Blankets for your windows

February 14, 2017

Blinds and drapes really make a difference!

Sitting in my home office on a cold evening last week, I happened to look over at my window and the blind that was pulled down over it.  Out of curiousity, I reached over to check the temperature of the air behind the blind – and noticed right away how cold it was, even though my office was toasty warm.

It was proof of the difference curtains and even simple roll-up blinds can make in reducing the amount of heat that is lost through a window.

So – if you have drapes or blinds, be sure to pull them closed at night; they’re blankets for your windows, and they’ll help you save on your heating bill!

(You may want to keep blinds on the shady side of your home closed during the day too, especially if everyone’s away anyway.  On the southern, southeastern and southwestern sides of your home?  It’s probably best to leave blinds open on sunny days as you’ll likely gain a bit of heat from the sun.)

Together we are stronger

January 31, 2017

Virtually all of what I have learned about climate change over the past decade has led me to one key conclusion: if we humans are to meet the enormous challenge of climate change, we will need to overcome our differences and work together like never before.  That, plus this week’s news, makes this paragraph from The Better World Handbook, particularly timely:

“Misinformation, half-truths and stereotypes make us susceptible to religious intolerance.  Given the ongoing conflicts in the world, it seems especially essential that Christians and Muslims make a strong effort to learn about and from one another.  Both faiths share an emphasis on peace and tolerance that is not reflected in the wars and violence perpetrated by a few.  When we take the time to learn about other faiths in depth, we often find we have much in common, a basis for building understanding and cooperation towards our common goals.”

So, in the interests of working together for a better future, maybe learning about different faiths would be time well spent; here’s a pretty good place to begin.

Protect your assets from climate change threats

If you think climate change isn’t an issue for investors, think again.  Climate change will bring costly extreme weather events; new rules and regulations; disruptive technology; changed buying patterns and more.

A recent report by the world’s largest institutional fund management company, BlackRock Investment Institute, states, “We believe climate factors have been underappreciated and underpriced.”  The report concludes, “We see climate-proofing portfolios as a key consideration for all asset owners.”

Are your investments and pensions protected?  Here are a few strategies to help ensure they are.

If you’re in the market for a new kitchen stove, here are three simple guidelines to help you choose efficiency:

  • Stoves with self-cleaning ovens are better insulated so they use less energy. They may cost a little more but will save you money in the long run.
  • Convection ovens cook more quickly (because a fan moves heat around inside) so they use less energy.
  • Opening the oven door to check on progress allows 20% of the heat to escape, so choose a model with an oven window.

Here are three simple tips for operating any oven more efficiently:

  • Preheating an oven uses extra energy and is usually not necessary for good results – so don’t preheat unless a recipe specifically calls for it (like bread and pastries)
  • Turn off the elements a few minutes before cooking time is elapsed; cooking will continue thanks to the heat in the oven, the pot and the food itself.
  • Make sure oven door seals are tight; they should hold a slip of paper snugly. Clean or replace as necessary.

Read more tips here (California) or here (Canada; scroll or click to page 21). Happy – and efficient – cooking in 2017!

Better ways to wrap

Wrapping paper, long a part of our holiday traditions, has an unfortunate downside: it’s not recyclable.  That’s because it usually has a very high ink content, may be laminated with non-paper materials and may have plastic, ribbons and glitter mixed in.

The good news: there are MANY alternatives to wrapping paper that can be as fun and festive.  Here are a few:

  • Paper gift bags that can be used over and over; or even home-decorated lunchbags
  • Fabric bags with festive designs
  • Festive scarves, or a square of seasonal fabric from your local fabric shop
  • Newspaper, especially the comics page; or any page decorated with homemade art
  • Cans, jars, baskets or tins (my wife intercepted a beautiful, large cookie tin on its way to the trash at a recent office event!)
  • Old calendars or maps (which can be big enough to wrap just about anything!)
  • Leftover wallpaper scraps

Seasons greetings and best wishes for 2017!

santa

Two thoughts, many possibilities

I recently read a piece where the author confessed that her most vivid memories of childhood Christmases were not of gifts, but of people and traditions.  The author of another piece wrote that her own transition to a minimalist Christmas was prompted by waking up on too many boxing days with the sinking feeling that somehow, in the flurry of consumerism, the very best of Christmas had been missed yet again.

Two good reasons to aspire to a ‘less stuff’ holiday, and here’s a third: all that stuff isn’t very good for the planet either.

So here are some ideas to help you edge toward a stuff-less holiday:

Happy stuff-less holidays!

Popcorn, beverages – and something to talk about

Have you seen Leonardo DiCaprio’s new National Geographic documentary, “Before the Flood”?  Released last month, the 95 minute movie offers a great overview of the causes of climate change (and other environmental challenges we face); and then bridges over to the solutions we need.  It features interviews with Barack Obama, Pope Francis, Elon Musk and more.

From the Obama interview, this prophetic exchange:

Dicaprio: “Somebody that comes into office that does not believe in the science of climate change – do they have the capacity and the power to dismantle everything that you’ve already worked for?”

Obama: “Even if somebody came in campaigning on denying climate science, reality has a way of… hitting you in the nose if you’re not paying attention.  And I think that the public is starting to realize the science – in part because it’s indisputable.”

Before the Flood is informative and thought-provoking – a perfect reason for a party-with-purpose.  Watch the entire documentary on YouTube here, and then get talking!

Post your own sign to help remind people not to idle

On the tree of emission reduction possibilities, perhaps there is no lower hanging fruit than reducing unnecessary idling.

Natural Resources Canada estimates that if every Canadian driver reduced their idling by just three minutes a day, we would reduce emissions by 1.4 million tonnes a year – the equivalent of taking 320,000 cars off the road.  We would save 630 million litres of gas a year – over half a billion dollars worth.  Just by reducing idling, a simple habit change!

Here’s what you can do:

  • Idle less: limit idling to 30 seconds for the first start of the day and 10 seconds for subsequent starts, with a little commonsense leeway in cold weather
  • Skip drive-thrus: sadly, coffee shops and fast food joints have become idling ‘centres of inexcellence’
  • Post a sign: you can find simple, non-confrontational sign designs on the internet to post at your workplace, school or business! We did at our home, and it works – visitors and customers for our free-range eggs {shameless plug} no longer idle!  Just email me if you’d like a copy of our sign..

noidling

 

Why not use alternatives to glow sticks?

In recent decades, glow sticks have become popular, especially at parties, dances, concerts – and Halloween, of course! It’s no wonder: they’re simple sources of short-term light, available in a range of fun colors.

But the post-glow reality is that they’re really not very eco-friendly:

  • They’re not recyclable: besides the color-producing chemicals, glow sticks contain chemicals to keep the plastic flexible, and those same chemicals make the plastic unsuitable for recycling.
  • We use an awful lot of them: 100 million a year, according to one website on the subject
  • Some end up in the ocean: where they may be eaten by marine life or float for a long, long time.

What to do?

  • Reduce, the first R: strive to go without when possible
  • Use alternatives: for safety, consider reflective strips; for visibility, use an LED flashlight or headlamp. (For bonus points: power them with rechargeable batteries!)

Have fun and be safe for Halloween or your next social event – but strive to do it without glow sticks!

Five tips for greener hair!

October 11, 2016

Simple ideas for more eco-friendly hair care

Hair care is part of most people’s daily routine, but it has more environmental implications than one might realize (for example, water consumption, energy consumption, undesirable chemicals and waste generation).  Here are five ways you can reduce the environmental impacts of your coiffure:

  • Resist your shampoo maker’s tease to ‘rinse and repeat’, and shampoo just once (because if you need to shampoo twice, you’ve got to wonder about the quality of the product in the first place!). Plus use as little shampoo as you can get away with.
  • Try washing your hair every second time you shower instead of every time
  • Use a leave-in conditioner to cut down on shower time
  • Let hair dry naturally if you can, or else use the coolest setting on your hair dryer
  • Bonus: make your own shampoo! Learn how here.

Happy greener hair care!