Chris Baskind

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by Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP: Now that summer is officially here, there are many ways to stay cool while saving money and the planet at the same time.

Energy is expensive. It takes a toll on our bank accounts and on our environment. Here are some fabulous tips from Chris Baskin at Lighter Footstep to help get you started:

Small Steps

This set of ideas costs nothing to implement. Most are just a matter of thoughtful energy habits. Since none of these involve capital improvements, they’re renter-friendly.

 • Set your thermostat to 78. Go higher, if the humidity is low enough and you feel comfortable. Turning a thermostat down to cool a room quicker doesn’t work, by the way — it makes the A/C run longer, not colder.

• Wear short-sleeved, loose clothing.You dress lightly to go out on a summer day. Do the same indoors. Absorbent, wickable cotton (organic, of course) is the hot weather classic.

• Drink lots of water. This is good practice, anyway. Cold drinks drop your body’s core temperature and cool you down quickly.

• Draw your drapes. Keeping your blinds, shades and curtains closed helps keeps heat from getting inside in the first place.

• Turn off unnecessary heat-producing devices. Incandescent light bulbs are a big heat generator. Shut down electronic gear when you’re not using it.

• Wash and dry clothes when the day is cool. Do laundry early in the day and late at night. Don’t forget clotheslines: they generate no heat in the house.

• Skip your dishwasher’s dry cycle. Rack your dishes and let them air dry instead.

• Run your air conditioner fan on low. This is particularly helpful in areas with high summer humidity. The low air volume helps your A/C dehumidify.

• Keep heat-producers away from your thermostat. Don’t allow a closely located TV or water heater to convince your thermostat that it’s hotter than it really is.

• Check your refrigerator settings. The fridge takes heat out of your food and transfers it to your kitchen, so be sure you’re running efficiently. The refrigerator is best set between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the freezer around five degrees. 

Small Projects

These are all relatively inexpensive things you can do to keep your cooling costs and summertime energy use down. Most will pay off in savings from season to season. 

• Install ceiling fans.Fans move heat away from your body and provide evaporative cooling as you sweat. It’s also a good idea to have a few portable fans you can move around the house.

• Replace your air conditioning filters. Clean filters in window units. You should do this every month, so keep a stock of filters on hand.

• Buy a dehumidifier. ENERGY STAR says a 40-pint unit will save up to $20 USD a year and last up to a decade. Moderating your home’s humidity — in addition to making you feel cooler — will reduce musty smells and the growth of harmful molds.

• Shade your air conditioner. If your A/C is in full sun, it’s working harder than it needs to. Don’t obstruct the air flow.

• Have your air conditioner serviced.Coolant levels should be checked every year. A professional also will clean and lubricate the system. Without annual service, your air conditioner will lose about five percent efficiency each year — more if the coolant is low. Use Puron or some other non-CFC coolant, rather than environmentally harmful freon.

• Check your weather stripping. Caulk leaky window frames, while you’re at it. This also will suppress drafts in the winter. If you have a window-mounted air conditioner, be sure the accordion seal is tight. Add rubber gaskets to wall and light switches to make sure the wall is sealed.

• Insulate interior hot water pipes. No point heating your room air and the water. If it’s indoors, wrap your electric hot water heater with an approved insulator. Gas heaters should be insulated by professionals.

Big Steps

Here are some big-ticket items appropriate for homeowners committed to long-term energy savings. The more you do, the more you save!

• Upgrade your attic insulation. Most experts recommend 10-17 inches of R38. You have a lot of options in this area, so it pays to consult with a professional.

• Improve attic ventilation. It can get up to 140 degrees in your attic during the summer. Adding an electric fan or wind turbines will move some of this unwanted heat away from your living space.

• Replace older windows with new, energy-efficient units. The U.S. Department of Energy says this is the best bet for improving year-round home energy efficiency. Modern units feature advanced coatings to keep cooling and heat where you want it. If you’re on a tight budget, consider interior or exterior storm windows to beef-up your current installation.

• Upgrade older air conditioners. Another expensive item, but cooling can account for half of your summer energy bill. You’re looking for a unit with a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ration (SEER) of 13 or more. The best deals are obviously found off-season, but this is one investment which will immediately return savings.

Source: Chris Baskind, Lighter Footstep

Do you have any other energy saving tips? Leave your sage advice in the comment section!

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

Saving Naturally
At Saving Naturally they believe that living in a healthy and natural way is really, truly possible – for every family, on every budget. You’ll find daily posts with deals on bulk groceries, coupons relevant to a whole foods diet, frugal living tips, and all other manner of bargains that fit with your natural and organic lifestyle.

Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1020am (CDT) every Wednesday at WDAY.com.

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by Wendy Gabriel

Chris Baskind is a writer and the publisher of several websites, including Chris Baskindthe green living journal Lighter Footstep. He recently launched More Minimal, a new site focusing on the benefit of a simpler lifestyle. A frequent spokesperson on Environmental issues, Chris has appeared on venues as diverse as National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” Business Week, and Slate.com. He’s also a familiar presence on Facebook and Twitter. He lives in Pensacola, Florida.

How do you make your day-to-day life a little greener?

For one thing, I quit driving. It started as a one-month “carfree” experiment, and I’m now going into my fourth month without getting behind the wheel. Bicycle advocacy is becoming an important feature of my writing and outlook on personal sustainability.

You cofounded the groundbreaking site Lighter Footstep in 2007 with business partner Lisa Cagle. What was the impetus for starting a green living site?

It extended from my conviction that greener living is for everyone. There weren’t many sites dedicated to lowering one’s environmental impact in 2006 when Lisa and I started laying the groundwork for Lighter Footstep. There are hundreds now, of course, but just a few years ago, most green websites were primarily targeted to the treehugger crowd. I’m a treehugger myself, but “dark green” environmentalists account for a tiny slice of the population — and they’re not the ones looking for practical answers to difficult lifestyle questions. So that’s where were pointed Lighter Footstep.

More Minimal is your personal blog. A wonderful site that promises: Leaner. Greener. Happier. How do the pieces you write for your blog differ from the articles you include in Lighter Footstep?

More Minimal is very new, so we’ll have to see how these siblings get along. But the big difference between the two sites is that More Minimal is largely written in the first person. Lighter Footstep is very direct, pragmatic, and how-to oriented. More Minimal is more intimate. It’s also focused on downsizing our hectic, overstimulated, vastly consumptive lives. Learning to make more of less is the new green.

You were recently interviewed by Sean Daily at Green Talk Radio. It was a wonderful interview with some very quotable phrases including, “It’s not what we buy, it’s what we don’t buy.” Can you elaborate on that concept?

To be honest, a lot of green living and environmental websites and magazines are starting to look like product catalogs. Buy this, buy that — shop green and spend your way to a more sustainable world. This is nonsense. I am totally behind people and companies who are genuinely reevaluating the production chain: how we get products to market; how can we minimize the energy and materials involved without compromising quality; what should we do with these products at the end of their lifecycle. But the surest way to minimize a product’s impact is not purchase it at all. This is particularly true in the middle of a steep recession. Money is dear, and we don’t need a bunch of luxury goods presented as “green” products convincing people that simpler, more conscious living is only for the rich. It’s for everyone.

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