Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

My family has recently started to make more conscious decisions about what we eat, and where it comes from. This is the second year that we’ve had a vegetable garden in the backyard, and let me tell you. there is a simple satisfaction in just nipping out to the back for all the ingredients for a great salad.

But this year we also joined a CSA. That’s : Community Supported Agriculture. We found a local farm that drops off produce to a local store every week. In the beginning of the season, we bought a share of the farm. We got a half-working share, which means that we get a smaller portion (feeds 1-2 people /wk) of veggies than someone with a full share (3-4/wk). We also got a working share, which means that we will go out to the farm and work in the fields for 12 hours this summer, and in exchange, we get a good amount of money off. so that’s how it works, but anyway…

The farm hosted a potluck dinner for the members, and it was awesome. We took a tour of the farm and got to see each crop tucked neatly away in their respective furrows. Even if you buy your greens at the farmer’s market, this goes a step beyond that, in my view. I LOVED actually seeing exactly where my food comes from. Meeting the man who will pick it. Knowing his name. That’s something you just don’t find too often nowadays. Where does your food come from? Argentina? New Zealand? That’s like 15,000 miles away for fresh grapes/ apples/ etc. How much fossil fuel was spent getting that food to you? Buy local. Buy seasonal. Even buy organic if you can, but I would choose local over organic.

Climate change. Does it exist? Yes. Can we do something about it? Maybe. What the world needs now (besides love, as they say) is concerted action. We need to educate people on the true consequences of their actions, and what they can do to reduce their impact on the planet. For a few things you can do individually, check these out:

1) Live close to work & play. I know that for many people, they are settled in to where they are living. But the average American only lives in a house for seven years. So you still may be able to do this at some point in the future. Look at where you live now, and how far you commute. Can you live closer to where you work? Can you get a new job closer to where you live? When my wife and I were buying our first home, we took this into consideration. We decreased her commute time from 30 minutes to 20 minutes, and I was close enough to ride my bike to work most days.

2) Ride a bike. If you are physically able to ride a bike to do short errands, do it. Many car trips in the U.S. are for distance of less than a mile. Have to run down to the drugstore for something small? Take a bike. This alone will reduce your carbon footprint a great deal. Plus it may be quicker. What? you ask incredulously. Yes. My commute was 12 minutes by car and 7 minutes by bike…because of all the traffic. I can always go to the front of the line at a ed light, and speed by cars that are bumper to bumper.

3) Get an energy audit for your home. Many companies that deal in windows, insulation, or heating will offer these for free. A technician will come in and go around your house check for leaks. Not leaks from water in pipes, places where heat is leaking out. They seal off your front door with a big plastic gasket with a fan inside. This creates negative pressure in the house, so any place where heat would have been going out is now coming in. They use a thermal IMG_0251imaging camera to spot areas of cold. (white is hot, black is cold. You can see in the picture that the bottom panel of our back door is very cold, and cold air is seeping in underneath the door.) It was very cool to follow him around and see cold seeping in through the baseboards and around the door to the attic. Then I knew exactly where to seal with caulk or expanding foam. We also got our furnace replaced with a 95% efficient model and insulated all the exterior walls with blown-in cellulose insulation. This cut our utility bills in half! I wrote in more detail about that here.

There are so many other things you can do, so I will say that the biggest one is:

4) Read. Educate yourself on how you can live a better life for yourself, and the environment. You’re doing it right now! There are tons of simple things you can do. There are also things that many people believe will affect the climate a great deal, but actually don’t.

I focused on only one small part of the climate change issue, but there are myriad facets to this. I expect to read posts from other people doing Blog Action Day today about how coastal regions may be affected, our food supply, desertification, water shortages, international policy changes, new advancements in science, and much more. So just try and do your part, and we can make some change for the good of us all.

For more info, go here:

http://www.blogactionday.org/

I’ve come to the realization that I don’t do campgrounds. I much prefer camping out in the wilderness with no one for miles around and only a stream for running water, than being shoved next to loud strangers to sleep on a patch of mud with a smelly communal bathhouse to really make you feel like you’re “roughing it.”

Here is my personal list of pros and cons for staying overnight at a campground:

Pro: Easy. Just back the car right up and unload everything right into your tent.

Con: Easy. Anyone with access to a sleeping bag can sleep there. Loud radios are easy to pack when your car comes equipped with one.

Pro: Extras. Bathroom, showers, clean water, playgrounds… they have it all.

Con: Extras. You can even get sites with electric hook up so you can run your microwave, TV, and refrigerator…when you’re camping. Getting in touch with nature? Nah. Change the channel.

Pro: mmm, I’m out of Pros.

Con: LOUD people. I get out into the woods to escape from our modern society, not be crammed closer to it. If I slept out in my backyard in the city, I would have had a quieter night.

Con: Too much light. I tried to enjoy the stars, but the light from the bathroom was too bright.

Con: Cost. Why pay $20 to set up my tent ten feet away from my car? I can do that for free in my backyard. I know many areas that I can car camp at that are totally free. Just find the right trailhead and set up camp.

That’s all for now. What do you think? Are you a campground camper, or a backwoods camper?

Just quit your job? Still at your job, but haven’t figured out what you’re going to do with the other 849 business cards that are stuffed in a desk drawer somewhere? Well I have a solution. Just take all those old business cards with your name and wrong/old phone numbers and e-mail on them and flip them over to the back. See? A brand new blank business card, ready for your creativity. Now you can name your job title as you really are, not what cubicle you sit in. (Dad, Adventurer) in my case.

So I had all these extra business cards that I still wanted to use, but I’m not with that company anymore. Easy, flip it over, search through the closets untill I find my old typsetting kit  from when I was eight, and BLAM! New business card. I threw in a shark and celtic knot for good measure, because I like both of them, and now that I am using the cards for myself, I don’t have to be quite as professional anymore. Here’s how they turned out. (I blocked my phone number because I’d rather not have people from teh intarnets calling me up all the time, no offense)

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So this is our backyard, inner-city garden. From Grass to greens. First we watched where the sun hit our yard so we could pick the best spot. We decided that 10×10 was big enough. My wife is cutting the border while baby watches. Cutting the sod was tough work. Wear gloves to avoid blisters. Shake out the chunks so you preserve as much soil as you can. You also save the worms this way and keep them in the garden. Making the fence was the hardest part. Even deciding on a design. Because we have a crawling/ walking baby, we needed something stronger than just wire. So we got cedar rails for their natural weatherproof-ness so when the baby teethes on them, he doesn’t get a mouthful of paint or varnish. Coating the bottoms of the posts in roof pitch was nasty. We also have groundhogs around, so the rabbit fence is good for keeping him out too. We buried it 4 inches below grade for that reason. We started the cold weather veggies early and used a roe-cover for them so that when May rolled around, we already had salads ready to eat. Now we have : lettuce, chives, carrots, beets, radishes, basil, tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, peas, cucumbers, and spinach.

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IMG_2456This is a question I ask myself sometimes, lying awake at night. Where would I get clean drinking water? What about food? Would the government intervene? How effective would they be? We all saw the response to Katrina and that was a localized incident. What if there was a nationwide, or even worse…worldwide crisis? Could you protect your family? What happens when my car runs out of gas and all the stations are run by armed gangs who demand $1,000 a gallon? Do you have a plan in place?

I have camping gear, and books on survival, but would they really be useful? If things really started falling apart, would I want to move out to the woods? Probably not. I would protect my home. But I don’t own a gun. Don’t misunderstand that I’m not armed (potential robbers reading this) I have several swords, knives, and a hunting bow. But a gun trumps a knife almost every time. People sometimes comment on how uncivilized third-world countries are, but if you took away grocery stores, indoor plumbing, and most importantly, a visible police force, watch how fast our “civilized” society descends into chaos.

We have our own vegetable garden, but it’s not enough to live off of. We have a pond behind our house, out in the park, but that is run by city pumps, not a free flowing stream. There is a stream a few blocks away, but would a Brita filter be enough for us? If we had to live in the woods, I’m sure we could do it, left to our own devices. But another factor is a bigger issue. Human nature can be ugly, greedy, and cruel. I’m more worried about the roving gangs of opportunists who take what they want by force. Against them, my family would fall. Unless we banded together with other neighbors and became similar to what we were protecting against.

Castle in Baden Wieler

An interesting take on this situation is a book by Larry Niven titled “Lucifer’s Hammer.” In it, an asteroid strikes the Earth, thrusting humanity, and California in particular, into chaos. Gunman control decaying supermarkets, military leaders go AWOL and from their own mini armies, roving the counrtyside taking what they want, and good people just trying to survive get caught in the middle, constantly heading for higher ground and a safe place that only exists in their dreams.

I ask these questions, because in todays’ uncertain economy, they bear thinking about. You may call me an alarmist, but so far, I haven’t stockpiled any freeze-dried foods, grain, water, gas, or guns. Hmmm… I wonder when the local Army/ Navy store closes?

img_16731As you can see by my latest utility bill, my decision to replace our 83 year old gravity-fed, 200,000 BTU, – 50% efficient, Octopus furnace with a new 95% efficient one is already paying off.

Just look at January 08 and January 09. Our daily average was 54% better than last year. Compare 230 therms to 115. Needless to say, I’m very happy with the result. The new exterior insulation we had blown-in also contributed to our energy saving. With that project alone, we reduce our carbon foorprint by 14,000 pounds. And who says being Green doesn’t pay off?

Some of my favorite snippets from Obama’s speech:

Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

I thought this was great, especially as the now (thank God) former Pres. Bush was sitting right behind him. (more…)

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Ever since my wife ripped out the old cabinets that were in our kitchen, we’ve been looking for something suitable to go in it’s place. We made do with a bookshelf and and small cart, but now we have this. I harvested it off the curb on a sled and it only needed minor repairs to drawers. As my uncle’s friend would say, “If it’s free, I need it.” Well, we did need it. This is definitely helping us save money while our baby is still young. I encouraged everyone to keep an eye out on trash night. Don’t think it’s beneath you to grab something off the curb. Maybe there’s only a few small things wrong with it like this piece, that you can fix that someone else didn’t want to bother with. This is recycling at its best. The Earth wins, your house wins, and your wallet wins. Thank you Emily, for throwing out your dresser. It has a new home in our kitchen.

I also found this a few months ago…from the same house!

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túrána hott kurdís by hasta la otra méxico! from Till Credner on Vimeo.

So my wife and I are thinking about joining “The Compact.” When I told my parents, they asked if that it was some kind of cult.  I explained that it’s just a group of people who agree to not buy anything new for a whole year. Food excluded of course. My Mom said “Oh, well that was the first few years of our marriage anyway.” I think it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for us. We rarely buy lots of things anyway. We’re not big Mall shoppers. I like to pick up the occasional CD but the only difference is that I would have to find it used. That’s no problem. I just got three used PS2 games for myself as a birthday present and I like them just fine. Who cares if they’re a few years old. One was $2.99. Can’t beat that. Unless it’s free. Yes we’re joining Freecycle as well. The site that facilitates giving things away to people who want what you don’t anymore.

The whole idea of this is to be less of a consumer. Less materialistic, if you will. Let’s see if we can stick with it for a whole year. What do you think?

Around the world, the debate over using genetically engineered food is heating up. This is an article from Yahoo and the AP.

“Influential voices around the world are calling for a re-examination of the GM debate,” says C.S. Prakash, a professor of plant molecular genetics at Alabama’s Tuskegee University. “Biotechnology provides such tools to help address food sustainability issues.”

Genetic manipulation to insert desirable genes or accelerate changes traditionally achieved through crossbreeding can help make crops resistant to insects and disease or enable them to tolerate herbicides. Livestock similarly can be altered by inserting a gene from one animal into the DNA of another.”genetically engineered food debate heats up

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The colors are Heaven’s Wind and Mountain Forget Me Not. We used the new No VOC (Volatile Organic Chemicals) paint from Home Depot. It was expensive ($36/gal) but worth it for the safety of our family and house. No harmful off-gassing for us. We slept in the room the same day we painted and it was fine. No crazy paint headaches and feeling high. As you can see, we chose to do some cool color blocks on the walls. I think it came out nicely. The weird thing about the paint is: in natural light, it looks blue, but in the evening, it looks purple. I don’t mind having a purple bedroom because 1. it’s very light anyway, and 2. it’s only the color of the walls. I am staying firm on keeping my camo footlocker out though. A man has to have someplace to sit and put on his shoes in the morning. Sheesh.

OUT WITH THE OLD IN WITH THE NEW

We got a new stove today. I mentioned I wanted to get a new one at work because I read that 60% of the total energy used per year in gas stoves is just having the pilot lights lit all the time. So this guy at work mentions that he happens to have a gas stove with electric ignition sitting in his garage that he wants to get rid of.

Now my problem is how to get it to my house because my little Suby won’t fit a stove in it. So I tell my uncle who has a Suburban and he says he’ll help me if he can get MY old stove because his is even worse than mine! So after much shuffling, we get the new one in and when I try to hook up the new hose to the old gas fitting, it’s too big. So I ran to the Depot and grabbed a new fitting and also my new favorite tool. A Milwaukee Sawzall! Yeehah! That thing is a beast. I needed it to cut my old furnace apart which is 400 lbs of steel. It cut like butter.