February 2012 - Our Daily Green

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rechargeable Batteries

Rechargeable batteries can be a green home's best friend. However, when they are not properly cared for, they can run out of charge quickly, frustrating the owner and quickly losing the convenience factor. Green is only a good idea when it works well, so we'd like to offer a few tips to prolong the life of your rechargeable batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries  have a higher energy density and lower self discharge rate than other types of rechargeable batteries. In other words, they hold more energy for a longer amount of time than other rechargeable batteries. Lithium-ion is the most common battery for cell phones, personal computers and apple laptop batteries.

To prolong the life of lithium-ion batteries, we have a few simple guidelines:
  • The first guideline is to make sure the battery is fully charged the first time you use it. Wait for the battery indicator to reach full charge. 
  • Let the battery run down before recharging it. Batteries need to be cycled a few times in order to be properly conditioned to run at capacity. 
  • Use the battery. In other words, even if you're by an outlet, unplug the power source to allow your battery to run your device instead of keeping it in a constant state of charging, which will reduce the life cycle of the battery. 
  • Do not expose your battery to extremes in temperature. High heat will cause the battery to drain faster, cold will not allow it to generate as much energy. 
  • If you are not using your device for an extended period of time, remove the battery before storing it so the maintenance functions (such as date and time keeping) do not discharge the battery. 
When a rechargeable battery needs to be replaced, they must be disposed of properly, they cannot be thrown out with regular trash. Search Earth911 for proper disposal sites.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Pass it Along Green

Our Daily Green recently received an upgraded programmable thermostat from our local utility company. It was part of a local state initiative toward energy savings and efficiency. We had an older programmable thermostat. There is nothing wrong with it and we would like to offer it to one of our readers for free. To qualify, simply add a comment to this page about a way you conserve energy in your home. In the spirit of reusing and wasting nothing, we would like to pass this thermostat along.

A programmable thermostat is one of the simplest investments you can make to regular your energy usage. It will automatically raise or lower your temperature based on the time of day. You can lower it at night, when you're at work, or hold it steady at a lower temperature when you're away.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
The average household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills - nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling. Homeowners can save about $180 a year by properly setting their programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings.
A few minutes of simple programming can give a homeowner peace of mind as well as savings in the bank. We are offering our Honeywell CT3200. It is a discontinued model, but it works perfectly fine. The owner's manual is available online: HERE.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Residential Energy Auditors

There is a saying, "The only thing you have to do in life is die and pay taxes". Our Daily Green would like to put an addendum on that saying, "And pay utility bills". Growing up, my father would frequently point out the unnecessary lights on in the house, tell us to shut the refrigerator, and turn off the television if nobody was in the room... he was our personal home energy audit. Since Papa Green cannot come and live with every one of our readers, there is a simpler solution available.

There are companies that will audit a home or business and determine the areas that they can save energy and therefore money. Their expertise will help the homeowner in a myriad of ways, from something as basic as finding good  insulation contractors  to considering  solar thermal system installation. The range of ways to save money by going green is tremendous and there are opportunities abound.

For example, a poorly insulated home can lose as much as 25% of its heating and cooling dollars through cracks, leaks and gaps throughout the home. Another area of tremendous energy usage is the hot water tank. There are now are solar water heaters available which generate enough power to heat water for free.

There are many options to reducing the home utility bills and a good energy audit will work with the homeowner to navigate the rebates, Energy Star contractors  and any additional tax savings available.

Our Daily Green has been compensated for this post. To learn more about sponsoring a post on this blog, please Click Here

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mardi Gras: Purple, Gold, and GREEN

As the world celebrates Fat Tuesday, Carnevale, and Mardi Gras, Our Daily Green would like to give a quick shout to a charity in New Orleans, capital of beads, baubles, and boas throughout the festival. 

Arc of Greater New Orleans is: 

... a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization serving people with intellectual disabilities and delays from birth through adulthood in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes.
Arc of Greater New Orleans is committed to securing for all people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to develop, function and live to their fullest potential. 
One of Arc's fundraisers is recycling the beads from the Mardi Gras and reselling them. They are saving the planet and creating jobs. Our Daily Green commends their mission and encourages our readers to utilize this wonderful charity the next time you purchase party supplies. 

They have partnered with the United Way and the Sierra Club. 

mardi gras beads

Catering to the Frozen Pizza Lobby: guest post

Foreword: last fall nutritional guidelines for school lunches were issued by Congress (complete report here). This editorial is in response to fact that the guidelines allow for frozen pizza and french fries to be considered a vegetable in the menus. This editorial is solely the opinion of the author, but there are valuable considerations worth discussion contained in it. Please weigh in with your thoughts in the comment space below. 

Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative 3.0 License.

Doting on the financial interests Coca Cola, ConAgra, and Del Monte instead of America's school kids isn't going to get the approval rating for Congress recover from an all-time low. 
By: Jim Hightower

How small-minded is Congress? How tangled-up in a right-wing ideological knot is it? How subservient to corporate lobbyists is it?

The answers to these three questions are: pizza, tomato paste, and spuds.

At a time when doctors and nutritionists are sounding a national alarm about a diabetes epidemic caused by gross obesity, including in children, the Congress of the United States of America, in all its majesty, has killed an effort by the Agriculture Department to make school lunches healthier. Why?

Three reasons:

One, Congress is incapable of meeting America's big needs, so it's rationalizing its existence by messing with the small stuff. Two, the right-wing ideologues in Congress are so batty that they even oppose federal rules to improve our children's health. Three — and most significantly — the French fry lobby, tomato paste lobby, and frozen pizza lobby put big bucks into congressional campaigns, and they pulled the strings of our lawmakers.

So the financial interests of corporate powers — including Coca Cola, ConAgra, and Del Monte — have overridden the interest of America's school kids.

Yet members of Congress still say they can't figure out why their public approval rating has crashed to an all-time low of 9 percent.

Nine! Good grief.

As Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) recently pointed out to his colleagues, oil giant BP, at the height of its disastrous contamination of our Gulf, at least held on to a 16-percent approval rating. The IRS gets a 40-percent rating on its job performance, and even the idea of America becoming communist draws 11-percent support.

The real question is, who makes up the 9 percent that approves of this Congress? I'm guessing they're relatives, staffers, and the two Koch Brothers. Plus, of course, corporate lobbyists.
Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Fair Farm Quiz

How much do you know about how food gets from the farm to your table? Do you know what a "factory farm" is? Do you know what you're eating?

Take a few minutes to take this quiz and for every completely quiz, Food & Water Watch will receive a $1.00 donation to help keep our food supply safe.
America has a food crisis. We are less and less connected to our food. Many people today don’t even understand where their food comes from, and the farmers growing our food can’t get a fair price.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

3 Easy Ways to Put More Organic Food on Your Plate (guest post)

Adam Green is a freelance writer and organic food enthusiast. He contributed this post on behalf of Full Circle, an organic produce delivery service in Washington State.

With consumer demand for organic food on the rise, it's great that supermarkets are stocking more organic items.

But supermarkets still don't always carry local, organic varieties of your favorite foods. What's more, the markup at supermarkets often makes organic items prohibitively expensive. If you're looking for alternatives to the supermarket – alternatives that could provide more selection and greater value – here are three easy ways to put more organic food on your plate.

1. Visit the farmer's market – and bargain!

In many places, hitting up the farmer's market used to be the norm. Thanks to evolving habits and our busy, get-it-all-at-once mentality, many of us have forgotten that buying local foods from local farmers was once the way nearly everybody in this country survived.

Thankfully, many communities still have farmer's markets, and lots of small farming operations riding the organic trend mean that more markets are appearing in more places. Farmer's markets may even have more choices than the supermarket, and there are often deals to be found – especially if you catch sellers at the right time.

Try to visit the farmer's market at the end of the day when sellers are trying to liberate themselves from the last of their inventory. This can be a great time to negotiate on price, too.

And be sure to stock up at season's peak when there's plenty of supply and prices are lower.

2. Order in.

Delivery services offer another great way to purchase fresh, organic foods.

No, this isn't just for restaurants buying in bulk. Lots of people are now ordering organic produce online and getting it shipped to their front doors via local delivery services.

Search the Web to see whether such a service is available in your community. In many large and medium-sized cities, these services have been around for years and are heavily utilized. Home delivery is a great way to get local produce from organic farms. And since it's literally coming straight from the farm to your table, you know the food is fresh.

3. Start a garden you can maintain.

If you have access to sunlight, there's a good chance you can start a garden.

It doesn't have to be a big garden, mind you. Nobody's saying that you need a garden big enough to grow all your own food. But a small garden with a few items – even if it's just some tomato plants in a window box – is a fantastic way to ensure that you have a fresh supply of organic produce all through the season.

For city-dwellers and busy suburbanites, eating food you grow yourself may sound downright bizarre, not to mention time-consuming. If that's how you feel, start small. Planting an indoor herb garden with four or five items is an easy way to add flavor to your favorite meals without driving to the supermarket.

In finding new sources for delicious, organic food, a willingness to experiment is often the first step. The final one is enjoying the better variety, value, and freshness these alternative sources have to offer.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Score a Food Safety Touchdown at Your Super Bowl XLVI Party | USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service

Score a Food Safety Touchdown at Your Super Bowl XLVI Party | USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service

Score a Food Safety Touchdown at Your Super Bowl XLVI Party

super bowl food
Free Publication from USDA
Catherine Cochran (202) 690-0428

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2012-As both the New England Patriots and New York Giants know, you win with defense. When it comes to planning a Super Bowl XLVI party, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) wants football fans to know how to play defense against potential foodborne illness.

"Great food, large groups of friends and cheering on your team are what make Super Bowl parties so much fun," said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. "We want to give hosts a few easy tactics to reduce the chances that their guests will develop foodborne illness amidst all the excitement at their Super Bowl parties."

First Down: Clean
Clean hands and surfaces with soap and water to avoid a "false start" before preparing food. Unclean hands are one of the biggest culprits for spreading bacteria, and finger foods at parties are especially vulnerable. Chefs and guests should wash their hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Also, be sure to clean eating surfaces often, and wash serving platters before replenishing them with fresh food.

Second Down: Separate
Think of your party fare as two different teams—uncooked versus ready-to-eat foods. The juices from raw meat may contain harmful bacteria that will "sack," or cross-contaminate, ready-to-eat food that would otherwise score big with your guests. Block opposing players by using one cutting board for raw meat and poultry and another one for cutting veggies or foods that will not be cooked. If you use only one cutting board, wash it with hot soapy water after preparing each food item.

Third Down: Cook
Call a "time out" and use a food thermometer to be sure meat and poultry are safely cooked. Remember that internal temperature, not meat color, indicates doneness. Steaks should be cooked to 145 °F followed by a three minute rest time, ground beef should be cooked to 160 °F, and all poultry should be cooked to 165 °F.

Fourth Down: Chill
The Giants may be hoping for a second victory over the Patriots on Super Bowl Sunday, but going back for a second helping of party food could mean a giant defeat if food is left at room temperature for too long. Any perishable foods that are not served with a hot source, such as a chafing dish or slow cooker, or a cold source, such as a bowl of ice placed under the serving dish, should be discarded after two hours at room temperature. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly to block bacteria from multiplying. When in doubt, throw it out of the game—and your party.

Slow cookers are not safe for reheating leftovers. Cooked food should be reheated on a stove, in a microwave, or in a conventional oven until it reaches 165 °F. Then the hot food can be placed in a preheated slow cooker to keep it hot (at least 140 °F) for serving.

When it Comes to Food for Your Super Bowl Party, Safety is Worth More than Two Points
When it comes to foodborne illness, there is no opportunity for an instant replay. To avoid a flag on your winning play, make sure you understand the rules completely. One of the best resources available before kickoff is our Defensive Coordinator, Ask Karen. She is on the headset as USDA's virtual representative and available at AskKaren.gov. Food safety coaches are available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET through Ask Karen's live chat feature and by phone at the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline, 888-MPHotline (888-674-6854). Recorded messages are available 24 hours a day.

As part of its multi-faceted approach to prevent foodborne illness, USDA joined the Ad Council, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to launch Food Safe Families, a consumer food safety education campaign. It is the first joint public service campaign to empower families to further reduce their risk of foodborne illness at home by checking their key food safety steps: clean, separate, cook, and chill. For more information, go to http://www.foodsafety.gov.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Office Green

Easy Tips You Can Use to Make Your Office Greener
(this article is reposted under Creative Commons 1.0 license)

by Cheryl Roberts

If you're one of the more than 50 million Americans who work in an office, it may surprise you to learn how great an impact we office workers have on the environment. Whether your office is large or small, whether it's in a large corporation or at a local community group, school, or church, there are plenty of ways you can help the environment in the choices you and your co-workers make every day.

Each day, office workers consume approximately 145 million gallons of fuel while commuting to work and generate some 1.4 million tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas. En route and during the day, we drink about 49 million cups of coffee--mostly from disposable cups--and either recycle or discard some 40 million newspapers. Once on the job, we produce more than our own weight in waste paper each year--about 360 pounds per person, nine million tons in all.

Today, U.S. businesses are generally polluting less and becoming more energy efficient. But there are still many simple steps that offices and workers can take to save energy, reduce waste, and even save money. All the following tips have worked out well at EDF's own offices.

Use Devices That Shut Themselves Off

Installing light switches with motion detectors can save a lot of electricity, since these devices shut off the lights automatically whenever a room is unoccupied. Similar savings come from copiers, computers, and other equipment that can be programmed to turn off after a period of inactivity. Look for the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star symbol as one indication of these power-saving features when buying new office equipment.

Here's an easy idea: Buy a reusable travel mug for your morning commute and to use at the office. You'll save natural resources, conserve energy and landfill space and, if you fill up at home, you'll save some money, too.

If you commute by train or subway, you'll find many stations now have designated bins for recycling newspapers. Use them.

If you drive, consider car pooling, riding a bike, or walking to work or to a nearby mass transit station. If your company permits it, telecommute. More than eight million Americans now telecommute at least one day a week. Telecommuting cuts down on pollution, saves energy, and may even increase staff productivity. In a two-year pilot project, Northern Telecom found that having 500 employees work at home three days a week saved about 200 gallons of gasoline annually per employee and increased productivity by an average of 30%.

Whether you work in the office or at home, reducing paper consumption and recycling used paper is a must. Where possible, use e-mail instead of paper memos. Make sure your business cards have your e-mail address on them, and ask for the e-mail addresses of others. Eliminate cover sheets when faxing. Post or circulate materials whenever possible, rather than making multiple copies. Program your printer and photocopier for two-sided printing. Publish or distribute documents electronically whenever possible. And, before you print a document, always use the Spell Check and Print Preview functions first!

In nearly every community, you can recycle paper, steel, aluminum, glass, and some kinds of plastic. Set up convenient recycling areas in the office and post instructions for recycling each material. You can also reuse envelopes for interoffice mail and cut up used paper for note pads.

Buy Recycled!

If you're in charge of purchasing office supplies, choose stationery and other office supplies with the maximum post-consumer recycled content available, at least 20%. And buy the lightest-weight paper possible for the job.

Look for unbleached or "totally chlorine free" supplies and paper first. If you don't find these in stock, ask your suppliers how to order alternative products. Avoid manila folders and envelopes, which are actually bleached and then dyed to achieve their distinctive color; look for unbleached varieties instead. Whenever possible, avoid deep-hued and neon-colored papers, envelopes with plastic windows, and peel-and-stick labels, all of which can interfere with the recycling process.

Office managers can provide a supply of reusable coffee mugs, plates, and utensils, and encourage their use. When ordering take-out or having an event catered, select establishments that use reusable food service ware.

And of course, don't forget to turn off your lights, computer, and monitor before leaving for the day--and remember to take your travel mug home for tomorrow morning's commute!

from EDF Letter