September 26, 2011

Recycling PERKS

Rewards for curbside recycling? I don't need the incentive but it's nice to get rewarded for filling my recycling bins. As a member of Recycling Perks, you will receive special discounts (such as at Farm Fresh), invitations to Special Events and Activities throughout the year.

Click the link above and you can be rewarded too. 100 points just for signing up.

TFC Recycling is currently awarding points to residents for curbside recycling participation in Chesapeake and Suffolk, Virginia. They are working towards launching in other cities in Hampton Roads. Please sign up today, and they will keep you informed of progress in your community.

September 14, 2011

Qualify for any energy efficiency rebates?

It's not too early for Virginians to think about next winter's heating bill. You might consider a new furnace or water heater if your units are more than 10 years old. If so, see some dandy rebates on energy-efficient water heaters and furnaces from Virginia Natural Gas.

Also check out Dominion Power's Energy Conservation Programs website. Although they are in the business of selling electricity, they are also committed to energy conservation.

For example, Dominion has a goal of selling more than 2 million energy efficient bulbs per year. When you buy qualifying ENERGY STAR® lighting from participating stores, you will receive an automatic discount from Dominion. Currently, all of the products offered in their program are manufactured by GE or Feit Electric. Consider LED light bulbs as well as CFLs because they contain no mercury.

Dominion offers $40 annually to customers (* in some areas) who ask them to install an AC cycling or "smart" switch on your outdoor air-conditioning or heat pump system. Then it will cycle your air-conditioner or heat pump system on and off for short periods during times of high demand between June and September. You don't even need to be home during installation, and the equipment and the installation is free.The fan will stay on circulating already cooled air. For more information, call 1-888-366-8280. * At this time, participation is open for homeowners with a central A/C or heat pump system in Alexandria, Arlington, Charlottesville, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Midlothian, Norfolk, Northern & Eastern Fairfax County, Herndon, Richmond & East Richmond, and the Springfield area - other areas will follow.

Lack of sufficient insulation is most likely to be the root cause of high heating and cooling bills. There may be weatherization assistance for many homeowners. For Weatherization Providers in Virginia, click here.

Check out Federal Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency too. Many are for items "placed in service" this year and expire at the end of 2011, but some last until the end of 2016. Or the Tax Incentives Assistance Project for the latest updates about federal incentives that were enacted in 2005 and  revised and extended by Congress multiple times, generally for one or two years at a time.

And don't forget to check out offers and rebates from Energy Star partners, as well the state of Virginia's Income Tax Deductions on energy efficient products.

Virginia's Department of Energy website provides information about home efficiency rebates (opened on 6/20/11) and for geothermal heat pump rebates

Another great resource for homeowners is from the NEXT STEP program, designed to promote and implement residential energy efficiency programs throughout the 16 localities that make up the Hampton Roads area. The program was designed by the Green Jobs Alliance (GJA), a Hampton-based nonprofit organization dedicated to developing the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries, as well as create the green jobs needed to support them. The NEXT STEP Program is modeled after the EPA’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR™ Energy Efficiency Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Grant. $$$$ is still available but the Next Step program is on temporary hold while undergoing management change.

HELP (as in Home Energy Loss Prevention) could be yours if you live in any of these James City County neighborhoods. Check this JCC website out for more info on possible rebates.

September 2, 2011

Will sweetgum trees inherit the Earth?

Why does our area have so many sweetgum trees? They may indeed inherit the Earth, based on the number of spiky sweetgum seeds (popularly called "gumballs") in my yard after Hurricane Irene. Her winds dropped many mighty oaks as well as weak Bradford pears, but most sweetgum trees survived. They just bend in the winds that hurricanes toss at them.

The only good quality of their messy gumballs is that they sometimes work as "pest-control mulch" because rabbits don’t like stepping on their sharp spines. Neither do I.

I might make a Christmas wreath out of them too this year--if I can find some heavy duty work gloves!

World population will reach 7 billion

Did you know that Planet Earth will reach the demographic milestone of 7 billion humans in October 2011, only a dozen years after it surpassed 6 billion? And what about a projection of 9 billion on Earth by 2050? That is like adding two Chinas to the number of people alive today.

To put these numbers into perspective:

50,000 -- years it took for the human population to reach 1 billion, in 1800

12 -- years it took to add the latest billion, in 2011

158 -- people added to the planet every minute (births minus deaths)

227,252 -- people added to the planet every day

82,947,000 -- people added to the planet every year

5 -- number of children born to the average woman in 1950

2.5 -- number of children born to the average woman in 2011

2 -- number of children born to the average woman in the U.S.

$16.9 billion -- estimated annual cost of providing family-planning services to all women in developing countries

$20.8 billion -- amount Wall Street firms paid out in bonuses in 2010

4.5 -- percentage of world population living in the U.S.

1 -- rank of the U.S. in terms of overall global energy consumption

Concerned? 9 billion humans might not mean an apocalypse. However, will this ballooning population (an overpopulation to many) outpace our planet's ability to sustain them? Many of us won’t be around to find out, but our grandkids will.

Not surprisingly, over the next forty years, about 97 percent of the next 2.3 billion people will be born in developing countries, with nearly half of them in famine-prone Africa.

By contrast, the populations of more developed countries will remain relatively flat, but will grow older. Approximately 135 million people will be born in 2011 and 57 million will die—a net increase of 78 million people. That means fewer working-age adults to support retirees living on programs like Social Security.

Enough water? That certainly seemed true while Irene’s rain was pounding us, but a finite amount of drinking water for an increasing population may make that word “unsustainable” more real to all of us. Today’s Americans now use about 400 billion gallons of water each day, compared to 150 billion gallons by fewer Americans in 1950. Much of that is “wasted” on our lawns.

Most likely, the U.S. population will rise from today’s 311 million to 439 million by 2050 and 478 million by 2100. That’s a lot more Americans seeking not only water, but food and other resources such as electricity.

More Americans are choosing to live in rapidly expanding cities like San Antonio, Austin and Phoenix. The population in dry Phoenix grew by 33 percent since 2000.

Looking into the future — Comes with caveats. Can our planet support 10 billion people? Only time will tell. Will potential natural disasters, global pandemics, or war have any appreciable affect on population growth? AIDS, devastating as it is, has not been the demographic disaster that was once predicted.

“Sustainability” is a hot topic in many communities, but it’s a valid global issue. Will there be sufficient food and water available for the billions yet unborn?

Population growth — Is blamed for everything, from poverty and climate change to crime and conflict. But “population control” is another matter, even on a planet with finite resources.

The few environmental groups that bring up the issue of population growth, such as Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, call for women's rights and education, plus voluntary family planning, not government mandates, to curb population growth.

This posting will include neither a well-deserved condemnation of China’s coercive one-child policy nor an ad for Planned Parenthood. But China has brought down birthrates—from 2.75 children per woman on average to 1.5. However, fertility rates have fallen even further in other Asian countries where force and coercion have not been employed in recent years, including Japan (1.4 children per woman), South Korea (1.2), Hong Kong (1.1), and Taiwan (0.9).