How To Save Energy Through Conservation

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 Thunder in the Grass

Ah, summer. The sound of birds singing in the morning. The roar of the lawn mowers. The buzz of the cicadas in the trees. The cacophony of the grass edgers.
     Wait a minute. Whatever happened to quiet summers? Why are we putting up with all this noise. Few things demolish the serenity of a summer day like the 70-decibel scream of a gas-fed leaf blower.
     Some 60 million of us now live in homeowner associations that contract with landscape maintenance companies that regularly disturb our peace, a cavalry astride giant mowers that invade our territory weekly, followed by an infantry of backpack engines that whack weeds and trim hedges. We are forced to seal ourselves in from the glorious weather to avoid the noise and the stink of unfiltered spent gasoline polluting the air.
     Since lawnmowers, hedge trimmers and leaf blowers are powered by two-cycle gas engines, which run on a mixture of gas and oil, 30% of that mixture is released directly into the air and a half-hour operation of one of them releases as many emissions as a sedan traveling 2200 miles. The worst offenders are the high-powered leaf blowers which not only create an infernal racket but also affect air quality by the particulate matter which they stir up, including dust, fecal matter, fungi, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Some communities have banned gas-powered leaf blowers for these reasons.
Whatever happened to teenage gardeners?      Time was when they earned money during the summer to help pay for their own expenses. Yet it was estimated that only 1/3rd of 16-19 year olds had summer jobs in 2008. A troubled economy is somewhat to blame, but “most affluent college students simply refuse to spend the summer” working, according to The Week magazine.
     When yet another bucolic Wednesday was shattered last week by the usual din, I had an epiphany. What if some of those teenagers floundering at the lakes or the beaches across America were to rise up and do something to mitigate the staggering college debt that otherwise awaits their future? They could pool their pizza money and buy manual lawn mowers, hedge clippers, edgers and rakes and offer your community

a silent, pollution-free gardening service, as in days of old. They would become entrepreneurs, learn to operate a business, and put their showboating pick-up trucks to use actually picking up stuff. I would hire them in an instant.
     It was a quaint reverie that for a moment pictured Americans doing work in a way that immigrants are unwilling to do, but then it was gone.
     That’s a prescription for the 30 million acres of lawn in the U.S., but then there are…
Those other lawns: Our golf courses      Well-manicured golf courses consume an inordinate amount of water, particularly in the dry western states, as well as large amounts of fossil fuels to mow, fertilize and eliminate pests, while their equipment spews tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.
     But an initiative by the Audubon Society, for the protection of birds as you might expect, has much broader benefits. Golf courses are asked to convert their out-of-play and shoreline surfaces to wildlife habitat by discontinuing watering, mowing, pesticide use and fertilizing. Manufacture of that last category is by one of the largest CO2 emitting industries; the benefits of discontinuing the others should be self-evident.
     It takes one to three years to make the conversion and win Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program accreditation. Of the 516 clubs that have adopted these measures, the average course returns 22 acres to nature. A short Newsweek mention says that 99 percent of club managers report no degradation of playing quality. And the next time your ball finds the water, rather than flinging your club to join it, you might be pacified by birdsong.
     With over 12,000 golf courses still to go in the U.S., chances are yours may not have looked into this program. If not, talk it up, work up a petition among members, and make it happen. As a money-saver, it should make an easy sale. Next thing you know, they may elect you club president.
- Stephen Wilson & Tony White

There Are Light Bulbs and "Light Bulbs"

We hear entreaties from all sides to change as many light bulbs as possible from incandescent to compact fluorescent (CFLs). Many of us have done that, and are thereby presumably reducing energy consumption modestly. Those who waited until now will be pleased to Click to continue

How Big Is Your Paper Trail?

Still reading a newspaper? Their prolonged decline in the U.S. is viewed as a calamity, but if newspapers can successfully convert to economically viable newssites, it might not be such a bad thing.
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Plastic Bags: Ban, Recycle or Tote?

Plastic bags, like plastic bottles, are ubiquitous. Unfortunately, they are too much part of the scenery, since the majority of used bags end up in landfills, or worse, in public parks, forests and on beaches

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A Fresh Look at Summer Comfort...

..."Or how to cool your house for less money and be more comfortable while limiting carbon emissions".
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Step Off the Gas

In 2007, against stout opposition even at that late date, Congress finally passed an energy bill that mandated a 40% improvement in auto mileage efficiency.
      But that is phased in across a dozen years, and does nothing for all the cars, pickups, SUVs and trucks already on the road.
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Nostalgia Recommended As Your Washday Softener

What could be more basic than a rope strung between two hooks for drying clothes? Using the energy of the sun and an occasional breeze, and no fossil fuels, wet fabrics dry with a minimum of effort, subject, of course, to season or climate. Best of all, it is free!
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A Beef About Beef

It is not news that there is a mounting food crisis in the world. In the U.S. what makes the biggest headlines is that corn has been diverted to ethanol production, raising the price of corn as food. But the problem goes well beyond corn.
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If You Haven't Converted to CFLs Yet...

You can buy them (compact flourescent bulbs) almost anywhere conventional incandescent bulbs are sold. (Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, Target, Costco, Sam's). Most have a telltale twist that looks a bit like a soft vanilla ice cream cone.
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Kick the Bottled Water Habit, Drink Out of the Tap

In the wake of high gasoline prices, presidential candidates and pundits are debating drilling offshore and in ANWAR or recovering oil from tar sands or shale. However, there is something that all of us can do immediately to reduce our addiction to oil while contributing to the health of the planet.
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How to save energy and pay your food bill at the same  time— take the bus

According to a new study by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the time-honored strategy of “leave the driving to us” has become a new economic strategy at today’s gas prices.
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Thunder in the Grass

Ah summer. The sound of birds singing in the morning. The roar of the lawn mowers. The buzz of the cicadas in the trees. The cacophony of the grass edgers.
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Lives of a Cell

Americans won’t be caught dead with anything less than the latest fashion in cell phones. Avidly chasing these fickle and finicky consumers, manufacturers offer almost 500 different models to choose from, with over a dozen new variants coming out every month. The result is that we throw away something like 125 million working phones annually because they look sooo last year.
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