energy conservation

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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: If you’re new to green living, there are a few simple tips you can incorporate right away to begin living sustainably.

10 Simple Tips for Green Living

1.  Reduce, reduce, reduce. Here are a few simple ways to reduce your impact and conserve our resources:

  • Turn off the tap water when brushing your teeth.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Use cold water to wash clothes whenever possible.
  • Run your clothes washer and dishwasher only when they are full.
  • Drink filtered tap water instead of bottled water.
  • Regularly replace the filter on your Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) system. 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.
  • Install a programmable thermostat in your home (and then actually program it).
  • Walk or bike instead of driving.
  • Turn off the lights when leaving a room.
  • Reuse envelopes and backsides of paper, print double-sided and purchase high recycled content paper.

2.  Buy local, organic produce. Food travels an average of 1,200 miles before it reaches your plate, so buy locally produced items to save energy and prevent emissions from going into the air.

3.  Recycle. By recycling materials such as aluminum cans, newspapers, and glass jars, you can save energy and landfill space, conserve natural resources, and also prevent pollution. is a wonderful resource for learning about recycling.

4.  Unplug electronics when they’re not in use. Many appliances continue to draw electricity when they’re turned off, releasing unnecessary pollutants into the air, and costing you unnecessary dollars.

5.  Use non-toxic laundry detergents to avoid harmful exposure to chemical detergents and water pollution.

6.  Properly dispose of hazardous waste. Electronics, compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs), certain batteries and other household hazardous wastes contain toxic materials so they should not be sent to landfills where they can pollute the surrounding land and water. A single computer monitor may contain 4 pounds of lead as well as other toxic heavy metals. For the City of Fargo, check out their site for information regarding hazardous waste.

7.  Buy recycled. Look for the words “post consumer” or “recycled” when shopping. There are over 4,500 recycled-content products available including paper towels, printer paper, note pads, packing boxes, sleeping bags, laundry detergent bottles, glass containers, nails, carpeting, trash cans, and trash bags. The amount of post consumer content can vary from a small percentage to 100 percent, so look for labels that indicate the highest percentage. (Source: US EPA)

8.  Compost. Compost your food scraps and yard clippings. This will keep them out of the landfill and provide you with mulch, soil amendment and potting soil.

9.  Buy reusable products. For example, washable utensils, tableware, cloth napkins, and dishcloths can be used many times.

10. Buy used products. Check out your local resale or consignment shops. Locally check out the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Thrift Store, Once Upon A Child and so on.

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

 Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
The NRDC’s mission is to safeguard the Earth: its people, its plants and animals and the natural systems on which all life depends.

For more tips on how to reduce energy consumption visit

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: 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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