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2/21/2015

Suburban Permaculture House And Garden

Transformation work started on this quarter-acre suburban property in 2,000. The site is flat, good soil with good solar access. It's in a suburban neighborhood; the house was built in 1956. The intention from the start was to do a permaculture makeover to take care of more needs closer to home.

For this blog post, I would like to describe my rain water catchment system, an intention from the start and first time ever for me.

Sizing a Rainwater Catchment System

Catch and store rain in the Pacific Northwest? That's right. Its dry here in the summer. We can go two months with, essentially, no rain. The reasons for the system are partly for irrigation, drinking if I need to and “green preparedness..” The plastic for all these tanks is polyethylene and is food grade, made without chlorine.

Useful info: An inch of rain on 1,000 square feet comes out to about 550 gallons. Many suburban homes will have a roof of 2,000 square feet if not more. For a roof of 2,100 square feet, multiply 550 times 2, times 30 inches of rain, for example, and that comes out to 33,000 gallons. You can look at your water bill to gain a sense of reference.

I visited a retail tank store 40 miles away, that sold ag and water tanks. I went to the place in person, looked around and found two used tanks I was not told about on the phone. They are both oblong tanks that would have been mounted on the back of a flat bed truck. They are 1,600 gallons each and I paid very little for them, even delivered. I had to fix a leak on one of them.

Suburban Front Yard Wastewater Catchment 

Note that if you think you will save money with a rainwater system, that is not likely going to happen. If you have city water, like I do, it is priced so cheaply that the “value” of a full 1,600 gallon tank is about $5. So that's a lot of tanks of water to pay off a new tank that can easily cost $500 to a thousand dollars depending on the size. Tank lifespan? With care, a tank will last over 20 years.

Siting and Roofing for Rainwater Catchment

Once delivered, mine had to be moved to their locations, close to downspouts in places that had less value for other uses. When empty, these tanks could be pushed by two people on wooden planks, like rails. When full, one tank weighs 13,300 lbs.

The front yard tank required the gutters to be reversed so they flowed towards the tank. I had to direct the water over a window, join up with another down spout and then into the tank. All the acqueduct material is off the shelf, simple vinyl downspouts. The back yard tank was a bit more complicated with a 90-degree turn, under a window and around a corner to the man hole. It was a thrill the first time it rained and I was there to see the trickle come into the tank.

Rainwater Catchment Gutter Network 

Catchment surface: I started out with a regular asphalt shingle roof. A PhD chemist friend told me once that if a shingle roof is a few years old, there is little danger of contamination from the shingles. The shingles do catch a lot of dirt and some bird pooh. Water from these tanks is for irrigation purposes only and not direct ingestion.

Later, I re-roofed my house using galvalume standing seam metal. Very nice. Many sources strongly recommend galvalume. Its an alloy finish, it is not paint. The alloy is zinc and aluminum applied in an industrial process. The Texas Rain Water Handbook recommends galvalume if you want to drink the water. Of course, you still need to sanitize the water.

I installed another tank in about 2008. The new tank is 3,000 gallons, that's eight feet in diameter and eight high, up to where side becomes top. That tank was bought new on line and catches water from the roof of a detached structure behind the main house which also has a galvalume roof. This tank, in combo with a Berkey ceramic gravity filter makes water great for off the grid drinking.

Suburban Rainwater Catchment System 

Using and Filtering Rainwater

To distribute the water, I run a hose from the tank to a 50-gallon barrel out in the garden. My garden area is not so much, so it's simple to dip a watering can in the barrel and water. Its good to make a circular dike around plants, if possible, to contain the water where you want it. Soaker hoses that don't need much pressure can work, too. Even the large tank produces only a 2- or 3-foot water “push” out from the end of a hose. I have my tanks up on blocks, about a foot off the ground.

Benefits from the tanks are numerous. It's really educational in the summer to actually see the level of the tank go down as its used for irrigation. It's a much more tangible way to understand what it takes to maintain a garden. That means it should create a new level of respect and care for resources used.

My total storage of close to 6,500 gallons will take care of my garden over a summer that is on the dry side. With our winters, the smaller tanks can fill up 5 or 6 times. The large tank maybe twice. In a crisis, is there water for both plants and people? That depends what time of year.

The only pre-filter of water entering the tank is a window screen. I have cleaned out the tanks after ten years and found the accumulated muck filled about one fifth of a 5 gallon bucket. No problem with bugs.

Rainwater Catchment Filtration System 

Home Economics on the Suburban Frontier

Catching rainfall is part of “home economics,” taking care of more needs closer to home. Home economics is part of a larger ideal of replacing some of the money economy with a home economy. When friends and neighbors are doing this and people work together, the scale can increase so more needs can be taken care of closer to home. There are a couple dozen others nearby also into life on the suburban frontier.

Of course, important to home economics and resilient living is to reduce other needs as well – food, energy, water and more as you can. Some people call it "downsizing" or "voluntary simplicity." If enough people quit buying products that were not healthy for people and planet, those products might go away along with the companies that make them.

Catching rainwater is great fun. It connects a person directly to the real world. It makes for a more resilient home, along with home production of food, energy and whatever else can help replace the mainstream economy.

Rainwater Catchment System Tank 

You can see many photos of my rain water system and other projects at my place near Eugene, Oregon, plus, galleries of nearby properties and permaculture sites elsewhere in the Northwest and beyond. Go to Suburban Permaculture for more information.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 


2/19/2015

green building

These days, sometimes businesses toss around the word “green” to be hip or fit in, hoping that by relaying the color to you, you’ll somehow be swooned into believing their company and products are the most environmentally conscious ever assembled.

The truth of the matter is that while many people use the word “green” to describe their products, it’s worth doing a little bit of research to determine just how much merit that adjective has when applied to their particular projects.

So what exactly is green building? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, green building is the process which encapsulates creating structures in an environmentally friendly and efficient way. The process starts when the plans for the building come into being, and it doesn’t end until the building is deconstructed however many years in the future. Simply put, green building involves doing all that is within our power to cause as little damage to the environment as possible while producing buildings that perform at the highest levels.

In the building world, if you really want to understand how green a project is, you’ll need to become familiarized with LEED certification. Generally speaking, LEED—Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—is a set of standards that when passed prove that a building was constructed remarkably green-friendly. From homes to facilities to public buildings, LEED is a versatile standard in the sense that it can be applied to virtually all construction projects.

For example, a building might be declared LEED-certified if it:

• Was built with recycled materials
• Caused little-to-none environmental damage during construction
• Is considerably energy-conscious
• Minimizes greenhouse gas emissions
• Conserves water admirably
• Remains clean over time

Digging deeper, let’s take a look at some of the more specifics involved in green construction.

What are the Greenest Building Supplies?

Many people assume that using timber to build houses, office buildings and other structures must be environmentally friendly because you’re using wood that’s been harvested from the earth. Well, that might be true, but you can’t forget where the wood originated, how much energy was spent shipping it to your location and whether or not trees were felled in an eco-friendly way.

Some say concrete is one of the greenest building materials – even if it might be one of the uglier ones. Concrete is made of small stones – also from the earth – which are bound together by cement. As a result, this material will stand the test of time. But the costs of shipping heavy concrete can be quite prohibitive, too.

The Conclusion?

Well, there’s no such thing as “the greenest building material” because all materials have a negative impact on the environment in one way or another. As such, all projects lend themselves to different “green” materials, depending on the circumstances.

If you’re building next to a quarry, for example, you might want to use concrete because you’ve got a whole stockpile of stones right nearby. If you’re building next to a forest that’s regularly mined for timber in a sustainable way, maybe wood is the material that works best.

Because all projects are different, they have different requirements to become green buildings. The key to sustainability is to bring a green mindset to all construction projects. That way, you’re able to reduce your impact on the environment as much as possible, while building useful, eco-friendly structures.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/16/2015

Samsung fridge This 25 cu. ft. Samsung fridge meets the new Energy Star criteria that went into effect in Sep. 2014, and has enough room to fit 25 bags of groceries.

As of September 2014, all refrigerators and freezers were required to meet new federal minimum energy-efficiency standards. Additionally, to gain the coveted Energy Star label, an appliance has to be at least 10 percent more efficient than the new standards. This change, first announced in April 2013, saw manufacturers scurrying to remake their machines to comply. What this means for us as eco-conscious consumers is that the Energy Star rated fridges and freezers you see in the stores today are the most energy efficient models ever made.

"Ten percent may not seem like a big number," Ann Bailey of Energy Star says, "but when you look at what that means across all of the sales, when all refrigerators have met those requirements, the difference amounts to the equivalent of taking one million cars off the road-and $890 million in energy savings."

The updated requirements not only raise the bar for energy efficiency in refrigeration, but they also introduce, for the first time, the idea that putting Wi-Fi into a fridge could help with energy savings. The new Energy Star rating has optional guidelines for manufacturers to include "connected" features.

We already have "smart" thermostats that monitor the energy use of our HVAC system-the largest consumer of household energy-so it's a logical step to find a way to similarly empower the second largest household energy consumer: the fridge. However, the idea of fridges being connected to the Internet has heretofore primarily been the subject of ridicule, following the unfortunate fridge that sent out spam emails.

The question, "Why do we need our fridges to talk to the outside world?" is a valid one, but the answer is not just about being able to tweet while taking out the turkey-it's about being able to monitor and consequently adapt the appliance's energy use.

Connecting a refrigerator is not a requirement of the Energy Star program, however. Should a fridge be connected, the EPA recommends that the "appliance be required to enable communication in response to consumer-authorized energy related commands." These include:

• Being capable of receiving and responding to remote commands
• Provide energy consumption reporting
• Provide Demand Response status (normal operation, delay appliance load, temporary appliance load reduction) to energy management systems
• Send messages relevant to consumption of energy (such as door left open, product lost power, reminder to clean coils, or a report when consumption is outside the normal range)
• The capability to delay the defrost cycle to align with summer and winter peak demand periods

"These features would offer consumers more ways to reduce the energy consumption of their refrigerators and freezers, help lower their utility bills, and better protect the environment and the climate," says the EPA.

Energy Star connected fridges

This EPA diagram shows how a connected refrigerator/freezer system could communicate with energy management programs, including your utility company.

There are no connected fridges on the market right now, but GE launches their new connected fridge in the spring of 2015 and others are sure to follow suit shortly thereafter. Currently, GE is touting the ability of its fridge to send you alerts and reminders, such as when it's time for a replacement filter or if the door has been left opened, but features such as those described above won't be far behind.

In the meantime, if you are shopping for a new, non-smart Energy Star fridge today, make sure you look for the new Energy Guide labels that reflect the updated ratings. You'll know the difference by the writing; if it's yellow writing, it's new; black writing, it's old. The new guidelines use different calculations, so you can't compare an old Energy Guide label with a new one.

Old label

New Energy Guide Label

On the left is the old Energy Star label with black writing. On the right is the new Energy Star label, which you will find on all models that qualify for the newer, better 2014 Energy Star rating. It is distinguishable by its yellow writing.

Jennifer Tuohy writes about green appliance topics for Home Depot. Jennifer's energy-saving refrigerator tips are focused on providing homeowners with the latest up-to-date news in this fast-changing field. You can view many energy-saving models of refrigerators, including types referenced by Jennifer, online at Home Depot's website.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/16/2015

People travel to The Farm Community in Summertown, Tennessee because it has one of the largest concentrations of "green" construction and energy efficient homes and commercial buildings you will find anywhere. One of the most innovative and ambitious examples of green construction on The Farm in recent years is an “earth shelter.” It was originally built to house as office space for one of the community’s members, and is now serving as a place for women coming to The Farm to have their baby delivered by one of the community's midwives.

The back and sides of the structure are submerged into the side of a hill, using the thermal mass of the earth to insulate and regulate temperatures inside the building.

These three walls are built from cinder blocks filled with concrete and rebar (more mass) that have been properly treated to eliminate moisture from passing through to the inside. The block interior walls are surfaced with smooth river rock, both beautiful in appearance and adding to the thermal mass.

The south face of the building is made primarily of glass. Light entering the building in winter months strikes the cement slab and Vermont slate floor, along with block exterior and interior walls, warming the thermal mass of the entire structure.

In addition, a split design in the roof provides a row of small windows (also facing south) to help bring in ambient light.

The end result: Very little external heating or cooling is necessary to maintain an even temperature inside the building. Even without added heat, the temperature inside changes very little over night in winter months. On the coldest days when skies are overcast and there is no sunshine, a small wood stove adds supplemental heat, which again is absorbed by the building’s thermal mass.However in summer months, heat absorbed and reflected off the cement patio across the south front causes the building to take on too much heat.

To combat this, a pergola has been built across the front to support a vine which in summer months provides shade. Air conditioning supplements the cooling in order to make work conditions more comfortable.

Reflecting on what might have been done differently to improve the energy efficiency or “green” aspects of the building, one option would have been to choose a different color for the roof. The roof is sheathed with a dark brown enamel coated tin which has a 40 year warranty and never needs painting. The color green was chosen to allow the building to better blend in with the environment, important since the structure is located only a short distance below the owner’s home. However a white or lighter color would have reflected rather than absorbed heat and could have helped keep the building cooler during Tennessee’s long, hot summers.

There’s one other aspect of sustainability around this site that is worth mentioning. Directly adjacent to the home is a fenced garden. Periodically throughout the day, time can be spent in the garden, planting, weeding, and harvesting, all following the permaculture model that sees home, work and food production as an integrated system. All in all it is a powerful example of the sustainable lifestyle.

Read about other green buildings at The Farm Community in an earlier blog for Mother Earth News about my home, a recycled log cabin. Or better yet, come see these and many other great examples of green construction during one of my Farm Experience Weekends, held every year March, through October. I guarantee it will open your eyes to the potential of possibility!

Douglas Stevenson is a long term member of The Farm Community, one of the largest and oldest ecovillages in the world. He is the author of The Farm Then and Now, a Model for Sustainable Living sold in MOTHER EARTH NEWS' Notable New Books. He is also the host of GreenLife Retreats, including The Farm Experience Weekend and workshops on organic gardening, sustainability, and living the green life!


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/9/2015

icicles

People are getting to know me around the Mother Earth News world as a builder and enthusiast of underground and bermed homes. What many may not know is that I actually started my career building over dozens of the most energy efficient above ground homes on the planet. I have lead our company to over half a dozen national awards which were based on materials used and energy efficiency of the houses that we built.

With that said, I have learned a lot about why houses perform the way they do and why they produce what they do…more specifically icicles! My brother, a.k.a. The Rev on our video series asked me this past week if I was ‘The House Whisperer’ because of a tricky diagnosis and fix that I cooked up on a house in Michigan. Let me tell you about that project and the three scenarios that I determined would fix the heat loss problem that was causing massive ice buildup and water damage to the inside of the house.

tall ice house

First, let me set the scene. The Rev was telling me about a house that he was in that had water damage all over because ice would back up every winter. Since we have installed quite a few metal roofs, he talked to the people with the ice damage and they wanted us to install a metal roof for them to stop the ice buildup. I met The Rev out at the jobsite to check out the house and see what kind of job we had got ourselves into.

Before I showed up at the house, The Rev sent me a layout of how the roof was built. This was good, because the roof is basically a long shed roof with no attic access. The builder used floor trusses as rafters in this roof. After seeing the house, I had to wave the red flag about putting a metal roof on the house to stop the ice. We had to first figure out why the roof was leaking so much heat, or else the house would have a nice metal roof with ice hanging off of it.

I asked to go inside of the house and walked all the way upstairs, noticing the damaged drywall as I climbed the last flight of stairs. I noticed a thermostat on the wall and asked if there was a separate furnace for the upstairs area, I was told there was. I went inside the master closet and in there was another closet with a furnace in it. I started to get a feeling that I had found the culprit! To be sure, I had to find a way to look up in the attic space. Normally, a person’s first thought in a heat loss situation is bad ventilation of the attic area and/or poor insulation…I needed to see up inside that area to cross both of those concerns off of my list. When no one was looking, I cut multiple holes in the ceiling of the walk in closet so that I could see what was going on in the hidden space above the drywall, don’t tell The Rev!

The Cause

The first thing that I noticed when I looked up into the attic area, was that the duct work from the furnace was pushed up tight against the bottom of the floor trusses that were used as rafters. This could transfer heat to the roof deck and melt snow. Next, I noticed a really good cross breeze because the wind blew a bunch of drywall dust in my eyes and onto the homeowner’s nice suits. Rubbing my eyes, I shined my flashlight up into one of the holes that I cut to see what the insulation looked like, and that is when I started to understand what was causing the ice build up on the roof.

The builder had used fiberglass cathedral batt insulation that was stapled through the paper face and to the bottom of the 3 ½ inch wide floor truss. I noticed that little spaces (about 1-2 inches in length) had formed between each of the staples which I imagined were everywhere in the hidden attic space. As I thought about it, I realized that the batt insulation was not designed to expand the extra distance of a floor truss (1 ½” thick rafter versus a 3 ½” thick floor truss, also the floor truss is open webbed so the insulation had no place to expand to and heat passed right through) and that wherever there was a ‘little space’ between the staples, heat was escaping. Not just heat, though, a massive amount of heat from this very large main heating line trunk that ran the length of the roof. It was clear to me, that although the house was technically insulated and ventilated properly, major work was going to be needed to correct this problem.

After I walked outside to confirm my suspicions about where the roof was leaking heat (yes, I cleaned up my mess first), I yelled for The Rev and told him we should stop getting set up to do the metal roof and talk about fixing the source of the ice. We came up with three scenarios to fix the problem.

ice wires

Scenario A: We remove all of the drywall on the tall cathedral ceilings, closet ceiling, and the finished bathroom ceiling (incredibly high ceilings and lots of square feet). Once all of the drywall is removed, we remove all of the insulation and use spray foam and spray it to the bottom of the roof deck. Then, reinstall new drywall and paint everything. Remember, the people are living in the house and this area is the master bedroomsuite..cost and effort, unfathomable..

Scenario B: We cut down from the shingle side of the roof and remove as much of the roof deck as we need to in order to insulate above the heat runs…The Rev was shaking his head as I finished mentioning this scenario. I have had to do this before on jobs, but never had I attempted it on over half of a 24 foot wide by 32 feet long roof. Cost and effort, reasonable unless we get snowed on (we are actually finishing the fix as I write this in February 2015)

Scenario C: As I tried to come up with a third option, I remembered a job we did a number of years back where we used insulating or nail based panels as they are known as in the industry on this old cottage to insulate the roof system. These nail based panels are basically a one sided SIP panel with OSB on one side and 5 ½ inches of foam on the other. You screw these panels down with the OSB side up and put them right over the shingles of the existing roof, thus stopping heat loss. We could screw these panels to the top of the roof deck and then put our metal roof over the panels. Cost and effort, reasonable..

insulating panel

Armed with three scenarios, we sat down to decide what route to take on this tricky project..

To find out which scenario we went with to fix this house and to see the process, you will have to come back and read the conclusion in Part 2…..stay tuned!


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/5/2015

Purchased By Sommer From Depositphotos.com

I live for those moments when saving money and making an Earth-friendly decision line up and walk hand-in-hand. Hence, my household's recent conversion to LED light bulbs.

At first, I was skeptical of LEDs because they are so costly, in comparison to incandescent or CFL light bulbs. In fact, I wondered why they cost so much more, and if they really could save me money and help the environment.

I asked my friend Anna Hackman, the blogger behind Green-Talk, for her suggestions on where I could start. She suggested this easy money saving calculator to see exactly how I could save money with LEDs, followed by a visit to the Energy Star website for more information. Both are great resources that I recommend for evaluating your own household's current lighting costs and the savings behind making a bulb switch.

Next, I wanted to learn more about the difference between LEDs and CFL light bulbs and really understand if making the switch was worth it for my family. Lynn Schwartz with LPS Green Technologiesgave me some great information explaining how using LED lights could have a long-term cost benefit. According to Schwartz, LEDs yield at least five times the return on investment of incandescents (and as she pointed out, I have less of a chance of injuring myself falling off of a ladder changing light bulbs all the time!). A high quality LED lamp or fixture will generally last 25,000 hours or more, and some LED lamps can go for 100,000 hours. Consider that the average household typically uses their lights for 2,000 hours or less each year, and the longevity of LEDs becomes clear.

The accompanying environmental benefit is easy to see: less waste, because you're using fewer light bulbs, and greater energy efficiency. LEDs generate far less heat than incandescents, reducing strain on your home's cooling system. And it gets even better: unlike CFL bulbs, LED bulbs do not have mercury in them. If CFLs are not properly disposed of, the mercury can leak out into landfills or into our water supply, but with an LED bulb, we don't have that concern.

One final environmental benefit is the energy saved to make the LED bulb. Schwartz explains, "The amount of energy it takes to make one LED is less than the amount of energy they save, so they have a net gain of energy savings."

It's an upfront investment to switch to LED bulbs: the cost can be five times as high as a comparable incandescent, but the long-term cost and environmental benefits make them a worthy expenditure. Design Recycle Inc. has a good comparison chart that breaks down the watts used, cost and environmental impact between CFL and LED bulbs. If you're still on the fence, the chart is a good way to visualize the money you'll save.

Personally, when shopping for LED bulbs, I had to get over the sticker shock and remind myself of the benefits, as well as considering that LED bulbs are more expensive to make. As Schwartz points out, LED light bulbs use a semi-conductor chip, which is more expensive than a filament or gas connecting chip used in other bulb types. She explains, "Connecting that chip to a heat dissipater (heat sink) that is usually aluminum or another conductor of heat (which is more expensive than bulbs that have no heat sink). This chip makes the bulbs electronically sound so that they can transform electricity into a form that the LED can use so it does not overload."

So, if you're going shopping for LED light bulbs, keep these little facts in mind when you see the price tag. Chant to yourself, "I will save money long term. I am helping the environment. It is going to be okay, I have less chances of killing myself on a ladder!"

Finally, it's worth noting that not all LED bulbs are the same. There are different colors and wattages, just like an ordinary bulb or CFL bulb. I prefer the soft white color, whereas my husband and son prefer the daylight color (which is very, very bright). Consider the warranty the company offers on the bulb, and because you're making an investment, save your boxes and receipts. We're converting our lighting room-by-room, and in the end, I look forward to going years without changing a light bulb!

Sommer Poquette writes about energy savings for the home, as well as DIY tips, for The Home Depot. A selection of LED light bulbs like the ones that Sommer writes about can be viewed on the Home Depot website.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/2/2015

green city

For many people, being more environmentally conscious is a huge concern. Consequently, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that corporations are starting to follow suit. Not only does going green bode well for them internally, but it’s meaningful for their customers and prospective clientele, too. The problem is that being eco-friendly can sometimes cost more in the short-term, and that can lead to budget problems, especially for organizations that are smaller in size.

Instead of giving up their desires to green their offices, businesses that are just starting up or have few persons on their rosters are looking for the best methods to be conscientious about how they’re affecting the environment without ruining their fiscal-related chances of longevity. Some of the techniques they’ve discovered can be used by your small business, too.

1. Find Out About Solar Rebates and Credits

Going solar can seem like the perfect way to reduce spending over time on utility bills while simultaneously reducing waste. However, the price tag for a new solar system can appear un-absorbable for a company with a restricted cash flow. The answer is to uncover any available solar-related rebates and credits. By taking advantage of these credits offered by the government, businesses can offset the cost of adding solar panels to their structures (or the surrounding land).

2. Start With Some of the Simplest Green Methods

It’s not necessary for businesses to go all-out in order to make a difference. Starting with just a few changes can make an impact over time. For instance, try to go paperless whenever possible. Instead of buying sticky notes, use scraps of paper and affix them with reusable paper clips. Encourage workers to dress warmly and keep the heat in the building at a comfortable, but modest, temperature.

3. Buy From Green Vendors

One of the smartest ways to decrease your organization’s overall carbon footprint is to work with vendors that are also interested in going green. You may have to do a little upfront legwork to discover green vendors, but it will definitely be worth the time spent. Just be certain to determine your green criteria before getting started; it will help you figure out which companies best fit your guidelines.

4. Replace Appliances and Equipment With Energy-Efficient, Eco-Friendlier Models

Did the company fridge decide to die this week? Invest in a replacement that’s greener, and make an effort to do that every time something breaks down. From desktop computers to printers to furnishings, there are environmentally safer versions available. You may have to spend a bit more upfront, but you’ll save more in the long haul.

5. Encourage Workers to Commute Together

If your employees are also interested in being green, encourage them to commute with one another. This may mean being flexible in terms of when the workday begins and ends (they can’t all stay after-hours to finish a project if they’re commuting as a group). Another option could be to even give prizes to people who bicycle or walk to work. Make it fun, and individuals on your team will be more apt to rise to the challenge.

There’s no reason to spend a fortune to change your organization overnight into a green machine. Some practical steps will get you there over time and will help you feel better about the effect you’re having on the world around you.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.









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