Archive for the ‘money’ Category

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

bcue: introducing third thursday public forums

October 17, 2008

The Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment (BCUE) launched their series of Third Thursday public forums yesterday, October 16th at 6pm. The series will explore the economic challenges facing the borough in greater detail.

I couldn’t make it to yesterday’s forum (and sorry I’m just announcing it now!), but I hope to attend future events. Stay tuned to BCUE’s website, or sign up to receive their announcements.

“Being Your Own Pied Piper: How the Song of Local Business Will Save NYC’s Economy,” will feature leaders in NYC’s local economy and discuss how our locally owned and operated industries are weathering the recent and ongoing storms on Wall Street. From manufacturing and construction to the food and event planning sectors, learn who and what the anchors of the new “local living economy” are —and how they can benefit businesses and local communities. Join us at our first “Third Thursday” forum to learn more about how strong community relations and environmentally responsible practices serve as capital to support and strengthen your portfolio and neighborhood economy.

Panelists include: Carl Hum, President, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce; Max Carey, CEO, CRD Analytics; Jennifer Stokes, Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership; and Catherine Bohne, Owner, Park Slope Community Bookstore.

Check here for details.

economic downturn? yoga can help

October 7, 2008

What does yoga have to do with money? Two ethical precepts of yoga are do no harm and tell the truth. Both of these come in handy when considering our relationship with money and a consumer-based economy. There’s a highly insightful article from Yoga Journal that teaches us how we can apply these and other yogic principles to our financial habits.

A little taste:

Few Americans celebrate the devastation of individual lives, families, and local communities that occurs every time a corporation orders a mass layoff to bump up its stock price. But that didn’t stop us from cheering as our 401Ks swelled fabulously in the late 1990s—helped in part, yes, by layoffs. Given a simple choice on a ballot, most people would vote against polluted water, sweatshop labor, and global warming. But all three problems enjoy landslide victories every day at the checkout stand in the form of non-organic food, cheap clothing, leaf blowers, and other ethically questionable but popular products.

Almost everyone, it seems, gets a little crazy about money. Even the wealthy sweat about having enough, notes Brent Kessel, a certified financial planner and president of Abacus Wealth Management, Inc., in Pacific Palisades, California. For instance, some of his richest clients worry that the next market plunge will take their pricey lifestyle down with it, he says. And that’s exactly why Kessel, a longtime student of Ashtanga Yoga whose financial counseling is influenced by the Yoga Sutra, thinks money is an underrated spiritual tool. “It can become a bell of awakening in your spiritual practice just by watching how you react to it,” he says. “Where am I holding tension in my body as I do this transaction, pay bills, watch my portfolio increasing or decreasing? All of these are just opportunities to be conscious. I think that’s my primary passion in my work—to use it that way.”

“…We can never be perfect. I’ll never know exactly how everything I’m consuming affects everyone along the chain, but I’ll do the best I can, without becoming neurotic, to decrease the impact I have on others through consumption.”

Topics covered:

• Earning ethically
• Living lightly
• Voting with your dollars
• Investing from the heart
• Giving effectively
• Living in balance

Read the rest.

Read the Yoga Sutras.

3 books i want to read now

October 3, 2008

Two topics are on everyone’s mind right now: the economy and energy. These 3 books offer insights into their critical link, offering solutions on how America can rise above while simultaneously saving the planet.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America by Thomas L. Friedman

The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems
by Van Jones

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution
by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins

green brooklyn event recap, part 2: panel discussions

September 18, 2008

This is part 2 of my recap of Green Brooklyn 2008 (scroll down for part 1). I attended part of two different panel discussions, one on green investing and the other on solar panel installation.

Panel Discussions

The Real Greenbacks: Investing to Make a Difference


I have to admit, my eyes glaze over when a prospectus is put in front of me. Financial talk goes in one ear and out the other. Which is why I had to attend this discussion. I’ve been thinking a lot about where our investments are going — to major polluters and irresponsible corporations (oil companies, big agrobiz, tobacco, &c.). I’d love to invest responsibly, with my conscience, I just need some education.

Sustainable investing goes beyond socially responsible investing (SRI), which traditionally excludes the worst public offenders from the equation. Sustainable investing rewards those public companies with sustainable practices and principles. SRI, according to Lily Scott from Veris Wealth Partners, also apparently rewards investors with a greater return on investment than the S&P 500 (11.67% vs 10.2%). It makes sense if you think about it — sustainable company = sustainable growth = sustainable return (it’s not math, but it makes sense to me!).


Solar Your Building


I don’t own a house, so I can’t do my own solar installation. But our building has a nice big sunny roof — an ideal place for solar panels. I’m not sure if the initial investment would be worth it for a large residential co-op building; the space available for panels and the building’s usage may not justify the cost of the panels. I’d like to see our building at least pursue it, the problem is the bump in maintenance costs wouldn’t be seen as favorable since most tenants, while they’re owners, are probably not in it for the long-haul — depending on how many panels there are, it could take up to 20 years to make up for the initial costs. There are goverment incentives available now, but many are reaching the end of their term.

While there are many factors to consider when pursuing solar photovoltaics (direct sunlight, a sturdy roof, slanted platforms for a flat roof), at least for Ken Schles, the Brooklyn Homeowner, it seems worth it. He’s had some struggles, specifically with Con Edison (they don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to the whole solar thing, according to him), but overall, he seems to be enjoying the benefits of solar — a reduced carbon footprint, net energy gains, and a new perspective on energy consumption.

If solar photovoltaics aren’t appropriate (usually due to shade), then solar thermal might be a good option for off-setting fossil fuel use. Solar thermal provides the heat for your hot water heater (a big consumer: 14%–25% of the energy consumed in your home). It collects energy both directly and passively, through sunlight and ambient heat — especially effective in warmer climates and in the summer.


energy saving for summer

July 21, 2008

Stay cool in the summer swelter and save money with these simple ways to reduce energy consumption:

  • Close the blinds/curtains/shades to keep out the sun’s rays
  • Keep the windows closed during the day when the heat is most extreme
  • Avoid using the oven — opt for salads and other no-cook meals, use the microwave instead (it’s more efficient and produces less heat), or grill if you’ve got one!
  • Do laundry at night when it’s cooler; wait until you have a full load, use cold water to wash, and hang to dry if you can
  • Run the dishwasher at night and skip the heat dry cycle
  • Take cool showers — using less hot water saves energy
  • Wash your hands in cold water (see above) — don’t worry, you’ll kill as much germs as with warm water
  • Keep lights off during the day and only use lights in the room you’re in at night
  • Use the A/C only in the evening when you’re home, or use fans instead
  • If you have central air, have it set to turn off when you’re not home and raise the temperature to 78 degrees when you are
  • Make sure your home is insulated properly
  • 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