Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step


June 28, 2008

40% Reduction In Electrical Use Over 4 Years

Not to brag or anything, but my family rocks! We have reduced our electrical consumption by 40% over the course of the time we started seriously thinking about our impact on the environment. What’s the secret?

As you can see from numerous blog posts linked here, and from the pretty amazing chart (click here for the readable version) I made here, there is no secret.

Changing light bulbs to CFL certainly helped. We replaced our washer and dryer with energy efficient models. We turn out the lights when they are not in use. We set up TVs and computers to turn off completely and automatically. We were careful about heat in the basement playroom (which uses electric heat). And we reduced the need for air conditioning in the summer using insulation, shades, ceiling fans and others.

But most of all, we just became aware. Becoming aware was gradual (more…)

June 8, 2008

Planet Green: Eco TV that’s Entertaining and Good

Category: Cool Sites,Fun,Garden,Household,Tips – Tom Harrison – 4:21 pm

PlanetGreen.com LogoDiscovery has a new channel called Planet Green, available on cable. There are a whole set of shows, all with a green theme of one kind or another. We have watched a few and they are varied and interesting. (more…)

May 18, 2008

Forget numbers: just make the next change that occurs to you

“The single most important thing we can do is …”. Drive less? Conserve? Change a light bulb? Eat vegetables? Invest in technology for new forms of energy? Cap and trade? Install solar panels? Gas tax holiday? Save the polar bear? Which one is best? Which has the biggest impact?

I say “none of the above”. The single biggest thing we can do is anything … now.

The change you do make is the one that has actual value. The ones you don’t make are just vapor. (more…)

April 19, 2008

Lawn Aerator Shoes, Electric Mower, Organic Fertilizer, Water, Bike

My lawn is beginning to turn green. Several years ago I realized that I could have a green lawn, with very little effort, much less energy used, and no smell or nasty chemicals. Oh, and I also saved a ton of money.

Lawn Aerator Shoes

It’s hard to say if aerating my lawn by walking over it with spiked plates strapped to my shoes was helpful. It was not hard to do, involved a very small cost for the shoes, and did not result in noise or stench from gas-powered equipment. All I know is, my lawn was nice and green for the last several years.

Rechargeable Electric Mower Review

The electric (battery) lawn mower is awesome. It is quiet, effective, and has way more juice than I need to mow my suburban lawn. It doesn’t stink, and charges in a short time, after which it’s ready to go for the next time I need to mow. I highly recommend a battery electric mower for anyone inclined to get rid of their gasoline model. It’s a better change for the environment, too (gas mowers, like most small gas motors, are terribly inefficient and spew forth great amounts of greenhouse gasses.

I set the mowing height to 3 inches, which is pretty long but still makes for a nice, lush lawn. Better yet, this means I mow very infrequently, and there’s plenty of room for the clippings to fall in between. All that nice organics material falls back into the ground, traps moisture, and I don’t have to rake or bag clippings. The lawn also grows more slowly, so in the last few years, I mowed maybe 8 times total.

Best Organic Fertilizer for Your Lawn

Because most of the organic material is going back into the lawn as compost, you need very little fertilizer, and maybe no weed killer. The lawn is robust enough to keep down most of the weeds (I do pull a few dandelions and crabgrass by hand, but not a lot). So a little organic fertilizer in spring is enough to give the grass a great boost.

Don’t Water Your Lawn Too Much

Last year, I didn’t use my underground automatic sprinkler system at all. This was not a great idea, since it was a very dry summer; I should have watered a few times. As a result, I now need to resurrect one patch of lawn, and I am pretty sure our shrubs and flowering trees would have been more able to fend off pests with just a little watering.

The grass itself does better if you cut it long (see above). The beds do well with mulch, but still, a little water when needed goes a long way.

On the bright side, my water bill went way (way!) down. Keep an eye on the moisture level of the soil, and water only when necessary. Two years ago, I needed no extra water; last year I should have given a little. It depends.

But watering every day, or other day, or more is totally unnecessary, and incredibly expensive. A lot of water once every few weeks (if nature doesn’t provide) is much more effective.

Best Landscaping Services

It’s a little work, but doing your own landscaping and gardening is good exercise and very easy if you follow some basic rules.

I no longer have any gas powered equipment. I shoveled my driveway all winter, eschewing the snow blower in favor of a good old shovel. It snowed a lot this winter, and it wasn’t that hard.

I especially hate the whiny leaf blowers used by landscapers, mainly. They are noisy, smelly, useless, and terrible in all ways. Just rake! It’s far better for the lawn, too.

Ride a Bike To Work

I am back on my bike again, commuting to work, now that the roads and weather are more benign. It’s good for my muscles, and good for the environment, and reduces congestion, and takes less time. And my wife likes what it does for my legs.

There are many, many small ways you can upgrade from the old way of doing things we never though about. These are just a few. What changes have you made?

April 7, 2008

$2,400 Refund … from Saving Water

Category: Big Things,Conservation,Garden,Household,Save Water,Take Actions,Tips – Tom Harrison – 12:02 pm

When I started this blog in 2005, I quickly realized that the only way to conserve energy was to know how much of it I used. We have had continued success reducing electricity use. And finally, I can quantify how much we have reduced our water use.

We finally got our adjusted water bill, and we are getting more than $2,400 back from Newton Water and Sewer. Wahoo! (I need the money: we’re not getting a tax refund this year :-| )

Our water savings came from conservation. Here’s how: (more…)

December 1, 2007

Another Reason Leaf Blowers Suck

Category: Garden,Observations – Tom Harrison – 10:26 pm

Friday night, after a long week of work, we settled down to sleep, alarm off, a little extra sleep envisioned in our rapidly approaching dreams. Saturday after 7AM, our dreams were broken by the sounds of leaf blowers. Three men, three leaf blowers, an an idling truck all running continuously between 7:15 and 8:15 were clearing fallen leaves from across the street. The machines were loud. They were stinky. Nothing new here. Except one thing: wind. (more…)

November 17, 2007

Raking Leaves (with a Rake)

Category: Garden,Little Things,Observations,Rants,Tips – Tom Harrison – 1:01 pm

I just spent an hour raking leaves from our front lawn. My daughter came out and helped. She jumped in a few leaf piles. Now she’s out riding her bike. We could have hired a landscaping contractor (so: consider how this little trade-off reflects not just our energy problems, but a rather large social issue).

Here are some benefits: (more…)

August 4, 2007

Avoiding the All or Nothing Trap: Some is Just Fine

I read way, way too many eco-blogs, enviro-blogs, politico-blogs and globalwarmingo-blogs. With several exceptions (e.g. IdealBite and An Inconvenient Truth, to name several) there’s way too much polarity in the conversation — it’s all or nothing, when often the best choice is both, either or just some.

Locally grown vs. Organic food, for instance: both would be great, either is good, some is good. (more…)

June 3, 2007

Need Advice: How to say thank you to a man with a gas mower

Category: Garden,Little Things,Observations,Take Actions,Tips – Tom Harrison – 4:47 pm

We have incredible neighbors. All of my stories about neighbors are actually fictional constructs based very much on the behaviors of people who act a lot like my neighbors; no actual neighbors should construe any malfeasance, distaste, dis-respect or anything like that; no neighbors were harmed in the making of this blog.

We have incredible neighbors. Today for example, while I was out playing Frisbee with Carter and a few other boys from the ‘hood, a neighbor was mowing his lawn. As he got through his, he moved to the next neighbor’s, and then, he moved to my lawn. This is just a person who is generous. How cool is that?

So how uncool is it of me to have had the following thought: “my god that gas powered mower is loud and stinks”, and then when he moved to my lawn thinking “oh my god, he’s cutting my beautiful long, lush lawn too short; it’s going to get all … gassy and everything”. What kind of thought is that, anyway?

Well, that’s the thought I had. I have gone over the top indeed.

May 22, 2007

Lawn Aerator Shoes Review

Category: Garden,Green Reviews,Technology,Tips – Tom Harrison – 9:09 pm

Lawn Aerator shoes work well.

You might call them lawn aerator shoes or aerator sandals or even lawn aeration shoes but the maker of my new Bond Green Giant Spiked ShoesTM did a good thing. I read several reviews of spiked aerator sandals and found mixed reviews.

My review is not mixed: they are good. I paid a whopping $16.99 from Clean Air Gardening for this lawn care equipment, and compared to the cost of pretty much anything else you might use to take care of the grass, this purchase was a bargain. In 15 minutes, I had done a thorough job of our back 40; tomorrow I’ll do the front. (more…)