We've covered a number of strategies you can implement to use less energy in your home. If you really want to find out what kinds of improvements you can make that will increase your house's overall efficiency, it may be time for an audit: an audit of your home's energy usage.
While many utilities offer free auditing services, if you're serious about cutting energy usage (as well as your utility bills), you'll want an audit that takes a "wholehouse" approach. Wholehouse audits look at overall energy usage, identify issues that may be increasing usage, and prioritize improvements you can make to achieve higher efficiency. The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy division of the US Department of Energy describes the wholehouse process, and provides tips for conducting one yourself, or for hiring a contractor to complete a much more extensive one.
Over the next few days, we'll cover some actions you can take to identify and even fix some of the major energy gobblers in your home. This is a good way to start (and to learn more about your home). Hiring a professional can give you more detailed information, and help you prioritize repairs and upgrades in terms of both costs and results.
Your Action for Today: Take a Look at Some New Tools
EERE's page on home energy auditing has a series of questions to ask yourself about your current energy usage and goals (under "Formulating Your Plan"). Answer those questions to the best of your ability in your Green Journal.
We're back to the Green Life plan you started on Day 7, and refined on Day 13. You've done more thinking about the major areas of your life that can benefit from a lighter environmental impact, so pull your plan back out, and figure out how you want to schedule these activities into your green routine.
Composting: You'll likely gather compostable materials throughout each day: coffee grounds, tea bags, fruit and vegetable scraps, etc. You'll probably also add them to your pile or bin daily. You will likely complete other activities (turning the pile, or adding shredded newspaper to the worm bin) on a weekly basis.
Vampire power: You may need to check daily to make sure that you unplug various electronic items that will draw power in standby mode: cell phone chargers, for instance. Of course, making use of smart power strips and other devices that regulate the flow of standby power can make this change almost effortless.
Car maintenance: Check those tires monthly - add that to your plan! Air filters likely need checking every few months, and proper oil changes and tune-ups should occur according to the manufacturer's suggested schedule. Do you know that schedule? If not, check your owner's manual. If you no longer have this, here are some links that will help you get the information you need.
Buying from a CSA: Depending on the season, you may need to set up a reminder to start looking at CSA subscriptions - most start in the late Spring. If you join one, you'll need to make that weekly pick-up a part of your schedule.
Your Action for Today: Revise Your Plan Again
If it looks like your schedule is really filling up, remember: most of these activities can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. Before long, you separate out those compostables and check the air pressure in the tires without needing a reminder. Living green is tough now because you've developed "ungreen" habits. By using your plan as a reminder, you can develop new habits that lighten your load on the environment, and leave you with more money in your pocket!
As we note in the Green Life Guide, "Composting is the process of decomposing organic (plant and/or animal) materials to make nutrient-rich compost." Essentially, composting is nature's way of recycling organic material so that it can be used as food for other organisms. You can replicate this process at home, and use the compost as a nutritional supplement for indoor and outdoor plants - essentially, a natural fertilizer. This allows you to keep these materials out of your waste stream, and, consequently, our overtaxed landfills.
Home composters have two methods available to them: traditional outdoor composting, which involves collecting organic materials outdoors in a manner that creates favorable conditions for the natural process to occur, and vermicomposting, or using red worms to break these materials down (and can be done indoors or out). We explain both processes in our Green Life Guide entry, and MasterComposter.com has step-by-step instructions available. Your choice of one or both methods depends primarily on your living situation: if you live close to your neighbors, or in an apartment, you'll definitely want to use vermicomposting for kitchen scraps such as fruit and vegetable peels and egg shells. Rural residents can throw everything into the outdoor pile - you'll probably want it a little ways from your house, though, as it can smell (especially if not maintained)!
Your Action for Today: Plan a Home Composting System
It's very easy to get started composting:
Choose the composting method(s) you plan to use, based on your living situation.
Decide where and how you'll collect compostable materials. For kitchen scraps, you may want to keep a container like an empty coffee can on hand for quick collection. Lawn and garden materials can likely go directly into your pile or bin.
For vermicomposting or quicker outdoor composting, you'll need a specialized bin. You can makeown, or buyone. your
Start putting compostable materials in the pile or bin. Remember: piles and bins both need relatively regular attention to maintain the optimal composting conditions. You can't compost meats, fats or dairy products without a specialized system.
Congratulations! You're now nearly halfway through 30 Days to a Greener You. You should also have several more items that you can add to the Greener Life Plan you created in lesson 7:
Recycling: You should have your system in place. Now, update your plan to show activities you'll need to take on a regular basis. You'll probably need to sort daily, and deliver the sorted recyclables weekly, either to a convenient drop-off point, or to your curbside.
Eating and Drinking: You've committed a portion of your grocery budget to greener food, and will probably want to make shopping for it a weekly event. If you can make it part of your regular grocery shopping, great - add that to your plan. If not, identify a point during the week you can do your green shopping, and try to combine it with other trips you would normally make.
Energy, Transportation and Consumption: While light bulbs only need to be changed occasionally (especially now that you're using longer-lasting, more efficient bulbs), you may want to make a habit of checking other energy uses in your home: thermostat and hot water heater settings (especially if someone in your home has a tendency to adjust these!). You'll want to start replacing your furnace/AC filter monthly, as that will help those systems run more efficiently.
Have you scheduled regular trips by mass transit, bicycle or "foot power?" Have you taken note of car trips you can combine? If not, get those into your plan!
You may also want to have a standing weekly appointment with your new favorite swapping site - you never know what might show up!
Your Action for Today: Update and Revise Your Greener Living Plan
Of course, once you've done this, you'll want to engage in another activity that should be on the plan: using your Green Journal! Put your updated plan in your journal today. Take a look at the plans others have revised. Finally, enjoy your success - you're already living a greener life!
Rep. Charlie Rangel: Don't Trade Away Animal Rights and the Environment w/ the Peru Free Trade Agreement!
Rep. Charlie Rangel, Chair of the US House of Representative's Ways and Means Committee, is Congress' strongest and most influential supporter of the Peru Free Trade Agreement (PUFTA), which will destroy Amazon rainforests and expand factory farming! Tell Charlie that we will not let him sell out animals and the environment for corporate profits! Planning Meeting: Wednesday, September 19, 5:30 PM, The Brecht Forum, West Street between Bank and Bethune Streets, Manhattan, NYC. A, C, E or L to 14th Street & 8th Ave, walk down 8th Ave. to Bethune, turn right, walk west to the River, turn left. OR, 1, 2, or 3 to 14th Street & 7th Ave, get off at south end of station, walk west on 12th Street to 8th Ave. left to Bethune, turn right, walk west to the River, turn left.
Sign, Banner, & Costume Making & Street Theater Rehearsal: Saturday and Sunday, September 22 and 23, 15 Thames Street, Brooklyn (L train to Morgan Avenue) Noon to 6 PM (or later).
Raleigh — North Carolina State University researchers are developing a system to convert animal fat into an alternative fuel.
The researchers have partnered with an Arizona-based energy company to produce a fuel they have dubbed Centia, which they said is the Latin equivalent of "green power."
Unlike ethanol and some other alternative fuels, Centia requires no fossil fuels in the production process, said Henry Lamb, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.
"Our process would convert animal fat, lard for example, from pig processing into a usable fuel," Lamb said. "I grew up on a hog farm in Sampson County, so absolutely I'm very familiar with hog production."
Lamb said triglycerides are converted into fatty acids, which are treated in a reactor to produce hydrocarbons.
Bill Roberts, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, said the process also would be more efficient for hog farmers.
"Animals that die on the farm, farmers typically pay to have them crated away and burned or buried. We can use those and turn them into jet fuel," Roberts said.
The researchers said they want to start at the top of the fuel chain with jets, then move their way down to biodiesel and eventually biofuel for cars.
More than 17 billion gallons of jet fuel are used in the U.S. each year. The researcher said that, if they can replace that jet fuel with Centia, more crude oil would be available for gasoline production, which could lead to lower prices for drivers.
A gallon of unleaded regular gas in the Triangle costs $2.17.
The researchers said they hope to have their first batch of Centia on the market in about a year and a half.
Arnold's Awful Announcement: New "Reform" Plan Keeps Youth Prisons Open
Last week, we learned that the Governor and his corrections officials still refuse to do what's right. Instead of closing the abusive and costly youth prisons and replacing them with regional rehabilitation centers and community programs, they want to keep the prisons run by prison guards open. And worse still — they want to build another!
On November 30, Governor Schwarzenegger's corrections officials had to reveal a juvenile justice reform plan. They submitted a weak, deeply disappointing plan that goes in the opposite direction of a real rehabilitation system. The plan is a slap in the face to youth and families who have fought so hard to get the youth prisons closed and replaced with what works.
The plan lays out lofty principles for creating "kinder, gentler" warehouse prisons. Not only does it keep the same remote prisons in tact and it also calls for creating a new 250-bed youth prison in Stockton, right next door to the notorious Chad youth prison!
Everyone, including the Governor and CYA Chief Bernie Warner, knows what youth in CYA need. Youth need to be close to home, in small rehabilitation centers with 40 beds or less, staffed by youth specialists, not prison guards.
But the Governor and Chief Warner chickened out and broke their promise to transform the system. Instead of rescuing youth from the sinking ship that is CYA, they want to slap on a new coat of paint and build an extra deck. We won't stand for this!
Please Help! Call the Governor and tell him this plan is horrible!
1. Dial: 916-445-2841. If the number is busy, please call again after a few minutes.
2. Press 5 for "hot issues," and then press 0 to speak to a representative.
3. Stay on hold. It might be a while. Thank you for being patient.
4. Tell Arnold's staffer: "My name is [your name]. I am from [your town or city]. Please tell Governor Schwarzenegger that I extremely disappointed in his CYA youth prisons reform plan. The CYA prisons are outdated warehouses and need to be closed. Instead of closing the notorious Chad youth prison — the plan calls for building another one! Building a new enormous prison next to Chad goes in the opposite direction of what youth need. Youth need to be close to home, in small centers with 40 beds or less and with youth specialists instead of prison guards."
Books Not Bars to Make Noise at Senate Hearing!
Today (Monday 12/5), Senator Gloria Romero will hold a hearing to demand answers from corrections officials. Books Not Bars will descend on the hearing with signs and song to let these officials know we will fight for closing the youth prisons every step of the way! We will not allow the voices of parents and youth to go unheard.
This Is Only the Beginning.
We're not going to stop until this awful plan is in the garbage can. We need your support more now than ever. Don't forget to call the Governor, and stay tuned for more details on how you can join us in this important fight!
Many Thanks, Lenore Anderson & Jakada Imani Books Not Bars
Harold German Bustamante
RBI- Rainbow Bureau of
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