While the City of Albany works on improving energy efficiency and reducing costs in its own operations, there is a lot that area residents and businesses can begin doing to reduce their own environmental footprint. "Going Green" is now easier than ever, but many people do not know where to start. The following tips are quick and simple ways that anyone can begin to live more sustainably. Check back for updates!
Summer Energy Saving Tips
With spring and summer temperatures on the rise, itís time to start some energy saving habits that can help you save money on your utility bills. There is a lot that residents and businesses can do to reduce their environmental footprint that can also make your life more comfortable. "Going Green" is now easier than ever, but many people do not know where to start. The following tips are quick and simple ways that anyone can begin to live more sustainably.
Start a backyard compost
If properly done, a backyard compost can yield rich, healthy soil that you can use in your gardens. Best of all, the compost is free and keeps organic waste out of the Cityís landfill! Composts can be contained within a specially created vessel or piled in a corner of your property. Lawn waste, organic kitchen scraps (no meats or fatty food products though), and newspapers can all be composted. Toss them all together, water the pile, and occasionally stir to mix the ingredients and allow oxygen to speed the process. In 4-8 weeks (or longer depending on your conditions and ingredients) you will have perfect compost to use in your backyard vegetable garden!
Curbside yard waste pickup
If you do not have space or the time to manage your own compost pile, the City of Albany will haul away your yard waste free of charge. Yard waste should be placed in a paper bag or bundled neatly and left on the curb on your scheduled trash pickup day. Paper bags can be purchased from local retailers or directly through the Department of General Services. The yard waste is hauled to the DGS Compost Facility on Richard J. Connerís Blvd, where City residents can pick up finished compost free of charge.
Bike to work
If you live drive to work, consider riding a bike! Bikes are much cheaper to purchase and maintain, and best of all they use no gas so your fuel bill will be reduced drastically. They also donít pollute the air, making the City a healthier place to live. Speaking of healthyÖ bicycling builds muscle, increases stamina, burns calories, strengthens your heart, AND reduces stress by improving your well being and self esteem. Need we say more?
Check your HVAC for maintenance issues
Ensuring your air conditioner is clean and working properly is one of the simplest ways of reducing your energy costs. Be sure to replace the filter regularly, look for leaks, and remove obstructions from your homeís intake and exhaust vents. Clean leaves and other debris from around the outdoor unit and make sure there are no leaks throughout the system. All of these tasks will help keep your HVAC unit from working harder than it needs to cool your home or business.
Install window shades on south-facing windows
Sunshine in the morning is great, but during the day the sunís rays can raise the temperature in your home, reducing the efficiency of your air conditioning unit. Installing shades to block direct sunlight during the day can reflect this heat back outdoors.
Weatherstrip drafty doors and windows
Leaky doors and windows let warm air in and cool air out, reducing the efficiency of your air conditioner during the heat of the summer. Most hardware stores sell inexpensive weatherstripping in different sizes and shapes depending on your need. Check around the bottom of doors and windows and feel for any drafts; if you feel any, measure how much weatherstripping you will need and shop accordingly. Installation is typically simple and straightforward and can be done installed by those of all skill levels. The U.S. Department of Energy has created a guide to help find what type of weatherstripping you may need for any circumstance.
Seal leaks in walls, ceilings, and floors
Along with drafty windows and doors, cracks can also develop in walls and ceilings. Sealing these leaks can substantially lessen how hard your air conditioning unit must work to keep your home comfortable cool. To locate leaks, temporarily turn off your air conditioner on a breezy day (remember to turn it back on!). With a burning piece of incense, waft the smoke near baseboards, door and window trim, and other potentially drafty areas. Mark where the smoke trail encounters turbulence, as these areas may have small cracks in need of repair.
To caulk any cracks you may have found, clean the area beforehand of any dust or old caulk. Purchase the appropriate type of caulk for the job from your local hardware store and apply the caulk in a smooth and consistent bead along the length of the crack. Make sure you fill the crack as much as possible; excess caulk can be removed afterwards. Once the caulk is installed, allow it to dry before sanding or painting over it.
Electronic Recycling Easier than Ever
The NYS Equipment Recycling & Reuse Act of 2010 requires all manufacturers of electronic equipment to take back broken or unwanted items for proper recycling, free of charge. To prevent old computers and other electronics from clogging our landfills or being sent overseas for disposal, consumers are encouraged to take their unwanted items to authorized drop-off locations or back to a qualified retailer. In January 2012 all waste disposal companies will begin educating their customers on proper electronic waste disposal, and beginning in 2015 individuals and households will be prohibited from disposing of electronics in the waste stream. View the list of electronic recycling drop-off locations in NYS.
Wash Your Laundry in Cold Water
Up to 90% of the energy used to wash a load of laundry is spent heating the water. Modern detergents are usable in both hot and cold water, and for all but the heaviest soiled items there is no difference between the two. The average home can save up to $100 per year by using cold water in their washing machine. If hot water is needed to kill off dust mites or for heavily soiled items, cold water can still be used during the rinse cycle. On top of using cold water for most loads, new ENERGY STAR approved front-loading washers can reduce water use by over 50%, netting you even more savings.
E-ZPass Green Discounts
If you own a hybrid vehicle, you may qualify for a Green Pass Discount Plan through the NYS Thruway Authority. The pass gives drivers a 10% discount on regular E-ZPass rates if your vehicle gets at least 45 MPG and meets certain emissions criteria. The tag mounts like a normal E-ZPass tag and is available for existing NYS Thruway Authority account holders. For a list of qualifying vehicles and how you can apply, visit the Green Pass website.
Recycle Your CFLs
Compact florescent lamps (CFLs) should not be discarded in your regular trash when they have burnt out. CFLs contain tiny amounts of mercury that can be released into the environment if improperly disposed of. When a CFL burns out, you can bring it to many major retailers for proper recycling. Home Depot and Lowes both will take back your old CFLs free of charge, as well as all DGS-sponsored hazardous waste disposal days.
Plastic Bag Recycling
Most major retailers in Albany will take back old plastic shopping bags for recycling. Particularly grocery stores, but also pharmacies and many other establishments are committed to reducing the City's waste stream. Dedicated collection bins for accepting plastic shopping bags, regardless of where they originated are typically located near the entrance to each store. The bags are then melted down and the plastic reused, consuming less energy overall and emitting fewer greenhouse gases during production.
Single Stream Curbside Recycling
DGS offers curbside recycling for Albany residents living in single family homes or apartment buildings with 4 or fewer units. A wide range of items are accepted (Adobe .pdf), including paper, #1-#7 plastics, glass, cardboard, and cans. Albany recently moved to a single stream recycling process, so you no longer need to separate recyclables into blue or green bins Ė either works just fine. Bins are provided free of charge through DGSí office off Erie Boulevard. Call (518) 434-2489 for assistance. Also for a limited time, bins are available at the Department of Recreation, Bleecker Stadium, and 200 Henry Johnson Blvd. Proof of residency is required.
Home Energy Audit
Most New York residents qualify for a free or reduced comprehensive, whole-house energy assessment ("energy audit"). Implementing the energy audit's suggestions will not only decrease your utility bills, but also make your home more comfortable by reducing drafts, increasing ventilation and controlling humidity. Visit the NYSERDA homeowners' resources webpage for more information.
Donít Recycle That Pizza Box!
Cardboard pizza boxes may appear to be a perfect candidate for recycling, but are actually one of the leading causes of contamination in recycled paper products. Pizza boxes are covered in grease and food residues that inhibit proper fiber mixture during the recycling process. This can ruin an entire batch of paper slurry, increasing costs and making recycled paper less competitive. If the top lid is clean, you can separate it from the contaminated portion and safely recycle it. Otherwise, all paper products contaminated with food residues should never be recycled (paper cups, plates, napkins, etc).
Properly Inflate Car Tires
Driving on tires that are underinflated can reduce your gas mileage by up to 3.3%. Higher friction is to blame, so be sure to check your tire pressure often and inflate them when necessary. Low-cost pressure gauges are available at most large retailers. Properly inflated tires not only help improve gas mileage and save on fuel costs, they also are safer and wear less quickly.
Hazardous Waste Disposal
Hazardous waste, such as depleted batteries, unused paint, chemicals, fertilizers, and unwanted or broken electronics, should not be disposed of in your trash or recycling bins. For proper disposal, DGS accepts hazardous waste during scheduled events at the City of Albany Rapp Road Landfill. The periodic events are open to all pre-registered Albany residents and certain small businesses. To register and view a complete list of accepted materials, visit DGS' hazardous waste webpage.
There are no hazardous waste drop-offs scheduled at this time. Please save your items until the next drop-off date.
Want to know more?
We also have a wealth of information available for residents, businesses, institutions, and city employees on their respective resources page. If you have any other questions or suggestions on how to help others be more environmentally friendly, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.