Posts Tagged ‘sustainable living’

Free Home Energy Assessments for Arlington MA Residents

Arlington MA residents are eligible for a free home energy assessment, sponsored by Mass Save’s Home Energy Check Campaign and supported, in part, by Arlington’s Vision 2020/Sustainable Arlington organization.

A energy-efficient, air-tight home diagram

A green home is a happy home

The Home Energy Check Campaign offers homeowners the opportunity to have a complimentary energy assessment of their home completed at no cost to the homeowner, and includes the assessment, complimentary give-aways, and a follow-up list of suggested improvements the homeowner can make to improve the energy efficiency of their home. You can sign up for your free assessment at the Home Energy Check.org web site.

“Residents who get a home energy assessment and follow up on the suggestions made during the assessment will benefit by lowering their energy use, which reduces their utility bills and improves comfort. This is a home run for residents,” says Rob Garrity, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN), the organization responsible for running the program.

During the energy assessment, an energy auditor will perform a walk-thru assessment using a checklist of standard areas that provide the biggest energy savings. If you sign up for an audit, you can expect the auditor to check your home’s attic, windows, and heating system. In general, your home’s insulation will be the biggest area for improvement.

“The more insulation you have, the more you’re separated from the exterior temperature effect,” says David Landskov, an Arlington resident who recently completed an energy assessment. According to Landskov, “insulation degrades over time and you should periodically review it to see if it meets current standards.” A home energy assessment will help you determine the effectiveness of your insulation.

In addition to the valuable information the homeowner receives from an assessment, there are also some nice give-aways that help to make an immediate impact on your energy savings. Number one among them, free faucet aerators. Not only are they free, but the energy auditor will install them for you. Once installed, you use less water and you don’t even notice a difference in your water pressure. This translates into an immediate payback, as your water bill is reduced and the energy cost that would have been used to heat any of that excess water is also saved.

Perhaps the least-known of the benefits of having a home energy assessment are the varied rebates and incentives for which the homeowner is then eligible, including a 75% instant rebate (up to $2,000) for completing the recommended insulation and weatherization audit items. Also available is a Federal tax credit of up to $500 per household.

The most intriguing incentive, however, is the homeowner’s eligiblity to participate in the Mass Save HEAT Loan Program, which provides up to a $15,000 zero percent (0%) interest loan to have energy-efficient improvements made to a home. With a seven-year payback period, the loan payment you make would be less than the amount of money you save from the energy-efficient improvement(s). For more information on this program, visit the Mass Save HEAT Loan program web site.

“The overall benefit [of the Home Energy Check Campaign] is you get to know your home better,” says Austin Whitman, another Arlington resident who recently had an assessment of his home completed. “But there’s also a reward in knowing you’re contributing less to overall energy usage and having less of an impact on the environment.”

The program is open to all Arlington residents through the end of this month.

For more information, visit the following web sites:

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

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It’s Almost Halloween – Carve A Pumpkin!

Scary jack-o-lantern with frowny face

Spook up a new craft project!

Fall is officially here and with it comes the changing of the leaves, sunny autumn days, and most importantly Halloween! Below are some tips for fun and safe pumpkin carving.

  • Draw your design on the pumpkin with a water-based marker beforehand. Mistakes are easily erased with a damp sponge.
  • Cut the top and any large areas with a sharp, straight-edged knife. A dull blade is not a safe alternative.
  • Carve away from yourself and remember – children should carve only under adult supervision.
  • Cut the lid at an angle so the outside diameter is larger than the inside. This prevents the top from falling into the pumpkin when it shrinks.
  • Scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh with a large spoon or ice cream scooper. Remember to save the seeds! Wash them, then toast them in the oven for a delicious, healthy snack!
  • Carve the facial features closest to the center first and work outward. Cut out the larger features in sections.
  • Use an X-Acto knife for details and utilize the tip of a potato peeler to make small circles and curves.
  • Reattach a section that is accidentally removed by using a toothpick to pin it back in place.
  • Flatten a spot in the base of the pumpkin for the candle but avoid digging too deep because the pumpkin becomes prone to rot.
  • To prolong the life of your new Jack-O-Lantern, seal in moisture by coating all the surfaces with a petroleum jelly or vegetable oil, or cover it with a damp towel when not on display.

You can find more fun craft-type ideas and tips at Disney’s Family Fun web site, including some great design ideas for your next Jack-O-Latern project.

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

NESEA Green Open Houses – October 2, 2010

The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, in conjunction with the American Solar Energy Society, announces its annual Green Open House event for Saturday, October 2, 2010. On Saturday, communities throughout the United States are organizing public tours to showcase solar-powered homes and businesses.

At least 648 such community tours — triple the number last year — have registered with the American Solar Energy Society, which is spearheading the National Solar Tour. Last year, the group says 150,000 people across 49 U.S. states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico participated.

Take the opportunity to see for yourself what a green house looks like! Read more at http://ow.ly/2N4dZ

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

Seven Tips for Improving (or Creating) Your Organic Garden

Whether you have a large vegetable garden, border flower beds, or a small herb garden, you can easily introduce organic gardening techniques into your current gardening maintenance routine. Here are some easy tips on improving your organic garden:

1. Develop Quality Garden Soil – Amend the soil generously with organic compost and use other organic fertilizers as necessary to increase specific nutrient levels.
2. Buy Plants for the Site – Gardeners who buy plants well-suited to their garden conditions increase their chances for success.
3. Choose Healthy Plants – A cheap plant isn’t a bargain if it’s baked in the hot sun in a pot it outgrew three months ago. Also check all plant purchases for pest hitchhikers and stress before bringing them home.
4. Care for Plants – The maintenance free garden is a myth. All gardens need some degree of maintenance, so make time to tend your garden.
5. Keep a Garden Journal – Record keeping is informative and motivational. Write down how long seeds take to germinate, when pests appear, the dates of the first and last frosts, and favorite flower and vegetable varieties.
6. Monitor for Garden Pests Regularly – It’s easier to control a few harmful beetles with handpicking than it is to stem the tide of the third generation of pests laying eggs. Control problems early and often.
7. Relax and enjoy your garden – Don’t stress over a few pests. It’s OK to allow a minimal threshold of pest damage in the garden. If all the pests are gone, the ladybugs won’t have a reason to set up house in the garden.

You can read more green living tips at my Home Green Home blog: https://cybergreenrealty.wordpress.com

Enjoy your garden!

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

Tim Cahill
MBA, Certified EcoBroker, Realtor
Web site: CyberGreenRealty | Blog: Home Green Home
T: 617.599.2775
E: timcahill@avenue3re.com

Arlington MA Farmer’s Market Update – July 2010

Picture of Farm Fresh Produce in Arlington, MA

Can you say "healthy"? Picture courtesy Arlington Farmer's Market web site

The Arlington MA Farmer’s Market opened its 2010 season on June 9th and it’s been a heck of a great month! I’ve had the opportunity to visit every week, picking up something fresh, succulent, and locally-grown each time. My best purchase to date, I have to say, was the tomato plant I purchased on the first day for $1.50. And yes I’ll admit it, I planted it in one of those “Topsy Turvy” upside-down planters. But I’m not ashamed to brag about how it’s tripled in size in just three weeks and it’s already starting to produce some big tomato blossoms. I can’t wait to taste that first home-grown tomato of the season!

If you haven’t yet visited the Arlington Farmer’s Market web site, I highly suggest you do and while you’re there, sign up for the weekly email update newsletter. Karen Blair, the newsletter editor, sends out a great weekly update on what to expect that week. But not only does she let you know about some of the new produce coming in, she includes some great recipes you’ll be tempted to make.

Here’s a preview of what she has to say in this week’s letter:

The market is filled with summer fruits and veggies so stop in to say hello to our farmers and Buy Local!

Bounty of the Season: Cherries, blueberries, tomatoes, peas, lettuce, green beans, cucumbers, squash, radishes, kolrabi, garlic, onions, greens, kale, chard, herbs, summer squashes & beets…and be on the lookout for corn & peaches coming very soon…The market also features meat, cheese, fish, eggs, pasta, maple products, baked goods and local prepared foods….

The Farmer’s Market runs from now through mid-October every Wednesday, 2:00 pm – 6:30 pm, rain or shine.  Conveniently located in Arlington Center, just of Route 60, the market is located in the Russell Common (public) parking lot.  If you have any questions about the market or are looking to share ideas with the organizers, send them in an email to Patsy at manager@farmersmarketarlington.org.

If you don’t happen to live in the Arlington MA or surrounding areas, but you live in Massachusetts, check out the Massachusetts Grown…and Fresher web site for a listing of all Farmer’s Markets in MA.

Before heading out to the market, though, be sure to check the weather forecast on my About Arlington page of my CyberGreenRealty web site.  You never know when a surprise thunderstorm might pass by and the one thing I haven’t seen at the market (yet!) is an umbrella vendor. So be prepared!

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

10 Timely Tips for Saving Water in Your Garden

Daylilies and other flowers blooiming in summer sun

With only a little water, your garden will grow!

Even if you live in a climate such as we do here in Arlington, MA, fresh water may be an increasingly scarce and expensive commodity. One way to conserve water is to design a landscape plan that cuts down on the need for irrigation.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, converting to a water-efficient landscape can reduce your outdoor water use by 20% to 50%, or as much as 10,000 gallons a year. That saves money, too, shaving between $30 and $70 off the average annual household water bill.

Often called xeriscaping or drought-tolerant landscaping, low-water landscaping also makes yard maintenance easier. Here are 10 strategies that will save water and still let you enjoy a beautiful, healthy garden.

  1. Choose native plants – Plants that originated in a particular part of the country have had eons to get used to that area’s normal rainfall, soil, and climate. That means they require less maintenance and little or no watering once established. Sites like eNature.com or H2ouse can help you find the best species for your area. Note: Just because you see a plant in your neighbor’s yard doesn’t meant it’s a native!
  2. Skip the super-sizing – “Pick plants that grow only to the size you want them,” advises Margaret Grace, principal of Grace Design Associates in Santa Barbara, Calif. “If you need five-foot-high screening between you and a neighbor, don’t put in something that grows nine feet high. You’ll have to chop it back all the time.” That’s a huge waste of water, not to mention extra work.
  3. Mulch to reduce evaporation – Putting two or three inches of mulch on top of the soil around your plants is a great way to reduce water loss. Mulch also cuts down on water-stealing weeds. The best mulch options are natural ones like compost, bark chips, and pine needles. These organic mulches gradually break down and add nutrients to the soil. Inorganic materials like rocks and pebbles are a more permanent option, although in some climates they can hold too much heat. A quick tip: Don’t pile mulch up in huge cones against a plant’s stem or it will trap too much moisture, which leads to fungus and rot.
  4. Make paths porous – Paths made of pebbles, gravel, or non-mortared concrete pavers or brick allow water to percolate down to your plants’ roots instead of running off into a storm drain. No mortar does mean more room for weeds to grow, though.
  5. Lose the lawn – The average American family uses more than 20,000 gallons a year watering the lawn. If you need grass for a play area or just like to feel the blades between your toes, you can still cut water use by replacing some of that conventional grass with varieties that need less water. Bermuda or buffalo grass can use 20% less water than fescue or bluegrass, according to the University of California Cooperative Extension. Keep it long, too. Raising your mower blade to three inches helps shade grass roots so they lose less water through evaporation.
  6. Put thirsty plants together – Grouping plants with the same water needs means you don’t waste water where it’s not necessary. Create a “mini-oasis” near the house, where thirsty plants can benefit from roof runoff. Farther out, make a “transition zone” for plants that need supplemental drip irrigation. Farther still is a “natural zone” for native plants that can survive on rainfall alone.

    Mixture of summer flowers in bloom with purples and yellows prominent

    Smart gardening saves water

  7. Plant and water when it’s cool – New plants and transplants need far less water if you put them in the ground in early fall or early spring, when it’s cooler. Similarly, water in the morning so you’ll lose less to evaporation in the heat of the day.
  8. Do donuts – Trees and shrubs need extra water the first couple of years to help their roots take hold. An efficient way to keep them moist is to mound several inches of soil into a donut-shaped berm out about as far as the branches reach. Use a hose or bucket to fill the donut dam to the top. Water will absorb slowly instead of running off. Another option: Attach a $25 – $30 drip irrigator bag to the tree.
  9. Follow the sun – Use dry-soil plants in sunny areas, and plants that require more water in shady areas where evaporation is slower.
  10. Create the illusion of water – Yes, you can have a water feature in a low-water garden. In fact, a small pond or fountain with a recirculating pump uses very little water. Pumps start as low as $10. Bonus: Water features attract birds and butterflies.

If you live in or around Arlington, MA, check out the listing of green, sustainable landscapers on the Eco-Friendly Partners page of my CyberGreenRealty web site.

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

Soulful Song, Heartbreaking Video Inspires Clean Energy Action

Please watch this video, then go to the Environmental Defense Fund web site to send a letter to your Senator, demanding action NOW on energy reform.  If AIG is too big to fail, our environment and ecology should be “way too big to fail,” don’t you agree?

Send a letter to your Senator today, and thanks!

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC