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Category: Green Living

Keep the Future Clean: Ten Ways To Go Green

Keep the Future Clean: Ten Ways To Go Green

A happier environment is feasible if everyone would pitch in and contribute to a cleaner society. There are many fun and creative ways to make a greener future possible. From taking public transport to making homemade cleaning products, thousands of solutions and ideas are out there to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Ten Ways to Become More Eco-savvy

Re-purpose

From bottles to fabric, everything has a secondary use. Before throwing those egg cartons and cereal boxes out, think about how you can use them around the house. Cereal boxes can be transformed into magazine holders. Egg cartons make great ink wells for paint. Think outside the box and look online for ideas on how to re-purpose everyday household objects.

Consume Less

Evaluate what your household needs and focus on buying fewer things to do the same job. Bring your own reusable bags to the store, and return them to your car or bike basket once you’ve put away your items.

Get Crafty

Make your own cleaning solutions and body products. This can be a fun activity to do alone or with children. There are thousands of different recipes for soaps, candles, and cleaning products available on the web.

Go Back To The Basics

Be earthy. Decorate for holidays and special occasions all year round with natural sticks, leaves, stones and flowers that you find in the park or the neighborhood.

Mug It

Bring your own mug to the local coffee shop, work, or school.

Have some splendor in the grass

Enjoy nature. Exercise by taking a walk or run in your local park or trail. Have a picnic and enjoy natural light, just don’t forget to wear sunscreen. read more

Clean Natural Gas: The Alternative Green Fuel: Natural Gas is the Green Alternative Fuel to Power America's Future

Clean Natural Gas: The Alternative Green Fuel: Natural Gas is the Green Alternative Fuel to Power America's Future

In an age of environmental awareness and preservation, pollutants are becoming a primary target for elimination. The chief offenders of emissions are fossil fuels and their combustion in the production of energy. Fossil fuels are the dominant source of energy produced in the world today. The by-products emitted from the combustion of coal and diesel oil have become all the more unacceptable.

New innovations are under development and in use that will one day drastically curtail the need for fossil fuels. However, until the infrastructure is fully established to deliver and make full use of alternatives such as wind powered turbines and solar energy farms, an alternative such as clean natural gas is positioned to bridge the gap. Its use in transportation and energy production today are evidence of its potential.

Natural Gas in Transportation

Regardless of the position taken on global warming or climate change in general, the poor air quality and smog looming over every major metropolitan is undeniable. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation vehicles that predominately rely on diesel fuel or gasoline as their fuel source are among the largest contributors to smog and ground level ozone in cities and highly populated urban areas.

Nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide are but two of the ingredients emitted by transportation vehicles that when in the presence of the sun’s heat, spawn a chemical reaction that produces smog. As reported by the U.S. Department of Energy, if the same vehicles were converted to operate on natural gas, the production of harmful emissions such as nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, and other toxic emissions, could be significantly reduced. read more

Green Funerals: Environmentally friendly Funerals

Green Funerals: Environmentally friendly Funerals

Conventional funerals and methods of disposing of human remains are environmentally harmful. How can we adopt an alternative approach to make this procedure more ecologically acceptable?

The Eco-Problems with Cremation

Crematoria currently release a large quantity of carbon monoxide and hydrogen chloride into the atmosphere. Legally they are required to burn at a temperature of 850°C, using up valuable fossil fuels; but lowering the temperature would result in still higher chemical emissions.

Mercury emissions arise from bodies’ mercury based dental fillings. Larger crematoria are installing mercury abatement equipment to limit this global pollutant but the cost of such high tech equipment is prohibitive for smaller operators.

The Eco-Problems with Burial

Grief stricken people tend not to ask many questions. They buy standard expensive coffins made from man-made plastics or exotic hardwoods incorporating polluting metals. Preservation is not eco-friendly either. Bodies are embalmed in formaldehyde, which is carcinogenic and corrosive. Embalming should be a choice, not a standard service, since dry ice or refrigeration is sufficient.

Green Funerals

Cheap cardboard coffins are available to the public direct from wholesalers. Biodegradable coffins can also be made from sustainable resources such as willow, bamboo, and even banana leaf or water hyacinth; shrouds from jute or wool. Natural fibres and materials are greener and more attractive, and may be decorated with a more individual touch than a conventional veneered casket, with flowers, pictures or messages. read more

City of Seattle Partners with Clean Energy Works to Transition Energy Efficiency Pilot Program

City of Seattle Partners with Clean Energy Works to Transition Energy Efficiency Pilot Program

Community Power Works generates economic growth by delivering energy efficiency solutions to Seattleites

The City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE) announced this month that it will partner with Clean Energy Works to develop a business plan and explore funding opportunities for the next phase of Community Power Works, the City’s energy efficiency upgrade program. Clean Energy Works will collaborate with Cascadia Consulting, Fluid Market Strategies, and Habitat Home Energy to explore next steps for delivering a long-term, self-sustaining residential energy efficiency program in Seattle.

“This is an exciting moment in the evolution of the program,” said Jill Simmons, director of OSE. “From the beginning, we hoped the pilot phase of Community Power Works would prove that Seattle is ready for a citywide energy efficiency program. Seattleites responded with characteristic passion, helping the program exceed most of its ambitious goals. We look forward to engaging Clean Energy Works as the program grows and thrives over the coming years.”

In addition to identifying funding opportunities and developing a business plan for the next phase of Community Power Works, Clean Energy Works will work with Seattle City Light to transition the management and delivery of the municipal utility’s own residential energy efficiency program, including its rebates and incentives.

“We’re eager to work with OSE and Seattle City Light,” said Derek Smith, CEO of Clean Energy Works. “Our team brings the stakeholder relationships, technical and analytical capabilities, and innovative business planning expertise as we start thinking about what Community Power Works 2.0 looks like.” read more

Batt + Lear: Energy efficiency = Remodeling written a different way

Batt + Lear: Energy efficiency = Remodeling written a different way

Jason Lear will tell you, “Home energy efficiency is just remodeling written a different way.” Jason is a home remodeling expert, and a partner in the firm Batt + Lear. He became interested in energy efficiency when one of his neighbors complained to him about being uncomfortable in her home. He realized she would benefit from a whole-home energy assessment as part of a comprehensive remodel. Batt + Lear launched the project, and after the first phase of work was complete, the neighbor was so thrilled about the increased comfort in her home that she began telling her friends. Her enthusiasm about comfort helped Jason realize that energy efficiency is integral to great remodeling. “There was this energy! Excitement! And interest in sharing that made me take pause,” he said. “It was a game-changer.”

The result was the creation of a new division of Batt + Lear focusing specifically on energy efficiency, and eventually becoming the cornerstone of the business. “It turns out all our remodel customers are interested in making their houses more energy efficient. They are also interested in doing a lot of other things to their homes,” Jason said. “Community Power Works offers not only significant cash incentives to help make the energy efficiency priorities financially possible, it also offers a financing option that does not require equity.”

Batt + Lear’s energy efficiency work doesn’t stop at helping Seattle homeowners – the firm is also a participating contractor in the Community Power Works fors Small Business program. They recently completed an upgrade for Both Ways Café, a popular neighborhood café in Lakewood/Seward Park. read more

Atmosphere: Making the sell with Community Power Works and green weatherization materials

Atmosphere: Making the sell with Community Power Works and green weatherization materials

Scott Finley, President of Community Power Works’ contracting partner Atmosphere, has an impressive resume. He was a founding member of the Indoor Air Investigators Association, a graduate of the American Lung Association Master Home Environmentalist Program, has taught classes for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and was a member of the Seattle Mayor’s Green Building Task Force.

After a quarter century in the building performance industry, Finley knows that motivating homeowners to take action through energy upgrade measures can be difficult.  He says that Community Power Works has given the home performance industry the lift it needs to break through, and earn trust with homeowners.  Finley explains that, “after trying to sell home performance weatherization on the private market for 27 years, it is amazing to see the difference in receptivity now that a City program is recommending it. We now get calls from homeowners ASKING FOR duct sealing or air sealing!”

Finley’s persistence in the science of home performance over the years has gotten him to the right place at the right time, where his company and programs like Community Power Works can team up to make a significant difference for the environment and the health of our communities.   South Park-based Atmosphere, with its team of six employees, walks the talk by specializing in the use of “green” weatherization materials which are made of recycled materials and are low off-gassing. Often, these materials perform better than traditional supplies. One example is damp spray cellulose, which reduces uncontrolled air infiltration and convection up to 50% better than conventional insulation. read more

Meet the Habitat Home Energy Specialist: Charlie Rogers

Meet the Habitat Home Energy Specialist: Charlie Rogers

Now that you’ve had an opportunity to meet homeowner Allyson Adley and her contractor, Bob Thoreson, from Home Rx, let’s get acquainted with Charlie Rogers of Habitat Home Energy Specialist, the guy who got the whole process started for the Adleys with a home energy audit. The audit is the first step in the CPW process and really the keystone to the CPW program.

The first time we met Allyson, she told us, “Our auditor Charlie could not have been more ethical.” We heard this sentiment over and over again as we met more of Charlie’s customers. More than one other customer said about Charlie, “He found things that our home inspector missed when we bought the house.” In short, Charlie is a rock star in the building science industry.

Charlie is in this business because he, too, has a passion for the long-term health of our planet and because “Conservation is smart!” He has earned a 5-star rating from customer reviews on Yelp as well as dozens of “A” ratings on Angie’s list. And we are darn lucky to have him as a CPW home energy expert.

Charlie sees it as his primary role to inform and guide homeowners through a comprehensive 2-hour top-to-bottom diagnostic of their home energy use, and then propose solutions that can lead to greater energy efficiency. The assessment includes:

  • An analysis of your utility bills
  • Inspections of your attic, basement, crawlspaces, water heater, and pipe insulation
  • A blower door test to check for leaks
  • Infrared imagery to locate hot and cold spots,

For a comprehensive description of these tests and others included in Charlie’s evaluation, visit the Habitat Home Energy Specialist site

The result of the audit is a 20-page report—a guide to the secrets your home won’t tell you—including photo documentation and a blueprint of upgrade options. The report provides details about trouble areas and proposes itemized solutions complete with estimated costs and savings. Charlie will also help you to decide which measures make sense based on your lifestyle, and he can help you understand the basics of which incentives and rebates may apply to your projects. If you want, Charlie will also recommend contractors that he thinks might be a good fit for your project. read more

Energy savings tips from the pros

Energy savings tips from the pros

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), residential energy accounted for 22% of all energy used in the United States in 2011. Although home energy upgrade programs like Community Power Works make a tangible impact, the approaching cold season and its high energy costs require homeowners to be especially vigilant. We thought we would pass along some of our favorite energy saving tips and resources from the pros at Renewable Planet, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and ENERGY STAR.

Renewable Planet recommends attaching dimmer switches to interior lights, as well as using electricity monitors to keep track of power consumption. Additionally, they recommend using your dishwasher at off-peak hours and letting your dishes air dry instead of using the heat dry option on your dishwasher.

ENERGY STAR provides an interactive tool which takes you room by room to uncover energy-saving opportunities in the home. Some often overlooked opportunities include ENERGY STAR outdoor fixtures that save energy through advanced CFL technology, motion sensors, or a photocell that turns the light on only when someone is present. Additionally, with consumer electronics accounting for 15% of household electricity use, consumers should be on the lookout for ENERGY STAR labels on items like TV/DVD combos that help save energy when turned off.

Another handy tip from ENERGY STAR for home or office (better yet, for home office!), is to use a power strip as a central “turn off” point for electronics, video games, and computers. Electronics can still contribute to the total household energy use even when they are in low power or “off” mode. Also, consider installing a programmable thermostat which adjusts to preset temperatures throughout the day and night. Check out the Guidelines for Proper Use of Programmable Thermostats to maximize your savings. read more

Domestic harmony through energy upgrade

Domestic harmony through energy upgrade

The Bessler-Rutledges have only seen a slight change on their energy bill since their 1956 Lake City home was upgraded as a part of the Community Power Works Program in May. This is of little concern for them, though, because they have already experienced many tangible benefits from the upgrade. The house temperature stays more even overall from the new insulation and sealing. In addition, they found the new heat pump has doubled effectively as an air conditioner on Seattle’s few hot days.

More importantly, the upgrade has contributed to greater domestic harmony overall. Jen Bessler said, “The Community Power Works upgrades have improved our family harmony.” She said, “Our kids, four and seven, used to argue over who got the ‘heater spot’ at the breakfast table. Now every spot at the table is comfortable, so mealtime is way more peaceful.”

From left: Jen Bessler, Maggie Rutledge, Amina Mussa, Heidi Rutledge and Max Rutledge

The Bessler-Rutledges were spurred to make changes to their energy use after a Seattle City Light neighborhood energy consumption comparison identified their home as an “energy hog.” After an energy audit with Dusty Hoerler, the family solicited multiple bids from both inside and outside of the Community Power Works program. According to Bessler, “We found that Community Power Works had access to lots of rebates that lowered the costs significantly. Coupled with the fact that we had a project manager from SustainableWorks and long-term financing, there was really no comparison.” read more

Going Green for St. Patrick’s Day

Going Green for St. Patrick’s Day

W.B. Yeats wrote, “There are no strangers here; only friends that haven’t yet met.” Travis Stanley Jones seemed to be channeling Yeats when he bought Mulleady’s Irish Pub in 2005. Nestled in the Magnolia neighborhood, Mulleady’s features a convivial atmosphere unique to Irish pubs, authentic grub, pints, and spirits, and a stacked stone fireplace voted among Seattle’s best.

Jones began his career in the United States Marine Corps, and then worked at several Seattle restaurants before his entrepreneurial spirit kicked into high gear. “I’m an okay employer, but I’m a terrible employee,” he jokes. “That’s why I bought Mulleady’s eight years ago.”

While Jones has managed to stay mostly in the black throughout the economic downturn, the performance of his equipment looms large in his mind. “If your car breaks down, that’s going to be a big deal for you, right?” Jones asks. “Well, I essentially have five ‘cars’ in my kitchen: the refrigerators, ovens, dishwasher, and fryer. If any of those break down, I’m in the red.”

When he heard about Community Power Works, Jones says the program seemed “almost too good to be true.” After an energy assessment revealed how much energy he could save, Jones decided to begin upgrades after the pub’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Certified contractor Batt + Lear will replace two refrigerators with models that use ultra-high efficiency fans and chlorofluorocarbon-free refrigerant (chlorofluorocarbons contribute significantly to ozone depletion and climate change). The double convection oven and fryer will also be replaced with ENERGY STAR ™ models, and the pub’s lighting will be upgraded from old incandescent bulbs to LEDs. read more

Community Power Works is a Seattle neighborhood-based building retrofit program that will achieve deep energy savings and create green jobs.