The Nitty Gritty on Energy Waste

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘waste’? Odds are that you pictured trash, surplus food, or some form of a landfill. Did you picture coal fires and your electric bill? Probably not. The truth is that energy waste is ever-present and just as threatening to the environment as solid wastes are.

This article is going to be broken down into three parts:

  1. Where does energy come from
  2. What are the repercussions of using non-renewable energy
  3. What can we do to help conserve energy daily

Where Does Energy Come From?

For the purpose of this article, we are speaking solely about electricity. 

There are numerous sources of energy and (thankfully) sources of renewable energy are increasing due to research. The main sources of electrical energy are chemical energy, thermal energy, kinetic energy, nuclear energy, solar energy, and rotational energy.

Chemical energy is energy that is stored and needs to be released. The most common way to release this energy is through combustion. Chemical energy is what we speak of when we talk about fossil fuel usage. It can include burning coal, oil, natural gas, or biomass (wood, solid wastes etc).

Thermal energy is energy created from heat. This can include the same things as chemical energy, but adds on heat from underground springs and more.

Kinetic energy is probably the one we are most familiar with from childhood classes. Kinetic energy is produced through movement. Where electricity is concerned, however, kinetic energy comes into play with wind turbines or water movement.

Nuclear energy is becoming more popular as well. This energy is one that is stored inside atoms and molecules. When you release nuclear energy, it can also release radioactivity and thermal energy.

Solar energy is energy that is captured from the sun through the light rays. The heat from the sun’s rays is also a form of thermal energy.

Rotational energy is created using spinning such as a windmill.

With all these types of energy sources, which ones are most popular? Currently, chemical energy is what most electrical grids are using as their main source for providing electricity. Solar energy and rotational energy are also starting to gain ground as forms of renewable energy.

Renewable energy is just that- energy that can be recreated and infinite. Unfortunately, non-renewable energy is exactly opposite, with limited amounts of fossil fuels left to provide for the demand in energy.

So, whats all the fuss about non-renewable energy, anyway?

Repercussions of Non-Renewable Energy Sources

The first thing to be noted about non-renewable energy sources is that we as a world are running low on them. Remember that these sources include coal, oil, and natural gas – to name a few.

The processing of fossil fuels creates quite a few problems for the world and the creatures and plants that live on it. One of these problems is atmospheric destruction.

Atmospheric pollution is created when fossil fuels are processed for electricity. During the processing, the fuels emit greenhouse gases – namely carbon dioxide- which damage the ozone layer of the atmosphere. Not only is this bad for future of the planet, but within our own lives it affects respiratory health drastically. With more greenhouse gases in the air, the worse off your respiratory health will be since you are not designed to process harmful chemicals. When we source fossil fuels from below the ground and release it into the air, we are also disrupting the amount of carbon on earth. Fossil fuels store carbon within them and the only way to release that carbon (as noted above) is through combustion- which produces heat. This heat throws the balance of the earth’s temperature out of wack much faster than would have naturally occurred- making it harder for animals and plants to adapt to.

With crude oil there is not only the atmosphere and human health to consider, but the threat of an oil spill can (and has) contaminated large bodies of water which take out wildlife and harm human health.

Natural gas is another popular fuel used and is made up of methane. To get natural gas, companies use a process called hydraulic fracturing / fracking. This uses high pressure from water to break up rocks below the earths surface which releases the natural gas stored within them. If a rock is too tough to split open, acid can be poured to dissolve it or small pieces of sand and/ or glass can be used as alternative methods of opening the rocks. Natural gas is what we typically use for heat and cooking, however it can also be used for electrical energy, a/c units, and more. One of the most horrible effects of sourcing natural gas is that it has the ability to cause small-scale earthquakes from breaking up the ground with the high pressure water. Also, the water that is mixed with the chemicals below ground has the potential to run into clean water sources which makes daily tasks such as bathing and drinking unsafe.

All in all, natural gas is still a cleaner source of energy when looking at its other non-renewable counterparts.

There are plenty of reasons to avoid non-renewable sources of energy, but while renewable energy starts to take hold there are a few things you can do to cut down on your personal energy consumption; therefore cutting down on the pollution and destruction created from the power plants and grids that supply your electricity.

Conserving Energy

On to the fun stuff! Fun because conserving energy not only promotes human health, clean energy, and a safe planet, but it save you money! Rad, right?

Before you can save energy, you should look at how much you’re currently consuming. This can be found on your utility bills or online in your account summary. Once you access your summary, you should be able to click and see a day-by-day view on energy consumption and track rises and falls with what you were doing that day. On a day where your energy consumption was really high, did you host a party and have all the televisions, speakers, stove tops, and lights on for most of the day?

If you aren’t aware of what you did each day, you could also start an energy-journal where you list out appliances used and lights left on in a normal day. Then, start implementing the tips below and record what you’ve done for energy conservation each day and then on your billing cycle you should be able to match up the days in your journal with your statement and see a gradual decline in energy use!

Tips & Tricks
- Turn off lights when you leave the room
-Unblock vents: upwards of 25% more energy is used to distribute air 
 when you have furniture blocking a vent
-In the winter, maximize use of southern windows by opening blinds and 
 curtains to increase heat gain which will lessen the amount of energy
 needed to heat your space
-In the summer, use solar screen, films, awnings, trees/vegetation to 
 block direct heat on the east & west facing windows of your building. 
-Inspect your insulation and fix any gaps between doors and windows where 
 drafts may exist. 
-Do regular maintenance on your heating/cooling equipment to keep them 
 running as efficiently as possible
-Remove unnecessary lamps and appliances
-Turn off and unplug your electronic items when not in use 
-If you have the ability to, look into replacing your light bulbs and 
 large appliance (fridge, washer/dryer, tvs) with more energy efficient 
 options
-If possible, install solar panels onto your building

*If you are looking into new light bulbs, check out Energy Star's site on 
 finding the perfect one HERE
*Create an Energy Star Home Profile which will assess your home over all 
 metrics and will also give you personalized recommendations for your
 building HERE
*Tell your friends about what you're doing and get them on board! 
*Reward yourself with the extra money you'll have shaved off your 
 electric bills!

P.S. For my Missouri friends, here are some facts for you: 
     1. Only 4% of Missouri's energy comes from renewable sources 
     2. Coal fuels 3/4 of electricity in Missouri is coal-fired 
     3. 8/10 power plants run on coal
     * These facts are updated as of August 2017 from the
       U.S. Energy Information Administration
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The Inconvenience of a Green Lifestyle

It has come to my attention that many people are scared to “go green” because they don’t want to inconvenience themselves.

At first, I was going to write a beautiful article on how to still enjoy all of what you are used to and then some! (It is possible) Then, I had the thought that this isn’t what truly being green is about. So instead, here is a bit of advice: 

Inconvenience yourself.

When it comes to the environment, or anything we believe in for that matter, it is worth the little bit of trouble we may run into trying to do what we know is right and honest. The way the world is right now is downright scary. Everything is built for convenience and ease of access. Material goods are tossed out by the MILLIONS. We would rather create toxic gases than have to remember to bring a straw. You can’t save the world without a bit of change on your part. This lifestyle will bring to you many many obstacles and oftentimes, you’ll want to give in because it would be that much easier. 

Stand tall. 

You have to power to tell yourself, “No. This does not sit well with my soul and I will not partake in anything less than who I say I am.” 

This could be something as simple as not stealing a bite of your friend’s cheesy fries that “were already bought for” and the “damage is done” or something as hard as switching banks because they are back a multi billion dollar plan that does NOT sit well with your soul. The first challenge is easier by comparison, but for the second you will need to understand yourself a little bit deeper. 

Ask yourself who you are and define why you believe what you believe, then go out in the world and passionately choose to inconvenience yourself every time something does not align fully with your standards of living.

It’s going to be hard, but good grace it’s worth it.

Zero Waste Almond Milk/Flour

The other morning I opened my fridge and was amazed at how beautifully un-packaged it was!

There were onions rolling around plump last-of-the-season tomatoes and a bouquet of fresh fruits and veggies practically spilling out of the doors.

I smiled as I took a moment to realize that I had made my dreams come true!

I then glanced at the side door and the back corner of my fridge where I spotted some items I hadn’t figured out what to do with yet: Condiments, almond and soy milk, a few packages of tofu…

Frowning, I sought out a remedy!

This is one of the remedies: How to make your own almond milk

There are loads of recipes floating around pinterest, but none of them tasted quite like that store-bought boxed in drink I love.

So, I tweaked ingredients and came up with a recipe that gives you thick (or thin- variations included) sweet (0r unsweetened) almond milk to play with and make your own!

Now that we’re all ready to get our hands a little dirty, take a look below for the recipe instructions:

Almond Milk

Time: 30 mins + 24 hrs for soaking

Ingredients:

3C Almonds

water

cheesecloth (or fine strainer)

**vanilla extract (optional), agave (0ptional)

Prep: Soak 3 cups of almonds in a large bowl with several inches of water covering them in the fridge 24hrs prior to use.

  1. Completely drain the almond/water bowl.
  2. For a thicker milk: combine 1 cup almonds and 2 cups water in a high-powered blender for two minutes. For a thinner milk: combine 1 cup almonds with 4 cups water on high for two minutes
  3. Place your strainer or cheesecloth (folded to have four layers) over a large bowl/ container and pour your mixture in.
  4. If using cheesecloth, squeeze till you can’t get any more out of the bag and cast the pulp inside aside for making almond flour later
  5. Repeat with remaining 2 cups of almonds

**For sweetner: add 1 tablespoon of agave per cup of almonds

**For flavor: add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract for every cup of almonds

Keeps fresh in fridge for 4 days or freeze for an extended life!

ALMOND FLOUR

Time: 2+ hrs

Ingredients: pulp from almond milk

  1. Preheat oven to lowest setting (typically 170 degrees F)
  2. Spread almond pulp out on a baking tray and bake for 2 hrs.
  3. Check to see if the pulp is fully dry and chalky to the touch every half hour over that time.
  4. When it feels fully dry and no moisture can be seen or touched, remove and blend with high-powered blade or food processor until it is fine and powdery!
  5. You now have almond flour to use in recipes!

Drink up!

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Zero Waste Oranges

I hadn’t planned on writing this till I was mid-chop through my last orange for orange juice this morning! Then, it dawned on me just how MANY uses there are for oranges!

Of course, the first use is very simple: ORANGE JUICE! 

Go on and squeeze yourself a pitcher full, and yes- save the pulp. 

The first tip I have is for you smoothie lovers out there! 

Orange pulp holds a ton of fibers, so instead of straining it then tossing it out, scoop it into an ice tray and freeze it! You’ll have them ready to add into your smoothie tomorrow morning and you won’t even be able to taste the texture of it since it will be ground up! 

Now, lets go back over to those discarded peels. 

My favorite recipe calls for distilled white vinegar and fresh orange peels. With these two ingredients, you can make your very own all-purpose cleaner! 

Just chop those peels up small, stuff them into a jar, and fill it the rest of the way up with vinegar! 


Now, place the lid back on, and submerge your jar into a pot of water kept at 150degrees F for 20 minutes. 

Cool him off and set aside 2-3 days. When you come back to it, go ahead and strain your vinegar into a spray bottle (if you want to) and compost those peels! Voila! Your very own all-purpose cleaner! 

I still had orange peel leftover, however, so I set my oven at 170degrees F and popped them into there to dry out for use as fruit tea “leaves” later on. Keep them in for 1hr or until dry and brittle! 

These are the peels before going into the oven! be sure to spread them out!


Another short recipe is to fill a large pot with water and boil your peels in it. Add in 2 sticks OF cinnamon, a dash of vanilla, and bit of cloves and keep it boiling! The result is a holiday-scented home for the next few days!! 

Hopefully you found these tips useful! Let me know what you do! 

Composting 101

Hi again folks!

I was giving a lecture last week and a lovely lady asked me a question at the end about composting and how one should go about starting! I was a little lost for words since there are quite a lot of methods, however, here I have pulled together quite a few and even created small info-graphics about the very basics of starting your own compost! I give all the credit to the absolutely amazing book “The Urban/Suburban Composter” by Mark Cullen and Lorraine Johnson. I highly recommend checking this out at your local library if you’re looking for a very in-depth view on composting methods!

I only cover how to build a holding unit, however, there are many types of composting methods that work.

compost-bacteria-infograph

What happens when composting takes place? Bacteria grows and feeds off your scraps thus producing heat that kills them and creates the ideal temperature for another type of bacteria. This happens until the Thermophiles die off completely from the intense heat or from the lack of food. When this is complete, the pile cools down and allows the psychrophilic and mesophilic bacteria to come back and finish off what the thermophiles may not have gotten around to! This stage is called the maturation period and during it you may notice bugs and worms starting to inhabit your pile! When this phase is done, your pile should resemble a very dark sweetly-scented soil! This is called Humus or completed compost.


composting101infograph

Now that you know what happens during compost, let’s take a look at some of the facts around composting in general!


what-goes-into-compost-graphic

Ah, the carbon to nitrogen ratio. This is the part of composting that does actually require a bit of effort on your part. Think back to that high-school chemistry or biology class for a moment. Carbon and Nitrogen can be found in any material you will be composting. However, the amounts in which they are found will differ. Take, for example, wood chips which range have a C:N ratio of anywhere between 500:1 – 700:1 as compared to food scraps which typically have a C:N ratio of 15:1. You want your compost to have a C:N ratio between 20:1 and 30:1. This means that for every nitrogen rich material you add in, you want to add in twenty times the amount of carbon-rich materials such as dry leaves. Now before you check-out mentally and say that this is too complicated to keep up with, it’s not an exact science (well, at least it doesn’t have to be in your home). What you’re trying to do is have quite a bit more carbon rich or “brown” materials than nitrogen-rich or “green” materials as it’s been termed. Experiment around. Compost is very easy to salvage. After all, it is just rotten materials. Too much nitrogen and it gets slimy. Too much carbon and it will be brittle to the touch. You’re aiming for your compost to feel like a well-wrung out sponge: damp, but not too damp.

holdingunit-compostor-infograph

Here’s an easy-to-make compost bin using the holding unit method. This is taken directly from “the urban/suburban composter”

Ok, so maybe you don’t really want to build your own composter- what can you do?

There are dozens of  composters all set up and ready to go available online or at home-improvement stores such as Home Depot and local hardware stores.  This is a wonderful link for those of you who are aiming to just go out and purchase a Composter:

http://www.homedepot.com/b/Outdoors-Garden-Center-Composters/N-5yc1vZbx5p

Keep in mind, though that you don’t necessarily need the most expensive Composter on the market to do the job. Any container with a lid will do. Heck! You don’t even need a container at all if you dig a deep enough hole outside and layer it properly!

I, personally, own a tabletop composter to collect scraps of food from the kitchen in before taking it outside to toss into a rather large compost tumbler. The tumbler is a good option for those of you with patio/backyard space that plan on mainly composting food scraps. This is a minimal-maintenance approach to composting. You toss in your nitrogen, top it with 20x more carbon and close it. Then, once a week, you turn it. That’s all.

I do want to give an honorable mention to vermicomposting which harnesses the power of worms to compost in a fast and efficient manner. I will be starting this process here soon and will update you with how it goes!

Here are a few excerpts from the book that you may find useful! 


I want to leave you all with a quote I found in (you guessed it) The Urban/Suburban Composter.

“My passion for compost stems from observance of a very basic rule of life- put things back in their place after you’re finished with them”- Mark Cullen

Send me an email at littlegreengoddess.blog@gmail.com if you have any questions on composting or would like more information on the methods not covered here!

Stay Green!

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Re-using Brown bags

Have you been to a Whole Foods before? If so, you are probably familiar with their reusable bag policy where they will take 10 cents off your bill for every bag you bring yourself (you can then choose to donate or keep the change). This practice is lovely, but sometimes impractical.

As wonderful as it is to bring your reusable bags everywhere (and I do recommend it), stuff happens! Maybe you are on your way home from work and receive a message from your spouse saying you HAVE to pick up xyz from the grocery store.

So what do you do?

You run in right before closing time at the store, pack your cart with the necessities listed out (maybe a little more) and rush to the check-out. As you’re in line tiredly awaiting your turn, you hear the cashier ask the man in front of you, “would you like to donate your bags?”. In that moment, you realize that for the first time in your pristine zero-waste lifestyle, you don’t have a handy reusable bag on you for the odds and ends you picked up that night. Do you dare to cradle your arms and insist the lady behind the register pile them into your open arms? No. You act civilized and take a brown paper bag!

So now what do you do with said bag?

Recycle it? Possibly

Re-use it? Definitely.

When it comes to re-using bags, the possibilities are quite endless. In the past, I have made a hanging pencil holder for my kitchen out of a Chipotle bag and wrapped presents with larger Whole Food’s bags. Cutting them up into squares makes for great shabby-chic labeling on jars and containers, whereas leaving them whole- with the exception of the bottom and a side slit- make wonderful ground cover for paintings and art projects!

Seriously, don’t stress about the occasional brown bag. Stash that sucker in your arts and crafts section and come back to it when you need some vintage gift wrap!

Here’s a quick link to some creative re-uses of paper bags! www.thebalance.com

As for my personal endeavors in the world of brown paper bags, you can find a picture of my pencil holder/chipotle bag and a vintage-inspired gift-wrap for my boyfriend below!

 

 

For the “doodle” bag: take a medium sized brown paper bag (I used a chipotle’s to-go bag) and cut out one of the sides with the handles completely and follow steps bellow!

IMG_0277

I added a string to the front only, but if you want it to look prettier, add a thick decorative ribbon on both front and back in replacement of the handle. This holds it up on a nail (or in my case, a push pin). The front ribbon will need to be slightly longer than the back ribbon, so hold it up where you plan on hanging it first to measure how much ribbon you would need for either side.

*TIP: Ironing the bags on low heat (briefly)  can help to flatten and give a tidier appearance to the crafting project.

P.S. The ribbon I used in the picture of the present was also a re-use! It came off of a gift from the holidays last year!

Happy Crafting,