Thursday, May 28, 2009

Social Media For Commercial Decisions

A new report by Knowledge Networks reports that 83% of the Internet population (ages 13 to 54) participates in social media, with 47% on a weekly basis. However, less than 5% of social media users regularly turn to these sites for guidance on purchase decisions in any of nine product/service categories. In addition, only 16% of social media users say they are more likely to buy from companies that advertise on social sites.
"Social media use" was defined as having visited any one of 27 social sites or having used social features on other sites. Participation in social media is widespread among those 13 to 54, but when asked whether they regularly turn to these sites when trying to make a purchase decision, the highest percentages among nine categories were 4%, for travel and banks/financial services.
63% of social media users agree that ads are a "fair price to pay" for use of these sites and features, but only 16% say they are more likely to buy from advertising brands. 54% "most like" staying connected to friends and family, and meeting new people, about participating in social media.

The study also shows that:

  • 34% of social media users report using these sites or features more often now compared to a year ago, while 18% said they use them less
  • just 1% of the total online population, and the same proportion of social media participants, uses Twitter once a week or more
  • 60% of social media participants say they only access these sites and features at home

David Tice, Vice President and Group Account Director, Knowledge Networks, says "... social media users do not have a strong association between these sites and purchase decisions... they see them as being more about personal connection... (though) the fact that they are using social media more now than a year ago is a strong indicator (of) the influence of these sites... "
For the purposes of this study, social media users were defined as those who ever use any of 27 pre-specified websites commonly categorized as social media sites, or those who have used social media features on other websites that are not primarily social media sites.

And, MarketingProfs announced the results of a small, informal survey that shows Twitter is rapidly gaining acceptance among users as an important social media business tool. According to the survey of mostly small businesses, 84% of respondents said they expect their company's use of Twitter to increase over the next six months, 46% saying "by a significant" margin.
Currently, 66% consider Twitter either "somewhat important" or "extremely important" to their company's business/marketing operations, compared to 29% who consider it "not very important."
On a five-point scale, 41% of respondents said Twitter delivers "great value" to their company, ranking ahead of LinkedIn, which garnered 25% of that category, and Facebook, which had 17%. Corporate blogs ranked at the top of the list with 52% saying it delivered great value, according the survey of more than 200 Twitter users.
Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer for MarketingProfs, concludes that "This data shows that Twitter users, typically early adopters, no longer think of Twitter as just a personal networking tool... "
MarketingProfs' survey results are part of a new case study collection Twitter Success Stories: "How 11 companies are achieving their marketing objectives, 140 characters at a time," conducted between April 11-14, 2009. It included a total of 213 completed responses, 66% of which were filled out by people with fewer than 50 people in their company. The rest of the breakdown:

  • 101-1000 employees... 14.6%
  • 1000+ employees... 11.3%
  • 51-100 employees... 8%

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

6 Eco Myths Debunked

Congratulations,, on your well-deserved Webby. Here's a look at six recent environmental and energy myths that the fact-checking site has debunked. has won a 2009 Webby "People's Voice" award, and The Daily Green thinks it is well deserved.
Designed to check the facts spouted by politicians and those seeking to influence politics and policy debates, the nonprofit is an indispensable nonpartisan resource. (The Daily Green republishes the fact-checks related to energy and the environment, and nominated the site for one of its 2009 Heart of Green Awards.)
In celebration of the site's Webby, here's a look at six of its greatest recent hits:

6 Environmental Myths Debunked

1. There's enough wind power in the Atlantic to offset all the electricity we now get from coal.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made waves when he said the U.S. East Coast was so rich in wind that offshore wind farms could produce as much electricity as every U.S. coal-fired power plant. It sounds great. Coal, which produces roughly half our electricity, is a major source of pollution that causes smog, acid rain, mercury contamination and global warming; wind power causes none of these. Unfortunately, it's just not true, according to "We calculate that converting wind to enough electricity to replace all U.S. coal-fired plants would require building 3,540 offshore wind farms as big as the world's largest, which is off the coast of Denmark," reported. "So far the U.S. has built exactly zero offshore wind farms."

2. Congress is outlawing your backyard organic garden.
A vast campaign, spread via e-mail, Facebook and elsewhere, has tried to convince people that a food safety bill being considered in Congress will wipe out organic farming as we know it, and even possibly make it illegal to have a garden in your backyard. According to, though, there's hardly anything to worry about. "We suppose in the grand realm of all that's possible, or more likely a futuristic B movie, federal bureaucrats could decide that public safety calls for inspections of every backyard garden in the nation, leading everyday citizens to surreptitiously cultivate tomato plants in a closet with a sunlamp, lest they get busted by the cops," concluded. "But we kinda doubt it."

3. "Clean coal" is a reality, or at least a possibility.
During the presidential campaign and beyond, as the coal industry and the Waterkeeper Alliance (yay Gloria Reuben!) and other environmental groups have engaged in an epic advertising battle, has been tamping down enthusiasm for clean coal, which is an expensive concept for removing carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants, not a reality. "There are no commercial 'clean coal' plants operating currently in the U.S.," reported. "The larger question posed by these dueling ad campaigns is implied rather than stated outright. Can coal can be 'clean' in the future? Is 'clean coal' a laudable, achievable goal as Obama and the coal miners and electric utilities would have us believe? Or is it a ridiculous oxymoron on par with 'controlled chaos,' as Gore and other environmental groups suggest?"

4. Congress outlawed second-hand clothing.
In the wake of toy safety scares (remember all those lead toy recalls? There are more nearly every week) Congress moved to get the lead (and the phthalates) out of toys, including those sold at second-hand shops. While the law doesn't explicitly ban the sale of second-hand clothing, selling children's clothing that contains lead or phthalates (think about colorful embossed designs) could result in a hefty fine, making this myth partially true. "A recently passed law won't ban resale, but it will hold resellers responsible for selling items with lead content that exceeds new limits," reported. "Some resellers are fearful this will force them out of business."

5. The EPA wants to tax cows.
As the Environmental Protection Agency addresses global warming, it will crack down on agriculture, which -- through land use and the belching of cattle -- contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. (The EPA's recent finding that global warming endangers public health and the environment is most likely to affect power plants and vehicles first.) Not possible, according to "EPA issued a statement saying it isn't proposing a tax and doesn't have legal authority to impose one anyway."

6. The U.S. is ignoring the world's largest oil reserve in the Western U.S.
According to an e-mail chain that vastly exaggerates its size, the Bakken formation in the Western U.S. is a ripe and ready oil source that the U.S. won't tap because of those darn tree huggers. (Sounds like the penultimate moment, before the laugh-line, in a Scooby Doo cartoon: "And I would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those meddling kids!") Well, not quite. Not by a long shot, according to "Unfortunately, it is false. It combines and twists several different news stories and studies into a longer tale of sound and fury that ultimately signifies nothing (factually anyway)."
found on the

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Online Ad Spending To Follow Video and Social Networking

According to a new report on the Global Online Media Landscape by The Nielsen Company Online, engagement by Internet users is deepening, in part a result of a shift toward video content and social networking as popular online subcategories.
Highlights of the report include:
The number of American users frequenting online video destinations has climbed 339% since 2003
Time spent on video sites has shot up almost 2,000% over the same period
In the last year, unique viewers of online video grew 10%, the number of streams grew 41%, the streams per user grew 27% and the total minutes engaged with online video grew 71%
There are 87% more online social media users now than in 2003, with 883% more time devoted to those sites.
In the last year, time spent on social networking sites has surged 73%
In February, social network usage exceeded Web-based e-mail usage for the first time.
Charles Buchwalter, SVP, Research and Analytics, Nielsen Online, says "The Internet remains a place of continuing innovation, with users finding new ways to integrate online usage into their daily lives... "
Since 2003, interests of the average online user have shifted significantly from portal-oriented browsing sites such as Shopping Directories and Guides and Internet Tools/Web Services, to video and social networking sites that have moved to the forefront, becoming the two fastest growing categories in 2009.

With the global recession in full swing, says the report, online display advertising has plateaued at 20% of total online ad spend in the U.S.. Spending on online display advertising by financial services, automobile and retail companies has declined steeply. On the other hand, several key, heavy ad-spending industries such as healthcare, consumer products and telecommunications appear to be moving even more spending online.

The longer-term prospects for global online advertising continue to be brighter. Projecting, Nielsen reported:
Led by social media, search and video, the Internet's share of total ad spend will continue its steady upward trend as global economies emerge from the current recession
Given the increased focus on digital marketing by leading packaged goods companies, the Internet's share of commerce will continue to rise
In the age of Twitter, feedback barriers have all but disappeared, creating a near friction-free environment for playing back brand experience, campaign reactions or brand events. Recent public cases show that marketers must be quick to react to these channels of instant feedback
30% of U.S. mobile subscribers recalled seeing some form of advertising while using their mobile phones, up from 18% one year prior
To download Nielsen's full report on the global online landscape found on The Nielsen Wire, please visit here.

Found on

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Persuasive Power Of Face To Face

Think of the most persuasive person you know. The salesperson you can't say no to, your mother (guilt always works), your spouse or your six-year-old child. Now, imagine if you had never met the person in person and they were trying to persuade you over the phone, or by email. Would they be as persuasive? No. Persuasion just don't work as well if you're not face to face

Hardwired for Face to Face

Robert Cialdini wrote an entire book on the " Psychology of Persuasion." He explains the hot buttons that get pushed, moving us toward doing something we might not otherwise have done. But if you look through all the persuasion buttons, one thing is true: they all work much better when you're face to face.

Let's take just one: reciprocity. Reciprocity, you scratching my back and me scratching yours, is a gut instinct for us. In fact, many of our treasured social institutions, including economic markets and the justice system, are based on our emotional connection to the concepts of reciprocity and fairness. Every single major faith has its own variation of the Golden Rule, which is reciprocity enshrined. But reciprocity is far more potent if the social conditions are set up in person. Political scientist Robert Putnam calls this "thick trust" as opposed to the "thin trust" represented by anonymous rules, law and mores. Study after study shows that even a simple act of giving makes the recipient feel indebted. Something as basic as asking how someone's day is going makes one feel indebted and more likely to give something back. It's one of the most powerful persuasion buttons you can push.

Another inherent human trait is empathy. We have an amazing ability to pick up on the emotions of others. We have a special type of neuron, called mirror neurons, that seem to be the seat of empathy. Mirror neurons explain why emotions can be contagious, why monkeys that see tend to be monkeys that do -- and why, when you're talking with someone, you find yourself subconsciously mimicking their actions or even their accent. Mirror neurons aren't found in every animal. So far, they've been discovered in just a few primates, including us humans. Mirror neurons may be why the more you like someone, the more empathetic you are, leaving you more open to persuasion

What This Means for Selling Online

Somewhere along the line, face-to-face contact seemed to be considered superfluous in our new online world. We moved to virtual sales, commerce transacted at a distance, electronically, with nary a handshake, a wink, a smile or an eye roll to be seen. In theory, it should work, but in practice, it leaves a lot to be desired. We were not designed to communicate electronically. We can and do adapt to it, but like any instrument designed for a specific purpose, things just work better when we do what we were made to do. And we were made to connect with others in person.

We're in the middle of an extensive research project exploring B2B buying and decision-making, and this lack of human contact in online sales strategies proved to be a huge obstacle to success. B2B buying is all about building trust and eliminating risk. It's pretty difficult to build trust with someone you've never met. That's not to say that electronic communication isn't effective, but the social foundations have to be built in person. Research has shown that on Facebook, the vast majority of close "friends" that people keep are all people they know and have met face to face. You can find ideological common ground with someone over the Net, but the bonding happens when you can look in their eye and read their body language.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Consumers Want Proof It's Green

According to the new BBMG Conscious Consumer Report: Redefining Value in a New Economy, 23% of U.S. consumers say they have "no way of knowing" if a product is green or actually does what it claims. But, 77% agree that they "can make a positive difference by purchasing products from socially or environmentally responsible companies," and they are actively seeking information to verify green claims.

To find the necessary information, consumers are:

  • most likely to turn to consumer reports .....29%
  • most likely to look at certification seals or labels on products .....28%
  • most likely to consider the list of ingredients on products .....27%
  • least likely to look to statements on product packaging .....11%
  • least likely to believe company advertising .....5%

Raphael Bemporad, co-founder of BBMG, says "... consumers are redefining what truly matters and evaluating purchases based on both value and values... by delivering... price, performance and purpose... brands will be able to close the green trust gap... "

Key findings from the Conscious Consumer Report (2009):

  • 67% Americans agree that "even in tough economic times, it is important to purchase products with social and environmental benefits"
  • 51% say they are "willing to pay more" for them
  • 66% say price very important in purchase decision
  • 64% look for quality
  • 55% want "good for your health"
  • 49% look for "made in the USA"

Green benefits have increased in importance since last year, says the report:

  • Energy efficiency (47% very important in 2008, 41% in 2007)
  • Locally grown or made nearby (32% in 2008, 26% in 2007)
  • All natural (31% in 2008, 24% in 2007)
  • Made from recycled materials (29% in 2008, 22% in 2007)
  • USDA organic (22% in 2008, 17% in 2007)

When asked unaided which companies come to mind as the most socially or environmentally responsible companies:

  • 7% of Americans named Wal-Mart
  • 6% said Johnson & Johnson
  • 4% Procter & Gamble
  • 4% GE
  • 3% Whole Foods

Asked to name the least responsible companies:

  • 9% named Wal-Mart
  • 9% said Exxon Mobile
  • 3% GM
  • 3% Ford
  • 2% Shell
  • 2% McDonald's

41% of Americans could not name a single company that they consider the most socially and environmentally responsible. And:

  • 71% of consumers agree that they "avoid purchasing from companies whose practices they disagree with"
  • 55% tell others to shop products based on a company's social and environmental practices
  • 48% tell others to drop products based on a company's social and environmental practices

Mitch Baranowski, co-founder of BBMG, concludes that "At a time of... growing demand for accountability, ... consumers are rewarding brands that align with their values... punishing those that don't... and spreading the word with their family, friends and peers... "

For more information, and access to purchase report from BBMG, please visit here. article found on

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Trending Up: Nielsen Says Online Video Usage Soars

Online video continues to expand -- now up 40% versus the same levels a year ago.

Nielsen Online says March's 9.6 billion streams and 130 million Web users are a 38.8% hike over March 2008. Total streams for viewers during March were at an average 74.4 with the total time per viewer, in terms of minutes, at over three hours per month -- 190.7 minutes.

Nielsen says the total time per viewer in March -- which includes progressive downloads but excludes video advertising -- was up a big 12.6% versus February. This seems to suggest -- as other research has found -- that users are watching longer-length videos.

YouTube, the big Internet video site, continues to dwarf the competition in two big key areas -- 5.5 billion streams and 89.4 million unique viewers.

Among streams, the next-biggest site after YouTube is at 348.5 million. Yahoo comes after that at 231.8 million; Fox Interaction Media (which includes MySpace)is 207.5 million; Nickelodeon, 196.1 million;, 176.9 million; MSN/Windows Live, 168.9 million; Turner Sports/Entertainment, 137.6 million; MTV, 123.8 million; and CNN, 103.5 million.

Among the unique viewers, Yahoo came in second at 24.8 million, followed by Fox Interactive Media (which includes MySpace) at 14.7 million, and MSN/Windows Live at 12 million. CNN was next at 9.0 million;, 8.9 million;, 6.9 million; Nickelodeon, 6.4 million; MTV Networks, 6.3 million; and Turner Sports/Entertainment at 5.8 million.

written by:
by Wayne Friedman, Monday, April 13, 2009, 4:07 PM
found here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Newspapers Online Bigger Than Local TV... In Video Ad Revenue?

It's bad enough both newspapers and local TV stations are getting kicked around in this economy (and, in the case of newspapers, even when the economy was good.)

But now comes word old-media newspapers actually beat newer-media local televisions in overall revenue when it comes to -- are you ready for this? -- video advertising revenues!


Borrell Research will release a report soon that says newspapers made about $165 million last year from streaming video advertising, while TV stations made $105 million -- more than a 50% gap.

Not only that, but another traditional print vehicle -- yellow pages -- did almost as well as TV stations, pulling $85 million to $100 million in online streaming video.

One note here: Streaming video ads are still a tiny piece of the pie for older media. For example, for newspapers it comes to just 5% of Web site revenues. It's a bit more for TV stations -- 10% of their overall revenue take.

Newspaper sites have opened up Web areas for small and mid-size businesses' video advertising, which is also being used as video content.

This is not something TV stations are used to. They are more familiar with selling mainstream local 15- and 30-second commercials for network-supplied programs, syndicated programs, or local newscasts.

TV stations still have the big brand names that -- in theory -- can turn this equation around. But they need to work fast. For years, marketing executives have touted the next big online thing as the growth of local portals and local Web destinations.

Perhaps TV station executives are distracted; many have wide eyes when talking about mobile technology. But just repurposing news, weather updates and local TV shows may not be enough for local market mobile phone users -- nor for demanding local video advertisers.

Newspapers beating TV stations in their own backyard makes them the unlikely video kings -- for the moment.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Study Shows Mags Reap More Ad Value Per Minute

The magazine industry, which has historically opposed time-spent-with-media metrics as fair basis for comparing the involvement consumers have with various media, is warming to the idea, albeit, with a caveat. Instead of looking at all minutes of media usage as equal, the Magazine Publishers of America today is releasing an analysis that assigns a relative value to each minute consumed, and not surprisingly, consumer magazine stack up very well vs. other major consumer media on that basis, including TV, radio, the Internet, and even the other major consumer print medium, newspapers.

"One of the things that is important in understanding how advertising works, is to separate the consumer relationship with the medium from the consumer relationship with advertising in the medium. And very often people look at time spent as a leading indicator of advertising engagement, or advertising wantedness," Ellen Oppenheim, CMO of the Magazine Publishers of America told MediaDailyNews, explaining why the MPA's new "Ad Value Per Minute" analysis is a relevant measure for advertisers and agencies to use when planning and buying media.

Raw time spent analyses, she said, are about consumer usage of "the medium, not the advertising" within them. To get at the relative value of time spent with advertising in the major media, the MPA factored a well-regarded analysis conducted by a respected third party, ad impact scores created by consulting firm Deloitte ("State of the Media Democracy" Study, 2008), and incorporated it into a new "Time/Ad Impact Ratio" for the major consumer media.

On that basis, magazines index with more than twice the impact of TV, online or radio, and are actually considerably higher than printed newspapers too (see table below).

Oppenheim said other impact scores could be substituted with the Deloitte data, and it would show similar patterns of stronger relative advertising impact of magazines.

She acknowledged that the studies are all surveys based on consumer perceptions about media, and not necessarily behavior, and therefore are not a "gold standard.

"No one is suggesting this is a currency," she said, adding that the analysis nonetheless is a good way of factoring raw time-spent analyses of media. One that is receiving considerable attention in recent weeks, is a highly regarded study conducted by Ball State University for the Nielsen-funded Council for Research Excellence. That study, which directly observed how consumers use media, initially reported findings only on the major "screen-based" media, such as TV, online, mobile, and gaming platforms. But the findings are sparking a new round of interest in advertising circles about the relative value of time spent with all media, especially as the industry struggles through an economic recession and prepares for another upfront television sales season.

Factors Behind the Calculation
Time Spent % Share Media
with Media* of Total Influence** Time-Ad Impact
Media (Minutes) Time Spent % Ratio
Magazines 70 8.9 49 5.51
Newspaper 68 8.6 42 4.88
Internet 154 19.5 48 2.46
Television 302 38.2 88 2.30
Radio 196 24.8 27 1.09
* Time Spent with Media on Average Day by User of that Medium, MRI MediaDay, 2008
** % of U.S. Consumers Who Said Advertising in this Medium Has the Most Influence on Their Buying Decisions,
Deloitte "State of the Media Democracy" Study, 2008
Time-Ad Impact Index = Media Influence / Share of Total Time Spent

found on

Monday, March 30, 2009

Return to Sender

One of the best inventions ever, they're made to make life easier - write your (short) note and put it where you need it. If you go digital, though, where you need it isn't always on your computer. For example, what good is my grocery list on my virtual desktop?

That's where the Notes area on my phone comes in - totally indispensable, since it automatically comes with me everywhere. Even better if you can check email on your phone - just type up a list and send it to yourself (or even take a digital photo of, say, a wine bottle you want to match up).

Works for work too - emailing a reminder to yourself (in the sub line) puts it back into your attention queue automatically, and when you're done, I have to say that deleting it is just as satisfying as crossing a chore off your list with a pen. There's also the magical whiteboard

Daily Tip found on

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Internet Article-Based Ads Grab More Clicks

According to a new national study by Opinion Research Corporation, sponsored by Adfusion, American consumers say articles that include brand information is the type of online advertising they're most likely to read and act upon, compared to banner ads, pop-up ads, email offers or sponsored links, according to a new survey.

Favorable Response to Advertising

Type of Advertisement

% Saying Very or Somewhat Likely to Respond

Articles that include brand information


Email offers


Sponsored search engine links


Banner ads


Pop-up ads


Source: Adfusion, March 2009

According to the survey, 67% of people between the ages of 18 and 24, and 56% of those making at least $75,000 per year say they are "very likely" or "somewhat likely" to read and act upon article-based advertising. Pop-up ads were least likely to be read or acted upon.

When asked how frequently they conduct Internet searches for products or services they read about in online articles, half the respondents said "very frequently" or "somewhat frequently." 69% of 18-to-24-year-olds said they were likely to conduct a search for products or services based on an article, and 57% of those making more than $75,000 per year expressed their likelihood to perform a search, says the report.

Additional data included in the survey:

  • 87% of survey respondents said they were not very likely or not at all likely to read and act upon pop-up ads
  • 56% of households containing three or more people said they are very likely or somewhat likely to read and act upon articles that include brand information.
  • 62% of households with 13 to 17 year-old children said they are very likely or somewhat likely to read and act upon articles that include brand information
  • 52% of college graduates said they conduct Internet searches for products or services they read about in online articles either very frequently or somewhat frequently

Scott Severson, ARAnet president, concludes that. "A key finding for marketers is that... more than two-thirds of the respondents between 18 and 34 said they conduct Internet searches for products or services they read about in online articles... compared to banner ads or other options, people respond better when they can read an article, evaluate it, and then decide to click through... "

(The survey presents the findings of a sample of 1,074 adults comprising 520 men and 554 women 18 years of age and older, completed on March 9-10, 2009)

For more information, and to access the PDF file from ARAnet, please visit here.

Article found on

Friday, March 20, 2009

7 Ways to Get Rid of Unwanted DVDs

Get something thing back when you get rid of something you didn't even want.

How many of us woke up this Christmas to find our stockings needlessly stuffed with horrible DVDs such as Ghost Dad, Gone Fishing, The Happening, Weekend at Bernie's or, the infamous "worst movie ever" Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever? These movies were probably purchased out of a pharmacy dump bin for $2.99-$4.99 and cleverly placed into your stocking as some sort of filler.

Of course, not all movies are as bad as those listed above. If you're fussy like me, you may not like or want most of the movies you receive. And some movies may be positively embarrassing to place in your collection. "How can you consider yourself a Kubrick fan if you own a copy of Dunston Checks In?" your friends will inevitably ask. And you will sigh, posture slumping and say, "My mom bought it for me because I liked monkeys as a kid."

Unwanted DVDs and the Environment

Putting something back in circulation is better than hoarding it or tossing it into a hole somewhere. When someone buys a used copy, it cuts down on the new copies that need to be made by one. When 1,000 people do it, it cuts down on the new copies by 1,000. In order for people to buy used, someone has to sell used. Get it?

There are several ways to get rid of those DVDs in a way that profits you to some extent. (I can't promise that anyone will take Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever off your hands. You may have to re-gift that at your own risk. ) If you're looking to become some sort of used DVD millionaire, you are looking in the wrong place. But if you're looking for store credit, cash or tax breaks, you've come to the right place.

  1. Online Buy Back
    Bre Software has an online buy back system. They offer a whopping 12 cents for Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever.

    BuyBack Madness is another online DVD buyback site. They won't take Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever, but they do pay a bit more for good movies than Bre.

  2. Sell your DVDs yourself
    You can list them on Ebay or sell them on Craigslist for whatever you think you can get for them.

  3. Trade at Brick and Mortar Stores
    I used to trade my DVDs for store credit at Babbages at the mall. There was this one time, however, where I brought in my stack of unwanted Christmas DVDs, all of them still wrapped in the cellophane. The clerk wouldn't take my DVDs. He wasn't allowed to take DVDs still wrapped in cellophane, cause I might have stolen them from Suncoast Video.

    "So what's stopping me from stealing some DVDs from Suncoast and taking off the cellophane before I bring them here next time?" I asked the clerk.

    "I don't know." he said.

    And that was that.

    The Lesson: Call ahead and ask if you have to remove the cellophane before you try and trade in your DVDs for store credit.

  4. Donate Your DVDs to Libraries
    You can donate your DVDs to libraries and get a tax credit.

  5. Donate to Videos for Voices
    Donate your unwanted to DVDs to Videos for Voices. This organization helps children with apraxia, a motor-planning speech disorder. You can get a little tax credit for your good deed.

  6. DVDs for Soldiers
    Donate your old DVDs to veterans. Or you can donate to Operation Showtime and support the troops still in the service. The choice is yours. Please be kind to the troops and send them watchable movies.

  7. Goodwill
    You can donate DVDs to your local Goodwill and rake in the tax cred.
By Josh Peterson
Los Angeles, CA, USA found on

Monday, March 16, 2009

7 Greenest Spring Break Trips

by Blythe Copeland, Great Neck, New York on 03.11.09Photo via joiseyshowaa @ flickr

For most people, spring break conjures up memories (or expectations) of beaches, beer, and--if MTV is your source--lots of bikinis. And while there’s nothing wrong with collecting your best friends and heading out for a week of partying, greener alternatives abound. No matter what kind of break you had in mind (A beach-side bacchanalia? A week of sunning yourself on the sand?), or where your academic interests lie (Love science? Can’t get enough nature?), or what you like to do in your spare time (Cook? Hike?), we’ve found the perfect eco-friendly trip. Read on for everything from hotels with minimal carbon footprints to volunteer organizations that let you make a hands-on environmental impact--and don't worry: We included some bikini-friendly locations, too.

1. For the Study-Abroad Student: Ard Nahoo Eco Cabins, Dromahair, Ireland

Photo via catsper @ flickr

If you’ve already made your way across the pond for a semester in London, Rome, Paris, or Madrid, gather some friends and celebrate your spring break at the Ard Nahoo Eco Cabins in Dromahair, Ireland. Each sustainable-ceder cabin sleeps four to seven people in a space kept warm with hemp insulation and pellet stoves, where the electricity comes from wind power and even the paint is natural. Keep yourself occupied with massages and yoga classes, or sign up for one of the multi-day ecological, detox, or yoga retreats. (Via National Geographic)

2. For the Outdoorsy Type: EcoCamp in Patagonia, Chile

eco camp chile spring break photo

Photo via EcoCamp

Maybe you’re the kind who just doesn’t think it’s a vacation unless you have plenty of time to get in touch with nature--and if that’s the case, then book a stay at EcoCamp in Patagonia, Chile. You’ll stay in domes inspired by the nomadic Kawesqar people; the accommodations are big on gorgeous views of the surroundings and the starry skies, but not so into modern amenities (think running water, but no television). From there, you’ll spend your days hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, or just strolling through the Torres del Paine national park’s glaciers, lakes, and mountains. (Via Forbes Traveler)

3. For the Beach Bum: Guludo Beach Resort, Mozambique

guludo beach resort eco travel photo

Photo via Guludo Beach Resort

Skip the generic oceanfront condo in Cabo and instead spend your days off on the pristine beaches of Mozambique at the Guludo Beach Lodge. The eco-friendly beachfront accommodations--known as bandas--were built by locals as part of the Lodge’s effort to bring the surrounding community out of poverty; of course, when you’re watching the sunrise from the comfort of your king-sized bed, you may not be thinking about them that carefully. Elsewhere on the property, take advantage of scuba diving spots, get your PADI Dive certification, enjoy a sunset sail, or go whale watching.

4. For the Party Kid: Miami, Florida

miami spring break photo

Photo via joiseyshowaa @ flickr

No city says party like Miami, Florida, so if all you want from your spring break is cocktails, warm weather, and skimpy bathing suits, it’s the perfect destination. Of course, you can still travel green while you’re there: Take advantage of the city’s public transportation instead of shelling out for taxis; stay at an eco-friendly hotel--like Comfort Suites Miami--that minimizes water use with low-flow showerheads; and fuel up for nights on the town with local, organic food from neighborhood restaurants like Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink or Gourmet Carrot.

5. For the Science Junkie: The Earthwatch Expedition, Canada

earthwatch trip artic photo
Photo via Earthwatch

Get out of the lab for the week without giving up your passion for science with an Earthwatch expedition that lets you study climate change in the Arctic’s tundra and forests. At the Churchill Northern Studies Center in the Hudson Bay Lowlands in Canada, guests study growth rings in trees, permafrost, ice crystals, and snowpack thickness--and while you’ll sleep in dorm-style rooms at the Center, you’ll also learn how to build an igloo that stays warm at temps as low as -40 Celsius.

6. For the Foodie: Organic Farming Through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms

organic farming volunteer photo
Photo via Ron1478 @ flickr

Get in touch with the land--and your food--by volunteering through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), which pairs aspiring foodies or farmers with organic growers all over the world; think Belize, Canada, France, Germany, Brazil, Turkey, Sierra Leone, Nepal, Australia, and many others. In most cases you’ll live with the family that runs the farm, trading long days and hard work for an intimate look at the culture and organic food processes of the country you’re visiting.

7. For the Volunteer:

colorado trail photo
Photo via indigoprime @ flickr

Spending your spring break giving back to your community (or to a larger organization) may not be as relaxing as swimming and sunning yourself in Miami, but it looks better on a resume. Love animals? Work with Biosphere Expeditions to protect snow leopards in Asia. Are you an experienced scuba diver? Help Coral Cay Conservation track the effect of global warming on Caribbean reefs. Love nature? Sign up for a Colorado Trail Volunteer Crew, where you’ll help keep the 500-mile-long path in pristine condition. All of these organizations--and many others found at you leave the environment better than you found it, which trumps even the biggest spring break party.

More Green Travel Ideas
Eco-Friendly Travel
Green City Guides
Happy Trails: Green Travel Blogs Pick Their Top Eco Destinations
How to Go Green: Skiing and Snowboarding
The Top 7 Greenest Ski Destinations in the U.S.
How to Go Green: Spring Break

Found on

Friday, March 13, 2009

Did you leave us with the short straw?

The Bite:
Fine by us, as long as it's reusable. Glass and stainless steel drinking straws add garbage-free class to your glass, even if you get stuck sucking down a cuppa SunnyD.
The Benefits:
  • Fewer fistfuls of trash. Most disposable straws are made from polypropylene (so you can recycle them), but remember: plastic never fully biodegrades, so generally just try to avoid it.
  • Shorter bills; not-so-short lifetimes. At about $5 per box of 50, straws aren't superexpensive, but reusable options will pretty much last forever.
Personally Speaking:
Jen (co-founder and a bit of a klutz) uses stainless steel 'cuz she's afraid she'll break the glass ones. But Jenifer (editorial director and amateur ballerina) prefers the "see-through-ness" of glass, and after three months, hasn’t broken one yet.
Wanna Try:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What's the honest-to-goodness best way to wash your produce?

The Bite:
Use water and white vinegar - no lie. A few squirts on your fruits and veggies gets rid of the nasty stuff (like pesticide residue) that you don't want - no store-bought washes necessary. Sincerely yours, Ideal Bite.
The Benefits:
  • Brushing bugs under the rug. A diluted vinegar rinse kills 98% of bacteria on produce - researchers found it works even better than a scrub brush.
  • Cash savings you can believe in. Water and vinegar rinses cost just pennies; the premade washes we found cost $4 and up.
  • It's a simple truth: Buying plastic bottles of produce wash means having to recycle them too (not to mention the energy and materials needed to make and ship them in the first place) - you'll still need to buy bottles of vinegar, but you'll buy fewer of them.
Personally Speaking:
Some of us who happen to have white vinegar in our pantries actually have no idea how it got there. Now we've got a use for it…
Wanna Try:
  • Mix water to white vinegar 3:1 in a spray bottle (if you've already got a bottle of the premade stuff, use it up and reuse the sprayer). Rinse with water after you spray. Yes, it's that easy.
Tip found on

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Are you gunning for the forest every time you use an ATM?

The Bite:
Maybe, since the number of trees that go to making receipts is just plain criminal. Hold up on requesting a receipt at the ATM, gas pump, checkout stand, and anywhere else where you have the choice, ski mask or not.
The Benefits:
  • Less eco-thievery. Receipts from the 8 billion U.S. ATM transactions each year create a lotta waste - and most end up in the trash.
  • Not robbing yourself of time. You can view all your transactions on your bank's website, and some stores, such as Apple, will send an e-receipt to your email - ├╝berconvenient.
  • Peace of mind. Misplaced receipts can help thieves steal your identity.
Personally Speaking:
Wallets stuffed with receipts give the illusion of more cash, and personally, we can't afford to be any more deluded about our spending reserves than we already are.
Wanna Try:
  • Just say (or press) no.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The 10 Most Fuel-Efficient 2009 Cars and SUVs

1. 2009 Toyota Prius

Price: $22,000

If it's lonely at the top, the Prius knows it. The iconic hybrid is the most fuel-efficient buy again in 2009.

Fuel Economy
City: 48 mpg
Highway: 45 mpg

Annual Impact
Cost to Drive: $1,133
CO2 Emitted: 4 tons
Barrels of Oil: 7.4
Air Pollution Score: 8 (of 10)

2. 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid

Price: $23,550

Second again, the Honda Civic Hybrid achieves the same strong fuel economy stats as the 2008 model. It can't match the Prius in city driving or price — but it does have a higher (better) EPA air pollution score.

Fuel Economy
City: 40 mpg
Highway: 45 mpg

Annual Impact
Cost to Drive: $1,242
CO2 Emitted: 4.4 tons
Barrels of Oil: 8.2
Air Pollution Score: 9 (of 10)

3. 2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid

Price: $26,650

The Nissan Altima Hybrid notches the third spot on the list again. What does third place mean? Better than most, but still 27 percent less efficient than the No. 1 Prius.

Fuel Economy
City: 35 mpg
Highway: 33 mpg

Annual Impact
Cost to Drive: $1,535
CO2 Emitted: 5.4 tons
Barrels of Oil: 10.1
Air Pollution Score: N/A

4. 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid (Tie)

Price: $29,750

Tied with its sister hybrids in the Ford family, the Mercury Mariner is the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market this year.

Fuel Economy
City: 34 mpg
Highway: 31 mpg

Annual Impact
Cost to Drive: $1,634
CO2 Emitted: 5.7 tons
Barrels of Oil: 10.7
Air Pollution Score: 8 (of 10)

4. 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid (Tie)

Price: $29,305

Tied with its sister hybrids in the Ford family, the Ford Escape is the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market this year.

Fuel Economy
City: 34 mpg
Highway: 31 mpg

Annual Impact
Cost to Drive: $1,634
CO2 Emitted: 5.7 tons
Barrels of Oil: 10.7
Air Pollution Score: 8 (of 10)

4. 2009 Mazda Tribute Hybrid (Tie)

Price: $28,175

Tied with its sister hybrids in the Ford family, the Mazda Tribute is the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market this year.

Fuel Economy
City: 34 mpg
Highway: 31 mpg

Annual Impact
Cost to Drive: $1,634
CO2 Emitted: 5.7 tons
Barrels of Oil: 10.7
Air Pollution Score: 8 (of 10)

5. 2009 Smart Fortwo

Price: $11,590

A newcomer to the list in 2009, the diminutive Smart Fortwo may not be a hybrid, but it makes a statement. Choose the coupe or the convertible: Both models get the same mileage. The coupe is the most affordable model on the list of most-efficient 2009 models.

Fuel Economy
City: 33 mpg
Highway: 41 mpg

Annual Impact
Cost to Drive: $1,564
CO2 Emitted: 5.1 tons
Barrels of Oil: 9.5
Air Pollution Score: 8 (of 10)

6. 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Price: $26,150

The Toyota Camry Hybrid is unchanged from the 2008 model, but a notch down the list, thanks to the Smart Fortwo.

Fuel Economy
City: 33 mpg
Highway: 34 mpg

Annual Impact
Cost to Drive: $1,535
CO2 Emitted: 5.4 tons
Barrels of Oil: 10.1
Air Pollution Score: 8 (of 10)

7. 2009 Volkswagen Jetta (Tie)

Price: $17,340

The 2009 Volkswagen Jetta and the Jetta SportWagen are the only diesel vehicles to make the list in 2009.

Fuel Economy
City: 30 mpg
Highway: 41 mpg

Annual Impact
Cost to Drive: $1,711
CO2 Emitted: 6.2 tons
Barrels of Oil: 11.6
Air Pollution Score: N/A

7. 2009 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen (Tie)

Price: $19,649

If you choose the automatic transmission rather than the manual, in either the VW Jetta or Jetta SportWagen, you lose 1 mpg in both highway and city driving — enough to cost $52 in diesel fuel per year.

Fuel Economy
City: 29 mpg
Highway: 40 mpg

Annual Impact
Cost to Drive: $1,763
CO2 Emitted: 6.4 tons
Barrels of Oil: 11.9
Air Pollution Score: 6 (of 10)

8. 2009 Toyota Yaris

Price: $12,965

The third Toyota to make the most-fuel-efficient list (and the most affordable of the three), the Yaris gets a combined fuel economy of 32 mpg. (Knock off 1 mpg in highway driving if you choose an automatic, rather than a standard transmission.)

Fuel Economy
City: 29 mpg
Highway: 36 mpg

Annual Impact
Cost to Drive: $1,634
CO2 Emitted: 5.7 tons
Barrels of Oil: 10.7
Air Pollution Score: 6 (of 10)

9. 2009 Mini Cooper (Tie)

Price: $18,550

There's a big advertising campaign around the fuel-efficiency of the 2009 Mini Cooper. The stylish little car delivers, besting 30 mpg in combined city/highway driving.

Fuel Economy
City: 28 mpg
Highway: 37 mpg

Annual Impact
Cost to Drive: $1,761
CO2 Emitted: 5.7 tons
Barrels of Oil: 10.7
Air Pollution Score: 6 (of 10)

9. 2009 Mini Cooper Clubman (Tie)

Price: $18,880

Tied with its sister, the bigger Clubman is in its second year on the market.

Fuel Economy
City: 28 mpg
Highway: 37 mpg

Annual Impact
Cost to Drive: $1,761
CO2 Emitted: 5.7 tons
Barrels of Oil: 10.7
Air Pollution Score: 6 (of 10)

10. 2009 Honda Fit

Price: $14,550

Rounding out the most-fuel-efficient list is Honda's second selection, the Fit. It's the third-least-expensive choice, behind the Smart Fortwo and the Toyota Yaris. Choose the manual instead of the automatic, and you'll lose 2 mpg, and pay $115 more per year.

Fuel Economy
City: 28 mpg
Highway: 35 mpg

Annual Impact
Cost to Drive: $1,686
CO2 Emitted: 5.9 tons
Barrels of Oil: 11
Air Pollution Score: 6 (of 10)

article by By Dan Shapley on

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine's Day Gifts: Green Love for Everyone

Valentine’s Day might just be the most polarizing holiday out there: either you think it’s a can’t-miss opportunity to show your love for your spouse, friends, and family, or you think it’s a lame excuse to sell more greeting cards. Of course, if you and your partner don’t agree, that’s when the problems pop up. You might be perfectly happy with nothing more than an extra kiss in the morning—but if she (or he) wants an extravagant dinner, memorable jewelry, and a sentimental card, then you’d better get shopping. Luckily, stores and websites are full of eco-friendly alternatives to traditional chocolates, flowers, gems, and wines, so you can satisfy your partner’s Valentine’s Day requirements without investing in a bunch of environmentally harsh consumer products. Read on for our favorite ways to say “I love you”—to your significant other and the environment.

Traditional Gift: A dozen roses

Eco-alternative: A dozen organic roses

Photo via XcBiker @ flickr
Take the classic route with a bouquet of stems delivered to her (at work, preferably, for maximum “awwww”ing from her coworkers)—but go the organic route with a bunch from Organic Bouquet. In addition to sending an arrangement of organic blooms, the company purchases enough carbon offsets to make every order carbon neutral. If you’d rather go the creative (and longer-lasting) route, try making flowers from recycled paper; you might feel like you’re back at summer camp, but the display will last longer than any fresh bouquet.

Traditional Gift: A box of candy

Eco-alternative: Fair trade chocolate bars

Photo via Digital Sextant @ flickr

Boxes of chocolate look nice on the outside, but inside they’re a different story: a hit-or-miss collection of treats that get eaten within minutes of breaking off that red ribbon (like coconut-filled dark chocolate or mocha truffles) paired with the ones that get left for days (like strawberry mousse and chocolate-covered cherries). Cut out the risk with a collection of Fair Trade chocolate bars in his or her favorite flavor from companies like Green & Black or Global Exchange. Handy in the kitchen? Make your own dark chocolate truffles (using organic ingredients) with this recipe from Chef Nathan Lyon.

Traditional Gift: A romantic movie

Eco-alternative: A film of the Earth’s most exotic locales (at 50% off!)

Forget Casablanca or When Harry Met Sally: This Valentine’s Day, you’ll want to snuggle in with your sweetheart and a copy of Spirit Films' Earth from the Air. The sweeping views of water, land, and wildlife from renowned photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand will have you falling in love—with your sweetheart and the Earth—all over again, while eagerly planning your next romantic vacation. (See some example shots in our Arthus-Bertrand slideshow.) Budget a little tight this year? Check out our TH Deals column and get the DVD for 50 percent off, with 10% of the purchase price going to one of TH's fave non-profits Architecture for Humanity.

Traditional Gift: Jewelry

Eco-alternative: Recycled or Fair Trade gems

Photo via stephend9 @ flickr

Jewelry is a go-to gift for Valentine’s Day, but just grabbing something on your way home from work says “I completely forgot” instead of, "You're the love of my life." Put a little thought into it by tracking down handmade pieces formed from recycled metal and paired with natural stones and gems, like the conflict-free pieces from Kirsten Muenster, recycled stainless-steel from Tarma Designs, reused magazine earrings from BtheNV Designs, or classic diamonds from Green Karat. Dress your guy in cufflinks made with LED lights or fashioned from obselete subway tokens.

Traditional Gift: A weekend getaway

Eco-alternative: A stay at an eco-friendly hotel

Photo via Dan Harrelson @ flickr

Instead of jetting away for the weekend to the cheapest hotel in the best destination, try to find green accommodations in your vacation spot. Green Hotels offers descriptions and contact information for hotels across the country, all of which have taken eco-friendly steps like using VOC-free paint or furnishings or doing away with travel-size shampoos. Amelia Island Plantation in Florida, for example, uses green cleaners, encourages guests to re-use their towels, and installed Energy Star thermostats. (And, of course, buy carbon offsets to neutralize your travel output.) Planet Green's City Guides can also steer you in the right direction. Of course, if the economy makes it impossible to travel this year, raise the romance level with a staycation in your own city: take a leisurely stroll through your local park, spend the afternoon at a museum, and then snuggle in at home with chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne. It's all the fun of a hotel stay without the environmental or financial cost.

Traditional Gift: A fancy restaurant dinner

Eco-alternative: A meal at home from local ingredients

Photo via Trent Bigelow @ flickr

Skip the crowded restaurants, overpriced prix fixe meals, and the uninspired chocolate mousse desserts this year and instead treat your sweetie to a homemade meal based around organic, local ingredients. Check out Kelly’s lineup of romantic menus on Planet Green for inspiration, or give a collection of recipes meant to inspire romance—like The Seduction Cookbook by Diane Brown. Pick up your ingredients from a local farmer’s market for a locally-sourced, organic spread, pop open some organic or biodynamic wine to set the mood, and get things cooking.

Article found on

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Are you walking down the beauty aisle?

Say "I Do" to greener styling tools. Getting hitched to eco-friendlier beauty instruments is a piece of three-tiered cake with our list of planet-positive beauty tools.

The Benefits

  • Unveiling your prettiness. These tools work as well as or better than conventional ones we've used in the past.
  • Eloping to a less wasteful world. Buying high-quality beauty tools that last a lifetime means less waste in the end.
  • Vowing to support eco-materials. Incorporating sustainable supplies such as recycled aluminum and packaging, these aesthetic assistants help you give good face while leaving less of a trace on the earth.

Wanna Try?

  • Silence HP Graphite - superquiet hairdryer that uses about 2/3 the power of conventional versions, is made in USA, and includes a lifetime warranty ($139).
  • Paris Presents EcoTools - five-makeup brush set with bamboo handles and nonanimal bristles that don't shed like some of their more expensive, noneco counterparts ($11).
  • Boscia Rose Blotting Linens - leaf fiber removes sweat and oil from shiny faces (without messing your makeup) and blots lipstick, and 10% of your sale supports breast cancer research ($10).
  • Tweezerman Go Green Tweezer - well-aligned, travel-size tweezers that come in recycled packaging; $1 of your purchase goes to planting trees ($10).
  • 95 and Sunny Nail Files - these colored crystal glass nail files last forever, so you don't have to keep buying emery boards ($5-$10).
Tip found on

Friday, February 6, 2009

Is an unsafe bottle repressing your thirst?

The Bite

Time for some bottle therapy. It used to be practically a requirement for the eco-conscious urbanite to lug water in reusable hard-plastic bottles, but it turns out those bottles can leach toxins. Choose lined aluminum, stainless steel, or glass instead.

The Benefits

  • Health-consciousness. Polycarbonate plastic used in bottles by Nalgene and other companies leaches bisphenol-A, which is linked to birth defects, miscarriage, and prostate cancer.
  • Less waste. Plastic water bottles require 1.5 million barrels of oil each year to make.
  • Hydration. Experts recommend we drink six to seven glasses of H2O per day, so keep a bottle handy.
  • Hipster appeal. Metal and glass options now come in supercool colors and designs.

Personally Speaking

The Biter team probably looks like a group of crazy evangelicals when we hang out away from the office, with all of our Biter bottles in tow.

Wanna Try?

  • Biter Bottles - our very own light, lined aluminum bottle ($20).
  • Kleen Kanteen Water Bottle - made from dishwasher-safe stainless steel and holds 27 oz ($18).
  • SIGG Kids Series - get lil' Biters started down the healthier path ($18).
  • VOSS - its water comes in cool-looking reusable glass bottles; buy one, and use the bottle for life ($3).
tip found on

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Built In Dishwashers vs. Hand Washing: Which is Greener?

Image credit: Getty Images/Sami Sarkis

For a while, when it comes to green impacts, the prevailing wisdom has been that built in dishwashers beat hand-washing dishes, in a runaway. By the numbers, according to one study at the University of Bonn in Germany, the dishwasher uses only half the energy, one-sixth of the water, and less soap, to boot. That sounds easy enough, but there's a lot more to it than and black-and-white comparison between your faucet and sink and the appliance under your counter.

For example: How do the results vary with model of dishwasher? What hand-washing habits are people using? How do you heat the water in your home? And how often do you do the dishes? Turns out all these factors can change the impacts; keep reading to learn what goes in to calculating the greenest way to do your dishes.

Water use, energy use, and carbon footprint

There are three big factors we'll consider: water use, energy use (for heating the water, largely), and the carbon footprint that results -- we'll save things like soap and dishwasher cooking for another post. And, of course, following energy-saving tips like running the "light" cycle and turning off the "heated drying" option will change the way the numbers work.

Built-in dishwasher efficiency

The average dishwasher uses 6 gallons of water per cycle; the average Energy Star-rated dishwasher uses 4 gallons per cycle, and their energy use ranges from 1.59 kWh per load down to 0.87 kWh per load. Using the Department of Energy's carbon dioxide emissions numbers of 1.34 pounds of CO2 per kWh, that's 1.16 to 2.13 pounds of carbon dioxide emitted per load, to go along with 4 gallons of water.

Energy Star assumes each load in a "standard" dishwasher (usually 24 inches in size) has "a capacity greater than or equal to eight place settings and six serving pieces," so we'll go with that when considering how many dishes need to be washed by hand.

Can hand washing be as efficient as dishwashing?

The short answer: maybe. First, let's look at water usage alone. The average faucet flows at 2 gallons per minute, so if you can successfully wash and rinse eight place settings -- plates, bowls, forks, knives, spoons, glasses, etc. -- and those six serving dishes that your dishwasher can handle without running the faucet for more than 2 total minutes, then, you might be better off hand-washing. Assuming you're washing 54 pieces of dishware (that's 48 pieces of dishware -- 6 pieces per setting -- and 6 serving dishes), you've got about 4.4 seconds of wide-open tap water per piece, or about 9.5 ounces of water to wash and rinse each dish.

Impacts of heating the water

Let's assume you use warm water for both washing and rinsing -- half hot water and half cold water. Heating 2 gallons of water with a gas hot water heater (from about 60 degrees as it enters your house to, say, 120 degrees, set by the thermostat on your hot water heater) takes about 960 BTUs, or about 0.9% of one therm (100,000 BTUs), assuming 100 percent efficiency.

Gas storage tank water heaters

Gas water-heaters are usually more like 65 percent efficient, so it really takes 1477 BTUs, or about 1.5 percent of a therm, to heat that water. One therm emits 11.7 pounds of CO2, according to the EPA (pdf), so heating the water with gas for each 2-gallon load emits about .17 pounds of carbon dioxide.

On-demand (or tankless) water heaters are closer to 80 percent efficient, which changes the numbers a bit; it works out to about 1200 BTUs, or about .14 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Electric storage tank water heaters

The story is a bit different when considering an electric water heater; while most electric water heaters use between 86 and 93 percent of their energy for heat (compared to between 60 and 65 percent for gas), electric heaters aren't as efficient at heating water. It still takes 960 BTUs to heat that much water; it just takes about .28 kWh (since, according to the EIA, 1 kWh equals 3412 BTUs) to heat 2 gallons of water at 100 percent efficiency, or about .30 kWh at 93 percent efficiency. Each kWh emits 1.715 pounds of CO2, on average (thank you, EPA), so heating water with electricity for each 2-gallon load emits about .51 pounds of CO2.

Built in dishwasher vs. hand-washing: And the winner is...

These numbers indicate that it's possible to be more efficient when hand-washing, but it's pretty tough. Can you successfully wash and rinse a soiled dinner plate in just over a cup of water? If you can keep the water use low, equal to an efficient machine, you'll require less energy, but doing an entire load of dishes in 4 gallons of water is roughly equivalent to doing them all in the same amount of water you use in 96 seconds of showering (using a showerhead that emits 2.5 gallons per minute).

So, as long as you don't often run your dishwasher when it's only half full of dirty dishes, or unless you are very miserly with your water use (or have an old, inefficient dishwasher), the automatic dishwasher is likely to be more efficient. That is to say, it's possible to use less water and energy by hand washing your dishes, but it's not easy. Of course, if you do it just right, it might just be a wash.

article found here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Unused Clothes Are Ruining Your Life

A passionate plea for simplicity and smart consumption. And 30 Easy Ways to Save Money

The message was unanimous at the kick off to the 5th Annual "Readings on the 4th Floor" at P.S. 107 in Brooklyn last night: freedom is simplifying and getting rid of stuff we really don't need, to make room for the more important things in life. Sure, you may be thinking, "consuming less is going green, but easier said than done."

Well take heart, because last night's panelists have some simple suggestions to ease your way to greater fulfillment. The ebullient Helen Coronato, mother and author of Eco-Friendly Families, suggested going through your closet and dividing your clothes into three sections: things you never wear, things you can't live without and things you maybe don't wear. Take the "nevers" to a thrift store or donation center immediately, and give the "maybes" a month. If you don't touch them, get rid of those, she said.

"Those maybes are ruining your life," said Coronato. "Freedom is getting rid of stuff, not being attached to things. You'll be amazed at how your life will change by getting rid of things. Get rid of them and make room for the stuff we really want: time."

Coronato suggests donating gently used business attire to a nonprofit organization like Dress for Success, which distributes clothes to low-income women who need to look sharp to pass a job interview. Weighted down by too many stuffed animals that no organizations will accept? No problem! Coronato pointed out that nonprofit Project Smile will get them in the hands of children who have suffered through a house fire, accident or other trauma.

Coronato's suggestions echo the mission of the Center for a New American Dream, which aims to help people live happier, more fulfilling lives while simultaneously reducing unnecessary consumption. The center has recently updated its book Your Money or Your Life, which "helps individuals calculate hours wasted working to pay for unnecessary stuff--stuff that dents both pocketbooks and planet while failing to fulfill."

Brooklyn Panelist Elizabeth Royte, author of Garbage Land and Bottlemania (the book I should have written in 2003 but didn't, not that I'm bitter or anything), suggested that people pick up free placards from local businesses and government offices to display on their homes. The signs alert mail carriers that the home is a "junk mail free zone," and she says the notice on her Park Slope, Brooklyn place has reduced her inflow of unwanted circulars and offers by at least 90% (paper has a huge impact on the environment).

From Water to Fashion, How Refreshing

Royte has also been working with municipalities across the country to bring back public drinking fountains, which she says health studies show are safe, encourage people to stay hydrated, and buck the trend of reaching for a new plastic bottle every time we need a sip. She pointed out that a number of local governments have let their once-robust supply of fountains deteriorate in the name of cost savings, what with everyone buying their own water anyway.

Coronato added that it's important to remember that everything we use has hidden costs, be it underpaid child laborers who made it in other countries, heavy fuel use to transport goods across vast oceans, and toxic by-products we don't see. She said a good place to start is to think about other solutions to needs than just buying what's most convenient. Check out thrift stores and consignment shops, skip dollar bins in discount stores (which are packed with low-quality goods you probably don't need anyway), and to regift stuff you haven't used.

Panelist Starre Vartan, TDG contributor, blogger, Greenopian and author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life, said to her one of the most important decisions in buying clothes is longevity. She said her goal is to buy only things she'll have to wear for years to come (even after that they can be repurposed for quilts, covers, and so on).

Starre also added that two-thirds of the energy that goes into keeping us clothed is taken up by how we treat the garments we have. She suggested line drying when possible (she said if everyone in the Northeast gave up their dryers we could shutter two nuclear power plants), washing with cold water, reducing detergent, hand washing delicates and only using "green" dry cleaners if you need professional assistance (find a directory of vetted local providers at Greenopia).

The panel's moderator, Treehugger founder Graham Hill, shared some of his successes with saving money by swapping out lighting with CFLs, drying his clothes on furniture in his small apartment, and even composting in a nifty device in his kitchen.

Is All this Worth It Compared to Bigger Problems ?

When an audience member questioned whether it is really worth the time of the environmental movement to harp on and quibble about bottled water, line drying and sippy cups when the planet is facing serious threats from global warming, population explosion and other massive problems, the panelists tried to put things in perspective. "I have leared that everything we do really does matter," answered Coronato. "Every little decision. Ask if you're doing something because that's just what you did before, or if there's a better way you could be doing it. Change begins in each heart."

Royte pointed out that although consumer packaging and cast-offs are only a small portion of our overall solid waste stream, reducing that material can have a big compounding effect. "In the great book Natural Capitalism, Paul Hawken talks about how every barrel of waste we prevent from going out to our curbs saves 32 barrels of waste upstream, from all the processes that go into making the stuff we use everyday," said Royte.

Starre added, to nods from the audience, "I feel like we've gone momentarily insane over the last 25 years or so. It used to be standard to reuse things, conserve, and so on. Then everyone started thinking we had to buy all new stuff all the time."

Royte suggested that if we really want to focus on the three big areas of consumption that have the most impact, those would be: how we heat and cool our homes, how we get around and how much meat we eat.

For her part, Coronato says her goal this year is to make sure everything in her house is both beautiful and functional. With the right tips, you too can go greener, and live better.

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Photo Credit: Gerville Hall / Istock
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