Eating For Energy

Eating For Energy

It was t-shirt weather, not the overwhelming kind, but just enough to enjoy sitting outside in the shade behind the Nashville Farmers’ Market. Our Team Green Adventures Nutrition Workshop group sat on picnic tables facing the park as Amber Robertson from Bliss Holistic delved into the Eating For Energy edition of our monthly series.

Stress can be inversely linked to energy. Why? Stress triggers your body to store up as much energy as possible. The problem is that most of us automatically go for the foods that give us the quickest boost of energy– a sugar spike. Those foods aren’t stable sources of energy; first you get a boost and then you crash hard when that spike wears off, leaving you feeling drained.

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6 Features that Make the Gulch Nashville’s Greenest Neighborhood

6 Features that Make the Gulch Nashville’s Greenest Neighborhood

If you live in Nashville, it’s been hard of late to avoid daily discussions of Music City’s growth and what it means for the identity of this Southern locale known for it’s country music scene and it’s endless hospitality. Though Nashville’s face has been changing, many of those recent developments are improving the city for the better, making the city a more sustainable, healthy, and accessible place to live. In a better-late-than-never recap of our sustainability walking tour of the Gulch with Urban Green Lab and Kim Hawkins of Hawkins Partners, check out 6 things that are helping Nashville’s hottest neighborhood be the city’s most sustainable as well:

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5 Features of an Earth-Friendly Outdoor Festival

5 Features of an Earth-Friendly Outdoor Festival

Now that Spring has sprung, and the sun has finally joined us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s time to start enjoying some outdoor festivals full of food, beer, activities, and entertainment! These events celebrate the good weather with good times, but often have the tendency to leave their environmental impact out of the equation. Lucky for you, we have two great festivals on the horizon in Nashville, both with a major emphasis on sustainable practices: Nashville Earth Day Festival (April 18th) and Lightning 100’s Live On The Green (August 20th, 27th, September 3rd & 10-12th). Keep these five factors in mind when choosing which festivals to fall in love with!

1. Waste Management (Reduce, Recycle, and Compost)
Festivals are infamous for creating a considerable amount of stress on their surroundings… and the environment at large. If there’s one thing a festival is really good at, it’s creating waste. Individuals bring in disposable goods, create trash, then leave it on site, leaving you with that “not so fresh” feeling while there. There are three fundamental ways a festival can combat these problems: reducing, recycling, and composting (not the traditional 3 Rs, but close enough). Reducing is the easiest way to manage waste on site at a festival, but it starts long before the event kicks off. Research and planning are key factors in finding alternatives that would eliminate unnecessary waste from the festival infrastructure. Some good examples of this are: eliminating plastic, providing reusable water bottles, prohibiting superfluous paper advertisements, and setting concrete goals for waste reduction.

Recycling of plastics, cans, and paper are a must-have for any self-respecting outdoor festival. Did you know that in 2014 Lightning 100’s Live On The Green diverted over 12,660 pounds of trash from the landfill– a pretty significant number for a six day festival! Any eco-friendly festival will have multiple clearly marked recycling stations for commingled or separated recyclables. Put the plastic bottle in the recycling can, people! You can set an example by picking up recyclables off the ground and putting them in their proper place. You’ll be amazed how many people follow suit.

Screen-Recycle 2014-08-14 19.15.57

Composting is the above-and-beyond waste management strategy for your friendly neighborhood festival. Re-purposing organic matter, specifically food waste and compostable food containers, is a great way to give back to nature. Give it a try at home too. Check out our past blog about using compost in your home garden!

2. Ride Sharing and Alternative Transportation
The simple truth is that festivals attract large amounts of people, and these people cause parking congestion. When an individual festival-goer drives separately in their own vehicle, it seems harmless. Multiply that by 10,000 and you have an issue! Carbon emissions, oh boy…. carbon emissions everywhere! Many Earth-friendly festivals have recognized this malady, and have put measures forth to encourage alternative forms of transportation. Partnering with public transportation (like Metro MTA buses), encouraging carpooling, and offering free bike valet are all features you’ll find at both Nashville Earth Day Festival and Lightning 100’s Live On The Green!

3. Sustainable Energy Use
Sustainable energy is the ultimate buzz word with ecologically-minded individuals, and for good reason! Sustainable energies could very well be the key to unlocking a cleaner and healthier environmental future. Festivals consume massive amounts of energy through stage sound equipment, lighting, projectors, and food truck generators! When a festival organizer chooses to use sustainable energy, the benefits are insurmountable. You might think that only festival giants such as Coachella or Bonnaroo, which implemented solar panels into their electric grid in 2013, are capable of such technological feats. But they’re not! Since its start in 2009, Lightning 100’s Live On The Green has made extensive use of energy-efficient LEDs for stage lighting, which limits energy consumption to less than 30% of an event of comparable size and scope! More and more festivals are incorporating sustainable energy sources into their grids, proving that it doesn’t just cut energy consumption; it cuts costs!

4. Eco Vendors
Implementing standards of efficiency for their food, beverage, and merchandise vendors is another simple but effective way to make your festival experience more Earth-friendly! Food trucks and beer vendors are some of the biggest targets for improvement. Donating used cooking oil for biodiesel, eliminating plastic disposables (and replacing with compostables or finger-foods only), hiring local vendor workers, and using locally-sourced ingredients or products are all efficiency standards that help make the festival as a whole more green.

Another great trend taking root at many festivals is free communal drinking water, so participants can refill their own reusable bottles. This is a great way to cut down on plastic, cut down on trash/recycling costs, and is also a wonderful opportunity for vendor branding (by handing out or selling logo’d bottles)! Earth-friendly festivals will also attract sustainability-conscious sponsors, like Bridgestone Americas, and feature local businesses and organizations that contribute to the community’s environmental awareness efforts, like Nashville’s own Walk/Bike Nashville, Clean Air Partnership, Cumberland River Compact, Hands On Nashville, Nashville B-cycle, and more!

5. Proactive Audience Mentality
However, there is only so much a festival can do by itself. All the infrastructure can be put in place, but in the end the audience makes the biggest difference. Lightning 100’s Live On The Green and Nashville Earth Day Festival both make stage announcements encouraging festival-goers to recycle, but it’s up to YOU to decide to listen. Fortunately, the proactive “leave it better than when you came” mentality is taking root, especially in Nashville, and many festival-goers are supporting the cause.

Remember, festivals absorb the costs of cleaning up, and have to pass those costs onto you, the participants, by raising ticket prices or cutting back on entertainment features. When you help with the clean-up efforts throughout the festival, you help reduce the overall cost and improve the quality of the festival for next year! So, the next time you go to a festival, be a part of the solution, especially if the festival is FREE, like Nashville Earth Day Festival and Lightning 100’s Live On The Green! If one of your favorite festivals could use improvements in their Earth-friendliness, send a friendly comment to the festival organizers or interact with them on social media to let them know it’s a change you’d like to see!

-Taylor (Team Green’s Spring Intern)

8 Easy Home Energy Saving Tips

8 Easy Home Energy Saving Tips

Earlier this week, we co-hosted another installment of our Engage Green workshop series with Urban Green Lab. Given the recent arrival of the polar vortex, we thought this would be a great time to talk a little about home energy efficiency and to teach you some ways to help save some money and keep you a little warmer this winter (and more comfortable year-round)! Below are a handful of tips and tricks we learned from our friends at Go Green Home Services on Monday:

1. Air Leakages

Winter is the time of year when air leakages in your home become the most obvious because you can actually feel the cold air coming in. Depending on the outside temperature, it could be as much as 70 degrees colder outdoors than it is in your home, making it essential that you stop air leakages in their tracks! Some of the most common places for these unwanted exchanges of air to occur is around doors and windows, where spending a few dollars on some caulk or weatherstripping might be enough to fix the problem. For windows, you can also consider buying simple window film, which you can easily apply yourself, adding an extra layer of insulation to your windows and helping to prevent cold drafts.

Weatherstripping, via greenspaceconstruct.com
Weatherstripping, via greenspaceconstruct.com

Your attic or basement are also key places to look for air leakages. While these may be a little more difficult to find and fix, they are just as important as drafts in the interior of your home. As Samantha from Go Green put it, “You can insulate your attic all you want, but if you have air leakages, it’s like trying to keep yourself warm wrapped in a blanket with holes in it.” You may need to consult a professional if you’re not comfortable handling these yourself.

2. Check that Thermostat

The ideal place to keep your thermostat in the winter is at 68 degrees Fahrenheit. For every degree warmer you keep your house in the winter, you can add as much as 8-10% to your energy usage, depending on the temperature outside. The same logic applies to keeping your house cool in the summer, when the ideal thermostat setting is at 78 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re out of your home a lot, consider buying a programmable thermostat. You can let your house stay cooler during the day (in the winter) when nobody is home, and then set it to start warming up a little bit before you usually get home. This will let you save money and energy during the day but still be comfortable all evening when you’re home to enjoy it!

3. Change those Air Filters

Arguably one of the easiest things to forget when it comes to energy efficiency, changing your air filter regularly can make a sizable difference in your energy bill. Running your heat or A/C unit with a dirty air filter adds air flow resistance and causes it to work a lot harder, which can use a lot more energy if your unit is running often (like when it’s really warm or really cold outside). Air filters cost about $10 and should be changed roughly every 2-3 months. If you have pets, you may need to change it a little more often. You can also consider investing in pet-grade air filters or washable air filters, which are a little more expensive but will last a lot longer.

Air filters, via primespecconsulting.com
Air filters, via primespecconsulting.com

4. Turn Down Your Water Heater

Most water heaters have adjustable temperature gauges, meaning you can easily change how hot your water heater is making your water. You’ll want to set the temperature at 120 degrees Fahrenheit because if your water heater is set any hotter than this, you’re probably having to add cold water to your hot water before you use it (anything above 120 degrees is considered scalding and would be too hot to comfortably use). This means all the energy used to get your water above 120 degrees is wasted! You may have to remove a panel on your heater to find the temperature gauge, but this is definitely worth taking 5 minutes to check.

5. Vampire Power Usage

Also known as “standby power,” vampire power usage refers to any appliance that is plugged in and using electricity, but that you’re not actively using. This type of power usage can account for between 5 and 10% of the average home’s energy use (according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), making the potential for savings here pretty high. When you’re not using it, you’ll want to unplug anything that has a transformer in the cord (laptop and cell phone chargers are the most common culprits). It also helps to put large banks of electronics on power strips so that you can easily power everything down completely. This is probably most common in your living room or kitchen, where you have several things plugged in consistently.

6. Mind Your Appliances

Similar to vampire power usage, old or under-utilized appliances can use a lot of energy in your home without you ever realizing it. Take care to make sure your appliances are in good working order, and when you’re replacing old appliances, make sure to look into options that are Energy Star Certified. These will be more efficient and save you a lot of money in the long run. It’s also great to occasionally take inventory of appliances you may not be using fully. As Samantha with Go Green noted, maybe the most common example of this is that old fridge you have in your garage or basement with just a few beers in it. If you’re not really using it, maybe it’s time to unplug it!

7. Insulate, Insulate, Insulate!

As we all learned in our elementary school science classes, heat rises. This means that winter can be an especially hard time on your energy bills if your attic isn’t properly insulated. Any heat that is rising through your house will continue to rise straight through your roof unless you stop it! Take a minute to look in your attic to check how thick the insulation is. The US Department of Energy recommends having at least 11 inches of insulation along the bottom of your attic. If you’ve got significantly less than that, you may want to consider adding more. Once again, feel free to consult a professional if this isn’t something you’re comfortable tackling yourself!

8. Change Your Lightbulbs

Did you know that roughly 90% of the energy used by a standard incandescent light bulb is spent generating heat instead of light? Chances are you wouldn’t tolerate that kind of waste in a lot of other parts of your life, so you shouldn’t do it with your lightbulbs either! Both compact fluorescent (CFL) and LED bulbs use significantly less energy than their incandescent counterparts, saving you a lot of money in the long run when lightning your house. For a more complete rundown of your lightning options and the pros and cons of each type, check out this useful Green America article.

lightbulbcomparisonchart
Via nationalbuildersupply.com

Though a lot of these home energy efficiency fixes aren’t winter-specific, they’ll help save you money and energy year-round, keeping your energy bills a little lower during peak demand seasons (summer and winter). This is great for your local energy provider and for your pocketbook!

If you haven’t checked out our Engage Green series yet, take a look at our calendar and see what we’ve got coming up! Our next workshop will be on Wednesday, December 3rd at 6pm. We’ll be taking a tour of one of Nashville’s newest landmarks, the Music City Center, learning about the green building features that make this LEED-certified structure one of the most sustainable convention centers in the world!

– Matt (Team Green’s Events Coordinator)