and their power. Geothermal energy has been used in Scandinavia for more than two decades. Scandinavian countries have access to natural hot springs and spas that provide a large source of geothermal energy.

More Choices in Renewable Energy

With the advent of greater hi-tech advancements, consumers have enjoyed more choice in renewable energy. For example, in 2015, many homeowners can convert to renewable that will make their homes totally independent of electric grids. This has already been done by Michael Strizky of Hopewell NJ, a former NASA employee and inventor. He built his home to be completely independent of fossil fuel energy. In addition to solar panels, his home also is installed with hydrogen and fuel cells. For the average homeowner, however, solar energy conversions are far less costly than in the past. For example, many solar energy companies offer several types of conversion plans:

. Purchase of panels

. Lease to buy

. Lease via annual contract

. Free in exchange for a regular monthly solar utility charge

Advancements in Renewable Energy Production

In 2015, it is more likely that conversions to renewable energy will be a result of the advancements of the past five years. With the knowledge that fuel cells can contain sustainable amounts of energy, the sizes of these cells will inevitably make it possible for greater energy storage and less dependency on fossil fuels. In addition, many European scientists in Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden have developed full solar arrays that allow countries to produce more than 60% of their country's total energy supply. In 2014, solar energy production in Germany rose to nearly 50% according to several sources. German technology in renewables has outpaced much of the rest of the countries of the world. This type of progress shows that 2015 may be the year that renewable energy is finally validated as a viable alternative to fossil fuel energy.

Long Term, Proven Track Record of Effective Energy

Perhaps, the best testament to the effectiveness of renewable energy is those facilities, commercial, industrial and governmental, that invested in renewable energy since its advent in the energy industry. Many of these facilities installed solar panels in the late 1990s and have now exchanged the panels for newer generations that withstand winds up to 120 mph, where formerly the wind integrity was 90 mph.

Increase in Investments for Renewable Energy

In addition to the physical investments in renewable energy, the banking giant, Goldman Sachs, in 2013, reported on its intention to increase investments in clean, renewable energy. In 2015, interest in these investments will become an even bigger deal as large corporations invest in clean energy initiatives, and get behind large projects.

As you can see, the search for renewable energy isn’t just one of the latest trends that will soon fade. As technology advances, and large companies get on board, we are continually finding new resources for renewable energy. The information for this article was provided by the professionals of LFG Technologies who specialize in renewable energy projects that convert landfill gas into energy.

Dixie Somers

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Most people are aware of the impact commercial farms have on the impact with their use of pesticides. What many do not realize, however, is regular home and garden use of pesticides adds up to 160 million pounds of chemical use every year, which is more than the government and businesses combined.

Want to do something to help the environment while keeping pests away from your home? Green pest control methods can be just as effective as chemicals or even work better without the use of chemicals that can harm the environment, pets, and children. Eco-friendly pest control methods can be effective against all types of pests, including rodents, cockroaches, termites, and more.

 

What Makes Pest Control "Green?"

Eco-friendly pest control strives to use the least toxic method first to control a pest problem. In general, green pest control solutions are less damaging to the environment and less toxic to living creatures not targeted by the treatment, such as pets, humans, insects, and aquatic life.

This approach to pest control often begins with making your home and garden as inhospitable to unwanted creatures as possible by removing food and water sources and using natural compounds that deter pests. From there, chemicals with reduced toxicity can be used to combat an existing problem. Here's a look at several highly effective green pest control solutions that can help protect your home.

 

Bora-Care for Termites

Bora-Care is a boric acid system that works as a stomach poison against termites. Bora-Care can be used to protect wood from becoming a food source for termites and its low-toxicity, unlike the chemical sulfuryl fluoride that's used in fumigation. A pest control professional can help you decide if Bora-Care is a good solution for your home.

 

Eco-Friendly Cockroach Control

You can stop and track down cockroaches in your home without chemical bait. Simply use store-bought sticky traps or make your own by adding banana peel to a Mason jar and lining the rim with petroleum jelly. Place the jars near pipes and sinks then wait for the roaches to get trapped. Once you track down where they're collecting, inject boric acid into crevices and cracks.

Boric acid is a low-toxicity chemical that causes dehydration and death in roaches by affecting their exoskeleton. It's far safer than the alternative, organophosphates, which are the most common types of pesticides to poison people.

 

When working with a pest control professional like All Seasons Pest Control, ask if they use eco-friendly solutions. You can also request non-chemical solutions whenever possible to help control or prevent an infestation.

 

Dixie Somers

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Most people are always on the hunt for green food or ecologically friendly cars to save money, but there are some people who are truly passionate about Earth enough to want to be as respectful as they can be. Being respectful to nature does not always have to be a sacrifice to the wallet either. You can even promote environmental values in things like dental products.

Below are five economically and ecologically friendly products for dental hygiene. Some of them have recycled packaging, others use organic ingredients, and others are biodegradable upon throwing them away, but all of them can help move along green values while being high-quality products.

 

Dr. Ken's Maximum Care Spearmint Cool

As far as an environmental friendly toothpaste goes, this is the one closest to mainstream in terms of taste and packaging, and it was developed by a dentist with the promise to clean as well as any mainstream product. The Environmental Working Group were not necessarily thrilled with it because of the sodium fluoride, but the taste is amazing, and it does get teeth clean. The most interesting ingredients in Dr. Ken's concoction are green tea extract and papaya. This is the kind of toothpaste to help convert people skeptical of the taste and effectiveness of green dental products.

 

Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Mouthwash

There are only natural flavors in this mouthwash. It is flavored with real spearmint and organic tea tree leaf. Next, the great flavor is nutritionally fortified with Vitamin C and witch hazel. Also, this product can proudly say it is completely vegan and was never tested on animals. Some of the many ingredients include sugar alcohol, parabens and much more. Finally, it is an effective product, animal cruelty-free and is completely made from renewable resources.

 

Eco-dent GentleFloss

This floss takes being green and organic very seriously. It is completely vegan. The floss is 100% vegetable wax—not a bit of beeswax has been used. What makes this a truly green product is the box. The box is plastic free (it’s made of rice) and the paper packing is completely ready to recycle. These are just a few details on a fully environmental friendly product.

 

Between! Dental Gum

This all-natural gum is an ideal way to freshen breath, clean teeth and do both while remaining mobile. The ingredients are simple, and the gum is made simply with baking soda, antioxidants and minerals. The flavor added to the gum is natural too, and it depends on what flavor is selected. It is available in cinnamon, mint and wintergreen, and it is sugar-free too. It is dye- and fake-color free on top of everything else. There are so many other wonderful, natural ingredients in this gum.

 

Monte Bianco Natural Toothbrush

Eco-Dent is the brand responsible for this toothbrush, and the company has an amazing reputation for releasing green and economically friendly products. The bristles are recycled, and the brush comes with a unique, purpose serving gimmick. Your toothbrush should be replaced every three months according to dentistry.com, and the Monte Bianco makes this task easy by having an easily removable, replaceable head.

 

The five products above are affordable and cost-effective, and provide incredible health benefits, all while being very friendly to the environment. It is important to combine positive financial responsibility and the responsibility to our planet. Visit a dentist like Family First Dentistry LLC if you have any questions about the product you’re using.

Dixie Somers

A public administration degree includes a bachelor's, master's or doctorate degree awarded by an accredited university, college or business school. These programs prepare a person to work for a non-profit organization or in government at the local, state or national level. Earning one of these degrees involves building skills in politics, management, accounting, urban planning and environmental sciences. With a public administration masters, you may be able to put your skills to use for saving the environment.

 

Sound Management of Funds for Environmental Projects

Public administrators are held accountable for the transparency of funds used on all types of projects. Their accounting skills and ability to communicate in writing and orally will help them to employ sound management of funds for environmental projects. They will be able to create cost benefit analyses to show that environmentally friendly projects are a better investment for the long-term. They can also show how changes such as green roofs and proper insulation help to save money on a short-term basis.

 

Green Urban Planning

Green urban planning is already important and will only increase in civic priorities due to increases in urban populations. According to the World Health Organization, urban populations will grow by 1.84% per year between 2015 and 2020, which is faster than that of rural communities. Large city populations mean that it is important to build energy-efficient buildings to accommodate the growing number of people. Infrastructure such as mass transit will also need to be included. Public administrators have the attention to detail and planning skills to make these changes happen.

 

Management of Environmentally Friendly Non-profit Agencies

Public administrators learn management skills, interpersonal communications and human relations skills during their time in college or at the university. These skills can help them to find jobs at non-profit organizations and agencies that are related to the protection of the environment. The courses that public administration candidates take in politics and government will also help them to navigate through the complexities of city zoning, state government lobbying and federal agencies that create the laws around environmental protection.

The leadership, analytical and communications skills that you learn while earning a public administration degree can help you to work with different groups and promote environmental awareness with every aspect of a project. If you choose to earn a graduate degree, you may even be able to become the leader of your organization and help to further the cause of environmentally friendly cities, buildings and projects.

Dixie Somers

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Steel as a building material is growing in popularity, even for residential structures. It’s actually become trendy for its variety of options, speed and ease of construction, durability, and a number of environmental benefits. If you’re an eco-friendly buyer looking to build a new home, here are five good reasons why steel is the best ecological choice in green building design.

Lower Energy Costs

As one of the strongest construction materials, steel homes can support much denser layers of insulation that traditional wooden frames that tend to absorb moisture and warp over time. It’s much easier for your HVAC system to maintain indoor temperatures, saving you money on every electric bill.

Reduced Waste

In steel construction, every piece of the structure is normally pre-measured and pre-fabricated to fit neatly together. This eliminates all the wasted material that accumulates as wooden joists and 2x4s are cut to the proper length and angle. This makes for both efficient construction and less scrap, since there’s very little clean-up to do.

Weather-Resistant

Structural steel from companies like Ashley Savage is not only stronger but more durable than wood. Special coatings may be used to make the surface of steel beams even harder and more resistant to rust or corrosion. They also are better able to withstand the stresses of high winds, flooding, fire, or earthquakes than wooden or even concrete structures. A quality steel construction can last much longer than traditional wood in regions where these conditions occur.

Environmentally Safe

Steel does not absorb moisture and does not allow harmful growths like mold, fungus, or mildew that pose health risks to your family. It also lowers the chances of insect or rodent infestations compared to wood. Steel is almost completely recyclable long after wood has dried out or rotted away.

Meets Green Building Standards

Steel homes are better able to satisfy modern standards for green home construction. These are determined by the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) criteria. You can be confident that your steel home will be healthier, safer, and longer-lasting than the typical home built today. As demand for green construction rises, steel homes are also poised to offer better resale value as well as tax and insurance credits.

Homes with modern steel frames have many advantages but few of the drawbacks of conventional wooden homes. Steel is efficient, affordable, and low-maintenance, making it the right choice for new construction.

Dixie Somers

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Bag or mulch? If you care for a lawn, undoubtedly you’ve wondered what to do with clippings. Should you collect them in a bag attached to your lawnmower or allow them to fall back on to the lawn, providing mulch for the growing grass?

 

Best to leave clippings

For lots of reasons that are good for your turf and the environment, experts say to leave the clippings. This will have the same value as one or two applications of fertilizer each year.

Your lawn management practices will depend a lot on what type of grass you have. If you have a creeping grass such as zoysia or Bermuda grass, you can cut it very close, to a half-inch or less. But upright growing grasses such as red fescue or Kentucky bluegrass should be allowed to grow between one and two inches high.

Grass clippings are mostly water and within a few days will either blow away or decompose, helping build your soil.

 

When to bag

Here are two reasons not to leave grass clippings on your lawn:

        Disease — if you see signs of fungus or other diseases, dispose of clippings, so you don’t spread the problem around.

        Too thick of grass — if you haven’t mowed in a while, and your grass is too tall, the clippings may be too heavy and could damage your lawn. If that is the case, remove them and plan to cut more regularly in the future.

What you do with clippings if you decide not to leave them on your lawn matters a lot. The last place you want them to end up is in the landfill. Does your solid waste hauler collect green waste? If so, add the clippings to the green can. Better yet, add them to your compost pile. Just be sure that you haven’t recently put a weed killer on the lawn — you don’t want that in your compost.

 

Choose wisely

Most people who bag their clippings do so for aesthetic reasons. They think the lawn looks better with the clippings removed. Clumps of clippings can look especially untidy. However, if you manage to mow often enough that the clippings are very short, most will fall into the grass and hardly be detectable. If you do have clumps, you can spread them around with a rake or run over them a second time with the lawn mower’s deck raised. If you have questions, you might contact a landscaping company like Schulhoff Tree & Lawn Care, Inc. Remember, your lawn care choices have an impact on the environment—choose wisely!

Dixie Somers

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Plenty of people have taken steps to create a more energy efficient and healthier home by switching out their light bulbs and replacing energy-hungry appliances and devices with energy sippers. It’s possible to do the same in the bathroom by selecting products that lighten the load on the environment using these tips.

 

1. Heat the Space

It may seem counterintuitive, but using a space heater in the bathroom if your home is too chilly for bathing will save energy. By themselves, space heaters are the least efficient way to heat, but in the confined space of a bathroom, the short time they run won’t impact your energy bill as much as turning up the furnace’s thermostat to heat your entire home when you only need to warm the bathroom.

 

2. Use PEVA Shower Curtains

A vinyl shower curtain spews volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your home’s air as it ages. VOCs pollute indoor air and may cause anything from respiratory irritation to serious organ and neurological damage. PEVA, short for polyethylene vinyl acetate, doesn't contain the VOCs that vinyl curtains do and is a fully biodegradable product. The packaging for the shower curtain will indicate whether it's made from PEVA.

 

3. Upgrade to WaterSense Fixtures

Faucets, showerheads and toilets that carry the WaterSense label established by the U.S. EPA use the least amount of water and are as functional as older fixtures. A commode manufactured before 1980 may use from five to seven gallons per flush, while a WaterSense toilet uses as little as 1.28 gallons per flush. According to the EPA, such a toilet can reduce household water consumption by 60 percent.

 

4. Choose Toilet Paper Wisely

Most popular toilet paper is made from cellulose harvested from trees. Look for brands that use recycled paper that hasn’t been processed with chlorine and is perfume-free. Chlorine harms the both water resources and the atmosphere. Perfumes contain harmful VOCs. Paper is also available that’s made from bamboo, which is a renewable plant that reaches maturity quickly.

 

5. Install Timers and Motion Detectors

You can find add-on motion sensors for light fixtures that will turn the light on and off in response to motion detection. Such a device eliminates the wasted energy when the bathroom is unoccupied with the lights on.

 

It’s important to use the bathroom fan to exhaust humid air, but if it’s left running, it will also pull the cooled or heated air from a fairly large area, making your HVAC system run more often. Putting it on a timer eliminates the possibility of it running for extended periods, a habit that’s just as common as forgetting to turn the lights off.

If you need help implementing any of these features into your bathroom, visit a company like Christophers Bath and Kitchens. By using their help with these tips in mind, you can make your bathrooms places that contribute to a healthier indoor environment and lower your carbon footprint without having to sacrifice any comfort or convenience.

Dixie Somers

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons via Georgie Pauwels

There is a boom happening in America, one that rivals the Industrial Revolution of the 1800's. It is quiet, but the American manufacturing sector is making a comeback in a huge way. The reasons for this can be debated, but several factors appear to be self-evident. No matter the 'primary' causes, it can't be denied that manufacturing in America is on its way back up.

Energy

Cheap energy is now and always has been the key to industrial success. Today, that energy is natural gas and oil. The invention of fracking technology and new methods for extracting oil from difficult places have had a massive effect on energy. Two rarely discusses aspects of this energy bonanza are conservation and recycling. Just a quick scan of the home page of the The US Department of Energy, shows the diversity and strength of the American energy sector.

Rising Costs Overseas

It happens every time industry moves off-shore for 'greener' (or cheaper) pastures. They end up returning to the US because those low prices don't last long and Americans are the largest consumers in the world. This was true when Taiwan and Japan received the benefits of U.S. manufacturing. It is happening now in China and India.

Efficiency

Although many CEOs will cry publicly that Americans are not as good as other workers, the American worker is more efficient than we might think. Susan Adams' article in Forbes magazine demonstrates this well, as she discusses the world’s most productive countries. And American workers are also some of the happiest according to Adams.

Business Focus

Regardless of which party is in control in Washington or the state capitols, there is a strong focus on the needs and concerns of business. From taxes and training to incentives and infrastructure, the governing bodies in the US are spending a huge amount of resources to help keep companies profitable. A look at the billions spent in Texas alone proves this.

The New Industrial Revolution is (for the most part) cleaner than the last one and is lacking some of the darker sides, like child labor and slavery. But it has all the earmarks of helping to set the US up for another century of manufacturing domination. Information for this article was provided by the professionals of Advantage Manufacturing Ltd., who specialize in aluminum fabrication in Edmonton.

Dixie Somers
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Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons via Timothy Takemoto

Recycling. It's often a controversial topic, but regardless of anyone's stance on it, there is proof that recycling makes good business sense. Reusing waste is a logical way to 'kill many birds with one stone'. Most materials, when recycled, can save time and energy that would otherwise be expended in freshly manufacturing the same type of material. This, combined with the drive to preserve our ecosystems, helps make modern recycling a multi-billion dollar industry. Here’s a look at why the recycling industry is so profitable and will only continue to grow:

Lowering Production Costs

According to the Keep America Beautiful site, recycling a single ton of steel saves almost two tons of coal and iron ore. Even in purely logistical terms, a great deal of money is saved: moving three thousand tons of materials means fuel bought and workers paid. In 2009, five million tons of steel were recovered. That means that approximately twenty million tons of coal and ore were never shipped or burned. The money saved on production costs allows the recycler to sell the reclaimed metal at a lower cost than would otherwise be possible.

Minimizing Cost of Disposal

Closer to home, neighborhood recycling programs have been able to reduce costs of waste disposal by more than $50 per ton on some occasions. This makes sense, because recycling collection companies can sell the materials they collect (particularly metals). This allows them to charge clients less, as well as reducing environmental damage by keeping garbage out of landfills.

Wide-Spread Benefits

Connected to the household aspect of recycling is that of professionals such as plumbers, electricians, and general contractors. These people work with many recyclable materials, especially those who renovate old houses and other such buildings. Copper piping, old wiring, left-over metals, and paper can all be recycled, often at a profit to the contractor.

Recycling in the 21st Century

Another growing problem is electronic waste. Many still-functioning components and metals are lost when old and broken electronics are thrown away. However, in recent years, the importance of recycling has drawn more attention. Large electronic stores offer "trade-in" discounts: Turning in old electronics can get consumers credit towards new items. Making recycling directly profitable to consumers has gone a long way towards reducing waste.

Recycling Creates Jobs

With the difficulties in the economy today, one aspect of recycling stands out. Recycling creates jobs. Wherever there is a demand, someone will build a business to answer that demand. Recycling demand means business, business means jobs, and jobs mean money. The American entrepreneurial spirit has been turning garbage into money for decades and it's not likely to stop anytime soon.

Whatever your opinion on the practice of recycling, there are plenty of reasons why it is now a multi-billion industry and will continue to grow at this rate. The information for this article was provided by the professionals of King Recycling & Waste Disposal Inc., who offer recycling and disposal bin services in Toronto.

Dixie Somers

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Innovations continue to emerge as business and governmental agencies step up to the challenge of reducing solid waste. From planning for the future to large-scale examples of best practices in waste-stream sorting, here are five intriguing advancements in recycling:

1. Design for Recycling

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries recognizes advancements in this area with an annual award. Samsung Electronics America won the award in 2016 for its design of a TV incorporating snap-together parts instead of screws, allowing a recycler to disassemble it in ten minutes or less.

2. Wear. Donate. Recycle.

Did you know the average person in the U.S. throws away 70 pounds of clothing and textiles each year? Some municipalities are considering textile recycling programs or even fining residents who throw away clothing instead of donating it.

The Council for Textile Recycling works to create awareness among consumers, charities, recyclers and others and has a goal of zero textile waste going to landfills by 2037. So expect to see much more of their slogan, “Wear. Donate. Recycle.”

3. Sink Your Shucks

You might not realize that even natural materials can have uses beyond the landfill. Consider oyster shells, as an example. A recycling program in Texas called "Sink Your Shucks" takes oyster shells discarded by seafood processors and uses them to restore ocean reefs. In August 2016 they celebrated recycling one million pounds of oyster shells this way. That's making a difference!

4. In-house Options

Businesses that end up with lots of cardboard boxes — and needs packing material for shipping — have found a great solution with industrial cardboard shredders such as those offered by Advantage Business Equipment. Not only do they provide a sustainable way to get rid of cardboard, but the shredders can also pay for themselves very quickly by supplying the business with virtually free packing material.

5. Smart Waste Management

As communities struggle with lower commodity prices, they're looking for ideas to streamline and improve their recycling efforts. A great example is the Southern Nevada Recycling Center in Las Vegas, operated by Republic Services and winner of the 2016 Gold Excellence Award in the Recycling Systems category from the Solid Waste Association of North. It's huge—110,000 square feet—and is capable of processing 70 tons of waste per hour through its material recovery facility.

Fortunately, there are many great examples of environmental stewardship as efforts continue to make the most of our resources, protect the environment and create a sustainable future. Keep yourself informed on new ways that you can save the environment through recycling.

Dixie Somers

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Environmentally conscious individuals are taking the time to reduce their carbon footprint on a daily basis by making better and greener decisions. Adopting more eco-friendly habits is something that will develop over time, but it can start with something as little as using water filtration bottles or reusable grocery bags. These little efforts make a big difference.

Every person that's living a greener life is making a long-term difference in the world, but the changes need to be made at a bigger level. One place where changes are being adopted and embraced is in the sports stadium. Stadiums have been huge waste generators for years, but here's how some stadiums are going from part of the problem to a greener eco-arena.

 

Saving Energy with Sustainable Sources

Some of the newer stadiums that are being erected around the nation use more than just fossil fuel energy to power the bright lights and the video boards that the arena needs for an exciting fan experience. Thankfully, eco-arenas focus on sustainability and are not 100 percent reliant on carbon emitting sources.

Metlife Stadium set the precedent for green initiatives by making a commitment to operate a sustainable stadium, and others are following suit. More and more stadiums are using solar panels, wind turbines, and cooking oil for biodiesel fuel just so that they save electrical use. Stadiums like Lincoln Financial Field have installed 11,000 solar panels as a part of their "Go Green" campaign that has made a real difference in Philadelphia energy consumption.

 

Reflective Rooftops and Plant Life Insulation

Another way to curb consumption is to use different materials in the construction of the stadium. When the roof is allowing heat transference or cold influxes into the open space, more has to be spent to control the temperature in the environment. This is why some arenas use reflective rooftops to combat the temperature-rising UVs and plant life to help insulate the interior space.

 

Implementing Recycling Programs

No state requires a team or an arena to recycle but recycling programs are being implemented more and more. By placing more recycling bins throughout the arena and putting signs that encourage recycling all throughout the bathrooms and the concession areas, teams like the Diamondbacks have recycled 95 tons of material in just 9 months. This dramatically reduces waste.

Sports teams generate so much revenue each year. Since sports are a huge form of entertainment in the US, efforts made in the arena to become green can trickle down to fans. Each year, more and more arenas will go from energy hogs to eco-arenas that consume only sustainable energy.

Dixie Somers

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Let's be honest, we spend a lot of time in the bathroom. It's our first stop in the morning and our last stop before bed. It is the room in which we perform all of our self-care routines and maintain our health and cleanliness. But, it is also the room in which we produce the most waste. From excessive water usage to immense paper waste and chemical cleaners, the refuse never seems to end. Luckily, transforming your bathroom into an eco-friendly paradise is easy. Once you decide to make the change, you can create a green and healthy room that will benefit you and the environment. Here are some do-it-yourself home improvement tips and tricks to give your bathroom the green makeover it needs.

 

1. Use Recycled Toilet Paper

Next time you are shopping at the grocery store, make sure you pick up toilet paper made from recycled materials. According to Greenpeace, if every family in America bought just one roll of recycled toilet paper, it could save 400,000 trees. Check out great brands like Green Forest and 365 for toilet paper that is not made from virgin boreal forest trees and does not use toxic chlorine compounds.

 

2. Install a Low-flow Toilet

Did you know that your toilet consumes approximately 27% of the total water used in your home? That’s more than any other appliance! Replacing your old toilet with a newer, low-flow model can save up to 5.5 gallons per flush. But, if buying a new toilet is not in your budget right now, you can still go green by installing a dual-flusher. This gives you a choice of how much water to use per flush based on the type of waste. DIY kits comes pretty inexpensively and can be used to update your current toilet.

 

3. Install a Low-flow Shower Head

In the same vein as tip number 2, installing a low-flow shower head can help save water. Experts say taking a short shower can cut down on water usage, but if you are someone who likes a longer shower, installing a low-flow shower head can cut down your water usage without lowering the water pressure. In addition to the water you will be saving, you will also be saving on your heating bill. This upgrade is inexpensive and simple to install yourself, but contact a company like Puget Sound Plumbing if you have any concerns.

 

4. Avoid Disposable Clean-Up Products

It can be very tempting, but try to steer clear from disposable cleaning products. Toilet paper should be the only disposable product in your eco-friendly bathroom. Instead of paper towels and disposable wet wipes, use washable towels and rags to clean off surfaces. In fact, nowadays more and more cleaners are being sold in refillable containers. Instead of throwing out a perfectly usable spray bottle and buying a new one, you can refill and reuse the original.

 

5. Use Green or Homemade Cleaners

Why is it that the room we use to clean ourselves is often the dirtiest and most filled with chemicals? By purchasing green and organic products, not only are you creating a smaller environmental footprint, but you are also ensuring your body's health and safety. Conventional cleaning products are often full of chemicals and toxic preservatives which are hazardous to you and the planet. Brands like Mrs. Meyers, Method, and Seventh Generation all make great eco-friendly cleaning products. You could also take it one step further and create your own homemade, eco-friendly cleaning products. Simple ingredients from your kitchen such as baking soda, vinegar, club soda, and lemon juice can go a long way.

Using these tips, the process of making your bathroom greener is cost-effective and simple. Whether it be installing low-flow appliances or purchasing natural cleaning products, there are many ways to do your part and go green. Making the switch to an eco-friendly bathroom will help make your home and the Earth a healthier, safer, and greener place to live.

Dixie Somers

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As the problem of e-waste looms ever larger in the consciousness of the American public, understanding what to do with those unwanted electronics can still be a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, there are plenty of reputable electronics recyclers where you can take your e-junk. At the same time, there are some important things you should know about recycling your electronics to ensure they end up in the right hands.

Not All Electronics Recyclers Are Created Equal

There are plenty of companies that offer to take your old electronics off your hands. It’s important, though, to understand what happens to those items once they’re carted away. A reputable company, such as Ranch Town Recycling Center Inc., will tear the electronics down to their individual component parts which can then be recycled. A less-reputable company may just sell the electronics in bulk to an overseas processor that will then allow the electronics to pollute the water and land of people in other countries.

Electronics Recycling Is Smart

While it might seem easier to simply send your old electronics to the landfill, that action can cause great harm to the environment. Electronics contain a multitude of harmful chemicals that can leach into the environment, leading to health issues for people down the road. By responsibly recycling your electronics, you ensure that these chemicals stay out of the land and water and that the materials in the electronics are given a new life.

Electronics Recycling Is the Law

In many municipalities, it is illegal to dispose of electronic waste in a landfill. Government leaders understand the data and realize that they don’t want all those toxic materials in the land and water that they, too, use. Some areas have stiff financial penalties if you’re caught improperly disposing of your electronics, so just do yourself and your city a favor and recycle those out-of-date e-devices.

Electronics Recycling Sets You Up for Future Success

Today’s electronic devices are marvels of technical wizardry. At the heart of these devices are various materials, many of which are actually quite rare. If you throw your electronics in the landfill, these materials can never be recovered, meaning they have to continue to be mined with greater and greater difficulty. If you recycle your electronics, however, you help ensure that there is a healthy supply of these materials for generations to come, ensuring that the fast pace of technological innovation can continue.

The World You Leave Behind

If you enjoy the use of electronic devices, chances are that you’ve been dealt at least an okay hand in life. Take the time to do something tangible to ensure the life you’ve gotten to enjoy is the life that future generations can enjoy, as well. Electronics recycling is an easy yet important way to ensure that future generations can enjoy the beautiful and amazing earth that we enjoy today.

Dixie Somers

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According to research conducted by Stanford University, only about 60% to 80% of all eligible garbage is actually recycled. Why, though? Recycling is the process by which certain reusable materials are sorted from general garbage, reduced to their basic components, and then re-manufactured into a new product thus preventing unnecessary waste.

Recycling is important because many of the materials that can be re-purposed through this process would otherwise become dangerous contaminants if they were left to slowly decompose in a landfill. Certain plastics, for instance, can poison ground water resources if left untreated and exposed in the local waste dump, and other recyclables like paper and cardboard can degrade and obstruct ditches, drains, and other public utility resources. But how do waste management companies help fight these problems?

By Efficiently Streamlining the Recycling Process

Waste management companies often provide a system by which different kinds of recyclables can be stored, sorted, and picked up. Many waste management companies provide their constituents with different, distinct, recycling receptacles that make sorting potentially conflicting materials much easier. This is particularly important, as it is the primary cause for the problems outlined in the Stanford Study referenced above.

Certain kinds of materials cannot be easily recycled when they are mixed with other recyclable substances. Broken glass is a good example of this issue. Most types of glass can be recycled, and most types of paper can be recycled. But if paper is stored with used (often shattered) glass products, the paper can become so contaminated with tiny, minute, shards of glass that it cannot be properly deconstructed and reformed. In short, waste management companies like Green Bins provide a system that easily minimizes these issues.

By Making Recycling Easier on You

Most waste management companies also provide incentives to recycle like paying small amounts of money for the collection of certain valuable materials like tin from cans or copper from industrial goods. In this way, waste management companies can give participants an immediate reward for helping with the environment.

Many such companies will also rent dumpsters out for private use. These dumpster renting companies help in waste management by providing small businesses a more eco-friendly way of disposing of their trash, sorting their recyclables, and storing environmentally corrosive substances like old paint and kitchen grease.

Practical Environmental Responsibility

By organizing recycling systems, giving incentives for community participation, and providing customers with things like for-rent dumpsters, waste management companies play a crucial role in local environmental health and safety efforts. If you’re about to begin a big project, or you just want more information on how you can help, contact a local recycling or waste management organization today.

Dixie Somers

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Kudos to you for caring about our precious planet! As a business owner, you can protect our environment on a broad scale. One significant way is using eco-friendly equipment. By doing so, you'll reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption. You'll also save money. Here are five types of gadgets with Earth-saving features.

 

1. Recycled Calculators

Equip your staff with calculators made of recycled plastic that run on solar power. Some devices are advertised as being free of lead and mercury. Some companies go a step farther, with packaging and instructions made of recycled paper. Examples of companies selling these gadgets are Canon, Sharp, and Staples. Canon recycles plastic from its old copiers. Staples offers one made of recycled toner and ink cartridges, keeping them out of landfills.

 

2. Eco-Friendly Printers

You'll reduce paper waste via printers with recycled cartridges and few consumable parts. An ENERGY STAR rating indicates high energy efficiency. Color laser printers have the largest number of consumable parts. When shopping for a printer, choose one with separate toner and drum cartridges. These are the least wasteful. Ideally, purchase an ozone-free printer that uses recycled cartridges.

 

3. Computer Power Savers

Power savers save electricity and reduce carbon emissions by powering down computers when not in use. Plug a unit into your USB port, and load the software. Then press the button before leaving your desk, and the gadget puts your computer into energy-saving mode. This power suspension is almost equivalent to turning off your machine. Upon returning, tap any key, and your computer powers up.

It's estimated that using this device on a single computer can prevent 135kg of carbon emissions per year. A business with 50 computers saves at least $1,500 in electric bills and 6.8 tons of CO2 annually. These merits accrue when non-machine use averages two hours per day. Although it's possible to navigate menus to access energy-saving mode, the average employee won't bother since it's time-consuming. A power-saving device is both user-friendly and gratifying. Research cites another benefit of power-saving devices. They motivate consumers to turn off lights and unplug appliances when not in use.

 

4. Solar Panels

Solar systems are now used by 22 percent of city buildings and 5 percent of commercial buildings in the US. As a business owner, you can significantly reduce and possibly eliminate your electric bill. What you're spending on electricity now is likely much higher than what you'll pay for solar long-term.

Houston Chronicle reports that installing solar panels is a sound business investment. Government incentives and lower installation costs make switching to solar economical. Most panels carry a 25-year warranty. A panel system needs little or no maintenance, working efficiently for 25 to 40 years.

If your system generates more electricity than your business uses, your net electricity cost will be $0. To remain linked to the electrical grid, you'll pay a minimal connection fee, usually $100 per year. While saving money, you'll help reduce carbon emissions and air pollution. You can also use going solar as a marketing tool. Customers respond positively to eco-friendly businesses.

So, how does a solar panel work? This device converts sunlight into electricity, using conductive metalloid wafers called solar cells. When light particles strike a solar cell, they generate an electric charge. Multiple charges create a steady flow of energy.

Solar cells are packed into circuits called modules. One or more modules make up a solar panel. When mounted on a rooftop, the panels receive sunlight. The resulting direct current (DC) is converted to alternating current (AC) by a device called an inverter. AC then powers your lights and machines. Visit a vendor like ML Solar if you’re interested in getting solar panels.

 

5. Eco-Friendly Vending Machines

A standard vending machine uses 3500–4000 kilowatt hours per year, consumed by refrigeration and lighting. Eco-friendly models significantly cut energy expenditure, some slashing it by half! Other features that are kind to our environment are LED lighting and energy-efficient cooling units.

Motion sensors and standby mode further reduce energy consumption by 20 percent. Some companies provide remote inventory monitoring. Many vendors are now offering healthy snacks, organic coffee, hot food, frozen treats, and fresh fruit. Dual controls maintain both hot and cold foods at proper temps inside one machine.

 

ENERGY STAR Business Support

If you own a small company, consider joining the ENERGY STAR Small Business Network. As a member, you'll receive free information and technical support for reducing energy waste and costs. You'll learn business practices that protect our environment. You can display the ENERGY STAR promotional mark, showing the public your company is dedicated to saving energy.

Tools from the Environmental Protection Agency help you track water and energy consumption. Expert assistance is at your disposal for improving efficiency, such as the "Ask a Technical Question" service. Resources are also tailored to the following types of small businesses:

  • auto dealers
  • convenience and grocery stores
  • lodging
  • manufacturers
  • offices
  • restaurants

 

Gadgets Large and Small

As a business owner, you can help protect our environment in numerous ways. Using eco-friendly equipment is one substantial way. Our world needs more Earth-minded entrepreneurs like you!

Dixie Somers

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Every time you do business with a company, you’re indirectly supporting them. If you purchase from a company that’s committed to environmental issues, you’re helping to protect the environment. But if you’re providing profits to a company that’s heedless of green practices, you’re working against the environment. In many cases, the difference is not so obvious. Here are some ways to tell whether a business is eco-friendly.

Internet Searches

The easiest way to check on a company’s reputation is to type their name into a search engine along with a word or phrase like “eco-friendly” or “environmental policy”. If that company has any associations with green practices, something will come up, either positive or negative. Companies that are dedicated to the environment will share news of initiatives, partners, philanthropic support, and related activities. Ecologically harmful companies, on the other hand, will be linked to EPA violations, toxicity law suits, and similar accusations.

Look for Evidence

Some companies claim to be eco-friendly when their green initiatives are non-existent or marginal at best. It’s a baseless PR tactic. Instead of accepting such claims on the company site or social media conversations, check for things like sustainability or social responsibility releases. Truly green businesses will often publish data or reports providing documentation of their efforts. You may find links to these reports or external sites where they can be found. Claims are one thing, but fully prepared reports, especially if they have the approval of an environmental body or organization, are harder to fake.

Check for Awards or Certifications

You can also search the websites of reputable environmental organizations to see if the company has earned any awards or mentions. It’s easy enough for imposters to present a eco-friendly logo on their site, but a real organization will be able to verify this. If the company is making any claims for a particular cause, such as saving endangered species or eliminating greenhouse gases, find a charitable organization related to this and see if it can be corroborated.

Learn About the Company

Explore the company’s website to discover what kind of practices they engage in. For instance, metal companies should be using aluminum or powder coatings, such as those by Rattray Blasting & Coating, to prevent rust or heavy metals from leaching into the environment. Do a little research to understand what eco-friendly standards for its industry the company should observe and whether they’re mentioned. Don’t be shy about contacting the company directly to ask questions. If they’re proud of their green strategy, they’ll be happy to talk about it.

A little bit of research will tell you whether a company really is eco-friendly. If they don’t appear to be, you should reconsider supporting them.

Dixie Somers

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The desire for better fuel economy is not a new trend. For decades, automotive manufacturers and designers have been coming up with ways to help the consumer in getting more miles out of their gas tanks. The latest technologies in the fuel economy arena show a lot of promise in taking fuel economy to a new level. Let’s take a look as some of the most interesting advancements to keep your eyes on.

 

Advanced Cylinder Deactivation

While cylinder deactivation was originally introduced in the early 80’s with Cadillac's V864 engine, it only became commonplace a few years ago with improved electronics and a better fuel system then Cadillac’s pioneering model. One fuel saving technology to keep an eye out for will be advancements to this technology. Look for cylinder deactivation engines that run longer on fewer cylinders, thanks to added sensors and a more sophisticated control algorithm that could potentially reduce fuel consumption by 15 percent.

 

Fuel-Cell Plug-In Hybrids

The hydrogen fuel-cell may finally make its debut. As of now, the fuel cell is going to be expensive and the infrastructure for refueling is still foggy. One solution to these problems was actually shown by Ford almost 10 years ago when they displayed their Airstream concept. The Airstream used a plug-in-hybrid layout that created better usability and a better cost balance. The fuel cell would act as a range extender while a capacitor or battery handled fluctuating power demands that are prevalent in everyday driving.

 

Engines with No Camshaft

Yep, you read that correctly. Even though designers and engineers have gotten very close to optimal valve lift, timing, and cam phasing, there is little more they can achieve with the traditional camshaft. Unlike the loud, energy-draining hydraulic and electromechanical solenoids like those used in a lab test for cam profiles, the introduction of a 48-volt electrical system, see below, and smaller engines make the idea of having camless engines a very real possibility in the not-too-distant future. Instead of a rotating camshaft, each cylinder would have a dedicated actuator that would be precisely timed for the needed power demand. This design would allow for optimal timing across all cylinders and would result in superb fuel efficiency.

 

48-Volt Electrical System

Let’s face it, the internal-combustion engine has dominated the automotive industry pretty much ever since there was an automotive industry. Even though there is a huge push for total electric vehicles, the lack of a refueling infrastructure and global manufacturing realities, the internal-combustion engine will probably remain the dominant power plant for quite some time. One way engineers are working to make these engines more efficient is by using a 48-volt electrical system to replace the current 12-volt system. Since there are so many components on the modern automobile that drain power and energy from them, a 48-volt system opens the possibility of advancements such as camless engines, replacing mechanical accessories like air conditioning and power steering pumps with electric alternatives, and have plenty of power left over for other features. This reduction in loads on the engine can increase fuel efficiency by 10 percent.

 

Electric Superchargers

Another advancement that would be made possible with a 48-volt electrical system is the electric supercharger. Audi is already using this technology on their SQ7 TDI and it is rational to think there will be plenty more to follow. Such an advancement means that cars equipped with cylinder deactivation can run longer on fewer cylinders. If additional power is needed, the supercharger will kick in and when the car travels downhill, the airflow will drive the electric motor in the supercharger, sending power back to the battery.  Visit a supply shop like Arnold Motor Supply if you have questions.

 

While there are plenty of other technologies on the horizon designed to improve the fuel efficiency of our vehicles, we selected these five for their plausibility and the amount of an impact they would, will, or do have in the modern vehicle. You might consider contacting an auto shop if you have questions about how your specific vehicle can have better fuel efficiency.

Dixie Somers

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Many people attempt to find coffee that tastes great and is also eco-friendly. Although there are several different types of coffee available for purchase, many coffee trees are mass-produced in remote locations, generate a great deal of waste, and are sprayed with harmful pesticides. If you are environmentally conscious and care deeply about the future of the earth, then you may want to consider some eco-friendly coffee options.

 

Is Your Coffee Fair Trade?

On coffee packages, many manufacturers will state whether a coffee has a fair trade certification. Fair trade coffee is usually grown by small, independent farmers who adhere to a certain set of rules. Although these coffees usually adhere to a democratic process and do not hire children as laborers, the growers also try to use minimal pesticides. In general, these particular growers try and produce coffee while minimizing the impact on the economy.

 

Picking Organic Coffee

When purchasing your cup of coffee, does the shop describe it as organic? Organic coffees, such as the Green Mountain coffee from 11th Street Coffee, can be better for the environment because the farmers limit the use of harmful pesticides. Most organic coffee farmers also rotate the crops routinely which helps to prevent soil erosion and loss of valuable nutrients within the soil.

 

Shade Grown Coffee

In many parts of the world, coffee farmers will mow down large, dense forests to make way for the crop. This can lead to massive deforestation, which can affect the local and global ecosystem.  However, some coffees will have the phrase "shade grown" on their labels, which means that they are grown under a canopy of trees or in a shaded area. Shade grown coffees tend to require less water and the waste from the coffee tree can help provide nutrients to the soil. These particular coffee trees also provide shade and shelter to birds in the local area, which helps to promote biodiversity when it pertains to wildlife and also plants.

 

Try and Buy Local

One great way to limit the impact on the economy is to always try and buy locally. Purchasing coffee that was farmed locally will help limit carbon dioxide emissions. Buying locally can be one step to addressing climate change, a drastic environmental issue that affects all of us.

 

Just remember, you can enjoy a cup of coffee that was grown in an eco-friendly manner. Make sure to study the various types of coffee available and find a few options that taste great and were also produced in a manner that minimizes waste and limits the use of pesticides

Dixie Somers

Do you want your home to be environmentally-friendly? Not only is that better for the environment, but it can also save you a lot of money in terms of utilities. It may even improve your home values if you ever decide to sell or take out an equity line of credit—home buyers today are increasingly interested in green renovations. Here are a few of the best modern green renovations for homeowners.

1. Smart Energy Use

New smart energy systems can monitor the amount of electricity you use and let you control all of your appliances and electronics through your smartphone. Monitoring your energy usage enables you to cut back on your spending if it gets too high, while the ability to turn off appliances and electronics on the fly means that you'll never forget something on. These new smart energy systems are usually Wi-Fi configured so they can be used from anywhere, and they can be easily installed on a home's existing electricity system, making them convenient as well.

2. Eco-Friendly Water Filtration

Water filtration systems are incredibly important for an eco-friendly home. Without water filtration and treatment, a fair amount of households rely upon bottled water. Americans use about 50 billion plastic water bottles each year. Not only does bottled water introduce unnecessary plastics into the environment, but it also takes waters from areas that may desperately need it, upsetting the local ecosystems. Water is also costly to ship from the bottling plants, which further increases its carbon footprint. Nevertheless, tap water is often not entirely safe to drink. A filtration system will give a homeowner the option of safely drinking water from their home. Visit a professional at Rooter Pro Plumbing for more information about the water filtration systems available for your home.

3. Indoor Composting Systems

Indoor composting systems are state-of-the-art kitchen renovations with no odor or mess. These composting systems take your kitchen food waste and turn it into a nutritious compost to grow herbs and other plant directly within your kitchen. Not only does this improve your food's sustainability, but it also reduces the amount of leftovers you waste -- and replaces a garbage disposal almost entirely. An indoor composting system is run by small and harmless parasites that are able to compost your kitchen materials without the traditional odors of composting. These systems are generally built directly into a kitchen island.

These are just three of the best green innovations for your home. There are dozens of ways that you can lower your home's carbon footprint, from simply improving your home's insulation to installing advanced smart home systems.

Dixie Somers

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Everyone who lives off the grid has their own reasons for doing so. It might be political, economical, environmental or some other reason. But whatever your motivation for choosing this lifestyle, there are a few basic ideas that you need to get straight in order to make this successful for you and your family. Texas is a great place to live off the grid. Below are four things you must have to live comfortably in this way.

Food

For many people, living off the grid and homesteading is a very attractive way of life, and living off the land is one of the best parts of that lifestyle. You’re going to want to grow your own fruits and vegetables, and you’ll probably raise your own livestock for meat as well.

You can start small with a vegetable garden and a few fruit trees and supplement these with eggs for protein by having a henhouse with a handful of hens and a rooster. This is enough to get you started, but you can upgrade as you go, depending on your land and space available.

Water

Water will be your greatest concern in some parts of Texas, especially during the sweltering months of summer. An ideal location would have running water coming through your land as a stream or river, but these can be difficult parcels to come across. If you’re looking to buy a modern home that is already built, then search homes for sale in rural areas and check Google maps to look at water features in the region.

If you don’t have running water you can try drilling a well to pump your own water. You’ll need the proper permits and licenses, so check your local ordinances to stay in compliance and avoid unnecessary hassles. You can also collect rainwater by setting up a catchment system and water tank to store it during the dryer seasons. Make sure to have UV systems to kill bacteria and filters in place between your tank and your home. You can also install fixtures within the home that have filters attached.

Electricity

To get your electricity off grid, you’ll need solar panels, a wind turbine or a combination of both. Your particular set up will depend on your area and what kind of wind you’re able to get. Also keep in mind that some regulations might prevent you from having a tall wind turbine, so double check that before you purchase anything.

Waste Management

For sanitary reasons, you’re going to need to install some kind of waste management system. It doesn’t necessarily have to be very complicated, but again you will need to comply with local ordinances. You can install a cesspool or septic tank in the ground, and this will probably be fine for most families.

The decision to live off grid is not one to be taken lightly. There’s a lot of preparation that you’ll need to do in order to live comfortably and to avoid any tangles with local government. By doing your homework and following the rules in your area you can get yourself set up with a wonderful property, a beautiful home and a sustainable lifestyle that you will enjoy for years to come.

Dixie Somers
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Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons via Mackenzie

Anyone who lives in a city is aware of the negative environmental impacts of the transportation industry. Most cars on the road today still have internal combustion engines that emit large amounts of carbon and other pollutants. Even seemingly clean alternatives, such as electric subways and trains, still release tons of carbon annually. In all, according to the EPA, transportation was responsible for emission of just under two thousand million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, just in the U.S. Coupled with the struggle to reduce emissions is the growing population both in the U.S. (0.77% annually) and globally (just over 1% annually). Thus, the transportation industry is in a paradox of increased demand, concurrent with a need for greener practices. Additionally, many "green" technologies are projected to not be available until 2020 or later. So, what's being done to remedy the situation?

Lesser Evils

As mentioned above, cars are an obvious source of emissions. Large amounts of carbon are emitted to transport a few individuals or less. Therefore, a common solution, especially in large urban areas, is the implementation of policies encouraging people to use public transportation. Electric trains and subways do produce emissions, but are negligible compared to gas powered vehicles. But, objectively, how much greener are these forms of transport? According to a 2008 analysis of carbon pathways in transportation, switching from car to rail transportation saves an average of 106g of carbon dioxide per kilometer traveled. This may sound insignificant. But, according to The Washington Post, the average American's commute is 25 miles. So, if we extrapolate and convert this figure, the average American would reduce his or her annual carbon emissions by 2444 lbs, assuming a five day a week commute.

Tech Savvy Trucking

Given that gas cars won't be off the road in the foreseeable future, there's another solution to carbon emissions from transportation that can be applied on the road. Between integrative software from IBM and a growing demand from inefficient tractor trailers and trucks, the carbon emissions due to trucking are projected to decrease significantly in the coming years.

The transportation industry is facing growing demand in addition to growing pressure to go green. However, an industry this large takes time to implement widespread changes. While many green technologies are still being developed, proactive measures can be taken. The transportation industry needs help. But it has solutions, both on the road and off. The information for this article was provided by the professionals of 99 Truck Parts & Industrial Equipment Ltd., who specialize in truck parts in Surrey.

Dixie Somers
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Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons via Hernan Pinera

Our world is more prone to both man-made and natural disasters than any time in history, but technology is moving forward even faster. New materials and methods of testing allow us to build buildings which are modern, safe, and environmentally friendly. Here are four ways that new technology is making our buildings and structures safer and better protected than ever before.

Metamaterials

Earthquakes are destructive because of the wavelengths their shock waves emit. Metamaterials are special because they are capable of taking advantage of properties not seen in nature, and can "cloak" buildings by modifying the soil to divert the energy from earthquakes. Most importantly, the technology could be used to prevent the destruction of important infrastructure such as the national power grid, water transportation systems, and skyscrapers.

Non-destructive Testing

This is a technique often employed to examine the composition and durability of a variety of materials with which buildings are constructed. Companies like 20/20 NDT Inc. who specialize in non-destructive testing in Fort St. John, will use non-invasive techniques to inspect structures for even the smallest problems in order to prevent against disasters and make adjustments for safety. New methods of non-destructive testing (NDT) are becoming available because of technological advancements in the sciences of ultrasonic, radiography, and low coherence interferometry. There has also been a wave of tiny new hand-held devices which have contributed to the convenience of testing. NDT is making the process of constructing safer buildings much cheaper as a result.

3D Printing

Homes have been constructed using concrete for a long time, and age is a major factor in the long-term viability of the substance. 3D printing uses concrete as well, but is designed to use specialized additives which some tests have shown to be ten times as durable while lasting twice as long as traditional materials. As long as the building undergoes the same stringent building regulations as those that aren't 3D printed, experts maintain the building is safer.

Smart Materials

Like metamaterials, smart materials exhibit properties which can help prevent damage due to natural disasters or external threats such as terrorism. New shape memory alloys can endure physical stress without breaking, and bounce back to their original form when the stress is reduced. This technology would be especially helpful for updating bridges and creating a more modern alternative to pavement.

In the future, these same technologies will allow us to build taller, stronger buildings which are nearly impossible to topple through conventional means. The real question is when this will come to fruition—since metamaterials, 3D printing, and smart materials are still years away from providing the speed and cost-effectiveness we require to push the technologies mainstream.