Friday, July 31, 2009

Cash for Clunkers so Successful, it's Been Suspended

The Washington Post is reporting that the Cash for Clunkers government program to turn in gas guzzling autos for more fuel efficient ones has been so successful that it ran out of money in just one week. The program has been suspended.
Turning in a car for a more fuel efficient choice is good (sans the option for us Americans to ditch cars altogether for smarter rail systems), but what happens to the old cars once they are turned in? This creates another environmental problem.
Here's a look via slide show of the trash that's created when cars are "trashed."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Carbon Offsets

The subject of carbon offsets -making donations to environmental causes to offset the amount of carbon emissions we use - is a complicated and controversial one. I've purchased them when flying, but don't purchase them on a daily or monthly basis. I've chosen, instead, to try to make small daily changes that helps reduce our footprint on the earth.
That's where the controversy comes in. Some people believe that carbon offset donations just allows society to continue doing what we're doing without making the changes.
There's an excellent article on carbon offsetting that explores the practice and what the money is actually used for:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Enjoying the Beauty of the Ozarks

We were out on the lake yesterday and that always makes me feel closer to a higher power. The mountains, the blue water and the animals are all a treat for me. What I don't like seeing is trash in the lake or along the shorelines.
When we first started coming to this part of Bull Shoals Lake, we were often the only ones on the lake, even on weekends and holidays. However, that's changed, now there are more boats and the water is becoming crowded with people water skiing and boating.
In addition, we've seen more floating debris, as well as trash along the shoreline where people camp. As well, I usually cannot walk down our road any longer without encountering someone's litter.
It really makes me angry to see the flash of red aluminum from a floating coke can or dead fish that have been carelessly caught and dumped dead back into the water.
We can all show a little respect and help preserve whatever we have in the communities we share by picking up our own trash and having respect for those who share this earth with us.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Check it Once, Check it Twice

We all know the basics of conserving energy: Unplugging appliances that aren't being used, turning off lights when you're not in the room, turning off your computer, or putting it to sleep when not in use, using an electrical strip for little used appliances, unplugging chargers when not in use, using energy/water conservation buttons on our washers and hanging clothes out to dry.

We do all of that, plus we turn off our hot water heater during the 22-23 hours of the day we aren't using it. However, yesterday when I was waiting for a load of laundry to get done (and I've sat and literally watched the electric meter go wild when I'm doing wash), I realized that the "extra rinse" button had been accidentally pushed, so I had washed 4 loads already, putting my clothes through an unneeded extra rinse, and emptying our pocketbooks a little faster of our money.

I learned yesterday that it just isn't enough to do this stuff, it has to be done and then double checked each day. While it sounds like a long list, it only takes a couple of minutes - and will help save you money while helping the environment.


Tonight, ABC News 20/20 will present "Over a Barrel: The Truth About Oil," about America's oil addiction and how the powers that be want us to stay addicted. We use 400 million gallons of gasoline PER DAY in this country. 9 p.m. Central.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stop the Bus!

I'm finally at home back in the Ozark Mountains now after my trip to The Windy City via the Greyhound bus. It took me a few days to process my trip. The bus is reportedly the second most eco-friendly way to travel next to the train. I tried it out for that reason, as well as the fact that I was tired of being held hostage to the airlines, who gives poor service for the money they want to charge.

As for the bus, it was well, interesting to say the least. I don't mind long rides, in fact, I enjoy the opportunity to relax, read or work. However, riding on a crowded bus is almost worse than being on a full airplane. There are no pull down trays and should the person in front of you decide to lean all the way back, you have less than 6 inches between you and the headrest in front of you. In my 22 hours or so of riding, I had maybe 4 where I had the room to spread out and do some work. As well, neither of the bus stations I was in were equipped with Wi-Fi, and Springfield doesn't even have a place to recharge computers, phones and iPods. St. Louis did, but not nearly enough docks and it was the luck of the draw to be able to use one. Both of these terminals were relatively new and I don't understand their ignoring modern technology when constructing these terminals.

Riding the bus wasn't the worst experience, but it certainly wasn't the best travel experience I've ever had. As with all mass transit options here, we had to drive 2 hours to get to the nearest station. When we got to the Springfield bus terminal, the clerk was rude - something I hate about the airlines as well.
And then there was the well, should we say, questionable characters riding along with me. I'm not a snob, believe me, I'm as down to earth as they come. However, as a woman traveling alone, it was a little disconcerting to be seated next to a man who told me all about his arrest the weekend before for home invasion; the 8-12 just-released prisoners the state loaded on a few stops before Chicago, or the two women on the way home who were comparing their rap sheets and where they had done time. Their conversation was loud and laced with profanity. There was a small child in the seat in front of me and I can only imagine that her mother didn't say a word for the same reason most of us didn't - we were afraid of these people.

For my next trip, I did find other options, such as taking the bus part way and transferring in St. Louis at the airport to a plane (where I could get a very cheap fare to Chicago), or taking a charter out of Mountain Home. I do worry though, about America's options when wanting to travel eco-friendly. As one writer told me in Chicago, "You opted out of being held hostage by the airlines and instead, took a chance on becoming a real hostage by taking the bus."
Yes, and I'm not sure I want to take that chance again.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Flip the Switch

We had a great time on the lake yesterday. There's nothing as beautiful as floating on the water in the quiet of the morning.

The tip from "The Green Year" is a simple one today. Flip the switch. Don't leave lights on when you're not in the room. Flipping the switch when you leave the room will also keep your house cooler in the summer.

I will be traveling the rest of this week, so this is my last green tip for the week. I will be back next Monday with updates to my bus ride!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Bear Sightings

There's a good article about bear sightings in the Ozarks, which includes what NOT to do when you're in an area that has them.
Feeding bears or trying to attract them ultimately causes problems for people and usually tragically for the bears, who get used to people and wander into urban areas where they will most likely be killed. "Please Don't Feed the Bears" isn't just a cute decorative sign to hang around your house.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Four Televisions and...

Three rooms to watch them, if you count my office. Actually, we only have one set up, the rest of our now outdated analog TVs are up in our storage barn, along with two households full of stuff.
The question is what to do with them? A friend from book club, who mentioned helping a returning veteran from Iraq furnish an apartment suggested I might look into giving him one of the sets, if he were planning on getting cable. Great idea.
We're still watching one of our old analog sets with our satellite, and everything is working fine (with the 1-hour exception of that one station that didn't convert as smoothly as planned on conversion) but if you plan on buying a new television, don't just dump your old one in the landfill. Here's two sites that will give you more ideas on how to recycle your old, unwanted electronics:

Monday, July 06, 2009

It's All in the Wood

Having such a small space now, we have furniture that will not fit into our tiny house. This isn't always such a bad thing. If I want to change the look of my little space, no money is involved, I just go digging around in storage. This week, we're going to replace the kitchen table with a beautiful butcher block that belonged to my mother. I love the piece and if we do entertain in the summer and need a table, we usually do it on the deck or covered front porch. I know, it's horrible, but we usually eat in front of the television.
I prefer antiques to newly made furniture. Shopping for antiques gives pieces a new life in your home and adds a sense of history. Also, it saves resources in making new.
If you need to buy furniture, however, Jodi Helmer suggests in her book, "The Green Year" that you research eco-friendly wood. Find furniture certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Lowe's Home Improvement is just one store that carries such products.
We were in Lowe's not too long ago and flooring caught my eye. It was bamboo and just gorgeous. We have laminate that looks like wood now, but since bamboo is so pretty and the most eco-friendly, I will definitely be researching how it wears the next time we need to replace our flooring.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

My Big Bang Theory

I loved the 4th of July when I was a kid - that is, until my dad received minor burns shooting a firework off for me. From that year on, it just wasn't quite as much fun.
Are you getting ready for a big celebration this year? Here's some tips from Jodi Helmer's "The Green Year" to make your holiday more environmentally friendly, as well as safer:

* Use dinnerware that can be composted for that holiday party. Jodi says over 100 BILLION (there's that "B" word again that is higher than most people can count) plastic, paper and styrofoam cups end up in the landfill every year. Plates, cups and utensils made from organic sugarcane can be found in many health food stores. When you're done, just throw them on the compost pile!

*Keep mosquitoes at bay by simply eliminating standing water in plant pots, trash cans and recycle bins. Change water regularly in bird baths and pet food bowls to eliminate breeding grounds. I also use natural candles while sitting on the deck with neighbors at night. I don't allow anything with Deet near me. We use an all natural spray I buy at the pet supply store.

*Use organic sunscreen. While it's very important to use sunscreen (both of my parent in-laws have suffered from skin cancer), sunscreen is toxic to fish. Find organic and biodegradable sunscreen.

*Finally, celebrate this weekend without fireworks. When we lived in the city, the best part of our block party wasn't the hundreds of collective dollars we watched go up in flames at the end of the day, it was simply getting together with our friends, many of whom are too busy most other days of the year to stop and be neighborly (well, maybe that and our neighbor's pool). Fireworks are toxic to the environment, some even contain dioxin, which is known to cause cancer.

My Big Bang Theory is that you can still have a hot time this holiday weekend while being friendly to our eco-system.