Monday, September 27, 2010

Power ...

In past posts, I've written about the power we have as consumers. With every dollar we spend, we send a message ... we want certain items and would rather pass on others. In recent years, the public's spending habits have sent a strong message that environmentally friendly products and services are preferred. We've been willing to spend money on, for example, non-toxic cleansers and not so willing to buy cleansers that hurt our health and that of the environment. So manufacturers and retailers have listened ... and today, there are more healthy, "green" options, for us as consumers, than ever before.

Our spending habits are not, however, the only powerful tool we have at our disposal. We have our words ... spoken, written and shared.

Last year, after attending our local state fair, I wrote to the organizers, encouraging them to make this family friendly event a more earth-friendly event. I suggested that they provide recycle bins and ask food and drink vendors not to use Styrofoam containers. I also suggested that they provide more vegetarian food options since meatless meals are an excellent way to walk a little gentler on the earth. I posted about my opinions, I tweeted about them and I asked others to let their thoughts and opinions be heard. They did! This year, there were considerable improvements to the fair. I didn't see any Styrofoam, there were more vegetarian options available and receptacles for cans and bottles were provided. Yay!

Another example of the power of our words happened to me recently ... and while it may initially seem like a non-environmental issue, bear with me and I'll explain. I have a DSL Internet connection. It was working fine and then, all of a sudden, it began going down each day in the afternoon. I called my provider's help line and, after going through a standardized list of tests, was told that I had a bad modem. So, we purchased a new one ... and still had problems. I called the help line again ... and, after going through the same list of tests, was told my router was bad. So, we purchased a new one ... and still had problems. I called again and .... yes ... after the same list of tests was told that there was nothing they could do for me. What?? This is a large, well-known company ... and they were washing their hands of me. So, in total frustration, I got on Twitter and talked about it. Within two hours, I was being contacted by people who could actually help me. Within one day, the problem (a disconnected wire at the main box) was fixed. So, how does this relate to the environment? Well, we purchased devices that were probably unnecessary and buying more stuff means more stuff is manufactured which means more natural resources are used. To buy these devices we had to drive to a store (unnecessary fuel consumption). In the end, it was my words that generated a resolution.

The moral of this post is that our words have power. When we use them to draw attention to the environmental problems we face, good things happen. We can write posts, tweet or use facebook to draw attention to our concerns and encourage others to make a positive difference. We can also let our voice be heard through petitions on such sites as Care2 (for an excellent article on why online petitions work, click HERE).

The first step in making a change is awareness and education. We, as a society and particularly on this blog, have spent a lot of time becoming aware and learning about environmental issues. Now it's time to take action ... to flex our environmental muscle.

As always ... I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

We're back with 24 Tips for fall ...

Happy first day of autumn ... and welcome back to Reduce Footprints. We have a new look which I hope you like ... and the Change The World Wednesday challenges have a page all to themselves (the tab is at the top of the page). We've also removed a lot of stuff from the sidebar to clean things up a bit. The blog roll is being re-built so, if you'd like to have your blog listed, please drop me an email with your link (email address is in sidebar).

We also have some new followers ... I'd to welcome them and encourage everyone to drop me a line if there are things you'd like to talk about here on Reduce Footprints. To all my "regulars", I'd like to say "thanks" for sticking with us ... it's good to see you all!

Okay ... I thought we'd start off with some tips and ideas for fall. This list has been growing over the last couple of years ... the ideas are tried and true. Here they are:

  1. Check the air pressure in your tires. Cooler temperatures lower tire pressure and that, in turn, lowers fuel efficiency. So check your tires and make sure that they are properly inflated.

  2. If you have a garage, park the car in it. As the weather gets colder, using a garage will alleviate the need to warm up the car before driving ... and will save fuel.

  3. Clean and test the furnace. Did you know that your furnace needs cleaning? Yep ... it collects all kinds of dust and debris which not only affects it's performance but could cause a fire. Before you really need the heat, get out your owner's manual for instructions on how to clean it. No manual? Check here or call a furnace maintenance company. If you have a gas furnace, have it professionally inspected once a year.

  4. Move furniture or any obstructions from vents, baseboard heaters, registers on the floor or radiators so that air moves freely. This is also a good time to vacuum these areas to remove any dust or debris. And here's a tip if you have a radiator ... place a reflecting panel behind it ... you can purchase one at a home center or make one yourself with a plywood panel and aluminum foil.

  5. Remove window air conditioners for the winter. If they can't be removed, seal them with caulking or tape and cover them with an airtight, insulated jacket.

  6. Vacuum the refrigerator coils to keep the compressor running efficiently. It's also a good time to check that the refrigerator is level ... the door should automatically swing shut instead of staying open. Check the seal on the door ... try closing it on a dollar bill. If you can pull the bill out easily, it's time to replace the gaskets. Here's another tip for running the refrigerator efficiently ... don't over fill it. Allowing room for cool air to circulate will keep everything at the right temperature.

  7. Clean the ducts and area behind the dryer. And don't forget, clean the filter after every use and every once in awhile, give it a good wash.

  8. Check windows for proper caulking. If you have single-pane windows, add storm windows. Even a plastic film over windows will reduce heat loss.

  9. Check doors for weather stripping and replace as necessary. If drafts sneak in under exterior doors, replace the threshold or block the drafts with a rolled-up towel or blanket.

  10. Check your roof for any missing or damaged tiles or shingles.

  11. Clean the roof gutters and make sure downspouts are pointed away from the house. Now would also be a good time to install a rain barrel ... rather than allow water to drain into one spot, a rain barrel would allow you to direct the water to where it's most needed.

  12. Electrical outlets, especially on outside walls, and light fixtures are prime places for cold air to leak into your home. Add foam gaskets behind covers and switch plates, and use safety plugs in unused outlets. Be sure to shut off the power at the fuse box or circuit panel before doing this.

  13. Install foam covers over outside water spigots to prevent freezing.

  14. Check for water leaks both inside and outside.

  15. Wrap the water heater in an insulating blanket.

  16. If you have a ceiling fan, reverse the direction ... the fan should be run in a clockwise direction (stand under the fan and if you feel a breeze, reverse the direction so that air is being drawn upwards). This pushes the air up against the ceiling and down the walls, to gently re-circulate the warm air without creating a cooling "wind chill effect."

  17. Do you have a fireplace? This is a good time to have the chimney cleaned and get vent systems checked.

  18. If your home has no sidewall insulation, place heavy furniture like bookshelves, armoires and sofas along exterior walls, and use decorative quilts as wall hangings. This will help block cold air.

  19. Bring in any houseplants that have spent the summer outdoors. They'll help clean the air. Hint ... for about a week, bring them in at night and then put them out during the day. This will ensure that they aren't "shocked".

  20. Do a little outdoor landscaping. Trees and bushes, planted in the fall, have ample time to develop strong, deep root systems before the heat of the next summer. This increases their chances of surviving and typically means less watering during hot months. For a discussion on fall gardening, click HERE.

  21. As the autumn leaves begin to fall, consider raking them up rather than using a "blower" (it's great exercise). Once raked up, use them as mulch to protect plants throughout the winter or add them to a compost pile.

  22. Speaking of exercise, as the weather gets cooler, there's a tendency to drive kids to school or the bus stop. To save that fuel, bundle up and walk your kids to school ... you'll all be healthier and so with the earth.

  23. Even though fresh, local produce isn't as abundant during this season, there are still many options available. Visit local farms or farmer's markets and find out what's available and then, eat locally and in season. Visit Sustainable Table to learn which crops are growing in your area.

  24. Before packing away those summer clothes, go through them and determine which items to keep, which items to repurpose into something else (cleaning rags, craft projects, etc.) and which to donate.

What are your favorite green living ideas for fall?

Next Wednesday we'll begin our weekly challenges so be sure to stay tuned for that.

As always ... I would love you hear from you!

Thanks, everyone!