|Our Journey To Sustainablity
The Value of a Home Energy Audit
You can conduct your own energy audit if you know where to look for air leaks, water waste and other key areas of a home's inefficiencies. The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Savers website ( www.energysavers.gov ) has guidelines to help homeowners conduct do-it-yourself home energy assessments. For instance, DOE recommends that homeowners make a list of obvious air leaks, such as through gaps along baseboards or at the edges of flooring and at wall and ceiling junctures. The potential energy savings from reducing drafts in a home can be as high as 30 percent per year according to DOE.
You also should check the filters on heating and cooling equipment to see if they need to be changed, to keep your furnace and air conditioners functioning at maximum efficiency; and if these or other appliances are more than 15 years old, consider replacing them with newer models that meet federal Energy Star efficiency criteria.
A professional energy auditor with dedicated assessment tools and the knowledge of how to use them will in all likelihood carry out a more comprehensive assessment than you can do yourself. Such assessments often involve the use of equipment such as blower doors, which measure the extent of leaks, and infrared cameras, to reveal hard-to-detect areas of air infiltration and missing insulation.
A comprehensive home energy audit will include the following:
Once the home energy auditor has finished with the onsite assessment of the house, they will prepare a written report including a scope of work that prioritizes the improvements you could make based on their cost effectiveness. Items such as air sealing and duct sealing are usually at the top of the list of energy improvements.
While a professional home energy audit will cost about as much as a shiny new iPad, the cost saving over time can be significant. If you chose to hire a home energy auditor, you should look for one who is certified by the Building Performance Institute (BPI). As with any contractor you allow in your home, you should always ask for references and check them.
Put Some Green Resolutions on Your List for 2012
Dorothy Miele, SP Environmental Commission / Green Team
How many of us make New Year resolutions and don’'t stick to them? The list of typical ones such as lose weight, exercise daily, be nicer to the boss, go to church, win the lottery, is endless, but hopefully, not useless. We make resolutions because we think we need improvements.
It's not too late to think bigger. The planet is in peril. Global warming, wild erratic weather, land, air and water pollution and loss of irreplaceable natural resources are fact, not fiction. We can all pull together by acting responsibly for the greater, greener good of our community, state, nation and planet. Put some green in your life. Change some habits that contribute to an unhealthy environment. The changes you make affect not just you, but everyone else.
Stop prolonged vehicle idling. Besides emitting air pollution and contributing to asthma, idling for more than three minutes is unlawful.
Reduce, reuse, recycle. By doing so, you will help to conserve natural resources, landfill space and energy.
Launder using cold water. You don’t need to waste money running the hot water heater for laundering clothes. They get just as clean in cold water as hot and this reduces your carbon footprint.
Install a low flow toilet. You’ll save money with every flush. If you can’t replace the toilet, place a plastic bottle filled with sand in the toilet tank (be careful not to interfere with the mechanisms inside). Other types of low flow hardware can be installed on showerheads and faucets.
Lower your dependency on oil. Walk, carpool, ride a bike if possible. Join the Mayor's Wellness Campaign for solutions to healthier living.
Save energy. Lower the thermostat several degrees in the winter. Open windows or use fans instead of using air conditioners in the summer.
Conserve water. Take shorter showers; save greywater (dishwater, sink water) for plants; shut the water off while brushing teeth; water the yard during the cooler parts of the day.
Compost. Reduce the amount of household trash that’'s headed to the local landfill while producing nutrient rich soil for your gardens.
Buy rechargeable batteries. They can be used many times over and can be recycled.
Use reusable shopping bags. Bring your own reusable bag when shopping. Forget those petroleum-based plastic bags. Reusable totes are cheap, come in many designs, don’t tear and can sometimes save you a couple of cents at the cash register.
Buy locally. Support the local economy.
The most challenging resolution of all is not listed. It resides inside us. It is a personal commitment to seriously decide that the time has come to contribute to a sustainable community which seeks to optimize quality of life for its residents by ensuring that its environmental, economic and social objectives are balanced and mutually supporting. We can collectively strive to save tax dollars, assure clean land, air and water, and improve working and living environments as steps to building a sustainable South Plainfield that will thrive well into the next century.
Happy New Year from the Green Team.
Celebrate the Season While Caring for the Earth
It is important to continue good reduce, reuse and recycle habits during the holidays, especially considering that Americans generate 25% more trash than usual each week between Thanksgiving and New Years. Here are a few suggestions from the South Plainfield Green Team.
Once the swag is removed, flatten cardboard boxes and tie in small bundles. Separate cans and glass bottles that may have gotten into your regular trash. Bundle holiday catalogs and put them at the curb on your pickup day. Don't include tissue paper, metallic or foil gift wrap with mixed paper. Recycle coffee grinds, tea bags, fruit and vegetable scraps in an established compost pile.
Electronics -- everything from laptops to home theater units -- are always hot holiday gift items. What do you with the old unwanted models? Recycle electronics properly at the South Plainfield Recycling Center on Kenneth Avenue, hours of which are: Tuesday from 12 pm to 7 pm; Friday from 8 am to 3 pm; and Saturday 8 am to 3 pm. Your garbage hauler should not be taking electronics away as it is against NJ state law. Used rechargeable batteries, lithium and button batteries should be recycled at the Recycling Center or Borough Hall on Plainfield Avenue as well as cell phones, too.
If you are clearing out old clothes to make room for new gifted garments, recycle the clothes in the drop boxes that are around town, or donate to a charity of your choice.
After the holidays, the South Plainfield Department of Public Works will pick up your live holiday tree at the curb and turn it into mulch. Remember, you must avoid burning Christmas tree branches in your fireplace. Creosote, a flammable compound, can build up in your chimney.
The holidays do not have to be a burden on the environment. Continue good recycling habits throughout the year.
Celebrate the Season While Caring for the Earth
It’s a fact: garbage haulers collect 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. Across the nation, that equates to a million additional tons a week in uneaten food, gift wrapping and packaging materials.
Here are a few tips from the South Plainfield Sustainable Jersey Green Team to reduce your holiday trash through sustainable giving.
Rethink your gift list and prior buying habits. Give something really personal and unique. How about an experience such as music, dance, language, swimming classes or art lessons? Consider admission to a museum, an exhibition, a sporting event or tickets to the theater. Purchase a membership in a club, organization or association; a certificate to a health spa; a subscription to an on-line magazine. Oooh, how about a cruise?
Give investments such as a US Savings Bond, open an Education IRA or start a college savings plan. Make a donation to a hospital, library, nature center in the recipient's name. Of course there is always the Gift Card which is found at checkout counters almost anywhere. This list is endless -- food stores, restaurant chains, department stores, pet suppliers, hardware outlets, and coffee shops. While gift cards are often considered “impersonal,” the recipient will get only what he wants. Then there is always hard, cold cash. Someone may need to pay a bill.
If you must purchase a gift, buy durable goods -- presents that are expected to last at least three years. Choose toys that challenge: a musical instrument, a chess set, tools, ice skates or art supplies. Purchase merchandise with recycled content and a “Made in USA” label. The latter is is in consideration of the environmental impact, namely greenhouse gasses, in transporting merchandise from half-way around the world.
Find more sustainable giving ideas at www.eartheasy.com/give_sustainchristmas.htm
Celebrate the season while caring for the earth.
A BRIGHT IDEA FOR HOLIDAY SAVINGS
Save money and energy this holiday season by switching to strings of LED decorative lights for your house and Christmas tree. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Consumer Reports, and dozens of other environmental resources, the switch is a really bright idea.
LED (light-emitting diode) lights are a great alternative to strings of traditional incandescent lamp lights. The most attractive benefit of using LEDs may be the significant savings on the holiday utility bill. LEDs use 90% less electricity than the glass incandescent type. Because they use less power, plastic LEDs also run cooler, reducing fire risk, are safer to connect end-to-end sets without overloading the wall socket, and are more durable because there are no filaments to burn out (thus no bulbs to replace). According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LEDs last longer and have an operational life span of approximately 20,000 hours. That’s enough to last for 40 holiday seasons.
Is there a downside to LEDs? Yes. The C7 and C9 size incandescent bulbs are five to six times brighter, and LEDs may cost a little more. However, for long-term monetary savings, longevity of light sets and reduction of fire risk, LEDs might be worth the purchase. Check out the sales at local retailers.
Whatever your choice of decorative lights, be aware that Christmas trees are involved in about 300 fires every year, according to Consumer Reports. Be sure to inspect your light sets before you hang them. Check to see if each string has a holographic “UL Listed” tag. It is imperative to discard strings with broken sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Do not plug more than three strings of lights into an extension cord, and be sure to turn off all your holiday lights when leaving home or going to bed.
Have a safe and bright holiday.
LED – The Sustainable Lighting Choice
Now that fall is here and daylight is shortening, the need for safe and effective lighting is becoming more important. With the economy “in the tank,” it’s now even more important for consumers to explore alternate ways of saving money, while increasing efficiency. Switching common household bulbs from incandescent to LED is a great way to do both!
Traditionally, incandescent lamps have dominated the market as an inexpensive and readily available source of candle power. In recent years, environmental awareness and an ailing economy (plagued by soaring fuel costs) has heightened the need for more efficient lighting devices. The most buzz-worthy advance to date has been the light-emitting diode.
A light-emitting diode (LED) is a solid-state device used for converting electrical current into visible light of a single color.
The first LED that was visible to the human eye was the red LED, developed in 1962 by Nick Holonyak, Jr. while working for General Electric. Early uses of the device as indicator lamps for communication equipment and lighting simple displays were expensive and primitive. In more recent years, LED technology has grown and developed into forms that appeal to the everyday consumer at an affordable price.
LED components are both decorative and functional, and readily available in most traditional types and styles. They are applicable for most residential, commercial and industrial uses. Fixtures are manufactured in both low (12v) and line (110v) voltage options, as well as with solar cells for maximum energy efficiency. Recent advances in light color/quality and available photometrics make LEDs a true competitor in a market dominated by aging technology.
For more information on LED lighting, visit the Lighting Research Center (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) website or contact your local lighting representative. Visit the IALD (International Association of Lighting Designers) website for more information on lighting design and/or to contact a lighting design consultant.
Lighting Research Center
International Association of Lighting Designers
Xeriscaping to Save Water Resources
Last year's drought is just a memory in light of the generous amount of rainfall the last few months have brought. Is it a trend, or is Mother Nature just toying with us?
Given the unpredictability of rainfall, water conservation should always be considered in the daily lives of residents and businesses who consume water. We may tend to think of water conservation solely through the installation of water-efficient equipment, such as low-flow toilets, low-flow shower heads and water-efficient washing machines. Water conservation is important outdoors, too. Xeriscaping should be considered to save water and help mitigate the effects of drought while maintaining lush lawns and bountiful gardens.
Xeriscaping is a “hydro-conscious” design approach aimed at creating regionally appropriate landscapes and conserving water through plant selection and arrangement. The concept was first coined by the Denver Colorado Water Department in 1981 to offset the growing demand for thirstily-exotic (and costly) landscapes. The word "xeriscape" is derived from the Greek "xeros," meaning dry, and "scape," a kind of view or scene.
2- Plant Selection
For more information on Xeriscaping, please visit the following websites:
E-Waste: a growing problem of technological innovation
Slimmer, smaller, stylish, smarter -- and disposable. Consumer electronics, from appliances to hand-held cellular phones and personal stereos, have a very short shelf life. Electronics were once built to be repairable. Who remembers dialing up the TV repairman on a rotary phone for a house call? And when they no longer made house calls, lugging a heavy, bulky portable TV or microwave to a repair shop? For better or for worse, advancing technology has now made consumer repair basically a thing of the past. Consumer electronics are now designed to be regularly replaced, and as a result, discarded.
That old, bulky TV set with the cathode ray tube (CRT) can no longer be trashed in the local landfill, and for good reason. It contains toxic materials, notably up to eight pounds of lead, which can leach out when crushed to contaminate soil as well as drinking water. On the flip side, electronic products also contain valuable resources such as steel, aluminum, precious metals, engineered plastics and other materials which can be recovered and recycled.
Cell phones do not contain as much toxic waste as larger electronics, but they still present a problem if not properly disposed of. According to the web site earth911.com, the cell phone coating is often made of lead and the old cell phones were powered by Ni-Cd batteries which contain nickel and cadmium. Cadmium is linked to lung and liver damage.
Mercury, another toxic material, can be found in the small fluorescent lamp in a PC or Mac screen. Mercury, lead and cadmium is found in computer circuit boards
Green Mapping Neighborhoods from the Past
A water-stained artifact found in the basement at Borough Hall by the South Plainfield Public Works Department has become a source of information for the Green Team/Sustainable Jersey Community Asset Mapping Project.
The artifact is a Borough map dated 1929, three years after the Borough's split with Piscataway Township. Though slightly stained at the bottom, the large street map reveals monikers designating local neighborhoods. Some of the names are still familiar, thanks to the long memory of residents and the South Plainfield Historical Society's oral history project. Many people can still remember where Cherry Dell Gardens, Holly Park and New Petrograd were located. But new names were revealed on the map, which hangs in the the Chief Financial Officer's office at Borough Hall. Names such as Centralia Manor, Hollywood Farms, Nova Ukrainia, Brookside Manor, Holly Crest and Mountain View Heights were hand-written on the map. Large tracts were noted as being owned by a few of the most important founding citizens of South Plainfield -- Hamilton and the McDonough Brothers -- as well as the Field family that also owned large tracts of land known as Fieldville in Piscataway.
The Community Asset Mapping project, also known as Green Mapping, will provide a collective web-based inventory of the positive and valued aspects of South Plainfield such as locations of educational facilities; parks, recreation and open space sites; natural assets including wetlands and trails; locations of civic, scout and faith-based organizations as well as business associations and locations. The information newly discovered in the Borough's basement will be included on the Green Map overlay designating past and present sites of historical interest.
The Green Team is recruiting members of the public to join in collecting and sharing data for the mapping project. Your ideas and participation are important to the success of this project. An on-line survey is available on the Borough webpage,www.southplainfieldnj.com. Share your time, information and suggestions as to what you would like included in the Green Map inventory or join the team that makes the final selections and updates to the map.
Printed surveys are available at the South Plainfield Environmental Specialist's office and the South Plainfield Senior Center.
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CLEANING PRODUCTS MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH
One potentially hazardous chemical, tricolsan, can be found in many household items, such as soaps, toothpastes, cosmetics and deodorants. Some researchers hypothesize that this substance may aggravate allergies, asthma and eczema -- a theory supported by studies that have found greater prevalence of these ailments in subjects who have been exposed to larger amounts of household chemicals. Triclosan has also been linked to photoallergenic contact dermatitis, a type of skin irritation that occurs when exposed areas are subjected to sunlight.
Sodium hydroxide, commonly found in drain cleaners, can cause even more severe irritation. This substance may cause chemical burns that can lead to permanent scarring of the skin and blindness when spilled or squirted in the eyes. Oven cleaners -- especially those in the form of aerosol sprays, which increase the likelihood of inhaling the fumes -- can be equally harmful. Like sodium hydroxide, they can severely damage the skin, eyes, lungs and breathing passages on contact.
If you choose to use these products, you should read the Cautions on the labels carefully and take them seriously. "Use with adequate ventilation" means open the windows and use an exhaust fan. "Eye and skin protection" means safety glasses and rubber gloves.
To avoid these dangers, homes can be cleaned safely and effectively by taking steps to utilize more natural products. For example, replace antibacterial agents with simple soap -- it boasts almost equal germ-fighting potential with a lot less risk. Clean toilet bowls and tile with vinegar, borax or washing soda and ovens with a mixture of baking soda, salt and water paste. Purchase dish detergent that does not contain phosphates or chlorine. Use a mixture of baking soda and water to clean carpets and upholstery and fight odors by purchasing an exhaust fan or simply opening a window.
A healthy home should never be hazardous to your health.
Composting yard waste and food scraps benefits our soil and plants, helps the environment by reducing the amount of garbage going to the landfill, and saves money on fertilizer and other soil amendments.
According to compostguide.com, “about one third of the space in landfills is taken up with organic waste from our yards and kitchens, just the type of material that can be used in compost.“ Why throw it away when it can become a money saver and cheap source of fertilizer for the garden?
A compost pile consists of four basic ingredients which will enrich the garden: nitrogen, carbon, water and air.
Grass clippings, fresh leaves and twigs, vegetables and fruit trimmings and coffee grounds and filters decompose to release nitrogen.
Carbon comes from brown materials such as dry leaves and grasses, wood chips, corn stalks, shredded newspaper, paper towels and napkins.
Adding water to the compost pile will keep it moist and help break down the organic material. A dry compost pile is inactive.
A compost pile must be turned to add air (oxygen) which will help to break down the organic material.
To see a sampling of composting units, visit the Highland Woods Nature Center at 115 Sylvania Place. Six examples of units include a large, 3-bin wood structure; a simple wire unit, a tumbler, and 3 plastic units available to Middlesex County residents at deeply discounted prices from the Middlesex County Improvement Authority and the Middlesex County Division of Solid Waste Management.
Start composting today and reap the rewards tomorrow.
WITH A SIMPLE TURN OF THE KEY
Sandy Pleeter, SP Green Team Associate Member
On April 4, 2011, the Municipal Governing Body of South Plainfield passed a resolution to discourage idling motor vehicles, especially in areas such as school parking lots, drive-through windows, gas stations, strip malls, distribution centers and businesses, by educating the community and enforcing New Jersey’s existing laws (C.39:3-70.2 and C.26:2C-1) against idling for more than three minutes. This resolution was created for several reasons and, if successful, will benefit residents in many ways.
The greatest concern is pollution. For every gallon of gasoline a car uses, it emits about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Idling vehicles also emit other chemicals, that can trigger asthma attacks. Studies have linked many of these to increased risk of cancer, heart and lung disease, asthma and allergies. Specifically, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has declared diesel exhaust a possible carcinogen whose reduction could prevent 16,000 new asthma diagnoses each year and save the State of New Jersey from $770 million to $10 billion in health care and related costs. Emissions from idling vehicles also contribute to acid rain. By reducing these emissions, drivers can lessen damage to the environment and population.
In addition to polluting, idling vehicles waste non-renewable fuel. In fact, every 10 minutes spent idling uses enough fuel to drive the vehicle for five miles, and any period of idling over 10 seconds uses more fuel (and releases more pollutants) than would shutting off the engine and turning it back on when ready to resume traveling. With gas prices rising, wasting fuel in this manner can cost significant amounts of money -- money that, especially in the midst of the country’s current economic crises, could be put to much better use.
The Green Team’s strategy to reduce idling is through a public education campaign that engages the community-at-large. The Green Team has begun a search to find allies and champions who will pledge to support and promote the anti-idling resolution. These include local businesses, the Board of Education, school PTAs/PTSOs, student groups or clubs, neighborhood associations and non-profits, and concerned citizens. Furthermore, the team has begun to identify priority locations where idling is rampant.
Through community awareness and involvement, vehicle idling can be decreased, preventing pollution and disease while saving money. Thus, with the simple turn of a key, residents can render South Plainfield a much healthier and safer place to live.
With summer almost here, many are spending time outdoors participating in recreational activities or just enjoying the warm weather. To ensure that such enjoyment continues for years to come, we must do all that we can to maintain, improve and preserve our environment. By making some simple changes this season, we can take significant steps toward accomplishing this goal. Here are some tips from savewithces.com to get you started:
Gettin the lead out!
South Plainfield's Green Team is launching an initiative regarding lead that will focus on public outreach and education. By informing residents about the dangers of lead, the group hopes to spur changes that will benefit the health of the community for years to come.
Lead is a toxic metal that is easily absorbed in the body when ingested or inhaled. Anyone can develop lead poisoning, but it is more often found in children under the age of six, many of whom inhale the substance through the dust of lead-based paint that has deteriorated over time. In fact, lead poisoning is the number one preventable environmental health problem facing young children today. Each year 310,000 1- to 5-year-olds are found to have unsafe blood levels of lead.
There is no safe level of lead in the blood. Even low levels can cause cognitive deficits or, in more severe cases, permanent and irreversible learning disorders, developmental delays, decreased I.Q. and neurological problems. In extreme cases, coma and death may occur.
Treatment for lead poisoning depends on the level of lead in the blood. Small amounts can be treated by simply stopping exposure, as the body will naturally eliminate the lead over time. Severe cases, however, may cause hospitalization and treatment with a medication called a chelating agent, which binds with the lead, allowing the body to rid it naturally.
Lead can be found in other products such as ink, water pipes, batteries, jewelry, crayons, and toys. It is important that children get tested for lead exposure at both ages one and two. Signs of lead poisoning include: irritability or behavioral problems, headaches, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, muscle and joint weakness or pain, and seizures.
New Jersey banned the use of lead-based paint in homes in 1971. But, according to Sustainable Jersey literature, "nearly 1 million homes, or 30% of the State's housing, were built before 1950, the time when the use of lead-based paint was most prominent." The County of Middlesex alone has more than 9,000 housing units built before 1950. People can consult the link from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services for information about precautions to take if renovating an older home that still has its original paint layer.
South Plainfield Seeks SustainableJersey Certification
The next step was taken by the South Plainfield Environmental Commission in January, 2011. The commission amended its by-laws to form a Green Team as mandated by the certification program. Eight members were chosen: four from the Environmental Commission (Dorothy Miele, Robyn Rusnack, Christopher Cioffi, Jonathan Walezak), Dr. Alice Tempel (South Plainfield Environmental Specialist), Robert Capparelli (head of the Department of Public Works), Glenn Cullen (Chief Financial Officer), and Christine Buteas, (Environmental Commission Council Liaison).
The final step was taken by the governing body of South Plainfield when it approved a resolution on February 22, 2011, formally establishing the Green Team “to identify, prioritize, select and enable sustainability initiatives that will benefit the residents and business people of South Plainfield by raising community awareness; engaging citizen volunteerism; maintaining fiscal responsibility; and attaining SustainableJersey certification.”
A sustainable community seeks to optimize quality of life for its residents by ensuring that its environmental, economic and social objectives are balanced and mutually supportive. It strives to save tax dollars, assure clean land, air and water, and improve working and living environments as steps to building a sustainable community that will thrive well into the next
The Green Team will seek citizen participation as it moves forward with initiatives and programs designed to identify and implement best practices in the ways of natural resource protection, waste reduction, energy efficiency and in many other areas.
Sustainable Jersey is a partnership between the New Jersey League of Municipalities, Mayors’ Committee for a Green Future, New Jersey Sustainable State Institute at Rutgers University, Municipal Land Use Center at The College of New Jersey, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Rutgers Center for Green Building, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and a coalitional of NJ nonprofits, state agencies, and experts in various fields.
The Green Team meets at 7 pm the second Wednesday of the month in the conference room at Borough Hall, 2480 Plainfield Avenue. The public is invited to attend.
Borough of South Plainfield