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GREEN TIP: Take action to reduce your energy consumption. It’s better for the environment and your wallet.Winter at the Red River

In case you missed it, a dramatic pipeline explosion in Canada this past weekend caused Xcel Energy officials to ask all of its residential and commercial natural gas customers in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin to cut back on use of the fuel by turning thermostats to 60 degrees and avoiding the use of appliances that are run by natural gas.

So, in light of our shared experience, I thought we could revisit some ways to conserve energy. As we go through our daily routines there are simple things we can do to reduce our impact on the planet.

Here some things you could start doing today:

In your kitchen:

  • Clean off the top of your refrigerator. Storing things on top of your refrigerator actually makes it work harder – interfering with its operation and using more energy.
  • Keep local and organic foods in your fridge.
  • If you’re using is correctly, a dishwasher actually uses less energy than washing by hand with hot water.
  • Don’t rinse your dishes before placing them in the dishwasher. This save the planet 6,500 gallons of water per year and you at least $30 per year. Scrape your food scraps into a compost bin.
  • Run your dishwasher on the economy cycle or prop the dishwasher door open to air-dry, rather than using the heater dry function.
  • Only run your dishwasher when it’s completely full.
  • Save energy and time when boiling water by placing a lid on the pot.
  • A few minutes before you’re finished cooking, turn the burners off completely. The residual heat will finish the job.
  • A heated oven loses 20% of its heat every time it’s opened. Use the light to check on your food.

In your bathroom:

  • Save water by turning off the tap while you brush your teeth.
  • Keep your shower time to five minutes or less.
  • Repair leaky faucets or toilets. A single dripping hot water faucet can waste up to 200 gallons of water a month.

In your home office:

  • Turn off your computer and printer when you’re not using them, or you can use the power or energy save option.
  • Unplug chargers for cell phones and other rechargeable devices when not in use; they still use energy when they’re plugged in.
  • Reuse envelopes and backsides of paper, print double-sided and purchase high recycled content paper.

In your laundry room:

  • Wash only full loads of laundry.
  • Front loading washing machines can save as much as 40 cents per load.
  • Use cold or warm setting for your washer, not hot. This can save 10 to 20 cents per load.
  • Use non-toxic laundry detergents to avoid harmful exposure to chemical detergents and water pollution.
  • Dry clothes the natural way whenever possible. Hang clothes outside on warm days and hang up lines inside for the winter.
  • Irons use as much energy as ten 100-watt light bulbs.
  • Clean out your lint filter every time you use your dryer so it doesn’t have to work as hard.

Around your home:

  • Recycle.
  • Check furnace or heat pump filters once a month for blockages and replace them regularly. A dirty air filter can increase your energy costs and lead to early equipment failure.
  • Wrap with insulation any hot-water pipes that pass through unheated spaces. For steam pipes, use non-foam insulation, because foam can melt.
  • Keep your warm air vents clean.
  • Keep drapes or furniture away from radiators and baseboard heaters so heat can flow freely.
  • A programmable thermostat can save you $100 a year when programmed and used properly.
  • You can save 3% per day on your heating bill for every one degree that you lower your thermostat setting. For example, if you normally keep your thermostat at 75 degrees and you lower it to 72 degrees, you can save 9%.
  • Remove window air conditioners when the weather gets cool. If you can’t, enclose them with a cover.
  • Use an efficient humidifier to maintain comfortable humidity levels and help you conserve heat. Proper humidity helps you feel comfortable without turning up the heat.
  • Use ceiling fans to circulate warm air in winter, especially in rooms with high ceilings.
  • Next to heating or cooling, water heating is typically the largest energy user in the home. To conserve energy, conserve hot water. Set your water heater no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit or about midway between the low and medium settings
  • When you leave a room, turn off the lights.

Source: Do It Green! Magazine, published by The Twin Cities Green Guide and Con Edison’s The Power of Green.

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

Alliance to Save Energy

The Alliance to Save Energy has been working since 1977 to build a stronger, more energy-efficient America. The Alliance is staffed by a core group of professionals with diverse expertise. Committed to advancing energy efficiency as our greatest energy resource, Alliance staff promote the organization’s mission through research, education and advocacy.

“Time and again, the Alliance has shown that energy efficiency is typically the fastest and cheapest way to reduce greenhouse gas and other emissions while improving our economic competitiveness, natural security and public health.”

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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

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by Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP: When you use water wisely you help the environment, save energy and save money.

We all know that water is essential to life on earth. We need water for a variety of everyday needs from growing food, providing power to drinking.

We are using up our planet’s fresh water faster than it can naturally be replenished so we all need to use our water wisely.

To provide enough clean fresh water for people, water is cleaned at drinking water treatment plants before it is used. And after water is used, it is cleaned again at wastewater treatment plants or by a septic system before being put back into the environment.

Saving water is good for the earth, your family, and your community.

  • When you use water wisely, you help the environment. You save water for fish and animals. You help preserve drinking water supplies. And you ease the burden on wastewater treatment plants—the less water you send down the drain, the less work these plants have to do to make water clean again.
  • When you use water wisely, you save energy. You save the energy that your water supplier uses to treat and move water to you, and the energy your family uses to heat your water.
  • When you use water wisely, you save money. Your family pays for the water you use. If you use less water, you’ll have more money left to spend on other things.


Here are some Simple Tips for conserving water:

  • Turn off the tap when you are brushing your teeth.
  • Adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk, or street. And water your lawn and garden in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler to minimize evaporation.
  • Don’t water your lawn on windy days when most of the water blows away or evaporates.
  • Run your clothes washer and dishwasher only when they are full. You can save up to 1,000 gallons a month.
  • Spreading a layer of organic mulch around plants retains moisture and saves water, time and money.
  • Adjust your lawn mower to a higher setting. A taller lawn shades roots and holds soil moisture better than if it is closely clipped.
  • Choose shrubs and groundcovers instead of turf for hard-to-water areas such as steep slopes and isolated strips.
  • Use a water-efficient showerhead. They’re inexpensive, easy to install, and can save you up to 750 gallons a month.
  • When you give your pet fresh water, don’t throw the old water down the drain. Use it to water your plants, trees or shrubs.
  • When you have ice left in your cup from a take-out restaurant, don’t throw it in the trash, dump it on a plant.

Source: Water Use It Wisely

More interesting information about water: Three Myths about Water

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

National Wildlife Federation
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) works to inspire Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future. As the nation’s largest conservation organization, NWF and its 4 million supporters are committed to sustaining the nature of America for the benefit of people and wildlife.

Find out How You Can Help Wildlife Impacted by the BP Oil Spill.

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

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by Wendy Gabriel

Have you ever wondered how much your clothes dryer really costs you every day? Your home office computers? Your entertainment centers? 

I just found an amazing device that allows you to monitor the energy usage throughout your entire home all the time. The Powerhouse Dynamics eMonitor is the world’s first affordable, whole house, circuit by circuit energy monitoring and management system.

The world’s first comprehensive and affordable circuit-by-circuit home energy monitoring and management system is shipping exclusively from Freeport, Maine based

The eMonitor’s unique combination of hardware, software, and services let you view your home’s 24×7, minute-by-minute electricity use, electricity cost, and carbon footprint, as well as historical information by day, month, or year, all in a personalized and intuitive graphical interface from anywhere you can access the internet. It also provides cost estimates based on current and past usage.

The cutting-edge feature of the eMonitor is its capability to display electricity use by individual circuit so you can see real-time and historical information on major appliances, entertainment centers, and specific rooms. The service keeps you continuously up to speed on your home’s energy usage by providing you with alerts if circuits are overloaded, if there are problems with appliances or your renewable sources, if your electricity usage is unusual, or if your energy bills are approaching a threshold (set by you).

“Circuit by circuit energy monitoring is a significant breakthrough in the category,” said Peter Troast, Energy Circle’s founder and CEO. “Seeing your energy use by appliance and by room is extraordinarily powerful. This simple act of knowing your usage in real time drives better awareness, engages families and produces real savings.”

For more information go on over to An awesome site run by some awesome people. Energy Circle aims to be the best place for gathering the information you need on good, cost-effective energy efficient products. They’ll give you the 411 on sensible, realistic and money-saving steps for your home and provide access to the best products on the market.

Just might inspire you to tune into your energy use and turn off a switch or two. ~Treehugger

When we are at home, we are entrepreneurs, activists, writers, partners, parents and handymen. When we are at work, we are dreamers, hoping to make the world better and cleaner, one house at a time.

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By Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP:  Bring Your Own Bag! 

Most anywhere you shop, stores are selling canvas bags designed to hold your groceries.  My husband brought home a couple from Byerly’s the other day (I was momentarily speechless!).  They’re great.  They fold into little flat squares so you can keep them under your car seat or other handy spots.  My Mom also found some for sale at Kowalski’s Market.  Kowalski’s also offers a nickel-per-bag refund if you reuse your paper or plastic shopping bags.  Lakewinds Natural Food Co-op has a similar incentive.   

Obviously, bringing your own bags is ideal but if you don’t, requesting a plastic bag results in less waste than paper bags.  This is basically because it takes less energy to produce and ship plastic bags.  According to the Institute of Lifecycle Environmental Assessment (ILEA), which is an environmental advocacy organization headquartered in Seattle, “two plastic bags use 13% less total energy to make than one paper bag.”  And “since plastic bags are normally much thinner and lighter than comparable paper bags, it would take at least seven 45-foot trucks of paper bags to deliver the quantity of bags contained in one 45-foot truckload of plastic bags.  Consequently, the use of plastic bags reduces road traffic, the resulting air pollution, and truck fuel consumption.” 

If you’re reusing plastic bags (good for you!) and wear and tear has rendered them ineffective, recycle them.  Plastic bags can’t be recycled through most cities’ recycling programs but if you’re in Minnesota, Twin Cities-based “It’s in the Bag” plastic bag recycling program has plenty of convenient drop sitesPlastic bags collected by “It’s in the Bag” are sorted by adults with developmental disabilities at Merrick Inc., a non-profit organization and then sent to Trex Company, a  Winchester, VA-based manufacturer.  Trex processes the bags to create construction materials used in decks and backyard patios.   According to The Trex Company, each Trex decking board (16-feet long, 2 x 6 inches) uses approximately 2,250 plastic bags. If you happen to be living outside of Minnesota . . .  

California, for example, requires all grocery stores to take back and recycle plastic grocery bags

In Wisconsin, at least in St. Croix County, Wal-Mart stores generally accept plastic bags for recycling.

In a perfect world we would all have a stash of hemp or organic cotton bags and we would bring them every time we went to the grocery store.

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