Land of Fruits and Nuts – Joining Team ENERGY STAR

Epic Team ENERGY STARSo, in the Land of Fruits and Nuts, we have to remodel the home. “Have to” is an understatement – the home’s major systems are failing – we’ve had the sewer pipe burst underneath the house, the water pipes have failed in 2 separate locations, the furnace broke down completely, and electrical panel is shot. So we are undertaking a full house remodel.

In doing so, you can be sure that we will be making the home as green as possible, including making it more energy efficient. Yes, we will be joining team ENERGY STAR.

ENERGY STAR is a program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that is designed to help us save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices.  Now, for my husband, energy efficiency is more about saving money. If you don’t think energy efficiency can save you money, keep in mind that the average US household spends more than $2,000 per year in energy bills.  With ENERGY STAR, you can save over one-third, or more than $760, on your household energy bills.  For me, energy efficiency is critical to preserving the environment and conserving our natural resources. Yes, for me, it is all about the EPIC fight to combat climate change. And that is why we are joining Team ENERGY STAR – an initiative developed to engage and educate American youth and their families about saving energy in the home. This year, ENERGY STAR partners PTO Today and LG Electronics have brought in the heroic characters from the new movie EPIC, to help kids learn about the importance of saving energy while having fun at the same time.

Why does being energy efficient help the environment? Because most of our energy – about 70% of the electricity we use – comes from power plants burning fossil fuels.  Burning fossil fuels causes greenhouse gas emissions – the gases that contribute to climate change. Also, burning fossil fuels spews out a host of chemicals that cause severe  health concerns for those living near and far from the power plants. Don’t think it matters because you don’t live near a plant? Much of the mercury contaminating our seafood is a result of mercury released from fossil fuel burning power plants. We are all part of this amazing interconnected web, and our personal choices do matter.

In any event, because we have to replace so many appliances and products, virtually all of them, we will be purchasing products that bear the ENERGY STAR certification.  If we can, we will select products that are part of ENERGY STAR’s Most Efficient – the best of the best in energy efficiency. The ENERGY STAR’s most efficient program has products identified in the following categories: boilers, clothes washers, furnaces, refrigerators, windows and more (even computer monitors)! If you have to by new appliances, be sure to check out the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient models.

We will also be looking for energy efficient lighting. Did you know that the average home spends about 12% of its electricity bill on lighting? A single ENERGY STAR certified light bulb can save between $40 and $95 in electricity costs over its lifetime. So we will be looking for certified fixtures and bulbs.

So, for us, being part of Team ENERGY STAR and the ENERGY STAR program is very important this year.

Not buying new stuff this year? That’s okay. You can still take the ENERGY STAR pledge and take personal actions to reduce your energy use at home. You can also help your family and friends, perhaps even your school, to reduce energy. Take some easy steps – turn off lights when not in use, replace bulbs as needed with energy efficient bulbs, set your thermostat so you don’t run the heat or air conditioning when you don’t need it, etc. Our personal choices can help us not only save money, but conserve energy and thereby minimize climate change. Go check out the ENERGY STAR website for more tips and information. Join Team ENERGY STAR to work towards educating our kids and take the ENERGY STAR pledge to do something now.

FULL DISCLOSURE:  I am writing about Team ENERGY STAR because I support the program and because I believe it is important to educate the public about energy efficiency and climate change. The opinions expressed in this post are my own. However, please be advised that I did receive a modest “thank you” reward from LG, an ENERGY STAR partner, in appreciation for my post.

What can you do to fight global warming? 10 Simple Steps for Anybody

Child hold earth There’s a public service campaign I’ve  seen Los Angeles posing the question – “What did you do to stop global warming?” or something along those lines.  They are on billboards – and I’m not sure who is running the advertising.  It may be part of Al Gore’s We Can Solve It campaign – it is a little hard to read the fine print on billboards when you have two children in the back chattering incessantly – “He’s hitting me,” “She watches ponies ALL THE TIME,” and, my favorite, “I have to poop.  Right now.”

But, in any event, I have to say that the advertising worked.  Most of the time, I make my choices based upon concerns about toxicity, not global warming.  Most of my focus is living a life mostly free of unnecessary toxic chemicals, because of my children.  So, I choose a stainless steel re-usable water bottle over disposable plastic because of the potential exposure to bisphenol A (BPA).  In doing so, my choice happens to be greener – it saves resources and also reduces our carbon footprint.  But that wasn’t my focus in making the choice.

But this advertising campaign made me stop and think.  Okay, here I am trying to protect my children from toxic chemicals so as to reduce their risk of adverse health effects, but it won’t matter much if they don’t get cancer if they can’t live here on Earth.  If you read the reports on what will happen if we don’t do something right now, it is frightening and depressing.  So, at least for me, the advertising campaign made global warming a little bit more personal.  Yes, I had been aware of the issue and yes, I’m a pretty green, crunchy granola type of girl for the most part.  But being non-toxic isn’t always the same as being green, so I decided to pay more attention to being both green and non-toxic.

Americans are responsible for a big chunk of the carbon dioxide causing global warming.  The average American emits 22 tons of carbon dioxide every year, compared to the worldwide average of 5 tons per year.

And that finally brings me to the point of this post.  Stopping, let alone reversing, climate change can seem a bit overwhelming.  Let’s be honest – it doesn’t seem like individual choices will make much of a difference, especially when we have a President intent on doing everything but dealing with global warming.  And, I’ll admit, individually, we can’t stop climate change.  But together, we can unite and call for action – from our elected officials, from companies, from our organizations – to implement policies to stop climate change. 

So a simple step to fight climate change – RAISE OUR VOICES.  Keeping this in mind, some of greenGreen Moms Carnival mom bloggers and eco-conscious women, including yours truly, have gotten together to form the Green Moms Carnival, and our kick-off topic is climate change.  I talked about my thoughts on Green Moms Carnival and buying our way to climate change last week.  But, it is clear that united, moms are a powerful force and can compel change.  I urge you to check out the kick off of the Green Moms Carnival at OrganicMania, and then check out all of the other blogs from these fabulous green moms on climate change.  And keep coming back, because we’ll be talking about it all month.

That being said, every single one of us can make personal choices to help fight climate change.  As the advertising goes, fighting global warming is a million different little choices.  If we all make those choices, or even just a few of us, those changes will add up.  And, when your children ask what you did to fight climate change, you can answer that you did everything you could.  As a bonus, most of these choices will save you money too.  So what can you do?

Smart Mama’s Simple Steps to help fight climate change:

  1. Consume less.  Okay, so that’s my simplest step.  It might seem glaringly obvious.  It might seem impossible, especially if you have kids that are getting ready for school right now.  But consuming less is easier than you think.  Why is consuming less important?  Because the stuff you buy consumes energy in its production – from getting the raw materials that make up the item, to manufacturing it to shipping it.  So, cutting back on the stuff you buy will reduce energy consumption.  So, instead of buying disposable water bottles, try a stainless steel water bottle.  Instead of buying bottled seltzer or bubbly water, make your own at home using, for example, Soda Club USA’s soda maker.  (Okay, shameless plug since I’m currently giving one away.)  Instead of using paper or plastic bags, choose an eco-friendly recycled tote.  There are lots of options to consume less.  To consume less packaging, buy in bulk in your own containers.  If you pack your own lunch for work, use re-usable containers.  There are lots of opportunities. 

  2. Inflate your tires.  Under inflated tires increase fuel consumption.  So, if your tires are at the right pressure, they will reduce fuel economy, increase tire wear and result in higher greenhouse gas emissions.  Think about it – driving your car with only one under inflated tire by 8 psi will increase your fuel consumption by 3-4%.  Pretty simple step to reduce greenhouse gases and save yourself some money!  Other simple tune ups can also increase fuel economy, so take care of your car.

  3. Recycle!  Recycling 20 glass bottles will save 2 pounds of carbon.  And recycling half of your household generated waste will result in a savings of 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. 

  4. Stop energy vampires.  Stand-by on TVs, stereos, video recorders, DVD players, etc., still eat electricity.  Use a power strip with a power cut or unplug your equipment.  The good news?  This may save the average U.S. household as much as $100 per year.  And don’t forget to unplug chargers and transforrmers – this consume electricity too even when not charging a device.  Try the Kill-A-Watt if you want to see what energy wasters you have.

  5. Insulate your pipes.  This can reduce the amount of energy used to heat up your water – and saves water too (if you’re not wasting water waiting for it to warm up).

  6. Wash cold.  Wash your clothes on cold.  You’ll cut power consumption by 80% using cold water over hot.

  7. Be smart about your AC and heating.  We’ve decided to skip the AC completely this summer, but that may not be for everybody.  If you can, go solar.  Also check with your electrical company and see if you can switch to a green power program.  This will fund research and investment in alternate energy sources.

  8. Weatherize and insulate your home.  Cut heating and cooling costs and energy consumed by weatherizing your home.  For example, many homes are not insulated, and insulating will help cut your heating bills by as much as 50%.  Weatherstrip doors and windows.  Cover your outdoor air conditioner.

  9. Buy energy-efficient.  If you are buying new appliances, always buy energy efficient products.  Look for the Energy Star label indicating that the product meets energy efficiency guidelines established by the EPA and US Department of Energy.  And, switch your bulbs to CFL to go energy efficient in your lighting.

  10. Buy local and organic.  Buying locally grown food can save energy used to transport food.

OrganicMania blogged about 10 things she recommends to fight global warming too.  If we all did 10, just think how much we could accomplish.