Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step


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?

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…)

June 29, 2006

Why Is Fertilizer A Factor?

Category: Conservation,Economics,Save Fuel,Sustainability,Technology – Tom Harrison – 11:41 pm

All crops need fertilizers to grow. And what “fertilizer” really means is nitrogen that plants can use. Hell, air is 80% nitrogen, but it’s not in a form plants can use. But plants need nitrates (chemically NO3) which is oxygen bound to nitrogen in a particular way. This occurs in nature in two ways: lightening creates NO3, and bacteria eating organic materials (a.k.a. “compost”) make NO3. All good. What if you need more NO3? Well, in 1903, two German guys got the Nobel prize for figuring out how: the Haber-Bosch process creates ammonia, which is the basis for synthetic nitrates, and fertilizers.

And guess what you need to make ammonia? Natural gas accounts for about 3/4 the cost (more…)

October 18, 2005

Extra Virgin Valvoline: Energy Cost of Food

Category: Big Things,Conservation,Organic & Local Food,Take Actions – Tom Harrison – 7:33 pm

When I added up the direct cost of my family’s annual energy expenditures I found that only a small percentage of our total annual expenditure goes to things we think of as using energy: heat, hot water, lighting, gasoline and so on (around $4,600, least year). But when I added up things we eat, the number was greater than four times more (About $20,000, last year). This is well correlated with my increasing waistline.

Where does all that food come from — how did it get made? I don’t have a plot out back; much of it came from America’s incredible farming and food production businesses. And guess what, that business uses a lot of energy to get me that food. There’s a great article to read called Eating Fossil Fuels (more…)