3 Simple Steps To Tame Your Power Hungry Home

3 Simple steps-that is all it takes to tame your power hungry home and save money. These days, there are a lot of electronic gadgets in our homes. From flipping on that coffee pot in the morning, to watching TV at night, we depend on electricity for everything we do. However, just a portion of your household appliances account for the majority of your electricity consumption. With some simple adjustments, you can save both money and energy by tackling these power-hungry categories.

These days, there are a lot of electronic gadgets in our homes. From flipping on that coffee pot in the morning, to watching TV at night, we depend on electricity for everything we do.

However, just a portion of your household appliances account for the majority of your electricity consumption. With some simple adjustments, you can save both money and energy by tackling these power-hungry categories.

1. Hot water heaters

Having access to instant hot water at the tap is one of modern life’s greatest conveniences. From steamy showers to the warm suds that clean our dishes and our clothes, our hot water heaters get a constant workout. The average home uses about 45 gallons of hot water each day, which adds up to hundreds of dollars a year on your power bill.

There are several ways to lower this cost. The most obvious one is to use less hot water, which can be accomplished through shorter showers and more efficient dishwashers and washing machines. You may also want to go to the source and replace your water heater with a more efficient model. Then, set your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees or lower, which will provide water hot enough for most uses (and can prevent scalding burns as well).

 2. Cooling systems

We’ve talked about the hot stuff, now let’s talk about the cold stuff. Whether you have central air or window units, air conditioning systems use a lot of electricity. Running a 5,000 BTU window unit in one room 24 hours a day could be costing you nearly $600 per year. (Use this online calculator to determine the cost of your central air system.) During the summer months, cooling costs can make up 40% to 70% of your electric bill.

To bring those bills down, make sure your home is well insulated and that any cracks or gaps are sealed, especially around window units. For central systems, use a programmable thermostat and keep the filter clean. Also consider using window shades, screens, or films to keep the sun’s heat from entering your home. Finally, limit stovetop cooking and use an outdoor grill instead of your oven during hot months; heat from the kitchen will just make your AC system work harder.

3. Other household appliances

Did you know your hair dryer uses more power than your clothes washer or your refrigerator? Drawing up to 1,875 watts, a hair dryer used every day can really add up. But it’s not the only power hog that you plug into the wall. Dishwashers, clothes dryers, and vacuum cleaners all take a lot of energy to run. You can view the typical wattages of a variety of household appliances here.

While letting your hair air-dry and hanging your clothes on a clothesline to dry can save quite a few kilowatts, such options aren’t always practical, especially in winter. So what else can you do to save?

First off, when it’s time to buy a new appliance, be sure to check out Energy Star models. Products with the Energy Star label must meet certain energy efficiency requirements, and they include everything from phones to furnaces.

In addition, try to unplug items that aren’t in use, because televisions, microwaves and many other common appliances draw small amounts of stand-by power even when turned off.

And, of course, when possible, limit the use of electronic items. Being mindful of your daily habits will help keep costs down.

 

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6 Tips for Renters on Saving Money on Electricity

Do you rent your home and looking to be more energy efficient and save on your power bill? Chances are you don't want to pay for pricing things like windows or insulation. Fortunately renters can still make a host of small changes to help lower their heating and cooling bills.

Most energy-savings tips only apply to homeowners—if you’re only renting, you’re not likely to pay for pricey insulation in a house you don’t own. But even if you can’t make major renovations or upgrade to energy-efficient appliances, renters can still make small changes to help lower their heating and cooling bills.

Windows are a great place to focus, as many apartments have older ones that aren’t well-insulated and allow for heat loss. And when landlords aren’t footing the energy bill, they have little incentive to pay for upgrades.

Here’s a look at several renter-friendly strategies for saving money on your electricity and heating bills.

Use insulated drapes

Insulated drapes are an inexpensive way to keep out cold air, especially in a room with lots of windows. You should be able to purchase simple insulated drapes inexpensively and move them with you to future apartments. Use tension rods if you’re concerned about leaving nail or screw holes above the windows.

Place plastic on the windows

An inexpensive plastic window insulation kit can help you keep out drafts. This video shows how to weatherize windows using plastic. Once windows are sealed, you can’t easily open them again without removing the plastic, so you may want to leave one or two windows in the kitchen uncovered case you overcook something and need to air out the room (remember to close the window later).

Weather strip doors and windows

This video shows you how to install peel-and-stick weather stripping. A few benefits of weather stripping: you can still open and close your windows and they can help keep out bugs and outside noise. You can use weather stripping in combination with plastic insulation or insulated drapes.

Get a space heater

If you need to heat a small space like a bedroom, it’s sometimes more efficient to use a space heater rather than heating the entire apartment or house. Just be sure to position the space heater away from other furniture and turn it off when you leave the room to lower your risk of fire.

Clean heating and cooling vents

When dust and other debris build up in in your heating and cooling system, it forces the system to work harder to heat or cool your home. By changing the HVAC filters (if applicable) and vacuuming the vents periodically, you’ll help the system run as efficiently as it can, even if your landlord isn’t ready to upgrade.

Remove window AC units

If you leave an air conditioning unit in your window year round, you’re likely letting warm air escape or cold air in through gaps between the unit and your window. Remove AC units at the end of the warm season and store them until the following spring. Better yet, use fans and open windows instead of running energy-sucking AC units.

 

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5 Simple & Clever Ways to Minimize Your Energy Usage

When it comes to consuming energy, we Americans are pretty darn good at it. But, with a few simple tricks, you can minimize your energy usage and drop your electricity bill without feeling like you've even tried.

When it comes to consuming energy, we Americans are pretty darn good at it. But, with a few simple tricks, you can minimize your energy usage and drop your electricity bill without feeling like you’ve even tried. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, so if you can remember to consistently follow a couple of these easy methods, you will be golden.

1. Go Out…

Anywhere besides your house. Using someone else’s energy (or none at all) is more enjoyable, anyways. Try to go outside where most of the activities are free, or go to the local library to get work done. Enjoy an evening walk with your family instead of vegging out in front of the TV. Go grab a bite to eat. Go to the gym after work instead of coming home to binge-watch Netflix (guilty). Better yet, here are some awesome activities in New England that are coming up with most of them being at little to no cost. The less time you are in your house doing things like watching movies, cooking, showering, or playing video games, the smaller of a number you will see on your monthly electric bill. Limit time spent doing these activities – or simply go some place else to do them!

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2. Cover Up

If you find yourself getting cold (which is quite possible now that the chilly New England weather has arrived), don’t reach for the thermostat. Instead, do as mom always told you and grab a sweatshirt, socks, or blanket. These will get you warm quick so you won’t be as inclined to touch the thermostat!

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3. Turn ‘Em Off

This is a no-brainer, but it’s so easy to forget in the midst of our busy days. But, we need to remember to turn lights off when we leave the room. Often times I will be in a rush to get to work on time and forget to shut off my bedroom lights. Not just one light, but three: the overhead light, closet light, and bureau lamp. What happens now? They stay on – ALL day. Simply put, it’s a waste of money and energy to keep lights on when you’re not using the room. By making this a habit, you’ll minimize your energy usage and also put more dollars back into your pocket.

lightswitch-o

 

4. Use the Microwave

If you’re only cooking for a couple people, heating up yesterday’s leftovers, or making a side dish, consider using the microwave instead of the stove or oven. Did you know that microwaves use 30-80% less energy than regular ovens do? That’s pretty impressive, and definitely worth the savings when you’re cooking small portions. Since microwaves use high-frequency waves, it also takes way less time to cook things. It’s a win-win! You get to eat faster (thus being more productive) AND save money on your electricity bill at the same time!

Don’t believe me that you can make delicious meals in the microwave? Or just need some inspiration to get you started? Here are some recipes that you can use throughout the whole day. Some them look so good that I might even try one out for myself tonight!

microwave

5. Cook Consciously

Whenever you’re cooking on the stove, remember to put a lid on it! Did you know that without a cover on your pot/pan, it uses about 60% more energy than if it was covered? So, next time you’re boiling potatoes or simmering you’re favorite side dish, think of that fact.

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*Photo by Steve A. Johnson / CC BY

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Mainers Can Save Money with Energy Efficient Investments

Mainers, on the whole, are frugal people—just ask the thousands of Uncle Henry’s subscribers out there. So, when it comes to investing in new energy-efficient appliances and heating and cooling systems, it’s always a bonus when you’re able to score a great deal.

Mainers, on the whole, seek out value—just ask the thousands of Uncle Henry’s subscribers out there. So, when it comes to investing in new energy-efficient appliances and heating and cooling systems, it’s always a bonus when you’re able to score a great deal.

While you’ll save substantially on your energy bills over the long-term by making the switch to energy-efficient appliances and systems, Maine also offers a number of rebates and incentive programs to make the thought of changing your equipment even more appealing.

Efficiency Maine, a Maine state government initiative, provides a wealth of material about rebate and incentive programs on its website. Here’s a sampling of what’s available:

Under the Home Energy Savings Program, which has a total cap of $1,500 in incentives for residential buildings of up to four units, you can choose from:

Up to $400 for air sealing:

 If you use weatherstripping or caulking to seal your home against air leaks, and then get an assessment done by a BPI-certified professional, you could get up to $400 in rebates.

Up to $1,000 rebate for home insulation:

If you insulate your home’s walls, attic, or basement, you’re eligible for a rebate of up to $500 for each insulation measure, or $1,000 for multiple insulations with a minimum $3,000 total cost.

Up to $750 for supplemental heating system installation:

You can receive a $250 rebate for purchasing an EPA-approved wood stove or pellet stove. If you purchase a ductless heat pump (typically around $3,500 for equipment and installation), you could receive a rebate of $500.

Up to $500 for a high-efficiency central heating system:

When you make the move to an Energy Star-rated furnace or boiler, or install an air source heat pump, you’ll be eligible for an incentive of $500, provided you’ve spent at least $1,500 on the project.

You are also eligible for a $5,000 rebate for choosing one of two energy efficient heating system options:

  • A geothermal heat pump
    This type of home heating and cooling system naturally draws heat or cools the air in your house using an underground loop system. The system cost and installation typically costs approximately $40,000, but is eligible for a 30% federal tax rebate in addition to the $5,000 state rebate, bringing the total cost down to $23,000. Based on anticipated savings, the system will lead to nearly $50,000 in savings over a 20-year period.

Visit Efficiency Maine to find out about applying for state-run incentives and rebates to make your home more energy-efficient and save money on your power bill for years to come.

 

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New England Pipeline Expansions Proposed

Earlier this fall, energy pipeline operators announced plans to boost the energy supply across New England, reports the Boston Globe. This region has not added any new gas pipeline capacity for the past two decades, which has created supply issues and temporarily boosted wholesale prices for gas and electricity during extreme winter temperatures.

Earlier this fall, energy pipeline operators announced plans to boost the energy supply across New England, reports the Boston Globe. This region has not added any new gas pipeline capacity for the past two decades, which has created supply issues and temporarily boosted wholesale prices for gas and electricity during extreme winter temperatures.

Availability of natural gas is a significant driver in the cost and production of electricity. In fact, at one point during a cold spell last winter, wholesale electricity prices jumped up to $1,290 per megawatt hour, which is more than 35 times the yearlong average of $36 per megawatt hour!

Increasing the energy supply could help alleviate these dramatic spikes in cost, and ultimately help energy residential customers across New England lower their energy bills. One potential project called Access Northeast would impact the Algonquin pipeline, which runs from New Jersey to Everett, and the Maritimes & Northeast line, which carries liquefied natural gas pumped from ships off the coast of Eastern Canada.

Officials at Spectra and Northeast Utilities, the companies proposing the expansion, say the project would be finished in 2018, assuming the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gives its approval (the companies have not yet filed a formal proposal with FERC, but say they plan to do so next year). The two companies plan to invest $3 billion into the project, delivering an additional 1 billion cubic feet of gas per day into New England. That is enough to supply over 3 million homes. Spectra has already proposed a 14 percent expansion of the Algonquin pipeline, a project that, if approved, would likely be completed during the winter of 2016-2017. The new Access Northeast project would complement that expansion.

Energy customers would help recover the project costs of Access Northeast over the first year after the project’s completion, but increasing access to affordable natural gas would likely result in lower energy bills over the long term. Fracking in Pennsylvania and other areas has helped lower the cost of natural gas in other parts of the country, but without increased pipeline capacity, New England customers have not benefited from those cost savings.

The other pipeline expansion proposal involves building a pipeline to supply gas from Pennsylvania across New York and Western Massachusetts. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP, the energy company behind that proposal, plans to solicit public input later this year and file a pipeline application next fall.

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Here’s Why Millennials Have the Power to Shape the Future of Energy Efficiency

Millennials are the generation of the future, and they are slowly starting to reshape the nation with values that are most important to them.

The Millennial Generation, or those of us who were born between 1982 and 2003, are quickly gaining recognition and turning heads all over America. Millennials will make up as much as 75 percent of the workforce by 2025…whoa!

Millennials are the generation of the future, and they are slowly starting to reshape the nation with values that are most important to them. These values, as outlined in a Brookings case study titled, How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America, are reforming the definition of “success” and bringing the world together as a more collective whole. What do these shifting values have to do with energy efficiency, you ask? Read on to find out.

The essence of the Brookings study was based on what values they found to be most important to Millennials. I hate to break it to you, but money and power were not high on that list. Instead, the researchers noticed some values and priorities that are a little different from our predecessors, Generation X and the Baby Boomers. Here is roughly what they found:

Preservation of the environment and experiences are more important than material, unnecessary “things”

If Millennials were faced with the choice (and affordability) of purchasing a hybrid or electric vehicle over one that requires gas, which one do you think they would choose? What if they could choose whether they got their electricity from renewable or non-renewable sources? My point is, Millennials generally feel the need to be more “green.” In the future, this could greatly influence how we produce energy, especially if non-renewable sources get too sparse.

Over the past few years, going green has become more popular and it doesn’t look like that is changing anytime soon. In order to have experiences and create memories, Millennials know that they need to first protect our precious Mother Earth. It’s not just strictly about saving the environment, rather, more about having this idea incorporated into allpolicymaking”—from healthcare right down to shopping habits.

Technology is essential

Millennials have grown up on the cusp of the technology era. We remember what it was like without a computer or cell phone, but we are still pretty technological savvy. Millennials realize the future of technology, and according to this article, they are looking for it in their homes. “Smart homes” are quickly on the rise here in America.

Millennials are constantly looking at ways to make their lives more efficient while still making sound decisions. Often times, this means staying up-to-date with the newest technology (like this cool SmartThings device) so they can monitor energy consumption and save on costs such as the electricity bill.

They value conservation and helping others as much as possible

So if the key to energy savings is to consume less, Millennials know how to do it best. With their drive to make their homes more efficient, paired with the want to protect the environment, they know that the big contributor to saving money on energy is to conserve it. For more information on why it’s important to conserve energy for our future, visit the Conserve Energy Future site.

Trust and Corporate Social Responsibility are far more important than the bottom line

Millennials tend to distrust big companies. Which is why they will most likely switch to an outside, local electricity supplier rather than sticking with the big company. As outlined in the study, Millennials would much prefer to pay a little more if the company was aligning with their values of corporate social responsibility.

Because of the high priority of these values, Millennials have the power (no pun intended) to raise awareness about not only important worldwide issues, but about energy efficiency and consumption as well. If we do not start making changes about how we produce energy, our country could be in danger of running out of non-renewable resources. The balance between conserving and just being aware about energy is important. Not just for Millennials, but for everyone who cares about energy efficiency. Together, we can make a difference in the world we live in.

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Capitalists with Heart

At The Heart of Giving-How Companies Determine a Strategy for Giving

Forward-thinking for-profit companies, with an orientation on doing well by doing good, can have a significant impact on non-profits and their ability to make a difference. Some for-profit companies take their corporate responsibilities seriously. Here are profiles of three of them, and their plan and strategies for giving to non-profits.

What is the proper funding mix for a non–profit organization?  Most rely on a combination of direct donations, grants, state and federal money.  Depending on the goal or mission of the organization-this mix can vary greatly.   Most directors of non-profit organizations will tell you that fundraising, in particularly direct appeal campaigns, merely maintain the status quo.

According to Giving USA’s report, Giving 2013, contributions by individuals make up the majority of giving received by nonprofit organizations. Individual gifts amounted to $228.93 billion in 2012, which accounts for 72% of all contributions made. Corporate giving only accounts for 6%.

While corporate giving trails all other contributions, it’s also an area where there are significant opportunities for non-profits to develop strategic partnerships. Forward-thinking for-profit companies, with an orientation on doing well by doing good, can have a significant impact on non-profits and their ability to make a difference.

At the same time, consumers have become increasingly sophisticated in what companies they prefer to do business with. Nielsen, the global information and measurement company with a presence in nearly 100 countries, recently released The Nielsen Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility, conducted in early 2014. The report, polled more than 30,000 consumers in 60 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America.

Some of the findings show that consumers prefer doing business with companies demonstrating both corporate responsibility—referred to by some as corporate citizenship or even, Conscious Capitalism—with its most basic elements being a dedication to making a positive social or environmental impact on society. Some tangible examples might be using recycled materials in one’s products, or letting customers know that as a company, there is a commitment to increasing access to clean water, or working to eradicate extreme poverty, hunger, and homelessness. For these companies, the focus isn’t merely on their bottom lines, or stockholder shared value.

The Provider Power family of companies, which includes Electricity Maine (along with ENH Power and Provider Power Mass) consider what they do through their Power to Help Fund, an example of this orientation.

“Provider Power sells electricity, which is something every business and home needs. Our model is to offer people the opportunity to purchase electricity at a competitive fixed rate and at the same time do some good with that purchase by supporting local non-profit organizations with their electricity bill.”

Other for-profit companies also take their corporate responsibilities seriously. Here are profiles of three of them, and their plan and strategies for giving to non-profits.

Oakhurst Dairy

Oakhurst Dairy is one of Maine’s most iconic businesses. Founded in 1921 by Stanley T. Bennett when he bought a dairy on Woodford Street in Portland, the dairy was moved shortly after to its present location at 364 Forest Avenue in Portland. Oakhurst has been a fixture at the location for more than 90 years.

Throughout its history, Oakhurst Dairy has stood for “The Natural Goodness of Maine.” The business has remained in the Bennett family for three generations, and Oakhurst has always had as its promise a commitment to be responsible environmental stewards, as well as supporting the health of the communities that buy its milk and other products, through their charitable giving.

While Oakhurst was acquired by Dairy Farmers of America in early 2014, several family members remain in key positions with the company. And Oakhurst’s commitment to charitable giving continues as strong as ever before.

One of these is the company’s commitment of giving 10% of their pre-tax profits to organizations that promote healthy kids and a healthy environment—this remains the cornerstone of Oakhurst’s community involvement.

Jean Bennett Driscoll, granddaughter of Oakhurst’s founder, was emphatic that the company would be keeping that pledge.

“It really goes back to my grandfather, where it all began,” explained Driscoll. “He set the tone for giving and we’ve stayed true to it all these years.”

Driscoll talked about the very personal nature of giving for her grandfather.

“My grandfather knew everyone in the community and so the requests were all personal appeals. Over time, we’ve had to adopt a more formal process,” said Driscoll. “Back then, one thing he would do is have his secretary scan the newspaper for the birth announcements. They would then send out a coupon to these new mothers to buy Oakhurst Milk.”

Oakhurst’s focus for their giving has consistently been on kids and healthy communities.

“I think this goes back to what my brother Stan used to say about the environment—‘cows live, eat, breathe, and drink the Maine environment, just like we do,’ said Driscoll. “We tend to single out organizations that officers of Oakhurst serve on the boards of. So for instance, my brother Bill serves on the board of the Salvation Army. We always give 5 cents of every eggnog purchased to the Salvation Army, during Christmas.”

When asked if companies have a responsibility to “give back” to the community, Driscoll was emphatic in her response.

“Oh, absolutely—this is another thing that goes back to my grandfather. He thought companies should be supportive of the communities they were selling their products in,” said Driscoll.

“This is still part of our philosophy here at Oakhurst, and it’s always been part of who we are,” she added.

Baxter Brewing

Craft brewing of beer has been experiencing exponential growth across the US. In Maine, craft brewers are one of the fastest growing business sectors, perfectly capturing the cross-section between local, Maine’s burgeoning food scene, and the state’s entrepreneurial spirit.

Luke Livingston, CEO, founder, and president of Baxter Brewing, has been ranked as one of the 30 innovative brewers and beer professionals, by AllAboutBeer.com. Baxter is one of craft brewing’s success stories since the company’s founding in 2011. Not only are they growing by leaps and bounds, but the company has a concern for the environment, as well as a focus on the community where it’s based, in Lewiston, as well as the region where it sells its beer.

Livingston spoke about Baxter’s philosophy concerning non-profit giving, especially in the context of their marketing focus, and their lifestyle-oriented product.

“I think for us, the focus of giving is two-or-three fold,” said Livingston. “First, I think what we do with beer—with Baxter, I think of us as a lifestyle brand, more than just a manufacturer—our cans are environmentally-friendly and portable. A lot of our giving plays into that,” he explained. “We do a lot with outdoors and conservation organizations, because it jives with what we create and our core values and what we want Baxter to represent,” added Livingston.

While Baxter’s growth has been considerable since opening in 2011, they remain a small business. That definitely informs their giving, as Livingston elaborated.

“I think when you’re a small business—but probably a business of any size—philanthropy, in addition to making us feel good about ourselves, is an extension of marketing,” said Livingston.

“In a lot of ways it helps justify the expense. We’re lucky because we make beer and we make a consumable product, and we make a product that people love,” he said. “A lot of our giving comes in the form of product donation. This is obviously much easier to do, especially for a start-up. We try to align ourselves with non-profits, either from the perspective of product donation or cash that we think will help us from a marketing standpoint.”

Livingston added, “I don’t think there’s any shame in that. We give beer to events and we’re part of the Nature Conservancy of Maine’s Corporate Conservation Council—for instance, we donate beer to Nature Conservency events. People that go to these events are the kinds of people we want drinking our beer. That really works for us,” said Livingston.

Livingston believes that companies do have a responsibility to give back to the communities they’re in and serve.

“Having grown up in Lewiston-Auburn, and for many of our employees that are from here or who have located here, it’s important for us to be stewards of the community,” said Livingston. “As a company, we talk a lot about core values, and we try to find a way to match those up by giving back.”

Touching on the company’s philosophy about being good stewards of the environment, Livingston explained their focus, as well as packaging beer in cans.

“The process of making beer is an environmentally-taxing process, so in order to try to diminish that we look at our packaging and efforts in doing it sustainably. Aluminum is the most recycled, most abundant metal in the world. Americans are most likely to recycle aluminum. Because you can fit three times more of them on a truck, fuel-consumption per unit is so much less, also,” said Livingston.

Livingston reiterated that it’s important for companies—whatever they are and wherever they are—to have a presence in the communities where they reside.

“I think it’s a fundamental component of business ownership, and we’re very conscious of that at Baxter,” he said.

Coffee By Design

When Alan Spear and Mary Allen Lindemann moved back to the east coast from Seattle in the early 1990s, they were looking for the right location to launch a coffee cart, or kiosk. After spending time in Providence, Rhode Island, and Burlington, Vermont, they were attracted to Portland, after visiting family members in the area. Little did they know that 19 years later, they’d have multiple locations and be the employer of 55 people. They’ve also remained steadfast in supporting the arts and their home community.

Lindemann spoke about that initial core focus that she and Coffee By Design partner, Alan Spear, initiated and have remained true to for nearly two decades.

“Our core focus in our giving has always been on the arts and organizations that do social change,” explained Lindemann. “We both believe so strongly in the arts—we’ve often said that ‘a world without art is a world we don’t want to live in.’”

Portland in the early 1990s was a much different place than the cultural hub it has become. That was noted by Lindemann in discussing the launch of Coffee By Design.

“When Alan and I left Portland in 1989 because the economy was just so bad, many of the arts organizations—particularly the galleries—were closing. When we came back in 1994 and started our business, we wanted to show a commitment to artists,” said Lindemann.

According to Lindemann, Coffee By Design started out by allowing artists to display their artwork on the walls of their first coffee shop on Congress Street.

“This was a very exciting time on Congress Street. The State Theater, in what had been the ‘porn district,’ had recently been renovated,” recalled Lindemann. “There were a number of new businesses that had opened or were opening in the neighborhood at that time. Artists were really excited about this arrangement with us and we sold a significant amount of art out of that first space.”

Explaining their mix of giving between cash and product donation, Lindemann recognizes the importance of cash contributions in supporting causes.

“We donate a certain amount of product, like most businesses do for marketing purposes—but we realized that cash mattered and that even small awards really helped bring validation and recognition to small organizations just getting off the ground,” noted Lindemann.

“Over the years, our giving has grown. We are constantly reviewing who we give to and we’re very aware and make sure that our awards are making a difference.”

Lindemann ticked off the types of organizations that Coffee By Design are committed to, and why.

“Areas that we’ve given to involving social change are in the area of mental health and substance abuse. This came from seeing customers coming into our coffee shops that were struggling in these areas,” she said.

“Because we’ve always wanted to be open to all customers in a city as diverse as Portland, we didn’t want to have two sets of rules. We started having conversations with social workers and other mental health professionals on what to do if someone came into our shop and became inappropriate. We had trainings for our employees, and it was an ongoing awareness issue for all of us. We’ve always wanted to honor all of our customers.”

While many businesses shy away from causes that might get them mixed up in politics, Lindemann added that they’ve put signs in their windows, and been open about the causes they espouse.

“At first, we worried about this, and being public about our philanthropy” said Lindemann. “But our customers respect that we are open and transparent about what we’re passionate about. In fact, one of our customers told me that ‘as a consumer, I want to know where my money goes for my coffee,’ which made us more comfortable with making our giving public,” she offered.

In addition to Coffee By Designs’ commitment and awareness about their home city of Portland, the company also works directly with farmers and funds projects in the countries where their coffee originates from.

Provider Power, Oakhurst Dairy, Baxter Brewing, and Coffee By Design all care about the communities where they reside and do business in. They’ve put down deep roots in those places. All are businesses that recognize their responsibilities as corporate citizens, and are practicing Conscious Capitalism, making a difference through their giving to non-profit organizations.

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2 Tips on How to Minimize your Energy Consumption this Fall and Winter

It is never too early to start preparing your home for colder temperatures. Here are some tips on how to get ahead of the weather so you can save as much as possible on that pesky electric bill.

Today when I woke up it was a balmy 36 degrees out. Yes, you heard me right.  It seems like just last week we were enjoying the warm August temperatures, but we can surely kiss those goodbye, now. In the Northeast,  this cold Fall morning only means one thing (aside from apple picking, fall foliage, and hiking, of course): the winter is creeping up on us.

I can still remember two years ago, on Halloween weekend of 2012, to be exact, when we were graced with about 8 inches of snow. Sounds impossible for October, right? Think again. If there’s anything I’ve learned from living in New England my whole life, it’s the fact that the weather can change from one extreme to another- in an instant.

I was home from college for the weekend, just in time for my drive back to Vermont, it started to snow.  Even on the best of days, in the best of conditions this ride through the mountains was not particularly pleasant.  When it snows it is worse.

Even though I had a couple days to plan for the snow to know I neglected to put snow tires on my car.  This  was ultimately a bad decision-as this was one wild trip back to Vermont.  I guess I didn’t want to think about what the snow meant – the start of what was probably going to be another long, cold winter.

What does my car story have to do with your electric bill?  When it comes to weather-procrastination doesn’t work, Mother Nature hath no fury!   By the time it is legal to put studded snow tires on your car hopefully your are already preparing your home for winter.  If Halloween hits and the air conditioners are still in your windows, well, you get the point.

During the fall and winter, consumers, especially those living in the Northeast, will likely see an increase in the amount of electricity we use.   Remember the winter of 2013/14? The lower 48 got hit with a worse winter than normal. Southern states felt the chilly temperatures and even experienced ice and snowy conditions for the first time in years.  Both energy and weather forecasters alike are saying this winter will be much like last year.   Colder weather and likely higher energy costs are right around the corner.

It is never too early to start preparing your home for colder temperatures.   Here are some tips on how to get ahead of the weather so you can save as much as possible on that pesky electric bill.

1.    Turn Down the Temps…

  • Swap a blanket (or two) for lower thermostat settings. According to energy.gov,  “by turning your thermostat back 10° to 15° for eight hours, you can save 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill — a savings of as much as 1% for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long.”
  • Avoid over-heating your water heater. Most people don’t take 140 degree showers, so just by turning the temperature down, you can save big-time on your electricity bill. Plus, you won’t even feel the difference and it will prevent scalding yourself with hot water!

2.    Windows

  • Cover the windows that don’t get sun with heavy-duty curtains.
  • For windows that get nice, natural light, leave the curtains open
  • Seal drafty windows with a plastic covering so the cold doesn’t get in

(I get it, plastic over the windows…eww…looks awful.  But hey this is great opportunity to go curtain shopping and get something stylish and practical.)

  • Caulk around windows that may have air leaks. If you know the window is drafty, do this before the weather hits so you can stay warmer year-round.
  • If the spaces around your doors or behind cabinets and attics are not insulated, now would be a good time to fill the cracks. A poorly insulated house can result in more heat loss. Make this a weekend project and you will save money in the long run.

Again, folks: We WILL be having another bad winter. Electricity rates WILL rise. Don’t get caught saying you wish you would have been more prepared for the winter when that late-fall snow storm takes you by surprise. By following a few of these simple tips, you can get your home ready before the freezing temperatures arrive. It can also teach you some basic consumption practices for the future  You DO NOT want to be like me, getting caught in a snow storm with nowhere to turn. Small changes can add up, so don’t waste another minute!

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