Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Drilling South of the Ozarks

When I wrote my post on Monday, I had more of a global picture of drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge and off the beautiful shores of our coasts. From a college trip in 1983, I still remember riding horses on the beaches of Galveston and looking off into the horizon to see the "beauty" of the offshore oil platforms.
Anyway, just yesterday, the story broke that the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission voted to lease areas of state wildlife parks for natural gas drilling. The lease gives rights to over 11,000 acres of state protected lands. To add insult to injury for environmentalists, some lawmakers feel the money collected for this venture should not all go toward protecting the wildlife.
Somehow, I don't think that drilling for natural gas is exactly what they had in mind when they labeled Arkansas "The Natural State."
Read more here:

Monday, July 28, 2008

Drilling Us Deeper into Dependency

Ah, the political season. The time when the mute button on the remote comes in handy. since we receive our local channels from Missouri - a swing state that is also a bell weather state, the mute button will be worn out by November. However, I've been really disturbed by a very misleading ad put on by the McCain camp. It uses the fear tactic of rising oil prices and asks, "Who is really responsible for the energy crisis?" The ad then shows a photo of Obama with his supporters chanting his name.
Like Obama or not, he is not responsbile for our current energy crisis. Agree with his oil policy or not, a little research into the truth and you will find that drilling for more oil domestically will not solve our energy crisis. Drilling in the Artic Refuge, for example, would only provide us with enough oil for 6 months (based on our current domestic use) - and that's after the pipelines are in place and it is prepped for drilling - sometime after 2010.
I do not understand what about the terms "non-renewable energy" and "renewable energy" that people do not understand.
Oil is not renewable. It is not replacing itself at the rate we are taking it out of the ground. Even if it could solve our probelms indefinitely, it would run out eventually.
When we were in Europe, we were amazed at the planning and infrastructure the Germans have put into place, making walking, biking or riding trains a more efficient way to get someplace. They are not sprawled in suburban centers where people must drive to do the most basic things such as grocery shopping.
Our government needs to start looking toward the future. Planning urban centers that are pedestrian friendly, rather than suburbs that make us have to get into cars and drive. They need to invest quickly and wholeheartedly into renewable fuels and start promoting conservation of what we do have.
No, it isn't Obama who is responsbile for our current energy crisis. It is every voting man and woman in America who didn't demand, after the oil crisis in the 1970s, that our government take our dependence on oil seriously and start to make changes.
I applaud George Bush I for his initiative to end offshore drilling during his administration, but where was the leadership to find other sources since? My mother in law recently said, "If the tree huggers would just back off, we could drill for more oil here." Yes, we could. But it is that same ignorance that Americans have been hiding behind for 30 years that brought us here. It's time for us to take our heads out of the sand, quit looking for quick fixes to this mess and take responsibility for finding alternative, renewable fuels and preserving our world for future generations and maybe even making our children's and grandchildren's lives better. No one can convince me that we can send space ships to Mars and the moon and we cannot find a way to power our homes and vehicles without oil.
Oil is not the only thing that is not renewable. We must not ruin every inch of the earth or send more wild animals into extinction for our thirst for oil.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Off-Setting Travel Through Carbon Credits

I'll be going "home" this week, to Kansas City for a writer's and editors conference. We have a gas guzzling 4WD truck, and while I'm concerned about the cost of gas, I'm more concerned about the impact we have on the environment. In our defense, we do need 4WD here, there's days we wouldn't make it off this mountain without it, and when we bought this truck in 2005, 4WD hybrids where very new and overly expensive and difficult to get.
Right now, the best I can do is try to offset my travel by investigating carbon offset companies, doing the calculations of how many emissions I'm contributing and purchase some credits.
These credits are then used to invest in clean energy. For a list of the most efficient carbon credit companies, I'll be looking at:
and making an informed decision when I return from KC.
Due to my trip, Going Green will be taking Wednesday off. I'll be back online with more "green" stories about my trip to Little Rock - and maybe Kansas City - next week.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

CFL's and Mercury

When I was in Little Rock appearing on Morning Daybreak on KATV, the meteorologist on the show, Todd Yakoubian, began asking me about the mercury in CFL's. He was concerned that one environmental savior could cause another environmental disaster. I was a bit nervous that morning and was trying to keep my presentation in my head, so I don't feel as if I answered his questions well. So, I decided to blog about it.
Yes, mercury in CFL bulbs is a concern. Although it is a realtively small amount of mercury, only about 5 mgs. per bulb, it could lead to mercury pollution problems if the entire world began using CFL bulbs and not disposing of them properly. Like with many environmental things, including ethanol production, which helps us save energy by using less gas, there are downsides - increased corn production causes increased pesticide run-off, which is affecting pollution in the Gulf Coast.
Saving energy by using energy conserving bulbs leads to the re-introduction of mercury in our homes. I say re-introduction, because for at least 50 years, regular household thermometers contained mercury. I'm sure Todd is too young, but when I was in science class in school, the boys were always stealing the mercury stash used for experiments and playing with the beads. I'm not trying to minimize the risk, but I believe the risk of small amounts of mercury leaking (and it only leaks if the bulb is smashed), is smaller than the current energy crisis.
I would like to see a perfect solution to our energy problems, but even if we were to go back to life without electricity, there would be the problems caused by pollution from people using oil lamps and burning wood and coal.
There's no perfect solution.
CFL's are the best solution we have right now. They use 50-80% less energy than regular incandecent bulbs and a 13w CFL bulb, which is a 75w incandescent bulb, can save $45 on an energy bill over the life-time of the bulb, which is about 10,000 - 12,000 hours.
There is a new CFL bulb that has reduced the amount of mercury to 3.8 mg. Phillips Alto CFL Bulbs can be purchased through this website:
It is legal to dispose of CFL bulbs in your regular trash in most states. However, it is more environmentally friendly to treat them as hazardous household waste. Home Depot and Ikea stores will take spent CFL bulbs.
As well, most municipal landfills and recycling centers have special places for hazardous materials.
In the meantime, if you break a CFL bulb, follow the steps on the EPA website for proper clean up:

Todd's right, if we don't tackle these issues now, our children and grandchildren will be dealing with the ramifications later. Thanks, Todd, for the questions!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The 5 Quick Tips

I thought 4 minutes would drag on, I envisioned the host of the morning show at KATV in Little Rock prodding me to say something else just to get through the time. Turns out, 4 minutes is pretty short, and I didn't get through all of my simple tips for going green.
Everyone wants to know what they can do to help the planet, even the waiter at Wasabi Grill, a great sushi and Japanese restaurant in downtown Little Rock wanted to know and sat down with me during a lull in his work for some pointers.
So, here's the tips I was prepared to give on television on Saturday:

Some people think that “going green,” or being more environmentally friendly is hard – or will cost money. The great thing about the tips I’m going to give today is that they are not hard – the key to this, like with any other change, is to modify your habits.
We’re all finding ourselves with less money these days due to energy and grocery costs rising, so my tips today have a double benefit, they will not only allow you to help save the planet, they will help you save money:

1). Use cloth grocery bags.
Environmental benefit: Helps reduce the amount of waste in the landfills. Neither paper nor plastic is good. Paper uses trees and plastic kills wildlife and takes years to break down – if ever.
Cost savings: Some grocery stores offer 5 cents for every bag you provide.

This was the first thing I did to go green – 20 years ago this year. My husband worked as a mechanic at a large landfill in Kansas City. I’m an animal lover and when he came home and told me about all of the birds getting those plastic bags caught in their beaks and around their legs, I wanted to do something to help. I bought 4 bags and my mom bought 3. My husband was overwhelmed by the amount of trash he saw everyday and said our small effort wouldn’t help. Our bags have lasted 2 decades and last year, I added up the number of plastic bags I estimated we saved and it came to around 10,000 bags we’ve kept out of the landfills – and saved about $500 from that nickel a bag!

2). Save energy and save on your electric bill.
Environmental Benefit: Saving energy helps reduce our carbon footprint on the planet.
Cost savings: All the small things will add up to a savings on the electric bill.
a). Turn off lights when not in use.
b). As your old incandescent bulbs burn out, replace them with CFL bulbs. CFL bulbs have comparable wattage output, but uses up to 80 percent electricity. They also last anywhere of up to 12,000 hours and regular bulbs only last about 1,000 hours. You may pay a little more upfront, but the cost savings is worth it on the energy bill and the cost of replacing bulbs faster.
c). Unplug and turn off all of your electronic gadgets when not in use. Everything still pulls electricity, even when not in use. Unplug chargers for lap top computers, cell phones, and other electronic charges when they’re not being used. Turn off computers, don’t just let them sit idle (this can save up to $55-$70 per year). According to the Department of Energy, it’s a myth that modern computers will last longer if they’re left on all of the time. That applied to the older mainframe computers. Consider buying a laptop for your next computer purchase. They use less energy than a desktop.
d). Install solar deck lights. These are fun and decorative and saves us from turning on the large outside flood lights if we’re just going out on the deck. They also don’t attract the moths as turning on the outside lights do.

3). Don’t use paper cups, plates, or towels. Recycle bottles, newspapers
Environmental benefit: Keeping more trash from the landfills.
Cost savings: Cutting these out of your grocery bill will help save money.
The average family of four would use over 400 paper plates if they had two meals per day on them. That’s 400 more products of waste that we have to find room for in the landfills. Also, the cost of paper products are rising, eliminating these products will help people save on their energy bills.

4). Walk or bike wherever you can and eliminate or combine trips.
Environmental benefit: Saves energy. Helps reduce our carbon footprint.
Cost savings: At nearly $4 a gallon for gas, that’s obvious.
If there’s anything positive about the cost of gas, it’s that it has made Americans think more about gasoline – not just the cost from our pockets, but our dependence on it. We live 12 miles from town and my husband has to go in everyday for work, but I haven’t driven to town by myself for over 3 months. He does all of our errands while he is there. On weekends, we combine trips – there’s no longer running into town for one small thing. If you live closer to town, think about where you can walk. Walk your kids to school – its great exercise for you and them. Maybe you can take up biking again. I’ve spoken with a lot of people even up to their 40s and 50s who have discovered the great physical benefit of biking to work.

5). In the garden and with our pets. Use eco-friendly pesticides.
Environmental benefit: Probably safer for eating and us to be around.
Cost savings: Some of these products have more than one use – such as skin so soft and dishwashing soap.
You can buy organic pesticides for your vegetable garden, or you can find recipes for homemade products. My aunt uses a mixture of water, cayenne pepper and dish soap. For your lawns and inside dogs, we buy organic products that aren’t harmful to our pets or other wildlife if we put it in our yard. We’ve found limited success with the natural pesticides for the pets. We live out in the woods, so we do have to apply the topical pesticide to our dogs that roam around the woods, having ticks can be dangerous for them and us.
For us, we dust our pant legs with sulfur powder and also spray skin so soft from Avon, or mixtures of natural essential oils. (Don’t use sulfur on dogs).

Finally, recycle animals. They are not disposable. Adopt from the shelter.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Get Turned Off

I'm back after a nice long break working on other projects throughout last week. After receiving our first "big" bill from having the air on this summer, I'm looking for ways to save energy. I thought I would check into the theory that leaving your computer on idle all of the time helps it last longer. According to most things I've read this is not only no longer true, turning off and unplugging the computer while not in use will help save a lot of energy - and a lot of green. Apparently, leaving the computer on used to make it last longer, but this was for the older models.
Other things you should always unplug when not in use are battery chargers and high-energy pulling appliances. Even when something is turned off, it is still pulling juice - and tapping your wallet.
There's another reason for my turning my computer off at night. We haven't been sleeping well and because my home office is still currently temporarily in our bedroom, it could be due to all the electric fields. Yep, some experts believe it isn't good for sleep patterns to have a lot of electricity floating in the air.
At this point (yawn), I'll give anything a try - especially if it will save money on the electric bill too.
Here's the link to the Dept of Energy's website on home offices:

By the way, for my readers in Little Rock, I will be a guest on Saturday Day Break this Saturday, July 12 (my 22nd wedding anniversary) KATV talking about what else - Going Green in the Ozarks! Tune in if you're local.