A green resolution for 2010

For the past few years I have not had your typical resolution on New Years, instead I have decided on picking one way to go green and switch to it, permanently .  I find that the peer pressure involved with my going green New Year’s resolution is much harder than the resolution itself.   

Last year on January 1st 2009 I made it a point to use strictly cloth napkins when in my home.  I had to modify it to my home because it was going a bit far to be a guest at someone’s house and demand a linen napkin. 

I did my best and have to say that 8 out of 10 times I would use a cloth napkin and even get my fiancé who rarely uses napkins as it is, to join me.  He sometimes would get annoyed with this but for the ladder part of the year has stopped complaining and jumped on the bandwagon realizing that complying is much easier than having an entire conversation about why I am forcing him to do this. 

I have been thinking a lot lately about this year’s green resolution and besides my bizarre issue of recycling used foil, I think I am as green as I can get.  Now that I am a homeowner with my very own backyard, I have decided this year to invest in a clothes line.  I am hoping to dry all of my laundry if not at least 50% of it via clothesline this spring and summer! 

I have compiled a small list for those of you who need some ideas for having a greener resolution this year!

  • Wash all your laundry in cold water.
  • Switch to cloth napkins.
  • Walk instead of drive.
  • Invest in a clothes line.
  • Set your thermostat 3 degrees lower than you usually do.
  • Shut your lights off as you leave a room.
  • Install sensor lights outside.
  • Unplug all unnecessary electrical items (lamps, coffee pot ect.)

I hope you all have a truly GREEN New Year!

Posted by: Kate Kiselka, Follow me on Twitter

Crown Point Cabinetry finds a home in the Green Life Smart Life home

The Green Life Smart Life home has chosen custom designed cabinets by Crown Point cabinetry for the kitchen.  A beautiful maple wood with an origina Oyster Milk Paint finish was chosen.  Crown Point Cabinetry is located in Claremont, NH which allowed us to get points for local (within 500 miles), FSC certification, and it counted towards our paints and finishes. 

Milk Paint is a hand-brushed finish that starts off as a powder.  Natural materials such as lime, milk protein, earth pigments and clay fillers are used to make develop the powder.  After the milk paint has been painted onto the cabinets it is then sprayed with a sealer coat with their catalyzed varnish.  It then goes into the oven at 130 degrees.  It is quite an extensive process.  Then the cabinets are sanded and then rubbed down to remove even the smallest piece of dust.  Then lastly a top layer of catalyzed varnish and then back into the oven for 20 minutes. 

The finished look of our cabinetry both kitchen and bath provided a real authentic and elegant detail to our home design.

Posted by: KDL | follow me on Twitter

Bad Wine Makes for Good Energy

So here at Green Life Smart Life, it is safe to say that most of us have a very deep loving relationship with wine, so imagine our delight to know that bad wine can actually save us money.

In this article from MSNBC.com, scientists in the United States and India are turning the unused sugar and unwanted vinegar resulting from improper fermentation into electricity and hydrogen. The technology could provide a new and cost effective way to clean wastewater from wineries and get some value out of a bad bottle of wine.

“There is nothing special about the bacteria,” said Bruce Logan, a scientist at Penn State University who recently installed a microbial electrolysis cell at a winery in Napa Valley, Calif. “We just give them a good environment to grow in.”

A good home and plenty of food, that is. It takes a lot of water to grow, harvest, process and ferment the sugar in grapes into the alcohol Americans love to consume by the bottle.

All that wastewater, loaded with unfermented sugar, improperly fermented vinegar, biomass and other contaminants, has to be cleaned, and cleaning wastewater is expensive.

According to Logan’s estimates, about 1.5 percent of all the electricity in the U.S. goes into wastewater treatment. Up to 5 percent of all the country’s electricity goes into our nation’s water management systems.

The winery, Napa Wine Co. in Oakville, Calif., doesn’t have specific statistics on how much they pay to treat their wastewater, but it is expensive.

To offset the cost of treatment, the winery owners installed a 1,000-liter, refrigerator-sized microbial electrolysis cell to help treat some of the wastewater. Until this point, Logan’s microbial fuel and electrolysis cells have been smaller than a teakettle.

Two steps are required to treat the water flowing into the unit. First, one group of bacteria turns unused sugar and unwanted vinegar from improper fermentation into electricity. It’s a small amount, however, not enough to reach the 1.2 volts necessary to split water; therefore, a little extra electricity from the normal power grid is needed. Another group of bacteria uses that electricity to split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, which escape into the atmosphere.

At least, that’s the idea. “We are producing more methane than we wanted,” said Logan, who is trying to correct the problem. The scientists could collect the hydrogen for a fuel cell or burn the methane for heat, said Logan, but for now they let it escape into the atmosphere.

The microbial electrolysis cell only treats one-tenth of 1 percent of all the winery’s wastewater, most of which flows into a traditional treatment lagoon.

The project isn’t meant to save the winery a significant amount of money, just to prove the technology is feasible. Logan estimates it will take three to five years before a commercially viable microbial electrolysis cell is available.

While Logan uses a microbial electrolysis cell to split water, a group of scientists from India recently developed a microbial fuel cell that uses wine to produce energy.

“Sugars like glucose, alcohols and effluents containing sugars or alcohols can be used (to produce electricity),” said Sheela Berchmans, a professor at the Central Electrochemical Research Institute in India, who recently co-authored a paper in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Two different bacteria can spoil wine, Acetobacter aceti and Bluconobacter roseus. The scientists from India created microbial fuel cells using single cultures of each bacteria as well as both together.

A fuel cell with A. aceti or B. roseus produced a mild electrical current, about 213 milliwatts for the former and 395 milliwatts for the latter. Put them together, however, and the combination can generate 859 milliwatts of power.

“The mixture of the cell cultures improves metabolic degradation,” said Berchmans.

B. roseus is great at breaking down the glucose into acetic acid but not great at creating electricity. A. aceti can’t use sugar as well as B. roseus can, but it can turn acetic acid into electricity.

In other words, one bacteria’s waste is another bacteria’s food.

However, the electricity is produced its not much — at least not yet.

The scientists hope that the technology could eventually be scaled up to produce more electricity or help to save electricity that would normally be used to treat wastewater.

Abby’s Blog: What I want with my holiday gift cards

Ok, I got everything I wanted for Christmas proving I was a very good girl this year, But i also got some gift cards adn I have narrowed down my search of what I want to The Green Toys Cookware Set –They use recycled milk containers as the main ingredient in creating toys.  When you finish your milk and toss the container in the recycling bin, those milk containers are collected at your curb by a local recycling company, who then sorts them from all the other types of plastic. Next, the milk containers are reprocessed into super clean fresh plastic. For you plastic geeks, the plastic material we use is called high-density polyethylene (or HDPE). This material is considered one of the safest, cleanest plastics around. The end result is this very cool toy.

Posted by Abby

Federal Tax Credits for Tankless Water Heaters

It’s almost tax time, and you know what that means – finding every last deduction!

On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, making great changes to the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.

Under the new Stimulus bill:

  • Tax credits previously expiring in 2009 will now be effective until December 31, 2009.
  • Tax credits have been increased from 10% to 30%.
  • Instead of limiting the tax credits to a specific dollar amount (ex: $300 for tankless water heaters), tax credits are up to 30% of the cost.
  • The maximum credit has been raised from $500 to $1500; however some improvements such as geothermal heat pumps, solar water heaters, and solar panels are not subject to the $1500 maximum.

Tax credits are available to consumers for 30% of the cost, up to $1500, in 2009 & 2010 (for existing homes only) for:

  • Gas Tankless Water Heaters (non-solar, non-electric) placed into service before December 31st, 2010
  • Water Heaters
  • Windows and Doors
  • Insulation
  • Roofs (Metal & Asphalt)
  • HVAC
  • Biomass Stoves

Tax credits are available at 30% of the cost, with no upper limit through 2016 (for existing homes & new construction) for:

  • Solar Water Heaters
  • Solar Panels
  • Geothermal Heat Pumps
  • Small Wind Energy Systems
  • Fuel Cells

How to get your tax credit:

  • Choose a qualifying tankless water heater (see list above) that suits your needs.
  • Manufacturer’s Certification Statement* is required.
  • Save your receipts and Manufacturer’s Certification Statement for tax purposes.
  • Use IRS Form 5695.
  • Improvements must be “placed into service” (this generally refers to the installation, not the purchase) within the specified dates.

See the DSIRE database of state incentives, or contact your state energy office or local utility service providers for more information about tax credits and rebates in your area.

How Tankless Water Heaters Work

A tankless water heater is the perfect solution for those who want hot water and to save money. Tankless water heaters, which are also called instantaneous or demand water heaters, are becoming extremely popular these days because of their efficiency. Cold water travels through a pipe into the water heater and is then heated by an electric or a gas-fired element. As a result, hot water is instantaneous, and you don’t need to waste your time waiting for the water to warm up. These electric water heaters can also simultaneously produce and supply endless streams of hot water to multiple outlets without the hassle of temperature fluctuation.  These units are so popular that even the U.S. Department of Energy recommends them.

Federal Tax Credits for Tankless Water Heaters is brought to you by http://www.heater-home.com

Happy Holidays

Caster would like to wish everyone a Happy Holiday Season

A very Green Christmas

This evening all the children will be hoping and praying that Old Saint Nick will be pushing himself down their chimneys and placing an overabundance of gifts under the tree.   Hopefully Santa’s Sleigh will avoid black ice and the reindeer will all be set for a long evening ahead. 

This year hopefully we will all be unwrapping less waste this holiday season and most of us have been able to use some wrapping tips about wrapping green.  Also I am sure many of us are thinking twice about using non-composting paper plates as we gather around the dining room table and enjoy some holiday cheer. 

Hopefully we all followed Abbey’s blog on the Green Hat choice she picked for her dad this year and maybe we could all do the same.  I know I will be seen bouncing from house to house with my lovely new tote made from recycled sailboat sails!  Thank you again, Kim! 

So remember to drive cautiously through intersections making sure those LED lights have melted the snow as you race home.  Leave Santa some cookies and spiced rum near the tree.  I truely hope you all get what you wish for this Holiday Season! 

Have a Happy and safe holiday season from all of your friends at Caster!

Posted by: Kate Kiselka, follow me on Twitter