Warmer weather is just around the corner! Spring is nature’s way of bringing in new life, new beginnings, and hopefully new cleaner, greener habits! Most everyone waits in dread or anticipation for their households’ annual spring cleaning projects to begin. This year, why not consider the environmental impact of common cleaning habits. Socket is here with a few ideas on how to form eco-friendly routines.
Spring is just around the corner, peeking out from behind those winter clouds more and more each week. Soon the birds will return, the bees will start buzzing, and budding trees and plants will be around every corner. Springtime in Tennessee is one of SOCKET’s favorite things about this state. With the return of nice weather comes the return of the faithful Tennessee gardener. The planning process begins with imagination; the contemplative stare of a gardener over their currently bare backyard plot is unmistakable. Whether they are accessing mental notes of what did and did not work last year or combing through online articles for tips and ideas on what to try next , the gardening season starts now for the local agriculturalist of any experience level.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Planet Earth!
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. This romantic holiday is highly anticipated by some and dreaded by others. Either way, you can’t escape it. Retail stores are temporarily converted into romance factories lined top- to- bottom with red and pink candy, stuffed animals, clothing, bath sets, etc. It’s easy to get lost in the mess and blindly grab a gift to check that off your to-do list, but this year try a more conscious approach. Try something different that will not only stick out in your valentines mind, but also be eco-friendly. Here are some tips to try this year to change the monotony of the holiday.
Get outside! Don’t spend your money on an overpriced meal with hiked up holiday prices. Instead, do something different. Get outdoors by going on a hike or visit greenway or riverfront for a nice romantic walk and some fresh air. Take advantage of your local parks and nature centers. Plan a romantic picnic. You could even take a walk downtown and discover a new local coffee shop or store that you’ve never been to. This is a great way for you and your special someone to discover new things about your city and support local business too.
Support responsibly grown chocolate! If your valentine is a choco-holic and buying them the same ‘ol chocolate in the same ‘ol heart shaped box is getting old, then try something new this year and go for quality over quantity. There are tons of chocolate companies that ensure their chocolate is made sustainably and responsibly. These brands also offer a wide variety of flavor combinations that your valentine will be excited to try. You may have to venture out from your usual neighborhood grocery store, but your valentine is sure to appreciate the extra thought and effort.
Shop locally! Another great way to be eco-friendly this Valentine’s Day is to check out your farmers’ market for locally grown or made food and snacks. Whether you’re planning to whip up a surprise meal for your sweetheart or you’re taking SOCKET’S advice and planning a romantic outdoor picnic, buying local is the way to go! The average carbon footprint that food travels from production to its final destination, is 8 tons a year per household. Buying locally even once a week would significantly lower that number, so what better time to show the environment some love than Valentine’s Day?!
Think about those flowers you’re purchasing! Let’s address another Valentine’s Day staple, flowers. SOCKET knows that it’s very easy to grab a pre-arranged bouget of flowers at the grocery store and be done with it, but this year go ahead and make a change and buy from your local florist or farmers’ market! Not only are you supporting a local business but you also have a direct say in the design aesthetic of your bouquet. Many florists either grow their flowers themselves or purchase from local growers, significantly reducing the carbon footprint of your thoughtful gift! Not to mention the fact that industrial bred flowers are usually doused in pesticides and have a weaker scent than local flora. Go local this year or for a longer-lasting gift, buy a potted plant as a living, growing reminder of your relationship.
Try out an alternative to the traditional Valentine’s Day cards! Valentine’s Day cards are a pretty environmentally destructive holiday tradition, but luckily there are amazing alternatives. SOCKET’S favorite is plantable seed paper cards. Rather than letting your cards collect dust for years to come, or worse taking up space in a landfill somewhere, give plantable seed paper a try. These amazing, biodegradable cards allow you to simply bury them and watch the seeds grow into beautiful wildflowers
The jewelry dilemma! SOCKET’S last tip for a greener Valentine’s Day is to skip the pricey jewelry stores and look for vintage jewelry instead. The jewelry business is controversial in its practices and there are tons of beautiful second-hand gifts just waiting to be worn again. Giving vintage jewelry to your loved one adds to the romanticism of the gift, it already has a story to tell and yours is just waiting to be written.
The Holidays are finally here! Whether you’re having a Happy Hanukah, a Merry Christmas, or a Happy Kwanzaa – Socket is here with tips to make your holidays a greener and more efficient experience! Let’s begin.
First, ditch the wrapping paper already! Does the sight of all that crumbled and torn up wrapping paper that you so meticulously folded leave you feeling deflated every Christmas? What about when you’re stuffing several trash bags full of that same decorative paper that, just yesterday, was perfectly useful and whole? Does it begin to make less and less sense that you spend money on – not only gifts, not only food, but also on pretty paper that lasts less than 24 hours against your clan of excited relatives and children? If so, you’re in luck! Socket has some useful tips to break you of this wasteful holiday tradition.
Newspaper and junk mail! You likely receive an influx of good ol’ holiday junk mail around this time. Don’t toss it, use it! Wrapping gifts in newspaper or junk mail offers the same function as if you wrapped them in decorative paper you buy at the store. If you’re going to toss them anyway, you may as well let them serve a purpose before sending them off to the recycling center!
Use spare cloth or linens. If you or someone in your household is crafty and has spare - cloth, linen, ribbons, or anything of the sort- use it to your advantage and wrap your gifts with them! This will be a nice change from traditional holiday wrapping paper.
Second, when the day of last minute holiday shopping comes, skip the plastic and bring your own reusable shopping bags. If you forget yours at home, don’t worry! You can often find holiday themed reusable totes for sale near the checkout counter. If you’re worried about coming home with yet another reusable bag and your stash is getting too big, Socket has a solution for that too. Use it to give a gift in! This is really two gifts in one and will save you from wasting wrapping paper or paper bags. The recipient will not only be receiving a well thought out gift from you but also a practical gift they’ll use over and over again.
Third, try something new and send out holiday ecards! Are you one of the 1.9 billion Americans planning on sending out holiday cards this year? There are dozens of websites that allow you to put together holiday themed ecards that arrive at their destination faster and allow you to send them to more friends and family members! This is not only different and fun but it is also a more sustainable approach to this holiday tradition. If physical cards are your thing and ecards just won’t do it for you, look for cards made from recycled material!
Fourth, choose soy or beeswax candles! Whether you’re buying decorative, holiday candles to add a touch of cheer throughout your house, long taper candles for a menorah, or giving one as a gift – definitely choose soy or beeswax candles! There are several reasons to choose these over popular paraffin candles. Soy and beeswax candles burn longer and are bio-degradable. Paraffin candles are made from gasoline by-products, soy and beeswax is derived naturally. Soy and beeswax candles also smell stronger than paraffin, which let’s admit, is the main perk of buying and burning candles. SOCKET also has good news for those of you with allergies and sensitivities, beeswax candles are hypo-allergenic! So let’s review – not only are soy and beeswax candles better for the environment, but they also are better for your health, burn longer, smell better, and last longer!
Fifth, use upcycled products to decorate and celebrate! The internet is a wonderful thing, full of DIY projects and websites that make it incredibly easy to celebrate the holidays sustainably. Socket loves reusing materials that are normally thrown away. Save your glass bottles and jars and get a little crafty; create decorative centerpieces and flower holders. You can also use these as holders to make your own candles in and give them out as gifts, but that’s not all! There are tons of websites out there that are selling or providing instructions on how to make upcycled menorahs, Christmas trees, wreaths, and almost anything else you can imagine! Get your friends and kids involved and make a day of it, everyone will walk away with a head full of plans and ideas for next year!
Next tip, change up your meal plans this year! Socket likes to make sure to buy local or organic, and opts for the more humane choice of free-range eggs. Believe it or not, eating meat has a significant carbon footprint. You can reduce this by going meat free for your holiday meals! Socket admits, it can sound a bit quirky, but there are so many great recipes and substitution options out there that your family may not even notice it missing! If this just isn’t an option for your holidays, consider buying locally sourced meat to reduce the fuel footprint incurred with your usual supermarket choice. Going back to the carbon footprint of your food, Socket also likes to replace dairy with plant and nut based substitutes. There are so many options out there, you are sure to find a new recipe you love and continue to make every year!
Moving on to the next tip, make sure to be festive AND energy efficient. Socket likes using LED holiday lights to decorate during the season. These glow brighter, last longer, and use 75 percent less energy. Just like with all appliances, be sure to unplug them during the daytime when they are least likely to be seen and used. Try investing in a timer for your lights! You can usually find one for around $20-30, this will allow you to program your lights to be shining brightly during the evening and powering down as you lie down to sleep! No mess, no hassle, just efficiency!
Be conscious of your footprint and carpool! The holiday season yields dozens of events and gatherings that demand attendance. Plan these things out and carpool to your destination with friends and family. Not only are you spending more time together but you’re also making the most efficient choice!
Lastly, if your holidays involve a tree and you’re in the market for a new one, buy a real one! This is a subject that has been long debated, so let Socket compile the facts for you. Most Christmas trees are grown specifically for the purpose of being bought and sold for the holiday. If grown responsibly, another tree is planted when one is cut down. Therefore, you are not contributing to deforestation. After the holidays are over dispose of the tree efficiently; most cities offer curb side pick-up or drop-off recycle locations. Old trees are often sent through a wood chipper and repackaged as mulch, some is used for fuel, and some simply decompose in a landfill. If you have the need and resources, you could also utilize the material from the tree for your own compost and mulch. There are often places available where you can rent a wood chipper or purchase one for a reasonable price.
To sum it all up! The holidays are meant to be celebrated with friends and family, but can often cause unexpected stress. Stress a little less by utilizing these tips. Your wallet and the environment are sure to appreciate you doing so. Be sure to check out Socket's other blogs for tips on staying energy efficient around the home and kitchen this holiday season!
Energy Efficient Cooking
The holidays are upon us! This means dropping temperatures and more time spent indoors, often entertaining, which usually implies friends, food, and fun. At any holiday get together, there is most likely an area of the house that is off limits to guests- the kitchen. It’s really in your best interest to stay out of the way in there unless you offer an extra set of hands. Cooking, especially for many guests, can be a frantic and unpredictable endeavor. Things get burnt, take longer to cook than expected, and often there are not enough burners or oven space to accommodate all of your needs in the time you’re given. Well, let Socket offer you some useful and energy efficient tips to help improve the experience.
First, STOP PEEKING! When cooking, it’s still a struggle to not open the oven and look inside. Think about the concept of escaped heat; every time you open the oven when it’s heating up or cooking, heat rushes free and only extends your wait time! There is, on average, a 25° reduction in heat each time you do this. That’s a huge loss of heat! That’s especially crippling if you’re cooking on a low heat like 250-300°. It takes energy (and $!) for the oven to work its way back up to the appropriate temperature and the more we peek, the longer we end up waiting for our food. Open that door only when necessary.
Second, PREHEAT APPROPRIATELY. Preheating is actually pretty unnecessary when it comes to food with longer cook times. If you’re going to be cooking something for longer than 1 hour, Socket suggests skipping the preheat instructions. This will save a lot of energy. Plus you won’t have to open the oven door after 15-30 minutes of preheating just to lose 25° or more while loading in the dish. In addition to this, if you remain strong in resisting the urge to peek at your food, you can go ahead and turn off the oven 10-15 minutes before the recommended cook time. It sounds strange but the residual heat in the oven will continue to cook the food while saving you money on your energy bill. Try it out! If on the off chance it didn’t fully cook the worst that can happen is you have to heat up the oven for a few more minutes.
Thirdly, GOOD COOKWARE IS KEY. When purchasing pots and pans it’s important to consider the type and quality of the products. With things like casserole dishes and brownie pans, Socket always uses glass or ceramic cookware. These hold heat far better than metal ones and a lot of the time you can even decrease the oven temperature by 15-20° for dishes with long cook times. Other huge considerations are the frying and sauce pans you use. It is tempting to use the cheapest set of frying pans you can find, but be warned, each one may have its own set of malfunctions. From handles melting or falling off, flames erupting from underneath with no cause to be found, and the ever-disturbing smell of a cheap plastic-metal hybrid slowly melting as you cook your morning eggs. Try to invest in some quality products, Socket could talk about frying pans and what to look for when buying one all day, but for the purposes of this article we’ll stick with one.
DON’T BUY WOBBLY PANS. You know what we’re talking about. You set the pan on the burner, pour some oil in and watch as it all drifts to one side (usually the handle side). This is not only annoying to deal with but it’s also costing you energy. If you have a gas stove, you’re lucky; the whole pan will heat up regardless of wobbliness. Unfortunately, with an electric stove, the heat will only transmit through direct contact. This usually leaves half the pan without direct heat, increasing cook time and cooking unevenly. Trust Socket -- get some pans that do not wobble.
This brings us to our next tip, DON’T FORGET YOUR CROCKPOT. This little miracle of an appliance has helped Socket tremendously over the years. Not only does it use a significantly smaller amount of energy but it can cook almost anything you can think of! Macaroni and Cheese, Mashed Potatoes, Hot Chocolate, Mulled Wine, Cranberry Sauce, and Vegetable Dishes galore! This won’t just save you time and energy; it’s like having a whole extra set of hands in the kitchen! SOCKET can’t stress enough how essential a crockpot is to holiday cooking. They can usually be found for around $20-60 and will likely be one of the best investments you’ll ever make.
Next we have, REMEMBERING YOUR BURNERS. You’ve got to clean your stove burners; Socket likes using a baking soda and water mixture to get the job done but there are other methods available. Removing the dirt and grime from your burners will yield shorter cook times and save you energy! If your burners are aluminum, consider upgrading them to steel next time they need some TLC. Steel retains heat better than aluminum, which contributes to even shorter cook times.
Finally, Socket tends to forget about this one until feigning heat stroke while standing over the stove in the kitchen, TURN DOWN YOUR THERMOSTAT. With your oven, stove, microwave, crockpot, and anything else you’ve got turned on in the kitchen, there will be plenty of heat to keep the place at a reasonable temperature. We’re not saying go crazy and cut the whole heating system off, that’s a whole other waste of energy we won’t get into today, but turning your average temperature down a few degrees will help keep your home at a balanced temperature while you prepare the feast. Once all of your cooking is complete and your oven turned off, you can also crack the oven door open a bit. This will draw any left over heat into your house and boost the temperature up a few more degrees before clicking the thermostat back on. Remember to be cautious when doing this and remove any flammable material close by like stray dish towels and oven mitts.
Cooking can be a huge ordeal but by utilizing these tips you could save yourself not only money, but unneeded stress. Give them a try -- Socket guarantees you’ll end up using at least one of these tips every time you cook.
Fall and Winter Energy Saving Tips
With fall upon us and the familiar chill of winter creeping in, it is time to unpack the holiday decorations, your winter wardrobe, and start reviewing those old soup recipes you’ve been itching to try. In the midst of all this holiday hustle and bustle, why not save a few extra dollars by trying these energy saving tips around your home? Not only will you save yourself some money but you’ll also be utilizing your home, utilities, and appliances more efficiently than you have in years.
LET THE SUN DO WHAT IT DOES BEST. We often neglect to think about that big ball of energy burning in the sky. We forget that it’s raining energy in the form of heat onto us every day, just begging us to utilize this free service. Open up those curtains on the south facing side of your house (this is where the sun hits it most directly) and let the sun help you heat it up during peak hours and close them back up when it starts to dip too low in the sky.
SEAL UP THOSE WINDOWS. There’s no easier way to waste money and heat than to neglect a drafty window. Windows are the conduit between the inside of your home and the outside world, so naturally you should want as much of a barrier between the two during the winter months. There are several ways to best ensure that your heat isn’t escaping through these pathways.
GIVE YOUR THERMOSTAT SOME REST. More often than not, people like to sleep in temperatures that are cooler than the average temperature they enjoy in their house throughout the day. This preference is actually incredibly beneficial for your utility bill! Turning down your thermostat 10-15° during your normal eight hours of sleep will save you an average of 10% per year on your bill. For those of you who can’t bear to get out of bed when it’s freezing in the house, a programmable thermostat will save your mornings! Simply program your thermostat to gradually increase the temperature starting an hour or two before you plan to wake up. This way you won’t have the uncontrollable urge to hop back under the covers after getting out of bed to turn up the heat a few degrees.
CONSIDER PELLET AND WOOD STOVES. If your house does not having a working fireplace, these two appliances are great alternatives. Whether you have one already or are planning to get one, here are some tips to keep them performing at an optimal level. This requires a bit of elbow grease but will yield big rewards. You will need to regularly clean the flue vent and use a wire brush to clean the inside of your stove. This will prevent build up and encourage good circulation in your appliance. (Fun fact: Pellet stoves are greener and cleaner than wood stoves. They emit nearly no smoke and the pellets are just wood waste, you’re basically recycling!)
HUMIDITY IS YOUR FRIEND. Living in the south, many of us are aware that the summer heat wouldn’t be as terrible if it wasn’t for the relentless humidity that accompanied it. Here’s the science: “If the air is at 100-percent relative humidity, sweat will not evaporate into the air. As a result, we feel much hotter than the actual temperature when the relative humidity is high. If the relative humidity is low, we can feel much cooler than the actual temperature because our sweat evaporates easily, cooling us off.”This means that in the winter time when humidity is at its lowest we will feel the cold more intensely. This is where humidifiers come into play. Place these in strategic areas of your home to put moisture into the air, this will moisten the air and make your home feel warmer.
KNOW AND PROTECT YOUR WATER HEATER. Who doesn’t love a hot shower to help them unwind or gear up for the day to come? Well, come to find out, never running out of hot water does not necessarily mean that your water heater is top notch. This could mean that whoever installed it set the temperature too high. The average temperature of a water heater should be 43-49°C. Setting the temperature to the appropriate level will not only ensure that you don’t take exuberantly long showers but it will also prevent any accidental scalding from occurring. Another good thing you should consider is wrapping you water heater in an insulated blanket. Newly installed water heaters usually come with this, but if yours is older it could need to be added or installed. A good 24 or higher R-value insulation will only run you around $20. Definitely do your research to be sure it is safe for your year and model.
DO YOUR MAINTENANCE CHECK LIST. These are the little things, the ones we usually forget or put off the longest. Checking this list will add to the overall efficiency of your energy use. Things like replacing your furnace filter once a month, uncovering your air vents and vacuuming out any dust or pet hair that’s built up, sealing off the vents in rooms you don’t often use, and switching your ceiling fans direction to make sure they are pushing the hot air down and not dragging it up to the ceiling. Doing these things will ensure that your home is working as a unit with two objectives: keeping you warm and saving you money.
BE FESTIVE AND ENERGY EFFICIENT. We all love a little holiday cheer in the dreary months of winter. Whether you go big or stay minimal, you should consider using LED holiday lights. These glow brighter while at the same time using 75 percent less energy and lasting 25 percent longer. Just like with all appliances, be sure to unplug them when you are not using them. Many people use a power strip to shut them off easily, but this year, consider investing in a timer for your lights. These usually run around $20-30 and will allow you to program your lights to be on and shining during the early evening hours and then power down as you snuggle into bed later that night.
Socket hopes these tips were helpful and save you money this winter! Remember, proper maintenance and preparedness during these colder months will not only help your wallet but also indirectly benefit the environment.
This neighborhood gathering point gave a second life to an old JC Penney store, featuring a community center, branch library and park. The library offers a bright, enjoyable space for learning, with ample daylighting infused throughout. Kids can learn how to live more sustainability by interacting with a Socket sustainability “scavenger hunt” along the 3.5 acre park walking path, or playing sustainability memory games on the library’s interactive kiosk.
The Commons at the Crossings, located in Southeast Nashville, was once a closed JC Penney store. In 2014, with the opening of a community center, a new branch library and a 3.5 acre park, The Commons is now a beacon of sustainability and rejuvenation for our entire city.
Planned and managed by Metro's Department of General Services, this mammoth $32 million dollar complex is another example of our city's dedication to sustainability and renewal. Look at what stands as a reminder of what can be done to transform an old mall:
The 90,000 sq. ft. Ford Ice Center houses two National Hockey League regulation sized hockey rinks. Opened in 2014 and managed by the NHL's Nashville Predators in a unique private- public partnership with the city, the Center also offers a yoga/ballet studio, four party/meeting rooms, off-ice training space, concessions and hockey pro shop.
Through a shared parking area, the Ice Center is connected with an expanded branch library and Metro Parks Community Center. The 26,000 sq. ft. library includes increased digital media, tech centers, places for story time and selections for early childhood and young adults. HBM from Ohio was the consultant on the library project.
The Commons' 32,000 sq. ft. recreation center includes an indoor gym, walking track, wellness equipment, teaching kitchen and rooftop terrace. These facilities are a magnet for community gatherings and have stimulated economic growth in the area.
The recreation center lobby features kiosk displays for adults and children that present Socket Unplug Nashville.
These facilities wrap around a 3.5 acre park with a playground and walking trail. One very unique feature of the park is a scavenger hunt for young children, featuring a Socket mascot, designed to teach them about sustainability. Socket's Hunt for Gold and Silver offers prizes at the nearby library after visiting all seven points that detail sustainable features of the site.
The Commons at the Crossings was not just created for one neighborhood. It is here for everyone to enjoy. Plan a visit to this lively, miraculous example of rejuvenation that stands as a bold testament to Nashville and Davidson County's commitment to a sustainable future.