Archive for the ‘Going Green’ Category

Greening Your Home – A Reprint from Trulia.com – 4/18/2012

I found this article on Trulia.com written by Tara Nicholle Nelson.  It is great advice to everyone, but especially to those who may be considering selling their homes
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On Earth Day, much press is given to all the altruistic reasons we should watch our energyconsumption and carbon footprints.  From those baby polar bears stranded on icecaps to visions of our grandchildren’s grandchildren living on the Atlantic Coast of Montana, the unselfish reasons for going green, so to speak, abound.

Reality check: greening up your home does not have to be a pious experience, or a lifestyle downgrade. You don’t need to cut back on showers or go all Birkenstock, all the time. (Although, hey – I went to Berkeley. I’ve got nothing against the occasional sporting of the ‘stocks.)

In fact, I’ve realized over the last few years that there are some rather fabulous, somewhat selfish perks to making green changes to your home and your lifestyle.  Here are a handful of them, in honor of Earth Day.

1. Save Money Now.  When it comes to the economics of most home improvements, homeowners spend hours and hours trying to project the return we’ll recoup on the upfront costs of our granite countertops and built-in theater equipment years down the road. And for the most part, the numbers look grim. Except for the basic upgrades that are essential to moving an older home, real estate insiders generally advise homeowners to avoid even trying to find an investment return on home improvements, and to simply execute improvements they can both afford and enjoy in the time they plan to live in the home.
However, many so-called ‘green’ home improvements turn this entire concept on its head. Studies show that utility bills are one of the highest monthly expenses for most households, and that green home improvements can bring those bills down by as much as 20 or 30%.  I did the math – on the average American home’s energy bill of almost $2,000/year, that would represent a savings of $400-$600 – potentially much more if you live in an area with temperature extremes!
If you install a tankless water heater, insulate your pipes and walls or even do something as simple as weather-stripping your doors and windows, you will begin to save money on your utility bills immediately. And, depending on how indulgent you really want to be, that’s cold hard cash you can redirect to the college savings fund, your own retirement accounts, or a tropical adventure.
2. Sell Faster.  Green homes simply sell faster than comparable homes without energy efficient features. Today’s home buyers want to save money (that’s why they’re buying now!) and are willing to prioritize homes that allow them to do this by way of energy efficient systems and upgrades.
The data particularly bears this out when it comes to homes with solar energy systems. The US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy recently released reported that solar homes sell twice as fast as a home without solar panels – even in a down market. (As an aside, don’t believe the old hype that going solar requires a big investment; in some states, homeowners can sign up for something called ‘solar power service’ and get solar savings without ever having to pay for panels.)
If your home isn’t currently on the market for sale, you might scoff at the notion of a speedy sale as a selfish aim. But if and when the day comes that your personal, career, family and financial plans are hanging in limbo, making the ability to move forward with your life and your vision contingent upon the sale of your home, you’ll understand what I mean!
3.  Boost Your Net Worth. Not only are buyers willing to bestow a preference on ‘green’ or energy efficient homes, they are willing to pay more for them. And remember – the value of a home at any given time is based on what a buyer would pay for it.
The Appraisal Journal recently published data to this effect: for every $1 green home improvements decreased the property’s annual energy bills, the home’s value increases by $10-$25. That might not seem impressive on such a small scale, but these numbers translate to an increase of $8,000 to $25,000 to the market value of a greened-up 3,000 square foot home. Same goes for solar homes; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory compared solar homes to similar homes without solar panels, and found that a solar system can add around $17,000 to a home’s value.
If you are like the average homeowner, your home may be your largest asset – or your largest liability.  One of very few ways you can reliably bulk up the value of this asset – and your net worth in the process – is to implement any number of green home improvements.  If this is a big motivator for you to go green, talk with an experienced local agent about what green features local buyers most value.
One more thing: think very broadly about what it means to ‘go green’. You could go solar or tankless, install insulation and weatherstripping, convert to low-flow toilets, and shower heads, switch out old aluminum windows for dual-paned – the options are limitless, and vary widely in cost.
4. Look better and live longer. There are green homes, and there are green households. I’m going to make the argument that if, in the process of greening your home, you take the next step and engage in the lifestyle activities that make for a green household, you can lose weight, feel better and possibly even avoid some of the chronic diseases that plague our society.
The green home element of this includes planting a kitchen garden and minimizing the water that is wasted just keeping your lawn green. Then you’ll have a back-yard (or front-yard, for that matter) harvest to reap and eat. Your household garden will attract birds, bees and, if your street is anything like mine, squirrels, deer or wild turkeys – fauna which all participate in the circle of life. (Hakuna matata.)
But maintaining a kitchen garden and implementing other green household practices like taking walks or public transporation may also increase you’re the quality of the air you personally breathe and help you shift the balance of your family’s diet from focusing on meat to the plant-based diet doctors now say minimizes the risk of heart disease and cancer, increasing lifespan. Plant-based, by the by, does not mean vegetarian or vegan; Wikipedia defines a plant-based diet as “an eating pattern dominated by fresh or minimally processed plant foods and decreased consumption of meat.”
If digging and planting is more than you can take on, you can support those who do this for your community on a larger scale and still get the benefits of a plant-based diet by subscribing to a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program or walking to and shopping at your neighborhood farmer’s market on the weekend.
5. Live more comfortably. In the fifteen years since I moved from my scorching-hot hometown to the very mild climes of the Bay Area, I have developed an issue I call my ‘thermoregulation challenge.’ I’m fine when I go visit my parents or vacay in Arizona, but it’s tough to stay warm at home when dressed like a normal person.  (This explains my penchant for wearing sweaters right around the calendar.)
So, I recently undertook a campaign to stop up all the drafts in my house, and wouldn’t you know it: life got way more comfortable – and fast.Call me a weatherstripping evangelist, but I can think of very few home improvements this inexpensive that make this much of a difference in the comfort level of your life. Drafts, begone!
And this increase in comfort from green home improvements was not a one-off, in my experience. I’d already noticed a major reduction in noise from installing dual-paned windows a few years back. The next thing I have my eye on is swapping out the big old vat of water that I pay to keep warm 24 hours a day for a quake-proof, tankless water-heater.  Sure – the energy-efficiency sounds great. But so does unlimited hot water, no matter how long a shower I take or how many dog baths I give.
I say there’s a reason why so many A-list celebs who are used to living in luxury live green lifestyles. The good deed piece of it makes for great PR, but make no mistake: the green life can also be the good life.
All:  What green living practices or home improvements have you undertaken?  Did you any of them turn out to have selfish upsides?

February On My Mind and Heart – Guest Blogger Annette Presseau

When I think of the month of February I think of snowstorms because I live in the New England and snow is the norm this time of month but this year we have had a very mild winter so far and not much snow which is very unusual.  I actually miss the snow (I know that sounds a bit crazy!) but when it snows there is a calmness after it stops and a serenity which is very peaceful and calming which is something in our busy lives that we sometimes miss.  Have you ever heard the saying to “stop and smell the roses”?   In our daily lives we need to stop and smell the roses sometimes to be thankful for what we have because there is always someone else who is worse off than we are.  Have you ever gone out to put the trash out and looked up on a clear night and just admire the moon and the stars?  Our lives are just a small bit of the whole universe and it’s pretty amazing!  So, stop and look sometimes at the world around you and be amazed at what you see!

 

Flowers, Plants, Flowers!

Yes, it is too early to plant flowers but what about getting some house plants to liven up the dreariness of February or pick up some cut flowers to freshen or brighten up your home?  Flowers will definitely lift up your spirits!  What about changing your décor maybe move the furniture around or add some new decorations.  Even a essential oil diffuser would add fragrance to a room. When the weather gets you down do something that makes you feel good and you will be amazed at how much better it will make you feel.

 

Research has shown that these 10 plants below are the most effective all-around in counteracting off gassed chemicals and contributing to balanced internal humidity:

  • Areca palm
  • Reed palm
  • Dwarf date palm
  • Boston fern
  • Janet Craig dracaena
  • English ivy
  • Australian sword fern
  • Peace Lily
  • Rubber plant
  • Weeping fig

Read more at: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/top-ten-houseplants-for-cleaner-air.html

In the website above it is suggested that one plant should be allowed for approximately 10 square yards of floor space, assuming average ceiling heights of 8 to 9 feet. This means that you need two or three plants to contribute to good air quality in the average domestic living room of about 20 to 25 square yards.

Although many plants like light, they do not all have to be placed near windows. Many indoor plants originated in the dense shade of tropical forests and have a high rate of photosynthesis.  These are ideal for the home and can be placed in darker corners.  When positioning plants try to strike a balance between light and ventilation because the effect of plants on indoor air pollution appears to be reduced if they are set in a draft – very interesting isn’t it?

 

What else is good to do in February?

February is also a great month for experimenting with cooking meals you get a two for one punch you heat up your house and get a healthy meal!  If you are eating but finding that your energy level is not up where it should be then check out the 10 foods that are supposed to help kick energy into high gear:  Apples, Avocados , Blueberries, Citrus fruits, Oatmeal, Peanut Butter, Raw nuts, Sweet potatoes, Watermelon and Yogurt.  I started eating Yogurt again and I do find that it does make me feel better.

 

What about that medicine cabinet?

If you’re like me you have too much stuff in that medicine cabinet and maybe this is a good time of year to clean it out and update your first-aid kit. You can visit this website: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/EnsuringSafeUseofMedicine/SafeDisposalofMedicines/default.htm to find out about safe disposal of your medicines.  Make sure that you check expiration dates on everything and get rid of what is outdated.  I know that I have some things that I haven’t checked in quite a while.

 

Museums anyone?

This is also a great time to visit museums and there are a lot of them out there just check online to find different ones to visit.   Check out this website for Boston museums:  http://www.cityofboston.gov/visitors/museums.asp

 

Exercise anyone?

Cross-country skiing benefits heart and soul and knows no age barriers and the greatest part of cross-country skiing is the sheer joy of being active outdoors at a time of year when many go into hibernation.   Just plain old walking does wonders for your heart and is a great exercise.  What do you do to exercise in the winter months?

February also makes me think of having a healthy heart and ways that I can improve my health in general. Recently I read on the Internet that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of disability. The most common heart disease in the United States is coronary heart disease, which often appears as a heart attack. In 2010, an estimated 785,000 Americans had a new coronary attack, and about 470,000 had a recurrent attack. About every 25 seconds, an American will have a coronary event, and about one every minute will die from one. Do you know what the Heart Attack Symptoms are? I know that I didn’t until I looked at this website: http://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/

 

 

New Year’s Resolution List

How are you doing with your resolution list?  Were you able to at least do one thing on the list?  I haven’t succeeded yet but I’m still trying to achieve it.  Remember that it takes 8 tries to change a habit so keep on trying and don’t give up.

 

Have a Heart – Pay Attention to Your Ticker

Heart attacks don’t always strike out of the blue — there are many symptoms we can watch for in the days and weeks leading up to an attack. But the symptoms may not be the ones we expect. And they can be different in men and women, and different still in older adults. Last year, for example, a landmark study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Institute found that 95 percent of women who’d had heart attacks reported experiencing symptoms in the weeks and months before the attack — but the symptoms weren’t the expected chest pain, so they went unrecognized.

Don’t let that happen to you. Here are some common heart symptoms you’re likely to ignore — and shouldn’t.

 

Nausea & Stomach Pain

One of the most overlooked signs of a heart attack is nausea and stomach pain. Symptoms can range from mild indigestion to severe nausea, cramping, and vomiting. Others experience a cramping-style ache in the upper belly. Women and adults over age 60 are more likely to experience this symptom and not recognize it as tied to cardiac health.  Most cases of stomach ache and nausea aren’t caused by a heart attack, of course. But watch out for this sign by becoming familiar with your own digestive habits; pay attention when anything seems out of the ordinary, particularly if it comes on suddenly and you haven’t been exposed to stomach flu and haven’t eaten anything out of the ordinary.

 

A sharp pain and numbness in the chest, shoulder, and arm is an indicator of heart attack, but many people don’t experience heart attack pain this way at all. Instead, they may feel pain in the neck or shoulder area, or it may feel like it’s running along the jaw and up by the ear. Some women specifically report feeling the pain between their shoulder blades.

 

A Telltale Sign

A telltale sign: The pain comes and goes, rather than persisting unrelieved, as a pulled muscle would. This can make the pain both easy to overlook and difficult to pinpoint. You may notice pain in your neck one day, none the next day, then after that it might have moved to your ear and jaw. If you notice pain that seems to move or radiate upwards and out, this is important to bring to your doctor’s attention.

 

Inflammation: The Hidden Time Bomb Within You

A sense of crushing fatigue that lasts for several days is another sign of heart trouble that’s all too often overlooked or explained away. Women, in particular, often look back after a heart attack and mention this symptom. More than 70 percent of women in last year’s NIH study, for example, reported extreme fatigue in the weeks or months prior to their heart attack.  The key here is that the fatigue is unusually strong — not the kind of tiredness you can power through but the kind that lays you flat out in bed. If you’re normally a fairly energetic person and suddenly feel sidelined by fatigue, a call to your doctor is in order.

 

Catching your breath

When your heart isn’t getting enough blood, it also isn’t getting enough oxygen. And when there’s not enough oxygen circulating in your blood, the result is feeling unable to draw a deep, satisfying breath — the same feeling you get when you’re at high elevation. Additional symptoms can be light-headedness and dizziness. But sadly, people don’t attribute this symptom to heart disease, because they associate breathing with the lungs, not the heart.

In last year’s NIH study, more than 40 percent of women heart attack victims remembered experiencing this symptom. A common description of the feeling: “I couldn’t catch my breath while walking up the driveway.”

When the heart muscle isn’t functioning properly, waste products aren’t carried away from tissues by the blood, and the result can be edema or swelling caused by fluid retention. Edema usually starts in the feet, ankles, and legs because they’re furthest from the heart, where circulation is poorer. In addition, when tissues don’t get enough blood, it can lead to a painful condition called ischemia. Bring swelling and pain to the attention of your doctor.

 

Insomnia

This is an odd one doctors can’t yet explain in that those who’ve had heart attacks often remember experiencing a sudden, unexplained inability to fall asleep or stay asleep during the month or weeks before their heart attack. (Note: If you already experience insomnia regularly, this symptom can be hard to distinguish.)   Patients often report the feeling as one of being “keyed up” and wound tight; they remember lying in bed with racing thoughts and sometimes a racing heart. In the National Institutes of Health report, many of the women surveyed reported feeling a sense of “impending doom,” as if a disaster were about to occur. If you don’t normally have trouble sleeping and begin to experience acute insomnia and anxiety for unexplained reasons, speak with your doctor.

 

Flu like symptoms

Clammy, sweaty skin, along with feeling light-headed, fatigued, and weak, leads some people to believe they’re coming down with the flu when, in fact, they’re having a heart attack.  Even the feeling of heaviness or pressure in the chest which is typical of some people’s experience in a heart attack may be confused with having a chest cold or the flu.  If you experience severe flu-like symptoms that don’t quite add up to the flu (no high temperature, for example), call your doctor or advice nurse to talk it over.  Watch out also for persistent wheezing or chronic coughing that doesn’t resolve itself; that can be a sign of heart disease, experts say. Patients sometimes attribute these symptoms to a cold or flu, asthma, or lung disease when what’s happening is that poor circulation is causing fluid to accumulate in the lungs.

 

Rapid & Irregular Pulse

One little-known symptom that sometimes predates a heart attack is known as ventricular tachycardia, more commonly described as rapid and irregular pulse and heart rate.  During these episodes, which come on suddenly, you feel as if your heart is beating very fast and hard, like you just ran up a hill except you didn’t.  “I’d look down and I could actually see my heart pounding,” one person recalled.  It can last just a few seconds or longer; if longer, you may also notice dizziness and weakness.   Some patients confuse these episodes with panic attacks.

 

Older Adults

Heart attacks in older adults (especially those in their 80s and beyond, or in those who have dementia or multiple health conditions), can mimic many other conditions.  But an overall theme heard from those whose loved ones suffered heart attacks is that in the days leading up to and after a cardiac event, they “just didn’t seem like themselves.”

 

Rule of Thumb

A good rule of thumb, experts say, is to watch for clusters of symptoms that come on all at once and aren’t typical of your normal experience. For example, a normally alert, energetic person suddenly begins to have muddled thinking, memory loss, deep fatigue, and a sense of being “out of it.” The underlying cause could be something as simple as a urinary tract infection, but it could also be a heart attack. If your body is doing unusual things and you just don’t feel “right,” don’t wait. See a doctor and ask for a thorough work-up.  And if you have any risk factors for cardiac disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, or family history of heart disease, make sure the doctor knows about those issues, too.  Check out the website below for more information on heart attack symptoms:

http://health.yahoo.net/articles/heart/photos/heart-attack-symptoms-you-are-most-likely-ignore#0

And last but not least I like to leave you with a Valentine’s Day poem that I found on the Internet:  http://activerain.com/blogsview/2821095/happy-valentine-s-day-poem

Hope everyone had a great Valentine’s Day!

 

Want to receive more healthy living tips then sign on to Reliv’s free Science & Health Today Newsletter on my website http://annettepresseau.Reliv.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get An Energy Audit – reprinted from The Boston Globe Magazine 10/23/2011

In case you don’t buy a Sunday paper, you may have missed this which is part of a larger article “Guide to Going Green” by Vanessa Parks:

MassSave, expanded under the state Green Communities Act of 2008, is an initiative sponsored by the state’s major utilities  (and funded by a surcharge on bills) to subsidize and encourage energy efficiency.  First, get a free home energy assessment, during which a Mass Save specialist will spend about 2 hours checking out your basement, your attic, and everything in between.  During the energy audit, Mass Save will install as many as two programmable thermostats for free.  It will also install free water-saving faucet aerators and showerheads, as well as compact flueorescent light bulbs.

The specialist then draws up a list of recommendations to improve energy efficiency in the home.  “We provide a before and after type of picture,” says NStar’s Stack.  Homeowners are left with a document that outlines the estimated energy savings of various improvements (some of them are eligible for an array of state incentives and rebates).  “Some people do it in steps,” Stack notes.  “They say, We’ll do the insulation this year and update our heating system next year.” To schedule an audit call 866-527-7283.

People living in any of the 41 Massachusetts cities and town with municipally owned electric companies – among them Braintree, Concord, Danvers, and Wellesley – have to be customers of a gas utility in order to qualify for a Mass Save audit.  If  you don’t quality, a good place to look for a reliable contractor is the Mass Save website (mass-save.com), where there’s also an impressive collection of information regarding energy efficiency.  The approved contractors make improvements recommended b Mass Save audits,but some can also be hired for an audit independent of the program.  A comprehensive audit of a single-family home can cost about $500.

“I like to think we give a more thorough investigation” than the standard Mass Save audit, says Matt Beaton of Beaton Construction, a Shrewsbury company that specializes in energy-efficient and sustainable construction.  Beaton, who is also a state representative, says his audits often pickup issues that are not necessarily energy-related, like moisture problems.

Weatherize It

After an energy audit is conducted by Mass Ave, homeowners are given a list of contractors participating in the organization’s weatherization program (the list is also available online).

“It’s all fixed pricing, so it doesn’t matter who you pick on that list,” says Christine McEachern of McEachern Insulation Inc in Braintree, one of the participating contractors. She does, however, suggest that you select a contractor certified by the Building Performance Institute because of its specialized training.

Under the Mass Save program, plugging any holes where heat can escape – known as “air sealing” – is free for qualifying homes (among other things, the attic has to be easlily accessible). Workers detect ad close off as many tiny gaps and crevices as possible, such as those found behind switch plates, with caulk, spray foam, or weatherstripping.

The program rebates 75% of the cost of the next step – adding cellulose or fiberglass insulation – up to a maximum of $2k.  Mass Save pays he rebate directly to the contractors, so homeowners only need to shell out the initial 25%cost (plus anything over the $2k maximum).  It’s tough to say how much insulation a typical house will require, but McEachern’s 2700 square foot Cape was a $3500 job.

Low VOC Paints

Do you know what one of the top 5 leading health risks are in the US according to the EPA? Try indoor air. That’s right, the air in your house. And one of the leading causes of that problem are the paints, varnishes and solvents we use containing VOC’s. VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compound and has been a key component of the composition of oil based paint and can be a problem even in traditional latex based paints.

Exposure to VOC’s in paint can trigger asthma attacks, eye irritation and respiratory problems, nausea and dizziness among other symptoms. Prolonged exposure has been linked to kidney and liver disease and even cancer.

Given the health concerns of consumers and new government regulations, alternative paints have been coming on the market over the past few years and now present a well rounded, economical choice over VOC intensive paints. Voluntary standards for VOC content in alternative paint products have been established by Green Seal®, an independent non-profit who sets standards for environmentally responsible or “green” products. The Green Seal certification for Standard GS-11 is based on VOC content, the absence of chemicals, durability and performance among other criteria.

The different types of healthy alternative paints include:

Low Odor or Low VOC Paint
Zero VOC Paint
Non-Toxic or Natural Paint

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