Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Upset about the spill? So start using less oil. Today.

I keep being asked to boycott BP, buy bumper stickers or join hands on a beach.  The better way is to start reducing your carbon footprint.

There's no time like the present. Here are some easy things I do that you can start right now, today:

Waste less gas.  Don't let your car idle. Don't drive round and round looking for the closest parking space or sit idling as you wait for a space blocking the road and forcing others to also sit. Park the car at the first space you come to and turn it off immediately. Don't start it until you are ready to pull out. Coast, don't race up to red lights.  Don't speed. Make sure your tires are properly inflated.  Combine trips. Do your shopping on your way home from work for example. Don't drive short distances that you can easily walk. It's often faster and more comfortable to walk than deal with parking, traffic and a car that's hot as a furnace from being parked in sun.

Use less plastic.  Refuse throwaway shopping bags.  Use fewer plastic bottles.  Get stainless steel bottles and a filter for your tap. You can pick these things up at Walgreens and similar stores which I am sure you'll pass on your way home from work. Make brewed iced tea and other drinks at home.

Waste less electricity. Adjust your thermostat. Every couple of degrees makes a big difference. Use your ceiling fans and dress appropriately for your climate.  Don't heat up the house in summer by using your oven. In winter, heat up your house by cooking things in the oven.  Turn things off and unplug when not in use. Pick up some CFLor LED bulbs on your way home if you haven't already made the switch in any lights left on for an extended period.

Don't buy silly things.  Shop resale. Stores are full of silly pointless things the planets resources should never have been wasted on to manufacture, package and ship.  You also don't need a special cleaner for everything.  I have very few and do most things with vinegar, baking soda and rags.

Eat less meat. Buy more locally produced food and goods.

Toilet paper and paper towels from recycled paper for the few messy messes that your don't want to use your rags for.  Soft toilet paper comes from old growth forests, btw.  Don't use it. I like the Safeway store brand and there are several supermarket chains that are affiliated and carry the products. Tom Thumb and Randalls for example.

Unsubscribe from magazines and papers you rarely read. Use websites that stop junk mail.

And those are just things you can start doing right now. I hope you keep it up by getting a more fuel efficient car or car pooling, walking and using public transport.  By improving your home for efficiency. By Switching to a low energy notebook computer.  By shopping resale for clothing, accessories and furniture. By replacing batteries with rechargables.

And best of all, most of these things save you money and are healthier for you.

Shopping list:
Reusable shopping bags. Whole Foods and a few other supermarkets have the best large recycled plastic bags.
Stainless Steel drinking bottles- Walgreen has some with both a flip top and regular screw cap for $5.
Water filter
Baking soda
Spray bottle
Tire guage

Some things you might want shop online, resale or discount or big box stores:
Compact Flourescent or LED light bulbs in multi packs.
A more expensive water filter that is cheaper in the long run due to filter costs. I use the Aquasana.
Cloth Napkins, although you could always use dish towels. Try resale, dollar stores or ikea.

As LEDs get cheaper and more available, choose them over CFLs. There are many negatives to CFLs which are full of mercury which must be disposed of properly, are not meant to be used upside down and possibly affect power quality which could harm other electrical equipment.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Smaller members of the food web in the Gulf

I've been worried about crabs and other smaller creatures in the gulf. Was anyone doing anything to preserve them?  The shore birds can't come back if there is no food for them?  Can these things be spawn as they do in fish hatcheries? Can we get the fish hatcheries that now mostly breed fish for sport fishing and our food industry be converted to these now vital residents of the gulf? What about the live bait industry?

Today NBC had a report with Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute that didn't answer all my questions, but did mention the issue with the smaller creatures in the chain and that they were producing fish and coral for restocking.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Some of the things I do for the environment.

What I do:
Minimize auto usage by walking and/or combining trips and considering if I really need to go there today.  Follow certain safe eco-miling practices such as not wastefully letting the car idle and driving around and around looking for the closest possible parking space.  I don't start the car until I'm ready to move, park at the first space I come to and turn the car off immediately.  And where possible, park where I can pull out without a lot of maneuvering.  Keep tires inflated and car in good running condition. We don't have mass transit of any use to me here, btw. If we did, I'd use it.

Keep the thermostat at 80 in summer with the ceiling fan on. (I live in a beastly hot climate.) I don't use the oven or even multiple stove burners in summer. I believe in one pot meals, which also minimizes cleanup. Keep the thermostat below 70 in winter and use the oven for cooking when it can warm up the house.  And always dress for the climate.

Have a water filter and drink only from glass at home, stainless steel bottles and cups when on the go.  No plastic bottles. I drink tea and other drinks made at home. The bottled beverage industry gets little money from me as well. 

Use only a low-energy notebook computer which I turn off and unplug when not in use.  I have no accessories or chargers left plugged in when not in use.

Grow some of my own food and shop in my local farmer's market.  Carry my own shopping bags and re-use produce bags.  Eat mostly meatless meals and only buy animal products from pastured animals. While I'm not extreme enough to make a big deal about it when eating at someone's home or something, the horrific, inhumane, unhealthy, polluting beef and pork industries get no money from me. And poultry doesn't get much either.  And I try to buy only sustainable fish. I just can't get the hang of cooking those whole Idaho farmed trout. But I'm trying. I also buy a lot in bulk such as dry beans at Whole Foods where I bring my own bags.  I also volunteer at a school garden where hopefully the kids are being encouraged to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Shop resale. The charity thrift shops near me are really good. Maybe they are near you as well.  Look for those that take consignment. If I bought it over the last 5 years or so and it's not shoes or underwear, it's most likely resale. Especially, clothes, accessories, linens, kitchenware, furniture, etc. And I have a far bigger and better wardrobe than when I shopped more retail. And so much cheaper. There's also yard sales and freecycling websites. Make sure you offer your castoffs to others rather than throwing away.

I make very little garbage.  In fact, I use the bags my cat food comes in and it takes me two weeks to fill the 25lb size bag. I compost food scraps. And I have very little to recycle. Just junk mail, occasional cardboard boxes, the boxes a few food items like tea and pasta come in, vitamin and aspirin bottles, a few glass jars although I reuse many of those.  I bought re-usable bowl covers to use instead of plastic wrap for most leftovers.  They sell them in the same place as the plastic wrap in the supermarket and at Dollar tree. I also use cloth napkins and rags for cleaning.

I also use very little in the way of soap and detergent. You don't need as much as most people use. Why use a cleanser to strip your body of oil, then apply moisturizer?  My clothes aren't very greasy, so why all that detergent?  And I do most of my cleaning with water, rags, vinegar and baking soda.  BTW, you aren't supposed to fill those caps that come with the liquid concentrate detergent.  There are lines indicating how much they want you to use and they are at about half a capful. 

And of course, I have CFL light bulbs, recyclable batteries, turn things off, etc.

These things really aren't tricky or a hardship.  I plan to do a lot more when I get my dream house built out of energy saving methods and designed around gardening and other details of my ideal lifestyle. But right now it's just all designed in my head.  I'm looking to get a new job and relocate out of here. And for now, I rent.


So, I only recently learned that methane is 85% of the fairly clean burning fuel we call natural gas. I don't know why I never heard that before.  And methane the most damaging of the green house gases (which I did know) so apparently we are better off burning it for energy.

And thanks to mining and drilling disasters. I've observed that it just gets released into the atmosphere in all our carbon fuel extracting activities like coal mining and oil drilling. Not to mention by decomposing plant products and animal waste and the outrageous number of cattle we raise. And yet we do nothing to capture all that. 

Why would a coal mine just vent the methane into the atmosphere when there's money to be made from it?  Why wouldn't natural gas companies make deals with the coal, oil and waste management companies?  Why would they rather pump millions of gallons of water into the earth to extract shale gas and let the toxic water seep into our water system?

If we are better off burning it for fuel than letting it get released into the atmosphere, then it should be the law that it be captured.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

So have you started reducing your carbon footprint yet?

I don't mean recycling. I mean reducing.

Everyone is criticizing big oil and BP, yet I don't see any more people refusing the plastic bags and/or bringing their own in the stores.  Except in places like Whole Foods, I look around and I'm usually the only one with my own bags.

And are you using any fewer plastic bottles yet?  Wasting any less gas yet?  Adjusted your thermostat yet?  Turned things off yet?

Also, here's a blog post about oiled wildlife on Grand Terre island from many days ago.  Why is the media only now telling us about this? Why do they keep reporting from Grand Isle?