hurricane preparations

It's almost that time of year for anyone who lives on the Gulf Coast - hurricane season. Six months of living with the potential of the next big storm hitting home. Being prepared goes a long way toward some kind of peace of mind though.

The NOAA is predicting an active Atlantic hurricane season, we go.

Having essentials on hand and ready to go way in advance is better than waiting until a storm is on its way and stores are packed with everyone else who procrastinated. There are tons of hurricane supply checklists online, and they range from simple to extremely detailed.

It is possible to be greener when gathering hurricane supplies.

One key supply is a flashlight. And there are many handcrank flashlights that require no batteries. Amazon has a ton, and you can find them in many department stores. I got a simple flashlight and a flashlight radio combination a few years ago, and still use both when I need to. Some handcrank flashlights are also solar powered.

When choosing batteries, choose rechargeable ones and make sure they are fully charged before a storm hits. Also keep your cell phone charged as much as possible in advance, especially in today's world of crappy phone battery life. If you have children, get old-fashioned toys and games to keep them occupied, so they don't drain the battery on your computer or phone, since you may need it. Last year during Hurricane Isaac, even though we didn't lose power, my boyfriend and I had a blast coloring in a superhero coloring book.

Handcrank cell phone chargers exist, and last year I bought one, excited to be eco-friendly...only to find out that it wouldn't work. I plugged my BlackBerry in and it displayed a message that the USB port did not have enough power to charge it. Even putting batteries in the charger and hand cranking did not do the trick. It went back to the store. Hopefully others work better than the one I bought - it's a very useful idea.

Be very very careful using candles for light. They can be knocked over so easily and cause their own disasters. Plus, the fumes can be toxic if you are in a boarded-up house and you can't open the door because of the weather.

Canned food is the best to get for your hurricane supply since it can last a long time and remains unspoiled before it's opened. But get food you would eat normally! That way, you can ensure the food gets eaten even if it's not used in a storm, instead of being thrown out. Be sure to have a manual can opener for when the power goes out, or that food will be staying in the can. And if you have an electric stove, look for food you can eat that doesn't need to be heated. When you're getting bottled water, go for what has the least amount of packaging - and recycle the bottles. I always go for gallons of water, but if you need personal size bottles, choose the ones with eco-friendly packaging and less plastic. Conserve your water from the sink or bathtub, and conserve energy in your refrigerator or freezer by opening it as little as possible.

Prepare your home in advance, and you won't have to waste supplies at the last minute. There are many ways to outfit your home so it's always more protected from storms, from functional shutters to reinforcing your roof. Building or renovating your home so it's stronger will help minimize damage and destroyed materials. If you buy plywood for your windows, be sure to keep the boards safe and protected between seasons so you can reuse them the next year.

If you make the decision to evacuate, secure your house first, and choose the most fuel-efficient car you have in your family. Gas will be a scarce commodity, and prices will go up. And you may end up traveling further than you want to. Stretch what you get as far as you can.

Don't forget to include supplies for your pets. This will be my first hurricane season with a pet, and I plan on getting a box of litter and a large bag of food to keep in a cabinet for emergency use. And Milo's got plenty of eco-friendly toys that could keep him cardboard boxes, my chair and my blinds.

Gathering your hurricane supplies in advance will help you be greener since you will have time to look for the best options, and you won't be scrambling at the store at the last minute buying whatever is left.

It's time for another hurricane season. Prepare now and hope that Mother Nature doesn't show her ugly ways!

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