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LED light bulb green living
Turning off your lights is an Action that is so super simple, but so super important. Just how important depends on which type of light bulbs you have in your home or office. According to the US Department of Energy, incandescent and halogen lights should be turned off anytime you leave the room because of high consumption of energy. CFL lights should be turned off if you are not going to be using them for 15 minutes or more; the longevity of CFLs is affected by how often they are turned on/off and they wear out with quick on/off switches. If you have invested in LEDs, the most efficient option for long-term energy and money savings, you can save even more by turning them off each time you leave a room. The longevity of LED lights is not affected by switching on/off too often.

The Energy Collective puts it into perspective: “leaving lights on [while you’re gone for eight hours] costs you roughly 6 cents for a normal light and a bit over 1 cent for modern bulbs. Obviously this isn’t going to break the bank, but if that light switch you forgot to flick off actually runs five lights in the kitchen, we’re talking 30 cents a day, and that bad habit adds up to $110 per year!”

If you want to nerd out and calculate exactly how much you can save by flipping off the switches, the Department of Energy has detailed directions on their site. But keep in mind, daily or even weekly costs will be minimal. However, it’s important to look at all calculations in yearly cost and yearly energy savings. Extrapolating that data to your whole home, your office, your neighborhood, your city, and beyond can demonstrate how powerful a simple action like this can be for saving energy and reducing your footprint.

Can’t remember to turn out the lights? The image below is a fun way to help kids big and small remember to turn lights off. And this article has some great tips for teaching children about energy efficiency and reasons for turning off the lights.

If your family just can’t remember to flip the switch, invest in sensors, smart strips, or other automated home technologies so that you can turn the lights off automatically or remotely.

how-get-kids-save-energy_9411042c76bb513fdea8eef1a788fd6c_3x2lightbulb image from here

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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

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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?

dinosaur divest imageindex

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

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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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Climate-Saving Resolutions Time to ring in the New Year with resolutions to be healthier and happier humans. We here at Oroeco can’t help you get to the gym or eat less chocolate (which we consume in copious quantities). But we DO have a few climate-saving resolutions that make it easy to save money AND save the planet this year, leading to health and happiness all around!

Did you know the average household can save over $1,000 each year while reducing climate impacts by 20%? Here are 10 easy-to-implement climate-saving resolutions that cost little to put into action but can make a big difference for the world, your wallet and your waistline. Ready to awaken your inner climate champion? Take any of the actions below and you’re on your way to a better year already!

  1. Kill the vampires: This tip is perhaps the easiest of them all and doesn’t require anything beyond a little brain power: simply unplug your electronics when not in use, or turn them fully off with a powerstrip. Most electronics suck ‘vampire power-’ which means they use energy even when turned off! Unplugging appliances when they’re not in use is the best way to slay these vampires. Some, like the oven, might be impossible to unplug, but others, like TVs, DVRs, stereos and wireless routers should be accessible and easy to unplug or switch off with a powerstrip.
  2. BYO-Everything: Carrying a silverware set, a reusable/washable napkin, a cup and even a small container with you to parties, to the office and elsewhere might seem a little daunting at first, but it has a lot of rewards. Cutting out the need for plastic and paper supplies goes a long way to reducing your footprint and virtually eliminating your use of styrofoam and plastic to-go containers. Bring your own takeout container to restaurants to save even more.
  3. Reduce your food waste: Here’s another freebie tip: by simply reducing your food waste you can eliminate about 2,200 pounds of CO2 each year and make a ton of other impacts! All the energy used to grow, transport and chill that wasted food can be saved each time you make conscious purchasing decisions. How to reduce your food waste: plan your meals ahead to avoid overbuying, serve smaller portions (which is also good for your waistline), freeze foods if you can’t eat them soon enough, and turn less-than-perfect veggies into soups or pasta sauces.
  4. Choose transportation wisely: Bike, walk or take public transport whenever possible. Or, choose a rideshare program to get you where you need to go without having to own a car. You can save up to $10,000 each year if your forgo four wheels to support cleaner transportation!
  5. Try Meatless Monday (or everyday): Reducing the amount of meat and dairy in your diet can make a huge difference in your daily carbon footprint, even more so than choosing all local and organic foods. Eating less meat saves money and improves your health at the same time!
  6. Make your home brighter with energy efficient bulbs: LEDs are super energy efficient light bulbs and are great investment for your home. The initial cost will be quickly offset from immediate energy savings. How much can they save you? A typical 60 watt incandescent can be replaced with a 6 watt LED! That’s a huge decrease in energy usage, and with LEDs now costing less than $5 per bulb they pay for themselves in energy savings very quickly!
  7. Reduce your water use: Low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators are easy to install and can reduce your water use immediately by half or more. This means less energy used to heat your shower and sink water, dropping your electric bill and your water bill at the same time.
  8. Know your climate impacts: It’s said “you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” but it’s easy to track the climate impacts of your spending and lifestyle choices with our fun (and FREE!) software at Oroeco. You can improve your impacts with personalized tips, collaborate and compete with your friends, win prizes and engage your community to scale your personal actions into bigger change. Sign up here to start tracking your impacts and begin changing climate for the better this year.
  9. Clean up climate with carbon offsets: Supporting pollution reduction projects by purchasing carbon offsets is the only way to fully eliminate the climate impacts of your lifestyle. Unfortunately there’s not yet a global tax on carbon pollution, but you can start paying your carbon cost now to make a real difference for climate and communities. You can subscribe to monthly offsetting through Oroeco to make sure you’re treading on the climate as lightly as possible. Your offset purchases fund clean cookstove projects in Africa, supporting healthier forests and families through our partnership with Impact Carbon, and you can even gift offsets to your friends and family.
  10. Share your climate love! Each change we make as individuals has a positive impact, but we encourage you to amplify your impact by sharing these resolutions with friends and family. Perhaps the biggest change we need to make is to shift the culture around climate action, so that climate-friendly living is the new normal. The only way that’s going to happen is if we talk about climate with everyone we respect and care about. Let your friends and family know why you’re passionate about climate, and how you can support each other to change climate for the better this year. We’ve built Oroeco to make these conversations a bit easier, and we’re on Facebook and Twitter, so you can share the climate love with us there too!

Got some other climate resolutions for the New Year? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Hope your year is off to a grand beginning, and sign up here for even more tips to change climate for the better in 2015!

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Electronics-RecyclingFinding a good home for your e-waste can have profound effects on people and the planet.

As summer breezes make way for fall’s bright colors, and students trickle back into classrooms, many will be looking to purchase that new laptop or tablet that nowadays is so essential for school, work and pleasure. But how sustainable is your computer? What should you look for when choosing a new one, and where will your old laptop go?

Electronic waste, or e-waste is one of the fastest growing types of wastes globally, growing 8.9% annually according to BCC Research. In 2012 alone, consumers around the world bought over 440 million computers and tablets! Since most of us toss our electronics within their average lifespan of 1-3 years, knowing how to deal with e-waste recycling can make a huge difference in your carbon and waste footprints.

In general, laptop computers use much less energy than desktops, but beneath each sleek design most computers are exactly the same, containing a slew of metals and chemicals like lead, arsenic, and mercury that can leach into soil and water resources, endangering the ecosystems we all depend on.

Computers also contain many precious metals, plastics and glass that when recycled properly, can greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by lessening the demand to manufacture and mine for new materials. Saving your old computer or cellphone from the fate of the landfill can make a huge impact- the EPA states that recycling 1 million computers is equal to the electric costs of 3,657 homes in the United States! With each household owning an average of 24 electronics, and over 3 million people in the US, each one makes a difference.

So, what is the best way to keep your electronics out of landfills? Extend their life as long as possible. Use your products until the very end, or if you need the newest gadget, give your electronics a second life by donating them to someone else. When buying a new product, look for minimal packaging and products designed for easy upgrade and disassembly. Ethicalconsumer.org provides a wonderful guide to compare companies and products, and organizations like the Electronics Take Back Coalition and e-stewards.org have a state by state directory of certified recycling companies that promise to recycle and refurbish your e-waste in the United States.

Before you make a rush for the latest toy, know where your electronics go and come from. By ensuring the safe disposal of electronics and supporting eco-conscious companies you can help to slash the negative impacts of e-waste! To learn more about the social issues of e-waste check out these documentaries, Exporting Harm: The High Tech Trashing of Asia, and Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground.

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