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Going green in a high-tech, or low-tech, way

Tuesday is Earth Day, a time to appreciate the planet. Have you been thinking about ways to go green? Your grandparents might be the experts. Turns out there's plenty of low-tech energy savings to be had around the house, and some of it is pretty old-school. Here's a mix of high-tech gadgets and low-tech solutions that won't break the bank, and will help you save power and conserve water.

Scotts 20-inch classic push reel mower

$124.99 at Target

Probably invented by someone who never tried to mow bahi grass, this push reel mower doesn't need gasoline — just a lot of manpower. Hey, count it as your workout, and this little mower is cheaper than a treadmill.
Solio solar charger

$99.99 at Target

This handy portable solar charger comes in white, black, pink and silver, and allows you to charge your cell phone, PDA and iPod using the power of the sun.
Retractable clothesline

$20 at

It's the cheapest solar-powered appliance you can buy. This retractable clothesline extends up to 40-feet. Worried about what your neighbors, or homeowners association might think? Under Florida law, homeowners associations cannot prohibit clotheslines.
The Kill-A-Watt

$23.98 at

Plug your television into this gadget and find out just how much energy your appliances use even when you're not watching them. This device shows you where the vampires are in your home, like the cable box, which sucks power even when you're not watching back-to-back reruns of Law & Order.
Rain barrels

$109.99 to $299.99 at,
or free (see below)

Collecting rainwater in containers is about as low-tech as it gets. If you want to learn the best way to do it, county extension services offer workshops, and free or discounted rain barrels if you attend. For more, see the Resources box below.

Belkin conserve surge protector

$49.95, available at retailers this summer

Once you've found the vampires, banish them with this: a remote-control surge protector that also protects your power bill by cutting off electricity to devices that suck up killowatts even when they're not in use. (The low-tech, free solution is just to unplug the suckers.) Some estimates claim that vampires account for as much as 10 percent of your electric bill.


Call your local county agricultural extension office to learn about rain barrel workshops in your area. In addition to offering advice to citrus and cattle farmers, extension offices offer gardening classes that include how to design a Florida-friendly yard full of drought-tolerant plants that will save you both water and work.

Hernando County Extension Services, (352) 754-4433

Hillsborough County Extension Services, (813) 744-5519

Pasco County Extension Services, (727) 847-8177, (813) 996-7341, ext. 4288, or (352) 521-4288

Pinellas County Extension Services (727) 582-2100

Your utility might offer free home energy audits that show you how to weather strip doors and windows, seal leaky ducts and proof your home against energy waste. You might also be able to enroll in other energy-saving programs. Ask your utility for more information.

Tampa Electric, (813)223-0800

Progress Energy, 1-800-700-8744

Upcoming enviro-friendly events

Suncoast Earth Force Summit: Wednesday's eighth annual event brings together hundreds of young people, educators and community partners who have been involved in environmentally oriented projects throughout the year. The summit celebrates their work and aims to share that knowledge with other students. 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Al Lopez Park, 4810 N Himes Ave., in Tampa. Information: Mary Margaret Hull, 1-800-423-1476.

Green Thumb Festival: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Walter Fuller Park, 7891 26th Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Celebrates Arbor Day and Earth Day with environmental exhibits, recycling advice, plant diagnostic clinic, tree giveaway, tool sharpening, children's exhibits and more. Free. Information: (727) 893-7335 or

Pinellas Living Green Expo: May 3 and 4 at the Harborview Center, 300 Cleveland St., Clearwater. Features information, ideas, resources, products and seminars to help people have less impact on the environment. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 3 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Free. Information: pinellaslivinggreen

Going green in a high-tech, or low-tech, way 04/20/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 21, 2008 11:54am]
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