Friday, March 9, 2012

Gas Prices Rising? Take Preemptive Action.

Gas prices are on the rise again. The national average gasoline price rose to $3.79 per gallon last Sunday, just over $0.25 below its record price of $4.05 per gallon, set in 2008. Repeated price rises are beginning to confirm what many industry experts have known for decades, that global oil production will not increase forever. When global oil production reaches its maximum capacity, high energy prices will routinely afflict U.S. citizens.
     Rising gas prices don’t just impact politics and the national economy - they also affect the day-to day lives of consumers, who must dig deeper into their wallets to fill up the tank. Many consumers react by driving less or by replacing gas-guzzlers with fuel-efficient hybrids. Reactionary measures soften the financial blow of high gas prices, but you might be interested in preemptive actions you can take to make yourself less vulnerable to energy price fluctuations and at the same time help our nation prepare for a future in which energy is more expensive.
     Here are some suggestions to make your household and the nation more sustainable and protect against high energy prices.

Install photovoltaic solar panels
     PV solar panels will allow you to be a net contributor to the grid, meaning that you won’t have to pay your utility company for electricity. Some utilities will even pay you for the extra electricity you produce. Monthly payments under a $0 down solar system lease will probably be similar to your current monthly electricity bill but will probably be much lower than your electricity bill ten years from now.

Install a thermal system to complement your PV panels
     If you are considering having PV solar installed, take the next step and go for hybrid PV/thermal panels. Hybrid panels increase the efficiency of PV panels by cooling them and use extra thermal energy (that would normally be lost) to heat your home and water. Taking a hot shower will no longer increase your gas bill!

Support efforts to develop renewable energy resources
     Contact your legislators and ask them to support a sustainable long-term national energy strategy. Support local and state initiatives to develop renewables. This will develop long-term economic stability by weaning our energy infrastructure from fossil fuels. It will save money ten years from now for you and for your neighbors who didn’t read this blog!

Buy renewable energy certificates
     Renewable energy certificates represent the environmental benefits of the production of one megawatt of renewable energy generation. When you buy a renewable energy certificate, your money directly supports the development and expansion of renewable energy facilities. You can get your electricity from solar panels without putting them on your roof!

Take the subway
     Using public transit in place of personal vehicles whenever possible will support growth of public transit systems. In ten years it will be even more expensive to drive and an established, extensive public transit system will be essential to reducing local economic stress. Relax and watch a movie, read the paper, or listen to music during your commute.

Install energy efficient appliances
     Whenever you replace a lightbulb, replace it with a CFL bulb or better yet, an LED bulb - they last longer and use less energy. If you need to buy a new washing machine, buy an energy efficient one- they use less water and less energy. Ten years from now, renewable energy sources will account for a much greater proportion of energy production and all your household energy savings will help your utility company meet your needs without having to burn fossil fuels. And reducing demand will, once again, also help your neighbors who didn’t read this article!

Monday, February 6, 2012

There's a Reason It's Called JUNK MAIL

Last week when I was taking out the recycling, (which seems to be way more often than I would like... but at least it's not trash!) I noticed just how much Junk Mail I get. And seriously it is all JUNK! Why do I need flyers about weekly specials from every local pharmacy & grocery store? Is it really necessary to solicit me for the same credit card I already have?
Not only is this phenomenon of junk mail annoying, but it is a serious waste of natural resources. Energy is wasted in the creation of these products and then wasted in the responsible destruction of them as well. Not to mention the trees and habitats being destroyed, all so I can glimpse at the weekly deals for a millisecond and toss it in my recycling container. Is it worth it? Absolutely not.

So what did I find when I looked more into this situation at hand (literally!).

On average, an American household receives 1 personal correspondence a week and 18 pieces of junk mail.

You will waste 8 months of your life dealing with junk mail.

44% of junk mail goes in the landfill unopened!

Direct mail creates 10 billion pounds of solid waste. That's equivalent to 151,000 full cement trucks!

So how can we address this issue?

1.) Figure out the culprit. Who is sending you this junk mail?
2.) Go to and sign up for FREE to say no to junk mail!
3.) Create an account, search out the company and add them to your list.
4.) Voila! No more junk mail!!!

Make your actions count! By saying no to junk mail you are saving trees and ecosystems, making squirrels happy and helping to stop energy waste. Nicely done!  :0)   

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mission Viejo's pledge to use reusable bags

The launch with the City of Mission Viejo was a success and they are off to a great start! Going along with their monthly commitment use reusable bags, the Mission Viejo group distributed over 800 reusable bags during the city's Farmer's Market. Pretty amazing, right? Market shoppers were able to pick up a bag for free from the group's stand and continue with their shopping in a more sustainable fashion. The bags even had a catchy phrase stating, "Do Something Drastic, Say No to Plastic. Reuse this Bag and Live GREEN, for Those Downstream".

The members of this group were determined to connect with people about the importance of reducing their dependence on plastic bags and showing them how easy and fun it can be to carry around a functional tote. 
It seems almost obvious that having ONE larger tote over many little bags can free up your hands to peruse more stands, be less overwhelming and increase your level of enjoyment while shopping. We have all experience carrying a plastic bag that is too heavy and having it dig at our hands. Avoid this feeling all together and join Mission Viejo in pledging to use reusable bags while shopping. Oh, and it doesn't JUST have to be when you're at the grocery store!

Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Perks for Thinking Green at Work?

November arrived with a bang in the Northeast! Just in case you aren't aware of what happened, here is the spark notes version. Saturday, Ocotober 29, a freakishly early snow storm hit us. Although that may not seem that abnormal for the Northeast (we should be able to handle the snow by now!), it is abnormal to have snow in October. But here was the real problem. Since the fall was so late this year, the majority of the trees still had their leaves. Deciduous trees do not have the flexibility that conifers have and with heavy snow collecting on their leaves and branches, this little "Noreastaaaa" created chaos.

picture from
Thousands of people lost power throughout MA and CT (the most hard hit states). A week and a half later, people were STILL without power. The utility companies were running around trying to return power to people's homes and businesses, but the problems the power outage caused continued to grow. No heat, no hot water, no phones, no way of cooking food (for those with electric stoves etc), no way of storing food..... the list goes on! Not only that, but the aftermath of the storm and the power outages are still being felt three weeks after, with some heating systems and other program based technologies reverting back to "warehouse mode" or "storage mode" and failing to function properly. All due to the outages.

What does this show us? Well, having been one of those people without power for three days, sitting around the table of tea candles, I got to thinking.

First, about how unfortunate it is to have to rely on a national utility company. Norwood, one of the local towns in MA, has its own electric company and was able to get power back to the whole town within a couple of hours. How nice and convenient would it be to have your town or city run the utilities? Pretty nice in my opinion after experiencing what I did.

Second, how much I would like to live "off the grid". Solar, wind, geothermal... lots of options.

There are certain areas of our lives that communities can control, like transportation options. Neighborhoods in LA are experimenting with neighborhood electric cars (NEVs).
"South Bay communities are auto-oriented, but almost 80 percent of all their trips are less than three miles — an ideal distance for NEVs. The South Bay has learned that for test households, who drove NEVs for two months or more, an average of 22 percent of all travel is in the NEV. The South Bay is expanding the experiment to a waiting list of 200 families," Marlon Boarnet explained in October in his Transportation Planning: LA off the Grid blog post.
Long Beach, CA, has implemented another very promising COMPLETELY off the grid transportation initiative - they have pledged and are making great strides to be the most bike friendly city in America. Long Beach has a website full of safety tips, biking tips, and articles that is a great resource if you live in the area and want to start biking.

Another great biking website is  ThisBigCity

Southern California is the perfect place to set up roads for alternative transportation because of the climate. Places like Burlington, Vermont, however, are also firm believers and advocates for biking and alternative modes of transportation. The hospital, Fletcher Allen, gives benefits to workers who keep the environment in mind on their daily commute. Closer parking spots for carpools, electric car charging stations, gift cards to local restaurants or grocery stores for bikers, and other perks are just some of the ways Fletcher Allen Hospital is trying to keep their carbon footprint in mind.

Not everyone can live in a small town, but they can still
avoid driving solo long distances to work. Staff at
Fletcher Allen Health Care facilities are encouraged to
find ways to get to work other than by driving single occupant
vehicles. In addition to subsidized passes for
public transportation, employees can get coupons for
perks if they promise to walk or bike to work a number
of days per week. “People really take advantage of that,”
says LeBaron. “They know they’re helping the environment,
but they’re also saving money" (Hergstad,2011).

Could your company give benefits for alternative transportation? What impact would that have? Think of the huge positive impact your company's adoption of this little idea could make.....

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Little White Square cont.

Who knew there was so much to say about toilet paper!

Did you know that if you flip your toilet paper roll around so that the sheet come from the top, rather than the bottom, you will use less toilet paper? Test it out!
picture from <>
Facts from
1.) It takes 384 trees to make the toilet paper an average person would use in his or her lifetime.
2.) One-ply will break down faster in a septic system (gross but good to know to avoid issues!)

Facts from The Toilet Paper Encyclopedia:
1.) Tissue manufacturers have one of the highest recycled paper utilization rates in the paper and paperboard industry; over 60% in recent years. That means that tissue manufacturers require 60 tons of recovered paper for every 100 tons of tissue paper produced.

2.) Did you know there is unbleached, environmentally safe toilet paper?
 -Using unbleached toilet paper means the process of making the paper white does not create Dioxin, a harmful bleaching byproduct. Dioxin is one of the most toxic human-made chemical and cannot be broken down once created. It is found throughout the paper manufacturing process and in the products themselves. 

Did you know Soft, fluffy toilet paper, although it may feel better to some, is made from virgin paper from old growth forests. Old growth forests have been around for thousands of years and can never be replaced. They are being clear cut so we can have a product that is used then flushed in a matter of seconds. Is this really worth the environmental impacts for a product that isn't reusable, isn't sustainable and manufacturing process contaminates water?

Fun Fact from
1.) Before paper became the choice bum-cleaning product, people wiped themselves with   wool, lace, hay, seashells, wood shavings, and corn cobs

So what should we take away from these fun facts? Although our personal relationship with toilet paper will remain just that, personal (please! haha) we can make some important changes to better our environment.
We're not saying replace the roll with a corn cob or sea shells, because let's face it, those would be pretty difficult to flush, but we can flip the toilet paper roll to reduce waste. Use recycled, unbleached or oxygen based bleached paper to eliminate harmful chemicals. And reduce use of toilet paper when towels or other reusable products can be used.

Toilet Paper: not JUST a little white square...

The statistics shows how much water would be saved during the production
 of recycled toilet paper vs.  virgin toilet paper. Pretty crazy huh?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Inspirational Quote

"The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope"
       -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)

Your changes can do just that, so let's get started!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

From Invader to wall decor

This time of year reminds me why my mother would PURPOSELY plant an invasive species in our yard. As the days get colder, the lovely Celastrus scandens, known here as Bittersweet, produces orange berries and begins to look truly beautiful. But as some of you may know, bittersweet is every BUT beautiful.

This invasive species came over from Asia and since then as been spreading over across the United States. Like most invasive species, this plant has no predators. It reproduces by fragmentation and by seed. It's growth pattern is that of a vine and a small tree. Once established, the base can look like a small tree trunk, but until then, it grows like a vine, creeping up other plants and structures and taking over. Oh and did I mention it grows underground and creates a networks of roots as well?  Basically it is impossible to eradicate!

This summer, I spent most of my weekends pulling up YARDS of roots that crossed the length of my backyard. I cursed every light green sprout I found because it was never just a sprout! The roots of every new growth shoot spread at least a foot from it's base and always led to more. After speaking with several botanists at local garden centers, I realized that without "hazmat suit" status chemicals that would require several yearly applications, there was nothing I could do but accept this new inhabitant.

I felt like this was a definite "When Life Gives You Lemons" situation.

Harnessing my creative side and complete hatred I had for this plant, I decided to take the twisting tendrils and create a wreath. Halfway through, I changed my mind again and decided a peace sign would be fitting to my current situation.

What I learned:

Invasive species are a problem, but poisoning my family and pets to get rid of a plant is not worth it. Most of the time, there is a reason why invasive species come to be, whether it is the soil sending out a message that it is missing a key component or humans have cleared away too many native species which would have kept out the invasives. In my case I can only blame my mother BUT in places around town where I see bittersweet, it is always in areas where native species have been cleared (along a fences line, on the edge of the woods, around rail road signs etc.). Instead of creating more of an environmental problem by blasting it with herbicides, look for a use for the species. In my case, I made a great wall decoration and plan on making a big wreathe for the front door. I have also tried to look at the positive side of the issue. Although the species is nothing but a nuisance to me it is creating habitat for other species and hidden benefits for others, like shade and protection.

Anyone else suffering from bittersweet invasion? What were your solutions to the problem?

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Story of Water Bottles

Annie Leonard first came out with "The Story of Stuff", a great video and short story about what happens with all our stuff when we're done with it. If you haven't watched it, you need to. It's a MUST if you have any environmental inkling at all! "The Story of Stuff" was so successful that there are now a series of videos about different areas of our world that somehow just don't seem quite right.

"The Story of Bottled Water" is great video that really cuts straight to the issue.

I was recently speaking with my sister Gen and we could not stop wondering when bottled water became such a necessity! In our hometown we have perfect well water, yet every car that drives by, every student walking into school or mom walking through town has a plastic water bottle in tow.

Also, when did water fountains disappear? Gen and I sat down and named three areas where we specifically remember there being water fountains when we were kids (keep in mind Gen is 17 and I'm 22, so us being "kids" is really only about 8-12 years ago!). The playground, outside the town hall and at the tennis courts were three areas we distinctly remembered. What did we find? Upon investigation, we discovered they no longer exist!

Are water fountains like pay phones, a thing of the past?

Check out Annie Leonard's video about bottled water. Great education tool or just something to think about!

The Story of Water Bottles

Also, there are loads of campaigns going on around the country and world about bottled water. Check some out! Are there any in your area?

Here are a few:

Take Back the Tap
One Less (UVM campus)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Where Can Freshwater be Recycled Within Our Homes?

Less than 1% of the world's freshwater is readily available for human use. The average american household uses 300 gallons of freshwater/ day. (15 Mind-Boggling Gren Facts & Enviro-Stats.WebEcoist. Retreived on 26 September 2011 from <>).

If we put our sustainability caps on does this make sense? Look around your house for areas where freshwater is used. Is it necessary for freshwater to be used there?

People worldwide recycle freshwater multiple times before they dispose of it, whether it is using shower water to flush toilets or rainwater collection barrels to water their plants, rather than freshwater from the hose.

Try Googling "greyater systems", "freshwater recycling" or "greywater recycling" to find some great examples! Maybe try one!

Rainwater gardens are another great way to capture rain run-off, slow the movement of water and allow it to sink back into the ground. They are easy to create, beautiful or look at and make a huge difference in recharging the underground water table

Check out this company that is making freshwater recycling possible within your household <www.>.

how it works:

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Hi followers! 

We here at It's the Little Things are so excited to have a place where everyone can follow us and stay up to date on the newest happenings. We are extremely busy getting our four (yes FOUR) pilot projects up and running and we're off to a great start. Chris is working tirelessly with her team to meet deadlines, make partnerships and create a successful nonprofit.

We hope our blog is a spot where you can escape and learn some interesting facts and information to make the changes needed to create a more sustainable lifestyle. Changing on your own can be challenging, but hey, we're here to make it easy for you!! :) 

We can't wait to get started sharing our efforts and interests with you!