Green Business: Cutting Solar Costs

Solar Cost Breakdowns









Today, as much as half of the price of solar energy is made up of non-hardware costs.  (U.S. Energy Department) These soft costs include getting financing, hiring contractors, securing permits, connecting with utilities and passing inspections. Every trip to the bank, every delay, every snag in the paperwork contributes to the project’s final cost.

To jump start a decline in these non-hardware costs, the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative announced today that it is investing approximately $7 million over 18 months in a new SunShot Incubator Program for Soft Cost Reduction.

Have you encountered hitches, hold-ups and hindrances on the solar path for your home or business? Or even better, what are your recommendations for a smooth, cost-efficient process?


Green Living: Clearing Out Old Paint

There is no away when it comes to our trash. There’s only “not here.”

After Tropical Storm Irene gifted my basement with water, it was finally time to properly dispose of the dozen, rusty half-empty and full latex paint cans that have bugged me for years.

Some of these gallons came with the house. Others remained after house-painting and DIY projects. After sorting and separating the soggy cans, I kept a few for touch-ups and resolved to pitch the rest.

A greener life for me includes reducing the amount of chemicals in my home. As someone who is concerned with the environment and how we deal with trash, it was important to me to deal with these cans responsibly and in an earth friendly way.

Sometimes I’m willing to go the long way for greener choices—like composting. Sometimes I want the problem fixed fast. I know I could give away the paint cans via freecycle or facebook, but I really just wanted them gone.

Latex paint can be put out in regular household trash collection only if the paint is completely dry and solid. Liquid paint is not acceptable for household pick up because spilled paint creates a huge mess inside the garbage trucks. As well, liquid paint can spill onto roadways and contaminate local water sources.

So, how to dry out the paint, short of using it? A Google search turned up the suggestion to mix in highly absorbent clay-based cat litter.

Not being a cat owner, I was happy to learn that 20 pounds of generic brand cat litter cost a very affordable $4. I added cat litter to each half-empty paint can a pint at a time and stirred until the slurry reached oatmeal consistency. A day in the sun completely hardened the lumpy mixture.

For the full cans, I was stumped about how to handle them without making a big mess.

A little research turned up that local paint store Rossi and Co. in Orange accepts latex paint for a $2 per gallon disposal fee.

To the best of my knowledge, Rossi and Co. is the only Essex County business offering this service to residential consumers. This solution satisfies all my criteria for a green solution—it’s convenient, affordable, and keeps usable paint and recyclable metals out of the trash.Hat’s off to Rossi and Co. for a valuable, green-minded service.

Don’t let your comfort be another’s burden.

—Recycling slogan from a Brazilian movie theater


Green Garden: Beans and Corn

My scarlet runner beans race skywards every year, grown solely for the hummingbirds they bring. Each fall, after they have dried to rattling husks in the chill November breeze, I pick the best plumpest reaching-most pods. These are the winner for that year’s  sun, soil, pest and wind competition.  Not that scarlet runners are hard to grow, but in 5, 0r 10 or maybe 25 years I will have created seeds that are ideally suited for the rotten crabby spot I allot them.

Super magic hummingbird-bringing beans, if you will.  With a little piece of me, or at least my choices, in their genetic code.

In his latest New York Times essay, with his typical mastery, rural-observer Verlyn Klinkenborg charts the journey of the Tuscarora people and the corn they have planted for hundreds of years in whatever ground they call home.

“In the history of the Tuscarora, there is an unbroken garden leading from the past to the present, for the only certain way to ensure the vitality of this year’s seed is to bury it and wait for it to come up as next year’s seed.”

Read the essay.

Green Living: Fall Planting

This column is a seasonal round-up of ways to keep digging through the fall and beyond.

For entry-level basil and tomato gardeners, the natural withering and fading seem like Nature’s way of saying, “Hang up the trowel, it’s over.”

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Consistently cool Fall days are the best time of year for planting perennials and trees, not to mention the right time for spring flower bulbs and garlic.

Whether you plant a tree, a shrub, some bulbs, a row of garlic, or even just a pot of mums, fall is all about putting energy back into the garden after the summer harvest.

A time to plant, a time to reap
—The Bible, book of Ecclesiastes

Green Living: Gardening and Farmer’s Markets

My column this week is a round-up of Northern New Jersey early summer garden harvests.

I enjoyed writing it because it gave me a chance to reach out to local gardener friends and ask, “What are you eating from the garden this week?”

My hope is to inspire new gardeners to get growing.

For those readers without the time, space or inclination to garden, I promoted our area’s newest CSA and our town’s Farmer’s Market.

Read my column.

The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.
— Michael Pollan

Green Business: Promoting Sustainable, Local Eco-Friendly Enterprises

The Summer Solstice reminds me that we live on a spinning planet circling around a blazing star.

Every choice, no matter how small, does have an impact on us all.

My weekly column today offers my support for a locally owned, made and marketed line of reuseable, wipeable, washable snack and sandwich baggies.

Co-owners Jen Larsen and Jen Dowd have hatched a great business aligned with their personal values around family, community, and sustainability.

Read my column.

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.

— John Muir

Ripple Effect: New CSA Breaks Ground

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a new CSA starting up in my county. I was happy to support this new not-for-profit venture that connects New Jersey farmers with families near me.

Today was the first pick-up day. I spent a few minutes talking with co-founder Jackie Lowe. She told me that membership enrollments for the CSA took off after my article was posted on both the West Orange and Livingston Patch sites.

Hearing that made my day.

I wrote the article because I was interested in the topic and thought my readers might be as well.

I’m delighted that my work made a ripple to help the West Essex CSA get started and off to a great season.

Read my column.

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”

—Scott Adams