Archive for October, 2008

energy (and money) saving tips for winter

October 23, 2008

Having a drafty home is (pardon the cliché) like throwing money out of the window. And saving energy is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.

Union of Concerned Scientists offered up these helpful tips for winterizing on a budget. I’ve added a few of my own energy saving tips below as well.

While there are many ways in which you can reduce your home’s energy use, these five projects can deliver the quickest payback on your purchase:

  • Insulate your attic. It is relatively easy, yet very cost-effective, to add insulation to your attic. The Department of Energy (DOE) suggests a minimum attic insulation level of R-38 (R-value is a measure of resistance to heat flow), equivalent to 12 to 15 inches of insulation. The DOE provides a map on its website (see the Related Resources below) that lists recommended insulation levels for U.S. climates.
  • Seal air leaks. Weather stripping, door sweeps, window shrink wrap, and other materials can be purchased at your local hardware store for $50 or less, and can save you as much as 10 percent in energy costs. If you have an old fireplace, consider installing glass doors (which can cost a couple hundred dollars or more) to help prevent heat from escaping out the chimney when not in use.
  • Seal heating ducts. Leaky ducts from forced-air or heat pump systems can allow up to 20 percent of the warm air to escape. While most ductwork is hidden in walls and floors, you can seal duct leaks on your own in attics, basements, or garages, and in areas where ducts meet floor or wall vents. The DOE estimates that sealing leaky ducts can save you up to $140 annually.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. An Energy Star-qualified programmable thermostat can cost as little as $30 but save you $100 or more each year on heating costs by automatically turning the heat down when you are asleep or away (so you don’t have to remember to do it yourself).
  • Upgrade your furnace. If your heating system is more than 10 years old, consider replacing it with an Energy Star-rated model to cut your energy costs by up to 30 percent. Before you buy, make your home as efficient as possible first (following the tips above) so you can purchase the smallest system to fit your heating needs.

Homeowners can save even more money on energy efficiency improvements through tax breaks and other incentives offered by your utility or state government. And as part of the federal government’s recent economic bailout legislation, certain home improvements made in 2009 will be eligible for a tax credit (see the Related Resources).

Related Resources

A few more energy saving tips:

  • Let the sun shine in! If you’re lucky enough to get direct sunlight, keep your drapes open during the day to let the sun’s rays add a little heat. If your windows are drafty, close the drapes at night to keep the cold air out
  • If you have a window air conditioner, take it out for the season
  • When you bake or use the oven, keep it open after your done (and it’s turned off, of course!) to add a little extra warmth to your home
  • Wash your hands in cold water — don’t worry, you’ll kill as much germs as with warm water
  • Also, wash your laundry in cold water. This can also extend the life of your garments
  • Keep lights off during the day and only use lights in the room you’re in at night. And switch from incandescents to
  • CFLs!
  • If you have a programmable thermostat, have it set to 55°F when you’re not home and at night when you’re sleeping, and raise the temperature to 68°F for when you’re at home and awake
  • If you have control over the hot water heater in your home (unlike many apartment dwellers!) set it to 120°F. According to the US DOE, for each 10ºF reduction in water temperature, you can save between 3%–5% in energy costs
  • Layer! Keep the thermostat low and wear warmer clothes


Take it from Jimmy, wear a sweater!

  • Unplug the energy vampires, those appliances you only occasionally use like the toaster, microwave oven, DVD player
  • Use power strips where multiple appliances are used (think TV, DVD player, stereo, etc.); switch the power strip to off when you leave the house
  • Power down your computer when not in use

Get yourself a thermostat

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millions of good things

October 22, 2008


Bette Midler, the founder of the New York Restoration Project, planting a Carolina Silverbell tree.
(Image: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times)


If we are going to beat global warming, we are going to have to weatherize millions of buildings, install millions of solar panels, manufacture millions of wind-turbine parts, plant and care for millions of trees, build millions of plug-in hybrid vehicles, and construct thousands of solar farms, wind farms, and wave farms. That will require thousands of contracts and millions of jobs — producing billions of dollars of economic stimulus.

~Van Jones
The Green Collar Economy

It’s only the beginning…

Million Solar Roofs [Cali.]
The plan will provide 3,000 megawatts of additional clean energy and reduce the output of greenhouse gasses by 3 million tons which is like taking one million cars off the road.
~Arnold Schwarzenegger

Million Trees [NYC]
Trees help clean our air, and reduce the pollutants that trigger asthma attacks and exacerbate other respiratory diseases. They cool our streets, sidewalks, and homes on hot summer days. Trees increase property value, and encourage neighborhood revitalization. And trees make our City an even more beautiful and comfortable place to live, work, and visit.

Million Building Retrofits [S. Bronx… coming soon]
Drafty buildings create broke, chilly people — and an overheated planet.
~Van Jones

help me end inhumane factory farm practices

October 22, 2008

On Election Day in November, people in California will have the chance to vote on a commonsense measure that will help animals suffering inside factory farms. These animals are crammed into cages and crates so small that they can’t even turn around, lie down, or stretch their limbs. Proposition 2 will give them these basic freedoms.

If passed, Prop 2 is expected to have a huge impact on reforming factory farming practices nationwide — which is why you don’t need to live in California to help. It’s also why the agribusiness industry is spending millions to fight this reasonable reform, making it critical that animal protection advocates raise money needed to reach voters.

So what I’m asking is that you join me in reaching my goal of having 20 friends donate $20 each to help 20 million animals. Will you join me, and help me reach my goal?

This is a very important cause to me, so thank you — from me, and the animals!

The election is less than 2 weeks away!

Please click on the graphic below to donate to my $20/20 Campaign.


Please watch the following video from Jennifer Fearing, campaign manager for YES! on Prop 2:

signs of change

October 21, 2008


[Image: J. Schnakenberg/AMNH]

Starting this Friday at the Union Square Greenmarket, leave your mark on the world by adding your name to the traveling “Signs of Change” globe. It’s an awareness activity related to the recently opened exhibit, Climate Change: The Threat to Life and A New Energy Future, at the American Museum of Natural History.

Stop by to sign the 5-foot-diameter white acrylic globe, choose your color — browns and greens over the continents and blues and purples over the oceans. Signing the globe is a commitment to reduce your carbon footprint. Seeing the globe with so many signatures is a reminder that every voice counts and contributes to positive change on a large scale.

Related posts
climate change exhibit @ AMNH
learning events @ AMNH

can nyc be an exemplary eco city?

October 21, 2008

That was the question posed last night at the Open Center, in a lecture of the same name. The panelists approached sustainability from both an individual and governmental perspective.

Rohit Aggarwala
Director of the Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability in NYC

According to Rohit, PlaNYC started out as an economic plan. But with population projected to reach 9.1 million residents by 2030 (it’s currently over 8 million), it became clear that the focus needed to be on sustainability.

One consideration led to another: if you think about land use patterns, especially with regard to housing, you can’t ignore transportation infrastructure; when you consider transportation, air quality becomes a factor; a contributor to poor air quality is the city’s current energy resources — yet another layer; and those energy resources also pollute our waterways, so there’s water quality to think about.

Its population growth makes New York City unique among old American cities. There was no model to follow. So the mayor’s office turned to other cities around the world. For example, London was the model for congestion pricing, which is up for reconsideration. Or as one NYTimes reporter put it, Governor Paterson is “rescuing the controversial program from the brink of death.”

Read the full PlaNYC report.

Starre Vartan
One of the original green bloggers (eco chick), author of The Eco Chick Guide to Life: How to Be Fabulously Green, and managing editor for the Greenopia guide

Starre offered up 7 of her top 10 ways to live sustainably in NYC (her time was cut short).

In general, she says to consider what you do most in your daily life, and then figure out how you can make changes to reduce your impact.

[NB. I’ve paraphrased a bit]

1. Food. Support farmer’s markets and local food, as our food miles add a considerable heft to our carbon footprint.

2. Goods. Buy local. There are many great designers of furniture, clothing, and other goods right here in NYC. When you consider a simple article of clothing like a t-shirt, think about all that went into it. The cotton, grown with chemical fertilizers and treated with pesticides is grown in one country. Then it’s shipped to another place to be dyed. Then the fabric is sent somewhere else to be sewn together. The tags may be sewn on in an entirely different place. The carbon footprint of a t-shirt is astronomical! (Read about the perfect t-shirt ever made [!])

3. Transport. Keep using public transportation. Bike if you’ve got one. There are bike advocate groups you can join or support (like Recycle a Bicycle). Limit cab rides or share with a friend (or try a service like Ride Amigos).

4. Toxins. Get them out of your life. One of the simplest, easiest, and least expensive ways to do this is to swap your cleaning supplies. Toxic chemicals from cleaning products pollute our waterways and our bodies. Waste treatment facilities only filter out bio-organisms, so those cleaning biproducts are mixing together in our water. Another way to eliminate toxins is changing your beauty products.

5. Energy. Switch to clean energy through services like ConEdison Solutions, which offer wind and hydroelectric power that feeds into the grid (which unless you’re off the grid, and you’d know if you were, you’re hooked up to). It may cost a little more per month, but what you’re paying for is clean air and health. It’s really the one place you should spend a little more to help save our health and the planet.

6. Junk mail. Sign up for services that stop junk mail, like GreenDimes or DMAChoice (I know it works, ’cause I’ve used it!).

7. Office. Green your workplace. Some motivated employees may already be volunteering to help reduce the carbon footprint of their office. But many businesses still have along way to go to achieve eco-friendly status. Implement recycling, start a campaign to eliminate paper cup use (bring your own!), encourage printing on both sides. These steps will make the office more sustainable and help the bottom line!

Visit Eco chick for more green living tips.

Janna Olson
Sustainability consultant and NYC market manager & researcher at Greenopia

I was excited to see Janna there, as I’m currently taking a class with her (which I’ll write about soon). She had some technical difficulties (her Mac couldn’t communicate with the overhead projector), but Janna raised some really compelling points — many of them directed at Rohit Aggarwala.

One of the concepts Janna discussed was distributed energy generation, specifically solar empowerment zones — a term coined by City Councilmember and Infrastructure Task Force co-chair Daniel Garodnick [OnEarth]. Essentially, buildings in areas of the city that have been identified as suitable for photovoltaic solar panel installation (“low-density areas that have buildings with large rooftops to create a synergy for an entire neighborhood to become solar-powered,” according to Garodnick) would be given incentive to invest in solar. This method makes solar more cost-effective through sharing of maintenance responsibility, tax incentives, and the potential for a consolidated connection to the grid within the zone.

Janna also talked about the usefulness and importance of the Greenopia guide. While helping consumers living in cities like New York find green businesses, the guide helps green businesses — some of which might have a limited marketing budget — get the attention they deserve. She also stressed that living green should not be a chore, it can and should be a fun endeavor.

Read an interview with Janna [alldaybuffet].

Sign up for an upcoming eco event at the Open Center:

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint, and Still Have a Great Life

with Colin Beavan (No Impact Man) and Janna Olson
Friday, January 16 2009, 7:00pm – 10:00pm

cooper-hewitt people’s design award

October 21, 2008

Really good design should be more than just functional, and more than just sustainable (that of course is key!). It needs to look good, too.

Cooper-Hewitt, as part of The National Design Awards, is letting you be the judge of what’s good design in their annual People’s Design Award show. There are many eco-friendly designs to vote for, from gDiapers to the Green Map System (which I’ve mentioned before). But if you want to get your two cents in, ya gotta act fast. Judging ends today at 6:00pm (you can also vote on facebook).

Winners will be revealed on their site on Thursday, the 23rd at 10:00pm (there’s also an after party if you’re interested).

Bonus!
Get free admission to Cooper-Hewitt all week long in honor of National Design Week (through October 25th).

Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, a subsidiary of the Smithsonian Institution, is the only museum in the US that focuses solely on design.

nau is back!

October 21, 2008

Eco-activewear makers Nau are back! Check out some of their new designs (see Flection Wrap Skirt and Men’s Riding Jacket below), as well as some of their classics, like the Urbane Jacket (for women, last pictured below).



Related post
welcome back, nau!

vimeo climate change video contest

October 20, 2008

Brighter Planet and 1Sky put together a video contest to inspire the next president to take action on climate change. Climate Matters winners will be announced tomorrow, October 21st.

Here’s one of the finalist videos. Go to Vimeo for more.

Climate Matters from Brighter Planet on Vimeo.

The top videos will be delivered to Washington just before the November elections to ensure that our next president and next Congress receives the message loud and clear: America is ready for bold leadership on climate change!

[Vimeo]

upcoming program explores adaptive reuse

October 20, 2008

The Municipal Art Society of New York City (MASNYC) presents…

A Second (and Green) Career for Industrial Buildings

New York City was once the nation’s power house for manufacturing, and many of the buildings and factories that fueled that industry remain. Preserving these buildings and using them to foster green-collar industries or adapting them to new housing, cultural, and retail uses is the most sustainable action New York could take.

This program will explore two approaches to preserving industrial buildings: keeping them for manufacturing uses (which also means retaining good-paying jobs) or adapting these buildings to new uses.

Panelists include Andrew Kimball, president & chief operating officer of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, home to traditional maritime uses and new green jobs, Robert Powers, preservation consultant on the tax-certified rehabilitation of the Austin-Nichols Warehouse, Norma Barbacci of the World Monuments Fund, with news of imaginative projects from Latin America, and Lisa Kersavage, MAS director of advocacy and policy. Moderated by Mary Habstritt, president of the Society for Industrial Archaeology.

Recycling New York’s Industrial Past: Inspiration From Home and Abroad
Wednesday, October 22, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. Reception to follow.
$15, $12 MAS members/students. Purchase tickets online or call 212-935-2075.

For details of upcoming MAS programs, visit www.mas.org/programs, and for a downloadable version of our fall program calendar in PDF form, click here.

appetizing arts

October 20, 2008

Also at the Red Hook Harvest Festival were Elizabeth Johnson and Ludie Minaya of Conscious Cravers.

At the Harvest, Elizabeth and Ludie were selling some adorable and provocative t-shirts, with messages focused on healthy eating and farm practices.

What is Conscious Cravers all about?

[Conscious Cravers] are performance art food educators who use interactive skits, role plays and visuals to empower people to be conscious about their cravings and gain the skills they need to take responsibility for their health. We travel throughout the New York tri-state area (and beyond) with knives, cutting boards and portable burners in tow bringing the message of sound food for a sound mind and a sound body to anyone who is willing to listen to us.

Check out their workshop offerings.

The Appetizing Arts Exhibit

Be sure to catch this “exploration of food as fuel for artistic expression” on display at The Rising Arts Gallery in Brooklyn. The exhibit will feature photography, painting, and mixed media works by artists who use food as inspiration. Full details below:

Appetizing Arts

The Rising Arts Gallery
35 Claver Place #1
(btwn Fulton and Jefferson)
Brooklyn, NY 11238

Opening reception
Thursday, November 13th, 2008
6-9pm

On view until December 12th, 2008.

Read more about Appetizing Arts here.