Earth Day can be simple but significant.

If you do a Google search for “Earth Day” you’re likely to find hundreds upon hundreds of suggestions about how to spend April 22, and am I going to do that too?  Yea, I am.  But first things first…

earth-dayEarth Day is a birthday so to speak – a day to celebrate the earth.  It was created in 1970 as a way to remind us to appreciate nature and learn how to protect our environment.  And while it is celebrated in the spring in the northern hemisphere, it is actually observed in the autumn in the southern hemisphere (both days being the exact “middle point” of the season).  Internationally, it reaches over 17,000 organizations in 174 countries, so this (like the newer Earth Hour project) is a worldwide event.

No matter what you do to celebrate the day, it can be truly significant.  If you simply take notice of the earth and how lucky we truly are, you have celebrated!  So here are some simple ideas, if you don’t have some terrific ones of your own!

  • See “Earth” – the Disneynature film that is sure to be a crowd pleaser!
  • Plant a tree – buy a tree for your yard or sponsor the planting of a tree.
  • Plan an eco-friendly meal – eat organic, locally-grown produce and get a taste of the earth!
  • Attend an Earth event – check your local zoo, botanical gardens, nature center or community’s programs.
  • Read a book – if your children are burnt out on their own nature books, check out the local library for some new selections.tree-seedling1
  • Clean out the clutter – and donate what you own that no longer has a purpose, to keep it out of the trash and landfills.
  • Go for a walk – your own neighborhood or a local hiking path can remind you of the wonder of nature.
  • Pick up some trash – this can be coupled with your walk and accomplish even more!
  • Break ground for a garden – as organic as you can get!
  • Adopt naturesponsor an endangered species or an acre of rainforest.
  • Make recycled crafts – your own home (and recycle bin) is full of supplies!
  • Change a habit – whether it’s cleaning products or a pledge to recycle more, every change is a good change.
  • Switch to CFLs – buy some!  And when an old incandescent burns out, switch ‘em out!
  • USE those reusable bags – vow to make this a priority!
  • “Talk about it!” – talk about what Earth Day really means… with your kids, your friends, your neighbor… anyone that might need to know or need a little “push!”

There are still a few days to make your plans, but just be sure to plan something.  But I truly believe that teaching our kids to respect the earth and appreciate this amazing planet is the best way to celebrate… kids that are taught to be “environmentally aware” grow up to be environmentally aware adults!

And remember… April 22 isn’t the only Earth Day… EVERY day should be Earth Day!

10 little things you may never think about… but should.

There are so many things we use and choose in our daily lives that we never give much thought, but those little choices “add up” and maybe, just maybe, those little things amount to a great big deal.

Here are ten crazy, little facts I’ve discovered that you can consider the next time you need to make one of these choices:bulk-food

  • ATMs – don’t get a receipt if you don’t need it.  Annually, these receipts use enough paper to stretch two billion feel long!… and then get thrown away. (Same goes for gasoline pump receipts!)
  • Books – borrow from the library or buy secondhand. 400,000 trees are needed to print books annually.
  • Candy & ingredients – buy the loose bulk kind instead of the wrapped and packaged versions.  The majority of the wraps and papers are not recyclable and can be heavily treated with chemicals.
  • Luggage tags – buy some!  Americans alone use paper tags, from ticket counters, equivalent to sixty million sheets of paper each year. And request e-tickets to save even more paper.
  • Matches – choose paper matches over wood matches or lighters.  They’re often made of recycled paper, whereas wooden matches require 5.5 million trees per year and lighters create harmful and toxic landfill waste.
  • Music – consider music downloads instead of buying CDs… every month 45 tons of unwanted CDs wind up in landfills.cd
  • Napkins – take only what you need instead of grabbing a whole stack and then throwing them away, unused.  If everyone took just one less it would keep a billion tons out of the landfill annually.
  • Pens – buy the refillable kind.  The US discards 1.6 billion disposable pens each year and a refill is no more expensive that a disposable pen.
  • Q-tips – buy the kind with a paper spindle instead of plastic…they’ll actually biodegrade, the plastic won’t.
  • Voicemail – answering machines in the US use two billion kilowatt hours annually and then create electronic trash when they stop working. Sign-up for voicemail with your phone service provider.

There are plenty of things in our daily lives that deserve the mantra “don’t sweat the small stuff”, but these are truly little choices you can make without ever breaking a sweat!

Heat loss… energy waste… and a bill to break the bank.

thermostatThis post was inevitable.  And it felt like a punch in the stomach when I received our latest home heating bill… $533 and the intense sensation of wanting to vomit.

Eighteen dollars a day to NOT shiver and shake in our home.  Not only does this hurt the wallet, but it wastes energy… and then has that ugly snowball effect of what excessive energy consumption creates: excessive air pollution.

There are plenty of things we can do to cut back on our usage, from properly insulating our homes, to replacing windows and doors, to purchasing a more efficient system, but these can be expensive choices.  If they aren’t an option for you, there are still inexpensive and even cost-free changes that can be made:

Close the damper on your fireplace – leaving it open is equivalent to leaving a 48 inch window wide open in your home all winter long!  It can amount to hundreds of dollars in heat loss.  Also consider glass doors as opposed to screens.
Adjust the thermostat – just one degree lower in the winter can save 3% on your usage.  That adds up over a season.
Open blinds and curtains in the daytime and close them at night – the sunlight can help warm our home and covering windows in the evening can help insulate them.
Actually USE storm windows – make the time to add that extra layer of glass and it’s like you have triple panes.heat-loss-logo
Heat only the rooms you use – shut the door, close the vent and say ‘no heat for you!’
When you’re away from home for an extended period, turn down the thermostat – this is a no-brainer, but sometimes we all forget.  If you have a programmable thermostat, use it!
Forget vent fans – a kitchen or bathroom vent fan can expel enough warm air to fill a whole house in only ONE hour!
Do the “feel test” – feel around windows and doors.  If you feel the cold coming in, the heat is also going out.  Buy some weather stripping.
Arrange furniture away from heating ducts and exterior walls – it allows for better circulation of heat.
Replace your air filter and clean vents and ducts – too much dust build-up prevents the heat from even reaching your rooms.
Cover floors – hardwood and ceramic can be beautiful but it actually cools a room.  Add area rugs, even if only for the season.
Reverse ceiling fans – heat rises, so run them for a 5-minute blast and re-circulate the warm air.

If you want to know all things energy-related, visit the U.S. Department of Energy but in the meanwhile, if you’re feeling the urge to vomit like I am, turn some tips into actions!

10 ways to make your car green… without paint!

gmc-envoyAs we try to be as green as possible in our daily lives, one thing we sometimes forget about is our car.  I’m a mom and I drive (gulp…) an SUV!… guilty as charged, green officer!

I admittedly love it and I’m not likely to go out and buy a new car anytime soon, but I have found steps that we can take to see that we have less impact on the environment, no matter what we drive.

Use the cruise – hitting that little button can increase your mileage by 15%, simple as that.
Plan errands – at the start of every week, plan what you need to accomplish and where you need to go.  Batch together the errands that are in the same area and get ‘er done, all in one fell swoop!
Maintain it – a well maintained vehicle actually saves gas and creates less pollution because it runs more efficiently.
Keep your tires properly inflated – this also affects fuel efficiency and emissions.
Use drive-thru car washes – it’s the only option during snowy winter months (unless you want to risk getting frozen to your driveway!) but car washes are more water efficient. If everyone took just one car wash over washing in your driveway it would save 8.7 billion gallons of water annually!
Clean out your trunk – all that extra stuff you’re carting around in the back (dear husband, this means YOU!) adds more weight and reduces your fuel efficiency.
Avoid idling – did you know this consumes more fuel than when you’re actually driving, so don’t warm your car for 15 green-car2minutes and shut it off when you can.  Skip drive-thrus… they’re an “idle nightmare”, and (contrary to belief) restarting it does NOT use more gas.
Keep speed steady and stop flooring it – this is the reason cruise control is more efficient and flooring it for just one second actually causes a burst of CO2 emissions equal to 30 minutes of normal driving.
Stay the speed limit – for every 5 mph over 60 it’s like paying 20 cents more per gallon of gas because it burns faster.
Consider telecommuting for your job once a week – if it’s possible and you never asked your employer, consider it… they may say yes!  Other option, carpool with a local work pal.

If you’re looking for a new car, the EPA offers a guide to the best car choices to meet your needs.  But in the meanwhile, just use the tips above to make your car greener… and don’t worry about the green paint… no one needs to look like they’re driving a brussel sprout!