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Clinton Campaign Isn’t Worried About Trump’s Poll Numbers—Yet

Mother Jones

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Donald Trump has taken a lead in several national polls following the Republican convention, but Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook isn’t sweating it yet—at least not publicly.

Polls from the Los Angeles Times, CNN, and CBS News all have Trump slightly ahead nationally following the RNC. But at a press briefing on the opening morning of the Democratic National Convention, Mook dismissed concerns that his candidate was lagging, pointing out that conventions have always boosted a candidate’s polling numbers in the past. “There’s a clear trend historically in polling that after your convention, you always get a bump,” Mook said. “I would kind of suspend any kind of polling analysis until after our convention.”

Polling guru Nate Silver weighed in over the weekend and said that while Trump’s poll numbers certainly have improved post-convention, “the initial data suggests that a small-to-medium bounce is more likely than a large one.” He added on Twitter that Trump got a typical bounce of 4 percent. Still, Silver’s model on FiveThirtyEight now predicts that Trump would stand a 57.5 percent chance of winning if the election were held today. But like Mook, he notes that Trump’s lead is due to a standard convention bounce, and his more advanced model has the same message for Clinton supporters: Don’t panic just yet.

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Clinton Campaign Isn’t Worried About Trump’s Poll Numbers—Yet

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Conflicts of Interest Abound in State Supreme Courts

Mother Jones

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A new investigation by the Center for Public Integrity reveals troubling conflicts of interest in state supreme courts nationwide. CPI combed through the financial disclosure forms of state supreme court justices in all 50 states and reviewed the states’ disclosure laws for judges. Their findings on both fronts are discouraging.

CPI discovered several instances of justices writing opinions that favored companies they had financial ties to. An Arkansas justice ruled in favor of a company that had been paying his wife a salary of as much as $12,499 for two years. A high court judge in California ruled in favor of Wells Fargo despite owning up to $1 million of the bank’s stock—even as a colleague who owned less stock recused himself. Other justices accepted perks from lawyers —from country club memberships to a $50,000 Italian vacation.

Uncovering such information is exceedingly difficult because most states’ disclosure laws for judges are pretty weak. While federal judges are required to recuse themselves from cases if they or a family member own even a single share of stock in a company involved, state laws are murky and inconsistent. CPI devised a system for grading the state standards for preventing these kinds of conflicts of interest: 43 got a D or lower.

Check out some of CPI’s finds below: Some recent examples of state supreme court justices weighing in on cases involving companies in which they or their spouses owned stock, and a list of the freebies thrown at top judges.

Taking Stock

Justice Jacquelyn Stuart, Alabama

Owned stock in: Regions Financial Corp. Amount not disclosed.

Case: A securities-fraud lawsuit brought by a group of shareholders against the company.

Outcome for company: Favorable

Owned stock in: 3M. Amount not disclosed.

Case: 3M petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a change of venue for a case in which landowners accused the firm of polluting their property with dangerous chemicals.

Outcome for company: Favorable

Justice Kathryn Werdegar, California

Owned stock in: Wells Fargo. Between $100,001 and $1 million.

Case: Denied an appeal to a couple accusing Wells Fargo of predatory lending and unlawful foreclosure.

Outcome for company: Favorable

Justice Warren Silver, Maine

Owned stock in: Idexx Laboratories. About $28,300 held by his wife.

Case: The company was involved in a land dispute between a local quarry operator and the city.

Outcome for company: Favorable

Justice Robert Cordy, Massachusetts

Owned stock in: Bank of America. “Several hundred shares” according to a court spokeswoman.

Case: The bank was accused of unfair and deceptive business practices as a trustee on leased land in Chatham.

Outcome for company: Favorable

Justice Lindsey Miller-Lerman, Nebraska

Owned stock in: Deutsche Bank. Amount not disclosed, but at least $1,000

Case: Disputing the bank’s foreclosure on a home.

Outcome for company: Favorable

Justice Robert Edmunds, North Carolina

Owned stock in: Abbott Laboratories. At least $10,000.

Case: Whether out-of-state lawyers representing a mother whose baby died should have been allowed to try a case against the hospital and Abbott, which made the formula the baby drank.

Outcome for company: Favorable

Owned stock in: Wells Fargo. At least $10,000.

Case: Upheld a lower court’s ruling in a foreclosure case, thus finding that Wells Fargo did not need to present an original note showing their ownership of the mortgage in question.

Outcome for company: Favorable

If it may please the court

Justice Courtney Goodson, Arkansas: In 2011, she accepted a $12,000 Caribbean cruise from attorney W.H. Taylor. In 2012, she accepted a $50,000 Italian vacation from Taylor.

Justice Robert Thomas, Illinois: For the last three years, he reported honorary memberships to two country clubs. He has received “Notre Dame tix” from his friend and personal attorney.

Justices Robert Rucker, Brent Dickson, Steven Davis, Mark Massa, Indiana: In 2012, all four got free tickets to the Indy 500 from the Indiana Motor Speedway.

Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, Louisiana: In 2012, she accepted a $9,466 junket to France from the Louisiana Association of Defense Counsel (LADC) to attend their annual legal education courses.

Justice Greg Guidry, Louisiana: Guidry also took a trip to France sponsored by the LADC. In 2011, the group flew him to Buenos Aires for its annual meeting.

Justice Ron Parraguirre, Nevada: Last year, he received a $250 gift from a registered lobbyist for Barrick Gold. Less than two months later, the Nevada Supreme Court decided to hear a case regarding one of the company’s mines. (It’s still pending.)

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Conflicts of Interest Abound in State Supreme Courts

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Bobby Jindal to axe officials who took on Big Oil

Bobby Jindal to axe officials who took on Big Oil

Gage Skidmore

Lawsuits against Big Oil make Bobby Jindal feel emotions.

We told you last month that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) doesn’t want Big Oil to be forced to spend billions of dollars to repair the marshes that once protected his state from floods.

Now comes news of the extreme steps Jindal is willing to take to ensure that the gas and oil industry, which has paid more than $1 million into his election campaigns, is protected from a lawsuit filed in July by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East.

The flood authority is suing BP, ExxonMobil, and other oil companies in a bid to force them to spend billions restoring shorelines that they tore up while exploring and drilling for gas and oil and building pipelines. Those shorelines had been home to marshes and other coastal ecosystems that naturally buffered the New Orleans area from rising seas and storm surges.

The flood-control officials would like those marshes back, pretty please. But Jindal thinks their lawsuit is an outrageous attack on a wholesome industry that shouldn’t be held accountable for its own actions. He’s moving to kill the lawsuit by reshaping the authority’s 11-person board, axing members who support it. From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Garret Graves, chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, said Friday that Jindal “will not” reappoint Tim Doody, president of the levee authority, and Vice President John Barry. Both Doody and Barry, whose terms officially expired June 30, have faced attacks from the Jindal administration, which opposes the levee authority’s controversial lawsuit demanding that 97 energy firms repair wetlands damage or pay to repair the damage. …

“Barry and Doody will not be reappointed,” Graves said. “In regard to other members of the board, we plan to continue working with them to better understand the implications of the lawsuit.”

The authority was created after Hurricane Katrina to serve as an independent body that would oversee flood protection in the New Orleans area. By axing these two commissioners, Jindal is not only tampering with the authority’s supposed independence — he is promoting deadly flooding in his own state.

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants: this article interesting? Donate now to support our work.Read more: Climate & Energy



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Bobby Jindal to axe officials who took on Big Oil

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10 states to sue Obama admin for dragging feet on climate rules

10 states to sue Obama admin for dragging feet on climate rules

Delay after delay …

While there’s virtually no chance of meaningful climate legislation passing through Congress, there are meaningful climate actions that the Obama administration can take on its own. Two big ones would be regulating carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants and from existing power plants.

But the administration is dragging its feet on both counts. A draft regulation for new plants was proposed more than a year ago, but the EPA missed a deadline this past Saturday for making it final. “EPA is likely to alter the rule in some way in an effort to make sure it can withstand a legal challenge,” The Washington Post reported on Friday, noting that the agency has not set a timetable for its finalization.

As for regulation of old power plants — which spew about one third of U.S. greenhouse gases — an EPA official said last week that the agency intends to propose a standard within 18 months.

Ten states, two major cities, and three big green groups are fed up with the delays. On Wednesday, they gave notice of their intent to sue. From the Los Angeles Times:

The jurisdictions and the environmental groups sent separate letters to the EPA … notif[ying] the regulator of the groups’ plan to sue after 60 days, if the EPA did not expedite the rules. …

The EPA proposed the rule for [new] power plants in March 2012, and under the Clean Air Act, it must issue the final version of the rule within a year of receiving public comments, the New York attorney general’s office said. But the EPA failed to meet that deadline. It has yet to give the final rule to the Office of Management and Budget at the White House, where it could be reviewed for another 120 days and, based on the progress of some other EPA rules, might be delayed indefinitely.

By finalizing the rules, the EPA would partially fulfill commitments it made in a 2011 agreement with New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman and a coalition of states to issue greenhouse gas emission standards for new and existing power plants.

Really, what’s the rush? It’s not like civilization as we know it is under imminent threat. Oh, wait …

Lisa Hymas is senior editor at Grist. You can follow her on





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10 states to sue Obama admin for dragging feet on climate rules

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Washington’s Vanishing Lobbyists Hide Behind the Rules

Mother Jones

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When President Obama took office in 2008, he promised to curb the influence of special interests. Yet his new lobbying rules and a Bush-era law passed in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal appear to have done little to curb lobbying—and may have created new loopholes for influence peddling. Even as the number of lobbyists has decreased, spending on lobbying has gone up, which experts attribute to a growing number of lobbyists operating under the radar.

A recent report by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) found that there were close to 15,000 officially registered lobbyists in 2007; by last year that number had dropped to slightly more than 12,000. In 2007, total spending on lobbying approached $3 billion, and by 2012 it had jumped to around $3.3 billion. “An amazing amount of money continues to go up, even as the number of people lobbying goes down,” says James Thurber, a professor of government at American University who has served on the American Bar Association’s lobbying reform task force. (The report attributed a small decline in lobbying spending in the past two years to a number of factors, including the economy.)

What’s happening here? Monte Ward, the president of the American League of Lobbyists (ALA), estimates that lots of folks are still lobbying; they’re just not telling the government. “With all the restrictions the administration has placed on lobbyists, I think some have decided it’s not worth registering,” he says, adding that they’re doing the same job, but just “getting in under the radar.” Tim LaPira, a political science professor at James Madison University who focuses on lobbying law, says the well-intentioned Bush and Obama policies “actually created a gross disincentive to want to be open and public about what it is you’re doing.”

Reform advocates say lobbyists are weaseling around the definition of lobbying activities. The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 states that if influence peddlers spend less than 20 percent of their time lobbying on the Hill (or in “preparation”), they don’t have to register as lobbyists. LaPira says this is “silly”: “Most doctors I know don’t spend 20 percent of their working hours in the operating room, but that doesn’t mean they’re not surgeons.” William Luneburg, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law who coauthored the American Bar Association’s lobbying manual, agrees. “You can do a hell of a lot of lobbying for somebody when you’re only doing 19 percent of your time for the client,” he says.

A good example of the less-than-20-percent lobbyist is former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who, after nearly 20 years in the House and Senate, went on to serve as a “special policy adviser” to the law firm Alston & Bird. The firm doubled its lobbying income during Daschle’s first year there. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich made hundreds of thousands of dollars not lobbying for Freddie Mac, claiming he was paid $300,000 a year to be a “historian.”

Some lobbyists slide under the threshold by changing how they “interpret” their job duties, says LaPira: “There’s no way of knowing exactly how many minutes of the day any one lobbyist spent on any one thing.” Likely due to these slippery tactics, the CRP report says, almost half of lobbyists who were active in 2011 but not 2012 are still working for the same employer. Of those who changed firms, more than a third moved to employers in similar industries.

“In all likelihood, there are many, many, many, more people in Washington doing policy advocacy, broadly defined, than people doing actual lobbying,” LaPira says. Thurber, who helped Obama craft his lobbying rules, has advocated a more inclusive definition of lobbying, which would lump in folks in the advertising and PR industries, as well as grassroots activists, coalition builders, and think tanks that do advocacy. That would total some 100,000 people, he says. He adds that a more accurate number for the amount spent on lobbying could be up to “three times each year’s reported expenditures.”

Some lobbyists argue that the recent restrictions on them are unwarranted. Wayne Weidie, a senior governmental affairs adviser at the lobbying firm Adams & Reese, told the CRP, “I think some of the restrictions post-Abramoff were just overkill. Congress was just protecting itself from itself. Nobody buys anyone’s soul with a glass of iced tea.” ALA president Ward disagrees. He says he wants “an open and transparent process,” and notes that his organization backs several lobbying reforms, including lowering the 20 percent threshold, getting rid of various exemptions, and requiring ethics training for lobbyists.

Absent these kinds of fixes, the public doesn’t really know what forces are shaping the policies that affect them, says LaPira. “The public should have a right to know who’s working to advocate for their own interest and for interests that they…may not agree with.” Right now, he says, “We don’t really know what’s happening.”

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Washington’s Vanishing Lobbyists Hide Behind the Rules

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Ohio State Senator Leading Review of "Stalinist" Renewable Energy Standards

Mother Jones

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Bill Seitz, a Republican state senator from Ohio, recently told the Wall Street Journal that his state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards are reminiscent of “Joseph Stalin’s five-year plan.”

Seitz, who is also on the board of the shadowy corporate-government allegiance known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), made this charmingly ahistorical claim just a week after inviting the climate-change-denying Heartland Institute to testify against the standard before the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee. He has taken it upon himself to determine whether Ohio should amend or repeal its clean energy law, which requires utilities to institute energy efficiency measures and to draw at least 12.5 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2025.

The Ohio legislature approved its clean energy standard almost unanimously in 2008. Since then, wind and solar companies have created 8,000 new jobs, and efficiency programs have netted rate payers $1 billion in savings, according to the non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists and the Ohio Public Utilities Commission. But in late February, Seitz introduced legislation that aims to overhaul the law.

Seitz maintains that he has launched the review because the current policies were based on the assumption that wind and solar prices would go down faster than they have over the past five years. He says the state has already deployed the “low-hanging fruit” energy-saving measures, and utilities and their industrial customers are reticent to implement the more expensive technologies that might be necessary to reach the goals set in 2008. “Nobody is for more carbon emissions than you need to have, but at the same time the question is, well, what does it cost?” Seitz told Mother Jones in an interview.

The senator’s record and alliances are probably some indication of the direction he’ll take his review process. In 2011, Seitz cosponsored a bill to repeal the renewable energy requirement entirely. He also sits on the board of ALEC, a public policy group that brings together corporate interests and conservative lawmakers to push industry-friendly bills in state legislatures, and coauthored the group’s model renewable energy standard repeal bill known as the “Electricity Freedom Act.” Another ALEC member, the Ohio-based American Electric Power Company Inc. (which stands to lose money due to the law’s efficiency standards), was the third largest donor to his 2012 campaign, according to campaign finance data. Other big utilities, including FirstEnergy Corp. and Duke Energy, have been consistent supporters of Seitz.

Renewable energy advocates are not optimistic about Seitz’s “review” of the renewable energy standard. “For Senator Seitz to create an appearance of a fair process given his close alliance with ALEC and its powerful interests is disingenuous,” said Steve Frenkel, the Midwestern director of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Seitz, on the other hand, doesn’t think his campaign donations have any influence on his decision-making. “I’m term-limited. I could give a damn,” he said, noting that he’s “done” when his term ends in 2016.

Despite Seitz’s allusions to Soviet centralized planning, recent polling shows that more than 65 percent of Ohio voters support the renewable energy benchmarks, and a majority of respondents said they would be willing to pay more for power from clean sources. “Ohioans know that their economy and their environment are benefiting from investing in clean energy technologies,” Frenkel said. “And Senator Seitz is just out of step with the people of Ohio in recognizing the important clean energy transition that the state’s already making.”

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Ohio State Senator Leading Review of "Stalinist" Renewable Energy Standards

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Ken Starr (!) Pleads With Senate GOPers to Confirm Obama Nominee

Mother Jones

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How many former Republican solicitors general does it take to prevent a filibuster?

Almost a year ago, President Barack Obama nominated Caitlin Hannigan and Sri Srinivasan to be judges on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, a key court that has jurisdiction over federal regulations and is often seen as a stepping-stone to the US Supreme Court. Four of the 11 seats on the court are currently vacant, but Senate Republicans have refused to confirm any of Obama’s nominees, leaving the court dominated by conservatives eager to toss out federal regulations dealing with everything from air pollution to financial reform. Last month Halligan withdrew her nomination after Republicans filibustered her into oblivion.

That leaves Srinivasan, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who is the Obama administration’s principal deputy solicitor general and argued before the Supreme Court in the Defense of Marriage Act case. There are things liberals will like about Srinivasan (he wrote Supreme Court briefs supporting affirmative action and arguing cops should need a warrant to put a GPS on your car) and things they won’t (he’s represented corporate and anti-union interests). His nomination has gone untouched since June 2012, but next Wednesday the Senate will be holding a confirmation hearing. Monday a bipartisan group of former solicitors general sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) urging his confirmation. The list includes former Bush administration solicitors general Paul Clement and Theodore Olson, as well as former George H.W. Bush Solicitor General Kenneth Starr, who as special counsel investigated the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

“Sri is one of the best lawyers in the country,” the letter reads. “He is extremely well prepared to take on the intellectual rigors of serving as a judge on the DC Circuit.”

There are more vacancies on the federal bench today than when Obama took office. The Obama administration hasn’t put forth enough nominations to fill them all, but the chief impediment is that Republicans have slowed the judicial confirmation process to a crawl. The average Bush circuit or district court nominee waited 175 days for a vote, compared to 227 under Obama.

Srinivasan exemplifies this dysfunction. He clerked for a Reagan-appointed Supreme Court justice; he worked for Republican and Democratic administrations, and he’s endorsed by the guy who helped the GOP almost bring down Bill Clinton. Yet thanks to GOP obstruction—and the Democrats’ refusal to reform the filibuster—he still might not get confirmed.

Here’s the letter:

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Sri Srinivasan Letter (PDF)

Sri Srinivasan Letter (Text)

An earlier version of this post stated that Starr was solicitor general under Reagan, he was solicitor general under George H.W. Bush.

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Ken Starr (!) Pleads With Senate GOPers to Confirm Obama Nominee

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Reduce Your Monthly Bills With These Green Energy Tips

A lot of people are concerned about the environment, but don’t have a good idea of what they can do to help. Interestingly, an environmentally friendly energy industry has been emerging to serve customers who are interested in making a difference. This article provides many tips so you can live a green lifestyle.

Insulating the home can prove to be really helpful in reducing your home’s energy usage. Insulation can help keep heat inside the home during the cold winter months. In addition, it prevents the heat from entering your home during the summer. If your home’s insulation is lacking, then you should make sure you put in more of it.

Buy a solar water heater for your home. Water heaters consume a massive amount of electricity every day, even when not in use. By purchasing a water heater that harnesses energy from the sun you will see an instant reduction in your power bill. Make certain that it is well insulated.

Keep your home clean at all times. By constantly cleaning your home, you aren’t allowing dirt to accumulate, which if left alone, you would need to use products with harsh chemicals to clean up. The less often you have to use these environmentally damaging products, the better off everyone will be.

Speak with your utility company about receiving your electric power from a renewable source. Many metropolitan areas get some of their power from hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, or wind powered plants. Often, the electric company can simply apply a certain amount of your electric bill to renewable energy without you needing to make any other changes.

A great way to go green is to replace your regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights or LED’s. These light bulbs use about one fifth of the energy as regular light bulbs but can last up to twelve times longer. They also don’t generate as much heat so they are particularly useful in the summer months.

Make sure that your air vents aren’t blocked in some way. Blocked air vents can lead to increased energy usage due to the fact that you will turn up the cooling in your home because you don’t feel the air coming out. Thoroughly inspect them to ensure nothing is blocking the air. If there is, you’ll be surprised at the difference once you eliminate the problem.

If you have a stream or creek on your property, you may want to look into using a micro hydro-power system as an energy alternative. The flow of water through a turbine will produce energy. Many times the amount of energy is not enough to fully power a home, but will offset the cost of your electric bill each month.

Think about using the wind to power your home for an excellent source of green energy. You will not only be off the power grid, but the wind is an emission free source of energy that is in plentiful supply in many areas of the world. The initial cost may be high, but the savings in the long run are high as well.

After reading this article, green energy technology should be less of a mystery to you. Use some of the tips you have just read, in order to help you begin using green energy technology. Soon, you’ll be on your way to using green energy technology to help you to create an environmentally-friendly home.

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Learn About Green Energy Sources Without Hassle!

Now, more than ever, people are concerned about the energy we use in this society. Green energy tips are being sought out, more and more. Being “green” not only saves the environment, but it also can save you money in the long run. Continue reading for some great tips to make your life greener.

Check out the Green Power Network website to find out if there is a green power alternative available in your area. Consider switching to green power if there is a good service available in your area and if you can afford to. You might be able to get a tax rebate in some states.

Green technology is a growing trend amongst a lot of people in first world countries. A lot of people are realizing at just how much we as humans are effecting the environment, yet they are also realizing at just how much we can contribute and help. There are many ways you can aid the environment from doing things like buying an electric car, changing the light bulbs in your house, or investing in solar panels for your home.

Do not assume that green energies are too expensive. The initial cost can be high, but most states will give you interesting tax incentives if you invest in green energies. You will be saving a lot of money on your energy bills. Do the math for yourself, and you will find that green energies are not expensive.

A good energy saving tip for those looking to go green is to wash your clothes in the washing machine only when you have a full load. Washing a few articles of clothing is just wasting energy.

If you cannot convert your entire house to solar power because of budget constraints, start with just one room. You can purchase a small solar-powered kit that will offer you enough electricity for one room in your house, and it costs significantly less than a whole-house conversion. This will provide you with some of the benefits that solar can offer, while still saving your tight budget.

If you simply cannot afford to upgrade or replace any part of your home’s energy systems, then change your energy-using habits instead. For example, take short showers instead of long baths and only wash maximum capacity loads of clothes or dishes to cut back on water consumption. Likewise, shut off any lights or appliances before leaving a room.

A great way to go green is to replace your regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights or LED’s. These light bulbs use about one fifth of the energy as regular light bulbs but can last up to twelve times longer. They also don’t generate as much heat so they are particularly useful in the summer months.

While it will take some time, effort and dedication to put what you’ve learned here into effect in your home, the rewards will be worth every second. Lowered bills, less reliance on the grid and a warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart are just some of the benefits you’ll enjoy, so get started today!

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