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Posts Tagged ‘ecological footprint’

Day 10 of Daily Footprint Project. I had to attend a business meeting in San Francisco late in the evening. Full of good intentions, I had planned to take the train.

Until I looked at the Caltrain schedule.

My meeting was from 6.30 to 8.30. The next train was at 10pm. I would not have gotten home until 11.15. Driving got me home at 9.15 instead. I am willing to go only so far with my green-ness. Two hours make a huge difference, especially this late at night. That’s a distance of 72 miles I could have not driven, if only the Caltrain system had been a bit more responsive to my needs.

I don’t know how many other folks go through this kind of calculated trade off. Huge invonvenience and pure green-ness, versus no hassle and a smeared green conscience. Again, economics come into play. Do the numbers warrant more late night trains? What is the cost of running more trains? Financial costs? Carbon pollution costs?

Upon further examination, I found this to be a hot issue in the Bay Area. Several advocacy organizations have been stirring the pot. The local papers have written articles on the subject. The real problem is not so much Caltrain, as the lack of a sound overall strategy for the whole Bay Area public transit. The train (Caltrain), bus (VTA), and subway (BART) authorities need to work together with local residents. This raises questions of leadership, priorities, and policy.

VTACaltrainBART

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #10

Water

personal:
flush toilet 4
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 5
two showers at the gym
mom:
communal:

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 4’
microwave oatmeal 4’
laptop on half day
mom:
heat chocolate milk
communal:
lights

Food

personal:
oatmeal with organic milk
organic orange
tea
organic milk
organic chicken soup
organic bread
mom:
organic blueberry muffin
organic hot chocolate
communal:
pizza takeout
salad

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
orange peel
salad veggie peelings
mom:
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers

Recycling

personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers
4 pizza cardboard boxes Transportation

personal:
drive to gym 6 miles
drive to San Francisco 72 miles
mom:
communal:

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
communal:
 

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Day 9 of Daily Footprint Project, and still nothing to report in the ‘Non Food Shopping’ area. Pretty amazing, given that only a few months ago, I was still writing about my frequent fashion expeditions to Target and Anthropologie.

From Compulsive Shopper to Passionate Environmentalist

You see, I no longer have the time, nor the desire to shop. My green conscience did not even need to kick in. The urge left me, just like that. Replaced instead by a much bigger passion. The La Marguerite blog has filled up my life, leaving no room for extraneous activities.

I would like to talk about the personal vacuum. There is this space inside, that we all have, and that we need to fill up until it becomes full. Ful-fill-ment. I never realized the true meaning of the word, until now. If we are fortunate enough to find a passion, like I am with this new vocation as an environmentalist, the passion will transform our life, into a meaningful adventure, and we will experience that fullness, that is so essential to our well being.

What happens when the vacuum stays empty for too long? It feels just like that, empty. And it drives us to look outside for fillers. This has been an ongoing thread in my blog, starting with ‘The King of Buthan’, and more recently, in ‘The World Needs Some of That Gypsy Spirit‘. Al Gore, during his interview for the Nobel Peace Prize, qualified the climate crisis, as ‘a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity’. I would like to add, that part of the solution to that challenge, is also of a spiritual nature. By spiritual, I mean the universal human need to transcend one’s condition with extra-ordinary meaning. A love so great that it literally takes our breath away.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #9

Water

personal:
flush toilet 2
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
two showers at the gym
mom:
communal:
rinse dishes
wash veggies
water for soup

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 4’
microwave oatmeal 4’
laptop on all day
mom:
cook cream of wheat
communal:
lights

Food

personal:
oatmeal with organic milk
organic persimmon
tea
organic milk
mom:
cream of wheat with organic milk
mango tango juice from Odwalla
communal:
organic soup with leftover chicken and veggies
organic salad
wild fish

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
sheets of paper
mom:
communal:
vegetable peelings
3 newspaper plastic wrappers

Recycling

personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers
milk bottle
junk mail

Transportation

personal:
drive to appointment, stopped by grocery on way back 5 miles
drive to gym 6 miles
mom:
communal:

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
communal:

 

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Day 8 of Daily Footprint Project. I have covered pretty much every aspect of my daily footprint, that I can think off.

Ecological Footprint, Looking Up and Out

Except for one glitch. In business, it’s called overhead. A mixed bag, where individual responsibility gets lost. In ecological footprint terms, it includes things in my house, such as, the fridge, the water heater, the heater, all the appliances that are plugged in 24×7, and the pool filter.

Going even further, and venturing into the field of environmental economics, I also need to look at my footprint contributions, as a consumer of external benefits. Included in that category are all the ‘free’ services I enjoy from collective entities. In most cases, I am paying for the services indirectly, e.g., city tax for public infrastructures such as street lighting, or merchant markup that covers store overhead costs such as heating. It is also clear, that I need to claim my share of the ecological footprint from such activities.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #8
 Water

personal:
flush toilet 2
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
two showers at the gym
mom:
rinse grapes
communal:
rinse dishes
wash salad

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 4’
microwave oatmeal 4’
laptop on all day
mom:
cook cream of wheat
cook bacon
communal:
lights
oven 325, 1hr 30’

Food

personal:
oatmeal with organic milk
organic persimmon
prosciutto from Italy
tea
organic milk
mom:
bacon from Canada
cream of wheat with organic milk
communal:
baked organic chicken
baked organic potatoes
organic salad

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
sheets of paper 3
mom:
paper towel to wipe off fat from bacon
#5 plastic container from takeout chicken
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers
plastic wrap for chicken
1 plastic bag

Recycling

personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers

Transportation

personal:
drive to appointment 5 miles
drive to gym 6 miles
drive to business meeting 5 miles
mom:
communal:

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
communal:

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It is day 7 into the Daily Footprint Project, and I just realized I have omitted recycling completely. Part of me thought, if it’s recycled, it’s ok, no need to include in the footprint checklist. Recycling is a little like carbon offsets, an easy way out of green guilt. If I recycle the stuff, it is as if I never consumed it in the first place. Is it?

Recycle Bin

Let’s take today’s example. We recycled both of our Sunday papers. A lot of paper, water, and energy, must go into producing and transporting those. Recycling also involves energy, and water to transport the old papers, sort them, transform them into pulp, and produce the new paper. The only things being saved are the trees. Meanwhile, coal plants keep emitting nasty greenhouse gases, and more of our water gets depleted.

The same reasoning can apply to all the other recyclables: other types of paper, plastics, glass, cans and foil, motor oil, batteries, scrap metal.

This is all important stuff. Even more important is the gross approximation that took place in my mind. Recyclable is a double edged sword. It is good in principle. If you are going to buy the stuff anyway, you might as well make sure it is recyclable. Less in landfills, more untouched natural resources. It’s too bad, it also gave me permission to hastily jump to an erroneous conclusion. If it’s recyclable, I can consume as much as I want.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #7

Water

personal:
flush toilet 2
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
two showers at the gym
mom:
communal:
rinse dishes
run full load dishwasher 

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
laptop on all day
microwave soup 3’
mom:
toast bread
communal:
lights
dishwasher

Food

personal:
oatmeal with organic milk
tea
organic apple
take out soup from Whole Foods
mom:
salami from Canada
organic white bread
communal:
dinner out Chinese

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
sheets of paper 2
mom:
plastic bag
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers

Recycling

personal:
mom:
communal:
2 Sunday papers
plastic bag 1
newspaper plastic wrappers 3
soup carton

Transportation

personal:
mom:
communal:
drive to gym 6 miles
drive to meet friend for dinner
drive to pick up Lashy 5 miles
drive to drop off Lashy 5 miles

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
communal:

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On the fifth day of the Daily Footprint Project, I relied on my magic key, a bit more than usual.

dsc00049.jpg

Three meetings back to back in the morning, a trip to the gym, another trip to Whole Foods, and last an outing to the restaurant with Prad. I calculated. That’s 27 miles, all in the Prius. Each trip an average of five miles, not counting our night out. This is pretty typical for me. I conduct most of my business locally.

Then, comes the question. Why not bike? The answer is, I am considering the idea. Emphasis on ‘considering’. The truth is, I looooove my car. What is there not to like? The immediacy, the convenience, the privacy, the spaciousness, the experience of moving around in my little cocoon. I can get on the phone while I drive, listen to NPR, spread my stuff on the passenger seat. I don’t have to worry about the other cars so much, I am not as invisible as on a bike. I can cram a lot more activities in the day. I am free to go wherever, freeway if I please, don’t have to plan. No need for a disgraceful helmet. I can wear a dress without having to worry about it flying off. I had never thought about all the advantages, until now. Ask my sixteen year old daughter, car = freedom. Not what the green people want to hear, but the truth nevertheless.

Compare with biking. It has been a while since I have used a bike. I lost my bike in our move two years ago, and even before that, I hardly ever used it. I have to go back years to remember what it is like to bike in the outdoors. What is so good about biking, that would make me want to switch, aside from the obvious environmental benefits? Biking is also about freedom, just like cars. Only, it is a different kind of freedom. No need to refill with gas. No more being stuck in traffic. A bike is small and light, it can fit anywhere. Parking becomes a non issue. Biking can be another way to exercise. It is a way of getting in touch with the environment, the city, nature, neighborhoods. Biking is zen, as in simplicity.

Driving, biking. Two very different kinds of experiences. Driving has the advantage of already being a part of my life. I need a little nudge to make room for biking. That’s where city based initiatives like Velib‘ in Paris are so important. They help jump start the process. I have forgotten how good it feels to be on a bike. The other aspect I want to bring up, is the need for cities to create a safe environment for bikers. In my town, there are only a few routes I could take, where I would not have to worry about sharing the road with cars and trucks.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #5

Water

personal:
flush toilet 2
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
two showers at the gym
mom:
communal:
rinse dishes 2

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 4'
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
laptop on all day
mom:
toast catherine
communal:
lights

Food

personal:
oatmeal with organic milk
organic apple
organic persimmons
tea
cup of coffee at coffee shop
organic orange
left over noodles
dinner at restaurant
mom:
egg
toast
communal:

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
paper cup at coffee shop (almost forgot to include)
mom:
toast
communal:
three newspaper wrappers
molded cream cheese in fridge
plastics (we take to recycling center now)

Transportation

personal:
drive to 1st appointment 3miles
drive from 1st to 2nd appointment 5 miles
drive from 2nd to last appointment 4 miles
drive from last appointment to home ½ mile
drive to gym round trip 6 miles
mom:
communal:
drive to Whole Foods 4 miles
drive to restaurant 4 miles

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
communal:

 

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Four days. It took me four days into the Daily Footprint Project to become aware of toilet paper.

dsc00025.jpg

The first three days, this most useful commodity did not make it into my list. Again, I am struck by my lack of consciousness. I so much take toilet paper for granted, that it did not even occur to me, to count it. Toilet paper, it’s a small thing.

For more discussion about toilet paper, go to No Impact Man. Collin wrote a great post on the subject, earlier this year. I particularly enjoyed the flurry of comments that ensued . . .

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #4

Water

personal:
toilet flush 11(oops)
wash hands 4
shower  at gym 2
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash apple 2
mom:
communal:
rinse dishes for dishwasher
rinse veggies

Electricity/gas

personal:
computer on all day
microwave tea 2’
microwave milk 2’
electric toothbrush 4’
mom:
cook cream of wheat breakfast on stove
communal:
lights
stir fry veggies on stove

Food

personal:
tea
local organic apples
chocolate
2 slices pizza
organic milk
mom:
cream of wheat w / organic milk
communal:
veggie stir fry
wild halibut from Costco

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
mom:
communal:
vegetable scraps

Transportation

personal:
drive to doctor’s appointment 1mile
drive to gym 6 miles
mom:
communal:

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
communal:
Note:
Prad took all the non recyclable plastics to the city recycling center special plastics bin.

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Third day of Daily Footprint Project. Six pairs of jeans. I counted. Fresh out of the dryer.

dsc00039.jpg

Part of my sixteen year old daughter’s biweekly laundry. I took her laundry out of the wash earlier, and put it in the dryer. I did that as a favor to her, and also because I needed the wash machine to do my own laundry. That’s when I realized. With my awareness more turned on than usual, I started counting the jeans. Six. I make do with one jean a week.

A big part of my footprint is related to my green softness as a mom. It is hard enough navigating the treacherous path of teen parenting, without introducing some more restrictions. If I was going to be pure green, I would hassle my daughter about so many things. Turning off the lights. Limiting her laundry. Using the Energy Preferred setting for the dryer. Even better, not using the dryer at all, and start using the drying rack more. Not driving to her school, that is only half a mile away. Not dumping recyclable plastics into the garbage. Turning off her computer. Unplugging her appliances. Eating leftovers. It’s not that I don’t tell her. I just don’t follow through with the kind of consequences and incentives that might make her take me seriously.

Call me weak, but I don’t have it in me, right now. I am fighting other battles, and I am not about to take on one more. If my children were little, that would be another story. The best I can offer, is to inspire her through my example, the small changes I am making every day.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #3  

Water  personal:
toilet flush 12(oops)
wash hands 4
shower 1
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
rinse grapes, apples
full load wash machine
mom:
communal:
rinse salad

Electricity/gas

personal:
desk light
laptop on since 8am
laptop plugged in overnight
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal
microwave
full laundry load wash machine
my load in dryer (except for towels and sheet, that went on drying rack)
electric toothbrush 3’
mom:
cook cream of wheat on stove
put Catherine’s load in dryer’
communal:
lights, appliances

Food

personal:
cup of tea with organic milk
organic oatmeal with organic whole milk
grapes
organic whole wheat bread local
organic yogurt, local
prosciutto, US brand from Virginia
apples
mom:
cream of wheat with organic milk
communal:
organic green salad
pizza carryout (4 for Halloween kids dinner)
Halloween candies for trick or treat
organic bread

Waste

personal:
mom:
lots of plastic wrappers from Ikea furniture
communal:
three newspaper wrappers
plastic bag from organic green grapes
compost from salad/veggie peelings

Transportation

personal:
mom:
wife:
communal:
½ mile late night errand to local grocery store

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
Ikea furniture for Charlotte’s room
rug, armchair, mattress, lamp
communal:

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