With all the stigma surrounding global warming and the rising pressure to live more sustainable lifestyles, drastic changes have been suggested that might disrupt most people in their everyday lives. However, there are some things that people can do to help the environment one little step at a time.
Many of these tips come courtesy of Prospect Park residents, via an e-list conversation that sprang up earlier this summer, including a list from the St. Frances Cabrini Peace and Justice Committee.
Have an energy audit through your electric company. One resident writes, “We thought it was worth it, if only to find out that our only ‘insulation’ was a single layer of tar paper.”
Your auditor will give you suggestions to help increase the energy efficiency of your home, as well as cut back on your electric bill.
Instead of letting your boss throw away all of the company’s important documents or worrying about all your previous confidential forms, find a company to shred your documents. One resident suggests:
American Paper Recycling Corp
615 Prior Ave North
Saint Paul, MN, 55104-1743
Your paper must be shredder ready — no binders, paper clips, or binder clips. Staples are ok. You may watch your paper being shredded if you wish.
Obviously, walking is better for the environment than a car that emits greenhouse gases, but how can you implement walking into your everyday life? Go to www.walkscore.com and see how “walkable” your neighborhood is. You may be surprised by where your two feet can carry you.
When walking isn’t an option, use the HourCar program. People in the Twin Cities have the opportunity to participate in this car-sharing program that will save you money. Visit www.hourcar.org.
“Our solar hot water system is working very well — it cut our summer gas use last year by 1/3 to 1/2,” wrote one resident. “We haven’t run the numbers for winter, but you’d be surprised how many days it kicks in even when it’s cold outside.”
Visit www.solarpowerdirectory.com for local solar power options.
Hang it out to dry. You don’t necessarily have to hang all of it out, but every little bit helps.
Things to keep in mind when remodeling — suggestions from the EcoDEEP House, sustainable remodeling is made easier!
Wood — Ipe is more durable than redwood and cedar, has a life expectancy of 40 years or more, and is resistant to insects and decay. Ipe is sustainably harvested in Brazil, though it is not cheap. It can be even higher or similar in cost to redwood — but it is durable, so if you consider the life-cycle costs, it is easier to swallow.
Also, consider composite materials. Trex is made of 50 percent recycled wood and 50 percent recycled plastic. It never needs sanding, it doesn’t splinter and it is protected from insects and sun damage. Visit www.trex.com for more information.
Bamboo is another option. Although bamboo is a grass, it looks and functions similar to traditional hardwood floors. Visit www.teragren.com.
Cork is yet another option. The bark from cork trees is harvested every 9-12 years, without any harm to the tree. Visit www.tomkt.com.
Also available is wood made from the trees around Minnesota that have been cut down because of Elm’s Disease. Visit www.naturalbuilthome.com and search “wood from the hood”.
Carpet — FLOR is a modular carpet system made by Interface. It’s a do-it-yourself system that allows you to change and rearrange carpet tiles. If the carpet stains, you only have to change one tile instead of re-carpeting the whole room. Interface pledges to eliminate any negative impact they may have on the environment by 2020. FLOR is also completely recyclable. You can call up Interface and they will arrange to pay for shipping costs to send the FLOR tiles back to them at the end of their useful life. Visit www.flor.com.
Cement board siding — Cement board is composed of natural materials- wood pulp, cement, sand and water. It’s a very durable material with a 50-year warranty. Cement board resists damage from insects and flame spread. You can get the product in a pre-finished baked-on paint (limited colors) that has a 15-year warranty, or you can paint it. Paint holds on to cement board much better than wood, so it requires very little maintenance. Visit www.jameshardie.com.
Insulation — There are a few different options that offer different advantages. Cellulose is made from recycled newspaper. Cotton insulation is made from preconsumer denim scrap. As for spray foam insulation, closed cell polyurethane is used both for cavity installation and as an insulating roofing material. Open cell polyurethane are very effective for older buildings as they seal very well and their flexibility allows for some movement of the framing materials as shrinkage and expansion occur.
Countertops made out of recycled paper are durable, stable and available in many different colors. Papertone is one option. Visit paperstoneproducts.com, or www.shetkastone.com for a local provider.
Cabinets made out of recycled paper are also available. Visit www.richlite.com.
Flat roofs — If you’re remodeling your roof, why not make it flat? Flat roofs actually offer better insulation and they last longer. And, with a flat roof, solar panels are an easier option and you can make it all the greener by having shrubs and grass up there!
Visit Natural Built Home at 4020 Minnehaha Ave. They aim at being the one-stop shop for the safest and most sustainable building supplies. They have options for every room in your house and offer classes to help you make your home sustainable.
Tips on how to reduce waste
Bring your own Tupperware to restaurants for leftovers. If you have young kids, it is easy to just always keep a spare Tupperware in the diaper bag.
Re-use plastic bags, i.e. bread bags, bags from frozen veggies, etc. Many more plastic bags are recyclable than you might think (i.e. the liners in cereal and cracker boxes, plastic bags used in packaging and shipping, etc.). Grocery stores like Rainbow and Cub accept bags for recycling. They are also good for lining garbage cans.
Use small plastic bins for recycling rather than bags. The City seems to want us to use paper bags for newspapers, cardboard, and office paper, but they are okay with the plastic containers for glass, cans, and plastic.
Compost food waste.
On how to conserve water
Rain barrels are especially nice for watering potted plants, which need much more frequent watering. Also, if you run a dehumidifier, you can empty the water into the garden, rather than pouring it down the drain. Free wood chips are available from the City of Minneapolis, which helps keep the gardens from drying out so quickly. Locations for free wood chips can be found at www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us
Join a community supported agriculture organic farm and get deliveries of local organic food all summer.
Combine all errands into one trip and try to coordinate your routes to minimize the distance traveled.
Replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent bulbs. Compact florescent bulbs not only use 75 percent less energy, but can also last ten times longer than incandescent bulbs.
Approx. per year savings Pounds of CO2 prevented/yr: multiply the number of bulbs replaced times $5 each year = $ ___ multiply the number of bulbs replaced times 100 pounds of CO2/ yr = ___ lbs
Turn off all lights when you leave your house. $10 and 300 lbs CO2/yr
Raise your Air Conditioning level 2 degrees. $20 and 400 lbs CO2/yr
When heating or cooling, close windows & doors. $10 and 300 lbs CO2/yr
When heating or cooling is no longer needed, open the windows and doors to warm or cool the house. $20 and 500 lbs CO2/yr
Lower your furnace thermometer 2 degrees. $50 and 550 lbs CO2/yr
Turn the knob on your water heater down 1/8 turn. $10 and 100 lbs CO2/yr
When the fire in your wood-burning fireplace is out, close the damper (fireplace doors save even more). $20 and 250 lbs CO2/yr
Take only five-minute showers. (Each person taking a 5-minute shower saves $25 and 250 lbs of CO2 each year)
Keep your car tires at full pressure, avoid quick starts and stops, and drive within the speed limit. $130 and 1,100 lbs CO2/yr
Carpool or take the bus once each week. $ 100 and 800 lbs CO2/yr
Replace your older car/SUV with a car that gets at least 50 miles per gallon. $750 and 6,000 lbs CO2/yr
Additional energy-saving ideas can be found through the Minnesota Energy Challenge.