Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Slay the Energy Vampires Away

Vampires in your house!
When you sleep, when you eat, while you are hard at work, vampires lurk in the depths of your home. From morning to night they are sucking you dry. It is called vampire power but to you it is simply wasted money.

Energy vampires are devices that use electricity even when they are turned off.
Together they can account for up to 20 percent of your electric bill.1 You can improve your home’s energy savings by identifying and unplugging your energy vampires.
Americans spend $10 billion per year on vampire energy. If we didn’t waste this energy, we could shut down 30 coal fired power plants and send every American child to a Jonas
Brothers concert.

Did you know that your home entertainment system can cost you up to $75 per year in vampire energy even when it is turned off?

- Use energy-saving features commonly built into most computers.
- Unplug energy sucking appliances when not in use.
- Better yet, plug all your appliances and the chargers for
your mobile phones and other gadgets into a power strip, and
flip the power strip to “off” when not needed. Using a “smart” power strip that
automatically shuts off when the device is inactive makes this even easier for you.
- Consider purchasing a “kill-a-watt” device to measure the energy consumption of
your household appliances and electronics when turned on or off.
-When new appliances are needed, purchase Energy Star Appliances. Energy
Star devices use much less power in the off mode than regular appliances.4
What really bites is that you are the one who is left bleeding as the energy vampires
suck you dry. Stop being bled dry. Slay your vampires by taking these actions to
save energy and money this Halloween!

Ask your mayor to lead the way to an energy-efficient future that creates good green jobs here that are impossible to outsource, support families, and keep money in our pockets.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Greener Las Vegas

Blazing neon lights 24/7, the world’s most grandiose fountains, gridlock on Las Vegas Boulevard, frigid indoor air over millions of square feet when it’s a hundred and ten outside ... not exactly a poster boy for sustainability. Name the top ten green cities in America -- I’ll bet Las Vegas would not make your shortlist.

Well, think again. After meeting with officials from the City of Las Vegas to learn more about their green initiatives for our Sierra Club Green Home Web site, I must conclude that America’s adult playground is making a sincere effort to embrace sustainability. And the major casinos have actually been pioneers in energy saving techniques – with the power and water bills they generate, it makes economic as well as altruistic sense for them. “What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas” but it might be beneficial for the casinos to get the word out about their green initiatives.

Sometimes controversial, always quotable and often progressive, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is somewhat of a legend on the local and national scene. Under his stewardship, Las Vegas began to embrace green environmental policies before it became de rigeur. Goodman was one of the first to sign the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, a pledge to green their city which now has over 1,000 mayoral signatures. Currently, Las Vegas has one of America’s toughest consumer watering policies. “Water cops” can fine you if they see runoff on your sidewalks. Outdoor fountains at residential developments have come to a grinding halt. Vegas was also an early adopter of hybrid fleet vehicles and even embarked on a recycled anti-freeze program in 2007 to help power the city fleet. They also have a green building program, which rewards developers with tax breaks for building energy efficient structures...


To continue this article go to

Friday, October 16, 2009

Green Halloween


Make this disposable holiday a little greener

hallowgreenHalloween is autumn’s debut “event-of-the-season”. With the parties, treats and creative costumes, the festivities of Halloween are something many Americans look forward to for months. For some, however, the only thing scary about this holiday is the amount of waste it creates. According to the National Retail Federation Americans will spend about $4.75 Billion on Halloween this year. That’s almost $5 Billion of disposable items – decorations, costumes, trick-or-treat bags, candy-wrappers – that will end up in a landfill. This Halloween, why not ditch the disposables, conjure up your creativity and add a little green to this typically black-and-orange holiday?


Top Tips

  • Choose your decorations wisely. Let’s face it. We want to take advantage of the only time of the year we can actually use ghosts and goblins as d├ęcor (without seeming crazy). Instead of purchasing new plastic decorations, however, try either buying them used or renting them. OR REUSING YOUR OLD ONES. KEEP IN MIND WE WANT TO GET AS MUCH WEAR AS POSSIBLE OUT OF ALL ITEMS.

hallowgreen3Spend some time with your family and try making your own decorations using materials lying around your home. Try out these creative decoration ideas using old egg cartons, coat hangers and candy jars.

Choose real pumpkins for jack-o’-lanterns instead of plastic ones. The acidity of the “pumpkin guts” acts as a natural exfoliate, and you can roast the pumpkin seeds for a tasty autumn snack.

Try one of these Vegan recipes to get the most out of your Halloween pumpkin.

When choosing candles for your jack-o’-lanterns, use soy candles instead of paraffin or petroleum, which release toxic chemicals into the air when burned. Soy candles not only burn cleaner, they burn longer as well.

Go natural and use the beautiful fall leaves in your yard as decoration by putting them, along with some mini pumpkins, in a festive basket.

  • Candy with a Cause. You don’t have to go the “organic apples and raisins” route to give kids more eco-friendly treats. Choose organic candy, buy candy in bulk to avoid excess packaging and don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bag to the store for all those goodies.

  • Eco-friendly costumes. Talk to some of your friends with children and try borrowing or swapping out costumes with each other. By reusing old Halloween costumes you are limiting the amount of waste produced, not to mention getting something “new” without spending a ton of money.

Minimize waste with homemade costumes this year. Not only will you save a little cash, you’ll rid your closet of some craft-clutter and your child will have the most original costume on the block!

Don’t forget to send your child trick-or-treating with a reusable bag. Pillowcases make great durable treat bags, and they hold way more candy!

  • Throw an orange, black and…green party. Send guests invitations by e-mail, or make it even more personal by inviting people by phone.

Forget the cheesy disposable plates, paper napkins and plastic cutlery. When it comes to the linens and dishes, opt for the real deal instead. If your party is too large for reusable items try more biodegradable and sustainable party supplies that can be composted after use.

hallowgreen2Make your own Halloween party snacks using as many local, organic ingredients as you can. Use the leftover pumpkin from your jack-o’-lantern to try out new pie, cookie and bread recipes.

Instead of bobbing for apples and wasting a full bathtub-amount of water, make it an outdoor activity and hang apples from a branch outside.

Make sure you recycle the glass and aluminum, and compost the leftover treats after the party.


Other Considerations

  • Trick-or-Treating. Instead of driving to another location to collect treats, try walking or biking somewhere near your neighborhood.

Carry a no-battery flashlight when trick-or-treating and wear bright-colored clothing to ensure maximum visibility.

If you’re concerned about safety, check your city for locations that offer indoor trick-or-treating. Many malls and hold safe Halloween events for families.



…to you

  • Homemade, organic snacks are much healthier than the overly sweet, full-of-preservative, store-bought treats.

  • Trying new recipes and crafts is a good way to spend time with your family and really get in touch with your creative side.

…to your wallet

  • By making your own decoration s and costumes – or reusing old ones – you can save a little extra green for the upcoming holiday season.

…to the earth

  • By limiting your Halloween purchases you are also limiting the amount of waste that ends up in the waste stream.

  • Making treats with local, organic ingredients supports sustainable farming and your local farmers.

Further Reading

50 Fun Homemade Halloween Treats, Snacks and Appetizers

Homemade Halloween Gifts and Crafts

Recycled Autumn Kid Crafts

10 Ways to Eat Well

Home Composting

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Green Staycation

Green Staycation

The best way to an eco-friendly vacation

GreenStaycation(small)In these times, everyone could use a vacation, even if it’s for just a day or two. A new, smart, and, most importantly, very green trend is on the rise: the “staycation.” A staycation doesn’t require a pricey airplane ticket. A relaxing getaway is right under your nose, ready for the taking, ready to leave an impression upon your deserving body and mind, not on your wallet or the Earth.

A staycation is exactly like a vacation, only traveling to some far off location is not necessary. While on a staycation one can stay a night in a good hotel, see various tourist sites and visit a restaurant to try something new, only at the local level. Because airplanes emit carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water vapors into our atmosphere at about three times the rate of cars, they greatly contribute to global climate change. Traveling only a few miles away from home has less of an impact on the environment than flying cross-country.

Top Tips

  • Research your area for “green” hotels and book a night or two.

  • Plan your trip by day. Visit national parks, conservation areas, lectures; all of which can be very inexpensive and very insightful. Search for parks by location.

  • Take the bus or subway to your hotel.

  • Once you get to your hotel, ask about any shuttle buses that may go to your various planned destinations, chances they’re available.

  • For a low carbon impact lunch, visit a vegetarian or vegan restaurant. Calculate how much carbon your eating style is contributing to the atmosphere on the Low Carbon Diet Calculator.

  • Once you’re at a national park or conservation area, ride a bike. It’s great exercise and it will allow you to take in the sights better rather than through a vehicle window.

  • Back at your hotel, reduce your waste by reusing towels and not having your sheets changed.



…to your health

Taking any amount of time off to relax and rejuvenate is endlessly beneficial to your overall health. Also, city dwellers are often exposed to numerous air pollutants from car emissions and industrial sites, which can have both short term and long term effects such as irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, upper respiratory infections like bronchitis and pneumonia, worsen allergy conditions, all of which can lead to chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer, and heart disease.

…to your wallet

Staying local can cost much, much less than an airplane trip to an exotic location.

…to the Earth

Because airplanes emit three times as many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, walking or driving only a few miles significantly lowers the impact on the environment. Neither the Kyoto Protocol nor any other current regulations restrict carbon emissions of airplanes, even though they emit up to 600 million tons of carbon dioxide every year.

Common Mistakes

Driving to a location hundreds of miles away defeats the purpose.

Other Considerations

While on a vacation, you wouldn’t normally have your own car. So, for your staycation consider public transportation, riding your bike, or both. It will not only save you money, but reduce carbon emissions too.

Learn More

We’re Still Light Years Away

Hippies vs. Treehuggers: The Battle For America’s Greenest City

Bicyling is the new Green


Tired of walking? Grab a free bike on the spot

EcoBikeCities like Paris have made a bold move to lower carbon emissions with a revolutionary bike rental service. In 2007, more than 10,600 bikes were placed at 750 stations located throughout Paris. Since then the number of bikes has grown to 15,000 with a total of 42 million users. This service or, “Velib” as it is called, works in this way: the first half-hour is free; after the first half-hour there is a charge of one euro, then two Euros for the second and four Euros for every extra half-hour from then on. The idea is to keep riders in motion, which is easy with Paris’s 230 miles of bike lanes and stations every couple hundred yards. While this program has had its share of issues including vandalism, it has inspired other cities in France plus London, San Francisco and Singapore. Stockholm, Vienna, Barcelona, Brussels and Copenhagen which already offered similar services.

Maybe it’s time for our cities to take similar action? But, until that time comes, buy or rent a bike and cycle your carbon footprint away.


Top tips

  • Start out slow. Don’t try to do the Ironman (110 miles!) your first day. It’s best for your health and your muscles to start slow, cycling only a couple of miles. Once your muscles adapt to the motions and your stamina builds, gradually increase the daily amount of exercise you do.

  • Be safe. Cycling can be dangerous if you do not take the necessary precautions.

    • Always wear a helmet.

    • Wear bright-colored clothing and reflectors

    • Wear gloves, arm and knee pads

    • If possible, cycle during the day

    • Follow traffic laws

    • Don’t cycle in the middle of the road when cars are nearby

  • Recycle your bike. If your bike is broken beyond repair, doesn’t match your cycling needs anymore, or is just plain old, donate it or recycle your bicycle. Go to SCGH’s Recycling Center to find a location close to you that accepts bicycles.



  • To your health. Bicycling is an effective cardio exercise for people of all ages. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity, along with other health problems. Cycling also improves mental health, as exercise releases endorphins in the body which make people feel happier.

  • To your wallet. Bicycles range in prices, fitting all different budgets.

    • A new bicycle can cost as low as $100 or as high as $1000, depending on type.

    • An average bicycle costs $385 in the US compared to a car that costs an average of $13,532.

    • You don’t spend money on gas and expensive car maintenance

    • Possibly reduce healthcare costs associated with obesity, an estimated $117 billion per year.

  • To the earth. Bicycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions, air, water and noise pollution, and road wear. Check out this fuel cost calculator, to see how much your will save on gas and how many non-renewable resources you can avoid.


Common mistakes

  • Don’t rush. When purchasing a bicycle, don’t just look at the price tag but notice all of its capabilities. If you invest in a bike that will be difficult to fix or is simply cheep, then it is probable that you will end up having to buy a new one soon after. So, take a few extra moments to compare models, instead of wasting money and resources on a new product later.

  • Carry the burden. Make sure to find a bike that will fit your frame and your lifestyle. If you are looking for a casual bike that you can use for your ride to college or the grocery store look for an attachable basket area. Focus on the bike’s overall weight, this will be beneficial for college and especially if you live in an apartment tower and prefer to avoid your building’s Energy Monster, the elevator.


Getting started

  • When shopping for bikes, consider the design you are looking for and its weight. If you are going to be carrying the bike up stairs you may when a lighter model.

  • If you are limited on space, you may want to fork up a little extra change for a foldable bike. These bicycles use light material and are constructed with few resources.

  • Want to really go green? Shop for a bike made out of recycled content, like steel bars or aluminum rims. These models may cost more; however, the resources saved from producing new bike parts are quite significant.

  • You can lower your carbon footprint by purchasing a bicycle with recycled rubber handles and tires.

  • How about the cool bike designs? Custom bicycle paintjobs may cost a lot, but if you paint with a zero or low VOC paint then it’s worth it.

  • Before purchasing a bicycle, of course consider the cost, but be aware of your options. There are many different types of bikes out there, even those that are more eco-friendly than others. Do the research before you reach for your wallet.


Learn More

Permeable Paving

Lawn Care

Safe Indoor Pest Control


Eco-Friendly Beds

Friday, October 9, 2009

Snail Mail No More

Snail Mail No More!

How paperless mail is gaining ground, or should I say gaining cyberspace

mail(small)The recent fiasco surrounding T-mobile’s attempt to charge customers $1.50 for each paper bill — which they later had to retract after being sued — seemed to indicate people weren’t ready to go green with their mail. Or at least people weren’t willing to pay for something that was originally free. T-mobile thought that by charging for paper bills, its customers would switch over to paperless, which would save an estimated 10.8 million pounds of paper (equivalent to 13,500 trees) a year and who knows how much of T-mobile’s money. Before the charge, about 1,000 customers signed up for paperless each day, but after the charge was announced, more than 33,000 customers signed up daily to be paper-free. Many of them didn’t sign up with a green smile, however, and T-mobile suffered a public relations debacle.

So will paperless mail still be the next big thing in America?

The future of mail

Yes, it seems that paperless mail is the future. With the right incentives, people are ready to go green with their mail. Zumbox, the world’s first and only paperless postal system, has captured the attention of three major cities in the U.S.- San Francisco, Newark, and recently, New York City. Hopefully, with these cities leading by example, others will embrace the paperless postal system. The mayors of these three cities believe a paperless mail system will be more cost-effective, personal, and environmentally-friendly than traditional postal service.

Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco says paperless mail “supports our commitment to open government by offering a more direct and efficient online connection between the City and our residents. A paperless postal system represents a new opportunity for the City and County of San Francisco to reduce the City’s overall waste stream and will help in our efforts to reach zerowaste by 2020.”

Mayor Cory Booker of Newark exclaims, “Zumbox will help the City to save tax dollars, support our local businesses, and improve the way our city communicates.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York says, “Every day, new technological innovations help make information flow faster, systems work better and our lives a little easier. In serving the public, government should constantly be looking for new and better ways to provide information and services. The City’s pilot program with Zumbox will give us yet another means to get information to New Yorkers.”

What exactly is Zumbox?

Zumbox is a privately-held company based in California, and relies on its unique digital mailbox technology to make waves in the mail industry. Each U.S. address has a digital mailbox, appropriately named a Zumbox, which enables mail, newsletters, announcements, and other documents to be sent as files and received by other Zumbox users. There is no paper, postage, scanning or spam involved. Receiving and sending digital mail couldn’t be more secure or accurate. Zumbox uses precise geo-targeting technology to keep someone’s mail from ending up in another person’s Zumbox, and it complies with PCI, HIPAA, and BITS security standards to keep mail confidential.

Zumbox is free for municipal and state governments and receiving customers, and according to Donn Rappaport, CEO of Zumbox, “In an effort to support local economies, Zumbox is offering a free trial for qualified non-profit organizations and local businesses that wish to use the Zumbox service to send paperless mail to their supporters, customers, or local neighborhoods.”


The United States Postal Service is the second largest civilian employer in the US. It has around 656,000 employee who earn a living sorting, collecting, handling, and delivering paper mail and packages. In recent years, faxes and e-mail have taken a huge chunk out of USPS revenues, making the formerly profitable entity a huge loser for the U.S. Treasury. So what becomes of these people and their jobs? It would appear that the trend toward electronic mail, even newspapers and magazines, is irreversible and that the government should make plans for the serious downsizing of USPS.


Not only does Zumbox make mail more secure, convenient, and cheaper, going paperless helps our environment. By investing in a Zumbox you can reduce paper consumption, landfill masses, CO2 emissions from paper manufacturing and delivery trucks, and illegal logging.

Learn More

Paperless Please

Home Recycling Advice

Recycling Center

Carbon Calculator

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Green Technology


Going Green Tech

It is now possible to green your audio system. The world’s first environmentally-friendly speaker systems are now available for purchase. You can jam to your favorite digital songs through these green music systems, and help the environment as well.


Speakers1For those who love both music and the environment, we recommend the cardboard Eco-Speakers which are foldable and portable. These speakers are made from 100% recycled materials and you will not even need batteries for them, as they are powered by your MP3 player or favorite audio source.

Speakers2The Fremont Speakers, made by Escalante Designs, are free-standing cabinet speakers, which also happen to be made of 100% recycled wood board. The product contains no formaldehyde and is finished with a AFM-Safecoat non-toxic paint. The speaker grills incorporate organic cotton and recycled polyesters.

Speakers3The Pioneer S-LX70W Speaker is the only Energy Star rated subwoofer on the market. The is energy efficient as it runs on 90 watts and only 1 watt when in standby mode. This piece of equipment is for true music lovers as it also has a built-in digital amplifier.

MP3 Players

MP3The Baylis Eco Media Player is a wind-up MP3 player that features video playback, a FM radio, voice recorder, text reader, expandable memory, a flashlight, and even a cell phone charger. It is estimated that you can get 15-20 minutes of play after roughly 1 minute of winding.

CellphoneMany people prefer to download and listen to their music on the go with a do-it-all product, like a cell phone. The Motorola Renew is more than just a solar-powered cell phone. It is made out of recycled plastic and it comes with a prepaid envelope for having the phone recycled once you are done with it. The Samsung Reclaim, another new sustainable design, is made from 80 percent recyclable materials.

Learn More

50 Green Gadgets


15 Ways to Save a Buck and a Watt

Sierra Club Recycling Center

Friday, October 2, 2009

Taking a Haircut for Our Grandchildren

Taking a Haircut for Our Grandchildren

It may be controversial, but it’s the best we’ve got. The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) provides a way to numerically rate each of the globe’s countries by their overall greenness, or lack thereof. Not surprisingly, Switzerland is first, the U.S. is 39th, while China is down at No. 105 and India comes in at 120th.

The EPI rates everything from air, water, health of its citizens, agriculture, impact on climate change, ecosystem vitality, among others. It was produced by a group of top environmental scientists with grants from major foundations.

EPI’s findings quantify a situation we all know exists: how can the less populated, wealthy, developed countries demand that the other less developed countries follow suit in drastically reducing carbon emissions to save the planet? Especially those like China and India who are giving birth to a middle class numbering in the hundreds of millions. Many countries that did poorly on the EPI are producing consumer goods for U.S. shelves that are exported since we don’t want to build them here and it is dramatically cheaper. The classic NIMBY (not in my backyard) scenario, indeed.

Experts and pundits from venture capitalist Vinod Khosla to President Obama himself have delved into this issue with the same conclusion – all countries must participate in setting environmental policy and they must do it now. In my view, one thing is clear: rich or poor, from the most advanced to the most primal, all citizens of the world and their governments must make lifestyle changes to clean up the planet. This is a global problem, not a time to point fingers at “who’s done what & when”. Otherwise, our grandchildren if not our children won’t be left with a whole lot to work with. They will be wishing they could turn back to a time when there were options.

The time is now for all countries to accept that their economies must take a bit of a haircut in the name of environmental responsibility. How much value will the super stringent vehicle emissions regulations in California have when on the other side of our world, millions of new drivers will be putting cars and trucks on the road that have antiquated pollution control systems? We need to bear in mind that our relatively small population of around 330 million is absolutely dwarfed by India and China’s billions. Soon enough, these countries carbon emissions will make the Western world appear miniscule. Without comparable cleanup standards and subsidies in the Chinas, Indonesias, and Indias, what’s the point for the rest of us to drive hybrids and acquire solar panels?

This clearly needs to be a worldwide effort, with everybody putting aside their own immediate priorities for the greater good. This is not strictly magnanimous, nor is it the naive ranting of a tree hugger. If we don’t all clean it up, and soon, it will be a moot point – by the year 2050 or even sooner in my opinion.

Two key confabs – the G20 conference in Pittsburgh, which is happening as we speak, and the revisiting of the Kyoto accord (let’s hope the U.S. signs this time) which is slated for Copenhagen in December – will hopefully be the first major steps in a global initiative to this end. While economic concerns need to be balanced with environmental policy, we may not have the luxury of arguing about it for 10 or 15 years for it will be too late.

Summer Blues

It’s Getting Cold in Here?

Summer Temperatures in the U.S. Below Average


In the Southwest, it seemed hot as blazes this past summer. L.A., San Diego, Las Vegas, on many days seemed even hotter than recent years. Florida blazed and Texas cooked. However, many other states experienced cooler temperatures this summer, such as Chicago, Minneapolis, even Atlanta. How can this happen simultaneously?

Climate change doesn’t always result in hotter temperatures. Weird weather patterns of recent years can go either way it would seem.

SummerBlues(June-Aug)The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center recently released a preliminary temperature analysis that compared this year’s average summer temperature with the long-term summer average across the U.S. The analysis found that the 2009 average summer temperature was below average, making this summer the 34th coolest summer in the U.S since 1895.

It’s getting cold in here

According to NOAA’s analysis, the average summer temperature in 2009 was 71.7 degrees F, which is one degree below the 2008 temperature average and 0.4 degrees below the 20th century average. Only eight out of the 50 states were above normal while the remaining states were either near normal or below normal temperatures. The Midwest was way below normal; there were over 300 low temperature records there on August 30-31.

I’m singing in the rain

SummerBlues(June-Aug2)The NOAA also highlighted precipitation trends for the summer as well. While the Northeast region experienced its eighth wettest summer on record, the South, Southeast and Southwest regions were drier than average. Arizona had its third driest summer, being one of the three states (the other states were Georgia and South Carolina) to have precipitation levels much below normal. In August, precipitation levels in the U.S. averaged 2.34 inches, 0.26 inches below the 1901-2000 average.

It’s Climate Change, not Global Warming

What does all this data mean and why does it matter? The Earth goes through natural periods of warming and cooling, but these temperature changes can be accelerated by human activity, such as CO2 emissions and pollution. According to The ABCs of Climate Change, climate change is caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases, which form a gas blanket and trap heat inside the Earth’s atmosphere. While greenhouse gases can come naturally, humans can generate greenhouse gases in the form of carbon dioxide by the burning of fossil fuels, like coal, natural gas, and oil. These greenhouse gases can cause changes in global weather, climate, and even sea levels, which disrupt ecosystems around the world. However, there are many opportunities to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, such as driving less, going paperless, and recycling.

For more information

NOAA National Climatic Data Center

The ABCS of Climate Change

Columbia University: Climate Change Information

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