How Green Are You?

13 Jun

It was my friend Richard Brunton, owner and editor of my favorite movie site Filmstalker that got me thinking about being green after covering this subject in his own website a few months ago. In my module for college this year, our Environmental Health group project was about the ecocentrism and technocentrism paradigm linking it to a relevant topic of our choice. I must admit that despite a real exhausting semester, I did come away with a lot of insight and a real sense of awareness on the subject matter that more so now, I can’t really help but always think out of the box.

You’re probably shaking your head and say, “oh not you too Simone, don’t ride on this environmental bandwagon”, well think again. In my borough, effective July 1st, they will introduce a new system for car parking by charging certain vehicles a much higher amount of annual car park fee, and if your car is environment friendly, you might even get your parking charges free. The point of this topic really is for you to share with us your own little ways of protecting the environment without getting too political about it. And why do you think despite our best efforts, some of us are not going to find it easy or achievable.

So far I came up with the following:

1. I’ve bought a reusable bag (bag for life is what we call it here in the UK) for my shopping and I have made a conscious effort to bring one or two extra carrier bags in my office in case I decide on a whim to do some grocery shopping after work.

2. I recycle paper (I also do this at work now), glass/plastic bottles.

3. In my upcoming Scotland trip instead of flying (carbon emissions remember?) to get to Edinburgh, I chose to get there by train, as I’ve booked months in advance I got it cheaper too.

4. I stopped running the tap when I am brushing my teeth and just fill up a glass with water for rinsing. I have always preferred showers than baths.

5. I have not started it yet but I will endeavour to use the bus less and just walk to work, which is about 20 minutes from where I live now, that way I also get some exercise.

I am sure that there are more that I can come up with eventually but this is all for now. Feel free to share your own ideas.

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12 Responses to “How Green Are You?”

  1. Richard Brunton June 13, 2007 at 8:32 am #

    There’s a bunch of other ones you can go for. Out local council gave us bins for paper and glass recycling, little did we know that they also offered cardboard recycling bins – we had to check on the site and then phone up and request one to be delivered.

    The tap is a cracking example. Showering is better than bathing, turning the heating down just a little is another one. If you have a timer for your hot water and heating then make sure the times are set accurately for you getting up and coming home – and make sure it’s adjusted for summer/winter variations.

    I cycle back and forth to work, but that’s not for everyone.

    Don’t keep electrical items switched on or on standby overnight if you can help it.

    At work, even at home, switch off monitors on your computer rather than just leaving them to go onto powersaving mode. Unless they need to be on overnight, switch the base unit off as well.

    Buy energy saving bulbs for the house. Bite the bullet and replace the lot.

    Use toilet paper made from recycled paper, do the same for kitchen towels and napkins, if you use them.

    Use Ecover products and watch out for Tesco “faked” Ecover products. Ecover are cleaning products made naturally which Tesco are selling (other stores do too, it’s just I’ve found the widest range there) and for the most part they are just as effective we’ve found. However beware, Tesco have a range of products that are using extremely similar packaging and although they look the same they are not made naturally.

    Use the ecloth system which I’ve found available from John Lewis. These are specially created cleaning cloths which do not require chemicals. We use the cloths for cleaning glass, particularly good for LCD screens, wooden and vinyl floors, and stainless steel. You actually find that cloths for cleaning glasses and LCD screens are made just like these cloths – well worth buying.

    Right…I’ve done enough so far!

  2. Richard Brunton June 13, 2007 at 12:51 pm #

    Okay I remembered something else. Turn your fridge down.

    I was reading in New Scientist that there’s a new device for fridges which goes over the top of the thermostat unit, covering it totally.

    Why? Well I forget all the scientific reasoning, but the crux of it was that the thermostat is measuring the temperature of the air circulating in the fridge and cooling that down to the required level when in fact the insides of containers and foodstuffs would be much colder than that once they are chilled – there was a reason why the circulating air was warmer than the packaging.

    So you can either buy this device and effectively measure the temperature inside items, or you can just turn your fridge down a little.

  3. hapmoorii June 13, 2007 at 5:44 pm #

    How green am I? I drive a mid-90’s Dodge 4×4 truck with a 5.9L engine some 30+ miles per day. That’s how green I am… 🙂

    Sadly, that’s true, but I am one of those people who actually needs a truck fairly frequently. My main forays into being green include a tankless water heater and a growing population of CF lights. We also run a little warmer in the summer than most households.

  4. Simone June 14, 2007 at 11:54 am #

    Hey guys, thanks for all the comments, they are really useful.

    Richard, I have seen those “fake” Ecover products in Tesco, so where is the best place to get them? I need to defrost soon and I will do this turning my fridge down then.

    Hap, I suppose when you do your own bit in another way that should be able to balance things out. If it it necessary for your work the 4×4 truck, then I suppose that’s where you will really find it difficult to go green even if you so want to do it.

    One of my problems is that I live in such a small flat that to fill my itsy bitsy teeny weeny kitchen with all different types of recycle bins will just be overwhelming. So I try not to have a lot of waste, I separate all my used paper and put them altogether in one bin, I buy products with less packaging so I get my vegetables in local shops and meat in the local butchers than in the big supermarkets that come in all this bulky plastic crates, so I find it’s not that easy to do all this!

  5. Richard Brunton June 15, 2007 at 12:08 am #

    Tesco also sell the proper Ecover products, often very close to their own “fake” ones. I think you can find them on the website too.

    I know it’s difficult. We’ve had to get used to storing waste for a week or two at a timeb before taking it out, but it’s an acceptable lifestyle change for us. It’s the same with moving to energy saving bulbs, at first you notcie it and are annoyed by the way they take time to warm, and after a while you’re enjoying the glow effect and you don’t notice it. I think it’s worth these changes in lifestyle.

    Of course I don’t advocate going mad. I, like Hap, have a car that guzzles petrol, and I have no excuse! My sports car drinks petrol when you aren’t driving it very carefully, although it is unleaded. However I use it sparingly, 8,500 miles in 3.5 years.

    Now the Government are about to charge my £400 a year to merely have it in my garage, doesn’t matter what else I’m doing for the environment, or the fact that I’ve done less miles in 3.5 years than the average UK driver does in one year.

    Yeah…you can tell I’m pissed at that one. It already costs between £600-£800 a year in insurance too. Then there’s the >£1 per litre cost of my petrol…grrrr…I’m ranting!

  6. Simone June 15, 2007 at 9:20 am #

    Sorry for opening a can of worms in this discussion! 😛

    I do make a conscious effort actually and find that a lot of people I know are already doing the same things, talk about affecting change.

  7. hapmoorii June 15, 2007 at 11:08 pm #

    Are either of you having trouble with CF bulbs burning out early? I’ve had a few go out within a month and at $11-15/bulb, that’s a bit of a problem. Definitely not saving any money there…just a very, very small amount of energy over that month. Just not sure why they would go out when most last much, much longer. CF’s dont’ really burn out, do they? I thought they just faded. That would imply the ballast died, right?

    On my truck, I consider it somewhat of a savings to keep driving it. It saves me money that I can spend on things like tankless water heaters ($2k vs. $50 for my particular situation…warranty), keeps me from buying the kind of vehicle that would encourage Detroit to build more guzzlers, and avoids the energy used to dispose of my relic.

    As for things I’d like to see happen…I’d love to be able to put one of these newer, higher efficiency windmills on my house, but I’m guessing the neighborhood covenants forbid it. It would also be nice to see the company doing the garbage to oil process (Changing World Technologies???) setup shop at every landfill in the U.S. I think they said it’s equivalent to $90/barrel oil once it’s up and running, and it’s about as green a process as you’re going to get for disposing of garbage. I would invest in them if they were public, but they aren’t right now.

  8. Richard Brunton June 16, 2007 at 11:59 am #

    Can of worms indeed!

    CF bulbs, I presume they are energy efficient ones? I would be taking them back and complaining (as I tend to do) or writing to the manufacturer and doing the same.

    I think our situations with vehicles are the ones that show blanket taxing and punishment just don’t work. I keep my mileage incredibly low, and when I don’t go out with the car for “a run” I have it stored away in a garage. It all costs me a fortune, but I love it and drive it incredibly sensibly and energy aware…except for the odd “drives”! Then I get penalised for owning it.

    Yet here we both are probably saving more carbon footprint with all the other things we do too.

    In Edinburgh the council do a little scheme whereby they help pay for windmill and solar panel installation, I think they also help with planning consent for certain types. Still not enough though.

    Like every socially beneficial issue that might remove direct revenue for the Government they won’t act. I’ve just read the PM responding to a petition to make normal bulbs illegal and only allow energy efficient ones. Oh no, can’t do that he says, we can put advisory labels on.

    Rubbish, what’s needed at this stage is law, not advisory. Despite continuing to promote an open market for a cheaper solution that is more harmful to the environment, we know it’s wrong and harmful so we’ll spend money on little stickers and an advertising campaign.

    Same with cigarettes, fuel efficient cars, windmills, solar panels, anything. Just make it law and force people to do it. They have no problem doing that with the BBC TV Licence funding (most of which actually pays for the organisation policing it).

    Ban cigarettes, health costs go down, advertising campaigns against disappear, huge savings.

    Force car manufacturers to build green vehicles to replace the current ones. Not silly prototypes, and not ones that go 3mph and look like a box. Force them to build cars that will replace the current models people actually like and are using. Hard? Not really, in Monaco a guy has built a full electric two seater sportscar that runs on batteries, and it’s amazingly fast, responsive and small.

    Make it illegal for normal bulbs to be sold. Force companies to produce the new ones.

    Make it law for all new houses to be built with triple glazing, solar panels and windmills. Allow existing homes to add a windmill and solar panels to their homes.

    The Government moan about wind and wave power not producing 100% of the required electricity for the country, and yet they are installing Nuclear Power Stations that don’t either. Why can’t they get off their butts and just install wave and wind farms around the UK coastline and wind farms on all high locations in the UK? Start producing as much as we can now.

    Oh, that’s right because people complain their lovely views are ruined. Let’s see, try a sea level rise in ten years, or increased temperatures, change in weather patterns, hurricanes, won’t those upset your precious view?

    Okay…I really have ranted now!!

  9. hapmoorii June 16, 2007 at 11:20 pm #

    CF stands for Compact Fluorescent. I assumed those were the bulbs you two were talking about as that’s the major energy efficient technology in use here in the U.S.

    Believe it or not, there’s a Democrat in the U.S. Congress (the greener of the 2 parties…suppsedly) trying to regulate windmills because of bird deaths in favor of…wait for it…COAL…a major product of his home state by some odd coincidence. If that doesn’t say everything that needs to be said about U.S. politicians, I don’t know what does.

    In other news, I’ll have to part with you on the legal side of solving the problem. We’ve probably discussed it before, but I’m mostly Libertarian by nature which in the U.S. means that I don’t much care for laws about anything. I’d only hedge a little where the government has installed utilities monopolies around the country. In those cases, throw the laws at them. If they won’t innovate on their own because they like their cushy monopoly money, open up the market or legislate them to death.

    Wave power? I wasn’t aware anyone was trying to harness waves. Is there any potential downside there? Seems like ocean currents are tied up with so many things that it might be negative if done on too large a scale.

  10. Simone June 30, 2007 at 7:21 pm #

    Hey guys, sorry I havent been in touch recently but I’ve been in Scotland for a much needed break.

    Anyway, I thought I’d share you this link to calculate and offset our CO2 emissions. Then please come back here and tell us what you thought of it!

    http://www.conservation.org/xp/CIWEB/programs/climatechange/carboncalculator.xml

  11. hapmoorii July 3, 2007 at 8:54 pm #

    Hopefully I won’t step on too many toes, but I would question the sanity of any organization advocating vegan or vegetarian diets over omnivorous or carnivorous diets. I know we’re bombarded with information about how well plant-based diets work for so many people, but in my experience, they’re dangerous. I’ve never felt nor looked worse than when I moved toward a vegetarian diet, and along the same lines, I’ve never felt nor looked better than when I’ve eaten large amounts of *quality* animal protein (up to 1.5-2 grams/pound bodyweight per day).

    It would be interesting to know how they arrived at an omnivorous diet being worse than vegan, though. I’ve worked on my grandfather’s farm during my life. You’re not really talking about the mecca of low CO2 emissions. In fact, farms are about as far from CO2 friendly as you can get whether they produce grain, fruits, vegetables, or meat. My grandfather farmed mostly wheat, and you’re talking about 3 1 ton or greater trucks, diesel fuel, 2 serious tractors, and a combine. All of those burn tons of fuel and require all manner of non-carbon friendly materials for upkeep.

  12. hapmoorii July 3, 2007 at 8:55 pm #

    btw, hope you had a good time in Scotland.

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