Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ Category

What to do with all that dryer lint?

October 4, 2010

You should clean your dryer lint from the lint trap after every use. A lint-covered lint filter reduces air movement, compromising the dryer’s ability to get to work on your wet clothes.

But what do you do with all that lint, then?

I heard a creative lint reuse idea the other day I found rather timely.

Stuff toilet paper tubes or paper towel tubes with lint for firestarters or kindling.

(This use, of course, speaks to the flammability of dryer lint — another reason to clean your lint trap!)

I’m looking for more ways to reuse the full wastebasket of lint I have in my laundry room. Any ideas?

Refrigerators, freezers will use 25% less energy, DOE says

September 29, 2010

Energy Secretary Steven "I'm lookin' out for" Chu announced he will bite the straw of the one of the biggest power-suckers in the home in two years.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced Tuesday a 20-25 percent increase in the minimum energy efficiency standards of new refrigerators and freezers by 2014.

The news release goes on to talk about billions of dollars saved for consumers over 30 years, which kind of makes my eyes glaze over. What the heck does that mean for me?

Look at it this way: today’s fridges already best their 1970s counterparts’ energy use by one-third, and back then annual operation cost  an average of $259 versus an average of $54 per year for today’s standard-efficiency unit. An Energy Star unit currently costs an average of $43 to operate annually.

Energy Star refrigerators already use 20 percent less energy than the federal standard, so basically, new fridges in 2014 will become at least as efficient as today’s Energy Star fridges, meaning annual operating costs will drop about $11. And if Energy Star standards increase alongside minimum standards in response (using a conservative 20 percent efficiency increase), average operating costs of an Energy Star refrigerator will look more like $34 per year. That’s of course assuming energy costs remain constant, but I just wanted to make savings concrete rather than throw this at you (from the release):

According to the Department’s analysis, the proposed standards could save nearly 4.5 quads (quadrillion BTUs) over 30 years, equivalent to three times the amount of energy used in refrigerators and freezers in American homes in one year.  The standard, as proposed, would also eliminate the need for up to 4.2 gigawatts of generating capacity by 2043, equivalent to 8-9 coal-fired power plants nationwide.   The savings would reduce cumulative carbon dioxide emissions by 305 million metric tons between 2014 and 2043.

(Come again?)

Also, standards didn’t necessarily account for how many consumers actually used their refrigerators. From a spokesman for an energy-efficiency advocacy group:

“Even though refrigerators have become much more energy efficient, they still account for about 10 percent of household electricity use,” observed Alliance to Save Energy Vice President for Programs Jeffrey Harris. “With the new standards, consumers will not only save energy, they’ll also have a better picture of total energy use, because the ratings will include automatic ice makers.”

Over the next year, the DOE also plans to evaluate standards for central air conditioners, room air conditioners, furnaces, clothes washers, clothes dryers and dishwashers.

My fridge is 15 years old, so I expect huge improvements when I replace it. How old is your refrigerator? Will new improved energy efficiency motivate you to replace your unit faster, because of faster payback? More importantly, did reading this article make you feel guilty about using your “but it still runs” fridge from the 70s to cool a couple of beers in your basement?

Related: Warners’ Stellian’s commitment to sustainability

Dishwasher film: Is the culprit environmentally friendly cleaning products?

September 27, 2010

I blogged about white film on dishes from dishwashers about a month ago, and the post has gotten an unusual amount of hits.

And then I read in the New York Times that dishwasher users complain new no-phosphate dishwashing detergents are causing dishwasher film.

Which is funny, because we’ve often suggested environmentally friendly cleaning products, such as Seventh Generation dishwashing detergent, to customers because we’ve foundits lack of phosphates actually prevents cloudiness and etching.

(For what it’s worth — maybe not much — Consumer Reports found that seven phosphate-free detergents worked pretty well.)

My suggestions?

1. Stop pre-rinsing your dishes

Residual proteins from leftover foods activate the detergent’s cleaning enzymes. So if you’ve cleaned all or most of the food off your dishes, the detergent can’t activate and stays in its crystal format, scratching your dishes on a microscopic level.

2. Use rinse aid

3. Stop using so much detergent and run a vinegar cycle

4. Before starting your dishwasher, run the tap water until it’s hot

Not only does this save energy, but older dishwashers don’t run as long as new dishwashers — better designed for less-harsh detergents – – and so every minute counts. Don’t waste it with lukewarm water that’s being heated up.

Have you been to the Eco Experience at the Minnesota State Fair yet?

September 3, 2010

What did you think? Surprises? Likes/dislikes?

A friend sent me these pictures of our appliances and the "Styrofoam-On-A-Stick" display (cute, right?) I made about our package recycling program.

Another view from the Eco Experience Kitchen

I haven’t made it yet, but I’m going tonight and I’d love to get some perspectives from others first.

Hurry! Electricity companies’ ‘Fridge Farewell’ program ending soon

August 13, 2010

I’ve blogged before about the expense of keeping an elderly refrigerator or freezer in use simply because it still works.

I bet you wouldn’t be doing that if you realized you were paying up to $150 per year in energy costs to keep it humming.

Well, it’s the last month many energy providers, including Connexus Energy and Dakota Electric Association, not only will haul away and recycle your refrigerator for free but give you $35.

image courtesy Arca Inc.

But there are still plenty of ongoing refrigerator and freezer “bounty” programs (Xcel’s program is ongoing, as far as I can tell) though your ability to participate depends on your utility company.

Is your utility company offering a bounty?

Check here and here.

Waste reduction & recycling program featured on today’s ‘Twin Cities Live’

August 10, 2010

Twin Cities Live reporter Emily Engberg visited the Warners’ Stellian warehouse to talk to Bob Warner, operations director, about our waste reduction initiatives, including our appliance recycling and Styrofoam and cardboard recycling programs.

Find more information on our recycling program.

The segment airs during today’s show on KSTP-5 at 3.

Here’s a preview:

Where does all that Styrofoam go?

June 21, 2010

Appliances ship from the manufacturer protected by Styrofoam and cardboard, at the very least.

The appliances go to your house, of course, but have you thought about where all the packaging goes?

Refrigerators, dishwashers, ranges, washers and dryers, etc. all come with literally tons of packaging.

And much of that is Styrofoam, which is certainly not biodegradable.

Ask other stores where they send their packaging, and they’ll point you to the landfill — a big chunk of it, too.

We proudly can say we’ve figured out a way to remove Styrofoam from the waste stream, as we previously did with replaced appliances, cardboard, plastic wrap and banding.

How? Our new densifier. You have to see this machine to really get it. It compacts Styrofoam by a 20:1 ratio, so it can be shipped off for reuse instead of refuse.

>>Find out more about Warners’ Stellian’s commitment to sustainability

Get paid to have your second fridge hauled away

June 2, 2010

How much are you paying for your pop fridge?

When I closed on my house last week, I asked the former homeowners question that wrinkled their noses.

“How old was that fridge in your basement?”

They looked confused but told me, “We probably shouldn’t be using anyway, I guess. It was such a pain to move. I don’t know…1960s, I think.”

My jaw DROPPED.

My energy stat knowledge doesn’t go back farther than ’70s models, which cost about $278 per year to run. So a fridge from the ’60s must cost at least $300 to run. That’s some pretty expensive beer they’re cooling.

I think many people don’t unplug their ancient second fridge because they don’t know how to get rid of it.

And certainly most homeowners don’t know that many utility companies pay them money to come pick it up!

Xcel Energy is among the local utility companies with a refrigerator recycling program that offers $35 to pick up a working second refrigerator. Some also run this program for freezers. Of course, you must be a customer of the utility to participate.

Some utilities, like Minnesota Power, up the ante to $50 to get you to give up that beer fridge. Even if you use the money towards a new refrigerator (if you use Rochester Public Utilities, you can get up to $75 for replacing and recycling a refrigerator), your energy usage on the new unit will likely be significantly reduced.

Here’s a complete list of refrigerator bounty programs from the Office of Energy Security.

Are stainless steel appliances an environmental no-no?

May 19, 2010

Stainless steel has become the standard finish for many when replacing kitchen appliances.

The growing popularity of commercial ranges like Viking and Wolf ranges introduced stainless steel to the kitchen.

And soon homeowners wanted to coordinate the clean, contemporary look with refrigerators, dishwashers and microwaves.

But environmental concerns wisely also influence purchasing decisions today.

The Star Tribune’s Fixit columnist, Karen Youso, posed the question of whether stainless steel appliances should worry eco-conscious consumers.

Her answer, happily, is no:

Stainless steel can be — and is — recycled. (According to the International Stainless Steel Forum, new stainless-steel products are made from about 60 percent recycled stainless.) Its alternative, enameled steel, also is recyclable, so stainless steel isn’t significantly better or worse for the environment.

But materials aren’t all that important when trying to determine how earth-friendly home appliances are. What matters most is energy efficiency, said Lise Laurin, founder of EarthShift, a Vermont company that works with corporations and institutions on sustainability.

Of course, we recycle replaced appliances for free on most purchases, so you can feel comfortable about upgrading to stainless steel. Just make them Energy Star appliances.


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