Utility programs can help low-income customers keep the lights on, but some do better than others

By Ariel Drehobl, Research Analyst, Local Policy

As households ramp up air conditioners to stay cool this summer, many will find themselves with higher energy bills. Paying these bills will be easier for some than for others. Low-income households, who spend on average three times more of their income on energy bills than other households, will undoubtedly find it more difficult to adjust to higher bills in both the summer and winter months.

Many households can address high energy burdens by taking advantage of energy efficiency programs run by their utilities. These programs provide multiple benefits beyond energy and bill savings, such as fewer shut offs, healthier homes, less outdoor pollution, and more local jobs.
To better understand the scope and reach of low-income energy efficiency programs, ACEEE completed a new baseline assessment of the electric and natural gas programs that specifically target low-income households in the largest US cities. 

The assessment complements previous ACEEE research that explored best practice elements for low-income utility programs. This paper examines total investments in these programs, energy savings impacts, customer participation, and utilization of best practices for more than 70 utilities low-income programs. The paper also includes data tables that chronicle this information for each utility…

To read the report, visit: http://aceee.org/white-paper/low-income-ee-baseline 

To continue reading the blog post, visit: http://aceee.org/blog/2017/07/utility-programs-can-help-low-income 

Source: ACEEE: The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy 

Most Families Make These 4 Eco-Unfriendly Mistakes When Moving House – Is Yours?

Most people don’t think about the environment when they’re moving. Maybe you’re moving into a place with solar power and more efficient plumbing, and that will do wonders to reduce your carbon footprint in the future. The issue is often that the act of moving itself does a great deal of damage to the environment. A lot of waste is generated, and a lot of fuel is burned up in the process. The best way to reduce your impact on the environment starts with changing the way you move.

Using Boxes You Don’t Have to Use

If you find yourself packing your reusable grocery bags into a box, you’re doing something wrong. Every bag and bin you have can be used in place of a cardboard box. When you bring it to your new home, unpack your stuff from your reusable containers, and all is right again.

Some moving companies offer reusable plastic bins on wheels that can serve as the perfect substitute for boxes. If you’re using a moving company, ask them if they have any alternatives available to you. If you aren’t using a company, you might still be able to rent these containers from movers. They’re large and sturdy. They can be used hundreds of times, saving countless cardboard boxes.

Generating Waste From Packing Materials  Wrapping your valuables in things like clothing saves money, waste, and packing space. If your glasses and your t-shirts are in the same container, that’s one less container you’ll need to use. Everything will still arrive at your new home safely. Things like blankets and towels can be used to add shock protection to boxes full of things you don’t want bouncing around.  If you absolutely must purchase packing materials, make sure you’re choosing eco friendly alternatives. It’s easy to spot biodegradable packing materials because they’re usually colored green. They’re made of plant fibers, and they won’t sit in a landfill for too long before they’ve broken down.

Generating Waste From Packing Materials

Wrapping your valuables in things like clothing saves money, waste, and packing space. If your glasses and your t-shirts are in the same container, that’s one less container you’ll need to use. Everything will still arrive at your new home safely. Things like blankets and towels can be used to add shock protection to boxes full of things you don’t want bouncing around.

If you absolutely must purchase packing materials, make sure you’re choosing eco friendly alternatives. It’s easy to spot biodegradable packing materials because they’re usually colored green. They’re made of plant fibers, and they won’t sit in a landfill for too long before they’ve broken down.

Trying to Recycle Things That Can’t Be Recycled

Recycling everything seems like the best plan, but dumping materials that cannot be recycled at a recycling facility only causes logistical nightmares. They’ll have to get rid of it, and two trips will have been made for nothing. Lightbulbs, anything with a CRT tube, crystal, mirrors, heat resistant dinnerware (like Pyrex glass), ceramics, or glass that’s become dirty (from food or actual dirt) can’t be recycled.

The things that can’t be recycled might be able to be donated if they’re in great condition. If they’re not in great condition (such as broken televisions with CRT tubes, cracked mirrors or damaged dinnerware), they need to go to an actual waste facility. Make sure these are included with the non-recyclable things that cannot be donated, and set them aside for when you call a removal service to pick them up.

Making Tons of Trips

Most people think it’s a good idea to save money by renting a smaller moving truck. If everything doesn’t fit, you can always make a few more trips. When you do that, you’re putting tons of fuel pollution into the environment – especially if you’re moving far away. Before you even rent your truck, do a dry run. See how big or small of a space all of your stuff can fit into.

If possible, get a truck that, when packed tightly, can accommodate everything in one load. If you have a little too much for one trip, think about what will fit into the cars you’re taking with you. Not only is moving in a single trip better for the environment, but it’s also less work for you. There isn’t any back and forth if you’re only going one way. You can unpack and settle in sooner.

If you do wind up using things like cardboard, make sure you recycle it once you’ve arrived. It’s not always easy to do a perfectly green move, so make sure you’re offsetting some of the less eco-friendly choices you’ve made with positive ones once the move is over.

Author’s Bio:

Elizabeth Lee is a staunch supporter of green living and sustainability, currently residing and working in Sydney, Australia. Writing for a transportation company PACK & SEND, Elizabeth often shares her suggestions on how both businesses and individuals can work and live with lesser negative impact on our planet. Feel free to follow Elizabeth on @LelizabethLee86

Tips for Recycling Your Construction Waste

In a healthy economy, construction waste makes up one-third of all refuse. At this scale, even small efforts towards recycling and reusing leftover building material or debris make a big change. Construction waste consists mostly of concrete, wood, drywall, shingles, asphalt and metal, but also cardboard and plastic from packaging. Although considered waste, many of these materials are valuable commodities that can be recycled to make new products or used in many ways. In short, recycling benefits both a construction business and the environment.
 Description	 English: A bag of cut polyurethane blocks that have been cut up and can no longer be used. As can be clearly seen, this kind of insulator is wasteful, and as such, extra expensive. A more suitable alternative could be compressed straw as insulator, or other alternatives. Date	17 June 2008 Source	 Own work Author	 KVDP
Planning before building

As a large part of building waste can be recycled or reused, its removal needs preparation from the very beginning. Along with other construction plans, make one for waste collection, disposal and recycling. Mark a place on the site where workers can dispose of debris and material leftovers. This site mustn’t obstruct the work, nor cause any safety hazards for workers.

Discarded materials and their uses

Each discarded material has its recyclable potential. Bricks, for example, can be reused or crushed to make road bases. Undamaged windows and doors can be refitted to other homes, as well as plumbing fixtures, like tubs. Lumber and wood products can be reused for further construction or converted to mulch or biomass fuel. Metals can be smelted and converted into other products. Vegetation and trees can be replanted if possible or used for biomass fuel.

Building it back

Probably the best and the safest method is to integrate construction waste into a new building or another building site, where applicable. For example, if you are remodelling, you don’t have to demolish the walls, but rather reconfigure or move them. Lumber leftovers from wood-framed structures can be used for fire blocking or as spacers. In addition, use building materials supplied in standard measurements whenever possible. The less you have to cut or remove, the less waste you will create. What is more, standard dimensions let you reuse any leftover materials more easily.  

Deconstruction instead demolition

Some laws propose or encourage removing reusable items without damage so they can be reused in housing projects. A contractor who is paying for the removal can even be granted certain tax benefits. If no such project exists, the contractor can organize a front yard sale of items like radiators, grates, piping, fixtures and fittings that are in acceptable condition.

Sorting the waste

In order to process them easier later on, different types of construction waste need to be deposited in separate piles. Concrete, asphalt, bricks and shingles can go together. Window frames and doors can go on the pile for wood and timber leftovers. Plastic, cables and nylons will go in the third, and so on. Separating and sorting materials from the very beginning makes them easier to remove and also lowers the disposal costs.

Local is always cheaper

You can avoid costly transport expenses by browsing local businesses that specialize in construction waste removal. Inquire what each of them offers and select the one that has an efficient recycling programme. To save time and money, ask them to provide containers on the site so you can dispose of materials on the go. Alternatively, you can dispose of waste every time you go out to fetch new building materials. Selecting a reputable waste recycling centre can save you a lot of headaches.  

Safety measures

When sorting and separating items in containers, make sure no unwanted materials get inside. If any amount of rubbish is placed with the sorted waste, the entire load is considered unacceptable for recycling. Make sure the bins and containers have clear labels for different types of waste.

There are many ways to reuse construction waste, so make sure it doesn’t simply end on the landfill. By recycling materials or integrating them into further construction, you won’t only reduce the amount of waste produced by the site, but also make savings through different municipal projects or by selling reusable items.

Experts Share their Secrets to an Eco Friendly Lifestyle

Whether it’s protesting the US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement or vowing to transition to electric-only vehicles within the next decade, many businesses have been focusing on how they can do their part in saving our planet.

Although many Americans want to make the personal transition towards green living themselves, most don’t even know where to begin! That’s why the team at EmPower Solar decided to speak with a panel of eco-friendly experts on their personal practices. You can see their best advice here.

Whether it’s protesting the US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement or vowing to transition to electric-only vehicles within the next decade, many businesses have been focusing on how they can do their part in saving our planet.  Although many Americans want to make the personal transition towards green living themselves, most don’t even know where to begin!

Recycle Old Electronics While Purchasing Gifts at Same Time!

Did you know that 25% of all men suffer from “green guilt”, coinciding with the significant increase in E-Waste (used cell phones, old gadgets, old laptops, etc.) we’ve been accumulating? Those are the facts according to a new survey by Call2Recycle®! (Green Guilt is the feeling that they could and should be doing more to help the environment.) 

Father’s Day is right around the corner, so why not help dads get rid of those guilty feelings and remind them to pitch in and help out the environment? If you’re readers receive any new electronics or cell phones as gifts, they can get their dose of green in by recycling those old phones and the used rechargeable batteries from the devices they’ll be replacing. 

With the help of Call2Recycle, the only no-cost rechargeable battery and cell phone collection program in North America, dads can recycle the used rechargeable batteries from their old devices (cell phones, digital cameras, cordless power tools, laptops, etc.) at any of its drop-off locations at community collection sites and retailers nationwide such as Best Buy, RadioShack and The Home Depot.

“Our research shows that more than half of us are holding on to old gadgets in junk drawers and elsewhere rather than recycling them – in part because they don’t know how or where to recycle old technology,” said Carl Smith, CEO and president of Call2Recycle.  “Keeping electronics and used rechargeable batteries out of the waste stream is vital to the long-term sustainability of our planet.” Since 1996, Call2Recycle has diverted 70 million pounds of rechargeable batteries from landfills and established a network of 30,000 public collection sites.

Using rechargeable batteries is a simple step toward a greener lifestyle, and Call2Recycle offers up the following tips to assure the family get the most life out of their new rechargeable batteries by reducing how often they need to be replaced.

  • Follow the charging guidelines provided by the manufacturer. Each product has specific batteries charging battery charging times prior to their initial use.
  • Never return a fully-charged battery to the charger for an extra boost – it actually shortens the life of the battery!
  • Do not leave your rechargeable battery in the charger when not charging. Continuous charging can shorten battery life.
  • When they no longer hold a charge and it’s time to replace your battery, be sure to recycle your old one.

Call2Recycle is the nation’s most comprehensive rechargeable battery and cellphone recycling solution, providing a responsible and convenient way to recycle cellphones and rechargeable batteries found in electronic products, such as laptop computers, digital cameras, cordless power tools, two-way radios, mp3 players and camcorders.  There is no charge to drop-off batteries for recycling or be a collection site. For more information and to find local drop-off locations, visit www.call2recycle.org.