Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step


November 21, 2008

Got AAA for your Car? Here’s a Better (World) Option

Category: Companies,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 2:47 pm

AAA with a Conscience

AAA with a Conscience

I have had a Automobile Association of America (AAA) membership since I had a car, but I just switched to BetterWorld Club — same service and price but better environmental objectives.

Have you ever read the magazine that AAA sends every month? Yeah, most of it is promoting their services, vehicle safety, insurance and all, but they also report on their legislative lobbying agenda. As far as I can see they are on the wrong side of a lot of discussions.

I am sure they are nice folks, and mean well and all, but they have a mission to advance the use of cars. Here’s a quote from a Sierra Club report:

…the organization is now a major force in pushing for more highway spending, fewer pollution controls and less money for mass transit. As investigative journalist Michael Rivlin has written, the 43-million-member-strong organization “is on the record against virtually every proposal for cutting automobile pollution.”

While that was from several years back, it’s clearly true that AAA’s direction and mine have diverged.

BetterWorld Club provides pretty much the same services, discounts, at the same cost as AAA. They offer a Hybrid discount, and they even offer roadside bicycle assistance. But instead of lobbying for automotive agendas, BetterWorld advocates for an environmental agenda. What’s not to like?

May 16, 2008

Bicycle-icycle-icycle-day-ay (lonely in Boston)

Category: Climate Change,Observations,Save Fuel,Take Actions,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 9:23 pm

Today was National Bike to Work Day.

I encountered fewer riders today than most days.

No Real Bikes Here

The forecast this morning was “chance of rain”. It was warm and dry this morning. There was a fine mist this afternoon. That appears to have been enough to prevent most people who might have ridden otherwise from using pedal power. I rode to work on the three days I worked away from home this week. All were delightful rides. My legs are stronger. My weight is lower (or, perhaps I just feel less guilty about having a nice, tasty meal). I am healthier. I used 0 gallons of gas.

Arm, Leg

Today’s turnout was very disappointing. Can we make no effort, even the slightest, to bring change in our habits, behaviors, and ways? Are we so stuck in our automotive ways that a dark cloud can prevent us from making an extra effort? Is bicycling so fringe, so radical, so impractical that almost no one can actually do it?

Good lord. We’re screwed.

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?

September 8, 2007

Living with Ed (I learned a thing or two)

Category: Conservation,Fun,Household,Tips – Tom Harrison – 12:28 am

I just watched an episode of Living with Ed which plays on HGTV (Home and Garden TV, I guess?). I learned a few things. For example, it hadn’t occurred to me that compact fluorescent lights produce less heat, which is good in the summer, and just a lousy way to heat your house in the winter.

Or, if you have a pool, you don’t need to clean it as much, and you can use ozone instead of chlorine. I don’t have a pool, but if I did, I would have been able to make a simple change: reset the timer.

It’s a good show — funny, light hearted, and useful. And, it’s set outside of Hollywood, so there are always friends who just happen to be movie stars showing up. Give it a look. (more…)

March 11, 2007

“U.S. Northeast faces a hotter future” … so I can ride my bike more

Category: Big Things,Economics,Editorial,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 9:30 pm

Perhaps the fact that it finally melted a little this not-quite-spring-yet weekend is to blame, but I took my bike in to the shop to get a much needed tune-up. I’m ready to start riding to work again, and not a moment too soon. Just because this has been an exceptionally warm, or at least short winter doesn’t mean anything on the scale of global statistics, but I have to say, I’m glad. While there’s no strong evidence that extended daylight savings time actually does anything to save energy, I’m still glad, because I like light, and I don’t think it will hurt. And the Union of Concerned Scientists reports that U.S. Northeast faces a hotter future but I’m still cheery. Because I can ride.

There’s a bit of a paradox: global warming makes it easier for me to do things to reduce global warming. (more…)

January 4, 2007

My Punishment for Driving

Category: Fun,Little Things,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 8:37 pm

This morning was a great day to ride. Global warming has made our normally frosty January quite mild — mid 50’s today. But I drove because I had a meeting. I could have easily taken public transit or gotten a ride with the guy I was meeting … actually in the end I did. So, I got my punishment. (more…)

October 29, 2006

Bicycle Commuting: Gear List for Safety, Warmth, Fun

Category: Conservation,Fun,Save Fuel,Take Actions,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 3:14 pm

I have written several other posts about my change to commuting to work on my bicycle. Here are some details, both in the gear that makes it possible and the conditions that make it feasible for me.

I am a gear head. Always have been, always will be. Some of the first gears I fiddled with were on a bike; first a 1-speed, then my older sisters’ 3-speed, then a 10-speed which I bought with my own money from my paper route. You don’t hear things like that much these days — what kid has a paper route anymore?

So it was a natural for me to take my road bike that I had bought probably 15 years ago and trick that puppy out as a “commuter bike” with the gear, gadgets, tools and gizmos “needed” for my daily commute. Here’s my list, neatly organized into Safety, Warmth, and Fun. Then, some comments that make my bike commute safe and possible. (more…)

The Things you See, Hear, and Smell from a Bike

Category: Conservation,Save Fuel,Take Actions,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 10:54 am

My bike commute to work is a lovely ride. My path takes me along the Charles River. I have seen the beauty of the New England autumn unfold, the crews one their morning rows, the Boston city skyline, the hustle and bustle of Harvard Square. Oh, and yes, Boston drivers really do suck. But when my head is down, I have noticed a few other things, too. Tire pressure, for example. (more…)

The Difference Between Good Mileage and Not Driving

Category: Conservation,Save Fuel,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 10:26 am

The distance from my home to work is about 7 miles. Every day I do ride my bike to work, I do not drive my car there or back.

So, I do not use 1/50th of a gallon of gas every time I do not drive a mile.

Over the last few months since we moved our office to Cambridge, MA (a city openly hostile to cars) I have not driven about 50 times.

So I calculate that I have not used 7 * 2 * 1/50th * 50 = 14 gallons of gas. My only regret is that I was not driving my Prius, since if I were not driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD, I would have not used 5 times as much gasoline, or 70 gallons!

Conclusion, I should be not driving a Grand Cherokee!

September 10, 2006

Bicycle Commuting Review

Category: Conservation,Fun,Save Fuel,Take Actions,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 8:09 pm

Now that my office is in Cambridge, I have been commuting by bike, about 6-1/2 miles one way. I have found routes that are smooth, on side roads or roads with a good margin, and figured out how to cross major intersections safely and quickly. The ride takes about 1/2 hour each way. And yes, it can be lovely.

This may be the first real means of incorporating exercise into my daily post-children life: it’s possibly faster to ride than drive, and it’s great to feel like I am getting in shape. But I also think this is a good additional step to reduce the amount of fuel I use.

I also bought various items for the bike including a flasher for the rear, a light for the front, some new wider, grippier, and tougher tires, and a very bright jacket. I still drop off my daughter at school in the morning, and pick up her and my son in the afternoon. My new office space has a shower and I have worked out the logistics of clothing and so on. I don’t think the cold or rain of Fall or Spring should bother me, but snow and ice will likely cause me to try public transit.

So now my car commuting is only a couple miles, twice a day for pickup and drop-off. (more…)