EVERYONE can “save green” while they “drive green”!

My dad is a fairly typical guy. And our conversations are fairly typical too … he loves to talk about the weather, complain about politics and, lately, gripe… (incessantly!)… about gas prices.

While he doesn’t “buy” all of my environmental beliefs and commitments, it gave me quite a bit of pleasure to let him know (following that on-going “gas price rant”) that I could provide him with some great tips to save green and BE green. (*insert “annoyed-Dad-grumble” here!*)

Here are the steps I shared with him.  Even for the biggest naysayer, there are little things we can all do to impact the environment less, AND save some cash on fuel. (Imagine, I got to tell my DAD how to drive, for a change!):

  1. Use the cruise – hitting that little button burns less fuel and can increase your mileage by 15%, simple as that.
  2. Maintain it – a well-maintained vehicle actually saves gas and creates less pollution because it runs more efficiently.
  3. Keep your tires properly inflated – this also affects fuel efficiency and emissions.
  4. Clean out your trunk – all that extra stuff you’re carting around in the back adds more weight and reduces your fuel efficiency.
  5. Avoid idling – did you know this consumes more fuel than when you’re actually driving, so don’t warm your car for 15 minutes and shut it off when you can.
  6. Skip drive-thrus – they’re also an “idle nightmare”, and (contrary to belief) restarting it does NOT use more gas.
  7. Keep your 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.
  8. 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 (emissions!).
  9. 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.
  10. Park it – imagine that!  Use a little bit of foot power and walk, or get out your bike and pedal away! It’s free and there are absolutely zero emissions!

If you’re looking for a new car, the EPA offers a guide to the best car choices to meet your needs.

Now, I’m not suggesting you miff-off your dad and tell him how to drive, but he might just be impressed with your brilliance when you share some little tips to save some (green) gas money!

It’s the “grill battle”!… propane vs. charcoal

grll prpaneThis coming Memorial Day weekend always seems to be the kickoff of grilling season in my neighborhood.  It’s the aroma that indicates that summer is on its way.  While some of you may be lucky enough to grill all year long, we’re just getting started… and once we get started, it doesn’t end until the snow flies. (It’s also a time for me to share cooking duties with my husband… BONUS!)

We’ve always owned a propane grill and never, ever, go the route of charcoal or (perish the thought!) lighter fluid!  (EEK!)

To me, the propane choice seems like a no-brainer, but is it really?

Take a look at the facts:

  • Overall, propane grilling creates a smaller carbon footprint than charcoal grilling, by about a third.  (win: propane)
  • Charcoal comes from renewable resources, but propane does not.  It comes from non-renewable fossil fuels. (win: charcoal)
  • Carbon monoxide levels from charcoal grilling can be as high as 105 times as much as propane grilling.  (BIG win: propane)
  • The “burn time” for propane is much less than charcoal.  It only needs to be “on” when you need it.  Charcoagrll chrcoall must burn until coals are hot and then you need to wait until it burns out before the cycle is done, and it creates gasses all the while.  (win: propane)
  • Charcoal often travels a far, far distance (and creates extra emissions) before it even reaches your grill, but “not so” with propane… it’s most likely local. Plus, producing charcoal creates even more emissions than actually burning it!  (win: propane)
  • Lighter fluid for charcoal is a petroleum distillate that emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when burned.  (win: propane)

So, I’d say we’ve been making the right decision, especially with that last VOC issue!  But just remember that what you toss on the grill matters too – preferably local organic meats and veggies!  And when it’s time for clean-up, baking soda and warm water does wonders too!

Now, fire up that grill and let’s get the cookout underway! (My family will be right over!…)

Simple tips for cutting your electric bill (and emissions!)

(This article originally ran on Money Minded Moms, Suze Orman’s online community, where I’m a featured writer.  I wanted to  post it here also since the underlying theme of my articles are not only money-oriented but always address issues that relate to the environment.  We know that the environment gets the brunt of the greenhouse gas emissions created by excessive energy usage, so I hope you can take these tips to not only save money but also do something good for our planet while you’re at it!)…

powerstrip 2Have you ever received an electric bill that caused you to gasp? Or does your bill seem extraordinarily high every month? You might find yourself wondering what you did to create such an expense.

The problem may not be what you’re doing, but what you aren’t doing.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 20-25% of the energy used in our home is actually consumed by electronics in stand-by mode or even “turned off”. They still consume energy as long as they’re plugged into an outlet. They also estimate that this collectively costs us $7 billion per year.

Here are a few simple tips to cut those costs:

  • Use power strips – plug-in computers, printers, scanners, monitors, TVs, DVD players, TiVos/DVRs and game systems. (Up to 75% of the energy they pull is actually consumed when they aren’t being used!) With the flip of one power strip switchcphone chrgr you can nearly eliminate this “phantom” power. To cut consumption completely, unplug the power strip once you’ve flipped the switch.
  • Keep it unplugged – this includes microwaves, radios, clocks, lamps, etc. that you don’t often use. Consider even unplugging your washer and dryer. When you need them, just plug them back in.
  • Computers – your monitor consumes substantially more energy than your hard drive. Instead of letting it sit idle while you temporarily move on to another task, turn off your monitor or put it in rest mode.
  • The little things – constantly leaving your cellphone charger and infrequently used appliances plugged laptp compinto an outlet consumes energy, even when they’re not in use.

Survey your home. Use power strips or simply pull the plug from the outlet to reduce excessive energy usage. By not doing this, you could be allowing your electric bill to skyrocket (and remember, the environment pays the price right along with you!).

To buy or not to buy (a leaf blower)… THAT is the question!

leef blowrVery rarely does my husband ask to buy anything.  (Ask him about the ever decreasing clarity of our “getting-old-TV” that he regularly tolerates and I’m sure he would agree.)

This Fall his wish list has one item… a leaf blower, and he’s hoping for my blessing.  I’ll preface this with saying that our yard has a lot of trees.  In fact, our entire neighborhood has a lot of trees and since we’re on a treed ravine, the leaves are endless.

My obvious concern is the “green factor” and what the usage of a leaf blower would negatively contribute.  We’ve always tried to keep up with them by raking and raking and raking, but it sometimes seems like the Fall gets consumed with the task, and honestly, a blower would make it more efficient and much less time consuming.

So, in usual Mom Goes Green fashion, I set out to find the answer and here is what I discovered:

The combined emissions of ALL leaf blowers, residential AND commercial, used for one whole year are only EQUAL to the emissions created by all the cars driven on U.S. roads in only 11 hours of one singular day.

Now I know someone will say “Use a rake!” and yes, we will still use a rake.  They are noisy (but we are not early morning people anyhow and will limit our use!) and we don’t put leaves in plastic bags, we push them into the ravine… but, truly, this puts it into perspective.  If using that leaf leevesblower creates such an extraordinarily minuscule amount of emissions, if it saves us time that could be spent on other things, if one less trip to drive and run errands offsets its usage AND it makes my husband happy(!) (and all those answers are “yes!”, by the way) then, guess what….

…Honey, you’re getting a leaf blower! (…and you can use yours without guilt too!)

Facts of the “burning” (grill) question: propane vs. charcoal

grll prpaneDinnertime at my house over the summer months gets dramatically easier, because much of the cooking is done via the grill, so it means I can pass along some duties to my husband who proudly takes the roll of “Captain BBQ”!

We’ve always owned a propane grill and never, ever go the route of charcoal or (perish the thought!) lighter fluid!  (EEK!)

To me, the propane choice seems like a no-brainer, but is it really? 

Take a look at the facts:

  • Overall, propane grilling creates a smaller carbon footprint than charcoal grilling, by about a third.  (win: propane)
  • Charcoal comes from renewable resources, but propane does not.  It comes from non-renewable fossil fuels. (win: charcoal)
  • Carbon monoxide levels from charcoal grilling can be as high as 105 times as much as propane grilling.  (BIG win: propane)
  • The “burn time” for propane is much less than charcoal.  It only needs to be “on” when you need it.  Charcoal must burn until coals are hot and then you need to wait until it burns out before the cycle is done, and it creates gasses all the while.  (win: propane)grll chrcoal
  • Charcoal often travels a far, far distance (and creates extra emissions) before it even reaches your grill, but “not so” with propane… it’s most likely local. Plus, producing charcoal creates even more emissions than actually burning it!  (win: propane)
  • Lighter fluid for charcoal is a petroleum distillate that emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when burned.  (win: propane)

So, I’d say we’ve been making the right decision, especially with that last VOC issue!  But just remember that what you toss on the grill matters too – preferably local organic meats and veggies!  And when it’s time for clean-up, baking soda and warm water does wonders too!

Now, fire up that grill and let’s get the cookout underway! (I’ll be right over!…)