Sustainable Living In Saratoga Springs

July 2010 Archives

I would like to say I lead by example, however, I have confession to make about my recent vacation to the Delaware shore.  I was busy preparing coverage for the store, wrapping up loose ends, so when it was time to pack for our vacation I forgot several items that would have made our trip more green.  The first thing I discovered was on the drive, I had forgot our coffee mugs for the car so on the Thruway we either had to buy another travel mug that we really didn't need or use a disposable cup.  Next, the reusable grocery bags that are usually in the car were reduced to only 2 when we could have used 4 because we did all of our grocery shopping there.  A tiffin and reusable bamboo utensils could have saved some of the plastic utensils and Styrofoam containers used while eating out or getting Italian ices on the beach.

Fortunately, we were able to do some things right, the recycle center wasn't too far from from our rental so that we recycled the same as we always do.  We turned off the a/c during the day while we were at the beach and turning it on before bed for an hour or two. We found out when the local farmers markets were so that we could purchase produce and other goods from local farmers. We used the clothesline to dry our clothes, towels and suits.

Although, I already know that being green is a culmination of multiple decisions and choices we make everyday. My vacation botches were a reinforcement of the importance of developing green habits, planning ahead and being prepared.  If you haven't taken your vacation yet you can ease my conscience by not repeating the same mistakes that I made.

If you are on vacation in Saratoga then consider using stainless steel water bottles and travel mugs instead of plastic and Styrofoam cups. For your shopping excursions downtown you can use a designer reusable bag.  Happy Vacation!
It's been rather hot lately and it feels good to be in a nice cool environment. However, if you're concerned about your electricity bill at the end of the summer, you may consider turning that AC system off from time to time. Surprisingly I could not find much specific stats or data on AC energy consumption and waste, but we know that peak power loads occur repeatedly on hot days emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
How about using fans more? Air moving over the skin seems to be all we need to feel cooler, and a fan does indeed decrease a room temperature. Fans are often much less noisy - doesn't noise increase stress and more stress body temperature? What's stressful too is going from hot to cold several times a day.
Shading techniques are also recommended to block direct sun coming through, as well as closing the windows during the hottest part of the day. It's important however to keep fresh air moving, and strategically open a few windows to create cross ventilation earlier in the day and at night.
And remember that when appliances are running and stay on, they too create heat.
I don't know how many times I've thought while working out at the Y "Wouldn't it be so cool if, while I was running on the treadmill or working out on the elliptical, rower or espresso bike, I was making energy to power the facility".  Well...I found a company that has developed the technology to do just that.  They are called The Green Revolution and they have the technology in place for cycling with treadmills, ellipticals and rowers to follow.

According to their website, "A typical Group Cycling class with 20 bikes will create about 3 kilowatts (KW) per session. A Group Cycling room that runs four classes a day has the potential to create close to 300 KW a month. This is equivalent to the amount of power needed to light a typical home for half a year." Instead of tracking how many calories you are burning, you can track how many kilowatts you are creating.

Perhaps the thought of creating clean green power would drag me out of bed in the morning and get me to the gym!!

Anyone else?
After taking a walk around my neighborhood and seeing my neighbors watering the road and having the system on at noon, I thought it may be a good idea to talk about how to most efficiently and effectively use your irrigation system.

1. Don't over water. Grass needs about an inch of rain per week. If you have a system that works with a built-in rain gauge that's great!  If not, a rain gauge costs a couple of dollars, and using this in conjunction with your irrigation system manually can ensure that you are not over watering. It's better to have a soaking water then several shallow ones.  So it's not necessarily a bad thing to have your system going to compliment a light rain. The root system on your grass is hopefully 4 inches deep (or more) so check to see how deep you are watering.

2. Prevent Runoff After several hot sunny days your soil can become impervious to water. Think of a completely dried out sponge, most of the water runs off at first.  A brief water, 5-10 minutes, and then a longer water, with a break in the middle, allows the water to soften the soil so that the water will absorb and not run off into road or driveway.  Of course, if your sprinkler heads are not aligned properly, you are watering the road or other things that don't grow and wasting your water!

3.Timing Matters It's best to water in the morning.  The ground is dewy and more permeable to water.  The sun is low and winds are calm.  Mid day watering can waste water due to evaporation and wind.  Evening or night watering keeps the leaves wet all night which encourages fungi growth. Watering in the morning allows the grass and foliage to dry.

It's possible to keep your grass green even during the hot months of July and August. Follow the recommendation above and you will be doing it responsibly.
Saratoga's first community garden was established this spring at Stonequist Apartments.  It consists of 20 plots, with the Housing Authority having first priority and the remaining plots available to the residents of Saratoga Springs.  The venture was spear headed by Sustainable Saratoga and the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority.  It is a significant accomplishment which will add tremendous benefit to the community. 

I am blessed with parents who live locally and have large flower and vegetable gardens.  My children and I spend hours each week working in grammy and papa's garden.  I see first hand how my children benefit from time in the garden.  Not only have they learned to like vegetables(some at least), but they have learned patience, hard work, satisfaction of a weeded row, knowing where food comes from and how it should really taste.

Studies show that children who spend time learning in the garden show positive benefits in self esteem, nutritional attitudes, interpersonal skills, achievement in test scores, student behavior, and more. To check out the studies in more detail click here.

School gardening can be incorporated and accentuate science, mathematics, english, physical education and fine art curriculum.  Virginia Tech has studied and created models that can help schools start their own gardens and how they can be added to school curriculum.

Children have so much to gain from spending time in the garden so start your own or let's encourage our schools to incorporate gardening into their curriculum so that all kids can learn the valuable life skills gardening has to offer.
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Karen Totino, owner of Green Conscience in Saratoga Springs, has a history of caring about environmental issues starting with her own family and neighborhood. Beginning with her already successful organic lawn care business, Karen became actively involved in community efforts supporting work on cleanups and conservation through Friends of Kayaderosseras, a not- for -profit organization focused on conserving the creek. As an energetic entrepreneur, Karen wants to effect change in a greater way through offering green alternatives to consumers who seek better choices for their families and for the environment.