Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Step one in going solar is not sizing the Photovoltaic (PV) system, but reducing the energy needed in your home or business. To save green when you go green, first focus on increased sustainability and explore entry-level solar solutions that may provide excellent returns without major expense.  Knowing where your energy needs are highest and implementing shifts in those areas will allow you to more accurately assess the size PV system required and reduce the costs of purchase and installation.  

Focus on These 4 Areas to Increase Sustainability at Home and at Work

 1. Knowledge is power.  Literally.

Reducing energy usage and carbon emissions begins by getting an estimate of your personal carbon footprint or that of your business. The Cool Climate Network offers both a Household Calculator and a Business Calculator.  To receive practical tips to slash your emissions and your energy costs, take this quick and fun CoolerSmarter quiz and you’ll be on your way to 20% less carbon in 20 days.

2. Drive Smart: Transportation is the single biggest contributor to carbon emissions.

If you or your company are in the market for a new vehicle, you can use the calculators and comparison tools at to find the most efficient vehicle for your needs and budget.  Has your knowledge advanced with the technology? Read these Top 10 Misconceptions About Fuel Economy to make sure you are working with the latest information.

Regardless of the car you drive, you can drastically reduce your transportation emissions by simply driving more efficiently.  Slight but significant changes can save you or your business up to 20% at the pumps.

A Solar Solution: Fueling with Sunshine
1 in 3 electric vehicle owners has a home grid-tied PV system. As technologies continue to rapidly develop across the solar industry, running your car on sunshine is increasingly an option.

3. Mind the Gap: Reduce the cost and impact of home heating and cooling.

Heating and cooling are the greatest energy hogs within the home and also represent an area where you can make a significant positive impact, both on your wallet and your carbon footprint.  How do you keep your home comfortable with less energy?

Seal the Leak

Air leaks in your home may waste up to 25% of the heat your heating system generates in the winter and account for the same amount of unwanted heat your home gains in the summer. That’s equivalent to leaving a window in your home wide open all the time. A draft check followed by these simple and inexpensive solutions for energy efficient heating can help you shut that window.

 Natural Home Cooling

Landscaping, blinds, and shade screens are effective at blocking heat from entering your home. And reducing heat generated from within the house can also contribute greatly to lowering the inside temperature.  A significant source of that heat is electric lighting. In just one hour a 100 watt incandescent bulb can raise the temperature of a room by 11 degrees Fahrenheit.  One more reason to switch to cooler, more efficient LED bulbs!
“Cool roofs” are another simple strategy to lower electricity costs for your home or business.  Cool roofs reduce the amount of heat conducted to the building below and have several year-round energy-saving and cost-saving advantages over black roofs.

A Solar Solution: Evaporative Coolers

For home and business owners located in dry climates, an evaporative cooler can be a good match for PV. An evaporative cooler, also known as a swamp cooler, will only consume about one-quarter of the power of a traditional central air conditioner.

4. Vampires in the Home: Do you know where your power is going?

Learn just how much energy is being tapped by the appliances and electronics in your home or business by using this Appliance Energy Calculator. Many electronics and appliances are consuming energy, even when not in active use. And by eliminating these phantom loads you can easily and significantly reduce your energy bills.
A Solar Solution: Dedicate one appliance to be powered by the sun.

Can’t go all solar? Dedicate one appliance to run off PV, like your washing machine or well pump.

Water heating is the 2nd largest utility expense in your home. Could a solar water heater be right for you? If so, act soon and take advantage of the federal tax credit that is good until the end of 2016.

Chest refrigerators and chest freezers open from the top and the cold stays put.  Not only is the chest design more energy efficient for all homes, it also offers an incredible opportunity for those interested in entry-level solar.

“Off-grid living doesn’t mean that we go without the energy that we need, but that we live more in tune with the natural rhythms around us.”  By planning wisely and reducing waste in your home or business, you will be well on your way to successfully implementing your solar strategy.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Ecotourism: Support the Environment as you Explore the World!

While traveling, you may notice the not so environmentally-friendly habits of hotels and other travel destinations. For example, hotel staff may wash all bedsheets and towels every day, or use incandescent bulbs instead of LED bulbs. These wasteful hospitality industry standards create a negative impact on the environment.

But fear not! With hotels that partake in “ecotourism”, or, “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” (, you can feel good about your environmental impact.

The second part of ecotourism’s definition mentions supporting the locals. Ecotourism is not only environmentally based, but community based as well. By interacting heavily with the local community, you, as an ecotourist, can have an authentic experience while at the same time giving back.

Hotels that support ecotourism are more common than you may think.
Sustainability has become more mainstream, and the tourism industry is adopting more environmental practices for their hotels. In 2015, Virginia Green hosted their Travel Star Awards ceremony in Arlington, Virginia. Twenty-one tourism businesses were recognized. Check out the full list of recipients at

Before you book your next vacation, here are a few questions to ask your potential hotel:
         Do you have a recycling or compost program?
         Do you hire locally?
         Do you have a linen/towel reuse option?
         Is your hotel a member of Green Hotels Association?
         If the hotel is in Virginia, is your hotel Virginia Green certified?
         What kind of water-saving strategies does your hotel practice?
         Does your hotel buy food locally?
         What kind of energy-conservation programs are in place at this hotel?