Posts filed under ‘Energy Efficiency’
This time of year, the zealous excitement of newly declared New Year’s resolutions may begin to wear off. People begin to realize that, while their goals for the New Year may have been admirable, they have no idea how to accomplish them and begin to waver. Instead of “Hey! How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?” you start hearing “So how many resolutions have you broken so far?”
One way to ensure that you accomplish your resolutions is to make them practical and enjoyable. Below, we give you suggestions for accomplishing three common New Year’s resolutions and improving not only yourself, but the environment as well.
Resolution #1: Exercise More.
For many, the obvious solution to this resolution is to buy a gym membership.
For some, this option has great appeal – what’s not to love about a dense congregation of machines, sweaty people and protein shakes? For others, this idea may not appeal quite as much as hiking a wilderness trail or kayaking a crystal clear river alongside graceful manatees.
The cost of running in place in that gym – valued anywhere from $250 to $800 per year – may be a deterrent, as well. An Annual Florida State Park Pass costs only $60 per person, per year. You can bring the whole family along for only $120 per year. So save money, have a fit, healthy family and get a better night’s sleep knowing that your new exercise plan is helping to ensure that Florida’s natural areas will be protected for generations to come. Find a Florida State Park near you at FloridaStateParks.org.
Resolution #2: Spend Less and Save More.
There are many different ways to achieve this particular goal. One of the simplest and most earth-friendly methods is to be conscious of your home energy and water use.
We’ve all been told to turn off the water when we brush our teeth and to turn off the lights when we leave a room, going back to elementary school. Of course, the concept seemed more fun than practical at that point. Now that we’ve moved beyond dancing toothbrushes and singing light bulbs, saving water and energy is more than fun— it can also save you cash.
For example, most people don’t realize that they’re wasting electricity by leaving their appliances plugged into a live surge protector at all times. Flipping that little switch while you’re off to work for a few hours can potentially save you 10 percent or more on your utility bill each month, according to the US Department of Energy. Do the math: If your utility bill is $300 per month, you save $30 each month and $360 each year. Similarly, fixing one leaky faucet that drips once per second can save you about 10 percent on your water bill. Learn more about water conservation techniques at the EPA’s Water Sense website.
Resolution #3: Eat Healthier.
Last but certainly not least, let’s explore the concept of eating healthier to benefit yourself and the environment. It may seem like an odd association, but there are innumerable benefits to healthy eating, especially when your healthy food is grown locally.
Purchasing food from a local farmer’s market or food co-op supports a healthy environment by reducing the amount of fossil fuels and packaging materials used to transport and preserve your food; a healthy local economy by supporting local farmers; and a healthy body by supplying truly fresh foods which have not had time to lose any beneficial nutrients. Learn more about the benefits of buying local produce at the Harvard Center for Health and the Global Environment. Once you’ve committed to being a “locavore,” find out how to fix your fresh Floridian foods, by filching a few ideas from the Fresh from Florida blog.
It’s summer in the way deep south, which means we frequently reach into our refrigerators for cold beverages to help us keep our cool. Refrigerators are responsible for approximately 14 percent of a home’s energy use, more than any other kitchen or cleaning appliance. Making your fridge more energy efficient is one easy way to conserve our resources – and your money.
- Allow hot foods to cool before refrigerating or freezing.
- A new ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerator uses about 40 percent less energy than refrigerators sold in 2001.
- Set your refrigerator temperature to 37-40 degrees and your freezer temperature between 0-5 degrees. A refrigerator colder than necessary uses up to 25 percent more energy.
- Clean a refrigerator’s coils every six months. Dirty coils cause the refrigerator to use more energy. Brushing or vacuuming the coils can improve efficiency by as much as 30 percent.
- Keep a full refrigerator. Your appliance doesn’t have to work as hard to keep food cold.
- Check door seals to make sure they’re airtight. To test them, close the door on a dollar bill and try to pull it out. If the dollar slides out easily, you’re losing energy and money.
In conjunction with First Lady Ann Scott’s recent announcement of the Summer Literacy Adventure, the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection are encouraging students to head outdoors with a book from DOE’s Just Read, Florida! 2011 Recommended Summer Reading List.
Reading, indoors or outdoors, no matter the season, engages the imagination of both children and adults. Reading is also a green activity.
Once produced, a book requires no additional resources to enhance its function. Books require no batteries, no chords, no chargers, no accessories, no electricity. Books do not require upgrades. Though sequels are sometimes produced, the original functions just fine without it.
Books require little maintenance. No fuel, oil, or hoses to refill, change or inspect.
Books are durable and can last under a bed for months, on a bookcase for decades, even centuries, and be just as functional as the day they were printed.
Books are easily shared. Books can be passed around to a multitude of friends and family members and still be read by yet another generation. Reading aloud is another green option for sharing a book with others, and doesn’t require downloading an app.
Books are portable. They fit easily into a beach bag, carry-on luggage, backpacks and pockets.
Reading is powered by the human mind, and during the long days of summer, reading light is provided by sunshine. The grass doesn’t get much greener.
Find more easy actions to stay cool and stay green this summer.
The Green School Awards program, now in its third year, is accepting applications for the 2010/2011 school year. Public or private K-12 students, teachers, classrooms, schools and school districts can apply. Application deadline is June 21, 2011. Winners will be announced at the Learn Green: Green Schools Conference and Expo in Palm Beach County in November 2011.
The Florida Green School Awards Program recognizes and documents the achievement of students, teachers and school administrators to enhance learning by implementing green school initiatives in Florida. Last year, applicants for the Florida Green School Awards program saved more than 43,000 gallons of water and 56,126,468 kilowatt hours of electricity and reduced waste by nearly 5 tons.
Additionally, the schools saved $5.2 million dollars through greening efforts. With that kind of green, Florida can keep about 106 teachers in the classroom, buy more than 10,000 new computers or 263,000 new text books. As for environmental rewards – cleaner water, cleaner air, less waste – priceless.
Though a school’s traditional focus is on reading, writing and arithmetic, more schools are adding sustainability to the “things to learn” list. Since 16 percent of Florida’s residents spend at least six hours a day, five days a week during the academic year at school, the campus and the classrooms are also excellent venues for teaching and learning green habits that lead to a healthier school population, a healthier environment and a healthier bottom line.
If your school is greening, whether through a recycling program, water or energy conservation, flex fuel or a school garden, you can apply for a Green School Award. If you know someone in school who is doing great green things – student, teacher, administrator or support staff – encourage them to apply as well. One easy way to protect air and water quality, conserve water and reduce waste (both environmentally and financially) is to green your school and share the information with others.
Staying warm in Florida is usually not a topic of conversation. But the temps have dropped below 50 in Tampa, Conch Republic residents are pulling out their winter flip-flops, and Panhandle residents are practicing the fine art of layering. A few recommendations from the U.S. Environmental Protection agency will help you stay warm, save money and conserve energy this winter.
Keep Air Filters Clean. A dirty air filter can increase your energy costs. Clean or change the air filter in your heating and cooling system monthly. Some filters only need to be changed every three months. Also, have your equipment checked seasonally to make sure it’s operating efficiently. Safety check-ups can identify problems early and prolong the life of your system.
Seal Your Home. Hidden gaps and cracks throughout a home can add as much airflow as an open window. The more heat that escapes, the more cold air enters, causing your system to work harder and use more energy. Sealing the ‘envelop’ (the outer walls, ceiling, windows and floors) can save up to 10 percent in energy costs. Start by sealing air leaks and adding insulation. Pay special attention to your attic and basement, where the biggest gaps and cracks are often found. If replacing windows, choose ENERGY STAR qualified ones.
Seal Air Ducts. Leaky air ducts can reduce your system’s overall efficiency by 20 percent. Sealing your ducts can save money on energy bills and help consistently heat every room.
Test Your Home. ENERGY STAR’s online tools help evaluate your home’s energy performance and provide solutions to increase comfort and energy efficiency. Have your utility bills handy for savings calculations.
Consult a Professional. Hire an experienced, licensed contractor for help with a heating and cooling overhaul.
Cash in on Special Offers. Check with your local utility or visit the rebate finder to find special deals on high efficiency heating equipment. Manufacturer rebates are usually offered in fall and early spring. Ask for ENERGY STAR qualified equipment. While you’re looking, check for rebates on other appliances, insulation, windows or doors you want to replace.
Shop Smart. If your heating equipment has not been properly maintained and is 15 years old or older, it’s probably time for an upgrade. Ask for ENERGY STAR rated equipment when buying warmth for your home.
The average Florida household uses 1,120 kilowatts hours (kWh) of electricity each month, with nearly half of that used for keeping our homes at a reasonably comfortable temperature. Energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment can save as much as 20 percent on annual energy costs. In addition to saving money and helping Floridians stay warm in winter, energy efficiency also conserves water and reduces waste.