What you can do in the winter to save the environment
I feel like every time the temperature drops, all of my environmental hard work goes out the window. Do you have any recommendations for maintaining environmental and energy efficient practices throughout the winter in the High Country?
— Kyla, Summit Cove
Kyla, I know what you mean! As soon as the temps begin to drop, the Steward household has a hard time maintaining our energy efficient and self-sustaining practices. Compost gets frozen, recycling is harder to take to the outdoor drop centers and all we want to do is crank the temps on the thermostat. Despite wanting nothing more than to be warm, there are practices that are worthy of maintaining throughout the winter.
The first best-step to maintaining energy efficiency is to get a home-energy audit. These audits are conducted by energy-efficiency experts and take an in-depth look at all the ways you could be losing heat in your home. The audit consists of a blower door test that depressurizes the home by simulating a 20 mile per hour wind on all sides of the house. With an infrared camera, the auditors can see where there is air leakage or gaps in insulation that could be causing your home to feel colder. The High Country Conservation Center offers home-energy audits as one of their programs, and there are ways, with the proper qualifications, that an audit could be no cost to you.
Once you have established that your home is sealed up tight, keep your energy usage low by burning a fire in your wood-burning stove or fireplace, wrapping up in a blanket, covering your windows with insulated curtains or putting on a sweater. These suggestions may be a no-brainer for you, but they are the best practices for keeping energy usage low. Did you know that 66 percent of Colorado’s electricity comes from coal-burning power plants? Help curb carbon emissions by utilizing non-electric methods of heating or keeping warm.
Composting food scraps is an amazing way to curb carbon emissions, as well. When food rots, it creates methane, and methane is 21 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than CO2. In addition, Americans waste 40 percent of the food that is produced annually. However, with the freezing outdoor temperatures, your backyard compost pile is frozen and harder to turn. If you would like to attempt to maintain your compost pile throughout the winter, you can add an excessive amount of nitrogen (browns like dead leaves or grass clippings) to the pile in the fall, or you can add the wood ash from your fireplace for a nutrient-rich mixture. Be sure to turn your pile regularly to maintain higher temperatures. If it is too late to add nitrogen and your pile is already frozen, you can compost your food scraps at the Summit County Resource Allocation Park. The industrial nature of the compost operation maintains temperatures near 160 degrees Fahrenheit all year long. High Country Conservation Center offers a food scrap drop-off program that you can enroll in during the freezing winter months.
If you find yourself freezing from taking your recycling to the outdoor drop centers in the county, consider trying to reduce your waste entirely. That way you can avoid having to take the material to the facility in the first place. You can begin by considering the packaging on all purchases and choosing products that are packaged with the least amount of material. If you don’t find this feasible, you can call any of the waste haulers in the county and set up curb-side single-stream recycling collection at your home. This will ensure that recyclable commodities will be indeed recycled, and you won’t have to sort outdoors at the drop centers.
In addition to the above mentioned tips, there are other recommendations to ensure your family is practicing environmental stewardship throughout the winter. First, you can choose to use non-toxic de-icing substances like kitty litter made from clay, sand or wood ash to prevent chemicals from being introduced into the surface or groundwater. Second, you can close the recycling loop by purchasing winter gear made from recycled materials, like fleece made from plastic bottles or shoes made from old tires. If you are confident that your household is making steps toward being sustainable, whatever the season, you may be interested in joining HC3’s upcoming Green off Challenge, where a select few homes in the county will have the chance to win some amazing prizes based off of their sustainable initiatives.
Kyla, I hope you will utilize these tips to maintain environmental practices throughout the winter months. The environment needs to be considered throughout the winter, and all of us environmentalists appreciate the efforts you make all year long.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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