Thursday, September 27, 2012

Workplace Recycling

Ever wanted to set up a recycling program for your office, but just didn't know where to begin? Erick Thompson over at sent us a link to his step-by-step guide. You can check it out at IndustrialSpace.Net. Let Erick, (and us) in on any other tips you might have and let us know what you think!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

5 Unconventional Ways to Cut Home Utility Costs

Guest post by Melissa Lynne, freelance writer for Systrum Energy, a third party energy supplier serving New Jersey.

For the average American household, monthly utility bills represent a significant chunk of the family budget, usually 5 – 10 percent of monthly expenses.  Since utilities are such a big chunk of your expenses, there are probably a number of ways that you can effectively cut your home energy costs each month. While many people may see “going green” as an additional expense, there are a number of green practices that can help you slash your monthly bills.

At this point, we all know how to set the thermostat higher when we sleep or leave the house. We know that we can turn the water heater down a little bit. We know that compact fluorescent bulbs use 75 percent less energy than traditional bulbs. If you are already using some of these responsible practices, you’re on the right track. However, there are a number of unconventional, but effective, ways that you can cut your home energy costs.

Plant Trees as Winter Windbreaks and Summer Shade

Planting trees around your home can bring significant energy savings each month. The US Forest Service showed that having just three trees around your home can cut air conditioning costs by nearly 25 percent annually. Windbreak trees reduce heating costs by lowering the wind chill around your home in the winter and can help keep snow from piling up around your house. In the summer, trees can cut down on sunlight and reduce your air conditioning needs.

Consider an Artificial Lawn

When most people think of artificial turf, they think of the cheap plastic grass that appeared a decade ago. A decade ago, that turf would hold water and deny air and moisture to the ground beneath, choking out nearby trees and other plants. Today, artificial turf is much different; now, it’s made of space-age fabrics that can breathe and let water pass freely. While the thought of an artificial turf may make you cringe, consider this: the typical grass lawn soaks up 6,000-10,000 gallons of water each year to stay green.

Consider a Third-Party Energy Supplier

While it’s possible to negotiate discounts and rebates for new appliances, trying to cut your costs through your utility company can be like trying to squeeze money from a stone. Switching to a third-party electricity supplier like Systrum Energy can save you up to 20 percent on electricity and natural gas costs. Third-party utility companies work with your local utility to build a structured discount, giving you a lower rate for the same energy you’re getting.

Use Gray Water for Certain Tasks

Gray water is the runoff from your sinks and showers, and many homeowners have begun to use it to flush toilets, irrigate the lawn and even do the laundry. While it can significantly reduce your water use, you will need a system to divert it from drains and to treat the water for contaminants. Gray water can be a terrific replacement for lawn irrigation, since it will require minimal treatment and significantly recycles your water.

Assess Your Water Rates

Even if you don’t redirect your water to your lawn, there are a number of little changes you can make to drastically reduce your water usage. Installing low-flow aerators on all your faucets and showerheads you can cut water flow by up to 75 percent per minute. Using a save-a-flush in your toilet cistern (usually available for free from your water company) can save more than 2,600 gallons of water each year.

Editor's note: We welcome guest posts like the one above. Please contact if you would like to submit an article for consideration.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Clean Energy Victory Bonds

Green America has, for several years, been promoting the idea of Clean Energy Victory Bonds which would make it possible for Americans to invest in clean energy . The problem has been that it takes an act of Congress before  the U.S . Treasury can issue these bonds.

According to the Green America blog, such a bill was introduced to the House of Representatives in August of 2012.

From the Green America blog here's a brief overview of this program:

"Clean Energy Victory Bonds (CEVBs) are proposed U.S. Treasury bonds modeled after Victory Bonds sold during the First and Second World Wars.  During World War II, 85 million Americans purchased Victory Bonds that generated $185 billion (over $2 trillion in today’s dollars) for the war effort.  Today, in the search for new clean energy sources, America faces the same sense of urgency to find a national solution.  Through the same patriotism demonstrated during WWII, CEVBs would allow Americans to invest billions of dollars in clean energy.  All Americans could participate in this investment towards the future of clean energy, energy independence, and job creation as the bonds could be available for as little as $25."

More information is available on the Clean Energy Victory Bonds' website.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Little is Large on the 2012 BIG! Home Tour

The Water House
Guest post by Valerie Garrett

The City of Portland’s Build It Green! Home Tour and Info Fair (BIG!) turns eleven this year. BIG! is a self-guided tour of 16 green remodels and new homes around Portland. The Home Preview web page is a great place to begin planning your tour day, as it’s easy to start and stop where you choose.  With so many homes to see, tour-goers usually check out the free Info Fair at Green Depot first, then prioritize the homes based on their features.

As they move through their route, tour-goers can chat with homeowners, designers, do-it-yourselfers and contractors about space-efficient dwellings, solar panels, green roofs, rainwater harvesting, natural landscaping, affordable housing, water and energy conservation, natural building materials and alternative construction techniques.

Tour date: Saturday, September 22, 2012, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m

Eight accessory dwelling units (ADUs) will open their doors on tour day.  All of these “backyard cottages” are new construction projects, with the exception of a converted garage.

For the Master-Draper ADU, an existing garage was converted into an energy-efficient art studio and compact dwelling, maintaining the existing footprint.  An open outdoor room with sliding doors extends living space to the pocket garden.  In 480 sq. ft. of living space, features include a salvaged farm sink, wine barrel stave railings, day lit loft and a mosaic bathroom designed and tiled by the owner.

The 240 sq. ft. pre-fab minibox from ideabox is designed to fit on a trailer for ease of transport anywhere in the United States. It can be a tiny house, a backyard retreat, an office space, a studio or a guest cottage. IKEA cabinets complement the modern, efficient, functional design aesthetic.

Walt Quade’s home, 80 sq. ft. pre-fab studio, teardrop trailer and 325 sq. ft. ADU for his sister-in-law is also featured on the tour.

Guest house at Planet Repair Inst.
Among other homes you’ll visit are an eclectic accessible remodel featuring Universal Design elements; Planet Repair Institute featuring shared community, natural building techniques and permaculture; the Whitridge Full Plane House expressing the homeowner’s deeply held values of a low-impact home suitable for raising children; and Cully Grove, a new pocket neighborhood of 16 dwellings, common gardens and guest house.

New this year are drop-in workshops at several homes included with the ticket price. Topics included are small home communities, rainwater harvesting, Living Building Challenge, Energy Performance Score, permaculture and more.

The Info Fair at Green Depot is a prelude to the Tour with green vendors, demonstrations, food, drink and music. The fun begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m. Green Depot is located at 819 SE Taylor, Portland. The Info Fair is FREE and open to all.

Tickets are required for the tour homes.  These are available online or in person at Green
Affordable Courtyard Housing
Depot starting in mid-August.

o $15 general admission
o $10 honored citizens/students/alternative transportation.
o Children 13 years-old and under are FREE.

Want a free Tour ticket? Volunteer for the Tour or Info Fair!

Want more info or have a project you’d like to be considered for 2013? Send an e-mail to Valerie Garrett, tour coordinator,

BIG! is sponsored by Metro, Energy Trust of Oregon, Oregon Home, Solar Oregon, Green Depot, KINK-FM, City of Portland Bureaus of Development Services, Environmental Services, and Water.

Editor's note: We welcome guest posts like the one above. Please contact if you would like to submit an article for consideration.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Four-legged Lawn Mowers and Landscape Helpers Can Cut Your Grass and Your Carbon Footprint

photo: Cornell University
One way to take care of your lawn without cranking up a fossil-fuel driven machine is to hire an animal to do it. This little infographic from Movoto blog will let you calculate the number of critters, depending upon animal type and size of yard, that you will need to get the job done!

Check this link Animal Unemployment: Hire A Goat  for an amusing article, courtesy of MOVOTO, about five types of animal landscapers.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Got Garbage? Sweep It under the Bridge.

Apparently in the 1930's we just threw our garbage off of a scenic bridge.
Admittedly garbage did not consist of the plastic and the toxins it does today.

Both the picture post card of The Bridge of the Gods and this exchange of  3 letters in the Forest Service regarding a complaint from the Oregon State Police are from the early 1930's.

Interesting to note that the 2nd letter states that it is legal to dump garbage into the river.