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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Making Your Community Green and Reduce Costs

Posted by SEPCO

5/15/14 9:30 AM

Communities all across America are trying to improve their green image and reduce costs, but some are having a hard time figuring out where to start. Here are some ideas that can help improve your community and lower overall costs in the end.

  1. CommunitySolarLighting.jpgBuild LEED – new buildings, either commercial or residential, should be done to the highest green standards. Using high efficient HVAC systems, energy efficient building materials such as Low-E or thermal windows, plenty of insulation and energy star qualified appliances will lower the energy pull for every building.
  2. Remodel to Higher Standard – the same as above can be used for remodels. Sometime the integrity of the original construction is what the community wants to preserve, but this doesn’t mean energy efficient improvements can’t be made.
  3. Use Solar Lightingsolar lighting can be installed anywhere since no electrical grid is needed. Solar lights for signs, parking lots, streets, billboards, etc. will lower the costs to the electrical company and provide more sustainable lighting systems.
  4. Provide More Bike Lanes and Sidewalks – people are becoming more eco-conscious and are doing things on their own. One of the largest issues is traffic for bikers. If communities would install more bike lanes or sidewalks where people can safely travel, more people will chose to use their own two legs to power themselves where they need to go.
  5. Promote Local Farming – if there is farm land nearby, promote using these farms for local restaurants and grocery stores instead of importing produce and meat from far away. The quality is usually better and lower transportation costs.
  6. Install Recycling Bins – Instead of just having trash cans everywhere, put recycling bins out as well. By making recycling easy, more people would be inclined to actually do it, even the not so eco-conscious.

Just doing some simple things will provide a much greener community. What steps has your community taken to improve its green image and lower costs?

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Green Ideas, Clean Energy, Recycling

How to Go Green without Really Trying

Posted by SEPCO

3/20/14 9:30 AM

Going green might seem like a complicated, cumbersome ideal that’s just a little too far out of your comfort zone. But it’s not something that has to take a lot of energy if you don’t have a lot to expend. Here are a few simple ways to go green without really trying.

Buy the Right Light Bulbs

This is a simple enough way to go a little greener all over the house. When you need to replace the light bulbs in your home, do yourself a favor and buy the florescent bulbs instead of the standard. They use 75% less energy than the incandescent variety and last much, much longer. They might be a little pricier up front, but they’ll more than pay for themselves—and your home will be a little greener for it.

Watch Water Use

Next time your showerheads need to be replaced, go for the low-flow option. You’ll conserve water in a big way, which will reduce your water bill as well as be environmentally friendly.

Teach your children to brush their teeth with the water off. Letting the water run while they scrub wastes an inordinate amount of water (up to five gallons a day) that could be saved simply by twisting the tap.

Only run the washing machine and dishwasher when they’re completely full. Half-loads aren’t as efficient, and you’ll end up running more loads than necessary.

Turn_off_ComputerTurn It Off

When you finish with your electronics for the night, turn them off. Unplug printers, computers, the TV, the DVD player, etc. If you can, plug them all into a power strip and then just switch it off every night before you go to bed. Turning off the devices all the way will prevent phantom power draw.

So instead of just leaving your laptop open and running, put it to sleep if you’re going to be away from it for a while. Turn off your phone at night instead of leaving it on all night to waste battery life. It will hardly take an effort on your part, and it’s just that much greener.                                                   

Permeable Paving

Your house can and should be just as green as your lifestyle. That isn’t to say that you need to install solar panels (although these are getting to be both more plausible and popular) or live in a tree house, but it can still be environmentally friendly. Next time you need to get your driveway repaved, consider forgoing the traditional asphalt or concrete and having permeable paving installed instead by your local paving company. Vancouver and Minnesota residents might need to have their roads repaved more often than cities in warmer climates, but the idea is the same no matter where you live.

Permeable paving is made of substances such as glass or permeable concrete that allow water to filter through it, keeping the surrounding lawns moist. They cool faster and require little maintenance. These materials are a little pricier but might be worth it in your quest for simple ways to go green.

Grow_a_GardenGrow a Garden

This idea takes a little more work, but if you plan on growing a garden anyway, you’re not any worse for wear. If you’ve been toying with the idea of planting a garden and just haven’t gotten around to it, make 2014 the year you try.

Gardens are an excellent way to “go green.” It doesn’t have to take up half your yard—any size, even a few tomato plants in pots, will make your meals a little healthier and reduce your “carbon footprint.”

Slow Down

When you drive, slow down a little. Higher speeds use more gas, so if you can afford to take a little extra time on your morning commute, it might be worth it. Checking the air pressure in your tires on a regular basis will also contribute to better gas mileage, as will keeping your air filters clean. Consider carpooling to work if you can to reduce emissions. None of these changes are life-altering, but the positive benefits add up.

Green Grocery Shopping

When you shop, spend the extra cash to buy natural or organic goods. They’re not as cheap as the produce grown with chemicals and hormones, but raising awareness of the health and environmental benefits of organically grown foods will make a difference.

Bring your own bags to carry your groceries. Reduce your use of paper and plastic bags (that only go straight to the landfills after you trash them at home). You can find cloth bags anywhere—many grocery stores even sell them in an effort to promote greener living.

Remember: your entire lifestyle doesn’t have to change to go green. Just be aware of the little things, and before you know it, you’ll be living just a little greener. 

About the Author: Georgiah Cook has a passion for finance, education, and the environment. She recently had her own driveway repaved, which set her on another “green” streak. For more information, visit Superior Paving. Georgiah also loves biking, hiking, and people-watching at the beach.

Pics: Wiki Acer, Wiki Garden

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Topics: Guest Post, Green Ideas, Fun Green Articles, Conservation, Recycling

Happy New Year! What is Your Green Resolution?

Posted by SEPCO

1/2/14 9:30 AM

Welcome to 2014!



Resolutions are typically what everyone is talking about after the New Year. I am going to exercise more, eat better, spend more time with the family, etc. But what about resolutions for making the world a little greener? Is there anything you can add to your list of resolutions that will improve our planet? Here are a few that maybe you can think of implementing in 2014.

Ban the Bag

I hate it when I go to the store and forget my green bags at home. This year I am going to make a conscious effort to always have green bags on me and you can too. Keep a couple in your car at all times, even if you aren’t planning on going shopping. I even keep small ones in my purse for those smaller purchases. And you can find green bags just about everywhere and you don’t have to have one from each store, just as long as you use them when you go to the store.

Start a Garden

This one can range from a small container garden to overtaking your lawn into a huge garden. Grow something from a bunch of herbs to all the produce you could eat. With spring just around the corner, you can start building your garden now by planning and setting it up. When spring arrives, check out your local zoning and find what grows best where you live and what you love to eat. Do what you can to get the healthiest produce ever by purchasing heirloom seeds and stay as organic as you possibly can.

Stay Local

Make a conscious effort to purchase your needs and wants from a local small business. This can have a huge impact on your local economy since local businesses support your community organizations, create more jobs, give better service, and so much more. It also reduced your impact on the environment as it lowers transportation and creates less congestion. To find out more, visit Sustainable Connections and see what other benefits there might be to staying local.

Buy Reusable Items

Instead of purchasing throw away items, make a resolution to work toward replacing them with reusable materials. Paper towels are my favorite example. Instead of purchasing bunch of rolls for $8, spend that money on some microfiber or bar cloths. These are inexpensive and can just be thrown in the laundry to be reused. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few things that are just yuck and a paper towel is perfect. I still buy them, but I only use them when in dire need and therefore go through only a few sheets per week at most. I’m sure there are more things you can find to replace.

Green Power

Make a switch to green power if possible. Can you afford to install some solar panels on your roof? What about switching your lights to LEDs and upgrading to Energy Star appliances to lower your overall electrical usage to make using solar power more feasible in the near future. There is also many other options available if solar power is your end goal. Check out 1 Block Off The Grid for some great information.

By working together, we can have a great year while lowering our impact on the environment. What is your green resolution? Share with us below!

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Topics: Green Ideas, Holiday, Conservation, Recycling

Documentary Review: Addicted to Plastic

Posted by SEPCO

11/19/13 9:30 AM

“The Roman empire may have been defeated by lead in their water pipes. I learned that we too might be risking future generations with the cheapest, strongest, most ubiquitous material ever invented. Plastic might be quietly poisoning us” – Ian Connacher. This is a great opening to a great documentary on plastic. Even though it was released in 2008, five years later it is still relevant.

I recently watched a documentary by Ian Connacher called Addicted to Plastic. This was a captivating journey over two years where Ian got to see the plastic that has collected all over the world in many remote locations. And throughout the film, you not only get to see the waste, but the beauty behind what the wasted plastic can become, and the jaded views of one of the marketing agents in the plastic industry.



In the beginning he lists all the things we use today made from plastic. Did you know polyester, rayon and foam are a type of plastic? There were so many things on the list that I never even realized was a form of plastic, and therefore, cannot be decomposed for thousands of years or longer. It seems almost everything we touch in our day to day lives is one form of plastic or another.

Did you also know that no organism can degrade plastic? The first place he visits is the Eastern Garbage Patch that is smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. He shows how this area of our water has become, what he calls garbage soup, and is just a floating island of plastic. Well maybe not that bad, but dirty enough that even Greenpeace has come out there to work on the Eastern Garbage Patch.

What makes up a large percentage of this plastic floating around in our ocean? It isn’t what you’d think. It is something called nurdles which are little plastic beads. These plastic beads are what form plastic is in the beginning stages of becoming something else. These plastic beads are eaten by most animal forms in the ocean and are taking up the water ten times more than organic food for the sea creatures.




Dr. Jan van Franeker completes aviary autopsies to see the stomach contents of dead local birds. He studies this to see the impact of environmental changes and marine waste. You see, a fish can eat a small piece of plastic or a nurdle. The bird eats the fish, digests the fish, but not the plastic. This can then get lodged inside the bird's stomach or intestine. It is amazing how much pastic can be found inside a single bird.

In Tokyo Japan, Ian learns of the studies of Dr. Hideshige Takada. Dr. Takada studies the chemicals absorbed into the nurdles and has found that there are thousands more chemicals existing on each nurdle. These small little plastic beads become poison pills, killing most things that ingest them. The poison infects everything from sea life, animals consuming the sea life such as birds, to people who are eating the seafood. Doesn’t make that tuna steak seem so appealing now.

addicted-to-plastic-originalThere are places in the world that are doing something positive with plastic.

  • Denmark has a 90% plastic recycle rate.
  • Henry Sullivan of Houston Texas created the company Tie Tek which takes plastic in all shapes and sizes and builds railroad ties that can be used worldwide.
  • Agri-Plas take agricultural plastics and recycles them into new materials used in the agriculture industry.
  • Patagonia uses plastic to make its fleece products and will also recycle their fleece products into new fleece products. This creates a closed loop with their plastic usage.
  • Interface Carpet uses zero oil to create their carpet and can even recycle old carpet into new carpet. This allows for zero waste and does not create more unnecessary plastic products.
  • Uniquo Designs is based in Kenya and crochet, knit and weave handbags from recycled plastic bags and other fibers.
  • WastAway makes a fluff out of all trash by shreadding up the material into a fine material used as a supplemental fuel in the production of electricity, feed stock of biofuels or even as a potting soil.

That’s a lot of good impact in the world of plastic. But what else can we do? One person stated that we are the problem and we should provide the solution. We are already trying to recycle just about every piece of plastic that exists, but there is still a lot more in pollution than is getting recycled. And what about all the chemicals in plastic, such as BPA, that can make you sick?

There is a lot of research in making better plastics today. From completely compostable or water soluble plastic alternatives, to bioplastics, to Dr. Walkter Kaminsky’s process of pyrolysis that turns plastic back into oil. We are working ever so hard to create a world where plastic is no longer clogging up our world, but doing what it was originally intended for; helping us advance into the future. Can we live without plastic? Probably not very well, but we can do things to reduce or eliminate our waste and create a better world in the end. “It’s time to rethink our relationship to synthetic materials” – Ian Connacher

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Topics: Green Ideas, Recycling

America Recycles Day: What is it and How To Get Involved

Posted by SEPCO

11/14/13 9:30 AM

I was going through different green holidays and came across America Recycles Day. For someone involved in the green revolution for most of her life, I couldn’t imagine never hearing of this before. So I looked into it and figured I’d explain it to you. Maybe we can all work together and get more involved to make the world a little greener in the end.


America Recycles Day is on Friday, November 15th this year. There are four ways you can get involved:

1. Join An Event

You can join an event in your community. When you click on the Join An Event link on the website, you will be presented with a map that you can zoom into your area and see what is going on nearby. If there isn’t an event near you that you can me, the next thing you can do is…

2. Host An Event

If there isn’t an event nearby, hosting an event is the next option. You can click on the Host An Event link on the website, enter in some information, watch the one hour training video and set up to register your event. This may not be the most feasible option this year, but would be a great idea for upcoming years.

3. Take The Pledge

If you can’t get to an event, and with the short notice to put together an event, you can at least Take The Pledge. You can do this as an individual or as a business. It is a simple form to fill out and if you don’t want your information to be public, you can submit as anonymous as well.

4. Find Recycling

Finally, if you can do one thing, Find a Recycling Center near you. And learn about all the different things you can recycle instead of throwing into the garbage. This will lower our impact on the earth just a little more as more people in America realize the need for recycling programs and all the wonderful things our trash can become.

Not in America? That’s fine. There are things you can do anywhere in the world to lower your impact on the planet. No matter where you are located, there is something that can be done to recycle your trash into something else. So let’s get the word out there and inform more people on the importance of recycling. That is the basis of America Recycles Day in the end. To learn more, go visit them online and see all the great information they have to offer.

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Topics: Holiday, Recycling

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