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!