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22 Steps Toward Energy Efficiency

Looking for ways to save energy and money? suggests “go for a big, but doable goal—10% energy saved per year over the next five years, 50% in five years!”  For the average household, 10% per year energy savings is only about 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kwh) of energy/year.

Co-op America is confident that many families could achieve the first 1,000 kwh/year of savings by washing clothes in cold water (770 kwh/yr); placing several major electronics, such as video and stereo systems, on a surge protector that can be switched off (47kwh/year); and brushing of their refrigerator's condenser coils twice a year (392 kwh/year).

Many families could get another 1,000 kwh/year reduction by replacing half of their incandescent lighting with compact fluorescents (440kwh/year), letting the dishes in the dishwasher air dry (404kwh/year), and enabling the "sleep" function on their computer and printer to go on after five minutes of non-use (259kwh/year).

Thanks to the folks at who compiled this list, here are 22 steps you can take—each with the estimated energy savings you can achieve each year.

1. Turn off lights you're not using – There are even have switchplate reminders for you, downloadable from the site. (2% energy savings per year, assuming an average family's energy use)

2. Schedule an energy audit – Your local utility will probably provide an audit for free, and you may also get a more comprehensive audit (saving you more money in the long term) by paying for a whole-house audit. (Up to 50% energy savings per year)

3. Don't heat or cool empty rooms – If there is a room in your house that is rarely used, close off the vents to save on heating and cooling. (Varies by size of room.)

4. Give your dishwasher a rest – Skip the energy-intensive drying cycle on your dishwasher and choose the air-dry option, or open the door for zero-energy dish drying. (5% energy savings per year)

5. Shift your energy load to off-peak hours – Because power sources must produce electricity around the time of use (without capacity for long-term storage) it is our collective peak demand that triggers the building of more polluting power plants. (Varies)

6. Turn off your electronics – If you're going to be away from your computer or other appliance for more than an hour, turn it off. (5% energy savings per year)

7. Eliminate "phantom load" – Many electronics use energy even while turned off, so your best bet is to unplug them when not in use. (5% energy savings per year)

8. Make your fridge more efficient – Keep your refrigerator's coils clean to boost its overall power, and store jugs of water in any empty space inside, because water retains coldness better than air. (4% energy savings per year)

9. Wash clothes in cold water – Your clothes will get just as clean, on half the energy. (7% energy savings per year)

10. Give up your dryer – Hang your clothes to dry on a clothesline or indoor rack. (10% energy savings per year)

11. Plug your air leaks – Energy-efficient heating and cooling systems are wasted when you're leaking out the cool or warm air you're putting in. (5% energy savings per year)

12. Reduce your water use – Simple ways to save water include fixing any leaks and replacing faucets and showerheads with low-flow options. (3% energy savings per year)

13. Cut waste through windows – Properly seal window edges, cover windows with curtains to prevent heat loss, or coat windows with reflective "low-e" films that reduce heat loss while still allowing light to shine through. (10% energy savings per year)

14. Help your hot water heater – Add an insulating cover to reduce heat loss. (1% energy savings per year)

15. Install ceiling fans – Reduce your air conditioner usage with ceiling fans. Look for "Energy Star" models that use 50 percent less energy. (19% energy savings per year)

16. Get a programmable thermostat – Automate when your heating or cooling systems come on to save energy while you sleep or are away from home. (10% energy savings per year)

17. Upgrade your appliances – Look for the "Energy Star," and you may be eligible for a tax break. (3 - 12% energy savings per year)

18. Upgrade your hot water heater – Save energy and space by upgrading to a tankless or solar hot water heater. (14% energy savings per year)

19. Green your roof – Studies have found that a green roof on a typical one-story building can result in a 25 percent reduction in summer cooling needs. (12% energy savings per year)

20. Save energy through landscaping – The US Department of Energy found that the proper placement of as few as three shady trees will save an average household between $100 and $250 in energy costs annually. (12% energy savings per year)

21. Replace your windows – In step 13, you read recommendations for working with the windows you have. Replacing your windows with more energy-efficient versions can save you even more. (14% energy savings per year)

22. Don't waste energy on TV – With the switch to digital TV coming in 2009, many people are buying new, digital-ready TVs. If you must shop for a new television, look for an LCD (liquid crystal display) screen, which uses six times less energy than a plasma screen. (2% energy savings per year)

Note: These energy savings assume an average US home, which uses about 11,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and 19,000 cubic feet of natural gas per year.

Source: Co-Op America. For details about membership in Co-Op America or for more green information and ideas, visit


Good For You
And Good For The Environment

During the last decade, most Americans have learned about the important nutritional benefits of eating oats. There is even a website completely devoted to oats, appropriately called, where you can find the history of oats, recipes, and interesting information about worldwide oat production and yields.

Oats have many uses and can be found in many forms. After all, there are not many products that can claim such a wide variety of uses and benefits, including feeding both humans and livestock, providing significant health benefits, cleaning and exfoliating the skin, and brewing beer, among the many.

What most Americans don’t know, including some farmers, are the environmental benefits of growing oats. According to the North American Millers’ Association (NAMA), oats are an ideal "low-input" crop, which, when included in rotations, encourage crop diversity to control plant diseases, insects and weeds, and to reduce soil erosion.

It is believed that oat consumption by humans dates back to around 400 BC where it was used as a bulk former, a healing agent, and as a drying and soothing salve for the skin. This versatile grain found widespread acceptance in Europe, particularly in Ireland and Scotland where the Highlanders used it in a variety of porridges and baked goods. It is estimated that oats reached America around 1602 and were primarily used for medicinal purposes, relieving stomach discomfort and other ailments.

When several oat mills joined forces at the turn of the century to create The Quaker Oats Company, oats began to be effectively promoted to the public as a healthy food. After several years of declining production, the late 1980s brought consumer interest back to oats as the information about their cholesterol lowering properties made headlines.

According to NAMA, oats are consumed mainly as a breakfast food, snack product, or in bran form in this country. Before oats are milled, the hulls are removed, leaving the oat groat. Groats are milled into steel-cut oat, rolled flakes, quick and instant flakes, oat flour, and oat bran. Approximately 85% of human oat products are consumed as either standard or instant oatmeal or oat bran. The remaining 15% are used as oat flour or in snack products like granola bars.

There is one particular oatmeal that gets the Green Living Newsletter stamp of approval, earning top honors for a multitude of reasons—Holly’s All Natural Oatmeal. After seven years as a restaurant owner and chef, Holly DiMauro (pictured in caricature on every box) sold her business to concentrate on what her diners craved most—her specialty oatmeal.

Holly’s All Natural Oatmeal has great texture and flavor—it also packs a high amount of protein (9grams) and soluble fiber (4grams), “more than any other oatmeal” says Holly.
Almost as important as what it has, is what it is missing—no saturated fat, no trans fat, no added sugar, no salt, and no cholesterol. And, it is ready in just 6 minutes stovetop or 3 minutes in the microwave! There are a few varieties from which to choose, including gluten free, and all are delicious and satisfying. Available in the following flavors: cranberry almond, goji berry, apricot maple nut (NEW) and two that are gluten free — plain and cranberry.

Each package sells for around $7-9 and each yields approximately 8 servings. So for around $1 you can have a heart-healthy, nutritious, and delicious meal or snack.

For more information about the North American Millers’ Association, visit


What's Your E-IQ?

Is it better for the environment to buy an artificial Christmas tree or a real one?

Test what you know and what you need to know about our U.S. forests in a simple 7-question quiz sponsored by the Abundant Forests Alliance. You’ll also be able to see how your responses rank with the rest of America.

After you take the quiz, take a tour of the site and you’ll find great tips for easy, practical, and eco-living.



Artist Spotlight: Keith Lauer
Madhouse Design Company

This amazing 5-arm coffee cup chandelier (16"H x 27"W) is handmade from reclaimed colorful melamine coffee cups and saucers. Twenty teaspoons hang in harmony to accent this colorful work of art. The chandelier comes with a 3-foot chrome chain and ceiling canopy. This chandelier would look amazing in an Alice in Wonderland themed child’s bedroom, in any kitchen, or would definitely add interest and whimsy in a coffee lounge or teashop.

Keith Lauer started the Madhouse Design Co. back in 1994 when a friend of his asked him to fabricate a chandelier design for her cafe. From there he started doing design work for eclectic California cafes and restaurants. When he could not find ready-made products that were unique or funky enough for the clientele he started creating his own designs. Some of the products became so popular that the cafes and restaurants started selling his creations to people who inquired about them. He took some of the most popular items and made them available to retailers and individuals who loved his quirky designs.

Keith’s designs been featured in many publications, including Gourmet magazine, Better Home & Garden, the San Francisco Chronicle, New York Daily News, and on HGTV.

For more information about this item or to see other upcycled creations by Keith Lauer, visit


A Grown-up Alternative to Soda
Refined Flavor, Lightly Sweet, All Natural


As a mother of four young children and a food lover, entrepreneur Sharelle Klaus realized that there was a void in the marketplace for a less-sweet beverage that could be equally enjoyed as a pairing with a great meal or as a stand-alone refreshment. She described her inspiration for DRY Soda to the LA Times as “a matter of necessity." Stating that by her fourth pregnancy, she had “missed out on wine for almost six years" and “was desperate for something sophisticated and balanced enough to pair with food." It was from this desperation that Klaus drew her inspiration and in 2005 the Seattle based all-natural DRY Soda Company was launched.

The company name certainly makes the curious stop and take notice (DRY being used as in the wine vernacular, referring to something that is “less sweet”). But it is the unique and extraordinary taste of the soda that really creates quite a stir. These naturally flavored carbonated drinks are light on sugar and big on taste, each with a distinct flavor that is pure pleasure.

DRY Soda Co. offers consumers a modern alternative to sugary sodas—a line of all-natural, lightly sweet non-caffeinated sodas, flavored with fruit or herb extracts, and sweetened with a small amount of pure cane sugar. Each bottle of DRY Soda contains only 50 to 70 calories, compared to the average 150 calories in traditional soft drinks. DRY Soda currently has four flavors on the market—kumquat, lavender, lemongrass, and rhubarb. Two much-anticipated new flavors, which will be perfect for holiday entertaining, are due out this month—juniper berry and vanilla bean.

Each flavor is unique and satisfying. It is the versatility that makes this soda really stand out. It can be consumed as a straight up thirst quencher, as a delicious sparkling beverage paired with food, or mixed with your favorite spirit to create a fun and funky elixir like the DRY Lemongrass Martini shown here.

The natural extracts in DRY Soda create a refreshing and energetic sensory sensation. The individual soda recipes mix just the right amount of sweetness, acidity, and carbonation to satisfy any time, every time.



Green Holiday Gift Guide

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