Do you have recessed lighting in your home and looking transition to LED lighting? Here is a quick, easy and affordable option for you.
The largest trade show in history, the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show, recently took place in Las Vegas. Known as the “Global Stage for Innovation,” the event showcased more than more than 3,600 exhibitors in 2.2 million net square feet of exhibit space.
And while you might think of “consumer electronics” as being items like TVs, iDevices and the like, the show actually features innovations in far-reaching categories that include automotive electronics, personalized healthcare solutions, 3D printers, gaming, unmanned vehicles and much more. But every year there is a major emphasis on our favorite category — energy-efficient advances for the home.
Here are 10 energy-efficient upgrades that caught our eye.
- Delta Smart Green House: Built for the 2014 Solar Decathlon Europe competition, this cool model features a host of energy-efficient developments for the home of the future. We especially liked the Delta Breez Signature Series, which increases a bathroom’s ventilation by combining a virtually silent and energy-efficient brushless fan motor, LED light, adjustable humidity sensor and built-in motion sensor for automatic operation.
- DigitalStrom: This smart-home hub interacts with a Nest thermometer for its cues – for example, if Nest is trying to cool down the house, DigitalStrom will lower automated window shades to block out sunlight.
- NuBryte: This smart-lighting device from Lucis Technologies promises to learn your behavior, such as what time you tend to come home each day so it can welcome you with lights – without wasting electricity all day. Sensors can turn on the night light if you wake up to use the bathroom but switch on brighter lights during the day.
- Smart Vent: This device lets users remotely close heating and cooling vents in unused rooms, or rooms that tend to get excessively cool or hot to help save on your utility bill.
- SolPro: No outlet? No worries. This portable solar charger allows you to charge your smartphone and tablets out in the sun to earn a four-hour charge in 90 minutes.
- Technical Consumer Products LED smart home lighting systems: Color your world by combining Connected by TCP and ColorSpree with a smart device, to change the colors of your energy-efficient LED bulbs and sync them to music.
- Whirlpool® HybridCare™ Heat Pump Dryer: This smart dryer uses up to 73 percent less energy by regenerating energy during the drying cycle, using a refrigeration system to dry and recycle the same air.
- Honeywell wind turbine by Windtronics: Mount this turbine on your roof or a pole to start generating off-grid energy through wind power. Its optimum wind speed is 12 miles per hour to produce 15 percent of the energy your home needs.
- Ecobee Smart thermostat: Remotely control this thermostat with your smartphone or computer, and manage your heating or cooling by zone. It also integrates current weather information and offers detailed readouts on your energy use.
- The Wi-Fi-enabled Samsung A3050 wall-mounted air conditioner: The app allows you to monitor the temperature of rooms from anywhere, and monitors your unit’s energy usage including telling you when it’s time to clean the filter.
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While working as a chef, Keith Sarasin noticed that despite New Hampshire’s vast array of local orchards and farms, restaurants were still sourcing produce from across the country.
I said, ‘’You know, there’s apple orchards right down the road. Seriously, why don’t we source from them?’” he recalls, to which colleagues said it was simply easier to source from further afield.
“Easier doesn’t necessarily mean better,” countered Sarasin. “I wanted to investigate why it was easier to source from 1,500 miles away.”
So, Sarasin took a leave of absence from his restaurant job and worked part-time private chef gigs. “I basically spent most of my free time learning how farming works, why agriculture was still important, why there’s actually a need for farms,” he says. “I decided after seeing all this hard work that farmers had done, that I wanted to throw a night to honor the local farmer.”
Sarasin launched The Farmer’s Dinner in 2012 and hosted the first event at Saffron Bistro, a local restaurant on Nashua’s Main Street. “We didn’t think we were going to sell out, but we soon found out that the community really embraced the idea,” he says. In fact, the 50 available seats for the 4-course meal sold out quickly. “The chef did an exceptional job and people were leaving afterwards saying ‘please throw another,’” Sarasin adds. “Word got out and we sold out in less than a week. At that point I knew we might have something here. We needed to bring in more farmers and hear more stories.”
In just a few years, The Farmer’s Dinner has run 16 dinners (all sold out). “Last year we shut down Main Street and put on a dinner for 200 people featuring 11 different restaurants, so it’s been pretty spectacular,” Sarasin says. Next, he plans to expand into Boston and other areas of New England.
Dinners attracts a broad range of people, from young professionals interested in food to much more seasoned foodies. Sarasin mentions his oldest attendee, a 98-year-old women. “Isn’t it great to have local food?” he asked her at an event. “Back in my day,” she shot back, “we used to just call it food.”
Of course, The Farmer’s Dinner isn’t about buzzwords like “locavore” or “slow food.” “For us, it’s about highlighting the farms doing the real work,” Sarasin says. “We don’t do it because it’s trendy. There’s a story in every bite, and we’re holding to the core integrity, which is to honor these awesome farmers.”
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While at home, you probably recycle and turn off the lights when you leave the room. But what happens when you go away on vacation? Fortunately, a growing number of hotels and bed and breakfasts use eco-friendly practices to reduce waste and conserve water or electricity.
Here’s a look at several New Hampshire properties that have taken a sustainable approach to running the business and hosting guests.
- Attitash Grand Summit Hotel: This Bartlett-based mountain resort demonstrates its commitment to the environment by using biodegradable room key cards, bleach-free, recycled paper towels, environmentally friendly cleaning products and single-stream recycling. The hotel also supports the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust by donating $1 per night to its land conservation efforts in the area, and participates in other programs such as Adopt-a-Highway.
- Bernerhof Inn Bed & Breakfast: A historic inn set in Glen, NH in the White Mountain National Forest, Bernerhof features eco-friendly electric fireplaces and flameless flicker candles in guest rooms to create a romantic atmosphere without the risk of fire. Guests can also take a group class or private lesson at the inn’s cooking school or pick up a copy of its cookbook.
- Cranmore Mountain Lodge Bed & Breakfast: In North Conway, NH, this bed and breakfast uses local produce in its breakfasts, waters the vegetable garden with pond water, and replaces appliances as they wear out with Energy Star models. Innkeepers also encourage guests to reuse linens, partake in outdoor activities such as hiking, biking or swimming, and take their bar soap home with them instead of tossing it.
- Farm by the River: Situated on 70 scenic acres in North Conway, NH, Farm by the River uses low-flow showerheads and toilets, guest recycling, and energy-efficient lighting and heating/cooling. This bed & breakfast offers public horseback riding stables and serves local organic food. Also notable for the odor-sensitive is the fact that it does not use artificial air fresheners, scented candles, or potpourri.
- Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa: Located in Whitefield, NH, this resort and spa gets 100 percent of its electricity through renewable wind energy and participates a soap and shampoo recycling program that helps prevent hygiene-related illnesses in other parts of the world. Energy-saving lighting and Greenfiber insulation help retain heat and minimize energy use. The resort also hosts green meetings that incorporate paperless contracting and billing, whiteboards instead of flip charts, and meals made from local produce.
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“Access to electricity is particularly crucial to human development as electricity is, in practice, indispensable for certain basic activities.”- International Energy Agency (IEA)
You don’t often see small family-owned businesses experience tremendous growth and expansion without having to sacrifice some of its founding principles. However, Monroe, New Hampshire’s Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs has managed to become a large-scale production company while sticking to its family roots and values.
“We are a third-generation family-owned farm, which has been in Monroe, NH since the 1950s,” says Paul Turbeville, brand manager of Pete and Gerry’s Organics, LLC. In the 1990s, the company was almost forced out of business by factory egg farms, he explains, which is when it decided to set itself apart by going 100 percent cage-free and organic. Since then, Pete and Gerry’s has introduced the Nellie’s Cage Free and Carol’s Pasture Raised brands. “We are probably the only producer on our scale that can say that we don’t own a single hen in a cage,” says Turbeville.
A Humane Approach
To solidify its commitment to cage-free and organic, the company chose to follow the Certified Humane standard, which surpasses the USDA standards for cage-free. “We loved that the certification was built from the ground up by experts with the sole focus of animal welfare,” says Turbeville. As such, all of Pete and Gerry’s affiliated family farms must meet Certified Humane standards and pass their regular inspections and audits.
Small Family Over Factory
In New Hampshire alone, the company employs over 80 people at its headquarters and packing facility. And it’s also branched out to other states, welcoming nearly 85 small family farms into the extended Pete and Gerry’s family. “We believe that production at the small family farm level is the best way to ensure that we are bringing the healthiest eggs to market,” says Turbeville. “Additionally, we have seen firsthand the pressures of consolidation, and are using our company to do our part in keeping rural economies vibrant by providing small family farms with a way to keep doing what they want to do — which is farming,” he says.
Following that model, Pete and Gerry’s has gone from local producer to the largest cage-free and organic brand within Northeast grocery stores. Moving forward, it’s the company’s mission to continue to grow sustainably with retail partners who want to be a part of a positive change in agriculture. “Our growth is win-win for everyone, and we never have to resort to being a factory farm to meet our demand,” says Turbeville.
A Force for Good
In addition to its “gold standard” level commitment to being Certified Humane, Pete and Gerry’s has also gone through the rigorous process of becoming a Certified B Corp, which designates businesses that are “a force for good.” “It provided us with a baseline and motivation to keep improving in the way we treat our employees, the planet, and the local economy,” says Turbeville. It’s also one more way that customers can be sure that Pete and Gerry’s “practices what it preaches,” he adds.
Overall, Pete and Gerry’s plans to keep adding some “sunny side up” positivity into the rural communities it serves, and beyond.
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The tranquil image of a sailboat cruising along the Maine coastline is a quintessential New England scene. But what happens to all those sails when they’re no longer seaworthy?
Sea Bags turns them into wristlets, totes, shave kits and other accessories, all handmade from its headquarters in Portland, Maine’s working waterfront. Sea Bags was founded in 1999, a time when current CEO Don Oakes says upcycling was hardly the on-trend buzzword it is today. “It was ahead of our time in deciding to use the sail for a fashion product, which is good for the environment and good for business,” he adds.
Like nineteenth-century pioneers who carefully used every piece of the buffalo, Sea Bags lets very little material go to waste. Canvas pieces that are too small for a tote or diaper bag can be made into shave kits or wristlets; tiny scraps of fabric become hang tags. “A sail is a triangle, so it’s always a bit of a puzzle to figure out how to get the best utilization, but we get the most out of every sail that we possibly can,” Oakes says.
Sea Bags has two full-time employees in charge of traveling and collecting used sails. “We get them from a lot of individual donors up and down the East Coast whose sails have outlived their useful life on the boat and they’re taking up space in their garage or boatyard,” Oakes says. “If the sails weren’t going to us, they’d go to landfills.”
In exchange for donating used sails, Sea Bags gives donors a Sea Bag and pays for shipping or arranges pick-up. Those who don’t want a bag can make a tax-deductible sail donation through Sea Bag’s partnership with SailMaine, which teaches kids to sail. Sometimes sailing clubs or youth organizations will also create sail drives to collect sails for donating to Sea Bags; the company then gives them back some bags the organization can use to raise money.
As you might expect, Sea Bags has a large, loyal following across New England, but Oakes says its upcycled bags are popular across the country thanks to its unusual history. “The majority of people who carry our bags are not sailors, but can relate to and love the aesthetic behind the product,” he says, “and the story behind the product, that’s made in the working waterfront with recycled materials. It’s people who can relate to the coastal lifestyle.”
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Have you recently purchased an EnergyStar appliance? Congratulations on doing your part to save energy —and money! Last time we looked at the benefits of EnergyStar appliances and the value of spending a little more on your purchase to save money in the long run.
Your appliance is only as energy efficient as the way you use it. Here are some simple tips to help you maximize your energy savings:
- Stay full. Your washing machine or dishwasher uses the same amount of water and energy when you run it half-full as completely full, so run full loads for maximum efficiency. Your freezer and refrigerator do better when they’re full too. It might sound counterintuitive, but in the event of a power outage, a full freezer and fridge will keep your food at the safest temperature longer.
- Take your temperature. Almost 90 percent of the energy consumed by your washing machine is used to heat the water—dialing down from hot to warm can cut energy use in half, while effectively cleaning your clothes. Also, keep in mind that many of today’s laundry detergents are formulated for use in cold water, so they might do the job just as well. Saving energy can also help save your clothes—washing them in cold water can help keep colors bright and avoid setting stains, as can air drying them rather than using your dryer.
- Cook smart. Did you know your microwave uses 30 to 80 percent less energy than a regular oven does? And, if microwaving isn’t the ideal method for cooking your food, consider using a toaster oven—its smaller size will use less energy too, and a crockpot is even better! Here’s another crazy fact: a pot without a lid uses 60 percent more energy on the stove. They say there’s a lid for every pot – so find the right size for yours!
- Make your oven a multitasker. Got your oven heated up anyway? Take advantage of the energy used to heat up the oven in the first place, and do as much baking as you can. Go ahead and throw in an extra chicken breast to bake for soup tomorrow, or mix up some banana bread. Ditto the dryer—drying multiple loads one after the other lets you make use of the residual heat.
- Maintain your machines. Keep your appliances clean for maximum efficiency. That means cleaning out the lint trap as well as hoses in your dryer; checking the trap and spray arm in your dishwasher for food particles; and vacuuming the coils of your fridge.
- Make the most of modern machinery (usually). Worried that these “energy-saving devices” are wasting energy while you’re saving yours? Don’t! Hand washing dishes actually wastes both water – up to 5,000 gallons compared to an ENERGY STAR dishwasher – and uses twice as much energy as a dishwasher. And it would be impossible to fathom how much less energy a washing machine uses than the ol’ fill-up-the-tub-and-slosh-them-around method. The one appliance where you should go easy? The dryer—air dry whenever possible!
Don’t waste the energy-efficient properties of your appliances by using them improperly. A little forethought and planning will ensure that you are getting the maximum value from your hard-working household helpers.