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Green Living Tip: Ideas for Weathering the Winter
Adapted by Jen Fontaine
It seems only weeks ago that we were submitting ideas for staying cool. But as this week’s contribution goes to press, we’re expecting temperatures in the thirties tonight. Of course, we’ve still got some warm times coming; but it’s a good time to think ahead about the coming winter.
As a modest start, I’ve adapted a list of mostly inexpensive ideas from the Environmental Protection Agency’s site. These are small steps anyone can take, or at least explore. We’ll have more ideas as the weeks go by—but for now, here are a few as starters:
- Consider using non-toxic de-icing substances such as clean clay cat litter, sand, or fireplace/stove ash to avoid spreading hazardous waste from chemicals. Chemical de-icers can be harmful to pets, plants, and the environment. Antifreeze that leaks from car engines and chemical snow melters can pollute surface waters and groundwater. It’s a good idea to try some safe alternatives.
- Winterize your vehicle by checking your air filter and fluid levels, checking tires for tread wear and proper inflation, and checking the condition of your windshield wipers. Steps like these can increase safety, as well as preventing pollution when broken car components or escaping chemical waste end up on roadways.
- If you have a wood-burning fireplace, save your ashes. Cold wood ashes make a great addition to compost, and eventually to the soil where we spread the compost.
- Use electric snow removal products rather than gasoline-powered ones. Electric products do not emit greenhouse gases. Of course, if you don’t mind some winter exercise, snow shovels, ice crackers, and brooms work well and are even more ‘energy efficient’!
- If you have a manual thermostat or no thermostat at all, one way to save energy and money this winter is to install a programmable thermostat. The EPA estimates that this step can save about $100 a year for many homes. Many people also find programmable lights very useful and energy-efficient.
- Close the recycling loop. When shopping for clothing, check for labels on jackets, scarves, gloves, and boots, to find items made from recycled materials. Many fleece products are made from recycled plastic soda bottles, and some clothing and shoe manufacturers use recycled cotton scraps and rubber tires.
- Winter storms often cause power outages. Prevent waste by keeping rechargeable batteries rather than disposable ones for emergency use. If you do use disposable batteries, reduce hazardous waste by buying batteries with low mercury content. And once again (note added by Jen), candles can be a low-tech alternative, assuming they can be monitored and used safely.
- Recycle old newspapers by making rolled paper logs for your fireplace. Roll newspaper sheets around a broomstick, then soak your paper ‘log’ thoroughly in water. Dry the log overnight and use like ordinary wood. Always follow proper safety precautions with any fire, of course.
- To make sure your heating system (boiler, furnace or heat pump) is operating at its most efficient, it is a good idea to have a regular servicing done before the serious cold weather sets in.
Source: borrowed, edited and adapted from https://www3.epa.gov/epahome/hi-winter.htm.
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