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Public Green Blog

Choose Your Tree: Deciding between a real or artifical Holiday Tree

Have you debated with others (or possibly yourself) about which tree is more environmentally friendly, a real tree or a fake tree? While no 100 percent clear answer can be made, there are some important factors to consider before purchasing your tree.  Check out this site for further information:
http://earth911.com/news/2010/11/29/real-vs-artificial-christmas-trees/

By MPPL on December 10, 2010 Categories: Consumer Choices, Holidays

Nicor’s Energy Efficiency Program

Did you know in May, Nicor began an Energy Efficiency Program, which allows consumers of Nicor Gas to save energy and money? The programs are available for residential and business customers. Through the Residential Customer program, Nicor proivdes customers with energy education and resources, and rebates on qualifying natural gas products such as water heaters and furnaces. For more information visit:  Nicor Gas Rebates (http://www.nicorgasrebates.com/index.php) or http://www.nicor.com/en_us/news_and_media/latest_releases/release_05_01_2010.htm

By MPPL on November 19, 2010 Categories: Consumer Choices, Energy

Conventional Turkey vs. Organic Turkey

Do you plan on making a turkey this year for Thanksgiving dinner? Did you know that poultry in the United States is not allowed to receive hormones, but that conventional turkeys may receive antibiotics and animal byproducts, and one of the common “growth promoters” given to turkeys can result in arsenic being harbored in the turkey’s liver? Conventional turkeys labeled as “self-basting” are often injected with butter or fat, broth, water, and other seasonings to help make them
flavorful. If you want to avoid these ingredients, or control what you are putting into or on your turkey, consider buying an organic bird. If you want to spend a little extra money, look for a “heritage turkey” which is descended from early domesticated turkeys and full of flavor.

For more information on selecting and cooking your holiday turkey, or to locate a nearby farm, visit:
Consumer Reports Greener Choices “Talking Turkey”
Eat Well Guide
Local Harvest
Heritage Turkey Foundation

By MPPL on November 17, 2010 Categories: Consumer Choices, Holidays

Tips for Making Your Furnance Run Better, More Efficiently and Green

•Add programmable thermostats so the furnace doesn’t work as hard while you’re away but kicks back in before you get home. In most homes, you can reduce your heating bill about two percent for each degree that you lower the thermostat for at least eight hours each day.

•Insulate your boiler with a jacket.

•Clean or replace air filters regularly.

•Clean registers and make sure they’re not blocked by furniture.

•Bleed radiators properly.

•Tune up your burner every one to three years, depending on what kind of system you have. That will keep your system running well, cut heating costs, and reduce the pollutants that seep into your home.

•Seal furnace ducts to keep them from leaking hot air or circulating dust.

•Line your chimney. High-efficiency units produce an acidic exhaust gas that should be vented only through a properly lined chimney (or through a separate duct). Reline your chimney whenever you replace an old furnace or boiler with a more efficient one, as the new unit may create more corrosive exhaust.

•Keep it up. High-efficiency units produce an acidic exhaust gas that should be vented only through a properly lined chimney (or through a separate duct).

Remember, any improvements you do around the house—from installing efficient windows to adding insulation—can help your furnace to work more efficiently. Even a tree maturing outside a window can have a positive effect. Assess the situation from time to time, and you may realize that you could use an even smaller furnace.

By MPPL on November 10, 2010 Categories: Cold Weather, Consumer Choices, Energy

The Many Uses of Baking Soda

Baking soda is a common item kept in many homes, but did you know that there are tons of uses for baking soda? Here are a few to get you started:

In Your Home:
*Place a box of baking soda in your garbage can or refrigerator (they make special boxes for this) to absorb smells.
*Do you have some smelly shoes lying around? Sprinkle a little bit in the shoes to deodorize them.
*Sprinkle some baking soda on your carpet, let it set for a little bit (some say anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour) and then simply vacuum up the baking soda, along with the smell.
*Sprinkle baking soda over upholstered furniture, gently brush, and let sit for anywhere between 1 hour and overnight, then vacuum away any smells trapped in your furniture.
*Keep your fresh flowers alive longer by adding a teaspoon to the water.
*Put baking soda under your sinks, in cracks, and around ground level windows to repel cockroaches and ants.
*Sprinkle some in your cats litter box to help remove foul odors.
*Mix baking soda and water instead of soap to wash your fruits and vegetables.
*Add a cup of baking soda to your toilet bowl, let sit for an hour, then flush.
*Mix baking soda and water to make a paste to gently scrub away marks from walls (including crayon!).
*Sprinkle on a damp sponge to clean stainless steel without scratching.
*Keep your drains clean by putting 4 tablespoons of baking soda in them each week, and flush with hot water.
*Mix 4 tablespoons of baking soda with a quart of warm water to clean the inside of your oven.

Outside Your Home:
*Scatter baking soda around your flowerbeds to keep rabbits away.
*Sprinkle baking soda around the soil of your tomato plants to sweeten your tomatos.
*Clean your screens by dipping a damp wire brush into baking soda, scrub the screens, then rinse with a sponge or hose.
*To clean up light oil spills in the garage, mix equal parts of baking soda and cornmeal and sprinkle on the spill, let it dry, and then sweep or vacuum away. If the spot is still there, sprinkle with baking soda, let it stand and then scrub it using a wet brush.

Do you have a favorite use for baking soda, or did one of these suggestiions work for you? If so, let us know by leaving a comment!

For more information on the many uses of baking soda visit:
http://earth911.com/news/2010/09/28/surprising-uses-for-5-items-you-already-have/
http://earth911.com/news/2010/07/26/baking-soda-multipurpose-superhero/
http://www.armandhammer.com/news/arm-and-hammer-baking-soda-countless-uses-for-less-than-a-dollar.aspx
http://lifehackery.com/2008/07/22/home-4/
http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/home/uses-for-baking-soda-outdoors-activities-ga.htm

By MPPL on October 15, 2010 Categories: Consumer Choices, Household Products

Have a Green Halloween

Make your own costume from things around the house – old clothes, game pieces, sport team items, something from the recycling bin, etc., or purchase items from a resale shop.  
 
If make-up is used instead of a mask, purchase non-toxic or hypoallergenic cosmetics.  
 
After using costumes, trade with a friend, start a “costume closet” at  school, church or home to share next year, or donate the costumes to a favorite charity.  
 
When buying candy, look for treats with minimal packaging – or give pencils, erasers or money.  
 
Send your children out with a reusable bucket, canvas bag or pillowcase.  
 
Don’t be a litter bug, dispose of candy wrappers in your bags, buckets or trash cans along the way.  
 
Stay local to trick-or-treat, bike, wagon or carpool.  
 
Use rechargeable batteries in your flashlight for trick-or-treating.  

Don’t throw away the pumpkin seeds – bake and eat, or put outdoors for the birds and animals.  
 
Put a soy or natural beeswax candle in your Jack-o’-lanterns, or use a battery-operated light, with rechargeable batteries, of course.  
 
As your pumpkin grows old, put in your yard for animals to eat, or put into compost pile.  
 
Make your own luminaries from old cans with a pattern of hole punches.  
 
Keep Halloween decorations from year to year so you don’t need to purchase new ones each season.  
 
If you are hosting a Halloween party, used reusable dishes, tableware, cups napkins, etc.  Serve from a pitcher instead of individual bottles and  cans.Make a mystery punch with your favorite juices/pop, and add dry ice for a spooky effect. Instead of paper invitations, send an electronic  invite to your guests.

From SWANNC’s September E-Newsletter

By MPPL on October 8, 2010 Categories: Consumer Choices, Holidays

Home Weatherization Rebate

The Village of Mount Prospect’s Energy Efficiency Home Weatherization Rebate Program offers residents the opportunity to perform energy efficient upgrades to their homes.  The Village will provide matching grants of up to 50% for energy efficient projects such as home insulation, Energy STAR window, door, water heater, furnace and air conditioner upgrades. Applications are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis until funds run out.  To see if you qualify and for more information on the program, go to www.mountprospect.org or call 847/818-5328.

By MPPL on September 30, 2010 Categories: Cold Weather, Consumer Choices, Weatherization

Are your “natural” supplements safe?

Did you know that supplement manufacturers “routinely, and legally, sell their products without first having to demonstrate that they are safe and effective?” Consumer Reports recently published a list of a dozen supplement ingredients they think consumers should avoid because of the health risks associated with these ingredients. Some of the health risks associated with the ingredients identified in the article include cardiovascular, liver and kidney problems. For more information or to view the list of supplements you should avoid check out:  Consumer Reports Greener Choices Dangerous “Natural” Supplements.

If you have a taken something and have had serious side effects, your doctor or pharmacist can report them to the FDA, or you can do so yourself by calling 800-332-1088 or visiting www.fda.gov/medwatch

By MPPL on September 17, 2010 Categories: Consumer Choices

Green Choices for Kitchen Remodeling

Thinking About Remodeling Your Kitchen? Here are some ways you can make it greener.

Start with the basics, then consider larger improvements to save energy, reduce your use of nonrenewable resources, and conserve water.

When replacing kitchen cabinets, choose solid wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for sustainability.

Choose energy-efficient appliances with the Energy Star label. Older refrigerators are especially big energy wasters. Replace your standard dishwasher with a new model that’s energy-efficient, quiet, and conserves water. You can cut your energy use by up to 30 percent with new qualified appliances.

Vent your kitchen range hood to the outside for healthier indoor air.

Clean with natural home ingredients such as baking soda for scouring, distilled white vinegar for cutting soap scum and cleaning stains, and vegetable-base soaps.

Supplement natural light with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) because they convert most of their energy into light rather than heat, consuming 75 percent less electricity and lasting 10 times as long as incandescent bulbs.

Fix that drip, or, better yet, replace old faucets with new units that have low-flow aerators. You can save thousands of gallons of water a year.

Replace vinyl flooring with natural linoleum, which is long-lasting and made with environmentally friendly materials.

*From Better Homes and Gardens

By MPPL on September 10, 2010 Categories: Consumer Choices, Home Improvement

Low-VOC Paints and Stains

Are you thinking of taking on a home painting project soon? Before you start, consider the paint you will be using, as some paints are more environmentally friendly than others. When selecting paints (both interior or exterior), look for paints that have low levels of VOCs, or volatile organic compounds. These chemicals contribute to ozone, smog, and respiratory problems. It is expected that the EPA will propose VOC limits this year; low-VOC interior paints cannot contain more than 50 grams per liter, low-VOC exterior paints range from between 100 and 250 grams per liter, and low-VOC stains should not exceed 250 grams perm liter. For more information, or to see a list of recommended low-VOC paints, check out the June 2010 Consumer Reports Paint Buying Guide or visit:
Consumer Reports Green Product Watch: Best Low-VOC Paints and Stains

By MPPL on September 9, 2010 Categories: Consumer Choices, Home Improvement