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New Years Resolutions to Keep in 2017

Posted on January 2, 2017 by | Comments Off

2017Each year we all make a bunch of promises to ourselves at the turn of the new year. We promise to be healthier, start saving money, live life to the fullest and more. Unfortunately, reducing our collective environmental impact hasn’t yet made it to the top of the New Year’s resolutions list. But that’s OK. No, really, it’s fine. Most people don’t realize that going green is already a part of their goal for 2017…and that’s where we come in! Here are some of the most popular resolutions for the new year and a few tips on how green living can help you meet your goal.

A New Year Means a New (Greener) You

1. Lose Weight. Who hasn’t made this resolution? I’m pretty sure I make it every year! But losing weight and green living have a lot in common. For starters, if you’re ditching fast food and other convenience foods then you’re reducing the amount of waste you produce. In place of these wasteful (and unhealthy) convenience foods, you’ll likely be packing a lunch in reusable containers and cooking at home more often. You’ll also want to keep a refillable water bottle with you all the time to fill with tap water and keep your body hydrated. See, green living is so easy you didn’t even realize you were already doing it!

2. Get Organized. This is probably one resolution I should make, but let’s be honest, I’d never keep it! Being organized means getting rid of unnecessary clutter in your home. And that’s the perfect time to refresh your knowledge on what’s recyclable, what’s reusable and what’s plain old trash. Get out some boxes and label them: Keep, Donate, Recycle and Trash. Keep what you need, donate what can be reused, recycle everything your city/county will accept and make the landfill a last resort. And don’t underestimate the power of donation. Even items like old bedsheets/towels, worn out shoes and dinosaur electronics  have value to the charities that are able to reuse or resell them. For example, old towels and linens seem like trash but are actually an important part of caring for animals at local animal shelters.  

3. Spend Less, Save More. This one is easy. Green living  is all about saving money! Whether you are switching from bottled water to tap water, adjusting your thermostat up or down a couple degrees or starting a carpool, you’ll be saving money and reducing your environmental impact. Saving more is almost always the same as using less and that’s great for the environment as well as your wallet!

4. Learn Something New. Looking to add a new hobby to your life? Consider taking up composting, upcycling, refurbishment projects or gardening. You could even take on backyard chickens! Yes, there are plenty of other new skills to learn in 2017, but why not take on something that benefits you and your surrounding community?

5. Quit Smoking. Kicking the cigarette habit is a big deal and it’s not easy. In return for your hard work, you’ll receive multiple benefits. Non-smokers are healthier and have reduced risks for cancer and other health problems. Non-smokers are also known to litter less. Yep, that’s right. Most smokers are guilty of flicking cigarette butts out the car window, onto the sidewalk or wherever they find themselves without a proper ash receptacle. In fact, cigarette butts are the most commonly littered item in Virginia and across the world. Your community and your local waterways will thank you for not smoking!

We wish you much success as you tackle a new (greener) you in 2017. Happy New Year from all of us at askHRgreen.org!

Posted in: Going Green, Holidays

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Engineering Responsible, Renewable Energy

Posted on December 14, 2016 by | Comments Off

curtains-1854110_960_720Traditionally, the fuel of choice for human beings has been carbon based. According to the EPA, over 5,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere every year. However, this pollution may also be the driving force behind global warming and climate change. If human beings are going to fend off challenges like climate change and pollution, we must engineer new sources of renewable energy. Here are a few examples of how engineering is leading to a more eco-friendly future.

Infrared Radiation as a Power Source

One recent discovery has been the possibility of using the earth’s own infrared radiation as a sustainable power source. According to mic.com, the earth releases over 100 million gigawatts of infrared radiation originating from the sun back into the atmosphere every day. Engineers believe that antennas placed into orbit may be able to harvest this radiation as a renewable energy source.

Nuclear Fusion Is the Power of the Future

While once a thing only explored in speculative science fiction, nuclear fusion as a high tech power source will soon be a reality. The first nuclear fusion power generator is in fact currently being constructed in France at the Cadarache scientific research center. The power will be generated by fusing two different kinds of hydrogen, tritium and deuterium, together. When finally activated, this fusion generator should be able to produce much more power than a traditional nuclear generator. In fact, it will produce ten times the energy that is required to operate the power plant.

Transparent Solar Panels

While solar panels are a renewable energy source that has been with us for many decades now, the tech is about to receive a significant boost that may greatly increase its use by consumers. Transparent solar panels that can be seen through exactly like glass are currently being developed by engineers and scientists. No longer will ugly solar panels have to be placed on a home’s roof. Instead, they could exist as its windows. The possibilities are great indeed.

Engineering Better Energy Usage Techniques

Engineers are constantly looking for new ways to improve technologies. Recently, a big push has been made towards increased energy efficiency in industrial equipment as well as consumer products. Appliances that use the Energy Star label, for example, consume far less energy than their predecessors. New exciting techniques are constantly being employed to get more than ever before out of far less energy.

Overall, the possibility of achieving an energy independent future free of fossil fuels is a distinct possibility. Thanks to the hard work of engineers and scientists, many different alternative fuels and energy efficient methods for powering devices will soon hit the market.

This guest post submitted by Rachelle Wilber, a freelance writer living in the San Diego, California area. She graduated from San Diego State University with her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. Rachelle recommends that those interested in engineering better energy usage, click here to get more information

Posted in: Going Green

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An Energy Efficient Makeover for Your Fireplace

Posted on December 5, 2016 by | Comments Off

fireplaceIf you have tried to supplement your home’s heating system by building a roaring fire in an open masonry fireplace, you might have been doing more harm than good. About 70 to 90 percent of heat energy in the wood you burned disappeared up the chimney. To keep burning, the fire consumed the oxygen in the room—the air that was heated by your furnace or boiler. Plus, the smoke that spilled from your chimney contained noxious gases and particulates that contribute to air pollution.

Fireplace Inserts

Inserts are sealed fireboxes that fit into the opening of your fireplace, usually with glass fronts so that you can watch the flames. They convert 75 to 85 percent of the fuel they consume into heat. They can burn wood like a traditional fireplace, but gas and electrical inserts are also available. Some are purely decorative, but others can provide a significant amount of heat. Products list their heat output in British Thermal Units (Btu). As a general rule, the Department of Energy says that an insert rated at 60,000 Btu can heat a 2,000-square foot home; one rated at 42,000 Btu can heat a 1,300-square foot space.

  • Wood-Burning Inserts. These are the closest inserts to the traditional fireplace experience. They burn cleaner than traditional fireplaces, thanks to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations passed in 2015 that restrict particle emissions to 4.5 grams per hour. Good units have a blower fan that heats room air and recirculates it back into the room. Installation may require a new flue liner that runs from the insert to the top of the chimney.
  •  Gas-Burning Inserts. These are the most popular types of inserts. They are powered by natural gas or propane, so you will need a gas line in the fireplace. Most models work with remotes for easy start up, and you can adjust the height of the flames. Gas inserts have non-burning ceramic logs to give the impression of a roaring fire. Traditional gas inserts are vented through the masonry chimney, but direct-vent models are also available. In this type, a vent pipe goes out the back of the unit and directly through a wall. This eliminates the need for a traditional masonry chimney.
  • Pellet Inserts. These are fueled by pellets made from compressed wood waste and other materials. The pellets are placed into a hopper and then automatically fed into the fire. As with wood-burning inserts, pellet inserts are certified by the EPA for emission control.
  • Electric Inserts. These are mainly used for decorative purposes. Some produce heat, but heating with electricity is an expensive option.

If you’re concerned about conserving energy and lowering your home’s energy bill, you may want to consider a fireplace insert in place of the traditional option. It’s an environmentally-friendly way to add warmth or style to your home during the winter months.

Fran Donegan writes on home heating topics for The Home Depot. Fran is a longtime DIY writer, and is the author of the book Paint Your Home

Posted in: Going Green, Household tips

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5 Ways to a Greener Holiday Season

Posted on November 30, 2016 by | Comments Off

christmas-734866_960_720For many Americans reducing, reusing, and recycling is as far from their thoughts as starting a holiday diet. With very little effort and a few tips you can trim down your holiday waste.

  1. Reusable Bags - Don’t have one of those fancy store bought totes? No worries! Grab any reusable bag, even that beach tote you retired for the winter. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States every year. So as you can see, any bag is better than a plastic bag!
  2. Recycle While You Cook - Make food prep a snap by keeping a recycling bin nearby. Recycling while you cook is easier than you think. Tin and steel cans, clean aluminum foil and pie pans, glass bottles and jars, cardboard, clean mixed paper and in some cities you can now recycle cartons too. Not sure what is accepted? Check out your city’s waste management website.
  3. Dust Off the Fine China - Pull out grandma’s china and linens and treat your guest to a holiday meal that they will remember. Using what you have or even borrowing items eliminates disposable plates, drinkware, utensils, and napkins from going into the landfill.
  4. Grab a Growler - It’s no secret that Hampton Roads has amazing breweries as well as growler filling stations available. Opting for growlers over bottles and cans will aid you in your quest to be greener this holiday. Growlers reduce the need to buy cans and bottles and can be repurposed to hold other refreshments such as water and sweet tea.
  5. BYOC - Inviting guests? Have plans to be a guest? BYOC, otherwise known as “Bring Your Own Container”, to reduce your carbon footprint and be more eco-friendly by preventing the use of plastic storage containers, plastic wrap, and other single use plastics this holiday season.

With a little pre-planning and consideration for doing the right thing you can make small changes that produce big results.

Guest blog contributed by Kristi Rines, Recycling Coordinator for the City of Virginia Beach.

Posted in: Beautification, Going Green, Holidays, Household tips, Reduce reuse and recycle

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Gifts That Keep On Giving

Posted on November 17, 2016 by | Comments Off

Green Holiday WrappingAs hard as it is to believe, Thanksgiving is just one week away and that means we have a month to go until the “gift-givingist” time of the year. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of time to get the right presents for all those special people in your life. There’s also still time for you to put a plan together for how you can give responsibly this year.

Show someone you care by purchasing memberships or event tickets to give someone an experience instead of something that may just end up sitting on a shelf or in a closet. If you are shopping for someone who has it all or just really doesn’t need anything, consider making a donation to a charitable organization in their name. Shop small and local with businesses and artisans/entrepreneurs to support our local economy with your holiday spending instead of sending your hard-earned money elsewhere. Seek out companies with Fair Trade CertifiedTM products to let your loved one know that their gift is helping to ensure healthy, safe working conditions and improving communities the world over. And finally, think about supporting companies that give back, like Toms or Warby Parker, by donating products to someone in need for every product they sell. 

Get creative and show someone you care in a special way this holiday season. There are plenty of ways to give a gift that gives back in some way, shape or form. Happy shopping and happy holidays from the askHRgreen.org team! 

Posted in: Going Green, Holidays

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