Skip a flush or change your system!

Skipping a flush just doesn’t seem right, it’s a personal thing for me but I can’t see it being sanitary.  There are so many way’s to go green and to help you save money and in return are also helping the environment.  Putting low flow water heads throughout your home is a huge step.  Putting in a waterless urinal in my bathroom doesn’t really seem like an option so many greenies have suggested to opt on flushing when not truly necessary. 

The average toilet uses between 1.5 gallons and 7 gallons with each flush.  This is an overuse of water in most cases.  Water is one of the biggest green issues, the earth only has so much water, and so much of it is carelessly being used up and polluted.  There are many way’s to make sure your toilet is saving you as much water and money as possible.  The first thing to do is make sure your toilet is running efficiently

Installing a dual flush system is a great choice for those who are concerned about overuse of water.  The system allows two flushing options one with little water for liquid and a little more water for those that need an extra push.  A dual flush system is available for most toilets and for those who are renovating and replacing their existing toilet can purchase a new toilet with it already built in.  Most major toilet manufacturers carry at least one and many people are opting for his option when remodeling.

Saving money and saving water are the two best reasons to switch the way your toilet works now.  Before ordering dual flush, make sure your toilet is compatible.  Studies have shown that toilets that have been replaced with a dual flush toilet have saved almost 17,000 gallons of water a year. 

Posted by Kate Kiselka, follow me on Twitter

A Green (and cheap!) Way to Get Textbooks for School

As a Political Science and Writing major in college, my textbooks were never too outrageously priced.  There might have been an International Policy text that set me back a bit, but for the most part, I watched my friends in nursing, engineering and physics spend $150+ per textbook every semester.  At the end of class, the bookstore might have offered students $25-$30 for the same book they spent well over $100 on – and that’s if the publisher hadn’t put out a newer version in the meantime, rendering yours useless.

This time around, as an MBA student, my business texts are insanely priced (I paid $186 for my managerial accounting book and that was heavily used!) and I was shopping around for a better way to save money.  That’s when I stumbled across Chegg, a site that allows students to rent textbooks for a fraction of the cost of buying.  After doing some research, I found my Finance book for my next class and clicked the 6o-day rental option.  The price for this $200+ text?  $56.60 plus $1.99 shipping.

In addition to the $160 or so I saved in the process of renting, Chegg offers to plant a tree for every textbook rented through the American Forests Global ReLeaf Program and lets you choose the region of the world you’d like to have it planted.

The tree planting isn’t the only thing about Chegg that’s green – by reusing a textbook that otherwise might find its way to the trash after many years of sitting on a shelf, you are helping to prevent waste and unnecessary manufacturing of new copies.

And Chegg is flexible – their 30 day return policy allows you return a text for whatever reason (dropped class, text unused, etc) for a full refund – no questions asked.

So join Chegg (and me, for sure!) in the “Don’t Buy Revolution” – it will definitely save you some green while supporting the planet.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Paper towel challenged

While making lunch this afternoon (well if you count opening the can, pouring soup into bowl and heating for 3 minutes “making lunch”) I spilled a little of my soup on the counter. Immediately without looking up I grabbed for a paper towel, wiped up the spill and threw the towel away. The little hippie on my shoulder screamed at me for what I had just done. A mere tablespoon worth of liquid had spilled so why didn’t I just grab the sponge and clean it up the old fashioned way–well for one…this tree hugger is also a germophobe and sponges are known for being breeding grounds for bacteria!
In my head I began contemplating the great paper towel versus a sponge or dish towel debate. Quite the conundrum a germaphobic hippie…don’t get me started on how I feel about the shower curtain liner touching me…or friends whose toothbrushes are stored on the backs of toilets. Now there are certain things I must use paper towels for like patting down mapley deliciously smoked bacon on Sunday mornings, but mainly for picking up the more than occasional doo poo (I have two vindictive Mini Schnauzers who despise my social life and like to leave love notes in front of the kitchen door) or the freshly barfed up grass. But for the most part my large collection of bar mops and dishtowels should suffice–right? I mean as a child I didn’t die from my mothers and Grandmothers use of a dishcloth or dishtowels..right?

Now some of you are saying oh you aren’t a real tree hugger if you are using paper towels man…WRONG, first read my license plate — TREHGR — second, any educated person or forester will tell you that we need a healthy and sustainable forest product industry, yes folks that means hugging trees while they are standing up or laying down! We do need to harvest our forests to keep them vibrant and healthy. The key word is sustainability here, we have to find that balance within our homes.

I am not saying in any way you should ban paper towels or toilet paper use in your home (I need more than two squares unlike Sheryl Crow!) but be more conscious of your usage. If you have the ability to start a compost pile please do it and then you can enjoy the game of how little waste you throw out each week. Food scraps can be turned into free dirt for your own homes, friends and neighbors. Those paper towels will biodegrade nicely as long as you haven’t been using them to bleach your sink!

We should all remember that first we must reduce before we reuse and recycling should be our next option because there is no place called away where we can magically throw things.

That being said I’ve realized that even the green can get a little greener, and it will help my wallet not be so lean as well — have you noticed the high price for something you’ll only throw away?! I’ve challenged myself to use less and only when the situation calls for it, I challenge you all to do the same and get comfortable with being uncomfortable!

To help you get your creative reduction juices flowing visit some of my favorite places:
Paper Towel Alternatives
Paper Towel Challenge!

Posted by: Amanda

There’s Money Out There to Upgrade Your Home

As we head into Q4 2009 you might want to look at if you need to get some tax credits on your 2009 tax returns.   ENERGY STAR appliances, spray foam insulation, ENERGY STAR windows, metal roofs, and more, there are opportunites for you to use the government’s money to upgrade your home this year.

What is a tax credit? You don’t receive an income tax credit when you buy the product, like an instant rebate. You claim the credit on your federal income tax form at the end of the year. The credit then increases the tax refund you receive or decreases the amount you have to pay.

Tax credits vs. tax deductions: In general, a tax credit is more valuable than a similar tax deduction. A tax credit reduces the tax you pay, dollar-for-dollar. Tax deductions – such as those for home mortgages and charitable giving – lower your taxable income. If you are in the highest 35-percent tax bracket, the income tax you pay is reduced by 35 percent of the value of a tax deduction. But a tax credit reduces your federal income tax by 100 percent of the amount of the credit.

This list is for any product INSTALLED in 2009 will be eligible for your 2009 return. Our list is for deductions for Rhode Island and Federal taxes. To find out about rebates in your state, check out the DSIRE website. The ENERGY STAR website also provides great information about Federal rebates. Continue after the jump to get a list of state and federal tax credits. 

Rhode Island Tax Credits

Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Photovoltaic, Wind, Geothermal Heat Pumps :    Amount: 25% of installed cost including labor and materials

Renewable Energy Sales Tax Exemption:  Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Solar Thermal Electric, Photovoltaic, Wind, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar Pool Heating:    100% Exemption

Appliance and Equipment Efficiency Standards:    Credit amount is based on the product. Proper manufacturer certification will be needed to claim this credit

Local Option – Property Tax Exemption for Renewable Energy Systems for Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Photovoltaic, Wind, Biomass, Small Hydroelectric

Federal Tax Credits – visit the ENERGY STAR website for qualifying factors for each credit

Windows & Doors :  10% of cost, up to $200 for all windows, skylights, and storm windows and  10% of cost, up to $500 for exterior and storm doors

Roofing: 10% of cost, up to $500 for metal and asphalt roofs

Insulation: 10% of cost, up to $5000

HVAC:  $300 for Central AC, $300 for Air Source Heat Pumps, $150 for Gas, Oil, Propane Furnace or Hot Water Boiler

Geothermal System: Geothermal (or ground-source) heat pumps placed in service starting in 2009 are now eligible for a tax credit for 30 percent of the cost, with no maximum. These credits are effective through December 21, 2016. In order to be eligible for the tax credit, geothermal heat pumps must meet Energy Star criteria.

Water Heaters:  $300 for gas, oil, propane water heater

Biomass Stoves: $300

Solar Energy Systems:  30% of the cost up to $2,000 for solar water heating,   30% of the cost for photovoltaic systems ($2,000 cap no longer applies)

Small Wind Energy Systems:  30% of the cost, up to $500 per half kW of capacity (not to exceed $4,000)

Fuel Cells:  30% of the cost, up to $1,500 per half kW of power capacity

For our house project this is the list of tax credits we will be able to apply to our 2009 taxes:

1. Windows/Doors: $200 for our Pella Windows and $500 for our doors = $700

2. Our DaVinci composite slate roof = $500

3. Our spray foam insulation from Atlas = $500

4. Our Geothermal Heat and AC System = $1750 state (max) and approximately 30% of our cost which looks to be totalling around $100k, so that is $33k in tax credits we get to apply in coming years.

5. We get $500 for an ENERGY STAR appliance.

Considering we owe on our taxes annually this is a significant benefit to us. There’s money on the table for everyone right now, and you still have three months to have systems and products installed, so take advantage!

 Posted by: KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

Happy Anniversary Green$ense!

If you haven’t already heard about Green$ense, an initiative Citizens Bank started last fall to encourage its clients to reduce paper waste, you should keep reading. After all, who wouldn’t want to use (and support) a bank that rewards you for making smart/good choices?

After a quick (and free!) enrollment process, Citizens Bank will pay you 10 cents every time you pay by using your debit card (as credit or debit), every time you pay your bills online, and every time you have an automatic payment withdrawn from your account – earning up to $120.00 a year!  Each month, the money you “earned” is deposited back into your checking account.  You also receive emails tracking your earnings from that particular month (and earnings to date) along with tips on how to live green – anywhere from tips for the home to the office to your vacationing.

According to the Citizens Bank website, for every dollar you earn after just one year, you will have saved emissions equal to more than 87 miles of driving, saved almost 4 gallons of gasoline that would have been consumed by delivering your paper statement, prevented 3.5 gallons of wastewater, saved more than 7 feet of forest and the global warming impact is equal to a week with you turning your refrigerator off!  All of this for just signing up for a FREE program!! And just in case the little things make you smile (like me) you get a very pretty ATM/debit/credit card!

According to my last Green$ense email, since this initiative was introduced last fall – it has resulted in 83,343 pounds of paper saved, 365,940 square feet of forest preserved and 794,897 gallons of wastewater prevented!!!

Now that is something I can feel good about!

Posted by: Becca

Unorthodox “Being Green” Technique #1 – Grow a Beard

Not everyone has the time and dedication to climb a redwood tree and squat until those trying to chop it down agree to negotiate. Nope, many of us are just regular folks looking for easy but effective ways to reduce our carbon footprint or use less non-biodegradable products in our everyday life. Following this vein, I will occasionally be offering unorthodox ways anyone with a functioning brain and conscience can help our planet.

While the suggestion for this week is “Grow a beard,” many people, for professional, religious or other reasons simply can’t entertain this option. In deciding what is best one must consider all the options:

Disposable Complete Razor – Worst option, energy and chemicals are used to manufacture and they are practically impossible to recycle. When they end up in landfills or being incinerated, noxious air pollution is released

Disposable Blades – Not quite as bad, but you’re still chucking plastic and metal in the trash, not to mention spending a small fortune on the razor heads.

Electric Razor – Better still but now you’re dealing with electricity consumption (albeit minimal) and the drawback of a potentially rough shave.

Straight Razor – Now you’re talking, just like Grandpa used to get from the barber and the closest shave you can get. The biggest drawback is that you need experience wielding one of these instruments or you might end up looking like Tony Montana. Once you’ve mastered the steady hand, all you need is a sharpening tool and some lather and your face will be smoother than Sade drinking Johnnie Walker Blue in a satin robe .

Grow a Beard – No razor needed for shaving, no lather needed for the lubrication, no water required for the pre-wash and post-rinse, no toilet paper for the inevitable nicks, no wasted glass for the Preferred Stock scented after-shave balm and the added satisfaction of knowing the hair on your face is more than just a manifestation of laziness or a means of concealing your identity.

(Writer’s Note: Growing a beard is also a good way to deal with the recession, as long as you’re already employed)

Posted by: Nick

Saving trees while saving $Green$

Have you ever gotten one of those supermarket circulars and you get all excited to save some money and then you only find 5 good coupons, you use one and the rest expire in your wallet? Ever wonder how many trees are chopped down so that millions of us can do the same thing? (If you want to find out just how much, and read about another coupon alternative check out Joe’s blog post on rethinking the coupon clippage)

Well, if you are the proud owner of an iPhone then I have found another substitute for clipping paper coupons, and its super easy. The Coupon Sherpa is a new iPhone app that lets you search for coupons, save them, and then when you’re paying at the grocery store they can actually scan the barcode from your phone. It saves time, trees and MULA!! (Check out Ecoscraps for a tutorial video and some words from the Coupon Sherpa’s creator)

Posted by: Ashley (intern)