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Archive for the ‘Climate Change’ Category

It might sound crazy what I’m about to say, but here it is: November 2015 may be the most important and influential time to urge world leaders to take climate action. Why you may ask? In less than a month, COP21, the UN Climate Negotiation conference, is going down. On November 30th, world leaders will meet in Paris to discuss the future of our planet, the future for our kids and grandkids, and the future of our homes, cities, oceans and forests.

To help demand a positive change, build a powerful climate movement, and influence our world leaders, Oroeco has partnered with 24 Hours of Reality. Together, we are joining celebrities, musicians and world leaders, along with people all over to world to raise our collective voice and inspire people to create meaningful change.

This weekend (November 13-14), 24 Hours of Reality is hosting and live-streaming concerts, presentations, and watch parties all over the world to raise awareness about the Paris conference and climate change. There will be segments in Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro, Miami, Calgary, Sydney, Beijing and New Delhi featuring amazing speakers and artists like Pharrell Williams, Duran Duran, Elton John, Hozier and more.

Want to know how you can join in this global party and make a positive difference on the climate? It would sure make us and Pharrell “happy” if you joined Oroeco to take the climate pledge on 24 Hours of Reality, tune in to watch and be inspired by the live-streaming events around the world, and continue to spread the word about these events.

Now is the time for the world to come together and demand a meaningful agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This weekend, your actions can help to protect the planet, urge leaders to take action, and have humanity harmonize all at once.”

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On the hunt for the right stuff to furnish your green home or office? When you’re looking to boost your decor, it behooves both you and Mother Earth to choose vintage furniture whenever possible. Buying secondhand furniture and decor is not only a fun way to express your unique style, it’s a great way to ensure that your hard earned dollars are not trashing the planet. Another bonus of vintage furniture: it can save you loads of cash for more fun stuff (like gadgets and new bicycles!)

One of the main benefits of choosing vintage is that you are saving all the raw materials and energy used in the manufacturing and transport of new furniture, known as embodied energy. By choosing secondhand, you’re helping to keep resources in the ground, reducing the amount of waste in your community, and encouraging recycling, upcycling, and resale.

vintage couchFinding the right vintage furniture can take some time, but checking out your local secondhand shops, flea markets, and Craigslist can lead you to the treasure you seek. Such vintage treasures might require a little elbow grease to make them look like new, but small fixes or some quick upholstery work can make a older piece better than new. You can get creative with couch covers or tapestries to cover up an especially “unique” looking couch or chair if you’re not feeling crafty.

Another good reason to choose secondhand is that new furniture contains dozens of chemicals that release into the air in a process known as “off-gassing.” New furniture, carpets, paints, and decor release dozens of chemicals (known as volatile organic compounds) into the room, leading to indoor air pollution. Choosing vintage furniture is a way to decrease the amount of VOCs in the home or office and keep your family safer.

But of course, one of the most pressing reasons to choose vintage is that is saves hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars. Newer couches can cost anywhere from $1,500-$5,000, while secondhand couches almost always come in under $1,000. The difference is not as huge – but there are definitely savings to be had– for other items like beds, chairs, dining sets and decor. If you’re not saving, you might be shopping at the wrong thrift store!

And if you’re on the other side and looking to ditch your furniture, you can make a big dent in your waste load by donating or sharing your used stuff. Some thrift stores will take furniture (some will even pick it up), but you can also check with local charities like Big Brothers, Big Sisters that collect furniture and household items for community members in need. Sometimes schools, churches, and other community groups can take items off your hands too. Avoid junk collection agencies like 1-800-Got-Junk, as they just trash the furniture. Unless your furniture has totally fallen apart or is otherwise damaged (infested with bugs or potentially hazardous), there’s probably someone ready to make your trash into their treasure.

Couch image from Flickr Creative Commons

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water efficiency for showers

Shower better, not less often.

Is showertime your happy place? Who doesn’t love the relaxing, steamy experience of a hot morning or evening shower? Sorry to rain on your parade, but showers account for a whopping 17% of indoor water use. That’s an average of 40 gallons of water each day for a typical US family, which translates to 1.2 trillion gallons of water a year in the United States.

But we want you to keep up with the showering… just in a much more efficient and sustainable way. Learning how to save water will help you save money on energy and water bills, and reduce the overall water footprint of your home.

Here are some simple and affordable changes to reduce your water usage:

  • The easiest option, especially for those who really LOVE their shower, is to install water-efficient shower heads. The EPA’s WaterSense label designates products that ensure efficient water use in your home. Standard shower heads use 2.5 gallons of water per minute (GPM), while qualifying WaterSense shower heads don’t use more than 2.0 GPM; newer shower heads can get as low as 1.25 GPM with no change to pressure or flow. Quick installation of water-efficient shower heads in your home can immediately save money and water. How much? EPA estimates the average household savings at 2,900 gallons of water a year, or 370 kilowatt hours of electricity, equivalent to 13 days of power.

showerbetter-infographic

  • If you don’t want to spend the upfront cash for efficiency upgrades, the second best solution is to just take shorter showers. If an average shower in the US is 8 minutes long and the flow of a standard shower head is 2.5 GPM, that’s 20 gallons of water just for one shower. Cutting down your shower time to 5 minutes or less can go a long way towards reducing your energy and water bill.
  • Does your shower take forever to warm up? If so, you might want to think about installing a thermostatic shut-off valve. This nifty gadget is easy to install and helps minimize wasted energy and water by limiting water flow once your water reaches 95° or hotter. Just pull a cord to turn the flow back on when you’re ready to jump in!
  • If you’re in the process of designing a new home, on-demand water heaters are a great option. These small gas or electric gadgets heat water instantly on the spot, so there’s no energy or water wasted.
  • Wondering if it’s more water efficient to take a shower or bath? We can’t argue with the luxury of a bath, but it is, indeed, a luxury. Assuming you have switched to water efficient showerheads, showers will always win for the lowest amount of water usage. If you can’t give up your bubbles, Umbra from Grist advises readers create their own “water offsets” by practicing taking shorter showers or skipping a shower now and then to justify the time in the tub.

Here are some more resources for water efficiency:

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Perhaps many of us have a love-hate relationship with public transportation? Waiting for buses and delayed train schedules can certainly be frustrating, but choosing public transport whenever possible is a great step to take for the planet and your bank account.

How much of a difference can public transportation make on your carbon footprint? Almost a third of our nation’s footprint is guzzled by the transportation sector. Of that chunk, individual vehicles are responsible for 64%! This means that changing the way you move around town is one of the quickest ways to cut your footprint down to a manageable size.

san francisco bus

Get on the bus!

The American Public Transportation Association estimates that one person can reduce his daily carbon emissions by 20 pounds, or more than 4,800 pounds a year, just by switching from driving to public transit; this translates to 10% of the entire household’s emissions. If you can’t get on the bus or train, carpooling is another great option that saves you money and time while dropping your emissions impact significantly.

Which forms of transit are the best for the planet? The US Department of Transportation calculates that heavy rail transit, like metros and subways, produce roughly 75% less in greenhouse gas emissions per passenger-mile than single-occupancy vehicles, while light rail systems produce 57% less, and bus transit 32% less. Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley also conducted a full life-cycle assessment for public transit and found that even when taking into account emissions from infrastructure, manufacturing, and upkeep, public transportation still provides consumers a greener option. Innovations in hybrid or renewable technology continues to make public transport ever greener, giving us more reasons than ever to ditch the car whenever possible.

As an added feel-good bonus, public transportation has also been shown to help conserve land, reduce travel time, and spur economic development. Since public transit eliminates the need for large parking lots and highways, businesses can be closer together, helping to reduce travel time between destinations. Instead of being chopped up by ugly freeways, public transportation helps create more close-knit communities where people are more comfortable traveling on foot or on bicycles. Foot traffic is instrumental in the success of small retail and food spots, so next time you have the choice to take the bus, remember that you’re helping support the local economy thrive on various levels.

Perhaps most importantly to many of us, taking the rail, bus, or ferry can also make a huge positive change for your budget. Vehicle maintenance, parking, and fuel costs add up quickly. See how much money you could save by using public transportation with the APTA’s Fuel Savings Calculator. One writer on Treehugger shares how he has saved about $10,000 each year by using public transport. Even though public transit may require a little extra time and planning, it has the big potential to save you some serious cash for more organic food, sustainable wine or gadgets.

Want more information about the benefits of public transit? Start here: 

San Francisco bus image from Flickr

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bicycle commutingChoosing two wheels instead of four to make your way around town goes a long way to reducing your carbon footprint. Transportation is the fastest growing sector of greenhouse gas emissions according to the Clean Air Council, with total vehicle emissions responsible for 31% of overall carbon dioxide, 81% of carbon monoxide, and 49% of total of nitrogen oxide emissions in the United States every year! Making a bicycle part of your weekly routine, whether for your daily commute or short rides around town, can make a big difference in your overall impact.

While some of us have longer commutes, studies show that 25% of car rides are used for commutes less than one mile from home, while 40% are within just two miles. The studies also show that half of workers travel a mere five miles or less to work every day. Discovery News says that if a community takes just half of their car trips by bicycle, it would reduce healthcare costs by $7 billion and result in an estimated 1,100 fewer deaths each year because of better air quality. Biking has a social justice component too: read here about how safe bike infrastructure makes our communities more secure for everyone. Studies show that biking is good for everyone, not just bikers, but for the whole community. With numbers like these, it seems that we could be doing more to support bicycle commuting for many more people.

biking for a better planet

bike your way to a better community, a better planet, and a better booty

How much of a difference could bike commuting make? Worldwatch Institute has calculated that a bicycle commuter riding four miles to work five days a week can eliminate about 2,000 pounds of CO2 emissions each year, nearly a 5% reduction in the average American’s carbon footprint. The good news is that bicycling is making a bit of a comeback. Biking has been commonplace in many European cities for decades, but it’s becoming more popular — and more necessary — in US urban planning designs. Many cities are actively working to build biking infrastructure, including safer lanes and better parking access.

Want to build up biking in your community? Connect with your state department of transportation, city council and local biking advocacy groups to see what’s happening in your ‘hood and find ways to get involved. Here are some other great resources:

orange bike image from Flickr Creative Commons; bike rack image from Flickr Creative Commons

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carpooling and rideshareThink carpooling is relegated to busy parents shuffling their kids to school? Not anymore — carpooling is gaining traction as a great green weapon for your impact-reducing arsenal. Coordinating rides with friends, family, and coworkers will solidify your social networks (the real-life ones), help you save money, and reduce your carbon emissions.

Transportation is responsible for a huge chunk of the total carbon footprint in the United States — latest figures estimate about 30%. According to the smart folks at the EPA, this makes transportation the largest contributor to greenhouse gases, second only to the energy industry. But how can we reduce this huge percentage? Just like your mama taught you, the solution is to share.

Cars emit roughly one pound of CO2 per mile, so sharing the carbon weight by carpooling with even one other person will automatically reduce your impact by half! According to Rideshare, each carpool with four riders can reduce greenhouse gases by about 12,000 pounds annually, which is the equivalent of 500 gallons of gasoline. Aside from decreasing your emissions and fuel costs, carpooling offers other bonuses like decreased need for vehicle maintenance. And if you are not the one driving, you can make new friends, finish up a few minutes of work, or make up for last night’s party with a little nap.

carpooling and rideshare

Does your city have carpool lanes to reward drivers?

Check out your city and/or state department of transportation to learn about carpool options in your area. Find vanshare, rideshare, or other options to help build your commute with neighbors, or start your own car share program in your community. Most big cities reward carpoolers with HOV lanes to accelerate the journey, special parking spaces, or discounted rates for parking.

Not the organizing type? There’s an app to help with that! These carpooling and car share apps will help you jumpstart your green driving routine by connecting cars with drivers and passengers in your community:

  • Carma Carpooling: An easy app that lets users choose their carpool in cities around the world
  • Zimride: Carpool solutions for university and corporate networks
  • Carpooling.com: Europe’s most popular carpooling website, now available in the US
  • Rideshare: Carpooling and fleet solutions for office, campus and more!
  • Share rides via Lyft, Uber, Ridescout and Sidecar

Join the community of Climate Heroes: click here to join our newsletter!

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energy efficiency for computersMost of us are pretty dedicated to the digital lifestyle, and with good reason. Who could possibly edit a photo, find the way to the bar, or make a meal without all the wonderful websites that make our lives so much easier? As you might suspect, our fascination with all things screen-based requires a lot of energy for both the source but also for the data: about 10% of global electricity usage is for the digital economy alone. According to Greenpeace, “if cloud computing were a country, it would rank sixth in the world on the basis of how much electricity it uses.” Yikes!

While there’s no way to truly eliminate our use of digital technology, there are some ways that you can make your computer and devices work smarter for you and for the planet.

Here are some tips to reduce the energy use of your computers:

  • Use the energy settings on your computer: Set up your energy saving mode as soon as you get your computer, as they are not set automatically by the manufacturer.
  • Put it to sleep or shut it down: Tucking your computer in for sleep mode (if it’s not automatic, see above) is the most efficient thing to do if you’re going to step away for a coffee break. If you are done for the day, you should turn it off completely. Energy.gov says that most computers will not wear out their on/off capabilities in their lifespan. These actions can save you up to $75/year in energy costs!
  • Use a smart strip: A smart strip is like a power strip but has “master” plugs that turn on other plugs. For example, if your desk has a computer, a printer, a charger and speakers, the computer would be the “master” that limits when the other items turn on and draw power, reducing the vampire power of the other items. When the computer turns off, all other items immediately turn off and are unable to draw any power. (Here’s more info about smart strips.) You can unplug all phone and tablet chargers when not in use to avoid the vampire power they suck up, too.
  • Darken the screens: For Androids and other devices with non-LCD displays, setting your screen (and themes in apps) to black or other dark colors can make a difference in battery usage and thus electricity use.
  • Skip the screensavers: They are mesmerizing indeed, but screensavers don’t actually save electricity. In fact, Energy Star says they can actually increase the energy usage of computers! Instead, turn your screen to black, put your computer to sleep, or turn it off entirely.
  • Clean up your cloud: The data that we store in the cloud seems safe and far away, but it is creating serious energy demands every day. All those apps, games, Instagram photos, and everything else saved in the cloud means your iPhone uses more electricity overall than a refrigerator! To reduce your overall cloud impact, delete what you don’t want and keep your files clean.

Want to learn more about how to decrease your digital footprint? Check out these great resources:

keep calm86054Leaf computer image from here; keep calm image from here

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