Archive for the ‘Green Living’ Category

Save the Tongass

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Add your name to the list of those that want to save the Tongass (read more here).

Call (202-205-1661), write, or email Abigail Kimbell of the US Forest Service and let her know your disapproval. The form email sent from the NRDC site is:

Chief Abigail Kimbell, U.S. Forest Service
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250-0003

Dear Forest Service Chief Kimbell ,

I strongly urge you to protect all remaining roadless areas in
the Tongass National Forest and to direct Forest Service
officials not to increase costly road-building or logging in
this precious national treasure. Roadless areas comprise our
last wild places and they should not be made vulnerable to
logging, drilling or other development. As a nation, we must
continue to safeguard the heart of our national forest legacy by
protecting the ecological health, wildlife habitat, drinking
water and recreational value of those few American forests still
unspoiled by roads.

It makes no sense to use taxpayer subsidies to destroy the
Tongass, America’s great rainforest and one of the crown jewels
of the national forest system, and jeopardize all that it offers
for local hunting, fishing, recreation, tourism and subsistence

Time and again, citizens like me from around the country have
called upon you and the administration to protect the Tongass.
It’s time to heed this overwhelming public sentiment by
preserving, not destroying, the remaining wild stretches of this
truly unique part of our natural heritage.



Portland Gets Greener

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

I admit, I was hesitant to believe I was actually going to relieve myself of my car when I moved to Portland. St. Louis definitely requires the car to get to almost anywhere I wanted to go. Plus when I need to haul stuff…you can only carry so much on your back and in your arms.

So it was with great relief that I found Flexcar via EcoGeek. From Flexcar’s site:

Welcome to a new era in personal transportation. It’s called car-sharing and it’s incredibly easy! You share access to hundreds of Flexcar vehicles, often within a five-minute walk of your home or work. You reserve a car online or by phone; you drive – to a meeting, to run errands, or to hit the lumber yard; and you return to the car’s designated parking space, all for one hourly rate that covers gas, premium insurance and 150 free miles. All you pay for is the drive. How simple is that? Plus, Flexcar is convenient, affordable, reliable, and great for the planet. Join the transportation revolution that called the “wave of the future.”

I looked at their monthly savings calculator and found the numbers quite pleasant:
My average cost of ownership is about $550 per month, mostly depending on the number of miles (which affects gallons of gas purchased and oil changes needed) I drive per month.

The cost of Flexcar, based on the number of hours per month, broke down like this:
5 hours per/month 45.00
10 hours per/month 85.00
25 hours per/month 200.00
50 hours per/month 375.00

So even at a high volume clip, I’m still saving $200-$300 a month. Plus, if I reduce my driving to almost none (which is my intention), that’s $500 or so a month I get to keep in my account. Granted, there will be other costs, like bus passes and the like, but by and large, I’ll be saving $6,000 a year, and that’s nothing to scoff at.

Greener Communities

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Given the buzz around a new site that ranks your location according to its “walk score”, I thought I’d take a look at how the various places I’ve lived over my lifetime are stacking up today. The general idea is that a community with a higher score is easier to get around in on foot, there by reducing or removing the need for a car. I have to say, my upcoming move is highly motivated by the desire to be rid of my car for a while.

  • Strasburg, VA: 51
  • St. Louis, MO (High School): 26
  • Elsah, IL (College): 9
  • First house (STL): 54
  • First townhome (STL): 35
  • Second house (STL): 57
  • Upcoming move to Portland area: 82

Definitely moving up the score ladder. I’d like to think that in a couple years I’ll be able to get car that plugs into the grid rather than into a gas station pump. At the least I’d like a car that can run on ethanol (a great cellulosic ethanol infrastructure would be great) or biodiesel. But who knows, Portland may be destination forever, and public transportation, biking, and walking may meet my transportation needs. At any rate, I’m looking forward to the move on many different levels.

Eat local

Friday, July 6th, 2007

It’s no secret that to the best fresh fruit and veggies are the ones that travel the least to get to your kitchen. That’s why it is so important to spend your time and money at your area farmer’s markets. The benefits, short and long term, far outweigh the negatives. Sure, I can get corn 4/$1 at my local supermarket, but its pretty blah on its own and needs help. Conversely, locally grown corn purchased at the farmer’s market near me is delicious without any help from seasonings.

With that in mind, it is sometimes hard to know where these purveyors of fresh, local produce can be found. Fortunately there a plenty of websites that can get you started on your search. Two that I have found recently and like the cut of their gib include:

These only open the door to the possibilities near you. One thing to remember…it’s perfectly okay to eat seasonal food in season and leave it when the item is out of season. Abstaining from out-of-season foods will liven up your menu by exposing you to a wider array of choices and who doesn’t like variety? And sure, this all takes effort, but I think this is effort well spent. Enjoy your local markets!

Sweet Battery

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

I’m a big fan of green living and when noteworthy technology comes along that enables green principles to be adopted by the masses, I’m all for it. Such is the case today, when I read, via EcoGeek, about a fuel cell being developed by researchers at Saint Louis University that runs on sugary liquids (ah ha, the double meaning of the title is revealed!). The hook from the SLU press release:

Juicing up your cell phone or iPod may take on a whole new meaning in the future. Researchers at Saint Louis University have developed a fuel cell battery that runs on virtually any sugar source – from soft drinks to tree sap – and has the potential to operate three to four times longer on a single charge than conventional lithium ion batteries, they say.

Now, I’m all for this kind of technology making it into mainstream commercial applications; my reservations come in when I see tree sap being listed as a potential source. I’m a big fan of real maple syrup and it already costs an arm and a leg. Should it be found that sap from the maple (especially the sugar maple, duh) is the best fuel source, I may have to hurt something, as the demand for these fuel cells would raise the price of syrup even more. So let’s pull for soda, which we really shouldn’t be drinking anyway, or some alternative source of sugar to be the front runner in the fuel cell’s source, and not maple tree sap.

Whatever the source, I am excited about these fuel cells. I wonder, though, at this sentence: “Like other fuel cells, the sugar battery contains enzymes that convert fuel – in this case, sugar – into electricity, leaving behind water as a main byproduct.” At first, the reaction is, “Great, water is the by-product; who doesn’t love that”. I wonder what the other byproducts are though. Hopefully not a contaminant of some kind, as that would really mar the greenness of the fuel cell. I guess the wise thing to do is to watch carefully as this technology progresses and keep a foot on the ground when listening to the hype of any “100% green” technology.

Slow Down and Smell The…Food?

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

Gluttony is probably the sin I indulge in the most and, at this point in my life, I’m able to eat what I want at whatever quantity I want. This does not mean I am an undiscerning eater. Quite the contrary, I enjoy quality food and wish I was better at cooking those fancy meals. While fast food certainly kept me fed during school, now that I am out and bringing home a paycheck, I came to the decision that fast food really has nothing to offer me anymore. I ate it for the quantity to price ratio, to help keep some weight on my body for sports. Without that high demand for energy, quantity really has become a non-issue.

Another aspect of eating I feel fortunate in is that I haven’t really met a food I didn’t like. There are exceptions (like White Castle, but I have the fast-food-embargo card to play there now), but they really boil down to badly prepared food, not the food item itself. So I challenge myself when I eat to either order or make something I have not had before. This is most challenging at Thai restaurants, as I love Pad Thai; usually, those I’m eating with order it and I can get something else, knowing I’ll probably get the end of their plates when they have become full.

My cooking abilities are quite meager at this point. The hardest part for me is that I don’t like to cook for just myself. So if a certain someone could return from New Zealand, perhaps the pots and pans would get more varied use! That situation will be rectified soon, so I’ll be able to crack into that Joy of Cooking cookbook and create some tasty treats.

One aspect of cooking I hadn’t really considered before was the origin of the ingredients. Just go the the Schnucks or Shop and Save and pick up your ingredients, right? Well, not necessarily. Part of green living is working to use nature and the environment in a sustainable way, but also doing it in a way that still benefits people in other ways. It was in thinking about how to shop for food that would be raised in a “green” way that I came across an organization that is striving to promote this way of thinking. Their motto: “…counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.” Their name: Slow Food International.

Always in search of getting more out of my experiences, I think this organization brings quite a bit of education to the table (pun intended), teaching people about the hows, whys, whats, and whens of the foods they eat. It seems pretty obvious that supporting the local farmer’s markets and co-ops. Search Google Maps for farmer’s markets near your zipcode and you’ll probably find a few; I found 6 within 10 miles of me. Who knew? I do, now.

So here’s to making and experiencing good food, knowing that you are being responsible to yourself, your local community, and the ecosystem. It certainly makes things taste better knowing you’re contributing to those causes.

Get Paid For Heating Your Home

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

At least, that’s what the hope is. This article from The Christian Science Monitor is rasing awareness of new micro-combined heat-and-power untis, or micro-CHP, that have recently entered the market in the New England area. These little babies supposedly generate heat and electricity as a by-product, helping reduce your electric bills while still heating your home. If anything, it is important for technologies like this to be exposed to a wide audience to let people know there are alternatives to relying on the utility companies for all your heating and power needs. Let’s hope something big comes of this!

The Green Is Spreading

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

It seems like, in a lot of instances, that geeks begin to embrace a technology and slowly, over time, the general population adopts the technology too, the Internets being the recent example. So it was to my delight that I found a geek’s blog totally centered on green living! Just perusing his recent articles, I found several that got the tinkering juices flowing and that I’d like to try out in the near future.

I am definitely going to keep an eye on this blog and do my best to help spread the word about green living. Hopefully society will begin to take the green approach seriously.

Man of…microfibrillar cellulose???

Saturday, July 15th, 2006

Think steel is the only way to make something really strong? New research seems to have made material out of organic material that is as strong but tips the scale at a fifth the weight. From the article:

Microfibrillation destroys the original bundles of cellulose fibers in plants, and creates a new structure consisting of tiny interconnected microfibrils.

We all remember from way back when that plants are, in fact, a renewable resource. While this process can produce steel-like material, it can also produce softer plastic-like materials. Replacing plastic with the cellulose-based materials lessens the need for oil, as plastic is derived from oil. Crude oil is refined and portions of it are used to create plastics of several varieties. While plastics do not consume a large portion of crude oil (estimates put it around 4%), certainly anything that can reduce the demand on oil, and increase research into renewable resources, should be encouraged. Hopefully this use for cellulose will prove beneficial on many levels.

Greenspan takes note of alternative fuel

Friday, June 23rd, 2006

Ethanol has been receiving quite a bit of press, but a harsh look at the numbers show that corn is not the endgame solution for the US’s energy woes. Should we hang up the spikes and enjoy our remaining years of gasoline, while bracing ourselves for a catastrophic fallout when the last gallon is burned? Nah…corn-based ethanol, while helpful, and certainly a good poster child for green energy, is not the answer. A combination of green energy technologies, including corn-based ethanol, wind, solar, geothermal, biodiesel, and others, will be the only way to curb this country’s 140 billion gallons per year gasoline habit. Perhaps the most promising, though, is cellulose-based ethanol. CNN Money reports:

But unlike corn-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol can be made from a variety of things that might otherwise be considered waste – sewage sludge, switchgrass, plant stalks, trees – virtually anything that contains carbon.

There is a potential 1 billion tons lying around the country that would be usable, which is estimated to be equivalent to 100 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol. While it is probably impossible with our current infrastructure to tap all of that potential, it certainly poses a significant contribution towards freeing ourselves from fossil fuels.