Good old conservation: easiest way to reduce energy bills

Solar panels and windmills are cool and all, but did you know that you can make a huge difference by just switching to compact flourescent bulbs and putting your electronics behind surge protectors and turning them off when you aren’t using them?

This Christian Science Monitor article on conservation describes some of the ways where you can get the biggest energy savings for the least amount of money or effort.

Mr. Janke had hit on what experts say is perhaps the easiest and most cost-effective place to reduce one’s energy consumption: home.

Moving closer to public transportation or riding a bike instead of driving is not an option for many, but changing incandescent bulbs for fluorescent and buying more efficient appliances is not only possible, it quickly pays for itself with savings.

In the end, not-very-glamorous changes like these as well as obsessively sealing and insulating your home will save more than, in the words of one expert, “greenie weenie” additions like green roofs and solar panels. Twenty-two percent of all energy in the United States is used for residential purposes. (Transportation accounts for 28 percent.) And although residences consume only about two-fifths of this as electricity, because electrical generation is inherently inefficient, it accounts for 71 percent of household emissions. A home’s electrical use may be responsible for more CO2 emissions than the two cars in the driveway. Ultimately, changes made at home may be the quickest, cheapest, and easiest way to reduce one’s carbon footprint.

Give it a try!

I’ve switched out every one of my bulbs at home that isn’t on a dimmer to compact flourescent. And I’m eyeing a tankless waterheater when mine wears out.

Any other good stories out there for saving energy at home?


Product Review: Organic Mint Chocolate from Equal Exchange

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Today I sampled a new chocolate product from Equal Exchange, which in addition to chocolate sells a variety of fairly traded products.

First off, I thought the packaging was very nice. It features a photo of a cacao farmer and some nice graphics. The inside of the packaging includes a description of the benefits of buying fairly traded chocolates.

The smell is light and refreshing when you open the package. Also, I loved the texture. The chocolate has organic “peppermint crisps,” which are made from cane sugar and peppermint oil. It also has ground vanilla beans. This makes for a hard chocolate with a slightly crispy texture.

As for flavor, I was almost expecting a stronger mint taste after smelling the chocolate, but found the light bitterness of the dark chocolate was the first flavor to hit to tongue. The mint is softer and more delicate. There is almost an initial conflict of the two flavors, but as they combine, the effect is very pleasant.

This chocolate contains:

*Organic cocoa liquor, *Syramenaâ„¢ Organic Raw Cane Sugar, *Organic cocoa butter, *Sucanatâ„¢ Organic unrefined whole cane sugar, peppermint crisps (*Organic cane sugar, Organic peppermint oil), Organic ground vanilla beans. May contain traces of milk, peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios & pecans. Cocoa 67% min. (*Fair Trade Certifiedâ„¢)

The Bottom Line:

• Great texture and aroma
• Good flavor with delicious aftertaste
• Excellent packaging with lots of useful information
• A stronger mint flavor would be nice, but overall the flavor is excellent
• I appreciate the fact that Equal Exchange chocolates are tasty and provide well written educational material about the chocolate industry.

Overall Rating: 8.5 of 10.0

You can purchase this chocolate and other products here.


Using Native Plants in the Garden

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Using native plants in your yard is one of the best ways to restore your landscape and get it more in sync with the surrounding natural environment. Natural Landscaping: Designing with Native Plant Communities by John Diekelmann and Robert M. Schuster is an excellent resource for learning how to use native plants in your home and garden.


Give the Gift of…Livestock?

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In an effort to keep you out of the malls on this most Black of Fridays, here’s another great option for the practical environmentalist: donating livestock to needy families in developing countries. Heifer International lets you pick from among dozens of cute, furry, and sustainable gifts. Most of these animals provide milk, wool, or eggs, by the way. When you purchase one of these gifts, the recipient will get a note saying that you have purchased an animal for a needy family in their honor.

This is the perfect gift for someone who truly has everything. Like my parents. My parents are even saying these days, “We have so much useless stuff piled up in the garage, we don’t need anything this Christmas, really.”

Well guess what Mom, it’s time to make room for a llama and a couple sheep! Haha, that’s what I’ll tell them. Hehehe….


Day After Thanksgiving Shopping Guide

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So, I just returned from buying the groceries for this Thanksgiving day feast, and I had to fight some serious crowds at the grocery store. Yikes! This got me thinking about the poor souls who feel like they have to go running around the malls on Friday taking advantage of big sales. That sounds like about the worst way to spend an afternoon that I can think of.

Why not do the shopping from home and buy stuff over the internet instead? You don’t have to drive, you don’t have to fight crowds, and you’ll be done in maybe 30 minutes! This to me is a much more practical way for the environmentalist to do their post-Thanksgiving shopping. Sure, there’s the shipping and gas involved, but it couldn’t be that much more environmental impact than a trip to the mall!

To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of environmentally friendly companies we’ve reviewed at one time or another. Just jump on your computer and go shopping! It’s as easy as that! Any more stores to add to the list? Feel free to leave a comment!

1. Biome.com is an online store that has a huge variety of great natural, eco-friendly goodies.
2. Clean Air Gardening has a huge supply of organic and eco-friendly gardening supplies and gadgets.
3. THE KANDLE HEETERâ„¢ Candle Holder is one of several eco-friendly products offered by inventor Doyle Doss.
4. Tree Blocks Eco-friendly Toys and Furniture has some awesome toys for the little ones.
5. The eco-friendly company Lucky Crow, has recyclable gift bags and other goodies.
6. Low-flow OxyGenics Showerheads are available from the Showerhead Store.
7. Vivavi is a company that sells eco-friendly house wares, furniture etc.

Have a Happy Turkey Day everyone! Back on Friday!