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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quick Facts About LEDs

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

While LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) can be more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), they are currently more expensive. But costs are coming down—in 2007, they were roughly one-seventh of costs in 2001—and it's expected that LEDs will be competitive within a few years.

Here are some more facts:
  • LED lights are very small, extremely durable, and can be manufactured in a variety of colors and forms.
  • They have the potential to be more energy efficient and last far longer than most current lighting technologies.
  • They are considered environmentally friendly, since they contain no mercury, and the visible light applications for home or business do not emit infrared (IR) or ultraviolet (UV) light.
  • They produce very little heat; and, their lifetime is not affected by frequent on/off switching.
  • "White" light is created by combining the light from red, green, and blue (RGB) LEDs, or by coating a blue LED with yellow phosphor.
Would you like a FREE LED replacement bulb to get started with this exciting new technology? Join us September 24 at Pinellas County Extension for the first annual Pinellas Home Energy Symposium. Experts will answer your questions from 9am to noon. Click here to register. All registered participants will receive an LED, 60watt-equivalent bulb which was made in Florida!

To learn more about LED Lighting, click here to download this pdf fact sheet from the University of Florida / IFAS.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tomatoes with Great Taste and More

Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Pinellas County Extension

There is nothing better than biting into a sandwich topped with a sweet juicy tomato or sitting down to a crisp green salad packed with lots of bright red tomatoes that have that fresh from the garden flavor. Meet Tasti-Lee™, a special tomato variety developed by the University of Florida. It has all the characteristics you want in a tomato- great taste, a juicy texture and a bright red color. Not only are you getting all those qualities as well as vitamins A and C and the mineral potassium, this variety contains a higher amount of lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant, which means that it reduces the amount of damage done to body cells by oxygen. This damage can eventually lead to cancers, heart disease, and other illnesses. Research is currently underway to look explore the health benefits of this compound.

Tomatoes taste best if not refrigerated, so when you bring your tomatoes home, store them at room temperature away from direct sunlight. Tasti-Lee™ tomatoes do have a shorter shelf life than other varieties so make sure to use them soon after you purchase.

Whether it’s a classic Italian salad you crave or a fresh salsa for dipping or topping, enjoy the new “Fresh from Florida” Tasti-Lee™. For recipes ideas, and more information on this variety, click on the links below.

Tasit-LeeTM Official Fact Sheet
Tasti-LeeTM Website

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What Kind of Insulation is Best for Your Home?

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

Insulation is crucial to your house, but how do you choose the right kind?

Insulation's effectiveness is measured by its R-value, which depends on the type and thickness of the insulation. When purchasing, compare the cost per square foot (installed) of your R-value choice.

Each type is made to fit in a different part of your house. Rolls or blankets are usually laid over the floor in the attic. Batts are made to fit between the studs in walls or between the joists of ceilings or floors. Loose fill insulation is blown into the attic or walls. High density damp spray is used in the attic or walls. Blown-in-blanket is a loose fill material held in place in walls or ceilings by netting.

Fiberglass is the most common type of insulation, manufactured from sand and recycled glass. Rock wool is made
from natural rocks and formed under high heat. Mineral wool is primarily made from recycled materials from steel mill wastes.Cellulose is made from recycled newsprint and cotton is often made from post-industrial recycled cloth like denim. These are treated with fire-retardant chemicals.

ISO board, XPS (blueboard), or EPS (beadboard) are usually found in rigid board form. These lightweight boards generally have an R-value of 4 to 7 per inch. They are intended for use in confined spaces such as exterior walls and cathedral ceilings.

Spray foams, used in the attic or walls, such as urethanes and polyicynene are also available with R-values from 3 to 6 per inch.

Which one is right for you? It depends on several things:
  • Amount of space
  • Bulk density of the materials (weight per volume) so your ceilings won’t sag
  • Ease of access
  • Budget
  • Ease of replacement the insulation in case you had a roof or wall leak
  • Whether you are building a new home or improving an existing home.
To learn more about home insulation, download this pdf fact sheet from the Florida Energy Systems Consortium.

Monday, August 22, 2011

GREEN Your School’s Report Card

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Urban Sustainability Agent

When we prepare for the academic year for our school and college aged students, we’re usually thinking about school supplies, dorm rooms and lunch boxes but have you ever considered the green ethic of the school your student attends? Does the school recycle? Does the school have a green purchasing policy?

More and more schools are getting on board with the concept of Green Schools and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) offers information on how this initiative is pushing schools to change practices. The USGBC oversees the LEED certification programs and incorporates these elements in the green schools initiative. Green Schools are energy efficient, conserve resources, improve air quality and encourage waste reduction. Explore this interactive link to learn more about how schools can go green.

Green Schools contribute to a healthy learning environment for children, improves learning performance and reduces absenteeism due to illness. School boards across the nation are adopting transportation choices and routes that are more efficient and effective; incorporating new technology in the classroom (e.g. SMART boards); and reinventing school menus. These efforts contribute to increased cost savings, promote healthy living choices and encourage environmental stewardship throughout the community.

Many universities across the nation are going beyond the scope of the Green Schools initiative and campus buildings now include solar panels, composting and waste reduction strategies, and dorm room retrofits and upgrades. College students are also required to participate in community service groups that allow them to contribute to the local community. Sierra Club recently released a list of 100 green universities and colleges.

Before you get involved in local efforts to green neighborhood schools, read this myth debunker so that you are armed with all the answers for the stakeholders.
There’s no reason to be green with envy since every school can earn an A+.

U.S. Green Building Council
EDIS factsheet - Evaluating Green Communities
EDIS factsheet - Youth Environmental Stewardship

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chill-Out With these Refrigerator Purchasing Tips

10% of the average home electric bill goes towards refrigeration. You can save money throughout the year by buying a more efficient refrigerator/freezer.

Refrigerator and Freezer Purchasing Tips:
  • Choose the right size and type for your needs. Generally, the larger the refrigerator or freezer model, the greater the energy consumption. The most energy-efficient refrigerator models are typically 16 to 20 cubic feet. The most energy-efficient freezer models are typically chest freezers
  • Choose a model with a blue ENERGY STAR® label. ENERGY STAR® qualified refrigerators and freezers save you money over their lifetime by saving on energy costs.
  • Compare yellow EnergyGuide labels. A yellowEnergyGuide label includes information on the energy usage of the product, energy usage comparisons with similar models, and estimated annual operating costs.
  • Consider buying a top-mount refrigerator-freezer. Top-mount refrigerator-freezer models use 10 to 25% less energy than side-by-side models
  • Consider a model without an ice-maker and dispenser. Automatic ice-makers and door dispensers increase energy use by 14 to 20 percent and raise the purchase price by about $75-250.
  • Look for a refrigerator with automatic moisture control, but without an anti-sweat heater.Models with automatic moisture control have been engineered to prevent moisture accumulation on the cabinet exterior without the addition of a heater. This feature differs from an "anti-sweat" heater that actually produces heat. Models with an anti-sweat heater will consume five to 10 percent more energy than models without this feature.
To learn more about Refrigerators & Freezers, click here to download this pdf fact sheet from the Florida Energy Systems Consortium.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Citizen Scientist Workshop

Mary Campbell, Extension Director and Urban Sustainability Agent

Join instructors George Kish, US Geological Survey & Mary Campbell, UF Extension for a free training to engage volunteers in the collection of local ecological information; and introduction to Nature’s Notebook, a project of the USA National Phenology Network. Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and inter-annual variations in climate.

Come out and join Members, Volunteers and Participants of Native Plant Society, Audubon Society, NABA, Master Naturalists, Master Gardeners, Florida Botanical Gardens, Sustainable Floridians, “Friends” of Local and State Parks, Refuges and Other Environmental Groups, as they assist resource managers, scientists & public in decision-making related to conservation.

Click here to register online for this free class.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Subcommittee Releases Shale Gas Recommendations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A diverse group of advisors to Energy Secretary Steven Chu today released a series of consensus-based recommendations calling for increased measurement, public disclosure and a commitment to continuous improvement in the development and environmental management of shale gas, which has rapidly grown to nearly 30 percent of natural gas production in the United States.

Increased transparency and a focus on best practices “benefits all parties in shale gas production: regulators will have more complete and accurate information, industry will achieve more efficient operations and the public will see continuous, measurable, improvement in shale gas activities,” the report says.

The report calls for industry leadership in improving environmental performance, underpinned by strong regulations and rigorous enforcement, evolving to meet the identified challenges.

As shale gas grows and becomes an increasingly important part of our nation’s energy supply, it is crucial to bring a better understanding of the environmental impacts—both current and potential—and ensure that they are properly addressed,” Subcommittee Chairman John Deutch said. “The current output of shale gas and its potential for future growth emphasize the need to assure that this supply is produced in an environmentally sound fashion, and in a way that meets the needs of public trust.”

Better data will help the industry focus its investments, give the public the information it needs to effectively engage, and help regulators identify and address the most important problems,” Deutch continued. “We’re issuing a call for industry action, but we are not leaving it to industry alone.”

The report was prepared by the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Shale Gas Production Subcommittee. Chaired by Deutch, an MIT professor, it was convened by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu at the direction of President Barack Obama who observed that “recent innovations have given us the opportunity to tap large reserves—perhaps a century’s worth” of shale gas.

The subcommittee was tasked with producing a report on the immediate steps that can be taken to improve the safety and environmental performance of shale gas development. The report reflects three months of deliberations among a diverse group of industry experts, environmental advocates, academics and former state regulators.

The report includes recommendations in four key areas:

1. Making information about shale gas production operations more accessible to the public

The report calls for the full disclosure of all chemicals used in fracturing fluids. While the committee agrees with the prevailing view that the risk of leakage of fracturing fluids through fractures made in deep shale reserves is remote where there are is large separation from drinking water, the report finds that there is no economic or technical reason to prevent public disclosure of all chemicals used in fracturing fluids.

It also calls for the creation of a national database of all public information made about shale gas. Assembling the data, which are currently dispersed in perhaps a hundred different locations, in a comparable format would permit easier access by all interested parties.

The report recommends government funding support for existing, multi-stakeholder mechanisms such as the non-profit Ground Water Protection Council’s Risk Based Data Management System and the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulation. Encouraging such multi-stakeholder mechanisms will strengthen regulation and improve efficiency, the report finds.

2. Immediate and longer-term actions to reduce environmental and safety risks of shale gas operations, with a particular focus on protecting air and water quality

Air Quality:

The report says that measures should be taken to reduce emissions on air pollutants, ozone precursors and methane as quickly as practicable and supports prompt adoption of standards to reduce emissions of all air contaminants.

The subcommittee recommends the design and rapid implementation of measurement systems to collect comprehensive methane and other air emissions data from shale gas operations.

The subcommittee also recommends that a federal interagency planning effort be launched immediately to acquire data and analyze the overall greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas operations throughout the lifecycle of natural gas use in comparison to other fuels.

Water Quality:

The report urges the adoption of a systemic approach to water management based on consistent measurement and public disclosure. Companies should measure and publicly report the composition of water stocks and flow throughout the process; manifest all transfers of water among different locations; and makes recommendations about best practices in well development and construction, especially casing and cementing. Likewise, agencies should review and modernize their rules to ensure they are fully protective of both groundwater and surface water.

The findings also recommend additional field studies on methane leakage from hydrofractured wells to water reservoirs and the adoption of requirements for background water quality measurements to record existing methane levels in nearby water wells prior to drilling.

3. Creation of a Shale Gas Industry Operation organization committed to continuous improvement of best operating practices

A more systemic approach by the shale gas industry based on best practices—recognized as improvements to techniques and methods over time based on measurement and field experience—is an important way to achieve better operational and environmental outcomes, the report finds.

The report envisions the creation of a national organization, with external stakeholders, dedicated to continuous improvement of best practice through the development and diffusion of standards and the assessment of member compliance. The organization would likely work through regional subgroups.

4. Research and development (R&D) to improve safety and environmental performance

The report finds that, while the majority of shale gas R&D will be performed by the oil and gas industry, there is a role for the federal government.

“We are mindful of the nation’s financial constraints,” Deutch said. “But we do see a key role that can be played by modest government support for R&D around environmental questions.”

The report recommends that the administration set an appropriate mission for shale gas R&D and level funding, with a particular focus on efficiency of water use and other improvements to enhance environmental objectives.

The subcommittee report is available at:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Now See Here! What's Your SEER?

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The cooling efficiency of your heat pump or air conditioning system is rated by a SEER number. The SEER is defined as a ratio of the average amount of cooling per unit of electricity used.

Efficiencies of some systems can be as high as SEER 17.0 or more. (Chances are that older homes have units with SEERs less than 10.) Note that it is important to understand that even though the SEER may be high, if the system is not in good condition (for example, leaky ductwork), you will not receive the full value of the efficiency as the air distribution system is not used to determine the SEER rating.

Units with the ENERGY STAR emblem are efficiently designed and offer savings on energy bills without sacrificing performance, features, and comfort.

To learn more about air conditioning efficiency, click here to download this pdf fact sheet from the University of Florida/IFAS.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sustainable Floridians Open Orientation

Sustainable Floridian pioneers - Are you interested in a green lifestyle? Do you want to volunteer? Then this program is for you! Come out and meet the instructors of the 7- week Sustainable Floridian Master Volunteer program and review course materials. Refreshments and door prizes will be available.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 10:00 AM
Pinellas County Extension
12520 Ulmerton Road
Largo, FL 33774
Registration: click here

Friday, August 5, 2011

Transportation eTownhall

Pinellas Transit Alternatives Analysis Team wants your input! Join the Transportation eTownhall on Wednesday August 10, 2011 at 7 p.m. and participate in live, interactive discussions via the phone or web. Watch the event live on PCC-TV on Bright House channel 622, Knology channel 18, or Verizon channel 44. In addition to joining online or watching on TV, a random sample of 40,000 residents will be invited to participate in a telephone portion of the event. Interested citizens who do not receive a call but wish to join the telephone portion may call toll free – 1 -999-886-6603, ext 16006#.

For more information, check out or

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Radio Broadcast Focuses on Green Homes

Green homes and free energy audits are the featured topics Thursday, Aug. 4, on There’s No Place Like Home, the radio show sponsored by the Housing Finance Authority of Pinellas County. The show can also be watched on Pinellas County Connection Television, YouTube, or viewed online here.

The show features Joe Triolo, program manager of the Home Advantage Home Energy Program with Progress Energy, and Sam Moore of Planet Green Group. Guests will highlight the monthly energy savings that residents can enjoy with a few simple quick tips and share the latest in green building technologies.

The program, which features different issues each month, is sponsored by the Housing Finance Authority of Pinellas County. It airs the first Thursday of each month from 10:05 to 10:35 a.m. on WRXB 1590 AM.

Questions or comments about the show may be emailed to Housing Finance Authority.

Are Dollars Falling Out of Your Doors?

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

When checking for leaks around doors and windows, use a dollar bill: insert the dollar bill in the opening. If it falls out or slips out easily, the weather-stripping should be repaired or replaced. The greatest source of wasted heating and cooling energy in a home is air leaks. (You can also test your refrigerator door seal this way.)

To learn more about caulking and weather-stripping,
download this pdf fact sheet from the Florida Energy Systems Consortium.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Healthy Snacks for After School

Nan Jensen, RD, LD/N
Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences

Summer vacation is quickly coming to an end and soon it will be back to school.
When the kids get home after a long day in the classroom, the first thing they want to do is eat. Sound familiar? Children are eating about 168 more calories every day as snacks than they did in 1977, according to a 2010 Health Affairs study. Additional calories from any food, including snacks, can add up to an unhealthy weight for kids if those extra calories aren't burned off. For many kids, snacks are often desserts or sweetened beverages, such as soda, fruit drinks and sports drinks. These foods provide calories but not much in the way of other nutrients like vitamins and minerals. However, snacks can help fill those nutrition gaps, provide extra energy for after school activities or make up for a missed meal if you choose wisely. Here are some helpful tips.

  • Think of snacks as mini meals, not meal wreckers. Snacks can serve as opportunities for good nutrition, and ensure that your child will still be hungry for the next meal.
  • Most of the time, feed your child the same types of foods you would at other meals. Include low-fat dairy and other lean protein sources, eggs, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Snack foods should provide protein, carbohydrate, fiber, and some healthy fat. Foods rich in protein or fiber help kids stay fuller for longer, and add nutrients kids need to thrive.
While there is no hard and fast rule for the number of calories a snack should contain, aim for about 100 calories for smaller children to upwards of 300 calories for active teenagers.

For more information on snacks and snack ideas, check out the publication Healthy Snacks for Children