Celebrate Earth Day!

>> Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I know, everyone's doing it today. And why not. The earth is pretty critical for all of us and, for many of us, even small changes meant he difference between life and death. And all of us are susceptible to some of her effects, whether extreme weather, earthquakes, tsunamis, drought and more.

There is some good news. Awareness of her and the effects of what we do are more acknowledged now than they ever been. That doesn't solve all the problems by any means, but it's much easier to solve problems (even the really ugly ones) when you acknowledge you have one. Look what we've managed with regards to ozone! And many forms of pollution!

The ones that remain, though, are significant and challenging.

Another key element is that people are more involved and aware and more people in more places are making an effort. That is (overall) a good thing. The problems that face us can't be solved by everyone waiting for someone else to do something about it. We all have to be involved.

So, what have you been doing?

Better yet, let me tell you what I've been doing.

  • All of my incandescent bulbs have been replaced with CFLs and some of them are being replaced with LED bulbs.
  • This year, we're putting up solar screens. It's a hot climate down here and our back windows face south.
  • We're also going to put up radiant barrier in the roof and weatherize windows.
  • We use Green Mountain Energy, which is 100% wind/solar generated.
  • We're making a point of recycling (and have been for some time).
  • We have a programmable thermostat and are making a point of watching our our AC usage.
  • I switched out a gas guzzler and go back and forth to work with a car with three times the gas mileage. By switching out cars and changing habits, we cut our gasoline usage in half (and that was when the price was nearly twice what it is now - the cost is now close to 1/4 what it was).
None of these are life altering or desperately expensive, but they make a difference (including doing good things for our utility and gas bills). And each improvement works for the benefit of the earth and of me personally.

Am I doing all I can? No, but I will continue to look for opportunities. I encourage you do the same, for all our sakes.

As a special bonus, here's a list of all the satellites we have up specifically to observe the state of the earth. Check it out. There's some cool beans investigations going on and we should all know about them.

UPDATE: I completely overlooked that yesterday was supposed to be a "Wednesday Writing Workshop" that few would actually participate in - I'm not regretting this, but I'll make an effort to get back on track next week IF I can do so on travel - I'll be on travel next week.


  • flit

    Oh, Ross is going to love the satellites thing

  • Mike

    Thanks for sharing about Earth Day and your recycling efforts. Everybody doing a little will go a long way. I enjoyed the satellites listing.

  • Roy

    Good work on your green technology use. I have CFLs here, too, but so far we don't have a green tech electric company in the area, and I doubt that my landlady would use them if we did. Oh well...

  • Boris Legradic

    Living in a (small) European city, saving energy is easy for me:

    *)I use my bike to go to work, it's only six km each way. In winter it's sometimes a bit uncomfortable, but then my car would be cold too.

    *) No AC

    *) In winter I rarely heat to more than 18 degrees Celsius (64 Fahrenheit)

    *) Although I do have a car, I don't use it more often than about twice a month. Public transport in Switzerland is amazing, and I much prefer taking the train to driving. The car only gets about 7-8 liters per 100km (~33 mpg) which is quite crappy for such a small thing. I probably should sell it and join a car-sharing thing.

    *) I am using CFLs too. Haven't made the jump to LEDs yet, since I am not convinced by the bulbs you can get here. Although I might convert some of my diy lamps to led.

    *) Recycling is pretty much a given in Austria and Switzerland (or Germany for that matter) - random people will tell you off if they catch you stuffing metal or plastic (or, heaven forfend, glass) in the wrong bin.

    *) Something I'd really like to do, especially my research is very much connected with the solar industry, is put up some solar cells. Silicon wouldn't worlk too well on my small balcony though, but maybe I can get some DSSCs from the guys at the chemistry department...

  • Boris Legradic

    Stupid emailfollowupbox. Why can't it check itself automagically?

  • Shakespeare

    I would LOVE to put solar cells on my roof... and even in Seattle, they would work well, despite the six months of rain we get during the fall and winter.

    We don't have air conditioning here, though Richard does have a portable one downstairs. When it (rarely) gets hot enough to use it during the summer, he turns it on downstairs, but I've found that I like the house to be warm. I even cook in it, though that can be somewhat sweat-inducing. It does help to be where I am, though. Much easier to cut down on the bills.

    I would LOVE for our next car to be a gas sipper ...

  • Paotie

    One thing that was not mentioned in this post (if it was, I apologize in advance) is the fact that you can help yourself and the environment by growing your own fruits and vegetables.

    You can save money growing your own food and also controlling what you put into your body, too.

    And by growing foods, you are helping reduce your own carbon footprint.

    Save money + Eat healthy foods YOU grew + good stuffs for the environment = Cool Beans!


  • Stephanie Barr

    Geography does make a difference. Where I live, public transportation is effectively nonexistent. Nor is AC optional on an enclosed house (the humidity makes mold and mildew a serious health concern).I envy you, Boris but I'm glad you do the right thing.

    I will be working to do better myself.

    I'm glad you enjoyed it, Shakespeare, flit, Roy, and Mike.

    That's a good point, Paotie. I should have thought of it, but, since I can kill a plant just by looking at it, it didn't occur to me. My husband, however, wants to go all edible plants in the backyard. It is a smart and green thing to do.

  • Richard Perkins

    Hey Stephanie. I think I submitted this comment earlier, but I may have forgotten to press the publish button!
    Hot climates like yours (and mine) are often dry climates as well. With the triple threat of growing population centers, climate change, and aging municipal water infrastructures, our drinking water supplies are more stressed than ever before.
    You can decrease your water footprint by installing a gray water or rain water collection system. You can use the reclaimed water to irrigate your lawn. Better yet, use it to irrigate your own vegetable garden, like Paotie sggested.
    Building a low tech rain barrel from a garbage can and some parts from the local hardware store is easy and affordable. And if you don't want to make the investment in a dedicated gray water system, you can at least catch the first 30-40 seconds of cold water spray from your daily shower in a bucket to use when watering your house plants or to be added to your rain barrel.
    And don't forget composting vegetable and yard waste scraps. It's an easy way to return critical organic material to your soils while reducing the load on our overburdened landfills.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Thanks for the additional advice, Richard. Good words of advice for many (and potentially many more) parts of the country.

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