Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

November 8, 2010

It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature (Irony Exemplified)

Category: Fun – Tom Harrison – 10:09 pm

Do you recall this prescient (if completely misguided) ad?

This ad from the 1970’s had it all about right. It’s not nice to fool mother nature.

I have recently read Beyond Smoke and Mirrors and am now reading Four Fish (both in Kindle format, of course) and if there’s anything to be learned, it’s simple: it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature. I recommend both books, and will try to find time to say something more than “you should read them” soon. Until then…

(What “delicious” irony that Chiffon Margarine, laughing in the face of Mother Nature herself was hawking a product similar to butter, made of corn oil. Oops — we now think it’s far worse for our health than the butter it was trying to fool Mother Nature with. And in a related news item, Mother Nature was recently rushed to the hospital suffering chest pains.)

April 24, 2009

Frontline’s “Poisoned Waters” — Bottled Still Not Better

Category: Conservation,Sustainability,Take Actions – Tom Harrison – 8:45 am

100 (Billion) Bottles of Beer On the Wall

100 (Billion) Bottles of Beer On the Wall

PBS’s Frontline aired a program called Poisoned Waters this week — it’s an excellent program, discussing how coastal waters and estuaries are still polluted, despite several areas of progress caused by the EPA enforcing regulations of the Clear Air Act in the 1970s. And while sewerage is no longer being dumped into rivers, other industrial effluents are.

In particular, they mentioned agricultural waste — animal manure, but also industrial waste, harder problems because the sources are dispersed and tend to leech into the groundwater system, rather than be poured directly from the end of a pipe, as in the case of sewerage treatment plants.

One frightening aspect of the show focused on how new chemicals that mess with our endocrine systems are in the water, but not being taken out of public drinking water supplies … partly because scientists cannot yet quantify theirs effects. Thus, there are no regulations or standards for these chemicals, yet ample evidence to suggest they are harmful not only for the numerous fish turning up dead in the water, but for people. And chemicals we know are harmful are still around, like PCBs. One person working at the Washington, DC water supply said she would not drink the water out of the tap.

It occurred to me that information like this could cause people to say “see, it’s a good thing I am drinking bottled water”. (more…)

April 4, 2009

Simplicity: Cast Iron Skillet Beats All

Category: Conservation – Tom Harrison – 5:08 pm

skilletTheresa and I have been married for a while now, coming on 15 years. During that time, we have had a lot of pots and pans. I’ll talk about our frying pans.

We started out with a cast iron skillet that I had owned since the year after I graduated from college. My Mom taught me about how to season a cast iron pan so food wouldn’t stick.

Then as we got more money (still “dink”s — dual income, no kids) we went upscale, buying Calphalon. These are anodized aluminum — solid and thick, with steel handles solidly bound on. These pans were the ones used by chefs in real kitchens (more…)

October 28, 2008

Making a Real Difference: Inspiration From My Nephew

Category: Climate Change,Sustainability,Take Actions – Tom Harrison – 1:52 pm

My nephew, Andrew, has been in Togo with the Peace Corps for more than a year, with another left. He is providing not just his work and labor, but is now helping a group of farmers learn about self-financed sustainable farming practices. If they are successful, it may be a model for the whole village of 200 people.

And perhaps other villages.

Andrew reports having plowed fields with oxen, planted crops, and trees.

But what I find most interesting is not that his actions may help for the coming crop harvest, but his perspective on how to get things done.

He writes:

What is really exciting to me is that now I have a year left to make some serious impact. I have the respect of the community and the Togolese people in general. I am no longer the “white guy”

It is with his year of service that he earned that respect, and from which he is able to have a serious impact. It may have helped that Andrew is an exceptional young man, with strength of will, passion, and a strong sense of duty.

But there’s no doubt that a lot of sweat and deprivation were involved.

A Letter from the Corps

I am also struck by the parallels to this letter from my nephew in the Peace Corps one might find in a letter home from one of our country’s soldiers.

Each may have a serious impact, each has stepped beyond their own self-interest to do something important, faces danger, and which takes great effort and deprivation. Each has thrust themselves into a completely foreign environment and culture. And each has done this voluntarily. It’s also true that neither has any guarantee of success. I have nothing but respect for them. (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 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…)

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 17, 2008

Food Costs cause Unrest. What’s Next?

Category: Climate Change,Observations – Tom Harrison – 7:51 pm

Oil is now at $113 a barrel which is not quite double the cost last year at this time. More than 2 years after Katrina hit New Orleans, things are beginning to get a little better… but far from great. And food prices are setting new records. All of this is more than “inconvenient” for some people, and simply “just inconvenient” for the rest of us.

These are not isolated events.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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…)

September 8, 2007

Do Dollars Equal Energy?

Category: Big Things,Economics,Editorial,Observations,Policy,Sustainability – Tom Harrison – 1:53 am

When I started writing this blog, I began to think that it is important to find a simple way to quantify the impact of changes I made (and you make) as a way to help simplify the problem of how to conserve energy. As I began to understand the problem, I realized that energy was at the heart of many of our most serious issues today: global warming, organic food, locally grown food, climate, terrorism, energy independence, geo-politics, and resource depletion. I still believe this is true.

I promoted the idea that one could measure energy most simply through your overall consumption, hence, dollars spent. I think this works at some level on a micro-economic level (your annual household budget, for example). But I have recently come to see that there’s a huge and important flaw in the general way of thinking that lead me to that simplification.

In short, my assumption is that “things” are as they are; our basic assumptions, our ways of thinking, our actions are essentially immutable. (more…)