Simple Home Improvement that Creates a Sustainable Home to live 

Since the industrial revolution, societies have been driven to consume. The consumerist world exploded after the world wars and continued to expand to this day. Children are raised to do good in school, get a high paying job and live years of abundance. Material wealth has always been our standard of success.

Don’t you think it’s time for a change?
There’s an emerging movement that aims to challenge our perception of a successful life: minimalism. Minimalism, contrary to popular belief, is not a product of the 21st century. It’s in the core of many cultures in Asia. 

The Buddhist concept of Zen emphasizes on an individual’s consciousness of the self and its relations with nature. “Zen contends that physical nature and human nature must be sought in an experiential dimension practically trans-descending,” according to a paper published by Stanford University. Minimalists are upholding the Zen principle in various aspects of their life, from their decision-making behaviors to their lifestyle choices.

Sustainable living: a complete lifestyle shift


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Sustainable living is a way of life that involves reduced dependence on natural resources. It embodies the Zen principles of caring for nature and the ideals of minimalism. To live a sustainable life, you may need to make a significant shift in your mindset. “It is such a simple principle – and yet if it is extended to include all living beings (an essential component of sustainability), it requires a complete shift in how we live our lives. Because we do unto others all day long – through the clothes we buy, the energy we use, the food we eat, even the toothpaste we brush our teeth with. Every choice we make impacts others – through its creation, its distribution, its use and its disposal,” noted GlobalStewards.org.

Sustainability in your living space can be done in simple ways. If you’re new to the concept, you can start with the easiest steps. Here are some home improvement tips for a sustainable living.

Explore passive design strategies


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Passive architecture is the use of energy efficient designs to reduce ecological footprints. It includes daylighting, natural ventilation and solar energy. Daylighting simply means using sunshine to illuminate your space. You can create external reflection letting sunlight reflect from the flooring of your home, wide window sills, and light shelves. Internal reflection can be achieved allowing natural light to reflect from internal walls, ceiling and high reflectance surfaces. You can also apply light-colored finishes and mount mirrors to reflect light around your home. However, avoid high levels of direct sunlight that can cause glare and increase the need for cooling.

Passive cooling strategies involve energy efficient designs to control heat gain in spaces. These designs include ventilation, windows insulation, and shading. Remember that the cooling strategies you can apply in your home is determined by your climate. If you live in a tropical region, you may need year-round shading.

Create indoor green spaces

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Studies suggest that living near green spaces is good for one’s mental and physical health. Greenery has a therapeutic impact that helps reduce stress levels. Living in a neighborhood with parks and open spaces encourage an active and fit lifestyle. You can reap the benefits of green spaces by creating one inside your home. If you’re living in a tight condo space, you can install a vertical garden in the patio, kitchen, and even in the living room. There’s a wealth of creative condo garden tips you can check on Pinterest and other social media sites.

Houseplants offer a number of benefits. They can purify the air, cool down room temperature, provide supply for fresh vegetables and herbs, and decorate a space. The pothos plant can absorb toxins like formaldehyde from carpets and floor cleaning materials. The spider plant, which is usually displayed as hanging plants, also have air purifying qualities similar with dracaena and weeping fig. Other plants that can clean indoor air and have cooling effects include bamboo palm, boston fern, and aloe vera.

Go energy efficient with your appliances and gadgets


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A sustainable and minimalist lifestyle doesn’t mean that you should let go of the comforts of technology. It’s just a matter of choosing the right furnishings and appliances. Go only for appliances with high energy-efficiency ratings. When shopping for electronic devices, choose Energy Star-labeled products that can save up to 75% in power consumption. You can further cut down your energy consumption, and save on costs by using an advanced power strip. 

This reduces “vampire loads” or electricity wasted when appliances and gadgets are plugged in but unused. Vampire loads commonly occur in computers, kitchen appliances, and home entertainment systems.

For your computer, here are 3 no nonsense tips to go energy efficient:
Use your computer on low-power mode. This can save energy, and allows your equipment to run cooler and last longer

Turn off the switch on the power strip or surge protector if the plugged equipment is not in use 

Activate the power management feature on your computer. This will automatically put your screen into sleep mode after a period of inactivity

Take advantage of government-sponsored programs


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The US Department of Energy (DOE) developed a national rating system, the Home Energy Score, that assesses the energy efficiency of a home based on the architectural design and heating, cooling, and hot water systems. The agency offers financial incentives and financing programs that attain a high Home Energy Score. For solar energy systems, you can avail of a federal tax credit for 30% throughout 2019, 26% for 2020 and 22% for 2021. The taxpayer may claim the credit of qualified expenditures on an energy-saving system in a residential structure he owns in the United States. “Expenditures include labor costs for on-site preparation, assembly or original system installation, and for piping or wiring to interconnect a system to the home,” according to the DOE.

Sustainable living is a change in mindset and behavior. It involves simple, mundane decisions such as recycling plastic cups and major matters like shifting to a passive home design. You don’t need to rush in and change all your appliances tomorrow, but start in any way you can. Uncluttering your home can be your starting point.

Author: Emily Harper, Mother, Blogger and Owner of the Blog SecurityOcean.com

2017 Greenest Cities in America – WalletHub Study

With October being National Energy Awareness Month and New York recently becoming the first city to unveil a plan that upholds the Paris Climate Agreement among nearly 250 cities that pledged to do so, the personal-finance website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of 2017’s Greenest Cities in America.

To determine which cities promote a “green” lifestyle, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 100 largest U.S. cities across 22 key indicators of environmental friendliness and sustainability. The data set ranges from greenhouse-gas emissions per capita to green job opportunities per capita to number of smart-energy policies and initiatives.

Greenest Cities in America
1 San Francisco, CA 
2 San Diego, CA 
3 Fremont, CA 
4 Honolulu, HI
5 San Jose, CA
6 Washington, DC 
7 Sacramento, CA 
8 Irvine, CA 
9 Portland, OR 
10 Oakland, CA 

Least Greenest Cities in America
91 Oklahoma City, OK
92 Cleveland, OH
93 Lexington-Fayette, KY
94 Toledo, OH
95 Tulsa, OK
96 St. Petersburg, FL
97 Louisville, KY
98 Jacksonville, FL
99 Baton Rouge, LA
100 Corpus Christi, TX

Best vs. Worst
Lubbock, Texas, has the lowest median air-quality index, 21, which is 4.3 times lower than in Riverside and San Bernardino, California, the cities with the highest at 90.

Anchorage, Alaska, has the most green space, 84.2 percent, which is 56.1 times more than in Hialeah, Florida, the city with the least at 1.5 percent.

Lubbock, Texas, has the lowest annual excess fuel consumption, 4.1 gallons per auto commuter, which is 8.5 times lower than in New York, Washington, as well as Newark and Jersey City, New Jersey, the cities with the highest, each at 35 gallons per auto commuter.

New York has the highest walk score, 89, which is four times higher than in Chesapeake, Virginia, the city with the lowest at 22.

Honolulu has the most farmers markets (per square root of population), 0.1197, which is 63 times more than in Newark, New Jersey, the city with the fewest at 0.0019.

To view the full report and your city’s rank, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/most-least-green-cities/16246/

Green Roof Design Process – What You Can Do as an Amateur

Green roofs have become an increasingly popular solution for those wanting to live a more sustainable life, and especially for those living in urban areas, in attempt to offset the grey, the concrete, and the smog-filled environment. With a worrying lack of green spaces, green roofs serve not only to improve the aesthetics, the landscape, and to make up for the lack of greenery, but they also, and more importantly, benefit the climate and the general air quality by providing clean oxygen and fresh air, as well as create new habitat for wildlife. 
You can leave it to professional roofers to design and build your new green roof, but if you feel capable and confident enough, you can also do it yourself. It is not a very complicated task. Here are some of the most important things to take into consideration and a guide on what to do and how to do it. 

First things first – is your roof suitable?

Before going into anything and starting work, it is important to first make sure your roof can handle a green roof. Some of the important characteristic to check are durability and slope.


Green Roof, Credited by Fordingbridge

When it comes to durability, you have to keep in mind that a green roof adds certain weight to it. You have to consider the plants’ weight and calculate how much added weight they will bring when they grow in the future. Consider how many layers you will need when making your green roof, as well as rain and snow which will undoubtedly saturate it and add more weight sometimes. Your roof needs to be sturdy, durable enough and waterproof. It is always best to consult with a structural engineer and have them assess it.

The slope or the angle of the roof should also be considered. Green roofs can be built on both flat and pitched roofs. Ideal slope is up to 10°, but it can also be more, in which case you might need to build and install a frame to prevent your green roof from slipping (you would usually need it if the slope is over 20°).

Drainage 

After the roof’s inspection and assessment, the first thing to do is check your drainage system and install one if you don’t already have it. We are talking about a simple gutter system. Make sure you have it all around the roof, as well as a downspout on its lowest part so that the water can go into it and off the roof.


Sustainable green roof, Credited by Wikimedia

Waterproofing

There are a couple of layers to a green roof, and the first, bottom one is a waterproof layer. It needs to go over the entire roof – some type of waterproof sheet (bitumen felt or rubber pond liner) covering the whole surface. On top of this layer you have put at least one more which will function as a part of the drainage system – it will help the excess water go into the gutters. It can be made of mulch, pumice, polymers, clay, etc.

Adding soil

For soil you need some lightweight substrate which will not add too much weight on the roof. It should also be low in organic material and nutrients so that you don’t have any unwanted vegetation springing up. In this case it is best to avoid topsoil, and use a soil mix where there is more than half of inorganic content.

Finally, adding your plants

Of course, you want your new roof to look nice and colorful so that you can enjoy it aesthetically as well. But if you want your roof to last and your plants to survive, choose your plants carefully, not only the ones that look good. It is recommended to plant native and resilient plants because they are already accustomed to the climate in your area and will withstand extreme weather conditions. You can choose from different types of succulents, sedums and wildflowers (for example yarrow or aster), or lavender and daylilies which will add some color to your roof and are also tolerant.

Toyota Hybrids getting Made in America!

It’s Electric: Toyota to Bring First Hybrid Powertrain Production to U.S.
September 26, 2017

PLANO, Texas (September 26, 2017) – Toyota just upped the stakes to remain the top manufacturer of hybrid vehicles worldwide with a $373.8 million investment in five U.S. manufacturing plants that will support production of its first American-made hybrid powertrain and to implement Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) at its Alabama plant. Each of the projects is scheduled to begin this year and all should be operational by 2020.

The investments will include adding new production of hybrid transaxles (hybrid vehicle transmissions) at the Buffalo, West Virginia, manufacturing facility; expanding 2.5-liter engine capacity at the Georgetown, Kentucky, plant; increasing production of 2.5-liter cylinder heads at Bodine Aluminum’s Troy, Missouri, plant; and modifying the Bodine Jackson, Tennessee, plant to accommodate production of hybrid transaxle cases and housings and 2.5-liter engine blocks. The Huntsville, Alabama, plant will undergo a comprehensive upgrade to enable it to build engines that complement TNGA. 

“This investment is part of our long-term commitment to build more vehicles and components in the markets in which we sell them,” said Jim Lentz, CEO, Toyota Motor North America. “This strategy is designed to better serve our customers and dealers, and positions our manufacturing operations to fulfill their needs well into the future.”


The 2.5-liter engines manufactured in Kentucky and transaxles made in West Virginia will be used in hybrid vehicles built in North America such as the Highlander Hybrid manufactured in Princeton, Indiana. Toyota remains the world leader in gas-electric hybrids, surpassing 3 million sales in the U.S. and 10 million globally.

 Fifty new jobs will be created because of the investment at the Alabama plant. There will be no net gain of jobs at the Kentucky, West Virginia, or Bodine Aluminum facilities, but these investments will help to ensure the stability of the plants’ employment levels in the future. 

“This investment across five American plants expands capacity for our latest TNGA engines, and localizes production of hybrid powertrains, a core Toyota technology,” said Jeff Moore, senior vice president for Manufacturing. “It underscores Toyota’s confidence in the capability and global competitiveness of our North American manufacturing.” 


The total investment of $373.8 million will be distributed as follows:

Toyota Motor Manufacturing, KY – $120,960,000

Bodine Aluminum Jackson, TN – $14,500,000

Toyota Motor Manufacturing, WV – $115,300,000

Toyota Motor Manufacturing, AL – $106,000,000

Bodine Aluminum Troy, MO – $17,050,000

These projects, and others previously announced, move Toyota nearly halfway ($4.1 billion) toward its commitment to invest $10 billion in the U.S., as announced by Toyota Motor Corporation CEO Akio Toyoda in January 2017.
Source: Toyota 

Pollution Prevention Also Means Clean Water!

Increasing efforts to reduce and eliminate sources of pollution to prevent damage to the environment, as well as maintain the planet’s resources and move towards sustainability is essential for the EPA. In order for pollution prevention efforts to move forward, engineers are creating and improving multiple technologies that deal with clean water.

Unfortunately, the United States may be unable to meet its water requirements in the near future because of climate change. Recent research shows that 70% of US counties could experience acute water shortages due to climate change, economic boom, and continued population increase.

Fresh water is a scarce commodity on earth. In fact, of the world’s 332.5 million cubic miles of water, only 4% is freshwater. The other 96% is saline. With that in mind, Americans use over 400 billion gallons of both fresh and saline water every day! The biggest consumers of water in the United States are the electricity and agriculture industries, accounting for 80% of the daily consumption.

Because the threat to freshwater security is real, engineers have developed some practical engineering solutions that can help conserve freshwater resources. One of these solutions involves large-scale desalinization.

The desalination process extracts salt from seawater, thereby turning it into fresh water. According to the International Desalination Association (IDA), there are currently over 18,000 desalination plants worldwide across 150 countries. These plants provide over 300 million people with fresh water. Desalination is very expensive and energy intensive however, due to the large amount of electricity required to run these plants.

Thankfully, engineers are working on lowering the cost of this process in many ways. One of these solutions involves increasing the diameter of the membranes to allow each membrane to process more water. Many plants have already replaced their eight-inch membranes with 16-inch membranes to increase their productivity, minimize their energy consumption and lower costs.

To learn more about the global threat to freshwater and the technologies engineers are creating to help solve these problems, check out the infographic below created by Ohio University’s online Master of Science in Civil Engineering program.

How Technology Is Providing Solutions for Clean Water

Ohio University