Wednesday, December 22, 2010

11 Green Ways to Clean for the Holidays

One of the last things I do before the holiday gathering starts is clean my house. I suspect you might too. Or at the very least will need to do a through cleaning AFTER the holiday hordes have invaded your home.

You can still have a clean house and keep it a green house. Here are 11 tips for green cleaning from some of the coolest bloggers around. If you look closely at timestamp 0:40, you’ll see little ol’ me!

Monday, December 20, 2010

AEP GridSmart: Electricity Saving Tool or Intrusive?

When it comes to electricity, we all want it. We all need it. We keep creating more and more items that use it to make our lives easier or more fun or more efficient. However, I can’t help but think where is all of that extra electricity we use going to come from?

As it is, there are cities, even whole states, that consistently use more electricity than they can generate on their own. Building new power plants of any type (using alternative or conventional means of making electricity) is difficult because while everyone wants to reap the benefits (including myself) no one wants a new power plant in their backyard because it can mess with property values.

For now, the best course of action may be to collectively use what electricity we have a little more wisely. This is difficult, even for me. I really don’t know how much electricity I’m using until long after I’ve used it - at the end of the month when I get my bill.

One method is for electric companies, like mine, American Electric Power (AEP) to use gridSMART   smart meter and grid technology to reduce electricity consumption and improve system wide delivery and performance. It would mean having a smart meter, a Programmable Communicating Thermostat, and eventually appliances with smart chips in your home. That way, you can check your use in real time on line, be billed for your use at a flexible billing rate, and make adjustments as you see fit.  

 A conventional electric meter next to a digital smart meter

It sounds great! I also like that the gridSMART technology runs on auto pilot much like my current programmable thermostat. The only difference is that unlike my current programmable thermostat (which I learned that most people don’t use because programming them can be a pain) the Programmable Communicating Thermostat is easier to program. The Programmable Communicating Thermostat and smart chip appliances would also send information back to AEP about my use during peak use times such as sweltering summer days and allow AEP to lower my temperatures a notch to prevent a system overload or brown out.

That last part sounded a little Big Brother to Husband. Because as much as we like saving electricity and having a lower than normal electric bill, we hate people telling us what we have to do in our own home. Husband also wondered what prevents someone from reducing the refrigerator’s electrical use to the point it makes ice cream melt because they want to be mean. 


I was invited to a blogger lunch and presentation sponsored by AEP, Mom Central Consulting , and Silver Spring  to discuss AEP’s gridSMART program and get some answers to Husband’s questions.

AEP’s new gridSMART pilot program will install new Smart Meter’s on customer’s homes (sadly not in my area of the city.) Unlike the current mechanical meters, digital Smart Meters have encrypted wireless two way communication between your house and the electric company so no one can mess with or access your information. Besides the flexible billing rates and allowing customers to set up an alert when you move to a higher energy pricing tier, the smart meter will automatically alert AEP when there is a blackout.

Under the current system, at least three homes have to call it in before AEP knows that there is trouble. That last part made me sit up and take notice, because as you all know Mother Nature likes to send me blackouts. They build character.

Opt In, Opt Out GridSMART Programs

All of those services get me excited but in the interest of checking things out thoroughly I had to ask about some of the things that gave Husband a Big Brother like vibe. Mainly:

·        “Offering consumers the option to receive a rebate in return for allowing AEP to send set back signals to a Programmable Communicating Thermostat during peak load conditions.
·        In the future you will be able to control the energy usage of the appliances in your home through chip connected to your home area network. “ AKA: Smart chip appliances.

Fortunately, under AEP’s gridSMART program these options are opt in only. You are given a financial incentive in the form of a rebate to have the AEP Programmable Communicating Thermostat installed but if you don’t want it, you don’t have to have it.

In addition, even if you have it installed and say, you’re having a houseful of relatives over on a crazy hot summer day, you can override the temperature if AEP wants to lower your thermostat a notch or two.  The same goes for the smart chip appliances – because who wants melty ice cream? Not me!

All changes need to be approved through the Public Utilities Commission (PUCO) before AEP rolls them out to their customers. So that lessens the chance that someone will be lowering your electrical use just to be spiteful to Not Going To Happen.

AEP Ohio is one of the first utilities to test this program. They tell me that gridSMART is the trend and something like it will eventually be coming to you. What do you think? Is it a money and energy saving tool or too intrusive?

Disclaimer: I wrote this post after attending an informational luncheon on behalf of Silver Spring Networks and Mom Central Consulting and received a gift bag and gift card as a thank you for taking the time to participate. This had no bearing on my opinions and all thoughts and opinions are my own. As you all well know, I can be highly opinionated.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Changed 303,736 Light Bulbs. What Did You Do Today?

Even though I’ve been living a green life for longer than the three years I’ve been blogging about it, I don’t consider myself a dark green blogger or even an expert most days.

Yes, I was on TV last winter but I think that was more of being a crazy freak who keeps her house too cold during winter than being a held up as Big Green Champion. Saving energy is very important to me and I blog about it a lot , but let’s face it, saving energy is not as sexy or unusual as some other areas of green living that get more press.

So I do my daily green thing and try to do my best with what life hands me. If I can make you laugh or make you think or offer you a new tool for your Greening Living Swiss Army Knife, make your home a little prettier or challenge you to personally change 303,736 incandescent light nulbs for CFLs in fourth months then it’s a good day here on Condo Blues. 

“What?! Are you nuts?!” you say, “Do you think I could actually change all of those light bulbs in a such a short amount of time?!”

I sure do. It's easy!

How I Planted 8,209 Trees in Four Months

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Three Great Gift Bag Ideas

Oh gift bags how you make wrapping gifts so speedy! Gift bags are fabulous for wrapping odd shaped gifts like soccer balls and stuffed animals. Gift bags can easily be reused from one year to the next, which makes them an easy and  inexpensive way to go green without being so In Your Face Trying To Send a Message. 

Don’t you just love it when the cheapest and easiest way is the greenest way?

According to an article on Lehman’s blog: “We throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than any other time of year.  This amounts to 25 million tons of extra trash.”


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Three Amazing Toilet Paper Tube Crafts

My favorite type of recycled craft projects is the type that completely transforms a seemly simple item into something amazing and unrecognizable. I think all of the people who entered the White Cloud Imagination Unrolled Contest did just that. Look at the winner’s projects!

 First Place Winner is this Garland


 The Second Place winner is the Titanic
The third place winner made these cute TP people

I have a hard time deciding if the Titanic is my favorite or the garland. I’m leaning toward the garland because that’s something I could use if I made it.

I had better start saving toilet tissues rolls just in case.

If you’re looking for a great kid or holiday craft, check out the rest of the entries on My White Cloud . 

Disclaimer: I am a White Cloud blogger and they are compensating me for the considerable time I  am spending on this project. However all opinions are my own and are not  influenced by this compensation which is going directly into the Blitzkrieg Surgery Fund.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Three Basket Laundry Method Saves Time, Money, and Energy

When I first met Husband, he made laundry a one time only task by shoving everything he owned into one load in the washing machine – whites, darks, reds, every thing! Then he ran the washer on the hottest setting possible. What didn’t shrink, faded and all of his white t-shirts were gray

Husband has been banned from doing laundry.

For Husband separating your dirty clothes into whites, darks, and brightly colored loads mystifies him. He thinks that we would be doing several little loads of laundry a week instead of full loads of laundry that not only save time but also save energy.

That’s when I created the Three Laundry Hamper Method. We have three identical laundry hampers in our closet. Each hamper has a label.

  • White Clothes – All dirty white items should be deposited here for washing.
  • Dark and Red Clothes – All dirty dark and red items should be deposited here for washing.
  • Brightly Colored Clothes - All dirty brightly colored items should be deposited here for washing.

Each family member is responsible for putting his or her dirty items in the appropriate hamper. If I had small children, I’d color code the tags or draw pictures of the items so they can identify what goes where.

The three laundry baskets allow me to see when a hamper will make a full load of laundry.  To save even more electricity I wash all of my clothes in cold water. According to Treehugger

“Washing every load on the hot/warm cycle (in a top loading machine and an electric water heater) for a year is equivalent to burning about 182 gallons of gasoline in a car; in an average (19.8 miles per gallon) car, that'll get you around 3595 miles. So, wash in hot/warm, or drive almost 3600 miles -- same difference”

I’ve been washing in cold for years and my clothes get just as clean as they did when I used warm and hot water but without the fading! I credit my whites staying white and my bright colors staying bright because I wash them in cold water and add a bit of oxygen bleach when needed.

If you’re worried about killing dust mites or germs on your clothes, pop them in the dryer. A dryer heats your clothes hotter than washing machine water.

I sent A Gift of Green ecard   to my mom as a little reminder about her laundry situation.

You can still pledge and acts of green, which would be helpful since Cisco hasn’t met their goal of one million people completing at least one small act of green. 
What is your laundry tip or woe?

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Disclosure:  Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with  Cisco are compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation. See what the other ambassadors have to say about One Million Acts of Green: Crunchy Domestic Goddess, Green Your D├ęcor and Green and Clean Mom.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Make Gift Bows from Magazines Without Staples or Tape

I had the Christmas crafting itch but no time to get involved in a huge project since I was leaving town for Thanksgiving.What’s a creative, crafty girl to do? 

As I was about to put a bunch of travel magazines that a friend had given me into the recycling bin I saw that I was out of gift bows in my gift wrapping supply box. 
I just found my quickie Christmas craft!

I recycled those old magazines to make Christmas gift bows from old magazines. You can also make Christmas gift bows from potato chip bags but I didn’t have any of those at the time.

I used How About Orange’s gift bow tutorial but instead of using glue, staples or tape like she did I used metal paper fasteners, which made the project a lot less messy.

How to Recycle Magazines into Gift Bows

You will need:

1 magazine page or clean empty chip bag
Pair of scissors or exacto knife (I think using the exacto is easier)
1 1-inch metal paper fastener
Cutting mat (if you have it and are using the exacto knife)

Make it:

1. Cut three 3/4" wide by 10 ½” tall strips from the magazine or empty chip bag. 

2. Cut three 3/4" wide by 9 ½” tall strips.

3. Cut two 3/4" wide by 7 ½” tall strips.

4. Cut one 3/4" wide by 3 1/2” tall strip.  You should have nine strips total.

5. Twist each end of a 10 ½” tall strip into a figure 8.

6. Push the figure 8 strip onto the paper fastener. I found that making a small hole with a pair of scissors in the center of my figure 8 made it easier to pierce the figure 8 with the 1-inch fastener.

7. Twist the remaining 10 ½” tall strips into figure 8s and add them to the paper fastener.

8. Twist each of the 9 ½” tall strips into figure 8s and add them to the paper fastener.

9. Twist each of the 7½” tall strips into figure 8s and add them to the paper fastener.

10. Make a loop with the 3 1/2” tall strip and add it to the paper fastener.

11. Bend the ends of the paper fastener to hold the loops in place.

12.  Slap that bad boy on a gift and gaze in wonder!

WARNING: Magazine bow making can be addictive!

The first few bows I made were a little wonky. The more I made, the more store bought bow-like they became. You can adjust the overall size of the bow by using longer or shorter strips to make it.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

30 Homemade Gift Ideas for Women, Men, Girls, Boys and Dogs

I Christmas shop year round for items as well as for ideas. That way I have time to make sure my gift is meaningful to the recipient. It spreads the spending out throughout the year so I never have to pay with credit. Sometimes I buy and sometimes I DIY it really depends upon what I think the person will like or need that year.

Jenn of The Green Parent  suggested to those of us in The Green Mom’s Carnival with craftier blogs could write about gifts/decorations that folks could make with the stuff they already have around the house as a way to offer suggestions on how to celebrate the holidays without going overboard.

This year my DIY options are severely limited. I killed my sewing machine last year making Christmas gifts. Seriously. The thing won’t run. At. All.


Since I can't make anything new, I went through some old posts and came up with 30 ideas for homemade holiday gifts for women and girls, men and boys, families, and your little dog too!