Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Carbon Fast for Lent: Sign Up for Green Power

“Ask your electricity and gas suppliers if they have a green or renewable energy plan. Make t
he switch to a green plan today.”

This was one of my favorite Carbon Fast activities last year. I’m happy to see it making another appearance so I can plug it again! Our power company’s Green Power Tomorrow program is very affordable. I pay just an additional 1¢/kWh for a 100% offset — for our house that’s been only about $1.60/month, although for most homes MGE estimates about $6/month. The way the way the plan works: our utility purchases solar and wind power to match the number of kilowatt hours that the Green Power subscribers use each month. This increases the amount of solar and wind power power in the pool by the amount that Green Power subscribers use — and thus increases the amount of renewable energy in everyone’s energy mix.

Bonus: Check out the local solar project near my house! (It’s the second project in the video, near the bike path.)

Today’s mitzvah: Check your local power company’s web site or the Department of Energy’s Green Power Network to find an affordable green power option.

Monday, March 30, 2009

More Fun with Coupons

The Great $100 Coupon Challenge continues! If you're interested in checking out mainstream companies’ forays into greener cleaning products, here are two:
If you’re feeling sniffly, Zicam is also offering $1.00 off.

Carbon Fast for Lent: Showered with Green

“Take a shower instead of a bath. Look into getting a more efficient shower with a ‘low-flow’ shower head (see the
Carbon Fast fact sheet for more info).”

Low-flow showerheads always make me think of the
Seinfeld episode where Newman goes on a black market hunt for full-force models. The latest crop of these water saving devices are much better and really to allow for a reasonable wash and hair wash. They also can reduce water use by as much as half. You may not even notice the difference!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

How Was Earth Hour 2009?

I tried out a new hand-crank lantern and listened to WORT and then Radio Taiwan International on my cute little shortwave radio. What did the rest of the world do? Read all about Earth Hour 2009 at right (I found a new widget!). And check out a silent around-the-world video from the BBC, below.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour: Tonight 8:30-9:30 pm

I really like Earth Hour, which was fun last year too. I’m looking forward to powering down tonight. I have my hand-crank radio, my variety of hand-cranked flashlights and also some very nice candles I’ve received as gifts from my brother and his girlfriend. Won’t you join me? Consider turning off your lights and other electric stuff tonight from 8:30 to 9:30 pm your local time.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Carbon Fast for Lent: Don't Flush Trees

“Source paper, tissue, toilet paper and wood that is recycled or has been accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council — this ensures it has come from responsibly managed sustainable forests or confirms that it is recycled: in the UK at www.fsc.org.

Is this going to be an ode to toilet paper — a first for this blog? Yep, it is! When I lived in NYC, the 24-hour Korean market on the corner was the closest and most convenient store when one ran out of things late at night and/or was too lazy to walk all the way to the grocery store. The cheapest TP they had was a brand I’d never heard of called Marcal. This was also stocked at the little bodegas in the neighborhood — I thought it was just a bargain brand that was especially popular with immigrant communities. It was months before I noticed Marcal wasn’t just super cheap: it was 100% recycled. And Marcal has been making recycled paper products for almost 60 years — long before this was common or popular.

After I moved to the Midwest this brand was harder to find but our employee-owned discount grocery carries it — still very cheap — and I stock up every six weeks or so when I trek to that side of town. I see that the company is revamping their web site and re-focusing themselves as an eco-friendly company. I just think it’s neat that they initially made the decision to go green, in 1950 (!) for goodness sake, just because it made more financial sense. I’m also happy to see a company that caters to lower income shoppers and is also environmentally friendly, which is not a frequent combination.

Today’s mitzvah: According to the Natural Resources Defense Council,
if every household in the U.S. replaced just one roll (500 sheets) of virgin-fiber toilet paper with 100% recycled TP, we would save almost half a million trees. Check out NRDC, or download Greenpeace’s pocket-sized Recycled Tissue Guide and Toilet Paper Guide for recycled ratings and rankings. It’s designed to take to the store with you.

Carbon Fast for Lent: Flip That Switch

“Switch off lights when you leave a room.”

Ah, the joy of things that don’t tax my brain. The Carbon Fast for Lent knows my limits this week!

Today’s mitzvah: Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Do the same for any unnecessary lights you notice at school or work. And speaking of lights: Don’t forget to turn yours off from 8:30 – 9:30 pm your local time on Saturday for Earth Hour!

More Fun with Coupons

Here are some coupons I located for this week’s grocery trip!
  • Lysol Spray: $1 off (via Home Solutions; have to sign up to print, but they have lots of coupons)
  • Lysol Disinfecting Wipes: $1 off (also via Home Solutions)
  • Blue Diamond Almonds: 50¢ off coupon
  • Cascdian Farms Organic: $1.00 off (including vegetables, via Eat Better America)

This brings the Great $100 Coupon Challenge to $11.00!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Carbon Fast for Lent: Meat-Free and More

Whoops, I missed a post yesterday. That gives us two today: a proposal for a meat-free day, and a nudge to connect with people in our own local communities.

DAY 28 – TUESDAY 24 MARCH: “Eat no meat today and try to cut down on the amount of meat you eat each week. Read Tearfund’s position on climate change and meat eating at www.tearfund.org/climatechange.”

DAY 29 – WEDNESDAY 25 MARCH: “Find out what energy saving or climate change activities are going on in your local area by contacting your local authority or community groups. Find out more about Tearfund’s campaigning work on energy: www.tearfund.org/energy.”

Tearfund’s position paper on meat notes that the livestock industry is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions — a larger contributor than global transportation, to put the number in perspective. It also helps drive water shortages, and contributes to rising food prices (feeding livestock reduces the supply of grain available from human consumption). Sure, you can become a vegetarian like me(!) — but even a weekly meat-free day helps the environment and saves you money to boot. AllRecipes.com has a special vegetarian section on their web site with easy and delicious tips and ideas.

Today’s mitzvah:
While you’re munching on a delicious vegetarian lunch, do a GoodSearch for local environmental efforts, like South Central Wisconsin’s MPowering Madison initiative.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Carbon Fast for Lent: Tell the Pols What's Up

“Take action: tell the UK government what you are doing through the Carbon Fast and urge them to play their part by creating and implementing strong national and international laws to stop climate chaos. Take action here: www.tearfund.org/carbonfastaction.” Not in the UK? No worries; read on!

Copenhagen — which aims to be carbon-neutral by 2025 — will host an important United Nations climate change in December. Keep your eyes out for this, to encourage our own governments to get on board. And kudos to Norway and Sweden, which have already pledged to be carbon neural by 2030 and 2050, respectively.

Today’s mitzvah: If today’s Carbon Fast for Lent action doesn’t work for you because you’re not in the UK, consider signing a petition in support of the Zero Carbon Caravan in anticipation of the December conference.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Carbon Fast for Lent: Warm Water Wash

“Only use your washing machine when you have a full load. Run your washing machine at 30–40ºC [86–104º F]. Run at maximum spin to reduce drying times and avoid using a tumble drier.” — Carbon Fast for Lent

Do you typically wash in hot? Consider using warm. If you’re already a warm-water washer, think about really jumping off a ledge and using cold. Around the time of last year’s Carbon Fast, TerraPass posted an article claiming that for an average household that spends $72/year on electricity for clothes washing, switching to cold water will save 85% or $61. That’s certainly significant. For the environment: a 1,281 lbs. reduction in one’s carbon footprint — wow, that’s a lot.

Today’s mitzvah: Turn down the washer temps!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Carbon Fast for Lent: Water Heater Wardrobe

Day 24 – Friday 20 March
“Put an insulation jacket on your hot water tank. If everyone does, we’ll cut enough carbon dioxide to fill 148,000 hot air balloons.”

I confess: I am not a homeowner and probably would not recognize a hot water tank if it walked up and shook my hand. But I’m confident that folks with water tanks know what they are and are willing to dress them in a spiffy jacket, blanket, or whatever insulation material is appropriate so they hold heat.

Today’s mitzvah:
Put some clothes on that tank!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Carbon Fast for Lent: Freecycle and Thrift Shopping

Give away unwanted stuff through Freecycle (
www.freecycle.org.uk or in the U.S., www.freecycle.org) — this is a great way to reuse things and stop them going into landfill. Bonus: Organise a Freecycle event for your church, workplace or local community to exchange possessions that are no longer needed. — Carbon Fast for Lent

I’m a big St. Vinny’s fan myself, so that’s where I take our gently unused but no longer needed clothes, housewares, etc. But your local Freecycle group is another way to match your unwanted stuff with an eager recipient (check the group’s FAQs for some cautions about meeting up with strangers to exchange goods). Goodwill and the Salvation Army are also good options — and all a happy alternative to just throwing things out!

Today’s mitzvah: Don’t trash that extra stuff — look for a worthy group or eager Freecycler in your neighborhood as a happy alternative the landfill.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Carbon Fast for Lent: A Foil for Wasted Heat

“Fit foil behind your radiators – you could save around £20 a year in fuel bills — and rearrange your furniture to allow heat from radiators and heaters to get into the room. Carbon Fast for Lent

As the weather is warming up, it’s nice to think this will soon be moot for a year. But if you’re looking for a spring project, The Green Guy has DIY instructions and more info.

Today’s mitzvah: Use the warmer weather for home or apartment projects that will save some green while being green!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Carbon Fast for Lent: Tea Time

“Fill your kettle only with as much water as you need. If everyone boiled just enough water for their cuppa, the energy saved could power over three-quarters of the UK’s street lights. Bonus: When replacing a kettle, choose an efficient model. See the Tearfund Carbon Fact Sheet for details.”

I think this has more resonance in countries where people drink lots of tea. But after readinga similar Lenten suggestion last year, I’ve started using less water in the tea kettle and it does indeed boil super fast.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Welcome, Spotlight Radio Listeners!

I was delighted to see that Spotlight Radio replayed its wonderful segment about Daily Mitzvah today. Welcome, Spotlight Radio listeners! (And thank you to Feedjit for providing such excellent visitor stats.) For those who aren't familiar with it, Spotlight Radio online has a Special English program (the BBC used to do this, too) with clear and not-fast English language programs for listeners around the world. (I wish I could find a program like this in Special French so I could improve my own language skills.)

The radio segment is called “Acts of Kindness.” It talks about why I started this blog and also mentions some of my posts.

Listeners: To find the posts that the program mentions, just click here.

This made my day. Thank you, Spotlight Radio!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Carbon Fast for Lent: Consumption Be Done about all this Stuff?

“What comes in and out of your home? Reflect on what you have bought and consumed recently and challenge yourself on your consumption habits. Do you need everything you buy?”

Yeah, it was either that title or “Consumption Junction.” Spring is here and I’m feeling punny!
I was looking around my house this weekend and trying to figure out when and how I accumulated so much stuff. It’s really mind boggling, and not at all peaceful. Half Price Books and St. Vinny’s, here I come!

Today’s mitzvah: Look around to see what’s piling up that you could do without.

Turn It Off for Earth Hour - March 28th

Earth Hour is coming . . . Saturday, March 28.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Carbon Fast for Lent: Back to the Land

“Buy food that’s being grown or produced locally using local shops and farmers markets where possible – see www.farmersmarkets.net. Bonus: Grow some of your own food.You don’t need an allotment or even a garden - grow herbs, fruit and vegetables in pots (window sill or garden). Or join others in your community to cultivate gardens together. Find out more in the fact sheet.” — Tearfund Carbon Fast for Lent

I live a short walk from an amazing farmers market, which I can wait to see start up again next month! I also noticed my otherwise very mainstream grocery store has started posting little signs like roadmaps with mileage estimates to note
locally produced items. I was also intrigued by lettuce plants growing on flowerpots. Apparently one can pick the lower leaves so it continues to grow. I may see a living room garden in my future . . .

Today’s mitzvah: Use Local Harvest’s finding tool to locate farmers markets, family owned farms, and other sustainable resources near you.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Carbon Fast for Lent : Junk the Junk Mail

“We receive nearly 4 billion items of direct mail per year, one third of it unread. [In the U.K.] register your home under the Mailing Preference Service to stop wasteful junk mail. Call 0845 7034599 or visit www.mpsonline.org.uk Bonus: Request electronic bills and statements to save paper and postage.” Tearfund Carbon Fast for Lent

The idea of a Junk Mail Registry — akin the Do Not Call Registry — seems to be gaining steam in the U.S. Earlier this month the Miami Herald published an article about two sate representatives who have introduced bills proposing a statewide Do Not Mail Registry for Florida.

The Do Not Mail campaign estimates “it takes more than 100 million trees to produce the total volume of junk mail that arrives in American mailboxes each year—that's the equivalent of clearcutting the entire Rocky Mountain National Park every 4 months.” In terms of the greenhouse gas created each year by junk mail: think 2.5 cars, idling 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Today’s mitzvah: Sign the Do Not Mail campaign’s petition for a national registry allowing Americans to opt out of junk mail delivery. They also have an opt-out tool that will remove you from many of the larger mailing lists. (To take control over the catalogs you do and don’t to receive, check out Catalog Choice, which I also blogged about last year.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Carbon Fast for Lent: Shopping? Take a Friend.

“Double up journeys: do shopping on your way home from work, school or somewhere else you have to go today. Share lifts with friends or try to do all your errands together.”

Our favorite person in North Carolina blogged in December about people getting together to wrap Christmas presents together. I love the idea of taking typically solitary activities and making them social. Group errands are a terrific idea — finally time to catch up, even if it’s in the frozen food aisle!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Carbon Fast for Lent Don't Be Drafty:

“Check your house for draughts. Then seal up gaps in windows and doors to keep more heat in. These steps won’t take too much time and will pay for themselves as you save money on fuel bills.

I think last year’s Carbon Fast was more winsome, but this is certainly a good tip. For a tutorial on making your own door snake like the cute little guys here, check out Monster Munch, a site celebrating Sock Monsters, cool typography, and all manner of fun stuff!

Image copyright © 2008 by monster-munch.com.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Carbon Fast for Lent: Say "No" to Unecessary Packaging

DAY 14 – TUESDAY 10 MARCH: “Avoid buying products that have lots of packaging. Choose loose products and buy refillable containers where possible.” — Carbon Fest for Lent

Happily, I’ve noticed some companies getting better about this. For example, I noticed that the Home Life store-brand aluminum foil I bought last week was in a petite container — when I read the package I learned this was a conscious effort at eco-packaging and a 25% reduction from their previous box. But there are still plenty of culprits, from pre-packaged fruits and vegetables that could just as easily be sold loose, to over the counter medications that come in boxes and containers much larger than what’s necessary to hold the product.

Today’s mitzvah: The next time you get home with a product only to find it excessively packaged, email the company and let them know that you’re a paying customer who isn’t happy!

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's Coming . . . March 28

Carbon Fast for Lent: Worms, compost, and other mysteries

“Landfill sites are a major source of methane emissions in the UK [and in the U.S.]. Reuse and recycle your waste and compost your food waste to reduce the rubbish destined for landfill sites. Start here: www.recyclenow.com/home_composting If you don’t have somewhere to compost then investigate alternatives with your local authority. Some councils now collect food waste.”

I wrote about Nature Mill’s neat indoor home composter for last year’s Carbon Fast. This model is small enough to fit under the sink, and designed for people who don’t have the space, time, or inclination for a compost heap in the backyard. The New York Times also recently wrote about apartment dwellers who compost with worms. (This is sooo not happening at my house — worms! — but I thought I’d mention it.)

For some reason composting is one of the green things I find it easy to put off. What about you? Any composting devotees out there?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Carbon Fast for Lent: "Iceburg, right ahead!"

“Defrost your fridge and freezer to maintain efficiency. Allowing space for air to circulate will also help them to run more efficiently.

I once waited so long to defrost my freezer — and grew such a heavy iceberg in the process — the coils broke right off the top of the freezer ceiling from the weight. That was fun to explain to the landlord.

Today’s mitzvah: Does you freezer require a manual defrost? I know it’s no fun. Feel free to post a comment to commiserate!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Carbon Fast for Lent: Insulate!

DAY 10 – FRIDAY 6 MARCH: “Wrapping up: Investigate how you can better insulate your home – cavity wall, solid wall, floor and loft insulation—in some cases this can be subsidised and will help with [UK only] Home Information Pack and Energy Performance Certificates for landlords and home sellers. Bonus: Encourage your workplace or church to wrap up too.” — Carbon Fast for Lent

Yep, it’s true: people in Britain are eligible for subsidized insulation. See the good things that can happen when one’s country is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocal?

For those of us in the U.S., you might want to check out the Department of Energy’s page on tax credits for energy-efficient things here. This includes a credit for up to 30% ($1200 max.) of the cost of installing insulation.

Today’s mitzvah: Check out The People’s Ratification Project, which is a petition campaign to get the U.S. on board with the Kyoto Protocol.