Going Greener

August 15, 2007

I’ve really started to think (even) harder about the impact I have on the planet. This is not a new fad for me; I’ve always been a greenie-head, but now I’ve become more obsessed with it.

Here are some things that I and Mr. Pencil have been doing:

* Starting last December, I have been walking to work every day. It’s 2/3 mile each way and is a glorious start and end to the work day. I always look forward to it. No more car commuting.
* I consciously try not to drive much. I take the bus or walk generally when I go downtown. David and I walk to the movie theater. I’ve been averaging around 40 miles per week driving. That means I walk just about as far as I drive my car during an average week.
* I try not to be the only person in the car when I’m going somewhere. Sure, sometimes I need to run an errand by myself or go to some event. I’m focusing on minimizing these, not eradicating them.
* I’ve become more conscious of energy use in the home, more aggressive about turning off lights and keeping the A/C set at a reasonably steamy temperature. We replace our filters often.
* David doesn’t have to go to work that often–maybe a couple of days per week–but work is far, about 20 miles each way. However, he’s been riding his motorcycle for the solid majority of these trips.
* When we go downtown together (and there won’t be any drinking), we often ride David’s motorcycle. That’s a combined 100mpg for the two of us. And it’s very easy to park (when there’s drinking, we often bus).
* Whenever possible, we use non-phosphate cleaners and non-antibacterial soaps. Phosphate makes algae and messed up water ecosystems; anti-bacterial soap gets into the environment and stimulates organisms to become antibiotic-resistant.
* We rely minimally on disposable items, mostly limited to the occasional paper towel and of course toilet paper. Sometimes we use Zip-loc bags, but we often use them more than once.
* We buy things in bulk and reuse otherwise-disposable containers to hold said bulk items.
* I think I’d find it easier to cut of my own finger than to litter. I am, like, genetically programmed not to do that.
* We recently started composting. I had no idea until I read the awesome book The World Without Us by Alan Weisman that much organic garbage that goes to the dump never actually composts or breaks down cleanly because it’s in an anaerobic environment. When it does rot in landfills, it releases methane gas, which is double bad (well, actually 23 times as bad as CO2). I have heard that the city of Portland is going to start a composting trash service (i.e. you separate your food/organic trash from your trash-trash. A food trash truck would come once per week and take the waste to a local composting facility. Trash-trash would only come every other week. Unfortunately only 58% of PDX residents support this awesome idea at this time.).
* David recently purchased a TerraPass to offset his carbon omissions.
* I’ve even started giving up some of my beloved daily baths to take more water-efficient showers. Sigh!
* Oh, yeah. I don’t fly. OK, the reason I don’t fly is in no way related to the environment, but the nice side effect is that I reduce my carbon load.

On the down side:
* Our house is large and there are only two of us. It requires more energy to power and temper than I’m happy with.
* We do have central A/C in our house. Two units, in fact, and I’m not sure how efficient they are. They’re Carrier, which is “the good kind”, but are from a solid decade ago.
* I passionately hate fluorescent lights. That’s problematic, as tungsten lighting is way bad.
* We only have one shopping tote bag, which is often not spacious enough for our purchases. We still accrue dreaded plastic bags when shopping. However, our under-the-sink trash can uses grocery-sized plastic bags as garbage bags, so they do get reused, at least.

Maybe all of this is silly. Maybe I should really concentrate on finding cheaper gas or whatever. I’ll leave you with this dingleberry, S. Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry, who breaks an awful lot of rules of logic and rhetoric in this vitriol against the notion that riding bicycles might be a viable thing for some people:

He obviously lives real far away from here.


  1. MB says:

    Concerning McHenry’s ridiculous rant, he looks like he could use a good bike ride. This just puts the core issue upfront. He laughs at a small step that some people can take and help make a small difference for our environmental future. Nobody will take responsibility for their share of the earth’s pollution and until people start changing their habits, nothing will change. As you said, so many minor lifestyle changes, if done collectively, will improve things longterm. Bravo for your obsession. I got so obsessed about the amount of plastic bags I was hoarding (we don’t recycle them in NYC!)that I designed my own grocery totes. I sell them online at http://www.minusbags.com. They are so much more efficient than plastic bags. And for people that have to drive to the supermarket, there’s no excuse not to keep them in your trunk. Small steps, big strides.

  2. mike, the real one says:

    Where to begin, I’m no hippie, so this won’t be a bunch of “preaching to the converted” about how we have to save the planet. I’ll just say this is typical. Reductive reasoning based on the “straw man” technique that Righties are so good at: e.g. “Democrats say cars cause pollution, therefore, democrats want to take your car and never let you drive again.” It’s easy to make something look silly if you exaggerate it so much that it isn’t true anymore. Then claim your opponent holds such a view. Idiots.

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