Monday, June 30, 2008

You Haven't Changed Your Lightbulbs Yet?

The far peak is finally in view after days of fog and rain. Very hazy, which means a muggy day in New England.

I had a conversation with a good friend, a person who is outdoorsy, thoughtful and someone I thought had embraced the green movement. So I jokingly said, "Have you changed all your light bulbs yet?" His answer "No" shocked me and so here we are talking about it.

It seems the number one reason, and his, why folks have not gotten around to changing their light bulbs to CFL's (compact florescent lights) is..."My other ones haven't burnt out yet." My friend took it one step further and said he had some extras he still needed to "use up." Come on!

Now I know we Yankee frugal types do have a really hard time throwing things out, especially when they still work. It just goes against our grain. But if you look at the numbers, the cost savings of CFL's far exceed keeping those dinosaur of a light bulbs.

The math is really simple: A CFL uses only 25% electricity of a regular incandescent bulb. If you want the bottom line, your regular bulb costs you $1. compared to your CFL at only 25 cents. With these facts, why on earth would someone keep waisting their electric money continuing to burn a regular light bulb at 4 times the cost? Throw those darn things out! Remember, saving electricity use means saving money too. (yes I know it's about saving the planet but some people have to save it in their pockets too.) So here's another fact: If every American household changed only one of their regular bulbs to a CFL, that electrical savings would be enough to power the entire State of New Hampshire.

What other excuses do people have? The second biggest reason is the mercury content in a CFL. You know long office type fluorescent bulbs, that people have over their work benches and in closets? They have been around for decades and they have always contained mercury and no one seemed to be concerned about those. One CFL has about 1/6th the mercury of a watch battery. Okay, so a CFL can break more easily. Let's look at it another way. The electricity produced to burn your regular light bulb spews out more mercury into the air than than the difference in the mercury contained in the bulb. Since we have a major mercury problem in a our New Hampshire waters, I will continue to cast my vote with the CFL.

Those are the two major reasons why people have not changed their light bulbs. Here is a list of 10 reasons I have come across why people have not yet changed their light bulbs:

1- My regular light bulbs have not burned out yet.
2- I have to use up all my old light bulbs first.
3- I don't want mercury in my house. (try LED's)
4- CFL's are expensive. (not anymore! down to a buck)
5- CFL's are ugly. (to paraphrase our V.P. "So")
6- They don't fit my socket. (try a socket extender)
7- They are too big. (they come mini now)
8- I need dimmables and 3-ways. (they make them)
9- They flicker. (not the new ones)
10- I don't like the light. (try different types)

If you have come across any other reasons please let me know as I would love to add to this list.
Though this seems about money, it really isn't from an environmental standpoint. This is about being able to make a major impact in reducing CO2 emissions but it can only happen with power in numbers. That means we all have to change all the light bulbs we can if we are going to quickly reduce the numbers the experts say we must in order to avoid planet failure.

So what's your excuse?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Day Without Plastic

A very foggy morning-can't even see 200 yards beyond the first row of trees. Almost feels like being blind. I'm guessing and extremely muggy June day.

A nice young man I work with is an enthusiastic idealistic environmentalist. Because we deal with so many green products ironically wrapped in gobs of plastic, he has developed an abhorance to the petroleum by product. His, Jonathan's, latest lifestyle alteration is to go without plastic where ever and when ever possible. And it ain't easy.

Just doing the basics in life, clothing and eating is monumental. Jonathan has the clothing part down pretty well-organic clothing, old clothing, and hemp, but even socks and shoes are hard deal with and go without. The hardest part is the eating-buying and storing food. How do you buy bread not wrapped in plastic? Luckily we have this amazing bakery in town (the owner is European) and so a loaf of bread is served in a paper bag. Viola! But there's more to life than bread.

Buying in bulk is a great way to avoid packaging BUT the big roll of plastic is right there by the bulk items. The simple solution is to bring in your glass containers and have them pre-weighed, put in your bulk items and weigh again at the check out counter. Sounds good so far. But when you want to buy many things in bulk AND your transportation happens to be a bicycle, avoiding plastic becomes another challenge. There are very cool netted and solid organic cotton produce bags that you can use for many items but it is a bit awkward for rice and granola, but doable for the idealist. Liquid bulk requires glass. At our local COOP they do sell milk in glass but unfortunately our local hero Stonyfield Farm Yogurt comes in plastic. This is not so easy.

Now try going home and using your kitchen without plastic. In an effort for Americans to go unbreakable, we got in the habit of plastic everything. Utensils, plates,and of particular difficulty is storage containers. Jonathan has pretty much a plastic free kitchen but not one that would win any awards by home type magazines. Many items come from the local Goodwill-just the basics in glass and metal. He reuses glass jars with lids for storing items and bringing food to work. He has some glass storage containers with glass lids for larger items and for freezing and baking. I must say he is doing a really good job with the basics and his simple lifestyle, but it is a challenge.

But as life gets more complicated, so does living without plastic. What about toiletries? Shampoo in a glass bottle? No where to be found. Toilet paper not wrapped in plastic? Good luck. Toothbrushes, combs, medicine bottles: just about all in plastic. (Gosh, it might break in the bathroom) Appliances, computers, cars, vinyl siding and suddenly we are wrapped in plastic.

What on earth did they do only 100 years ago before all this plastic? They were living well, right? They got by, didn't they? Much food for thought. So I challenge you - try a day without plastic. It will open your eyes.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Green Green Blog (My First)

It is way past the hour of sunset and I am about to press "post" to launch my first blog posting. (Hence the title) My view is dark but upon close inspection the stars are out and the night is awaiting dawn. The air is summer yet crisp, the frogs are chirping. What a way to launch!

There is so much to talk about in the world of green. Topics like pollution, carbon footprint, toxic chemicals, organic foods many more. Most pressing, however, is reducing our CO2 ASAP. There are so many small and big things we can do, individually and as a community. It will take a multi-vitamin approach if we are going to succeed in minimizing the march of global warming and climate change.

Energy use is the biggest producer of CO2, our cars and households and what goes into their use and the production of everything associated with them. Whether its the light bulb burning, using the electricity produced from the coal burning power plant spewing CO2 or the cars we think we need to drive at 70 MPH to get some place. Those are big ticket items. But what about the card you sent to Grammie? Was it virgin paper from clear cut trees produced with chlorine using electricity from incineration? Or was it tree free paper without harmful chemicals made with wind power then transported using carbon offsets?

I don't know the exact difference in carbon footprint between the two, but you can imagine it is fairly significant. These are the choices out there right now to consumers. Imagine if we all choose the lesser impact in all our choices and multiply that by all the people in our country. We're talking big numbers here- a major impact. From little to large, reductions in CO2 add up for the better. It will take a multi vitamin approach. Let's hope we stay out of the intensive care unit.