Case Study
9.28kW PV Silevo Triex U_Series 290 Watt in Clarence, NY
View from the south side of Clarence residence. This image was created using EagleView Technologies aerial photography
Rivera Greens with solar panels installed.
View Case Studies...

Featured News - Current News - Archived News - News Categories



by Tracy Will
Wed, Jul 15th 2009 09:00 am


It's July, and for many of us the New Year's resolutions we were so diligent about in January have long since been forgotten.  However, I have high hopes that many of us have taken some of those simple steps to living a greener lifestyle, and they're only forgotten because they've become a part of our routine.  To that end, I thought some of you may be interested in how I'm doing with the "green goals" I shared with you in January.

In a nutshell, I had three main goals: step up the recycling, zap my phantom loads and be a smarter shopper.  I'm happy to say that I have accomplished quite a bit towards these goals in the past six months.  I should clarify before I begin, I did NOT do any of this all at once.  I made small changes one at a time, just like any other changes you want to make in your life.  You don't have to be a devout tree-hugger to this!

The first thing I worked on was recycling.  To start, I just made sure that I was recycling everything that I could that could be collected at the curb.  I live in Buffalo, so I read about what they do and don't accept at the curb on  One thing I found out was that the big plastic kitty litter containers that I collect so many of are not recyclable at the curb, but they make great containers to collect some of the other items in that aren't included in the curbside recycling program.  You can check with your municipality to see what items are included in their curbside recycling program, and then check the recycling directory at to see where you can take your other items to be recycled.

I had already started collecting old batteries to be recycled and began purchasing rechargeable batteries to replace them.  I added #3 through #7 plastics, which I can't put at the curb, to my recycling list.  This includes caps on plastic beverage containers, many of the plastic lids on various food containers, and extra cat litter containers.  I've also set aside some other plastics that aren't labeled to see if the recycler will accept those as well.  Click here for more information on plastic packaging (resin codes.)  I've also started saving any packing foam I get with various purchases, and I made sure to attend Erie County's June recycling event with old electronics and other applicable items.

Part of my recycling goal was to start composting my kitchen waste, and a few months ago I purchased a compost container and began collecting appropriate kitchen waste to compost; another great use for my kitty litter containers.  I opted to do a continuous compost pile so that I could keep adding layers as I had more waste collected, but it takes longer to compost.  I must have read a dozen different websites on how to compost, there are quite a few options of how to make your compost. Here are two sites that are pretty thorough: and  Don't think you can do it?  Keep in mind that I live in an upper apartment in the city, so my compost container is in a corner on my front porch.  My neighbors probably think I'm crazy, but I'm doing it!

As far as my plans to zap my phantom loads, I still haven't purchased those "Smart Strips," but it's on my to-do list.  I have been making a conscious effort to unplug things like my laptop cord and cell phone charger when they aren't in use, and I'm trying to get my daughter to do the same.  She's 9, and they're really trying to instill a "green" state of mind into the kids at her school.  The poor thing started to cry when I told her that her iPod charger still uses energy if you leave it plugged in after the iPod's done charging.  Boy did I feel bad, but hopefully she'll unplug the charger now when she unplugs the iPod.

I've noticed that it's getting easier to shop greener these days.  More and more companies are making and advertising earth-friendly products.  The big things that I've been looking at are cleaning products made with natural ingredients rather than chemicals and paper and other products made with recycled content.  What I've found is that many of these products are available at local retailers, the only down side is that there isn't really a widely accepted standard yet, so it's hard to look for a third-party certification to back up manufacturer's claims.  I've seen some products with the US EPA's Design for the Environment label or the Green Seal Certified label, but nothing consistent. 

Needless to say, I'm not endorsing any of these products or guaranteeing any of the manufacturer's claims, but here are some of the green product choices that I found at local retailers like Wegman's, Target, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club with links to the product websites.  To start, Seventh Generation has a full line of household and personal care products available in Wegman's or Target and online.  Household cleaning products I've seen in several places include: Clorox Green Works, Simple Green, and Murphy's Oil Soap (Original Formula.)  Clorox Green Works also makes plant-based laundry products, along with the Arm & Hammer Essentials line.  Reynolds Wrap now offers two foil products made from 100 percent recycled aluminum; I found it at Wal-Mart.  In addition to Seventh Generation, Marcal Small Steps has a full line of paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, napkins and facial tissue) made from 100 percent recycled paper available at Wegman's and Sam's Club online.

Now I haven't checked every product in every store; I certainly don't have that kind of time.  This is mostly stuff that I've stumbled upon while trying to shop conscientiously.  There may not be guarantees, but there are environmentally friendly product choices available.  Hopefully this list can save you some time if you're looking to shop a little greener.

Subscribe to our Newsletter
You can save energy and money, and help in the fight against global warming by taking small energy-saving steps at home. Take the ENERGY STAR Pledge now to learn how you can be part of the solution. >> More