Tag Archives: Green Living

Green Living

Solar Water Heaters – An Introduction To Solar

The idea of solar power is nothing new. When most people think of solar they imagine a costly and exotic set of solar panels. At around $15,000 (including professional installation) for a family of four, a modern, and efficient photovoltaic (PV) system is similar in cost to an inexpensive car. But as your vehicle sits in the driveway depreciating, your solar panels will continue to deliver cost savings, long after the car is worthless.

If the idea of  PV solar still seems a bit costly but you’re still interested in going solar – at 1/3 the cost of a PV system – a fantastic introduction to solar savings is to consider a solar water heater.

Consider this: your traditional electric water heater consumes approximately 25 percent of your overall power usage, making it the most expensive appliance you own. Natural gas is a bit more efficient, but with the continuing rise in utility prices, this will dramatically change in the coming years.

At about $5,000 for a professionally installed solar water heater for a family of four, you can reduce your electric bill by around 22 percent, or significantly cut the cost of your gas bill – year round!

A 30 percent tax credit is available through the federal government. So let’s say you purchased a 5K system, you would receive a $1500 tax credit on your federal income tax. In Idaho there is a 40 percent tax deduction the first year, and for the subsequent three years following that you would receive 20 percent deduction.

For incentives in your area go to the to the DSIRE website.

It is important to know that if federal and local government would provide bigger incentives for innovators and installers – such as what people are already doing in Spain and Germany – the United States could lead the world in technology jobs, and solar systems would be much more affordable. With the enormous emphasis on alternative energy sources, the government needs to place more financial support into this important investment. Now’s the time to contact your local legislature reps and national senators and start putting on the pressure to make these incentives a priority! Get involved locally as well and learn how you can impact your neighboring communities by influencing builders, contractors, and government officials to place their money where their mouths are and go green by going solar.

Looking into getting a solar water heater installed in your home right now is a great cost saving idea, and we can look to the near future for PV to become more and more affordable. A January report from USA Today announced that prices for solar equipment, including installation, would be on the decrease by 15 to 20 percent in 2009. Costs decreased around ten percent in October of 2008.  The combination of high worldwide manufacturing capacity for solar equipment and the ongoing recession are credited for this occurrence.

Check back soon on this site for more articles about the benefits of solar energy. Save money and the environment – go solar!

Green Living Healthy Living Kids & Family Real Food

20 Ways to Embrace and Perfect Your Home-Keeping Skills

People underestimate the power and importance of good home-keeping. Home-keeping is an amazing lost art that can save a great deal of time and money, and should be viewed as an excellent way to help you maintain your health as well as preserve the environment.

Key factors in smart home-keeping include using minimal resources, healthy foods and ingredients, finding ways to shorten your time in doing various activities and tasks, and learning about how to do things in a more economical and health-friendly way.

Here are some tips for smart home-keeping:

1.  Unless it is a special occasion, do most of your eating from home

An occasion can also be made more special if you prepare a home-cooked meal. You will save money and over time you will develop ways to make groceries last longer than you thought you could.

2. Eat leftovers and make more than you need for one meal to freeze for later

Leftover meats, rice, beans, vegetables, and whole grains can be used in soups and casseroles and quick home-made ethnic foods like tacos, curry, tamales, and enchiladas.

3. Resist the urge to buy packaged, processed foods.

Not only are these foods more expensive, they are never as healthy as those made at home, and usually involve some type of packaging that will pollute the environment.

4.   Buy and eat whole, traditional foods.

Think farmer’s markets, local farmers and food growers, and your own backyard. Unsure where to get good quality, locally-raised foods? Visit FarmMatch, Local Harvest, and EatWell Guide. Check listings in your newspaper or do an online search for farmer’s markets and local farms. Wondering how to know if something is raised sustainable manner? Read Questions to ask your farmer.

5.  As much as possible, buy local, fresh, in season, and organic or sustainable-produced foods.

These foods are not only more nutritious, but in the long run, will save you money on health expenses. You will also be supporting your local farmers and food growers who care about producing safe, healthy products which is better for you and the environment, and you will be supporting your local economy.

6.   Consider making from scratch things you would normally buy in packages and cans.

 Home-made corn chips, salsa, nut butters, butter (from real cream), cereal (with whole, soaked grains), jams, salad dressings, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, horseradish sauce, yogurt, kefir, barbeque sauce, desserts, and soups. These things take a bit of time, but when you make them at home they are much more nutritious and ultimately, cheaper. Nourishing Traditions is an excellent book that has a wide variety of recipes on how to make these types of foods at home, and much more.

7.  Instead of purchasing packaged items for the home, think of ways to save money by creating or making them yourself.

Home-made cleaners and solutions for just about any type of preparation for sanitation are right in your cupboard – vinegar, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice, borax, rubbing alcohol, and essential oils can do the job economically and without toxic side effects. Visit The Family Homestead for ideas on how to make your own cleaners.

8.  Discard your modernistic views of getting tasks done.

Stop using a microwave and start using your stove and oven. Your food will be healthier — microwaving effectively removes nutrients from your food and should be considered a dangerous method to cook. Microwaves have also been determined to expose us to radiation and electromagnetic waves that can cause cancer. Whenever possible, don’t use your dryer – let your clothes dry naturally. And, don’t ever use dryer sheets. They are full of toxic chemicals that can absorb into your skin from your clothing. Always trust your “mother’s intuition” about things that seem like they may not be healthy – if you have a doubt, you are probably correct.

9.   If you choose to become a stay-at-home-keeper, don’t allow what others who may be working full-time are doing to otherwise influence your choice.

Many people who stay at home are busier than those who work out of the home. This is one of the most important jobs you will ever undertake, so march forward and don’t feel guilty about taking it seriously!

10.   Learn to partner with other individuals who share your zest for home-prepared foods and other items.

Homemade soaps, candles, cleaning solutions, gardening, knitting, crotcheing, canning & jarring foods, sewing, jewelry-making, wood-working, furniture-building, and raising animals for food and other necessity items (such as for clothing, etc.). You may even consider a cooking co-op where you agree with others, perhaps in your own neighborhood, on a schedule of preparing foods where each family only cooks once or twice a week.

11.   Buy in bulk when you can, but be aware that some products stored in bulk bins have been sitting around for a period of time and may be rancid.

If in doubt, purchase whole grains, rice, and sprouted flours in the package. You can always freeze these items if you do not use them all at once. Also, be aware that other items bought in bulk can be from irradiated or genetically-modified sources. Make sure what you are buying in bulk is organic.

12.   Think creatively about preparing a variety of meals at home for your family.

Use the Internet for recipe ideas as they are free and vast. Borrow cookbooks from friends or check-out from the library. If you find that you have a hard time sticking to recipes, experiment with your own whims and tastes. Often something really spectacular can come from a crazy idea. Read Waste not, want not: tips for saving in the kitchen for ideas on how to save money and stretch your food out.

13.   Plant a garden, or help start a community garden in your own neighborhood or area of town.

When you take an interest in your local communities to help get growing efforts started, the enthusiasm spreads. This can help others want to become more sustainable too.

14.   If you are so inclined, raise your own animals and fowl for food.

Feed them the food nature intended them to eat and treat them humanely by allowing them room to roam and safety from antibiotics, hormones, and other toxic chemicals. Here’s a helpful resource: Backyard Chickens, and courses on  Holistic Management.

15. Make it a goal to prepare most things you would normally eat that are store-bought from scratch.

You may be wondering, “where will I ever find the time??” If you re-prioritize your life a bit and make time to prepare home-cooked foods, cleaners, clothing, and other home items, you will find a quiet satisfaction as well as enjoy better health from your efforts. You will start to realize that you can do more from scratch if you just allow yourself the extra moments needed, and your life will start to order itself around these important tasks instead of you ordering yourself around a great deal of other activities that may not be as critical. When you start to slow down, prepare things, and savor the very act of doing these things for your family, you should eventually notice the peace you will feel, improved health, and satisfaction of having put in an afternoon’s or mornings time on such fulfilling work.

16.    Work on reusing, saving, recycling, and rethinking everything you do to save money, time, and the environment.

Use glass containers you get from foods purchased at the store. Eliminate plastic from your house as much as you can and replace with reusable containers made of wood, metal, glass, ceramic, and enamel. If you must use plastic, recycle. Recycle glass, paper, and other items whenever possible.

17.   Make at least one meal a day a sit-down occasion at the table with others where no other interruptions prevail.

This should be a focused, relaxed time to enjoy healthy food that will nourish your body and join with family or friends, be social, and catch up. Turn off the television and put on some music that will get you in the mood, but will not distract from the task at hand – eating your meal in peace and being able to connect with important people in your life.

18.   Don’t panic if you cannot get everything done in a day; rarely anyone can.

The beauty of the home is that it will always be there tomorrow. And unlike a thankless job you have to go to five days a week, you probably won’t have a nasty boss breathing down your neck telling you that you may not go home until you have cleaned the toilets. If you have family members breathing down your neck about such items, it’s time to sit down and have a talk about all that is involved in maintaining a house and/or caring for children or other family members.

19. Spend time teaching home-keeping with your family members — in particular, your children.

Getting tasks accomplished for the common good allows you to spend time together and bond over something everyone in your house cares about. Teach children to help with laundry, dishes, taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn, vacuuming, dusting, baking, tidying up their own rooms and personal items, and cooking meals. Play music, laugh, and have fun while you are engaged in these tasks. As Mary Poppins always says, “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!”

20.   When your daily tasks are done, instead of going out enjoy a family game or movie night at home.

Invite friends or other family over to share your evening. This is a great way to save gas, promote personal relationships, and avoid activities that tend to separate us as human beings such as being on the computer/playing video games/ watching television.

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