When you leave a room, turn off the lights if you are the last one out. At Rush, make sure lights are off in empty offices, conference rooms, study rooms and classrooms.
Consider switching to the new compact fluorescent bulbs. They use much less energy and last longer than regular incandescent bulbs. While they cost more, you should experience a total savings over the life of the bulbs. Keep in mind, most of these new bulbs do not work with dimmers, so you may not be able to use them everywhere. New LED technology may become an even greener way to light your home.
Unused power strips and chargers consume small amounts of energy, even when not charging anything. At home, consider using a single power strip and connecting your cell phone, iPod, and other electronic device chargers to the strip. When the chargers are not being used, simply turn off the power on the power strip. Remember, though, power strips are not permitted for use at Rush. Is there electronic equipment you are not using all the time? For example, unplug your DVD player or cell phone charger when you are not using it. It draws power all the time.
Do you own your refrigerator, washer, dryer or dishwasher?
Household appliances account for around 17 percent of the energy use of most households. When it is time to replace, make sure you choose energy-saving appliances (see www.energystar.gov). Do you hang out in front of an opened refrigerator and ponder what you want? Your fridge is one of the biggest energy users in your home. Decide in advance what you want to get out of the fridge so you can get it out quickly and close the door. Keep your freezer and refrigerator full (even if just with jugs filled with water). This reduces the amount of air needed to be recooled after you open the door. Having gallon jugs of water in your freezer allows it to run less often and helps keep food frozen should you lose power.
When you wash your clothes, try using cold water to save energy. New detergents are specifically geared for cold-water use. You can also save a lot of energy by spin drying or using a drying rack or clothesline instead of your dryer.
Use your thermostat and insulate
Lowering your home thermostat in the winter and raising it in the summer can also reduce your utility bills. Every degree that you lower your thermostat results in 2% drop in your heating bill. A programmable thermostat will help you make these adjustments without having to adjust settings every time you leave your home or return. Poor insulation can leak heat in the winter or the cool air in the summer to the outside. Make sure your home is insulated properly and turn off the heating or air conditioning in rooms that are not being used. Insulating air ducting, exposed copper and PVC hot water lines in your home (especially if you can access them in your basement or crawl space) will save energy and money.
If you have older windows in your home and cannot afford to replace them (or if you rent), an easy alternative is to seal windows with plastic film and tape. Kits are available at home improvement stores for under $10 that will cover the windows in an average sized house. Now, these are not the most attractive coverings, but properly winterizing drafty windows can reduce your energy loss by 15% or more.
Home improvement stores sell special insulating tubes that fit snuggly over the existing hot water lines and air ducting in your home. Get some child safety outlet protectors, even if you don't have children. Plug them into the outlets on the exterior walls in your home. There is less insulation behind your receptacles. These plugs help keep drafts from the outlet from getting inside.
You can also buy a "blanket" or wrap for your water heater to help it maintain the water temperature. Many people have hot water heaters adjusted to 140 degrees or even higher. For most applications, 130 degrees is more than adequate and is still hot enough to prevent bacterial growth. Dropping the water heater's thermostat just 10 degrees can result in a 3% - 5% decrease in energy costs. If you have the resources, a solar-powered hot water heater will also result in a dramatic drop in your energy bills (www.energysavers.gov). The cost, however, may be out of reach for many of us until the technology improves and can be made available more affordably.
Make sure your ventilation system has clean air filters to maximize your furnace's energy efficiency.
During cooler months, put window shades on the south-facing side of your home up to let the warm sunlight inside. At night, close your window shades to help keep the warmth inside.
During warmer months, keep the window shades on the south-facing side of your house closed to keep the sun's warmth from radiating into your home. Considering applying reflective sun-control or solar shade material to your windows to help keep the sun's solar energy out of your home. This can also reduce sun damage to curtains, rugs and furniture so they last longer.
An Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) is a mortgage that credits a home's energy efficiency in the mortgage itself. EEMs give borrowers the opportunity to finance cost-effective, energy-saving measures as part of a single mortgage and stretch debt-to-income qualifying ratios on loans thereby allowing borrowers to qualify for a larger loan amount and a better, more energy-efficient home. To learn more about EEM's, visit the government's website.
Yes, Lake Michigan does seem to have an abundance of water, but it takes a lot of energy to process that water to make it safe for drinking and to process the waste water that enters our sewage system. It is easy to take water for granted, but you can make some changes to make your water use more sustainable.
First, check out your current water use. Take a brief survey at H2O Conserve Water Calculator. This will review how much water you use and water is part of most aspects of your life. The average American uses 1,190.5 gallons of water per day. How do you compare?
Household showers using low-flow showerheads instead of full-flow models can save tens of thousands of gallons of water each year. Taking shorter showers can save not only water but the energy used to heat it, too. (www.energystar.gov). Use a kitchen timer in your bathroom. Challenge yourself and others in your household to take showers shorter than three minutes or to take "Navy" showers (turn off the water after you've soaped up until you are ready to rinse).
Instead of letting water run while cleaning vegetables, put water in a bowl and wash them there (and use half as much water). You can also reuse the water from that bowl to water houseplants.
Don't buy bottled water!
As for drinking water, choose a water filter for your refrigerator rather than purchasing plastic bottles of water at the grocery store. Water filters are less expensive than bottled water, and you are keeping material out of the waste stream. Every year, our nation produces billions of tons of plastic. Although easily recycled, sadly, most of it ends up in landfills. Switching to filtered water can also save you money. For example, spend $23 to buy a 1.5 quart pitcher and filter at a discount home outlet, plus a four-pack of replacement filters ($24), and you'll be able to filter 200 gallons of water. Buy that much water in 24-packs of 16.9-ounce brand-name bottles at your local supermarket and you'll have to spend $283.50. Your total savings: $246.50. Get a stainless steel water bottle. Avoid refilling plastic bottles (due to concerns about bacteria growth). Some researchers have expressed concerns that plastic used in water bottles leaches bisphenol A (BPA). This a hormone-disruptor currently under review by the Canadian government. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has concluded BPA is safe for food-grade use, other studies link BPA to reproductive abnormalities, neurological disorders, prostate cancer and pre-cancerous breast tissue. While this is being sorted out, a stainless steel water bottle seems the safest alternative. It avoids contributing to the waste stream, can be easily cleaned, and is completely recyclable should one decide to dispose of it.
Unless they're identified as local or organic products, chances are what you find at your local supermarket are pre-packaged products that have traveled a long way to get to the shelves. There may be unwanted preservatives sprayed on the produce to help it look good in the produce aisle after traveling a long distance. As an alternative, seek out local farmers' markets, which typically can be found in many Chicago communities(check www.localharvest.org for markets near you). Though the costs can be more pricey than what you pay at your neighborhood supermarket, it will likely be both of higher quality and probably healthier. By purchasing local produce, you're helping both to sustain our local farm economies and to reduce reliance on oil-based fuels to transport food from across the nation or perhaps and around the world.
As a general guide, try to buy materials made close to home. Less energy was used to transport these items to you.
For a handy reminder as you shop, download the Environmental Working Group's wallet-sized organic produce guide.
If you switch to mass-transit options to get to Rush, you may be able to pocket a considerable savings in your auto insurance. For consumers who don't drive long distances, insurance companies often offer discounts. If you start using mass transit options to travel to Rush but keep your car, call your insurance company to inquire if you now qualify for a lower rate.
Potential savings: Drivers who cut back to fewer than 7,500 miles a year can often save 5% to 15% off their annual premiums (depending on their carrier). According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average driver pays $817 each year for auto insurance coverage. That discount could annually average at least $40.85 up to $122.55. So, you will be helping the environment and your checkbook.
Bicycling is a great way to reduce your fuel consumption. In 2014, a new type of bike lane called a cycle track will debut on a section of Stony Island Avenue (between 69th and 79th Streets. Unlike regular painted bicycle lanes that are adjacent to vehicle traffic lane, these will have a physical barricade located to the left of the bikes-only lane. The curb or a sidewalk would exist to the right of the cycle track. All motorized vehicles, both moving and parked,will be to the left of the barrier for the cycle track.
Chicago's new mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has indicated that one of his top transportation priorities will be to build 25 miles of new bike lanes annually.
Avoid plastic shopping bags. Bring your own reusable bags to grocery stores. They are readily available for purchase at supermarkets and various chain stores.
Do you have a dog? Avoid using plastic bags to pick up your dog's "waste products" (you do pick up after your dog, don't you?). Look for 100%-biodegradable dog waste bags. They are available at many pet supply stores or online.
In the Rush cafeteria, indicate you are dining in and have your food served on a china plate. The cafeteria switched to compostable clamshells but these still take a long time to degrade in landfills (plus, there is a twenty-five cent surcharge for each to-go container).
If you eat on the go, carry a metal spoon or spork with you to use, wash and reuse, rather than single-use plastic utensils.
Do you patronize coffee shops/stands? Get a reusuable coffee mug with a lid. Many coffee vendors will give you a discount if you provide your own mug. The plastic lids for disposable coffee cups are rarely recycled and they don't biodegrade.
Printing/Reduce your consumption of paper: Some simple changes in behavior can result in big reductions. First, consider carefully if you really need to print a message or information from a webpage. If you do, can you print it on the back of another sheet of paper which is headed for the recycling bin? Can you print it double-sided to reduce the number of sheets that you use?
Finally, the computing offices at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay switched their university from Arial to Century Gothic as the default font. Apparently, Century Gothic uses about 30 percent less ink or toner for printing. This saves on expenditures for ink and toner but also reduces environmental costs incurred from manufacturing ink and toner cartridges, shipping them to you, and shipping them back from remanufacturing or refilling. One can also use commercial products which let you create a more environmentally-friendly font when you are ready to print and save 25% of the ink you would normally use.
Do you ever use your phone directories? If not, you can reduce printing done on your behalf. Do copies of various editions of Yellow Pages arrive annually on your doorstep? If you utilize those directories, be sure to recycle them when new ones are delivered. But, if you don't use them and search for phone numbers and addresses online, consider asking publishers to take you off their distribution list. To try to opt out of receiving copies of Yellow Pages, go to www.yellowpagesoptout.com. To try to opt out of delivery of a Dex Real Yellow Pages book, go to www.selectyourdex.com or call 1-866-60-MY-DEX. Please note that these sites will ask for a lot of information about you. Some people have reported still getting deliveries, even after opting out.
Reduce junk mail: Try to cut down on the amount of junk mail that arrives in your mailbox so you don't end up filling your recycling container quite as quickly. Go to the Direct Marketing Association's opt-out Website. You will first need to create an account. You can specify multiple versions of your name, should you get junk mail addressed to variations of your name, and you can enter the names of everyone at your address (up to five names per free account). Once you have verified your account (from an email message sent to you), then you simply specify you do not want to receive any advertising mail in each of four categories. Alternatively, you can identify specific vendors you want to hear from and decline mail from others.
You can also opt-out at the Catalog Choice site (which claims to also help you opt-out of phone-book distribution lists). In addition, you complete an online form to opt-out of pre-screened credit card and insurance offers (which saves both on what you need to shred at home as well recycle!) or call 888-567-8688 to request that you be added to the opt-out list.