Archive for October, 2007

Once you were waste, now you are disaster relief..

Earthquake! We had an earthquake last night – minor, as it epicentered 2 hours south in San Jose-ish – but it inspired me to offer you the most duh green tip ever.

Take every water bottle you’ve used once – preferrably glass jars – and fill them back up with potable water. Store them in the back corner of your fridge (or freezer, if they’re plastic).

1. Full fridges are easier to keep cool (take less energy).
2. A new use for that old bottle!
3. You’ll never notice them.
4. You will have safe drinking water if THE UNTHINKABLE occurs. And I bet no matter where you live, there is some kind of unthinkable that might occur to your water supply, even if it’s not an earthquake.

And on that scary doomsday note, I leave you to your filling.


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Oh, Eco Tourism.

EcoEscape is an online green trip planner for travels in the UK.
The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) offers training and resources for sustainable travel
and so does the Nature Conservancy.

Now, I tend to shy away from these things. Maybe it’s growing up in Colorado, but I have never had the drive to travel to far away places and look at a mountain or something. Maybe it’s a lack of adventurous spirit. Or maybe it’s the 1990 trip to Cave of the Winds, where a well-meaning tourguide sternly told our group that we shouldn’t touch anything, that our very breathing destroyed the caves a little bit. Sensitive five year old that I was, I tried to hold my breath most of the tour… aaaaaand suddenly you have a very unhappy five year old.
I still remember a guide in the Sahara desert complaining about the Czech tourists throwing water bottles straight into the sand. Cool to see the desert, but even careful me probably had a huge impact on the environment just by living there. Still, I’m happy I’ll die having seen the Sahara. It’s all a balance I guess.

On another note, the Lapa Rios Ecolodge in Costa Rica is powered by pig feces.

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Green Dishwashing

My mom bemoaned the stinky perfumedness of every dish washing liquid soap she’d picked up over the last week. I recommended Method from Target, not knowing that Method’s actually eco-friendlier than normal (well, as eco-friendly as you get in a disposable plastic bottle.. snark snark snark). Method’s environmental policy statement, or “humanifesto,” as they call it reads (in part): “we believe dirty, in all its slimy, smoggy, toxic, disgusting incarnations is public enemy number one. and good always prevails over stinky.”

Also, it doesn’t smell bad.

And my mom is happy once more.

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Green Laundry

As it is for most people, Saturday is my laundry day.

In my building, we pay twice: for the water and electricity used in the laundry room, as well as 1.75 for each run in the washer and each run in the dryer. The coin mechanisms are broken into a lot, so this does not include quarters sacrificed to figure out whether or not a machine works. Yikes. Quarters don’t grow on trees, son.

You can only re-wear work shirts and pajamas so much before yes, you too start to smell like Pigpen from Peanuts – you know, with the stink lines following you in the air and stuff. A load a week might be unavoidable.

I do not relish the 3 hours I spent every week washing my clothes by hand in Morocco, so I am going to try to make my washing efficient AND sustainable this week. Oh, compromises.

Help with green laundry detergents from Co-Op America and Science Base (two very different viewpoints).

Since dryers use most of the energy bemoaned in laundering, many eco-launderers recommend line drying, especially on April 19 – National Hanging Out Day. However, many apartment dwellers including myself do not have the Right to Dry.

Exciting facts about line drying: using a clothesline once a week will reduce your carbon-based emissions 50 lbs. per year, and will save you $100 to $300 every year on household energy costs!

Here are some other tips for greening your laundry habits. Check out Sebastopol-based LineDry, an artistic statement about the beauty of line drying.

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Homemade Bread

Well, I don’t know if this is particularly environmentally friendly per se, but it certainly cuts out a transit step (blah blah carbon emissions blah).. pretty much, it’s fun to make your own bread. I like food much better when I see everything that goes into it.

White Bread Recipe
2h30m time commitment: 20 minutes prep, 2 hours waiting.
Shopping list: sugar, active dry yeast, salt, vegetable oil, about 1/2 bag flour.
Stuff you should have: bread pan, big bowl, strong stirring spoon, liquid measure (a pyrex), dry measure (1 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 tablespoon, 1/2 teaspoon), serrated bread knife and cutting board (for eating!)

2 cups warm water
2/3 cup white sugar
1.5 tablespoons active dry yeast
1.5 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 cups bread flour

Large bowl: dissolve sugar in warm water, then stir in the yeast. The yeast is happiest with a warm environment and food to eat, so don’t boil the poor buggers to death. Wait until the yeast start eating – you can tell when the bowl has a layer of creamy foam.

Mix salt and oil into the yeast. Do not forget the oil like I did. This will require much kneading later and chewier bread.

Mix in flour one cup at a time. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. I like to clean off the countertop and dump a thin layer of flour straight onto it because then I can pretend I have a bakery.

As my mom says, “When the dough looks smooth like a baby’s bottom,” put it in an oiled bowl, and turn dough to coat. Cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down! I think this gets the air out so you don’t end up with big bubbles in your bread. Knead for a few minutes, and divide in half. Shape into loaves, and place into two well oiled 9×5 inch loaf pans.
Allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until dough has risen 1 inch above pans. Preheat your oven when it’s almost risen. On second thought, don’t preheat.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes.

This stuff is made with white flour, so it’s pretty much cake with less sugar, but you can modify it with wheat flour and honey, says my mom who made it as a hippie health nut back in her early 20s.

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Green Heroes, Crazies?

So there are all kinds of people out there – green monks, if you will – adopting this environmental asceticism business. And if you look at how the majority of the world lives and deals with stuff, it’s not entirely crazy.

No Impact Man swore off buying new things except sustainably made socks and underwear. Read the rules for the experiment

Alan Durning and his family went carless for a year in Seattle, as did this family in Minneapolis.

Find tips for sustainable living from the Sightline Institute and maybe join the green layfolk like me.

Apologies for today’s liberal use of Catholic metaphors.

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New Belgium – Sustainable Beer

New Belgium Brewery, maker of Fat Tire Ale, goes to impressive lengths to make its production sustainable.

Founded by an electrical engineer and a social worker, its employees voted in 1998 to finance a conversion to wind power. New Belgium conserves water, signed on to the 2002 LEED-Existing Buildings pilot program, and recycles much of its materials used. Even spent grain becomes cattle feed. New Belgium comissioned an artist to create its facility stools out of old bike parts, and uses old bottlecaps to build tables. Last but not least, New Belgium has hired a sustainability specialist – keeping people like me in business.

Find out more at the New Belgium website.

Makes ya proud to be from Fort Collins!

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