Green Insight: The Value of Limited Light

In a recent EPA Greenversations post, author Amy Miller writes about transitioning to energy-efficient CFL bulbs in her house and the reasons that U.S. consumers sometimes give for not using them.

A lot of us don’t like CFLs because we are not used to the way they look, or we think the light is harsh and don’t know alternative hues are available. We also think they cost more.

But what if  is the value of a CFL was mostly measured in terms of energy efficiency instead of esthetics?

We forget that the CFL will last about eight times longer, and use a fourth as much electricity.

She then shared her experience about seeing CFLs everywhere while on a trip to Haiti. The difference? For people who store the day’s sunlight in solar-powered batteries for use at night, when it’s gone, it’s gone. Light’s out. CFLs then look like the best choice, because of the extra hours of light they emit per battery charge.

With cheap gas, faucets that flow endless clean water and switches that turn night to day, it can be hard to remember that most people in the world don’t share these luxuries. This post was a good reminder to me about the value of limited light and to be mindful of  how I use our shared resources.

Read Amy Miller’s post.

Green Life: 10 Tips for a Greener 2012

Make 2012 a greener, healthier, money-saving year for you and your family. Here are 10 green ideas to get you going. Pick one–or more–as your New Year’s resolutions:

1. Draw on Community Resources — Before you buy something new, think of whether you can borrow it from the library, friend or neighbor.

2. Compost — Keeping your vegetable kitchen waste out of the trash saves your municipality money on hauling fees and puts valuable nutrients back into your garden.

3. Recycle — In most municipalities, it’s the law. Recycling saves your town on hauling fees and helps conserve landfill space.

4. Get Outside — Explore your town’s parks and playgrounds, wooded spaces and family friendly outdoor sports like mini-golf.

5. Cook More — Food you cook yourself for your family is definitely fresher, hopefully healthier and produces far less packaging waste.

6. Upgrade Wisely — Donate old working electronics or dispose of them properly.

7. Plant Flowers and Food — Gardening feeds the body and soul, supports beneficial wildlife, teaches our kids and connects us to the environment in a personal way.

8. Conserve Water — Think before you drink. While the water we save at home is a drop in the proverbial bucket, the actions of all of us lessen the strain on aging water treatment and delivery systems.

9. Clean Greener Inside — Ditch harsh cleaning chemicals and explore cost-saving, eco-friendlier, effective methods like chlorine-free  detergents and simple homemade window cleaners. It’s better for your body, children, pets and cheaper overall.

10. Ban Poisons Outside — I believe that serious outdoor chemicals — pesticides, herbicides and petroleum-based fertilizers — have a time and a place, but generally said, not in my yard, and not in yours.

Here’s to a green, cleaner, thriftier 2012!

Green Business: Learn from 2012’s Sustainability Leaders

Want to give your business an edge for attracting green-minded consumers? Let them know you walk the walk when it comes to caring for the environment and our communities.

A first step is to look at winning sustainability plans in action from top earth-friendly companies…and then take steps to make your business greener.

Read the Climate Counts 2011-2012 Scorecard to learn what companies are doing to lower their earth impact and how they share this information with their customers.

Top-ranked Univlever bumped off Nike to claim the top climate-saver spot. Get inspired by the company’s sustainability program that addresses every aspect of the company’s operations: from sourcing raw materials sustainably, to halving its environmental impact and improving health and well-being worldwide.

Whether your company is big or small, your contributions to making the world a greener, bluer place matter for all of us. I’d love to help you spread the word about how you are doing your part. Contact me to get started.

Green Links: Water Resources for Greater NYC

Here’s a resource list for anyone interested in improving, preserving and enjoying the lakes, rivers, streams and bays that comprise up our Greater NYC watersphere:

(Thanks to the New Jersey Water Resources Research Institute for creating and maintaining this comprehensive list)
Water-Focused List of Regional, State, National and International Organizations

And a few favorites doing hands-on advocacy, action and education on our local waterways:

Riverkeeper (Hudson River & New York Waterways)

Hackensack Riverkeeper

Metropolitan Water Alliance

Clean Water Action

Green Politics: Urban Waters Revitalization

Know any urban educators, environmentalists or community liasons? Pass along this good news that the EPA has opened a nearly $2 million grant window for restoration of urban waters.

The goal of EPA’s urban waters small grants is to fund projects, training and research that will advance restoration of urban waters by improving water quality and community access. These activities will also support community revitalization and improving public health, social and economic opportunities, general livability and environmental justice for residents.

EPA To Provide Nearly $2 Million to Revitalize U.S. Urban Waters (Dec. 7)


Green Politics: NJ’s Energy Master Plan Weds Renewables & Fossil Fuels

It’s a marriage of sunny side up meets lowered expectations.

After months of meetings, public comments and working group recommendations, the Christie Administration released the state’s revised Energy Master Plan Dec. 6 as the state’s energy development blueprint for coming decades.

On the sunny side, the new plan includes fixes to stabilize and reignite the solar energy investment market.

To the disappointment of environmental and renewable energy stakeholders, Christie continues to dance with gas-fired power plants, cross-state gas-line expansions, and a friendly nod to fracking supporters. The state’s goal for generating electricity from renewable energy sticks at 22.5 percent, a walk-back from the 30 percent target set by the Corzine administration.

For all state residents, the new plan promises lower utility bills and safer, reliable power.

Dec. 6 NJ Energy Master Plan

Dec. 6 Governor Christie’s EMP Press Release

Dec. 6 NJ Spotlight

Dec. 6 Star-Ledger Coverage

Green Politics: Obama Tells Fed Buildings to Put on a Sweater

While I believe energy self-sufficiency starts at home, residential energy efficiency is a drop in the bucket compared to commercial energy use.

That’s why I was happy to see this Dec. 2 White House announcement directing all federal agencies to make at least $2 billion worth of energy efficiency upgrades over the next 2 years – at no up-front cost to the taxpayer.

These investments in energy upgrades are part of a job-creating business partnership:

Today’s commitments were announced by President Obama and former President Clinton along with representatives from more than 60 organizations as part of the Better Buildings Challenge. The Challenge is part of the Better Buildings Initiative launched in February by President Obama, and is spearheaded by former President Clinton and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness to support job creation by catalyzing private sector investment in commercial and industrial building energy upgrades to make America’s buildings 20 percent more efficient over the next decade, reducing energy costs for American businesses by nearly $40 billion. Last year, commercial buildings consumed roughly 20 percent of all the energy used by the U.S. economy

Green Politics: NJ “Safe Playing Field Act” Moving Forward

The proposed Safe Playing Field Act continues to gain support in both halves of the NJ legislature.

The New Jersey Environmental Federation urges supporters to help the bills make it to the floors of both Houses for approval this legislative session. Read their current action update.

If passed, this new law would ban the use of synthetic pesticides on the grounds of schools, day care centers, parks and recreational fields in New Jersey.

Pesticide application is always a concern, even when done right in the name of eradicating pests and protecting kids. This bill gives parents security by banning pesticides where kids of all ages congregate.

Currently, pesticide use at NJ schools is limited by a 2002 law requiring schools to use Integrated Pesticide Management (IPM) practices. When higher-impact pesticides are needed as a last resort, the law requires schools to notify parents.

The new law would ban all use except as an emergency response to immediate threat to human health.

Passing this law will put NJ at the forefront of protecting children from dangerous chemicals. Connecticut bans pesticides at day care centers and schools, kindergarten through eighth grade. New York bans the use from kindergarten through high school.

Opponents to the bill say a ban would make it harder and more expensive to maintain safe conditions on high-traffic natural grass sports fields.

Supporters think that IPM doesn’t go far enough to protect kids from health risks posed by pesticides. The health risks from any pesticide use are too great.

Affordable, proven non-toxic turf protocols are available now.  Let’s pass this law and  eliminate the grey areas for the good of all our kids.

Green Politics: NJ Fertilizer Law Kicks In

The NJ Department of Environmental Protection reminds residents that they may not apply fertilizers to their lawns now until March 1.

The 2011 NJ Fertilizer Law creates a statewide standard — one of the toughest in the nation — for what kinds of fertilizer applications are permitted, by whom and when.

This law protects the ecological health of our state’s inland and coastal waters in general and Barnegat Bay in particular.

Here’s why the law was needed: the overuse of nitrogen and phosphorus in chemical lawn care fertilizers is fast food for grass but toxic for river and oceans. Lawn care chemicals don’t stay put. They drift and flow into our shared resources.

The run-off of these chemicals into water sources causes algae overgrowth — known as eutrophication — to the detriment of the rest of the eco-system. Barnegat Bay is slowing choking to death on the chemical-fueled algae growth.

The new law’s requirements will go into effect in stages for consumers, manufacturers and professionals.

A simpler option is to opt out from the chemical fertilizers all together. Animal manure and organic compost are already exempted from this law. Paul Tukey’s Safe Lawns site has terrific videos on creating a healthy, green chemical-free lawn.

If you want some help “greening” up your lawn care, there are professional services available that offer eco-friendly services without chemical fertilizers. One local business is Montclair-based Green Harmony Now.

Whatever options you choose, grow your beautiful lawn in ways that are easier on the environment, for everyone’s benefit.