Thursday, November 30, 2017

Are LEDs a Bright Idea?

As we settle into winter, the temperatures begin to drop, the sun starts setting earlier and our days get shorter and shorter. With the decrease in sunlight, we begin to rely more and more on our lightbulbs to make up for the shortened days and lack of natural light. LED bulbs are a great way to keep energy costs down and increase the efficiency of your home or business, making it more environmentally friendly. The Dept. of Energy (DOE) has conducted research into solid state lighting or SSL, which includes Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) and Organic Light Emitting Diodes or (OLEDs). According to the research done by the Dept. of Energy, “switching to SSL could reduce national lighting energy by 75% in 2035”.

LEDs or Light Emitting Diodes are the most efficient light bulb available on the market today. Using a semiconductor to convert electricity into light, they are able to use 95% of the energy they use to create light, wasting only 5%. This process decreases energy draw by around 80% when compared to incandescent light bulbs. Very little heat is lost from LEDs in comparison to incandescent bulbs, which can lose 90% of their energy as heat. The LED bulbs can actually benefit from cooler temperatures as well; the DOE found that they were 5% more efficient at -5 degrees Celsius than 25 degrees Celsius.  Not only are LEDs better in terms of efficiency, but they last much longer than other light bulbs.Depending on the LED bulb, a good quality one will last 25,000 hours or more.

If you have concerns regarding the variety, size, color or light quality, not to worry!! LEDs are one of the most compact lighting options available on the market, they are extremely durable, come in a number of colors and are very adaptable lighting options. The market is expanding as more and more people are making the switch to LEDs.

Another benefit of these beautiful bulbs is that, unlike compact florescent lights, LEDs do not contain any   mercury and do not need to be disposed of as hazardous waste. Though florescent lights are more efficient than the standard incandescent bulbs, they contain small amounts of mercury, less than 5 milligrams generally. However, even this tiny amount of mercury can poison thousands of gallons of water or pose a threat to people that come into contact with it. Despite the energy savings that the   florescent bulbs presented, their disposal and the mercury they contained created another issue. The bulbs must be recycled at a facility that is qualified to handle florescent bulbs, which are limited. These bulbs should not be thrown out in the trash due to the mercury they contain. Mercury does not decompose or dissipate, it remains in the environment.

Generally, the upfront cost of LED bulbs is a little higher the florescent or incandescent; however, you will be saving money as they last far longer and are much more energy efficient. Consider LED bulbs a good investment for the winter, and one that will continue to benefit you for years to come. 


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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Leaf them be

Now that the colors are changing and those leaves are falling, many people are beginning the fall chore of raking their leaves, the good news is that this isn’t necessary! Skip the raking and bagging and enjoy a game of football or go for a hike instead. The leaves that you pack up and leave curbside to go to landfills are filling up space in the landfills and contributing to the production and release of methane, a formidable greenhouse gas.

According to the EPA landfills accounted for 18% of the total methane emissions in the United States and globally more than 60% of methane emissions are due to human activity. Methane only makes up about 0.00017% of our atmosphere, which may make methane look less important than it really is to us. The problem we face is how powerful methane is, pound for pound the impact of methane is 25-28 times greater than Carbon Dioxide over a 100 year period (EPA), this makes Methane the 2nd most important greenhouse gas behind Carbon Dioxide. We have made a difference and we can continue to make a positive impact on our methane emissions, the lifetime of methane is much shorter than that of Carbon Dioxide a primary greenhouse gas. This shorter lifespan of atmospheric methane means that it can be removed from the atmosphere via chemical reactions in 9-12 years, this means that we can reduce the amount of methane in our atmosphere.

When we place organic materials into our landfills they undergo anaerobic decomposition, meaning they are not exposed to oxygen while they decompose and thus produce methane. When composting, our organic material experiences aerobic decomposition, breaking down in the presence of oxygen. Because of this access to oxygen, carbon dioxide (carbon from the organic material and oxygen from the air) is produced rather than methane. Now this is still a greenhouse gas, but composting done correctly has produces a negligible amount of greenhouse gasses when compared to anaerobic decomposition that takes place in landfills. Plus we can reap many benefits from our compost that we do not see when we take our leaves curbside for the landfills.

Once your compost is ready, it can be added to your soil and gardens as a replacement for chemical fertilizers. Compost is rich in carbon and when distributed back into the soil, it not only provides valuable organic material to your dirt but it also helps to sequester carbon and create what is called a “sink” an area that takes in or absorbs carbon from the atmosphere. If that is not enough of a reason to stop throwing your leaves away and start mulching or composting, they can also help to reduce your water bill! With the added organic matter from those leaves/compost, happily absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in your soil, they are also increasing the soils capacity to hold and store water, reducing the need or the frequency with which you have to water or irrigate your soil. It helps to reduce soil compaction, making for wonderfully workable soils. The healthier the soil, the less the risk of erosion as well, which will in turn help to reduce the amount of sediments in our storm water runoff, improving the water quality.

If you have a new found love of composting or want to try it out this fall, our Urban Ag. program has some great information for how to get started with composting in an urban setting. Contact Sandy Letzing at or call into the office at 509-436-1601 for more information or with questions regarding composting.


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Monday, November 6, 2017

New Americorps Member

Hello!! My name is Justine Bula and I am the new Americorps Intern here at Cascadia Conservation. I have moved out to Wenatchee for this position from Baraboo Wisconsin. I completed my undergraduate degrees in Geography and Spanish with minors in Environmental & International Studies at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. My interest in the natural world and the balance between environmental and humanitarian work are what brought me to Americorps and are what inspired my undergraduate degrees. I have a background in agriculture, growing up and helping to run our diversified family farm back in Baraboo, WI. Travel is another passion of mine, and a part of the reason why I have chosen to come to the beautiful Chelan County to volunteer for the year. There is so much to see, experience, and learn about the world and I am very excited to be able to join Cascadia Conservation District and start my next adventure here in Wenatchee.