And other double entendres.
I hope you all had a wonderful holiday today - I sure did!
The kids loved almost all of their presents. Santa apparently pulled a bonehead move and tried to sneak some educational toys into Ethan's stash. The boy declared them "boring" and tossed them aside like an empty bottle of Stolichnaya.
But most of the toys were a hit! Ethan LOVED his new "big boy bike" and spent most of the day riding it in circles around the house. Daphne happily played with her doll house and her tea set (oddly enough, I have no moral objections to buying actual china from China - why is that?).
Hubby got his sports shirts, several books, an i-Pod car adapter and a radio-controlled dragonfly. Him, not so much with the green gift getting. And I try not to push my greenness on anyone who I hadn't actually given birth to. But the kids? Sucks to be them - I feel they owe me for the whole nine months and the labor thing.
I got my toaster oven and smart strip (although hubby is already to rip that sucker out of the wall -- it takes the cable box a full minute to reboot and he just doesn't have that kind of patience). I also got a couple of surprises including the new Richard Russo book (one of my favorite authors) and Stephen Colbert's "I Am America (And So Can You!)".
Somewhere in between the tea parties, dragonfly dodging, bicycle pushing and packing for our trip, I managed to devour that Colbert book. It is HYSTERICAL and I found myself laughing, guffawing, chuckling, chortling and snorting the whole way through it. It is most definitely worthy of the standard "uproariously funny" review given to such literature. I uproared at least six times reading it.
The kids never got dressed and hubby and I spent the whole day in our sweats. We ate mini-chocolate bars and Santa's leftover cookies most of the day. Our Christmas dinner was home-made pizza and root beer. It's kind of like "To Hell With Personal Hygiene Day" but with a dash of "To Hell With Proper Nutrition" thrown in for good measure.
Well, I'll probably be offline for a couple of days here, so have a great one, friends. I'll catch up with you sometime around the New Year!
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
And other double entendres.
Monday, December 24, 2007
I think I need a drink...
Well, folks it's Christmas Eve and I'm relaxing on the couch with a cold cider and some warm long johns. It's been quite a day here. We discovered last night that our hot water heater has sprung a leak. A big one. And it soaked through the dry wall in the garage and drenched all of hubby's power tools and building materials.
So instead of spending the day wassailing and going for sleigh rides, we were hauling out the garage, drying off tools and ferrying a generous load of gooey drywall and limp cardboard to the dumpster. But it wasn't all bad.
Ok, it was.
There is no one to call at this point, since tomorrow is Christmas day and we'll be gone for part of the week on vacation. So hubby drilled some holes under the water heater to allow the water to drain into a bucket (remember, the hot water heater is what heats the house, so we can't just drain the whole thing and deal with it when we get back). Fortunately for us, our dog sitter is our next door neighbor and he said he'd keep an eye on it for us.
So as I'm hand-drying routers, sawzalls and drills, I'm feeling a little down about the whole situation. I mean, I'd love to replace the whole damn heating system with a super energy-efficient solar-powered on-demand water heater, whole house fan and heat pump, but we just don't have that much cash laying around. So I know I'm going to settle for replacing the much less efficient gas-powered hot water heater with another one just like it.
But then I started to think about how lucky we are to even have a home. At a time when many Americans are losing everything because they opted for an Adjustable Rate Mortgage - and helplessly watched their monthly payment swell out of control - we should be thanking our stars that I'm a nervous Nelly and opted for a fixed rate. Otherwise, we could be in the same position as many others. So at least we aren't losing our home. It's just disintegrating around us.
But the bottom line is this - Sometimes you do what you can. If cash weren't an issue, we'd be living in a totally green home surrounded by energy efficient appliances, with a wind-turbine outback and R-45 insulation in the walls. However, like most Americans, cash is an issue. A big one. And it sometimes prevents me from going as green as I'd like.
So I make the changes I can with the money or time that I've got and call it a day. What else can I do?
Merry Christmas to All, And to All, A Dry Night.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
The Ties That Bind... And Gag
My family is awesome. I'm not just saying this because they read my blog AND because it's only two days till Christmas AND they paid me to do it. It's because they all are just as nutty as I am and they make me laugh till cold beverages come out my nose.
Since I'm "on vacation" and too busy with Christmas fun to make regular blog updates, I'm recycling a favorite post from my sister, Heather, who has been blogging since they were "web-logs". If you ever thought I had issues.... well, read on.
A little background here. This post was written back in 2003. I don't know if you recall, but there was a rolling blackout in the northeast that year. Sister Heather and her fiancee, Brian were living in an apartment in the Rochester area. That's enough 411 for ya, here's the post.
I've got these big Russian dudes ripping out all the windows of my apartment. They have scaffolding set up outside all my windows and they sit out there smoking cigarettes, and saying stuff like this: "Iusyedtr vjehffeg dofghort oierkdsnf lnfoerh fvlneortg iretjjfng!!!! Hahahahaha!!!"
I spy on them. I can press my eyeball up to the window blinds and spy on them like TWO INCHES from where they are standing and they don't even know I'm there. Of course, since I don't understand what they are talking about, they are probably saying, "Psssst, don't look now, but that BIG SCARY EYEBALL is back in the window again. This chick needs to GET A LIFE."
They are set up outside my SHOWER WINDOW alllllllllllll day. I can't pee. I can't poop. I can't shower because I've got Russian men in my shower window peeking in.
Thursday night is ALWAYS date night, and Brian and I were going to go to dinner and see a movie. I needed to go to Rite Aid Drug Store to get some girly aloe/moisturizer soothing cream 'cuz between the heat, humidity, chafe-y shorts and my sensitive skin, my upper thighs had gotten sweaty and chafed, and I needed relief - not IMMEDIATE relief - but some *eventual* relief.
FINALLY the Russians moved their scaffolding from the window at 3 pm. I needed to color my hair because I look like Gutter Trash Ho, Inc.
I squirted and lathered and basked in ammonia-stink-ooze.
Ten minutes later, at a little after 4 pm yesterday, my power went out. I was miffed, because I was totally grooving on a website all about the Kennedy assassination and the REAL alien autopsy and I lost it.
I figured that the Russians had accidentally cut the power to the apartment, and I was going to give them just a few minutes to fix it before I went Medieval on their hides.
I also figured I'd better hog the entire apartment complex water supply in a hurry, because I'll be buggered if I'm gonna lose all my hair from not washing all that goop out of it, simply because the people next door stole all the water first. I hopped in, lathered up, rinsed off, and was able to hog ALL the water to myself. I exited the bathroom, (still no power), threw on some clothes, headed out to Rite Aid Drug Store for my personal needs, and off to find an ATM for some date night spending scratch.
The Russians said hi as I left and then added, "uhfdrf djnfvouerh sodfhowuef sfmniwhr - Hahahahaha!"
Translation: There's that freaky blonde who keeps staring at us out of her window blinds - Hahahahaha!
Bastards. I hate it when they talk about me.
Anyway, I pulled into Rite Aid and FREAKY-END OF-WORLD GUY is there. The bugger is standing in the door, screaming at the top of his lungs: IT'S HUGE!! IT'S HUGE!!! THE WHOLE U.S. IS WITHOUT POWER!! THE ELECTRIC COMPANIES HAVE SMOKE BILLOWING OUT OF THEM!!! IT'S GOING TO BE WEEKS BEFORE WE GET POWER BACK!!!
I started to freak. With this revelation, I realize that I can't get my feminine moisturizing cream because the power is out; you can't use debit cards when there's no power; I have no cash.
I drove home, can't find a radio station with an update as to why the world has come to an end - none of the radio stations have power.
I arrive home, called Brian - his phone is dead. And by now, I'm sure he is too.
I ring my mom. Mistake? Maybe . . .
Me: DON'T USE YOUR CORDLESS PHONE!! THERE'S NO POWER!! (not really sure what the hell I was thinking)
Mom: (totally confused) Wha?????
Me: are you on your cordless?????
Mom: ummmmm, yeah? Why?
Me: MOM !!! IT'S HUGE!! THE ENTIRE UNITED STATES HAS LOST POWER - - EXCEPT YOU!!!!!!!
Mom: What???? (clicks tv on)
Me: You got the tv on???? What's happening???? MOM?? IS SOMETHING HAPPENING?????
Mom: (distracted) Yeah, it's on! It's on the news! Quick, turn your tv on!
Me: I DON'T HAVE ANY DAMNED POWER!
Mom: (giggle) Oh, yeah. (giggle)
Me: MOM!! THIS ISN'T FUNNY!!! I DON'T HAVE ANY CASH, THERE'S NO POWER, AND I GOTTA GET A TUBE OF FEMININE MOISTURIZING CREAM 'CUZ I'M ALL CHAFE-Y DOWN THERE!
Mom: Busts out laughing
Me: IT'S NOT FUNNY! THIS IS REALLY SERIOUS!!!!
Mom: (Busts out laughing again) Ohhhh, honey. It's ok. Just wait till Brian gets home and you two can have a nice romantic evening (trying to control fits of giggling) OH, WAIT!!! (giggle fit) You CAN'T have a romantic evening!! (giggle fit) YOU COULDN'T GET YOUR FEMININE MOISTURIZING CREAM!!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA . . .
Me: (Waiting for mom to settle down with her laughing fit)
So that's how my day went yesterday - I hope you didn't lose power, and if you did, I hope you didn't call mom.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Help Send a Message to the EPA
I just recieved this email from Margie Alt at Environment America. She details the problem more succinctly than I could, so I'm just gonna copy and paste it here. Besides, I'm on vacation :-)
"Absurd." 1... "Disgraceful." 2... "A mockery of law and sound public policy." 3
That's what governors, attorneys general and members of Congress have had to say about the Bush administration's decision to stop California and 17 other states from adopting global warming pollution-slashing Clean Cars programs.
Even though cars and trucks are one of the largest and fastest-growing sources of global warming pollution... Even though the EPA has granted California permission to go beyond federal standards on 50 previous occasions... Even though California's program would begin a decade earlier and eliminate three times as much carbon pollution as the new federal mileage standards by 2020.
You can register your protest with the EPA here.
The decision, frankly, stinks, especially coming just hours after the president signed new auto fuel efficiency standards into law. Observers already are speculating that the fix was in for the auto industry. We're ready to push for whatever action it takes -- including a congressional investigation, legal action and more -- to overturn this wrong-headed decision. But step one is registering our outrage with the Bush administration's EPA and Stephen Johnson, the president's hand-picked administrator.
Tell Administrator Johnson to lead, follow or get out of the way of states that want to help America solve global warming by clicking here:
Coming just a week after the meeting on climate change in Bali and Al Gore's acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, this latest decision is more evidence, as if we needed it, of the Bush administration's head-in-the-sand approach to global warming. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by it, but we don't have to stand for it. Please take action today.
And thank you for all that you've done this past year. Happy holidays to you and yours.
Environment America Executive
Sources: 1 http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/20/washington/20epa.html
Happy Friday to You and Happy Birthday to My Sister, Shannon!
Woohoo! This is hubby's last day at work then he's off for ten whole days! Hopefully he'll survive his time with me and the kids!
Today is kind of a boring day. I wish we were up north and I could take my big sis out to lunch, but instead we have to take the old minivan in to the dealer. The rear seat needs to be unjammed (I'm guessing there's a plastic McDonald's toy wedged in the mechanism) and have a weird noise checked out. Nothing is more fun than sitting in a dealership for an hour or two with a couple of squirmy toddlers. Wish me luck.
Since we'll be half way down there, we might hit the big fabric store to pick up some fleece or flannel for some draft dodgers (the energy-saving type, not the President Bush kind). I also want to grab some bias tape to play with. I tried using it on an art apron I made last week for Daphne and I really like how easy it is to use! And Ethan and Daphne will both find a "project" there, I'm sure.
Am I boring you yet?
Well, if you're looking for a craft to do this week while you're on vacation -- I have found one for you! And it's not boring at all -- it is SO COOL! Fellow blogger Vera just made a Memory Game for her nephew for Christmas and you have GOT to check it out! I wish I had seen this six months ago, since that's how long it would take ME to make one. However, I just might start working on one for next year. It is hands down the coolest home-made gift for a toddler that I have ever seen!
Have a Fun Friday! Especially if it's your birthday! :-)
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Cement, Gingerbread Men and Sanity
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Making Holiday Crafts
Check it out! It only took six months but I finally figured out how to post pictures from our relatively new digital camera! Apparently, the pixelqualifimizitator was set too high and the imaginisizopher wouldn't automatically shrinkify the jpegination. Or something like that. Anyhow, I changed the file size somehow and voila! Pictures!
Taking A Holiday
Hey friends! The kiddos are off from preschool and the holiday fun is really starting now. I'm all done with my shopping, have finished making all my fudge and I even managed to get my Christmas Cards out before the 24th! Hoorah! All that's left is to wrap presents, pack for the trip, and have enjoy myself! It's all fun stuff from here on out and all done in the company of two of the best little helpers around. And by "best", I mean "easily-bribed by cookies".
Anyhow, I'm going to be taking a little break from my daily eco-changes to enjoy the holiday with my family. As always, I will continue with my existing lifestyle modifications, I'm just not going to institute any new changes during this time.
Oh, that's not to say I won't be posting at all. I'm sure I'll occasionally be found ranting about something or going on about the kids. Hell, if I can figure out what I'm doing wrong with my camera, I might even post a few pics. We'll see. No schedules here, not until January 2 anyhow.
Call it an eco-vacation, in the most literal sense of the hyphenated word ;-).
Happy Holidays to you and your family. I hope you enjoy the season in the spirit of goodwill, generosity and family traditions.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Composting Dirty Tissues
Monday, December 17, 2007
Recycling Ink Cartridges
I mentioned just last week that I will be buying recycled copy paper from now on, for use in my home office printer. Well, somehow that small mention of the printer jinxed me, and now my ink cartridge seems to be running out. Grrrr.
There is good news, though. Right down the street from me is a Cartridge World store! For those of you who don't know about CW, they are an Australian based company with over 1500 retail locations worldwide. They were recently rated #1 Franchise by Entrepreneur Magazine and they are a sponsor of the Go Green Initiative. They also back all of their work by a 100% money back guarantee. All in all, they are a company I would like to do business with. And now I can.
I will be taking my ink cartridge down to CW later this week for a refill. That's right -- refill. Prior to my greening, I didn't even know this was an option. I just always bought a new one at Office Max. From now on I will be refilling the little suckers instead. Not only is it better for the environment, but it's actually cheaper than buying new. :-) This is one change I might even be able to convince hubby to try at his office!
According to CW, the average laser jet cartridge can be refilled six or seven times. So that's five or six cartridges I'll be saving from the landfill. I only go through about one cartridge per year, so that means this one cartridge will last me until I'm, um, older.
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
This is actually easier than buying new. The store is closer than Office Max and it's in a small strip mall, so it's a quick in and out. Here's a challenge to you -- see if you can get your office to make the switch! If you do, leave me a comment! :-)
Sunday, December 16, 2007
On Kids, Comments and Christmas
Yeah, it's a lazy post day, but since it's Sunday, I figure I can get away with it. Things are crazy around here, as I'm sure they are at your house too. So I'm taking a change-a-day break today and instead will just tell you what's going on here.
The kids are both sick. Ethan appears to have inhaled a giant, green mucous monster that continually makes escape attempts from his left nostril. He still can't "blow" so I'm wiping his nose about every three minutes. If I don't get there in time.... well, you just don't want to know.
Daphne has a slightly more serious condition: The Croup. For those of you who aren't familiar with the malady, it's basically a bad cold that makes your child wheeze like a dog chew toy. It is VERY SCARY and she is on steroids and nebulizer treatments. Fortunately, she is responding very well to treatment and should be fine in another day or two.
My heart goes out to any parent who has a child with asthma or other respiratory illness. Watching your child gasp for air while you helplessly rock her is an awful feeling.
As for comments, wow! You guys are rocking my world! But now I feel bad because I haven't been able to answer all of them. Anyhow, so you don't think I'm ignoring all of you....
To Wendy -- thanks so much for reading! I can't believe you went all the way back to the beginning and read everything! I appreciate your comments and wish you luck in your new blog.... please leave a comment here with the link so I can add it to my blogroll :-)
To Green Bean -- You have some of the best Green Mom ideas on the planet -- thanks for sharing them! :-)
To Leslie -- Glad you like my titles :-) Oftentimes, that's the part that gets the most revisions! I am a FREAK for puns (among other things ;-) and more than once I have selected my daily change based on how funny I think the heading will be.
To Mr. G. -- I asked hubby about the dampers (he's a construction project manager) and he said they usually put dampers on the floors downstairs and in the ceilings upstairs due to framing issues. There's just more "free space" in the basement/crawlspace and attic than there is between the two floors. He actually went on with like a thousand reasons about cold air returns, circulation, ambient air, cost-effectiveness, insulation etc., but I zoned out after I heard the first part. Hope this answers your question!
I think that hits most of the comments, if I failed to answer one of yours, I'm sorry :-( . I'm just not very organized these days.
Other goings-on at the house include the six batches of fudge I've made for teachers and neighbors and the four I have yet to make. I won't mention the two "test batches" that I've eaten and the resulting zit outbreak I'm currently experiencing. Aaaahhhh, the holidays.
Hope you're all having a relaxing Sunday. Apparently, I am :-)
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Recycling Tyvek Envelopes
Address and mail the envelope to:
Friday, December 14, 2007
Seriously? You Read My Blog? Again?!?!?!
You'd think someone who bitched about Bush's fecklessnes as passionately as I did would go the extra mile and see if there wasn't something we could all do about it. Fortunately for me, I have somehow managed to surround myself with friends who are much more level-headed and, obviously, much more informed about environmental issues.
BIG THANKS to Green Bean and Mr. G for alerting me to the fact that there is an online global petition, organized by Avaaz, a community of global citizens who take action on the major issues facing the world today.
Here's a blurb from their website:
Climate negotiations in Bali are in crisis. Things were looking good till now: near-consensus on a delicate deal, including 2020 targets for rich countries, in return for which China and the developing world would do their part over time. IPCC scientists have said such targets are needed to prevent catastrophe. But Japan, the US and Canada are banding together to wreck the deal, and the rest of the world is starting to waver...
We can’t let three stubborn governments throw away the planet's future. We have until the end of Friday to do everything we can. Please sign our emergency global petition -- we'll deliver it through stunts at the summit, a full-page ad in the Jakarta Post in Asia, and directly to country delegates to stiffen their nerve against any bad compromise. Add your name to the campaign now!
We call urgently for the US, Canada and Japan to stop blocking serious 2020 targets for emissions reductions, and for the rest of the world to refuse to accept anything less.
To sign the Avaaz worldwide petition, go here.
Thanks Green Bean and Mr. G!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Seriously? We Elected This Guy? Twice?!?!?!
The good news is, no -- we didn't actually "elect" him twice. He bought his way in on the first one. But the bad news is, he's still there -- and will be for another year. Right at a time when we need someone who actually gives a rat's ass about the environment.
Bush refuses to fucking commit to any solid numbers when it comes to reducing emissions. He might as well get a zamboni and start running over polar bears and penguins now.
If you're wondering what I'm pissed off about, read this article from CNN about how European nations will boycott U.S.-led climate talks next month unless Washington accepts a range of numbers for negotiating deep reductions of global-warming emissions.
Tracking My Progress on The 90% Reduction Challenge
A few months back, I wrote about the Riot for Austerity - a challenge to reduce my emissions to 90% of what the Average American uses, within one year. Now, three months into it, I'm going to post my results for the whole world to see. Some of the numbers surprised me and a few are downright shameful. Of course, posting these measurements is not as ego-pounding as revealing my physical measurements, so feel free to point and laugh. I won't be offended. I
rarely never am.
I'm going to assume that most of you reading this blog are like me and are just too lazy to click the link above, so here's a recap:
The 90% figure is borrowed from George Monbiot's plan to avoid reaching a tipping point, beyond which temperature rise will run out of control and major ecosystems will collapse. In Monbiot's book, "Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning" he has presents his views on how to avert this disaster. To avoid hitting the "critical threshold", he says, the world’s total carbon emissions must be reduced to 60 percent below current levels by 2030—a target that would require the developed world (that's you and me, friend) to reduce emissions by 90 percent, in order to compensate for growth in China, India and other developing countries.
In the Challenge there are seven basic categories for reduction: Gasoline; Electricity; Heating and Cooking Energy; Garbage; Water; Consumer Goods; and Food. There are a lot of rules on how to calculate your savings, so that we all measure our success with the same yardstick. You can check out all the rules, averages and factoids here.
So how do I measure up so far? See for yourself...
The average American uses 500 gallons of gasoline per year. I didn't count hubby in on this one, since he has a company vehicle and I don't have access to his information. Instead, I just counted me, the kids and the minivan. So our monthly average American allowance would be 125 gallons.
Over the past three months, we averaged 20 gallons per week, or 86.6 gallons per month. For gasoline consumption, we are at 69% of what the average American uses. :-( Not the worst, but definitely needs improvement! Again, we don't have access to public transportation where I live but I still need to find ways to reduce this.
The average American household uses 900 kWh per month.
Our usage last month was 490 kWh, so for electric consumption we are at 54% of what the average American uses. BUT! Since we utilize wind power, we get a 4-to-1 payback on our usage!
This little bonus means that our usage would actually calculate out at 122.5. That knocks us down to 13.6%! WOO HOO! Of course, the a/c went off that month, but to quote Edna Moles "I never look back darling, it distracts from the now".
Heating and Cooking Energy
The average American household uses 1000 therms per year, 83.3 therms per month.
Our usage last month was 47.15 therms, which puts us at 56% below average. This is scary since October wasn't even really that cold. This is why I'm trying so hard to keep our thermostat low, shut dampers, find leaks, etc.!
The average American generates 4.5 pounds of garbage per day. We have four people in our household, so the average for us would be 126 pounds per week.
We are averaging roughly 60 pounds per week - 47% of the average American's trash output. Can definitely be improved upon. I just need to be more careful about the products I buy.
The average American uses 100 gallons of water per person, per day. With four people in the house, that puts our monthly average at 12,000 gallons.
Our average water usage over the past two months was 3.5 ccf per month. Multiply 3.5 by 748 and you get 2,618 gallons per month. This puts us at 21.8% of the average American! I'm actually pleasantly surprised here! I thought we would be MUCH higher, but I guess all my little changes are starting to add up! :-)
The average American household spends $10,000 per year on consumer goods. So our monthly allowance would be $833.33.
I took the four months of July - October (since I have all the records, including credit card statements), and our average monthly consumer goods spending was $697.50. This puts us at nearly 84% of the average American. Not good. This definitely needs to be lowered! I can't imagine what my percentage will be after the holidays. Oy!
This one is nearly impossible, even for a nerd like me, to quantify. The Riot says we should be at 70% locally grown, 25% dry bulk goods and 5% all else. Just looking in my pantry, I'd guess that my averages are more like 10 / 25/ 65, respectively. Pathetic.
I'm hoping to really improve on this next spring. I'd like to have a small veggie garden in the side yard and hope to nut up and go downtown to the farmer's market. Of course, it's always easier to eat locally during the summer months, so to make this a year-round endeavor, I'll have to do a TON of canning and freezing.
Well, I didn't reach 90% in any category, but then again, I didn't really expect to. Honestly, I was pleased just to see that all of my numbers were less than the average American!
Taking the time to look at my numbers has inspired to work harder towards achieving the 90% goal. It showed me that the cumulative effect of my small changes can actually have a pretty big impact. I am hoping that my next update will show even more improvement!
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Closing the Dampers in Rarely-Used Rooms
We've been experiencing some kooky weather patterns here in the Richmond area recently. Last Wednesday it snowed and yesterday it reached 78 degrees. I'm alternating between long johns and tank tops while I wonder if winter is ever truly going to arrive. I am assuming that it will hit soon and so I have been preparing for it by studying our heating system, insulation and general air-tightness, looking for inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement.
One improvement I have made recently was to close several dampers in the house, in an effort to even out the heat distribution. We all learned in middle school science class that heat rises, so it's no surprise to find that, in the winter, our upstairs gets significantly warmer than our downstairs. Unfortunately, we do not have a dual thermostat system, so the furnace stays on until the downstairs thermostat reads 55 degrees - while the upstairs rapidly approaches the melting point of tungsten.
Last weekend I went through the upstairs and closed two vents in the master bedroom and one vent in the master closet. I prefer to sleep in a pretty cold room, loaded up with lots of blankets anyhow. I did leave the vent in the master bath open, just to take the chill out the air during the post-shower dampness, but I'm thinking I'll try closing it, since the heat from the shower really ought to be capable of warming up the not-so-palacious 5'x5' room.
I also closed the vent in my sewing room since 1. It's my slow season and I'm only sewing about twice a week now and 2. The combination of the lights, the machines and me moving around up there always makes the room feel too hot anyhow.
I ended up closing the damper in the kids' bath because they are now only getting a bath two nights a week and I just climb up on the vanity and open it up for bath time, then close it when they're done.
Ethan's room got dampered halfway down, as he is a lot like Mommy in that he sweats like a pig at night. Daphne, however, got to keep her damper open all the way, because it doesn't seem to work very well anyhow (I checked the duct and it looks fine) and any heat that gets through is welcomed.
The guest room already had its vent closed, but I double-checked it anyhow, because I'm OCD like that.
The final step of this process is to instill in hubby and the kids the concept of closing their room doors when they leave. This will take much longer than it took to close the damn dampers, but will help to ensure the warm air from downstairs doesn't just waft up to those rooms.
By closing the upstairs dampers, I will be concentrating the furnace's efforts on the area that needs it most: the downstairs. After all, this is where we spend the majority of our waking time. Once we're upstairs and in bed, it doesn't much matter how cold it gets.
I don't know if I can quantify this, but I will definitely be tracking my gas bill to see if all my little changes add up to big savings compared to last year. I will let you know how the numbers shake out.
Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5
Ugh. We have cathedral ceilings in the master bedroom, so I did have to drag the 12' ladder up from the garage to close our dampers. Also, it is kind of a pain to have to open and close the kids' bath damper twice a week -- especially with my knees hurting -- but I think it's worth the time.
Using Less Goop
Big advance apology here for the short post today. I am dog tired. It is 8:48 Monday night and I can barely keep my eyes open. I have been eating like crap ('tis the season, right?) and my jogging career seems to be ending as quickly as it started, due to some serious pain and swelling in my knees. I haven't finished my holiday shopping, the Christmas Cards have yet to be signed and I'm looking at an unpacked box of decorations. It doesn't help that it was 75 out today -- not exactly a big Christmas motivator. Anyhow, if I'm totally unreadable it's only because my eyes are crossed and my head keeps flopping onto the keyboard. Now back to your regularly scheduled blog....
The idea here is simple: use less stuff. It is the basic tenet that drives The Compact and sustainable living in general. However, I'm actually narrowing the scope a bit for this post. I'm talking things like detergents, cleaning supplies, soaps, toothpaste -- you know, "goopy" things.
I've started to push the envelope and see how little goop I can get away with -- in my dishwasher or laundry machine, on my toothbrush or hair, etc. -- and still get the same results. I've found that a lot of these products do a damn fine job, using only 75% or less of whatever the instructions tell me to use.
So the next time you're squeezing something goopy out of a bottle or tube, squeeze a little less. This will stretch the life of the product and the dollar you spent to get it. Best of all, it will lessen the environmental impact of whatever you're using.
Could be calculated, but I'm too sleepy to do so. Let's call it at 25% of all my goopy products.
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
Using less is easy, just another habit to change. Now if only I could as easily change my newfound fudge-eating habit. Sugar overload - it'll suck the life right out of ya.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Ditching All of the Hazardous Children's Personal Care Products
I know you've heard me go on and on about the nasty carcinogenic petro-chemicals in makeup, shampoo, nail polish, kids' babywash and the like, but get ready to hear it again. This week, the folks over at Today's Mama will be featuring my little ol' blog and I wanted to be sure that any of the moms that surf over to my site are made aware of the possible chemical dangers lurking in their kids' bath and body products. (Those of you who are regular readers may be excused, but don't forget, there'll be a quiz on Thursday.)
Many personal care products marketed for infants and toddlers contain a myriad of chemicals that have been proven to carry certain health risks. In fact, some chemicals still allowed in US products have actually been banned in other countries, due to their toxic nature. These chemicals are easily absorbed into the blood stream through our relatively porous skin and new research shows that they spend a lifetime accumulating in our bodies. Scary? Yes. Especially when you consider that we're rubbing this crap all over our little kiddos on a near daily basis. But the good news is - you do have lots of options available and, fortunately, you don't need to be a chemist to find some safe alternatives.
A very simple way to determine the toxicity of the products you're using on your little ones is to surf on over to Skin Deep, a database of personal hygiene products compiled by the Environmental Working Group. There you can simply type in the product name and get a hazard rating, ingredient list and description of possible health concerns related to the item. They even have a great Parent's Buying Guide that will help you quickly find safe alternatives for your children's personal hygiene products.
So, if you're a mom who stumbled on my site and this is the only post of mine you ever read, please, please - take a moment to look up the products you are using on your child and make sure they are the safest ones available. It only takes a moment or two of your time to check them out and the benefits of doing so are great.
Just last night I found a nasty product that I will be ditching in favor of a kinder, more gentler alternative. The kids' bath upstairs had a bottle of Kandoo Foaming Hand Wash which gets a hazard rating of 6 out of 10 on Skin Deep's Database. In fact, according to the site, 90% of liquid hand soaps have fewer health concerns than this soap! Freakin' YIKES!
I can't really quantify the environmental savings here, other than to say that if it's not safe to put on my kids' skin, then it's probably not a very good idea to put those chemicals into our lakes and streams either. And we all know that the sewage treatment facilities simply cannot remove all those chemicals that flow down our drains.
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
The Skin Deep site makes checking out your products a simple task and a lot of the alternatives are readily available at your local grocery or drug store. But be forewarned - you may have to wander over into the weird crunchy granola health-nut aisles in your local Krogers to find some of them!
**Special thanks to Beth Terry over at Fake Plastic Fish for bringing the awesome Skin Deep database to my attention! Hope you're enjoying your retreat!
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Shutting the Door on Unsolicited Flyers
Our mailbox continues to get more than its fair share of unsolicited junk mail, despite all my efforts to stop it from coming. However, there is another problem I have with our mailbox which is the little cubby hole that lies beneath the box itself.
You see, I live in a subdivsion that requires my mailbox be provided by the community association. The association, in their infinite wisdom, felt that a cubby hole beneath the box would be a great way for neighbors to keep in touch, or for the HOA to send out postage-free notices. And if that were how it really worked, I wouldn't have a problem with it. But that isn't how it works.
Instead, it is stuffed on a bi-weekly basis with flyers from damn near every local company that cannot afford "real advertising". The result is an average of 16 pieces of paper advertising companies that I have no desire to buy from. Most of them are real estate agents, painters and cleaning services that I either don't need, can't afford, or just don't care enough to utilize their services.
Well, it is a problem no more. I just went out and filled it with a couple of 2x4 scraps hubby had laying around in the garage and Voila! Advertising hole plugged, flyers avoided, HOA-approved mail station still in compliance.
Sixteen sheets of paper per week, 64 sheets per month, 832 sheets per year. If my whole subdivision did this, we would be saving well over two MILLION sheets of paper per year. That's a lot of trees. Two-hundred seventy six, to be exact.
Difficulty Level: 1 out 5
I put this one off for a long time because I thought it would be difficult. I imagined having to measure and cut a piece of plywood and then nail it over the opening. Then paint the wood to match the HOA-approved color scheme. But now that I'm jogging outside, I've noticed a few other like-minded folks had plugged up their cubbies with 2x4 scraps. Sometimes, it pays to think outside the box. Or, in this case, inside the box.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Buying Recycled Copy Paper
Friday, December 7, 2007
Opening the Curtains to Take Advantage of Solar Heat
OK, I'll admit it. Even this weathered (or "wintered") Upstate New York-er can finally say: It's friggin' cold here. And it is. So cold it even snowed on Wednesday and I violated my compact to buy some long-johns to wear while jogging. With the cold weather settling in, and the thermostat staying low, I'm starting to realize just how much heat is generated when the sun comes shining through our front windows.
Our house, in addition to being poorly designed, is also poorly positioned to take advantage of the sun's warming rays. I suppose in a mostly-too-hot climate like Virginia, it's actually a good thing. But right now - With the cold and all? It's really pissing me off.
The only rooms in our house with southern exposure are the kids' playroom downstairs and the master bedroom upstairs. There are absolutely NO WINDOWS on either the east or west sides, so all of the other rooms, in addition to remaining in a state of total cave darkness, don't get any of that free solar heat.
But to make the most of what I do have, I'm giving the playroom and the master bedroom the ol' open and shut treatment these days. When the sun is shining I make sure to pull back the curtains in those rooms to let all that glowing, golden sunshine warm up my rooms for free.
Do I worry that the neighbors will peek in? Not really. It's way too chilly to be walking around naked anyhow. The best they can hope for is to catch me picking my nose or something. Besides, if they're so bored that the highlight of their day is to spy on the freaky eco-chick and her two kids, then who am I to deny them their entertainment?
I don't have an actual number to put here. Which, of course, bothers the obsessive Mathlete in me. However, I can tell you that the kids and I are spending a lot more time sitting on the floor in the playroom than we are hanging out on the couch in the living room! The end result is that the thought of cheating and turning up the thermostat doesn't cross my mind nearly as often.
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
It takes all of one minute to pull back the curtains. I don't have fancy tiebacks or anything, so I just tie them in a knot (yeah, very Martha Stewart of me, right?). I've never been known for my interior design skills and I'm sure it looks just as bad from the outside as it does inside, but whatever. The only really big downer is that nearly every day I have to see exactly how filthy my windows are.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Here's a great video clip that lays out the argument for working towards a goal of sustainability to avoid the consequences of global warming -- even if you don't think it exists. It's long for a YouTube video (10 minutes) but it's fun and interesting. It's like watching Alton Brown on Good Eats (my favorite cooking show, of course) :-)
We started this project because we noticed that people in West Coast cities and beyond were leaving their leftovers on top of (or next to) garbage cans when they couldn't find someone to give them to. We thought this behavior was worth talking about, so we gave it a name. Now that it has a name, there's been a lot of good conversation. Here are the issues that keep coming up:
Hmmmm, three times a year? So, three plates of food. But how many of you will do it? And how many people will you tell? If nothing else, it's an interesting topic, bring it up at your next cocktail party and we'll get this idea going, k?
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
Leave doggy bag on trash can so someone else can enjoy your leftover rigatoni. Besides, you know it won't taste the same once you get it home and nuke it.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Exercising Outdoors Instead of On A Machine
Let me start by saying I am not an athletic person. Never have been. My high school athletic career consisted of color guard, winterguard and cheerleading. And I could generally be found in the girls' bathroom smoking cigarettes before and after all of those practices. Oh, I was also on the girls' softball team for a season, but only so I could ride on the same bus with the boys' baseball team.
College didn't involve a lot of sports time either, unless Sambuca shot-drinking was a sport. Which I'm pretty sure it wasn't. During my workin' twenties I was actually at my most athletic -- I joined a bowling league for a few years. Beer, cigarettes and a 140 average. Not exactly Olympic material. Not even Special Olympic material.
But now, at the ripe old age of 35, I've decided it's finally time to get in shape. The metabolism has slowed down, the weight has gone up, and although I quit smoking, I still get winded chasing the kids around. And they're only going to get faster.
I do belong to a local gym, so I could just go hop on some electronic machine in a climate-controlled facility. But I'm not going to waste the energy required for a treadmill when I can get the same results without the electro-sucking devices. Instead, my friend (yes, I have one) and I have started running. Outside. On trails. Like nature intended. If, in fact, nature intended exercise at all. Which I'm not so sure it did.
Assuming I run for half an hour, that's .75 kWh. My goal is to run every day, so that would be 22.5 kWh per month, 270 kWh per year. That is, if I don't fall off the trail and break my leg - a distinct possibility.
Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5
Let's start with the fact that I don't really like exercising in the first place. Add to that the cold, the wind and the uneven trails and you've got a recipe for one cranky, out-of-breath, muscle-achin' runner. But misery loves company and I've got a partner, so I guess I'll keep on keepin' on.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Sharpening My Scissors, Instead of Buying New Ones
Monday, December 3, 2007
Trading In the Leafblower for a Rake
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Doing What I Tell My Kids To Do: Sharing
There's been a lot of discussion in my Compact Group recently about the importance of sharing. We all know that it's the nice thing to do, the neighborly thing to do, but rarely do we think of it as the ecological thing to do. But it is.
Think about all the items in your home that are used so infrequently that you might not miss them if they were gone for a week, a month or even a season. From weed-whackers to rakes, sports gear to power tools, we all have items we don't use on a regular basis. All of these possessions you have stowed away in the attic, basement or garage may be of use to your neighbor or friend. Why not let them borrow instead of buying?
Just as there are HUGE eco-savings to be had when buying used products, borrowing leaves a nary an ecological toeprint. Savings from borrowing include: the resources required to manufacture the product, all the packaging associated with buying new, the transportation required to ship the product to the store, the cost of keeping the store open, lit and heated, etc. All of this disappears when we share with our neighbors instead of buying our own item from BigBoxMart.
I'll be the first to admit, I'm not always the best when it comes to sharing. Somewhere along the line, I became... well, possessive of my possessions. I worry that if I were to lend something out, it might get damaged or lost. A valid fear, some may say.
Well, as you all know, I don't ever post about something I'm not actually willing to try and so I've given this 'sharing' issue quite a bit of thought. I've decided that if I'm going to really embarce sharing, I'll need to adopt a new way of looking at my possessions. Here's what I've come up with:
Not very catchy and it doesn't rhyme, but it does remind me of where my priorities lie. How sad is it that I need be reminded of such things anyhow? Shouldn't that be an inherent human truth? That stuff is just stuff and if it were all gone tomorrow and all I had left were family and friends, I would still be ok.
Wow, pretty philosophical post today. I must have loaned out my sarcasm. Hopefully it'll be returned to me in time for tomorrow's post.
Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5
Lending out my possessions will be easy. I have a four year old son and a two year old daughter. My house is at maximum capacity of people who don't share well. And I simply do not need to be one of them.
Borrowing, on the other hand, will be slightly more difficult. Why does it take a bit of pride-swallowing to ask your neighbor if you can use his seed spreader? Is there some weird human chromosome that makes not having your own seed spreader seem like a personal inadequacy? Do we really think our neighbors stand around and gossip about it?
Pssst: Did you hear? That freaky eco-chick doesn't have a seed
spreader. What the hell is wrong with her?... And what's with her hair?
Ah, it seems my sarcasm has already been returned. See? Sharing really does work!
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Switching to a Naturally-Derived Shampoo
I think this may actually be the last chemically-infused product in my bathroom and I'm so glad I'm finally done with it! It took me a long time to use up the last of my Redken shampoo, but it's finally all gone and I can now switch to a more environmentally-friendly alternative.
I'm not quite ready to go the homemade baking soda shampoo route, but am very excited to be switching over to another product from my new best friend: Burt, of Burt's Bees. I know, I know - BB was recently brought out by the nice folks who bring you Clorox Poison Bleach, but until you can find me a better smelling solution than BB's Very Volumizing Pomegranate, I'm sticking with it.
As with the kids' baby wash, the BB shampoo is Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate Free, Paraben Free and Phthalate Free. Although made of plastic, the bottle contains 80% post-consumer content. And, according to the label, the shampoo is not tested on animals (I'm assuming the bottle isn't either ;-).
For you hard-core plastic avoiders, Burt's Bees does make a shampoo bar, which is sold in a cardboard box. I would have picked that up to try but didn't even know it existed until I did an online search, which was after I had purchased my bottled version. If I can find a shampoo bar locally, I'll give it a try. "Shampoo Bar" -- sounds like a salon that serves drafts, doesn't it? Someone should open one. I would definitely go there. Even a drunk stylist couldn't give me a worse haircut than I already have and I'd probably tip better if I was sloshed.
Mrs. Pigpen is now down to washing her hair only four days per week. Eek. When I write it out in black and white it makes me sound gross. But really, I'm not. Or rather, I am, but not because of my hair.
So anyhow, that's about 1 teaspoon of chemical goopiness avoided per day, about 3 ounce per month, 36 ounces per year. Join me, and we'll make it 72.
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
Redken. Burt's Bees. As long as it gets the dirt out, I don't care about the brand name. What I do care about is the consequence of its use.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Wearing Clothing Until It Actually NEEDS Washing
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Update on Christmas Cards
Shutting Down the House When On Vacation
I thought I had pretty much covered all my Green Holiday Plans but then today I was scheduling our Christmas trip and realized I hadn't talked about shutting down the house. It's something that I mean to do every time we go on vacation, but I never actually get around to it. This is because by the time we're ready to go, I've whipped myself into a minivan-packing, mapquest-printing, reservation-checking frenzy and have forgotten all about my side job as an eco-maniac. But, after giving it much thought, I think I have come up with a solution:
Because there's nothing an obsessive-compulsive, ex-bean counting Mommy loves more than a nice excel spreadsheet with checkboxes. Oohhhh, be still my heart. Here's what's on my sheet:
- Turn Water Heater Down
- Set Thermostat to 50 degrees
- Unplug TV/DVD/Cable Box
- Shut off All the Lights
- Unplug Laptop and Printer
- Unplug Coffee Pot
- Close all Drapes (to keep the heat in)
- Close Upstairs Vents
- Shut all Upstairs Door (to keep the heat downstairs where the lone thermostat sits)
- Unplug Alarm Clocks
So what do you think? Is there anything I missed? Probably, but just remember the first two items will put me leaps and bounds ahead of what I had previously been doing - which was nothing. Plus, did I mention I have CHECKBOXES on my sheet?
Gonna have to WAG this one again and guesstimate a daily savings of 2 Ccf per day (depending on the exterior temperature). Our holiday vacation will be five days this year, for a monthly savings of 10 Ccf. I'd also guesstimate approximately 8 kWh per day (compared to what I would have used if I hadn't unplugged stuff), for a total vacation savings of 40 kWh.
Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5
It's definitely a bit of a hassle. I mean, the last thing you want to do when the kids are all hyped up and hubby is itching to hit the road is to take five minutes to go through a checklist. But you know what -- it's FIVE MINUTES. They can wait five minutes. Who knows, maybe they'll do something constructive with the time, like use it to go pee before we get in the car for ten hours. Besides -- there are checkboxes, people.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Cooking Like Dear Old Dad