Where Does Your Electricity Go When You’re Not Home?

Most people have heard of “phantom watts” – the electricity that is consumed when an appliance or phone charger is left plugged in while it is not in use. Although minimal, this extra electricity does add up.  Mother Jones recently published an article about the 6 electronic devices in your home that zap the most electricity when you’re not using them. While it might be a hassle to go around unplugging everything before work in the morning,  remembering to “unplug” before you leave for a long weekend can help save energy–and save you a few dollars off your electricity bill! View the full article here.

(1) Cable boxes.

(2) Computers.

(3) Televisions.

(4) Audio/visual equipment, like DVD players, iHomes, home theaters.

(5) Game consoles.

(6) Digital picture frames.

Simple Homemade also has some great tips for conserving energy at home, check them out here! What are some ways you conserve energy around the house?

Remember to unplug and plan ahead. Every little bit makes a difference, and it all starts with you!

Something Simple: Junk Mail and Online Billing

Saturday was the Great American Cleanup, and I spent some time picking up trash with my daughter near the Bel Air mall in Mobile.  Most of the trash from this area ultimately ends up in Dog River after a heavy rain, making a mess for area residents.  As we picked up the many forms of Styrofoam, plastic and paper, it made me think that one of our biggest problems (besides the fact that people litter!) is that we need to reduce the amount of trash we produce in the first place.

There are two very easy ways you can reduce the amount of paper you receive or produce.  One is paperless billing and the other is to opt out of junk mail that comes to your home every day.  Paperless billing is relatively easy to do these days.  Many creditors and billing agencies offer paperless billing, and all it takes is a trip to their website to find out how to subscribe.  You may not think paperless billing makes a big difference, but a recent article on reuters.com states that each household that switches from paper statements to online payments can save 24 square feet of forest each year.

I recently switched to paperless billing for my cable company.  Each month, I receive an email with my billing information, and I have now set up automatic withdrawals from my checking account.  If you don’t like automatic withdrawals, check with your bank to see if they offer online payments.  My bank allows me to set up and pay my bills online, and I rarely ever place a bill in the mail.  This online payment system saves me time each month and eliminates the money I would spend on stamps to mail those bills.

A slightly less simple but also effective way to reduce paper is to opt out of junk mail.  A recent news report on CBS reported that Americans receive 90 billion pieces of advertising mail every year.  Although it’s not as simple to reduce junk mail, two websites can help you for free.  CatalogChoice.org and DMAchoice.org both allow you to choose which types of mail you would like to stop receiving and help you through the process.  You can opt out of credit offers, catalogs, magazine offers and the many other junk mail to reducing paper and the amount of time you spend sorting through unwanted mail.  Although it takes some time and you must follow through to report any unsolicited pieces of mail you continue to receive, it is well worth the time it takes to go through the process.

Take a few minutes to look into these mail-reducing options. They will save pounds of paper, acres of trees, and reduce aggravation at the mailbox. Let’s make a difference, today and every day!

100 Uses for Baking Soda

Baking Soda: 100s of Household Uses - Diane Sutherland

 

It’s no secret that we love baking soda at Mobile Baykeeper. It is an effective cleaner, odor-neutralizer, and can be used in all sorts of hair and beauty care recipes. As a bonus, it is also much safer to wash down the drain than many of the soaps and chemicals that are traditionally used for cleaning.

Check out this list of 75 Extraordinary Uses for Baking Soda and let us know in comments how many you have tried! As a bonus, tell us in comments other Earth-tastic ways that you use baking soda.

Let’s make a difference!

Something Simple: Windowsill Gardening

Later this month we’ll talk to you about container gardening on a larger scale, but today we want to talk to you about the easiest possible way to grow your own fresh vegetables. You may have seen this on Pinterest or other sites, but if you haven’t, prepare to be amazed. Growing herbs on a windowsill or in backyard containers is fairly common—but did you know that you can grow a whole host of vegetables, like celery, green onions, and garlic, in your kitchen? Three Baykeepers have been growing their own vegetables, read on to see what they have to say about it!

Tammy: Celery

Several weeks ago I discovered through Pinterest that you can chop off the end of the celery right out of your refrigerator, and it will grow a brand new celery stalk.  I was excited to try this right away, as celery is a staple of many of the soups and casseroles we make.  So, with a pretty wilted piece that would otherwise have gone in the garbage, I chopped off the end and put it in a bowl of water in my kitchen.  Within days new growth started to emerge.  I’ve now planted that and one other stalk in a pot right outside my back door, and I am anxiously awaiting its full growth and fresh celery in my next pot of soup!

Tammy's celery

Psst! If you recall from Saturday’s post, celery is one of the vegetables that most experts advise you to buy organic. What’s more organic than in your own back yard? Buy a stalk of organic celery—or several!—and keep them in pots on your back porch or kitchen window sill.

Bethany: Green Onions

A few months ago, when I was just getting into Pinterest, I came across a site which claimed that you could grow your own green onions. I’ve never really done much cooking with green onions, but I was intrigued, so I bought a bunch from the grocery store, chopped the green away, and put the remaining white parts, roots-down, in a glass of water. I was amazed at what happened next! Over the next few days, bright, fresh, new greens began sprouting. These intrepid little onions will keep growing indefinitely* as you trim them. Needless to say, I have started adding them to all sorts of dishes, with wonderful results. The one caveat I need to share about their *indefinite growth is that each time you trim them, they grow back a tiny bit skinnier and a lighter shade of green, so I recommend rotating fresh onions in periodically. Click here to learn more and get started!

Elyse: Garlic Chives

Elyse has been growing garlic chives for years. She bought a small planted pot of them a few years ago and has been enjoying them for 5 years. The green shoots grow tall and flat; she trims a few inches at a time, depending on the recipe she is making. They are wonderful in salads or soups, and though they have a mild garlic taste, they are not as potent as garlic cloves. The best part is that they are always fresh! Click here to learn how to start your own garlic chives! In addition to growing garlic chives, did you know that you can also grow your own cloves of garlic? Check it out!

For more container and windowsill gardening ideas, explore our Make-A-Difference Month board on Pinterest!

Monday: Plastic Shopping Bags

Hello! Today we are tackling plastic shopping bags. Ubiquitous, abundant, and convenient, they pose several problems environmentally. The first is that plastic bags are produced from oil. The second is that while many plastics are recyclable, disposable plastic bags are so thin that they are really only viable for “downcycling” – the term used for a recycled product which is of lesser value than the original material. Third, although some grocery stores are starting to collect used bags for recycling, many plastic bags do not get recycled. Estimates of the number of plastic bags consumed annually range from 90 to 100 billion. That’s a lot of bags! This represents a significant resource expenditure, and a waste disposal problem.

There are two ways to manage this plastic bag situation.

(A) Reuse: Save up the bags that you get when you shop and reuse them for a whole host of household tasks. In addition to reusing plastic shopping bags for another shopping trip, you can use them as trash can liners, wet clothes bags, or to collect pet waste. Pinterest has a ton of ideas for reusing plastic bags, and has some fun suggestions for how to store them: http://pinterest.com/pin/153685406003515587/. Another tip is to keep a few spare plastic bags tucked in your purse or coupon book, if you carry one.

(B) Reduce: Bring your own bag. Keep a few reusable bags in your car and by the front door so you don’t forget them. There is a variety of options for durable, reusable shopping bags: Tote bags, knit bags, and even reusable polyester produce bags.

If you’re feeling crafty, you can even make your own tote bags out of old t-shirts! Click here and here for two good tutorials.

Finally, because it’s hard to remember to bring your bags into the store with you, check out this website where you can order a free static window cling to remind you to bring your reusable shopping bags with you. This site also has good deals on stylish shopping bags.

Now the challenge is up to you. Take a picture of yourself using your reusable shopping bags and send it in! Or, if you tackle one of the DIY projects listed above (or another one that you think we should know about), send that in too! Every time we hear from you about a challenge you have successfully undertaken, we will enter your name in the weekly drawing. Email photos and descriptions to bolson@mobilebaykeeper.org with subject line “Make-A-Difference Month.”

Let’s make a difference!

Sources:

The Green Book by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen

http://business-ethics.com/2010/04/10/0957-does-banning-plastic-bags-help-the-environment/

pinterest.com/mobilebaykeeper