Friday, June 29, 2007

Gas Mileage Standards Rejected!

Okay, I am a little confused. I just read an article that announced that the House committee rejected a plan to raise gas mileage standards for new vehicles. (House Committee Defeats Increase to Gas Mileage Standards) Supposedly this plan is even backed by the auto industry. Now I am not a big proponent of creating legislation to fix our environmental issues. I believe environmental issues need to be solved through grassroots education and social awareness.

However, I am surprised that the proposal was defeated, especially since gas mileage standards have not been upgraded since the mid-70s. With hybrid electric vehicles becoming more popular along with other alternative fuel vehicles, one would think this would be no problem. If anyone has any insight into why this was defeated, I sure would like to hear from you!

Meanwhile, I thought I would review a few of the suggestions on how you can improve your gas mileage and save some green!

Observe the speed limit. Note that fuel economy decreases rapidly at speeds over 60 mph. For every 5 mph over 60 the cost per gallon of fuel increases between $0.15 and $0.20! Ouch!

Keep your vehicle at constant speed. When possible, keep your vehicle going at an even pace. Variable speed increases gas consumption. Use cruise control on the highway to maintain a steady speed. Drive smoothly – avoid sudden stops and quick take offs.

Use mass transit. We recently came back from vacation and spent three days in a large city. We used their bus system and saved! No rental car charges, no gasoline purchases. Bus fare was pretty minimal and we were able to see more of the city! Mass transit isn’t always practical or available, but include it in your considerations. Also consider carpooling or ride-share programs, walking or biking to work or store. You may want to check with your employer and see if telecommuting is available to you on occasion.

Keep your vehicle maintained. Tires should be properly inflated, motor oil should be changed regularly, air filters should be checked and engines should be tuned at recommended intervals.

Let us know if you have any other tips.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Recycling Household Items for Charity

Here are a couple more thoughts on what to do with your trash or household items you wish to dispose of.

Consider donation, it's the ultimate recycling and reusing:

Old books can go to libraries, nursing homes, preschools, or various charity book collections.

Clothing can go to charity organizations such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, women's shelters, and charity resale shops. You can do the same with some children's toys and baby equipment such as strollers, cribs, toys, etc.

Furniture you no longer want can go to charity organizations as well. Consider those that resell those items or those that provide the items directly to people who are financially in need or are disaster victims.

If you just get a bit creative you will probably find many ways to recycle or reuse many of your household items. Our next post will consider ways you can make money off of items you no longer need. In the meantime, feel free to drop us a note if you have more ideas to add to this list.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How to Dispose of Trash Without Using Plastic Bags

We had a great question from one of our readers, Midlife Traveller, who is using reusable shopping bags but wonders now how to handle the trash without using plastic bags. This is not as easy an answer as the shopping bags, but here are some possible suggestions:

Separate your trash and recycle as much as possible. Check with your trash disposal service and find out exactly what items they will recycle. There may be more recycling options than you realize. Also check with the municipality where you live to see if they have any separate recycling programs available for additional items.

Consider composting food wastes, paper, and other organically based products. Composting is a much easier proposition today than it used to be and there are several great composters on the market that can make the job easier and relatively clean. See the example we have outlined below. You can use biodegradable trash bags in the trash containers you are using for any items you are going to compost.

What remains of your trash should actually be fairly minimal. Items such as meat products you may want to use a food waste disposer or you may need to use a plastic trash bag for these items, as they are not compostable. Other non-recyclables I would just put directly into a trash can for pick-up, no bag needed.

This type of trash system will obviously take a bit of effort on your part, but will greatly reduce the amount of trash going to the landfills, will increase the amount of items going to the recycling plants, and will provide you with some rich, organic compost to fertilize your gardens. There are obviously many benefits to making the extra effort.

Here is a great little compost bin you may want to consider:

The Envirocycle Composter The Envirocycle Composter
Make your own compost!

Envirocycle has created this composter which produces quality compost and compost tea quickly and easily. It’s user-friendly, eliminates mess and odor, and is compact making it perfect for those with limited space.
Envirocycle Simplifies Composting

The Envirocycle composter is specifically designed to simplify the recycling of kitchen and garden refuse. It produces quality compost more quickly and easily than conventional composters by its rolling and mixing action which keeps the ingredients well mixed and aerated.

Makes Rich Compost Tea

This enviro cycle unit also makes compost tea, a rich organic liquid plant food appreciated by gardeners everywhere. Use it on your house plants, outdoor plants, flowers, trees, shrubs, garden and lawn.


You may also want to consider biodegradable trash bags. These should only be used when the trash will be composted, as, like any other plastic bag, they will not break down in a sealed environment such as a landfill.

The bags shown below are for pet waste, but they are also available in other sizes for use in the home.

Biodegradable and Compostable
These BioBag Pet Waste Bags are 100% Biodegradable and 100% Compostable. BioBags help to make cleaning up after Fido a little more earth friendly. Made from cornstarch, these bags help to eliminate regular plastic bags from our environment. When disposed, BioBags will biodegrade as naturally as food scraps, leaving no harmful residue.

No Polyethylene
No Polyethylene is used in the production of this product. BioBags are GMO free, certified for use in organic agriculture, yet are shelf stable – just like paper towels.

Contains 50 full-sized bags
Measure 11.5” high x 7.8” wide (Large enough for even big Fido’s!)

Click Here


Let us know if you have any additional ideas for environmentally friendly waste disposal. The best way to make things better is the free exchange of ideas!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Try Reusable Shopping Bags to Decrease Your Impact on the Environment

Chico Bag Reusable Shopping Bags: Black

ChicoBag Reusable Nylon Shopping Bag holds 20lbs
Measurements: Pouch measures a mere 4” x 2 ½” x 1” Expanded bag is 18" x 13"

Chico Bag Reusable Shopping Bags rock!

Use the ChicoBag Reusable Nylon Shopping Bag for everything – trips to the grocery store, farmers market or out shopping. The Chico Bag reusable shopping bag's made from strong, durable nylon. It's ultra-lightweight and tuck itself into a little bag making it perfect to fit into your purse, pocket or glove box. The Chico Bag fabric is soft making holding the handles a little easier on the hands. They’re easy to pack, durable and hold a lot. Machine washable. 1 year manufacturers warranty against defects in material and workmanship.

Reduce your Footprint with Reusable Bags. Did you know that using reusable shopping bags can save the average American 300 to 700 plastic shopping bags per year, which will save 3 to 7 gallons of crude oil? That’s per person for plastic bags alone! What a great, simple way to conserve our natural resources.

Ways to Improve the Environmental Friendliness of Your Business

Face it; it is easy to waste items at work and to not think about reducing, reusing, recycling, repurposing or regenerating resources. However, maintaining an environmentally friendly business helps your bottom line as well as the environment. So what can you do to improve the green at your place of business?

First, see that policies are put in place which encourages reducing, reusing and recycling.

Maximize energy efficiency. Turn down the heat or up the air conditioning by a couple of degrees. Be sure all windows and doors are insulated. Use energy efficient light bulbs. Turn equipment and machinery off when appropriate.

Reduce your water usage. Install displacement toilet dams in toilet reservoirs. Stop leaky faucets as soon as they are spotted.

Recycle, recycle
. Have specially marked bins for recycling to collect paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, plastics and ink cartridges.

Keep the “e” in e-mail. Don’t print off an e-mail unless it is absolutely necessary.

Check with your suppliers and see if they take back packaging and reuse it.

Look for a supply of paper with maximum recycled content.

Ask all of your suppliers to let you know what “green” policies and practices they have in place. If they don’t have any, look for another supplier.

Reduce paper usage by producing double sided documents. Reuse padded envelops.

Buy more environmentally friendly vehicles.

Putting just a few of these in practice will help you to “Be Green and Save”!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Stop Receiving Junk Mail

I walked out to the mail box and what did I find – 10 pieces of mail. Exciting? Remember how you used to love getting mail? Well going through that mail was 1 bill and nine pieces of junk mail! Not so much fun anymore. That is a lot of paper just going to the trash bin, recycle bin or shredder! How can we stop getting so much junk mail? I haven’t found a way to get rid of all of the junk mail, but here are some ways to greatly reduce your junk mail.

Direct Marketing Association has a Mail Preference Service ( (MPS). Registering will cost you $1.00 but will greatly reduce the amount of national advertising mail sent to you. Members of the Direct Marketing Association are required to use the MPS list. Keep in mind this will also reduce the number of catalogs and coupons you receive, which may be items you want.

Whenever you order a product, donate money or fill out a warranty card, include a note to not sell your name or address. Most companies will honor this request and mark your information accordingly.

The Credit Reporting Industry has a website that you can visit and register to opt out or opt in to receive firm offers from credit or insurance companies. At ( you can electronically opt-out for five years, download a form to complete the permanently opt-out or you are able to opt-in.

Contact your credit card companies and ask them to remove your name from their lists that they sell or rent.

Contact your congressman. Currently 14 states have “Do Not Junk Registry” legislation under consideration patterned after the Do Not Call registry. Encourage your congressman to consider and pass this bill. The Center for a New American Dream (
maintains a list of states with bills under consideration.

Meanwhile, keep shredding that junk mail!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Hotels - Some Creative Ways Many Are Trying to Be Green

We checked with the Green Hotels Association and found out what some hotels are doing to “be green”. You might want to pass this list along when you travel this summer.

• Meeting and banquet facilities are using pourers for sugar, pitchers for cream and small serving dishes for butter and jellies instead of disposable packaging.

• A Toronto hotel is recycling stained tablecloths into napkins, chef's aprons and neckties.

• Bicycles are being loaned or rented to guests.

• Coins or chips are being used for car parking and coat checking instead of paper tickets.

• Hotels are making cloth laundry bags from retired sheets.

• Mowed landscaping is being replaced by ground cover. Lawnmowers are used less, so air pollution and noise are reduced.

• A Florida hotel bought a mulcher to chop up their garden clippings and create their own mulch. The mulcher paid for itself in three months.

• A Wisconsin B&B has installed beautiful blue floor tile made from recycled automobile windshields.

• Chief engineers have found that toilet tank fill diverters in older toilets save about 3/4 of a gallon of water per flush.

• A Pennsylvania property has a 400' garden and produces organically-grown vegetables for its restaurant.

• Restaurants and bars in hotels are using daylight exclusively for as much of each day as possible.

• Solar energy is lighting signage and heating water for hotels in tropical areas.

Don't be afraid to ask the place you are thinking of staying what they are doing to be green and help the environment. During your travels, if you see something a hotel is doing to “be green”, drop us a line!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Smokers Littering the World

Photo courtesy of New Hampshire Dept. of Environmental Services

First off, I have to say, I am not a smoker and never have been. I detest the smell of smoke. And yes, this blog entry is simply a commentary!

The other day we participated in a “trash-off” day in our community to clean up trash along the roadways, creeks and parks. We had a fun time getting to know other people in the community and the town definitely sparkles a bit more. But, you know what was mostly picked up – cigarette butts! So, by the end of the day, I liked the actions of people who smoke even less.

Recently I came across an article - Seven Million Pounds of Trash Pulled From Waterways by Brian Skoloff of the Associated Press. In his article he notes - “Of the 7.7 million items of debris collected worldwide in 2006, cigarettes and cigarette butts accounted for roughly 1.9 million, the sixth consecutive year they have topped the list.”

Smokers, do us a favor and keep your trash to yourself!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Flying Green - Carbon Offsets

Today in the media you see a lot about “carbon offsets”. What exactly are these? Well, basically it is a way to pay for the emissions caused by vehicle travel – plane, train or automobile– and other emissions by investing in a “green” project. These projects range from trees being planted to research in alternative fuels to helping a village to go solar. For instance, the amount of CO2 spewed into the atmosphere when I drove to the beach the other day, can be offset or neutralized by helping someone else install solar panels.

Carbon offsets are a rather new idea and still need to prove themselves as a viable idea in practice. Several companies have sprung up to facilitate the use of carbon offsets. We have a few listed below. Most of these have carbon calculators on their sites or links to calculators.

Carbon Fund

Charge for offsetting one ton of carbon emissions - $5.50

Carbonfund supports renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects globally that reduce carbon dioxide emissions and the threat of climate change.

Carbon Fund is a 501(3)C.

Native Energy

Charge for offsetting one ton of carbon emissions - $12

NativeEnergy helps you help build Native American, farmer-owned, community based renewable energy projects that create social, economic, and environmental benefits.

Native Energy is a for profit company.


Charge for offsetting one ton of carbon emissions - $10

TerraPass channels its resources to get the maximum environmental benefit from every dollar. We fund three types of leading-edge projects: clean energy such as wind and biodiesel; biomass such as dairy farm methane; and industrial efficiency.

TerraPass is a for profit company.

Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF)

Charge for offsetting one ton of carbon emissions -$10

The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) helps rural, off-grid people in developing countries to power a brighter future through clean, renewable energy and modern communications.

SELF is a 501(3)C.

The travel industry is interested in this concept of carbon offsets and some travel agencies, such as Expedia and Travelocity, are starting to partner with carbon offsetting companies and offer the traveler an easy way to purchase his/her offsets. Extra clicks of the button and you have added carbon offsets to the price of your ticket!

Carbon offsetting is in its infancy stages. Questions such as how to audit a company’s handling of offsets, should there be any type of regulation, and the big question - do carbon offsets actually help neutralize carbon emissions still need to be answered. But one thing is for sure - it is great to see the entrepreneurial spirit at work to improve our environment.

Let us know your experience with purchasing carbon offsets.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Paper by the Ton

According to the Paper Industry Association Council, in 2006 paper and paperboard consumption was at 100.2 million tons of paper in the U.S. The Paper Industry has come a long way in reforesting, but our landfills are growing. While we are recycling over 53.4% of that paper, we can do better. So let's start shredding that paper and putting it to good use a second time (or third or fourth..)

Shred your newspapers, magazines, junk mail (watch for our upcoming article on reducing the amount of junk mail you receive), unwanted receipts, printing paper, old bills, etc. Then use that shredded material.

Shipping Material - Sending off a birthday gift, care package for friend or soldier? Shredded paper makes a great cushion and fill for those items you are shipping.

Gift Baskets, Gift Bags - This is an especially great use for colored shredded paper.

Backyard Mulch - Most papers are readily biodegradable and make a perfect mulching medium. Be sure to exclude the cellophane from window envelopes and coated paper from some magazines and catalogs.

Animal Bedding - If you don't have a cat, bird, gerbil, rabbit or other small pet yourself, check with your local animal shelters and pet stores to see if they are able to use your shredded paper.

Check with your local elementary school, shredded paper comes in handy for crafts such as paper mache.

Composting - Include some paper in your composting material to give your compost a good mix.

The Envirocycle Composter

Monday, June 4, 2007

What Have You Reused Today?

As you are throwing out that paper towel roll or coffee container or cheese box, have you thought about how you might reuse them? Karen’s Pot Your Plants with Plastics and Save article from a while ago was a terrific way to reuse your throw aways.

One of our friends is an expert “reuser” and every time we chat she has put something through a second life span. What are some of her ideas? Clothes in good condition go into a garage sale or a resale shop or are donated to The Salvation Army or Good Will or similar organization. Clothes with holes or stains get cut up for rags or into fabric squares to use for sewing into something else. Cheese boxes – you know the 2 pound processed cheese – she uses these as drawer organizers for pens, pencils, markers, paper clips. Paper Towel rolls and other cardboard tubes – store your taper candles or your electrical extension cords or save them for your favorite school or Sunday school teacher or camp leader as they always have craft ideas that use cardboard tubes.

In fact, check with your local school, church or camp as they may have lots of everyday things they can use that you may just toss!

We would love to hear what you reused today!

Happy reusing!

Friday, June 1, 2007

U.S. Continues to Lead the World in Wind Power Growth

As part of our alternative power source research, we are looking at how the U.S. ranks in implementing non-carbon based power.
The Energy Department released this news item yesterday.

DOE Report Shows Growing U.S. Wind Power Market

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today released its first Annual Report on U.S. Wind Power Installation, Cost, and Performance Trends: 2006, which provides a detailed and comprehensive overview of development and trends in the U.S. wind power market. Most notably, the Report concludes that U.S. wind power capacity increased by 27 percent in 2006; and that the U.S. had the fastest growing wind power capacity in the world in 2005 and 2006. More than 61 percent of the U.S.'s total wind capacity - over 7,300 Megawatts (MW) - has been installed since President Bush took office in 2001.

"As we work to implement President Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative by increasing the use of home-grown, clean, affordable and renewable energy, we are eager to continue the trend of increasing the use of wind power at unprecedented rates," DOE Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner said. "Another record-breaking year of the United States installing more wind generating capacity than any other nation is indicative of the President's durable, pro-growth energy policy. With DOE’s support, wind power is one of the most important, emissions-free sources of energy being deployed to address climate change and improve our energy security."

In 2006, for the second straight year, the U.S. led the world by installing 2,454 MW of wind power capacity, enough to power the homes in a city the size of Philadelphia. The U.S. produced roughly 16 percent of the worldwide wind market, followed by Germany, India, Spain, and China.

The Report specifically analyzes trends in the marketplace including wind power prices compared to wholesale electricity prices, project costs, turbine sizes, and developer consolidation. It also describes the increasing performance of wind projects, current ownership and financing structures, and trends among major wind power purchasers. By collecting this information in one publication, the report will provide a valuable resource to industry participants, energy regulators, and state and local policymakers.

Specifically, some of the key findings of the Report include:
  • The U.S. is the fastest growing wind market worldwide. There remains substantial potential for the expansion of wind power to achieve approximately 20 percent of the nation’s generating mix.

  • Texas, Washington, and California lead the U.S. in annual capacity growth.

  • Wind power is competitive and has provided good value in wholesale power markets. Wind power has consistently been priced at, or below, the average price of conventional electricity (coal, nuclear, natural gas, etc.).

  • The cost of turbines has risen since 2002. Higher costs have reversed the decline in total wind project costs and driven up the cost of generating wind power. Turbine cost increases have been driven by rises in input material and energy prices, and some shortages in certain turbine components.

  • Wind project performance, has increased sharply over the last several years. This has been driven in part by improved project siting, and technological advancements.

  • The wind market is in a period of transition. Electric utilities have shown increased interest in wind project ownership, and merchant wind power plants and sales to power marketers have become more common.

To learn more about the Department of Energy's wind program, visit