Thursday, June 4, 2009

Will this be here when I'm old?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Prop's to Ukrops!

Here's another post moved over from Conscious Lifestyle. Ukrop's is actually a local organization here, and I actually used to work for it.

Ukrop's, a community-serving and environmentally friendly grocery chain in Virginia, has begun another sustainable program. The supermarkets, which fry their own chicken, will use the soy oil from the fryers to convert into bio fuel.

Southside Fuel, a local company, will process the used oil from the frying vats into a standard 15 percent biodiesel, the most that the current trucks can handle.

Ukrop's expects to produce around 60,000 gallons of bio fuel each year, about one fourth of its needs. This is really an incredible amount and will really cut down on their carbon emissions.

These types of changes are the ones that our country really needs. Not only seeking out alternative energy sources, but the ones that are already lying in front of us. The chicken oil was already in the store, without any further purpose. What a great way to recycle and reuse a substance that would have gone to waste!

Many other stores and restaurants could switch to this method, saving them money and decreasing their carbon footprints. We don't necessarily have to grow corn and soy for the sole purpose of creating fuel - this method causes many criticisms and concerns. We can just creatively utilize the resources we already have.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Check Out Eco Chic

Here's another post I wrote while at Conscious Lifestyle - I think it's worth a look back, especially for the great product.

A new clothing line called Nature89 is now offering eco-friendly wear, both trendy and comfortable. The company sells a variety of products including tanks, hoodies, printed tees, polos, skirts and shorts. The style is classic casual with functional elements. Prices range mostly from $15 to $35. Both men's and women's wear are offered.

All clothing is made from organic and pesticide-free cotton, eco-friendly dyes, and water-based inks. The entire collection is certified 100% organic.

Nature89 was founded by apparel entrepreneur Tariq Huq and a team of designers. They are committed to fair trade and to the environment. Besides being eco-friendly, the clothing line does not use any child labor, and all adult workers are provided a fair wage. 1% of its sales is donated towards the preservation of nature.

I really like the look of the the short-sleeve Elsa Hoodie, pictured above. This adorable hoodie, with cute rhinestones on the chest and front kangaroo pockets, is available in three colors and four sizes (S-XL). I think it looks trendy and very wearable.

The Essential Krista Camisole is another piece I like a lot. It's made of organic light-weight cotton and available in two colors (rose and violet). It looks like something I could layer with another top and wear to the mall, and something comfortable enough to put on for a pajama party.

There are many other cute pieces of clothing on the website, Click the link to make a purchase or to learn more about Nature89.

And no, I am not affiliated with the company in anyway, just in case you are wondering :).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Drilling in the Arctic

Another one of my posts from Conscious Lifestyle.

Scientists have discovered that there is a large fossil fuel reserve underneath the ice of the Arctic. This massive reserve may contain up a fifth of the world's oil- 90 billion barrels, and a third of the known reserves of gas.

Yes! We are SAVED from the energy crisis!

I don't think so.

Let's skip the part about oil drilling ruining the Arctic environment. It is important, it is relevant, but it is always the same argument back and forth. Wildlife...or human desire? Environmentalists pitted against the oil executives. Sadly, usually greed for fuel wins out, and another piece of nature is marred by development.

The main issue is, as long as we depend on oil, we will always be threatened by an impending energy crisis. Discovering new reserves only changes whether or not the "doomsday" will arrive in ten years or in twenty years. All the same, our focus should be on lessening our usage of fossil fuels and concentrating on renewable energy.

Two scenarios can occur. Countries can rush to the Arctic, dig up the treasure, and a glut of oil will appear on the market. Prices will drop, consumers will go mad, oil will be used like crazy. All of our old problems will come back. Pollution, global warming, endangered species, etc., possibly worse than before. Soon, the excess oil will run out, and we will be back to square one.

Another situation: we remain calm and allow the reserves to sit there. We keep on raising fuel efficiency and conserving current reserves. We develop alternative energy. We learn how to cut back on usage (hey, a century and a half ago our ancestors did fine, right?). Our world may not ever be as healthy as it was before humans arrived, but in time it should heal.

It is easier said than done. But it is something that must be done.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stretching the Water Supply

Here is another post that I wrote for Conscious Lifestyle, now Sparkseed.

Water is everywhere right? Yes and no. Sure, the wondrous liquid surrounds us everywhere we turn, but the vast majority of it is not fresh, drinkable water. Only about 3 percent of the total water on the planet is freshwater, and only a tiny fraction of that 3 percent is actually available to humans. Most freshwater is locked up in ice caps and glaciers. However, the price of water is extraordinarily cheap, and most people use it without a second thought. Environmentalists direly predict that the next world wars will be fought over precious water.

What are some solutions?

Desalination can be used to transform salt water to freshwater. However, this process can only be viably done in coastal areas and is quite expensive, because it takes an enormous amount of energy. Some places, such as the Middle East, are experimenting with desalination. Read more about it at National Geographic.

Cloud seeding is another option. In this procedure, silver nitrate is planted into clouds to promote rain. Today, Texas uses cloud seeding over a third of its area. However, conditions have to be very specific for the process to be effective. Additionally, there are concerns about the chemicals used raining down onto earth, and the fact that artificially producing rain in one area is robbing another area of rainfall. Here's an article about cloud seeding at ABC News.

Withdrawing greater amounts of groundwater may be feasible, but this too has some disadvantages. If the water table becomes too depleted, the ground above it may actually sink down into a depression. By the coast, low levels of groundwater may lead to salt water intrusion, where water from the ocean actually pushes into the groundwater system.

The best strategy? It may be boring and trite, but conserve water! This does not have to be a painful process. Turn off faucets tightly to prevent leaks, install water-saving showerheads and toliets, and don't use sprinklers mindlessly. If you're really feeling adventurous, save leftover water from rinsing dishes to water plants. Small changes can have big impacts in the future.

This image is from the New York State Assembly.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Debt-for-Nature Swaps

Hello everyone! I would like to post another one of my posts from Conscious Lifestyle, this time about the wonderful debt-for-nature swaps.

Ever heard of a debt-for-nature swap? As strange as it sounds, it is a wonderful way to aid poor countries and preserve biodiversity at the same time.

Third World countries face a dilemma: how do they save their precious habitats and at the same time provide for the growing population? Not surprisingly, the people take priority. Therefore, pristine environmental locations are destroyed in the race for new resources and new farmland. These habitats contain varieties of specialized species and exotic plants that may only be found in that one place. Though these developing countries may be internationally pressured to conserve their environment, they simply cannot afford to set aside tracts of land and maintain them.

Even worse, many of these countries are heavily indebted to wealthier nations such as the U.S. That means part of their GNP each year must go to paying back the debt.

Fortunately, debt-for-nature swaps help solve the problem. Basically, the program allows for the wealthier nations to forgive some debt in return for the poor country to preserve a certain piece of land. For example, the U.S. agreed to forgive Costa Rica of $26 million in return for the preservation of Costa Rica's unique tropical rainforests. In the short term, the animals and plants can thrive and the people of Costa Rica have a little more money to use. In the long run, the whole world will benefit from preserving the environment's biodiversity.

Other countries that have experienced this exchange include Belize, Panama, and Jamaica. For more information, visit The Nature Conservancy. This image is from the Redwood Forest Foundation.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Microsoft vs. Apple

This post was written by me about a year ago for Conscious Lifestyle, now Sparkspeed. The websites listed are the sources of the information.

Microsoft and Apple, two enormous multinational corporations, have always been competing to churn out the latest popular products. These rival companies wield tremendous power, with Microsoft at 80,000 employees and an annual revenue of 50 billion dollars, and Apple slowly catching up at 20,000 employees and 25 billion.

Consumers compare the products' designs, aesthetics, models, convenience, adaptability, storage space, and of course, prices. However, what about the eco-friendliness of each corporation?

According to GreenPeace, on a scale from 1 to 10, Apple hovers at a 6.7 and Microsoft is down at the bottom of the scale at a 4.7. The companies are ranked based upon chemicals policy, takeback practices, and

Microsoft scores high on phasing out the harmful substances PVC and BFR by 2010, but earns a 0 for takebacks or providing information to individual customers. In addition, it currently does not have any PVC-free or BFR-free models.

Apple earns full marks for the phasing out of the hazardous chemicals by 2008, and recycling, while receiving mediocre scores for the rest of the categories. The company has set a goal of recycling 30% of its weight of products sold by 2010.

So far, it seems Apple takes the lead. According to its website (Apple), products are refined to maximize efficiency and reduce waste. Of course, consumers appreciate the sleekness of the design as well. Additionally, many all Apple desktop and portable computers have earned the Energy Star rating for energy efficiency. The company has extensive takeback programs that dispose of used software in a safe and environmentally friendly way. In 2006, it recycled 13 million pounds of waste, including paper, foam, and batteries.

Because of its efforts, Apple was named a "Forward Green Leader" by the Sierra Club, meaning it is one of the top ten environmentally progressive companies.

Microsoft has also taken many steps to become a "greener" corporation. In 2005, it began a packing purge of PVC, eliminating 1.5 million pounds of the material. It promoted efforts to slow global warming by joining with the Clinton Foundation and Climate Savers. LOHAS Online

The company is currently developing an interesting program called the Environmentally Sustainable Dashboard. In a nutshell, this dashboard allows smaller companies affiliated with Microsoft to track their direct and indirect energy consumption, and direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions. Microsoft

Apparently, Microsoft even has its own blog for environmental sustainability, called Shades of Blue and Green

Even though Apple is ahead of Microsoft in its takeback policies and energy efficiency, Microsoft has addressed the problem of global warming more than its competitor. Climate Counts Both corporations still have a ways to go. We, the consumers, are really the ones that can have leverage to create more change.

For example, a campaign for "a greener Apple" is being launched at

Yes, we are all individuals, but we are the customers that Apple and Microsoft depend on. Through our voices, we can influence these massive companies to continue to develop sustainable policies.

The image above is from E-Wallpapers.

Hey Everyone!

Sorry I haven't posted in quite a while! I've been so busy with everything! I don't know if any of you know this, but I was a blogger for the website Conscious Lifestyle, which actually is currently undergoing a complete revamp. Therefore, I think I am going to import some of my old posts there so they won't be lost in case the website decides to take a new spin. See you soon!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Revamp Your Grocery List

Whether you go to the supermarket once a week or everyday, there are ways to make sure that your buying benefits the environment, your health, and your wallet. Here are some basic tips that I have picked up from various sources.

1. Avoid individually packaged snack packs. They damage the environment because of the unnecessary packaging, they are more expensive when you compare their unit price to that of a larger bag, and very often they are bad for your health (have you seen one of those ingredient lists?) Here are the ingredients for the 100-calorie Oreo Snack Cakes.
More about individually-packed products in this post.

2. Use the basics. A lot of everyday foods, such as beans, rice, oatmeal, and potatoes are extremely cheap yet can be made into great dishes. Think about stews, casseroles, side dishes, etc. These foods are better for the environment because they don't require as much manufacturing and processing, and they are very good for your health too.

3. Be picky about organic. Check out this Shopper's Guide to Pesticides to see which foods should be bought organic and which conventional. For example, apples and peaches usually have high levels of pesticides, but onions do not. Do what's best for you wallet and your health.

4. Buy seasonal and local produce. These taste the best and also are usually less expensive. Local produce additionally does not require as much fossil fuel for transportation. Each geographic region has differences in what is "in season," but I know right now where I live peaches and apples are really cheap and taste great.

5. Skimp on the meat. Conventional methods of raising livestock are harmful to the environment. Most people in general get more than enough protein, so cutting back on meat a few times a week should not be harmful, and even could be beneficial for your health, since your cholesterol and saturated fat intake would decrease. Check out my previous posts of Reasons for Eating Less Meat and Buy Organic Meat.

I hope some of this information was helpful to you and will guide you during your next grocery shop. Do you have any tips of your own about how to save money, eat healthy, and help the environment? Share them below in the comments section!

This image is from Spunky Mommy.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Use Public Transportation

This is an extremely useful tip: it's beneficial for the environment, your wallet, your schedule, your mind, and your waist-size.

  • Environment: taking the bus/train/shuttle will definitely reduce the amount of carbon emissions from all those vehicles.

  • Wallet: it costs money for gas to fill up your tank, plus, if you live in a city, you may have to pay money for parking. If you use public transportation, you might save money since it usually doesn't cost too much and sometimes you can buy a monthly/yearly pass.

  • Waist: you'll probably need to walk a bit to get to the bus stop, so that's a bit of exercise. Hopefully you won't need to do the other type of exercise - running after a leaving bus!

  • Schedule: I definitely believe this will help with time. You'll get to work or school at a set time each day, so you won't be tempted to arrive later. Also, you will have some extra time to relax, read, get organized, or do some light work in transit, instead of driving.

  • Mind: if you easily get stressed out by lots of traffic, road rage, or unsafe driving conditions, I bet taking public transport will help you relax a little more. Additionally, you can chat with the people around you if they look friendly, and maybe even make some new friends!

So, I strongly encourage you to look into public transportation options in your area. What are your experiences with public transport? Did you find it beneficial to your life?

This image is from Tree Hugger.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Use Online College Applications

So, college applications season is over for seniors (hopefully), but I've got some good advice for you high schoolers that still face the dreaded, time-consuming process.

I strongly suggest that you use the online application as opposed to the traditional paper application. Many colleges and universities now use the Common Application, which is completely online. It even allows you to send teacher and counselor recommendations online, though I've heard that part is a little confusing. There is also the Universal Application is sort of the same idea, but with different member colleges, I guess.

Most colleges even have their own special online applications, and recommend that you take the online route, as it is easier to process the information. I know Columbia even requires that you fill out the online app, unless you do not have Internet at home.

Well, all of this is great news! Not only is the process much more streamlined and fast, it also cuts down on the tons and tons of paper wasted. I know friends that have applied to 10+ schools, and if they used paper for everything (recommendations, application, financial aid, etc.), they could well exceed 1,000 pieces of paper. However, since they went on the computer, a lot of paper was conserved.

Another good point - if you make an error on paper or want to change something, you will either have to throw out the page or use messy white-out. However, on a computer, just press the back button and in a flash your application is as good as new.

*Oh - I just remembered! You have to use snail-mail if you use paper, which is slow, error-prone, and expensive due to stamps! (Believe me, you'll need lots of stamps)*

So please, if you want to have a slightly less stressful, more environmentally friendly senior year, I urge you to check to see if your favorite college has an online option. Chances are in your favor!

So, if you have already gone through this process, did you use paper or not?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Switch to Fluorescent

Everyone needs light bulbs in just about every single room in the house. However, we often don't think about this energy guzzler when trying to reduce energy.

If you have incandescent light bulbs currently, consider switching them for fluorescent ones. According to the U.S. Department of Energy:

"If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars."

That's pretty amazing, isn't it? And just think of how much we could save if we replaced more than one light bulb. I'm in my dining room right now, and I see that the chandelier has 9 light bulbs. It really wouldn't be much harder for me to switch all of those light bulbs rather than just 1, would it?

Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs use 75% less energy than standard bulbs, and they last up to 10 times longer. That means you can save 30 dollars or more over each bulb's lifetime. Seriously, these bulbs pay for themselves. I do not know of an easier way to save money than this.

I read somewhere that incandescent light bulbs are so inefficient, 90% of its energy is wasted as heat, while only 10% of the energy used is actually used for the lighting. So, what are you waiting for?

Here's the government's website about CFLs. It's extremely helpful in providing guides and tips for what kind of bulb to buy depending on what you are using now.

This image is from Daily Danny.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Environmental Ways To Save $$$

Yep, I've seen and experienced firsthand how devastating this economy can be to our bank accounts and wallets. Good for you though, that I have kept a long running archive of old posts of fast, easy ways to both help the environment and save money! I selected the few that I felt were extremely simple and doable. Why don't you try one tip each day of the week, and keep the ones you like?

1. Choose local foods. This was one of the first posts I wrote on this blog! It's a tried and true method.

2. Choose the real white meat. Again, a very easy and simple change to make. I actually did quite a number of calculations for this post - a dedicated blogger, no?

3. Avoid individually-packaged products. Buying bulk is the way to go!

4. Unplug electronics. Don't let that sneaking vampire energy catch up with you and drain your money.

5. Organize your fridge. Most people would never think to look in here for money savings, but it works.

6. Take cold(er) showers. Now that's it is starting to get warmer in many places...

7. Use passive solar power.

8. Remove unnecessary items. From your car, that is.

Keep in mind that these are only some of the ways to save money. If you are feeling adventurous and want a full list, go to the sidebar with all my tags and click the one that says "save money." I hope this little compilation helps you! If I have forgotten anything that you can think of, please comment below.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pros and Cons: Wind Power

Remember when I wrote the pros and cons of nuclear weapon?

Well, today I would like to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of wind power, an up-and-coming alternative energy source. It's one of the lesser known sources of energy, but yet I think there will be many opportunities in the future to utilize it.

Basically, the energy comes from spinning wind turbines. As the wind blows through and turns the turbines, electricity is generated. I'm not too familiar with the details, but that's the gist of the operation.


1. It's definitely renewable - infinite, you could say. I don't believe that we'll ever run out of wind (and if we do, we have bigger problems to worry about).

2. Little if any pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions. Besides the emissions caused by the construction of equipment, this energy is green and clean.

3. Wind power is pretty safe - there aren't really any risks involved.

4. Can produce power anywhere where there is wind, so the U.S. wouldn't have to be dependent on a foreign source.


1. It can't produce enough power on its own, because the wind isn't always blowing! I guess you could say it is reliant upon the weather.

2. Dangerous to birds. Birds can get caught in the turbines. However, I think this harm to animals is a lot less than the harm ultimately caused by fossil fuel usage.

3. Something called "visual" and "noise pollution." Basically, these "wind farms" look ugly and produce noise. It's not that much of a disadvantage in my opinion, but I guess my mind could change if I lived next to a wind farm.

So, to sum it up, wind power isn't really that bad at all, but it can't stand alone as an energy source. I think a combination of wind, solar, and hydroelectric power would probably be sufficient, though we'd probably need some type of heavy duty power source such as nuclear power to rely on until the other sources become widespread.

So, what are your opinions on wind power? Do you believe it should be a part of our energy future?

This image is from Green Energy Online.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dispose of Batteries Properly

Did you know that you can't just throw away old batteries into the trash? Batteries contain heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and nickel, which can be harmful to the environment.

According to Environment, Health, and Safety Online, batteries can cause many environmental hazards such as:
  • pollute bodies of water when metals vaporize into the air when burned
  • contribute to the metals that leach from landfills
  • expose the environment and water to lead and acid
  • cause burns and danger to the eye and skin
Actually, metals leaching from landfills is a serious matter, and batteries are a major contributor. 88% of the total mercury in landfills is from batteries. If you've ever been told to beware of broken mercury thermometers, you know how dangerous this metal can be.

So, what can you do with your old batteries? On the same site I listed above, there is a big table with all types of batteries and what you should do to dispose them. Some of the options include recycling, hazardous waste collection sites, etc.

Also, I thought I should mention rechargeable batteries. Though these are still made of the same metals and materials, they obviously can be used many times and therefore if you make use of them you will not have so many batteries to try to get rid of! We have some at home and it's quite easy to charge them up, actually - just stick them in the charger for a while until the light turns green. But make sure not to mix them with regular batteries!

This image is from Bristol Batteries.

Technology and the Environment

I've had lots of thoughts on this topic recently. Does the high-tech equipment that we use in our lives now benefit or harm the environment? For example, has the rise of the Internet age reduced paper usage? Has it increased energy demands?

At my school, every single student is provided with a laptop computer, supposedly with the purpose of cutting paper usage by allowing students to take notes and complete homework on the computer. However, I have found that our school still uses a ton of paper. Many teachers demand that all work be handed in as a "hard copy" instead of virtually. Likewise, many students dislike reading off of a computer screen and ask for a printout instead.

The printers in our school library are always jammed full - people rush to print out large documents such as powerpoints. When the printer does not immediately respond, they become impatient and print multiple times to each printer, not only slowing down the printing process but wasting loads of paper in the process.

Our ecology club manages all the recycling in the school and we have noticed that the recycling bin by the printers is ALWAYS incredibly full. Well, at least the paper is recycled, right?
Plus, factor in the amount of electricity needed to power all of the laptops, and the impact of manufacturing the machines and their chargers and cases.

So, do you have any experiences with technology and its impacts on the environment? Any thoughts?

This image is from

Saturday, February 14, 2009


I'm sure everyone is aware of recycling - computer paper, bottles, and cans are the main items that my school Ecology club concentrates on, but there are many other materials and ways that you can recycle.

Have you thought of:
  • Peanut butter jars?
  • Plastic yogurt containers?
  • Junk mail?
  • Rubber tires?
  • Plastic bags?
Of course, you have to be aware of the items that your local recycling plant will take. For example, the one in my area will not recycle milk jugs or cardboard juice/soy milk cartons. Just check the little number inside the recycling symbol to see what kind of product it is. Some stores, including Kroger, have bins located outside the stores that allow you to recycle plastic and paper bags, so I guess now you don't have to feel guilty about using plastic.

Some facts on recycling:
  • According to the EPA, each of us uses a 100-feet-tall pine tree per year for paper and wood products
  • Recycling 1 ton of paper saves 17 mature trees, 7000 gallons of water, and over 4000 kilowatts of electricity (enough to power an average American home for 5 months!)
  • Recycling paper instead of making new paper creates 74% less air pollution and uses 40% less energy
Recycling is the least all of us can do to help the environment. No additional effort is required on your part - just place the items in a bin. Most municipalities have recycling programs and work just like garbage pick-up.

Have you ever been surprised to discover something was or was not recyclable?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Buy Organic Meat

There's this magazine called Natural Awakenings that I pick up for free from my local library. It has all sorts of good environmental articles. The edition I just got has a really great article about how we should buy organic meat and dairy. I would like to share with you some very persuasive reasons why.

  • Animals raised under the category of organic cannot be fed antibiotics, genetically modified foods, growth hormones, or other such drugs. These animals eat organic feed. They are shown to be significantly healthier than non-organic animals.
  • There is usually more humane treatment for animals on an organic farm. They sometimes are free-range, unlike factory animals which are treated like objects and trapped in small pens or cages.
  • Sustainable farms recycle nutrients by using manure as fertilizer. However, industrial farms produce so much of this manure and usually don't utilize it so it becomes a health risk, able to contaminate wells and waterways.
  • A lot of organic agriculture uses methods such as crop rotation to improve the fertility of the soil instead of synthetic fertilizers. Read my post here to learn about the dangers of too much fertilizer.
  • Organic farms use 70% less energy than factory farms. Buying from local farms also reduces the energy used by transportation. Check out my post here to learn more about buying local.
Organic meat does cost more, I will admit. However, that is just another incentive to eat less of it. If you want to know the reasons that we should decrease meat intake, click here. So, what do you think about organic meat? Does the cost outweigh the benefits?

This image is from Electron Blue.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Lower Your Heating Bill, Part II

This is the second installation of how to lower your heating bills. For Part I, click here. So, is it still frigid where you live? I know that where I live, the coldest months are January and February. December actually isn't bad at all, even though I would like a white Christmas once in a while! Okay, here are some more tips and tricks to keep warm and save fuel.

3. Take advantage of passive solar heating, written about in my previous post. You must get some sun during the day, right? I guess you would unless you live in a really northern place that gets darkness for six months or something.

4. According the article "Keeping Warm for Less" in This Old House, make sure to keep furniture and other items from blocking heating vents. For example, a couch, drawer, or bed could be disrupting the flow of warm air in your home.

5. The same article tells you to change your furnace filter. Apparently, this move can not only lower the levels of dust in your home, but also save energy costs up to 5%. The filters don't cost very much and only have to be changed once a month.

6. Get one of these. Haha, just kidding, but anything you can do to keep yourself warm is great! Sweaters, blankets, hot tea...I find that a cup of hot tea in the morning really does the trick. It really doesn't make sense to wear a t-shirt while cranking up the heat to 75 degrees, but I know people that do it!

7. Close the fireplace damper. You don't want all the cold air coming down the chimney and into your home, do you? Likewise, you don't want all your costly warm air to escape through the fireplace.

This image is from Falcon Ridge Farms.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lower Your Heating Bill, Part I

It's been a cold winter so far. I've heard of places in the Midwest that have gone under -30 degrees. Gosh, that makes me shiver just to think of it! Frigid temperatures usually mean higher heating bills and more fuel used. However, there are some tips for how you can cut down your energy bills.

1. Insulate!
Many homes, especially old ones, have lots of little cracks all over the place. I know in my house, the freezing wind can seep through spaces between the door and the wall and the windows. You can purchase a "door snake" to stuff in front of the crack, or put in a "door sweep" underneath the door to minimize the extra space. Other ways to easily insulate include drawing curtains over windows and not leaving doors open for too long.

2. Install a programmable thermostat. The article "Keeping Warm for Less" from This Old House recommends using this thermostat to set temperatures for different times of the day. This saves money because you can lower temps when you are not home or when you are sleeping. This can save 10-20% of your heating bill. According to the article, these are the settings you can use:
6 a.m. to 9 a.m. = 68 degrees
9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. = 60 degrees
5:30 to 11 p.m. = 68 degrees
11 p.m. to 6 a.m. = 60 degrees

Obviously, adjust to your own preferences. If you have a nice, cozy bed with a big warm comforter, maybe you can deal with a temperature lower than 60 degrees at night. You can then preset the thermostat to start warming up an hour or so before you wake so you can get up to a toasty house.

So, that's it for Part Uno! Second installation to come shortly. Image is from

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Eco-Logical Gift

I was just looking over a present by friend gave me for my birthday. It is the coolest environmentally-themed calendar, with gorgeous nature-scene photos, and facts and tips on every page on how to benefit our planet.

For example, for January:

Tip: get a home energy audit: many utility companies offer free-energy audits which may reveal simple ways to cut emissions such as sealing and insulating heating and cooling ducts.

and flipping ahead to April:

Fact: by the end of the century, two-fifths of the Earth's land surface will have a hotter climate due to global warming. These huge shifts in climatic conditions will devastate the biodiversity hot spots such as the Amazon rainforest.

Tip: plant a tree: a single tree will absorb approximately one ton of carbon dioxide during its lifetime.

For July:

Fact: less than 4% of the originial redwood forests remain. Only 2.5% of these forests are protected.

I'm loving this! I foresee a lot of great blog posts coming from the facts and tips of this calendar! It's such a great gift to give- too bad the pages aren't made of recycled paper though. Have you ever received a present that was in some way environmentally-minded? You know what...I am just procrastinating on studying for midterm exams. I really should be going now...see you later?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Remove Unnecessary Items

I bag groceries as a part time job. Many times, as I carry the customer's items to his or her car, I notice that the trunk/back seat/top is completely loaded. I've seen old clothes, boxes full of old magazines, big toys, an empty cage, golf clubs, fold-up name it, and I've probably had to squeeze bags of groceries around it once. This one time I even saw a huge machete. It was a little creepy.

The point is, nine times out of ten, a person's vehicle is full of unnecessary items. The customer always apologizes profusely for the mess, but what concerns me is not the trouble it causes for me to find a sturdy place for groceries, but the extra fuel the customer must consume because of the added weight. According to, an extra 100 pounds on your vehicle could reduce its miles per gallon by 2%. Some of the customers' cars I've seen easily had several hundred extra pounds of stuff.

Remember that gas=money (even though it's cheaper by the gallon now, it still costs money!), and gas=carbon emissions. I just saw yesterday on Yahoo about some huge iceberg breaking off of Antarctica, so global warming is still very real and very relevant.

So, try and clean out your trunk and car! Not only will you save gas, but you will also have a cleaner, more spacious vehicle. All baggers will truly appreciate your efforts :)

This image is from

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Visit Freecycle

Hey, remember when I wrote about that wonderful website called Throwplace? Well, I am happy to report that I have found a very similar site called Freecycle.

Here is the mission statement:
Our mission is to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources & eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community.
From what I understand, to engage in the process you join a local group. Freecycle seems to be active all over the United States, and also in many countries across the world. Each group is moderated by a local volunteer. When you join a group, you can get and donate items freely, saving our landfills from overflowing, saving your money, and maybe even helping someone else's life by donating some of your old "junk."

As they say, "One person's trash is another person's treasure."
Because everything is online, all the steps are so much more efficient and faster than the traditional yard sales and Goodwill drop-offs. I took a peek at the group in my city and saw that there were over 12,000 members! Woohoo! They had their own Yahoo page and in the past 7 days, there were over 380 messages.

If you have a lot of unwanted items (and I'm pretty sure we're all guilty of it), please consider visiting this wonderful site!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Last Night in Childhood

Kind of an off topic post, but IT'S MY BIRTHDAY TOMORROW!

Yes, I'm turning the infamous eighteen years old. It's really strange- I've been so incredibly busy lately with everything in my life that I haven't really had time to anxiously anticipate my's really crept up on me this year, and now it's really only a few hours away.

I'm kind of apprehensive and nostalgic at the same time. Eighteen symbolizes a lot in our culture, particularly adulthood and responsibility and freedom. I know so many teenagers dream of the day they turn eighteen, but I now wish I had more days left of my symbolic "childhood." I don't feel prepared to face on tomorrow, even though I know nothing really will change. Or will it?

Let's see what will happen tomorrow. I will still, as always, go to school. I will return home in the afternoon. I will sleep on my own bed at night. I will be as short as I always have been (4'11"), I will still be mistaken for a fifth grader, in short (no pun intended), everything will pretty much remain the same.

But I'll lose that sense of childhood and security, my "minor rights" if you study law. I will be completely responsible for my own being, and my own role in society. I will be fully accountable for my own actions. Obviously it makes sense, and yet it seems like I am crossing a bridge right now, to the other side, to Adult Land. Well... I guess I will see what awaits me!

Time's going by so fast...soon I fear I will be arriving at an old folks' home...haha.

So, anyone care to share experiences of turning eighteen to comfort me? Or is twenty-one really the big age?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Eliminate Junk Mail

I always receive so much unnecessary mail everyday, ranging anywhere from magazine and credit card offers to random college applications! They go straight into my recycling bin, and trust me, the bin is pretty full at the end of the week. Even though I recycle, it would be better for the environment if I didn't receive the materials in the first place.

Global Stewards has a great article about getting rid of these junk mail offers. Here's the gist of it:
  1. To remove your address from the list of many companies for up to five years, contact the Direct Marketing Assocation. You can go to this website to find out how.
  2. Call up companies directly to ask to be removed from their mailing lists: Val-Pak Coupons (1-800-676-6878), America Online Discs (1-800-827-6364), and Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes (1-800-645-9242).
  3. Call and ask your credit card company to stop selling out your name!
  4. Try not to fill out contest cards.
Here are some surprising impacts of junk mail:
  1. 50% of all junk mail is thrown away without being open (you hear that, mailing companies?)
  2. 100 million trees were consumed to produce U.S. junk mail for one year. Now that is just ridiculous.
  3. The average adult spends 70 hours each year dealing with junk mail. That's for all of you that can't seem to find enough time on your hands to do everything!
  4. Junk mail produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 2.8 million cars. Again, unbelievable.
When I'm out in the world on my own, I will be sure to cancel all junk mail and save myself the time (and temptations). Seriously, this could be a great thing to do to begin the new year off right. This image is courtesy of

Monday, January 12, 2009

Checking in...

Wow, it feels like I haven't posted in a long time! I'm just checking in so those of you reading know that I'm not dead...physically, but with those midterm exams coming up, I feel dead mentally and emotionally! Right now we're going through a round of "pre-exams," as I like to call them. Basically, they are the last tests of the semester before teachers move on to exam review.

Don't worry, I'll be back to posting soon as soon as this hectic mess is over. I am thinking of branching out this blog a little bit...but I'm not sure how exactly yet. Any suggestions? I'm thinking polls, environmental news, maybe even some guest bloggers? Haha, I don't think I'm famous enough in the blog world to attract enough attention, but who knows? I just really want to revamp this blog. Any comments would be greatly appreciated. Have a great week!