Thursday, March 31, 2011

Clean And Green: a Lenten Carbon Fast Challenge

Today's Change The World Wedneday/Lenten Carbon Fast challenge: (courtesy of my bloggy friend Small Footprints): 
"Reduce your use of household cleaning products, soaps, shampoos, hair care products and other items which contain chemicals. Replace them with products which are biodegradable. Carcinogenic chemicals in deodorants, soaps, shampoos, and body sprays persist in the environment, build up in the food chain and return to haunt us long after they've gone down the drain. See http://www.greenlisted.org/personal-care.htm, www.originalmoxie.com and http://www.greenlisted.org/cleaning-products.htm to learn about eco-friendly products."
For personal care, I've found there's really no better soap than soap, although sometimes I'll play around with making specialty bars of soap by melting it and adding ingrediants such as green tea or ground coffee.

For household cleaners, I've been trying to keep the poisons out of our new house.We have had very good results with BioGreenClean. I had heard Ed Schultz talk about the product on his radio program for quite a while and, while he's a pretty trustworthy guy, I was reluctant to believe testamonials about cleaning products. However, having just bought a house, I had discovered the need for some serious cleaning product that wasn't ful of things that would kill me off slowly, so I decided to give it a try. First off, it's not the cheapest product on the market - that should be said right up front. However, in practice, it proved to be more than worth the money, since it is a effective or better than any other cleaning product I've ever tried. In addition, it doesn't hurt my skin like some products do, which suggests that at least some of its claims to be non-toxic are true. I recommend it!

While we're on the subject, I'd like to point out that cleaners that are labelled "green" are not necessarily so. Simply adding the word "green" to a product does not make it so, and it may be that some manufacturers may be taking advantage of market demand for "green" products to increase sales without actually improving their product. You might look up your cleaners in the Material Safety Data Sheet Database or in the Green Seal Report on Cleaners or you could simply follow the suggestion of Chaya at Care2Care:
"Rather than risk being duped by false eco-safe claims or introduce more unnatural substances into your home, opt to clean your home with products such as baking soda and vinegar. If they are safe enough to eat, then they are safe for your home and won’t hurt our planet."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ice Station Freebie - A Lenten Carbon Fast Challenge

Today's Change The World Wedneday/Lenten Carbon Fast challenge: (courtesy of my bloggy friend Small Footprints): 
bottle of ice
Bottle of ice is very useful
And very cheap!
"Defrost your freezer to reduce ice buildup and maintain efficiency. Allowing space for air to circulate will also help it run more efficiently. Place jugs of water in your fridge to help retain cold temperatures and scrub down the coils on the back of your fridge for higher efficiency."
One of my favorite cheap-but-responsible things to do is keep a couple of bottles of water in the freezer. I simply re-use plastic soda bottles, filling them almost all the way up, but leaving a little airspace for the water to expand into when it freezes - and giving myself the opportunity to use the word ullage!
This accomplishes several purposes. First, as per the challenge, it improves the efficiency of the freezer by eliminating a couple of liters of cold air that rushes out whenever I open the freezer door. Second, whenever I'm going on a picnic, I grab these prefrozen bottles for instant icepacks. (Actually, they're better than icepacks, because after they thaw, they provide drinking water for the ride home.) Third, these bottles are part of our resilience program; in a disaster, they would keep our food frozen for a little bit longer, and then function as a water reserve.

The bottle system is very flexible. When I need to use more space to freeze food, I just move the bottles out; if there's room in the fridge, I let them thaw there for an extra bit of efficiency, but they're otherwise content to sit with the other collection of water bottles in our emergency supply. As I draw down the stock of frozen food, I can slip in bottles a liter or so at a time! You really can't get much more convenient than that.
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Let me also endorse the defrosting idea, if only because it can bring to the surface forgotten things in the back of the freezer. Last week I pulled out some apple slices I'd frozen last fall, when we had more then we could eat fresh. They made an excellent pie! Who knows what you'll find in the back of your freezer?

A Nation That Cuts Education Cuts Its Own Throat

What do I make? I make a difference!

I'm not sure who this guy is, but he's right!

I'm just done with the freaks who want to cut our education system. They come in two kinds: pampered aristocrats who don't want kids to learn the intellectual firepower to stand up to them, and drunken bums who are angry that someone who studies hard might know something more than them.
Make no mistake: the attack on teachers is lead by an Aristocracy that was GREATLY inconvenienced by a Greatest Generation that used the GI Bill to learn, get good jobs, and have the leisure time to demand equal rights. This cut into the Royal Prerogatives of the Aristocracy of Wealth, and they fought back, starting with Reagan's assault on California's free college system and continuing today. America, our great and beloved nation, is the only advanced nation where college graduates must go deeply into debt, and therefore cannot devote themselves to a life of service, but must chase after the dollar, serve the Aristocracy.
It's killing our nation. Brains are the currency of this era: more valuable than gold, more powerful than bombs.
A nation that cuts educatin, cuts its own throat.
That's not a concern for the Aristocracy. They'll be happy in their gated community when 95% of America is uneducated and hungry, desparate for any job that let's them lick scraps from the master's table. If you read Dickens, and looked past the treackly plots and happy-face endings, you saw a land of terror for the majority, and that was just fine with the Torys.
Let's be proud of our teachers.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pay-Per: A Lenten Carbon Fast Challenge

Today's Lenten Carbon Fast challenge: (courtesy of my bloggy friend Small Footprints):

Yes, I have a set of paper-saving
"silly feet" cake cups!
"Save paper today. Don't print unless you need to and when you do, print double-sided onto recycled paper. Use paper, tissue, toilet paper and wood that is recycled or has been accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council. This ensures it has come from responsibly managed sustainable forests or confirms that it is recycled."
I have a few tips for saving paper:
  • I don't have my printer plugged in. It's amazing the amount of stuff I don't print, because hooking up my printer takes effort - not a lot of effort (powering on, plugging in a cable/figuring out the wireless) - but just enough to discourage unneeded printing. This not incidentally saves the electricity wasted from idling the printer. Most things are easier to read on my laptop anyway, because I can zoom text and read without my glasses.
  • I ship books using repurposed cardboard, instead of buying new padded envelopes. Lots of stores give away cartons to cut up, so I save money this way. I wrote about this in Carbon Neutral Book Shipping.
  • My mother-in-law needed a copy of a lengthy legal document to send to her sister's lawyer. I was going to take it to the copy shop and send it priority mail, when we hit upon the idea of scanning it into a pdf. This turned out to take not much more time than copying it; we were able to email the pdf so the lawyer got it almost immediately (and email postage costs zero!); and we still have the file in case we need to send another copy - saving money, storage space and paper!
  • Today I tried the re-usable silicon cupcake "papers" and am happy to report they work great! I was initially wierded out by the concept, but they really don't melt when you back with them, they have no apparant effect on the taste of the cupcake, and they don't seem to need washing - they pop right off the cupcake as you eat. This is a minor savings in money and paper, but every little bit helps, and cupcakes are serious business! Plus - with silicon you can get the "silly feet" effect (see photo) which is very hard to duplicate with paper. I'll use up my existing stock of cupcake papers but after that, it's silicon all the way baby!

Monday, March 28, 2011

This Is True for Japan

Through March 31 (my time), "This Is True" will contribute $20 to the Japanese relief effort for every new Premium subscription upgrade: http://www.thisistrue.com/upgrade.html
Now, I've been reading "This Is True" for years. It's possibly the oldest, and certainly one of the best internet publications around. Basically, it's a summary of recent news, each story being more implausible than the last - and all of them true. Hilarious - and it makes you go hunh!
Being a little on the financially squeezed side, I stuck with the free version, which is still funny and thoughtful, and would occasionally buy one of the products that came our of Randy's operation - chiefly the wonderful "Get Out Of Hell Free" cards (yep, it's the same guy!)
But now comes this Japanese relief effort offer. I could NOT say no. Can you?
I urge you to give it a try - subscribe and know that $20 out of your $24 subscription is going to help our friends in Japan who are going through a terrible time. And the other $4 will support a publication that will help you with whatever time you are going through right now.
I recommend it!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

R-E-S-P-O-N-S-I-B-I-L-I-T-Y: A Lenten Carbon Fast Challenge

One of the first stories I remember reading in school was about a farmboy learning to define and spell a big word: r-e-s-p-o-n-s-i-b-i-l-i-t-y. There was some sort of crisis on the farm, and he had to go to school, or maybe get the harvest in ... I don't remember what exactly. At the end of the story, he saw all the neighbors going to the farm with their equipment to deal with the crisis, and he learned what responsibility means (and also how to spell it.)
This was an important lesson as a kid, but why don't we expect the same of our nation?
I got thinking about this as a result of Today's Lenten Carbon Fast challenge: (courtesy of my bloggy friend Small Footprints):
"Think about how all countries can commit to tackling climate change and how richer, developed countries can take responsibility and cut emissions quickly. Think about how governments and world leaders can seek climate change agreements."
I want to be proud of my nation. We've done some pretty good stuff, and we have a lot of great things going. Being the first modern democracy, overthrowing slavery, saving civilization in the 1940s, and so on ... good stuff, our ancestors did. Some bad mixed in with the good (...ask my Native American relatives ...) but on the whole: much to be proud of.
But today, what passes as national pride seems to be mere vainglory: a celebration of strength, and an allergy to responsibility. The idea of working together with other nations gives some people the hives (as we see with the Libya situation, letting France lead a military operation in which we are participating is unthinkable!) And the idea that we need to stop pouring poisons into our atmosphere is rejected on the grounds that it someone limits freedom - as if there is some freedom to poison each other.
It's as if people never heard of "teamwork". It's as if people never heard of "responsibility".
Look, I don't want to be a grump about this, but anyone who doesn't want the strongest possible pollution controls, a zeroing out of our net carbon impact and a willingness to work with other nations is just too immature to be left around power tools.
I realize that the challenge might have been directed more towards ways-and-means, but frankly, the holdup in our nation is not our ability to solve the problem: it's in our will to solve the problem. We need to wake up and grow up and get to it. Like the neighbor-farmers driving their equipment to deal with the crisis, we need to stop being so childish and fulfill our r-e-s-p-o-n-s-i-b-i-l-i-t-y.

West Seattle for Japan: A Example To Follow!

Today a lot of merchants and restaurants are donating 10% of their gross to Japanese relief, in an action called West Seattle For Japan. We shopped Village Green and the West Seattle Farmers Market but there are plenty of other places to try. I hope other communities will follow this example - it's smart and easy to set up!

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