Blog Transition

Up to this point, the Trail Town Outreach Corps has been maintaining the GAP SBN blog both here on wordpress, and on our website at www.gapsbn.com.  However, we believe it will be less complicated to maintain one single blog.  As a result, we will be discontinuing this wordpress blog.

In order to keep up to date with GAP SBN sustainability tips & suggestions, head over to http://www.trailtowns.org/sbn/blog.aspx.  It’s the same great sustainable business topics, in a different format!  Don’t worry, you can still read all of your favorite previous posts.

You can also subscribe to be alerted whenever we post a new blog.  We hope this makes your GAP SBN blog reading easier!  As always, remember to be Green on the GAP!

-Trail Town Outreach Corps

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The Benefits of a Home Energy Audit

To homeowners, “home energy audit” may not be the most agreeable sounding term.  This is likely the result of the word “audit” being closely associated with the IRS and tax audits.  However, a home energy audit can be very beneficial for both you, and for the environment.  A home energy audit (also sometimes known as a home energy assessment, checkup, or evaluation) is the first step in assessing how much energy your home consumes, and in evaluating what measures you can take to make your home more efficient.  Continue reading

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Blue Collar Solar

Solar energy is thought of as an industrial size production industry, inaccessible to the average American. Buying wholesale, using rebates, and competition within the industry has created more opportunities for the U.S. population than ever before.  Many companies are saying that they’ll meet or beat their competitors, and now that we’re competing against China in this market, they have to go even lower. This is causing many companies to go out of business, but on the upside it’s currently a buyer’s market.

“The term SREC stands for Solar Renewable Energy Credit and is a tradable credit that represents all the clean energy benefits of electricity generated from a solar electric system. Each time a solar electric system generates 1000kWh (1MWh) of electricity, an SREC is issued which can then be sold or traded separately from the power.

SRECs are purchased by electrical utilities or energy suppliers who need to meet a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The value of SRECs are quantified by three major factors”:

1.  State RPS requirements

2.  Value of the state’s Solar Alternative Compliance Payment (ACP)

3.  Supply and demand of SRECs in that specific state

http://www.solsystemscompany.com/srec

“A couple weeks ago, half of Germany was run on solar power. The renewable energy sector is one of the few to have added jobs even through the recession. Germany is about as sunny as London, so if the U.S. were to implement it as much as them, it would be far more effective. We’re four times as big, and twice as capable regarding sun, so that’s creating an estimated 2.5 million jobs being created.

Solar is a 6 billion dollar industry with a 300% growth in the past four years.”  (http://www.slideshare.net/risoprinter/power-consumption-the-hidden-costs-of-copiers-and-printers).

To run the average house on solar would cost around $16,000 initially, since all electronics average 600 watts on average x 24 hrs + 14,400 watts per day. You can reduce this by up to six percent when using more energy efficient products like a laptop instead of monitor, fluorescent lights instead of incandescent, or a small television and refrigerator. “The thing to remember, however, is that 100 watts per hour purchased from the power grid would only cost about 24 cents a day right now, or $91 a year. That’s why you don’t see many solar houses unless they are in very remote locations. When it only costs about $100 a year to purchase power from the grid, it is hard to justify spending thousands of dollars on a solar system. http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/home/question418.htm

This means that for those who can’t afford this large down-payment, can still support this cause by paying for their electric bill with solar power, they just purchase the renewable energy credits as listed above. However if you have a small business that can meet these needs, you can not only save on your own energy bill, but profit by selling your renewable energy credits to others.

The newly installed solar array at Savage River Lodge in Cumberland, MD, a GAP SBN member, was made possible largely from state and federal assistance.

“Grants from both agencies help to offset the capitol investment needed to help small businesses with endeavors such as these.” The SRL electric usage is 261,000 KWH per year, (main lodge: 130,000 KWH)=Total spent $33,400 per year. Solar energy produced is 84,672 KWH per year, with 84 SREC credits=$44,600 total earned. Therefore, they actually profit $11,200 every year by outsourcing their extra energy to those who don’t have the means to create solar energy themselves. Although the thought of switching to solar energy may seem intimidating, it is quite plausible by either purchasing solar energy credits, or funding a solar arrangement with state and federal grants. Here are some beneficial websites to get started:

www.builditsolar.com/References/energyincentivesrs.htm

www.ecobusinesslinks.com/financial_incentives_solar_energy_panels

www.nrel.gov/docs/fy99osti/26242.pdf

www.yoursolarpowerhome.com/index-grant.html

www.epa.gov/greenbuilding/tools/funding.htm

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Let The Light In

Who wants to be left in the dark? Good lighting ensures that both customers and employees feel comfortable in your business. Three common lighting strategies that can save money and reduce electricity use are daylighting, task lighting, timers and motion sensors.

Daylighting:  South facing windows are usually considered the best for natural light. In the summer, these windows bring in lower, indirect sunlight and more direct sunlight in the winter.  Consider painting the walls and ceiling a lighter color to allow light to bounce around in the space. Arrange workspaces or customer seating to take advantage of daylighting.

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The Business of Bees

Considering planting a garden to help beautify your business front?  Try planting native wildflower or plant species that will draw in honey bees!  By planting varieties that are attractive to bees, you can help your garden thrive while benefiting the insect population in your region.  According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, since 2006 about one-third of the honey bee population in the US has disappeared due to what scientists today refer to as ‘colony collapse disorder.’   This startling loss of honey bees has been linked to numerous causes ranging from pesticides to parasites.  However, scientists have yet to narrow down the exact reason(s) causing honey bees to die.  The most helpful thing that we, as community members can do is to encourage the repopulation of honey bees is by carefully selecting garden varieties that are irresistible to these buzzy insects! Continue reading

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Creative Candle Holders

Looking to attract tourists to your business during the summer trail season?  Installing decorative lighting at your property is one way to make your business visually appealing to customers.  Instead of throwing old terra cotta pots in the trash, consider reusing them and giving them a second life!  Building simple light holders with terra cotta pots and votive candles is a great way to create a charming and pleasant environment through the reuse of materials.  Continue reading

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Going Digital

The small things matter when impacting time, cost, and environment, when it comes to workplace lifestyle reconfigurations. There are enough people for small things to escalate, not only from leading by example, but from an actual tangible results accumulating by small groups working together. Continue reading

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