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SAVE ENERGY - SAVE MONEY

Greening Neighborhoods promotes, educates, and supports
neighborhood efforts to conserve our natural resources, save
money, and reduce dependency on nonrenewable resources

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I went to Home Depot the other day to buy a light bulb.  I knew exactly what I wanted.  A PAR 38, LED bulb, 1600 lumens, 3200 K was what I was looking for. PAR 38 is the size I needed, commonly called a down light. 1600 lumens is as bright as the old 100 watt bulbs and 3200 K is the color of the bulb, which is referred to as soft white sometimes.  I wanted an LED light because I want to die before I have to change it out again.

After rummaging through the bulb selection for about five minutes I came to the section where the bulb I was looking for is offered for sale.  I got it home, screwed it in, flicked on the switch and the room looked like an interrogation chamber.  I looked at the package and sure enough, in tiny print, was the color temperature listing –“screaming bright daylight”.  The bulb had been misplaced in the display, the packaging is not uniform, and I was in too much of a hurry to read every scrap of information on the box.  I had to go back, exchange the bulb and start my hunt all over again.

The solution to the light bulb dilemma is simple.

  1. Display similar bulbs in the same general location.  Things do get misplaced so
  2. Put uniform notations on the package – bulb type, lumens, color temperature.  I know that the proper notation is not what we are used to and we Americans couldn’t spend a week to learn the metric system, SO, make the proper notation in large type with the common notation in smaller type.  We will learn.
  3. Have a nice interactive display with pictures explaining the proper terminology plus a schedule of the amount of money purchasing CFL or LED bulbs will save us and, by the way, show how much we are reducing our carbon footprint by purchasing a “green” light bulb.

I’ll go talk to Home Depot about this right away.  Meanwhile here are some charts we can download and take with us to the store AND a web site for discounted LED coupons.

LED Flood Soft white coupon, LED Daylight coupon, LED Flood daylight coupon and LED Soft White.

Follow this link for a light bulb chart

0164-light-bulb-chart-full-size

We all know that trees help clean the air and act as natural coolers in the summer and reduce the heat island effect in urban areas. They even reduce our carbon footprint, which exists no how many practices we employ to conserve resources. And flowering trees and large stately oaks and hickories have great beauty. images0WZCSM66

However, in the summer thunderstorm season, we may begin to feel a little nervous about that shade tree that’s lowering ambient temps 5 degrees. Out on the lawn, not so much a problem. But where it’s doing its most important work, cooling the house, property and even lives can be at risk during a thunderstorm microburst. In fact, just walking or driving around can be a risk.

Such is life for those fortunate enough to live in an urban forest. We reap enormous benefits from an abundance of trees. But not without risks. We can consult with “tree services” about safety at our house, but remember, they only make their money by cutting trees. Many a panicky home owner has denuded their entire property and ended up impoverishing our environment and with higher cooling bills, added discomfort, and a neighborhood eyesore.

A qualified arborist who does not cut trees is the safest and most reliable resource for managing trees. The arborist is likely to be as interested in the beauty and environmental and economic benefits of trees as you are, and also experienced in any safety measures that may be required. Due diligence on our part can also help, making sure that our trees get the water and nutrients they need to stay strong during our increasing droughts. Trees Atlanta is one good resource for information at treesatlanta.org.

Nature gives us a magnificent resource for cooling, air and water cleansing, wildlife conservation, and beauty. Along with a bit of risk. Our part requires careful stewardship and encouragement of this invaluable resource.

 

In a story typical of technology in our lives: Once upon a time, there were no clothes dryers. Imagine! Then only rich people had the new clothes drying machines (for the help to use). Then, and now, almost anyone can afford a clothes dryer, or at least a trip to the laundry shop for coin-operated dryers. Whew! What did we ever do without those machines? PostcardMondayMorningInNewYorkCity1907

Hint: We hung wet laundry on a clothes line (cost, about $20.) and dried our clothes for free. We also did not need coal-fired or nuclear power plants to dry our clothes. We used a new/old concept, solar power and wind power. For free.

Our clothes also lasted longer (short fibers not removed by machine action), shrunk less, and naturally sun-bleached and smelled better. Unless you lived next to a coal-fired plant or the railroad. And once clothes dryers became affordable, clothes lines became a symbol of technological obsolescence, if not of  poverty and the lower classes. Many neighborhoods actually enacted covenants forbidding hanging laundry outside.

Clothes dryers are typically faster – no time needed to hang each piece, just throw it all in. They work better at drying when it’s raining or freezing outside. The tumble can help soften clothes. And they avoid the problems of birds or sooty pollution. Energy Star dryers also save money and resources.

Still, there’s something about free. And those fresh smells.

The clothes dryer isn’t going to go away, and we’re all thankful for that. A compromise might be: On a sunny or dry breezy day, tumble the clothes in the dryer for a few minutes, then hang out on a line or hangers to finish drying, softening, and wrinkle removing. It reduces dryer time and energy use tremendously, eliminates shrinkage, and produces much improved finished laundry. In truth, it works great for me. (I also use organic concentrated cleaning powders and softeners – no chemicals to leach out on me from “clean” laundry, and also saves money.)

Get Hip.

Technological hipness ain’t what it used to be. Clothes lines, including retractable ones, racks (can be used indoors on rainy days!), coat hangers, and clothes pins are all available at your favorite hardware or supply store or online. They must sense a market.

Save money and resources. Make friends with the birds.

Change your Furnace Filter
Yes, it’s time to change your furnace filter again.  Here’s what to do:
1)  Your filter might be located behind a return air grill.  If this is the case click on this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLpsZplJx8M

2)  More likely, if you have central air conditioning, your filter will be located in your furnace where the supply air leaves the unit.  In this case watch this video:
Changing a furnace filter.

Old Filter

Old Filter

New Filter

New Filter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The old filter above was mounted backwards.  Be careful check the direction arrow printed on the filter to insert it properly.

Clean your Air Conditioner
The next task is to clean the fins on your air cooling unit.  The critical step here is to shut off the electric power to the unit.  Then the fins can be cleaned with a garden hose.  For details watch this Tim Gibson video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_kLEFrYdeU&NR=1

These simple cleaning steps will make your units run more efficiently and will lower your heating and cooling costs.  Just as important, your indoor air quality will be improved by filtering out pollutants in the air you breathe.

Cars for nothin’?–well, close to nothing.  My wife, Lorna,  and I leased an all electric Nissan Leaf late last year and were pleasantly surprised at how little it costs us to run.  We are paying $283.00 per month for the lease.  Lorna and I have home based businesses so we are able to write off car mileage for business related trips.  We do have a second car, which was Lorna’s former favorite car.  We now negotiate each morning over who gets to drive the Leaf and who has to drive the hydrocarbon fueled car.  We are also stagger scheduling our appointments so we trade off using the Leaf during the day.  Since December (that’s half a year) we have had to fill up the second car twice, which cost us $120.  The other cost is for the electricity it takes to recharge the electric car.  About $2.50 for a full overnight charge.

Our business related mileage is 535 miles per month, slightly below national average.

Tanking Up

Tanking Up

Here’s the math.

Cost of Lease $283 /month
Cost of Electricity to Recharge $ 17 / month
Total Cost $300 / month
Savings on Gas* $145 / month
Savings on Income Tax** $60 / month
Total All-Electric Savings $205 / month
Net Cost to Drive Electric $ 95 / month or $3.17 per day

I gave up my daily cup of coffee to make up the difference.

The other plus is that (except for the coal fired plant that produces the electricity to recharge the car) we lowered our carbon footprint to zero.

*   Based on our pre-Leaf gas costs for our business mileage

**Based on $0.56 / mile for business related driving and a 20% tax bracket.

 

The National Climate Assessment Report came out last week, strongly stating that our climate is warming and detailing the way the changes are already affecting us in the U.S., now and in the future. A Federal Advisory Committee of over 250 scientists and experts, the report was peer-reviewed by other scientists and government agencies, including twice by the National Academy of Sciences.

 Ten Indicators of a Warming World from the Climate Assessment Report

In announcing the report, President Obama said “We want to emphasize to the public this is not some distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now.” The President cited increased flooding, severe droughts, more wildfires. In the future, we can expect more intense storms, loss of coastal areas, endangered wildlife species, and all of these conditions to worsen.

Still, It’s not too Late.

Thirty-eight percent of energy use is from our homes.

“It’s a good-news story about the many opportunities to take cost-effective actions to reduce the damage” commented White House science adviser John Holdren. (No doubt he was thinking of Greening Neighborhoods.)

Visit Greening Neighborhoods and click on “tips” to find things that each of us can do.

Howard and George

Saturday, May 10, is not only the day before Mothers’ Day (helpful reminder). It is also National Train Day (helpful reminder #2).

Palm Coast Sponsored by Amtrak and other corporate sponsors, National Train Day is a celebration of trains and why they matter. Carbon emissions for trains are 44%  that of  planes, 58%  that of cars, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Amtrak even allows passengers a way to offset their carbon footprint through a partnership with carbonfund.org. (Greening Neighborhoods members can offset carbon footprints at Sterling Planet.)

transportation-carbon-emissions-702733Emissions factors based on calculations from the World ResourcesInstitute (WRI) and Carbonfund.org. Calculations assume single-occupant car and the added impact of high-altitude emissions for air.

Amtrak carries 31.6 million people (non-commuter, intercity) per year, a 55% growth since 1997, or 3 train trips for every single airplane trip. Passenger trains return $3 for every $1 invested, employ 20,000 people, and serve hundreds of cities in the U.S. and 237 National Parks.* The National Park Service even puts rangers on many trains during the summer months with its joint NPS/Amtrak Trails & Rails program.

However, unless you live in the Northeast, in a major Midwestern city, on the West Coast, or in a proactive state like Illinois or North Carolina, you may not even see a passenger train or be aware service exists. If you live in Atlanta, your options are limited, but you can still get to Washington, D.C., overnight (with connections to the rest of the U.S. or continue to New York), or Birmingham or New Orleans as a day trip. In neighboring North Carolina, which has been investing in passenger rail for over ten years, multiple trains can take you to Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham, or Raleigh. More are planned for Ashville and other destinations – swift, comfortable (including Business Class), and cheap.

Ironically, trains are often thought to be an expensive way to travel, and political ideologies and a cost-cutting management philosophy have been forcing up fares and the cost of dining, snack, and sleeping car amenities. After all, if the trains are full… But taking the train will still usually save money over flying or driving.**

National Train Day is celebrated in Georgia in Atlanta (Peachtree Station), Loganville, Toccoa; and in Cordele on the SAM Shortline, which offers short train rides to Veterans State Park.  Making transportation part of our life style is the best way to save the most money and natural resources. Have some fun. Take the train!

http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/HomePage

http://www.bytrain.org/

*Amtrak

**Based on the national average of cost of automobile upkeep, depreciation and fuel of $0.50 per mile.

 

 

Over the years Greening Neighborhoods has encouraged neighbors to make home improvements and initiate practices that conserve our natural resources and save money.  We designed a self-performed home energy audit available at energy.greeningneighborhoods.com.  It takes about 30 to 40 minutes to complete and shows us where in our home we can save water and energy along with suggested do-it-yourself improvements.

Another systematic approach to implement long-lasting  energy efficiency improvements in our homes is offered by Retrofit America.  Greening Neighborhoods has teamed up with Retrofit America – a leading contractor with the Georgia Power Home Energy Improvement program.  Retrofit America offers a free Home Efficiency Score™ that rates our homes on a 1 to 10 scale with respect to other homes in Atlanta or in our neighborhoods.

Retrofit America HE ScoreHome Efficiency ScoreTM Before Retrofits are Made

Here’s how it works:  Just click here and fill out the online form.  Retrofit America will rate our home’s energy use and show us where our energy dollars are being spent and compare our usage with that of our neighbors.
We can then schedule a complete home energy audit.  Retrofit America will run diagnostics on our home’s insulation levels, air and duct leakage, and HVAC systems to identify the specific improvements needed to make our home more energy efficient.  The energy audit cost is $380, less a $190 cash rebate from Georgia Power.  Retrofit America can then implement our efficiency improvements.

Retrofit America has been achieving excellent results for Atlanta homeowners. They’ve been delivering average energy savings of 40% on heating and cooling!

We’ll look forward to tracking the progress of our Greening Neighborhoods’ homes through this comparison of the Home Efficiency Score™, before and after the efficiency improvements.

Notice:  For those of us who read last week’s monarch butterfly blog, PBS is airing a documentary, Journey of the Butterflies, tonight at 9pm.

Most of the neighborhood folks are either planting or thinking about planting our spring gardens.  We have been asked a lot of questions about how to best prepare our gardens and rather than give second hand information we are reprinting an excerpt from K. Rashid Nuri’s article Preparing Your Spring Garden that he wrote last week for the Truly Living Well web site.  Rashid is the expert the gardeners in our neighborhood call upon for the right answers for gardening without pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

Rashid group photoRashid says:

The single most important factor in creating a successful garden is soil preparation. I call it “dirt making”. Get the soil right. If you create good healthy soil, the plants, which grow in that soil, will also be healthy. Healthy plants are disease resistant.

Begin soil preparation by gently turning the soil. If this is the first time the land is being used to grow food, a tiller may prove helpful. Too much tillage destroys soil structure. Subsequent soil preparation can be done with a spade or garden fork.

After opening the soil add copious amounts of organic material such as compost, leaf mold, well-rotted sawdust or decomposed animal manure. You can make your own compost or purchase it from Truly Living Well or most garden supply stores. Compost is the key to successful gardening. Compost added to gardens improves soil structure, texture, aeration and water retention. When mixed with compost, clay soils are lightened, and sandy soils retain water better. Mixing compost with soil also contributes to erosion control, soil fertility, proper pH balance, and healthy root development in plants.

Utilize the garden space wisely. Select crops you will eat and enjoy. You must like what you plant or the garden space and the food will both be wasted.  Southern exposure has the most light. Tall crops should be planted on the north and west side of the garden to prevent shading of smaller plants.

This is a transitional period for garden crops. Cool season crops that have overwintered and very early spring crops, such as asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, mustards, onions, English peas, spinach and turnips are being harvested. Some, like Irish potatoes, and those with fast growth and production rates such as arugula, carrots, lettuce and radish, can still be planted and will do well if the weather stays cool for the next four to six weeks. Carefully choosing the site for cool season crops planted in late spring can extend your harvest of these (largely green leafy) crops. Select a cooler and slightly shadier spot in your garden to shade them from the hot spring sun.

The last anticipated frost date for our area is April 11. After the danger of frost has passed, and the soil has warmed, it is time to plant warm season crops such as corn, cucumbers, green beans, eggplant, summer squash, and tomatoes. A few weeks later it will be time to plant okra, peppers, sweet potatoes, watermelon and winter squash. Because warm season crops require longer days and warmer soil to thrive, successful planting involves a combination of close attention to the weather, along with intimate knowledge of your garden soil and the microclimates for each planting area.

Use known or recommended cultivars for your main planting. Always buy good quality open-pollinated or heirloom seed from a reputable company. In my opinion, you will be better off not buying hybrid or genetically modified seed. Many nurseries have transplant seedlings available that save time.

 

Many of us North Americans head south to avoid cold winters, waiting to return home when things warm up.  The Monarch butterfly does the same.  She winters in Mexico and flies north after she senses that spring is coming.  monarchf

Georgia is one of the southern states along her multiple flight paths, where she alights to lay her eggs on milkweed before old age and death entrap her.  Her eggs are nourished by the poisonous milkweed.  They develop into larvae that carry the milkweed toxins as protection from predators.  The young caterpillars hang from twigs and cast webs around themselves, where metamorphosis takes place, changing the pupae into the beautiful butterfly we all recognize.

The freshly hatched Monarchs head north for their remaining few weeks of life and repeat this cycle three more times.  The fourth, and last generation, makes its way to summer in Canada.  This generation, however, lives ten times longer than its parents’, grandparents’ and great grandparents’ generations.

As fall approaches, the Canadian generation flies 2,500 miles back to Mexico, winters there and, in the spring, returns to southern states where it expects to find milkweed to lay its eggs.  But here lies the problem.  There is less and less milkweed due to more and more urbanization, resulting in fewer and fewer Monarchs.  Nancy Jones of the Blue Heron Nature Preserve reports that three years ago 60 million Monarchs were counted flying to Mexico.  Last year the count was three million.

And herein lies the way we can help perpetuate the Monarchs’  life-cycle miracle.  Plant milkweed.

milkweed

Hybrid milkweed plants are now available from local nurseries and will mature in time for this year’s return of the Monarch butterflies.  Native milkweed will be available in a couple of weeks from Rock Springs Farm in Buford.  If we help the Monarchs, the Monarchs will help us by pollinating the flowers, fruits and vegetables we all depend on.  It’s another win-win enterprise.