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Posts Tagged ‘green home living’

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

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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

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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 the 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 depends on where you live. As you can see in the 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 other factors account for the variation. And rates will continue to climb. According to the New York Post, electricity rates will likely increase 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 have the lowest use! High-cost Hawaii has one of the lowest collective uses of electricity (it helps that it’s always pretty warm there), 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 electricity 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 the 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 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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andrea head shot circleAbout the Author: Andrea Bertoli helps to spread awareness of personal climate impacts via social media, blogging, advertising and community outreach for Oroeco.

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