Here are some tips for how to put your old clothes to good use to save money, resources, and make a difference to others.
We all find ourselves with clothes that have gone out of style, no longer fit, or look like they’ve seen better days. But think twice before gathering up your closet’s misfits and heading for the nearest dumpster. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that textiles make up approximately five percent of landfills. However, 99 percent of those textiles are reusable, and options for reusing old clothing abound. Read on for ways in which you can give new life to your old clothes.
Do you have a favorite item of clothing that you’re not quite ready to part with? The good news is: you may not have to. Old clothes can easily be revamped in just one sitting. For example:
•Revive a frayed collar by carefully cutting it off, flipping it over, and reattaching it for a look that’s good as new.
• Cut tattered or torn jeans to make a great pair of shorts, or patch them with colorful or patterned fabric.
• Disguise stains by embroidering or appliquéing a design over the top.
• Get creative! You may be surprised at how hemming or lengthening a skirt, replacing buttons on a shirt, or gluing shells or beads onto flip-flops can cheaply and easily liven up an item that you were planning to throw out.
A quick Internet search (try “revamping old clothes” or something similar) will turn up ideas and instructions for ways to breathe life into old clothes. If the task seems too daunting for the do-it-yourself approach, contact your local shoe repair or alteration shop. They may be able to resole that once-perfect pair of boots, fix a stubborn zipper, or otherwise salvage an article of clothing that you wouldn’t have thought you could wear again.
If you need a ballgown, for example, check out designer Angela Johnson’s web site. Johnson will take your old T-shirts (think travel, concert, or athletic shirts) and make them into a formal dress that’s both funky and surprisingly fashionable.
My Trash, Your Treasure
Consign them: Clothes that are clean and in good condition but no longer fit or have been hanging untouched in your closet since you bought them are prime candidates for consignment shops. Consignment shops display your old clothing and give you a pre-determined fraction of the profits (usually between 30 and 50 percent) once your items sell. It’s an easy way to recycle and may even earn you a few dollars. When dealing with consignment stores, it’s always a good idea to call ahead. Some only accept specific items, seasons, and sizes, or require an appointment.
Sell them online: Can’t find a consignment shop in your area? Try an online auction site, such as eBay.com or ShopGoodwill.com, to sell unwanted clothing from your home computer.
Swap them: Another great option for saying goodbye to old clothes is to host a swap party, a great way of merging reuse with socializing and community building. Invite friends and family to bring articles of clothing that they’re looking to give away but are still in wearable condition. Party attendees exchange items for a win-win deal: they rid their closets of unwanted items and take home new ones for free.
Any leftover pieces can be donated to the charity of your choice. Some schools and organizations have even organized benefit fashion shows for a charity or nonprofit where each partygoer models an outfit constructed from items at the swap.
Organize an annual clothing swap at your office, house of worship, senior center, day care center, or community group.
Donate to Those in Need:
Perhaps the most popular route for disposing of old clothing is through donation to charities. It’s the perfect deal: you get rid of your unwanted clothing while helping others in need.
Charities: Many homeless or women’s shelters are happy to receive clothing donations, particularly during the winter months. However, not all shelters can accept donations, and many are looking for specific items or sizes. Before heading over, call your local shelter to find out if your old clothes would be helpful. More often than not, if your needs don’t match up, they’ll be happy to direct you to another organization or shelter wanting what you have to offer.
Don’t forget Goodwill, a nonprofit provider of education and career training for people with disadvantages or disabilities, which accepts donations of clothing and household items to be resold at its 2,000 retail stores throughout the country. Its convenient pick-up program makes donation virtually effortless.
For business clothing, Dress for Success, a nonprofit with chapters in 73 US cities, accepts donations of women’s suits, shoes, and briefcases, which are passed on to economically disadvantaged women entering the professional world.
Another willing recipient of business attire is Jobs for Youth, a Chicago-based organization that aims to help young women and men from low-income backgrounds integrate into the business world. They appreciate donations of both men’s and women’s business clothing.
Your old suit may be the missing piece to helping someone land a job and earn a living wage.
And we all know at least one high-school graduate who nostalgically keeps old prom dresses doubling as dust-traps in her closet. A number of organizations throughout the country solicit donations of used prom dresses, which they then provide or sell at greatly reduced prices to girls who would otherwise be unable to afford outfits for their proms. Fairy Godmothers, Inc. is one such organization with locations in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. You can drop off gowns-with or without shoes and accessories-or donate by mail. Or, consult the Fairy Godmothers Inc. Web site for a list of other North American prom apparel collectors-such as Enchanted Closet in Atlanta or the Princess Project in San Francisco-to find one close to your home.
Even your old athletic shoes can find new homes. One World Running, a Colorado nonprofit formerly known as Shoes for Africa, sends still-wearable running shoes and gear, soccer cleats, and baseball equipment to athletes in sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, and Haiti.
If your shoes are in no longer in wearable condition, send them to Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program, a project that grinds up and recycles athletic shoe material to build playground mats, basketball courts, and running tracks.
Also, if you can part with your wedding gown, consider donating it to the Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation. Making Memories sells the gowns and uses the proceeds to grant wishes to terminal breast cancer patients.
Too Worn to Wear: So you’ve unloaded at the consignment shops and sent off bags for donation, but you’re still left with a pile of clothing that’s simply too old, stained, or undesirable for resale, swap, or donation.
Unsalvageable items can be cut into rags for use around your home. They’re washable and reusable, and provide a perfect, eco-friendly substitute for paper towels.
If you’re looking for a way to use your worn-out clothes to help others, you can start an Ugly Quilt project group. Ugly quilts are sleeping bags made from donated scraps of clothing or bedspreads that are given to homeless shelters or to individuals in need of warmth during the winter months. You don’t need any sort of quilting experience to create an ugly quilt; the project’s Web site offers simple instructions to guide a novice sewer through the creation of an ugly quilt. These quilts can be made anywhere, from homes to community and senior centers to elementary schools, and they offer a great opportunity for combining social action and socializing.
Yet another little-known option for clothing that’s too worn to wear is the nearest animal shelter. Many animal shelters, pet boarding kennels, and veterinarians will happily accept old clothes to use as bedding for animal cages.
And many large charities like Goodwill actually sell unwearable clothing they receive as donations to textile recycling centers (which generally do not accept donations from individuals). Call your local Goodwill to find out what it does with unwearable clothing. It may take your worn clothes off your hands-possibly in exchange for a donation of usable goods or money to cover any associated costs-for resale overseas or recycling.
Once you’ve tackled your own closet, help others with theirs. Consider organizing clothing drives, ugly quilt projects, swap parties, or crafting events at your local school, neighborhood association, workplace, or place of worship. No matter which of these green options you choose, you’ll rest easy knowing that your clothing isn’t contributing to landfill waste.
Article written and developed by Green America
Indoor air quality is how clean the air is that we breath while indoors. Unfortunately, due to weather-tight homes, dust, pollen, dander, chemical cleaners, etc, the indoor air we breath can be as bad as the most polluted city. Indoor air quality is listed as one of the EPA’s top three health concerns.
What we bring into our homes directly affects our indoor air quality. The good news is we can choose what we bring into our homes.
Here’s a few easy ways to improve the air quality in your child’s (or your) bedroom:
1. Ventilate. The easiest way to improve your indoor air quality is to open the window and let the fresh air in. This will get rid of any accumulated VOCs. For the winter months, a good-quality Hepa air filter is a great thing to have, such as the Austin Air Filter. Consider using a washable electrostatic air filter for your HVAC vents which trap five times the amount of airborne particles as opposed to a regular filter. This will end up saving you money over time since you will never have to replace another air filter again.
2. Vacuum often. This will get rid of allergy-triggering dust and dander (if you have pets). Vacuum or wash anything else that traps dust such as stuffed animals, comforters, and window treatments.
4. Use natural cleaners. Most common cleaners have harmful chemical ingredients. Most of these chemicals are not tested for toxicity before being put into products we buy off the shelves. We are the lab rats who end up testing for product safety! An easy solution is to make your own inexpensive, non-toxic cleaners with water, vinegar, a touch of essential oil to scent, and a few drops of liquid castille soap, or buy a natural cleaner through Green Irene.
5. Buy natural toys. A lot of flexible plastic toys such as blow-up balls or blow-up chairs, etc, have harmful chemicals that offgass into the air. A good rule of thumb is if you open up a package and smell that “new” vinyl smell, it’s got to go right back to the store. For future purchases, consider natural toys made out of wood or cloth, and don’t forget beeswax or soy crayons and no-VOC paint for crafts.
6. Natural bedding and mattresses. Kids spend a lot of time in their beds sleeping (or so moms wish!) Make it a safe haven by using organic cotton bedding. Organic fabrics aren’t treated with formaldehyde, and are kinder to the earth in how they are processed. If you can’t afford one now, plan to save up for an organic cotton, wool, or hemp mattress. Regular mattresses are full of fire retardants and other nasty chemicals which kids will be breathing in while sleeping. If you are planning on having a baby soon, organic mattresses are made to fit in cribs too.
7. Redecorating. If you need to replace the flooring, consider earth-friendly alternatives like bamboo or cork flooring instead of dust-collecting carpets that can also offgass VOCs. Use low or no-VOC paints on the walls. Buy furniture made of solid wood or metal, not pressboard which contains formaldehyde.
8. Clothing. Chemical flame-retardants can be in our child’s clothing. An inexpensive way to dress your child is to buy used clothes from garage sales, consignment sales or second-hand stores, since the chemicals have most likely been washed out. For new clothing, buy organic items which haven’t been treated with chemicals and are made with earth-friendly practices.
9. Have fun! Laughter is the best medicine and happy people live longer!
This blog post was written by Linda Tarr, a Green Irene Eco-Consultant based in Maumelle, Arkansas.
Hawaii is the Endangered Species Capital of the World. With 100s of plants and animals listed as Endangered or Threatened, there are more endangered species per square mile on these islands than any other place on the planet. Some of the reasons for a species demise include human intervention and pervasive alien introductions. Ecosystem destruction, species displacement, competition for food resources, and hunting have decimated the native fauna and flora of the Hawaiian Islands since European contact, states Bishop Museum which lists four categories on their Hawaii Endangered Species website, the category for “EXTINCT” lists 28 birds, 72 snails, 74 insects and 97 plants.
The impact of waste, plastic and climate change in addition to chemical and atmospheric pollution is a constant threat to all life on our planet. Endangered animals such as humpback whales, Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles are protected and slowly increasing their numbers but are still challenged by pollution and human generated waste in ocean waters. The list of threatened Hawaii birds alone has over 45 species listed, joining numerous fish, plants and algae among other plants and animals. Another major contributor is the invasion of threatening alien species.
What is an invasive species? An invasive species is an alien species (plant, animal, or microbe transported by humans to a location outside its native range) whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health (U.S. Presidential Executive Order 13112).
Hawaii is in the midst of a growing invasive species crisis affecting the islands’ endangered plants and animals, overall environmental and human health, and the viability of its tourism- and agriculture-based economy. Hawaii’s unique environment is home to more eco-systems than anywhere in the world. It’s isolated location which has fostered unique plants, animals and sea life which are increasing at risk of extinction creating a biodiversity hotspot for the planet.
The Invasive Species Committees of Hawaii (ISCs) are island-based partnerships of government agencies, non-government organizations, and private businesses working to protect each island from the most threatening invasive pests. Each ISC partnership also has a paid staff and field crew to implement rapid response and control plans.
The ISCs formed on each island to address the need for rapid response and control work on new invasive pests that have the potential to severely impact the economy, ecosystem, watersheds, human health, and quality of life. A driving objective of the ISCs is to control the most threatening pests while populations are still relatively small and it is economically feasible to control or eliminate them.
The Oahu Invasive Species Committee (OISC) is a voluntary partnership of private, governmental, and non-profit organizations united to prevent new invasive species infestations on the island of Oahu, to eradicate incipient invasive species, and to stop established invasive species from spreading.OISC field crews survey the backcountry and residential areas for miconia, fountain grass, blackberry, and a host of other weeds. In partnership with the Oahu Coqui Frog Working Group, OISC responds to coqui frog reports and has conducted systematic treatment for coqui frogs at Oahu’s only naturalized population. In partnership with the Bishop Museum, OISC is cataloging new plant introductions to Hawaii and assessing their weediness using the Hawaii Weed Risk Assessment. This way, OISC can control invasive species before they “jump the fenceline” and become too costly to control. You are invited to join the Oahu Early Detection (OED) Projectto help locate incipient weeds on Oahu.OISC meetingsOISC holds public meetings to update its partners. Please call (808) 266-7994 for more information. Meeting notes and agendaare posted.OISC volunteer programHelp protect Oahu! OISC leads regular volunteer worktrips. Emailoisc@hawaii.edu to sign up. Expect rugged hiking and bring water, bag lunch, sunscreen, and raingear.OISC action plansThe following documents are in PDF format and can be read withAdobe Reader.
Contact usOISC staff welcome your questions, comments, and participation. Please see OISC contact information.Join our e-mail listFor up-to-date information about OISC activities, join the OISC e-mail list.Call the Oahu’s Invasive Species Hotline at 643-PEST
Every year in the United States, Americans buy, use and throw out billions of batteries. The demand for batteries can be traced largely to the rapid increase in cordless, portable products such as cellular phones, video cameras, laptop computers, and battery-powered tools and toys. Because some types of batteries still contain toxic constituents, such as mercury and cadmium, they can pose a potential threat to human health and the environment if improperly disposed. Batteries, especially those with toxic constituents, should be recycled.
All batteries can be described as either primary or secondary. Primary batteries are those batteries that are used only once and then discarded; they cannot be recharged. Secondary batteries are the rechargeable batteries.
Primary battery construction ranges from the basic construction used in carbon zinc and zinc chloride batteries to the more complex construction of more powerful batteries such as alkaline and lithium manganese. Changes in the components and the construction allow for the improved battery life of alkaline and lithium batteries.
Carbon zinc, zinc chloride and alkaline batteries are similar in that they each have a zinc anode, a manganese dioxide cathode, and a paste electrolyte. In carbon zinc and zinc chloride batteries, the zinc anode is the battery cylinder (or can). The electrolyte is a zinc chloride paste, and the manganese dioxide cathode mix is in the center of the can, surrounding a carbon rod electrode.
In alkaline batteries, the zinc anode is a zinc powder in the center of the can, surrounding a brass current collector. The electrolyte is potassium hydroxide, and the zinc and potassium hydroxide are combined in a gel. The manganese-dioxide cathode is contained between the can wall and the separator, which keeps the cathode and anode from direct contact. The can wall in alkalines is steel, rather than zinc.
Lithium batteries have a lithium foil anode, a manganese dioxide cathode, and a lithium-based electrolyte. Lithium manganese batteries use a variety of shapes and constructions, with the most common being button cells, solid-core cylindrical batteries and wound-core cylindrical batteries.
How It Works
Regardless of the battery type, all batteries operate in a similar manner. In broad terms, a three-way chemical reaction takes place between the electrolyte, cathode and anode. This reaction produces negative ions at the negative terminal (the base), and positive ions gathered at the positive post (the small post on top). The generation and gathering of the positive and negative elements creates the battery energy.
As energy is used, the effectiveness of the basic battery ingredients diminish. The cathode and anode materials become depleted, and the reaction between the anode and the electrolyte produces byproducts. As these byproducts build up, the battery’s voltage diminishes and performance drops. For this reason, the life of the battery increases as the amounts of the anodic, cathodic and electrolytic chemicals increase.
All battery types should be recycled whenever possible. Many states have specifically passed legislation prohibiting incineration and landfilling of mercury-containing and lead-acid batteries.
In 1996, U.S. legislation was signed that required alkaline manufacturers to phase out the use of mercury in their batteries. However, this regulation only addresses added mercury; small quantities of mercury are still present in most alkaline batteries as an unavoidable part of the manufacturing and mining processes. When the other metals in alkaline batteries, like zinc and manganese, are mined, small amounts of mercury are included in the raw ore.
Even for those batteries that are truly mercury-free, recycling should be attempted. Because of the heavy metals they contain, environmental health risks are still present.
As one example, cadmium can accumulate in the environment by leaching into ground water and surface water from landfills, and it can enter the atmosphere through incinerator smokestack emissions. Effective air pollution control equipment at incinerators traps cadmium, which ends up in the ash, causing problems of cadmium in ashfill leachate. Cadmium is toxic to fish and wildlife and can pass to humans through the food chain. It has been associated with numerous human illnesses particularly lung and kidney damage. Once absorbed in the body, cadmium can remain for decades.
Battery manufacturers are producing more rechargeable batteries each year, relative to the number of non-rechargeable batteries produced. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association has estimated that U.S. demand for rechargeables is growing twice as fast as demand for non-rechargeables. Manufacturers and retailers are partnering to help increase the collection and recycling of used rechargeable batteries.
The U.S. DOT requires reporting of incidents involving batteries and battery-powered devices that result in a fire, violent rupture, explosion, or dangerous evolution of heat. Significant quantities of batteries should be labeled in accordance with DOT regulations.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka‘upulehu, on Hawaii Island, has partnered with Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods in planting up to 500,000 koa trees in the native Hawaiian forest. This initiative is part of global effort of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts to plant 10 million trees around the world, in recognition of the company’s 50th birthday.
These trees, to be planted over the next few years, will contribute to the reforestation of this depleted species. As “legacy” trees, they will not be harvested. Located 34 miles north of Hilo above historic Umikoa Village, this 2,700-acre sustainable forest was once home to the koa forest of King Kamehameha I.
Guests can visit the on-property learning kiosk, adjacent to the resort’s cultural center, to learn about the program and plant a seedling into a small tray. Guests will receive a certificate with a unique code, allowing them to follow their tree via GPS signal once it is planted in the forest. Participation fee is $40 per tree, which goes toward the planting and care of their koa seedling through the partnership with Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods, which supports The Nature Conservancy with a $1 contribution per tree sponsorship to support global reforestation. The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, as well as the Boy Scouts Aloha Council and various government agencies, also are involved. For more information, call 888-340-5662 or visitwww.fourseasons.com/hualalai.
Packing your child’s lunch is essential for an eco-friendly family. The average school lunch generates a staggering 67 pounds of waste. Translated to an average school, that’s 18,760 pounds of waste per year, and that’s for just one school. In addition, many of the pre-packaged foods served at schools contain preservatives and chemicals that are not part of a waste-free lunch, especially where fresh fruits and veggies are involved. There’s also the cost factor: when the same two lunches are compared, pre-packaged to waste-free, the waste-free lunch comes out ahead by over a dollar a day, or approximately $240 per year!
So starting tomorrow, if you have kids, why not make the move towards waste free lunches. Don’t have kids, no problem, bringing your own to the office has just as many benefits as it does for school kids.
Develop a “snack basket,” a flat rectangular basket about four inches deep. Once a week fill snack bags (like our Snack Pouches) with nuts, trail mix, dried fruit, cookies, pretzels, homemade peanut butter crackers, and plain whole wheat crackers, and lined them up in the basket with a selection of granola bars.
Buy foods in bulk and measure a serving (¼ cup for nuts and such, and two to three medium-size cookies is good) into each bag. Bags of fresh veggies (shop the supermarket salad bar, or cut your own), slices of real cheese, and peanut butter and jelly half-sandwiches go in the fridge, as do pudding (made with organic milk), fresh fruit, fruit gelatin, a dab of ranch dressing (for veggies), hummus, and yogurt (plain organic plus fresh fruit or fruit spread).
Get the kids involved; they’ll learn how easy it is to reduce lunch waste, and what a healthy school lunch really is. Even the smallest child can pick a set “menu” (such as one protein, one starch, one veggie or fruit, and one sweet treat) and drop their items into a reusable lunch bag (like our Waste Free Lunch Kit) . Drop in a stainless steel bottle of water, a cloth napkin, and a spoon if needed (get a few mismatched ones at a thrift store if you are worried about possible loss), and lunch is a go! If even this is too much, assemble and refrigerate the night before.
Make it a habit for each luncher to unpack and rinse her sack at a set time every evening (following their after-school snack or right after dinner may be low-stress choices), and bringing things home will become routine. Containers go right into the dishwasher, snack pouches get a quick rinse in the sink and hung up to dry, crumbs go in the compost, and the empty sack and napkin (unless really soiled) get ready for the next day. On weekends, send napkins hrough the wash for a fresh start next week.
If your kids refuse to get serious about bringing containers home, you may want to consider telling them that you will dock the cost of missing items from their weekly allowance…and follow through on it! They will whine and pout when you do (as another mother once told me this just means you are “doing your job”) but it won’t take many docks before missing containers will be a thing of the past.
Convenience food without the high cost, excess sugar, fat, and salt, or wasteful packaging of processed foods—what could be better?
What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? This patch is actually two of the largest garbage accumulations in the Pacific Ocean. There are two distinct areas, also called the Western Pacific Garbage Patch and the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch. Both of these areas in the Pacific Ocean are full of garbage, millions of tons of it, and a large amount of this garbage is plastic, which will not degrade. In these two areas, there is almost no marine life except for plankton and there is an estimated 6 kilos of plastic for every kilo of natural plankton. This plastic swirls around in a vortex of marine birds, fish and mammals who become ensnared. Some of the plastics that make up this mass of floating debris will not break down for generations, if ever. There is no clean up underway. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is much larger than the size of the state of Texas, and is literally a garbage dump floating in the sea.
Not all plastic floats, nearly 70 percent of discarded plastic sinks to the bottom. In the North Sea, Dutch scientists have counted around 110 pieces of litter for every square kilometre of the seabed, a staggering 600,000 tons in the North Sea alone. These plastics litter the sea bottom and kill the marine life and plant life endemic to the region.
The issue of plastic debris on land and in our oceans needs urgent attention. We can all help by avoiding plastics in the things we buy, choosing less packaging and by disposing of our waste responsibly.
What are some ideas for a “greener” pool in my backyard?
A variety of alternatives to chlorine are being used to keep pools clean. Salt is probably the most common today, but salt systems have their downside along with their upside. They do evaporate slower, so you save some water. And they do cut the amount of chemicals in your pool, so they’re definitely a step in the right direction.
But salt systems still use chlorine-in fact, the salt itself is turned into chlorine, albeit in much smaller concentrations than a chlorine system. But you still have many of the same health risks as you do with chlorine, and you’re still contaminating the ground and surface water sources with chlorine when you backwash your pool. There are completely chemical-free pool cleaning systems out there, however.ECOsmarte makes systems that use copper ionization and liquid oxidation to sanitize pool water, using no dangerous chemicals in the process. Meanwhile, the company’s Filter Glass technology uses 100% recycled, post-consumer waste glass. Better yet, ECOsmarte contributes 5% of its profits to a non-profit organization (of your choosing) that works toward cleaner water and a healthier environment. There are also clean pools known as “natural pools,” which use plants to keep your pool clean. Not only are they chemical free, they also use natural materials to build the pools, giving you something quite close to a naturally occurring swimming hole in your backyard. The plants can either be in the pool, out of the pool, or both, and even conventional swimming pools can be transformed into natural pools.
Save Water and Energy
No matter what kind of pool you have, there are a number of things you can do to lessen its impact on the environment and your health. Here are a few handy suggestions:
Pool covers save water, decrease energy expenditures, and can help to keep your pool from polluting the air. In hot, arid areas, pools can lose 30 to 50% of their water volume per year due to evaporation. That water must be replaced from limited resources that are already in high demand. Worse yet, as pool water evaporates, it carries the harmful chemicals in your pool into the atmosphere. Installing a pool cover therefore not only saves water, it prevents pollution. Installing a pool cover can also help to retain heat in colder areas, saving up to 70% of the energy that would have been spent heating your pool. For the lowest impact, look forpool covers made of recyclable or organic material. Another option: liquid barriers produce a clear, molecule-thick layer of alcohol on top of the water. The odorless, tasteless film lasts for several weeks. Chlorine becomes toxic and even carcinogenic when it combines with organic matter-like dirt, leaves, skin, or hair, for instance. Showering before you get into the pool helps to reduce the amount of organic matter present in your pool that reacts with the chlorine.
If possible, set your pool’s filter and sweeper systems to run only during off-peak hours. When demand gets too high during peak hours, energy companies can be forced to use backup generators that are not as efficient as their main generators, and they’ll probably charge you more for the privilege, too.
Don’t run your filter and sweeper as long during the fall and winter months when you will not be using your pool anyway. A pool cover will help to keep it clean enough, and you’ll save on energy costs.
Installing a timer on your pool pump so that it does not run full time can save up to 60% of its energy use. Longer running times do not necessarily filter the pool better. Many people are happy using the pump only 3-6 hours per day. Start by having the timer run 6 hours per day (two hours at a time spaced evenly) and monitor the pool. If it is clear, try decreasing the pump time. If it gets cloudy, increase the time by a half hour total per day until your pool is clear. Using an efficient pump can cut energy consumption by as much as 75%. Variable-speed pumps — which use the same permanent magnetic drive as hybrid cars — slow the water flow, which lowers resistance and therefore reduces energy consumption. If special features require a higher flow rate than just turning the water, the pump can be revved up for a set amount of time. The carbon savings is equivalent to driving about 10,000 miles a year less or planting about 3,000 trees. Variable-speed pumps cost about twice as much, $1,400 vs. $700 but homeowners can recoup the costs quickly. On large pools with multiple features, such as those at hotels and other commercial settings, the payback can come in one season. A bonus: Variable-speed pumps whisper compared to the 80- to 100-decibel roar of standard pumps.
Getting creative with the landscaping around your pool can have aesthetic benefits and keep your pool cool in the summer and warm in the winter. When designed as a windbreak, landscaping can even help to prevent evaporation.
While pools don’t need heaters in summer, spas do. And some pool owners opt for heaters to extend swim season a few months. Today’s heaters are about 40 percent more efficient than those made 15 years ago, and an efficiency rating in the 80s is desirable. After an up-front investment, pool owners can heat the water free using the sun. For most residential pools, solar panels will cost about $5,000. A gas heater costs about $3,000, he says; propane about $5,000. A 15,000- to 30,000-gallon pool will require seven 4-foot by 12-foot solar collectors, on average. An alternative to solar panels is a system that diverts water to the attic for heating. As the small unit sucks hot air from the attic, it also cools the home. Pipes carrying water from the pool to the attic and back usually areplaced along rain gutters and through soffit vents, he says. Estimated cost: $5,500 with average payback in two years.
Traditional halogen pool lights are 400 to 500 watts and last about 2,500 hours. LED bulbs give the same light for about 70 watts and a 25,000-hour bulb life. Replacing a fixture will cost about $1,000.
If your pool needs a professional cleaning-wherein the entire pool is drained and the sides scrubbed with acid-make sure to use a green pool service that recycles your old pool water. This can save as much as 30,000 gallons of water!
If you live near an unpolluted lake, pond, or swimming hole, you’re one of the lucky ones because you get to swim in a pure, self-cleaning body of water. For now, city-dwelling swimmers will often have to settle for man-made pools, and hopefully these will all be as clean and clear as pristine mountain lakes some day. And if that’s what we hope for in the future, the future is already within our grasp…
For more information on how to make your pool energy efficiency, see the attached article.
Natural Swimming Pools
One exciting green design option that is slowly gaining acceptance in the U.S. is the natural swimming pool, which offers a refreshing, beautiful alternative to reliance on chlorine or other toxic chemicals.
Natural swimming pools have been somewhat popular in Europe for a few decades (where they are often called natural swimming ponds), and they work by fostering the balance of a small natural ecosystem. Managed properly, natural pools have alpine lake-clear water that requires no chemicals to maintain. They have lower maintenance costs than conventional pools, and their installation costs are typically not much more. The key is to establish a zone of aquatic plants around or adjacent to the swimming area, which filter out contaminants from the water.
There are a few companies designing such green oases in the U.S., and it’s likely that demand will increase sharply, as more and more consumers take interest in sustainability, and want to avoid industrial chemicals. Chlorine is known to be harsh on skin and hair, and a number of studies have linked inhalation of the chemical by swimmers to increased asthma rates.
350.org is an international campaign that’s building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis—the solutions that science and justice demand. The mission surrounds the number 350—as in parts per million CO2. If we can’t get below that, scientists say, the damage we’re already seeing from global warming will continue and accelerate. But 350 is more than a number—it’s a symbol of where we need to head as a planet. to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis—to create a sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet.
Carbon Offsets are a good way to help move toward the magic number, 350.
How do carbon offsets work? Why it makes a difference and how you can offset your contribution. (Information provided by Green Irene.)
A carbon offset is a credit sourced from a project or technology that seeks to reduce or sequester carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbonoffsetting provides a powerful way to address climate change. By purchasing offsets, you help fund a project that prevents one ton of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from being emitted for each ton that you have caused. Carbon offset providers sell the GHG reductions associated with projects like wind farms or methane-capture facilities to customers who want to offset the emissions they caused by flying, driving, or using electricity.
1. Renewable Energy Generation: This includes solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass, biofuels, and marine energy. It is equivalent to purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs).
2. Forest Sequestration: This involves the planting of new trees to absorb carbon dioxide over time (i.e. reforestation and afforestation).
3. Energy Efficiency Projects: This involves the substitution of old, inefficient appliances, lighting fixtures, and structures with more energy efficient ones.
Over the past few years, the carbon offset market has grown rapidly, directing $705 million in 2008 to carbon-reducing projects worldwide. As the market has expanded, it has also matured-and finding a trustworthy offset provider is easier than ever. Before you turn to offsets, it’s important to reduce your climate impact first A good mantra when it comes to reducing your carbonfootprint is: reduce what you can, offset the rest, and then repeat. Once you’ve taken steps to shrink your emissions, follow these steps to offset what’s left.
Do the Math
The first step to offsetting your climate impact is to calculate how many tons of GHGs your activities emit. Once you know how many tons of GHGs you’ve added to the atmosphere, select a certified offset that will reduce GHGs by the same amount. Youroffset purchases can support a variety of carbon-reducing projects. Buying offsets will help you direct much-needed capital to worthy projects that will keep greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. Then, return to the beginning of the reduce-offset-repeat cycle, and continue looking for ways to reduce the climate impact of your household, workplace, neighborhood, and community.
There is an ongoing controversy about the climate impact of air travel. In addition to the carbon dioxide that planes emit directly, they leave behind other emissions that ultimately contribute to global warming, in a phenomenon known as “radiative forcing.”
Some carbon calculators multiply a flight’s emissions by a radiative forcing index (RFI), but unfortunately, they multiply by a factor of anywhere between about one-and-a-half and three, resulting in different totals.
So what’s an eco-conscious traveler to do? Until a uniform RFI is in place, it’s best to err on the side of too much offsetting, rather than too little-after reducing your air travel as much as possible. Use a carbon calculator that incorporates a radiative forcing index. If a carbon calculator offers a check-box to “include radiative forcing” in its calculations, choose this option.
* Integrity: Make sure that the projects that your carbon offsets are funding are legitimate and actually reducing carbonemissions. They have to be real projects with measurable results.
* Accuracy: The methodology used to calculate carbon offsets must be recognized. Examples of recognized methodologies include the EPA Climate Leaders’ methodology and the World Resources Institute Greenhouse Gas Protocol. Methodologies also should be approved by a third-party organization.
* Verifiability: Because you can’t see or touch a reduction of greenhouse gases, it’s important to know exactly what reduction you are purchasing, and that the reduction wouldn’t have happened without your purchase. To ensure that projects are verifiable, purchases and sales should be verified by an independent auditing organization. This will ensure that your dollars match the results obtained in the funded projects.
Offsets vs. RECs
When you buy an offset, you should know for sure that your purchase caused a new reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, and not all renewable energy qualifies. Renewable energy credits (RECs) are typically sold from existing projects to give electricity customers a green power option. But renewable energy that customers purchase to offsettheir GHG emissions is held to a different standard. Buying a REC does not ensure that your purchase caused a measurable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
BeGreen Carbon Offsets
We sell BeGreen Carbon Offsets, which allow you to offset the emissions of your home, car, and travel. BeGreen CarbonOffsets meet the criteria above and are therefore a safe option for individuals to offset their carbon emissions.
— Lee Iacocca, CEO/Chairman, Chrysler Corporation, 1979-1992
The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun.”
— Ralph Nader
“The American people have a right to air that they and their children can breathe without fear.”
— Lyndon Baines Johnson
A society is defined not only by what it creates, but by what it refuses to destroy.”
— John Sawhill, former president/CEO of The Nature Conservancy
“I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend?”
— Robert Redford , actor, at Yosemite National Park dedication, 1985
Only when the last tree has been cut down,
— Cree Indian Prophecy
Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”
— Edward Abbey
Space travel has given us a new appreciation for the Earth. We realize that the Earth is special. We’ve seen it from afar. We realize that the Earth is the only natural home for man we know of, and that we had better protect it.”
— James Erwin, US astronaut
“The consensus is that the threat to our health and security comes [not from natural resource depletion but rather] from the byproducts of production and consumption of non-renewable resources.”
— Stephen D’Esposito, president, Earthworks/Mineral Policy Center
Only when I saw the Earth from space, in all its ineffable beauty and fragility, did I realize that humankind’s most urgent task is to cherish and preserve it for future generations.”
— Sigmund Jahn, German cosmonaut
True wisdom consists in not departing from nature and in molding our conduct according to her laws and model.”
— Seneca, ancient Roman writer
“Now I truly believe that we in this generation must come to terms with nature, and I think we’re challenged, as mankind has never been challenged before, to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature but of ourselves.”
— Rachel Carson, author, Silent Spring
— Mahatma Gandhi
“That’s human nature. Nobody does anything until it’s too late.”
— Michael Crichton, from the novel Prey
The good Earth—we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy.”
— Kurt Vonnegut, from the book A Man Without a Country
“Climate change is and will be a significant threat to our national security and in a larger sense to life on earth as we know it to be.”
— Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, retired , former U.S. Army chief of staff
To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them.”
— Theodore Roosevelt
“In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”
— Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
— John Muir, from My First Summer in the Sierra
Every eight months, nearly 11 million gallons of oil run off our streets and driveways into our waters—the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.”
— “America’s Living Oceans”
[Pew Oceans Report, 2003]
Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.”
— Jacques Cousteau
“There’s so much pollution in the air now that if it weren’t for our lungs there’d be no place to put it all.”
— Robert Orben
Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”
— Hal Borland
“I think God’s going to come down and pull civilization over for speeding.”
— Steven Wright