Helping Residents Dream Green
The main principles of a green movement are reduce, reuse, and recycle. How do we really achieve them? Broken down to the most basic ideas, reduce what you buy and what you use, reuse everything that you can, and recycle items that are no longer of use. You can join the millions of other Americans who are doing their part to help our environment.
Many people don't realize how many quick and easy solutions there are to reducing consumption in their homes. Walk through your home room by room and make a list of areas you think can be improved. To reduce energy use check your lights, other items that are plugged in, air vents, and inspect major appliances.
Changing lighting from regular incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) can save you an estimated 75% of the energy usage, which equates to about a $30 savings over the life of the bulb. According to an Energy Star report if every household in America changed just one bulb in their house from incandescent to a CFL, the reduced green house gas emmissions would be equal to taking 800,000 cars off the roads. Take a look at how many light fixtures you have in each room and you begin to get an idea of how much impact one person can make.
Many items that are plugged in are in "stand-by" mode even when you don't think they are on. If you see a light shining on electronic equipment such as a TV, DVD player, game console, or a laptop, it means that the product is still using electricity.
An EPA report estimated that nearly 60% of all home energy usage is wasted electricity on products in "stand-by" mode. If you unplug electronics, or use power strips that allow you to turn off multiple items with one switch, you could possibly save hundreds of dollars a year on your energy bills. Also remember to always shut down computers and TV when not in use. Many new products have hibernation modes which make them more energy efficient than in the past, but while a hibernation mode may cut energy usage to 25 or 30 percent of normal use, that is still more than it will use turned off.
Air conditioners and furnaces are major energy consumers in the home, and there are simple ways to ensure more efficient service of these items. The first thing to do is make sure you clean and change your filters on a regular basis and have your air ducts cleaned once a year. A dirty filter or duct work means the appliance has to work harder to circulate the air used to heat or cool your residence, which in turn leads to higher energy use.
Second, try adjusting your thermostat to allow for slightly warmer temperatures in the summer or cooler temperatures in the winter. Every degree of temperature equates to a savings of between 2 and 5 percent of energy use. Many homes also have areas or rooms that are seldom used like spare bedrooms, basements, or offices. Make sure to shut the doors and close vents in these areas. The less area your system has to heat/cool the easier it will be on your wallet, and in turn on the environment.
Finally, do regular maintenance and inspections of your major appliances. By cleaning excess lint and debris from the vent on a dryer you not only reduce the energy usage of the machine, but you also reduce the heat it produces and remove a major cause of home fires. Similarly by doing a regular inspection of refrigerators, dish washers, water heaters, etc. you can ensure they are all working efficiently. While most people make sure to get regular oil changes and maintenance checks for their cars many never think about doing maintenance inspections and overlook problems on home appliances. Just remember the old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".
Next time you get ready to throw an item away stop and ask yourself if it could possibly be reused instead.
There are hundreds of items in the normal household that can be reused. Fabric softener sheets are designed to be used only one sheet per cycle. Sometimes articles of clothing don't require these sheets, but millions of Americans consistently use multiple sheets per load and throw them away after a single use. What many don't realize is that one sheet can be used multiple times, or they can serve other purposes.
Instead of throwing out your used sheets or letting them clutter your laundry room floor try using them to dust with, polish silver, or put them in your drawers with seasonal clothing to keep them fresh while packed away until they are needed again.
How many times have you bought a package of sliced meat from your local supermarket and thrown away the plastic container it comes in? Many companies now use reusable, re-sealable containers to ship everything from grocery items to clothing. Instead of throwing these plastic containers into your local landfill first consider using it for another purpose around your house. You may save yourself some money, and help the environment at the same time.
The last, and possibly the most important principle in protecting the environment, is recycling. The wonderful part is that it may have become the easiest thing for a person to start doing.
Many waste haulers now offer curbside recycling to residents at little or sometimes no charge, and almost every community now has a recycling center provided by its local government. Schools, churches, local businesses, and organizations often offer recycling opportunities at their locations.
As the abundance of options available for recycling has grown, so have the items that are accepted for recycling. Most plastic packaging containers, steel, tin, and aluminum cans, nearly all forms of paper, and glass are widely accepted at local drop-off centers. By making a few quick phone calls to your local waste haulers, or your local municipality, you can find what items are taken and how to gather the items.
Gardening and landscaping is an often overlooked area when it comes to the environment, which in itself sounds like it should be a common sense idea. The biggest culprits of environmental decay are excess water usage, fertilizers, and chemicals used to kill insects or other common pests.
Watering your lawn has been a habit for decades. Many of us remember playing in the hose as our parents watered the flowers, or jumping through the sprinkler as they watered the grass. These methods have given way to the in-ground irrigation systems that many owners have installed to insure proper lawn maintenance for the busy family. But many times both the old and new systems waste hundreds of gallons of water a month, and rack up water bills in which more water is used on the yard than the residents use inside.
Instead, install rain barrels to collect the water naturally. This water is clean of the chemicals that are in tap water which can hinder plant growth in some cases. Less than a third of an inch of rain falling on an average-size house can fill four 55 gallon rain barrels connected to the downspouts from your roof. This gives you plenty of water for vegetable or flower gardens, and with a small investment you can purchase a pump to use these barrels to water your entire property.
Fertilizers and pesticides are both full of dangerous chemicals which not only kill the intended targets, but can pose a threat to small children and pets playing in the area. In addition, while some of the chemicals end up performing as they are intended, many of these end up in our local water supplies, rivers, and lakes.
Instead of using fertilizers, create a compost heap. By doing a quick search on the internet you can find out how to create your own natural fertilizer for your plants with minimal effort. Additionally the healthy organic soil you get from composting has naturally occurring nematodes that are the natural predators of many common soil pests. Another tactic is to make sure you use native plants that require less fertilizer and have better immune systems to regional diseases and pests. Certain plants and flowers, such as marigolds, are also eco-friendly deterrents to harmful insects and animals. Lastly more organic gardens encourage natural predators like ladybugs, beetles, spiders, and birds to feed on pests in your garden.
While this may be one of the more extreme measures for a homeowner, it is also one of the most profitable. The upfront cost for installing a wind turbine or solar panels can be daunting, but the added benefits bring things back into perspective. While wind turbines lack the aesthetic value that prevents many homeowners from installing them, solar panels are a fairly inexpensive and innocuous solution for the environmentally conscience. The major uses of solar power are home heating, water heating or full energy usage.
The cheapest and fastest return on investment is installing a solar water heating system. It will pay for itself in three-five years for the average homeowner, depending on the climate, and require little maintenance. The systems used for water heating are specifically designed for different climates, so one can be found that will work almost no matter where you live. You can also purchase attachments that can be installed on your current gas or electric system to create a hybrid system for those not wanting to install a completely new system. Even these hybrid systems show tremendous savings over traditional methods.
A system used for full solar power electricity will take an average of 10-15 years, depending on the climate, to recoup the original cost. However, it also produces the greatest savings over the life of the system. A solar panel uses the radiation in the suns rays to create electricity, so on cloudy days and even at night some creation of energy continues. In addition, houses are still connected to the normal power grid for low production times.
When a solar electric system is installed on a house, any excess electricity is sent back to the energy grid. Missouri is one of many states in the country that credits homeowners for the electricity they create. This credit is deducted from the energy used by the homeowners leading to savings on energy bills and, in some cases a refund check, by the energy provider.
Energy Depot is a free web-based service provided by Independence Power & Light (IPL) to help residential customers save energy and money in the home. By clicking on the link below, free access will be provided to the following tools:
Give it a try, keeping in mind that setting temperatures up or down when you are away or asleep is an easy way to save energy and money without sacrificing comfort.
The ENERGY STAR Home Advisor can provide you with recommended home improvement projects to increase energy efficiency and comfort in the area where you live.
What's your score? Compare your household's energy use to others across the country and get recommendations for improvement.
Energy Star Asks: Are you doing all you can to maintain your home's heating and cooling system? Take the quiz and find out!
Get your home ready for Winter! Take a room-by-room tour of ENERGY STAR @ home and learn what you can do this fall to save energy, save money and help protect our environment in your own home.
Tax credits, rebates and new products make this a great time for improving your home's energy efficiency. Here are five things you should know about energy savings in your home:
Independence residents who make a certain income may be eligible for free home improvements through the Home Weatherization Program. The Home Weatherization Program assists homeowners by providing energy conservation services customized to meet their specific needs. Eligible applicants receive a two- to four-hour energy audit performed by a City employee, to determine where energy escapes and the most cost-effective way to correct energy use problems.
Residents of Jackson, Clay and Platte counties may apply to receive these services administered by the City of Kansas City, Missouri:
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) established and monitors the program criteria. DNR, Kansas City Power & Light (KCPL), Missouri Gas Energy, Aquila, Ameren UE, City of Independence Missouri and Empire Electric provide funding for the program.
For more information about income guidelines and the application process, visit the City of Kansas City's web site.