Tuesday, November 29, 2016

10 Ways to Know If You Are Eco-Friendly

Being eco-friendly is averse to many of us and the lifestyles we have developed over time. The wasteful habits we have formed are a result of the consumerism that has evolved with little regard for the end cycle of our consumptive habits. Habits are not always bad things though. Steven Covey points out in his best seller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” that “life doesn’t just ‘happen’. Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you. The choices, after all, are yours.” So it’s about choices and consistently applying those choices in our daily lives that determine outcomes. What habits do we have concerning the 10 resources below that determine our eco-friendly status?

1. Electricity – Turning things off when they’re not in use. Pretty straightforward. Is your life so fast-paced that you can’t take a second or two to flip a switch or push a button to turn off power that runs all things electric? If so, make a choice to change it. Motivation: SAVE MONEY, SAVE THE PLANET. On average a 52″ ceiling fan running 24/7 uses about 68 kilowatt hours a month(kWh/mo.) at a cost of about $8.16. Cut that back to 8 hours a day and you’re using about 24 kWh/mo. and saving about $5.50. Multiply that times 12 and you’ve saved about $65 a year for that room alone. Factor in other rooms, other electrical gizmos and less hours and the amount becomes staggering. For those people who think their utility bills are heavily affected by their HVAC systems you might be surprised to learn that nearly 60 percent of all energy use in an all electric home is attributed to things other than the HVAC.

2. HVAC – Speaking of your heat and air-conditioning system, when’s the last time you monitored the settings on your thermostat. As indicated above a whopping 43% of your utility bill will be attributed to heating and cooling your home. Smaller homes have only one thermostat that control the entire air flow that the system puts in each room while zoned systems usually only allow you to control temperature in 2 separate parts of the home.

The problem with finding a balanced use of room temperatures consist of several variables. Some people are more sensitive to hot and cold than others; some rooms have less air flow than others; windows and heat generating devices impact room temperatures; north and west facing rooms feel the brunt of colder weather and shade trees benefit some areas of the home more than others. All of these considerations have to be assessed to establish a reasonable temperature that will serve everyone’s interest and prevent wasteful energy lost.

On average, most families can accommodate winter settings of 68-70 degrees during the day and then lower the setting to 63-65 degrees at night when everyone is snuggled in bed under 2-3 layers of blankets. Utilize energy efficient space heaters in elderly peoples rooms who tend to get colder. Wear sweaters or sweat shirts if you need a bit more warmth,. Summer thermostat settings, especially in southern regions of the country, shouldn’t be set below 78-80 degrees during the day and will keep you comfortable at night with settings of 72-74 degrees. If needed, use of ceiling fans will will help conditions feel 2-3 degrees cooler.

3. Water usage. Showers use much more water than it takes to bathe. If you must shower. keep it under 10 minutes. Sweep your driveway clean, don’t wash it down. Men don’t need to allow water to run when shaving with a straight razor and ladies need to shave their legs outside the shower. Neither should let the water run while brushing teeth. Wash dishes and clothes with full loads. This will save thousands of gallons each year and on average you can save $150-200 dollars a year by washing your clothes in cold water as opposed to warm or hot. Up to 75 or 80 percent of our clothing’s lifecycle impact comes from washing and drying. Don’t fall for the detergent TV ads that imply greater social acceptance because your “whites are whiter”. People who are obsessed with appearance over cleanliness need to get a life. There are many more ways that you can reduce your water use habits. Here’s a list of 100that you can start on if you’re not already.

4. Burning gasoline. How many short trips do you take in your gas guzzling SUV when it’s nice enough to walk or ride a bicycle? Get rid of the gas guzzlers folks. The reprieve we’ve experienced from the $4-5 dollar a gallon gas in 2008 is fixing to be over. And this time it’ll be with us for good. Get smaller more fuel efficient cars like hybrids and where electric cars are available and practical, make that investment. There are tax incentives for purchasing these alternate fuel source vehilcles.

When you do have to travel long distance keep the lead foot off of the accelerator. Observe speed limits. For every 5 mph you drive over 60 mph you wound up paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas. Do you really feel compelled to help Exxon/Mobil break their record breaking profits from a year ago? Use cruise control to maintain even, fuel efficient speeds, keep tire pressure at factory levels and remove what cargo you don’t need. Planning is cost effective. AAA has aFuel Gage Report that will not only help you locate the cheapest gas in your community but assist you with traveling tips to take the shortest and scenic routes. Each gallon of gasoline you burn creates pounds of CO2; about 6 to 9 tons of CO2 each year for a typical vehicle. Throw in the fact that we now purchase most of our petroleum from foreign sources, like the Saudis, and you can see how Americans suffer economically and as it relates to our national security. 51% of CO2 emissions from a typical household come from our vehicles.

5. Food. It’s not only how you get your food but the types of food you eat that determine the carbon footprint you leave behind. Buying local produce and meats lessens fuel consumption needed to transport these products. Organic foods are more eco-friendly because they require no fertilizers to contaminate air and water and restrict the use of growth hormones and antibiotics that get passed on in consumption. Free-range and open-grazing of chicken, pigs and cattle means that these animals are not packed tightly where their manure build-up creates pollution problems and diseases. Food processed from fewer chemicals and less stressful conditions may cost a bit more and be more difficult to find at markets but are becoming more available as demand increases. Eat less beef. Processing red meat takes more feed grain which requires the use of fossil fuels to grow, harvest and transport. Eighty percent of the corn grown and 95% of the oats are fed to livestock. Fifty-six percent of available farmland is used for beef production. All this before the cow is butchered for consumption.

6. Clothes. Since we are on the topic of organic, did you know that a conventional producer of cotton requires 3000 cubic meters of water per acre more than the organic farmer. Buying from China and other cheaper labor markets may keep your clothing bill low but your carbon footprint can be out of this world. A pair of Wavefarer Board Shorts travels 10,785miles, from fabric sourcing in Japan, manufacturing in Thailand, to their distribution center in Reno, Nevada. That same pair of shorts racks up a carbon footprint of about 18 pounds, and uses almost 20 kilowatt hours of electricity. Read labels and buy as local as possible. Keep this in mind when you think you have to have the latest designer whats-it overnight: Air freight emits about five times as much carbon dioxide, per pound of material shipped, compared to over ground truck freight. And when you get tired of them next week for something newer, don’t toss them. 85% of all textile products wound up in the waste stream. Even synthetics like Nylon can be re-cycled.

7. Paper and plastic. If you’re going to make purchases contained in paper or plastic try to find those products that have the re-cycle icon on them. You do have re-cycle bins at home, right? Buy only from those fast food retailers that provide their products in recyclable, disposable containers like Starbucks and McDonald’s. The third largest industrial emitter of global warming pollution is the pulp and paper industry. Does something really have to be wrapped twice? Re-use your plastic and paper grocery bags when you shop or better yet buy the cheap clothe (hemp?) bags most stores provide and tote home the food in fewer containers. Check out this eco-friendly entrepreneur and her use of plastic bags. Recycle old letters and junk mail along with fax copies. Don’t buy every book you’re interested in. That’s what libraries are for.

8. Appliances. You’ve been meaning to upgrade that dishwasher, stove, refrigerator, etc. for sometime now. Do so with Energy Star rated products. They may cost more to purchase than standard models, but you gain it back in lower energy bills within a relatively short period of time. And your carbon foot print gets smaller and smaller from using such products after it’s paid for itself. There are even tax incentives attached to a few products. Newer water heaters now have electrical ignition that ignites the burner rather than the old-fashion style with an ever burning gas pilot light. Clothes dryer do not come with an energy star rating but it is cheaper to operate a gas dryer over an electric one, though the gas unit is a bit more expensive. A dryer is typically the second-biggest electricity-using appliance after the refrigerator, costing about $85 to operate annually. Over its expected lifetime of 18 years, the average clothes dryer will cost you approximately $1,530 to operate.

9. Plants, gardens and trees – It’s been a while since you had this biology lesson (or not) but through a natural process called photosynthesis, CO2 in our eco-system is converted to life sustaining oxygen (O2). With increased CO2 emissions resulting from fossil fuels, outside the natural parameters, it becomes vital that we need to insure that plant life increases – not decrease. Deforestation occurring around the globe removes the components of this life cycle when developers come in to clear areas for new industries or housing. This is not an issue you can individually address but as an active member of concerned environmentalist you can gain a voice that carries equal weight with larger corporate interests. On a smaller scale you can enhance the exchange of CO2 to O2 by planting trees and bushes around your home. This will not only embellish the beauty of your home but will provide a habitat for birds and other creatures that are a part of the life cycle. Growing fruits and vegetables as part of this effort will also reduce your dependence on store-bought produce lowering your carbon footprint and perhaps even the neighbor you share them with.

10. Purchasing Habits – To wrap it up here, it should be obvious by now that what burns fossil fuels that emit the hazardous CO2 additions into the atmosphere has much to do with our consumptive behavior. We are a product of the new consumerism that tends to insist that our lives will be better if only we had one of these and one of those. Not only do we need to have what we’re used to but we have to buy them more often and in bigger sizes. The U.S. alone constitutes 5% of the world’s population but consumes 24% of the world’s energy and throws out 200,000 tons of edible food daily. The average American generates 52 tons of garbage by age 75. This lifestyle has destroyed fifty percent of the wetlands, 90% of the northwestern old-growth forests, and 99% of the tall-grass prairie in the last 200 years. My educated guess of the product life of any consumer good in most homes is roughly 7-10 years.

There is a point where money and the things we buy with it no longer makes us happy. For people with little in their life, new objects, especially essentials like food, housing and clothing, bring a degree of happiness to their lives. But eventually there reaches a point where consumption is nothing more than trying to achieve that initial high we first experienced when we had nothing. In the process we expend the resources of this planet to a stretching point that ultimately wounds up threatening our very existence. There is nothing of inherent value in having the most, the fastest and the biggest. The instant gratification one experiences is soon lost in the quest for the next wasteful endeavor of “stuff”.

Further along in that biology lesson we all had in high school is the fact that our world is a closed eco-system. What we consume and dispose of doesn’t disappear forever, it merely is relocated or takes on another form. When we generate more of what is here in a form that wasn’t part of its natural state, there are bound to be consequences for exceeding these limits. Life has a lot to offer without mass producing gross quantities of stuff. There’s more enrichment in our own creativity with basic resources found in our own back yards. There’s more enduring pleasure with conversations and activities with friends, relatives and neighbors than there is in all the combined accumulation of inorganic waste matter we have come to artificially value.

“STUFF” with George Carlin


Saving Electricity

100 Ways To Conserve Water


Alternate fuel source vehilcles

Energy Star

Consumer Energy Center/Clothes Dryers

Consumption by the United States

Why Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness


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