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Monday, August 30, 2010

Trash or Treasure?

By; Karen Saley, Extension Specialist

One way to be more sustainable is to recycle, but I’m not talking about only bottles, cans, and newspapers, I’m talking about just about everything you use in your life, household goods, books, kitchen ware, furniture, clothing, sports equipment and more.

At one time shopping at thrift stores and flea markets was considered; well, not very reputable, this is not the case anymore. It’s become all the rage to look for those bargains and save some money, and as an added bonus you get to help save the environment.

If you are of the green persuasion, it only makes sense to recycle as much as possible and take yourself out of the “disposable society” mind set.

So the next time you decide to go shopping consider some of these alternatives:

Thrift stores
Consignment shops
Flea markets
Swapping with friends
Pawn shops
Yard sales
Recycle websites
Church Bizarre

Remember the old saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” So here is your opportunity to save yourself a few bucks, help some worthy organizations, and help sustain the environment.

Happy Shopping!

Monday, August 23, 2010

What’s in the Air?

By: Vestina Crayton, Extension Specialist

Controlling the source of the problem is the best defense against poor indoor air quality. Maggie Murphy, Environmental Specialist II with Pinellas County’s Department of Health has identified the top ten sources that can be controlled to optimize your indoor air environment.

Here’s five of the top ten:
1. Don’t allow smoking indoors – According to the US EPA second hand smoke also known as environmental tobacco smoke ETS) can cause lung cancer and heart disease.

2. Install a carbon monoxide detector- Exposure to CO can cause flu-like symptoms. Since carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas, it is important to install a detector to monitor the levels of carbon monoxide. Gas stoves and exhaust from automobiles stored in an attached garage are sources of carbon monoxide.

3. Test for Radon- US EPA and the Surgeon General recommends that homeowners have their homes tested for radon. Second to first hand smoking, radon is a leading cause of lung cancer.

4. Control Moisture- Identify and fix all leaks. Hot and humid climates are the perfect environment for mold growth, dust mites and other pollutants. Keeping the relative humidity indoors between 30% and 55% is recommended.

5. Maintain Pets- Along with giving lots of love, our furry friends shed fur and release dander that contains allergens. These allergens can cause symptoms that range from sneezing to eczema.

To see the remaining five and to learn more, click here to hear the full presentation “Breathe Easy - Top Ten Ways to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality” by Maggie Murphy, Environmental Specialist II, with the Pinellas County Department of Health.

Indoor Air Quality in Florida series
US Environmental Protection Agency

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Hidden Cost of the Internet

By Margaret Deller, Extension Specialist

  • In 2009 247 billion emails were sent daily (Radicati Group)

  • One tree makes 8,333 sheets of paper (Conservatree)

  • Assume that every email sent to one person would use only one sheet of paper if printed, One tree = 8,333 emails

  • Divide the 247 billion emails by 8,333

  • 10,819,032,761 trees saved every year just by sending emails

10,819,032,761 trees! Just by sending emails! Yea for the internet! What a great win for the environment! We are so green! Right! Right?

Every action we complete in the virtual world has a measurable green house gas producing effect in the real world. In fact, according to Dr. Alexander Wissner-Gross, an Environmental Fellow at Harvard, just reading this post this far will produce 100 milligrams of carbon dioxide. Not a lot and definitely less than producing and distributing a paper version. But do you know someone else who has read this post? Do they read slower than you? Did you forward or download it? All those actions have effects as well. Jay Walker, the founder of, in his December 2008 TED Talk said the energy in one lump of coal is what it takes to move 1MB of information on the Internet.

  • Average song is about 3.5MB

  • Average video 750MB

  • With the energy in one bag of charcoal you can download 57 songs or 25% of a movie.

  • A single Google search produces .2 grams of CO2. This includes only the energy used to receive the request, get the answer, and send it back to you.

  • A single avatar in the Second Life virtual reality requires 1752kw of electricity per year; almost as much as an average live Brazilian.

By themselves one Google search, one song download, one YouTube video viewing, or one avatar not so bad. It is the additive effect of millions or billions of each of these actions we need to pay attention to.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Free ways to reduce Energy Use and Save Money from Progress Energy

By Guest Blogger Suzanne Grant, APR - Progress Energy Spokesperson/Lead Communications Specialist

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (August 11, 2010) – Saving energy and money on your electric bill can be quick, easy and free. While investments such as high-efficiency air conditioners and insulation may conserve more energy, those types of improvements can require an investment of several hundred to several thousand dollars. In today’s economy, many customers are looking for free ways to trim their electric bills.

Progress Energy Florida efficiency expert Malcolm Barnes, manager of demand side management – field operations, says small, no-cost changes can add up to significant savings.

“The biggest energy savings can come from a simple adjustment to the thermostat,” says Barnes. “Setting the thermostat to the optimal temperature – which means 78 degrees instead of 74 during warmer months – can save an average household more than $300 a year in cooling costs.”

Progress Energy calculates that for every degree the thermostat is set above 78, customers can save 10 percent more on their cooling costs.

The simple act of turning off the lights when leaving a room can also help lower energy bills.

“In fact, eliminating four hours of daily use of four, 60-watt bulbs, the number often contained in a ceiling fan light fixture, can save more than $45 in energy costs over the course of a year,” says Barnes. “Considering that the average home contains 45 light bulbs, turning off frequently used lights can result in substantial savings.”

Turning off lights and adjusting the thermostat are two easy, free, energy-efficiency changes. Progress Energy efficiency experts encourage customers to make additional simple and no-cost modifications to lower energy use and save money:

  • Wash clothes in cold water and save up to 50 cents per load. Dry clothes on a line outdoors and save even more.

  • Check the setting on your hot water tank. Temperatures above 120 degrees can waste energy and money. Turning down the dial on your water heater from 140 degrees to 120 can result in savings of up to $85 per year. Don’t forget to switch the tank off if you are going away for a few days.

  • Change your thermostat fan switch to the “auto” setting from the “on” position and save up to $25 a month.

  • Match your pot size to the stove burner. Heat is lost when small pots are used on large burners. According to the U.S Department of Energy, when using an electric range you can save about $35 a year by cooking in the right size pot. If you have copper-bottomed pots and pans, use them as they heat more efficiently.

  • Keep your refrigerator running efficiently by regularly cleaning the coils. Shop in bulk and stock up during sales or freeze containers of water to keep your freezer full. A full freezer uses less energy than an empty one. And, consider getting rid of that old, inefficient, second refrigerator or freezer running out in the hot garage. Chances are you can do without it and you can save $150-$200 or more year depending on its size and age, according to the U.S Department of Energy.

  • Sign up for Progress Energy’s EnergyWise HomeSM and receive credits on your electric bill of up to $147 a year. EnergyWise Home is a free program that temporarily cycles power off and on to select electrical equipment such as water heaters, pool pumps, and heating and cooling systems during periods of high electricity demand. Learn how to qualify at

Progress Energy offers its customers educational opportunities, services and technology to help them conserve electricity and manage their bills. The company’s free Home Energy Check, an electricity audit of your home, can be done online, on the phone or in person. Visit complete an online energy check and for instant access to more than 100 ways you can start reducing energy use and saving money today.

Progress Energy understands the pressures from the downturn in the economy and is committed to meeting its customers’ energy needs in the most efficient and affordable manner possible.

Progress Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN), provides electricity and related services to more than 1.6 million customers in Florida. The company is headquartered in St. Petersburg, Fla., and serves a territory encompassing more than 20,000 square miles, including the cities of St. Petersburg and Clearwater, as well as the Central Florida area surrounding Orlando. Progress Energy Florida is pursuing a balanced approach to meeting the future energy needs of the region. That balance includes increased energy-efficiency programs, investments in renewable energy technologies and a state-of-the-art electricity system. For more information about Progress Energy, visit

Note: Yearly savings listed above are estimates based on the typical home of approximately 1850 square feet with an annual kilowatt-hour (kWh) usage of 15,538 and are calculated at $0.13/kWh for simplification. Actual saving may differ from the above estimates due to various in weather, individual energy use habits and home characteristics. Calculations are based upon engineering assumptions from Progress Energy Florida, Department of Energy and Energy Star.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What Do The Buzz Words on Packages Really Mean?

By: Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Science Agent

Many of the packages that line the grocery store are labeled with buzz words that are intended to entice us to buy the products. While many of us may be familiar with terms such as “low fat”, “cholesterol free” and “low sodium”, other terms like “natural”, “no hormones” and “free range” may be a bit more confusing. So what do some of these terms mean? Here is a quick look at several definitions you may have questions about.

Made with Real Fruit or Contains Real Fruit Juice- There is no law that requires how much real fruit that has to be included in a food with this claim. The product could contain just one grape or one drop of orange juice to be accurate. A quick look at the ingredients list will show you what you need to know. Each ingredient present in a food product must be listed in descending order of predominance by weight. When high fructose corn syrup and/or sugar are listed as the first ingredients, you know that the “real fruit” content of the product isn't significant.

Natural- The term natural does not have a formal definition when applied to foods and is used broadly on a variety of foods. According to the Food Marketing Institute, the label refers to foods that are minimally processed and free of synthetic preservatives; artificial sweeteners and colors, flavors, and other artificial additives; growth hormones; antibiotics; hydrogenated oils; stabilizers; and emulsifiers. FDA only restricts the use of the term on products that contain added color, synthetic substances and flavors.

No hormones (pork or poultry)-Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry. Therefore, the claim “no hormones added” cannot be used on the labels of pork or poultry unless it is followed by a statement that says “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”

No hormones (beef)-The term “no hormones administered” may be approved for use on the label of beef products if sufficient documentation is provided to the USDA by the producer showing no hormones have been used in raising the animals.

Free range or free roaming - Producers must demonstrate to the USDA that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.

100% organic – Food must contain (excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients and processing aids. The USDA seal may appear on the packaging.

Organic – A product with this label must contain at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). Any remaining product ingredients must consist of nonagricultural substances approved on the National List including specific non-organically produced agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form. The USDA seal may appear on the packaging.

Made with organic ingredients – To carry this term, a product must contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients and list up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups on the principal display panel. The USDA seal cannot be used anywhere on the package.

For more information on labeling terms, check out the following websites:

Organic labeling-
What the Label Means-
Meat and Poultry Labeling terms

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pinellas County Extension Launches New Energy Conservation Web Pages

By: James Stevenson, Extension Specialist

Pinellas County Extension has just launched an interactive energy conservation web page for our citizens. There you will find information on how to make the best choices to improve your home’s energy efficiency, reduce your power bill and help protect the environment without sacrificing your comfort or lifestyle.

Get started by using interactive EnergyStar® calculators, including a customized EnergyStar® Home Advisor. Then explore the many University of Florida fact sheets on a range of topics. Looking for a new water heater? Want to make the most of your A/C dollars? Want to learn some easy and inexpensive ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency? Use these resources to help you make the best decisions.

Finally, take part in Pinellas County Extension’s new Energy Efficiency Project and receive energy-saving materials that can save you hundreds of dollars a year on your energy costs. The Power is Yours; you CAN make a difference!