Monday, April 6, 2009

Everyday is Earth Day!

It's time to discover some change to effect
While showing the planet some long overdue respect
As we all recognize the true worth
Of this blue-green jewel known as Earth
We move toward becoming sustainably correct
I just finished co-teaching the first of a 6 part class on"Becoming a Change Agent in Your Circle of Influence", a course created by Dick & Jeanne Roy of the Center for Earth Leadership (a link is listed under Sustainability) This class helps provide suggestions for encourging change within the groups we live, work & play. This class fit's nicely with all the April Earth awareness activities such as the currert Arbor week, the PSu Symposium on Water Use and the Earth Day festivities that occur in 2 weeks. I thought I would include a photo from my high school days at Earth Day #2 where we planted some tree, and the famous Apollo * photo that reminded everyone of the need for a unifying vision for addressing the Earth's ecological challeges.
Over the next few months, I'll highlight some of the many resources available to those who want to make incremental changes in their environmental footprint. At the bottom of this entry you'll find a few suggestions thanks to the Energy Trust of Oregon (
On a completely unrelated note, I am reminded that TS Elliot said "April is the cruelest month" and he clearly was referring to today's opener for St, Louis. I listened as StL took a 4-3 lead to the ninth inning with 2 outs and an 0-2 counts before losing 6-4 on a bases-clearing double. I'll hope the sun comes up tomorrow with a different result...
No-cost Projects
Ten tips to save energy that don’t cost a dime

A lot of savings can be generated from personal choice and actions.

1. Practice thermostat control. During the heating season, it’s estimated that you can save about 2 percent on the heating bill for every degree you lower the thermostat.

2. Night setbacks pay off. A 10-degree night setback while you’re in bed can work wonders on the bill.

3. Use hot water as required. If you have a choice on your clothes washer or dishwasher, use the Energy Saver mode. A cold water wash or rinse can be just the ticket at times.

4. Turn down a too-high water heater thermostat. For most households, 120°F water is just right… about halfway between the low and medium setting.

5. Don’t heat or cool rooms that are not in use.

6. Take shorter showers. You’ve heard that one before as well — but it works.

7. To keep your home cool, adjust shades, blinds and draperies to block the sun's hot summer rays. Let hot air out with attic vents and make sure soffit vents are not blocked. This keeps you and your attic cooler and it also extends the life of your shingles.

8. Clean heating system filters regularly.

9. After your fireplace fire has been “cold” a couple of hours, close the vent. Warm air rises… so will your bill. Why heat the great out-of-doors?

10. Turn off lights, computers and home electronics when not in use.

A relatively small investment can reap big dividends.
11. Programmable thermostat — You may need to upgrade your existing thermostat to maximize energy efficiency. Newer models have “smart” features built in that can automatically provide night setbacks and other important features. Before purchase, make sure you review your heating system operations manual as there are many types of thermostats and each is tailored to specific systems. If necessary, ask a qualified heating-cooling contractor to install your thermostat to ensure optimum performance.

12. Compact fluorescent bulbs — High quality compact fluorescent bulbs come in a variety of models for just about any use. They cost more than incandescent, but they last a whole lot longer… and can save energy but please recycle properly. A typical 100-watt incandescent might be rated for 750 hours, while a comparable 25-watt fluorescent is 10,000 hours. The outdoor models are perfect for those porch lights that are on long periods and often awkward to replace.

13. Caulking and weatherstripping — A small investment in caulk and weatherstripping around exterior doors or windows can make a difference. Take half a Saturday, your trusty caulk gun, and stop energy waste. Pay attention to pipes, telephone wires, anything at all that enters the house. Make sure they are sealed tight. Pay particular attention to exterior doors. There are a variety of ways to stop air leakage around doors. Your local retailer will have a good choice of threshold weatherstripping, door sweeps and jamb weatherstripping materials. Carefully measure and follow installation instructions carefully.

14. Summer cool down — A window exhaust fan is a good idea, but a larger attic whole-house exhaust fan, thermostatically controlled, is a real plus in summer. It can help cool things down without central air conditioning.

15. High-efficiency showerheads and water control devices — New showerheads are required to meet a 2.5 gallon-per-minute standard, but there are many older models still in place. If you can squeeze the gallons per minute lower than 2.5, it means you’re saving even more money. Also, faucet aerators, including the types that have a shut-off valve built in, can stop waste of water while you’re rinsing dishes. And, don’t forget leaky faucets: It doesn’t cost much to fix’em, and they can be big energy wasters.

16. Water heater wrap — Despite all the advances in better insulated water heaters, it still pays to wrap a water heater, especially if it is located in an unheated space. Special water heater kits are available at retail hardware stores where heaters are sold. Just follow the instructions. (Tip: While you're wrapping up for energy savings, strap up for earthquake safety. Securing your water heater against earthquake tipping is a smart move.)

17. Fireplace pillow — An open fireplace can be a giant energy waster. Today you can purchase a plastic, inflatable “pillow” that inserts into the chimney to stop heat from escaping. You blow it up (usually just by mouth) and it is easily removable when you want to build a fire. Find out more by contacting your local fireplace dealer or search online for the nearest vendor.
While there are all kinds of no- to low-cost ways to save energy, sometimes a larger investment is required to gain the most ground.

18. Get a free energy audit to guide major investment decisions.What you need before anything else happens is an energy audit. We recommend scheduling a FREE home energy review with the Energy Trust of Oregon. It will give you guidance on how you can save energy and money and create a comfortable living environment. An Energy Advisor will come to your home, recommend energy-saving measures specific to your home and install FREE compact fluorescent light bulbs, faucet aerators and low-flow showerheads. We strongly recommend an audit be accomplished prior to any major investment in insulation, heating, ventilation or other improvements.
To schedule an energy audit with the Energy Trust of Oregon, call 866-ENTRUST or 866-368-7878.

19. When replacing appliances, buy premium-efficiency models.There is no question that an energy-smart major appliance purchase (refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers, heating systems) can generate significant dollar savings over the lifetime of the appliance. Why pay $20-$30 more per year than is necessary?
There’s a ton of good information on energy-efficient appliances from the Oregon Department of Energy Web site. But here are some basics on shopping for an energy-efficient model:
· All major energy-using appliances are required by the Federal Trade Commission to include a yellow and black label on each appliance that gives consumers a good idea how that respective model performs. Look for these labels on refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers, water heaters, furnaces, boilers, central air conditioners, room air conditioners, heat pumps and pool heaters. The estimated annual operating cost posted on the label is a composite price based on national averages. Always calculate your savings using your local utility’s prices.
· On many appliances look for an “Energy Star” logo. The Energy Star program is operated by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. Energy Star labels are on those appliances that these government agencies feel meet high levels of energy efficiency than the average comparable model.

20. When replacing your furnace, consider a heat pump— the most efficient way to heat and cool your home.

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