living green

5 Tips to have a Greener Holiday Season

greener holiday seasonDuring a season dedicated to gatherings, gifts, and baked goods, I’d like to offer some simple ways you can reduce your footprint and have a greener holiday season.


  • Upgrade to LED holiday light strings. They may cost a bit more up front, but they’ll save you plenty in electricity use, and will last forever. As LED technology grows, you can now find strings that have that desirable yellow-white light rather than just the blueish white that you may associate with LED holiday lights. (Although I happen to think that the blueish white strings are spectacular for outdoor decorating.) Plus, no more half burnt out strings of lights.


  • Wrap your presents in recycled paper – either from the store, or make your own using grocery bags or cloth. Or reuse gift bags that you’ve received in years past. Keep in mind that tissue paper is not recycleable, so if you receive a gift wrapped with tissue paper, try to resuse it in your own wrapping in the future.
  • Giving American made gifts not only supports our economy, but it also reduces that energy required to transport products from factory to store. Better yet, look for gifts that are made within your own community, or give experiences like dinners out, theater or sporting event tickets, or museum and zoo memberships.

Cooking and Baking

  • If you’re going to be spending all day in the kitchen doing a marathon baking session, turn the thermostat down a few degrees – the kitchen will still be toasty warm from the heat of the oven!
  • Americans throw out huge amounts of food waste every day. You can help reduce that by thinking through your holiday menu plan and carefully considering how much food to make. Try not to make more than will get eaten during the meal or as left overs. And remember that you can keep adding to your compost pile all winter long rather than throwing out your kitchen scraps.

And with that, have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, and Happy New Year. I’ll be back with more posts after the New Year.

apartment living energy living green

Hang Drying Laundry in the Winter

Clothes dryers are an incredibly inefficient use of electricity. The typical dryer uses in the neighborhood of 5 kWhs of electricity, even energy efficient dryers use at best around 2 kWhs during their dry cycle. (To put that in some perspective, that’s the same amount of energy as a 100 watt incandescent bulb uses in 20 hours – or in the case of my 9 watt LED light bulbs, 220 hours!) In fact, running a clothes dryer uses more energy than any other appliance in a typical American household. That’s a lot of energy just to spin some hot air around.

These days, what with cloth diapering Cheeks McGee, I’m doing a load of laundry about every other day – 4 loads a week, we’ll say. And living in an apartment, we pay $1.50 for each cycle. Which means that if we were drying all of those loads, it would tack an additional $24 onto our expenses each month. That’s $312 a year.

So in the interest of saving energy and money, we hang dry our clothes. As I’ve written about before, in the summer heat and sun, our laundry is dry within a few hours. Now that the winter has firmly decided it’s here, we continue to hang dry our laundry, but now we hang it indoors. The shared basement laundry room in our apartment complex already had clothes lines, but in the past we’ve used a folding drying rack, the backs of chairs, the shower curtain rod, and basically anywhere else we could possibly hang a piece of clothing. It does take more than 3 hours for our laundry to be dry, but never longer than 24 hours. I bet aside from sweatshirts, most of it would be dry by morning if they hung over night. And running your clothing through the spin cycle can be really hard on it, so by hang drying we get more life out of our clothing as well.

Yes, we have to think ahead more than 2 hours if we want to wear something that is currently dirty. But right now, with the frequency we are doing laundry, that hasn’t been an issue. And in a clothing emergency, the dryer is still right there.

living green

How to take a greener road trip

greener road trip
“rushing” by Robert S. Donovan // CCBY


My family and I just returned home from a week of vacation, during which we took a road trip from Madison to Detroit. Road tripping might not be the greenest way to spend our vacation, but often it’s the transportation method that makes the most sense for our family. So I wanted to offer some tips for how you can use less energy on your next road trip.

Prepare your car

Cars run more efficiently when they are properly maintained, so go in and get your oil changed before you head out on your road trip. You can get a high efficiency oil filter that will help you get the best gas mileage during your drive. While you’re at it make sure your tires still have good tread and are properly inflated. Proper tire pressure will not only give you better gas mileage, but are also safer to drive on.

Pack lightly

A heavy car is going to need more gas to get around, so if you can lighten up your luggage, you’ll help gain some of those MPGs. I’m learning that this can certainly be difficult with a child in the picture. Turns out we didn’t even use the stroller on this vacation, we got along just fine with just a baby wearing carrier. Next time, unless we have specific plans, we’ll leave the stroller at home.

Check your route

Going from Madison to Detroit  we need to pass through Chicago, which seems to always mean getting stuck in traffic for at least a little bit. But it turns out that the optimal speed for gas mileage is somewhere between 50 – 60 miles per hour. On our way home, we saved ourselves the possible stop and go of the city and took one of the by-pass highways. We may have put a few more miles on the car, but we were able to skip the idling in traffic.

Drive smart

Not only does getting better gas mileage save you money at the pump, it also means you are releasing fewer lbs of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere with each trip. Once you’re on the road you can help increase those MPGs by using the windows instead of the air conditioner when you’re on city streets, but switching to AC with the windows rolled up once you hit about 50 miles per hour. Keeping a safe space between you and the car ahead of you not only gives you time to react to traffic, but also means you won’t necessarily be making quick stops, which can also burn up fuel.

Pack your own snacks

Gas station and rest stop food tends to be over packaged among other things. Packing your own snacks helps prevent waste, and gives you more options for road friendly food than the typical rest stop. We like to also bring a water bottle or two – for long trips we refill them at the rest stop drinking fountain.

Hopefully this list gave you a new idea or two about how you can make your next road trip a little greener.