Thursday, January 14, 2010

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Monday, July 27, 2009


If YOU GIVE ... a Smile

BY Christine Robert

A very big smile comes when I’ve just conquered some wonderful balancing pose in yoga like handstand or forearm balance. I smile with great satisfaction once I’m atop the gnarly rock wall via fingers and toes, with a minimum of knee and elbow bruising. But when I bike up an average 9% incline on a mountain pass and descend it safely my breathless smile is the best. My inner guide tells me I’ve done a great job and the knowledge of the victory is sufficient to confirm that I am successful: I smile BIG.
Smiles are infectious. I believe adults are often attracted to children because they smile so easily. Even the children of Gaza who have been through “twenty-two days of horror in December and January” still smile because they are resilient and curious (Corrie, 2009).
When I send a smile to my neighbor on the Southern California freeway, I almost always find acceptance in my lane change request or my effort to assist someone else with a particularly daring road maneuver. A smile can tell your freeway neighbor “I am a human being, just like you, maybe a little later for my appointment than you are. And when I see you (or someone else like you) another day, I will gladly Pay It Forward.” Sometimes I get the Cut-Off instead and that stings like a slap. I become very introspective, “Why doesn’t she like me?” “What’s going on in his day that would cause this kind of response?” I take it personally. I wonder if my hair is wrong or I forgot to put on my make up this morning. It has to be something I’ve done. The truth is that it’s not personal at all however. It’s a poverty conscious and ego-based response. My yoga teacher would say it’s a front-body reaction (small self) not a back-body reaction (universal Self). It’s not personal, but it feels so.

Other people feel that it’s the other person who is not hitting his mark that day, often wondering “Why did he get up on the wrong side of the bed?” “Who spat in her coffee?” “Why is she so bummed out today?” The whole truth is that the world is our mirror we can see how people in our lives are reflecting what we perceive and feel in each moment. If I smile and someone doesn’t smile back at me, I know that the truth may be that I didn’t truly feel like smiling, or that a smile would not advance my soul’s purpose that particular day.

But when I’m at the store or at a networking function, a smile is an opening. It’s permission to begin to talk, to become known to one another. This feels quite good. Just like on the freeway, when I smile at a person I do not yet know, I am almost always welcomed into the next stage of communications. This is the doorway to increasing my powerful network of friends, acquaintances and business contacts. In this context a smile is my key to success.

Curiously enough, Matthew Ansfield (2007) reported on a study that aimed to understand why people smile in situations that are unpleasant. One reason offered by researchers is that this “smile” is often a mask to hide an uncomfortable emotion. Ansfield learned that respondents in this study reported largely that smiling in an unpleasant situation was socially inappropriate and that people judge these folks as less likable than those who do not smile through an unpleasant situation.
When the doo-doo is hitting the fan and people are exhibiting those peculiar smiles, it’s no wonder that others do not find them attractive. I wouldn’t want to be near this type of explosion either. Like the good knights of Monty Python’s Holy Grail, we should “Run away, run away…” but not with a smile and certainly not with coconuts for a horse trot.

Smiling is healthy. You can change your mood by just smiling and then allowing that feeling to flow over you. (Stibich, 2009) cites ten ways smiling can improve your health including boosting your immune system, lowering your blood pressure, releasing endorphins and changing your mood.
In 1963 Harvey Ball designed the now well-known smiley face (yellow circle with black eyes and mouth, smiling broadly). His foundation, Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation celebrates World Smile Day on October 3rd each year. The mission of the organization is to “Do an act of kindness. Help one person smile.” What would happen if today you smiled at everyone you met? Can you manage a smile at your Ex when you pick up/drop off the kids? Can you smile at the boss first thing in the morning? Can you smile a loving, kind and sincere smile at your life partner when you next meet at home, on the beach, in the grocery store? When you smile, you give another person permission to smile right back at you!

The lyricists John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons (“If You Just Smile”) knew one thing about smiles: they can change your world and your perspective. The music is composed by Charlie Chaplin, the lovable little Tramp. He made us laugh through the magic of the silver screen as one of the most beloved entertainers to bring us diversion through the last great economic crisis this country has ever seen.

“If You Just Smile…”

Words by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons
Music by Charlie Chaplin

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by

If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

Christine Robert is an entrepreneur living in Southern California. She earned her MBA with an emphasis in small business/entrepreneurship from California Lutheran University in 2007 and has a post-graduate certificate in marketing from CLU as well. She is the Chair and one of the co-founders of the Entrepreneur Roundtable in Ventura County. She is an enthusiastic supporter of human rights and freedom of speech. She believes in perpetual transformation and intentionally creating her life. She is a practicing yogini, cyclist and rock climber.


Ansfield, M.A. (2007). Smiling when distressed: when smiling is a frown turned upside down. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33. Retrieved May 7, 2009 from

Corrie, C. (2009). CodePink Alerts, April 10, 2009 Women Say No To War. Retrieved May 8, 2009 from

Obesity, Fitness and Wellness Week (2009). American dental association; survey finds smile is ‘most attractive’ physical feature. February 28, 2009. Retrieved May 7, 2009 from

People (2009). Love that smile! May 11, 2009. Retrieved May 7, 2009 from

Stibich, Ph.D., M. (2009). Top 10 reasons to smile. Longevity. April 26, 2009. Retrieved May 7, 2009 from

World Smile Day Website (2008). Retrieved May 7, 2009 from

Monday, April 20, 2009

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Eco- community

Gardening with Nature Spirits
Article By Jon Caswell
photos by Melissa Carugati

You’ve probably heard of people who talk to their plants, but in our garden the plants talk back. That’s right, we ask them questions, and they answer. Using that information we adjust conditions as the plant specifies, and that makes them happy. Happy plants are prolific and fecund, which sort of exponentially increases the enjoyment one receives growing a garden.
You don’t have to learn a new language to communicate with plants, but you do need to ask yes/no questions, and you need to learn a way to interpret their yes/no answers. Here’s how we do it (in this example, right is the dominant hand):
1. On your left hand, touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of your little finger. Insert the thumb and index finger of your right hand into this circle, spreading the digits so your right thumbnail is pressing against the inside of your left thumb, and the back of your index finger is touching the inside of your left little finger.
2. Make this statement: “Show me a ‘yes’” as you press outward with your right thumb and index finger. The arch of your left thumb and pinkie will either hold or break. Whichever it does, that is “yes” for you.
3. Drop your hands to your side and then do the exercise again with this statement: “Show me a ‘no’” as you press outward with your right thumb and forefinger. Again, the arch of your left thumb and pinkie will either hold or break. Whichever it does, that is “no” for you.
4. In our experience, “yes” is generally strong and the connection holds, and “no” is generally weak and the arch breaks, but you need to check this for yourself.

Now you know the vocabulary plants use to speak to humans. Of course, the success of that communication depends on you learning how to ask quality questions. For more on that, see “How to Ask” on pX.
At this point you are probably asking the obvious question, who is answering? In a word, “devas.”
Each plant species has its own deva (DAY-vah). The deva is the consciousness that manifests as that species. The deva is not in the individual plant but is an overarching intelligence behind it. Devas are not sentimental or attached to a particular plant; if you kill a plant it does not hurt the deva’s feelings. It will use the energy that was in that plant somewhere else. The deva is the numen or spirit that animates the DNA.
If you are a typical American, you have been well educated in scientific materialism, and this concept of devas animating plants is not in your paradigm. We’ll grant that it is fairly woo-woo, but the thing is, talking to plants works, listening to plants works even better AND it makes gardening an exquisitely fun adventure where we cavort with the Numinous with delicious and beautiful results in the physical world.
Whenever we’re going to play in our garden, we open a “coning” (CO-ning). This is a simple ceremony where we invite the devas, spirits and numina of our habitat to join us. Here’s an example: “I’d like to open a habitat (or ‘garden’) coning and invite the deva of my habitat and the devas of rosemary and tomatoes and peppers and basil, and my True Self.” You check if each is present using the yes/no technique. Once the coning is open and all the devas are present – we’ve never had one refuse to attend – we can ask as many questions as we want. At the end of the day, we have a brief ceremony releasing each deva, again using the yes/no technique to make sure they are released.
We are not the inventors of devic communication. We learned this way of doing it from the work of Machelle Small Wright. She has published prolifically and has an extraordinary garden in Virginia based on these principles. Findhorn Garden in Scotland is another famous place where human beings learned to talk to devas and produced remarkable results with plants.
Besides our plants, we communicate with the bug population of our habitat, which has essentially neutralized the need for man-made pesticides. We give organic nutrients to our soil, and on occasion a particular plant requires something additional. Any plant that shows stress, we ask what it needs – again, refer to “How to Ask” on p X – and do whatever it asks. A quick story on that: One year we had a terrible infestation of bark aphids that just showed up overnight. The trunks and limbs of our 40-year-old live oaks were alive with these ghastly looking creatures oozing goo everywhere. This went a day or two before Linda opened a coning and explained that she would not tolerate this imbalance in our habitat: “I want balance in my habitat,” she demanded. The next day we started seeing these pea-sized black spots on our house – they were ladybug lions, the pupa stage of ladybugs. And guess what – they love bark aphids. They ate them and ate them and ate them. By the afternoon there were countless ladybug lions munching bark aphids. Within 48 hours, there were no bark aphids on our property and a profusion of ladybugs which then dispersed.
We have always loved plants, and like any living thing, they respond to that. We have houseplants that we’ve had for 30 years. But learning to communicate with plant devas has increased our appreciation and fascination exponentially, not to mention our results.

How to Ask
Conversing with plants is not like conversing with people. For instance, when a plant is obviously not doing well, you can’t ask it to tell you the particular nutrient it needs. Here’s how we handle that: We have a written, multi-page list of plant nutrients that we got out of a book, and we ask the plant, “Is the nutrient you need on this list?” If it answers “yes,” we ask “Is it on p. 1?” “No.” “Page 2?” “No.” “Page 3?” “Yes.”
“Is it in the first 10 items?” “No.” “Second 10?” “Yes.”
“In the first five?” “Yes.” “Is it #1?” And so on till we identify a particular item. Then we identify the amount it needs: “Do you need more than a tablespoon?” “Yes.” “More than two tablespoons?” “No.” “A tablespoon and half?” “No.” “Less?” “No.” “One and three-quarters?” “Yes.”
This may seem like it would take a long time and be so involved, but the truth is once you get used to it, you can do it very quickly. And considering how much guess work it takes out of your gardening efforts, it is a vast time saver.
The hardest part of gardening with devas is getting over your doubts that it is possible. It is so easy to doubt this technique, to convince yourself that you are making up the responses. Do it anyway, despite your doubts, and soon you will have a garden that is the envy of your neighbors. As much as plants appreciate being talked to, they like being listened to even more. What do you have to lose? Just your belief that the success of your garden lies solely with you. It doesn’t, there’s a whole kingdom of enthusiastic contributors eager to help.

Let’s Talk about Grass
In most suburban yards, gardens are relegated to the area right around the house, and the prime gardening areas are devoted to turf grass. On the whole lawns require a lot of water and work, especially during the spring, summer and fall. And for all that effort and expense, they provide little pleasure. There’s none of the expectancy (and challenge) that comes with plants that sprout, grow, bud, blossom, flower and fruit. Over the years we have gotten rid of almost all the grass in our yard and replaced it with vegetable patches, pocket gardens and areas of annuals and perennials. During that time, we’ve learned to get rid of grass without much labor.
The easiest way we’ve found is called “lasagna gardening.” Compared to digging up the grass, this is almost no work. Grass needs sunlight to grow. You can deny it this by covering it with layers of newspaper and junk mail. Don’t be stingy with the paper; it should be several layers thick, for instance an entire section of newspaper rather than just two or three sheets. Be generous, all this paper will disintegrate over time, long after the grass is dead.
Once you have covered the area where you want your garden, enclose the area with landscape timbers and cover the paper with compost at least six inches thick. Again, don’t be stingy, this compost will compact as it is watered over time.
Next plant your plants. Over the growing season they will establish their roots, and the water will cause the paper to decompose while denying light to the grass, which will die. Next year add more compost, plant your plants, and you are good to go.


Can't Keep Up with Those Joneses
article by
Liam Owen
photos by
Melissa Carugati

Stuff . So much stuff. I have to go to Best Buy, Macy's, Staples, and then go get a pile of useless crap from Walmart. Do you have a television in every room too? Don't forget about the ones in the cars. I have an xbox 360, but my son prefers his DS. My other son really enjoys the Wii. Personal preference, I suppose. I mean they all play the same games, really. I have four ipods, because, well, let's be honest, as the technology improves, why not have the best? What about those kids you see having the greatest time with a stick and a ball. Those are the ones to envy.

Do you want to hear something funny? I bought a Kitchen Aid and rarely used it. A spoon is far easier to clean, by the way. But when I moved into my new house with amazing hardwood floors and 1,214 extra square feet, I needed appliances that matched the new decor, you know?

We are born into this world with nothing. But in an instant we are tested on how we measure up. Following five years of drooling, crawling, and stumbling, we are thrust into an educational system that rates our potential for success on a daily basis. We stand beside our fellow man and accept judgment. Some are rewarded with Latin titles that tell them that they are more accomplished than those they stand beside. Then, we are thrown into the world in a programed state. Succeed or fail. Be the best or watch from the sidelines. But wherever you land and whatever you do, gather as many nuts as you can.
We know that it is expected that we set the pace, exceed expectation, and always do our best. We must be the best. We must have the best. The Capitalist dollar weighs heavy on our life decisions and in the process, it seems our relationships suffer. We are driven and obsessed to keep pace with the Joneses. Our priorities get a little off. Then in return, later down the road, some can't keep up with those Joneses.

But who are the Joneses? Who is this annoying, family that we resign ourselves to chase? Are they just like us? Are they in the same financial situation as us, just with different priorities?

It seems the more Ive researched, the more I found out the person with the ugly car that made funny noises and shopped at consignment stores, actually went on more vacations than the person with the expensive cool car and really good looking clothes.

Credit bureaus and banking institutions will concur the fact that the United States houses the most debt laden citizens in all the world. Or maybe they won't. Debt is backbone of our economy. Americans make a practice of living beyond their means. Not until the bottom falls out, like what is happening now, do most realize it. Knowing that the financial choices that we make are our own; what leads us down this path?
The have now mentality that plagues this nation tosses, not only its citizens into stressful turmoil, but the Nation as well. More loans were defaulted on in 2007 than ever before. Promises were not fulfilled and we Americans purchase far too much on promise. The lack of a cash based economy leads us to spend on plastic or phantom money. With each purchase we make, we are promising to pay at a later time with interest.

Living on cash is a thing of the past for most. But try placing a stack of hard earned dollars into a salesman's hands in lieu of that credit card next time. It stings a little more. A credit card, see, makes it easy. Its a third party buffer that eases the choice of spending. It's almost like not paying at all, initially.
Then the bill comes and buyers remorse sets in.
The en grained mentality that we must have things to find happiness is growing more common but is
in fact poison. Our excessive focus on the material leaves us lacking and empty. But we continually make the same mistakes over and over. We continue to put our truly valuable assets at risk.

My car is nicer than yours. My house is bigger than his. My job is better than hers. Quit being a narcissist and just be happy with yourself, not the things you have. And try to change feeling good about yourself at someone Else's misfortune, its not very attractive.

Our culture breeds competitors. We don't all handle a football or a baseball, but we compete on a daily basis. And we are programmed to feel a degree of shame if we come up shorter than our friends and neighbors.

Now, I say it's past time to run the obituary announcing that the Joneses are dead. We had no idea why they became the standard. But we have no need to keep pace with them ever again.

Let's focus on a new family moving into every neighborhood across the land. This family drives a moderate car, an expensive car, or even a n ugly older car. But the point is, they live well within their means. They focus on how they treat each other and their neighbors. This is a family that refuses to invest in the material, but places value in relationships. They care about the footprint they leave.

Domination, submission, and intimidation hold no value here. How we treat our fellow man defines who we are. Investing in each other builds a stronger society.

Say no more to," I need that". Because you don't. Do you really need posh jewelry when you are eating poorly, do you really need that huge house when you don't have the money to furnish it, or even to buy the latest electronics when yours works just fine. Think about it.

We live in an age of advantage laced with victimization. A time where trust is lost and faith is lacking. Mutual respect has just been placed on the endangered list.

But I plan to start changing all that.

Liam Owen

Health and Wellness

The Truth About Organics
Article by Tish Brewer
Photos by Robert Bittle

A trend toward the “green” is everywhere these days. We see the words “organic” and “natural” slapped onto just about anything, but what do they really mean? You’ve got good reason to be confused when trying to decipher the different colors, shapes and sizes of organic labels. There seem to be as many definitions for the word “organic” as there are companies cashing in on the trend.


The organic movement began as a reaction to the industrialized nature of the food system. But now, it seems many companies are blurring the line between organic and mass-produced, using organic labels as nothing more than a gimmicky marketing tool. Now that social- and environmental-consciousness has moved beyond the Earth-loving hippie set, larger companies are getting in on the action. It’s sometimes hard to know exactly what you are buying, or if it’s truly healthy and sustainable. So here’s the skinny on organic food:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture set standards for the use of the word “organic” on labels almost ten years ago. They accredit independent certifiers, who then check the claims of producers. But now, the issue of whether or not a product actually meets these requirements is becoming more sensitive. Currently, there are four basic standards for using the word “organic” on foods:

1. Foods that are 100% organic can be labeled “100% organic” or “certified USDA organic”, and can bear the “USDA organic” seal. This is the gold standard, and means the product has been raised without any synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, antibiotics, genetically engineered seeds, irradiation, or sewage sludge. Organic animals must eat certified organic feed, containing no growth hormones or animal by-products. Prepared foods with this label must contain 100-percent certified organic ingredients, with no additives.

2. Foods that are 95% organic can be labeled “organic” if the remaining 5% of ingredients cannot be found in organic form. They can also bear the “USDA organic” seal. The product cannot use both organic and non-organic versions of any ingredient that is listed organic. The remaining 5% of ingredients are approved by the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). Recent controversy resulted in the list of allowed non-organic ingredients being whittled down from 600 to 38. A few non-organic ingredients that remain on the approved list are celery powder, natural sausage casings, chia, natural food colorings, fish oils, and hops. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) supports the list in its entirety.

3. Foods that are 70% organic can include the phrase “made with organic” because they include organic ingredients. These packages may display “made with organic [up to three specific organic ingredients or food groups listed]” on the main panel. The non-organic ingredients should be NOSB approved.

4. Foods containing less than 70% organic ingredients can have the word “organic” only in their lists of ingredients. There can be no mention of organic on the main panel of the package.

There are other common terms like “free range” and “natural”, which are used very loosely, and have very little government regulation. “Free range” could mean the gate to the field or door to the coop is open for only minutes a day, whether or not the animals go out. These are just words with out regulation. Just remember “USDA Organic” is regulated and the other words are just words. The term “natural” has no regulation at all, and has no relation to organic; it simply implies that the product contains no artificial colors or ingredients.

So how do we shop? When do we buy organic? You should always buy organic when the conventional option is known to have a heavy burden of pesticides, chemicals additives, and hormones. Here’s the short list of the biggest culprits: meats (beef, pork and poultry), milk, coffee, peaches and nectarines, apples, pears, tomatoes, bell peppers, celery, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, spinach and lettuces, grapes, and potatoes.

When do you save your dough? Use common sense. For seafood, it’s fairly difficult to control what actually goes into fish, and there are no warning labels for content of chemicals such as mercury. Though seafood is allowed to carry an organic label, the government has yet to develop certification standards, so the label is useless. (The “wild” versus “farm raised” labels are another ball game). Other safe conventional foods include those with fewer threats from pests or disease, and those with thick skins that protect from pesticide residue: asparagus, onions, avocado, kiwi, mango, pineapple, cabbage, papaya, etc. For processed foods, read past the label and check out the ingredients.

What else to do? Buy a share in a community supported organic farm to counteract the “bigger, cheaper” organic food trend. In doing so you’ll conserve fuel, reduce pollution, and preserve farms as a community resource. Or build a bed and grow your own fruits and veggies…seed is cheap!


Currently, there are USDA standards for certifying cotton plants and the fibers they produce as being organic. This is because cotton seeds and oils are also important food products. But, the organic label only applies to the cotton fibers, and not to the processed cotton fabric that might be full of chemical finishes and heavy metal dyes by the time it gets cut to make your favorite “green” tee. Even when the fibers are certified organic, there may be environmental issues that still remain.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is currently working to expand its influence from foods and agriculture into textiles. The OTA standard is still undergoing revision and modification. The rules would be similar to those applied to food by the USDA, and would apply to all chemicals used in the manufacturing processes for all natural fibers.

Right now, there are no federal standards regulating the labeling of “green” apparel, so regulation of organic clothing falls upon nonprofit consumer organizations. So how safe is your label? It depends on how deep you are willing to look, but the organic label can essentially be as comforting as you want it to be. If you are a real purist, look for only those organic textiles that are dyed with organically grown plant dyes.

Personal Care Products

Cosmetics and beauty products are notorious for being labeled “organic” or “natural” when they actually aren’t, and they can really break the bank too. Some companies use only ingredients the USDA permits in certified organic food, and you’ll see the “USDA organic” label on those packages. But because there is less regulation in this realm, you may also see an organic label applied to products with only one organic ingredient in the whole list, while the rest are chemicals. Companies spin the labels to advertise whatever they want them to mean. With personal care products, the organic label doesn’t mean anything unless it’s USDA certified, and even then you should still pay attention. Reviewing ingredients is especially important here. True organic products do not contain preservatives, parabens, sodium lauryl (or laureth) sulfate, ethanolamines (TEA, DEA or MEA), phthalates, formaldehyde derivatives, or undisclosed “fragrance”.

Stay educated, do some research, and learn what to look for. Our skin readily absorbs any chemicals we apply to it, so get to know the safety of your favorite products. Many chemicals in personal care products have not yet been banned as ingredients in the U.S., where loopholes in regulations allow as much as a third of these products to contain at least one chemical linked to cancer. So read the fine print, and in the meantime…make your own!

A Note on Pet Products

It is actually legal for manufacturers to label their products as organic, even if there are no organic ingredients within them. There really aren’t any regulations that pertain specifically to pet food and other pet products, though they are in development. For your pets, as for yourself, compare ingredient lists and do the best you can. Your pet will be around longer to thank you for it if you choose high quality products.

Live the Green Life, As Much As It Makes Sense

Every day, we are presented with more options for organic foods, organic cosmetics, organic bed and bath products, organic toys, organic pet products, even organic and sustainable furniture. Know that “certified organic”, “organic” and “natural” labels are not the same thing. Be aware, and separate the truly organic products from the trendy green-washed ones. Support sustainable when you can. Figure out why buying organic is important to you, and do it as much as you can afford it. Bottom line is, some products are worth spending the extra bucks on organic, and some aren’t.


Green Your Home ....
on a Budget
article by
Robin McComb
Photos by Melissa Carugati

I hate to be a killjoy but the party is officially over. After years of tossing everything in the trash and flicking cigarette butts out the car window, people have finally decided to start recycling and trying to preserve and protect the environment. It has been a long time in the making, but the majority of Americans are now on board with trying to make their lives a little “greener.”

We could point fingers all day at large corporations that dump toxic waste into public lakes down in South America, but in order not to seem hypocritical we need to start by cleaning up our own backyard. Once the majority of US citizens are putting forth the effort to live green and demanding the same from large corporations hopefully the companies that are still holding out will become pressured to act as well.

In order to keep things simple and cost effective, we need to focus on greening our homes in an easy and inexpensive manner. Try to complete as many of these green home improvement suggestions as soon as possible. The more expensive projects can always be done at a later time when money permits. It is possible to create a big impact with minimal damage to your wallet and as you will see most of these improvements will actually save you money in the long run.

Compact Florescent Light Bulbs

If you are still using the standard incandescent light bulbs switch them now to Compact Fluorescent bulbs. They use 75% less energy and produce less heat than regular bulbs. The added benefit is CF bulbs last up to 10 times as long as regular bulbs. The only time commitment you have is the time it takes to screw in a light bulb. As long as there are not a group of Aggies involved, this project should take about 15 minutes to change every light in your home.

The cost is about $4 to $8 per bulb, but over time the savings adds up. Replacing the 5 most frequently used bulbs in your home will save almost $60 dollars a year which means you will offset the entire cost of the bulbs and save money to boot.

Sealing Doors and Windows

Another portal for energy loss is cold air seeping into your home through doors and windows that are not sealed properly. Taking time to weather strip your home will lower your utility bills and conserve energy.

Before you start your project you will need to detect air leaks by going out at night and shining a flashlight at around your doorframe. If light shines through you have a air leak that is costing you a great deal of money. For windows, simply place a piece of paper on the window sill and close the window. If you can pull the paper out of the window with it shut you are loosing air.

One word of caution is that before you seal yourself inside your home you may want to check to make sure the air quality in your house is good and not filled with mold or pollutants. This is important because after you seal the air leaks there will be less fresh airflow coming from the outside.

Weather stripping is a project for a novice, just clean the surface of the door or window, measure the length, cut the roll of weather stripping to size with a utility knife, peel off the sticky backing, and press down on the door or window frame.
For a 2,000 sq. ft home it should take 4 hours or less to seal every door and window and the cost is only $5 to $10 per 10 feet of weather stripping.

If you have leaks the savings are substantial. Leaks account for 20% to 50% of utility costs. The average US home pays $1500 a year for utilities, so most homes could reap the benefit of $300 to $750 a year in potential savings.

Plant a Shade Tree

Not only do shade trees beautify your home and increase your property value, they provide substantial energy savings, and as an extra bonus they help clean the air. The type of shade tree is a matter if personal preference, but try to find one that will thrive in your climate zone.

You do need to strategize on where to plant the trees. To warm your house in the wintertime, plant only deciduous trees (trees that loose their leaves in the wintertime) on the south side of your home. This will allow the sun to warm your home in the winter. Also, focus on planting shade trees on the west side of your home to shelter your home from the strong afternoon sun which will reduce your energy bill during the hot summer months.

To make a run down to your local nursery and plant a tree should only take a couple of hours’ time. There are also many local community programs that provide free or low cost trees and may even plant them for you.

Only Run a Full Dishwasher or Washing Machine

Do not run your dishwasher or laundry machine unless they are full. It takes the same amount of electricity (and in the case of the dishwasher water) to run these machines regardless if they have a full load or one T-shirt. Quit being so proactive and let the dirty clothes and dishes pile up before starting the machine.


I know you have heard it a million times, but it is just as easy to pitch a plastic container in a recycling bin as it is to throw it in the trash. If you are one of the lucky ones, you have a recycling truck that comes through your neighborhood on a regular basis so all you have to do is put the bin on the curb. Worst case scenario, you will need to scope our your neighborhood parks, schools, and church parking lots to find the closest recycling dumpsters. Our economy also benefits since recycling creates 1.1 million US jobs. In addition to numerous other benefits, recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to light a light bulb for 4 hours and one ton of office paper save 24 trees. The benefits rack up fast for minimal effort and the cost is free.

Homemade Low Flush Toilet

Flushing your toilet is the number one water waster in most homes, taking up an average of 27% of your home’s water consumption. Instead of buying a sophisticated low flush toilet that costs anywhere from $400 to $1,000 each, simply fill a small plastic bottle with sand or small rocks and place it in your toilet tank. . The plastic bottle trick works because the water will still fill up to the regular height in your toilet bowl to give the proper amount of pressure when you flush the toilet. You can tune the flush by moving the ball on the end of the rod in your toilet tank. Bend the rod just a bit so that turning it varies the ball’s height just a little bit – you can then adjust it until you get an acceptable flush. If you want to further reduce your water usage go buy a low flow shower head for about $20 at any home improvement store.

Buy Local Food Products

Go to your local farmers market to buy your fruits and veggies. When you buy local produce you are helping the environment by cutting down the amount of fuel required to transport the food to your geographical area. In addition, there is less packaging involved which cuts down the amount of paper and plastic products used. Why not make an impact since you have to eat either way?


Quit watering your lawn and start Xeriscaping. What is Xeriscaping? It is using native plants to landscape your yard so it can withstand drought conditions. The plants you use such as cactus, Mexican heather, and succulents have already adapted to the climate and water conditions in your area and will require less water and maintenance than lush green yards and exotic plants. Every year the water supply on earth depletes and becomes more expensive, so can we really afford to keep watering our lawns all summer long? You don’t have to completely eliminate having a lawn, but you can simply cut down the size of the lawn by adding a larger patio, shrubs, ground cover, pea gravel paths, and potted plants - the options are limitless.

Tankless Water Heater

You can save up to 20% off your water heating bill by switching to a tankless water heater. With a standard tank water heater warm water is sitting at the ready waiting for you to turn on the shower or faucet to use it. A tankless water heater provides hot water at a predetermined temperature after the faucet is turned on and the need exists. Tankless water heaters have a heating device that is activated by the flow of water and they actually have a larger capacity than a standard water heater. They come in gas and electric models and the price ranges anywhere from $200 to $1500. This is not a job to tackle alone, call a plumber to consult about models and the cost for installation. Added benefit, now you can use your water heater closet for extra storage space as well.

These are just a sampling of ideas and suggestions. Before doing any major home renovation or project keep in mind that there are green paints, flooring options, and appliances so it is important to do your homework first and we at SENSE can help you out with your research.

Robin McComb