Population over 7 billion – don’t exhale!

Global CO2 continues to rise.

Global CO2 continues to rise

I’m sure everyone that follows Low Carbon Girl’s facebook page saw the Seattle PI article about  National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) report that our global CO2 levels have gone over 400 parts per million. NOAA’s widget (left) resides in this blog’s right-hand sidebar. I’ve watched the numbers quietly rise every month, but now they’re in red and they show no signs of slowing.

“This marks the fact that humans burning fossil fuels have caused global carbon dioxide concentrations to rise more than 120 parts per million since pre-industrial times,” added Tans. “Half of that rise has occurred since 1980.”

Almost three years ago when I started this blog, CO2 levels were at 392.92. I made some observations that I’d like to correct and they point to the even greater importance that we look for alternative energy sources, conserve resources and consume less. Here goes:

CO2 Baseline

The idea that a person should be concerned about the parts per million of CO2 in our atmosphere entered my consciousness four years ago when I read an article about NASA’s James Hansen with the unsavory message that our CO2 was ALREADY beyond safe limits. I figured a rocket scientist would know these things, so I started to worry about CO2 ppm but didn’t know what to do.

I’m pretty sure I read about it in the NYTimes or New Yorker and clipped the article for my Thoughts file, but the link above was one of the online versions I found, see who it’s written by? Bill McKibben! Mr. 350.org himself. And, it looks like, from his byline, that this was before he formed 350.org.

When the article was written, our atmospheric CO2 was 383 ppm. James Hansen’s position was that we need to get our CO2 levels back down to 350 ppm (it’s now at 392.92), kinda heading in the wrong direction.

What is a Human’s Baseline Annual CO2 Emission?
All of this got me thinking, if we’re oxygen breathers, CO2 emitters, what’s the CO2 cost of a human before we do anything at all (like jump in a car, run to the store and buy meat and dairy)? No one really wants to ask that question, right?

One source puts the number between 328.5 kg  and 206.23 kg a year. Most CO2 measurements are in tonnes, not the American ton. What’s the difference you may be asking (and why are we the last ones to use the metric system)? A ton is measurement used exclusively in the US and it is equal to 2,000 lbs. A tonne is equal to 1,000 kg. Here’s where my brain starts to hurt.

Just so you can check my math when I convert the numbers above:

  • there are .45359237 kilograms in a pound
  • 2,000 pounds are equal to 907.18474 kg
  • 1,000 kilograms are equal to 2,204.623 lbs.

We emit  between .33 and .21 tonnes a year or .36 and .23 tons a year. Clearly, just being human isn’t that big of a deal, it’s gotta be burning fossil fuels (like they’ve been saying) that is causing the majority of the problem. Whew!

World population 3:30pm East Coast time May 22nd 2015.

World population 3:30pm East Coast time May 22nd 2015.

I can’t believe I didn’t multiply the number of CO2 a year by the number of people. And, now there are over 7 billion people on the planet – wow!! You can watch numbers spin forward here. Anyway, I took a snapshot (left) and then multiplied the population number with the low end of the CO2 exhaled per person (.23 ton/yr), which equals over a billion and a half tons of CO2 (1,682,834,489.85). So, kind of a lot just for breathing.

As the population grows the need to conserve resources and consume less grows as well.

Posted in Conservation, My CO2 Footprint | Comments Off

Island Power – How to Cut Carbon Emissions Without a Lifestyle Overhaul

blue_sky_logoIf you’ve been reading my blog over the past couple years or have just been trying to reduce your carbon footprint, you know how hard it is to make meaningful lifestyle changes and still be part of modern society.

Or, maybe you’ve made great strides and have transitioned your family from a meat-heavy diet to one that is more plant-based; decided to stop visiting family living a plane-ride away. And, maybe, you have even given up your car for a bicycle and wear secondhand clothing that does double duty on your bike and in the office (easier on the West Coast than the East Coast). If so, then kudos to you and your family; most of us manage to recycle most of the time, and feel guilty the rest of the time.

Smart Energy
It wasn’t until I started thinking about buying an electric car that an easier path to a low-carbon lifestyle came into focus. After doing a little research I realized that driving an electric car isn’t that much better than some of its gas-powered counterparts unless its powered with renewable energy. The cost of setting up a solar array for my new electric car seemed excessive. What to do? What to do? Why not change the source of our electricity? How hard could that be?

Not that hard. In 2008 our neighbors in Jefferson County (Port Townsend) voted to give electric authority to their public utility district, Jefferson PUD.  Today, they have their own locally controlled, nonprofit power system, which is virtually carbon-free. They get their power from Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). 89% of BPA’s power is hydroelectric which is nearly free of carbon emissions [download a PDF on their resource mix and carbon emissions ].

We could get our electric power from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and in one fell swoop reduce the island’s carbon emissions. BPA has set aside a small amount of low cost tier one power for new nonprofit utilities. Of the 150+ megawatts of power currently available Bainbridge would need about 50 megawatts.

Local Economy
While Bainbridge Islanders’ first concern may not be job creation, it is interesting to note that Jefferson County was able to create 35 living-wage jobs when they created an electric utility. And, more importantly, now about 50% of the 33million dollars in ratepayer revenue stays in the county as compared to 2% previously. Could Bainbridge Island benefit from another revenue stream? Probably. Let’s keep more money on the island instead of sending it off island to a foreign-owned utility.

Island Voice
Currently, 49% of Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) electric power comes from carbon-emitting coal and natural gas. The coal-generated electricity comes from Montana’s Colstrip coalmine, which is an environmental hazard – it is one of the top ten emitters of carbon dioxide in the United States plus its ash ponds have polluted aquifers. “PSE is the largest owner of Colstrip, which consists of four separate coal-fired units.” As an investor-owned utility, Puget Sound Energy has a fiduciary responsibility to increase their net worth, and coal is a good financial investment.

Local nonprofits, such as Climate Action Bainbridge and the Washington chapter of Sierra Club have lobbied PSE to retire the Colstrip mine without being truly heard or impacting PSE’s operations.

“In early October, PSE customers, Coal-Free PSE actives, and a coalition of partners delivered 10,000 petitions to PSE in Olympia. Accompanying the petitions was a report card, in which PSE was given an ‘incomplete’ for not coming up with a plan to retire their coal plant.” – Sierra Club’s Cascade CREST newsletter winter 2014.

As a nonprofit island-owned utility, we would finally be able to voice our preferences, be heard and adapt quickly to new technologies. Imagine being able to add power to our grid from distributed sources that can recycle waste heat and energy. There are many exciting options available today which will reduce our negative impact on the planet without completely altering our lifestyles. Who’s in?

To find out more about Island Power go to our website: island-power.org and follow our FaceBook page BainbridgeIslandPower.

Posted in Alternative Energy, Green Ideas, My CO2 Footprint | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

How to Kick the Plastic Wrap Habit

plastic_wrapA couple of years ago, before I began to give the idea of zero waste any thought, I was in a meeting when someone at the end of the table announced, “I never use plastic wrap.” How could this be? How is it possible?

I had always used plastic wrap. It was a staple on my shopping list, and, when I lived at home, my mom’s shopping list. It turns ordinary bowls and plates into leftover containers. It’s magical. How did that person at the other end of the table go without? Was her food just sitting there exposed to refrigerator air, getting crusty? Did she use those plastic-shower-cap looking things to cover her bowls? I didn’t have a chance to ask before the meeting got underway.

Fast-forward to today and I unexpectedly have the answer: reusable containers. Obvious, right? Not exactly.

At first we bought containers, including a memorable set of nesting containers from Ikea with sizes ranging from useable to comical single-strawberry size. Eventually, we ended up with the unusable tiny containers and lids for all the others. Digging through the cabinet to find the right lid was time consuming, if not impossible, so we just used plastic wrap instead.

It wasn’t until I stopped throwing away/recycling containers and started using them to store leftovers that I realized:

  1. how many tubs of salsa we buy and jelly we eat,
  2. what a perfect size food containers are for leftovers,
  3. we didn’t lose the lids because each container’s lid is identifiable by color, material and shape,
  4. all of our bowls and pots are freed up to be used for their intended purpose, and most importantly,
  5. we would never have to use plastic wrap again.
Posted in At Home, Conservation, Food, Green Ideas, Recycling, Saving Money, Shopping | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

Zero Waste Bathroom Gap Update

Homemade toothpaste, mouthwash, face lotion

Re-purposed jelly jars are perfect for homemade personal care products. Note, bamboo toothbrush – mostly compost-able!!

Just a quick update on my bathroom commercial-product-replacement progress. You can find the before image in my last post.

First, I was loving baking soda instead of commercial toothpaste, it did a GREAT job of removing the coffee stains on my teeth, but then I was thinking it was doing perhaps too good of a job, so I’m switching to Trash is for Tossers’ toothpaste made of baking soda (naturally!) and coconut oil. Oh, my goodness! How have I overlooked coconut oil for so long?!? I love cooking with it, but had no idea how many commercial products it can replace with aplomb.

Second, I found a recipe for face lotion on Homemade Mommy (with coconut oil!) and essential oils that I’m using. I think in the future, I’m going to use aroma-free coconut oil instead. I was thinking coconut smell goes with everything – I love it – but it is a little icky with carrot, myrrh, frankincense and lemon. The recipe called for lavender essential oil, but I had to draw the line on somewhere on essential oil purchases.

And, finally, I found an easy mouthwash recipe on Organic Natural Beauty. No one’s complained about my breath, so I guess it’s OK (I do have very polite friends, so maybe that’s not a good indicator). I ended up using the Basic Mouthwash recipe (#1). It has to be easy or I’m not going to make it, if you know what I mean.

I haven’t gotten around to making body lotion yet. I feel certain it’ll contain coconut oil. Or, maybe I should just put a jar of coconut oil in the bath as I read it’s good for scrubbing the shower too. So versatile!

Not sure I’ll warm up to the whole sugar-water hairspray idea. I hardly ever use hairspray anyway. And, I’m too chicken to make my own sterile saline solution (I suppose if I was really zero-waste I wouldn’t use disposable contacts of any kind – just glasses, from 1950s, maybe they’re making a retro comeback).

So that’s probably it for me for now, other than figuring out how to make laundry detergent. Just glad to be able to put some of those jelly jars to good use. :-)

Posted in At Home, Green Ideas, Recycling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Baking Soda is the Answer

Baking soda the main ingredient in many homemade personal care and cleaning product recipes.

Baking soda the main ingredient in many homemade personal care and household cleaning recipes.

How to achieve a zero-waste lifestyle is the question.

This morning I not only brushed my teeth with baking soda but also used it to wash my face and hair. Who knew?  Apparently, I’ve been spending way too much money on personal care products. (My hair, face and teeth are looking good.)

Now, I could have used a vinegar rinse on my hair but haven’t made any up yet (I need to buy more vinegar – in BULK!! – and if possible poured into my own reusable container). And, I’m wondering, if I regularly use baking soda and vinegar rinse on my hair and face, will I need to clean the bathroom less often? As we all know that combination (baking soda and vinegar) is a zero-waster’s household cleaning staple. Hmmm!

Why does simplifying my life seem so hard, and scary, sort of like jumping off of a cliff?

What is a Zero-Waste Lifestyle Really?

Here’s the thing, zero waste is sort of a catchall phrase more than a definition. Amy Korst author of The Zero Waste Lifestyle describe it as follows:

“Trash-free living means different things to different people. For some families, a trash-less life might mean moving from filling a giant, 64-gallon garbage can a week to filling a 32-gallon garbage can once a month. To others, it might mean a small grocery sack of garbage a week. To still others, going trash free means sending absolutely nothing to the landfill at all.”

This is my problem with the term trash-free or zero-waste. It refers to what goes to the landfill and apparently there is quite a bit of leeway in the amount. But, I think it should mean no recycling either, which is probably impossible as its hard to buy anything that isn’t encased in packaging of some kind.

My husband and I have a 20lb garbage can, which we put out each week, or every other week, but it would be nice to just put it out once a month. If I could reduce our trash by that much, which would still be 240lbs a year, I’d be psyched.

How Crafty Are You?
I’ve been thinking about attempting a zero, or near-zero-waste lifestyle. But as soon as I started reading about it I was overwhelmed.

Yikes!! Where to begin? The thing about zero-waste is that its underlying solution, the ugly truth is that we need to start making our own __________ (fill in the blank). Who has the time? And, what if I don’t want to learn how to make my own makeup, toothpaste, lotion, etc??

spice_jars_sm

We take our own spice jars and bulk food containers to the grocery store to reduce our reliance on plastic. Note tare weight stickers.

It’s not that I haven’t tried reducing my trash, with an emphasis on bypurchase plastic (that should be a word, like bycatch) at the grocery store  and by using biodegradable garbage and doggie pooh bags made of corn.  Plus, both my husband and I now use bamboo toothbrushes. (Think about it – we throw toothbrushes out every 3-4 months. More than 4.7 Billion plastic toothbrushes are dumped in landfills every year worldwide. And, they take over 1000 years to degrade.)

It’s just that I’ve tried making my own cleaning products in the past with disastrous results such as an all-purpose cleaner that was more toxic than anything I could have bought in the store. Thankfully, recipes have improved.

Looking at just one part of my life, so as not to get overwhelmed, I glanced in the bathroom and took stock. Let’s look at recipes for common bathroom necessities.

bathrm_plastic_sm

My bathroom zero-waste gap. Replacing most commercial brands with homemade recipes. Have essential oils will apparently try anything.

My Zero-Waste Gap in the Bathroom
Looking at the photo left, which is missing some items, but still, you get the idea, here’s what I’m considering making to reduce my waste:

  • Tooth paste (already use a bamboo toothbrush) – now using baking soda
  • Shampoo – now using baking soda
  • Face Wash – now using baking soda
  • Mouth Wash – found some great recipes, just got essential oils to try them out.
  • Lotion – going to try coconut oil
  • Saline solution – OK, I found some recipes but messing this up just scares me too much. So, I’m not going to replace my store-bought saline solution just yet.
  • Hairspray – made with sugar water, sounds iffy but I’ll try it if you will.
  • Laundry detergent – going to try this recipe out from Wellness Mama
  • Bathroom/Kitchen cleaners – using baking soda and vinegar
  • Dental floss – couldn’t’ find a replacement. Yarn maybe? I’m not going there right now.

Want to Try this “Zero-Waste” Thing Yourself?
Here are some starting points:

drying kelp

My first kelp harvest :-)

I find myself following Passionate Nutrition’s Jennifer Alder’s personal care tips because they’re so easy and they work. I took Jennifer’s Seaweed 101 class in the San Juans last year and love her tips on seaweed, foraging and eating nutrient-dense foods. She looked great. So, I figure she’s living proof that her tips work.

Posted in At Home, Green Ideas, Recycling, Saving Money, Shopping | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Earth First

EarthIs there any chance that we can put the earth’s needs before our own and conserve resources? It’s a tall order and I’m not really sure it’s possible. Not because we don’t want to save resources in theory but because our way of life is so ingrained that it’ll take generations of concerted effort to change our habits, lifestyles, goals, systems and values.

Many humans consume natural resources as if they are unlimited or perpetually renewable (We used a year’s worth of resources by mid-August this year). It seems the world is slowly getting a science lesson that we are part of one complex ecosystem (UN’s Climate Change Report – damage done is irreversible ). We’re finding out that the earth’s ability to cleanse itself of our waste and regenerate its natural resources has real limits.

Earth is Talking is Anyone Listening?
Unlike humans, insects, birds, mammals, are very temperature sensitive (we are too but we can put on/take off clothes and have shelters everywhere, we’ve very adaptive). They can only live, reproduce and eat within specific air and water temperatures, for instance. As temperatures change, plants and animals shift their habitat and some will become extinct (shifted right off of this planet).

Most often we have a myopic view of how our lives and jobs are impacted by climate change instead of telescoping back out to see how the entire world is being impacted. Warmer water in Maine has caused the cod population to collapse and people have lost their jobs.

“It paid for fishermen’s boats, fed their families and put their children through college. In one halcyon year in the mid-1980s, the codfish catch reached 25,000 tons.

Today, the cod population has collapsed. Last month, regulators effectively banned fishing for six months while they pondered what to do, and next year, fishermen will be allowed to catch just a quarter of what they could before the ban.”

Our livelihoods and food sources are being negatively impacted by climate change – are we listening?

I’m going out on a little limb here, but climate change is going to negatively impact our transportation system too. I think air travel is going to become impossible as air patterns become more unpredictable. There are more and more reports like this one of severe turbulence that injures people and causes planes to change course. You can imagine how this will play out. Heavy doses of denial, designer crash helmets for airline travel, harness seatbelts, etc.

Closer to home, Mount Rainier’s glaciers are melting at six times the historic rate due to climate change.

It could be time to start eating crickets. We need to find ways to let the earth heal itself, if that’s even possible. It’s shaking us by our shoulders, are we listening?

No Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card
I’ve been pinning my hopes on solar energy as well as other renewable energy sources as a way we might reduce our impact on the earth. But, after reading articles such as Bird by Bird in the NY Times this month it’s clear that we need to reduce our consumption of resources — period. We can’t just swap one resource for another and hope it’s OK.  It’s the fact that we consume enormous quantities of our resources that’s the problem. The article talks about birds getting fried by large solar arrays – the same solar arrays that are supposed to help us reduce our impact on the environment BUT still allow us to live exactly as we do today.

“Climate change is everything, a story and a calamity bigger than any other. It’s the whole planet for the whole foreseeable future, the entire atmosphere, all the oceans, the poles; it’s weather and crop failure and famine and tropical diseases heading north and desertification and the uncertain fate of a great majority of species on earth. The stories about individual birds can distract us from the slow-motion calamity that will eventually threaten every bird.”

Will Phone Apps Save Us?
So, what does a low-impact life look like — a cabin in the woods with no running water? Let’s hope not. One of the earliest attempts to define a low-impact lifestyle was No Impact Man and more recently there are books and blog posts advocating a Zero Waste Lifestyle. However, Millennials may have taken low-impact to a new level without sacrificing their lifestyle. As an article in The Atlantic points out Millennials prize access over ownership so they aren’t buying cars and houses as quickly as previous generations. (Isn’t consumerism (and the pressure to constantly consume more to improve GNP) one of the main reasons we’re experiencing climate change?) See: The Story of Stuff.

Apps such as AirBNB, VRBO, Lyft, RelayRides, Getaround, DogVacay, and even tool rental apps such as Zilok have changed the relationship people have to their stuff.  It’s a cultural breakthrough and maybe just what the earth needs – another way to build community and a sharing, service-based economy instead of one built around consumerism.

Gratitude the Older Sister of Sustainability
My friend Joy wrote a great blog post for her birthday about gratitude – for all of the elements of our lives most of us take totally for granted. If we were truly grateful for the comparative ease of our modern lifestyle would we be so quick to fill our lives with more stuff, and, debt, as Momastery points out in a post about a potential kitchen renovation? Can we jump off of the consumerism carrousel and still find value and fun in our lives? I think so.

Posted in Alternative Energy, Conservation, My CO2 Footprint, Shopping | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Losing Power

kwatt, kilowat, kWSaturday we lost power all day. It’s par for the course on Bainbridge where a light breeze or, in this case, a dusting of snow can render most or all of the island powerless. To be fair, temperatures had plummeted to a rarely seen 27 degrees. Frozen, our tall, regal pine trees shed their weak, damaged or dead branches taking down power lines, starting fires and impaling roofs.

Modern life depends heavily on electricity – maybe to the point of vulnerability? That realization really hit home Saturday. Maybe it’s because I had hoped to get a lot done, or maybe I just had a lot of time to think about it.

In either case, we’re lucky, we have a wood stove, plenty of dry firewood (hand-split by my husband) and a propane stove as well as a small generator (runs on gas), which is pressed into service when the food in the refrigerator is at risk. The power goes out so often that we easily slip into camping mode and reach for our headlamps on our bedside tables and light candles in the kitchen if it’s dark.

On Saturday, my husband left to go deer hunting (opening day) – he was excited as tracking deer in the snow makes his job easier. I stayed home and started a fire in the wood stove. Although I felt a twinge of guilt for creating localized air pollution, I was grateful for the wonderful warmth and looking forward to a day of reading.

Without electricity, what was harder or impossible to do?

  • Drive my car. The garage door is electric. There is a manual override but I would need to break into the locked garage to use it.
  • Clean the house. Sure I could dust or mop but vacuuming was out of the question. And, even dusting or mopping without lights on a dark winter day seems almost pointless.
  • Run the dishwasher full of last night’s stinky dishes.
  • Turn the lights on – obvious, but real.
  • Do laundry.
  • Use any room in the house. If I wanted to stay warm I had to stay in the living room near the wood stove.
  • Get work done online. No bill paying, responding to emails, doing research, entertainment. The internet was down.
  • Watch TV.
  • Talk to friends unless the cellphone is fully charged and there are backup batteries. We got rid of our land line telephone years ago and just use our cellphones, so their battery power needs to be conserved. (We have gotten backup batteries and a solar panel, but still, cellphones are our connection to the outside world and help if we need it.)
  • Baking. The idea of reading and warm cookies crossed my mind but no baking without electricity. Although, I guess if you’re really handy you could warm something on the wood stove.
  • Read ebooks, unless the reader/device is fully charged.

So, not only is our convenient, modern livestyle dependent in a very real way on electricity but also on batteries to store and discharge electricity.

Without electricity, I walked my dog and then settled in for some old-fashioned book reading by the fire. Nice for one day, but what if we had to live without electricity? Or limited electricity? Or, what about national security if the grid goes down? Eek. Large grids are starting to look like a liability.

Distributed power. That’s what I’m thinking. Micro-grids.

Posted in At Home | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

Time to Buy an Electric Car?

electric carAs you probably know, one of the basic tenets of living a low-carbon lifestyle is to use everything as long as possible.  Then, if need be, reuse and then finally recycle or better yet, compost. Well, I don’t see myself composting my car, or even recycling it anytime soon, but it is in that gray area between “it runs OK” and “I need a live-in mechanic.”

Please know that I pride myself in holding onto cars for a long time. I’d still have my SAAB 900S (which had 300,000 miles on it ten years ago) if a drunkard hadn’t smacked into it while it was parked curbside. I loved that car. I cried seeing it smashed, its hatchback grotesquely twisted open, sides dented. We took so many fun ski trips together; skis strapped to the top, friends cozy inside, cruising up mountain roads. And, driving to the beach with four bikes crammed on top ‘cause everyone was training for triathlons. I can even remember when the speedometer turned its first 100,000 around a curve on Storrow Drive in Boston.

I don’t love my current car as much. It’s more of a utilitarian box with wheels. So, when it started to sputter, I started to daydream about a new low-carbon car. One of those electric cars I see gliding quietly around. Besides, my hiking, snowshoeing, mountain-driving days are fewer and fewer, so something without aggressive tires and all wheel drive would probably work for me 90% of the time.

And, I know what you’re thinking; building a new car is far from a zero-carbon emissions process. So, is a new electric car lower-impact or should I just hold onto the sputtering box? Thankfully, our friends at The Guardian have already looked into the carbon footprint of a new car.  The article talks about the complexity of gauging carbon emissions for the entire process of building a car giving a range of 6-35 metric tons per car. And, ultimately suggests that we keep our old cars. I’m not deterred.

I found a CAR carbon-footprint calculator – miracle!  Ok, let’s see what my box on wheels is costing the world in emissions. Oh, I’m sorry, based on this calculator, I’ve spewed 58.6 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere over the last ten years. That said, I think I have a case to buy a new car if my driving is creating approximately 5.8 metric tons a year. Then buying a small electric car that creates carbon emissions to build but none to drive might be worth it. Tiptoeing forward.

Ok, before you get all up in arms, I know that driving an electric car is just externalizing pollution to wherever your electric power is generated. On Bainbridge Island our power company Puget Sound Energy still gets 30% of its power from a coal plant in Eastern Montana.   (As you probably know, Sierra Club’s Coal-Free PSE campaign is trying to pressure them to replace coal with renewable energy. ) In fact, there is an interesting article on electric car emissions by country. The data is a little old, but it gives a nice overview of the impact of each country’s electric power generation on electric car emissions.

So driving electric cars here isn’t that much cleaner than some of their gas-powered counterparts unless they are powered by solar  (or other renewable) energy. Did someone say solar? That’s like a get-out-of-jail-free card, right? Guess who’s been working on solar car charging? Our friends at Sierra Club, along with Ford and a solar installer, SunPower that’s who.  This is hot off of the presses. I’m totally psyched because if I buy an electric car I want to power it with solar energy. I’m practically giddy. I was looking at solar charging stations for cars and they are super pricey, but if I can integrate solar power into our house and have that charge my new car — woohoo!

I’m going car shopping. I’ll keep you posted.

Posted in Fuel, Green Ideas, My CO2 Footprint | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Turbines as Far as the Eye Can See

turbinesLast night I watched Disruption. Climate. Change. a precursor to the People’s Climate March on Sept 21st in New York City.

It was a powerful call to action. I was momentarily sorry I would not be able to go to NYC to be part of this historic event.

But, the next morning I woke up feeling uneasy. Yes, its important that we make our leaders aware that protecting our planet is important to us. Yes, we need to address climate change. Yes, renewables are a good idea.

But, about those renewables… it was the image in the movie of turbines stretching across the ocean as far as the eye could see that gave me pause. It occurred to me, renewables are not going to be enough. We need to change our lifestyle. I think if we look deep, most of us are secretly hoping that we can continue to live as we are now and just swap out fossil fuels for sun and wind power. If that’s true, we need to make one more change: how we see ourselves in relation to our environment.

Yeah, that’s right. We need to change how we see ourselves in relation to the world around us. Big time. As a culture we are very focused on ourselves. We’re the sun and moon of our existence.

One of the most famous images on the Sistine Chapel ceiling is God is touching the finger of man, giving him life. God’s not touching the nose of an animal or showering the fields with rain, nope. It’s all about us. Michelangelo’s David is another example, but I don’t mean to pick on Romans. Our self infatuation is evident everywhere. And, our myopic focus on ourselves is going to be our downfall. Facebook, anyone?

If we’re secretly hoping that we can continue to live as is and just swap out fossil fuels for sun and wind power, then I think we need to make one more change: how we see ourselves.

We worship ourselves. I’m not just talking about religion. Listen to any radio station. What are 99% of the songs about? The same is true of movies, TV, books, and most art in any museum – we elevate humans and the human form to the highest level. All you have to do is look at birds, fish, animals, or vistas in a national park to know nature is more beautiful and in many instances more sophisticated than anything we can create or imagine.

I was glad to see Vermont taking the moral high road in a Times Argus article Moral Response to Climate Change. They argue that it doesn’t make any sense to replace an intact ecosystem of incalculable value for turbines and an industrial complex capable of offsetting fewer than 10 days of carbon emissions from NYC traffic.

Keep ecosystems intact. Increase wildlife habitat. Realize we’re an intrinsic part of the ecosystem.

Posted in Alternative Energy, Green Ideas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Oil and Honey

You’ve heard of  Bill McKibben and the incredible global climate movement he started, 350.org, right? His book Oil and Honey details how he became an activist and what it takes (incredible energy, ideas, speaking and writing ability, and almost no time at home relaxing with family or friends).

My two major takeaways from the book were:

  • We have five times as much oil, gas, and coal reserves as any scientist thinks is safe to burn.
  • The value of ExxonMobil and other oil companies is in their reserves, estimated at $28 trillion dollars. Wow. That’s a lot of mullah to kiss good bye.

You can see the rub, right? If renewable energy isn’t as profitable, there is no real incentive for oil companies to change their product and become renewable energy companies. Bill McKibben writes about this conundrum in detail in his 2012 Rolling Stones article Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.

Posted in Alternative Energy, Fuel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off