Eco-Friendly Gifts for Guys

Its not always easy to find gifts for guys, especially those guys that have it all and don’t need a thing.

Below is a list of great green gifts for that hard-to-buy-for guy in your life.

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Tree Hugger Tee’s – Free shipping on orders over $50. Each 100% organic cotton tee costs $25. and they have a bunch of fun ones to choose from.

17902_lgRecycled Necktie & Suit Wallets from Uncommon Goods – Recycled neckties and suits turn into wallets for the eco-friendly man.

9Y5KHKShake and Shine Flashlight – Handy little no-battery emergency flashlight is extremely bright and reliable. It never needs batteries and generates power by converting mechanical energy (shaking) into electrical energy to power the light.

XYZMSDCMN6QAMDJRE7QL_LBike Chain Bottle OpenerUncap your favorite beverage with this bottle opener made of recycled bike chain.


Not all Hybrids Bring High Fuel Economy

359696_8751There was an interesting article in the Portland Tribune stating that not all hybrids are created equal.

In 2001 the Prius was the first to use a hybrid, gasoline-electric powertrain. Now virtually every manufacturer is offering at least one hybrid, and most of the others are developing them.

But some hybrids are better for the environment than others. Depending on the model, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency currently rates them from a high of 50 miles per gallon for the Toyota Prius to a low of 20 miles per gallon for a Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. The Honda Insight and Civic Hybrid get around 42 miles per gallon, followed by various Ford, Toyota and Nissan models that get about 36 miles per gallon.

There are several different types of hybrids out there, and the way they mix the basic elements greatly affect their economy. Most automotive authorities break them down as follows:

  • Unique-model hybrids
  • Full hybrids
  • Mild hybrids
  • Muscle  hybrids
  • Plug-in hybrids

Despite the different types of hybrids, common sense applies when figuring out which ones get the best mileage. Smaller is generally better. Although the mid-size Prius is the champ, the compact Honda Insight and Civic are next best. Less economical are the mid-size Ford Fusion Hybrid, Mercury Milan Hybrid, Lexus HS 250h and Toyota Camry Hybrid, which range from 39 to 33 miles per gallon. Worst are the big hybrid trucks and SUVs, like the lowest-rated Escalade Hybrid.

Both the cost and mileage need to be taken into account when choosing a hybrid. The cost of hybrids are outrageous when compared to a gasoline powered vehicle. When gas prices were high it was worth it and it paid off to own a hybrid but now that the gas prices are down, its not worth it. The pay off for a hybrid will come a lot quicker if gasoline prices soar up to $4 again.

Obama’s Smart Energy Plan

Yesterday in the Chicago Sun Times I read an article ‘Obama unveils “Smart Energy” plan for green energy, jobs. Fact Sheet” by Lynn Sweet.

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photo courtesy of Doug Mills/The New York Times

Below is from the White House –

The Obama Administration is investing $3.4 billion through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to help fund the largest single energy grid modernization in U.S. history.  One-hundred private companies, utilities, manufacturers, cities and other partners will receive grant awards tomorrow ranging from about $400,000 to $200 million to help build a nationwide smart energy grid that will cut costs for consumers, make the grid stronger and more reliable, and increase accessibility to clean, low-cost renewable energy sources for American homes and businesses.  An analysis by the Electric Power Research Institute estimates that implementation of smart grid technologies could reduce electricity use by more than 4 percent by 2030, saving $20.4 billion for businesses and consumers across the country.

The awards are part of the Administration’s over $100 billion investment through the Recovery Act in innovation, technology and laying a new foundation to keep America competitive in the 21st century.  They are not only expected to create tens of thousands of jobs during these challenging economic times, but help build a lasting infrastructure that will be the foundation of the growing American renewable energy industry.  Because of this investment in a smart energy grid, the U.S. will be better able to harness the abundance of sunlight in the West and wind in the Midwest to power communities across the country – including many that do not have the capacity to generate these low-cost energy sources on their own.  The awards will also fund more widespread installation of smart meters in homes and businesses, empowering consumers to carefully monitor and control their own energy use and creating new high-tech manufacturing opportunities for American companies.  And before a single dollar is disbursed, the program has already helped bring private sector capital from the sidelines, with the winning applicants securing $4.7 billion in private investment to match their awards, multiplying the overall economic impact.

Together, these awards represent the largest group of Recovery Act awards ever made in a single day and the largest batch of Recovery Act clean energy grant awards made to-date.

Click here to read the rest of the fact sheet. This is exciting to read about, changes they are a coming!

Simple Way to Cut you Home Energy Bill

Double3Energy experts advise homeowners to cure simple air leaks inside their homes before investing in costly new heating systems or other energy efficiency projects. In most cases its the homes inefficient windows that keep your energy bill climbing for the sky.

If your home was built anywhere between 1900 and 1940, you may have dozens of oval holes on the side or your double-hung windows that allow heated air to escape.

But there is something you can do about it, Anderson Pulley Seal came up with a seal that easily attaches to the window to cover the holes where the air is escaping while still allowing the rope to freely go up and down.

An important source of air leakage in older homes is the pulley openings in your double-hung window frames. (you can easily feel the draft with your hand on a cold day). The Anderson Pulley Seal permanently stops this draft without affecting the operation of the window. They are easy to install using the adhesive foam gasket and screws provided.

But take precautions when drilling into older windows, since older homes with double-hung windows are prone to have leaded paint.

5 Ways to be Green and Save Money

909780_59550139Sometimes I feel being green is a bit more expensive than being careless and not caring about this environment. Buying organic food, buying green, biodegradable cleaning products, organic beauty products all have high price tags but they are good for the environment and not to mention our bodies, but how do you get around this? Below are some helpful ways you can be green and save money.

  1. Give up paper towels, plastic wrap and ziplock bags: Don’t spend your money on things to wrap your food in or paper towels to clean with. Start using your tupperware or save butter containers to store your food in. For cleaning windows use newspaper and for wiping hands use cloth napkins – not only is it green but it makes your table look nicer. You can also use old rags for cleaning with.
  2. Stop buying bottled water: The water from your faucet is just as good, and bottled water produces garbage because most people (over 80%) throw the bottles away instead of recycle them. Check out the facts on the lighterfootstep.com.
  3. Shop at thrift stores: Whatever items you are comfortable buying at thrift stores/second hand keeps that item from going to the garbage dump.
  4. Cut your grocery bill: Use coupons on items you use only, just cause you have a coupon or its a good deal doesn’t mean you need to buy it. Shop for groceries once every two weeks, shopping more than that and you will end up with stuff that you don’t need which in turn will cause you to waste food.
  5. Conserve water: Think about the water you use, take quicker showers, use a timer if you need help, turn off the water when you are brushing your teeth and use less hot water.

There are many more ways to be green while saving money or not spending so keep your eyes peeled for helpful hints and when you come across ways that you have saved please share them.

7 Kitchen Energy Reducer Tips

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What better way to help the environment than in a way that helps you save money also. Below are some tips to help you reduce your kitchen energy usage.

  1. Keep appliances clean – Clean surfaces maximize the amount of energy reflected toward your food.
  2. Keep liquids covered -The refrigerator has to work harder, using more energy to keep cool, when pitchers of juice or water, unfinished drinks and other liquid items are stored without lids.
  3. Switch to copper-bottom pots and pans – They heat up faster than other types of pans, which means they require less energy from the stove.
  4. Dont peek – Opening the oven door can lower the internal temperature as much as 25 degrees. Use a timer to set the cooking time, and be sure your oven window is clean enough for you to see how your dish is progressing.
  5. Practice smart storage – Don’t overload the refrigerator. Food stored loosely helps cold air circulate better, maximizing efficiency. The freezer, on the other hand, uses less energy when packed tightly(add a bag of ice to help fill it up).
  6. Place appliances strategically – If possible, keep the refrigerator away from the oven and the dishwasher. The latter two generate heat, which makes the refrigerator work harder and use more energy to stay cold.
  7. Don’t preheat the oven – Unless the recipe calls for a preheated oven, dont preheat.

Be Green While Staying Cool

1191581_48395476Its mid July and the temperature is heating up, making it a bit uncomfortable.  Here are some very green and practical ways to stay cool with or without your air conditioner.

Skip the drying cycle on the dishwasher – It gives off heat that can make your kitchen warmer.

Think cold when cooking – Using the stove or oven when cooking will also make your kitchen warmer.

Switch on the ceiling fan – When you just can’t avoid using the air conditioner, turning on a fan helps distribute cool air more evenly and quickly, so you can set the temperature on the AC a little higher.

Swap out your traditional air-conditioning – Instead, try an evaporate cooler, which uses a small fan to blow air through water-saturated pads and into your home. This type of machine costs half as much as a central-air system and uses only a quarter of the energy.

Plant trees near windows with air conditioners – A unit in the shade uses up to 10 percent less energy than one in the sun.

Keep the windows closed – While running your air conditioner try to keep the heat outdoors.

Thermostat setting – In summer, the thermostat should not be set any lower than 25 degrees Celsius or 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stay cool naturally – Drinking plenty of cool water will help keep you hydrated and give your body what it needs to cool itself. Wear loose, breathable clothing. Cotton is usually a good fabric for helping to keep your body cool.

Catching Rain – Rain Barrels

Catching the natural rainfall to store for later use helps conserve water and energy. A water catchment system can be adequate enough to provide most of the water needs for a water-conserving household, outdoors as well as indoors, by simply catching what falls on the roof.

Catching Rain is not only for use in your garden and yards but can cut down on the need to rely on city and county water, reduce energy consumption as well as greatly reduce water bills. Rain barrels can easily be sized for the amount of use, beyond using them in a garden, and remain relatively easy for an owner/builder to install for household use.

Here is a video from HGTV- How to Build a Rain Barrel.

Below are some helpful websites to get you on your way to conserving water.

Clean Air Gardening

Rainwater Harvesting

Rain Barrel Guide

Energy Cinch Window Fabric

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Windows are often an energy efficiency problem spot. Many homes lack the latest energy efficient windows, leading to energy loss and uncomfortably cold rooms throughout most of the year. And because window replacements are so expensive, though, it almost never pays to replace a window just for the energy savings benefits.

s_3359The Energy Cinch consists of two tension rods and a light tan, four-layer Warm Window® insulating fabric that is installed inside the window casing. With the tension rods placed at the top and bottom of the window casing, the fabric will fully cover the window, reducing heat loss by up to 80%. The fabric incorporates metallized Mylar® with insulating polyester fibers, a reflective polyethelyne vapor barrier, high density insulating fibers, and a moisture resistant lining. On a single pane window, with the Energy Cinch properly in-place, the resulting R value of the window can be as high as 7.6.

The energy cinch window fabric comes in 6 different sizes from 30″ X 45″ through 36″ X 60″. They have easy to follow installation instructions on their website along with guidelines for what size will fit what window sizes. These can easily be removed when need be, due to the fact that they have a tension rod.

So if you are among the many who need new windows but can’t afford to make a purchase of that magnitude, try the energy cinch window fabric for a fraction of the price of new windows.

Green Building Glossary Part 1

553383_87964828ICF’s (Insulating Concrete Forms) – Lightweight blocks, commonly made of expanded polystyrene or extruded polystyrene that are filled with concrete and remain in place to provide thermal insulation for concrete walls.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) – The LEED program was developed by the US Green Building Council as a system for rating new and existing commercial, institutional and residential buildings. It evaluates the overall environmental performance during the lifecycle of a buiding and provides a tangible methodology for analyzing the standards of a green building.

Dual Flush Toilet – Have two different settings, usually 0.8 gallons for liquid removal and 1.6 gallons for full-flush solid removal. On average, they use about 2,500 gallons per year, compared to a 1.6 single flush that uses about 4,500 gallons per year.

Energy Star – A government-backed program that sets a standard for energy efficient products in some 50 categories. Only the products that meet the strictest standards in each category earn the Energy Star label.

791869_29456663Heat Island Effect – Typically seen in urban areas, where the temperature can be several degrees hotter than it is in surrounding areas.

Daylighting – Using natural light in many different ways in a building. By using various design methods, this-light decreases reliance on electricity by using windows, skylights and solar tubes.

AFUE – An acronym for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, or the percentage of fuel a furnace uses that actually gets delivered as heat into your house.

Clean Energy – Energy created from renewable sources with low environmental impact.

Embodied Energy – Energy that is necessary to make a product. It is also the molecule energy already existing in a products content.

FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) – An independant organization started by environmentally concerned groups. The FSC certifies what it deems as sustainably harvested forest and wood products, including lumber, furniture woods and papers.

Earth Sheltered Design – A home or building designed to be built partially or completely  below ground, either by digging into existing

Cool Roof – Any roof made to reflect sunlight to minimize temperature and therefore reduce interior cooling costs.