Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘energy efficiency’

These washing and drying tips for more efficient laundry make household chores a chance to show off your eco-consciousness!

Cold Wash Your Clothes

Did you know the average American household washes roughly 300 loads of laundry a year, and that during those loads over 90% of energy spent during a wash cycle is used just to heat the water? Seems like a pretty big deal, right? But it’s an easy solution: making a simple swap to cold water washing can eliminate 1,600 pounds of carbon dioxide annually by reducing the demand for hot water. With the exception of especially dirty items, cold water will clean your clothes just as well as hot, and almost all detergents are formulated to work in cold and warm water.

More Efficiency Tips for Washing

In the market for a new washer? Make the most of each load with Energy Star washers. Newer, more efficient washers (and dryers) will use considerably less energy (about 25% less) and much less water (about 40% less). Best of all, you can reap the rewards each month with an average savings of $40. Other ways to reduce: wash full loads of laundry to maximize energy and water use. Be sure to check with state and federal rebates to see if you efficient washer can save you even more cashola.

water efficiency

Here’s another green tip: if your gym clothes or towels have that special je ne sais quoi musty stank, add half cup of white vinegar along with your laundry soap to each load. It will eliminate the stink and work as a natural fabric softener too! And, don’t worry — the vinegar washes out, so you won’t smell like a pickle!

folding drying rack

a simple indoor folding drying rack

Line Dry Your Laundry

The second step in greener laundry care is to reduce the amount of time needed for the dryer — or perhaps eliminate using it at all! You can keep your laundry vibe sparkling green by hanging your clothes to dry instead of using the machine. How much impact could it have? Dryers, all by their lonesome, use an average of 6% of total household energy. In California, an average dryer costs roughly between $0.35-$0.70 cents/hour for electric and $0.12 cents/hour for gas, which adds up quickly throughout the month, especially with a bigger household.

A better solution is to set up an indoor or outdoor clothesline, or invest in a small folding drying rack. Line drying your clothing not only reduces your energy costs, it also keeps your clothes in better shape for the long haul. Ever thought about what’s coming out of the lint trap? Those are teeny pieces of your clothes! And if hung properly, clothes will stay wrinkle free.  And, if you have the advantage of strong sunlight, your whites will get naturally bleached.

More eco tips for your laundry

If your line-dried clothes don’t dry properly due to humid or rainy conditions and acquire that not-so-delightful musty smell, toss them into the dryer for 10 minutes on low heat with some plain old baking soda. Dry, fresh clothes will be yours!

Can’t make a clothesline work in your space? Here are some sustainable solutions for drying clothes if you do need to keep the dryer in action:

Infographic from NRDC, rack image from Amazon

Read Full Post »

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:

Read Full Post »

water wise yard drip irrigation

Drip irrigation saves water and reduces runoff

As climate change threatens to make both energy and water resources increasingly scarce, it’s important to find ways to reduce water usage and thus reduce our energy needs — making the drop to watt connection. According to research, over 12 percent of all US energy consumption is directly related to water use. There are dozens of easy green ways to commit to reducing both energy and water in your yard and garden.

Committing to a greener land-scaping plan is one of the ways we can make a big difference in our water-energy use. An average lawn uses 10,000 gallons of water a year (not including rainfall). Taking steps to redesign your yard to include more native, drought-resistant plants, instead of (or in addition to) grass, is a wonderful way to reduce your water usage and keep your landscape beautiful. Native plants adapted to your region’s climate and soil require much less upkeep, are resistant to pests and diseases, and can help with erosion. Building a yard of native plants can help reduce pesticides and fertilizers, leading to a healthier ecosystem for other plants and animals too.

water wise yard

A water-wise yard can include a variety of plants and features.

Not ready to redesign the landscape just yet? There are still plenty of ways you can ensure your garden makes the most of its water. When possible, nuture old growth. Maintain those plants and trees already rooted in your yard to reduce the resources, nutrients, and water to needed to establish new vegetation. When choosing new items, focus on trees and shrubs when possible. Bigger plants can absorb more rainfall, reduce runoff, and absorb larger amounts of carbon dioxide (bonus: your trees can discourage your nosy neighbors from peeking in). Reduce runoff and erosion by adding compost and mulch to your soil. Compost will enrich your soil for healthier, happier plants, and work as a carbon sink for your yard.

Changing up your watering techniques can be instrumental in saving water too. When possible, it’s better to do the work of watering yourself. It’s much more efficient to manually water your plants with a garden hose or watering can; take a happy, meditative gardening break to give your little greens some water. The EPA estimates that you generally use 33% less water doing it yourself, rather than through an irrigation system. If manual watering is too impractical for your schedule and you have the spare funds, use an automatic irrigation system, specifically a drip irrigation or a water-efficient spray head, which are the most effective in getting water straight to the roots. The final tip: hopefully you’re an early bird, because the best time to water your plants is in the morning. It’s the coolest time of day, best for optimal absorption and decreased evaporation. Be mindful of the changing seasons, changing your watering routine as rainfall, heat and humidity change throughout the year.

The tips above will have you well on your way to a water-wise yard, and the great resources below can help you build a flourishing backyard ecosystem.

drip irrigation image from Flickr Creative Commons; xeriscape yard image from EPA

Read Full Post »

Rechargeable BatteriesThinking of making the switch to rechargeable batteries? Like other energy efficiency tweaks, rechargeable batteries have an upfront cost, but the long-term benefits are very worth the investment and pay for themselves in just two years. One set of rechargeables can replace hundreds of single-use (disposable) batteries, billions of which are used each year in the US alone. Most of these disposable batteries are not recycled and there is no way to reuse them, making batteries quite the climate mess!

The good news is that rechargeable batteries work great, outperforming regular batteries in most situations (except when used in cameras). Rechargeables also consume up to 23 times fewer natural resources than disposable batteries. Upgrades in technology have allowed rechargeables to become slightly more affordable and better functioning over the years, too. There are now batteries that can be charged using a USB port, eliminating the need for a separate battery recharging station.

Here are some tips to make the switch to rechargeables:

  • Choose high quality batteries to power your life: Here’s a list of the best rechargeable batteries for 2015. Many of the same battery brands you are accustomed to using also offer rechargeables, and there are lots of new companies making great options. Stock up on a few sets, get a charger, and get started with the savings!
  • Don’t forget to charge ‘em up: One of the hassles with rechargeable batteries is that they need to charge, sometimes for a few hours each. Having backup batteries charged and ready to go can help alleviate the stress of an important toy or game that suddenly stops working (doubly important if you have kids who want to play NOW). Many rechargeables also come pre-charged for last-minute needs.
  • Be aware of the power slide: As batteries age, they may not store energy for as long as newer batteries. Rechargables also tend to lose juice as they sit, so charge a batch of batteries every few weeks if you find that you’re running out of power often. If you use a lot of batteries, perhaps keep a few regular batteries around as you get accustomed to regularly charging up your rechargeable stash.

Want to learn more about rechargeable batteries? Check out these great resources:

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

battery image from America’s Best Organics

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

energy-star-logoEnergy efficiency for electronics is a big action that can make a big difference. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says that the average house has about 25 different electronic gadgets, including televisions, phones, video game consoles, cable boxes, computers, and probably many more if you have little kids! All these gadgets and electronic items consume lots of energy throughout their short lifetimes — including when they are powered off, leading to several billions of dollars of wasted energy yearly.

Here are some actionable tips to help you make your gadgets as efficient as possible:

    • Do your research: Energy Star is a starting place for more efficient gadgets, but it can also be helpful to do some research to find which item is truly the best for your needs.
    • Choose second-hand carefully: Electronic technology evolves so quickly that an item only a few years old could be light-years behind technologically. Compare the energy needs of secondhand televisions, blenders, toys or other gadgets with their newer versions before making the purchase.
    • Be vigilant with the vampires: Even efficient and Energy Star electronics will use juice when they are turned off, so squash the vampire power by using a power strip, a smart strip or simply unplugging all your electronic items when not in use. 
    • Check the charge: Use a watt meter to determine how much energy your item is using, then make adjustments to reduce the flow. Learn about stand-by modes for gaming consoles and other gadgets. Some gadgets (like cell phones) will have built-in energy meters so you can see what’s using the most power. Take advantage of the energy-saving settings, and find hacks to continually reduce your usage.
    • Don’t forget to recycle the goods: At the end of their useful life, gadgets can give back by being recycled. Check out the EPA guidelines for e-waste recycling and read more about why electronics recycling is so important in our blog post.

Here are some more great resources for getting the best bang for your electronics buck:

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

Read Full Post »

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: It 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

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

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: