July 2009: Green Scene

July 2009: Green Scene

Really? Free?

In the spirit of freecycle and freesales, here’s another national trend that’s easy on your wallet: Really Really Free Markets. They’re events held in cities across the country where folks can show up with their excess belongings, and other folks can browse and take what they want—no bartering, payment, or haggling necessary. We all win when waste decreases, right? Plus, the markets tend to feature music and food.

Charlottesville’s not on the bandwagon yet, but Richmond is. The capital city’s RRFM is held the last Saturday of every month in Monroe Park. Check out myspace.com/rvafreemarket for details. Yeah, we know it’s not that green to drive to Richmond for free stuff, but if you’re gonna be there anyway, by all means: Help yourself.—Erika Howsare

Less is more green

Hey, homeowners! If you’re a Dominion customer, a change is coming to your electric meter that’s meant to help conserve energy in the community.

On June 16, a group of notable Virginia figureheads including Governor Tim Kaine and Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell, along with local officials, announced the establishment of a new program called SmartGrid Charlottesville. This energy-efficiency program has now made Charlottesville the first city in the state and one of the first in the nation to be on a “smart grid” network.

A smart grid network is a two-way communication system that sends information directly between a power source, in this case Dominion, and energy customers, through the use of “smart meters” in customers’ homes.

Through these meters, the company says it can significantly reduce the amount of power being used. According to Dominion, the smart meters will reduce usage by 4 percent or more for typical residential customers and remove 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. In the future, the company says we’ll be able to shift power usage to off-peak times to save more money.

As of June 1, 22,000 smart meters had been installed locally. By the end of the year, Dominion plans to have 46,500 installed in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. If you would like more information, check out dom.com/about/conservation/smartgrid-charlottesville.jsp.—Caroline Edgeton

Green gadgets that are really worth it

Far be it from Betty to promote the latest, greatest green gizmo with a hefty price tag and made-in-China label, but I believe your pocketbook and the planet will appreciate these eco-gadgets. 

The Smart Strip delivers “bang for your buck,” says Betty.

The Smart Strip “is still the best bang for your buck as far as green gadgets,” according to Paige Mattson of the Blue Ridge Eco Shop. Given our love of Plasma HD, LCD, TV, and all things bright and flashy, it behooves all of us to conserve energy in any way we can. This powerstrip can sense when devices are on and off and acts accordingly to eliminate any excess energy drain. Reviews suggest the cost (around $40) can be recouped within months.
So many items in our home require the use of batteries, why not use solar battery chargers? They now come in all shapes, sizes, and options. Ubergreen geeks will love the HyMini which has an option to collect wind power while you jog, bike or ski! Given the wide price range, consider your budget and remember solar power requires some planning and patience.

Finally, two gadgets which conserve our most precious resource: water. No plumber is needed for the Controllable Flush, a five-part handle replacement, which converts a standard toilet into dual flush. After all, not every flush needs a full flush. (If it’s yellow…). A two-person household can save 15,000 gallons of water per year depending on your toilet!  

The five-minute shower timer is simple, durable and costs $5. Suction cup this (recycled) plastic covered hourglass to a relatively dry area to help you to cut down your shower time.—Betty World Betty



LEAPing forward

“We bought this house when you could buy a house in Charlottesville,” says city resident Ingrid Feggans. Even though she is proud to own her house, the cost of power has been quite a burden for her.

Through the help of community outreach programs including SPARK and the Quality Community Council (QCC), she has gotten assistance this year with such energy-efficiency upgrades as an on-demand water heater, heat-retaining foam in her basement, and weatherization of windows and doors. “I have noticed a little bit of a change in (my utility bill),” says Feggans, “but when the winter comes, I’m excited to see what will happen.”

Standing outside Feggans’ home on June 23, Mayor Dave Norris announced a new city program called LEAP (Local Energy Alliance Program), which will launch in January and is meant to provide many more residents the kind of assistance Feggans received. “LEAP will pick up where (community programs) have left off,” Norris said. Through a revolving loan structure funded largely by federal stimulus money, as many as 2,000 homes will receive upgrades in 2010 and 2011. Look to hear a lot more about LEAP as this far-reaching program gets underway.—C.E. and E.H.

Become a fan of moving in the proper direction.

Blade basics

We don’t have to tell you it’s hot around here at this time of year. If you’re like us, you’re sleeping under a ceiling fan in hopes of catching some decent Zs. But did you know that its blades need to be turning counterclockwise in order to function properly? It’s true: Ceiling fans have winter and summer settings. In winter, blades turn clockwise to force warm air down. In summer, they do exactly the opposite.

If yours are spinning the wrong way, get yourself on a stepladder (careful! and turn the fan off, for pete’s sake!) and check for a toggle switch on the body of the fan. Flip it, step down, and enjoy a much cooler breeze as you snuggle off to sleep.—E.H.