May 14, 2013
Minimize waste and save on your grocery bill
Food is a very significant part of our carbon footprint:
- it takes energy to produce; that’s especially so for meat and other animal products
- it travels long distances to get to our plate
- we often end up wasting A LOT of what we buy at the grocery store (up to one quarter of all the produce we buy, by one estimate)
In a world where we lose so many people to hunger every day, it seems obscene to waste food – so why not use leftovers to make soup? Here’s a blog with loads of ideas for soups and other yummy dishes made from leftovers. And here’s a link to Simply in Season, a favourite cookbook of the chief cook in our household; it’s loaded with recipes for healthy living and a healthy planet. So is the More With Less Cookbook.
And – here’s a simple one-pager with suggestions on how to minimize food spoilage. Happy nibbling!
January 22, 2013
Just clean that plate
Back in 1956, the notorious US prison on Alcatraz Island had this rule for all inmates: “Take all you want, but eat all you take.”
Most of us live in a world of plenty, so it is easy for us to take food for granted and to waste. A report last fall estimated that Canadians waste $27 billion worth of food a year, the majority of it at home. How we waste? 1) we load our plates up with more than we can eat; 2) we’re quick to discard things when they approach their best-before dates; and 3) food is cheap.
Food is a big part of our carbon footprint, and it’s obscene to waste it when nearly a billion people worldwide go to bed hungry.
So perhaps the easiest way ever to reduce the carbon footprint of our food is to simply do what prisoners at Alcatraz were asked to do: don’t serve up too much food, and clean your plate.
August 21, 2012
Borrow a power meter from your library
Portable power meters are excellent tools for helping you save on energy, because they measure the power consumption of anything that plugs into a wall outlet. Your power bill might tell you the total amount of energy consumed in your home, but it doesn’t provide any indication of where it was consumed. How much power does your toaster use? Or your PVR? Or your hair dryer?
A portable meter can tell you precisely. As well, it can help you find phantom power users. (Phantom power is the trickle of power used by many devices even when they are turned off; it can be eliminated with the use of a power bar.)
Here’s some great news: many libraries now have power meters you can borrow like a book. It’s an excellent, zero-cost opportunity to do a little measuring so you can identify ways to lower your energy bills – and do the planet a favour. It’s great fodder for a school science fair project, or to stimulate a family discussion about ways to save energy.
May 1, 2012
Prevent ‘refrigerator rot’, save money and do a good thing – all at the same time!
From the readers of Slate magazine, here are five ways you can save on your food bill and reduce waste at the same time:
1. Create and stick to a shopping list: so that you don’t overbuy, especially perishable produce
2. Buy food with cash instead of on credit: to resist the urge to buy too much or to buy impulse items
3. Stick to a single cuisine: so that your leftovers don’t look like the United Nations in a fridge
4. Limit your ‘experimental purchases’ like exotic produce: they usually have a big carbon footprint, and can easily spoil before you figure out how to cook them
5. Schedule one night a week as leftover night: to use up all those leftovers
You can check out Slate’s full list of food-saving tips here.
April 17, 2012
Is a solar hot water system in your future?
I love sunny days – and this picture shows another reason why:
That’s the temperature gauge on our home’s solar hot water tank yesterday (April 17). It was a beautiful, sunny day and the solar system – which pre-heats water going into our electric hot water heater – was working so well it actually made the water hotter than my electric tank normally heats it! In other words, free hot water from the sun. The system works every month of the year, but works best in the spring, summer and fall.
My hot water is not entirely free, of course, because the solar system wasn’t free. But many energy efficiency programs offer incentives to help bring the investment down. And because sunlight is free, solar hot water offers protection against rising power rates.
Here’s a link to Thermo-Dynamics, the Atlantic Canadian company that manufactures systems like mine.
March 3, 2012
Dare to wear clothes more than once between washes
By habit, most of us are accustomed to throwing all our clothes into the laundry after we’ve worn them once. But unless we work in situations where we sweat a lot or get physically dirty, most of us could easily get away with wearing clothes at least twice between washings. The advantages are MANY:
- Clothes will last longer, because washing is a pretty punishing process
- Clothes washers and dryers will last longer because they’ll be doing fewer loads
- Much less detergent will be used
- Much less water – particularly that energy-intensive hot water – will be used
- Less dryer use means lots of electricity will be saved, because a single dryer uses as much power as 350 CFL light bulbs
- IMPORTANTLY: wearing clothes more than once will greatly reduce your washday workload!
So – to save money, energy and work, dare to wear your clothes more than once between washes. (Logical exceptions: socks and underwear)
February 7, 2012
Take part in National Sweater Day (February 9)
One of the biggest slices of Canada’s carbon footprint comes from heating homes and workplaces – because most Canadian heating systems run on fossil fuels or fossil fuel-based electricity. And one of the easiest ways to reduce that footprint is really simple: just turning a thermostat down 2°C can reduce heating bills by 5%. Turning it down by 4°C saves 10%. Savings just don’t come easier than that!
What about comfort? Perhaps it’s time to fall in love again with that sweater your Grammy gave you. In support of that notion, tomorrow is National Sweater Day – designed to encourage Canadians to wear a sweater and turn down the thermostat. An initiative of the World Wildlife Fund, it has a fun side too – you can call ‘the Granny Call Centre’ to learn more about why you should wear that sweater. More info and a fun video at www.sweaterday.ca.
So please spread the word among your colleagues: wear a sweater and turn down the heat on the planet!
(PS: When it comes to climate change policies, I find myself frequently disappointed by our current federal government – but I KNOW our Prime Minister has what it takes to participate in this campaign…)
November 28, 2011
Nightlights that use virtually no power
If you like having a little bit of light in your home at night, you can save by switching to electroluminescent nightlights.
Typical nightlight bulbs use 4 or 7 watts. That’s not a lot – but they’re often on for long periods of time, and many homes have more than one.
Electroluminescent nightlights, like the one shown, are incredibly efficient: plugged in 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, they use just two cents worth of power. Yep, two cents a year, or about 99.5% savings over a 7 watt bulb.
They do provide a bit less intensity and a different glow than standard nightlights – but the savings are worth it. Ask for them at your local hardware store. (Mine have a lifetime warranty, and were purchased here.)
November 14, 2011
A portable power meter can save you energy and money
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” goes the expression. It applies to electricity too, where our only indication of consumption is the monthly bill we get. But by then, it’s too late to do anything about it. As well, power bills tell us nothing about what’s running up our bill – so we have no way to distinguish the power hogs in our homes and workplaces from the power misers.
Portable power meters to the rescue! They’re simple devices that provide a real-time readout of the power consumption of anything that plugs into an outlet. Once you know how much power is consumed by the different things in your home or workplace, you can zero in on actions that will make the biggest difference in your power usage – and bill.
February 9, 2011
Install foam gaskets under your outlet and light switch plates
While painting a room last week, I removed a wall outlet cover plate – and was shocked (not literally…) by the amount of cold air leaking in around the wires and the box.
Fortunately, there’s an effective and really inexpensive way to stop those drafts: just install foam gaskets like these under outlet and light switch plates on exterior walls. They cost pennies apiece and take mere minutes to install, but they can put an end to most drafts. For added benefit, you can also install child safety plugs in unused outlets to prevent air from leaking through the socket holes.
Installing them is so simple anyone can do it; here’s a one-minute video to prove it!