Archive | September, 2013

Robert Kennedy Jr. encourages renewable energy development

Robert-Kennedy-Jr.-concert-climate-2013Solar energy installations are surging in the U.S., increasing by 15 percent in the second quarter of 2013. As prices for solar panels continue to fall, more businesses and individuals are turning to it as an important source of reliable energy.

At the Concert for the Climate at Kaw Point in Kansas City, Kan., last Saturday, Robert Kennedy Jr. spoke to a crowd of 200 about using this momentum to increase the nation’s capacity to collect and transmit our “local” energy. He advocates building more wind farms, photovoltaic power stations and infrastructure to transmit power across distances. He also supports standardizing net metering, which allows those with solar energy to spare to sell it back to power companies.

The use of solar energy is on the rise in the Kansas City area, too. Is your city doing everything it can to smooth the path to renewable energy? Solar Ready KC has developed Best Management Practices to streamline the permitting process for installing solar panels.

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Win a home energy makeover

0910-02-EWKC-MakeoverDo you think you pay too much on your energy bills? Do you  struggle to stay comfortable in your home? Do you avoid certain rooms in the  summer or winter? If so, enter to win a home energy makeover worth thousands of  dollars.
The Metropolitan Energy  Center (MEC) has teamed up with KMBC/KCWE to offer  homeowners in both Missouri and Kansas a chance to upgrade their home energy  systems for free. Anyone is eligible to enter. Winners will be randomly  selected. Click this link now to enter the drawing, which concludes Sept. 30. Enter “ENERGYKC’ in the keyword field. You can also enter by texting “ENERGYKC” to 57436.

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Walk to school safely

children in crosswalkInternational Walk to School Day — a day that thousands of schools across America celebrate — is just a couple weeks away on Oct. 9. By encouraging your child to walk or bike to school, you promote good health through exercise, help relieve traffic congestion and decrease air pollution. Walking to school also builds a sense of community.

Before children walk to school, ensure they:

  • Are ready to walk alone. Although there are no laws stating at what age a child should be allowed to walk to school, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises that some children are ready to cross a street alone by age 10. The decision to allow a child to walk or bike to school should also depend on the abilities of the child, the potential routes and the weather.
  • Know pedestrian safety. The Federal Highway Administration’s Pedestrian Safer Journey offers free videos, quizzes and resources targeted toward children ages five to 18. Children learn how to cross the street, be seen and avoid distractions.
  • Have walking buddies. A group of children walking together can be more visible to a motorist than one child alone. Buddies also make the trip to and from school more fun. Be sure to talk to the group about the risks of horseplay near traffic.
  • Take the safest route. Choose a route with sidewalks if you can, and one that crosses very few, if any, busy streets. Avoid construction, even if this will result in a longer walk. Always accompany a child on the first walk of a new route.

International Walk to School Day in Kansas City helps families, students and communities share in the benefits of walking to school. Some walk to increase interaction with friends, classmates and other parents, while others focus on the benefits of increased physical activity, environmental air quality, and safety for pedestrians.

If you would like more information on this event or on how to organize a year-round walking program at your school, contact Aaron Bartlett at 816-701-8238 or

photo credit: jeweledlion via photopin cc

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Household Hazardous Waste – where does it go?

Have you ever wondered what happens to the material you drop off at the Kansas City Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) facility or at a mobile collection event? Depending on the material, it may be used as fuel, treated and used as an ingredient in a new product, or filtered or cleaned to make it usable again. In total, about 90–95 percent of the material that comes through the regional HHW program is recycled or recovered as waste-to-energy.

For example:
hazardous waste icons

  • Good-quality latex paint is processed, filtered and sold back to the public. Latex paint that can’t be reused is sent offsite to a waste-to-energy plant.
  • Oil-based paints, flammable liquids and aerosols are sent to a plant in Arkansas where they are turned into an alternative fuel for use in cement kilns. The propellants from aerosols are recaptured and the metal from the cans is recycled.
  • Antifreeze is recovered locally and goes through a coolant distillation process with a 97 percent recovery rate for reuse.
  • Used oil is burned in the HHW facility’s used-oil furnace for heat, sent to Habitat Restore for use in its used-oil furnace, or sent to an approved local oil recycler.
  • Fluorescent bulbs — including CFLs — are sent to a facility for recycling. The mercury is recovered and the glass and metal are recycled.
  • All batteries are recycled. Heavy metals and casings are recovered and hydroxide compounds are burned off. The materials produced are used to make new batteries, metal alloys and corrosion-resistant coatings.
  • Lead acid batteries are recycled. The lead is recovered to 99 percent purity, the sulfuric acid is neutralized and discharged under permit, and the plastics are recycled into new battery casings.
  • Acids, caustics, pesticides, oxidizers and flammable solids are sent to a hazardous waste incinerator where they are treated in a furnace at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. .
  • Small propane cylinders are sent to a facility where the propane is reclaimed and the metal is recycled.
  • Metal paint cans are sent to a local metal recycler; empty plastic cans and bottles are sent to landfills; empty cans from flammable liquids are sent to landfills; and cardboard boxes from drop-offs are returned to the customers for them to recycle.

There are two more mobile events this season, but permanent HHW collection facilities are open year-round.

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We waste HOW much energy?

bigstock-Rows-Of-Electrical-Towers-471522-400pxEveryone knows the U.S. uses a lot of energy, but did you know that we waste even more? A new study released by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory shows that the U.S. uses just 39 percent of all the energy it generates, wasting the rest.

Could smart grids help solve the problem? Read more in this blog post from, which features KCP&L’s SmartGrid Demonstration project.

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Region saves nearly one million miles of driving

GCC-graphic_share-300x112The 2013 Green Commute Challenge ended a couple weeks ago, and we are so impressed by the results! In just 13 weeks, drivers from around the region saved 999,151 miles — 200,000 more miles than we saved last year. Way to go, KC metro!

Some other big numbers from this year’s challenge:

  • 27 teams
  • 835 participants
  • 963,924 pounds of emissions kept out of the air
  • $209,822 of driving expenses saved

For more details about this year’s challenge, check out the MARC Transportation Matters blog.

Keep your eye out for the 2014 challenge on the RideShare Facebook page. Maybe next year you can help us hit that million-mile mark!

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Save money and our air by carpooling

carpool signCarpooling is a great way to save money, make new friends and reduce your contribution to air pollution. Sharing the ride could save commuters $1,000 a year in gas, maintenance and depreciation costs, yet 83 percent of Kansas City commuters still drive alone. That’s a lot of missed opportunities for savings and cleaner air.

Try these tips to fill those empty seats:

  • Find carpool matches. Modern technology makes it easy to find matches. Simply sign up for RideShare Connection to find others interested in carpooling who have similar commutes to yours. Find co-worker carpoolers by sending out an e-mail or posting a notice in the lunchroom.
  • Make a schedule. Start slow. Even carpooling once a week can provide you with significant savings. Decide how often you would like to carpool and which days make sense, then schedule meeting and pickup times and locations for both ends of the commute. Choose a date to start and don’t forget to exchange phone numbers.
  • Charge non-drivers. Some carpoolers may not have a vehicle or may not wish to take a turn as driver. You can use AAA’s cost of driving rates — divided by the number of carpoolers — to establish fees for non-drivers.
  • Learn simple carpool etiquette. Communicate with your fellow carpoolers and let them know if you’re running late. Always drive safely, and keep your vehicle clean and in good condition. Respect any restrictions the carpool has agreed on, and above all, be flexible.
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Don’t trash that dented can

coke can crushed

Researchers at Boston University and University of Alberta found that people are more likely to toss a recyclable item in the trash if the item is imperfect or damaged. Participants in the study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research,  normally recycled soda cans 80 percent of the time, but that rate dropped to just 20 percent if the cans were pre-crushed or dented.

The researchers also saw a similar outcome with paper. Participants would likely recycle full pieces of paper but would throw out scraps. The recycling rates for paper scraps went up when study participants were asked to write down what the paper scrap could be used for.

Study researcher Jennifer Argo says that people are psychologically hard-wired to believe that products that are damaged or that aren’t whole — such as small or ripped paper or dented cans — are useless, which leads us to trash them rather than recycle them. She and her colleagues noted that when the scraps were viewed as useful again — such as for writing — the recycle rate jumped back to 80 percent.

So next time you go to throw something out, look beyond the dent in the can or the rip in the paper and see its full recycling potential.

You can learn more about recycling in the Kansas City metro region at RecycleSpot.

photo credit: quinn.anya via photopin cc.

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Are your home devices wasting energy?


The average American household owns 25 electronic devices which can make up 10 to 15 percent of a home’s total energy use. Fortunately, a few simple steps can greatly reduce the amount of energy your devices consume. By decreasing this energy use, you will lower your energy bill and contribute to the region’s efforts of improving air quality.

Reduce your electronic energy use though these five steps:

  • Adjust your computer settings. You could save up to $50 a year by turning on your computers’ power management settings — such as sleep mode — to lower the computer’s power consumption between uses.
  • Adjust your TV settings. Reduce your TV’s energy use by as much as 5 to 20 percent by dimming the screen’s brightness. TVs are set bright for showroom floors, but that level may be inappropriate for your living room.
  • Unplug devices. Even when off, most devices still draw energy when plugged in — up to 75 percent of their total energy use. For instance, a plugged-in cell phone charger still draws energy when it’s not connected to a phone.
  • Use a power strip with an on/off switch. You can easily turn off multiple devices at once by plugging them in to a power strip. Unlike a device plugged directly in to the wall, a power strip draws no energy from the outlet when it’s turned off. Plug in the strip to a light-switch-controlled outlet for easy switching.
  • Purchase efficient devices. When comparing electronic products, learn about the energy uses. For example, a plasma TV will use nearly six times the amount of energy as an LCD TV, and a laptop will use one-third of the energy that a desktop computer uses.
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