Scientists have warned of a global warming tipping point for decades. But progress is being made: Renewable energy structures in the U.S. could, with a few tweaks, supply 80 percent of domestic energy needs by 2050. We’re at a point where we can make serious positive strides toward preserving our planet. Solar panel prices are plummeting, and usage is accounting for 36 percent of new electric capacity. Getting to that 80 percent renewable mark would reduce carbon emissions from the power sector by 80 percent and cut water use in the power sector by half. All of the pieces are beginning to fall into place for this to happen.
But despite that, we still have a long way to go. Over the past 60 years, the U.S. has more than doubled its non-renewable energy consumption, and renewable sources still aren’t proliferating at the rate of petroleum and natural gas. Renewable energy can save money and the environment: We just have to take decisive action. Read on to find out the real cost of U.S. energy consumption.
Miles Young is a freelance writer, designer and outdoorsman. He’s worked as a roof contractor and part-time engine mechanic. He spends his free time fishing and tinkering in his garage. You can follow him on Twitter @MrMilesYoung.
"Going green" makes ample sense from a business perspective. In addition to providing positive PR, a company's green initiative helps the environment by contributing a smaller carbon footprint. Green-friendly initiatives illustrate that a company cares about its community and is willing to prioritize the environment over cutting corners.
While "going green" in previous decades was difficult due to cost and inaccessibility, recent advances in technology, from biodegradable cleaners to affordable CFL/LED lighting, have made it easy and cost-effective for businesses to truly go green. It's so easy in 2015 for a business to be green that the initiative should be considered by all, starting with the simple tips outlined below.
Image by Public Domain Archive.
Make the Switch to LED
Whereas fluorescent lighting contains harmful toxins like lead and mercury, LED lights are devoid of any harmful toxins. They are also more energy efficient and last longer than most traditional lighting. Switching to LED is one of the easiest green-friendly endeavors a company could pursue. Due to LED's longevity, the switch will even save money in the long run.
Compact-fluorescent lights (CFL) are also worth consideration. Similar to LED, they can save companies up to $200 per bulb over time. Plus, many CFL and LED lights slide right into the standard bulb socket for most fixtures.
Utilize Biodegradable, Green Products
All businesses strive to maintain a clean-looking office, particularly with the use of cleaning supplies. Biodegradable cleaners reduce exposure to chemicals and harsh toxins. They’re also widely available at a fair price in grocery stores and on Amazon.
Cleaning supplies only one example of eco-friendly products companies can buy to improve their green presence. In general, any product that is biodegradable and/or has low toxicity, reduced packaging and low life-cycle energy use should be considered if it serves the same function as a product that is not. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) summarizes this well:
“Taking steps to reduce exposure can minimize harmful impacts to custodial workers and building occupants, improve indoor air quality, and reduce water and ambient air pollution while also ensuring the effectiveness of cleaning in removing biological and other contaminants from the building's interior.”
Photo by Fotolia.
Minimize Paper Use or Skip It Entirely
Any form of communication—from company memos to financial records—can now be securely stored and transmitted electronically. This makes paper a lot less essential than it was decades ago, which is great news for the environment. So many resources are used to make paper; 324 liters of water is required to make 1kg of paper, while paper also accounts for 25 percent of landfill waste and 33 percent of municipal waste. Companies who strive to minimize paper use, or eliminate it entirely, are doing the environment a great favor, while also responsibly adapting to a new form of communication in electronic storage and transmission that will undoubtedly continue to be the norm in business.
Check Your Local Utility Provider for Green Options
The U.S. Department of Energy has a map feature where business owners can check the availability of green power in their state. They should also reach out to their local utility provider for any green options available, such as opting to prioritize renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, hydropower, geothermal and plant matter. Although this may result in a higher monthly cost, it's a small percentage to purchase clean energy and make the environment a better one.
Seek Innovative Ways to Recycle
From employee’s water bottles to stacks of paper, it’s irresponsible for a business not to recycle. Some business managers may feel that their industry offers few options for recycling daily products, but you’d be surprised to learn some of the many creative recycling options out there.
For example, businesses in the construction industry can make use of scrap recycling services, and many cell phone retailers are beginning to offer phone recycling programs. As recycling becomes more important to our society, more and more options are becoming available to meet your specific business needs.
Going green is quite easy and cost-effective, as the above examples show. Businesses can certainly reap the PR benefits, but more importantly they will contribute positively to our environment by using products with no harmful toxins, reducing paper use and considering green alternatives for power and recycling.
What are some other, simple ways that more organizations can go green? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below!
Kayla Matthews is a health and wellness blogger who loves jogging, yoga and hiking. Follow Kayla on Google+ and Twitter to read all of her latest posts.
The population of Texas will double by 2050 if growth continues at the same pace experienced between 2000 and 2010, according to the state demographer. That booming population would put acute demands on housing, education, infrastructure and potable water supplies.
Looking ahead, the City of San Marcos, Texas, located 25 miles south of Austin, is offering home and business owners a chance to install a professional rainwater harvesting system and receive a 50-percent rebate—up to $5,000 for homeowners and $20,000 for owners of commercial property.
Jeremy Delost, president and CEO of Acer Water Tanks, examines one of the Pioneer water tanks that the San Marcos, Texas-based company sells in North America.
Photo by Pat Pape
“Despite the recent heavy rains in Central Texas, San Marcos officials know this area is growing rapidly and realizes there may not be enough water for the future population,” says Jeremy Delost, president and CEO of Acer Water Tanks, a San Marcos-based tank distribution company that serves the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean. “Without adequate clean water, growth will be limited, so city officials want residents to collect, store and use rain before it runs into streets and gutters.”
Many municipalities offer benefits to citizens who harvest rain, but the San Marcos rain catchment program is the most generous Delost has seen during his decade in the industry. Despite publicity about water shortages, many Texans are still unaware of the state’s water situation.
“Most people are accustomed to an unlimited supply of clean water at a cheap price,” said Delost. “They turn on their tap and safe, drinkable water comes out. This is why people don’t adopt rainwater harvesting on a large scale except in areas where water is expensive or no public water supply exists. Of course, water is free once you have a rainwater system.”
Despite poor well water and limited municipal water services in some areas, the Texas Hill Country lifestyle is extremely desirable, and people continue moving there. Rainwater harvesting has become a reliable source of domestic water, and many families live exclusively on rain that is far superior to water pumped from private wells during this time of water conservation.
“Residents to the area build their dream houses despite the poor well water and lack of city water, and they collect rain coming off their roof and store it in a large tank—maybe 20,000 or 30,000 gallons,” he said. “It becomes their sole water supply. As long as the system is well designed and constructed, they can store water indefinitely and maintain its high quality.”
In 2012, each Texan used an average of 83 gallons of water per day, reports the Texas Water Development Board. A 1-inch rain falling on a 1,000-square-foot roof will produce 600 gallons that can be stored and used as needed. A water-conscious family of four requires about 100,000 gallons of water per year for domestic use. Because San Marcos receives 35 inches of rain in an average year, a 4,500-square-foot collection area would supply the family with its annual water requirement.
“San Marcos and other Central Texas cities are growing fast, so access to plentiful, quality water is extremely important,” he added. “A rainwater harvesting system that collects water every time it rains and at no charge is ideal. Now that the city is subsidizing the cost of the system, residents should jump on board to secure a water supply for the future.”
Pat Pape is a freelance writer, blogger and communications consultant, who lives with her husband and numerous pets on a Texas hobby farm. See her writing portfolio.
Are you ready to make the switch from gas guzzler to something a little more efficient, such as a hybrid or electric vehicle? The U.S. Department of Energy reports that vehicles that rely on alternative fuels produce lower emissions than traditional models that rely on fossil fuels. Data also shows that these types of cars are more affordable. Saving money and helping the environment, why wouldn’t you opt to drive a more efficient vehicle?
Photo by shutterstock.
Turn over a new, greener leaf by trading in your conventional car and purchasing a model that benefits the environment. Here are a few tips on how to make the best choices when it comes to finding the perfect eco-friendly car.
Does It Qualify for a Tax Credit?
Driving an efficient vehicle can earn you a pretty hefty tax credit. Before you buy, do some research to make sure your model qualifies. In some cases, electric vehicles are eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500. The credit is based on the capacity of the car’s battery, which is used to fuel the vehicle. Additionally, plug-in hybrid vehicles purchased during the year 2010 or later also qualify for the $7,500 tax credit. Drivers can claim the credit by filling out tax form 8936. The U.S. Department of Energy website has all the information you need to find out if the car you're interested in is eligible for the tax credit.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Conventional cars comes in all shapes and sizes, and so do hybrid and electric vehicles. However, the most popular styles of energy-efficient vehicles are often much smaller than fossil-fueled models. For example, hybrid sedans lose between three and five feet of cubic trunk space to accommodate the battery.
Although many of the eco-conscious vehicles on the market may be downsized, you don’t have to sacrifice space. Shop around and look for models, such as the 2015 Lexus RX Hybrid or the 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid, that offer the benefits of an energy-efficient vehicle and the space of a traditional SUV. Keep in mind a hybrid SUV may lose some storage space to fit the battery, but you'll have more room overall.
Make a Smart Choice
Dubbed the Energy Star of vehicles by DriveTime, SmartWay is an EPA certification that is awarded to cars and trucks that emit less tailpipe emissions and greenhouse gasses than other conventional vehicles. Since its development in 2004, the SmartWay program has eliminated 51.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
And the certification isn't just limited to consumer vehicles—the SmartWay program extends to freightliners, as well. Dealerships like DriveTime have an ongoing partnership with SmartWay. In fact, 20 percent of the DriveTime inventory is made up of SmartWay certified vehicles. Additionally, DriveTime was the first national dealership to brand eco-friendly cars with the SmartWay logo, which makes it easier for consumers to make a green choice. For more information, visit the DriveTime blog and check out their selection of eco-friendly cars.
Almost everyone has had bad days at work—when things are just not going right and zapping the life out of you. When you feel like things are getting out of control, take a good look at your situation as you could be experiencing work burnout. Paula Davis-Laack, an expert who trains professionals all over the world how to manage stress, defined burnout as “the chronic state of being out of sync with one or more aspects of your life, and the result is a loss of energy, enthusiasm, and confidence.” This can eventually impact your physical and mental health, as well.
Davis-Laack then cited research tracing work burnout to six sources: lack of control, conflicting values, insufficient reward, work overload, unfairness, and breakdown of relationships at work. Take control of your life and start having less stress in the workplace. Here are some tips to help you deal with burnout at work.
Photo by Moyan Brenn/Flickr.
1. Proactively Assess Your Situation
To come up with an effective course of action, you need to evaluate your life. Aside from your workplace, consider your physical well being, relationships with other people, and your life in general. Refuse to become a victim of circumstances. Do something to change things or, at the very least, your perspective.
2. Tap into the Power of Meditation
Meditation is a tried-and-true, yet often forgotten, method to alleviate burnout in these modern times. Carve out time from your busy schedule to focus on yourself. Slow down, keep cellphones and other distractions away, and take deep breaths. Cultivate your mind and soul with empowering mantras or positive thoughts.
3. Do Something for Yourself
When getting out of bed seems next to impossible, give yourself reasons to get going. Take small but significant steps to reduce stress. Simple things like turning off your television, decluttering, and discovering a new hobby will do wonders for you. Each day should be more than tolerable, and having something to look forward to can really help.
Photo by Ralph Daily/Flickr.
4. Eat Right
It has long been said that you are what you eat. Your choice of food not only has an effect on your strength, but also on your mood. Fuel your body with the right kind of nourishment. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Drink more water. Eschew junk food, soft drinks and alcohol, and other overly processed foods.
5. Get Enough Sleep
The human body can only take so much, so be sure you acknowledge its need to rest. Strive to get eight hours of sleep each night. Take naps as needed. If you have a hard time falling asleep, keep your television and gadgets powered off or put away. Listen to relaxing music, and make your bedroom as comfortable as possible.
6. Bask in Nature’s Goodness
Nature has countless ways to soothe the body and soul. Turn to nature to rejuvenate yourself. Plan a hiking trip, take a leisurely walk in a garden, and indulge in fresh greens as part of your daily diet. Add flowers or a potted plant to your office.
7. Plan Your Schedule
Stay on top of how you spend your time by drawing up a weekly or monthly schedule. Planning will help you organize the things that you need and want to do, and ensure that you’re making time for both. Being efficient with your time will significantly reduce your stress levels and leave you feeling in charge of your life.
8. Triage Your Tasks
Avoid spreading yourself too thin. With limited time, energy and resources, you need to re-align your focus or else you’ll only end up frustrated. Before attempting to do everything at once, concentrate first on what is really urgent and stick to that.
9. Have the Courage to Say “No”
Maximize what you can do, but know what your limits are. You need to protect your precious time and energy or you’ll risk losing productivity. Politely let your employer and co-workers know when you feel like you’re taking on too much so you can start concentrating on what can be done to help the situation.
Photo by Jason A G/Flickr.
10. Make the Best of Your Vacation Time
Vacation leaves are not a luxury, but a necessity for employees to recharge their batteries every now and then. Instead of seeing these leaves as a waste of time, take advantage of it so you can come back to work refreshed. When you do take your vacation, avoid taking your work with you. If you really can’t help it, keep the amount you do while away from the office at the minimum.
11. Discuss It with Your Boss
Do not hesitate to talk things over with your supervisor or someone who is in a position to help you. You and your employer need to be on the same page in regards to your productivity. Bring up your concerns as soon as possible. It could be an overwhelming workload, a lack of incentives to boost motivation and inspiration at work, and anything else you feel is taking away from your focus and satisfaction. Ask for suggestions and voice yours, if you have any. This will show that you’re taking initiative and proactively trying to improve your performance.
12. Ask for Help
Doing everything yourself is the perfect way to crash and burn, fast. Know when to ask for help, believe in teamwork and delegate or outsource tasks if you can. Recognizing that you are not a superhuman, with the ability to do it all, is important if you want to do your job well.
13. Accept That No One is Perfect
Striving to be a perfectionist every minute of the work day will only set you up for disappointments. Instead, aim for excellent performance and end the day knowing that you did your tasks to the best of your ability.
14. Avoid Self-Sabotage
It’s very easy and tempting to slip into self-destructive behavior like drinking away your woes, not showing up at work, and so on. Stop as soon as you find yourself going down this path because these activities aren’t healthy coping mechanisms. If you need to channel your burnout, find healthy ways to do it, such as working out or talking to an objective friend.
Photo by Chepner/Flickr.
15. Cultivate Healthy, Work Relationships
Get your strength from a solid support system. Aside from helping you channel your burnout, having people you can turn to can give you new insights into your situation. If available, join the stress management program at your workplace, and if you don’t have one you may want to suggest it to your co-workers.
Working day in and day out while experiencing burnout may feel like too much, but keep in mind that you can take actions to change your situation. Get started with these simple steps that can begin to alleviate the feelings of burnout and help you strike the perfect work-life balance.
Emily Harper is an Environment and Sustainability Advocate. She is also fond of analyzing home structure and design and has been a Home Stylist and Consultant. She loves to write about home improvement, business, marketing, and green sustainability. Get to know Emily by following her on Twitter.
We all know the obvious reasons why cycling has less of an impact on our environment than driving does. According to the U.S. Census, about 50 percent of Americans live within five miles of their workplace, so why aren’t more people riding bicycles to work or when running local errands? For every mile pedaled, compared to driven, almost one pound of carbon dioxide is saved! So park that car and get on those two wheels. Next step: save the world.
Photo by shutterstock.
Reduce Manufacturing Footprint
All manufactured goods, including a bicycle, have an environmental impact. A whopping 1.2 billion cubic yards of air pollution is generated each year thanks to the car manufacturers. Don’t forget the painting and coating which adds another 40 million pounds of air pollution and 24 million pounds of toxic waste. Yes, manufacturing bicycles isn’t a zero-waste or pollution-free industry, but bikes use significantly less rubber and fuel to make than motor vehicles, conserving thousands of acres of forests that would normally be cleared for rubber plantations. The consumer winds up being the one who pays for the larger manufacturing footprint of motor vehicles.
Protect Wildlife & Their Habitats
We know the negative impact of air pollution on our natural environment, but consider the impact of the oil, fuel and hydraulic fluids that drip out of cars. When it rains it doesn’t stay on paved roadways, it becomes toxic runoff that enters our oceans and local waterways. For every parking space one car takes up, 20 bikes can easily fit in its place.
Reduce the amount of land that’s cleared for parking lots and the expansion of roads by riding your bicycle more often. Not only will this protect the home of local plants and animals, it will protect trees that are vital to carbon sequestration, or the filtering and reduction of carbon dioxide in the air. Less commonly considered, air pollution from motor vehicles is an urban animals’ worst enemy. Natural areas are becoming fewer and farther between. Bicycles are quiet, they don't pollute and are less likely to turn urban animals into roadkill victims.
Boost Your Local Economy
The U.S. bicycle industry boosts the nation’s economy through the 1.1 million jobs and nearly 1.8 billion dollars in federal, state and local taxes it generates. By riding your bike instead of taking your car, you’re more likely to support local grocery stores, drugstores and other local businesses. These nearby businesses will foster a vibrant and walkable community which reduces further habitat loss and air pollution. And you get to live, bike and thrive in your clean, green town!
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that nearly 33,000 people in the U.S. died in motor vehicle accidents in 2014. Although bicycle accidents still occur, fatalities are few (only about 700 people a year). Accidents aside, you’re saving your own life in other ways. Biking will leave you in good shape, good health and good spirits, not to mention less prone to obesity and depression. Biking for 30 minutes a day—to the bank and back —could save on health care expenses every year.
Get a New Perspective
The perspective from behind your wheel while you’re stuck in rush hour traffic isn’t the most beautiful. Actually, it’s usually full of road rage, frustration and the back of someone else’s car. Imagine zooming past these cars in traffic on your bike, taking in the fresh air, getting a close look at the beautiful rose bushes on the side of the road or the blue jay flying past you. You get a much more colorful perspective, your mind is clear and you have more time to think.
Perhaps you’ll consider a bike tour for your next vacation, cycling the lush streets of Boulder, Colorado, or over the endless bridges of Portland, Oregon. It's among many ideas for keeping travel cheap and enjoyable. It’s a never-ending wheel of possibilities when you choose to cycle!
Natalie Posdaljian has a degree in Environmental Systems: Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. She works in the fisheries in Alaska.
Photo courtesy water.org.
WHY THEY’RE CRUCIAL: When you step into the bathroom, do you consider the importance of the most basic, essential personal-care item we use? It’s water. Safe water has the power to transform lives. Worldwide, 750 million people lack access to clean drinking water (that’s almost 2.5 times the population of the U.S.!), and every day more than 2,000 people die as a result. For more than 20 years, water.org has pioneered water and sanitation solutions that help give communities hope, health and a future.
WHAT THEY DO: For just $25, water.org can give someone access to safe water.
• Work with well-vetted local partners who understand the community’s culture
• Engage the community at every level of a project to ensure community ownership for long-term viability
• Respond to community demand when approaching project selection
• Hold intensive seminars throughout a project to emphasize the link between hygiene and health
HOW WE CAN HELP: Throughout the duration of this issue, we’re raising funds to help spread access to clean water across the world. To join our efforts, visit our water.org fundraiser. Or mail donations directly to water.org at 920 Main, Suite 1800, Kansas City, Missouri, 64105. Include the fundraiser name, Mother Earth Living Gives Back, on the envelope or check, if you wish. Our goal is to collect $2,500 for water.org.
DID YOU KNOW
• Every minute, a child dies of a water-related disease.
• Diarrhea caused by inadequate drinking water, sanitation and hand hygiene kills an estimated 842,000 people every year globally, or about 2,300 people per day.
• Women and children collectively spend 140 million hours per day collecting water, which takes time away from education, work and raising their families.
• More people have a mobile phone than a toilet.