Tips for Reducing Your Energy Bill While Staying Cool

powerlines

Staying cool in your home while keeping your energy bill manageable is a current challenge in California. Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep the air conditioning (AC) off… some that may even help save you money!

Behavior Change

With simple and more conscious behavior changes, you can keep the home cool without having to install any equipment or other technologies.

  • Prepare foods that do not require heat (salads, sandwiches, etc.). Avoid cooking indoors by using a BBQ to keep the heat out of the kitchen.
  • Keeping shades drawn during the day and open windows in the early morning hours or at night to bring cooler air into your home.
  • Take a cold shower to cool down, or even do a few-second cold blast when getting out of a shower.
  • Close the vents in rooms that are not being used to redirect cold air to the most frequently used parts of your home.

Design Considerations

Big savings can be accomplished with these more involved home projects.

  • Energy Smart Landscaping: Planting leafy trees on the South and West sides of the home can block harsh solar rays.
  • Upgrading and Sealing Windows and Doors: Poorly sealed and/or insulated windows and doors can be some of the biggest culprits in letting cool air out of the house. Make sure all doors are shut and make upgrades to windows and door sealants as needed.
  • Install a Programmable Thermostat: This allows for temperature holds which can prevent the AC from unnecessarily running overtime.

Please Don’t Recycle Your Face Masks and Gloves

latex gloves

In the midst of a global pandemic it’s not surprising that the use of disposable face masks and gloves have been on the rise. While these items of personal protective equipment (PPE) are helping to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus, they are also causing problems for our waste streams when disposed of improperly. All face masks, gloves and other PPE should be tossed in the garbage whether they have been used or not.

Face masks, gloves and other PPE items can transport the coronavirus. When these items are tossed into the recycling, they are taken to a Materials Recovery Facility to be sorted by material type. Sanitation workers at these facilities must remove these items from the sorting line — often by hand — because they are not recyclable. In addition, disposable masks with their elastic bands are more likely to get snagged in machinery where they will have to be removed by workers. These points of physical contact unnecessarily increase the chance of workers contracting the virus.

Please keep our essential sanitation works safe by disposing PPE items in the garbage and not recycle them.

Eco-Friendly Road Trippin’

Summer in California means warm weather, blue skies and for some, a great time to take a road trip. While transportation is responsible for more carbon emissions than any other sector in the United States, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your environmental impact while traveling by car. Residents should check county travel restrictions before planning a trip this summer.

Carpool

Cut your emissions by reducing how many cars go on your trip. Check with your travel buddies beforehand to see if there’s extra space for carpooling.

Drive Smarter

Studies show that for every 5 mph you drive over 60 mph, fuel efficiency decreases by 7 percent. Stay within the speed limit to save on gas and avoid hitting the brakes if you can by allowing adequate space between you and the car in front of you.

Inflate Tires

Check your tire pressure regularly, add air at home or the gas station when needed to save on gas and reduce vehicle emissions. Not to mention proper tire pressure makes your car safer to drive.

Park It

Idling for over 10 seconds wastes more gas than turning the car engine off and on again. Any time you pull over to look at the navigation, connect your Bluetooth or stop at a viewpoint, turn the engine completely off. Making a pit stop for fast food? Park the car and go inside the restaurant to save gas while waiting in line.

Turn off the AC

Air conditioning uses up to 25% of fuel economy in some cases, meaning that if your car regularly gets 20 mpg, it might only get 15 mpg with the AC on. Instead, roll the windows down or click the AC off to get fresh air from outside. When you first get into the car, roll the windows down instead of going straight to the AC – this will help get air moving efficiently.

Go Electric (or Hybrid)

Renting a car? Look into options that can reduce your emissions (and gas money!) such as with an electric or hybrid vehicle using an app or other car sharing platforms.

Bring Reusables Containers and Bags

Save money and plastic by bringing your reusable canteen, cutlery, containers, etc., when traveling. Most gas stations allow free water refill at fountain drink stations, and there are rest stops all across California with drinkable water. Say “no” to plastic bags. Bring a reusable bag with you when stocking up on groceries and supplies to help prevent unnecessary waste.

Recycling

Recycling bins are often hard to find at gas stations, which can be a setback if you plan on emptying your trash when filling up on gas. Save your recyclables in a bag until you find a recycling bin or return home.

The Green — and Tasty — Benefits of Local Produce

veggies

Food mileage – the distance food travels to reach your plate – has increased fourfold since the 1960s.

While there is no certification label or specific definition to buying “local,” you can identify where your food is coming from by checking the packaging or signage at the grocery store. Choosing local produce at the store or farmers market, has many benefits including:

Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The closer food is grown to where it is sold, the lower its impact on air quality. Food is transported around the world by truck, cargo ship, airplane and rail, all of which release carbon dioxide. Buying from local farms means a reduced environmental impact from transportation.

Healthier Food

Eating fresh produce maximizes its nutritional value. A University of California study showed that vegetables can lose 15 to 55 percent of vitamin C within a week of being picked. Because food grown locally spends less time en route to its destination, it can be picked when it is ripe.

Strengthen the Local Economy

Now more than ever it is important to support local small businesses, including farms, within the City of Stockton community. Buying local food helps support local businesses and keeps your dollars in the local economy.

Reduce Plastic Consumption But Keep Recycling It

plastic

Did you know that there is something you can do that’s even better than recycling plastic. You can avoid buying it in the first place! Here are a few reasons why avoiding plastic is the most eco-friendly choice.

Plastics Are Made from Non-Renewable Sources

Virgin plastics are made from petroleum and natural gas. Not only are both of these sources non-renewable but their extraction can also be hazardous for humans, animals and the environment.

Not All Plastic Can or Will Be Recycled

The EPA estimated that in 2017 only 3 million tons out of 35.4 million tons of plastic produced was recycled. That’s less than 9%. Why is this? Many reasons: some plastic used in durable goods that remain in use, some was used in materials — such as mixed material products — which cannot be recycled, some was improperly disposed of, and some was intentionally or unintentionally littered.

Plastic Can Be Recycled Only 2-3 Times

Unlike glass and metal which can be recycled indefinitely without significant degradation, plastic can be recycled only 2-3 times before it has to be downcycled into products like composite lumber. Even so, recycling plastic is very important because it greatly reduces the amount of virgin plastics that must be created to meet demand.

Given the problems with plastic, it’s easy to see that reducing our plastic use in the first place is the way to go. After all, the phrase is “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Recycling is last on the list because it’s the last resort. We are better environmental stewards when we put more effort into the first two Rs: Reduce and Reuse. Only when we can’t avoid a piece of plastic, or reuse it, is the best option to recycle it.

See a full list of the plastics we recycle in the City of Stockton.

Plastic Free July: 3 Easy Ways to Avoid Plastic Every Day

picnic

July is one of the warmest months of the year, with people flocking to the beach and spending time playing outside. Going green this July doesn’t mean any of that has to change. Reducing plastic consumption within the flow of daily life doesn’t have to take much extra time or effort. Here are a few plastic-free tips for taking on summer in style.

Alternative Product Containers

Many sunscreens and lotions now come in plastic-free packaging. Look for sunscreen options that come in a tin as opposed to a plastic tube. Lotion can also be purchased in bulk and stored in a glass container or a reusable plastic one. Many moisturizers are also available in solid bar form and can be kept in a reusable storage tin.

Reusable Picnic Ware

Who doesn’t love a crisp cold salad or some BBQ on a hot summer’s day? In order to make your picnic or takeout meal plastic-free, bring along washable napkins and reusable silverware. If you are bringing food from home, consider using a reusable container and plates to keep your picnic zero waste.

Bring A Bottle

Over 50 billion bottles of water are consumed in America each year. Of those, 80% are not recycled and end up in a landfill. There are two simple solutions to help reverse this trend. First, use a reusable water bottle when you need water on the go. If you’re not in love with the taste of your tap water try using a water filter. Second, if you do grab a plastic water bottle in a pinch make sure to recycle it!

Want more plastic free ideas? Check out plasticfreejuly.org

The Bag Ban Returns to Reduce Plastic and Litter

On April 23, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order suspending SB 270 — California’s plastic bag ban — for 60 days in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This order has not been renewed, so retailers are once again required to distribute only compostable or certified reusable bags and charge a minimum of 10 cents per bag. Let’s break down why the plastic bag ban is important and how you can avoid paying unnecessary fees next time you checkout.

According to a report by CalRecycle, a branch of the California Environmental Protection Agency, “Six months after SB 270 went into effect there was an 85 percent reduction in the number of plastic bags and a 61 percent reduction in the number of paper bags provided to customers.” This is a big deal considering Californians were using close to 1 billion single-use plastic bags per year prior to the implementation of the ban. In addition to reducing plastic use, the ban has had a significant impact on the amount of litter across the state. Prior to the ban, coastal clean-ups by the Ocean Conservancy found that plastic bags made up 8-10 percent of marine litter. After the ban, that number dropped to less than 4 percent. This reduction in plastic use and litter is something Californians can truly be proud of.

But what about those reusable plastic bag fees? Yes, they are annoying but that is the point. The fee is designed to incentivize shoppers to reduce plastic use. Every time you bring your own bag — whether it is a fancy tote or a 10-cent bag from a prior checkout — you are both helping curb plastic use and saving yourself a little money. It is a win-win.

It should be noted that as of June 28, 2020, stores can still restrict the use of personal bags and require customers to purchase store-provided bags instead. To ensure you can use your own bags, call ahead to find a store that is allowing personal bags.

Have any single-use plastic bags hanging around? You can recycle them at a store drop-off location — but call ahead because some locations are accepting bags during the pandemic. Alternatively, plastic bags can be reused to line a small bathroom trash can or even pick up pet waste.

California Just Recycled Its 5 Millionth Mattress

Since its inception in 2016, Bye Bye Mattress has recycled five million mattresses in California. That’s enough mattresses to stretch from California to Hawaii and back again if laid end-to-end! To celebrate this monumental achievement, here’s an infographic showcasing some of the amazing strides this program has made.

Have a mattress or box spring that you want to get rid of? If your mattress is in a usable condition, you can sell it or give it away to a neighbor. If it’s in unusable condition, you can schedule a pickup through our Clean Sweep Program or take it to a nearby mattress recycling drop-off location.

The Environmental Footprint of a Cup of Coffee

An average of 400 million cups of coffee are consumed in America every day – more than any other country. The environmental impact of our caffeine consumption depends on a variety of factors, some of which may surprise you.

Country of Origin

The vast majority of coffee is grown overseas, so buying locally-grown coffee is next to impossible in the U.S. The good news is the distance that coffee beans travel is considered a minimal factor when assessing the overall environmental footprint of a cup of coffee. Certain countries, however, may use better agricultural practices, and coffee labeled as Fair Trade comes with a set of ethical guidelines that includes protecting the environment.

Packaging

Take a walk down the coffee aisle at your grocery store and you will see many varieties of packaging. There are steel cans, plastic containers, flexible foil pouches and coffee capsules – and don’t forget about the bulk section. Is one better than the other? Well, steel cans and plastic containers can be recycled, while coffee capsules and flexible foil bags can not, which gives them a larger packaging footprint. However, the best option is to skip the package altogether and utilize a reusable container to buy coffee in bulk. You may even find you can pay less for your favorite coffee by purchasing it in bulk. That’s a win-win!

Reusable vs. Single-Use Cups

What about the debate over reusable cups versus single-use (“disposable”) cups? Studies have found that reusable cups almost always have a lower environmental impact, especially when washed using an energy-efficient dishwasher or in cold water.

Milk

The biggest factor when determining the environmental footprint of your coffee: the milk. Espresso shots have a much smaller footprint than a beverage that contains milk or cream, such as a latte. This is due to the energy and water used in production of milk (both dairy and non-dairy), the additional packaging, and the energy used to heat the milk up at the brewing stage.

Take-Away Tips:

  1. Look for and support coffee that has a Fair Trade label.
  2. Enjoy your drink in a reusable mug.
  3. Turn off “keep warm” functions on drip coffee machines.
  4. Make only as much as you need – say no to food waste!
  5. Toss the coffee grounds in the green waste cart when you’re done.

Ask the Experts: How Can I Dispose of Charcoal?

grill
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Q: How Can I Dispose of Charcoal? Can it be Reused or Repurposed?

A: We all know what summer means: It’s time to get grilling! How is it that food cooked over fire always tastes better? If you’re grilling with charcoal, make sure you follow these instructions to dispose of leftover coals and ashes safely.

How to Dispose of Charcoal

Allow ashes to cool for 48 hours, or pour water onto them and stir thoroughly to speed up the process. After the ashes have fully cooled, wrap them in aluminum foil or place them in a small metal container, such as a coffee can. Then dispose of them in an outdoor trash bin. Do not place ashes or coals near anything that could catch fire.

How to Reuse Charcoal

Want to put used charcoal to good use before tossing it? You can grill with charcoal more than once! Simply follow these steps:

  1. Once coals have cooled (see above), rake through used charcoal to dislodge extra ash.
  2. Empty loose ash from the grill.
  3. Add half the amount of new charcoal you would normally use to start the grill.
  4. Light the charcoal. Wait 5-10 minutes before adding food to the grill.

How to Repurpose Charcoal

If you have some unused charcoal lying around and you don’t know when you’ll ever use it, try giving it away on Facebook, Nextdoor or Craigslist.

If your charcoal is additive-free, you can repurpose the coals to prevent tools in your toolbox from rusting. You can also use it in your fridge or a smelly pair of gym shoes to eliminate odor. These ideas and more are explained in this neat article.