The Green Adventure

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Climate Challenge 2007: The Move to Action

Hi Everyone,

I know that I haven't posted in awhile, but I've been very busy trying to figure out how to best use my energy this year to work on this climate mess that we've gotten ourselves into. So, here's the update...

By now we all know (well everyone reading this blog and any newspaper) that the glaciers are melting at a much faster pace than previously anticipated by climate scientists as recently as 2001. We also can say with considerable certainty that it's our fault. By "our" I mean all humans who burn fossil fuels in order to live our lives. Those of us living in the US are most to blame since we collectively burn the most. (Actually people living in Kuwait emit the most CO2 per capita, but there are far fewer people in Kuwait so they are not blamed as often as those of us living in the US and Europe who are huge energy hogs.)

The bottom line is that there is a huge global climate crisis on the horizon. There are uncertainties about the pace of climate change and specific regional effects. But, there are now very sophisticated models that are making very accurate predictions.

Thus, currently I am asking myself, how can I best use my skills, time and energy to help join the growing number of individuals, businesses, governments and NGO's in addressing this challenge. Though I have not yet come to a final answer I will tell you where I am on this journey and give you a few tools to join me if you're interested.

I started this blog less than a year ago to educate myself on the issue of climate change. Frankly, at the time, I did not believe that we were truly facing such a dramatic crisis in the near future. I expected to find that what I had seen and read had been overstated, otherwise why weren't "the powers that be" addressing it? Unfortunately what I have learned is that what I had seen or read in the popular press is, if mentioning it at all, understating the challenge ahead.

In the past several months, many of you have joined me in transitioning to a "greener" lifestyle. You are using much less energy in your homes, driving less, recycling, eating organic and local food, eating less meat, using fewer chemicals and plastics, and on and on. From what you have told me, many of you are enjoying this greener lifestyle. You're healthier, saving money, and gaining the power that knowledge brings from understanding the impact of your ecological footprint on other humans, animals and ecosystems throughout the world. You feel that your lives are coming more into balance with your values, and you feel good about being a part of the solution.

All of these efforts are very important and must continue even at the individual level if we are to have any chance to preserve a home for our kids. But, I would like to be a part of the broader reaching action that is going on in boardrooms and halls of government in countries across the globe. In short, as a global community, it is now time to take action to mitigate and assist humans in adapting to climate change if future generations are going to have a chance for survival.

Action has begun. Here are some examples of action that is going on all over the globe: environmental groups and Evangelical Christian groups have agreed to disagree on the origin of life on Earth, but to join together to work towards solutions to climate change, and organizations such as GE, Wal-Mart, Duke Energy, BP, Austin Energy, Google and thousands of small start-up ventures are determining and lobbying for solutions to meeting our energy, product, and information needs while measuring their environmental costs and finding technolgies to mitigate greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. European governments are leading the way towards placing a cost on carbon emissions, encouraging energy conservation, and providing incentives for broader scale use of renewable energy technologies. Local US governments are coming up with renewable portfolio goals, carbon tax structures, and ways to make their communities more sustainable.

All of this is good news. But, it is not yet enough. We are still emitting extremely excessive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and our energy demands are continuing to increase. We are getting the vast majority of our home and business energy needs met by burning coal and natural gas, and our transportation energy needs met by burning domestic and imported oil. The entire structure of the energy system that meets the needs of all of our daily lives must change. This will be very difficult to do. However, I still have much hope because all of the technology and understanding that we need to do this exists. The difficulty lies in how the economic structure of this transition is incentivized. Our citizens, governments, and businesses must support the economic incentives (and disincentives, aka taxes) that will be required to make this transition profitable for moves in the right direction. In the next 9-10 years, this can still be done.

So, for my part, I have enrolled in a multidisciplinary graduate course at the University of Michigan on Climate Change: The Move to Action. I will learn as much as I can in the next four months on practically determining, applying and selling to the masses the changes that must take place in the coming decade or two to update the global energy system. I have learned a lot already in class and in lectures given by heads of multinational corporations, small private utilities, students and climate scientists. I will continue to keep the heat, lighting and appliance use down in my house, only get gas for the car every 4-6 weeks, eat organic and local, recycle, and enjoy going green. Now, the next step is to support bills in Congress (and in city goverments) that tax and cap greenhouse gas emissions, and provide economic incentives for renewable energy, public transportation and electric cars. When I have learned all that I can by the end of April, I will update you on which direction I will take and use this knowledge. We can get depressed by how difficult these changes will be, alas change is uncomfortable to many people. Or, we can choose to be hopeful and to enjoy the largest challenge we may ever have the opportunity to address. I choose hope, and action... will you join me?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Challenge #7: "Offset" Your Life

Hi Everyone,

I just want to direct you to Real Life News, a UK based environment blog, where my article explaning all about REC's, what they are, how to buy them, who to buy them from, what "offsetting" is, etc. Check out the site sometime tomorrow morning after 9am UK time for all of the answers to these and other thrilling questions!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Friday, November 17, 2006

Have a Happy, Green Holiday!

This holiday season the challenge is this… how can we best celebrate our religious holiday traditions, love for our families and friends, and the spirit of holiday sharing? Our goal is simple. Bear the costs now, so that our children will have the opportunity to enjoy holidays well into the future.

So, what does that mean? I’m simply proposing that the best gift we can give our children is not the hottest toy, but instead a planet that they can live on to celebrate holidays with their own grandchildren. There are several ways that we can give them this gift by bringing “green” ideas into our usual holiday celebrations.

The best way to share this gift with them is simply to teach them the value and joy of sharing with others since working hard together with people from all different walks of life will be the most difficult and most necessary part of solving the climate crisis.
We plan to spend Thanksgiving taking Little A to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a local homeless shelter. Then, we’ll head home and eat a turkey that was raised fresh on a farm just a few miles from our house. (For more on eating locally this Thanksgiving to save A LOT of CO2 emissions from food transport, see

For Christmas, we will bring her to Texas to spend the season sharing time with her extended family and friends. I also plan to give her the gift of time volunteering with me at a local humane society as a dog walker and cat petter since she LOVES animals, and we will never have a real pet at home given Mark’s allergies and our busy, transient life. There are many ways to find these types of opportunities to give your children or grandchildren, just check out your church bulletin, local library bulletin board or websites such as, VolunteerMatch, or local chapters of national environmental groups such as The Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy and others.

Another gift that emphasizes connection and sharing is to give the gift of a specific mantra or prayer. My father-in-law wrote beautifully this week about the connection between prayer and dedication, and our ability to preserve a home for our children. It’s difficult to understand the importance of focusing on the needs of the next generation when we’ve been conditioned for decades to want and need “stuff” and “excitement” immediately, but we now know that our children’s future depends on our modest sacrifice. J. Matthew Sleeth, MD and his family are living examples of the connection between spirituality and environmentalism. Read more about him here,and consider giving someone on your Christmas list his new book, Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action this year.

A very generous woman, Angel, in one of my mother’s yahoo groups, posted this description of a 10-day mantra for a material or spiritual gain. Send the receiver a card letting them know that you’ll chant this mantra on their behalf for five minutes per day for 10 days, “Om Soubhagyayei Namaha” (Om Sauw-bhahg-yah-yea Nah-mah--hah...Om and salutations to Maha Lakshmi, the bestower of supreme blessings.) If you're really ambitious, go for 108 times a day. When you chant, maintain a feeling of gratitude toward the universe for fulfilling desires. Lakshmi is the goddess of abundance. You can also light a candle for an intention or extend a yoga practice. For other generous gifts that will cost little carbon and leave little for the landfill, check out Buy Nothing Christmas ’06.

Now, for the times when kindness, spirituality and sharing need to be wrapped with a (recycled paper) bow to bring a smile to the face of your jaded nephew or fit with the décor of your mother’s annual holiday cocktail party, there are lots of options for actually buying stuff for your family and friends that will positively use the Earth’s resources.

Several excellent magazines have come out with eco-friendly gift ideas that will fit all of even the pickiest people on your list. These gift ideas are excellent. They support recycled and renewable materials, sustainably harvested wood, organic farms, and they are beautiful, creative and fun. Check out Greenlight magazine’s “50 Great Gifts,” Body + Soul’s list in the current issue, and check out Co-op America’s National Green Pages for hundred’s of ideas.

There are also several retailers that I have personally found to be trusted sources for all of my eco-gift needs. Greenfeet offers a lot of wonderful choices, and holiday coupons for their store can be found by surfing other eco-friendly sites. Taraluna is another fun eco-friendly retailer. Check out the fabulous “Holiday Lights Campaign” on their website. And for those of you who just can’t help but hit the mall on the day after Thanksgiving (aka “Black Friday”), check out the Ecomall to shop for everything from solar panels for your roof to organic baby soap.

In my opinion, the holidays are fun. I get to catch up with people who I don’t see often enough (even some who live in my house! :)) I like giving and receiving gifts, and I have a renewed joy for the season by having the opportunity to witness it anew through the eyes of my daughter. This year, I simply want to enjoy all of those things in a way that will allow my daughter and her family to do the same for generations to come.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Challenge #6: Green Travel

With the holidays coming up, it is time to start thinking about how we can have fun and help fight dangerous climate change at the same time! So, the next few challenges are going to focus on going green this holiday season. Today, I'm going to talk about travel since Mark and I just returned from a great trip to Napa and San Francisco. Though Mark was at a conference during most of our time in Napa, I was lucky enough to have nearly a week of environmentally consious R & R.

So how did we make our trip eco-friendly? Well, let's first look at how it was eco-unfriendly.

Unfortunately getting to Northern California from Ann Arbor requires a long flight. And, to make it worse, my mom graciously came all the way from London to watch Little A for us, so make that 6 long flights! Using TerraPass' flight emissions calculator, I found out that our Detroit to SFO jaunt cost us 1,622 lbs of CO2 each, and my mom's flight from London and back racked up 2,927 lbs of CO2, bringing us to a grand total of 6,173 lbs of CO2... yuck! Lucky for us, we can turn this terrible act of carbon emissions into a stimulus for renewable energy industry growth through the purchase of renewable energy credits (REC's.) Using TerraPass our penance comes to $29.95, not bad. But, before we commit to purchasing our REC's from TerraPass you'll have to wait for the next Challenge where I'll discuss REC's and the companies that sell them in detail.

OK, so how exactly was this intercontinental extravaganza eco-friendly?

As soon as we arrived in San Franciso we headed straight to Fox Rent A Car where we took our 5% internet coupon to rent a discounted Hybrid car. We really wanted to try out the Toyota Prius since everyone who owns one seems to love it, but they we're unavailable that day. So we were given a 10% discount on a Honda Civic Hybrid. It was one of the highlights of the trip! I had so much fun driving it! First of all, you can see your fuel efficiency on the dash right next to your speed instantaneously, and you can quickly learn how to drive most fuel efficiently and at what speed the car is the most fuel efficient. Plus, the car actually turns off whenever you're stuck in traffic or stopped at a traffic light. Thus, you waste almost no fuel just idling. Then the car simply restarts when you touch the gas pedal. It has plenty of power for highway driving or for cruising the winding, hilly roads between the Napa Valley towns. The only disadvantage that I can see is the smaller trunk size. But, this car can hold a baby jogger and a few bags of groceries so it will work for 90% of Little A and my cargo-carrying needs. We got over 40 mpg in real-life driving. (See for why that's important.) For a trip from San Francisco to Napa, cruising all over Napa for 4 days, and back to San Francisco we used only 7 gallons of gas! Overall it was a great car. I can't wait to buy one, though I'm considering holding out for a Plug-In Hybrid.

It was very interesting to see how California has implemented energy conservation on such a broad scale. Obviously their tactics are working since their state's energy usage has plateaued while the rest of the US (especially Texas which is the worst offender of the states) continues to dramatically increase our energy usage. In all of the public restrooms there are well-positioned reminders to use only the paper towels that you need and to turn off the lights when you leave. The hotel only changes your linen every third day (as long as the same guest is using the room) unless the guest requests otherwise, and CFL's are commonplace in restaurants, hotels and shopping centers. It seems obvious that if lots of people begin to practice energy conservation on a broad scale publically and often that their habits would bleed into their personal, home, work and school lives as well. Conservation is a cheap, simple, and key step in promoting responsible energy use globally. We can learn from their example.

Of course the best eco-friendly highlights of our trip to Northern California involved food and wine. Though we did not have the opportunity to taste any organic wine on this trip, it was wonderful to drive by beautiful farms producing organic grapes. It is nice to know that sipping world class Cabernet and Chardonnay from organically produced grapes is not contradictory.

On my second day in Napa I stumbled upon the Yountville visitors center and was lead to a fabulous Olive Oil Store near St. Helena called the St. Helena Olive Oil Company. There I tasted many delicious olive oils, but the best (it won the Gold Medal Award at the 2006 L.A. County Fair) was the Rutherford Hillside Estate Reserve Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Now this was a wonderful find! Not only did I stumble on a delicious olive oil, but it was organic. But wait, there's more... the olives for this oil are grown at Harris Ranch. Harris Ranch is powered by 100% on-site solar power and thus its olive oil is green-e certified. (Again, I'll discuss REC's, green-e, and product certification in my next Challenge.) This olive oil is a gift worth giving to your friends, family or yourself for the holidays. Lucky for us they have a website, so you don't have to travel to Napa to get some. It is so good, I hope mine lasts through the holidays!

On our last night in San Francisco we experienced the best highlight of the trip. We ate at a fabulous and climate crisis-fighting restaurant. The restaurant, called Millennium, is located near Union Square in the newly refurbished Hotel California. All of the food that they serve is organic and vegan. It is absolutely delicious! Even the most committed meat-eater will walk out of this place with a grin from ear-to-ear. We started our meal with a wonderful mushroom dish that tasted like the best fried calamari that I have ever eaten. We also devoured a grilled green salad with fresh figs, a portobello mushroom and polenta dish full of southwestern flavor, and a root vegetable and lentil dish to rival your grandmother's Thanksgiving offerings. To top it all off we ate a vegan chocolate cake that is rivaled only by the flourless chocolate cake at Fish la Boissonnerie in Paris. If anyone wants to know what to get me for Christmas, I'd love a Millennium Restaurant cookbook. Yum!

On your next vacation or holiday adventure to visit family or friends, think about how the way that you travel can support businesses, and encourage techologies and ideas for a sustainable future for our children. Offset your holiday travel by supporting the growth of the renewable energy industry. If you plan to rent a car, rent a Hybrid. For shorter distances choose train travel over airline travel. Choose local, organic and sustainably farmed food. Practice energy conservation habits such as turning off lights, and minimizing the use of fossil fuel based heating and air conditioning systems, appliances and laundry services. Support green businesses when you buy holiday gifts by buying sustainable, fair trade, organic products that are produced using renewable energy. In general, limit your consumption, but broaden your experience of local flavor by visiting parks, farmer's markets, local festivals and small businesses. Travel can teach us new ways to care for our planet by exposing us to new ideas in new places. Enjoy the Adventure! I can't wait to hear about yours.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Challenge #5: Armchair Activism

Election Season is upon us, so today I'm asking each of you to take an active role in the future of the next generation. We must each be certain that those who we choose to lead us into the coming decade will do so with the knowledge that right now is the time to convert our energy system away from fossil fuels. This Challenge is not optional. You live in a democracy; get off of your butt.

We know from reading Socolow and Pacala's plan (Scientific American, 9/2006), many of the "wedges" that will be required to fix our planetary crisis must be done on a large scale. Thus, though all of our individual censervation behaviors are vital (unless any of you have $3 billon or so to throw into the mix as Richard Branson did this week) your best individual hope for change is to elect leaders with the power and bugetary influence to require and pay for sweeping changes in our energy and environmental policies. The following are examples of some of the large scale changes that must occur for us to halt the global climate crisis:
  • Stop ALL deforestation
  • Drive 2 billion cars on ethanol (or other biofuels)
  • Increase wind power 80-fold to make hydrogen for cars
  • Increase wind power 40-fold to displace coal
  • Increase solar power 700-fold to displace coal
  • Install carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology at 800 large coal-fired power plants
  • Increase the fuel economy of 2 billion cars to 60 mpg
  • Limit global population growth by at least 1 billion

These sweeping changes cannot be made without large commitments of funds, regulations limiting carbon emissions (making them cost-prohibitive), global poverty and women's rights initiatives, and business strategies that encourage sustainable business both in large multi-national corporations and with tiny microcapital investments in regions of both vulnerable human populations and vulnerable ecosystems (such as the Amazon forest or in biodiverse African regions.)

As individual US citizens of only moderate financial means to contribute, the only way for us to actually solve this crisis is by electing leaders who will consider global warming every time they make a policy decision and a bugetary decision.

That brings me to Challenge #5... Armchair Activism

In thinking about the best use of my time to work towards solving this problem for Little A and her generation ("Generation Green" has a nice ring to it!), I decided that the best way for all of us to act on a much larger scale than cutting our individual energy usage (though still very important, so no slacking!) was to make truly concious decisions about who we will vote for this November.

It would be nice if you could just vote for me; your work would be done knowing that I've already put in all of the research. But, sorry, it's going to be tougher than that since it's too late for me to run this year... maybe next time.

In order to become an armchair activist there are several steps you will need to take. But, I promise that with internet access and a phone they can almost all be taken from the comfort of your very own armchair.

  1. Get motivated to care about this stuff! If looking at your kids or grandkids doesn't do it, watch this video.
  2. Find out who's running for office in your district at all levels. Sometimes those in local offices can more easily promote real action since the beurocracy is often much smaller. Go to and click on your state to determine everyone who is running for office in your state this year.
  3. If you already support a specific candidate go to their website and read their policy position on Energy and the Environment. What have they done already or plan to do to stop global climate change?
  4. If the candidate you support for other reasons is weak on global climate change: call their office and talk to her/ him, write to her/him, volunteer for her/him in order to get to know them personally so that you can work to change their position, contribute to her/ his campaign but be sure to stay on top of their climate change policies (she or he may be able to hear you better while they are holding your check.)
  5. Vote for the candidate that is most supportive of conversion away from a fossil fuel based economy.
  6. During the non-election season, stay on top of your representative (whether or not you voted for her/him.) To do so, you can sign up for action alerts from leading non-profits who spend a lot of time researching both climate change and the local, national and global bills and strategies that are working to halt the effects of climate change. All you have to do is sign up to receive these alerts and then send surveys from the comfort of your own email inbox. For more effect you can call, write or visit your representative as well. Be the squeaky wheel!

Some organizations with climate change action alerts:

Sierra Club

The Nature Conservancy

Environmental Defense

Environmental Action Blog

The Action Blog

Care 2

Grist Magazine

Co-op America

OK, go for it! And, let me know what your candidates say when you call their offices.

This morning I called Kay Bailey Hutchinson's (one of my senators) office and asked her staffer what her policy is on Energy and the Environment. Sadly, her answer was "What? Oh honey, I have no idea!" SCARY!!! Fortunately on her website, I did read a recent speech that Senator Hutchinson gave to the Congress about US Energy Independence. She did highlight that the US must stop its dependence on foreign oil for the sake of our national security, but unfortunately she emphasized further fossil fuel drilling in the Gulf (damaging fragile Gulf Coast ecosystems) or the Artic National Wildlife Reserve over the 10% of Texas power that is now supplied by wind farms. I applaud her efforts towards diversifying our state and national energy portfolio, but I would strongly press her towards emphasizing renewables over new sources of US based fossil fuels. But, I guess that's tough to do with a check from Big Oil in your hand.

On the other hand, there was no direct phone number listed on Barbara Radnofsky's (Kay's Hutchinson's challenger) website. I did email her about her policy positions, and am glad to see two key things listed on her positions statement on her website: "promote energy conservation and fuel efficiency standards" and "require emissions standards for greenhouse gases." She is also against drilling in ANWR.

Either woman will have a lot of work to do to get the Senate to pass Jim Jeffords' bill S. 3698 (basically to regulate CO2 emissions.) But, I plan to do my part to encourage my Senators to get on board. (Watch out if your're answering John Cornyn's phones this week!) If they don't I may be putting my sign in your yard in 2008. I'll have no choice, Little A's future depends on it!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Challenge #4 Your Home Energy Audit

Today Little A and I embarked on a Green Adventure to the University of Michigan's Energy Fest! Sounds cool, right?!!! Well, actually it was not quite as impressive as your local middle school science fair. Bummer! But, Little A splashed in every available rain puddle and won a water bottle (using her wit and charm), and I talked solar panels with some interns from the U of M Engineering Department and a post doc from the U of M Center for Sustainable Systems. All in all it wore her out enough for a good afternoon nap, allowing me to write this post. :)

According to the Energy Information Association (the official energy statistics from the US government), Residental energy use accounts for a substantial portion of global energy usage. The Industrial sector uses the most, Transportation is a close second, then Residential, then Commercial bringing up the rear. We have started to make a significant dent in our Transportation energy usage with Challenge #1. So, this challenge will focus on cutting our residential energy usage even further (adding to our gains from Challenge #2.) Remember the less energy you use at home the cheaper your renewable (wind and/or solar) home system will be, and the faster the payback period it will give you. Plus, we will be contributing to Wedge #3 ("Cut electricity use in homes, offices and stores by 25%") from Socolow and Pacala's plan to "Keep Energy in Check" from the September issue of Scientific American that all of you have read for Challenge #3.

Bringing us to Challenge #4: Your Home Energy Audit!

The Challenge is to cut your home energy usage by 25%!! Right off the bat, you will all win by doing so because your monthly energy bills will be at least 25% less. Green in your pocket! In fact, your bills may be substantially lower since usually energy use is cheaper for a baseline amount used each month, then the rate goes up for the energy that you use above the baseline amount allowed by your utility. For example, if your utility company is Austin Energy (as ours will be in our new home) and you use 500kWh of electricity in a month (during the summer) you will be charged 3.55 cents per kWh, but if you use more than 500kWh in a month you will be charged 7.82 cents per kWh. Ouch! That's more than double the rate! (and ends up as hundreds of $$'s per month in charges.) Doesn't it make sense to try to keep your usage to less than 500kWh per month?

OK, so now you're asking, "How do I know how many kWh's (kilowatt hours) per month I'm using?" That's easy... take a look at your electric bill. It will be right there! Take an average of 1 year or several months (consider seasonal changes in heat/ air conditioning use) and let's take some steps to shave off 25%!

Let's get started...

Here's where we currently are spending our home energy:
  • Heating
  • Air Conditioning
  • Lighting
  • Fans
  • Kitchen Appliances: Refrigerator, Microwave, Oven, Dishwasher, Garbage Disposal
  • "Vampire" Appliances: Cell phone/ blackberry chargers, toasters, coffee makers, alarm clocks, radios, iPod chargers and game boy chargers
  • Laundry Rooms: Washer and Dryer
  • Hot Water Heating
  • Computers, Printers, Modems
  • TV's and other audiovisual equipment

In the average home, lighting takes up about 24% of your energy costs. By now most of you have changed to CFL's and dramatically reduced your lighting cost and greenhouse gas emissions. But, also simply remember to turn off lights when you leave rooms, and open blinds to use more natural light (as long as the increased light doesn't add too much heat to a room that you're trying to air condition.)

Water Heating is another significant energy user. To reduce your water heating costs and greenhouse gas emissions, you have two strategies:

1. Use less hot water:

  • Shorter, cooler, less frequent showers (check out this link to see how much water you are using each time you shower)
  • Wash all clothes in cold water (there are good, biodegradable detergents that can make this option work well)
  • Use hot water only when needed to wash faces, hands, dishes, etc. (usually cold will work ust as well.)

2. Get a Solar Hot Water Heater

  • Solar hot water heaters work in every climate, not just sunny ones.
  • Installing one is one of the most cost effective ways to use solar energy. On average, if you install a solar water heater, your water heating bills should drop 50% to80%. That could go a long way towards reaching the goal of this challenge!
  • To find out how they work and how to calculate your home's cost savings check out the consumer guide published by the US Dept of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (Yes, I'm surprised too that we actually have one! :))

3. Control your Heat and AC usage

  • Buy a programmable thermostat and keep it set to 68 degrees in the winter and 80 degrees in the summer.
  • Use fans to help lift the hot air out of your rooms in the summer, and in reverse in the winter to push the warm air into your rooms.
  • Close off the vents and doors in rooms that are not in use to prevent your system from cooling them in the summer and heating them in the winter.
  • Use shade screens in the summer to keep the heat from penetrating your windows.
  • In the winter, open shades on south facing windows and keep them clean to allow the heat to penetrate your home during the day and close them at night to trap the heat.
  • Consider how old your system is. Buy an Energy Star system if yours needs to be replaced. For more information on Energy Star systems, tax advantages and rebates, see their website.

4. Maximize your Appliance Efficiency:

5. Computers

Being a SAHM has tied me to my computer more than ever. So, as thankful as I am that I can "talk" to others 24/7, I'm also very aware that my 5 year old desktop is an energy vulture!Fortunately, Energy Star is just beginning to come up with some guidelines to limit the energy that your computer uses when it is in sleep mode. And, processors are getting more and more efficient (though Intel lags behind AMD.)

So, for now here are our options...

  • Get a laptop.
  • Get an Apple iMac (with an Intel Core Duo processor.)
  • If you must have a desktop, shop for computers that use 50W or less at idle, and 125W or less at full load.
  • Choose an LCD monitor rather than a CRT
  • Plug your computer, monitor and printer into a power strip and turn off the power strip each time you turn off the computer. That way you won't waste energy in "sleep" mode and you won't disrupt the settings of your modem, router and VOIP phone.

(Adapted from Chin, M. "Choose an energy efficient computer" in Home Power: The Hands on Journal of Home-Made Power vol 114, Aug/ Sept 2006.)

Ok, so there is a laundry list of energy saving ideas for your home. Please post other ideas in the comments when you find them.

Don't just stand there... start saving energy! Your wallet and your children will thank you!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Challenge Update

The challenges are coming along very nicely... The way that all of you are jumping in to make these important changes really gives me hope for our kids' future!

Challenge #1: The Gas Challenge

In August our top recorded team posted just 39.5 gallons for the month! Way to go Team Valtadoros!

Who can top them in September?! You have 2 more weeks to drive less, or is it time to convert to a biodiesel, hybrid, public transportation or walking lifestyle? Keep up the good work!

Challenge #2: The CFL Challenge

Way to go!!! Lots of you have changed to compact flourescent lighting in your home. You're going cold turkey and changing them all, or you're changing them as others burn out. Keep it up! Remember (according to Jason Trout of "Replacing just one 100-watt bulb with a (just-as-bright) 30-watt compact fluorescent cuts more than 1,300 pounds of carbon dioxide pollution. Go for two bulbs and it''s more than a TON!"

Another place that you can log your pledges is at
where a non-profit group is hosting a pledge drive to change America's lighting to CFL's.

And, if any of you still have questions about the lighting quality of CFL's for different indoor or outdoor settings, one of our own has become an expert on which CFL's provide the best ligthing to meet your design needs and preferences. I will forward your questions to him.

Challenge #3: The Understanding Challenge

Many of you have been telling me wonderful stories of inspiration after seeing An Inconvenient Truth (still out in selected theaters if you haven't yet seen it) and reading September's issue of Scientific American (still available at local news stands.)

You have been driving less, more efficiently or giving up driving all together. You're eliminating red meat from your diets, shopping at local farmers markets and even starting to grow some of your own back yard veggies! You are becoming aware of the environmental records and goals of your local elected officials, and are planning to vote for environmentally aware candidates this November. You are investigating regional wind and solar power solutions for your neighborhoods and cities. You are putting solar panels on your roofs and heating your pools and showers with solar hot water heaters. You're trading in "energy leaky" appliances from the 80's and 90's for efficient Energy Star appliances. You now understand that when you throw something "away" it doesn't really go away it just pollutes your local land and water supply. So, you are recycling your trash, buying recycled goods and avoiding disposable things and packaging as often as possible. You're fighting for the forests we have left by planting trees and demanding the use of sustainable forestry practices when you buy paper, furniture and building supplies. And, the list grows each day!

Every day I am encouraged by the stories that you send me about all of the things you are doing in your lives to live more sustainably so that we don't rob our children of the healthy, prosperous future that we want to give to them. Keep the stories coming; your stories give me hope and ideas to spread.

Coming soon... Challenge #4

Change is good! Join the adventure!