Archive for Energy Efficient

December 17th, 2010

Tips to Make Your Fireplace Eco-Friendly

Oh, the weather outside is frightful and in the Northeast the cold has hit us hard.  While we patiently wait for our first real snow, many of us have already spent an evening or two curled up in front of the fireplace. Wish it weren’t so, but your fireplace is not the most eco- friendly way to heat your home-but I’m not willing to give up those cozy days and nights by the fire.

FACT: Wood smoke accounts for 80 percent of residential air pollution, causing possible health issues for children, the elderly and others with a compromised immune system.


Photo used under Creative Commons from Jon Olav

  • A fireplace is not very green Most of the heat leaves the room by escaping through the chimney.  Best bet is to invest in a wood stove or insert is made after 1992, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforced strict emissions standards.
  • Maintenance Have your chimney and your stove cleaned regularly.  Creosote, a black, tar-like or flaky deposit, can build up the chimney lining, blocking the proper exhaust of smoke and raising the risk of a chimney fire.
  • Make sure your stove has a catalyst and if not, install one Catalysts reduce emissions by burning the smoke so that it doesn’t escape up the chimney unused. If yours doesn’t have one get one installed.

What to Burn

  • Pellets in a pellet stovePellet stoves are small electric stoves that burn small pieces of recycled sawdust, that have been compressed into pellets. The pellets are extremely efficient, produce very little waste, and use inexpensive fuel.
  • If you are going to use cord wood, only use dry wood (the logs should have spent at least 6 months drying out). Wet wood won’t burn as efficiently-it smokes and releases more pollutants into the air.
  • Burn hardwoods Hardwoods are deciduous (trees who lose their leaves seasonally) such as cherry, oak, maple, walnut, poplar, ash, and birch.  They burn longer, hotter and cleaner than softwoods (evergreens and spruce).

    Photo used under Creative Commons from Peter Burgess

  • How about Duraflame and Java Log ?  Something about these logs feels very wrong-maybe because they are manufactured.  Surprisingly, the Java Log is made from compressed coffee grounds! Java Log claims to keep 12 million pounds of coffee grounds from landfills per year, emit up to 78% less carbon monoxide and up to 66% less creosote than cord wood fires.  Maybe worth a try?

What NOT to burn

It is so tempting to dump all of your junk mail and  old magazines into the fireplace.   According to the Environmental Protection Agency:

  • Never burn household garbage or cardboard. Plastics, foam and the colored ink on magazines, boxes, and wrappers produce harmful chemicals when burned. They may also damage your wood-burning appliance.

    Photo used under Creative Commons from Peter Mulligan

  • Never burn coated, painted or pressure-treated wood because it releases toxic chemicals when burned.
  • Never burn ocean driftwood, plywood, particle board, or any wood with glue on or in it. They all release toxic chemicals when burned.
  • Never burn wet, rotted, diseased, or moldy wood.

Get a carbon monoxide detector. When wood isn’t burned completely it emits an odorless, colorless gas known as carbon monoxide.  A CO detector could save your life.

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For more information on manufactured logs:

Ask Treehugger: Is Duraflame a Burnout?

*Top photo used under Creative Commons from Towle Neu

December 2nd, 2010

Green Battery Guide for the Holidays

Photo used under Creative Commons from Kasia

This year I had a few goals in mind when buying gifts for my family:

  • Keep it simple
  • Buy gifts without a lot of packaging materials
  • Use my reusable bags as much as possible
  • Try to buy things that don’t need batteries

The only major mishap was the shocking realization on Tuesday that Hanukkah started on Wednesday night. I had one day to pull it all together. Somehow I did it and we are ready for the 8 crazy nights.

During my speedy shopping experience, I was really focused on getting the job done.  In hindsight, I was able to stick to most of my goals.  I was surprisingly successful in finding gifts that don’t need batteries- with one exception, my son’s new watch.

Batteries are a necessity in so many ways, making our lives convenient and portable. With this need comes a tremendous amount of waste.  Americans toss almost 180,000 tons of batteries each year, most being single-use batteries.

The hard facts (battery truths)

  1. About three billion batteries are sold annually in the U.S. averaging about 32 per family.

    Photo used under Creative Commons from Anton Fomkin

  2. Batteries contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel, which can leak and contaminate the environment when they are thrown away.
  3. A car battery contains 18 pounds of lead and one pound of sulfuric acid.
  4. Household, disposable batteries come wrapped in plastic packaging-adding more plastic to our overflowing landfills.
  5. Don’t throw any used batteries in the garbage.  Save them for a hazardous waste pickup in your community, or take it to your local hazardous waste management facility (call your local Department of Public Works for the closest location to you).  You can check check with  Earth911 for a listing of local drop off locations.
  6. Your batteries come wrapped a lot of excess packaging-wrapped in plastic and cardboard-all of which end up in a landfill.

In most cases rechargeable batteries are the greener choice

  • Alkaline single-use  batteries are much safer than their pre-1997 version, but they still can’t be recycled. Rechargeable batteries can be recycled.
  • Rechargeable batteries are more costly upfront, but can be used reused multiple times.  They, like single-use batteries,  still contain heavy metals so be careful about disposal. Green Batteries is a great site for all your rechargeable battery and charger options.
  • Four rechargeable batteries can replace approximately 100 regular alkaline batteries.
  • For rechargeable battery recycling options check with Call2Recycle for a location near you.  California is  a special case when it comes to recycling batteries-requiring recycling of more types of batteries than other states-always ahead of the game, aren’t you California?
  • Recycling batteries keeps heavy metals out of landfills and the air. Recycling also saves resources because recovered plastic and metals can be used to make new batteries.

Photo used under Creative Commons from John Seb Barber

Disposable v. Rechargeable

It is impossible to avoid the need for batteries- cell phones, remotes, flashlights, hand-held games, cameras-the need is far and wide.  If some of your holiday gifts need batteries,  Earth911 suggests we think about what type of gadget will be using the batteries. If the device isn’t used often and doesn’t use a lot of power (i.e. remote) it might be best to use a single-use battery. If the gadget needs portable power on a regular basis (i.e. cell phone) go rechargeable.

Greenest Choice

Buy gifts that don’t need batteries.  If your gift requires batteries, try to include rechargeable batteries. If you are feeling really generous include the charger too.

Happy shopping!

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This post is part of the 3rd Annual Holidays Carnival, Holidays Without the Hoopla, for  Green Moms Carnival hosted this month by Jenn of The Green Parent. Be sure to check out all the other great ideas for Holidays Without the Hoopla.

October 11th, 2010

How Many Refrigerators are too Many?

Photo used under Creative Commons from Gary and Anna Satler

A Simple Way to Save Some Energy

Did you know that refrigerators and freezers use about a sixth of all electricity in a typical home – that is more electricity than any other single household appliance. Thankfully, over past years refrigerators have become more energy-efficient. Today’s refrigerators use about 60 percent less electricity on average than  pre-1993 models.

Once you opt to buy a new, energy-efficient fridge you have to decide what to do with that old, energy-wasting second refrigerator. National Grid launched a Refrigerator/Freezer Recycling Program in Upstate New York where they will pay customers $30 plus free pickup of old, energy wasting second refrigerators and freezers. This program is not yet available throughout the country, but many local appliance shops have a recycling program in place-you will need to check in with a shop in your area.

Many of us are choosing to hold onto those old fridges and using them in garages or basements. According to the US Department of Energy, about 26 percent of homes have a second refrigerator-that’s a pretty big number! Seems like an OK thing to do…….it’s nice to have the extra space for drinks and extra food. But there is a big downside to this.

If you have a pre- 1993 fridge, here are some interesting facts:

  • If you ditch your pre-1993 fridge, you’ll save enough on energy costs to buy coffee for nearly 80 days.
  • If every American home replaced its pre-1993 fridge with an Energy Star model, we would prevent annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of more than 8.3 million cars.
  • Unplug your second fridge and save $100 to $200 on your annual energy bill.

Unplugging an old refrigerator or freezer is a simple way to reduce your impact on the environment-it benefits the planet, your wallet and energy conservation efforts.

Do you have a second fridge or freezer?  Are you willing to unplug?


About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

Click HERE to contact Lori

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