Archive for the ‘Informational’ Category

Tips to get your home ready for winter

Posted on: October 13th, 2018 by rjohnson

From The CUB Voice newsletter of the Citizens Utility Board

You might want to ignore the fact that winter is fast approaching, but now is the perfect time to prepare your home for the chilly months ahead.

Here’s a Checklist:

  • Set your water heater to 120 degrees (warm setting). Cover it with an insulated blanket you can purchase at a hardware store.
  • Get your furnace inspected. Have a certified heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor inspect your furnace. If your furnace is 15 years or older, you may want to consider upgrading to a newer system.
  • Replace filters. A clean filter helps your HVAC system operate at its best and last longer. You may have to change your filter every month, but at least do so every three months. If you have pets or allergies you may need to clean and replace your filters more often.
  • Keep warm air in, winter cold out. Weather-strip doors, caulk windows and install storm windows if you have them. A door guard or sweep can help fill the gap at the bottom of your front and back doors. You can find most of these items at local hardware stores.
  • Clean gutters. If your gutters are filled with build-up like leaves, they can damage your home’s siding and roofing, causing cracks and letting cold air in.
  • Reverse ceiling fans. In the winter, run the fan clockwise (from your position, looking up at it) to pull warm air down from the ceiling and keep it circulating in your house.
  • Tree branch trimming. Cut down any extended branches that can get tangled with power lines, causing outages.
  • Turn off outdoor faucets. Flushing outside faucets before winter is a great way to remove any excess water that could freeze up later and cause damage to your pipes.
    This only takes a few steps and you can find instructions on CUB’s blog. (Shut off the inside valve that leads to the outdoor faucet and turn on the outdoor faucet until the water stops.) Consider buying an insulated cover for each outdoor faucet.
  • Bonus tip: If you have WiFi, a smart thermostat can help control your home’s temperature and cut heating and cooling costs by up to 20 percent.

The Plastics Problem

Posted on: September 10th, 2015 by rjohnson

I have always known that plastic was a polluting problem that needs to be dealt with. I just didn’t know how bad the problem was until recently. Plastic can be a useful, convenient, substance, but it pollutes much of the earth and the oceans to a degree I didn’t realize before. Here are some horrible plastic statistics.Americans use 2 ½ million plastic bottles every HOUR. Only about 1/4th of all these bottles are recycled. Making all of these water bottles required the energy equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil. Think of all the pollution, in the form of Green House Gas, Sulfur, particulate matter, mercury and others, that is put into the atmosphere from the generation of all that energy. When thrown away as garbage and put into a landfill that plastic does not degrade for thousands of years if it is not exposed to the sun. If it is in sunlight it doesn’t decompose, it just breaks into very small pieces. The same thing is true if the plastic is dumped into a lake or an ocean. Small pieces of plastic are a problem because animals wrongly see them as food, and eat them. The PCBs and other pollutants become a part of the animal. This is an even greater problem in the oceans. There are huge whirlpool like areas in the Pacific Ocean, twice the size of Texas, that are floating trash heaps. A large portion of this plastic trash is made up of the ¾ of a trillion plastic bags used worldwide. It is estimated that only 1 in 200 of these plastic bags are recycled. Plastic bags and other plastics are eaten by birds that think it’s food. So the bird can starve to death while having a full stomach, of plastic. The plastic particles from plastic bags, bottles, toys and other things are mistaken by fish as food, and eaten. When we eat those fish we are eating the plastic that they have eaten. The plastic even gets into tiny filter feeding marine creatures. Small fish eat these living things. Bigger fish eat the smaller fish, etc. Again we eat the fish and get the bio-toxins that is passed up through the food chain. Another plastic that is hidden from us are the micro-beads put into soaps to exfoliate our skin and into toothpaste to scrub our teeth. These tiny particles of plastic are so small that when they are washed down the drain to water treatment plants they are too small to be filtered out. So they end up in lakes, rivers and oceans and are consumed by tiny marine organisms. So eventually they pass up the food chain to humans.

These horrible facts about plastics reinforce the great importance of recycling plastics, as well as other things. Take your own reusable bags to the store so you don’t need plastic bags. Don’t drink water from one use water bottles, bring your own drink or a container for the drink you need. Encourage your coffee shops to start using corn based cups or paper cups which can then be turned into compost. Finally, reduce the amount of plastic you buy and recycle what you buy.


The Importance of Water Conservation

Posted on: February 15th, 2015 by rjohnson

Water is a very precious element.  We couldn’t live without it and we use it in so many important ways.  Water is used in homes to drink, wash things, and dispose of waste; in farming to irrigate crops, in the energy industry to cool nuclear reactors or to be turned into steam to run an electric generating turbine at a coal fired power plant, it is used to mine and wash minerals from coal to gold, it is used to water livestock and on fish farms, it is used by other industries to cool and clean raw materials and finished products.

Statistics from the US government tell us that in 2010 more water was used for irrigation than for anything else.  This includes all types of irrigation, from yards to crops, and from all sources.  These sources are: surface water such as rivers and lakes as well as self supplied water from ponds on golf courses.  Another source is ground water.  This is water that is below the surface, like underground lakes and aquifers.  In the United States we used about 115,000 million gallons of water per day to irrigate.  This accounts for about 70 % of all the water used in the US.  The other 30 % of water used is split into the categories of residential, 20%, and industrial, 10 %.  Of the 115,000 million gallons of irrigation water used a day  about 40 % of it comes from groundwater and 60 % comes from surface water. In 2010 California used about 20 % of all irrigation water consumed.  Much of this water was used in the Central Valley of California where fruits, vegetables, and nuts are grown for the entire country.  The next four states in order of usage are: Idaho 12%, Colorado and Arkansas 8 % each, and Montana 6 %.  Other states used the remaining 46 % of all irrigation water, split between the other 45 states.  As you know California is in the midst of a severe drought and has lasted longer than 3 years. This drought has greatly limited the amount of water available for necessary irrigation of these many valued crops.  To get the water needed California has been draining underground aquifers and surface reservoir like Lake Mead.  A recent NASA study states that these Mega-Droughts could last longer than 10 years.  This trend of water shortage in one area of the world is a problem not only for farmers in Central California but for farmers and people around the world.

To limit our water use we can plant native drought resistant plants in our yards.  We can reduce our household water use.  We can curb the water waste in mining, industry, energy production, and farming.  Currently each American uses an average of 150 gallons of water a day.  In the United Kingdom the average person uses about 40 gallons per day.  In China the number is down to 23 gallons a day.  In dry arid countries like Ethiopia each person uses about 4 gallons of water a day.  You can see that we need to start cutting back on the water we use and the water we waste both as individuals and as a nation.

To find out more about these issues please click on the article called The 25 Best Ways to Conserve Water.  It was compiled by the Green Teens Club.  The pictographs, charts, and information they use make this problem very understandable.

Going Green Made Easy

Posted on: October 15th, 2014 by Bob Jorgensen

Most people would say they value the environment and want to preserve it for future generations. However, not everyone is familiar with how to do that. I will give a few suggestions that not only will help you be environmentally friendly but also will save you money either directly or indirectly.

Most people think of recycling as the most common way to care for the environment. East Peoria is fortunate to have a free curb side recycling program that collects paper, cardboard, plastic (#1-5,7), aluminum and tin. If you live where you can’t get recyclables collected, save them and drop them off at a variety of drop off locations in the Peoria area. By recycling, you are diverting trash from landfills which will slow the increase of garbage dumping fees and slow the depletion of natural resources. Reprocessing recyclables also uses significantly less energy than creating new items from raw materials.

In addition to recycling, shoppers should “precycle.” This is a practice of purchasing products with the waste stream in mind. Say to yourself “How will I dispose of this container?” before making your purchase. The following are some tips. Buy in bulk will reduce the total amount of packaging. Only purchase items packed in recyclable materials and post consumer content packaging. Avoid excessive plastic wrap and Styrofoam.

Use “off peak” electricity. Lowering the electrical demand during peak times will save the electrical companies from having to produce as much electricity during peak times (saving on pollution) and will save on stress on our already dated electrical grid system. You can even sign up to pay an hourly rate for electricity to give you an incentive to use off peak electricity. Go to for more information.

Some other easy things you can do to help the environment:

  • Wash your baggies and reuse them. You can purchase a baggie drying rack relatively cheaply and you will stretch the life of your baggies.
  • Don’t let your car idle. The gas used in idling for 10 seconds is equal to the gas used in restarting your car. Also, avoid drive through lines. Park, turn off your car, and walk into the restaurant or bank.
  • Set your water heater to 120 degrees.
  • Use an adjustable thermostat and adjust the heat and air to be used less when gone for extend periods during the day or while on vacation.
  • Pull down shades or close blinds to limit heat entering the windows during the summer.
  • Use cold water for washing clothes. Most germs and bugs are killed in the drier and not during the wash cycle even when using hot water.
  • Take shorter showers or turn off the water when sudsing.
  • Replace incandescent lights with LED lights. They cost more but last much longer than even CFL bulbs and give off better light. Each LED light bulb saves about $130 over its 23 year life versus incandescent bulbs.
  • Replace any refrigerator older than 1993. Ameren will give you a rebate and you will save a great deal on electricity with a newer Energy Star model.
  • Buy a front load washing machine which uses about 50% of the water and electricity as top load washers. They also require less detergent.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Not only is it healthier, but saves on the electricity required to lift the elevator. Same goes for automatic doors. Use manual doors if that is an option.
  • Bring your own containers for leftovers when dining out.
  • Buy locally produced foods and goods. It helps the local economy and cuts down on transportation emissions.
  • Use native vegetation or landscaping instead of lawns. Saves on law treating chemicals and exhaust from lawn mowers.
  • Install rain barrels to water gardens and landscaping.

As you can see there are many ways that we can lessen the impact on our planet. Many are free. Many will save money in the long (and not so long) run. Please save this article and stick to your fridge. Consider committing to at least three of the above bullet points during September and add an additional one each month thereafter. Every little bit helps to preserve the planet for generations to come.