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green your commuteGetting better gas mileage depends on many things, including the type of car you have and how fast you cruise around (looking at you, speed demon!). There are dozens of ways to improve your fuel economy, reduce your footprint, and save money whether your ride is new or vintage.

Preventative maintenance can improve your fuel economy in a dramatic way.

  • Fat tires: Keep your tires fat and happy by maintaining the proper pressure. How happy will this make you? The EPA says you can improve gas mileage by 3% with properly inflated tires, enough for a free tank of gas per year. Bonus: it makes your tires last longer and safety improves with properly inflated tires.
  • Tune it up: Basic tuning can improve your costs by about 4% a year, and bigger fixes make a bigger difference: replacement of a faulty oxygen sensor can improve your mileage by as much as 40%.
  • The right stuff: Choosing the right oil and fuel for your car can improve fuel economy by 1-2% each year.

Head back to basics and learn to drive better to reduce your emissions and save money. Here are some ways to make your drive time cleaner and greener:

  • Slow it down: Might not be as fun as speeding around town, but the US Department of Energy says that every 5 mph over 50 mph can lower gas mileage by 7% or more.
  • Anticipate traffic flow: Choosing slower, steadier driving (for both town and highway routes) reduces the need to accelerate and brake quickly, which helps you anticipate danger too– because the greenest car is the one that doesn’t need to be replaced!
  • Smooth and steady: If you have a manual transmission, listen to the revving of the engine and be sure to shift at the right time (not too soon or too late, both of which increase fuel use). If driving an automatic, make sure the RPMs don’t rev too high by choosing slower accelerations.
  • Don’t idle: Forget that old school rule about warming up your car in the winter, it’s just not true. Be sure to turn your car off when you’re stopped for more than a minute– no need to burn fuel while your friend is fetching your latte.
  • Too much junk in your trunk: Aside from safety items like jumper cables and a spare tire, who needs to carry around extra baggage? Not you, green machine!

fuel efficient driving techniquesNeed more tips to become a greener driver? Here are some great resources:

Graph from Government of Canada, key image from Green Garage

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sports and sustainability how to green the gamesHow can we rally the passion and dedication that people feel towards sports into a passion for climate change? Working for climate change can seem pretty boring compared to a deflated football scandal or game between rival universities, but what if we we able to combine the passions for sports and sustainability? Can we harness the power and dedication of sports fans to make a positive change for climate action?

No doubt sports evoke passion, inspiring powerful emotions before, during, and after games, and can bring people of all backgrounds together, acting as a universal language. Collegiate athletic events include millions of students and fans, the Olympic Games reach over two-thirds of the planet, and the FIFA World Cup was estimated to have had over seven hundred million people watching the 2006 championship game. Seen in this way, sports are a great way to leverage collective passion to inspire change and elevate environmental awareness.

Despite this power, many sports do not coexist sustainably with the environment: lots of water is used to maintain fields, tremendous amounts of energy is used to power stadiums, and fuel is used to transport teams around the world. When I played collegiate soccer just a year ago, there were few environmental actions associated with the athletics department. We were provided with unrecyclable gear, and frequently traveled in airplanes and busses that were far from fuel-efficient.

However, many teams and groups have started to take huge steps to green their sport. For example, environmental factors are now a key component when selecting Olympic host cities, and Games are to be held in ways that “promote sustainable development in sports.” Additionally, the Seattle Mariners introduced ‘sustainable Saturdays’ by creating an environment-related trivia contest requiring fans to check out various recycling points around the stadium. The National Hockey League recently made headlines for their environmental initiatives too. The most recent Superbowl was played under LED lights, reducing energy by 75%, and dozens of other stadiums are being powered by solar. And it’s not just at the professional levels. At Yale, student athletes created the nation’s first Green Athletics Team Certification program for teams.

Despite these examples of professional and college sports teams going green, there is still much need to recognize the dynamic relationship between sports and the environment. Coaches, players and fans need to leverage the power that sports events and team affiliates have to create a more sustainable world. Groups like Sustainability in Sport and Green Sport Alliance are connecting the passion of fans with their favorite teams.

But you can help bring sustainability to the sports you are passionate about, too! It can be something as simple as carpooling or taking public transportation to sporting events. You can create or become a part of a Green Team at sporting events, or lobby for the implementation of recycling bins in stadiums and arenas. Bring petitions to your teams, schools and community to encourage universities and team affiliates to adopt sustainability plans. Learn more using the links above to inspire your local and university level teams to bridge the gap between sports and sustainability. Together, we can share knowledge about the tangible relationship between sports and the environment, and take steps to ensure a win for us all.

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Stadium image from Flickr Creative Commons

divest from fossil fuelsThis year, thousands of people around the world made Mother Earth their Valentine by celebrating the first annual Global Divestment Day. On February 13 and 14, people banded together to ask their schools, institutions, and local governments to break-up with Big Oil, sending a clear message throughout the globe that it is no longer morally, politically, or financially acceptable to support companies that profit from the destruction of our home sweet home called Earth.

The argument for divestment is pretty simple. About 2/3 of the reserves in the ground must stay there to keep climate change at bay, but the oil, mining, and coal companies base their financial projections on burning it all up. But this is just not feasible, as burning all existing reserves has the potential to ruin the planet as we know it, at which point the economy would fall apart.

But can divestment really work, and is it a sound financial move?

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keep it in the ground!

Most academics and analysts agree that divestment of schools and public institutions will not itself weaken the capital of fossil fuels. If by divesting you sell your stock to the next investor, capital is just changing hands. However, divestment is not just about the money- it starts climate conversations where there were none before, and sets the tone for what is morally and socially acceptable in our communities. Historically, divestment from Big Tobacco and divestment from companies during South African Apartheid were extremely successful in shaping public discourse and making big changes.

It’s abundantly clear that burning the fossil fuel reserves in the ground will totally devastate the planet upon which the economy is based. There is no cost for fossil fuels that can make up for the future loss of natural capital: the price of losing our agricultural land, the damage to ecosystems worldwide, or the health of the population. By divesting now, we stand a chance to diminish the costs that future generations will have to pay, and can fuel the movement towards a cleaner planet today.

In every era, we know that  industry and progress follow the money, and the case for divestment has recently gotten stronger with the sharp decline in worldwide oil prices. Not only is the cost of oil increasing, the cost of renewables like solar is decreasing. In a study done by the banking firm Lazard, solar energy is roughly 5.6 cents a kilowatt-hour and wind is as low as 1.4, whereas natural gas and coal come in around is 6.1 and 6.6 respectively.

But perhaps the best argument to convince our cites, schools and communities to divest is that it makes great financial sense. Reports show that in the past five years funds divested from fossil fuels have outperformed the conventional funds. In fact, Business Spectator says that a divestment strategy, “can make perfect financial sense. The fossil fuel free index also showed less volatility than the conventional [funds].” So, better returns on investment, less risk of climate disasters, and a healthier world for future generations? It seems like divestment is the sweetest Valentine of them all.

Here’s how you can break up with fossil-fuels:

  1. Join millions at GoFossilFree.org and add your name to one (or several) of the 450 different petitions across 60 countries. The more your public institution(s) see that climate change is an issue of concern for the community, the sooner we can start a discussion about the long-term consequences of climate action. If there’s no divestment organizations in your community, start your own today!
  2. Divest yourself. A recent study done by the Sierra Club and Rainforest Action Network has found that major banks and credit card companies like Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chase, Morgan Stanley and others give hefty contributions to fossil fuels. If you pay annual fees, transfer fees, or interest to these banks, your funds are supporting coal and oil investment. Consider moving your money to a credit union or a community development bank in your area. To find out how your bank rates, check out Green America’s scorecard.
  3. Learn more and support the movement. Below are a few great resources to help you learn more about divestment and help us build a greener future for us all! Learn more about divestment from the following resources:
  • Bill McKibben of 350.org discusses why student-led divestment movements are changing the landscape of fossil fuels. Read more on Rolling Stone.
  • The Financial Case for Divestment of Fossil Fuel Companies by Endowment Fiduciaries by  The Huffington Post.
  • The country or Norway divests from fossil fuels: learn how and why here on Clean Technica.
  • Why the discussion is now Peak Carbon instead of Peak Oil by GoFossilFree.
  • Learn what happened on Global Divestment Day in February 2015: watch the video from GoFossilFree.

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Dinosaur image from Go Fossil Free Campaign Solana Beach, divest image from Resilience.org

sunrise in Mendoza, Argentina

sunrise in Mendoza, Argentina

We sat around a table tasting several varieties of Malbec wine, watching the magnificent sunset colors of orange, pink, red and yellow dip behind the snow capped Andes Mountains. Surrounding us were hundreds of miles of Malbec vineyards within Uco Valley of Mendoza, Argentina, and it was absolutely gorgeous. At the time, it did not cross my mind that this land and climate might not look like this forever, and that the delicious local wine might not be available in the future. I had little idea of the disastrous effects that climate change could have on this beautiful region.

Wine production in Argentina is a crucial part of the country’s vibrant culture, historical development, and economic success. Argentina’s western region, Mendoza, is extremely influential in Argentina’s domestic and international wine success. With more than 1,500 wineries in the region, Mendoza’s Malbec wine produces seventy-five percent of all Argentine wines, and represents eighty-five percent of all Malbec vineyards worldwide.

Mendoza’s terroir, or their unique climate and geography, allows agriculturalists to produce grapes (and therefore wines) unlike any other region in the world. Mendoza’s high altitude, arid climate, lack of rainfall, nutritious soil, and differences in day and night temperature allow Malbec grapes to thrive. But, the increasing impacts of climate change already have affected and are expected to continue to affect Mendoza terroir, the Malbec grape, Mendoza’s wine industry, and, potentially, the Argentine economy. The Mendoza region has already seen increasing temperatures, melting glaciers in the Andes Mountains, changing precipitation patterns, decreasing water availability and unpredictable storms.

Most Argentine wineries, as well as worldwide consumers assume that Mendoza will be able to produce its wines indefinitely. But this is not the case if wineries do not learn to protect their region’s climate and agriculture. It is not the case if we do not take the basic steps to minimize our global footprint.

When managed well, wineries can actually help to sustain their climate and continue to produce delectable wine by minimizing their carbon footprint with practices like implementing irrigation techniques that conserve water, instituting composting processes, building recycling systems, or by choosing organic or biodynamic production methods. More importantly, as global citizens WE can take steps to protect this region and its unique agriculture. We have the responsibility to protect this region so that future generations can see its beauty and taste its deliciousness just as we do now.

Here’s how you can help now!

  1. We can help spread knowledge and awareness of climate change, and its affect on the Mendoza region and their delectable wines. Together we can catalyze the global environmental movement.
  2.  We can support Argentine wineries (among other businesses and their products) that are certified organic, Fair Trade, B Corporations, and have adopted some of the environmentally friendly agricultural techniques listed above.
  3. We can continue to lower our own global footprint by recycling, driving less, eating locally, and buying products that were produced in environmentally responsible ways. Oroeco’s web apps help you easily manage, understand and minimize your carbon footprint!

Cheers to making us all Climate Heroes!

image from Flickr Creative Commons.

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We’re quite excited to announce that Oroeco will have a presence at two very cool events in March. Firstly, Oroeco has been nominated in the category of Sustainable Tech for the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive event in Austin, Texas on March 13-17, 2015. SXSW Interactive is one component of the larger SXSW events held throughout the month. Each event brings in tens of thousands of guests, and we are so excited to introduce Oroeco to each one of them.

sxsw-interactive-logo

SXSW Interactive speakers are awarded prizes in multiple categories that prioritize creative innovation in the digital industry, focusing on advancements and developments taken place in 2014. Last year, Oroeco was invited to present at SXSW Eco Startup Showcase where Oroeco was a finalist in the Cleanweb category, which featured web and mobile apps that improve the environment.

Oroeco’s founder Ian Monroe has been invited to speak at TEDxHonolulu on March 28th. TEDx events highlight ideas worth spreading in communities across the world. Speakers have been invited from all over the country to speak for TEDxHonolulu’s Paradigm Shift theme.

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In both talks, Monroe, who is also a lecturer at Stanford University in the School of Earth Sciences, will focus on how information technology is accelerating clean technology adoption, and empowering us all create the world we want to live in through incentivized everyday decisions and social network collaboration. Ian will elaborate on how we now all have the power in our hands to mainstream our culture of sustainability and create virtuous cycles of positive change.

Oroeco’s paradigm shifting apps offer an interactive, game-like way for everyone to understand their personal impact on climate change, and compels them to take actions everyday to reduce their impact, save money and become better climate citizens. We are so excited to sharing Oroeco with audiences across the country this coming month.

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price of electrity in each state

Average electricity price per state (cents/kWh) as of April 2014, compiled by data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration; screenshot from Huffington Post

Sometimes we all need a little nudge to do that right thing. Choosing to reduce your energy consumption is great when it’s good for the polar bears and the rainforest, but you probably don’t think it affects you directly. The good news and the bad news is that rising electricity costs make it so that doing the right thing for the planet is also the right thing for your budget. It might just be the nudge some of us need to be more conscious of our electricity usage.

We all know we can easily reduce our impact on the planet and our budget by reducing our energy use in various ways. But how much difference does it really make? How much money can you really save by reducing your electricity usage? Turns out it really depends on where you live. As you can see in this image above and the table below, the cost of electricity varies widely between states.

New York 19.56
Hawaii 38.08
California 10.17
Kansas 12.62
Michigan 14.62
Alaska 19.03
Texas 12.07
Florida 11.76
Washington 8.75

An interactive version of the image is available in the original article from the Huffington Post, but above is just a sample of how widely costs can vary between states. Why the range of prices between states? Varying local infrastructure, climate, availability of sources, pervasiveness of renewable energy technology, and more factors account for the variation. And rates will continue to climb. According to the New York Post, electricity rates will likely climb about 4% each year as coal-fired power plants shut down and are increasingly regulated in the coming years.

In another graphic in the article, the electricity usage by state is shown. And guess what– the states with the highest energy costs also had the lowest use! High-cost Hawaii has one of the lowest collective uses of electricity (it helps that it’s always pretty warm here), while some of the states where electricity cost is low have some of the highest rates of usage (such as Washington, Texas and Arkansas).

how much electricity used in each state

How much electricity is used in your state; screenshot from Huffington Post

What does this mean for you as a user looking to reduce your energy costs? If you live in Hawaii or New York, cutting energy costs makes sense for your own wallet AND those polar bears. Those living in the states that have the highest cost of electricity are actually double incentivized to reduce their consumption: not only is it better for the planet, it’s a quicker return on investment when they see reduced costs on their electric bill in a short time period. But, if you live in Texas where electricity rates are incredibly low, it’s a bit harder to convince everyone to reduce energy just for the sake of reduction, since it doesn’t impact their personal budgets as swiftly or as greatly. The upfront costs of LEDs and appliance upgrades might deter those living in states with lower electricity rates, and it might be harder to see the benefit of the upfront costs. However, as noted by Forbes, even though a incandescent bulb costs about one dollar compared to a new LED bulb at $25, the lifespan and operational costs make it the cheapest option for long-term both for your personal carbon footprint and your budget. To upgrade appliances, consumers can get incentives from the state and federal governments to help reduce the cost of new Energy Star refrigerators, fans, air conditioners and other high-cost items.

Just as the once high cost of solar power has been reduced to make panels more affordable and the payoff period shorter, innovation in products and increasing energy rates will continue to shorten the return on investment for all upgrades. Even in states where energy rates are low and the return on investment might be a bit slower than high-cost states, there are still so many incentives for consumers to make efficiency upgrades, which benefit all consumers (and polar bears!) immediately and in the long-term.

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energy efficiency for your kitchenThroughout your kitchen there are dozens of ridiculously easy ways to boost energy efficiency in your kitchen. These tips will make you and your appliances more efficient, saving both money and time. Making just a few changes will help you improve your carbon footprint, drop your energy costs and boost your eco-credibility, whether you’re eating like a college student or a locavore gourmand.

As you might guess, the appliances sucking up the most energy in the kitchen are the refrigerator and the oven; these appliances are sort of like the Hummers of the home, taking up a ton of space and using excessive amounts of energy. But unlike that beastly vehicle, the fridge and freezer can be tamed into energy submission. We’ve connected with our friends at Pono Home, a Honolulu-based residential energy efficiency  franchise that, along with Oroeco, was a winner of the 2014 Energy Excelerator business competition. The smart folks at Pono Home have some great tips to keep your kitchen in tip-top energy shape:

Five Awesome Efficiency Tips for the Refrigerator:

  • Practice the ⅔ full rule. It doesn’t matter if your fridge is full of fruits and veggies or beer and pizza, keeping the fridge and freezer mostly full ensures that less air escapes each time you open the fridge. Each item acts as a ‘cold battery’ helping to keep the fridge at a cooler temperature after it’s been opened.
  • Clean your condenser coils 2-3 times per year. It’s a really icky task, but it can make a huge difference for the function of your fridge. Condenser coils direct the airflow throughout the fridge and often build up with dust, pet hair and other gross stuff. According to Green Living Ideas, you can save 15% of the electricity by keeping the condenser coils clean.
  • Ensure airflow around your fridge. Keep a few inches on each side of the fridge, and try to avoid using the top of the fridge as a storage unit, which keeps the fridge cooler overall.
  • Keep frost at bay: Not only does that frosty buildup in your freezer decrease the available space for awesome vegan ice cream, it makes your appliance work harder than it necessary. Remove any frost thicker than about ¼-inch.
  • Think before you open and close: Nearly seven percent of the electricity used by the fridge is just from opening and closing, so think before you open!

Five Easy Efficiency Tips for the Oven:

  • Match the pot size to the coil size. It’s imperative to choose a pan that fits evenly or slightly larger than your coil; if you have a gas stove, choose a flame that’s slightly smaller than your pot or skillet.
  • Use the right appliance. A small toaster oven is great for cooking small batches of cookies, trays of roasted veggies and so much more. The energy use is still high, but because it heats up so much quicker it uses less energy overall. An electric kettle is another quick energy (and time) saver for tea and coffee.
  • Make the most of the heat: Turning on the oven generates a lot of heat (and a lot of energy!). Use the oven light to see the food rather than opening the oven door. Cook in double batches to make use of the heat: since the oven is already warm. This means you should plan on two batches of cookies instead of just one!
  • Cast iron cookery: Cast iron cookware seems old-fashioned, but it’s super retro-cool and mega functional. As your grandmother probably told you, cast iron is very durable, made from iron (rather than petrochemical based Teflon), it lasts forever, and you can use lower heat settings when cooking with cast iron because it retains heat so well.
  • Pre-measure your water for boiling. When making tea or coffee at home, pre-measure the amount of water before heating– this is both energy efficient and water efficient, since you heat only the amount you need for each cup. When you make coffee and tea and home, you can save time and money, although you do miss the opportunity to flirt with the cute baristas at your local coffee shop.
  • For even more efficiency tips for cooking, check out this post on Green Living Ideas.

What are you favorite kitchen tips to save energy, water and time? Share in the comments below what helps you in your kitchen!

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