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Ten Helpful Tips For Making Your Rental Into a Sustainable Home


Once you’ve signed a lease on a rental, it is important to protect the integrity of the owners’ property to avoid any claims once you move on. Yet, making “green,” energy conscious improvements is very much within reason and can save you a substantial amount of money and make your new apartment more planet friendly. Here’s a list of ten simple tips that can help make your rental into a sustainable home, without breaking the bank. If you make a small investment in changes, remember that your contributions will save you money over the long run, and can serve as a bargaining tool with your landlord, or future leasers.

Climate control: A lot of energy is spent in heating and cooling your home during the changing seasons. Insulation is the key to control and maintain a regular, comfortable temperature and indoor climate.

1. Properly seal windows with caulk or plastic coverings. A visit to the hardware store will equal sizable returns in energy savings once the heat or air conditioning is no longer leaking out of cracks or damaged window frames.

2. Invest in a Thermostat. Programmable thermostats will help you control your apartment’s indoor climate. The majority of energy is expended in heating from a cold temperature, or cooling down from a very high temp.

3. Curtains, blinds, window shades. A lot of heat is lost or gained through glass. Simple decorative window solutions can help you manage this heat gain/loss to your advantage.

Energy efficiency: Your appliances are huge culprits in wasteful energy consumption, but with a little attention, you can take matters into your own hands.

4. Dust! Yes, by dusting the vents in your computer’s tower, your stereo equipment, your refrigerator’s coils, you can vastly improve the efficiency of these machines and help them to run better and perform better.

5. Use “green” light bulbs. The green light bulb revolution is already underway. Just jump in and find the products that suit your needs. You’ll find there is more variety now in light color.

6. Replace filters. Whether it’s for your furnace or air conditioner, maintaining clean air filters will support efficient ventilation, maintain your appliances running smoothly, and will provide better air quality in your home. Check on these filters every 3 months for best results.

7. Power strips. Newer “smart” power strips are out on the market. They help in cutting off energy to whatever is plugged in that is not in use. Also, by turning off the strip, it automatically cuts off energy to several appliances at once, when you are not using them or when you are away.

Water efficiency: If you are paying for water utilities and most renters are, these tips will be helpful in savings. Whatever the case may be, lower water consumption is a green initiative and a global concern.

8. Retrofit to a more efficient toilet. There are converter kits for renters that can change your regular toilet into a more efficient “dual-flush” toilet. A small investment will help your save a month or two of water utility bills, annually.

9. Low-flow shower heads. These products provide adequate and strong shower pressure while not wasting as much water.

10. Make use of a humidifier. The quality of the humidity in your apartment can mean big savings in heating during the winter. It’s not only good for your wallet, but also your health. Some modern HVAC systems have a built-in humidifier, otherwise an inexpensive purchase of a portable humidifier will resolve the dry conditions that are harmful to delicate possessions and your body.

These tips should provide inspiration for home improvement projects that are truly worthwhile and that support a better financial outlook, promote good health practices and look out for the environment. Contact us to inquire if your ideas for green changes may or may not be within reason as a renter.


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3 Energy Saving Green Living Tips

bulb in hand

Those living in the Internet age have a tremendous thirst for energy. For those who want to scale back their energy consumption, whether it’s in a house or an apartment, these simple green living tips may be just what you’ve been looking for.

#1: Upgrade Your Technology

Just because your old desktop PC still works fine, or that tabletop TV still fulfills your needs doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about replacing them. Smaller, faster technologies that use less energy will help you reduce the amount of power you consume, and they’ll give you access to the latest options when it comes to your entertainment and work. Smartphones and tablets are just two examples of cleaner, greener machines at work. For bonus green points make sure you take your old technology to an electronics recycling facility.

#2: Use Green Energy (For Your Smaller Electronics)

Powering your entire home off of solar energy is an expensive proposal, and something that apartment dwellers simply can’t do. You can, however, power your everyday devices like laptops, tablets, cell phones, etc. with solar energy. All you need is a portable, window-mounted plug that turns sunlight into electricity. Usable in your car, at the office, or in your home, your cell phone may never pull energy from the grid again.

#3: Cut Your Total Power Usage

The best way to leave a smaller footprint is to use as little energy as possible. That doesn’t mean you need to live like a mountain man though; just think about how much power you’re using. Does your bathroom need a 60 watt light bulb, or can you see just fine with a 40 watt bulb? How much energy would you save by switching to fluorescent bulbs? Instead of turning on an entire bank of lights, why not just turn on a smaller lamp when reading?

The list goes on, including things like not turning on heat or AC unless absolutely necessary, keeping your hot water usage down to a minimum, and using surge protectors to stop your devices from drawing power when they aren’t on. The point is that everyone has at least a few wasteful energy habits, and curbing those habits (such as only watching 1 hour of TV a day instead of 5) is one of the best ways to decrease demand on the power grid, lower the overall amount of power you’re using, and to live a cleaner, greener life.

For more green living tips contact us today!


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7 Must-Have Kitchen Essentials for Green Homes


Settling into a new apartment or house? Check out this  list of our favorite seven must-have kitchen essentials for green homes:

Bamboo Cooking Utensils – Bamboo is a sustainable wood that grows fast. Making kitchen utensils from this material is an affordable,  eco-friendly, and beautiful option.

Beeswax Food Wrap – This alternative to plastic wrap is instead made from cotton, beeswax and jojoba oil. It is reusable and simple to use.

Counter-top Compost Bin – It is much easier to save scraps of  veggies and fruits if the compost bin is in a convenient location. This counter-top compost bin serves as a good reminder for kids and adults of  where to put the organic waste. The air circulation vents slow down bacteria growth, so flies and odors don’t accumulate.

Reusable Sandwich Bags – If you pack a lunch for work or school, these reusable sandwich bags are perfect! Choose from zipper, fold over, or Velcro closure.

Cloth Napkins – Use cloth napkins again and again instead of  disposable paper napkins. They’re also more affordable and come in a wide selection of colors and styles.

Grease Keeper – Did you know that cooking oil can be used more than once? After frying up something yummy, store the used oil in a jar for the next time. This model includes a stainless steel strainer to keep out any food crumbs.

Energy Star Appliances – If your kitchen has outdated appliances, they may be costing you a small fortune in energy consumption. Choose a new refrigerator, dishwasher, stove, or oven with the Energy Star label.

When evaluating the Eco-friendliness of any product, one question to ask yourself is, “How much will I use this item?” If the answer is “not very often”, it may be best to leave the item at the store. Just do the same job with another tool.

Buying unnecessary or rarely used items, even if they’re made with green materials, does not actually help reduce product consumption. So, although the list above are some of our favorite items, please think carefully before purchasing.

For more information on low-energy homes, contact us !


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Let’s Make 2013 a “Greener” Year

Bill GreenAs we enter the New Year, making resolutions has not always been the easiest thing to do. We start with good intentions but somehow lose focus and forget the importance of why we chose the resolutions to begin with. We might set our goals too high or try to achieve something that might be too difficult. Resolutions should be a daily effort, setting goals that are reasonable and in the long term, pay dividends.

As I was trying to come up with a topic for the next Wood Partners Green Blog during the holiday break, a thought came across my mind on what we can do to become more ‘green’ in the year 2013. This thought was a segue into resolutions we can make for the year 2013. By making these ‘green’ resolutions, we can create better habits at home and set examples for our children, peers, and neighbors.

If you haven’t already, here are some ideas and goals you can start this year. Our family has been doing this for a while and you’ll immediately see the benefits of taking these sustainable best practices:

  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs.
  • If your city recycles, try to divert to landfills by separating glass, plastics and paper products in a separate bin. You’ll notice at least 50% of your trash will be for recycling.
  • Also, if you have a green thumb and like to garden, you can divert your leftover kitchen bio products and create compost for the soil. Items such as coffee grinds, onion peels, egg shells, etc. help add nutrients back into the soil.
  • Insulate leaky doors and windows.
  • Lower the thermostat to 68° in the winter and 78° in the summer.
  • Install low-flow toilets that use less water.
  • Cut back on the water being used in the shower by installing a low-flow showerhead.
  • If your home has an irrigation system, only water once a week. Long, deep waterings in the evenings only once a week help promote deeper roots for the turf and vegetation around your home.
  • Replace older appliances, especially refrigerators, hot water heaters and dishwashers, with Energy Star-rated appliances.
  • Install ceiling fans to help circulate air throughout your home during the summer and winter months.
  • Turn off ‘vampire’ appliances when not being used such as cable TV box sets, dvd players, computers, etc. to help reduce electrical usage and cost.
  • Ensure you have the proper insulation and ventilation in your attic.
  • Seal around electrical outlets on all exterior walls to help reduce drafts.
  • And finally, recycle that Christmas tree you might not have taken down yet. Cities will turn it into mulch or like New Orleans where I’m originally from, Christmas trees are brought to the marshes of southern Louisiana to help slow down coastal erosion.

Hopefully your 2013 would be a good and ‘green’ one.

William J. Greene III, LEED® AP BD+C
Architect/Design Manager
Wood Partners

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Energy-saving Ideas of the Future

Here’s a thought to ponder on your next jog around the park:  What if you harness all that energy you’re generating (and basically wasting) as you pound the pavement?

In fact, industrial design engineer Laurence Kemball-Cook has given the matter great thought.  Kemball-Cook wants to put people on the power grid by harnessing their daily expendable energy. “Imagine if your walk home in the morning could power lights for your walk home in the evening,” says Kemball-Cook, who has worked for one of Europe’s largest utility companies. His solution is Pavegen, a flooring tile that absorbs kinetic energy from footsteps and converts it into electricity.

Kemball-Cook hopes to present his ideas at the 2013 TED Conference. The annual gathering of top thinkers in technology, entertainment and design – described by some as a four-day “brain spa” — is scheduled Feb, 25 – March 1 in Long Beach and Palm Springs, Calif., and in the summer in Edinburgh, UK, During the conference, founded in 1984 in Silicon Valley, the planet’s most creative brains each get 18 minutes to pitch their ideas to a worldwide audience, which are live streamed.

Harnessing energy in innovative ways promises to be a big theme in 2013, as evidenced by ideas presented during the current talent search for speakers, TED bloggers report:

Sails: A more efficient wind energy?
Hassine Labaied, CEO of Energy Sahphon in Tunisia, North Africa, says wind will figure prominently as a future energy source.  But harnessing it via the 400-year-old technology of windmill turbines – as it’s done currently — is expensive and only 30-35% efficient, he argues. Additionally, power produced by windmill turbines can’t be stored. Labaied proposes a zero-blade system inspired by sailboat design, which he says is cheap and clean, and produces storable energy.

Weather power:  Harvesting energy from rain, hail, snow and wind
Fourteen-year-old Raymond Wang says the idea hit him while he was lying in bed one rainy evening.  What if you could capture the energy produced by precipitation and other natural forces? In his presentation to TED curators in Vancouver, Canada, Wang argued that by using pizoelectric materials, the mechanical stress of precipitation can be easily converted into electricity.

Solar energy:  A tent over the desert
MIT researcher Otto Ng advocates suspending a canopy of of mirrors and sensors over sand, moving to reflect and capture the energy from the sun.  Ng, a technologist and architect, says his proposed “Powerscape” structure is 100 times smaller in scale than a solar energy infrastructure and can generate and store electricity for future use.

Biogas:  Human waste, put to good use
According to Josiah Omotto, 60 percent of Nairobi, Kenya’s 4 million people live in informal settlements, without conventional toilets. Omotto and his team at the Umande Trust human-rights agency have been working with communities to build biocenters that are capable of converting human waste into usable electricity.