June 2008 - Posts

The other day the ambient air temperature in Tallahassee dropped to a pleasant sub-80s in the middle of the day--did you catch that? Well, upon walking in to the house, I noticed that not only was it cooler outside than inside, but the a/c was running. I realized, likewise, that it is nearly always under 80 out by the time we go to bed at night, too, and yet we keep the windows and doors shut and leave the a/c on. Meanwhile, we occasionally bemoan the lack of fresh air circulating. Hence, my latest tip. Pay attention to the weather! If it's cooler outside than inside, consider shutting off the a/c and opening the windows! Simple! 

And, on the topic of cooling--we keep the thermostat set at a slightly warm 80 F while we're home, 84 while we're at work. This is per the power company's instructions on how much you can let it warm up over the work day and still see a net savings in electricity usage (taking into account the extra power it takes to reduce it to--as opposed to maintain it at--your desired temperature). I haven't seen enough summer time utility bills since I've lived here to corroborate this, but I have used the same premise for winter time heating in cold climates and it proved to save a good 10% on the heating bills. If you're serious about this method of using less power--for your budget or for the environment--it may pay off to invest in a digital programmable thermostat (in some areas, utility companies subsidize this--my old house was able to upgrade to one for about $50).

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It's almost time! At 8 tonight (Eastern Time) the North Pole will be closer to the sun than at any other time this year! Known as the Summer Solstice, this relative position of Earth to Sun heralds the official beginning of Summer.

Of course, if you live here in Tallahassee, it seems like it already started and tonight is more of a symbol or reminder than anything else... But growing up, I lived in a climate where the rains didn't end until around the 4th of July (and picked up again in time for Halloween for another nine full months of misty cloud cover and intermittent rain), so the first day of summer was more like a promise and it meant a lot. There, real summer was the time when the winds picked up heavy from the north and the sun came out at least half the days. As much as I can tell so far, summer here is the time when, um, it's really hot and there are a lot of crepe myrtles in bloom, fleas invade, and the water in the Gulf is too hot to swim in. But as of yet, I still think this is a fair trade for a winter sky full of sun.

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My co-worker was recently lamenting how many paper towels she goes through a day at work and decided to bring a cloth napkin to work with her. If only everyone would make that choice!

But if you aren't ready to do without papertowels altogether, consider buying the type that are perforated into smaller "half sheet" sections. I, for one, never need a full size paper towel to dry my hands. If you find you can't get by without the super-sized extra-absorbent heavy duty ones, consider keeping two types on hand--one for the big jobs, one for the small jobs.

And while you're at it, consider buying unbleached versions when they're available. The standard bleaching process contributes chemical pollutants to air, soil and water, and leaves dioxin--a carcinogen--as a byproduct in the paper towels themselves.

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Here's a totally random tip for making your life a tad more green.

You know those plastic gravity tubes? The ones that stand upright on their lid, which is usually a flip top? I think they're most commonly used for things like lotions and hair goop, but I've also seen them used for kitchen herb pastes and various other things. I know they're a great way to dispense small amounts of whatever, and they're much more portable that pump dispensers and all.

But do you ever get annoyed that you can't squeeze the last of the contents out? If you do, you need this neat trick that Ann taught me: When gravity has done what it can't and you can't force any more product out, but you know it's in there, you can laterally cut open the tube. (Regular craft or kitchen scissors work fine for this task.) This gives you easy access to the contents, and you can use the top portion as a "lid" for the tube until it's truly empty. 

At first I thought this was a little extreme, but a few weeks ago my abused hands really needed some lotion and only had a depleted squeeze tube. I went ahead and cut it open more out of necessity than ecological concern. And it turned out I had a couple weeks worth of lotion left that I would've thrown out otherwise! Who knew?

Give it try! Save yourself a couple bucks here and there, throw away less of what you buy, and use less packaging, all with one cut!



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