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Archives for June 2012

ECOpass: A New Program to Help Oklahomans

It’s summertime.  Time to go outdoors and enjoy nature!  During this time of year it’s easy to recognize the natural blessings we have in abundance in Oklahoma.  From our rivers to our lakes, from our forests to the expansive prairies, Oklahoma is home to some of the most precious natural resources in the United States, in fact, with the exception of California, no other state in the Union has as many distinct eco-regions as Oklahoma.  With all of this natural beauty to enjoy, however, it’s easy to take it for granted.

While we are outside, we need to remember how important it is to care for the earth around us.  While we have a lot to be thankful for, we also have several natural resource challenges that we need to address.  We still suffer from erosion of the soil from our farm lands and pastures; we have numerous water quality issues that need to be addressed on our rivers and streams; we have critical wildlife habitat in need of improvement and protection and we have the ever increasing challenge of our changing climate.

With all of these issues to address, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.   With such large scale problems it often seems that the efforts of one individual can do little to affect the whole.  It’s easy to think, “Well it’s all well and good to recycle and conserve water and such, but what good are you really doing in the grand scheme of things?  It’s kind of like spitting in the ocean.”


The good news is that there is more that you can do!   Oklahoma now has a unique, one of a kind program that allows folks who want to do more to help the environment connect with individuals who are willing to undertake major practices on their land.  Launched this spring, the ECOpass program administered by the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) lets individuals purchase “an acre of conservation” for as little as five dollars per acre.  The funds raised through these purchases then go to farmers, ranchers and other landowners who are doing things to protect the environment on their land.  Practices like taking highly erodible land out of crop production and putting back to grass or converting from conventional tilled crop production to no-till farming or fencing off the riparian areas next to streams and rivers on their property—practices designed to reduce soil erosion, increase wildlife habitat, sequester carbon in the soil and reduce run-off of nutrients and bacteria into our water.  These practices are verified by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and are done to USDA Natural Resource Conservation specifications so you can be sure if you put money toward this work, it is happening on the ground.

You may be wondering, “What do I get out of all this if I buy an acre or more of conservation?”  The answer is plenty!  The practices that you will be helping with have been shown to reduce pollutants like phosphorus and nitrates from our water at levels as high as 60% to 70% in parts of Oklahoma. In fact, because of these practices, Oklahoma was ranked number one among all the states last year in reduction in nutrients from our surface water by the EPA.  These practices also reduce carbon dioxide in our atmosphere by “sequestering” carbon through photosynthesis—on average 40 acres can offset your car emissions for one year.  These practices greatly reduce soil erosion, reduce the amount of diesel farmers use to grow crops and provide improved habitat for wildlife.  Quite a return on your investment!

If you are interested you can find out more on this program by going to ecopassok.com or by contacting OACD at 405-699-2087.

We need to do all we can to help protect our natural resources—we feel that the ECOpass can help.

What do you think of ECOpass? Share your thoughts in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook.


About the Author


Clay Pope received a Bachelors Degree in Agriculture Communications from Oklahoma State University. Mr. Pope is currently the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts. Mr. Pope also served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1994 through 2004, where he served as the Chairman of the Agriculture and International Trade Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures, as Chairman of the Oklahoma House Revenue and Taxation Committee, as Vice Chairman of the Oklahoma House Agriculture Committee and Vice Chairman of the House County and Municipal Government Committee. Mr. Pope is also a member of the board of directors for the Oklahoma Academy for State Goals and is a Research Fellow with the Cookson Institute. He is a farmer and rancher from near Loyal, Oklahoma.

 

Ten Ways to Go Green in Oklahoma

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Preparing for a Hot Summer

The first day of summer is next week and while it’s been much cooler this year than last year, it’s still be a bit above normal and pretty warm. The heat can make it hard to stay cool and can mean increased water and energy use. We have some ideas to help you be prepared.

  • Use a rain barrel. Installing rain barrels can help you store up water, that would normally be wasted, for when you need it. Many home improvement stores carry rain barrels and they are easy to install and use. They also can really cut down on your water use.
  • Check out our post with tips on reducing your energy use.
  • When planting pick native plants that are heat and drought resistant, you will have to water less and they will make it through the hot Oklahoma summer.
  • Keep blinds and curtains closed to keep the sun from heating up your house.
  • When mowing keep your grass a bit longer, it will protect your lawn and it will require less water.
  • If you are going to water be sure to do it in the morning or evening. Watering during the hottest part of the day wastes water as much will just evaporate.
  • Stay hydrated. This is very important. A good way to stay hydrated and cool is to use a Klean Kanteen stainless steel insulted bottle and filling it with ice water. You can find these bottles online or locally at Native Roots Market.

Do you have easy tips for this summer? Share your tips in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook.


Photo Credit: turtlemom4bacon

 

Ask Green Oklahoma

“Is a heat pump much better than a traditional heat and air unit?”- Emily

In simple terms a heat pump uses a small amount of energy to move heat from one location to another. Many people prefer heat pumps to standard heating ventilating and air conditioning is because there is no need to install separate systems to heat and cool your home. They work best in moderate climates.


The most common type of heat pump is the air-source heat pump, which transfers heat between your house and the outside air. If you heat with electricity, a heat pump can trim the amount of electricity you use for heating by as much as 30%–40%. High-efficiency heat pumps also dehumidify better than standard central air conditioners, resulting in less energy usage and more cooling comfort in summer months. However, the efficiency of most air-source heat pumps as a heat source drops dramatically at low temperatures, generally making them unsuitable for cold climates, although there are systems that can overcome that problem.”- The U.S. Department of Energy

 


 

“I would really like to go green in all aspects of my life but I don’t know where to start. Everything is much more expensive if it is considered “green”, eco-friendly, or organic. Where is the best place to buy food, like produce? Where can I get raw milk in OKC?”– Lilia

Going green can seem more expensive but one of the best ways you can go green is to buy less stuff. For the things you have to buy, like groceries, there are many ways to make organic more affordable. First off, check out your local farmer’s market, talk to the farmers because often they use organic and green practices when producing their products but haven’t bothered to become certified organic because it’s a long and expensive process.

As far as where to buy other than farmer’s markets, check out our directory to find natural grocery stores near you. Money Saving Queen also wrote a great guest post on our site about buying organic on a budget. We plan to have more posts in the future on this topic as well so be sure to check back often.

You can also help make up for increased expenses buy saving money in other areas, such as eating out less which reduces waste, is healthier and saves you money. Also we just shared some ideas to help lower your electric bill which can add more money into your budget.

As far as raw milk, in Oklahoma you have to go to the dairy to buy raw milk, one farm we know of that offers raw milk is in Claremore. The Swan Bros. Dairy offers raw milk and cheese. You can also get a milk that uses a lower heat than most pasteurized milk and is close to raw milk but can be sold in stores. It’s called Lomah and it comes from an Amish dairy in Oklahoma. Native Roots Market in Norman, Earth Natural Foods in Norman and Forward Foods in Norman all carry it. Forward Foods in OKC may as well.

Hope this info helps, these are just a few things to get you started, keep coming back to the site often for more ideas.

 


 

If you have a question for us please post in the comments below, on our Facebook page, via Twitter, or email us at gogreenokla@gmail.com.

15 Easy Ways to Cut Your Electric Bill

Last year people had record high electric bills to go along with the record heat. As we finish up the hottest spring in state record it’s a great time to work on cutting your energy use to help save some money. While there are a lot of ways to cut your electric bill, these are some easy tips to get your started.

  • Get your A/C tuned up. Having your A/C tuned can help it run more efficiently, which in turn saves you money.
  • Keep your windows covered. Closing your blinds and curtains can help keep the sun from shining in and heating up your home.
  • Unplug unused items. Many electronics use energy even when they aren’t in use. By unplugging them you stop this vampire energy. You can even buy special power strips that turn the items all the way off for you.
  • Change your light bulbs. Using CFLs and LEDs can help cut your energy use and also give off less heat so they heat up your house less than traditional light bulbs, saving you even more.
  • Use fans. Fans can help make the room feel a few degrees cooler without using anywhere near as much energy as your A/C. Remember to turn the fans off when you aren’t in the room as they cool people, not rooms.
  • Keep your A/C filter changed. This helps keep your A/C running efficiently.
  • Turn off heat dry on your dishwasher. This setting isn’t really needed and it wastes energy.
  • Wash your laundry in cold water. 90% of the energy consumed by your washer goes to heating the water. Using cold water will make a big difference in your electric bill.
  • Wash full loads. Washing full loads of dishes and laundry helps cut down how many loads you have to run.
  • Clean your refrigerator’s coils. Dirty condenser coils make your fridge work harder to keep your food cool.
  • Use your stove and oven more efficiently. Things like turning your oven and stove off a few minutes before you are done with them helps reduce energy use. The built up heat will keep cooking your food for awhile after it’s turned off. Also be sure to use lids on pots to keep the heat in and use the right size pots for the burners to efficiently heat the food. And only preheat when needed, for things like casseroles or foods that cook for a long time, preheating isn’t always needed.
  • Allow your food to cool before putting it in the fridge. This helps keep the food from heating up your fridge and making it work harder.
  • Keep your freezer full. A full freezer helps keep the food cold with less energy. If you have extra space just fill up soda bottles with water and freeze them.
  • Turn the thermostat up when away. Turning up your thermostat a degree or two when away from the home can help save you money. You don’t want to go much higher than that though because it can be hard for the a/c to get caught up when you do get home. Even better get a programable thermostat or use the one you have!
  • Sign up for OG&E Smart Hours. Using OG&E Smart Hours can help you track your energy use and also by using the peak hour rates you can save a lot of money.

These tips will not only save you money, they will also help you go green!


Do you have easy tips for saving energy this summer? Share your tips in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook.

Photo Credit: functoruser

 

 

Trash to Cash…for Real?

It’s pretty astounding that the average American creates over one and a half tons of trash a year. Very overwhelming if you think about it. Spread that figure out over 300 or so million Americans and you get an inkling of the problem we’re facing—we’re making more trash as a nation than we know what to do with.

No doubt recycling is catching on and becoming a habit for many of us—I’m thankful for that—but there’s still a majority out there who don’t recycle…and that’s a problem. We have the huge challenge of encouraging people to see the necessity of recycling and then to make a commitment to do it.

One option may be just to pay them for their recyclables. Hey, don’t laugh yet…it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. If you look at the growing demand from worldwide burgeoning economies such as China and India, you’ll see that raw materials are more in demand than ever. Items such as plastics and aluminum are at their all time highs, which sets up a huge market need and big-time incentive for companies to pay cash for trash.


I know at my company, American Waste Control, we have a program now in place where we actually pay non-profits and groups per container for their recyclables. We call it our Trash to Cash Program and many schools and organizations in Tulsa are finding it a great way to earn money for their special projects.

trash to cash american waste, Turn your trash to cash using Mr. Murph at American Waste Control

 

The incentive is pretty worthwhile: Not only are they doing something incredible for the environment, they’re also helping raise funds to further their organization’s cause. We’re not at a point as a company where we can pay households for their recyclables, but I can see a time when that could become reality for us and other recycling haulers.

Going green could actually net some green. Pretty ironic given that a decade ago, recycling was considered a zero profit endeavor. Now, recyclers are finding a niche market, and bringing others along for the ride.

 

Oklahoma Heat, Hottest Summer and Warmest Spring

Climatologist recalculated the data from last year and declared Oklahoma had the hottest summer ever recorded in U.S. history. Before the recalculation Texas had that title. While we normally want to beat Texas, I’m not sure this is a record we wanted.

The new tally by the National Climate Data Center says Oklahoma’s average temperature last summer was 86.9 degrees, while Texas’ average temperature was 86.7. The previous record was also held by Oklahoma, an average of 85.2 degrees in 1934.

Oklahoma has beaten even more records this week, according to Mesonet, Oklahoma just finished the warmest spring, climatological spring runs from March through May, in Oklahoma history. The average statewide temperature was 65.1 degrees, 6 degrees above normal. The previous record was 62.9 degrees in 2006. This May ranked the fifth warmest on record, March was the warmest on record, and April was the tenth warmest. January- May also tops the record books, statewide average was 56.3 degrees, which is 5.2 degrees above normal.


And the warm weather didn’t start last summer, we have been having warmer than normal temperatures for awhile now.

“The recent warmth is a continuation of what the state has experienced since early 2010. Of the last 26 months, starting with April 2010, 21 have been warmer than normal. Three of the last 11 months (July and August, 2011, and March 2012) and two out of the last four seasons (summer 2011 and spring 2012) eclipsed their respective all-time heat records as well. June 2011 barely missed that months top mark, settling for the rank of second warmest. Oklahoma?s July and summer statewide average temperatures in 2011 were record marks for the United States as well. There were blasts of wintry revenge during that period, of course. Oklahoma saw its all-time lowest minimum temperature and 24-hour snowfall records fall in February 2011. Just prior to the string of warm months, the winter of 2009-10 finished as the eighth coldest ? and one of the snowiest ? on record at more than 4 degrees below normal.”- Mesonet

We barely missed out on having the driest May on record thanks to the heavy rainfall felt around the state the end of the month. Oklahoma still finished with May ranked the forth driest. While some areas got as much as 6 inches of rain, some got as little as 0.01 inches. We ended May with the statewide rainfall being 3.4 inches below normal. A large part of the state is currently experiencing abnormally dry conditions, a pre-cursor to a drought. The Panhandle and southwestern Oklahoma are already experiencing drought conditions, some are even labeled as extreme. And it wasn’t just rain we were lacking in May, it was also a very quite month for tornadoes. Preliminary numbers of tornadoes from the National Weather Service stand at three, that number may rise but not by much. The average number of tornadoes for May is 22.

It’s also looking like this won’t be the end of the warm weather. The National Weather Service, Climate Prediction Center is predicting June through August have an increased chance to have above normal temperatures in Oklahoma.

Are you ready for more hot weather this summer? Share your thoughts in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook.

Photo Credit: Theodore Scott