Green Living

Going green used to be considered a time-consuming commitment, forcing families to give up their comfortable convenience in order to save the planet. But now, it’s easier than ever to substitute sustainable products in your everyday life. While the size of the average American home has nearly tripled over the past 50 years, you don’t necessarily have to give up your spacious homestead to reduce your carbon footprint significantly. By starting with just one room — in this case, the kitchen — you may be able to make a huge difference in your energy consumption and give back to the earth.

Start Small

You don’t necessarily have to go all-out to go green. Small switches are a great place to start; you likely won’t notice much of a difference in your experience, but you’ll be secure in the knowledge that these alternatives are better for the environment. For instance, changing out your existing lightbulbs for LEDs, opting for compostable trash bags and biodegradable cleansing wipes, and making sure to recycle and compost won’t represent any kind of sacrifice for you — but these efforts can lead to a more eco-conscious lifestyle. Even making sure to fill the dishwasher up all the way before running it or keeping a small herb garden outside the kitchen window can benefit your bills and the planet.

Rethink Appliances

Of course, energy efficient appliances are preferred here. Not only are they better for the environment, but they’re better for your monthly bills as well. But it’s not just the big-ticket items you’ll need to consider. Smaller appliances can eat up a lot of energy too (if you leave them plugged in all the time). And if you rely on your Keurig for your morning jolt of caffeine, consider making the switch to reusable filters to keep the K-Cups out of landfills. Going green doesn’t have to mean going without; sometimes, we just need to be more mindful about our choices.

Install New Floors

If your kitchen floors could use an upgrade and you’re up for making a bigger change, you might want to consider taking on this renovation. Not only will it add more value to the space, but it can be a long-term step towards eco-friendliness. Linoleum, for example, is made from renewable raw materials and is made with no artificial chemicals. It can also last for 40 years or longer if properly maintained. Sustainable hardwood floors are also an option, as are natural stone tiles. These options don’t require a lot of maintenance (though you should make sure to switch to eco-friendly cleaning products when you need to wipe up spills!) and will set the stage for a more sustainable home.

While it’s certainly possible to embrace a green lifestyle by making big changes in your home, you don’t have to uproot your entire way of life to be more eco-friendly. These simple changes in your kitchen can help your family preserve our precious resources in a snap.

Data centers are behemoths of energy consumption, or at least in terms of raw kilowatt-hour consumption. In 2014, data centers were responsible for roughly 2% of all energy used by the United States. Still, despite massive industry growth, the ratio has not changed much.

There are several factors responsible for maintaining a relatively efficient system of sustained industry growth without exorbitant energy consumption acceleration.

First, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy says that data centers are upgrading their IT equipment every three to five years.

As part of these upgrades, data centers are able to remove multiple older machines, replacing them with one new (virtual) server.

Another factor that has been a huge help in improving the efficiency of data centers is the hyperscaling executed by high-level data companies. Amazon, IBM, Google, and their ilk are able to create the most energy-efficient server rooms and centers that are technically possible today.

Both Google and Apple are using 100% renewable energy in their hyperscale centers as well. This should be enough for past criticisms of data center waste to wither in the past, but there are still some concerns to be addressed.

Perhaps some big data centers are running at a high level of efficiency. Perhaps renewable energy will continue to be integrated into these massive data centers. But while the energy that powers data centers could eventually be fully sustainable and efficient, the resources that make the data centers are finite.

Even if hardware solutions continue to grow in capacity and shrink in size, the materials needed to build such hardware will succumb to depletion on Earth if no alternative is found. Even when fuel becomes fully renewable, rare Earth metals found in electronics never will be.

There are 60 billion emails sent every day. Of those, 97% are spam. This raises the question of digital environmentalism. Should we be so flippantly spending storage space?

Next time you create and share anything online, just remember that it all has to be stored in a server room somewhere, occupying physical, non-renewable materials.

Still, it is much more likely that we will develop new technologies in the future that allow us further optimize our online storage solutions just as we have continued to optimize data center efficiencies and energy consumption levels.

Growing plants and herbs in your own garden is one of the easiest and most effective ways to have fresh and consistent access to your favorite greens. And while many people are under the impression that outdoor garden access is required to grow and harvest effectively, they may be surprised at the number of edible plants and herbs that can be grown from start to finish completely indoors. This means that as long as you can gather a few simple supplies, you can grow some fresh herbs to add to your home cooking, regardless of how much indoor or outdoor space you’re actually working with.

The key to successful indoor gardening is to scope out the sunniest area of your home in which to keep the herbs. Plants grown indoors thrive the most when exposed to at least six hours of sunlight each day, so think about setting up your indoor garden near a window facing south or southwest. Windows facing east or west are usually adequate as well, but north facing windows just don’t get enough light. And of course, avoid setting up your herb garden near tinted windows as well; even though tinted windows save up to 40% on utility costs, they don’t let in nearly enough light to nourish an herb garden.

Without further ado, here are just a few quick and easy herbs to help you get started with your herb gardening endeavors.

Thyme

Fresh thyme is used to add flavor to countless meals, especially those of the Irish variety, like corned beef. With more than 3,000 miles of coastline, Ireland is a fantastic vacation destination, but you can bring the authentic taste of Ireland into your own cooking by growing your own fresh thyme at home. Plus, thyme has been used for centuries as an effective natural remedy for a number of common ailments.

“Thyme has long been used as an herbal remedy for respiratory problems such as bronchitis, and it also has antiseptic properties. Even better, thyme is virtually calorie-free and provides a delicious boost of flavor to soups, salads, and just about any other recipe you can think of, even champagne!” writes Rebecca Toback on Health Magazine.

When growing thyme, make sure it has plenty of sunlight.

Basil

Like thyme, basil has both holistic health and culinary benefits. It’s a good source of fiber, can help to calm your nerves, and ever has a detoxifying qualities that help to cleanse the liver. When growing basil, make sure to keep it warm enough; a cool windowsill just won’t do. Basil thrives when left to grow in temperatures in the 70s range. Fortunately, basil is relatively low maintenance, as it only needs watering every other day. When harvesting your basil, make sure to store it properly. The herb is very sensitive to low temperatures and may turn dark brown or black within a short time of exposure to temps 32 degrees or lower.

Chives

Finally, as a versatile and delicious member of the onion family, chives make a tasty and flavorful addition to nearly any dish. Chives can also help to boost the immune system, and best of all, they’re one of the easiest herbs to grow indoors. They don’t require as much sunlight as other herbs; they just require enough water and room to grow. When fully grown, chives are about 18 inches tall.

“Easy to grow, onion chives pack a lot of flavor for their compact size. The plants form neat grass-like clumps of tubular leaves that contribute an onion flavor to salads, creamy soups, potatoes, egg dishes, and others. A wonderful addition to an herb garden,” writes Bonnie Plants.

According to a 2016 survey, Americans consume more fresh foods — including fruits, vegetables, meats, and cheeses — than they did three years prior. With these tips, you’ll have your indoor herb garden off to a running start!

Yosemite National Park is typically a place where people can take a walk and explore some of California’s most beautiful scenery. But following heavy rain and flooding, parts of the park quickly became a place of dangerous swimming.

According to the LA Times, a tropical storm known as a “Pineapple Express” storm dumped rain on Northern California earlier in April. The Merced River actually reached its flood stage as early as 8:00 in the morning on April 7 after the storm started April 6. More than three inches of rain covered the Yosemite Valley in a short amount of time. A whole 90% of U.S. natural disasters declared by the President involve some sort of flooding, and this may qualify under that category.

When the storm came to an end, SFGate says the Merced River came to rest four feet above flood stage at 13.73 feet. The park had been closed on April 6 just before the heaviest rainfall made its way to that part of California. It was closed all Saturday but was reopened Sunday at noon once the river settled back to its normal height. Park crews worked hard to make sure rocks, debris, and water was cleared from all roads before allowing people back into the park.

This storm was part of a larger storm that created record rainfalls in Sacramento, San Francisco, and Oroville. Parts of the Bay Area saw as much as six inches of rain, which is unusual for the area. The LA Times says this storm was an example of an “atmospheric river,” which is a long strip of water vapor that is loaded with warm tropical moisture.

Officials kept a close eye on how the storm impacted Lake Oroville where a spillway that crumbled last year has been partially repaired. Officials from the California Department of Water Resources planned to open the spillway gates and release water if the lake were to rise to 830 feet. After this storm passed, sensors revealed the reservoir at 799.5 feet high. If the lake were to reach 901 feet, it would spill over

Officials and residents of the areas will be on the lookout for potentially dangerous storms and flooding in the near future. While there is no major threat at this time, it’s always a good idea to be aware and prepared. The affected parts of California are great places to live. In fact, about 27% of Americans feel that real estate is a great investment. And sunny California is a popular destination for people looking to settle down. However, for those looking to buy in the listed areas, they should be aware of potential flooding threats, just like current residents and officials are.

It’s no secret human-caused global warming has been melting ice in the Arctic sea. Yet, estimates show we may be living in an ice-free Arctic sooner than we thought.

By 2050, the Arctic Ocean will start to experience ice-free summers unless we reduce carbon dioxide emissions dramatically around the world.

According to two studies published in the journal Nature Climate Change, even a small change in global warming could make all the difference. We’re talking half-a-degree Celsius kind of change.

Celsius, or centigrade, is a temperature scale that uses 0 degrees and 100 degrees as the freezing and boiling point of water. Half a degree Celsius is less than a degree Fahrenheit. To convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, simply multiply by 1.8 and add 32.

Researchers in both studies analyzed what would happen to the Arctic if humans managed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by the end of the century. The Paris Climate agreement specifically aims to keep the global warming within this century below 2 degrees Celsius.

Researchers found that these 2 degrees may be all that’s necessary to benefit the Arctic. By limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we may be able to reduce the thinning of the Arctic ice through 2100.

“Everything that happens in the climate system is connected,” said Alexandra Jahn. Jahn is the lead author of one of the global warming studies and a climate scientist at the University of Colorado.

The warming of the Arctic has the potential to impact fisheries, geopolitics, ecosystems, polar bears, and even mid-latitude weather. The loss of sea ice is also expected to escalate the effects of global warming in general.

“There’s a strongly reduced probability of experiencing ice-free summers if warming can actually be limited to one and a half degrees instead of two,” Jahn said.

Jahn’s study shows that limiting global warming by 1.5 Celsius would reduce the probability of an ice-free Arctic by 30%. Yet, limiting global warming by 1.5 degrees isn’t enough to completely stop Arctic ice from thinning.

The Arctic, Jahn says, will still experience significant ice reductions compared to today even with a 1.5-degree limitation on global warming. Unfortunately, the chances we might get a handle on fossil fuel emissions any time soon to reduce Arctic sea ice thinning aren’t favorable.

“I think we are destined for a seasonally ice-free Arctic Ocean,” said Mark Serreze, the direction of the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The NSIDC regularly provides updates on the Arctic based on satellite monitoring data. “I don’t see that this is stoppable given our dependence on fossil fuels.”

Still, global dependence on fossil fuels doesn’t negate the benefits that could be gained by reducing global warming by lower than 2 degrees Celsius. The fewer CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere the better for the environment and for us, regardless of destiny.

People all around the United States are cutting back on products that are polluting the earth and harming the air. But individual people aren’t the only ones trying to do what they can to make the earth a healthier place. Burger giant McDonald’s is also trying to do their part by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

According to USA Today, McDonald’s says they will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 36% by the year 2030. The 36% is equivalent to both 150 million metric tons of emissions and to taking 32 million cars off of the road for one year. They say they plan to pay close attention to the areas of their business that are responsible for an extremely large carbon footprint. These areas include their restaurant energy usage, their beef production, and their packaging and waste. Altogether, these categories make up about 64% McDonald’s global greenhouse gas emissions. About 18% of greenhouse gas emissions are associated with livestock production, including 9% carbon dioxide, 37% methadone, and 65% nitrous dioxide.

There are a few ways in which they plan to cut back on these emissions. CNBC says McDonald’s plans to install LED lighting in their offices and restaurants, install energy-efficient kitchen equipment, boost their recycling efforts, and turning to sustainable agriculture practices.

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook spoke with USA Today about the changes.

“To create a better future for our planet, we must all get involved,” Easterbrook said. “To meet this goal, we will source our food responsibly, promote renewable energy and use it efficiently and reduce waste and increase recycling.”

The franchise will not have to spend any extra money to make these changes, so doing all of this just makes sense. While beef production is such a major part of their company, McDonald’s knows they need to cut back since it’s a major greenhouse gas emissions contributor. People involved with eco-friendly councils appreciate their steps in the right direction, but believe there is so much more that needs to be done.

Erik Olson, senior director for food and health at the Natural Resources Defense Council, wants to speak with the food-chain about their food-related emissions. He claims the smallest food can do a world of good for the country.

“We’d like to talk to them about their food-related emissions. Even a small reduction in a company that serves as much beef as McDonald’s … could have significant greenhouse gas reductions and other benefits,” Olson said.

Eco-friendly home additions are not nearly as rare as they once were. For example, more families are opting to install cool metal roofs instead of traditional asphalt ones; not only are they often made of recycled materials, but they can also save 25% more in energy costs, helping families to reduce their carbon footprint and their monthly bills. Nowadays, a metal roof doesn’t seem so out of place in the average neighborhood. And while rainwater harvesting may seem a little too “hippie” for some at first, more families are seeing the benefits — and how easy it is to save this precious resource (and some cash).

Around 90% of real estate agents encourage homeowners to invest in landscaping before they try to sell their homes. But sustainable landscaping, in particular, is really starting to catch on. The practice involves the conservation of physical and biological processes already occurring in the landscape, like maintaining soil integrity, sustaining plant and animal biomass, and using natural resources to give back — like turning leaves into mulch or capturing rainwater for irrigation purposes.

That last idea has captured the attention of many a homeowner across the country. Because rain is a free resource, can easily be stored in tanks or barrels, and contains no chemical additives like chlorine and fluorine, rainwater harvesting has become an attractive way for countless Americans to keep their lawns lush and even clean their cars. This is particularly helpful for those who live in dry climates or whose water bills are high enough without having to keep the sprinklers on all spring and summer.

Not only can it save families money on their bills, but some are even getting further financial incentive from their local government agencies. When rainwater is allowed to run its course, rather than ending up in collecting tanks, it often picks up contaminants and debris before ending up in nearby rivers and other bodies of water. This forces municipalities to spend additional funds to clean this water to make it suitable for human use. While harvested rainwater is not safe to consume or bathe with, it can be used for many purposes on which local residents rely — so there’s a good reason for cities to encourage homeowners to take action.

In Tucson, they’ve done just that. The city’s rainwater harvesting rebates currently save hundreds of homeowners approximately 10% in water use. In fact, Tucson Water says that 720 homeowners in the rebate program save an average of 748 gallons per month. In addition to water preservation on a homeowner level, the city says this has helped to alleviate the “heat island” effect with which many big cities struggle. A recent study found that the city showed a “very significant correlation” between their rainwater harvesting and reduced water demand. And of course, residents are able to get a healthy rebate just for putting in the effort.

By utilizing rainwater to irrigate lawns and gardens, many have found their plants are actually thriving, too. The lack of harmful chemicals and the acidic pH of rainwater actually makes plants happier. Plus, because rain is typically warmer than municipal water, plants are less likely to be stressed when watered. That ultimately means you can spend less on making your yard look better.

It might seem a little strange at first, but the benefits of rainwater harvesting are something most homeowners can really get behind. Not only is it an excellent way to protect the planet, but it’ll put more money in your pocket and make your lawn the envy of all your neighbors.

The weather is starting to get warmer, so it’s the perfect time to open all of your windows, let some air in your home, and make a few renovations that you were unable to do during the winter months. And as the eco-friendly home trend continues to grow, many people who choose to make renovations do so to help make their homes a little bit greener. If you want to do the same, there are some easy ways you can make over your home while helping the planet and saving money.

Make Some “Light” Renovations

According to Energy.gov, utilizing the sun is key. Instead of relying on electrical lights, using sunlight will provide warmth and visibility without costing you any extra cash. In this case, though, it’s all about the windows. In order to get the most out of your light, you have to have the correct windows. Replacing standard windows with energy efficient windows and doors that meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star program can actually lower your energy bills by 7 to 15%, according to www.energystar.gov.

If you do plan on using electrically generated light, The Spruce suggests using LED light bulbs. LED light bulbs are a great option because they use less energy and can typically provide you with the same amount of light, if not more, than a standard light bulb. It’s all about being energy conscious when using electricity and other power sources.

Consider the Kitchen

Remodeling kitchens is a very common home project. If you decide that you want to completely revamp your kitchen, you can easily save money and be eco-friendly while doing so. Fresh Home says one of the easiest things you can do is reface your cabinets rather than replacing them completely. This helps to reduce waste and will allow you to change the look of your kitchen easily and cost-effectively. Cabinets and drawers tend to stay in great condition, so replacing them completely could end up being a waste of time and money.

Don’t Forget the Bathroom!

If you don’t want to renovate your kitchen, remodeling your bathroom(s) is another option. While 87% of people choose to update their shower in their bathroom, you can do more than switch to a more water-efficient showerhead. To easily make your bathroom look brand new, you can simply change the paint color of the walls. However, when painting your walls, make sure you use a paint that is low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs include compounds like formaldehyde, benzene, and even gasoline. While not all of these things are in all paints, there are more eco-friendly options. Paints that are low in VOCs or don’t have them at all are actually better for your family to be around, and they don’t harm the environment as much as normal paint does.

If you do decide to make some changes to your bathroom, make sure every existing pipe is in good condition. It’s crucial to note 10% of homes have leaks that can actually waste 90 gallons of water (or more!) per day. This simple non-renovation can actually help save you money and won’t require you to make any big changes.

Renovating or remodeling your home can be very exciting. However, it’s very important to make sure that you’re doing it the right way. Making sure you’re using energy efficient equipment and materials to save you and your family a lot of money, all while helping to protect the earth.