Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Saving energy and being green for 2010

Saw a news report stating that legislators are urging people to take advantage of the tax rebates and do what it takes to reduce energy costs in their house. They are calling it the "cash for caulkers" program.

Are people willing to invest up front for a payout in taxes? This could be a good thing for everyone...except the utilities :-(

So what is covered. They say anything that will reduce energy costs in your house.
I would assume that would include energy star rated windows, insulation, and sealing by caulking drafts.
Purchasing energy efficient appliances to replace less efficient models.
Replacing that old heater/air conditioner with an energy star rated model.

I personally think keeping the rebates and tax incentives through 2010 would help people out tremendously. I think more people will take advantage of the program and will want to make their house more energy efficient.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Are You Already Complaining About Heating Your House?

I am sure you have heard it already this year.

Is it cold already?
My heating bills are going through the roof.
We can't afford to pay these electric bills.
It is too hot up stairs. It's too cold in my house.
There is too much snow. How long will this cold weather last.

One thing is for sure: we Americans love to complain about the weather and how it affects our lives in every which way. It will never be just right.
In the summer it is too hot and you pay too much for the electricity to cool the house.
Then in the winter it is too cold and you spend an arm and a leg to heat the house.
One thing is for sure. Where ever you may live the weather always has an impact on how you live.

How you choose to live with this is up to you and you only.

So before you start complaining this winter... What have you done for your house lately?
If you haven't added any insulation recently? Cold walls and ceilings in the winter mean you have poor insulation. Is there a lot of ice forming on your roof or hanging down from the gutters?
This is another indicator of inadequate insulation.

If you are a home owner, did you know you can get tax credits for installing or adding insulation? Keep your receipts and ask your accountant. Get an estimate from a professional. You never know what the cost might be.
If you rent, tell your land lord. What can it hurt? The most he can say is no. Then you can start looking for an apartment that is more energy efficient. (if there is such a thing)

Now how about your heater? Is it over ten years old? Technology has improved since then... like it does every year. There are heaters out there that are not only efficient in heating, but also use less energy. Wow! Double the savings! And then there are the credits and incentives also. That's adding up to a no-brainer for the why not.

Now replacing the heater is still a big investment, but one with a payoff that will last for years to come.

So you are in no position to replace the heater. When did you last get it cleaned? If you do no maintenance at all, over time it will lead to an inefficient heater.
If anything at all, at least change the filter.
Preferably, get a professional cleaning and inspection done to insure that the heater is running at its optimum. Reputable companies will usually make proper recommendations.

There are no tax credits or government incentives to maintain your heater. But I say knowing that you've done everything within your budget to keep your heater running efficiently is green enough for me.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Green" the song by Lydia Salett

Please comment as to how you like the song.


Thanks for listening.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Going Green in a Recession

The economy may not be where it should be and you are probably thinking how can I save money or where can I make money.

Believe it or not, going green can do either.

Without spending money you can save by:

Reducing the thermostat: less heating or cooling will save you money on your utility bills. Don't forget to turn off those lights. Are you still using incendescent light bulbs? CFLs have come down in price and do last much longer.

Reduce your weekly garbage by composting and recycling.

Create a weekly menu and buy only those foods you will consume. Less waste and less money spent.

Read the news online. This reduces the cost of having to buy a paper and you are not having to recycle.

Make your own greeting cards by recycling old ones and creating new cards from the old cards.

Wow! This is just a small list. But without spending any money, you can still BE GREEN in these recessional times.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Green Expo - San Diego California

These are important events so I felt it was only proper for me to use a blog post to promote it. I wish it were closer for me to attend it.

is an all day free event built for attendance by as many as five thousand attendees.

Consumers today are daily being encouraged by the media, the government their friends and employers, even their kids, to “go green.” THE GREEN EXPO is a national multi-city campaign to connect them with the information, education and contacts they are looking for and help them save money, natural resources and ultimately, the planet!

We welcome participants to exhibit products and services related to energy efficiency, renewable energy, green building, transportation and climate change.

San Diego Embarcadero Marina Park North
SUNDAY October 18th, 2009

Event Begins at 10:00am

To be an Exhibitor Contact Rolfe at (619)322-7378 or via email:rolfe@thegreenexpo.net.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

How do you tell if something is really Green? Part 1

Everone can tell their products are green by adding the appropriate buzz words.
This product is "organically" grown. It is "environmentally friendly" or "natural".
That is all well and good, but there has to be some organization that overlooks this. Who determines that a product is truly green? How would any one know if a product is truly green or not?
There are, however, independent organizations out there that provide certifications for products and services. Many of which have been created by or are chaired by scientists and business owners who want to legitimize the industry standards for producing green products and services.
These organizations create the standards by which a product must live up to in order to be certified. Some even have levels of certification that can range from bronze to platinum.
So who are these organizations?

  • In the building industry there is the LEED certification which is administered via the US Green Building Council. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.
  • ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.
  • Green Seal provides science-based environmental certification standards to a wide variety of consumer products.
  • FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests.
  • The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) is an industry-independent, non-profit organization that oversees the GREENGUARD Certification ProgramSM. As an ANSI Authorized Standards Developer, GEI establishes acceptable indoor air standards for indoor products, environments, and buildings.

This is a good list. I will have to continue on with this list in my next post.

Friday, August 14, 2009

To Flush or Not To Flush...That is the Question.

Ok, I read a lot about conserving water. Even saw a show on TV dedicated to water on earth. You read about the drought in the Western US, in the Middle East (yes in Asia). Fresh water is a precious commodity all over the world. Especially with global warming, as the scientists seem to think, water needs to be treated like oil.

Well here in the North East there has been no sign of a drought. As a matter of fact this summer has been one of the wettest on record. We are a little spoiled when it comes to water. My rain barrels have not had a chance to go dry. We have not had to extensively water our lawns. Plants are growing and flowering like the weeds. OK OK so now we are gloating.

Where does that fit in with the global environment? Should we rest on our laurels? Should we pray to the rain Gods to stop sending us rain and start sending it to the drought stricken areas? Well we can, but let's not go that far yet. Remember how we had those dry seasons in the Northeast several years ago lowering the Great Lakes to several feet below normal? Well, this could happen again.

I say everything in moderation. Just because you have an abundance does not mean you won't run out. Fresh water is precious commodity and should always be treated as such. Why do you think there are companies spending all kinds of money on how to get fresh water from the ocean? There are filters that purify water and there are gadgets that will pull water from the air.

Until fresh water is readily available on all dry areas of land, it should be treated respect. Even if it means reducing the amount of water you use for your shower. And even if it means reducing the number of flushes of your toilet.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Nature and Conservation not Humane?

I could not pass on posting this trailer.
I was a little surprised at what was happening here.

Just when you thought that the human race is making strides in helping nature over come its obstacles. Along comes a new "threat". I have not seen the movie yet, but would like to see it when it comes in the area.

Please comment.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Using the sun to heat a pool.

To heat the water in our pool I recently purchased a pool solar heater.
We have an in-ground pool with a liner that sits on dirt.
This makes for a cooler pool to begin with. On top of that we have a yard that backs to the woods with old oak trees that give us plenty of shade.
I do have a roof that gets plenty of sun for about 7 hours of the day.
So I thought let's make use of that time we have in the sun.

I did not want to spend a lot of money so I went with two 1' x 20' panels. This kit included connector hoses, a check valve, a diverter valve and the other hardware needed to mount the panels on the roof. I did have to buy additional 1 1/2 inch pipes and a shutoff valve that did not come with the kit.

Let's not forget the safety aspect: You need the ability to get on the roof safely and an additional hand to hold the panels in place while you mount the solar panels.

I plumbed in the 1 1/2 inch pipes from the filter outlet to the roof. I went through my roof so I did not have to run pipes on the outside of my house. (Good thing I did my roof myself about 5 years ago so I know how to cleanly install pipes without leaks) I installed an appropriate shutoff and diverter valve. I placed the panels and mounted them according to the directions and made sure all the connections were secured.

Of course no job goes without glitches I had a couple of leaks and a line break. All fixed properly and after some "kind words of encouragement" the system is functional.

Now as you all know Upstate New York can throw you all kinds of curves when it comes to the weather. And this year is no exception. We have yet to have multiple days of clear sunny skies with nights that are warm and sticky. Now most people people like the cooler summer days we have been having. But trying to test the solar heater has been less than favorable as you do need continuous sun for at least 6 hours.
The solar panels are making a bit of a difference on those few sunny days by helping raise the pool temp by about 3 - 4 degrees. This is all done by heat from the sun... free... no additional cost.

The panels are doing the job. But the square footage of the panels does need to be twice the current size to effectively raise the temperature by 5 degrees. For my budget that will be a project for next year.

Monday, July 27, 2009

As close to nature as we can get.

Deer in out in the openThis is nature at its best.

This was a refreshing sight just the other day: Driving home, my daughter and I saw two young deer grazing in a small open corner lot near a busy intersection in our town.

We thought it was so neat we just had to stop and look for a second... and take a picture, of course.

The two young deer were about 30 feet away from us and just kept grazing as if no one was there. Other people stopped behind us and also took a minute to take a look at this wonder. How nice is that.

You don't get to see this every day when nature comes in close proximity to the everyday hustle and bustle of suburban life. And we did not have to go to the zoo to see it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Going green...Who's responsibility is it?

Who should be responsible for being green. Who should be responsible for making products environmentally responsible?

Should consumers demand only green products?
Should manufacturers make products that are only eco friendly?
Should the government demand better fuel economy and more sustainable products from the manufacturers.
DO consumers have time to sift through labels after labels to find the best green products?
Should consumers demand only true green products?
Man that is a lot to think about. What is the answer?
Kind of like answering the question of what came first... the chicken or the egg?
Or is it more a debate on what came first.

There is that fine line of what should be done and what can be done. We should not pollute, but at what cost? We should reduce, reuse and recycle...but at what cost?
Is there a cost or is it just a re-allocation of time?
How fast do we expect to implement? Is one more year going to make a difference?

More questions I don't have the answers to.
All of the above also depends on who you talk to. Between the scientists or the politicians, middle class versus the single mom who uses social services and developed country versus under developed country the answers will differ.

What would your answer be?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

How popular is being green?

Green as green can be.
Is green a dirty word these days?
I even heard some people are sick of the green thing.
Is being green getting a bad rap?

It's almost like saying that saving money is a bad thing or that living in a polluted environment is fine. I still think that people are inundated by green and would prefer to see more savings. People don't like spending more money now to see a future ROI. Most of us like to see savings on the next bill.

Unfortunately it does not work that way. But we will not change the nay sayers. Let's stick to the people who already believe in the green concept. Then as time goes by even those who are sitting on the fence may join.

It also goes back to what being green is all about. Being sustainable. Being energy efficient. Being environmentally responsible. It is not wasting water. It is not wasting energy. It is not being wasteful in general.

For those who read my posts regularly know I will not preach being green. I would just like to see common sense in energy use and environmental responsibility. You do not have to be green to do either.

Thanks for letting me ramble on here. Let me know your stand point.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Heater Maintenance... Even in the Summer

OK OK it is summer and I'm having my furnace cleaned and inspected. This is part of the annual maintenance agreement I bought with Isaac Heating. At least I know that the heater will function properly and efficiently in the late fall if it is needed.

Getting a maintenance agreement on our heater is not only a smart thing to do, but also a necessary one. We still have an older model heater and the unit is not the most reliable. So when we first moved in several years ago I thought it was important to get a service maintenance agreement.

For what I paid for the year it is well worth the investment. Aside from the annual clean up and inspection I am also covered for any emergencies. As in, if my heater dies in the middle of winter I get service within 24 hrs and this includes weekends. Anyone with a wife and kids can relate on how important that comfort is to them.

Regular maintenance is also very important. Just changing the filter every season is not enough. These guys come in and check out the inflow temperature vs.the outflow temperature. They clean and inspect the ignition parts and several other services that insure that your system is running at its optimum capability.

Running an inefficient heater is like running your car with incorrect ignition timing. It just doesn't run well. Now especially with the new high efficient heater and air-conditioners you still need to perform regular maintenance to keep them running at their peak of efficiency.

As I start to look at new furnaces I keep maintenance agreements in mind. It will be part of the sale.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Eco Product or Green Washing

Are your conservation efforts when buying green products really working or is there another force working against you?

For example buying a green product out of California when you are living in New York. Did the cost and CO2 emissions for transportation negate the eco-friendliness of the product? Buying local would make more sense here.

How about buying an FSC certified floor and installing it then finding it is the wrong color or type. This is causing you to have to send it back for the correct floor and reinstall it. What happens to the incorrect floor and what about the transportation involved to get the correct floor?

What if the manufacturing process of an environmentally responsible product were not as green. This is the case with many products out there. Some are made with the best green intentions but do not use fair trade practices or have limited oversight.

How green is the retailer selling the product? Do they use environmentally best practices to transport, store and market these products?

I say let the buyer beware. Not only look at the product and raw materials, but also look at their manufacturing and labor practices. Truly green companies will tell you where and how their products were made. They will also tell you how they will be shipped so you can decide how green you will be after having purchased the product. Make sure you have checked and verified your order so that there will be no mistakes at delivery and installation.

Remember there is more to being green than just owning/possessing a green product.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Do The Green Thing

Here is a guest video from Do The Green Thing:

Thanks for watching!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Teaching About Going Green Early in Life

When did you first learn about being green? When did you start thinking about the environment? Or have you always lived the green lifestyle? Or not.

This is interesting. I just read an article that it is important to teach kids about the environment early in life. This way it becomes second nature.

I have kids in first grade and have seen projects come home that involved environmental stewardship. Also because I do the green thing the kids already hear enough about it from me. I regularly tell them what to recycle and what needs to be composted.

I was brought up in the Netherlands where recycling and composting are a way of life. There is not a lot of room to throw garbage so much needs to be recycled. The local pig farmer would go around and pick up kitchen scraps to feed his pigs. Cans and bottles were all returnable. Riding the bus, train and bicycle are a standard occurrence. You did not have room for a hot water tank - a tankless water heater is the norm.

It has been many years since I've moved here to the U.S., but many of my childhood habits of basic environmental conservatism still holds. So I applaud any and all the education system has to offer kids in way of the environment.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cheap and portable power source. Part 2

Did you like the portable power source? We had a lot of great questions on this unit at the North Country Sustainable Energy Fair. As a matter of fact the unit became a good lead in for the guys from SOS Solar.
Portable Solar Power Station
It was created as supplemental power station for my back yard. I have since added a solar panel onto my portable power station.
I've mounted a Global Solar 12 watt solar panel along with a charge controller. This gives me a trickle charge going to the 12 volt car battery I never exchanged.

I have yet to drain the battery to see how much and how long it will draw power. Of course I only have enough power to light up a couple of low watt CFL bulbs. I can also recharge my cell phone or other portable electronic devices. It will definitely power my laptop. This would be a good test to see how much and how long I can draw power from this thing.

I did install everything in a rolling wood box. This way I would not have separate pieces to keep together when powering the unit.
The solar panel is mounted on a threaded broom stick into a flag mount which I was no longer using. The whole thing comes apart pretty easily and can be nicely stored away.

All together I think I spent about $150. Most of the materials were from things I had lying around anyway. A real good way to re-use and recycle some materials in my garage.
Portable solar power station
I would like to put together a larger, more powerful solar power generator. One that would create about 1500 to 2000 watts of power. This way when the power goes out I'll have the backup resources to run the refrigerator and a lamp. The search is on.

I'll have to let you know when I put the upgraded model together.

Let me know about your own experience in creating one of these units. I am sure I am not the only one out there doing this. I'm looking forward to your comments.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Info on the North Country Energy Fair

Day 1

So we spent the past week-end at the North Country Sustainable Energy Fair and Home Tours, up in Canton, New York. The event was held at SUNY Canton which has a great location north of the Adirondack park. The weather was sunny and warm, but the wind kept things cool.

Me and Chris from International E-Brokerage arrived at the college just before 8 a.m. so we had plenty of time to scope out the accommodations and get setup for the crowds to wander in around 10 a.m.

We were able to get setup outside in the courtyard right next to SOS Solar systems. We hung our banners and set out the displays.
We had never attended one of these fairs and were anxious to see what kind of questions we would get.

The pace throughout the day was slower than expected. We were told that last year's attendance was between 10 and 15 thousand people over the course of two days. So were were expecting bigger crowds. We had a steady stream of interested people.

It was nice not to have to explain sustainability to this audience. People came to get educated on what products are available to make their lives a little more greener. And that makes it all worth while.

I also had a little time to browse with the different exhibitors on the inside and on the outside. I'll have to post on some specific vendors as I review the materials I collected from each of them.

Day 2

Boy had the weather changed. We went from being nice and warm to looking for heat. We drank more coffee to keep warm than anything else. As the day went on it seemed to get even cooler.

We still spoke to a good number of people, but not near as many as we did on the first day.

At the end of the day we spoke to some interesting people. Got our word out on sustainability and being green on a budget. Made some good contacts and even made some friends. And that is what it is all about.

We may have to do this again next year.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Up coming weekend at the North Country Energy Fair

This upcoming weekend on April 25 and 26th we'll be attending the North Country Energy Fair and Home tour up in Canton NY. And with WE I mean me and Chris Maenza of International E-brokerage. Together we'll be promoting sustainability with Chris' barrels and the Ultimate Green List.
It is supposed to be a large two day event attracting people of the North East and Canada. I am looking forward to meeting the different vendors showing their eco-friendly and energy efficient wares.
We'll have to absorb as much as possible and let you know how the event worked out. Who knows I might even try to report on how things are going right from the event.
It should be a fun filled weekend.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Flush this

How much water do you flush down the toilet daily?
6 to 10 flushes per day? at 1.6 gallons per flush.
Then multiply this times the number of family members living in the house.
For my household that makes about 80 gallons flushed per day.
That comes to about 2500 gallons flushed per month.

If I were to install a dual flush toilet we would only use .8 gallons for most flushes. That would cut our water usage to more than half our current rate.

So is it worth the price of a new dual flush toilet?
For those people on their own well-system, dual flush toilets would help conserve water during those dry months when rain is scarce. We get city water so the effect is limited.
Macustrade sells dual flush toilets with a price range of $280 to $690. If I were to rebuild my bathroom, I would consider putting in a dual flush. But to just change it to save water does not make economical sense right now. There are bigger wastes going on that need to be addressed and would have a much bigger impact on the bottom line.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Recycle everything: Including Sex Toys?

Yes, even sex toys need to be recycled if they are no longer needed. What would you do with that old, worn out, non-functioning rubber toy? Discretely throw it in the garbage?

Like other broken appliances, sex toys would only join the tons of garbage at the landfill and would hardly decompose. OK so I can't have you imagine the landfills loaded with old sex toys...although some of you may.

The better alternative is to recycle them. How would you go about doing that?
Put them in the blue bin at the curb? Well... no.
There is a new alternative.

Recycleyoursextoy.com is your green sex toy re-cycler. They are a non-profit organization helping to green the sex toy industry. Just follow the instructions on their web site and send them your unused, non functioning sex toys. You don't even have to remove the batteries, as they will recycle them for you.

Recycleyoursextoy.com is even offering a $10 gift certificate to use at participating affiliates.

How is that for being green on a budget.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Won't you join us for EarthHour 2009

This will not cost you anything... I promise.
Join this world wide event on Saturday, March 28 at 8:30 local time.

Thank you.
How easy is that.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring projects are in the air...

March in Upstate New York can be very nice, but can still be challenging when it comes to the weather. We had snow the first day of spring. Not a lot, but snow none-the-less. I am trying to turn the thermostat down a little, but with 15 - 20 degree F evenings, it still gets pretty cold.

I still have some projects to do inside, but can't help but look forward to some out door work. I have to start making my list. Of course, it does depend on the cost of the project. Anything that has a price tag of more cash than I carry in my pocket right now, will need to be reviewed and considered for worthiness. If it is a green project, we have to consider the payback period. Projects for the kids will need to be reviewed for how busy it keeps them. Then there is the "honey do" list. Anything that keeps my wife happy gets serious consideration, keeping in mind the amount of cash I carry in my pocket.

But seriously, I am looking at several projects that are green in nature and should be easy on the wallet. For one I am going to build a nicer compost corner in our yard. This should not cost anything as I still have left over lumber from a previous project. Then I would like to light up the backyard using a solar panel, a car battery and 12 volt lighting. Lastly, I would like to consider solar pool heating this year. There are many DIY solar pool heating installation kits that are not that expensive. This should be a lot of fun. I will have to keep you posted on these projects and more.

I can't wait for the weather to turn warmer. Also... I had better complete my indoor projects fast;-)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Earth: the Sequel: Did you watch the show on Discovery?

Highlighting the contents of the book Earth: the Sequel, the show was a very informative session, that showed some great innovators working to reduce CO2 emissions and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

They covered the major areas of renewable technologies. This included: geothermal power, solar power, wind power, bio-fuel production, hydro-power from flowing water currents, and electric cars. Inventors and entrepreneurs described how they are working to use renewable energy as a way to make money and provide jobs.

It was great to see how some projects are already making a significant impact on reducing CO2 emissions. Then there were others who will see production scheduled within the next couple of years. Now that is exciting.

Most of the show was dedicated to large scale projects such as PV installation in Arizona. But the smaller ones will have impact none-the-less once fully realized.

However, to really make it work, it will take political involvement in the way of a comprehensive energy policy. Without this change high CO2 emissions will continue to be out of balance with clean energy and thereby negating the positive impacts already in place.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Earth: the Sequel

Our friends at the Environmental Defense Fund have partnered with the Discovery Channel to bring green energy technologies to life as never before:

The high-stakes race is on. The competitors are the smartest minds in America. And the prize will be the biggest explosion of wealth ever witnessed.
This is about the people who will solve the climate crisis and create wealth at the same time. It is about the minds that will save the planet, and what we can do to help them. Earth: The Sequel asks of us that we as a nation let them compete fairly in the world’s biggest business. We can avert the crisis, make the planet safe, and beat the climate challenge.

Watch this Wednesday 3/11 at 10 p.m. on the Discovery Channel. See a glimpse of the clean energy of the future. Watch the trailer: http://earththesequel.edf.org/

Friday, February 27, 2009

Remember the little things you can do.

Making big changes to be green can be difficult for many people. Doing the "Green" thing one little step at a time may make more sense and allows you to make it an easier and permanent transition.
You do not have to make big changes to impact the environment. Think about what little things you can do to reduce, re-use, and recycle. Some of them may actually make the biggest impact.

At home:
Instead of buying an upgraded water heater, turn down the water temperature by one degree and turn down the faucet to use less water.
Recycle one more thing than you did last month.
Turn down the thermostat for your heater by one degree.
One day per week stop using paper towels and use cloth instead.

At dinner:
Eat all vegetables one day per week and compost the wastes.
Use cloth napkins on the week-ends.(then graduate to the whole week)

When shopping:
Use the canvas shopping bags instead of plastic. You can also refuse the plastic bag when you only buy one or two things at the store.
Buy one of the items you usually get in bulk.

Going to work and at work:
Car pool one day per week.
Try not to print anything for one day at the office: for example make Friday "no print-out day".

Well you get the drift. And I am sure you have heard and seen these tips before.
Now let's put them to action. They don't cost you anything. As a matter of fact they may save you money instead.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What does it take to start worm composting?

I have spoken to many people about worm composting and I get many different responses.

I have gotten the questionable look, the look of disbelief and the look of "you have got to be kidding". No matter which look I get, I end up explaining what vermi composting is all about.

First of all you do not have to spend an arm and a leg on on equipment. The biggest cost in the beginning should be the worms. I bet most people already have the other equipment. And by the equipment I mean a plastic bin. If you have to buy it, you should not be paying more than $10.

Now for the worms you should use red wrigglers. They are the most efficient in vermi-composting. They are hearty and tend to stay near the surface. You can buy 1000 red wrigglers for about $30 from Uncle Jims Worm Farm. That's about a pound of worms capable of composting approximately 1 lb. of kitchen scraps and/or grass clippings per day. (organic material only, no meats)

Drill about 5 to 10, 1/8th to 1/4 inch holes in the bottom of the plastic bin for drainage.

On the bottom of the plastic bin place some shredded newspaper about an inch thick. Wet the papers. Then place your compostable materials on top of the wet papers. Then spread the worms on top and cover with a good layer of dirt. This dirt will keep the fruit flies to a minimum.

Set the bin on the cover that came with the bin and cover it with a piece of wood. You can keep the composter in the garage, but during the winter you want to take it inside.

Now that is how you make a cheap vermi-composter. If you have any other tips and suggestions please comment below.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cheap and portable power source.

What do you get if you combine an old car battery and an inverter?

For those of who are into solar power this is not even a challenge. But for those who are still new to this green thing you may find this pretty interesting.

I had always wanted to get an inverter for the van to supplement power for a laptop. On our last vacation my wife thought she would do some work on the way down to Florida. But her laptop only holds a charge for about an hour or so. So I picked up a 400 watt inverter.

For those of you not familiar, an inverter takes 12 volt car DC power and turns it into regular household A/C power. I plugged the inverter into my outlet power in the van and my wife was able to work without losing power to her laptop.

Then last year I was working on a project outside that required a grinder. I did not have access to nearby power. So I took an old battery, which I had saved from a battery upgrade and I hooked up the same inverter using the alligator clips to the battery posts. I had instant A/C power without running yards of extension cords.

Now you may think why? Well if you have experienced our frequent power outages in Upstate NY then you know that having back up power is a necessity.

We bought a Coleman gas generator for one of the ice storms we have had, but that thing is loud and stinks when we use it.
Using the battery and inverter is a quieter solution and does not pollute. I can use actually use it inside the house. Of course how many things I can power is limited for now. So, I'll have to work on getting a bigger inverter and a bigger battery.

I did recently get a small solar panel and charge controller. I'll have to expand on this subject in one of my next posts.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Learning something new about mattresses?

As I make my way around the internet looking for more environmentally friendly articles and websites I find I learn something new every day.

Over the past several weeks I have been educated about mattresses. Sounds like a sleeper to you maybe, but in the recycling world mattresses are a big problem.
Picture a dump site with piles of mattresses.

Mattresses at the landfill
Those mattresses would sit there almost forever and take up more space to boot. In addition mattress can not be compacted so they take up a lot of space at the landfill.

Well, I met a guy who is working hard to fight this issue. He is Chuck Brickman from OHIO Mattress Recovery and Recycling. His company is working hard to keep mattresses out of the waste stream.

Chuck says that 94% of the materials in mattresses is recyclable. He has sources for each of the materials that are removed from each mattress. The fiber covering gets reclaimed. The springs are taken to a metal recycler. And any wood from the box springs are used mainly for fire wood.

He is currently working with colleges and universities to add mattress recycling to their sustainability and green programs. Other sources are hotels and motels who may be upgrading their rooms.

Chuck has just updated the web site for Ohio Mattress Recovery and Recycling to give his customers a better understanding of his business. He also has a blog now, which allows him to regularly update on the progress of this important green business. Stop by and check out his web page to see what happens to mattresses.

Keep up the good work Chuck!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Energy Efficiency for All?

Here is a question I ponder regularly: What would it take to help the less fortunate live in an energy efficient home or apartment? Why should they be paying the full cost of utilities and water. Shouldn't they be able to save money on their energy bills also?

Brad Pitt is helping people in New Orleans get back on their feet by building energy efficient homes. Could this happen to others living in the most poverty stricken areas of your city? Maybe not to that extend, but for parts?

How about just the insulation? It would help reduce the heating bills in the winter and less strain on air-conditioning and electric bills in the summer.

OK, maybe the windows? How many landlords have Energy Star windows installed in their apartment buildings, only to leave the tenants deciding whether to pay for heat or food?
So much for sustainability on the side of the owners.

I know deep down it is a large task and would take a lot of money to get accomplished. But it would be a worthwhile venture. What would the benefits be? We know what the environmental benefits would be. Let's not talk green, but practically.

I would think that you know what the overall benefits would be to a family of four living on less than $20,000 per year. Now think about how this could be accomplished.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Watching your electric consumption.

How much electricity do you use in a day? Not sure?
Take your electric bill and look at the kilowatt hour (kwh) usage for the month.
Then take that total amount of kwh used and divide that by the number of days for that billing period. This will give you the average daily kwh used.

Is that easy enough for you? It is, but how do I know exactly what I used for a particular day?
That would be a tough one.T.E.D. Unless you sit and watch your electric meter.

I recently found a device out there that can give you that information.
T.E.D. Electricity Monitor will show you the electricity used and how much that will cost.
And get this, it will update it every second. Can you imagine watching what you are spending on electricity by the second? Then you can also get the optional software interface and look at this information on your computer. You can manipulate the data to show graphically what you use and spend daily, weekly, and monthly.

The company claims that you can watch your electric usage go up and down depending on what is being used or not being used at that moment. The base unit costs $140.00. The software interface costs an additional $45. So for a total of around $200 you can monitor your full electrical usage by the second.

Because you can see what you are spending in "real time" you may be more apt to shut things down saving you in electric costs. This savings would be the pay back for the unit.
I would say that makes this a useful item to have. I will have to invest in one with money from our tax return.

Kill-A-WattAnother option to see how much you are spending on electricity is a Kill-A-Watt Electricity Load Meter and Monitor. This unit only costs about $20- 25 depending where you get it. The Kill-A-Watt will allow you to find out which of your appliances, lamps and computers are actually costing you the most! Just plug them into the Kill-A-Watt electricity usage monitor and it will tell you how efficient they are. The Kill-A-Watt’s easily-readable LCD display measures consumption by the kilowatt-hour, just like the electric company.

Would you save money with one of these units? You probably would knowing how much you are spending on electricity for a particular appliance that has lost it's energy efficiency. I myself would find it challenging to see if I could lower usage knowing what sources use more electricity and which sources would reduce energy consumption.

The bottom line is reducing our overall energy consumption. If tools such as these can help I am all for it.