Friday, April 20, 2007

Earth Day Weekend: Coffee, Cleaning, Carbon & Water Savers

For some, spring is time to clean. For others, it’s time to dawdle and smell the flowers. On the eve of Earth Day weekend, some go to benefits, such as the one for Riverkeeper on a restored Hudson River pier. My friend Rolf, on the other hand, is going to pick up trash along the riverbank. For fun in the Real O.C., see I’ll do my usual Saturday green thing--shop for locally grown food at the farmers’ market (to find a greenmarket near you, go to

But first, a cup of coffee.

At this time of year, the returning migratory songbirds provide sweet wakeup calls, and to support them I recommend bird-friendly coffee, grown in the shade of conserved tropical rain forests that serve as their winter habitat. A pound of organic shade grown (look for the cute green parrot stamp) certified by Conservation International, is $13.45 at Starbucks stores, and it tastes sweet and smooth. The beans are grown in the forest understory near the El Triunfo Biosphere Preserve in Chiapas, Mexico. I’m also enjoying Dean’s Bean’s “Birdwatchers Blend,” about $10 for 12 oz. at Whole Foods Markets or Indulge in Plantations Arriba shade-grown chocolate, at And, for your cereal, Chiquita organic bananas are shade-grown, too (for more info, see
For an in-depth report on the Amazon, and compelling photos, see Alex Shoumatoff’s fine story in the May “green” issue of Vanity Fair,

Quick Water Save

Global Warming will lead to more water shortages, according to the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. So while the coffee’s brewing, I’ll turn off the tap as I brush my teeth—a good, easy way to save up to 10 gallons of water a day. Plus, every time you turn on the tap you use energy. Water pumping is the greatest single drain on electricity in California, according to the San Juan Water District’s website, full of useful tips. Http://

Cleaning and Saving Energy: The Fridge

To make room for fresh seasonal produce, it’s time to remove that mouldering winter vegetable raw stew that’s been slopping around in the bottom of the refrigerator bin. A scrubby sponge dipped in a solution of white vinegar, warm water and a couple drops of dish soap will freshen things up nicely, using baking soda to scrub crusty spots.

The refrigerator is our single biggest energy draining appliance, responsible for up to one-fifth of household energy costs. You can save up to 700 pounds of greenhouse gases a year with easy refrigerator maintenance. Turn the refrigerator thermostat up from 37 to 40 degrees, and remove the things stacked on top, which make it work harder and burn more electricity. For the same reason, one should clean the refrigerator coils at least once a year.

Why not now?

For how to find your condenser coils (in back, underneath?) and then what, see Whatever you do, remember to UNPLUG THE FRIDGE first, so you don’t shock yourself. You can use a dust buster or a vacuum with a hose and crevice attachment to hoover the thick, caked dust off the coils. But to really dislodge dust in between there, use a refrigerator coil brush, $4.99 at, or $5.71 at

Canister (hose) vacuums with HEPA filters, which trap microscopic allergenic particles, are getting more affordable. The Hoover Constellation S3341, with crevice-cleaning accessory, is $250 at

One last fridge test: Close a dollar bill in the door—if it stays put, your seal is energy tight and your food is safer. If it slides down, time to replace the gasket—quite a production, I’m afraid, but there are helpful tips at Time for a new fridge? Energy Star models certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) use about 15% less energy than conventional new fridges, and 40% less than pre-2001 models. They can save you over 500 lbs. of carbon emissions and up to $70 a year. For models, see

Lightbulb Bonus

If you’re feeling energetic on Earth Day Sunday, go and claim a free compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL) at Home Depot, which is giving away 1,000,000 nationwide (until supplies run out). CFLs last up to 10x longer than incandescent bulbs. Find stores near you at Or buy a CFL for $5-8 at your hardware store. As these carbon-saving bulbs do contain toxic mercury, when they finally burn out, years from now, remember to dispose of them safely at your local hazardous waste pickup or site (see

Please share these tips to your friends and send them to Thanks!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you know anything about French coffee?