Very Cool and Very Smart, The Nest thermometer learns and helps you manage your settings

It is cold this winter – really cold and everyone is trying to stay warm while not spending an arm and a leg on utilities.  Here are a dozen quick and dirty things you could do right now to feel a little warmer and save.

Turn the heat down – even one degree can make a big difference in your monthly bill.

Turn the temp down on your hot water heater. Other than the dryer this may be the appliance you spend the most money operating.

Turn off the lights when you leave the room.  If you simply cannot remember to do this consider installing occupancy sensing controls so the lights turn themselves off.

Adjust the settings in your refrigerator so that it keeps everything cold but not operating all the time.  This setting varies by the type of fridge and how much stuff you keep inside. Worried? Check the temp with a fridge thermometer and adjust accordingly.

Unplug your computer and electronics chargers when you are not using them. Turn off your modem when you leave the house.

Change your incandescent bulbs to LED – A 60 watt equivalent uses just 9.5 watts!

Change your lightbulbs from incandescent to LED.

Give your dryer a rest, use a clothes line.

Wash your clothes in cold water

Stop using the dryer and hang your clothes on a drying rack or, in nice weather, hang it on the line.  IKEA has some nice drying racks that can be set up inside or out. Your dryer uses a HUGE amount of power. If you do use the dryer, make sure the lint screen is empty and that the exhaust line is clean and clear of debris.

Have your heater serviced so that it operates optimally and make sure to change the filter(s) at least every three months.

Check for drafts around your doors by running your hand along the edges.  Most common leak spots are at the latch and along the floor. Install or beef-up already installed weather stripping. Put a draft stopper along the bottom edge of the door.  This could be as simple as a rolled-up towel or small blanket pushed against the door or as fancy as a decoratively embroidered tube filled with beans or sand.

Check for drafts around your windows by once again running your hand along the edges and around the trim. Common leak spots include the bottom and top corners and, on a double hung window, along the seam between the two windows.  On a casement window the leakage is usually along the edge that opens and at the hand crank. How to seal these? There are way too many options that range in levels of effort and permanence.  Here are a few from simple and cheap to more in-depth:

  • Place draft stoppers on the culprit seams.
  • Tape the windows shut for the season. The hardware store sells weather sealing tape that is easy to apply AND take off.  Also, that blue masking tape you have left over from your last painting job works well for this application. Not pretty to look at but may help in the short term.
  • Install a sheet of plastic over the opening. Home improvement/ hardware stores sell plastic film kits that tighten with the heat from a hair dryer.
  • Look outside and see if there are any obvious air infiltration culprits like missing caulk or even missing bricks in the wall! If it is missing caulk then re-caulk it. A brick? You made need to call a professional.
  • When the weather is a bit milder take a look at how the windows were installed. The science of window installation has come a long way in the past few years.  Chances are that the windows were not sealed well when they were installed.  You might consider having a contractor reinstall the windows with proper air and moisture sealing techniques.

Check the energy efficiency of your appliances – refrigerator, washer, dryer, dishwasher, oven, stove – by looking up the make, model and year on the manufacturer’s website. If not Energy Star rated consider getting a new Energy Star rated appliance AND applying for a rebate through your electric company. You may be able to cut the energy you use to operate it by more than a third with a more efficient unit.



Net Zero Waste Needs Dynamism

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Philadelphia let its first municipal garbage and street cleaning contract in 1768 (1).  249 years later, in 2017, Philadelphia joined other forward-looking cities around the country in setting the aggressive goals of being litter free and sending zero waste to landfills by 2035.  To achieve these goals, the Philadelphia Zero Waste & Litter Cabinet Action […]

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Christmas Tree Recycling

January 3, 2018

Oh Christmas Tree, oh Christmas Tree, what should I do with you? It would be very easy to just throw the Christmas tree out with the rest of the trash on pick-up day but what fun is that? After all the tree has been the centerpiece of your holiday do you really think it deserves […]

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Green Travelogue: Boston Bike Share

December 27, 2017

I use the bike share systems wherever I go but for the USGBC GreenBuild conference in Boston I had planned a low carbon trip that included taking the train with my bike for getting around town.  At the last minute those plans changed instead, I left my bike behind and drove taking my helmet and […]

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Climate Reality Optimism

October 28, 2017

I spent the better part of last week with Al Gore. Well, me and 1300+ of my closest friends. I had the honor of attending the Climate Reality Project Leadership Training in Pittsburgh, PA.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  What I got was energy, excitement, science, data, a little bit of fear, inspiration, and […]

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Biking With Monarchs

October 12, 2017

I biked with a Monarch. I was riding along minding my own business when a Monarch started flying along next to my shoulder.  It sometimes took the lead – sometimes lagged back or flitted into a bush – but it stayed there for more than a mile. What a beautiful companion. Monarchs seem to be everywhere […]

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Geography for a Sustainable Life

October 8, 2017

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that to live truly sustainable lives we should all have a knowledge of geography – at least a rudimentary knowledge – because through geography we can learn to understand each other, to understand each other’s needs, beliefs and cultures.  We can also understand […]

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Food for a Sustainable Life

October 3, 2017

After all is said and done, living a sustainable life starts with food. If you grow your own food you know exactly how far it traveled from farm to table AND you know your farmer.  That close relationship with your farmer lets you be really clear about the inputs to the food.  We signed up […]

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Walk to Sustainability

September 27, 2017

A truly sustainable lifestyle is one that is connected to the community – physically connected – so that you can walk or ride your bike to the store, to meetings, to meet up with neighbors, or even to get to the gym! When we lived out in Kennett Square neighbors would gasp when I rode […]

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Adopt a Sustainable Lifestyle

August 31, 2017

Want to make a difference in this hyper-politicized world we find ourselves in? Adopt a sustainable lifestyle that focuses on using your actions and decisions to influence the economy, policy and the environment. By taking simple actions every day, you can make a big impact. Here are some ideas: Spend ten minutes a day in […]

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