Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘environmental footprint’

Kyle Schuant is the Aussie blogger over at Green With A Gun and a frequent visitor on this blog. It is hard to find a blogger as passionate as Kyle. If you comment on this blog, you have probably encountered Kyle in many of the lively discussions that animate La Marguerite. I have come to appreciate the depth of Kyle’s comments, his thorough knowledge of environmental issues, and also his talent for using compelling arguments to rally others to the green cause. Please join me to welcome Kyle as the new guest writer in the BlogActs series. In this article, Kyle does a brilliant demonstration of what it would take for the average Australian to achieve substantial reductions in greenhouse gases emissions, just with the status quo, only reasonable behavioral changes, and without the need for new technology. Kyle invites us to take a cold, hard look at the facts, and comes up with some pretty surprising numbers. These numbers can be easily extrapolated to other developed countries, U. S. included.

What are we being asked to do to “save the planet”? George Monbiot in Heat talks about a global reduction of 60% of carbon emissions by 2050, which means a 90% Western world reduction, since we’re so far above the average.. Climate change conferences between countries tend to be less ambitious. And then there are scientists out there who say we need more than a 100% reduction, we need to be taking carbon out of the air, not adding any at all. But let’s be moderately ambitious, go for Monbiot in the middle and aim at 90%. Sounds pretty rough, yeah? Probably big sacrifices required? Well, let’s see. It turns out the average Australian can drop their greenhouse gas emissions by about two-thirds without significant discomfort or expense, and saving money.

What are we starting from?

It’s easy to talk about reducing or increasing emissions, but what does it really mean to us in our day-to-day lives? Do we have to live in a cave, or can we live in a hydrogen-powered computerized pollutionless mansion if we get the right Science! (TM)?

Well, let’s look at what the average person here in Australia uses during the year, and the carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions they produce. Once we know what it means day-to-day for us to live this polluting lifestyle, then that helps us figure out what it’d mean to live a different lifestyle.

We’ll just look at what the average person can affect, their household stuff and transport. We won’t worry about factories and mines and so on, since you and I can’t affect those directly. Since methane (cow farts) and other gases actually have a stronger warming effect than pure CO2, but break down over a while, so we’ll give the figures in “CO2e”, which means “carbon dioxide equivalent”, over 100 years. This is calculated as per the figures in my article on carbon emissions. The following is what the average Australian consumes in a year, and the emissions they cause as a result.

Transport
 Petrol 1,230lt, causing 2,854kg CO2e
 Aircraft 4,000km, causing 1,000kg CO2e
 Bus, petrol/diesel, 500km, causing 12kg CO2e
 Train, diesel, 250km, causing 2kg CO2e
 Train, electric, 500km, causing 7kg CO2e
 Tram, electric, 250km, causing 13kg CO2e
Household power & gas
 Coal-sourced electricity 3,000kwh, causing 3,630kg co2e
 Natural gas 36,500MJ, causing 2,008kg CO2e
Food
 Meat 107kg, causing 1,231kg CO2e
 Fruit, vegetable, legumes and grain 400kg, causing 1620kg CO2e
 Dairy 100kg, causing 6kg CO2e
Waste
 Rubbish 600kg, causing 2,400kg CO2e
 Recycling 200kg, causing 200kg CO2e

All this adds to 14,981kg of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.

Yes, that is a lot. The world average is more like 3,000kg CO2e per person of these domestic controllable emissions. I know, I know – you’re different. You don’t drive but you do fly a lot, and your friend eats more meat than that and leaves the lights on all the time, and your mum never goes anywhere on any kind of transport and is vegetarian – but we’re talking about averages across whole countries, millions of people. So that’s what we’ve got.

Now let’s look at ways the average Australian can reduce this – not making any big “sacrifice”, not waiting for any Science! (TM) or The Market! but just using what’s available to us today.

Transport:
The average Australian lives in a city, and has access to public transport. Over half their petrol is used in getting to work. In general, public transport sucks – it’s dirty, often late, irregular, not always on when and where you want it, but it can get you to work, and will give you another half an hour or more a day to relax before and after work, read a book or newspaper, chat to friends. Once you factor that leisure time and lower cost in, public transport sucks less than do traffic and parking and speed cameras and so on. So let’s walk, bike, and take the bus or train to work, and that halves the petrol consumption. The average car travels 15,000km each year, so that adds 7,500km to bus, train and tram. Not every city has trams like Melbourne, so we’ll split it 50% trains, 40% buses, 10% trams.

Next we’ll eliminate the aircraft travel, and change that to diesel train. Sorry, no more overseas trips – but that still leaves a whole continent to explore. That ought to be enough to fill a lifetime of holidays.

This takes our transport-related emissions from 3,888 to 1,660kg CO2e. That’s dropped us 15% on the total.

Domestic energy:
Electricity? In most places in the developed West, you can choose your electricity provider, and choose the source of your electricity. Let’s choose the least polluting, wind. Not bad – that takes us from 3,630 to 120kg CO2e. Only thing is, wind power costs more. So let’s just use less electricity.

For heating and cooling, remember that in your home you’re usually in one place for some time. You’re at the kitchen table, at your desk in your study, or on the couch in front of the tv. You don’t need the whole house to be the right temperature, just where you’re sitting. So for cooling, wear light clothes and have a cold drink. Turn off your 2,500W airconditioning and replace it with a 50W fan, point it wherever you’re sitting. For heating, wear a jumper and have a warm drink. When you’re sitting for a long time, use a hot water bottle in a little blanket.

Now, the hot water system.. Go out to your hot water heater and turn the thermostat down a bit. An hour later, check on the temperature of the water from the tap. It should be no hotter than you can stand on your bare skin. You don’t need to make coffees straight from the tap – heating 140lt to get 2050ml of hot water? Are you crazy? Use the kettle. You need it just hot enough that when you take a shower you don’t need to add any cold water. If it’s still too hot, go out and lower the thermostat again. (Some people tell stories about legionella and other deadly diseases you supposedly get from doing this, but I’ve never had anyone meet my challenge: Give me a single case mentioned in medical journals of someone getting sick from their non-boiling shower. Just one.) Now make your showers about 4 minutes. You’re not a surgeon, you don’t need to sterilise yourself, washing all over is quite enough. Shave in the sink, boys.

For lighting, as your old incandescent globes die out, replace them with compact fluroescents. They cost $5 instead of $1, but if you have it on for four hours a day (pretty typical for a house light), you’l make that $ difference back in four months, and the things last for years. Turn off all lights and appliances at the wall when not in use – how many clocks do you need, really? Is it so much trouble to switch on the tv as you pass it to flop on the couch? Is it so horrible to wait while the computer boots up?

Okay, now wind power usually costs 50% more than coal, but with all that you just went from the Aussie average of 8.2kWh/day per person to about 3kWh/day.

Alright, all that just reduced your domestic power-related emissions from 5,638 to 445kg CO2e. That’s 35% gone.

Food:
Ideally we’d all eat organic and locally-grown food. But that can be hard to get, and it’s bloody expensive. Besides which, they may save on emissions at the farm, but that’s not much use if they trucked the stuff all the way in refrigerated trucks from Gippsland to Sydney. The key thing is how much meat you eat. 107kg is the Australian average, and that’s 290g a day. That’s half the meat on a cow a year, or a couple of chickens a week, or three or four pigs. Really you don’t need that much for your health. Aim at half a kilo a month of meat of some kind, making sure that any children or menstruating women get red meat in preference to other things, they need more iron than us blokes.

With the rest of your food, buy fresh fruit and vegetables, or dried. Don’t buy tinned stuff unless there’s nothing else available, and avoid anything pre-made like fish fingers, tv dinners and so on. Buy also pasta and rice, nuts and beans. Nutrition is a complicated subject, but an easy way to do it is to aim for colourful meals. When you chop up the vegies there should be three or four different colours there. So if you had onions, peppers, spinach and carrots, there you go. Try to eat beans or nuts every day. Wash it down with some milk or fruit juice, and have a piece of fruit for dessert. You can’t cook? If you can read, you can cook. It takes time to do, but if you have time to watch Neighbours or The Simpsons or read people’s blogs, then you have time to cook. You can always make a big lot on the weekend and freeze things, that uses the time more efficiently.

Plus you’ll impress your spouse and make more friends, everyone likes someone who can cook nice meals.

That takes food-related emissions from 2,857 to 2,104kg CO2e. Another 5% saved.

Waste:
You can reduce this. Basically you’ve got three categories of waste – rubbish (400kg), recycling (200kg) and food scraps (200kg). In your kitchen you should have a bin for the stuff that can be recycled, and another for the stuff that can’t. Most areas have decent recycling programs now. Check what they can and can’t recycle. If they can’t recycle (say) plastic type “6″, then when you go to the shops to buy something, don’t buy things with that as their container. There are so many brands of everything, you can have your choice of containers, too. Generally if you stick to glass jars, cardboard and wax paper containers they should be able to recycle them. If you have a garden, you should compost all your food scraps. If you don’t have a garden, find a neighbour who does and give them your scraps, they’ll love it.

In this way, you ought to be able to turn 3⁄4 of that rubbish into recycling, and all your food scraps into compost. Your total emissions from waste then go from 2,600 to 973kg CO2e. Another 11% down.

Summary:
So what do we get from all that? Remember, none of this has cost us any money, in fact it’ll over time save us money.

Transport
 Petrol 615lt, causing 1426.8kg CO2e
 Bus, petrol/diesel 3,500km, causing 80.5kg CO2e
 Train, diesel 4,250km, causing 34kg CO2e
 Train, electric 4,250km, causing 59.5kg CO2e
 Tram, electric 1,000km, causing 52kg CO2e
Domestic Power & Gas
 Wind 1095kwh, causing 43.8kg co2e
 Natural gas 7300MJ, causing 401.5kg CO2e
 Wood, clear-felled 0kg, causing 0kg CO2e
Food
 Meat 6kg, causing 69kg CO2e
 Fruit, vegetable, legumes and grain 501kg, causing 2029kg CO2e
 Dairy 100kg, causing 6kg CO2e
Waste
 Rubbish 100kg, causing 400kg CO2e
 Recycling 500kg, causing 500kg CO2e
 Compost aerobic/kg 200kg, causing 73kg CO2e

All this adds to 5,175kg of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. That’s 35% of the average, a 70% reduction.

I dunno, maybe I’m a really tough guy or something, but none of those measures seem to me to be a great “sacrifice.” Most of them will improve my life – I’ll have more money, or less time at work earning that money, less stress, and better physical health. The average Westerner can get a 70% reduction while improving their life, and without having to become some stupid drugged-out hippy communist.

Okay, that’s 65%, what about the other 25%?
The rest is where we either are deprived of things and get real hassle, or else where we need some support from the public purse and government. Because we’re being lazy and don’t want to sacrifice anything, let’s not think of real deprivation. “Damnit, government, we’ve done 70% of it, you sort out the other 20%! What am I paying taxes for?” We need better public transport, more localised work and agriculture, and better packaging for our stuff.

If that 501kg of food, the fruit, vegetables, beans and grain were grown in a lot on your block, or even on a farm a couple of kilometres out of town, all organically and harvested by hand, you’d get zero carbon emissions from it, and that’s another 14% saved.

Better public transport or living within a few kilometres of work and your hobbies would let you get rid of the car entirely, and that’s another 10% saved, only 1% to go. Better packaging for the stuff we buy would mean none of it is rubbish. Do we really need a paper tea bag to have a plastic wrapping on it, then be in a paper box with a plastic wrapping around that, too? Is this a cup of tea or surgery? That saves us another 3%. Awesome, we’re over-target.

So by our own day-to-day actions we can reduce our carbon emissions by 70% while improving our lives overall, and the other 20% we need some government help for.

Conclusion:

Again, this is all talking about the average Westerner and what they can achieve in their own day-to-day lives. And it turns out that we can make a 65% reduction in our personal greenhouse gas emissions while improving our lives and physical health. For the other 25% we need some help. I say we make the 65% reduction, then our elected representatives will be more inclined to help us out with the other 25%.

An easily-achievable, 65% reduction. By contrast, as I write this, representatives of the developed world are wailing in terror just at talk of a non-binding goal of a 25-40% reduction… by 2020. For Australians, 25% is 3,745 and 40% is 5,992kg CO2e each. Taking public transport to work saves us 2,267, and changing from coal-generated to wind power without lowering power consumption saves us another 3,510kg CO2e, there you go, easy. 2020? I can do that by tomorrow!

Sure, this doesn’t make agriculture or industry change, but that’s a “what difference does my contribution make?” question, which will be the subject of another article.

Wow, and we didn’t even need Science! (TM) for it. A pity, really, it could have been fun.

Read Full Post »

This morning, I joined the crowd of concerned environmentalists on DotEarth, and lamented with them on the outcome of the Bali talks. And declared,

Talk is nice. My concern is what can I do as a citizen, to become a part of the solution. Here are my resolutions:

1) to continue to explore the psychology of green in my blog
2) to try my best to green my life
3) to join a green business venture, hopefully in the next few weeks
4) to act as a responsible citizen and make sure the right person gets elected as our next President
5) to explore ways that I can spur green initiatives in my immediate community
6) to channel the anger, frustration, I feel as a result of these talks, productively, into positive actions.

What are you all choosing to do on a personal, concrete level?

Later in the day, I decided to go to the gym with Prad. Charlotte saw me grab my car keys. “You are not taking your bike?” Prad offered to ride with me if I wanted to. No, it was too cold, and I just wanted to get to the gym, fast. We drove.

What happened? Why such a discordance between what I know to be the right action, and what I end up doing? I have become obsessed with understanding what goes on in my brain during those split seconds, when I decide to not follow my green conscience. Several times before, I have tried to revisit similar moments, to grasp the thoughts, the feelings, that trigger such behavior. I am convinced, if I can reach down far enough, I will retrieve valuable insights, that will help get to the roots of the behavior. If I can nail down the cause, it may be easier to figure out some solutions.

Seven Reasons Why It’s Hard to Be Human and Green

Back to the gym moment. I was tired with a slight cold. The idea of going out in the damp weather, and of spending a half hour biking, did not feel good. Compared with the comfort of our warm car, the bike did not come close. In that moment, all I could think of was, cold versus warm, hard work versus easy ride. I did not feel so good. I wanted warm and comfort. A curtain came down between my green conscience, my morning discourse, and the reality of my present physical need.

I surprised myself with the strength of my response to Charlotte and Prad. ‘No way, I am riding my bike. I am tired and it’s cold.’ Never mind that I was going to the gym to exercise. My heart was set on swimming, not biking. Still, if I had enough energy to swim, I probably could have biked. It is just that I was thinking exercise equal gym. To exercise I needed to go to the gym. Although I was tired, I am very disciplined about exercising every day, and I was willing to make that effort. In my mind, going to the gym, was in the transportation category, not the exercise file. Transportation meant, I was going to naturally choose the option that was most efficient time wise, and comfortable.

Now, why was I willing to make the effort to exercise (swim) although I was not feeling so good, but not to bike instead of driving? The answer is, I consider exercise a direct personal benefit to my health and my well being. Biking instead of driving, because of environmental concerns, does not affect me directly. (that’s assuming I maintain earlier ‘logic’ of biking not as an exercise form, but as mode of transportation). Its benefit gets diluted both in time and space. The big pot problem again. When I exercise, I feel an immediate personal benefit. When I consider acting from my green conscience, it falls in the higher category of ‘I and many other enlightened people know it’s the right thing to do, but it is not part yet of the commonly accepted set of ethical behaviors’. Where I get in trouble is with that latter part. The lack of collective consciousness in the green category, and the resulting lack of environmental laws and best practices, give me license to err.

Am I that selfish of a person that I never do anything for the greater good? Actually, there are many instances when I can act selflessly. My maternal instinct makes sure I always put my children’s interests before my own. I find great pleasure in mentoring my Little Sister. For seven years, I spent my time helping people as a profession. In the green category even, I now make sure that I bring my recyclable bags to the grocery store. I try not to flush. I have diminished my shopping significantly. I only heat the house very selectively. I always turn off the lights. I take the train whenever I go to the city. . . My laziness with biking is one of the last fortresses of my unconscious, not so green self, and a window into the ways most of the civilized world behaves. Here is what I saw:

  1. We are creatures of the flesh. Trapped in our physical body, and at the mercy of our basic needs for physical comfort, pleasure, and immediate gratification. Without the external reinforcement from state or spiritual laws, these primal needs take precedence over our conscience.
  2. We are lemmings. We look around and tend to emulate others’ behaviors.
  3. We are self-centered. Our priorities start with getting our personal needs met first. Needs for security, personal health, financial security, comfort, safety, education, etc. Environmental concerns are at the bottom of the pile.
  4. We are products of our culture. In America that means capitalism, money, greed, consumerism, extremes, convenience, industrialization, technology, cars, invincibility, man over nature.
  5. We are creatures of habits. Our thoughts and behaviors are set in certain ways. To unset them requires tremendous energy and outside forces.
  6. We are inherently lazy. Given the choice, we will most often pick the easiest, most convenient alternative.
  7. We are not rational beings. The way we derive our thoughts is often circuitous, and leads to behaviors that fly in the face of reason.

Next, is how can we take into account these seven characteristics of human nature, and formulate winning behavioral change strategies for a greener planet. Plenty of material for another article. . .

Read Full Post »

Day 29 of Daily Footprint Project. A milestone in my ‘trying to be green‘ trajectory. I was feeling good. My heart light for a change, and ready to make room for new experiences. ‘How about biking to the gym?‘ I asked Prad. It’s been months already, since Prad started biking around town. Now, I wanted to join him.

I peaked outside. The sun was there, and the air was just right. Helmet, gloves, backpack, bike lock, jacket. I felt the excitement of a five year old on her first bike adventure. And off, we went. Three miles along quiet streets. The pleasure of making up our route, and playing hide and seek with traffic. ‘Pervenche‘ was being a good bike, no fuss, and easy on my legs. I arrived at the gym, with the exhilaration of someone who had just accomplished a major feat. Mostly, I was feeling so proud. I had overcome my resistance to biking, and entered the select crowd of town bikers, and serious greenies.

As I look back on my days of leaving ‘Pervenche‘ out sitting on our porch, I realize the hardest thing was making the leap, of deciding to go, just once. I have written before about inertia. How to conquer this incredible force is of utmost importance to the challenge of getting people to green their behaviors. Here are ten things that helped me with ‘Pervenche‘:

  1. Having a ‘contract’ with a supportive community, in this case the people who read and comment on La Marguerite. Also, Prad my husband and Green Guru in residence.
  2. Not doing it alone. Going with Prad was a great incentive.
  3. Seizing the moment. Going when the heart and mind both coalesce to welcome this new experience
  4. Not getting discouraged, and chastising oneself, for being bad.
  5. Keep talking to your community about your ongoing struggles
  6. Visualize the personal benefits of your new behavior, here the pleasure of biking with Prad
  7. Make that small first step, whatever that means. Grabbing the helmet was 99% of the battle
  8. Build your new behavior into your existing routine. Biking to the gym made perfect sense, and enhanced my exercise regimen.
  9. Do not take on another new behavior until you have established this one.
  10. Repeat this mantra to yourself: ‘Just do it!

10 Tricks to Get You Going Green

I tell Prad I am just finishing writing an article about our bike adventure yesterday. Words from the mouth of Green Guru:

The bike adventure has to continue . . .

 

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #29

Water
personal:
flush toilet 2
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
shower at pool 2
mom:
wash fruit
communal:
rinse dishes
wash salad

Electricity/gas
personal:
electric toothbrush 4’
microwave tea 2’
microwave milk 2’
laptop on half day
microwave oatmeal 4’
microwave soup  3’
mom:
communal:
cook crepes on stove 15’
lights

Food
personal:
tea
organic milk
organic persimmons 1
organic apples 2
organic chocolate
oatmeal
takeout barley soup from Whole Foods
whole wheat bread
mom:
sandwich with veggies and leftover chicken
gas water with orange juice
organic apple
communal:
crepes with organic milk
Italian prosciutto
organic salad
organic eggs
Swiss cheese

Waste
personal:
toilet paper
soup carton
mom:
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers

Recycling
personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers

Transportation
personal:
mom:
drive car back from school (girls needed it to transport supplies for the dance) 2 miles
communal:

Non food shopping
personal:
mom:
communal:

Read Full Post »

Day 28 of Daily Footprint Project. Cold, and rainy. I had to go out twice, once to a doctor’s appointment, and then to the pool. Both outings in the five miles range, a perfect ‘bike it’ distance. ‘Pervenche‘ was waiting, and I had made such a big deal of looking for the perfect bike and finding it, and being ready to ditch my car, that I felt obligated to come through.

What happened next is less glorious. I was busy blogging, making comments on the Huffington Post. Lots of posts on global warming today, and I had to make my opinion heard. Came 12. 30, the time when I could still have made it to the doctor on my bike, and I had to decide. To bike or to drive. The computer screen was luring me with one more post to comment on. Ten minutes more, that’s all I needed. What the heck! Forget my green conscience, forget all the promises to myself, and to my readers. The temptation of convenience, of minutes shaved away for more blogging about environmental concerns, was too great. The truth is I love my car.

This is the kind of stuff that I would push back in the recess of my mind, and my heart, if I was not committed to telling the truth, all of it. Am I embarrassed? Yes. The irony of the situation does not escape me. Today, I was a Green Hypocrite. I could dwell in self-loathing. More interesting, though, is to get down to the root of my behavior, to understand as I have tried in the past, what causes the split between my rather high awareness, and those moments when I choose to not act accordingly. This is where it is important to pay attention to thoughts, no matter how seemingly mundane, for they hold clues to the intrinsic human problem at the root of climate change. Going back to that 12.30 moment, when I had to decide, to bike or to drive, here is what I found:

Laziness. Priorities. A drop in the invisible cloud of CO2. It won’t make a difference. I am having so much fun, don’t want to be bothered. Habit. Comfort. Convenience. How bad is it anyway, to drive such short distance once or twice a day? It can’t hurt that much. Effort, I don’t want to make the effort. The weather wasn’t even that nice. My time is precious. The extra time spent biking, I can use doing other ‘more productive’, more important things, such as working on green projects. Nothing is going to happen if I drive instead of biking. No consequences. I don’t have the discipline. What’s in it for me? The car, so fast, such a proven entity. I can zip in and out of places. I know, I should bike. But it’s such a small thing. Today, I can ‘sin’, only once, maybe twice. I will get it right some other time. Ah! the immediate pleasure of blogging away, versus the higher satisfaction of a clean conscience. Big, instant pleasure over small dent in my green conscience. Pleasure wins. I can’t even see that CO2 anyway. It’s invisible. A crime without the evidence to prove it. Everybody else is driving anyway, or almost everyone. I am too wrapped up into the moment. The present supersedes any hypothetical concerns about the consequence of my small actions for the whole planet, myself included. There are two issues. The lack of immediate consequence for my action. And the dilution of personal responsibility, the big pot problem.

There is a lot to be learned from that thought soup – I stole the words from Nadine – Lots of insights, not just about myself, but more importantly, about the human condition in relationship to climate change. What are the personal obstacles to change? How can these can be best addressed? I just followed a fascinating exchange on DotEarth, between Andrew Revkin, and his readers, on that same topic yesterday. The discussion did not suffer from a lack of opinions . . . and intellectual ramblings. What is missing most in many of the climate change conversations, is that connection to the psychological reality of the individual. That reality affects individuals in their personal lifestyle choices, their professional choices as influencers, deciders, and politicians. It is probably the single most important factor, besides technology, with the potential to critically alter the course of climate change.

 

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #28

Water
personal:
flush toilet 3
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 5
shower at pool 2
mom:
wash fruit
communal:
rinse dishes
wash vegetables
wash rice

Electricity/gas
personal:
electric toothbrush 4’
microwave tea 2’
microwave milk 2’
laptop on all  day
microwave oatmeal 4’
mom:
communal:
lights
bake chicken in oven 30’
stir fry zucchinis 4’
microwave rice 30’

Food
personal:
tea
organic milk
organic persimmons 2
organic chocolate
oatmeal
mom:
grapes
breakfast pastries from Whole Foods
communal:
baked organic chicken
organic brown rice
organic zucchinis
organic salad

Waste
personal:
toilet paper
mom:
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers
chicken packaging
zucchini package
salad plastic 

Recycling
personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers

Transportation
personal:
drive to appointment (stop by Trader Joe’s on way back) 5 miles
drive to pool 6 miles
mom:
communal:

Non food shopping
personal:
mom:
communal:

Read Full Post »

This morning, in the Huffington Post, Robert Kennedy Jr. shared a great example, of how technology can be used as a tool, to help us take personal responsibility for our share of a global environmental problem. His article about ‘Coal’s True Cost, is not just a denounciation of coal mountaintop removal practices, but also a celebration of ingenious web technology:

‘Well now you can visit coal country without ever having to leave your home. Every presidential candidate and every American ought to take a few seconds to visit an ingenious new website created by Appalachian Voices, that allows one to tour the obliterated landscapes of Appalachia. And it’s not just Arch Coal, Massey Coal and their corporate toadies in electoral politics who are culpable for the disaster. The amazing new website allows you to enter your zip code to learn how you’re personally connected to the great crime of mountaintop removal. Using this website Americans from Maine to California can see these mountains and the communities that were sacrificed to power their home. The tool uses Google Maps and Google Earth as interfaces to a large database of power plants and mountaintop removal coal mines. A November 15, 2007 article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted the site as one of the most innovative, cutting-edge uses of these powerful tools. The site puts a human face on the issue by highlighting the stories of families living in the shadows of these mines.’

I tried it, and it showed how I am a passive accomplice of coal mountaintop removal in four sites in the Appalachian Mountains. The least I could do, was to sign the petition to stop these practices. The picture of the US map, with the arrow linking me to those four dots on the other side of the country, is quite powerful. Another example of the power of images to induce attitude shifts and behavioral changes.

Read Full Post »

Day 26 of Daily Footprint Project. My search for a bike continues. Yesterday, I drove 38 miles to look at an old Murray bike. What I did not know is that some of the older bikes come without brakes. To stop, I am supposed to pedal backward. Not for me, I decided.

Then I got this very sweet email from Tim, one of the sellers on Craigslist, who had the nearly perfect bike, except it was too big for me:

Oh Marguerite..just a few tips as I saw your blog on your newly potential bike purchase in Sac., ….for me personally, I have? bikes…I use one locally only for the library, errands, drop my kids off to school during the Spring and no rain season, exercise to see/feel the peaceful Zen in our neighborhood when I ride super early Sat. a.m. before all the people rise up and no cars around..such a nice feeling, check out different streets and where it leads to etc. etc…. it is sooooo cool to think that all the places that I can travel wo/ paying extras for gas, oils, maintenance and saving the environment…that bike is my most frequently used bike that I can lend out to help others and it looks really beat up, but very well maintain ever so often so others won’t touch or take it when I leave it at a library..I’ll probably get attached to it eventually..the next higher end bike is the one used mostly on weekends on sunnydays and if needed can go pretty far wo/ breaking down and stranded.. as for my last one it’s for ocassional use with groups..fear of theft…if you plan to you it on a daily basis and reliability, and to limit cost on fixing repairs, and polluting PA w/ bike parts and additional landfill plastics, wrappers, tubes, glues, patches, and other bike parts and spares, I do recommend a better quality bike so that you can spend more time in cycling your zen and not worry about flats, and additional stress…..my 1st bike was purchased last summer (early) from a young women locally w/ celebral palsy…so sad she had to sell her 1989 mountain bike for $50 (?), I didn’t have the heart to ask for less of it’s condition.. but it cost me brand new cables, tires, tubes, paint, job frame rejuvenation, flats, stickers for decoration, newer parts etc. etc…?over $125 plus.. so even though the bike looks like it’s worth under $30.00 the work, time, and parts put into it was a lot more from this owner’s perspectives.. so if you buy a better condition bike it will cost a lot less to fix up and a lot less to pollute our land for others….believe me from experience..riding a newer bike is worth the money and pleasure…I’ll probably be selling my bike this summer…anyway hope the story/tips help…T

Getting a bike is not as simple as I thought. I need to do some more research and phone calling before I start driving places again.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #26

Water
personal:
flush toilet 3
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
shower at pool 2
wash fruit
mom:
communal:
rinse dishes
rinse salad

Electricity/gas
personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave milk 2’
laptop on all  day
microwave oatmeal 4’
microwave soup 2’
mom:
bake chicken leg in small toaster oven 30’
fry potatoes 5’
communal:
lights

Food
personal:
tea
organic milk
organic apples 2
organic chocolate
oatmeal
leftover takeout soup
whole wheat bread
dinner at friend’s house
mom:
baked  organic chicken
fried leftover potatoes
organic green salad
whole wheat baguette
communal:

Waste
personal:
toilet paper
orange peels
mom:
paper wrapper for chicken
salad scraps
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers

Recycling
personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers
junk mail

Transportation
personal:
drive to bike dealer 38 miles
drive to pool 6 miles
drive to friend’s house 3 miles
mom:
communal:

Non food shopping
personal:
mom:
communal:

Read Full Post »

Day 25 of Daily Footprint Project. This is the bike I want:

Biking the Environmental TalkBiking the Environmental Talk

Biking the Environmental TalkBiking the Environmental Talk

A vintage Schwinn Beach Cruiser, for $140, on Craigslist. Above my initial $100 limit, but for such a beauty, I am willing to bend. The only problem is, it’s in Sacramento. Its owner may come to San Francisco in the near future. That means I will have to wait, and if he does come down, I will have to drive to pick it up.

I am excited. This could be my Christmas present.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #25

Water

personal:
flush toilet 2
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 5
shower at pool 2
mom:
communal:
run dishwasher full load
rinse dishes
rinse veggies

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave milk 2’
laptop on all  day
microwave oatmeal 4’
mom:
fry steak
microwave potato 10’
communal:
lights

Food

personal:
tea
organic milk
organic raspberries
organic chocolate
oatmeal
local oranges 2
mom:
chocolate pudding
organic raspberries
scones from Whole Foods
organic steak
baked potato
communal:
organic tomatoes and fresh local mozzarella salad
takeout chicken soup from Whole Foods
organic whole wheat bread

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
mom:
paper wrapper for steak
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers
leftover turkey/stuffing/cranberry sauce
half salad
half burrito
leftover fish
old olives
tofu cake
old veggies
old jams
half bread
old peanut butter jar
old parmesan

Recycling

personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers
junk mail

Transportation

personal:
drive to appointment 5 miles
drive to pool 6 miles
mom:
communal:
drive Prad to airport  45 miles

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
photo paper
communal:
flea medicine for dogs

Read Full Post »

Barely recovered from the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday mania, I am being asked to step right into Christmas mode. There is no avoiding the ads, the Christmas aisle at the drugstore, the daily mentions of preparations in the paper, and the creeping frenzy that I feel in my surroundings.

Real vs. Fake, Which Tree is Greener?‘ Not only do I have to get a Christmas tree, but beforehand I am to do some research and read a whole page article. Nothing is ever simple anymore. Just reading about the pros and cons of each options was enough to give me a headache:

  1. The new fake tree. It looks so real, you won’t even notice the difference. Some even have a fake smell to imitate the real thing. The stuff will last you for years. Imagine, no more trip to the tree farm every year. No more loading the monster on the top of your car. No more mess of pine needles throughout your house. No more watering. Done, you are set. And why worry about how to dispose of it? By the time you are done with it, it will be years, and hopefully by then, we will have figured out how to dispose of plastics without taxing the Earth too much. Still, there is the environmental cost of producing yet another man made plastic object.
  2. The used fake tree. There are tons of those floating around. You are not generating new plastics. This is a very reasonable option. I can’t help but wonder about the life of those trees prior to being recirculated. Did they witness happy Christmases? Who were their prior owners? How come they got ditched?
  3. The real tree. If you are like me, and can’t stand the idea of a plastic tree, go ahead, indulge yourself and your family, and don’t change a thing to your tradition. Gather your whole crew into the biggest car you own, and set out to your usual spot. Go to a tree farm to cut down your own, or just visit the nearby lot with already cut trees. It’s so much fun trying to pick the perfect tree, not too crooked, not too tall, not too short. Will it fit? We never made it as far as the tree farm, always went to the same lot close to our house. If you are environmentally correct, this is something to think about. How much gas will you use to drive to the tree farm?
  4. The live tree. Forget all that cutting and buying a fake. Instead go to the nursery, and buy a potted tree that you can reuse every year. You can bring it inside for Christmas, otherwise keep it in your yard. Of course, this is not an option for people without a yard. Nothing wrong with that option, that I can think of.

Last year, Prad and I opted for a live tree, and we will be bringing it back into the house next week. The nursery did not have a suitable pine tree, so we ended up with a holly tree instead. I kind of liked the idea of branching out, of not getting the same boring old pine. The children were disappointed. Yesterday, Catherine asked about the Christmas tree. When were we going to get one? I reminded her about the holly tree. She stormed down to her room. ‘Getting a real pine tree, that’s what Christmas is about

Read Full Post »

Day 24 of Daily Footprint Project. After writing the last two articles on ‘Biking the Environmental Talk, Part 1 and Part 2, I felt the pressure to follow through, and to go on Craigslist. It really helps to make one’s commitment official. My green pride was at stake, and I had to take action. After looking at several ads and talking to a few prospective sellers, I am leaning towards an old Schwinn woman bike. It would please me to not spend more than $100. Tomorrow, I am to take a look at several bikes. I am getting excited. I am even thinking of giving the bike a name.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #24

Water

personal:
flush toilet 2
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
shower 1
mom:
rinse dishes 3
wash fruit 3
communal:

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave milk 2’
laptop on all  day
fry eggs
heat bread in toaster
mom:
communal:
lights

Food

personal:
tea
organic milk
organic persimmons 2
organic chocolate
organic eggs 2
Indian bread 1
mom:
chocolate pudding
organic raspberries
scones from Whole Foods
communal:
Indian dinner at sister in law’s house

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
mom:
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers

Recycling

personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers
junk mail

Transportation

personal:
mom:
communal:
drive to sister in law’s house 6 miles

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
communal:

Read Full Post »

Day 23 of Daily Footprint Project. I was to go through Craigslist to find a used bike. Instead my day got eaten up by greater priorities:

  1. Going to the Farmers’ Market with Charlotte who is visiting from Berkeley
  2. Taking Little Sister shopping for clothes at Target, and going swimming with her
  3. Answering emails and commenting on other blogs
  4. Cleaning up leftover mess from Thanksgiving
  5. Paying my bills
  6. Making weekly oversea call to my mother
  7. Picking up medicine at drugstores (I woke up with a bad case of hives, oh, joy!)

By the end of the day, I was ready to sit down and read the Sunday paper, at last. Greening one’s life takes time, and energy. I am also picky. I have this picture in my mind of the old bike I want. And who knows how long it will take for me to find it?

 

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #23

Water

personal:
flush toilet 3
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 5
shower at pool 2
mom:
rinse dishes 3
wash fruit 3
communal:

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
laptop on all ½ day
mom:
communal:
lights
stir fry baby bokchoy
pan fry fish 

Food

personal:
tea
organic milk
organic oatmeal
organic persimmons 2
organic chocolate
mom:
made chocolate pudding
bought nachos and turkey sandwich for Little Sister and her mom
communal:
baby bokchoys from farmers’ market
wild opah fish from farmers’ market

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
mom:
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers
leftover cranberry sauce

Recycling

personal:
mom:
communal:
2 Sunday papers

Transportation

personal:
mom:
communal:
drive to pool  6 miles
drive to renters’ house 6 miles
drive to Little Sister 10 miles
drive to Target with Little Sister 7 miles

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
clothes and shoes for Little Sister (Target)
communal:

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26 other followers