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2012 Four Corners Green Living

Green Living

in DURANGO Change the World! How families with kids can grow greener, one small step at a time


Meeting our Needs Through Sustainability Use the Earth to Heat and Cool your House Check the Label: Savvy Shopper’s Guide to Eco Living 11 Days to a Greener Life Power to the Portable People Save Gas Driving the Car You Own


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This Old Eco House Eco Café

Four Corners Green Living • Sunday, June 17, 2012 • 1


Green Living In This Issue Eco Café How green is your morning cup of Joe? PAGE 3 A Natural Beauty Healthy beauty products are less costly and easier to find than ever before. PAGE 4 Meeting Our Needs Through Sustainability The Sustainability Alliance of Southwest Colorado, an all-volunteer group based in La Plata County, embraces this definition of living sustainably, applying it to our local community in holistic ways. PAGE 5 Savvy Shopper’s Guide to Eco Living As store shelves fill up with natural and eco-friendly products, check the label to make sure you’re getting what you pay for. PAGE 7


2012 Four Corners Green Living

in Durango

Power to the Portable People Tablets and e-readers continue to take over the planet, but at what environmental cost? PAGE 10 How to Save Gas Driving the Car You Own You don’t have to buy a new vehicle to get better fuel economy. PAGE 12 This Old Eco House No need to start from scratch to get an eco-friendly house – an existing home is a green home, especially with these updates. PAGE 13 Use the Earth To Heat and Cool your House Are you fed up with the high cost of heating your home with propane and wish there was an alternative? There is! PAGE 14

11 Days to a Greener Life A lot of us want to live a more ecofriendly existence, but when it comes to figuring out how to do it, we stall. You need a plan. PAGE 8 2 • Four Corners Green Living • Sunday, June 17, 2012

2012 Four Corners Green Living

Eco Café by Bettina Chang CTW Features

Single-serve and sustainability Single-serve coffee systems are gaining popularity, but each carries a different environmental impact. Of the three R’s, reuse is not an option, but recycling can be if you know how to do it. Here's lid a look at the recyclability of singleuse coffee pods, cups or bags from cup these popular coffee systems. Other

Keurig Aluminum, recyclable Plastic, not recyclable Keurig offers the My K-Cup assembly, a reusable, washable device that can hold any ground coffee Nespresso Both aluminum, recyclable through company (not municipal pick-up) Tassimo Both plastic, recyclable in some areas (after cutting open and flushing out waste)

Senseo Filter bag made of paper, compostable Flavia The pods are not recyclable through traditional means, but the company partners with TerraCycle to collect used Flavia Fresh Packs and upcycle them into consumer goods.

What’s the cost of a pound of coffee? A pound of coffee can cost anywhere between $7 and $25,but for those concerned about a healthy planet,there are hidden costs as well.When grown naturally,coffee trees grow in the shade of other trees, and they do not require fertilizer or pesticides.But now,with the push to grow as much of this global commodity as possible, commercial coffee farms often plant crops in fields without shade, a process known as monocropping.This practice leads to increased chemical use, deforestation, loss of animal life and diminished water quality. Fair Trade USA and Rainforest Alliance-certified coffees ensure that coffee is grown with an eye to environmental sustainability.In the case of Fair Trade,certification also ensures farmers are fairly compensated for their products to help support the community as a whole.


Coffee is essential to most people's daily routines, but for an eco-friendly caffeine boost, think twice about what you drink The impact of one acre of deforestation

One acre is about the size of four Olympic swimming pools.

O2 CO2

“One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.” —U.S. Department of Agriculture The burning of forests amounts to 20% of global carbon emissions. —Conservation International One acre of primary forest in the Guyana Reserve can support up to 700 trees. —SaveYourWorld beauty products © CTW Features

Coffee Consumption—by the numbers

488 9 million


3.2 4 cups



Cups of coffee consumed by Americans every day (Dunkin Donuts)

In an average coffee cup (National Coffee Association and Specialty Coffee Association of America)

Of coffee consumed by the average coffee drinker in a day (National Coffee Association and Specialty Coffee Association of America)

Single-use cups consumed by Starbucks customers globally per year. The single-use cup industry generates more than 500 billion cups worldwide annually (Starbucks)

Of coffee consumed per person per year in the United States (USDA Economic Research Service)


Four Corners Green Living • Sunday, June 17, 2012 • 3

2012 Four Corners Green Living Just as people scrutinize food labels, Hanson suggests that those who want to go natural with beauty care products should be aware of ingredients. Here are a few to stay away from: Parabens A chemical preservative that may be found in some shampoos and moisturizers. Talc Found in eye shadows and other powdered makeup, talc has be linked to breakouts and allergic reactions related to makeup. Artificial fragrance Can be found in a wide variety of beauty products and may contain chemicals that are unhealthy for the skin. Mineral oil Is used in skincare products, which may clog pores and cause dryness or chapping.

A Natural Beauty while people are taking more caution with foods

Healthy beauty products are less costly and easier to find than ever before by Ephraim Tucho CTW Features

and medicines that they put in their bodies, it’s not always the same for products they put on. Product labels for beauty and wellness products might seem difficult to discern, but it’s important to take just as much caution when deciding what to buy from the beauty aisle. “There are a lot of ingredients in conventional products that can be harmful and irritating to your skin,” says Lina Hanson, author of “Eco-Beautiful:The Ultimate Guide to Natural Beauty and Wellness” (Rodale Books, 2009). Going green with your beauty routine can improve overall health. The chemicals that you put on your skin are absorbed and can enter the blood stream, causing various health issues. People with sensitive skin, problems with dryness or discoloration of skin may see an improvement after

4 • Four Corners Green Living • Sunday, June 17, 2012

opting for natural products. Changing your beauty habits might take some time, but fortunately it won’t take too much money. Unlike in the past, healthy and natural alternatives to conventional beauty products do not cost much more than their counterparts, Hanson notes. Some higher-end brands may be more expensive due to the quality of the ingredients used, but a shift to green beauty will not necessarily leave you with less green in your pocket. Eco-friendly products might take some getting used to, so Hanson says it is best to start slow. “I would suggest starting with green skin care and gradually start switching out your conventional cosmetic products to green,” Hanson says.“No need to completely switch out your makeup bag right away. Do what you can. A little step is better than none.”


Here are a few products Hanson recommends as safe and natural alternatives: Ilia Beauty lipstick Made of 85 percent certified organic ingredients that nourish the skin and help aid in its repair. Tarte Cosmetics blush Uses beeswax, vitamin C and vitamin E among other ingredients, making the skin appear fresh and protecting it from radical damage. Jane Iredale lipgloss Made with an organic vegetable oil base and excludes petroleum-based ingredients that may dry out lips. Koh-Gen-Do cosmetics A variety of skincare and makeup products that do not use artificial fragrances and mineral oils. Instead, their makeup uses jojoba oil and aloe extract to enhance the skin. Lina Hanson Global Face Serum

Made of 100 percent natural ingredients that work to give skin a refreshing glow. It reduces the appearance of wrinkles and reduces skin irritation and inflammation. © CTW Features

2012 Four Corners Green Living

Meeting Our Needs Through Sustainability Article by Carolyn Moller, Werner Heiber, Lissa Ray, and Elsa Jagnieki

Living sustainability is often defined as living to meet our needs in the present without compromising the lives of those who come after us. The Sustainability Alliance of Southwest Colorado, an all-volunteer group based in La Plata County, embraces this definition of living sustainably, applying it to our local community in holistic ways. Our mission is to promote sustainability through facilitation, communication, and community collaboration. Sustainable communities are those that thrive economically, socially, and ecologically, promoting interdependence through use of local, natural, and human resources and talents. Much of our work occurs behind the scenes, and has resulted in some very successful public programs: •Farm to School Program, now a regional model •Local First, a thriving non-profit with 180 locally owned business members •Social Community Forums - Appleseed Series (2009 - 2010) a collaboration of six local organizations, Sustainability Dialogue Series (2009 - 2010) and Green Drinks (2011 - present) Additionally, we have been active in the formation of the Four Corners Office of Resource Efficiency (4CORE), the La Plata County Climate and Energy Action Plan (CEAP), SW Connect (ongoing mapping of community assets) and the

City and County comprehensive plans. Our current work includes the Smart Energy/CLEAN initiative, the Durango Bag-It Campaign, and Durango Green Drinks. The Smart Energy Committee was formed to address climate change on a local level. The group advocates for distributed, local, and renewable electric generation to build the local economy, protect energy security and conserve the environment. To that end the committee has recently sponsored internationally recognized speakers such as Paul Gipe, R James Woolsey, Craig Lewis and Pegeen Hanrahan; selected a team of local community members to travel to Germany to study policies and experience the successes of renewable energy; and promoted renewable energy as an issue to members of the LPEA coop during recent board elections. The group continues to work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, decreasing our local carbon footprint, and building a sustainable local economy. Durango Bag-It volunteers have lead a very successful community education campaign over the last year to bring greater awareness around the subject of disposable bags. The EPA reports (2010) that

only 15% of plastic bags are recycled in the U.S. Reducing and even eliminating disposable packaging, such as the plastic bag, is small step toward the larger, very important goal of having a zero-waste community. Durango Green Drinks is a monthly informal social forum for community members to meet, network, and discuss issues and projects related to sustainability and to get connected to exciting things happening in our greater community. SASCO and Local First co-host Green Drinks at different businesses throughout Durango, currently held the 2nd Monday of each month.

The Sustainability Alliance hosts many regular gatherings and meetings. Visit our website, for information about upcoming events. You can also subscribe to our monthly e-News, a concise listing of local news and events related to sustainability in the Four Corners! We operate as a 501-c-3 organization under the sponsorship of the Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado. We are an all-volunteer organization and invite you to join us. Our children’s future depend on today’s actions!


Four Corners Green Living • Sunday, June 17, 2012 • 5

2012 Four Corners Green Living having children changes everything,

including,as it turns out,the fate of the planet. According to a 2009 University of Oregon study,researchers concluded that a child’s long-term carbon impact (which includes descendants of that child) was 9,441 metric tons of carbon dioxide,which is 5.7 times the lifetime emission of the child’s mother. While it may be near impossible to completely overcome the impact we all have on the environment,parents can make easy-toimplement eco-friendly changes that yield big results – both for Mother Earth and our children. After all,kids learn best from their parents.

Change: Think Green The first step to making any significant change is to simply raise one’s own consciousness.Being eco-friendly does not mean living life on a commune with no access to a Starbucks;just bring your own cup.“Our motto is‘progress,not perfection,’” says Joy Hatch,co-author of“The Eco-nomical Baby Guide”(Stewart,Tabori & Chang, 2010) and co-editor of greenbabyguide.

com.“In the end,sustainability has to actually be sustainable.Dramatic lifestyle changes are harder to handle than small shifts.” Start first by looking around your own environment with an eco-eye.How many lights get left on every day when no one is in the room? How much plastic is in the house – toys, food packaging, soap dispensers, bottled water and the like? How many reusable items end up in the trash can? How many recyclable items end up in the trash can? Once a family’s awareness is raised, the times they can begin a-changin’.

Change: Cook Most of the Time Cooking delicious meals all the time is a great idea in theory, but in reality, families are busy and often meals are pre-made and packaged. However, cooking meals at home and making your baby’s food accomplishes many things: it saves waste, saves money and allows parents to control what goes into their kids’ bodies. It’s a win-winwin, says Kris Bordessa, writer, mom of

two boys and author of the website, Attainable Sustainable. “Funny things happen when you become a mom,”she says.“You start thinking,‘Gee,maybe this is not good food for my family.’”Bordessa and her family try to eat“as close to the dirt as it could be,”aiming for food that can be traced back to the earth in three steps.For example,milk is from a cow,a cow eats grass,and grass is a product of the earth.The eating plan is a goal,not a rule,she concedes.Sustainability “is about trying to figure out a little at a time,”Bordessa says. Shift gradually from packaged to fresh, jarred food to homemade,and from eating out to eating in.One of the best things about a sustainable lifestyle,says Bordessa, is learning how to be self-sufficient.

Change: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle — Really! New is not necessarily better... for the planet. It’s easy to be swayed by the latest in baby and kid gear, but“the good-old ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ mantra is especial-

ly good for babies,”says Hatch, also a mom of two. Babies don’t need nearly as much stuff as gift registries would have soon-to-be parents believe. Get in the habit of shopping for gently used baby products and clothing to save resources and money. Same goes for the older kids. As parents can attest, there is no end to the waste when it comes to toys, a Bordessa pet peeve. “For people to go out and buy brand new stuff when there’s so much out there is really kind of silly,”she says.“Buying secondhand and borrowing – that’s going to save a lot of waste right there.” Hatch agrees. “My children refer to our local thrift shop as the toy store,”Hatch says.“Once kids see that they can save pennies and packaging by shopping secondhand, they quickly assume that buying used is the norm.They will be green adults who have tremendous thrifty skills if they continue those habits into adulthood.” © CTW Features

The Waste Wars It’s hard to admit, but as parents, we create waste that we can easily eliminate. While convenience is great when it comes to kids (who doesn’t love whipping out a squeezable fruit or cheese stick to ward off a meltdown?), it often can put a dent in our wallets and the planet. Below are some items that we can divert from landfills with a few changes in habits:

Diapers Remedy: Use cloth Plastic bags Remedy: Reuse bags and containers Snack packaging (i.e., granola bars, squeezable fruit, crackers, cheese sticks) Remedy: Make your own or offer natural snacks such as fresh fruit. Juice boxes and bottles Remedy: Kids don’t need juice. Offer water in reusable cups. pricey kids’ clothing Remedy: Utilize hand-me6 • Four Corners Green Living • Sunday, June 17, 2012

downs and shop secondhand stores Plastic toys and associated packaging Remedy: Same as above. Also consider wooden toys if a new toy is a must-have. Hand soap Remedy: Our parents used bars of soap. It can be bought without the packaging. Baby wipes Remedy: Use clean, soft cloths and a bowl of water. New books Remedy: Check out the library and buy secondhand

Savvy Shopper’s Guide to Eco Living

As store shelves fill up with natural and eco-friendly products, look at the label to make sure you’re getting what you pay for by Dawn Klingensmith CTW Features

a longtime vegetarian, regular

exerciser and nonsmoker, Rebecca Schmuck was shocked nearly three years ago when she was told she had cancer.“I didn’t do any of the things they say give you cancer,” she says,“so I turned my focus to the environment.” Schmuck believes environmental factors such as air pollutants and household chemicals can be harmful, and that, generally speaking, what’s good for the planet is good for people. Raising a 5-year-old son in suburban Chicago, where she co-owns an ecofriendly livery service with hybrid cars, Schmuck was determined after her diagnosis to buy green products for her house and family.


2012 Four Corners Green Living

There was no shortage of products claiming to fit the bill. Between 2005 and 2007, the number of green products sold in stores doubled, BrandWeek reported in 2008. However, many companies then and now are guilty of greenwashing, or deceptively marketing their products and policies as environmentally friendly. “The greenwashing thing is horrible and prevalent, so becoming an expert on what things mean is the only way to really be sure you are getting natural or green products,” says Schmuck, adding that she cross-references chemical names against the American Cancer Society’s list of known and probable human carcinogens. “Also, a lot of companies produce green products, but they produce them in a non-green environment,” she says. As store shelves continue to fill up with products claiming to be natural or environmentally friendly, there are things to look for on labels to make sure a product has eco-cred and not just a green sheen. On first glance, a product can look green simply because of its packaging. Consumers associate brown kraft-paper packaging with recycled materials, nature scenes with wholesomeness and white or pastels with purity.“Just because it’s in lovely, earthy packaging doesn’t mean anything,” says green living consultant Amy Todisco, Green Liv

ing Now, Waitsfield, Vt. Certain claims and descriptors like “natural,”“fresh,”“free-range” and “hormone-free” are essentially meaningless, Todisco adds, because there are no consistent definitions or standards. On the other hand,“100% Certified Organic” and “Fair Trade Certified” are verifiable claims with publicly available label standards. For help decoding label claims, visit Consumer Reports’ Eco-labels Center at, you can generate a “label report card” to see whether claims are meaningful and verifiable. If a company doesn’t have the space on its product to back up its green claims, it should point buyers to its website or provide a telephone number for a fuller explanation.“Go to the website and read the company’s mission.That will give a sense of who they are and what they’re trying to achieve,”Todisco advises. See if eco-friendliness is actually a core value. Foods and household products like cosmetics and cleaners list their ingredients.“Typically, if you cannot pronounce it, it’s a synthetic chemical that may or may not be toxic,”Todisco says. The American Cancer Society lists known and probable carcinogens on its website at Health writer Ruth Winter’s “A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients” and “A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives” (Three River Press, 2009), both in their seventh edition, tell consumers the purpose of an ingredient and any risks, warnings or dubious claims associated with it. If there’s a seal on a product, make sure it designates a reliable third-party certification.Trustworthy certifications include the USDA organic seal on food and cosmetics, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star designation on appliances and electronics, the Green Seal logo on household cleaning products and the Forest Stewardship Council logo on wood and paper products.

While there’s no single comprehensive online green buyers’ guide, the Environmental Working Group (www. and GoodGuide ( each rate thousands of products and are searchable by brand name. Finally, look for evidence that a product is only green by degrees.“A company may use recycled materials and soybased inks, which is great, but they ship it all the way from China,”burning nonrenewable fossil fuels, says Todd Wyckoff, vice president of Eco Evaluator, which performs household energy audits in Southern California and maintains a green resources website.“If you look at every piece of the process, it is amazingly complex to determine the environmental impact of one product.”(See sidebar.) When it comes to the manufacture and transport of a product, he adds, “Cleaner and closer are really the things to look for.” © CTW Features

Green From Start to Finish To be green through and through, a product must be designed and manufactured with eco-friendliness in mind for its entire lifecycle. The most stringent model is the “cradle to cradle” concept by which products travel in a full circle, starting off with materials and a manufacturing process that are safe for both humans and the environment and ending with the easy recovery and reuse of the spent products. With enough research, a determined consumer can evaluate a product’s greenness at every phase, from production to disposal. Whether in a factory or on a farm, working conditions should be nontoxic and production should be energy-efficient and nonpolluting. The most notable ecofriendly plants produce zero waste. Think “cleaner and closer” as you find out how a product is made and what it takes to get it on the shelf, Eco Evaluator’s Todd Wyckoff advises. And think about the product’s “afterlife.” How much waste does it produce? Often, the first thing we do when we bring home a product is tear off the packaging; make sure the materials used are minimal and recyclable. — D.K. © CTW Features

Four Corners Green Living • Sunday, June 17, 2012 • 7

2012 Four Corners Green Living

Reuse it Go through the house and gather up all of your DAY reusable bags that you have tucked in closets and under beds. Instead, Leah Ingram, author of “Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less”(Adams Media, 2010) says to track them all down and store them in your car. “Then, the next time you go to the store, you can use a reusable bag,”she says.“Some stores will even reward you financially for saving them from using a bag.” Don’t have one? Ingram suggests investing in a CVS Green Bag Tag ($.99) and then having your tag scanned every time you shop and you’ll earn $.25 towards a reward.Every fourth trip, you’ll be eligible for a $1 coupon.


A lot of us want to live a more eco-friendly life, but when it comes to figuring out how to do it, we stall. Here’s a plan you can stick to by Lisa Iannucci CTW Features

Compost “According to the EPA, we throw out about 160 bilDAY lion pounds of food every year and it goes into a landfill,” says Jodi Helmer, author of“The Green Year”(Alpha, 2008).“The food creates methane gas, one of the major greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.” A compost pile is a pile of food, such as fruit and vegetable scraps, that


8 • Four Corners Green Living • Sunday, June 17, 2012


11 Days to a Greener Life breaks down into earthy material.“It has a huge impact on the environment,”says Helmer.“To start, buy a compost kit at the home-improvement store and toss your food waste in.” However, she cautions that meat, dairy and citrus cannot be added to the pile.“No meat and dairy because of the smell and likelihood of animals,”she says.“The pH of the citrus prevents the food from breaking down, but everything else can go in the pile.” If you live in an apartment, Helmer suggests creating a worm composter instead.“It’s as simple as a Rubbermaid container with holes and a bed of moist newspaper strips. Pile in live earthworms and feed them. It’s a huge impact and doesn’t take a

whole lot of time.” Catch the rain Become greener by taking a look at your water usage, DAY says Lynn Garner, author of “Greatest Guide to Green Living”(Greatest Guides, 2012).“Take a look at your gutter and see if you can find a place to safely situate a rain barrel,”she says.“During dry periods, use the water collected to care for your precious garden plants.”


Stop the leaks To save water and save money on your water bills, DAY go around the house and check every tap, remembering also to check garden taps and the shower head. “Are any of them dripping water?”Garner


2012 Four Corners Green Living




Insulate hot water pipes Look at the possibility and DAY cost of insulating your hot water pipes. If it’s not cost-prohibitive, then either insulate yourself or get a tradesperson to complete the job for you.This will reduce the amount of time spent waiting for the hot tap to run hot, save water and if you’re on a meter will save you money.


Make your sprouts Repurpose a jar to create your own sprouts, says DAY Deborah Niemann, author of“Ecofrugal”(New Society Publishers, 2012). Put a couple tablespoons of sprout seeds in a jar, cover the opening with a piece of cheesecloth and a string or rubber band. Soak for a few hours, then drain. “Rinse the seeds two or three times a day, and in a few days, you have sprouts!”she says.“You can grow your own sprouts for pennies per quart and there is no packaging to be recycled or thrown into a landfill.”




Hang it up Forget the dryer! Instead, Renee Loux, author of East Green Living (Rodale, 2009) suggests taking

says. Program it It doesn’t take long to research and install a programmable thermostat. “In the winter, it sets the temperature for you to drop a few degrees when you’re sleeping and then raise when you wake up,”says Loux.“It will decrease your energy bill.” Pack a waste-free lunch Helmer says the traditional bag lunch includes the DAY sandwich bag, juice box, napkin and plastic spoon or fork.“It adds up to a ton of waste,”she says. “Instead, make a few small tweaks to become waste-free and environmentally-friendly. Buy an insulated lunch bag, reusable sandwich containers, thermos or water bottle and really inexpensive napkins and utensils.”




Opt out It’s called“junk”mail for a reason, so become greener by first getting yourself off of these lists so you’re not bombarded with extra papers. Then, take time to opt out of these offers. It’s a simple phone call. To opt out for five years, call 888.5.OPTOUT (888.567.8688), or to opt out permanently visit www.optoutprescreen. com. Return the signed Permanent Opt-Out Election form, which will be provided after you initiate your online request. © CTW Features

Growing Up Green Parents can help reduce environmental impact one small step at a time, and teach their kids big lessons by Dana Carman CTW Features

having children changes everything,

including,as it turns out,the fate of the planet.According to a 2009 University of Oregon study,researchers concluded that a child’s long-term carbon impact (which includes descendants of that child) was 9,441 metric tons of carbon dioxide,which is 5.7 times the lifetime emission of the child’s mother. While it may be near impossible to completely overcome the impact we all have on the environment,parents can make easyto-implement eco-friendly changes that yield big results – both for Mother Earth and our children. After all,kids learn best from

G r e e n Sources Parents don’t have to get started alone. Check out these guides for help:


Clean out your trunk Remove the junk from your trunk.“For every 100 pounds DAY in your trunk, you decrease your fuel efficiency by 2 percent,”Helmer says.“That may not seem like a lot, but with the price of gas, it adds up.The less gas you use, the less dependent you are on fossil fuel.”

time to set up a laundry line.“In the backyard or the garage, it will save electricity and save you money on drying,”she

their parents.

Change: Think Green Thefirststeptomakinganysignificant changeistosimplyraiseone’sownconsciousness.Beingeco-friendlydoesnot meanlivinglifeonacommunewithno accesstoaStarbucks;justbringyourown cup.“Ourmottois‘progress,notperfection,’” saysJoyHatch,co-authorof“TheEco-nomicalBabyGuide”(Stewart,Tabori&Chang, 2010)andco-editorofgreenbabyguide. com.“Intheend,sustainabilityhastoactually besustainable.Dramaticlifestylechanges arehardertohandlethansmallshifts.” Startfirstbylookingaroundyourown environment with an eco-eye.How many lights get left on every day when no one is in the room? How much plastic is in the house – toys, food packaging, soap dispensers, bottled water and the like? How many reusable items end up in the

Raising Baby Green (Jossey-Bass, 2007), Alan Greene, M.D. The Eco-nomical Baby Guide (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2010), Joy Hatch and Rebecca Kelley (also authors of Attainable Sustainable ( Green Guide Families: The Complete Reference for Eco-friendly Parents (National Geographic Books, 2010)


asks.“If so, then purchase a few washers -always have a spare for next time -- and fix that drip.”

Four Corners Green Living • Sunday, June 17, 2012 • 9


2012 Four Corners Green Living

Power to the Portable People Tablets and e-readers continue to take over the planet, but at what environmental cost? by Lindsey Romain CTW Features

In today’s onslaught of updated gadgetry and hip new products, e-readers and tablets have proved a popular leap to the next stage of book reading. From January to August 2010, e-book sales were up 193 percent from the same period in 2009. Meanwhile, sales for traditional paper books fell by 4.1 percent in 2009. Those with an eye for the ecological should take note; if used to their fullest function, e-readers and tablets can be greener alternatives to their paper counterparts. But knowing how to get the best use

out of these products is the only way to guarantee a tech-friendly carbon footprint. E-Readers Not a lot is known about the precise energy consumption of e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle, since most companies choose to withhold any finite statistics. But different experts have offered opinions for what those numbers might be. In 2009, an article in The New York Times by Daniel Goleman and Gregory Norris examined a number of ecological production factors of e-readers.They found that one e-reader requires the extraction of 33 pounds of minerals and 79 gallons of water, compared to a printed book’s two-thirds of a pound of minerals and 2 gallons of water. Those numbers may sound in drastic favor of the printed book, but it’s a skewed glimpse at the overall picture; Goleman and

10 • Four Corners Green Living • Sunday, June 17, 2012

Norris also found that a 500-mile shipment of a book by plane generates the same amount of pollution it costs to make the book in the first place. Factor in other methods of shipment – like a drive to the post office – and that number gets even higher. An e-book, on the other hand, is a computer click away, no waste required. On the same token, Green Press Initiative released a report with the Book Industry Study Group that concluded that about 8.85 pounds of carbon dioxide goes into the production of one book.That means that 22 books on an e-reader are equal to one paper book – provided that the books are purchased brand new. Raz Godelnik, co-founder of Eco-Libris – an online company dedicated to the promotion of sustainable reading – says that once an e-reader is purchased, it’s important to read as many books as possible, since“the footprint is in the production.” Once the device is in the hands of its owner, most of the damage is already done (especially given the power-saving capabilities that make battery power minimal). As for companies refusing to provide further information on the ecology of the products, he suspects that as the demand for knowledge increases, the companies will start sharing more solid data.“They care about

something when the customers care about it,”Godelnik says. Tablets One company known for meeting the demands of the customer is Apple, the manufacturer of the iPad, the most popular tablet on the market. Apple hasn’t shied away from sharing production data about their other products; offers downloadable PDFs with everything from supplier responsibility to Global Reporting Initiative indexes to recycling options. According to Apple’s stats, an iPad is responsible for about 287 pounds of carbon-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions, smaller than the estimated 370 pounds for a Kindle, according to a Cleantech report. Godelnik says that reading 15 books on an iPad offsets the ecological production costs, while other studies estimate that number to be closer to 32. Like the Kindle or other e-readers, he says that the best way to assure a lesser impact is to use it as often as possible. One of the biggest differences between most e-readers and tablets is in the powersaving capabilities.“E-readers like the traditional Kindle only draw power when you turn a page; if you leave it on the same page, it’s not using any power,”Pollack says.“That’s why it can remain charged longer than a tablet.”The more charges to a battery, the more energy consumed, and the less ecofriendly it becomes. Jennifer Schwab, co-founder of Sierra Club Green Home, a website offshoot of the grassroots sustainability organization, suggests one way of saving battery power on the iPad: shutting off the WiFi when it’s not in use.The connection is automatically made in a wireless zone, but she says that disabling it preserves the battery, meaning less recharges and energy consumption. When to Buy The best way to determine whether or not an e-reader or tablet is worth the ecological cost is to determine if one is even needed in the first place. “If you’re reading dozens of books every year and you expect to keep the device for a long period of time, then you’re releasing your environmental impact by purchasing

2012 Four Corners Green Living an e-reader instead of a paper book,”says Todd Pollack, program manager at Green Press Initiative, a non-profit program that collaborates with book and newspaper stakeholders to reduce the ecological impacts of their products.“If you only read occasionally, then the balance is going to be tipped the other way.” Pollack says that the greenest way to read is to borrow books from friends or purchase them used. But for the more voracious reader – one who churns through more reading material than friends can provide or who vacations frequently and doesn’t have access to lent books – an e-reader or tablet is a less damaging choice than constantly buying new paper books. Another way to maximize the use of these devices is to keep the one you’ve got for as long as possible.“If you have the device for three, four, five years, it’s much more environmentally friendly than if you buy a new version every year,”says Goldenik. © CTW Features

Recycling an E-Reader or Tablet The truest way to harvest proper, ecological use out of an e-reader or tablet is to keep it – and use it! – for as long as possible. But when a device reaches an inevitable end, or there isn’t room for it anymore, it’s best to seek out of a proper means of disposal to ensure a safe, ecofriendly life cycle. Here are some recycling tips for portable reading devices. Gift It If the device still functions properly, try gifting it to a friend or family member who will continue to reap its benefits. If no one you know is in need, try donating it to a local school or library. Find a Responsible Recycler Many organizations claim to recycle portable devices but instead just harvest the most important parts and dump the rest in landfills. One reliable recycler is e-Stewards, a nonprofit organization that seeks to prevent the toxic materials in electronics from causing longterm harm to the environment. Their website offers a search engine of local e-Steward recycle centers, where old e-readers and tablets can be deposited. If there are no e-Steward locations near you, check to see if the manufacturer of the device offers a take-back program. Some stores, like Best Buy, will take back most electronic products and recycle them, sometimes with a low fee.


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2012 Four Corners Green Living

How to Save Gas Driving the Car You Own You don’t have to buy a new vehicle to get better fuel economy by Jim Gorzelany CTW Features

with a gallon of gas already breaking

the $4-per-gallon mark in countless parts of the country, many motorists will consider trading in their current vehicles for ones that get better fuel economy. However, experts caution consumers to consider the financial implications of buying a higher-mileage car solely to offset higher gasoline prices before they head down to the dealership. “Assuming the average consumer drives 12,000 miles per year in a vehicle that gets 20 miles per gallon (mpg), an increase of $1 per gallon, from $3.60 to $4.60 per gallon as an example, would only result in an approximate increase of $11.50 per week in fuel expenses,” says Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst of automotive insights for Kelley Blue Book.  “In today’s economic environment, many families are on an extremely tight budget, and $11.50 per week may be enough to break the bank. But for others, it would amount to a small lifestyle change, such as bringing a sandwich to work rather than going out to lunch, or perhaps cutting back on Starbucks.”  Even with gas at $4 per gallon, trading in that 20-mpg car for one that gets a combined 30-mpg city/highway won’t save nearly enough money in fuel costs to cover a car payment. According to the Environmental Pro-

tection Agency (EPA)’s website,, a motorist driving 12,000 annual miles in mixed city and highway driving would save $800 a year buying a car that gets 10 additional mpg. That comes out to just $66.67 a month or $15.40 a week. Most drivers could save close to that much money – perhaps even more – simply by altering their driving habits. According to a report issued by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, a combination of lead-footed driving, improper auto maintenance and poor route selection can reduce a car’s fuel economy by as much as 45 percent. By that measure, a compact sedan that’s EPA-rated at 30 mpg could wind up getting a full-size SUV-like 17 mpg. The Consumer Federation of America has gone so far as to quantify how much money prudent drivers can save by simply altering a few driving habits and ensuring that their vehicles are in top running order.“We estimate that if Americans practiced these tips, gas mileage could be improved in total by about 13 percent,” says Jack Gillis, author of “The Car Book” (Gillis Publishing Group, 2011) and CFA’s director of public affairs.“There’s no reason consumers should pay for gas they don’t need.” For example, based on gas at $3.85

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a gallon, the CFA says those who drive with their left foot habitually resting on the brake pedal can save the equivalent of $1.35 a gallon by moving it to the floor. Those who tend to drive erratically can pocket 68 cents a gallon by anticipating the movement of traffic and using the brakes and gunning the accelerator as little as possible. Slowing down by even 5 miles per hour on the highway can shave the equivalent of 27 cents off a gallon of gas. Where necessary, replacing the car’s air filter can save 68 cents, having a wheel alignment performed can save 39 cents, getting a tune-up can save 15 cents and properly inflating the tires can save 11 cents a gallon. Don’t treat a car as a rolling storage locker. Carrying additional weight increases a vehicle’s energy consumption by 1 to 2 percent; unloading 100 pounds of junk from the trunk can save the equivalent of 6 cents per gallon. Replacing a faulty gas cap is like saving 3 cents per gallon.

Other ways to save gas include simply turning off a car’s engine while waiting at a curb or sitting at an extended stoplight. In these situations, a running vehicle clocks in at a costly zero miles per gallon. Removing a car or truck’s roof rack will improve its aerodynamics and, in turn, its fuel economy by about 5 percent. At highway speeds, more than half of the engine power goes to overcoming drag, so keep a vehicle’s windows closed to maintain optimal aerodynamics and prevent a 10 percent loss in fuel economy; open the vents to bring in outside air, but use the air conditioning sparingly, since it consumes more gas. Finally, consolidate multiple errands into one trip; several short trips taken on different days, each from a cold start, can use twice as much fuel as a longer multipurpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm. © CTW Features

Is Buying a Hybrid Car Cost-Effective? As the price of gas increases, so too does the demand for gas/electric hybrid-powered cars. Unfortunately, while hybrids definitely save fuel, they also command a sustantial price premium. This higher cost tends to counter any savings realized at the pump over time, at least at current gas prices. Of 27 hybrid vehicles measured, only three current models had a total cost of ownership over a five-year period that was lower than their allgasoline counterparts, according to a study by the research company Vincentric, Bingham Farms, Mich. These included the Toyota Camry Hybrid, with a net savings of $481, the Honda Insight at $1,627 and the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid at $4,438. Hybrid-powered models in Vincentric’s study that cost their owners the most money over a five-year ownership period compared to comparable conventional models (at 15,000 miles driven per year) included the BMW ActiveHybrid X6 with a $25,310 differential, the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid at $11,528, the GMC Yukon Hybrid at $10,606, the Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid at $8,485 and the BMW ActiveHybrid 7 at $7,162. Astute buyers should consult to check fuel economy ratings and projected gasoline costs to help determine whether it makes sound economic sense to choose a given hybrid-powered car over a standard model. — J.G. © CTW Features

2012 Four Corners Green Living

This Old Eco House


No need to start from scratch to get an ecofriendly house – an existing home is a green home, especially with these updates by Ephraim Tucho


CTW Features

tainable options to attract more homebuyers. But someone who’s looking to stay put can also live green – in fact, living in an old house is actually a sustainable choice. “The greenest house there is, is the one already built,” says Gordon Bock, co-author of “The Vintage House” (W.W. Norton and Co., 2011). Rather than spending more natural resources by building a brand new home, he says, an old home can be patched up, renovated and accessorized to improve energy efficiency.This also preserves the vintage aesthetic and character that many owners of old homes value. Improved methods of using energy, water and building materials are both helpful to the environment and can help lower the cost of utilities. Bock suggests these simple and effective steps to increase energy efficiency in an old home while preserving its structure. 1 Building Materials Maintain and refinish materials, don't replace them. Some materials that were considered outdated are now regaining popularity because they are greener choices than their newer counterparts. Many old homes have linoleum kitchen and bathroom floors and shellac as a wood finish.These materials are natural, renewable and durable, and they are worth keeping for both vintage aesthetic and sustainability. 2 Walls and Building Envelope Sealing air leaks and insulating around doors and windows can save a homeowner up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star website.



builders have increasingly turned to high-tech sus-

2 5 6 3 Windows New windows can be very energy efficient, but they are also very pricey to buy and install. A more inexpensive way to conserve hot or cold air is to install storm windows, a second layer of windows that can be mounted inside or outside of the home’s main glass windows. Storm windows are easy to maintain and their addition does not necessarily impact the look of a house’s original windows.

Depending on the hot water system though, a new, on-demand water heater is an option. An on-demand water heater goes near the point of use and produces hot water only as needed. The traditional water tank with a pilot light in the basement is constantly heating water, which some people might find convenient, but also wastes a lot of energy.

4 Attic Most of the energy lost in the home goes through the top. Insulating the attic, in particular, can decrease heat loss throughout the home without tampering with the building envelope or dynamically changing the structure of the house. 5 Water Heater The cheapest way to improve the energy efficiency of an old home is to tune-up the system already in place.

6 Heating/Cooling System For homeowners willing to bear the up-front expense, a geothermal heating/cooling system is an alternative that reduces fossil fuel consumption. The system takes advantage of the constant temperature of the Earth below its surface to either cool or heat a building as needed. Heat pumps are installed outside of the house and keep the main building systems intact. This is a high-cost installation that can deliver huge returns over a long period of time. © CTW Features

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2012 Four Corners Green Living

Use the Earth to Heat and Cool your House Article by Mark Galbraith, President of Earth Source Geo, LLC and owner of Galbraith Builders, Inc

Many people are fed up with the high cost of heating their homes with propane and wish they had an alternative. They do! If you use propane as your heating fuel, Ground Source Heating and Cooling could be the answer to dramatically lower your heating and cooling bills. The EPA regards GSHP’s as “the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available” Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP’s) have been around for over more than 30 years, but have just recently made huge strides in efficiency, reliability, and cost competitiveness. They are unquestionably the most cost-efficient means to heat and cool buildings. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regards GSHP’s as “the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems avail-

able.” In addition, federal tax credits of 30 percent% and rebates from utility companies (i.e. LPEA / Tri State) have increased their use and affordability. Although GSHP’s are often referred to as “geothermal” systems, this description is a bit of a misnomer. Many people hear that term and think of hot springs or superheated underground water. That is not what we are talking about here. The Earth is an enormous solar heat collector. Around half of the sun’s rays are absorbed by the surface of the earth and stored in the soil and rock. In North America, ground temperatures 20twenty feet below the surface average a constant 55 degrees, year round. Even though this temperature seems cool, there is a huge amount of heat available. This heat can easily be moved from the ground and utilized to provide clean, efficient energy to comfort-

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ably heat your home. How does it work? Most GSHP systems are comprised of two components: 1) a ground loop in which water is circulated through a network of vertically or horizontally-arranged underground pipes, and 2) a heat pump device mounted inside the building. The warmth stored in the ground is absorbed by the water in the pipes and transferred into the building where low grade heat is concentrated into a higher temperature and used for either in-floor hydronic radiant heat or forced air heating. Conversely, when cooling is desired during the summer, the heat pump uses a simple reversing valve to collect heat from within the house and re-inject it into the ground. The ground, in effect, acts like a battery, giving up energy in the heating mode and recharging with heat rejected from the house during the cooling mode. Most people already use a heat

pump every day. A refrigerator is actually a heat pump that moves heat from inside of the refrigerator into the surrounding air. Heat pumps—which run on electricity and use refrigeration technology—have the highest efficiency of any heating device. One dollar’s worth of electricity translates into as much as four or five dollars of useable heat energy. GSHP systems are used not only in new construction but are often used to retrofit existing homes Many people want to upgrade their current heating systems to modern, high efficiency systems, and find that GSHP’s prove to be the most cost effective way to heat while also gaining the ability to cool with the same system. For more information on GSHP’s visit our website at or call (970) 749-1961

2012 Four Corners Green Living

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2012 Four Corners Green Living

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Green Living in Durango