Category Archives: Energy Efficiency

Energy Saving Home Improvements

Energy Saving Home Improvements

Green efforts save you money, and they protect the planet for future generations. Energy Saving home improvements make your house a bit more green without requiring tearing it down and building a zero energy home. Instead, you can be green with just a few small changes.

Garden on the Roof

Get out your ladder and put your green thumb up high. A roof garden offers many environmental benefits, according to the Washington Post, and these include extra insulation for your home, storm water control, and pollution retention. Green roofs are more expensive than conventional roofs, but in some areas like Washington DC, you can offset that cost through programs that allow you to get credits on your water bill after installing a green roof.

Photo by kretyen via Flickr

Here Comes the Sun

When the sun’s harsh rays drive up the temperature in your house, you are forced to run the air conditioner at full whack to combat the heat. Give your AC unit and the planet a break by keeping out the sun with the best roller shades. Keep these down during the day to keep temps down naturally, and then roll them up and open the windows at night to enjoy the relatively cooler air. Improving the efficiency of your heating and cooling through smart technologies and insulation is one of the most major areas of energy saving home improvements you can take on.

Photo by tom.arthur via Flickr

Insulate the Attic

According to architect George Clarke in the Telegraph, insulating your attic can save the average homeowner $400 to $500 per year. Be sure to seal air leaks and ensure the roof is in good condition before getting started. Both loose-fill and batt insulation work for the job.

Photo by Song_sing via Flickr

How to Save on Electricity using a Radiant Barrier

If you live in a hot climate, recommends installing a radiant barrier rather than insulation in the attic. A radiant barrier reflects heat, preventing heat from the roof from reaching the rest of the attic. This reduces summer heat and thus cooling, costs.

Photoo by imn4t001 via Flickr

Recycled Furniture

Rather than taking a stroll through a cheap furniture store so that you can decorate your home with pieces that will quickly break and end up in the landfill, use recycled furniture. Recover sturdy old sofas to match your new sense of style, hit the thrift store, or get furniture from a shop like Loll Designs that exclusively offers furniture made out of recycled materials. 

Photo by Gutsbikes via Flickr

Oil and Water

When painting, you have a choice between oil-based or water-based paints. Water-based paints, also called latex paints, are more environmentally friendly than their oily counterparts, reports the Health Care Environmental Resource Center. Their volatile organic compound (VOC) is lower than oil-based paints, reducing their potential VOC emissions. This makes your home safer and your air greener.

Photo by Daniel Case via Wikimedia Commons

Control the Nest

With a programmable thermostat like the ones offered by Nest, you can keep the temperature of your nest under control, regardless of where you are. Use today’s best technology to create convenient energy saving home improvements. Set your heat to come on in the morning and go back off when you leave your home for the day. By not wasting heat on an empty home, you save money, and you conserve precious resources for the planet.

Photo by Amanitamano via Wikimedia Commons

If you link your thermostat to an app, you can even control the temp while you’re not home. If you’re coming home late, you can let the furnace know so that it doesn’t kick on until later. If you’re coming home early, have the heater prep the house for you, that way you won’t be tempted to run it on full blast to warm things up.

Benefits of Concrete Floors

Benefits of Concrete Floors

Concrete’s versatility makes it a popular material for myriad construction projects. It is used for home foundations, streets, hospital floors and many other surfaces. In order for people to make better green choices and help save the environment they must understand the benefits on concrete floors.


List of Benefits of Concrete Floors

  • The other alternative to concrete flooring is installing a wood floor. By using concrete there is no need to cut down any trees.
  • Installing a concrete floor helps to minimize the waste created by installing other type of floors.
  • The cost to install a concrete floor is higher than other types of floors but you will find that a concrete floor installed by reputable concrete contractors will not need to be replaced as often as other floor types.
  • From a medical stand point concrete floors offer a better and cleaner surface for medical practices. An article by The Center For Sustainable Development points out that concrete floors in hospitals can lead to a 78 percent reduction in parasitic infection in children, as well as many other health benefits.

Concrete Floors can Produce Better Homes.

Besides certain benefits that concrete floors can bring to people there are some other ways that the material can help produce better homes.

  • Concrete can be fashioned in may different ways. Color can be added for decoration and design can be added for personal taste.
  • Concrete materials do not emit harmful VOC’s into the air. Some materials that can put VOC’s in the air include carpet, finished wood floors and tiles.
  • Radiant heat can easily be installed before the concrete is poured.
  • A concrete floor also can be cleaned more easily that a floor made of wood and other material.
  • A concrete patio can help increase the value of a person’s home.

Concrete can be Recycled

Another way concrete can help save the environment is that it can be recycled.

  • Broken concrete can be used to build a walkway or a path. Depending on the type of path you are trying to build the concrete will need to be broken up into very small pieces.
  • Some gardeners have found that putting concrete under the soil makes for seeds that germinate better in the spring. It can also be used to build raised beds.
  • The broken material has also been used to limit erosion and to help build angled retaining walls.

Heating Benefits of Concrete Floors

Concrete floors can be efficiently heated with radiant floor heating system. These energy efficient devices heat a liquid solution which is pumped through the floor. This heats the entire slab of flooring and begins to radiate up, heating the air in the room and the house. It also keeps your feet warm which makes all the difference.

This radiating effect continues even hours after the unit has cycled off. All combined a radiant floor heating system is one of the most effective and energy efficient heaters possible for concrete and other stone flooring, new additions and basements, greenhouses, and more.

Creative Commons image by Josh and Melanie Rosenthal

The Zero Home

The Zero Home is the first single-family smart home to be certified as net-zero energy-efficient, meaning that all the energy the home consumes is produced on site via renewable resources. To dive into the systems and building practices that made this feat possible, read here:

“The 4300-square-foot Zero Home is the result of a partnership between Vivint (a fast-growing company best known for home-security and home-control systems) and Garbett Homes (a residential development company that builds between 400 and 600 homes per year). Both companies are based in Utah, and the Zero Home was built in the Salt Lake City suburb of Herriman.”

“The Zero Home defies the home-of-the-future stereotype of being too impractical for large-scale implementation: “This home is designed to be replicated on a mass basis,” said Garbett Homes marketing director Rene Oehlerking. “It costs about $150 per square foot to build a home like this—the same amount it costs our competitors to build conventional homes.”

Algae Powered Apartments

These apartments in Germany are 100% self powered by algae fueled bio reactors. Algae panels on the building also provide shade and temperature regulation, as the sunnier it is the thicker the algae grows in the panels.

Algae Powered Apartment

Read more:



Learn how to make algae biofuel: or to make an algae based business to take advantage of these and other algae business trends!

Triple-Pane Windows Theory

A shockingly simple blueprint for big cities to save the planet without wrecking the economy.

Climate scientists have estimated that, in order to avoid runaway global warming, the world would need to cut its carbon emissions roughly in half by 2050. Since emissions in developing countries like China and India are still rising fast, meeting this target would require developed nations to aim for a figure more like 80 percent. When you consider that the United States, the largest polluter in the developed world, has no real strategy in place to achieve that—and that no binding international agreements appear to be on the horizon—the goal can start to sound nigh impossible.

Read more here!

Electromagnetic Harvester Gathers Free Electricity from Thin Air

“This might sound a bit like hocus-pocus pseudoscience, but the underlying science is actually surprisingly sound.” …watch the video on this page to see!

Artist Spotlight: Louise Cady-Fernandes of The Hole Thing

For the past couple weeks I have been publishing environmental news and reviews on a new blog called Green Leaf Reviewer. Louise Cady-Fernandes of The Hole Thing in Lexington, Massachusetts was pleased to share some information with me and I felt that now with both blogs it would be fantastic to give her double the exposure so this interview will be posted on both blogs today.

Can you tell us a little about what it is you do?

I create a line of whimsical felted wool sweaters, housewares, and accessories, that are made from recycled sweaters. Many of my sweaters have die-cut holes in them which create windows for whatever is worn underneath. The circles that come out of all the holes are recycled again onto other products.

How long have you been creating felted items such as clothes, housewares and accessories?

I came up with the design concept in November of 2005 while I was at Susan Bristol Inc. I worked there in knitwear design for 16 years. I made a felted “hole” sweater for myself never intending for it to turn into a business, but the idea quickly caught on. THE HOLE THING hit the market in September of 2006.

What is the creative process behind your work? How does an idea take shape?

THE HOLE THING grew out of my love for both polka dots and felted wool. For years creating a sweater with holes had been on my list of things to make for myself. I didn’t want to knit it though as that seemed too monotonous. Then one day, while I was making a blanket out of old sweaters that I had felted and cut into squares, it came to me to make my hole sweater out of an old felted sweater. The creative process for my line is continually evolving and expanding which I love. Now I have 18 products that include among other things, scarves & hats, candle holders & vases, note cards, and a felted jewelry line that incorporates the leftover holes that are punched out of all the sweaters.

Where do you acquire the wool used in your designs?

I shop at thrift stores, but I also get lots of hand me downs from friends and family. My 86 year Mom also gathers old sweaters for me occasionally. I usually buy between 30-50 sweaters at once.

Why recycled/upcycled wool?

Why not? There is so much of it out there. Anytime we can use what is already available a new product doesn’t need to be produced. This is terrific because virgin resources aren’t being used for production. New products take precious energy to create, and often have hazardous environmental waste such as dyes and other pollutants. New products also consume lots of energy because they need to be packaged and shipped long distances.

How do you feel that using upcycled, and natural, wool helps the environment?

see above.

When did you first become interested in living and working in a green way by repurposing?

Both of my parents grew up in the depression and living a more minimalist life kind of seeped into me like osmosis! My dad was forever running around turning off lights, my mom cleaned out jars of mayonnaise etc with a spatula to “get every little bit”. For me being green isn’t a sacrifice or a challenge, it is something that brings me pleasure. I am forever thinking about how I can do things more thoughtfully. The beauty of THE HOLE THING initially for me was as much about the design as it was about having a business that upcycled.

Has any one green practice become second nature, something you personally do every day?

I would have to say that my greenest practice is being conscious about what I do- I am always wondering how I can do something in a more environmentally mindful way. For me it’s just about paying closer attention.

What green practice do you recommend readers try?

Gosh there are so many! How about this- try getting organized enough so that you only have to grocery shop once a week. I know this sounds horrendous but it honestly only takes a few minutes of planning each week. Shopping once a week not only saves on repeat, gas guzzling trips to the grocery shore, but it also saves on trips to get take-out food and all the wasteful packaging it creates. My website has lots of other great green tips.

As an independent artist what is your greatest challenge?

All the different hats that need to be worn. My favorite thing is to design. Luckily though, I think I am about equally right, and left, brained so at least the book keeping and other logistical tasks are a little more satisying for me than for most artists. For instance I like to balance my checkbook and I know that this is a rare thing for most everyone.

Do you remember the feeling of your first sale? Has that feeling changed now that you have sold many more items?

I do remember the excitement of my first sale. I think I like doing craft shows because although the excitement has diminished, the feeling gets created over and over again. I love to see the happiness that my whimsical designs provide people. It makes me happy.

What is your advice to a fellow artisan who is new to their industry?
Figure out how much you want to make per hour for your work. Then keep track of how much time it takes to create what you make and how much your supplies cost etc. This has been very helpful to me because I know immediately which of my products are cost effective and which aren’t. My other advice in business is to plan on making mistakes. They will teach you and will act as arrows pointing you in which direction to go in next.

Do you have online presences where readers can learn more about you?

Yes — The Hole Thing
(Editor’s Note: Louise also has an Online Shop on Etsy)

Is your work featured in a boutique or other brick & mortar location?

I am in nine stores. The newest one is a wonderful new store called Bead and Fiber in Boston’s south end on Harrison Avenue.

Smart Energy Technology:

Everyday Items Are Earth Friendly and Effective

In recent years society focused their desires on disposable items but as efforts are being made to increase awareness to the condition of our planet, even companies who built their fortunes on this throw away attitude are revamping with an Earth conscious approach. The theory of use it once and throw it away has added to landfills so there are many people who have taken the old adage “they don’t build ‘em like they used to” and applied it to the products of today creating solid and stable items that are built to last for years to come. Some of the most prominent are items we use frequently such as mops, lawn mowers, appliances and make up applicators, just to name a few.

With the introduction of disposable dust collecting cloths that are said to attract the particulates often missed by other dusting solutions, tons of waste was added to our growing trash problem so Colorado based Bona (Corporate Headquarters are based in Sweden) devised the Earth friendly, Environmental Choice System™. Rather than throwing away the cleaning cloths, this nifty pole has a Velcro mop head so the microfiber cleaning pad or fluffy, washable dusting pads easily attach and detach. The pads can be washed in either a washing machine or simply rinsed and wrung by hand. Their cleaning solution is a waterborne formula with low VOC that was certified by Greenguard for indoor air quality.

When it comes to outdoor air quality there is no bigger offender than a gas powered lawn mower. With fifty four million Americans filling and running gas powered mowers every weekend, using upwards of 800 million gallons of gasoline annually, this piece of equipment is responsible for five percent of the air pollution in our country, not to mention the seventeen million gallons of fuel spilled while refueling the machine. A push reel mower is the most eco-friendly alternative but for those who are unable to use such equipment Neuton® Mowers might be the next best alternative. The Neuton mower utilizes a rechargeable battery as its source of power creating a quieter, zero emission alternative to gas mowers. Each battery has a life span of approximately 360 watt-hours which will cut through approximately one third of an acre prior to need for a recharge. Additional batteries can be purchased so when one runs out a new, fully charged one can be put right in saving time and energy.

Energy saving is certainly a concern on the mind of many home owners in recent years so it is common to find the Energy Star logo on household appliances that meet or exceed requirements for efficiency ratings, based on the governmental system of standards adopted in 1992. From refrigerators to cordless phones this stamp of approval is the gold standard in acquiring products that draw considerably less energy than their non-approved counterparts. One of the most common items used in the home is a television set. A TV can be held responsible for up to four percent of household electricity usage per year but a model rated with the Energy Star uses up to thirty percent less energy per year when not in use making it possible to save money even when utilizing an item of convenience.

Women are always searching for the quickest and easiest methods that assist in helping them feel great about them self and one of the most common ways to achieve this is through the use of make up. Amazing advancements have been made in this industry over the past couple decades to produce cruelty free products not tested on animals but when it came to application brushes many people were still using those constructed from natural animal hairs. These brushes are potentially hazardous as they can breed bacteria at the hair’s cuticle and they also offer less than superior performance as they tend to streak the product being applied, not to mention they are created from animals, which is hardly cruelty-free. Utilizing a make up applicator created from the synthetic fiber of Taklon allows for anti-bacterial properties, smooth finishing results and best of all a cruelty-free experience.

There are many companies beginning the transition to environmentally friendly alternatives of the every day items we use and this is just a small list of products we can replace over time in our efforts to become more eco-conscious consumers. A mop, lawn mower, appliance or make up brush are not the only products we use so look around and do some research into companies that provide Earth friendly alternatives to our most frequently used items. The more people who request a safer alternative the more mainstream it will become to care for our planet.

Websites Utilized for Reference Material (not hyperlinked)
Cleaner Air, 1998-2008, PPM,

Smart Energy Technology:

Artist Spotlight: Jessica Burko, Mixed Media Photography

Jessica Burko is a Photographer based out of the Boston area who typically works in mixed media application. In a chance encounter, we happened to meet during a concert and began talking about selling our art and where we do so. We left at the end of the show exchanging cards and when I began looking into her work knew she would be a perfect fit for an interview! In our short conversation there were many points we did not cover and I was delighted to learn that Jessica is far more eco friendly than even she originally let on.

Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

Since I am self-employed, I don’t have a standard schedule, and no two days are alike. This type of calendar agrees with me because I am then open to delve into different projects on different days and work as early or as late as I need. Two standards my days however are beginning the morning with reading emails and blogs over breakfast, and ending each day with knitting on the sofa.

Who or what inspired you to become a Photographer?

I have been studying and practicing photography, working in a wet darkroom and exhibiting my photographs since I was ten years old. I began this practice at an arts summer camp in New Jersey (Appel Farm Arts and Music Center) where I spent five glorious summers taking theatre, art, and music classes. My two earliest photographic influences were Dorothea Lange and Diane Arbus.

Can you tell us a little bit about what a Mixed Media Artist does?

“Mixed-Media” is a wonderful term meaning: anything goes. It is the theory that it is OK to mix different types of art materials onto one canvas, to not be bound by traditional methods of producing visual work, and to be free to experiment with found objects and art supplies equally. Mixed media is hardly uncommon in contemporary art, but in the past it was unheard of to blend different mediums and I even had a photography Professor once tell me that I should choose to use EITHER black and white film OR color film because my work would never be taken seriously if I continued photographing with both. Currently I photograph with a variety of film sizes, colors, and transparencies. I scan my film and print with ink jets onto watercolor paper, I then combine my original photographic images with found paper, vintage photos, and other materials such as thread, wax, and wood.

What is the largest scale mixed media installation you have completed?

In graduate school I produced an installation piece that consisted of three oversized, handmade pieces of paper each measuring approximately six by eight feet. The paper was made from pulped egg cartons, pages from old journals, drawings and letters, and consumable waste (coffee grounds, onion skins, tea leaves). The paper acted as oversized book pages and bore images and text transferred from photocopies with wintergreen oil. The pages were suspended from the ceiling in a dark room in an alter-like configuration and lit with strong spotlights. It was very liberating to work at such a large scale and made me view my work and process of creativity (literally) from a new vantage point.

What mediums do you prefer to complete your work on (canvas, paper, etc)?

I create most of my mixed-media work involving wax on wood panels, either salvaged plywood or store-bought wooden canvases. The simultaneously hard and porous surface of the wood accepts wax and other adhesives well. Much of the work I have created in the past year are paper quilts that are combinations of original photographs and found papers stitched together only with thread. These pieces are fairly fragile and I have been exhibiting them framed.

How do you find beeswax holds up over the long term?

Beeswax is a great archival material to work. There is evidence as far back as 100 BCE of the ancient Egyptians painting portraits in a material called “encaustic” which is wax melted with resin, and those portraits still survive today. There is a vibrant movement of encaustic painters in contemporary art who use wax, resin, and pigments to create works that have texture, translucency, and three-dimensionality not possible using other mediums. The wax that I use in my work as a collage material and over coating is a non-pigmented encaustic that I make from pure, granular beeswax and Dimar resin. The addition of the resin insures that the wax hardens over time.

Why is it so important to go green? In what other ways do you work in an eco friendly manner?

I remember clearly a musical instrument that we made in nursery school out of an old frozen orange juice container, navy beans, tape, and paint. All my life I have loved the idea of creating instead of wasting. Collecting scraps of paper, small objects, old books, postcards, and sketches to incorporate into art is something that I have always practiced, and once I learned how to make paper I delighted in asking all my friends to save their cardboard egg cartons for me to pulp and reuse. For me the idea of “going green” with my artwork has happened fairly naturally, and the more supplies I collect for my art from what other people discard, the less expense I go through in making my work, and the more I can experiment with bringing my ideas to fruition.

Can you tell me about your creative process?

I am constantly looking, writing, photographing, and collecting. It is what I see, thoughts I put into words, images I capture, and items of detritus that I have all around me that inspire my artwork. I usually create my work in bursts, gestating an idea and collecting materials for a couple of months and then going into the studio and intensely making work for weeks on end until I have amassed a new series/collection.

What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?

My Husband and I are avid recyclers, and we have CFLs in almost every light in our home. I also read a few great tips for conserving water on a blog called “The Sietch Blog” and now I have reduced the hot water I use for showers, and when I run the sink tap to get hot water I collect the what comes out first and water the plants with it. We also have a whole collection of canvas bags that we use when shopping. Someday when we have our own house we plan to incorporate methods of conservation such as solar panels, a clothesline, and a rain collection system for garden watering.

What challenges have you had in your work?

The biggest challenge I’ve faced is showing and selling my work. Making it comes naturally, and I hope someday having the work collected will come just as naturally.

Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art?

Very positive because through the internet art can be shared across continents, ideas can be discussed between artists and art historians from all over the world, and it is the most democratic way that art has ever been exhibited.

As a fine artist, what challenges have you faced by exposing your artwork to the world via the Internet?

None really, it has only been a positive experience for me. Since I first launched my own web site and have shown my work through other sites such as Etsy my work had been found by collectors, curators, publishers, journalists, arts foundations and all of these discoveries have led to getting my work exhibited, purchased, published, and written about. The exposure for the arts facilitated through the internet is very powerful and propels my work forward every day.

What are you currently working on? Can you tell us about it?

My most recent series consists of paper quilts: collages of original photographs, found papers, and vintage photographs connected by stitched thread. With each quilt I create a narrative through text from old book pages juxtaposed with photographic images and colorful patterns. I love making this work because of the endless possibilities I find as I sift through piles of collected ephemera.

What advice would you give to an artist just getting started in their industry?

Do your homework. Research galleries that are suitable for your work before sending them a submission, go see lots of art, read about art, write about your own work and the work of others. The more a young artist becomes immersed in the art world and their local arts community the more opportunities they will find and the more their work will grow.

What green product would you recommend to our readers?

Canvas and fabric bags – any kind at all! I always make sure to keep bags in the car and at least one empty bag with me at all times just in case someone tries to offer me a plastic one I can say “no thanks!” and pull out my own.

What is your best going green tip?

Changing light bulbs to CFLs. They are better for the environment because they save energy and they are GREAT for keeping the electric bill low.

Is there one green practice you do daily that has become second nature?

Using less hot water in the shower. Really hot water is not good for skin, and by keeping the tap turned down I am not wasting water, so it’s two good things rolled into one!

Do you have a website or online presence that showcases your work?

My web site and I also have an on-line shop for my work

Is your work featured in a gallery or other brick & mortar location?
My work is currently on view at New England Bio Labs through September 8th
I also have work that will be exhibited in the 15th Annual Jamaica Plain Open Studios Juried Show from September 12-18 on view at Maliotis Cultural Center.
Additionally, my work will be on view at my studio (35 Wareham Street, between Harrison and Albany Streets) during the South End Open Studios September 20-21
Also during the Jamaica Plain Open Studios September 27-28, where I will be showing at The Eliot School.

Smart Energy Technology: