It was bound to happen. I was in a monthly networking meeting of business people and got into a conversation about energy conservation, ‘going green,’ and what individuals and families can do to help save this planet. He asked the dreaded question: Do you recycle? I had to admit that I only do it periodically, which is another way of saying, “no.” What I got was a master’s thesis on why it’s important and why I can’t truly be ‘green’ unless I recycle faithfully.
Recycling, as you know, is reusing materials in original or changed forms rather than discarding them as wastes. In reusing material-or changing material-into new materials rather than throwing it away, individuals benefit, as well as the environment, as I found out.
Why recycling is important
I guess I never really thought much about ‘why’ recycling is important, other than it ‘just is.’ But here are some tangible reasons why I am now a converted recycler. I have seen the light.
Recycling saves energy
It takes less energy to process recycled materials than it does to use virgin materials. For example, it takes less energy to recycle paper from waste material than it does to create paper from new woodland, because there is no longer a need to cut down a new tree, process the wood from the tree and make it into paper. Energy from non-renewable resources is protected and saved for future generations, money is saved when less energy is used, and often pollution and emissions are reduced when less energy is used. Another example: Production of recycled paper uses 80% less water and 65% less energy, and produces 95% less air pollution than virgin paper production. I stand corrected.
Recycling Saves money and land space
Recycling reduces trash in landfill sites, which cuts down on the cost of waste disposal and the clearing of more land for new landfills when the current ones become too full to store any more waste (never thought about that happening). Recycling is an easy and less expensive alternative to clearing more land. For example, recycling kitchen waste and yard waste into compost provides a means of free nutritious soil for gardening, because most kitchen waste is biodegradable. It stays in the landfills for years to come, just sitting there and piling up with the rest of the trash-wasted. So my wife was right.
Recycling reduces air and water pollution
Decomposing waste often releases noxious gases and chemicals as it decomposes at landfill sites. These gases and chemicals create air pollutants. When the chemicals leach into the groundwater, it creates more pollution, eventually contaminating our water. This isn’t as far-fetched as it might sound. Years ago, when I lived in Colorado, I lived in a house that was a mile south of what is called a ‘Superfund.’ This, as I found out, was a place for the most toxic of all waste, and I just got a house a mile away. Not only me, but an entire community of homes surrounding Denver’s newest golf course. Within one year we discovered that our worst nightmare was happening-that there was evidence that the groundwater was in fact being leached into by the site. Within 6 months, 75% of the future home developers dropped their plans to build and our property values plummeted. We got out.
Recycling creates jobs
Recycling in the U.S. is a $236 billion a year industry. More than 56,000 recycling and reuse enterprises employ 1.1 million workers nationwide. More recycling opportunities would create even more jobs, without the loss of any current workers, which is a huge deal nowadays.
Recycling can positively impact wildlife
It can preserve wildlife. When fewer trees are cut down to make virgin material or to make space for landfills, habitat for wildlife remains. More habitat-more animals and less potential for extinction.
As you can imagine, I felt put firmly in my place. Seriously. I was convicted for not taking the time or energy to do something that is so simple, yet has a much bigger impact than I would have ever imagined. So guess what?
I have learned how to separate plastic, paper, and glass from other stuff. It’s hard not to just ‘scrape’ everything into the trash can, but I think it’s worth it. I am also not throwing away the plastic bags that my groceries come in, either. I’m saving them and use them to help separate the stuff. I am now a bona-fide recycler, having learned yet another way to help save money and help the environment.
Eagle Shield: Tell us what it was that you were experiencing that resulted your investing in Eagle shield?
Marrianna: I have a condo that was built in 1984 with single pane windows. In the winter the downstairs portion of my condo would be least 15-20 degrees colder than upstairs. Trying to heat the downstairs to a comfortable temperature meant that the upstairs would be 100 degrees. And in the summer the upstairs would be stifling.
Eagle Shield: It sounds like you needed a way to achieve a consistent temperature throughout your home. After consulting with Eagle Shield, what service or products did you decide would get you the results you were looking for?
Marrianna: I decided to have Eagle Shield’s High Performance Reflective Insulation installed. (Note: Reflective Insulation – sometimes called radiant barrier insulation – is a patented, strong, thin aluminum foil sheet designed to block radiant heat transfer across open spaces. Installed on the rafters in your attic, it works with your existing insulation to boost the insulating power of your home.)
Eagle Shield: How did working with Eagle Shield meet or exceed your expectations? What was the ‘before and after’ difference?
Marrianna: Before having the High Performance Reflective Insulation installed I would wear several layers of clothing and turn on the heater and it would run for three hours. The downstairs temperature would raise only 5-10 degrees (not much to notice) and the upstairs would be at least 40-50 degrees hotter. In the summer the condo would be very hot when I got home. Now with the Eagle Shield Insulation I do not have to wear several layers of clothing and the downstairs warms up much faster and stays warm after I turn off the heater. In the summer the condo stays fairly cool when I arrive home after 6pm.
Eagle Shield: How would you rate the competency and professionalism of the service, and follow-up provided by Eagle Shield?
Marrianna: An Eagle Shield staff member explained the value of Reflective Insulation and what it would do for me, and I decided to purchase it. The installers were great. They were professional, friendly and were informative. They were in and out of my home quickly and they cleaned up after themselves in a timely manner. The staff member followed up to see if the product was working like she had explained and if I was satisfied.
Eagle Shield: How do you feel about recommending Eagle Shield to others?
Marrianna: I have recommended the Eagle Shield High Performance Reflective Insulation to my friends and family.
When we first started looking for hidden energy guzzlers in our house I was asked to list (what I thought) were the top three energy guzzlers. Here’s what we listed:
1. Air conditioner – this was, in fact, the number one guzzler at $80 per month.
2. Clothes dryer – This was not as big a culprit as we thought. We’ll discuss this in our next blog.
3. Hot water heater – This was more expensive than I thought it was going to be, as you’ll see.
Our hot water heater is electric, is a 50 gallon tank, and is around 8 years old. We discovered that our average usage runs around 375 kilowatt hours per month. At $0.17 per KWH, that puts our monthly average at around $68.00 a month, which makes it the number two energy-guzzler in our house. I remember buying it based on one thing: its price tag. What I found was this:
Every appliance has two price tags. The first is the price you pay when you purchase the appliance (I went cheap). The second is the cost of operating the appliance over its lifetime. You might be surprised if you consider how much it costs to operate an appliance compared to what seemed to be a good deal when you purchased it. I thought I got a good deal, but found that I’m paying through the proverbial ‘nose’ each month.
The utility guy said that there are a number of things I could do, which included spending $500 on a new, energy efficient unit. Not being inclined in that direction, I asked what we could do to reduce the bill on the unit we have. Here’s a list of things that he suggested:
1. Repair leaky faucets & showerheads. He said to check the faucets and showers in all three bathrooms for leaks. A leak of one drip per second can cost $1 per month. This doesn’t sound like much, but can add-up.
2. This was interesting. He asked if we used hot water when running the garbage disposal. We always used hot water. He said to use cold water to operate the garbage disposal. Cold water use saves energy and is the recommendation of most disposal manufacturers. Didn’t know that.
3. When washing dishes by hand, he said to use a sink stopper or dishpan so water – hot or cold – doesn’t rush down the drain. Remember, too, that hot water running needlessly not only wastes water, but it wastes energy as well. This was news to us, since we often washed dishes by hand so as not to use the dishwasher (see last week’s blog).
4. Set our water heater to 120 degrees, which will produce plenty of hot water and still save energy. I ran down to the basement and saw that ours was set at 160 degrees, which I promptly changed.
5. Wrap your water heater with a water heater blanket, and insulate the pipes where we can. We got these ready-made foam tubes that worked well and were easy to cut-to-size. He said we’d save around 10% on our bill just by doing this.
6. Conserve hot water by installing water-saving showerheads.
7. Last, but not least, this was the big eye-opener. He said to put a timer on the heater that shut it down at night. Candidly, I didn’t buy this. I thought we’d be showering in cool water in the morning, which I wasn’t excited about. Not to worry, he said, because the water in the tank would still be warm, and it wouldn’t take much to heat it up. He said that by turning off the water heater for 8 hours each day, we could save as much as 30% on our bill. To prove it to us he brought us outside the house to where the electrical meter was. He asked us to watch the dial, which was spinning quite fast. He then went into the basement and flipped-off the breaker for the hot water heater. Amazing. The dial (which measures the kilowatts being used) slowed-down to half of the speed as when the heater was on.
His point was this: Why continue to heat water at 120 degrees when no one is using it? A well insulated tank will keep water warm for quite a while. So we put the heater on a timer and decided to turn it off from 11pm to 6am, and from 9am to 4pm, when we are away at work and school. That’s 14 hours that we won’t be heating water at 4500 watts. We also decided that there won’t be any more 20 minute showers. Sorry ladies…