Monday, April 21, 2014

Earth Day

Tomorrow, Tuesday, April 22 marks the 44th Earth Day. The first U.S. celebration of Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970. This year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is calling the entire week Earth Week and Administrator McCarthy will participate in several events in Boston, New York, Atlanta and Cleveland to promote President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and will focus on cutting carbon pollution to slow the effects of climate change. I prefer to look out my office window and watch as the garden and woods come back to life after the long and harsh winter we had.
a piece of my yard

Like Arbor Day which is also celebrated at this time of year, Earth Day is a way to remind ourselves that we are citizens of the earth and we need to live gently upon her. Small little efforts add up and begin with you. Today and every day we need to live our values and engage our children so that we all may step back from our lives (or handheld devices) and see how our actions and choices can impact our immediate environment and the greater earth beyond. Saving the earth starts with you and a series of small changes and behaviors will make a big difference especially if we all do it. So, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of the little habits and behaviors that make a big difference and leave Ms. McCarthy to promote global action and sweeping regulations.

Conserve Energy. We use too much energy and are wasteful with it. Begin by replacing your most frequently used light fixtures or simply the light bulbs in them with more efficient fixtures- florescent, LED and Energy Star certified products. This is a simple and inexpensive first step.

The next step is to look for Energy Star products when burying new appliances and equipment for your home. When my air heat exchanges failed I looked into purchasing a geothermal heat pump, but as a retrofit to my home it was going to cost over $40,000, not in my budget. Instead, I bought a multi-speed, high efficiency, Energy Star certified air heat pump, and upgraded my ducting and insulation. I ended up with a more comfortable house and a lower electric bill.

Heating and cooling costs are almost half of most energy bills. Replacing heating and cooling equipment and upgrading ducts is not the only way to save money. There are a lot of little steps you can take. Simple steps like changing air filters regularly, properly using a programmable thermostat, and having your heating and cooling equipment maintained at least annually by a heating and cooling technician.

Also, you can seal and insulate your home to avoid waste. Thermography using infrared cameras that show surface heat variations can be used to detect heat losses and air leakage in building envelopes and identify where insulation will be most effective. Seal and insulate your home and reduce air leaks and stop drafts by using caulk, weather stripping, and insulation to seal your home's envelope and add more insulation to your attic to block out heat and cold and prevent you from spending money to cool your attic in the summer and heat your attic in the winter.
Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Reducing, reusing, and recycling in your home helps conserve money, energy, and reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from landfills and manufacturing. And for goodness sake, don’t litter.

Use water efficiently. It takes energy to pump, treat, and heat water, so saving water reduces greenhouse gas emissions. According to the EPA, 3% of the nation's energy is used to pump and treat water. For those on public water, saving water reduces your water bill. For those of us on a well saving water reduces my electric bill and ensures that my well can provide a reliable source of water. Saving water around the home is simple.

The typical American uses the most water for flushing, showering, washing hands and brushing teeth, and laundry. Buying water efficient appliances and fixtures, maintaining the fixtures and repairing any leaks can significantly reduce our water use inside the house. Low flow faucets and shower heads and behavior modification (not running the water while you brush your teeth or shorter showers can save about a third of the water typically used for personal hygiene. Laundry is the largest or second largest use of water. A top loading washing machine uses 43-51 gallons per load while a full size front load machine uses 27 gallons per load and some machines have low volume cycles for small loads that use less. A standard dishwasher uses 7-14 gallons per load while a water efficient dishwasher uses 4.5 gallons per load.

Eliminating the watering of our ornamental gardens would significantly reduce water use especially in the most arid parts of the country where up to 75% of household water use is for the outdoors and there is the most pressure on water supply. Be green in your yard; work with nature to have a low maintenance and healthier garden.
There are five principle of a “green” yard:
1. Build and maintain healthy soil.
2. Practice natural lawn care
3. Plant right for your site
4. Limit watering
5. Adopt a holistic approach to pest management- not using or minimizing your use of pesticides and fertilizers.
Composting your food and yard waste enriches your soil (use it to dress your lawn and beds), reduces the amount of garbage that you send to landfills.

Travel less. As can be seen above Americans use a significant amount of energy for transportation. We need to reduce this by not only choosing the cleanest, most fuel-efficient vehicle that meets your needs, but by reducing the amount we drive and fly. I will not tell you how to reduce your driving or flying, these are actions determined by career choices and life choices- what you do for a living, where you live how you get to work and the kind of vacations you take. Think about it and make the best choices you can. Make your choices consistent with your values.

Finally, you might want to consider purchasing some green power to power your home. Green power is environmentally friendly electricity that is generated from renewable energy sources such as landfill gas, hydro power, wind and the sun. You can purchase some through your electric company or you could go the expensive route and install solar panels. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I have over 7 KWatt of solar panels on my roof that cover all my non-heating and cooling electricity usage. The only way they made economic science was through tax incentives, rebates and sale of solar credits. It is expensive energy subsidized in truth by other rate payers.) Thank-you and have a nice Earth Day.

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