Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step


September 16, 2010

Review: SodaStream Gets Fizzy Water Right

Category: Green Reviews,Household,Organic & Local Food – Tom Harrison – 2:42 pm

sodastreamI continue to be stunned when I am at the market and see people buying bottled water, soda, flavored seltzers and other such products. They are heavy. They use plastic or aluminum containers. They are expensive. In short, a huge waste of resources at every level. And if you like soda (pop) it’s the same deal.

So make your own seltzer and soda at home — it’s easy, convenient, and saves money, and may also be good for the environment.

Not Your Dad’s Old Seltzer Bottle

I used to buy flavored seltzer in one liter bottles — lime, orange, and other flavors and fizzy water (no sugar). Then I recalled that when I was a kid, my dad had a seltzer bottle — one (CO2) charger would make a quart — a while back, I bought a Liss Soda Siphon and would regularly order packs of 10 chargers in the mail — I think they were about 50 cents a liter, which compares favorably to the 99 cents a liter at the store.

But the big wins: no bottles to lug, and as much water as you needed when you wanted it (as long as you keep chargers on hand). And no bottles in the landfill or to recycle. It was a reasonable solution, but after a year or so, a couple of the parts on the bottle started failing so that gas would leak out. I could usually make it work, but it was always a bit of a hassle to make a new batch. I think repair parts are available, so it’s still a pretty good option. (more…)

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…)

May 29, 2008

Link: Relative climate impact of red meat vs. other food types

Category: Climate Change,Conservation,Cool Sites,Organic & Local Food – Tom Harrison – 11:27 am

Adam Stein at TerraPass has done another thoughtful and well-considered post, this one about the carbon impact of food. His main conclusion is, as we have known for a while, red meat is … pretty much bad on all counts compared to other food options.

It’s worth looking at. It’s not the whole picture — just food. But there’s a simple action we can all take:

Eat less red meat.

May 17, 2008

The huge cost of eating meat and junk

Eat plants, says Mark Bittman. This is a very rational discussion on how we have gradually turned ourselves into a nation eating nothing but junk. The impact on carbon footprint is staggering.

From the TEDBlog, I highly recommend this video.

April 12, 2008

Relative Energy Cost of Food vs. Food Bags

Category: Conservation,Economics,Household,Organic & Local Food – Tom Harrison – 5:13 pm

Paper or Plastic? According to one article, the right answer seems to be “more vegetables.” The TerraPass blog did a very interesting article based on a study comparing the embedded energy of

  • Plastic Bags
  • Paper Bags
  • Vegetable Diet
  • Meat Diet

Their conclusion is simple: a meat diet is 186 times more energy intensive than the plastic bags used to carry it home. Paper bags were judged to be worse than plastic, meat worse than vegetables.

But, this is the wrong conclusion to draw from the facts.

I am of two minds when seeing articles like this. (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…)

July 10, 2007

Locally Grown Chard

Category: Organic & Local Food,Take Actions,Tips – Tom Harrison – 9:15 pm

Tonight, we ate chard.

At our local Whole Foods Market this weekend, I looked for locally grown food. Not a single fruit “of the season” was locally grown (well, ok there were some hydroponic tomatoes from Holliston, but are they really fruit?). In desperation, I sought out Whole Foods’ pale green indicator of locally grown items and found one to try: chard.

Chard has a special meaning for me, just as do beets, and to a lesser degree rhubarb: when I was a kid, we had a real vegetable garden in our summer house in Maine. There were various veggies like carrots (oh my god, they were good) and lettuces (very good once the slugs were removed), beans, and squashes: zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers (these, actually from the other garden my uncle’s house next door). But I always remembered the chard. Partly because it wasn’t one of those vegetables Birds-Eye had — it was the 60’s, everything green came in a square box, frozen. But partly because, secretly, in my not-yet-10 way, I actually didn’t mind it that much. I like beets too, still and can tolerate a rhubarb pie.

So as I despaired at the lack of locally grown produce, much less anything else, I impulsively picked up the chard. And it was a good thing. (more…)

November 1, 2006

How to Do a Candectomy while Saving The World

Category: Cool Sites,Household,Organic & Local Food,Take Actions,Tips – Tom Harrison – 11:24 pm

Halloween: it’s up there with Christmas as the most egregious of consumption/greed oriented holidays here in the US of A. Ok, I’m being a buzz-kill again, but look, while the kids had a great time dressing up and walking around getting candy, there was a distinct moment in the process in which I became aware of an ulterior motive: to get candy. And to sell candy.

The aftermath is now staring us, and the rest of the overweight, over-fed, over-eating world in the face. We’re teaching our kids that candy is a regular part of life. We have bowls and bowls of the stuff. Is “just one a day” a good message? For me, “perhaps once a week if you’re willing to give up ice cream night”. 3 out of 4 kids with fathers would not choose me.

No, the kids sure didn’t want to part with their hard earned booty. A radical candectomy was the prescription. (more…)

September 8, 2006

Water, Food, Energy, Sustainability, Climate, War

Category: Conservation,Economics,Organic & Local Food,Sustainability – Tom Harrison – 9:41 pm

I have spent some words on energy, in particular how we can use less of it. Our program has been successful by all measure, I think. For those reading and practicing some of the same simple tactics or others, well done. For the other 200M people in the USA, c’mon, give it a try. It’s fun!

I have been reading a lot, and learning a lot as I write. My wife recently finished The Omnivore’s Dilemma (next on my list) and I finished 1,000 Barrels a Second, and am in the middle of Outgrowing the Earth. I saw Brokaw’s Global Warming special (and am going to an Inconvenient Truth any day now). Earlier this year, I read Cradle to Cradle. And I watch the news every night on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show (some of the blanks filled in by The New York Times). This is all delightful, nice, light, summer entertainment which will warm the cockles of your heart. Not to mention the cockles of the earth.

What is striking is that there’s a common thread amongst these disparate subjects. (more…)

July 8, 2006

Save Time, Effort and Money with a Sustainable Lawn

I did some calculating today. I found that some simple changes to lawn care routine can save you money, time, and effort. And by doing that you can stop having a negative impact on the environment. In fact, the impact might even be positive!

Conservation is an important measure for us to take, for sure. But a more important question might be how can we accomplish our goals in a way that does not expend, but sustains.

Today I considered the costs we have incurred from moving to a sustainable lawn. Does $500/year seem trivial to you?

This is a real example of how important it is to think, and dismiss your preconceived notions. I’ll prove that it’s not trivial. (more…)