Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step


March 3, 2010

Working from Home: Green and Productive

Category: Companies,Cool Sites,Observations,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 8:56 am

Energy Circle

My new home

After five years of talking about energy conservation, and all the things we have done in our house, I am now proud to report that I am officially … working the talk — I have joined Energy Circle LLC.

Energy Circle helps home owners learn how to make an energy efficient house, sells home efficiency products, and now, we’re creating a set of tools and services to help home energy efficiency professionals find customers (and home owners find them).

Now I am now working at a company with an unabashedly green mission — this is important to me. Of course this isn’t the first time I have written about Energy Circle — we have been collaborating since last Spring, and then I did some consulting last year until that was pretty much all I was doing. I am the Chief Technology Officer, and working to make a top notch website, with expanding services and capabilities, reliable, easy to find, and with a strong brand. I hope you’ll check out Energy Circle — I joined not because it was another job, but because I completely believe the mission, and know that good people are out to “do well by doing good”.

Working From Home Is Efficient

But, the company is too far away from my home to commute — so I don’t. I work from home most of the time, and I have to say, working from home is almost always a good thing. It’s very efficient.

Commuting Footprint

Obviously my commuting footprint is as small as possible (although for several years I commuted to my old job on my bike, at least when the weather didn’t suck, and I drove my Prius the short distance when it did). But there are many other benefits of working from home, and a few things I am beginning to learn. (more…)

March 8, 2009

Road Use Fee — A Bad Alternative to Gas Taxes

Category: Climate Change,Economics,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 12:15 pm

Funding for Federal and State highway maintenance mostly comes from gas taxes today. But this started posing a problem last summer when gas prices were high and fewer people were driving, and continues now when fewer people are driving because of other economic reasons. And the average fuel efficiency of vehicles used has improved.

The problem is that less gas purchased means less revenues to maintain roads.

So both states and federal agencies are considering a new way of raising revenues, based on miles driven. Some are even adding factors like the weight of the vehicle and where the vehicle is driven to the formula. (more…)

October 3, 2008

Start a Walking School Bus

Category: Fun,Household,Save Fuel,Take Actions,Tips,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 12:49 pm

A walking school bus is a simple idea. One or two parents sign up to be drivers, routes and times are set, and every day, our kids walk along to school.

An industrious parent in my daughter’s elementary school organized ours. She found leaders and started four routes last week; I have been “driving” one. We have about 10 kids in our route, and I think the others do as well.

Of course all I care about is that it’s “green” :-) But there’s so much more.

It’s convenient for parents — they just drop their child at a stop at the appointed time and say goodbye.

It’s fun for the kids. Friends who didn’t know they lived close to each other have met. Several kids who were a little uncertain at first are having a blast.

It’s painless for the driver. (more…)

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.

May 10, 2008

Gas Prices Up, Public Transit Usage Up

Category: Political,Save Fuel,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 11:11 am

Ridership on public transit has increased. Gas prices rise, and people react by taking more public transit. In recent posts, I have argued that economics does not work.

Commuter Bus

Based on today’s New York Times article reporting gas prices and public transit are related, you might think I would recant my position.

Congested Highway

Nope. While this is an encouraging change, simple supply and demand curves based on gas prices just don’t work. (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?

November 25, 2007

Save Gasoline with E-Z Pass Electronic Toll Collection

The E-Z Pass electronic toll collection tag saved gasoline on our trip home this Thanksgiving. That’s my claim, and I’m sticking to it. The first way E-Z Pass saves gas is that you don’t have to bring your car to a complete stop and then accelerate back to highway speed. But based on my prior Thanksgiving driving trips I think there is a potentially much larger savings. (more…)

June 14, 2007

Hilton: Not Really Interested in my Public Transit Ideas

Category: Companies,Economics,Little Things,Observations,Rants,Tips,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 6:23 pm

Last week, I wrote about high gasoline prices in Chicago and my realization that I could have easily taken public transit to the airport, rather than the cab that was ever-so-conveniently waiting for me, with the ever-so-convenient assistance of the personnel at the hotel to whisk me away to the airport.

I presented my ideas to Hilton Hotels via their website, and got prompt replies … but I didn’t get a strong sense that there was any real interest in providing an “active” effort, just the “if you ask, we’ll tell you” response. I doubt I would get anything more substantive from other major hotel chains, but perhaps this is worth trying.

I could be wrong about my perceptions of the response I got, so here’s the email thread (in reverse chronological order, with contents bolded and with the personal details removed) for your perusal. I would encourage others who think this simple step might help to contact Hilton and other hotels. (more…)

June 10, 2007

My $4.00 per gallon Chicago cab ride

Category: Economics,Take Actions,Tips,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 11:26 am

As I was in a cab, along with a mass of other vehicles moving out of Chicago on Thursday I noticed a gas station changing $3.97/gallon. Oh my god — it’s still at around $3/gallon here in the Boston areas. This explained why the driver had all the windows open and no A/C on a 93 degree day.

I asked my cab driver about high gas prices and he said he was not making enough money to keep driving, and that many other drivers had quit. He showed me an article in a paper in which cab drivers had requested a fare increase to City Hall, which they had denied. Yes, the free market is working, as it usually does. Slowly, and brutally. (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…)