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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

STARt Saving Energy

By James Stevenson, Pinellas County Extension Educator

Look for the Energy Star logo when choosing energy-related products and services for the home. Energy Star is a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. Last year alone, Americans saved enough energy to power 20 million homes and avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 18 million cars —while saving $8 billion. The average household would save $60 per year by replacing the five most used light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. If consumers purchased Energy Star efficient appliances instead of standard models over the next 15 years they would save $5 billion. For more information visit:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Trees Do Grow on Money

By: James Stevenson, Pinellas County Extension Educator

Do you know what your investment dollars are up to? It can be very eye-opening if you look beneath the surface of your portfolio only to discover your investments are being used to bolster companies with little (or no) social or environmental concerns. Would you knowingly invest in a sweat-shop? Would you hand cash over to someone who promised a return on your investment as long as you were OK with their polluting your child’s playground?

Thankfully there are ways to determine if your investments make the “triple bottom line” of People, Profit and Planet.

Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) is a broad-based approach to investing that now encompasses an estimated $2.3 trillion out of $24 trillion in the U.S. investment marketplace today (

There are more than 200 mutual funds currently set up that have had their portfolios socially screened by external auditors. Ask your financial institution about the possibility of SRI with them.

For more information, visit:

Friday, February 15, 2008

Don’t Stand-by and Watch your Money Disappear!

Have you done a spot-check on your home electronics lately? Today’s gadgetry often includes little blinking lights, red lights, green lights, amber lights, etc. just to let you know they are working. These little devils are stealing from you! They are taking your money and turning it into heat. You can, however, outwit them. By plugging electronics with a “stand-by” mode together into a power strip, it is possible to shut several electricity-leeches down at one time, for instance when you leave for work. This is the “turn out the lights when you leave the room” for this new era. It is possible to get your electricity meter to slow to a crawl during times of very little energy use. You will notice a change in your power bill; and you will need every watt you can get during the hottest times of the year. Saved money is found money. You can put it in the bank!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Who is in control of your sprinkler system?

By: James Stevenson

Watering lawns and landscape plants can account for up to 50 percent of an average homeowner’s total water use. Watering a typical 5,000 square-foot yard with an in-ground sprinkler system could cost from $4 to $10 per application. That’s $17 to $43 per month or $200 to $500 per year! Can you think of anything better to do with $500?

Many homeowners trust their sprinkler system to make the best decisions after being programmed by the installer. Are you fully aware of how your system is calibrated? Are you in control or is the little micro-chip inside the machine calling the shots?

You may have paid good money for a sprinkler system, or you may have inherited one from a former owner. It is up to you to make sure it is paying its rent by not wasting your hard-earned money. A simple check-up can reveal whether your system is operating efficiently.

Most irrigation systems run in the early morning hours, often without being watched. Have you inspected your system lately? Would you know what to do if you found a problem? Have you determined whether your lawn or landscape plants actually need the amount of water you are applying?

You can program your own system, and in fact you must. Watering restrictions (see require us all to do our part to minimize the waste of a precious resource.

This handy fact-sheet can help you regain control of the robot in your yard:

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Enviroshopping: buy smarter

Do you have a household budget? How much do you allocate each month for garbage? That is to say: How much money do you allow yourself to indulge in throwing into the trash?

It has been shown that 99% of all manufactured goods, from plastic wrapping to automobiles to houses ends up in the trash ( NINETY-NINE PERCENT! Think of a typical week at your house. How many times is trash collected? Do you have one of those large bins? Do you know where that trash goes after it leaves your house? Do you think it just vanishes?

Here are some tips to help reduce the amount of WASTE your home may be producing. Most of these tips are very easy, and can save you money at the check-out line!

  • Reduce the amount of packaging you buy, reuse what you can, and recycle the rest

  • Look for products without packaging - tools, fresh produce, dry goods

  • Avoid individually wrapped portions (cheese slices, juice, etc.)

  • Choose concentrated products in reusable containers, and largest size containers

  • Buy frozen foods in plastic bags rather than boxes. A 28-oz. bag of frozen corn is 59% less expensive and results in 98% less waste than buying the equivalent weight in single-serving 4.5 oz. boxes

  • Avoid disposable razors, pens, pencils and lighters

  • Take your own mug or thermos to the coffee shop. Some shops will offer a discounted price when you provide your own container

  • Use your own reusable canvas or string bags when shopping

  • If you do opt for paper or plastic grocery bags, take them back to the store to be recycled

Monday, February 4, 2008

Habitat: it is polite to share

By: James Stevenson

Pinellas County is the second smallest and most densely populated county in Florida. In Pinellas County we are reaching build-out, a condition in which virtually no large undeveloped vacant parcels remain (Pinellas County Economic Development). We humans have taken over the majority of habitat for ourselves and have drastically changed most of the state’s natural integrity. We have built homes and businesses on barrier islands and beaches, and we have drained most of the state’s fresh water so that we could use the land for other purposes like farming, livestock, housing, businesses and roadways. But, can you hear Grandma’s voice in your ear saying, “It really is polite to share, dear?” Could you consider creating even a tiny wildlife habitat in your yard?

It really is easy to add a few elements that would provide a few critters the basics for survival. A small pond may attract insect-munching frogs and dragonflies. Native shrubs and flowers often provide nectar for butterflies, and fruit and seed for birds. Worried about rats? How about learning to identify and appreciating our marvelous native snake species that naturally control rat populations? Or how about adding an owl nest box? Providing habitat for a family of owls to live in your yard is a much cheaper and less toxic way to control unwanted rodents and insects than using poisons or chemicals!

There are many ways to attract wildlife to your yard that are easy and attractive. Like Grandma always said, “Share with one another.” Let’s make her proud while improving curb-appeal. Share nicely with all living things—human and wildlife.

To learn more visit: