Category Archives: Environmental Tips

Make Room for Spring

While we’ve been piling up the books and stuff during the winter months, as Spring approaches start making piles to de-clutter your home.  Organize your thoughts by thinking about what to keep, donate, recycle and repair with the smallest pile being things to toss.

Start with a pile of reusable items, then make that phone call to get a pick up or put that stuff in your vehicle.  Detour a routine travel route to pass your favorite donation center and make that drop off.

While spring may mean a fresh start, it doesn’t have to mean new stuff. If it’s not broken, why replace it?  If you need to replace, replace with a quality item that has a long life.  Spending a little more up front, sometimes means spending less later, and creating less waste for our landfills.

Cheap Ways to Stay Warm and Save Energy

Here’s a few ideas on how to be more comfortable in winter by reducing energy consumption and taking care of your well-being.

  • First, stay active and social, and when you do go out, layer up with thin layers first.
  • Be good to yourself by eating well.  Bake and cook, then leave the oven door open.
  • Enjoy a healthy hot drink like herbal teas or hot chocolates.
  • Keep all doors closed to unused rooms, then light candles and snuggle up.
  • Put down rugs and wear slippers or moccasins.
  • Add Humidity.  Use a humidifier, or simply leave the door open when you shower.
  • Let the sun in during the day, and cover drafty windows at night.
  • And, a new old idea that’s making a comeback, heat a water bottle to warm the foot of your bed before going to sleep.

Finally, start warm, and you will tend to stay warm.  Happy Winter!

This tip brought to you by the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County.

Putting Paper in Perspective

During an average year, an American uses approximately 2,200 napkins—around six each day. If everyone in the U.S. used one less napkin a day, more than a billion pounds of napkins could be saved from landfills each year. Better yet, use cloth napkins!

American businesses throw away 21 million tons of paper every year, equal to 175 pounds per office worker. For a quick and easy way to halve this, set your printer’s default option to print double-sided (duplex printing). And when you’re finished with your documents, don’t forget to take them to the recycling bin.

You can reuse gift bags, bows and event paper, but you can also make something unique by using old maps, cloth or even newspaper. Flip a paper grocery bag inside out and give your child stamps or markers to create their own wrapping paper that’s environmentally friendly and extra special for the recipient.

Avoid Unnecessary Engine Idling

Turn off your vehicle engine when parked for more than 30 seconds or waiting in lines or for passengers.

WHY? Idling continues to produce air pollution, smog and global warming, besides being harmful to health. It is more gas-efficient to turn off most warmed-up vehicles than to idle for more than 30 seconds.

Idling exhaust is especially hazardous to children around schools, as parents and buses wait for kids. Carbon monoxide reduces the ability of blood to bring oxygen to body cells and tissues. Children’s asthma symptoms increase as a result of car exhaust.

HOW? A brief warm-up period upon starting a cold car may be necessary, (1-2 mins.) but idling at every waiting location is not. To reduce air quality and health problems, it is recommended that you idle your vehicle no longer than 30 seconds — not only around schools, but everywhere you drive. For more information on cars and buses, see EPA’s anti-idling Web site.

Peace – in honor of MLK

For Dr. King, basic civil rights went well past freedom, equality, and the end of racial segregation. He was particularly adamant about environmental justice – that everyone has the right to clean air, water, and soil, as well as a right to live in healthy and nurturing natural environments. He believed that urban planning, parks and recreation, schools and education, and democratic decision making are all important civil rights issues. In essence, fair treatment of a person’s environment is tantamount to fair and equal treatment of that person. One cannot be true without the other.
This idea is universal, that all things are equal and important. Take this quote by the great naturalist John Muir. “ When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

“You go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning, and that’s poured into your cup by a South American . . . or maybe you’re desirous of having cocoa for breakfast, and that’s poured into your cup by a West African. And then you reach over for your toast, and that’s given to you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world.” –
Dr. Martin Luther King – 1967 Christmas sermon on peace.
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Watch That Screen!

Regardless of whether it is a desktop, laptop, or tablet, one of the biggest energy expenditures is the screen. It is a very costly proposition to keep that screen brightly lit for an extended period of time. You will quickly burn through your battery charge by turning the brightness up even a stop or two. Turning it all the way up will have you seeking an outlet every couple of hours.

Desktops are even bigger culprits. We just don’t consider them a problem because there is no battery to discharge. There are two things that will greatly improve your energy profile as it relates to monitors:

  1. Reduce the brightness to the lowest level you can comfortably read the screen. Your eyes will quickly adjust.
  2. Set the energy saving preferences to turn off the display when dormant for the shortest possible time.

Do the same for your mobile devices as well. You might just find your battery life doubled.


Give Clothing a Second Chance

Give Clothing a Second Chance

At the change of the seasons, it’s a good time to assess what you need and what might be useful for someone else.   Go through your home to gather clothes and blankets that you can spare and donate them to your local shelter.  Just think how many people your clothes and blankets can help keep safe and warm!

Americans discard an average of 68 pounds of clothes every year, so by donating your clothing, blankets, bedding, towels and other textiles to charity, you can give them a second use before they head to the landfill.  Choose a charity that is close to your heart, or visit the Environmental Defenders monthly drive.  USAgain Clothes Collection System has a truck at each Defenders’ drive to accept any kind of cloth items—clothing, linens, or just plain rags, clean and bagged.  They will also accept shoes as well, tied together by their laces and placed in the bag.

When: Second Saturday of every month, 9am to noon

Woodstock collection:  each EVEN numbered month, at the Soil & Water Conservation District building, 2222 S.  Dean St.

McHenry collection: each ODD numbered months at the Metra Station Parking lot, 4005 Main Street in McHenry.

Bring Your Own Bag!

B.Y.O. Bag

Bring your own cloth or fabric bags when you shop!


If you grocery shop once a week, in five years you’ll have kept about 250 to 1,000 grocery bags out of our landfills. When one ton of plastic bags is reused or recycled, the energy equivalent of 11 barrels of oil is saved! By bringing your own bag to the grocery store, you can save thousands of plastic bags from ending up in landfills, or even worse in ecosystems where they can harm living creatures.

Plastic bags, derived from oil and natural gas, use up precious resources unnecessarily.  Plastic bags have a lifetime of 500 to 1,000 years and in the process can break down into minute pieces that end up polluting our oceans and entering our food stream through fish.  If you REDUCE the use of plastic bags, you are directly helping our environment and protecting our planet.Join the Village of Algonquin in partnership with the BYOBag Committee of the  Environmental Defenders of McHenry County to promote a conservation effort to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags. 

Yes, It’s Still Hot Out –  An A/C Tip to Reduce Costs and Use

Reduce electricity demand on the hottest days of the year by joining ComEd’s Smart Ideas® Central Air Conditioning Cycling. By enrolling you can help ComEd better manage energy resources, help the environment, and earn credits on your summer electric bill.

With the AC Cycling program, ComEd sends a wireless signal to a switch that they install on the side of your home or directly on the air conditioner’s compressor panel. The switch allows ComEd to turn your compressor off and on so it uses less power safely on the hottest days of the year. Your fan still stays on to circulate already cooled air and to keep your home comfortable. Cycling is only done when needed, and it may occur only on weekdays and for limited periods of time.  It’s easy to join. If you own your home and have central air conditioning, you can enroll in ComEd’s Central Air Conditioning Cycling.  Be ready now for next year by going to  Look under the Home Savings tab for Rebates and Incentives to get started.  This tip brought to you by the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County.