Should I Adjust My Thermostat Or Keep It At The Same Temperature All Day?

There are a lot of myths out there about ways to save energy and how you can live a greener lifestyle, so it's sometimes confusing for homeowners who hear conflicting advice. This happens most frequently when it comes to managing the temperature controls for your home. You'll often hear folk wisdom about how it's better to keep the heat at the same temperature all day because furnaces have to work harder to bring the heat back up after having cooled down while you're away.

It can't be said enough that this is simply not true. You will use much less energy, and consequently contribute less to manmade climate change, by setting your thermostat to lower temperatures at night when you're asleep and during the day when you're at work or school.

As environmental site Grist notes, the reason for this is physics. An enclosed space will cool down faster depending on the difference between its inside and outside temperatures. As your house cools, it will lose heat at a slower rate, whereas if it's kept at a constant temperature all day, it will continue losing the same amount of heat over time.

It's important to remember that the next time someone passes along advice about how you can reduce your energy consumption and limit your environmental impact, you should first research their claim on the internet to determine its veracity. It's often the case that this advice will lead some to adopt more harmful lifestyle practices, rather than mitigating their effect on the environment.

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to deliver information about green living and alternative energy articles, so keep visiting!

3 Ways To Make Your Tailgate Party Eco-Friendly

Football season is in full swing, which means that many American families and sports fans are heading out to stadiums every Sunday (or Saturday for college) to have tailgate parties before the big game. While green living may not be your priority when you're grilling up hot dogs and playing catch with your kids, there are some pretty easy ways to make these occasions more environmentally friendly.

Here are some tips for going green at the game, courtesy of Living Green Magazine:

  • Car Pool: Commuting to work isn't the only time when carpooling makes sense. Football stadiums are often many miles away from urban centers, which means most people drive long distances to attend. Rather than taking your car, try to hitch a ride with the other people you're attending the game with. This helps save gas and reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
  • Don't use charcoal: Instead of using a traditional charcoal barbeque, invest in a propane grill. This produces a lot less CO2 emissions, as well as the particulate matter that can damage the lungs of anyone standing nearby.
  • Recycle cans and bottles: If you're throwing back a few beers or sodas, don't forget to recycle. Even if there isn't a receptacle near your tailgating location, you should still make an effort to collect empty containers in a bag, then bring them home and add them to your recycling bin.

Following green ideas doesn't mean you can't still have fun. These tips are effective, easy to adhere to and don't limit your enjoyment of the party or the game in any way.

Keep visiting LifeIsGreen.com for more energy conservation tips and ideas.

Another Study Shows That Energy Efficiency Saves Money

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA), a consumer advocacy group, has published a study that provides further evidence in favor of energy efficiency as a way for homes and businesses to save substantial amounts of money. The CFA found by studying the results of several other reports that American energy consumers could save up to $1,000 per year simply by becoming more efficient in their power and transportation usage and habits.

U.S. households spend an average of $4,600 a year on energy, much more than they spend on food, entertainment or clothing. But the CFA reports that this is much higher than what it calls the "optimum level," at which Americans are using only as much energy as they actually need. The report attributes this disparity between actual consumption and ideal consumption to market inefficiencies.

"Some analysts doubt the money-saving potential of energy efficiency standards because they assume that energy markets work perfectly and automatically push consumers toward money-saving, energy-efficient options," Mark Cooper, Director of Research for CFA, said in a press release. "But that's not how the real world works."

Something that should be noted is that policy proposals such as cap-and-trade and a carbon tax have been proposed, which would go a long way toward correcting market inefficiencies. At present, the price of fossil fuels does not reflect the externalized cost of consuming such goods, namely climate change. Quantifying those costs and passing them on to the consumer would make efficiency measures even more enticing for both homeowners and businesses while spurring growth in the renewable energy industry.

Keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com for more news and information on ways to save energy.

Is The U.S. Making Real Progress On Climate Change?

Recently the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its annual report on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and the news was relatively good for advocates of green living. What was particularly positive about the report is that the decline wasn't the result of a shrinking economy, as had been the case in 2009. In fact, U.S. GDP grew 2.8 percent in 2012, while CO2 emissions were down 3.8 percent.

Does this mean that the catastrophe of climate change has been averted and we have nothing to worry about? Not really. As environmental news site Grist notes, there's still quite a bit of action required on the part of both the U.S. and the globe to bring down emissions and make our economies more efficient. This is complicated by three factors:

  • CO2 isn't the only greenhouse gas. Methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases all contribute to climate change, so they must also be the target of reduction efforts.
  • The U.S. has to continue this decline in CO2 pollution for many years to reduce the effects of anthropogenic climate change. According to Grist, global emissions would have to be cut 60 percent by 2050 in order for the atmosphere to stabilize at 450 parts per million of CO2, which is considered a pretty optimistic, and unrealistic, goal.
  • U.S. politicians don't control the actions of other governments, which means that even if we succeed in cutting emissions significantly, it won't mean much if other developing countries don't make similar efforts of their own accord.

Hopefully, the EIA's report will serve as motivation for environmental advocates and policy makers to continue those programs and efforts that are responsible for the progress that has been made.

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to provide green energy news and information, so keep visiting!

New York Switching To LED Streetlights

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is continuing his aggressive efforts to make New York City more environmentally friendly by switching all of the city’s streetlights to light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, replacing its high-pressure sodium lights, which are less efficient and have shorter life spans. The project was announced at a news conference in Brooklyn on October 24, where Bloomberg and Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s transportation commissioner, showed off the knew “cobra-headed” streetlights.

The program is expected to save the city $14 million annually in electricity costs and maintenance. LED bulbs can last up to 20 years, more than three times the lifespan of a typical sodium light. The project has a budget of $76.5 million, meaning that it will pay for itself within a 6-year period.

Ms. Sadik-Khan told reporters that the lights will produce a better quality of illumination than the amber, yellowish glow of the bulbs they are replacing.

“People tend to like them,” she told The New York Times. “It’s clear. It’s bright. It really does a good job in providing fresher light.”

The project received funding through New York’s Accelerated Conservation and Efficiency initiative (ACE), which provides financing for clean technology and efficiency projects through a fast-tracked, streamlined bidding process. Such programs are common for environmental efforts, as litigation from interest groups can often bog down the procurement process for municipal improvement projects. While it’s important that such efforts adversely effect as few citizens as possible, there are times when green business ideas such as solar and wind installations are indefinitely suspended due to endless lawsuits and complaints from parties with frivolous claims.

Keep visiting LifeIsGreen.com as we continue to provide news and information about green technology.

Team Austria Wins The 2013 U.S. Solar Decathlon

Team Austria, featuring students from the Vienna University of Technology, won the sixth U.S. Solar Decathlon earlier this month, defeating teams from all over the world in designing a house that is environmentally friendly, relies on solar power, is affordable and is aesthetically pleasing. Their house, called Living Inspired by Sustainable Innovation (LISI), incorporated all these features and scored highly in the ten categories used to judge entrants.

The Solar Decathlon is a competition hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy, which challenges groups of students from several universities to build homes that demonstrate the economic viability of green housing. This year's competition took place at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California, from October 3 to 13, and featured 19 teams from schools as diverse as Stanford University and Czech Technical University.

The LISI house includes many great eco-friendly features, including:

  • A subfloor heating system that regulates heating and cooling
  • An herb garden that is irrigated with a rainwater basin
  • Photovoltaic panels that produce a net surplus of electricity for the house
  • Occupant ability to control temperatures and lighting from a tablet computer.

"LISI will be used by everyone – not just architects, engineers and technicians," Stefan Bachl, a member of Team Vienna, said on the team's website. "Therefore, we strived to understand the needs of its users and build an app which fits into the overall user experience LISI is providing to its habitants. The result is a both well designed and easy to use tablet app that is simple yet feature complete."

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to provide news and information on ways to save energy, so stay tuned for more!

Wizard Gadgetry Tree Hugging for Greener Driving

Platooning Drive

Tech innovation that looks like pipe dreams at the moment may one day help lower your carbon footprint — not to mention save you some money. Welcome to the age of tree hugging through technology.

Learning From NASCAR

Electric vehicles (EVs) that charge wirelessly, remote-controlled commuter convoys, and other tantalizing technical concepts down the road bring fresh ideas to taming the second-largest source of carbon-dioxide emissions on the planet — transportation.

Racing fans should think of NASCAR drivers “drafting” bumper-to-bumper at hundreds of miles an hour around a track. They’re cutting turbulence and save precious fuel, sure, but they’re also shrinking their carbon footprint. The European Union (EU) is testing a computer-controlled highway convoy that wirelessly links up to seven vehicles in tight formation behind a professional driver, according to CNet. The phenomenon called “platooning” works like this:

  1. You enter the highway, signaling a convoy headed your way.
  2. You relinquish control of your vehicle to a professional driver at the head of the convoy, who…
  3. …guides your vehicle into line, and then operates it remotely.

You then sit back, phoning, texting, or simply relaxing until you see your exit. According to the brains behind the Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) concept, this approach could save 20 percent on fuel, cutting commute time and congestion.

We’ll have to wait for their results to see how such a thing might be applied in the U.S. The reason you can’t just try it yourself, of course, is that it’s illegal. To be ready for the change when it comes you could always get yourself a 2014 Mercedes-Benz S class luxo-cruiser. Just take a glimpse into Car and Driver website, and you’ll see how it’s all wired up for the future.

Charge Your EV Wirelessly

Electric cars are our automotive future, they keep telling us, but all that charging hassle keeps prospective buyers from trying them out. It turns out magnetic induction — the same technology used in electric toothbrushes, pacemakers, and other consumer devices — can charge EV batteries wirelessly, too. Nissan, maker of the fully-electric car, the Leaf, has demonstrated a system that charges a parked car that way. The Japanese automaker wants to implant induction charging strips right into the road surface so cars can get their juice on the go.

To try this wireless EV charging for yourself, AutoGuide.com suggests putting a deposit down on a 2015 Toyota Prius which will offer the new technology.

High Tech Curbs Urban Carbon Footprint

The high-tech ideas for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the city just keep coming. Consider the following:

  • Stackable CityCar — The CityCar is a proposal from the Smart Cities program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a 2-passenger EV available as-needed. Micro cars parked tip-to-tail in special racks, they’d have a jointed driveshaft for scrunching up even more.
  • All Meshed Up — GoLoco is a high-tech mashup of social networking and carpooling from the co-founder of Zipcar. This distributed mesh network will enable America’s millions of cars to share up-to-the-second information making them “radically more efficient.”

These two urban concepts could show up anywhere from Sacramento to your hometown, where you can take part. Meanwhile, to go green when driving in Indianapolis while saving gas, you can browse through used cars with the SmartWay leaf signature on them at a nearby DriveTime location. It may be tempting to give in to your emotions when shopping for a car, and just start drooling over your favorite brands, leather interior options or car stereo hookups. However, doing your part to stay green is not only good karma, but will make you look hip in the process.

The Case For Linoleum

In the past we've talked about how cork flooring presents one of the best alternatives to conventional flooring materials for homeowners devoted to green living. Another option that may provide more flexibility in terms of color and style is linoleum.

Yes, that linoleum. You may remember it as the ugly material that you stepped on when roaming your high school hallways, or perhaps you used it for craft projects in art classes. While linoleum isn't exactly new technology, it remains one of the most sustainably produced, practical and aesthetically tasteful flooring options.

For starters, linoleum is made from linseed oil, which is derived from the linseed plant. As Living Green Magazine notes, the other materials used to make up linoleum, including the pine rosin and wood flour that give it its structure, are derived from renewable sources, typically sustainably-raised pine trees.

Like cork flooring, its also water resistant and easy to clean. Not only does this keep it from rotting, but it also makes it less susceptible to bacterial growth, which can affect your family's health.

But most importantly for the stylish homeowner, linoleum is no longer the ugly, dull material that you remember from your childhood. Manufacturers such as Forbo Flooring, who produce their own trademarked formula known as Marmoleum, have created linoleum flooring systems in hundreds of colors and styles, and one of the benefits of this material is that it doesn't lose its color over time. The pigments penetrate beneath the surface, so even as you continue to walk on it, it will retain its vibrancy.

If you're planning to redo your floors any time soon, consider linoleum for an environmentally friendly option.

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to provide you with news and information on eco friendly products.

Green Ideas For College Students

Something that unites most college students is the fact that they don't have a lot of money. Being in school means you either need to work part-time, or in the case of some students, not at all. And tuition payments, along with buying books, living expenses and football game tickets, can be pretty high these days. As a result, most students are looking for ways to save money. Although green living is often associated with wealthier people who can afford special energy-efficient products, in fact there are many ways to adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle without having to spend much.

Here are some tips for going green affordably, courtesy of environmental news site GreenFudge.org:

  • Get a bike: College campuses can be enormous, and sometimes you need to get across campus quickly to make your next class. Riding a bike in between your courses will give you some daily exercise, which is sometimes hard to accomplish with a busy college schedule. And it will allow you to travel much more quickly and efficiently than you would with a car or campus shuttle.
  • Grow your own food: It's really not very difficult to grow your own fruits and vegetables, even indoors. If you have some space, one of the best ways to accomplish this is to build your own hydroponics or aquaponics garden.
  • Take showers instead of baths: A long soak in a bath tub may feel nice at the end of a long day of tests, but showers are cleaner and use a lot less water.

Keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com for more green living ideas.

What Can Groningen Teach Us About Creating Bike-Friendly Cities?

In recent years, U.S. cities have made great strides in creating bike-friendly infrastructure that encourages residents to leave their car at home and travel everywhere by bike, one of the best ways to save energy. But in many areas, transportation policy still focuses on automobiles, which means that adding bike lanes and storage areas becomes an afterthought for city planning officials, rather than something that is integral to the urban lifestyle.

The same cannot be said about Groningen, a city in the Netherlands, where a combination of happenstance and innovative urban planning have produced a thriving bike culture unlike any in the United States. Nearly 50 percent of trips in Groningen are made using bicycles, and in the city's compact center, hardly any cars can be seen. Instead, commuters use their bikes to go to work and run errands.

What led Groningen to become so bike-centric?

The city used to be a fortress town that controlled the flow of traffic into Germany, and it was constructed within the walls of that fortress. This meant that rather than building out and creating sprawl, the city built inward and up, making it denser and more compact. Then, in the 1970's, Groningen was divided into four quadrants, and cars were forbidden from traveling directly from one quadrant to another. Instead, auto traffic was diverted to a circular road around the city, which made such commutes take significantly longer than traveling by bike.

Additionally, the city created numerous bike lanes and parking areas for those bicycles, providing further incentives for residents to travel on two wheels rather than four.

What can American cities learn from Groningen's experience?

One of the main reasons that similar policies aren't enacted in this country is intense political opposition to anything that would limit car traffic. For example, when New York recently implemented its Citi Bikes bicycle sharing program, shopkeepers all over Manhattan and Brooklyn protested that the creation of more bike lanes and the removal of parking spots would scare away customers and cause businesses to lose money. Similar political controversy in other communities has created a situation in which bike advocates are fighting an uphill battle for even the most basic accommodations such as dedicated lanes and parking areas.

But Groningen's urban planners dealt with the same controversy when the quadrant system was first developed, and stuck to their plan anyway. The Atlantic Cities, an urban lifestyle website, points out that the same interest groups, mostly businesses, opposed the policy, claiming that they would lose out on revenue. Some threatened to leave entirely.

"Wonder of wonders, the world didn't collapse," Greg Ashworth, a professor at the University of Groningen, tells the source. "The shops didn't leave the city. The police found, yes, people could learn how to handle this plan. People adapted to it."

What policies would create a better biking experience in U.S. communities?

American urban planners can do more to incentivize denser development and up-zoning, relieving building height limits and parking minimums that contribute to sprawl. Areas such as Los Angeles and Silicon Valley are fairly expansive, so the key is to create localized communities with better bike infrastructure, taller buildings and more toll roads that encourage residents to abandon cars in favor of walking and bicycles.

Unfortunately, European lifestyles are sometimes stigmatized in the U.S. as being less robust and more minimalist, but if Americans want to enjoy cleaner air, green living and healthier lifestyles, there's a lot we can learn from countries like The Netherlands and Denmark that have done a good job of incorporating these features into their urban environments.