Ask Eco Ed: The Frigid Weather Makes Our House Cold

Dear Eco-Ed:

It sure got frigid here in a hurry. Some rooms in my home have gotten so cold, we try to avoid them altogether. Our home is older (circa 1928), so it’s tough to know where to begin. Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated.
– Uncomfortable in Ridgewood

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Blowing all of your leaves on the road? Eco Ed provides the solution

Dear Eco-Ed:

I’ve been blowing all of my leaves in the road, as have been all of my neighbors. Is there a better way to dispose of them? I’ve heard that the leaves can provide nutrients to my yard, but I don’t want to leave them in my yard. They make such a mess.

– Getting Rid of Leaves in Ridgewood

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Do I have to pay for the damages to sidewalks caused by trees? Are there guidelines?

Dear Eco Ed:

Village employees are telling me that the sidewalks on my street need to be repaired, at my expense, because the tree roots have shifted them over the years. I love the trees on our block, but why do I have to pay for it? Also, won’t this kill the roots, or make the trees more susceptible to falling in future storms? Does the Village have anyone who sets guidelines or provides information on trees in our neighborhoods?

– Love My Trees in Ridgewood

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Ask Eco Ed: Icicles hanging on the roof. Is this caused by losing heat?

Dear Eco-Ed:

I have huge icicles that form on my gutters every year.  When they freeze up, it causes water to back up into my attic and walls, which is damaging my plaster walls and causing mold in my attic.  I have been told that this has to do with losing heat.  It doesn’t make sense to me, but I thought I’d check with you.

– Icing in Ridgewood

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Saving Money and Keeping Your Home Warm this Winter

Find your feet cold, feeling drafts around your home, or think your heating bill is too high? You are not alone. The “Ridgewood Patch” recently published a popular yearly post by Eco Ed about solving these house-warming problems.

Prepare your home for the winter. Take simple steps to save money and be more comfortable.

Prepare your home for the winter. Take simple steps to save money and be more comfortable.

Read the full article “Saving Energy and Making Your Home More Comfortable for the Winter

This article will provide you with the…

  1. First steps to reduce your heating bill
  2. Financial benefits of having a home energy audit
  3. Typical problem areas of a house
  4. Typical areas that lack insulation in a house
  5. Low-cost, easy solutions

Get your home ready for the winter. Read the full article “Saving Energy and Making Your Home More Comfortable for the Winter

Ask Eco Ed: How can we adopt sustainable practices to kick off the school year?

Eco Ed responds to a mother’s question on how to become more sustainable to kick-off the school year. Learn how to keep your young students healthy, travel efficiently, what products to buy, and other back-to-school tips.

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Ask Eco Ed: Is there a way to make a pool eco-friendly?

Dear Eco-Ed:

These past few weeks have been so hot, we are discussing installing an in-ground pool in our yard. I know that a pool can be quite an energy hog. Is there a way to make a pool eco-friendly? We stopped going to the municipal pool years ago, as there were always goose droppings in and around the area.
– Hot as Heck in Ridgewood

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Ask Eco Ed Column: How Do I Keep My Home Comfortable and Energy Prices Down?

Dear Eco-Ed:

It sure has heated up quickly.  I live in an older home, built in the 1930’s.  I swear it is hotter than in past years, and it’s only early June.  Our electric bills were very high last summer, as the air conditioner was running constantly.  These past couple of weeks it has been running, but doesn’t seem to get our home comfortable.  What do you recommend?

– Sweltering in Ridgewood

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Mark Your Calendars: April 20th – Earth Day in Ridgewood

Dear Eco-Ed:

Ridgewood is having its Earth Day celebration in Van Neste Square on Saturday, April 20th this year.  I want to get involved, and learn about how I can do more to teach my children about the environment and global warming.  Any advice?

– Enjoying Spring in Ridgewood

Dear Enjoying Spring:

You have already pinpointed the first thing you can do to take a step in that direction.  Ridgewood’s Earth Day event will be a fun and informative event in the park.

You will be able to see electric cars, and hear about how they can lessen your carbon footprint.  You can learn about home energy efficiency, and reducing energy used while saving money in your home.  You will find information about trees, gardening, recycling, clean water, healthy foods, and the list goes on and on.

Do One Thing

One of the continuing themes this year, is the Do One Thing mantra.  We are encouraging everyone to make a pledge to Do One Thing, which is “Earth-Friendly,” and together, we can all have a tremendous impact.  What can you do to be more Earth-Friendly?  Remember that no step is too small, so choose something that you enjoy, will make you healthier, reduces energy or pollution, or otherwise has positive impacts on the environment.

Earth Day Actions

  1. Drive less to reduce the amount of gas you use, and pollution you make.  Walking into town instead of driving, or riding a bicycle has the added benefit of getting you in better shape physically.  You may be surprised at how your energy levels increase when become more physically active.
  2. Choosing to eat less meat as raising beef has an extremely high carbon footprint.   Even enjoying a vegetarian meal once in a while is a step in the right direction, and you may enjoy the new epicurean experience!
  3. Save energy at home.  I always recommend starting with an energy audit, so you can understand where you are using and wasting energy.  Once this is accomplished, you can then prioritize the steps to take to reduce that energy use.  The simplest steps which everyone can do, are to turn off lights when not in the room, and replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED ones.  Look for Energy Star appliances.  The home energy audit is the first step towards getting rebates and incentives from New Jersey of up to $5000 per home, and interest-free loans to help make it easy for homeowners to reduce their energy use!
  4. Shop locally.  This supports local businesses, and reduces the amount of travel to stores.  We also have a wonderful Farmer’s Market right here in Ridgewood, which has excellent locally-grown produce.
  5. Plant a tree.  You can do this in your yard, or in a park on town property (with proper permission).  This simple step has many benefits, including leaving a legacy that could still be growing in 100 years!

The additional benefit of most of these activities is that they also save you money, and give you the satisfaction of making the planet a better place for future generations.  Be sure to enjoy your pledge.  What I have found is that your first step will be fulfilling, and you never know where it leads.  The journey is always the fun part!

Ask Eco Ed Column: How do you prepare your garden for spring?

Dear Eco-Ed:
Hopefully spring will be here soon, as I am sick of winter. Cannot wait to get working on my garden. Do you have any advice for gardeners, on things to focus on which might make my yard more environmentally sound?
– Greening My Yard in Ridgewood

Dear Greening My Yard,
There are a many things that you can focus on to make your yard more environmentally sound. Many of them are rewarding, and make your yard more enjoyable. My yard is even like a sanctuary, where I can go outside to read, take calls for work, enjoy wildlife (yes, even here in Ridgewood!), and even watch movies on my re-purposed billboard which is now a movie screen.

  1. Flowerbeds surrounded by wood chips help conserve water while adding beauty to the garden.

    Flowerbeds surrounded by wood chips help conserve water while adding beauty to the garden.

    First is to reduce your lawn or grass coverage. Lawns take much time and effort, use much water, chemicals, and much fertilizer. Ever see those little warning signs after a lawn is chemically treated? Yet our pets and kids play on them and are exposed to these chemicals. Some solutions are to plant ground covers. These come in many forms, from less than an inch high to plants that grow up to a foot high. They can be flowering, provide additional color, and be relatively low maintenance.

  2. Planting flowerbeds or vegetable gardens can also add some variety to a yard to break up the green expanse. The colors, textures and edible options are endless! This also keeps your yard interesting throughout spring and summer. When there is always something new to see, it makes enjoying your yard something to look forward to! There is also a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction to seeing these progress over the summer months.
  3. You can grow plants that attract the kind of things you want in your yard. Whether you like birds, bees, hummingbirds, bunnies, etc, you can cultivate plants that attract them. One of my quests is to attract hummingbirds. I hadn’t seen them in this area, but I have been told that “if you build it, they will come.” By the end of the season last year, I saw my first hummingbirds in my yard! Or on the other hand, if there are animals that you do not want, you can plant species that deter those animals, such as deer.
  4. Section of a part of your yard and begin composting.

    Section of a part of your yard and begin composting.

    Start a Composting Bin or Composting Area. Composting is nature’s way of breaking down organic matter into soil nutrients. It reduces solid waste, provides fertilizer and soil amendment that helps your plants grow better, and it is easy to do! Why use chemical fertilizers when you could do it nature’s way? All leaves, grass clippings, and some kitchen scraps are perfect supplies for composting. As a general rule of thumb, it is very desirable to limit the chemicals and fertilizers that you bring on to your property. While you may want to amend your soil and provide specific fertilizers in certain situations, limiting their use is desirable.

  5. Be aware of water – it is a precious resource. It should be protected and you can easily go towards plants that are drought-tolerant and do not require much water in times of little rain. To capture and re-use water for your plants, you can install rain barrels off of downspouts. To reduce storm water runoff, you can build a rain garden or increase the permeable surfaces in your yard, so that water can percolate back into the ground, into our aquifers that provide our municipal water.
  6. Repurpose items are yard decorations. This one may seem odd, but actually can be a lot of fun. You can get really creative with arts and crafts, or use non-traditional items in a fun and classy way that can add interesting points of interest to your yard. Whether it’s an old metal bed frame that can be used as a trellis for climbing vines, making planters from other containers, or old windows or frames for focal points, you can find another life for old materials.
  7. If you do not tend your yard personally, you may want to find a landscaper who shares your concern for the environment. They typically take the easy path, use hazardous chemicals and fertilizers, and may not provide the creativity you desire. If you find one who shares your passion, they can be wonderful at implementing your desires.