Summer is here and the temperature is heating up! Did you know that there are ways to work smart and save not only energy but money, too, during the summer months? Most people spend several hundred dollars a year on energy to run their homes. Here are some ways to painlessly save money this summer: Be a speedy chef • Microwaves use two-thirds less energy than a stove. Save time and energy making quick meals. Wash your dishes • Dishwashers use less water than hand-washing. Only run the dishwasher when it is full. Run the wash cycle and let the dishes air-dry to save even more. Fill up the fridge • Having a full refrigerator keeps it from getting warm too fast when the door is open — so the fridge doesn’t have to work as hard to stay cool. Turn up the thermostat • When you are at home set the thermostat to 78 degrees. When you are not home set it to 85 degrees or turn it off. Use ceiling or room fans. The air movement helps cool the room. Use appliances wisely • Don’t run appliances during peak hours. This helps prevent electricity outages. • Use the warm or cold water setting for laundry. Use cold water for the rinse cycle.
Plants are pretty and fun to look at, but they are also important in keeping the Earth healthy. Plants are a food source, they help distribute and clean the planet’s water, they create oxygen, they provide food and shelter to wildlife and they are the source of many compounds used in medicines. Here are some things you can do to help keep the plants around you healthy. • Composting: Save plant-based kitchen scraps and lawn clippings and start a compost pile. The composted materials are the perfect fertilizer for houseplants, lawns and gardens. Composting keeps unnecessary waste out of landfills and puts it to good use. • Plant a garden, but do your research first. Know where plants will thrive (sun vs. shade, humid vs. dry environments) and plant accordingly. • Check the soil before planting. Many communities have an extension office that will analyze dirt samples free of charge. This is an easy way to find out what the soil needs in order to give plants what they need. • Use natural lawn and garden products to keep plants healthy instead of harsh chemicals that can harm the environment and pets, too. • Many communities have water restrictions. Take this into consideration when choosing which plants to add to your garden.
Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 as a way to celebrate the Earth and all the things that live on Earth and to make people more aware of the need to take care of the planet. More than 20 million Americans across the country gathered in the streets, at parks and other places to rally for a healthy, sustainable environment. Even though the first Earth Day was more than 45 years ago, there is still plenty of work to do and many reasons to celebrate the Earth, its ecosystems and its resources. See what is going on in your community to celebrate Earth Day. Many places hold festivals, citywide cleanups and other opportunities to learn about the planet and make a difference. Here are just a few things you can do every day that make a difference: • Reduce, reuse, recycle. • Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth. • Turn off the lights when leaving a room. • Unplug electronics and chargers when you are not using them. • Compost vegetables and other kitchen waste. • Volunteer. • Plant a tree.
Staying hydrated is very important to your health, and plastic water bottles can make it easier and convenient. Sadly, they can be very harmful for the Earth’s health. Firstly, plastic is made from oil, and the process for making them requires a lot of energy and can create a lot of pollution. Secondly, when they are thrown away, they can end up as litter or just sitting in giant landfills. • It takes between 1.5 and 1.7 million barrels of oil each year to produce plastic bottles for the U.S. • The energy to make them could power 190,000 homes. • Only 23 percent of plastic bottles are recycled. • To drink the recommended water a day for a year costs $.49 with tap water and $1,400 in plastic water bottles. • Only 1 out of 5 plastic bottles can be recycled. • It takes 1,000 years for the bottles to bio-degrade. • It is estimated that 2 million tons of water bottles are already in landfills. • Americans buy 25 billion disposable plastic water bottles each every year . • Eight out of 10 plastic bottles will just be thrown away. There are a few ways to help reduce pollution and waste created through plastic water bottles. First, you could use them more than once. Buying one disposable plastic water bottle and refilling it many times instead of throwing it away after one use saves money and reduces waste. Another option is buying non-disposable water bottles. They come in many shapes and sizes. Some are made out of plastic, metal or glass. They can also save money as well as reduce pollution because they can replace hundreds of disposable plastic water bottles. Some people dislike the taste of tap water, but a simple filter would fix that instead of buying large amounts of plastic bottles. If you must use disposable, and you can’t keep it for another use, just make sure to recycle it. That will help keep pollution and trash out of the environment and reduce the need for more plastic.
Keep America Beautiful is an organization that is serious about just that — keeping America beautiful. It has many programs aimed at helping people make their communities better and safer places to live. One of these programs is the Great American Cleanup. Each spring, more than 20,000 communities made up of more than four million volunteers take action to make positive and lasting changes in their cities and towns. During the Great American Cleanup, these volunteers go out and: • Remove litter and debris from roadsides, highways, shorelines and waterways for safer, cleaner communities. • Plant trees, flowers and gardens to strengthen our community’s green infrastructure. • Clean and restore nature trails, recreation areas and playgrounds to encourage play and physical activity. • Recycle cans, plastic bottles, electronics, paper products, tires, clothing and even junk cars to give garbage another life. • Rebuild public spaces in communities struck by natural disasters to renew social connections. • Restore business storefronts and gateways to spur economic impact. You don’t have to be a part of the Great American Cleanup to do these things, but there is still time to be a part of it through Keep America Beautiful. To find out more, visit www.kab.org.
During the cold winter months, it is sometimes a struggle to make ends meet. Sometimes people don’t have money to pay the heating bill or buy a winter coat. Here are some common-sense things that you can do to help others while conserving resources. • Donate winter clothes and jackets to organizations like the Salvation Army. Or coordinate through a local church or school to donate items. • Donate other items like used glasses or school supplies to organizations that will redistribute them. • Donate to a food pantry. • Donate your time and help out at a soup kitchen or other organization. • Organize a fundraiser or charity drive. • Contact nonprofit organizations in your community and volunteer.
Decorating for the holidays is a lot of fun, and the sparkly lights sure are pretty, but even during the holidays there are ways to save energy. Here are a few things you can do: • Use LED Christmas lights instead of regular Christmas lights. LED lights use 90 percent less electricity and cost about $10 per strand. • Consider using fiber optic decorations. Most fiber optic decorations just use a single bulb, and it lights up the entire decoration. • Use time limits. Instead of keeping the Christmas tree lit all day and into the evening, turn your tree lights on after it gets dark. Remember to turn them off when you go to bed, too. Timers come in handy for making sure the lights get turned off at night. • Buy smart. Consider buying gifts that don’t use electricity or batteries. Energyquest.ca.gov says that 40 percent of all batteries are bought during the holidays. Instead, buy gifts that encourage recipients to use their imagination. • Turn the thermostat down a degree or two and save money on the heating bill.
Winter is coming, and that means the weather will be getting colder. There are plenty of ways to stay warm without wasting energy or resources. Close vents and doors in unused rooms. If rooms in your house aren’t used daily, close the air vent to those rooms and seal off the rest of the room. Closing the air vent and keeping the door shut will cause the temperature in the room to drop as you won’t be heating it, saving you money on the heating you were paying for that room. Wear thick socks or heavy slippers. Feet are one of the first body parts to turn cold, so be proactive with wool socks or slippers with a rubber sole. Taller socks keep more of your leg warm, and the rubber sole keeps your feet from feeling cool tile or hardwood floors. Lower the thermostat when no one is around. Before leaving for work, turn down your thermostat to keep the heat from running all day. No one is home to benefit from the heat, so you turn it down to save on energy costs. Keep hot drinks around. A morning cup of hot chocolate (or coffee for grownups) will help to raise your internal body temperature, and for those non caffeine drinkers, try hot tea. Hot tea comes in countless flavors, from fruity to minty to herbal. Another alternative is hot cider. Use the sun. Open and close your blinds to let the sun in and naturally warm your house. South-facing windows should be opened during the day to maximize the direct sunlight and then closed at night.
Everyone has seen it: a plastic bag blowing down the street or an empty soda can lying in the grass. This is littering, when garbage is not thrown away properly. It may not seem like much, but a piece of paper or a soda can thrown on the ground can cause a lot of problems. Littering not only makes the environment ugly, but also can harm the environment and all of the plants and animals in it. Here are some facts about littering: • It can attract bugs and vermin like rats that bring diseases. • Animals can get caught in cans when they try to lick the food out. • Fish can get caught or harmed by fishing line or other plastics thrown in the water. • Chemicals from litter can make the plants and animals in the area sick. • Littering in water pollutes it and can make it unsafe to drink. • A single soda can takes 200 years to decompose. • Broken glass can hurt any person or animal that comes across it. • Littering is illegal, and people caught littering can be fined. • Human food is not healthy for animals to eat. • There is a giant patch of garbage in the Pacific ocean that is bigger than Texas. • Many animals are attracted to the bright colors of plastic and eat small pieces. The problem of littering may seem gigantic and impossible to fix. The truth is that if everyone gets involved, even in just a small way, littering can be stopped. The first step is don’t litter! Throw garbage away in the correct bins, and make sure to rinse the food out of cans and jars before you throw it away. The next thing to do is to help pick up the litter that is already there. It could be as simple as picking up a piece of paper that missed the trashcan. Another option is to organize a group made of friends and family and to spend a day cleaning up an area. With just a few people, some gloves and a few trash bags, it is amazing what a difference you
Wasting energy can be a very expensive and harmful habit. In households today, one of the most common forms of energy used is electricity. Electricity for a home can be produced in several different ways, some better than others. Some towns burn coal, oil or natural gas to create heat that is turned into electricity; some use solar power and some even use the power of rivers turning giant turbines (hydroelectric power) to create electricity. Regardless of how the energy is created, wasting it is expensive and can be harmful to the planet. Here are some facts about energy conservation and what you can do to save power: • Don’t leave lights on in empty rooms. • Don’t leave the refrigerator door open. • Use cold water in the washing machine. • Take colder and shorter showers. • Close curtains on hot days to block the sun. • Don’t leave things turned on and plugged in. • Turn the air conditioning up just a few degrees. • Only use washers, dryers and dishwashers if they are full. • Don’t leave chargers plugged in. Two types of ways to create energy exist: renewable and non-renewable. Renewable energy is made from resources that don’t run out, like wind, sunlight and water. These are generally better for the environment, though being wasteful with the power is still very expensive. Non-renewable energy is created by resources that cannot be replaced. Burning coal, oil and gas is nonrenewable energy, and this is the most common way to produce electricity. Wasting energy that is produced by non-renewable resources is expensive and also bad for the environment. Burning these non-renewable resources pollutes the environment, and if we use too much, one day we will run out. Using electricity responsibly will help to keep the planet healthy and make sure there is power in the future. For more information, visit the following sites: www.eia.gov/kids/ www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=kids.kids_index www.energyquest.ca.gov/saving_energy/ www.alliantenergykids.com/EnergyandTheEnvironment/SavingEnergy/022391
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