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Easy to be green

Cost-saving, environmentally friendly measures abound

February 24, 2008
By JESSE HELLING, Messenger staff writer
A green lifestyle can conjure images of off-the-grid survivalists or tofu-eating, rainwater-drinking apologists to the Earth Mother.

In actuality, adopting green habits can be a fairly painless process that is fully compatible with modern American life.

Making a few environmentally conscious alterations to one’s life can benefit the planet – and one’s wallet. Though green alternatives can often entail a higher initial cost, money saved through a reduction in energy consumption can offset the higher start-up price.

Using less gasoline

For Sister Delores Hannon, a round-trip from Fort Dodge to Des Moines runs around $12 — no mean feat in the face of $3-per-gallon gasoline.

Hannon, president of St. Edmond Catholic Schools, drives a 2005 Toyota Prius.

As a hybrid vehicle, the Prius utilizes both a gasoline engine and an electric motor. Under most conditions, the electric motor powers the vehicle, with the gas engine assisting as needed. Hybrid technology allows a vehicle to determine when to use gas or electricity — which translates in fuel efficiency of around 50 miles per gallon.

Hannon’s car is part of the motor fleet of the Sisters of Mercy, the religious community to which she belongs.

‘‘They wanted to add hybrid cars to the fleet to increase fuel efficiency and for the environmental impact,’’ Hannon said. ‘‘They wanted some of us who like to drive to try them out.’’

The Prius — along with several other hybrid models — remain brisk sellers at Fort Dodge Ford Lincoln Mercury Toyota, said owner Casey Johnson.

Although hybrids are generally more expensive than comparable non-hybrid models, fuel cost savings can more than offset the initial cost, Johnson said.

Hybrids also have a higher resale value, he said. ‘‘We have ’01 Priuses that sell for $11,000. Typically an ’01 would go for $6,000 to $7,000.’’

Higher gas prices have spurred recent hybrid sales, Johnson said. ‘‘People fear $3.50 to $4 per gallon gas this summer. We have seven Priuses on hand, which is our largest inventory ever.’’

Both Shimkat Motor Company and Kemna GM Factory Outlet in Fort Dodge plan to have hybrid models available in the near future.


In addition to selling hybrid cars, Johnson’s business utilizes an automotive byproduct to generate heat.

‘‘When people come in for an oil change, the waste oil is pumped back into a holding tank,’’ Johnson said.

The oil is then burned in a system of furnaces that Johnson describes as ‘‘99 percent efficient,’’ heating the dealership building.

This type of recycling, which costs about $250,000, according to Johnson, has more of a commercial application. But, recycling of household waste — glass, paper, plastic — is a simpler means to keep trash out of the landfill.

City-provided blue recycling bins are available for the asking, said Fort Dodge Superintendent of Public Works Al Dorothy.

While Fort Dodgers are limited to 200 pounds of garbage per week, there are no limits as to how much can be recycled, he said.

‘‘We wish people would participate a little bit more,’’ Dorothy said. ‘‘Some people just don’t, but it’s getting better.’’

The city has established guidelines as to how recyclables should be sorted for ease of transport. If a household has more recyclables than bin space, materials can be bagged outside of the recycling bin.

‘‘We just ask that people put a little separation between their garbage and their recycling,’’ Dorothy said. ‘‘Just don’t dump everything in one pile.’’

Conserve energy

Saving energy can be as simple as turning off a light.

Using a compact fluorescent bulb in that light, as opposed to the traditional incandescent light bulb, saves even more energy — roughly 66 percent less, according to MidAmerican Energy.

To help consumers maximize energy savings, Mid-American provides a free energy audit for homes built before 1997, said Mark Renders, communication manager for MidAmerican.

‘‘An inspector will come to your home and look at things like siding, windows, appliances and insulation,’’ Renders said. ‘‘They do a pretty thorough energy check.’’

After the check, which takes 45 minutes to an hour, the inspector gives the home owner a list of recommendations.

‘‘We give them energy-efficient light bulbs, a low-flow shower head and insulation for piping,’’ Renders said. A water-heater blanket is also provided if needed, he said.

‘‘There are also a number of rebate programs available for more energy-efficient appliances,’’ Renders said.

For those unwilling or unable to utilize the energy audit, an online audit is available, he added.

Shop smart

Of course, some green habits involve little more than reviving lost traditions.

Reusable cloth shopping bags, once in wide application, are now en vogue again at both Hy-Vee and Fareway.

‘‘We’ve sold out,’’ said Jason Hurd, assistant manager of Fareway, where cloth bags sporting the store logo retail for 99 cents.

Since beginning the program about two months ago, the Fort Dodge Hy-Vee has sold more than 1,200 Earthwise reusable bags, said David Scott, manager of store operations.

The bags, which also cost 99 cents, can hold about 15 pounds, Scott said.

Each time one of the green bags is reused, Hy-Vee takes 3 cents off the customer’s bill, he said.

‘‘People have been very receptive,’’ Scott said.

Contact Jesse Helling at (515) 573-2141 or

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen

Several local stores offer reusable shopping bags. Using your own cloth bag helps reduce the amount of plastics and paper use.

Fact Box

Fort Dodge curbside recycling:
All recycling products must be separated and bagged.
Products that can be recycled include:
• Paper products, including newsprint, magazines, typing and copier paper, junk mail, cereal boxes, paper egg cartons and paperback books. Waxy cardboard is not recyclable.
• Glass, including clear, brown and green containers. Glass should be separated by color and rinsed out, with lids removed. Window glass is not accepted.
• Plastic, excluding motor oil containers. No Styrofoam of any type is acceptable.
• Metal cans, which need to be rinsed out. However, labels do not need to be removed, nor must can be flattened.
• Aluminum, including foil and pie plates, which need to be cleaned and placed with metal cans.
• Corrugated cardboard, which should be clean, flattened and bundled.

Recycling drop-off bins are at:
• Central Maintenance Facility, 3001 8th Ave. S.
• Family Video, corner of Second Avenue North and North 15th Street.
• HyVee, 115 S. 29th St.
• 28th Avenue North and North 15th Street.
• South of Trinity Regional Medical Center.



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