Green Home

How to stay cool for next to nothing

Central AC is for suckers. Why are you cooling every inch of your house, even the dust bunnies under the couch, when the only part that actually needs to be cooled is your body? Having endured, sans air conditioning, countless summers in locations including the deep South and the middle of the gigantic urban heat island known as Brooklyn, I've developed the following ultra-simple method for saving myself hundreds of dollars a year in electricity bills. For lack of a better term, I'll call it the Personal Swamp Cooler, because it works on more or less the same principle as …

Reno 9-year-old finds simple, smart water-saving solution

Two years ago, Mason Perez, then seven, went to wash deposits of ballpark ketchup and relish off his hands and face. The water in the Reno Aces ballpark poured out the faucet so hard and fast that it hurt his hands. His mom turned down the faucet, and that's when Perez had a brilliant, simple realization: Turning down a faucet valve means less water pressure, which means less water. You can save water just by making it not spurt out so fast. He tested this theory for a science project at residential and commercial sites and found that, yep, turning …

Live for free (almost) in a tiny home

How big is 320 square feet? It's roughly the size of a school bus. And Debra and Gary live in that amount of space with their teenage son. Why? Well, for starters, because it cost them $15,000 to build and now they're mortgage-free. They pay less than $150 a month to rent the land, which supports both their tiny house and their tiny workspace. And that's not even getting into how little they must pay for utilities. A tiny house means fewer emissions and less waste, but for this family it also makes damn good financial sense. They don't feel …

Greening Barbie’s Dream House

Architect Barbie is building a new Dream House, and she needs help! Members of the American Institute of Architects can submit plans that fit Barbie's criteria, which include a house that "should reflect the best sustainable design principles." But Barbie's idea of "sustainable design" needs a little tweaking. Girlfriend wants a huge closet for her "unlimited fashions and accessories" and a garage that accommodates at least three cars. And basically every room, she says, needs to be "large" or "spacious." Barbie should know that sustainable design or green materials can't make up for the impact building a new, gigantic house …

Green Home

Dim bulbs: Umbra on the supposed dangers of CFLs

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, My sister recently posted a story about CFLs causing cancer to her Facebook feed. Is there anything to this latest attempt to vilify the little lamps? Brian Spokane, Wash. Are these maybe not such a bright idea? More research is needed.Photo: Derek GaveyA. Dearest Brian, Those little lamps. They need defending again. I don’t know what it is about compact fluorescent bulbs. The odd, gentle curve of the bulb? The way they, oh, save people energy and money? How they reduce pollution? Something about them brings out the haters. No haterade for …

TV vs. Computer: The energy use showdown

Given a choice between spending an hour watching TV or surfing the Internet, which should you choose, assuming, of course, that your goal is not entertainment but consuming the least energy possible? This handy graphic provides the answer: It's surfing the Internet: At .09 kilowatt-hours per hour, your computer consumes the least energy of any of these four appliances. A better option, though, would be to turn the computer off and go outside to hang dry the laundry.

Turn a month of trash into a month of treasure

A couple of Austrian design students have issued a challenge — to themselves, but you can get in on it. They're posting an upcycling project every day for 30 days, and for every guest submission they post, they'll extend the project one day. Send in your upcycling ideas and help them rehabilitate a month — or six months, or a year — worth of trash. Some of our favorites: Coat hangers made of metal measuring tapes have an advantage over the regular kind: They can fold up to travel. A lot of bakeries and bread companies discard loaves that are a …

Green Living Tips

A very, very, very fine house: Ask Umbra on communal living

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, How do I reduce my carbon footprint in a house full of people? Hannah HulsePort Orchard, Wash. A. Dearest Hannah, How best to keep it cool in a communal house?Photo: sheepwoolinsulation.ie You’re on one of those reality shows where they all live together, aren’t you? America’s Next Big Brother of the Jersey Shore, I think it’s called. I’m glad you wrote in — now I have your autograph! Maybe I can barter it at the farmers market for some of their lovely goat’s milk cheese. Communal living, filmed or not, is tricky …

Green Living Tips

Bad in the sack: Ask Umbra on neighborhood recycling deviants

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, My neighbors do not recycle appropriately — they throw in frozen food boxes, bag their recyclables in plastic bags and who knows what else! Does that mean that all my efforts are in vain? Elizabeth Raley submitted via Facebook What can you do about a neighbor who messes up the garbage?Photo: Jerry WongA. Dearest Elizabeth, I suggest hiding in the bushes and performing a citizen’s arrest. Practice your air-handcuff moves, and once you spy the offending neighbors hauling yet another plastic bag full of junk mail out to the curb, leap out …

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