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Going Green

Last post 05-13-2008 6:04 PM by writer lady. 8 replies.
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  • 03-27-2008 12:08 PM

    Going Green

    We've adopted several measures at our house to conserve energy and tread more lightly on the planet, and we're always looking for more ideas that will easily work for our family. I say "easily" because it's not always easy to get everybody on board: I recycle with about 90 percent consistency; my husband is at about 30 percent. But I'm the one whose guilty of doing a lot of unnecessary driving. Mea culpa.

    The thing is, every once in a while I think I'm making an earth-friendly choice, and then I do further research and discover the benefits are largely hype. For instance:

    • We considered buying a hybrid car, but then learned that they don't really get the mileage posted on their labels. My husband is very interested in electric cars and scooters, but if we have to plug it in to charge it, is that really better for the environment? Better to keep our 1992 Volvo and just drive less.
    • We replaced nearly all of our incadescent light bulbs with compact flourescents, and then heard about the mercury they contain.
    • We were set to replace our ratty carpeting with bamboo, and then read an article the environmental impact of bamboo. Turns out that a lot of old-growth forests have been clear-cut to plant lucrative bamboo groves. Combining that with the effects of shipping it from China to Florida probably offsets the benefits.

    It's confusing. Is anyone else confonting some of these same challenges? Is there a one-stop information source for socially-responsible, scientifically-proven ways of saving energy?

    So far, we've retrofitted our 1950s house with enough solar panels to power the lights, TV, and DVD player in the family room, where we spend a lot of time. Our outdoor lights are solar. The new washing machine, dryer and stove are Energy Star rated. My husband rides his bike to work three days a week. We recycle (some). We do more of our household cleaning with vinegar and baking soda. Down blankets allow us to turn the heat lower at night; ceiling fans mean we can keep the AC set higher. We eschew paper and plastic bags at the grocery store and take our own reusable bags.

    Please tell me what steps you're taking. And when you come across an interesting article that will help me and others sort through some of the conflicting information out there, this is the place to share it.

  • 03-27-2008 12:44 PM In reply to

    • mike
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on 01-23-2008
    • Posts 960

    Re: Going Green

    You're doing a lot to help protect our environment, and I'm impressed by how eco-friendly your house is. I hope solar power grows in popularity and thus shrinks in price. It's such a clean and environmentally friendly power source. If it would just become more cost-effective, we could probably eventually do away with our fossil fuel dependence.

    One of the biggest problems with being environmentally friendly is that it's hard sometimes to weigh the costs and the benefits. Often the hype overshadows the real issues and we find ourselves doing things that actually harm the environment rather than help it. We really have to look deeper into the issues before we act. I used to work with environmentalists and I learned quickly that many people are prone to get too excited and jump to extremes in defending the environment. Nature needs to maintain a delicate balance and people tend to upset it whenever they push too far in either direction.

    Every man dies, but few truly live. Live your life to its fullest, every day as if it were your last.
  • 03-27-2008 12:47 PM In reply to

    Re: Going Green

    For years we turned off our water heater whenever we weren't using hot water which was most of the time. I would turn it on when I got up in the morning so it would be ready by the time I needed to shower and dress for work. We also would wash our dishes by hand in the sink in the mornings while the water was hot (there are only two of us so we don't dirty many dishes in one day). On the weekends I would do laundry after showering. As soon as we are done, we turn off the water heater. No sense in having the water heater run all day and night when we only need hot water for a couple of hours. The down side is having to wash your hands in cold water during the winter, but that was pretty minor.

    We very recently got rid of the old tank water heater and bought a "tankless" water heater. The tankless water heater only turns on when there is a request for hot water, it heats the water quickly as it passes through it, and shuts off when the hot water is shut off. The tankless water heater is about the size of an unabridged Webster's dictionary, but a lot lighter. We did not notice our electric bills going down when we switched, but we were already turning off the tank water heater when not in use anyway. We were pleased to see that the electric bill did not go up, so the tankless water heater is not using any more electricity than the tank water heater did when it was turned on, and we have hot water whenever we want. As a small bonus, we got to take a deduction on our taxes for installing an energy saver device.

    May you live every day of your life.
  • 03-27-2008 1:34 PM In reply to

    Re: Going Green

    Thanks for the info, Blogette. One of the few things that doesn't need replaced this year in this old house we bought is the water heater, but I'm sure it won't be long! Is the tankless water heater a good option for retrofitting in an older home? Or is it best for new construction or a major remodel?

  • 04-04-2008 1:01 PM In reply to

    • Romo
    • Top 25 Contributor
    • Joined on 12-31-2007
    • Florida
    • Posts 98

    Re: Going Green

    I applaud your green efforts! It sounds like you have a lot of the bases covered--working towards energy efficiency around the house and investing in renewable energy to power your home, doing away with some of the things people take for granted like "paper or plastic," reducing your use of harsh, ground-water polluting chems for everyday clean up, and then some! Wow!

    One of the changes my that's been popular in my family is buying locally produced foods. My grandmother, mother and I all took to this one pretty easily, but we also share the unfair advantage of enjoying vegetable gardens and home-cooking.

    Back around the time of Y2K and then once again in 2001 there was a flood of media hype about food-security for city dwellers. One of the ball park figures that I remember was along the lines of the average American city having enough food in it's pantries and store shelves that, were all the roads to the city closed to traffic (i.e., the trucks that transport food from farm to warehouse to market), supplies would be depleted within three to four days.

    I bring this up to illustrate how heavily we depend on food being transported across the distances. This adds up to a higher than necessary environmental impact. Hence, the eco-motive for buying the local-est foods you can. As a bonus, the less time "fresh" foods spend in transport and storage, the better they seem to taste!

  • 04-07-2008 4:23 PM In reply to

    • Romo
    • Top 25 Contributor
    • Joined on 12-31-2007
    • Florida
    • Posts 98

    Re: Going Green

    After reading in your post that compact florescent bulbs contain mercury, I started asking some of my friends about it. One of them said he looked around the internet and Snopes says it's a myth. Which let me rest easy. Then I actually saw the warning on the package of a bulb, and now I can't sleep at night again...

    I hear Scientific American is will be posting on this topic specifically on April 10th (last week they ran an article on when to turn florescents off and when to leave them on). You can find them on line at sciam.com.

    If I find anything on how to safely dispose of them, I'll be sure to post it here. You all do the same!

  • 04-08-2008 10:22 AM In reply to

    Re: Going Green

    I was looking for the same information yesterday, and found links for EPA guidelines for disposal of CF lightbulbs, and instructions on how to clean up a broken CF lightbulb or thermometer.

    From the EPA site, you'll also find links to your local solid waste disposal department, so be sure to check with them to find out what their mercury disposal instructions are.

  • 05-13-2008 4:14 PM In reply to

    you won't need a secret decoder ring for this

    changing how you eat is a great way to change how you impact the environment!

    one thing that does multifarious harm to the environment as we know it is the use and overuse of agricultural chemicals. (a quick and incomplete list: contributes to groundwater pollution; helps pests develop into resistant strains--think new york city's resurgence of bed bugs, only with crop pests! yikes!; changes soil structure to eventually render it void of the bacterial and enzymatic life that aid plants in nutrient uptake; etc).

    one thing you can do as a food consumer to lessen this impact: choose organic.

    to make choosing organic in the produce section a little easier, here's a quick way to decode the sticker on your next apple or aubergine.

    a four digit sequence indicates conventionally grown produce.

    a five digit code beginning with 9 indicates organically grown produce.

    and a code that begins with 8 indicates a GMO product.

    most stores clearly indicate what's organic on their signage, but by FDA rule, stores have no obligation to tell you the GMO status of your prospective purchases. those stickers are your best chance at avoiding GMO foods, which harbor all the ill will of conventional produce against the earth, and then some.

    emcee christmas
    Currents&Waves
    Filed under: , ,
  • 05-13-2008 6:04 PM In reply to

    Re: you won't need a secret decoder ring for this

    Thanks, emcee christmas, now I can catch my cheapskate husband in a lie when he assures me he only buys organic!

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