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Posts Tagged ‘green solutions’

There are so many green tips floating around, including in this blog. I thought I would make a list of the essentials. You know, the big categories in your life, you absolutely have to address if you are going to make a difference. If there is one list you need to remember, it is probably this one:

  1. Insulate your house
  2. Use public transportation, biking, walking, to reduce your driving
  3. Limit flying, and if necessary travel coach
  4. Cut down on your water use
  5. Cut down on your electricity/gas use
  6. Eat less red meat
  7. Buy local, buy organic
  8. Cut down on shopping
  9. Refuse plastic bags, anything plastic if not biodegradable
  10. Buy carbon offsets to completely neutralize your lifestyle

I like this list. It is one I can put away easily in my head, and it gives me a feeling of control. Boiled down simplicity, for a change.

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Americans are clean freaks, that’s a well known fact. I want to address this part of the American culture specifically, because it goes contrary to some of the behavioral changes that will become necessary as the climate and water crisis worsen. Health magazine just published an article on ‘The Germiest Places in America’ . I am not going anywhere after reading the article. In fact, I am not even going  in my kitchen, or my bathroom for that matter. The world is a scary place they say, with germs lurking everywhere, about to ambush you, and we are told, ‘wash up people, and get ready to wage a bit of germ warfare of your own’.

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To reduce the risk of germs form wet dirty laundry, we are told, 1) ‘Run your washer and dryer at 150 degrees . . .’, 2) ‘Transfer wet laundry to the dryer quickly so germs don’t multiply, and dry for at least 45 minutes’, 3) ‘ wash underwear separately’. Forget all the green tips about running washer warm or cold, minimizing number of loads, and air drying your laundry.

To combat germs in the bathtub, ‘Once a week, apply a disinfecting cleaner to the tub.”You need to actually scrub, then you need to wash the germs down the drain with water and dry the tub with a clean towel. ‘ How about showering instead of taking a bath?

This American habit of washing, cleaning, sanitizing, germ killing, is costing beaucoup precious water and energy. Other, just as civilized countries are not so concerned, and they seem to do just as well. Of course this is coming from someone who used to let her little children explore floor surfaces to their hearts’ content. I am French, after all.

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I am an addict. And I need help. In the absence of a clear program, I am left on my own, to find an approach that will work for me. It’s been confusing, so far, and I can’t tell what’s helpful, from what’s not.

The Not so Green Zone
First, there is the danger of the not so green zone. You know, that fuzzy place where it’s pretty much up to you to decide what your green regimen should be. It’s very flexible, and understanding of your situation as a recovering consumer. Let’s set our expectations low, since we know the moon is out of reach. The problem is just that. Low expectations produce dismal results, coupled with the dangerous illusion that one is doing something. The not so green zone is where I dwelled until a few weeks ago, when I decided, enough was enough, and I wanted results.

The Absolute Green Zone
Second, and just as dangerous, is the absolute green zone. No room for error here. You are green, or not. There is a list of things you know you have to do, all of them, and there is no skipping any. The advantage is you know what is expected of you. Things are clear. Relapses are frowned upon, and you better get back on the train quick. Very much like going on a diet. You know what happens to chronic dieters, though. They follow the diet for a while, and then one day, they just get fed up, and say, the hell with it, I am going to eat as a please. I am a living testimony of why (green) lists alone rarely work. Lists are tools that need a context.

The Green Steps Community Zone
Outside of these two danger zones, lies a third space, one I am just starting to formulate for myself, and who knows, maybe others if they want. I call it the Green Steps Community zone. It borrows from the 12 Steps model and the community principle of social networks. 12 Steps was built on the notion that the support from other fellows struggling with similar addictions, coupled with accountability to the group and a sponsor, are essential to the success of the recovery process. People cannot accomplish recovery on their own. Couple 12 Steps with social networks, and you’ve got the beginning of a solution. Social networks are not the privilege of Web 2.0. There are many other different types of social networks, starting with families, neighborhoods, churches, schools, workplaces, all of which need to be considered for this idea of Green Steps Communities.

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Looking out my window, I see Prad, and pretty much every other male in our neighborhood, all gathered outside. The big deal? Rob, our neighbor across the street just got his new miniature electric car delivered. The Carver One is really cute, and bright orange.

Rob is a VC and invested in Venture Vehicles, the company that makes the car. The guys can’t stop talking. Rob is giving a demo, driving his Carver around the block. Everyone wants a turn.

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I used to be a printing maniac. Until I decided to move my office down to the first floor guest room. The printer got forgotten in the move, and is still sitting in my old closet office. I am enjoying all the freed up space on my desk. All of a sudden, it has become really inconvenient to print. I have to take my laptop upstairs, and hook it up to the printer. Result: I have not printed once since the move, several weeks ago. Instead, I have developed a better filing system for all my emails. Number of sheets of paper saved: at least one hundred.

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In my house, Green Guru does all the maintenance. I got this monthly green checklist from him:

  1. Replace burnt out light bulbs with CFLs
  2. Tune up your car, including oil, tire pressure, and air filter
  3. Check heating and AC filters, replace if necessary
  4. Check for water leaks, fix if necessary
  5. Check on thermostats, and keep temperatures down to:
    1. winter day 68
    2. winter night 55
    3. summer 78
    4. water heater 120
    5. fridge 37
    6. freezer 3

Not a very long list. And you would be surprised how much energy and money you can save as a result. Try it, and let me know if you notice a difference in your utility bill.

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Continuing with my mashup of green tips from the web, here is a list of twenty small things you need to do only once, and that can go a long way towards making your household a lot greener

  1. Get a bike
  2. Caulk and weatherstrip your doorways and windows
  3. Get a clothesline
  4. Install low-flow showerheads
  5. Insulate your water heater with wrap around cover
  6. Buy a composter
  7. Buy a rake
  8. Set up online payments for all your bills
  9. Stop your junk mail, with Green Dimes
  10. Install a water displacement device in your toilet tank
  11. Get a two side copier
  12. Install flow restrictor aerators inside your faucets
  13. Set up recycling bins throughout your home
  14. Straighten your drier air duct
  15. Get a hand push mower
  16. Install automatic timers for lights
  17. Get electronic thermostat
  18. Recycle your second fridge
  19. Set the thermostat on your water heater to 120
  20. Plant native plants in your garden

All twenty things you can do on your own, and with little investment of time and money. I am due for bike, composter, clothesline, online payments, Green Dimes, and if I feel rich, maybe a two side copier. Some of these items, I have mentioned before . . . Writing is cheap!

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Take NRDC ‘s Green list, Laurie David’s list, and Times 2007 Global Warming Survival Guide. Mix altogether, and sift through for the big items, and you will come up with a list like this. The last two items, I had to add.

  1. Install solar on your roof
  2. Buy a hybrid car
  3. Switch to double pane windows
  4. Insulate your walls and ceilings
  5. Replace old appliances with Energy Star appliances
  6. Switch to a tankless water heater
  7. Have a green wedding
  8. Pick a job close to home
  9. Pick a green mate
  10. Have only one child

I am doing pretty well according to the list, except for the tankless water heater, and the two children. :) Green Guru says he has been thinking about the tankless water heater. Apparently it is not so easy finding an installer. I will let him deal with that one.

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Another talk with Green Guru about my projects:

(GGW) I’m really excited about this Carbon Conscious Project. I want to find a way to make it easier for people to take action.

(GG) You are fighting a lost cause. People are just selfish, and they just don’t give a s… . The only way to get them to change is through economics. And even that, I am not so sure.

End of conversation. I refuse to enter Green Guru’s rhetoric. The difference between he and I is, he is a pessimist, and I am an optimist. I want to believe in the human capacity to change. It’s going to be tough, no doubt, but that is no reason to give up. Collectively, we have not found the ways yet to persuade the majority of people.

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I have the great honor of hosting Canadian artist and writer, Franke James, for this new BlogActs Guest Series on La Marguerite. Franke James’ unique philosophy on fighting climate change is to ‘do the hardest thing first‘, so she can relax and enjoy life! James environmental visual essays have been featured in newspapers, on radio, TV and many online blogs including Treehugger, Worldchanging, Eco-Sherpa, and What is the Next Message. Franke adapted her ‘Green Winter‘ visual essay into a narrated animation, with music composed by David Gray, Big World Songs. It was recently featured in her presentation ‘Six Tools to Make Climate Change Art‘ to 150 high school students at The McMichael Gallery. ‘A Green Winter’ will also be published in an anthology of readings for Canadian university students entitled Perspectives on Contemporary Issues, to be published by Thomson, Autumn 2007. James has a Masters Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Victoria, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Mount Allison University.

“Turn off that light!” That shrill command has been ringing in my head since last winter when we got serious about reducing our hydro usage.

If I ignored it — it was followed by a voice mocking me, “Do you own shares in the electric company, dummy?” Whoever or whatever planted that annoying voice in my head (I think it was my smart-a*s brother-in-law), it worked…

Yesterday, I opened our electricity bill and found an insert: “Congratulations and thank you for reducing your electricity use by 10% this summer!”

I studied the bill carefully… Only a 10% reduction? Not that I’m competitive or anything but I thought we’d done better than that! In fact, we have reduced our usage by over 20%. But Toronto Hydro is not awarding gold stars for overachievers. The good news is we earned a 10% Summer Savings credit. Not bad. And thankfully we didn’t have to sign up for any program — Toronto Hydro just went ahead and did it. They awarded the 10% discount to any consumers who qualified. Super easy. No red tape. I like that.

Now you’re probably imagining us as heroes for doing without electricity… But it was so easy.

#1. We threw out the TV and read books by candlelight.. (just kidding)

#2. We unplugged the Beer fridge (not kidding). We finally gave it the heave-ho in September. More room in the basement now!

#3. We turned off lights whenever we left a room. It’s a habit that’s easy to pick up if you think about money being wasted.

#4. We switched to the new curly (CFL) light bulbs. But we also have lots of Halogen lights, so that didn’t make a big difference.

#5. We reduced the use of our air conditioner by opening skylights and windows (clever inventions). We also raised the thermostat to 24 or 25 degrees. (If you wear shorts, it’s a very comfortable temperature.)

#6. We reduced the use of our electric dryer with the installation of a low-cost solar linear-drying device — otherwise known as a clothesline. (Thanks to Green Party Leader Frank de Jong for that fancy moniker.) I would have used the clothesline a lot more but I haven’t solved the problem of scratchy, sandpaper towels. I tried eco-fabric softener but that only helped a little.

Admittedly we still have a few ‘vampires’ sucking energy so I can see we can still do better…

But, hey… this feels pretty good. I’m encouraged that our little actions made a difference in our pocketbook. And in reducing our footprint. We’re adapting to the new reality of climate change.

Now if I can just reduce our use of water….

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