Green Team: Being Green in the Home

April 22nd is Earth Day, and in preparation for this day, we’re here to give you a few tips on how a few little decisions can make a big impact (especially when we all do them)!

The Green Team would like to encourage everyone to consider every day an Earth Day!  Every day is a chance for you, your family, and your friends to find ways to care for our environment.  This issue explores simple changes in the way we eat, play, and get around, that can have a positive effect on the state of our environment.

Our challenge to you:  Pick at least one way to be green and start doing it as part of your life.  Once you have that mastered, pick one more.  Then pick one more, and so on.

Tips on Being Green Around the Home

  • Replace light bulbs with compact-fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).  CFLs use 2/3 less energy and last 10 times longer.
  • Why so cold?  Turn up the A/C to 26 degrees or higher.  Even better, turn it off in unused rooms.
  • Unplug gadgets.  Electronic equipment and appliances use energy even when they’re turned off.  Americans alone waste $1 billion a year powering items like TVs and DVD players while they’re turned off. So unplug your TV, stereo, computer, microwave and other electronics when you’re not using them — or use a power strip that you keep turned off unless you’re using one of the items.  Make sure to unplug your cell phone and MP3 player chargers as soon as the devices are powered up.
  • Eat less meat.  Meat production takes a lot more energy and resources than growing vegetables or grains, and 18 percent of human-generated greenhouse gases come from the livestock industry. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to make a difference in this area: Try skipping meat just one day a week.
  • Put the brakes on driving.  Vehicles consume half of the world’s oil and emit a quarter of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Leaving your car at home even one day a week can save a lot of gas and emissions over a year. Try walking, biking, or car pooling to get where you need to go.  When you do drive, make sure your tires are properly inflated — underinflated tires can cut your gas mileage by 5 percent.
  • Use dishcloths instead of paper towels.
  • Buy reusable shopping bags.  Instead of getting plastic bags from stores each time you shop, invest in canvas or other reusable bags.
  • Find laundry detergent that is phosphate-free and triple concentrated (www.methodhome.com).
  • Buy local and organic food.  Eliminate chemicals from your life as much as possible. By buying local, you cut down on fuel needed to transport food.
  • Avoid disposable plates and cups whenever possible.
  • You can save water and prevent water wastage in the following ways:
  • Do not throw away water when you can re-use it for cleaning purposes, or watering plants (i.e., dehumidifier water can be used to water a plant or clean the floor; rainwater can be caught to wash the car or water the lawn).
  • Check if there are any water leaks at home. Submit a work request to repair dripping taps, toilet tanks, and pipe lines. If water leaks from a tap at one drop per second, you would be wasting approximately 10,220 liters of water per year!
  • Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects and other such waste in the trash rather than the toilet.
  • Take shorter showers. Replace you showerhead with a low-flow version.
  • Do not let water run while shaving, washing your face, or brushing your teeth.
  • Operate washing machines only when they are fully loaded. Otherwise, set the water level for the size of load you are using.
  • Wash clothes efficiently.  Ninety percent of the energy used in clothes washing goes to heat the water, so washing cold is a simple way to cut energy use drastically.  Plus, make sure to wash full loads.  When it’s time to dry, make sure to check the lint screen before every load, and clean it afterward, even better– hang some items and let them air-dry instead of running them through the dryer.
  • Don’t use plastic garbage bags – or if you must, use something like Perf’s Go Green kitchen bags.  Go Green bags breakdown in one or two years (whereas traditional plastic bags can sit for 1000+ years).  Available on www.amazon.com.
  • Clean with non-toxic cleaning solutions, ounce for ounce homemade cleaning formulas cost about one-tenth the price of their commercial counterpart—and that includes costly, but worthwhile essential oils, and concentrated, all-purpose detergents for homemade recipes.  And even more important, they remove toxic chemicals and their smells and residue from your home.  Look for an email from the Green Team, and future articles with ‘recipes’ for eco-friendly cleaners!

And finally:  SHARE WHAT YOU DO WITH OTHERS to create a Green Community.  As always, if you have green practices of your own that you would like to share through the Green Team, or questions about going green, please submit to dkrgreenteam@state.gov.

Green Team: National Poison Prevention Week

NATIONAL POISON PREVENTION WEEK

More than 2 million poisonings are reported each year to the 61 Poison Control Centers across the United States. Over 90% of these poisonings occur at home. More than 50% of over two million exposure incidents each year involve children under six and 40% of those cases involve a child under three years of age.

March 19-25, 2017 is Poison Prevention Week in the United States. We can all take some quick and easy steps to keep our children safe from these dangerous everyday household items.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PROTECT CHILDREN FROM PESTICIDE-RELATED POISONINGS?
A survey by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding pesticide use in and around the home revealed that almost half (47%) of all households with children under the age of 5 had at least one pesticide stored in an unlocked cabinet, and less than 4 feet off the ground. The survey also found that 75% of households without children under the age of 5 also stored one pesticide within reach of children. This number is especially significant because 13% of all pesticide poisonings occur in homes other than the child’s home. Adults should take the following steps to safeguard children from exposures to pesticides:

  • Always store pesticides away from children’s reach, in a locked cabinet or garden shed.
  • Read the label first and follow the directions to the letter, including all precautions and restrictions.
  • Before applying pesticides (indoors and outdoors), remove children and their toys from the area and keep them away until it is dry or as recommended by the label.
  • Never leave pesticides unattended when you are using them – not even for a few minutes.
  • Never transfer pesticides to other containers – children may associate certain containers with food or drink.
  • Use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container tightly after use.
  • Alert others to the potential hazard, especially grandparents and caregivers.

USE THE SAFEST POSSIBLE CLEANING PRODUCTS

EPA allows safer products to carry the Design for the Environment (DfE) label. This mark enables consumers to quickly identify and choose products that can help protect the environment and are safer for families.  The DfE logo on a product means that the DfE scientific review team has screened each ingredient for potential human health and environmental effects and that—based on currently available information, EPA predictive models, and expert judgment—the product contains only those ingredients that pose the least concern among chemicals in their class.

Product manufacturers who become DfE partners, and earn the right to display the DfE logo on recognized products, have invested heavily in research, development and reformulation to ensure that their ingredients and finished product line up on the green end of the health and environmental spectrum while maintaining or improving product performance.

Link to DfE products:

http://www.epa.gov/dfe/pubs/projects/formulat/formpartc.htm#consumerclean

Green Team: Recycling in Dakar

Recycling in Dakar

For those who grew up with a culture of recycling, throwing a can or bottle into a trashcan feel odd.  Until recently, we’ve had the option of bringing recyclables (aluminum, glass and plastic) to the embassy for pickup. However, GSO recently put out this notice:

Unfortunately, our recycling partner is no longer picking-up our recycling items.  Until we are able to find other options for recycling at the Embassy compound, we ask that you stop bringing items into the compound for recycling.  The bins are currently overflowing and there is no more capacity for aluminum, tin, plastic and glass.

If you want to avoid the gut-wrenching guilt of tossing a can into the trash, you can still separate your recyclables. Put them out with the regular trash, and they will be collected. Doing this accomplishes a few things. First, it keeps your recycling muscles toned; it is easy to fall out of the recycling habit. Second, it makes it easier for trash collectors to separate items; all of the trash is picked through at the distribution site, and items that can be reused are removed. By doing the separating, you are helping the sorters. And third, your household staff may want some of the bottles or jars for home, but they don’t want to dig through your trash.

If you know of a reasonable and reliable recycling center here in Dakar, for the love of all things holy, let us know about it: dkrgreenteam -at- state.gov

Green Team: ECO-Gifts

Gift giving can take its toll on the environment. There is lots of packaging and if you are buying items made abroad, shipping contains a carbon cost. Sometimes it’s hard to find that perfect gift, but the best gifts are handmade.  It takes a little more effort, and a little more creativity, but it sends a stronger message to that someone special.

If you make gifts yourself, you can save quite a bit.  Take a look around the house, go through the kitchen cupboards, the arts and crafts closet, search through the clothes to be given away, and start pulling recyclables out of the garbage.  You would be surprised what you can make with landfill items.

Here are a few great green gift ideas that you can make at home, with friends, family, or on your own.

  • Food is a great way to show appreciation. Who doesn’t like a nice home cooked meal or some yummy treats?  Make them from scratch though….no cheating and buying the prepared mixes (then you have the throw-away boxes to deal with)

Infused alcohols, oils, and vinegars – use recycled bottles and gift-wrapping from around the house (old fabric or newspapers).

Homemade hot sauce or chocolate sauce

Homemade mixed spices

  • Potpourri – take a walk outside and grab leaves, flowers, seeds, etc. Throw them in a recycled jar, sprinkle some essential oils, and tie some ribbon around it.
  • Potted plants
  • Homemade organic body lotions or cleansing creams and scrubs. Use a recycled bottle to put it in and decorate it with a homemade label.
  • Make reusable grocery bags out of old clothing or fabric.
  • Make your own paper out of recycled paper, herbs, and flowers. Click here for different recipes.

Gifts that kids can make:

  • A coupon book for mom and dad
  • Macaroni necklaces
  • Picture frames (two different kinds)

Cloth, cardboard, and glue

Popsicle sticks, cardboard, construction paper, and glue

Or combine all these gifts together into a homemade gift basket.

For more ideas, click here: “Homemade Eco Gifts

Green Team: They Be Lamps Not Bulbs

We all have heard of and used CFL’s or compact fluorescent lamps. They are “bulbs” that have glass tubes (fluorescent gas filled) that either twist and spiral or loop up and down. CFL’s are actually miniaturized fluorescent lamps that are made in the traditional “bulb” form (Edison’s bulb) and mostly designed to fit light sockets intended for incandescent bulbs (two types of socket designs are the Edison’s screw and bayonet fitting). The main difference between these two types of light fixtures are incandescents use a heated filament to produce light while fluorescents produce light through the excitement of gases….wow!

Like their older and longer fluorescent lamp brethren, they do have ballasts in a very compact assembly. CFL’s are also known as energy efficient lamps. They are known to be 20% to as much as 60% more efficient than incandescent bulbs. Life span is deemed 8 to 15 times those of incandescents. Although cost is about 3 to 10 times more than incandescents, the efficiency and lifespan benefits outweigh cost differences any given time or day. C’mon, do the math!

lamps

When you do get into your new house or apartment, you will find that most, if not all light fixtures are CFL’s, these include the “bulbs” for those lovely chandeliers (it has been set as policy to use these fixtures whenever practical….in the Embassy and in our residences). Should you need more light (most people find these bulbs dim and not fit for reading), or if your existing fixture burns out, do not slide into the convenience of replacing these CFLs with a cheaper 100 watt incandescent bulb. Suitable CFL replacements may be found in shops around town. A good store for higher lumens (brighter) replacement CFL’s is Le Gran on the VDN. As well, you can pick up CFL’s from the expendable supply closet.

Remember, a replacement CFL that can produce light equivalent to that of a 100 watt bulb uses only 30 watts! Do your share! Go with fixtures with excitable gas……they’re good for your environment and your pocket in the long run!

Green Team: Tips to save more electricity

Saving electricity is in all of our best interests. Most electricity comes from burning limited and expensive fossil fuels. Other electricity comes from hydropower dams, which can have a devastating effect on natural ecosystems and severely damage fisheries.  In both cases, consuming more electricity has a negative impact on the environment.

As well, electricity in Dakar is expensive.  Did you know the average money spent on our monthly electricity bill for residences hovers upwards of $500?  If we were paying this out of our own pockets, we would do all we can to bring that down to a reasonable level.  It is our responsibility as stewards of taxpayer money to reduce spending where we can.

Here are a few tips to help reduce waste:

  • Darken your room – Just by closing the curtains you can reduce the amount of heat coming into your room, thus making your A/C work less. Housekeepers may want to open these curtains. If you want them closed, speak with your housekeeper about this.
  • Turn Off your A/C when no one is home – If your house is empty, there is no reason to cool it down. It does not take very long (15 minutes or so) to get a room to a comfortable temperature. If you have a house keeper that wants the temperature warmer, she can turn on the A/C 30 minutes before you arrive home.
  • Especially now that “winter” is here in Dakar, you might not need that A/C on at all. Try sleeping with just the fan on… you may find it more comfortable.
  • Does your housekeeper wear a jacket? – If so, it may be too cold for her in your house. Speak with your housekeeper to find out her preference.  She may prefer it a little warmer. If so, give her the leeway to change the temperature if necessary.
  • Use the timer feature on your A/C – Like the “Setback” on central A/C’s in the U.S., our wall units have timer features on them to turn it off and on.
  • “Won’t I get mold?” – No, you won’t. Even in Dakar’s humid season, leaving your A/C off for a few hours a day will not give you mold. Leaving it off for a couple of months could.  If you notice mold after turning your A/C off for a short time, chances are the mold spores were already present in your house, and must be cleaned properly.
  • Use overhead fans – Fans will circulate the cool air, allowing you to raise the temperature on your A/C, and still keep cool. If you do not have fans in your home, speak with GSO/FAC about the possibility of installing some (if they have them in stock).
  • Take advantage of the breeze – Some houses are built so that when all the windows are open, a nice breeze blows through the house. If your house has this feature, use it!
  • Turn Off lights when they aren’t in use – Kids (if you have them) are very good at playing this game.
  • Compact Fluorescents – All embassy houses are supplied with Compact Fluorescent bulbs, which use substantially less electricity compared with regular bulbs. When replacing light bulbs, use compact fluorescents. Replacement bulbs are available from GSO’s expendable supply stock.

We understand that each house is different, and what works for some houses may not work for other houses.  This is not to say that you need to swelter in your homes and be uncomfortable.  As well, some people have allergies, there are family members at home during the day, or other circumstances that require a cooler house.  We aren’t saying you need to suffer. What we are trying to avoid is wasteful use of electricity, both for environmental and financial reasons. These all require a change in routine and habits, something that is not easy to do. We hope you will do your part.