Earth Hour 2011: March 26 (can you spare the time?)

earth hr + 11I hope you’ve circled the date on your calendar! This Saturday, March 26th, 2011, from 8:30-9:30 pm is Earth Hour!

Earth Hour started in Sydney, Australia, in 2007, with 2.2 million homes and businesses turning off their lights for one hour as a “vote” FOR the earth, and a “vote” AGAINST global warming.  By 2010, this movement had grown to hundreds of millions of people, and even darkened the Sydney Opera House, Rome’s Colosseum, The Eiffel Tower in Paris, The Parthenon in Greece, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, the Las Vegas Strip, New York City’s Times Square and landmarks around the globe.

Last year people from all around the world switched off their lights in a unified vote because, regardless of where you live, we all depend on the same planet! This is the perfect time to turn off the lights, discuss global warming and the importance of “being green” as a family.  Consider taking actions to assure that we aren’t polluting our earth and overusing resources in our everyday lives.

For more information, go to www.earthhour.org and sign-up to be “officially” counted!

Need some inspiration?

Or want to know what we did last year?… click here

now…

Will you “vote” with me this year?

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!).

Simple tip: Keep your refrigerator from working overtime

frig dollrRefrigerators happen to be a home appliance that MUST consume energy at all times.  In fact, they contribute an average of 8-10% to our monthly energy bill, and that is unavoidable.

I’ve shared my simple “1-2-3” tips for ways to make your refrigerator as efficient as possible, but sometimes the energy loss has nothing to do what you’re doing… it can have a lot to do with what your refrigerator isn’t doing:  holding the cold!

Poorly sealing door gaskets may be the problem and (just like my recent tip to check water waste from your toilets) there is a simple way to find out if your fridge is failing you!:

  • Close a dollar bill (half-in/half-out) between the door gaskets. The bill should be difficult to remove.  If it slips out easily, your door isn’t sealing properly and you’re likely losing cold air… the gasket may need to be replaced.  Do this test for your freezer too.

I seem to be on a home maintenance kick, but my husband wouldn’t be surprise… he’s quite “un-handy” and dubbed me Mrs. MacGyver (while he’s more like MacGruber)!

Anyhow!… give the test a try. If your refrigerator keeps running and running… well, you better go catch it!

Simple energy tip: voicemail vs. answering machine

ans mchineWhile year after year the use of landline telephones is decreasing, over 70% of American households still have dedicated home phones (yes, I happen to be one of them… it’s a “comfort necessity” for me because of having little kids and the need to know I have a ringing phone available even if I forget to charge my cell and knowing I can call “home” if I’m away!).

If you have a landline chances are you also have an answering machine or voicemail associated with that phone (how could you not?).  Well did you also know that choosing the latter is incredibly green? Answering machines consume energy 365 days a year and when they stop working, they become hazardous electronic waste that gets added to your local landfill.vmail

If every U.S. household switched to voicemail instead, the annual energy savings would be approximately TWO BILLION kilowatt-hours.  The reduced pollution resulting from this reduced energy consumption would be the equivalent of removing 250,000 cars from the road!

See…  just another little testimonial for the “little daily life things”! Simple.

MGG’s energy efficient investment: new windows!

So, we did it!  We made our first major energy efficiency investment by purchasing new windows for our home… and despite having spent some cash, I’m actually very excited.

ht escapeHome heating can account for approximately 27% of our carbon footprint and 25% of a  home’s heat escapes through windows… pretty significant, I’d say.  Our installation technician told us that he’s had customers that literally saved half on their home heating bill after installing new windows.  Sure, the windows that had to be replaced were probably a disaster(!) but I’m excited to see what kind of savings are in store for us.  It’s hard to forget that heating bill of $533 not so long ago.windows

We always put the most productive heating and cooling tips in place, (for my best home cooling tips click here or my best home heating tips click here) but I believe this is the final significant step of putting it all into place. The windows are Energy Star, Argon-filled, Double Glazed Low E glass and although those are a lot of fancy-schmancy terms, their combined definition is “efficiency!”

tx creditWith the tax credit we’ll receive and projected annual heating and cooling savings, I’ve figured that the windows should pay for themselves in about five years.   In addition, we purchased from a local owned and operated manufacturer so a minimal footprint was created to get those windows as well. I’m feeling mighty green today!

So, have you ever made a major replacement to “conserve”? What was the result? I’d love to know!