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Why My Purse is Green

Because I believe…

  • the fastest, most effective way to stop polluters is by pressuring them in the marketplace
  • women can be the world’s most powerful economic and environmental force if we intentionally shift our spending to the best green products and services
  • women have the power right now to solve many of our most serious environmental problems by using our green purses to make a difference
  • women must act – intentionally, collectively, and with the full force of our purse power behind us – if we hope to leave our children and grandchildren a better world.
  • August 14, 2012

    Essay Contest Gives Kids a Chance to Show What They Really Know About Saving Energy – and Win Some Prizes, Too.

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    What do your kids really know about saving energy? Here’s your chance to find out. Team ENERGY STAR, the Environmental Protection Agency’s program to teach kids about energy efficiency, is holding an essay contest for kids. The purpose of the contest is two-fold.  First and foremost, Team ENERGY STAR wants to recognize kids for the wonderful steps they’re taking to use energy more efficiently, and they’ve got all kinds of great prizes to award to show their appreciation. But here’s another important reason: They want to inspire other kids to use energy more efficiently, too.

    The Essay Contest: It couldn’t be simpler. Kids who submit an essay to the Share Your Story page and then click on the DoSomething Team ENERGY STAR Challenge immediately become eligible for a number of prizes, including:

    • The new Lorax DVD, which will go to the first 100 kids to submit essays
    • 25 winners will receive ENERGY STAR certified electronics products donated by LG Electronics, including televisions, computer monitors, smart phones, and mouse scanners
    • Top winners will also be featured in Times Square on the LG billboard.
    • Plus, some of the winners may have a chance to participate in ENERGY STAR day in October with EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

    Essays will be judged based on the following:

    • Creativity/Ingenuity: How did you use Team ENERGY STAR resources to develop a home energy-saving idea that both worked for your family and saved energy? Make sure you explain the energy-saving approach and its relationship to ENERGY STAR as well as how it fits with your family. For example, where your home energy-saving opportunities are and how your family functions day to day.
    • Energy Savings: How effective was your idea in engaging the family to save energy? How much energy was saved? Explain how you and your family implemented your idea. For example, what worked, what didn't, and why you think it was successful. What did you learn from the process and how do you plan to use your ideas and lessons learned to keep saving energy?

    The “essay” can be a written story; a photo essay; a video; a slide show; a drawing; or any other way kids want to show what they have learned about energy efficiency, just so long as it can be uploaded to the ENERGY STAR story page here. Kids can submit stories any time between now and September 17.   Prizewinners will be announced by October 10.

    Continue reading "Essay Contest Gives Kids a Chance to Show What They Really Know About Saving Energy – and Win Some Prizes, Too." »

    July 31, 2012

    My Utility Company Give Me $200 When I Bought My New Refrigerator. Maybe Yours Will, Too.

    Refrigerators use more electricity that any other single appliance in your home. Why? Because they're on all the time. There are a few ways you can improve the efficiency of a refrigerator you already own, but if you have an older model, it could make a lot of financial sense to replace it with something new - especially if your utility company, like mine, helps foot the bill.

    WhirlpoolI held on to my refrigerator for 27 years! But finally, we needed a new one. The seals on the old one were cracked, the drawers were broken, the door handle was chipped, and mold was starting to build up in places I couldn't keep clean. The old fridge still kept my food pretty cold, but it was depressing and unhealthy to use. And being as old as it was, I suspected it was using much more energy than newer models.

    As you can imagine, I wasn't wild about spending hundreds or maybe even a thousand dollars or more on a new fridge. I was relieved when I learned that Pepco, my electric utility, would give me a $150 rebate if I bought the most energy-efficient refrigerator available to meet my needs. Pepco would also pay me $50 if I let them recycle my old fridge. With $200 guaranteed off the price of the appliance, I went shopping! I ended up buying this Whirlpool pictured above. Here's how.

    Continue reading "My Utility Company Give Me $200 When I Bought My New Refrigerator. Maybe Yours Will, Too." »

    June 12, 2012

    Kids Drive Moms' Passion to Save Energy, Join Team ENERGY STAR

    Using energy efficiently is the key to many of the health, environmental and even financial crises we TeamES_Badge_FINface. Burning fossil fuels like coal and oil pollutes our air and water, contributes to asthma and other respiratory problems, and is a major cause of climate change. It's up to all of us to do what we can to make a difference, and most of us try to do our part, especially where our families are concerned. That job has gotten a little easier with the launch of Team ENERGY STAR, a new program to get kids and their parents engaged in simple actions that collectively can have a big impact.

    The program has received a strong welcome from many moms who have made the connection between their kids' future and the energy we use. Here are some of the reasons why they care and what they're doing about it.

    Continue reading "Kids Drive Moms' Passion to Save Energy, Join Team ENERGY STAR" »

    June 06, 2012

    Tired of Telling Your Kids to Turn Off The Lights? Let Team ENERGY STAR Do It!

    Using energy efficiently can be as simple as turning off the lights or computer when they’re not being used. The challenge is getting people – especially kids – to pay heed.  Starting today, the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program is going to make that task much easier, especially for us parents!

    TeamES_Badge_FINENERGY STAR is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program that helps us save money and protect the environment and our health through energy-efficient products and practices.  In 2011 alone, Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, saved enough energy to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 41 million cars — all while saving $23 billion on their utility bills and reducing the pollution that contributes to heart disease, asthma and allergies.

     As impressive as that is, the job is far from done. Climate change is still rising, and our health and the health of our kids is still at stake.  We can make a difference by teaching our kids to save more energy at home. That’s where Team ENERGY STAR comes in.

     Team ENERGY STAR is EPA’s new initiative to engage and educate American youth and their families about saving energy at home. Team ENERGY STAR gives kids and families knowledge and tools they can use to preserve our environment, help protect the climate and create a healthier world.

     I’ve already joined the team myself. But one person a “team” does not make. We all need to join in and do our part. Here are three important reasons why I think it’s worth your while.

      Team_ENERGYSTAR_Screenshot
    First, without question, energy efficiency makes life healthier for our children and family. Climatechange will likely increase the number of people suffering from illness and injury due to more pollution, extreme heat, floods, storms, droughts and fires as well as allergies and infectious disease. The elderly, the very young, the disabled, and the poor alone are especially vulnerable, as are people with heart disease or asthma. Climate change is also expected to cause more severe allergy symptoms because a warmer climate promotes the growth of molds, weeds, grasses and trees that cause allergic reactions. The more efficiently we all use energy, the less likely we are to get sick.

    Second, Team ENERGY STAR will make your job explaining energy efficiency to your children easier. I know that sometimes my kids think I’m a broken record, the way I nag them to turn off the lights and their computers. But the activities Team ENERGY STAR has come up with offer a creative and fun way to motivate the whole family to feel like they’re doing their part together to save energy. With Dr. Seuss’ the Lorax as the engaging theme for Team ENERGY STAR, kids can learn and have fun at the same time. 

    Finally, joining Team ENERGY STAR will help you save money. The typical household spends more than $2,100 per year on energy. With ENERGY STAR, you can save over one-third, or more than $700, on your household energy bills without sacrificing features, style or comfort. 

     Team ENERGY STAR has already lined up some important and influential partners, like the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Do Something, one of the largest organizations in the U.S. for teens and social change. But it’s up to each and every one of us to reach our own kids and families.

    Energy star resourcesKids can join Team ENERGY STAR by visiting energystar.gov/team where they will get easy-to-download educational and interactive materials, such as a comprehensive Action Kit, the ENERGY STAR Home Check-Up, a Lorax activity booklet and a Lorax mustache-making kit. Kids are also encouraged to come back and share their stories about protecting the environment by saving energy, which will be showcased on energystar.gov/changetheworld and throughout social media.

    In fact, Team ENERGY STAR is part of a multi-year EPA campaign, Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR, developed to engage Americans of all ages in saving energy and money and protecting the environment with ENERGY STAR. Millions of people are getting involved, joining their neighbors in this grassroots movement to help protect the climate by saving energy. You can see how people and organizations all over are making a difference with ENERGY STAR by viewing EPA’s ENERGY STARs Across America map.

      Energy Star pledgeBTNYou can also attend an event in your area to learn ways to take control of your energy bills while contributing to a cleaner environment. Plus, if you take the ENERGY STAR Pledge at energystar.gov/pledge, you’ll join 2.8 million other Americans who are taking action to protect the climate.

     If every American household took part in the Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR Pledge, we would: save more than 126 billion KWh/yr of electricity, save $18 billion in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from 20 million cars.

     Get more information and join Team ENERGY STAR here.

    Please leave a comment below when you join Team ENERGY STAR.

    And please come back on June 12, when Big Green Purse will be hosting a carnival of posts from many bloggers who support energy efficiency and Team ENERGY STAR.

     

    Full disclosure: I am a long-time independent advocate of energy-efficiency and the ENERGY STAR program. I am currently working as a paid consultant to introduce Team ENERGY STAR to parents and families.

    May 17, 2012

    How To Pick a New Clothes DryerThat Saves Energy and Money

    Clothes pileWhen my 15-year-old clothes dryer conked out recently, I knew I wanted to replace it with the most energy-efficient dryer available that would meet my family of three's laundry needs. We probably do three full loads of laundry a week, plus towels and sheets. It's not as much as when the kids were little and I was washing their cloth diapers at home, but it is still a significant amount of laundry. 

    Dryer Alternatives

    Dryer rackRack - In the warm weather, I use this large dryer rack for almost everything except sheets and towels. You can see a variety of other rack options here. The advantage of a dryer rack is that it's absolutely free to operate, since it uses the sun and wind to dry clothes. Where I live, in suburban Washington, D.C., I can use my rack about eight months of the year, from around the middle of March to the middle of October. I just set it up on my sunny back porch; it only takes a couple of hours for most clothes to dry. I could probably use the rack longer if I wanted to use it indoors, but it can take two or three days for my clothes to dry on the rack indoors. Most of the time, that's too long.

    Clothesline - I would gladly put up a clothes line if my yard were closer to my laundry room. Many people in my neighborhood use an outdoor clothesline; it's certainly what I grew up with as a kid. But my washer and dryer are on the second floor of my house, and my yard is way below the house. It would be somewhat backbreaking to lug my laundry basket all the way down to a clothesline in the yard.

    Gas vs. Electric?

    Natural gas dryers are generally more efficient than electric; they also generate fewer climate change  emissions than electricity if the electricity is supplied by burning coal. Unfortunately, I didn't have much choice here, as the old dryer was electric and it would have cost a fortune to run a gas line up to my second floor to power a new dryer.

    So my question became, which electric dryer would be most efficient? Normally, I'd compare the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy STAR appliance ratings to help me choose the most energy-efficient option. But unlike for clothes washers, dish washers, refrigerators, and many other electric appliances, there's no Energy STAR rating for this category.

    My appliance retailer gave me some wise words of advice. "If you want to save energy," he said, "don't buy a bigger machine than you really need." The bigger the dryer, the more energy it would use. "But don't buy one that's too small, either," he warned. "Otherwise, you'll be running your dryer twice as often to dry the same amount of clothes."

    DryerAfter looking at various options and manufacturers, I chose this General Electric electric dryer. At 6.8 cu.ft., it is sizable but not as large as the 7.5 cu.ft. and even 9.0 cu.ft. models. No matter. It came with all the essentials:

    ^ An Auto Dry function that monitors air temperatures to set drying times

    ^ Very simple controls

    ^ 4 heat selections (Cottons Regular Heat; Easy Care Medium Heat; Air Fuff No Heat; and Delicates to protect heat-sensitive fabrics and lingerie, all of which have proven more than adequate for our drying needs)

    ^ A humidity detector, which senses when the laundry is dry and will shut off automatically

    ^ a Dewrinkle cycle if I want to dry the clothes lightly so they end up less wrinkled

    The only feature that we might have wanted but didn't get is a "cool down setting" which continues to tumble the clothes but not blow hot air around them.

    Another advantage was the price. The machine I bought cost less than $500 installed, which was much cheaper than bigger models with more bells and whistles.

    Other Ways to Save Energy Using a Clothes Dryer?

    We're pretty happy with this dryer. But we still look for ways we can save energy and money drying our clothes. Here's how:

    * Dry drier clothes. The wetter your clothes are when you take them out of the washing machine, the longer it will take to dry them. We use the spin cycle on our machine to get as much water out of our laundry as possible before we toss it in the dryer.

    * Use the moisture sensor option, rather than timed dry. This way, the machine shuts off automatically when the clothes are dry.

    * Air dry as much as possible. We generally hang shirts, blouses, pants and jeans over the shower rod in the bathroom rather than toss them in the dryer. They dry with fewer wrinkles and don't shrink, so they end up lasting longer than if we tossed them in with everything else.

     

    NOTE: You can find a variety of clothes lines and rack dryer options in our Amazon store here.

     

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    May 15, 2012

    Now's the Time to Consider Sun-blocking Blinds to Keep Your Home Cool This Summer

    SunriseGiven how crazy the climate's gotten, we may be in for a very long, hot summer. In the heat of the moment, your first thought might be to crank up your air conditioner to stay cool. But that's an expensive proposition that will use a lot of energy and wreak havoc on your electricity bill. Before you get to that point, why not take a look at your windows, especially those that let in the most sunshine, and consider ways to shade them and keep the sun and heat out?

    First things first. Weatherize. If you didn't do this in the winter to keep cold air out, definitely do it now to keep hot air out and your nicely cooled air in. You can find a variety of weatherization kits in our online Amazon store or at your local hardware store.

    Second, plant trees. Trees planted strategically on the sunniest sides of your home can significantly reduce the amount of solar light getting through your windows. Plus, they add value to your landscape.

    Double celled shadeNext, cover up. Chances are, your windows are only single panes of glass, maybe doubles (triple-paned glass is the most efficient, but it's not commonly found in most houses and apartments). That means that there's not much of a barrier between the inside and the outside of your house. Curtains or shades  add an extra layer of insulation and increase the energy efficiency of each window covered. The thicker the curtains, the more energy you'll save, especially if you mount the curtains as close to the window as possible. Otherwise, hot air will end up escaping around the curtains and into your room - and vice versa with cold air.

    For energy-efficient shades, skip single louvered panels, whether made of aluminum or vinyl. Instead, aim for shades constructed in a cellular or honeycomb pattern. Here's a picture of the double-honeycomb shades I have on most of my windows. Triple combed shades are the most efficient available, but they weren't on the market 25 years ago when I bought my shades.)

    Honeycomb shades work by creating an insulating pocket of air in each cell that separates the window air space from the room air space.  When not in use, the blinds fold up into a thin band at the top of my window. When down, they provide an effective barrier to the outside air, but still let enough light in that the room can be bright if I use them during the day. You can see more honeycomb options at Levolor and many other online retailers.

    Roller shades, made from heavy-duty fabric, can also reduce window energy loss. To get the most out of the shade, mount them on a track that runs inside the window frame. When the shade is down, very little energy will seep into or out that window.

    Window quilt 1You can also cover your windows with insulated window quilts, like the ones I have on my french doors (right). The quilts affix to the window frame with velcro; they're extremely effective at blocking outside air. The downside is that they let absolutely no light through so you won't want to leave them up during the day. I actually made my own for my previous home, and they worked quite well. If you want to make your own, you can find instructions here.

    Shade windows from outside. The most sunlight comes through south and west facing windows, so these should be your priorities for exterior awnings or overhangs. A wide variety are available, including those that can retract in winter to let the sun in.

    Install storm windows. Storm windows add another layer of glass to your permanent windows. Ideally, your storm windows would attach so that you can still open the window and let air in when you want. I have storm windows on the glass of my front door. In the spring and fall, when the air is pleasant and cool, I lower the storm window so this fresh air can come through the screen and into my home.

    Replace old inefficient windows. According to the Environmental  Protection Agency, Energy-STAR certified windows lower household energy bills from 7 - 15 percent. Federal tax credits to defray the cost of new windows have expired; check with your state and county to determine if you can take advantage of local tax credits to help cover your purchase.

     

    Related Posts:

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    March 02, 2012

    Beat High Gas Prices Ten Smart Ways

    Gas pump2Gas prices have topped $4 a gallon in some states, and are inching higher and higher in many others. You're probably not surprised: if you're reading this blog, then you know that gasoline comes from oil, and oil is an unreliable source of fuel. Prices are volatile right now because the Middle East is so shaky, worldwide demand is rising, and some American refineries are not operating at full capacity.

    But even when prices at the pump aren't high, the environmental and human health "costs" we pay for burning gasoline are out of sight, considering the pollution and climate change  it causes and the toll it takes on the air we breathe and the water we drink.

    These tips will help you save money at the pump - because they'll help you drive less.

    • 1. Drive smart - Avoid quick starts and stops, use cruise control on the highway, and don't idle.

    • 2. Drive the speed limit - Remember - every 5 mph you drive above 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.10 per gallon for gas.

    • 3. Drive less - Walk, bicycle, use a scooter or moped, combine trips, and telecommute.

    • 4. Drive a more fuel-efficient car - Consider one of the new hybrids; at the very least, choose from among the EPA's "Fuel Economy Leaders" in the class vehicle you're considering.

    • 5. Keep your engine tuned up - Improve gas mileage by an average of 4.1 percent by maintaining your vehicle in top condition.

    • 6. Carpool - According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 32 million gallons of gasoline would be saved each day if every car carried just one more passenger on its daily commute.

    • 7. Use mass transit and "Ride Share" programs - Why pay for gasoline at all?

    • 8. Keep tires properly inflated - Improve gas mileage by around 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Replace worn tires with the same make and model as the originals.

    • 9. Buy the cheapest gas you can find - Buy gas in the morning, from wholesale shopper's clubs, and using gas-company rebate cards. Track neighborhood prices on the Internet.

    • 10. Support higher fuel-efficiency standards and the development of alternative fuels - Ultimately, our best hope for beating the gas crisis is to increase fuel efficiency while we transition to renewable and non-petroleum based fuels. Endorse efforts to boost average fuel efficiency to at least 40 mpg. Support programs that promote research and development of alternatives to transportation systems based on oil.

    Need a gauge to check your tire pressure? Find one in our store.

    Want 10 ways to save money and energy in your home? Here you go.

    These energy-saving tips save more than fuel.

    January 17, 2012

    Energy-efficient Fusion debuts at North American Auto Show

    If you're in the market for a new family car that gets good gas mileage, easily carries 5 passengers, and has room in the trunk for your junk, several of the new models that debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week could be exactly what you're looking for. For now, let's take a look at the Ford Fusion Hybrid.

    Fusion hybridThe Ford Fusion Hybrid created some of the biggest buzz at the show, and for good reason. It's a roomy, family-size car but with snazzy style and a regenerative braking system and electric battery that help it get 36 mpg in the city, 41 mpg on the highway. (Full disclosure: I was a guest of the Ford Motor Company at the auto show, though under no obligation to favorably review any of its vehicles.) In case you're wondering, here's how Ford explains what "regenerative braking system" means:

    When you apply the brakes in a conventional vehicle, kinetic energy is lost to heat due to friction. During braking in the Fusion Hybrid, however, the regenerative braking system recovers over 90 percent of this energy that is normally lost and sends it back to the battery pack to be stored for later use. Not only is regenerative braking efficient, but it also helps minimize wear on the brake pads, lowering the cost of maintenance.

    SmartgaugeIt doesn't matter if a car CAN get good fuel efficiency if the driver drives so it doesn't. One of the features I like the most on the Fusion is its "Dual LCD SmartGauge Cluster with Eco Guide." The SmartGauge uses liquid crystal displays on either side of the center-mounted speedometer. A tutorial built into the display lets you choose one of four data screens for the level of information you want — Inform, Enlighten, Engage or Empower — and explains your options within each. Steering wheel-mounted controls make it all easy. All levels can indicate instant fuel economy and trip data including time-elapsed fuel economy and miles to empty. The display grows leaves when you drive efficiently. The leaves fade when you don’t. More leaves = more mpg.

    Another plus? The Fusion Hybrid's eco-friendly cloth seating is made from 85 percent post-industrial materials - polyester fibers that would otherwise have ended up in landfills.

    The car also includes "adaptive cruise control" to automatically slow the Fusion when it detects slower traffic ahead, and an "active park assist" system to make it easier for the driver to parallel park. Sensors in the Fusion's rear quarter-panels detect traffic in a driver’s blindspot, providing both audible and visual warnings if traffic – unseen by the driver – is approaching.

    While the Fusion Hybrid is available in show rooms now, stay tuned for the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, which Ford claims will be the most fuel-efficient midsize car in the world. Arriving this fall, Fusion Energi could deliver more than 100 MPGe, a mile per gallon equivalency metric for electrified vehicles. Ford says this is 8 MPGe more than the Chevrolet Volt and 13 MPGe more than the projected efficiency of the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid model.

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    Tire pressure gauge 2Want to increase your fuel efficiency overnight? Pump up your tires! Use this tire pressure gauge to check your tire pressure at least every three months.

    August 12, 2011

    My test-drive of the all-electric Nissan Leaf - On a scale of One to Ten, I give it a ...

    Leaf Solid Nine. And that's saying a lot, considering that most cars would probably average only a 3 or a 4.

    What's so great about the Leaf?

       Leaf 105 I had a chance to find out earlier this week when I stopped by the Nissan Leaf road show as it passed through my county. The Leaf is Nissan's snazzy eco-friendly, all-electric car which means...it runs ONLY on electricity. It is NOT a gasoline-electric hybrid like the Ford Fusion or Chevy Volt, both of which I have also tested. The Leaf does not run on flex fuel or biodiesel or hydrogen or natural gas or anything other than electricity. It is truly gas-free.

    Nissan had set up a big pavilion in the parking lot of the local mall to explain how the car works and then let people take it for a test drive. I was ready to be skeptical, since I drive a Prius (the original model, which I purchased in 2002), and love it. Instead, I fell in love with the Leaf. Here's why.

    Continue reading "My test-drive of the all-electric Nissan Leaf - On a scale of One to Ten, I give it a ..." »

    July 22, 2011

    Does it cost you more to cool your home than to heat it? Why energy conservation makes sense in the summer.

    Most of us have a tendency to focus on home energy saving during cold weather months, when heating bills rise and you can actually feel chilly drafts coming through leaky windows and poorly insulated attics and crawl spaces.

      Energywasting home But your home can lose just as much if not more energy during the hot summer, when those same windows and attics are leaking air - but in the reverse. (red, pink and yellow spaces in infrared photo of house at left show where energy is leaking). Take a look at the numbers from my latest electricity bill, below (I live just outside Washington, DC). I used twice as much electricity in June this year than I did in November last year, and more in July than I did in December or January.

     

     

    DIANE'S ELECTRICITY USAGE ...

    Continue reading "Does it cost you more to cool your home than to heat it? Why energy conservation makes sense in the summer. " »

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