Category Archives: Environmental

22 Energy Saving Tips for Your Home

I’m always amused by people who brush off energy-saving efforts as being part of some “global-warming” conspiracy. Then I show them how much we’ve saved on energy bills, by making simple changes; they change their tune quickly. Even if you believe the scientific community has it wrong on the environmental crisis we face, think of the money you can save by being more energy efficient at home.

There are many things we can do to use energy wisely. One of the easiest things to do is turning lights and other appliances off when we’re not using them. I’ve gathered a few tips to help you use energy wisely.

  1. Install motion sensors to turn lights on and off automatically.
  2. Use a programmable furnace thermostat to reduce energy use when you’re not at home.
  3. Install blinds or curtains on windows to keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
  4. On sunny winter days, keep curtains open to allow the sunshine to help warm your home.
  5. On sunny summer days, keep the curtains closed to keep the house cool.
  6. Use timers on Christmas lights and car block heaters instead of using power all night.
  7. Replace worn weatherstripping on doors and windows to reduce winter drafts.
  8. Use a ceiling fan: blowing down in the winter and up in the summer.
  9. Use energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs which are four times more efficient and last about eight times as long as incandescent bulbs.
  10. If you use incandescent bulbs, install a dimmer switch; a bulb dimmed by 25 per cent uses 10 per cent less energy.
  11. Save energy by using small appliances such as a microwave, a slow cooker, an electric kettle, or a toaster oven instead of the stove or oven.
  12. Run a dishwasher late at night and let your dishes air dry.
  13. Switch to cold when doing your laundry. 85 – 90% of the energy used to wash your clothes is used to heat the water. By turning the dial to cold on your washing machine, you help the environment, save energy, and save money.
  14. Use a clothes dryer late at night or hang clothes outside to dry on a sunny day.
  15. Clean or replace the furnace filter every 1-2 months – a dirty filter reduces the airflow and forces the furnace to run longer to heat your home.
  16. Use plastic window covers to help prevent heat loss in the winter.
  17. Install low-flow shower heads and faucets.
  18. Dripping taps can waste 9,000 litres of hot water each year. Replace leaky washers and save the hot water.
  19. Take short showers instead of baths. A five-minute shower uses about half as much water as a bath.
  20. Replace large-volume toilets with 6-litre-per-flush models, saving at least 70 percent of the water used.
  21. Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth and save 7-12 litres of water per minute.
  22. Close the damper in a wood fireplace to prevent warm air from escaping through the chimney and ensure the damper fits properly.

What other suggestions would you make?

Tips for Reducing Household Water Consumption

Water conservation is important, even where there seems to be an abundance of water. In addition to saving money on your utility bill, water conservation helps prevent water pollution in nearby lakes, rivers and local watersheds.

In 2004, the average Canadian daily domestic use of fresh water per capita was 329 litres (87 U.S. gallons). We can reduce water consumption in the home, and in business, by 40% or more, without having to make major lifestyle changes or invest in costly infrastructure.

Here are a few easy-to-implement suggestions for cutting back on water usage:

1. Check for leaks and fix them. A dripping faucet can allow up to two gallons per hour to be wasted. Toilets are also prime suspects. To check, simply drop some food coloring into the tank (not the bowl) and wait 15 minutes. If colored water shows up in the bowl, you have a leaker.

2. Use water-saving shower heads and faucets. High-flow shower heads spew water out at 6-10 gallons a minute. Flow restriction devices can cut the flow in half without reducing pressure. Take short showers – five minutes or less should do. If you prefer baths, fill the tub only one-quarter full.

3. Water your lawn and plants early in the day. This practice will reduce the loss of water due to evaporation. Late watering also reduces evaporation. During the summer, water your plants slowly and infrequently. Consider drip irrigation for garden areas, which help add water just where it is needed.

4. Use a pistol-grip nozzle on your hose. When washing your car, you can easily shut off the water after each hosing. Remember, a full-open hose can discharge upwards of 50 gallons of water in just 5 minutes. Better still, fill a bucket with water and use a sponge.

5. Don’t let faucets run continuously. This is especially true when shaving, brushing your teeth and rinsing the dishes. An open faucet allows 5 gallons to pass in as little as 2 minutes.

6. Review your toilets’ water consumption. Don’t use your toilets as an ashtray or wastebasket. Flushing gallons of water for these purposes is very wasteful. Old toilets use 3-5 gallons per flush; new toilets are low-flow (1.6 gallons per flush) models to help conserve water.

7. Run only full loads in the washing machine and dishwasher.

8. Keep a bottle of drinking water in the refrigerator rather than letting your tap run to get cold water when you want a drink. (Rinse the bottle every few days.)

3 Simple Steps to a Healthy Home

We spend a substantial percentage of time indoors. Between the workplace, home, shopping, entertainment, etc., we can spend as much as 90% of our time in a building. On average, we spend 50% of our time at home.

Recent studies have shown that indoor environments can contain a range of harmful pollutants including mould, radon, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and that old classic, cigarette smoke.

While there is not much you can do about air quality in most of the public buildings you frequent, you can easily make changes to improve the air quality in your home.

There are three steps you need to look at:

  1. Eliminate
    • products that give off gases: treated drapes, vinyl, plastic, composite wood, etc.
    • chemical cleaners
    • paint and solvents—store them in a shed or garage, away from the house.
    • Standard air fresheners
    • cigarette smoke
  2. Ventilate
    • make sure your home has adequate ventilation
    • make sure the fans exhaust to the outdoors and not into the attic or back into the room
    • run bathroom and kitchen fans for 20 minutes after showering or cooking
  3. Filter
    • Make sure you have good furnace filters and change them regularly
    • Use the kitchen exhaust fan while cooking to eliminate grease and clean the filters regularly
    • Regularly change or clean vacuum bags and filters

This Summer Leave No Trace

We’re preparing our travel trailer for several weeks of camping over the next couple or three months. Part of our preparation is ensuring that our activities do not leave a mark or effect on the natural or cultural environments we visit.

What does it mean to leave no trace? It means enjoying outdoor activities to the fullest yet leaving no sign that you were ever there.

Leave No Trace Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting outdoor ethics, promotes an environmental education program to raise public awareness regarding the importance of respecting Canada’s wilderness and natural areas by providing the public with proven solutions to protect and enjoy our natural areas.

The program has seven principles:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What you Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impact
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Others.

Some of the ways you can put the principles into practice:

  • Pack out all garbage, and pick up garbage left behind by other campers
  • Take only pictures
  • Hike along existing trails whenever possible
  • Don’t wash dishes (or bathe) directly in lakes, rivers, streams or ponds
  • Use biodegradable soaps and shampoos
  • Don’t feed or harass wildlife
  • Use stoves, where possible, instead of an open fire
  • Respect the rights of fellow campers – keep voices low and leave radios at home
  • Don’t cut down living plants or trees
  • Buy or repackage food into burnable or reusable containers
  • If you have a large group, divide into several smaller parties and camp on different sites at least 100 metres apart to lessen environmental impact
  • Don’t dig trenches around tents, and don’t dig holes for grease pits

Optimize Your Equipment for an Energy-Smart Office

Computers, printers, photo-copiers, fax machines and scanners are essential equipment in the office and in many cases, the home. They are tools we rely on each day to do our jobs effectively and efficiently and it is difficult to imagine working without them. However, there is a price to be paid for the convenience offered by current office technology, and it’s a price that goes well beyond the purchase cost.

Computers and other types of office equipment represent the fastest-growing use of electricity in commercial buildings and homes in the United States today, and there is no reason to believe that the situation is any different in Canada. Twenty years ago, office equipment accounted for only about 1 percent of the total energy consumed in a typical office. Today it accounts for as much as 20 percent of office energy consumption.

With the cost of electricity on the rise, this increase in energy consumption by office equipment is no small matter. However, it can be a difficult one to pin down. Although business is aware of the purchase price of different types of equipment, ongoing energy costs—the so-called “second price tag”—often remain hidden because they are rolled into one large utility bill at the end of the month. Depending on the type and model of equipment you purchase, your electricity expenses could exceed the purchase price, over the life of the machine.

The good news is, the situation is not hopeless—in fact, it’s well within your control. By understanding how office equipment affects your utility costs and what you can do about it, you can plan today for an energy-smart, environmentally-responsible office that will be just as efficient and productive as it is today—perhaps even more so!

How Office Equipment Increases Your Utility Costs

Each machine in your office increases your electricity bill in three ways:

  1. uses electricity while operating or when sitting idle. Although things are changing for the better, many office machines are not built with energy efficiency in mind, which means they use more energy than is required to complete a task.
  2. adds to the total electricity demand in the office during peak daytime hours, when utilities charge a premium for higher demand.
  3. generates heat, which causes indoor temperatures to rise and increases the demand for air conditioning in the summer months. By some estimates, energy consumption by cooling systems may increase by as much as 40 percent to counteract the heat generated by office equipment.

There are other costs associated with operating office equipment:

  • In older buildings, increases in power density (watts per square meter) caused by an abundance of office machines can lead to expensive upgrades of electrical systems.
  • In new buildings, electrical systems are being installed with higher load capacities, at a higher cost.
  • Taxes and electricity rates may rise if demand reaches the point where new electricity-generating and distribution facilities are needed.
  • The cost of consumables (e.g., paper and toner for copiers and printers) will increase proportionately the more the equipment is used.

Usage Habits Also Affect Energy Consumption

How a piece of equipment is designed and manufactured has a significant impact on its overall energy consumption, but usage habits can be even more important.

The easiest way to save energy and money is to simply turn off equipment when it is not in use. Another is to adjust settings to shut off a computer, monitor, printer, and other equipment after a user-specified period of inactivity. Activating power management for your office equipment can do more than save energy, it can extend operating life.

Another key to an energy-smart office is to manage information rather than paper. Communicating electronically is fast, efficient and uses far less energy than producing text or images on paper. Storing information electronically, rather than on paper, can also save vast amounts of money and space. In short, reducing your office’s use of paper will lower your energy, operating and capital costs and increase your competitiveness, productivity, and profitability.

This may require a “culture change” within your organization. Even though e-mail, networks, and electronic data-storage devices (high-capacity hard drives, diskettes, CD-ROMs and tape backup/restore systems) have been around for years, many people still print documents as a matter of habit. In many cases, this is simply a waste of paper, energy, money, and time. Although paper can be a valuable communications tool in some situations, it is often an overused one.

Addressing the “human factor” can be difficult—old habits are hard to break. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to implement basic policies to minimize energy consumption in the office. Whatever steps you take, explain what is being proposed, why, and, most importantly, show leadership by example.

Office Equipment and the Environment

Climate change is a serious global issue, and we all need to be part of the solution. The production of greenhouse gases and pollutants that cause urban smog can be minimized by reducing our use of electricity and other forms of energy, not only in the office but in factories and institutions, at home and on the road. Also, by controlling demand for electricity, we can help avoid the environmental damage caused during construction of new generating facilities.

There are other links between office equipment and the environment. The production of paper has a direct impact on the environment, both in terms of the energy expended in the production process and in the loss of trees, which provide the fiber needed to make paper. Trees also help address the greenhouse gas problem by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide. When trees are harvested, the carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere.

Despite recycling programs and initiatives, a great deal of used paper goes into landfill sites. Unless you have a recycling program in place, chances are your discarded computers, monitors, printers, and other equipment also end up in a landfill at the end of their useful lives. Attention to detail can help you purchase long-lasting, energy-efficient equipment and recyclable office products.