Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Black: The New Green

For those of you who spend most of the day in front of a computer and can’t live without the search engine Google, I have news: there’s a more energy-efficient way to get queries delivered to you! It’s called Blackle (, and it’s the black-screen version of Google, powered by Google Custom Search. 
Blackle is designed to save more electricity in its delivery of information onto your computer screen by using less wattage to illuminate the screen, versus Google’s vacant, white screen.
Blackle was born after a blogger Mark Ontkush at ecoIron suggested that because of Google’s immense popularity, it could save 750 megawatt-hours-per-year if the search engine switched to a black display.
If you’re wondering what that means, one megawatt-hour is the same as turning on 10,000 light bulbs (100 watt bulbs) for an hour. In other words: a lot of excessive energy use!
Ontkush explained that an all-white Web page requires about 74 watts of electricity to display, while a black screen only needs 59 watts. When you consider that Google gets an estimated 200 million queries each day, the savings are significant. However, Blackle critics have pointed out that the search engine is more beneficial to users of older CRT monitors than to those using newer LCD displays.
Either way, Blackle boasts about 1.5 million watt-hours saved since 2007.  And, I have to add that after a few hours on the computer, I find it much easier on the eyes than gleaming white Google. Score. 

While I’m on the topic, here are some more power-saving suggestions for your computer:
  •  Check out the energy settings on your computer, and set it to go into “power save mode” after just a few minutes idle.         
  • Take the extra few minutes to shut down your computer at the end of the day.
  • Upgrade your screen to an LCD monitor. LCDs are estimated have about one-third of the energy requirement of their CRT predecessors.
  • Unplug everything when you’ll be gone for several days.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Compromised economies naturally lend themselves to the effort of saving money, and the environmentally-responsible tasks of “reducing, re-using and recycling,” rather than wasteful living.
I recently came across a Web site that can help you do all of that, right in your own community. The site,, facilitates the lending of items like DVDs, books, tools and video games among trusted friends. Friends form private ShareCircles™ with their “ShareBuddies” and borrow and lend items to and from people they trust instead of going out and buying them. The advantage of using the site is that it keeps track of “who has what” for you, lets you list items you are willing to lend out, and let’s you see what is out there that people are willing to lend to you. The service is free.
According to co-founder David Hewett, the idea for GoodSharing™ came about after evaluating the amount of toys in his home that weren’t being used.
“My wife and I realized that we were buying the same toys as many of the moms in the playgroups, and observed how many of those toys went under-used as our kids got bored with them,” he said. “So, we thought, how cool would it be if there was an online library of toys that are owned by members of the playgroups, so we could rotate them rather than all buying new all the time.”
Hewett said that although everything listed right now in ShareCircles is an item, he hopes to include services (or “good deeds”) to trade, such as babysitting.
“Our original goal (which is still true today) was simply to provide a service on the Internet that was a good experience and one that people would actually get benefit from,” he said. “We wanted it to be a service where people always felt comfortable knowing they weren’t going to be ripped off or exploited in some way.”

And, for Facebook addicts, GoodSharing is now integrated with the site. So, if you would like, when you add a ShareItem or a ShareCircle, it posts to your Facebook wall.

Kudos to David and company!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Low-cost Ideas for Long-term Savings

People who are willing to spend just a few dollars toward the effort of saving energy can find that small investments toward “greening” your life can also go a long way in putting more green back into your wallet. Here’s how:

At home or at work, (or both if you’re ambitious) cut the amount of paper and ink that is wasted on printed pages that hardly have anything on them. The site offers a program that will help PC users print without images, and consolidate pages. There’s a free 14-day trial download, and if you like it, a $29 investment boasts a savings of up to $100 per year in paper and ink. 

For those of you without programmable thermostats, Walmart sells programmable register vents that can help shave heating and cooling costs by cutting off airflow to areas of your home or apartment based on a timer you control. They run on two AAA batteries, and will cost under $20 each.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Green for Less

A certain well-known frog might have once claimed that “it’s not easy being green,” but when you’re talking about environmentally conscious living, there are loads of resources sprouting every day for someone who wants to trade a wasteful and pollution-filled lifestyle for more efficient practices. Web sites, podcasts, television shows, books, magazines, and even personal consultants on the topic are easy to find. So ... what’s stopping a lot of folks from getting their act together?

With many people like myself, it’s the cost. Usually, you can count on paying a couple dollars more for a cleaning product for all natural ingredients as opposed to it’s chemical-laden counterpart, and the price of energy-saving light bulbs is enough to make you put them back on the shelf without blinking if you are on a tight budget.      

But, we’re not off the hook that easily, because saving the planet doesn’t have to entail losing your shirt in the process. There are plenty of things you can do for little or no cost at all, depending on your situation and interest level, including: walking places or riding a bike more often, buying re-usable cloth shopping bags, or skipping the long, steamy showers in favor of shorter and cooler ones.  

Begin by practicing the green mantra of “reuse, reduce, recycle,” because those three things don’t cost a dime, and take very little effort. 

Around the house, there’s lots of silent energy suckers, one being electricity. When your appliances are plugged in, they are using electricity whether they are turned on or not. These “phantom electricity loads” can cost a consumer up to 20-percent of their home energy use. Unplug electronics you do not use, or try consolidating everything into a power strip which can be turned off. And when you leave a room, just like mom used to say, turn the lights off. Some other ways to lessen your drag on energy consumption include:

  • Wash clothes in cold water (instead of warm or hot) to reduce the energy used in heating the water. Also, skip the dryer if you can, and air-dry clothes. I have always found that this also keeps them looking newer, longer.
  • Turn down the thermostat in winter, and turn it up (or off) in summer. Try taking cold showers before bed and sleeping with the windows open in the summer, when Michigan temperatures are comfortable in the evening. I skip the central air in summer and use a programmable thermostat in the winter months. According to DTE Energy, a programmable thermostat can save you $500 in heating and cooling costs over three years.  

  • Reduce the amount of paper you use at home or at work by using both sides of a sheet, or go paperless by saving documents to your computer as PDFs. Not wasting resources shows your employer you care about saving the company money ... and that can’t hurt these days!


One challenge in developing green behavior is that just like any other habit, you will need to recondition yourself to think a little about your actions and how efficient they are. Part of that is training yourself to not always reach for something new. For example, start with asking for paper bags at the grocery store, and keep them when you get home. 

I reuse the paper bags with handles that I get from Nino Salvaggio’s all the time. Keep a few folded brown paper bags in the trunk for when you are out shopping. It might feel weird at first, but trust me, retailers are becoming accustomed to the practice, which reduces waste and keeps plastic bags ---- which can take up to 1,000 years to degrade ---- out of landfills. Other simple ways to re-think your urge to ditch and pitch are:

  • Save paper clips and rubber bands from your paperwork to reuse at home or at the office.

  • Instead of throwing away used clothes or those that don’t fit, donate them to your local Goodwill, St. Vincent DePaul or Salvation Army. Someone always needs them. Also, consider thrift store shopping for common household items like pans, glassware, curtains or clothes. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it ---- you will be surprised at the amount of brand new (or almost new) stuff you can land for a tiny fraction of the price of buying it new.

  • Extend the life of your kitchen sponges by microwaving them for up to two minutes, immersing them in boiled water, or sticking them in the dishwasher with a drying cycle to kill harmful bacteria. Microwaving will kill 99-percent of all living pathogens in the sponge.               

Here’s something to feel good about: according to the American Forest & Paper Association, in 2007, people in the U.S. recycled 56-percent of the paper consumed. That’s an all-time high record achieved five years before its set target, so ... you know what to do with this newspaper when you are done reading it, right? Right.

Recycling is one of the easiest things to do to play your part in curbing poisonous landfill waste. Paper, plastic, bottles and pop cans are the easiest to recycle, since most communities provide residents with recycle bins and grocery stores usually have recycling machines for the aluminum, glass and plastic. It’s as simple and straightforward as taking the trash out each week, so you and I both know you really have no excuse...
And here’s even better news about recycling electronics:  you can get paid to do it. Web sites like and will buy your cell phones, digital cameras, video game consoles, laptops and more at market value. Gazelle even sends you a postage paid box to ship your item, all you have to do is mail it. 

If you can’t sell it there, The National Center for Electronics Recycling ( helps you find recycling centers in your area for things like computers and cell phones. Or, contact your local Best Buy, Radio Shack, Office Depot or Staples --- each has its own recycling program for electronics, and Radio Shack will even reward you with a gift card if you bring back an item you bought there.  

The Grass is Now Greener...

I usually wince at spending money for things around the house, and that's why I used my old, beat up lawnmower until it basically had to be tied together in two places not to fall apart. But last Spring I decided that enough was enough, and that I was sick of wondering when it was going to cut its last lawn. I did some research, and eventually traded my sputtering, smelly, loud gas-powered mower in for a cordless, 24v battery-powered beauty by Black & Decker. 

I love the thing! It’s quieter than a gas mower, doesn’t smell, and starts and stops instantly with the flick of the handle. Best of all, I never have to check gas or oil levels --- I just plug it into a wall outlet to charge. It set me back $400, but it pays for itself in long-term maintenance ease and the sheer joy of making my life more pleasant while I'm “doing the right thing.” I highly recommend it. (Hint: now’s a good time to start shopping for deals on one for next year, too.)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

LOA + Trust = Results

Recently, I was listening to one of my favorite Law of Attraction Talk Radio podcasts, when I heard about a three-day workshop cruise from San Diego, CA to Ensenada, in Baja California.

My ears immediately perked up when I heard “San Diego,” since I’m such a fan of the city and have a goal of living there some day. Plus, I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise, and LOVE immersing myself in workshop vacations. The idea of surrounding myself with transformative information and like-minded people was a huge rush in the midst of my current stage of self-work.

Unfortunately, a couple seconds later, the crush of “reality” set in as I remembered that I do not have a full-time job to pay for airfare and a cruise ... can you say “buzz kill?”

I heard ads for the cruise several times after that, and each time, I would get pangs of disappointment at the thought of not being able to enjoy it. Yet, just for the hell of it, I would still try to picture myself doing it because it made me feel better ... I imagined what it would be like to be on the boat, and I remembered how much I felt “in the zone” of creation when I went on a similar trip almost 10 years ago. Imagining felt good, at least.

In the meantime, life went on, and I decided to use the boost of momentum from this to focus some loosely structured attention on getting myself to San Diego in the long run. I pulled out old photos and a city map, and kept it on my desk, intent on re-acquainting myself with the city streets, so I could more accurately “feel” what it’s like to be there. It’s funny how you start putting your attention on something, and soon you see it everywhere --- references to the city would pop up on television, the radio, Internet sites, and an old high school friend who lives there now even found me on Facebook!

And speaking of Facebook, soon after, I connected with the host of the podcast as a friend. In a message exchange with her, I mentioned that I enjoy the show, and love the idea of the cruise, although I do not think it’s a possibility for me right now. After I hit “send” on the message, I immediately got a flash of inspiration that said “ask her if they need any volunteers on the cruise.”

Without hesitation or anything to lose except pride, I sent her a back-to-back email asking this, and a link to my online resume/Web site, showcasing my skills. Less than an hour later, I received an e-mail telling me that she would cover the cost of the cruise in exchange for some editorial services and volunteer time at the registration table! WOW! I was on the cruise!

But, it didn’t stop there. I had to get to San Diego from Detroit, which can be pretty pricey. I figured if I were patient and looked hard enough, I’d come up with something in the $400 airfare range. I asked the Universe to help me out, and let it go, and wouldn’t you know it, my significant other found roundtrip airfare for under $200! Unheard of! Plus, he covered the cost for me as an early birthday gift!

So far, the cost of this wish: $0. Who says you can’t create your own reality?

Dr. Wayne Dyer, Abraham, and a host of others throughout history have long taught that what you put your focus on, expands.

This is why it is so important to keep the focus positive --- it’s not effective to focus on what you do not want to have happen --- you will only draw more of what you do not want. So, thinking about what you would like to have and feeling the joy that having it gives you as if it has already arrived will draw the situation or state of being to you like a magnet, just as people with similar attitudes are drawn to one another’s company.

In a sheer display of the Universe's sense of humor, right before I e-mailed the host of the podcast about the cruise, I read a quote by Dr. Dyer on Facebook and and reposted it to my Facebook status. It read: "If your ship doesn't come in, swim out to it."

Duly noted.

Used correctly, master manifestors claim there’s probably no limit to the situations you can attract into your life...

Stay tuned, I’ll let you know!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The "Secret" is There's Work Involved

More than ever, I’m hearing people (who I would never think would be) dropping the phrase “Law of Attraction,” and voicing new thought principles in such a perfectly acceptable, matter-of-fact way.

It’s encouraging, but for many of them, I think it’s a matter of desperate economic times, desperate measures --- either “get religion” or get so frustrated that you reach for the far-fetched, new-agey cures when all else fails. Well, whatever opens eyes and minds, I suppose.

Mind you, the concept is simple, and not new: what you think about and put your energy behind, manifests. It’s roots go as far back as Hinduism and Judaism, and it has been the basis for countless philosophies through time: practical/applied metaphysics, power of positive thinking, new thought, science of mind, and so on.

But with anything carrying the label of “metaphysical” or “new age” slandered by many organized religious groups who see empowerment and co-creation as a threat, the bite-sized concept has had a hard road to hoe as a manifestation tool.

Regardless, never before has the phrase “Law of Attraction” burst forth into the mainstream with as much vigor as it did once the video and book “The Secret” made its debut in 2006. Mostly a word-of-mouth phenomenon, it was a “secret no more” not long after the film broke the “law” down into sound-bites and anecdotes that your average person could relate to, such as: hate your job? Hate yourself? Want more money? YOU can change all that! And, of course was helped along by being featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

The idea has even permeated educational circles, and is incorporated in home-school philosophy of “radical un-schooling.”

Granted, the Law of Attraction as packaged in “The Secret” may have been gobbled up by the mainstream as directions on how to get rich and have more stuff, but it’s much more potent than that --- it can transform your perspective and life if you do the work. That’s where I think we lose a lot of folks, and the Law of Attraction loses steam --- everyone is looking for the genie in the bottle and a quick fix.

Changing a lifetime worth of conditioning that includes negative thought patterns, low self-esteem and fear isn’t something a film can do, just like you can’t transform your body by watching a documentary about body building. It takes commitment and dogged determination to stay on the path, and the nerve to sweep worn-out emotional crud out of dark corners.

What you can change in an instant is what you accept to be true for yourself and your future, and that fuels the journey down a different path with new possibilities. But remember, saying that you are ready for a new life is not enough, you have to truly feel at your core the desire to change and to be transformed. And losing parts of yourself is a scary thing...

What you have today is a product of your past beliefs and attitudes about yourself, and what you will have is purely up to you as well. How much of yourself are you willing to risk right now?