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Make your yard a Certified Wildlife Habitat

by Jessica Hunt with Preservation Properties

 

When writing recently on native and drought-tolerant plants for California landscaping, I came across this little tidbit: The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has a program, “that helps members turn their backyards into wildlife havens.” How spectacular!Bird

Being a national organization, this program applies all over the country, not just to California. And you can certify your garden to be one of 140,000 Certified Wildlife Habitats across the U.S.!

The cost is minimal ($20 dollars and is what you’d pay for a good plant, so consider it part of the landscaping budget), and you get certified. You also become a member of the NWF with a year subscription to its award-winning National Wildlife magazine, plus a subscription to the quarterly tip-filled newsletter which will help you run and maintain your habitat, and your name will be listed in the NWF national registry of certified habitats.

The best part is that it’s not as difficult as it might sound to get your yard up to snuff. You need some basic amenities for the critters that most yards probably already have to one degree or another, stated as per NFW’s site:

  • Food sources like native plants
  • Water sources like birdbaths or fountains
  • Places to take cover like birdhouses or thickets
  • Places to raise young like dense vegetation or shrubs or nesting boxes
  • Sustainable gardening like chemical-free fertilizers and compost

This program can be instigated just about anywhere: on your college campus, at your child’s school, or in any other community garden area. Check out The National Wildlife Federation’s website for details and more information on how easy it is to turn your outdoor space into a wildlife habitat!

--Jocelyn Broyles

Headline image by Howard Cheek from TheNationalWildlifeFederation.org

All information from National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat™ program.'


This article comes from Yahoo Green

Six ways to go green and save money in 2011

by Preservation Properties

Since the economy imploded and the value of most peoples' 401k's have dropped faster than a cheapskate bending over to pick up loose change on a sidewalk, I've been thinking a lot about the investing side of personal finance. In part, that's because in the New Economy I think the smart money is on investing in things that decrease your cost of living, as opposed to things that you hope will increase your net worth.

google map to real pro systems

If you believe, as I do, that the economic volatility is far from over -- that we may just be seeing the leading edge of fundamental changes in the way we live and the type of economy we've always known -- then maybe it's time to adopt a different perspective when it comes to investing.

In the New Economy, maybe the question should be: How much will this investment save? Not: How much will this investment earn? Maybe it's time to invest more in ourselves, to equip ourselves to live more self-sufficiently, to take stock in ourselves and reap the guaranteed dividends of our own performance, rather than continue to speculate on the hypothetical performance of our stock portfolios. Maybe we'll be better served and happier if we stop fixating on traditional ROI (Return on Investment) and instead focus on a new ROI -- Return on Independence.

In this spirit of financial independence, here are six surefire investments that will save you money and make you more self-sufficient in the New Year:

1. Energy efficiency and generation: A recent study by the University of California-Davis claims that world oil supplies will run out 90 years before replacement energy technologies are fully developed, based on the current pace of research and development. You don't need to have a degree in economics to realize that energy -- particularly petroleum-based energy -- is only going to keep getting more expensive as supplies dwindle.

From simple things like installing programmable thermostats at home and consolidating errands to save gas whenever you leave your driveway, to more elaborate and costly energy-savings solutions like hybrid vehicles, Energy Star appliances, and solar and geothermal home energy systems, investing in things that reduce energy consumption or help you generate your own energy are almost always smart money moves.

In recent years the federal and state governments have even been providing a tank-full of tax incentives to encourage consumers to conserve and generate energy, making the financial proposition that much more attractive.

2. Tools: I've always said that when shopping for tools, don't be cheap. You should generally buy the best that you can possibly afford.

From power and hand tools to kitchen knives, gardening implements to sewing machines, by buying quality tools your do-it-yourself projects will be easier, more enjoyable, and turn out better. Plus, by making the front-end investment in quality tools, you'll be motivated to take on more projects yourself and save even more.

As a longtime DIY'er, I can tell you that with the slump in the construction and home improvement trades, at least in my part of the country I'm seeing some of the lowest prices on tools and building supplies in years. When it comes to tools, it's a buyer's -- and builder's -- market.

3. Education/skills: As a teacher friend of mine always says, "Your education is the one thing no one can ever take away from you." Today, with unemployment nearing double digits, skills and knowledge can make the difference between a paycheck and an unemployment line.

Whether it's going back to school to pick up some classes to bolster your resume, or just taking some non-credit classes to learn a new skill so that you can do more things for yourself, America's 1,600 community colleges are likely to be where you'll find the best value for your tuition dollars. Since the start of the recession, community college enrollment has increased by almost 10% per year. At community colleges you typically pay only about 10% of what tuition costs at the average four-year college.

4. Paying down debt: Perhaps the greatest asset you can have in the New Economy isn't something you own, but rather something you don't own: DEBT. With the uncertain job market and current investment climate, paying off debt -- including aggressively paying down your home mortgage -- is, in my opinion, the smartest investment you can make. And since the start of the recession, smart consumers have been doing just that.

We've been borrowing less than in nearly 20 years, and we've raised the personal savings rate to 6% (compare that to China's saving rate, which is estimated at 30 to 40%). Still think it doesn't make financial sense to pay off your home mortgage early? If you've never experienced the peace of mind that comes from sleeping under a roof that you own free and clear, I guess you just can't understand.

5. Now that's a growth fund: Here's a prediction that you can take to the bank: Food prices are going to continue to increase. Resolve to start raising more of your own food in 2011 by planting a backyard vegetable garden, tending a plot of your own at a local community garden, or buying a share and pitching in at a local farm through a Community Supported Agriculture program.

Don't have space for a veggie garden? Try planting a few easy-to-grow perennial vegetables alongside the petunias in your flowerbed. Or grow some herbs in pots on the windowsill -- they'll not only save you money on cooking spices, but they might lower your medical expenses as well.

And invest in planting a few trees around the yard while you're at it; not only will they increase your home's value, but according to the U.S. Department of Energy, planting as few as three strategically placed trees in your yard can reduce your heating and cooling expenses by up to 20%.

6. Health/fitness: Regardless of your views on healthcare reform, you can't lose if you start reforming your own health in the New Year. Young people often ask me for financial advice, and I tell them that the single biggest thing they can do to ensure a healthy financial future is to maintain their physical health and stay fit. It's not just a matter of saving big money on future healthcare costs, but most people generate most of their lifetime wealth through their labor, not through investments. In order to work, you obviously need to be healthy. What's more, getting and staying fit doesn't need to cost a lot.

Some of the healthiest foods you can eat happen to cost the least -- often under $1 a pound -- if you shop smart. And you can skip the expensive health club membership if you simply start doing more things for yourself, which will save you even more.

There's an old cheapskate saying: The surest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your wallet. Particularly in this New Economy, investing in things that save you money and make you more self-sufficient is the best way I know to protect your financial future and the future of the planet as well. I wish you a happy, prosperous, and green New Year.

 

This article is brought to you by Jeff Yeager at Yahoo.

 

Household Chemicals & Indoor Air Quality

by Preservation Properties

"If you don't have your health, you don't have anything." This is a saying that is so old but as true today as it was when it was first uttered. Don't worry. While the topic of household chemicals and indoor air quality is very serious, some of the solutions are quite fun! From new cleaning products to paints, and from body care products to cosmetics, there are many fun, clean, and beautiful options that make living healthy worth living!

1 The Secret Chemicals in Fragrances
2 10 Ingredients To Avoid In Your Face Products
3 Bubble Trouble: What Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?
4 How To Read Labels and Avoid Toxic Cleaning Products
5 Hygiene Products for Dummies: Cosmetic Safety Database

6 The 10 Best All-Natural and Organic Mattress Sources
7 The Dirt on Bleach: What Makes Chlorine Bleach Bad News
8 The Best Interior Paints with Low Toxicity
9 What is BPA, a.k.a. Bisphenol A?
10 How Worried Should We Be About Everyday Chemicals?

Green Decade November 2010

by Preservation Properties

Please click here to check out this month's Green Decade newsletter from Newton's Green Decade at http://greendecade.org

Green Decade's mission is to create an environment in better balance with the natural world by making significant, measurable improvements in the way we use resources. Goals include helping households, businesses and institutions to:

  • Increase energy efficiency and seek alternatives to fossil and nuclear fuels  
  • Use IPM and organic alternatives to pesticides
  • Promote high performance (green) building measures
  • Prevent pollution through source reduction and reduced consumption
  • Promote reuse and recycling practices
  • Improve waste disposal practices
  • Conserve water and other resources

-The Team at Preservation Properties

 

"E" Inc. Opens Storefront Museum - The Learning Room

by Preservation Properties

“e” inc., a Boston-based non profit that promotes environmental science literacy, just opened a storefront Museum this month.

The Learning Room will be a warehouse space to teach students – and the general public – about the science of sustainability with the goal of sparking community action in urban communities.

The group already works with more than 800 students in after school and summer programs.

The storefront museum is designed to teach environmental science to children, youth and families, inspire civic leadership, and train teachers and adults to create and carry out projects to help the environment.

The free opening is on Friday, October 1, from 4 to 6 p.m. at “e” inc.’s headquarters at 337 Summer Street. Afterward, a visit will cost $5 per child for the public and schools will pay a fee for field trips.

“Our aim is to reach every child, teen and family in the Greater Boston area and help them learn about how the Earth works and what they can do to protect it,’’ said “e” inc. director Ricky Stern. “The room is really such a wonderful opportunity for kids to really try things and ideas on and see how they are made or related -- we have them go outside and unroll a 100 foot rope just to see how huge a blue whale is.’’

This article is brought to you by Boston.com's Green Blog: http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/green/greenblog/2010/09/storefront_environmental_museu.html

Home Depot and Habitat to Build 5,000 Green Homes

by Preservation Properties

The Home Depot Foundation and Habitat for Humanity have announced the national expansion of Partners in Sustainable Building (PSB), a five-year $30 million green building initiative that will help incorporate sustainable building practices in 5,000 green homes nationwide. More than 135 Habitat affiliates across 42 states will receive 3,000 for each home built to ENERGY STAR standards and up to $5,000 for each home built to a higher green standard. The Home Depot Foundation president, Kelly Caffarelli, states that she hopes their partnership with Habitat for Humanity is able to bring the "practical financial and health benefits of green building and maintenance to families of modest incomes."

From the official release:

Through the sustainable building program, participating Habitat for Humanity affiliates have already certified nearly 1,500 sustainably built homes nationwide. By incorporating practices such as creating a tight building envelope and using efficient, durable materials in the construction process, many of these homes achieved green building certification with little additional cost. In many instances, the homes also benefit from landscaping projects that feature native plants, trees and other features that provide valuable shade and ground cover. The homes also include features that help them operate efficiently, including:
  • High-efficiency appliances
  • Water-conserving plumbing fixtures
  • Programmable thermostats
  • Low- and No-VOC paints
  • Quality insulation and ventilation systems
Results from the first year of the program show energy savings, lower utility bills and health benefits for the homeowners. According to the U.S. EPA, by following green building standards, homeowners can potentially see a savings of 30 percent or more in their utility bills.
(http://www.homedepotfoundation.org/assets/files/Yr-2_PSB_Grant_Announcement_Release-FINAL_090810%20(2).pdf)

Niagara's New Eco-Friendly Toilet!

by Preservation Properties

2010_9_16_Niagara.jpg

Niagara has recently come out with the Stealth Toilet which uses only 0.8 gallons per flush. How does it work?

While it looks pretty much like any typical toilet, the new Stealth saves 37% more water than a typical toliet. How does it work? According to the manufacturer:

During Filling:
Water fills the tank and inner chamber, forcing air to the top of the chamber and down the transfer tube. Positive pressure is exerted on the water in the bowl by the air being forced through the transfer tube into the trapway. A larger water surface area is created in the bowl due to the pressurized trapway.
During Flushing:
Inside the inner chamber, the exiting water creates a vacuum effect that depressurizes the trapway. As the trapway depressurizes, a suction force is created that pulls the wastewater into the trapway. The trapway is completely filled producing an extremely efficient flush. Water exiting the tank cleans the bowl and flushes waste down the trapway.

Priced between $310 and $325 the Stealth Toilet is a great way to conserve water behind the scenes.

Find out more at Niagara Conservation.

(This post comes from ApartmentTherapy.com)

How To Shop For Environmentally-Friendly Rug

by Preservation Properties

So, you'd like to get an "eco-friendly" rug, but you're probably wondering: what does that even mean? Get informed and confident about your purchase with these 5 shopping tips:

1. Look for natural fibers. Over 90% of all the carpets and most machine-made rugs are made of petroleum-based synthetic fiber, which can off-gas a lot of VOCs. In contrast, natural fiber rugs are made from renewable resources, are biodegradable, many (like wool) have natural stain resistance, and they emit low amounts of VOCs. Try to choose from the following fibers: untreated or minimally-treated wool, organic cotton, jute, seagrass, sisal, and coir.

2. Look for non-toxic backing and underlay pads. It's important that rug backings and underlay pads are also made of untreated natural materials to prevent off-gassing. Look for pads made from untreated wool or camel's hair felt that are sewn, not glued, to a jute backing. Or, look for a natural latex backing, wwhich is preferable to foam rubber, synthetic latex, or plastic.

3. Ask about the chemical treatments. Even if the rug was made with a natural fiber, many times those fibers can still be treated with stain, insect, or flame repellents, all of which can emit VOCs. For example, sheep raised with conventional farming practices are often dipped in pesticide baths to control parasites such as lice, ticks, and mites, which creates a lot of health risks for the sheep and the workers. Wool fiber is also traditionally processed with solvents and detergents. Cotton farming consumes on average 25% percent of all chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and relies on large amounts of synthetic chemicals, including fixers and dyes. Organic cotton, on the other hand, is grown and processed without dioxin-producing bleach, defoliants, pesticides, or artificial fertilizers. So look for rugs that are labeled as organic, untreated, minimally-treated, or non-toxic.

4. Look at the certifications. Trying to find out all these details as an individual consumer can be difficult, if not impossible sometimes, so that's when it's good to buy a rug whose environmental and health claims have been verified by an independent organization. The best certifications guarantee that the rugs in question are made from renewable resources or recycled materials and that the company has taken steps to reduce pollutants and waste from the manufacturing process. A few certifications to keep your eye out for:


5. Check out Take Back programs for synthetic rugs. If you do purchase a synthetic rug, check if the manufacturer has a take-back program. When a rug or carpet is returned to the manufacturer, it's either used to make a new carpet (closed loop recycling), cleaned, refurbished and given to a charity (repurpose), or stripped into its components and made into new, lesser products like auto parts, carpet pads, plastic lumber, sound barriers, landscape timbers, nylon pallets, and parking stops (downcycling). The Carpet America Recovery Program (CARE) is an independent organization designed to encourage manufacturers to assume responsibility for a carpet’s lifecycle, including its disposal. Check out their website for rug recycling locations.

Empires of Food Book Signing

by Preservation Properties

http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/green/greenblog/2010/09/empires_of_food_book_signing.html

The Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE) is hosting Andrew Rimas, co-author of the book Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations for a book reading and signing on Friday at 6:30pm. After the event, there will be complimentary hor d'oeuvres and wine. The event is free, but you must RSVP: information@bcae.org

Devices That Help Plug Electrical Leaks

by Preservation Properties

I just saw this article from the New York Times

You dutifully sort your plastic and paper. You are hip to the latest low- and no-VOC paints. You have even thought about buying a hybrid car. But what about the electricity you use at home? Not only does it come at a cost to the environment, but it also costs you — to the tune of $2,200 a year, on average, for a single-family home.

A “smart” power strip from Belkin can learn what to turn off and what to keep on.

Hand-held gadgets with batteries are great about communicating their energy needs (“recharge me if you ever want to hear Scritti Politti again!”), but what about the bigger machines in your home — the ones that lazily slurp up power all day long even, in some cases, when you think they are turned off? What can you do about them?

Spend any time reading about the country’s electrical infrastructure, and you might think a solution is around the corner. Politicians and policy wonks use phrases like “smart grid.” In the future, they say, we will all live in intelligent homes that will not only take from but also give back to the energy matrix.

In the meantime, there are a number of products to help you track and manage your energy consumption.

VAMPIRES AMONG US

Vampire power may sound like a radical movement of “Twilight” fans, but it is far more mundane. The open secret is this: The things you turn off, like televisions, DVD players, cable boxes? They’re not really “off.” Many devices have to maintain a trickle of electricity (indicated by those little red LEDs that glow) to receive a signal from a remote control or display a digital clock.

This has been more an offense to people’s principles than to their finances. Under the best (or worst) of circumstances, vampire power accounts for tens of dollars a year — not enough to make a real dent in your savings, but still, money that could be saved. Until recently, the only way to ensure that these things were truly power-free was to take direct, manual action, like unplugging the TV from the wall or turning off a power strip’s switch.

But who wants to do that several times a day? The less motivated but still guilt-ridden can get the same result by buying a “smart” power strip. There are many models, but the goal is the same: to cut all power to devices that do not require it when they are turned off, while continuing to supply electricity to things that do, like DVRs. Belkin, the tech-accessory maker, has a smart strip called the Conserve AV that retails for about $30. When you turn off your TV, the strip knows to shut off power to other devices (like your DVD player and your home-theater system) that are plugged into it as well.

Another handy device from Belkin, the Conserve Insight (also about $30, available in September), measures the energy draw of plug-in appliances. It allows you to identify the worst offenders and estimate their cost, in dollars, kilowatts or pounds of carbon dioxide.

THRIFTY PRODUCTS

In the future, efficiencies will not be add-ons — they will be built into the products themselves. Some progress is already being made.

Apple’s new AA-battery charger (about $30), for instance, shifts into low-energy mode once it has finished recharging a pair of batteries.

Lutron’s Eco-Home dimmers have a variety of enlightened energy functions. The Maestro Eco-Minder dimmer (about $46 at lutronstore.com) encourages conservation with LEDs that change from red to green when your lights are dimmed 15 percent or more. It’s a subtle reminder to dial back when you do not need operating-room levels of illumination.

The company’s Maestro Eco-Timer (about $48) automatically shuts off power after a certain length of time, making it useful for bathroom fans and vestibule lights. And its Maestro Dimmer with Vacancy Sensor ($54) can determine when a room is unoccupied, shutting off the lights when no one is home.

CLIMATE CONTROL

 The best tool for getting energy use under control may be one that many people already have — a programmable thermostat.

The energy spent on heating and cooling generally far outweighs the energy used by consumer electronics, appliances or lighting. What’s more, there’s a real opportunity for savings because people often do not take full advantage of their digital thermostats.

“It’s just a pain to program them,” said Seth Frader-Thompson, the chief executive of EnergyHub, a start-up company that is designing an easy-to-use thermostat and energy control system. “The interfaces are really obtuse.”

Mr. Frader-Thompson estimates that about 80 percent of Americans do not use the settings. “It’s just like the 12 o’clock blinking on the VCR,” he said.

In fact, because a thermostat’s effectiveness is entirely dependent on how it is installed and set up, Energy Star stopped rating them in 2009. The government program estimates that a properly programmed thermostat can save an average of $180 annually.

Lutron’s Maestro Eco-Timer shuts off power after a length of time; it can be useful for fans and vestibule lights.

Apple’s AA-battery charger draws less power once it has finished recharging a pair of batteries.

The first step is to find the manual and set aside 15 minutes for programming. (If you no longer have the manual, search for an electronic copy online, using the model number.)

The next step is setting comfortable morning and evening temperatures, and day and sleep temperatures, to keep the heating and air-conditioning systems from working too hard. Energy Star’s recommended settings, listed on its Web site (energystar.gov), are a good starting point.

For those who do not have a programmable thermostat, upgrading to one (which costs about $50) can be an easy do-it-yourself project or a quick job for an electrician, who may also help you with the setup. When choosing a model, keep in mind that simplicity is crucial, but make sure it has modes for weekends and weekdays.

ONLINE INSIGHTS

 Another way to get control of your energy use is to squeeze more information out of your utility bill. Several free Web sites may show your usage history more clearly than your bill. Earth Aid (earthaid.net) synchronizes with your utilities’ accounts and shows your electricity, gas and water use in colorful graphs; it also compares your usage with that of any neighbors who are members.

Google’s PowerMeter (google.com/powermeter) site and Microsoft’s Hohm (microsoft-hohm.com) offer a similar free service, with number-crunching graphs and efficiency recommendations. Earth Aid’s service, however, connects with more than 200 power, gas and water companies — far more than its competitors. It also rewards good behavior: If you curtail 75 kilowatt hours, for example, you earn points redeemable for a dog wash. Or a cupcake.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

 The biggest gains for energy management will come once most traditional electrical meters have been replaced with smart meters. This will facilitate two-way communication between a home and the power grid and will also allow homeowners to take advantage of off-peak pricing, when power rates are lowest. The eventual result will be appliances that can make efficient decisions, like a dishwasher that waits until rates are lowest to run its cycle.

But widespread installation of smart meters isn’t expected until 2020; less than 10 percent of American meters now in use have the technology. And smart appliances are still hard to find.

If “Jetsons” wizardry is something you can’t wait for, utilities around the country are running pilot programs that bring smart meters and forward-looking technology into a few homes. In Queens, for example, Con Edison is outfitting 300 homes with smart meters and energy-monitoring equipment; a small control panel displays real-time energy use for appliances that can be turned on or off remotely. Your utility company can tell you if similar programs are available for you to test drive.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 22

Contact Information

Preservation Properties
439 Newtonville Avenue
Newtonville MA 02460
Office: 617.527.3700
Fax: 617.527.2050