Monday, December 14, 2015

4 Ways to Cut the Cord: Practicing Energy Efficiency this Winter

Wouldn’t you like to save on your monthly utilities, feel more comfortable in your home, have longer-lasting, higher-performing appliances, and benefit your community? Over the next two years, you can. Bellingham is one of 50 cities participating in the Georgetown University Energy Prize competition. Energy used in residences, schools and city buildings will be measured in all 50 participating cities across the nation. The most efficiently performing city could win the $5 million prize. The newest updates have Bellingham in 8th place! We can't move up the ranks without your help!
Environmental Cartoon - Joel Pett

Help our community make it to the top in the nation by following these simple steps for your family, and spreading the word to your friends and colleagues.

Before you begin, use this carbon footprint calculator to determine where you can make the biggest impact.

1. Transportation

In the EPA’s most updated report, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation accounted for around 27% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the second largest contributor to climate change, behind electricity. While we wait for fuel efficiency to make the leaps and bounds required to significantly reduce the current release of CO2 into our atmosphere, you can make simple choices every day to get to your destination in a low-emission or emission-free way.

First off, there is no better power source for you to utilize than your own personal energy. With a healthy meal and a few stretches, it’s guaranteed to get you where you need to be. Not to mention, when you walk, skip, or ride a bike or scooter you promote good mental and physical healthBellingham and Whatcom County have extensive trails and maps to improve your quality of life while you get around safely and emission-free.

Secondly, don’t underestimate the power of the bus. When the weather is not-so-pleasant or your destination is a ways away, the Whatcom Transit Authority has you covered. WTA provides convenient bus stops and routes throughout the county and can now help you plan your trip with their new interactive map and trip planner.

Thirdly, when it makes sense, share your ride with others. Carpool to reduce your personal carbon emissions and enjoy many of the other benefits like extra gas money to spend however you want and the ability to meet new people or spend additional time with roommates, friends, or coworkers.

Last but certainly not least, cruise around town efficiently. Keep your car in tip-top shape to reduce emissions and get the best gas mileage you can. Get your car checked regularly, properly inflate your tires, and use the correct grade of motor oil. Take the no-idle pledge and turn off the engine the next time you’re stopped for more than 30 seconds. Every two minutes that your car idles is equivalent to one mile of driving.

Don’t forget to register for Whatcom Smart Trips and log your smart transportation choices for additional support, resources, and the chance to win prizes! Your participation also helps prioritize emissions-free funding in Washington State.

2. Heating and Cooling

48% of the energy use in an average U.S. household is used to heat and cool our living spaces, making it the largest energy expense for most households. Most of us use natural gas or electricity, which are derived from heavily polluting fossil fuels. Practicing efficient heating habits can have significant impacts on the overall emissions you cause.

Layers, layers, layers - As if you need a reason to buy yourself a pair of fuzzy slippers or those adult-sized footy pajamas. A simple way to save energy when the colder months are here while still keeping comfortable and warm is to layer clothing inside the house as well as outside. Consider investing in a heated blanket for nighttime, they use significantly less heat than the average space heater and there’s nothing quite like crawling into a pre-warmed bed.

Layers – they’re not just for you. An extra layer of the correct insulation can help you keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Learn about the best types of insulation for you. Keep an eye out for greener insulation such as sheep wool or recycled denim.

Insulate your water heater (safely!) to stop heat from escaping and keep it set to 120°F.  Consider upgrading to a tankless or on-demand system that will only use energy to heat water when it’s needed – and you’ll never take a lukewarm shower again. Read more tips on insulation and upgrades. And easiest of all: reduce your shower time by just a few minutes.

Attending to the heat loss culprits. Your windows may contribute to upwards of 20% of our overall heat loss from your house. Check for air leaks regularly, apply film, weather-stripping, and fresh caulking to instantly reduce your bill and keep you at the perfect temperature year-round. Large upgrades – like swapping out your old metal framed or single-paned to more insulated windows – will give you even larger long-term reductions on your energy bill. Read more tips on preventing air leaks in your home.

Upgrade your technology. Switch to a programmable thermostat and reduce your energy bill 10% each year. Set your thermostat to reduce use when you sleep or are away from the house but have it reach your optimum temperature by the time you wake up each morning and arrive home each evening.

3. Appliances

Appliances used throughout your home account for around 13% of your household energy costs (the dryer and refrigerator are the largest consumers). While many appliances are needed on a daily basis, there are a few easy ways to make sure you’re daily use is the most efficient it can be.

Stop needless energy-sucking. Many electronics continue to use power, even when they’re off or in standby mode. These electronics can add up to more than $200 in yearly energy costs for the average home. Increase the use of your prime outlet locations, like those behind gaming systems and near kitchen appliances, and reduce energy use by adding in a powerstrip, which stops the supply of power to electronics plugged into it. PSE now has a special offer for their customers – get an activity monitor powerstrip (a $70 powerstrip) for only $10. There’s actually 5 different types of powerstrips to fit whatever needs you have… who knew?

Receive your EPA stamp of approval with EnergyStar. From pool pumps and ceiling fans to furnaces and dishwashers, EnergyStar efficient products will give you long-term energy savings. Make sure to check with PSE or your energy provider for any rebate programs before you go through with an upgrade.

Clean up your laundering habits. Save energy by washing your laundry in cold water (just make sure to buy soaps and detergents that work just as effectively with cold water). And did you know that clothes dryers account for more than a third of energy used by appliances in your home? Save energy and reduce wear and tear on your clothing by drying your clothing on an in-home rack. When you do use the dryer, don’t forget to clean your lint screen after every load to ensure optimum airflow.

4. Lighting and entertainment

Turn it off. No – really. Lighting, especially around this time of the year, is an important aspect of our daily lives – and also uses a lot of energy. Turn off the lights when you leave a room and double check lights as you leave your house. When you can, use small lamps rather than lighting an entire room or keep windows and shades open to let in natural light.

Bulbs matter. Replace incandescent bulbs as they go out with LEDs or CFL lightbulbs. Check out this quick guide that compares light bulb types. Have you heard about HomePrint for PSE customers? Receive a free evaluation of your homes energy usage and free energy-efficient fixtures like lightbulbs and showerheads.  Don’t forget to safely recycle CFL lightbulbs and fluorescent tubes – Visit to find your closest collection site. Make even bigger improvements and install timers, dimmers, or sensors for lights in bathrooms, garages, and front porches.

Get your screen time without the guilt. TV, game consoles, phones, tablets, and computers are used and charged all day, every day. Try unplugging for a designated hour a day or day a week to enjoy energy-free activities. Go for a walk, play a sport, or enjoy board and card games. When you are using entertainment systems and electronics, unplug electronics and chargers when they’re not in use. Like appliances, many electronics continue to draw power even after they’re shut off. You can find energy saving computers as well as TV’s that will use a fraction of the energy an older model would use.

We applaud you for every step you take toward a more sustainable lifestyle. What will you start doing today? Share your successes with us. If 100 people follow the actions you’ve taken, together we can make a bigger impact than you think.

Check back in with the waste prevention blog to track your progress, and stay tuned for the next blog in our sustainability series: water conservation.

Additional Resources:
  • The Energy Saver Guide is a comprehensive booklet geared at helping every homeowner make smart choices to save money and energy every day.
  • is filled with fact and tip sheets, energy use and distribution maps, and more information about all of the above topics.
  • Contact PSE and opt in to pay for partial or 100% offsets of your power with Green Power.
  • Customers receive a free energy saving packet from Cascade Natural Gas.
  • You can now plan and build your very own zero net energy homes built. Find a builder in your region at Zero Homes.

RE Sources is committed to promoting sustainable communities and protecting the health of people and ecosystems in our glorious little slice of NW Washington. 

For more information, please contact us at

Friday, November 6, 2015

Fall Sustainability: 6 Ways to Not Feed the Landfill

Feel like your trash is constantly overflowing? Try these tips to scale down your waste and limit your trips to the trash can in the pouring rain.

1. Retrain your Brain

Preventing waste from entering landfills starts with making conscious decisions as consumers. Thinking about what you purchase and how you deal with the leftover waste is the first step in identifying what changes you can make to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle. 

Step one, think before you buy. As you shop, ask yourself: Do I really need this item or do I just want it? Is this item disposable? Is there a reusable or more durable option I could choose? Can I borrow this item or find it at a second-hand store instead? Does this item have a lot of packaging waste? Can I instead buy it in bulk or find an alternative with less/recyclable packaging?

Step two, pause before you toss. As you head to the trash bin, ask yourself: Can I reuse or repurpose this item in some way? Is all or part of this item allowed in my curbside recycling? Is there an agency nearby that accepts this item to be recycled, repurposed, or donated?

2. Be Prudent with your Perishables

From farm to fork, almost 40% of the food produced in the U.S. goes uneaten. On average, the American family throws out a staggering 25% of food and beverages they’ve purchased. Instead of sending a quarter of your delicious food to a landfill, consider the following: 

Shop smart. Integrate meal planning into your weekly routine and only buy what you need. Don't forget to plan time to eat leftovers! Limit spoilage by designating one or two days a week for quick grocery trips to buy perishable items when you're ready to eat them. Measure out ingredients from the bulk section will allow you to get exactly the amount you need (bonus points for using your own reusable container!).

Store perishables correctly (with this easy A-Z guide) so they last the longest. Your meal planning should include having weekly leftover meals, to use up the bits and pieces you have left from the week. If you have time, learn how to can, pickle, or ferment to quickly and easily store fruits and veggies you can't use right away.

Compost, and turn your organic waste into nutrients for building healthy, productive soil. Vermicomposting (having your own worm bin) is a great option for your deck or porch, and it's a fun chore for the kids. Composting systems and passive compost piles are great if you have yard space and regularly toss more than a couple pounds of organic waste each week. If you aren’t interested in maintaining a compost system or don’t need the finished product, both Nooksack Valley Disposal and Recycling and Sanitary Services Company provide yard waste and food scrap collection services at your home. You may also haul your own yard waste and food scraps to our local composting company, Green Earth Technology, which is open year-round.

3. Ditch the Disposable Lifestyle

The 50s are over, and disposable is no longer the cool thing. Cutting disposable items from your life is one of the easiest pledges you can make to reduce landfill-bound waste. Just keep your reusable items in a ready-to-go shopping bag or in the trunk of your car. 

Swap out everyday items with their reusable counterparts. Start simple: switch to reusable water bottles and coffee cups (and help reduce the 38 billion water bottles in landfills each year), and keep reusable grocery bags with you (halting the 1,500 plastic bags your family brings home each year).

Start bringing your own to-go containers when you go out to eat so you don’t get stuck with the eternally wasteful Styrofoam box. 

Reusable coffee filters, straws and utensils can go a long way in reducing waste, especially when you consider that the United States uses an estimated 500 million disposable straws a day

Try to pack a waste-free lunch using reusable lunch boxes, local food, reusable utensils and beverage containers. 

Using cloth diapers and wipes for the little ones (who on average will use 8,000 diapers by the time they’re potty-trained), will drastically reduce your year's landfill contributions.

4. Know your Local Second-hand Services

Buy and donate your used items locally, and reduce packaging, transportation pollution, energy and water use. And, you get to support local businesses, farmers, and community members who rely on your patronage for a healthy local economy.

Focus on consuming seasonally and locally. Make it easy on yourself by shopping at your local farmers market. Picking your own food is always an option - spend a day with the family at on
e of the many u-pick farms around Whatcom and Skagit Counties. And don’t forget, if you’re looking for a night out, eat and shop where local goods are featured using the Whatcom Food & Farm Finder.

Shop and donate to second-hand stores. Check out 
Whatcom Recycles! list of where you can recycle or donate. Our own program, The RE Store, is the go-to place for reclaimed building materials and vintage d├ęcor (or we'll come to you for pick up), while large appliances can be put to use by the Appliance Depot (both organizations also run amazing job training programs to provide employable skills to residents). Donate unwanted books to our local public library or most local thrift stores

Bicycles can be donated via the Recycle your Cycle program at SSC, which are in turn donated to The Hub Community Bike Shop to be rebuilt and reused. Your regional drop of for household hazardous waste can be found through Disposal of Toxics. Fabric, Yarn, and Sewing Supplies will be creatively reused by Ragfinery.

Know it can’t be salvaged? Check in with your nearest disposal company - SSC, RDS, or NVD – for pickup and drop-off services.

5. Take Care with your Chemicals

Many cleaners, paints, automotive, lawn and garden products that you use around your house contain harmful chemicals that should not be thrown in your trash. These chemicals are considered household hazardous waste (HHW) and can have significant health risks for humans and the environment. When purchasing or disposing of these products, follow these simple steps to protect yourself and the environment:

  • Make sure any HHW you have in your home and garage is stored properly
  • Always handle HHW with care. Before you purchase HHW, read the labels thoroughly and understand what the cautionary labels mean, and follow the instructions for careful use.
  • Follow proper disposal procedures. Whatcom County Solid Waste Department has information regarding proper disposal of household hazardous waste or you can contact the Disposal of Toxics Facility at 360-380-4640 to learn about their HHW recycling locations.
  • The simplest way to deal with HHW is to avoid them altogether. Start by transitioning away from hazardous products as you finish them off and switching to all-natural and/or environmentally-friendly cleaners and paints. If you feel up to the challenge, start making your own using just a handful of common household ingredients – you’ll be amazed at what hot water, vinegar, and baking soda can do.

6. Share your Successes

Inspire others with things you've found helpful and successful in reducing your household waste and impact on our environment. Send your success stories to

RE Sources is committed to promoting sustainable communities and protecting the health of people and ecosystems in our glorious little slice of NW Washington. 

If you’re familiar with our organization, you know that we take waste prevention seriously – whether we’re salvaging construction waste, leading beach clean-ups, or educating students across Whatcom County – we’re devoted to reducing the waste that leaves our homes, overflows landfills, and contaminates the environment.

Students around Whatcom County have been taking our Green Classroom Pledge to change one habit in their daily classroom routine to reduce the waste they send to landfills. Join them and the Sustainable Schools team by committing to follow one (or more!) of the following tips. Have questions or want to share your favorite tip? Contact us at

The Sustainable Schools team at RE Sources applauds you for every step you take toward a more sustainable lifestyle. What will you start doing today? Stay tuned for the next blogs in our sustainability series – energy efficiency and water conservation

For more information, please contact us at

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Kids in Action, Learning about waste

by Haley Mountain, RE Sources Green Classrooms Coordinator

It was quite a squirmy morning for all the Kendall 1st graders last week when we helped them complete their Green Classroom Action Project - building a worm compost bin. With the help of our friends Beth and Amberose from Washington State University - Whatcom County Extension, the students received a hands-on introduction to their newest classroom residents, a pound of red wigglers. 

The red wigglers added to the compost bin will be in charge of breaking down food scraps left from the 1st grader's snacks and lunches. An important part of the lesson from Beth and Amberose was learning what the worms like to eat - things like paper, pretzels, fruits, and vegetables - an what can make them sick - products that contain meat or dairy and, of course, any non-organic items like plastic or metal. 

Before the worms were added to their new compost container, the students were able to personally welcome each new wiggler and observe them up close at every life stage. Most students observed that their new friends would much rather be tucked in dark, moist bedding than squirming around on their dry hands in the fluorescent light.

"Bedding" for the worms was created by soaking newspaper, paper bags, and egg cartons in water overnight. The 1st graders helped squeeze out the excess moisture and fluff the bedding in the new compost container. At the end of the school year, the worms and the nutrient-rich soil they created will be added to the school garden and the compost bin will be ready to begin anew this Fall. 

Interested in creating a worm bin for your classroom? Contact us today to get started. Click here to learn more about creating a personal worm compost bin.

Want your children or students to participate in a Green Classroom action project? 
Schedule a brief info session for your next staff, PTA, or teacher meeting to gain a better understanding of how you, your students, and your school community can take the next step in greener education. Contact us at or call (360) 733-8307 to set up a presentation today. 

Green Classroom Certification is a program to help teachers integrate conservation education into curriculum and initiate positive action in the classroom. More at

Friday, February 6, 2015

Clever students take their intelligence to the next level

Local 3rd graders share important messages with their schools 

Third grade students at Parkview Elementary weren’t quite sure what was in store for them when they began the Green Classroom Certification Program. The first step – a workshop on water conservation – left them with enough information to creatively devise a corresponding action project. The “action project” allows students to take the information they’ve learned during the workshop, deepen their understanding through hands-on experience, and share their ideas with their school or community. 

Marca Kidwell-Babcock and Jill Cofer are 3rd grade teachers at Parkview Elementary. Killing two birds with one stone, these clever instructors integrated their existing curriculum – presenting information through videos and PowerPoint – into their students’ action projects.  Their crafty kids created videos and presentations depicting how easily we can – and must – conserve water. Some students recorded themselves watering the garden with collected rainwater and turning off faucets while they suds hands or brush teeth. Others wrote, directed, and edited videos on preventing waste with water fountains and flushing toilets. Scroll down to see some of their genuine creations. 

These brave stewards will present their masterpieces to a broader audience within their school, encouraging other classrooms to take on the Green Classroom Certification challenge.
The certification program, offered by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities’ educators, is one part of a multi-faceted approach to help Whatcom County schools reduce their overall footprint while empowering students to become responsible stewards. “We want to see families living satisfying lives in accord with the ecosystems we depend on – now, and for generations to come,” says Haley Mountain, AmeriCorps Green Classroom Coordinator at RE Sources. “At RE Sources, we believe education and action are instrumental vehicles in seeing this vision come to life.”

The Green Classroom Certification program offers materials and professional support to teachers at no cost, helping them incorporate action-based conservation education into their curriculums while meeting academic state standards. 

Elementary teachers are encouraged to participate in the program any time throughout the school year, receiving free support to integrate fun into meeting state standards. Interested teachers, principals, or PTA members can contact RE Sources today for more information,, (360) 733-8307.

Click here to sign up for RE Sources’ monthly educators’ eNews, with educator-focused events, resources, and helpful information. 

Presenting Parkview Third Graders

by Osiris, Kegan, Miriam, Ava, and Addison

by Rory, Charlie, Alora, James, Griffin

by Keagan, Talia, Lillianne, Jack, Trinity

Hi, I’m Shen and I’m going to show you how to save water when washing hands.” - Shen  No Water was wasted during this video.” – Caleb, Molly, Luna, Destiny, Astrid
We need to conserve water because it’s a waste if we don’t.” Kegan 
Conserving water is good because some people in different countries don’t get to use as much water as we do. So maybe if we save it they can have more water, too.” - Osiris 
Conserving water is important because there is only 2% of it on the whole entire planet that we can drink!” - Alora
Why should we conserve water? “Because it will help sea creatures.” - James 
 “Don’t you know not to flush garbage down the toilet? Don’t flush it down the toilet, put it in the garbage!” – Alora 
This is a rain barrel and it is used to catch rain and then with this faucet it comes out and we fill our water buckets to water all the plants in this garden…You put it right under the gutter to catch the rain.” Keagan 

Watch more videos from Parkview third graders.

Check out Parkview PowerPoint presentations and other ingenuitive action projects. 

Learn more about RE Sources' Green Classroom Certification challenge.