Reasonable Green

Just a girl, trying to be a better steward of the Earth, while still driving a car and living an otherwise mainstream, twenty-first-century consumer life. She thinks you can be "green" and reasonable. Here is her blog.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Have you ever been to Electric Ladyland?

Photos courtesy CVPS

As a former Vermonter, I am so often proud of the RG-ish efforts of the Green Staters. Now, Central Vermont Public Service is making headlines.

With Cow Power, farmers are harvesting the methane-producing “byproducts” of their dairy operations to generate electricity to run their farms. As a bonus, they can sell the excess power, provided courtesy of their bovine ladies’ generous deposits, back to Vermont’s largest utility. Yes, we’re talking about manure! (And yes, the man in the photo below is sniffing ahem post-process “brown gold.” )

About 300 households can be powered from the operations of the first large dairy farm to participate – four more farms are expected to be up and running on Cow Power over the next year.

CVPS customers can opt to pay a premium to support the farmers. Seems mighty RG of them, too – currently just 16 cents vs. 12 cents per kilowatt hour. Mooooooo!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Tumble and Twirl


It feels like I’ve waited my whole RG life to be able to compost! When they’re not otherwise razzing me about it, my family and friends smile indulgently as I wax rhapsodic about the seemingly endless kitchen leftovers I could compost if I “just had the space.” It may very well be the primary secret reason I sold the old place and moved just two miles down the road.

Sounds weird, I know, but it turns out to be an unquestionably RG activity (or obsession) with the new easy-to-use composters available.

This reasonably priced Tumbler Composter (click the picture above to see better images and details) makes the process neat and easy, even in a tiny townhouse backyard like mine.

No complaints from the neighbors about a compost pile – and no backbreaking pitchforking for me. It tumbles to mix!

I honestly can hardly wait until it arrives and I can add all the nutritious, degradable scaps I’ve been saving in the fridge! I literally danced around the house today when I found it – the solution to my suburban composting problem. Photos of my new toy will be posted, no doubt!

Here Comes the Sun

Gull-Britt Rydell

Venture Gallery, Monterey, CA
Used with Permission

After days of gray skies and record-breaking rain on the East Coast, today has turned out to be sunny and beautiful. Alas, the rain will return shortly – we don't need it again so soon!

In various articles (we read them so you don’t have to!) debating the merits of organic versus local produce, the consensus appears to be that you’re better off choosing locally grown produce whenever possible, with the next best choice being organic.

The arguments take into account both nutrition and sustainability. Some of those organic grapes, tomatoes and strawberries available at your local Whole Foods have been shipped across the country – if not halfway around the world! The energy expended to transport them cancels out some of the environmental benefits of their earth-loving origins -- and the journey takes its toll on the nutritional value of the delicate produce.

Many stores are carrying more locally grown fruits and veggies, but nothing beats a farmers market for freshness, atmosphere and guilt-free shopping.

You can find local farmers markets using this USDA-provided index. Plus, if you know one that isn’t listed, you can submit the information to help lead folks to YOUR favorite.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Flip Flop and Fly

It's been a dreary few days in the mid-Atlantic. So much rain -- no sun! I went hunting for some cheery gift ideas and found these RG gems!

Recycled Flip-Flop Mats – straight from the Flip-Flop Factory! I found them at the awesome Uncommon Goods site. (Item #13069)

They are made from the surplus foam-rubber scraps of sandal factories. The leftovers would normally be carted off to the landfill, but some outfits are now having them made into these cool mats! I love that they’re more like reuse than recycling. No extra energy expended....just cute things made from potential refuse. Pretty sure that this will be my new favorite housewarming gift.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Joy to the Fishes in the Deep Blue Sea

The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the most critically endangered marine mammals in the United States.
Photo Courtesy Jim Watt

Today, President George W. Bush, invoking the 1906 National Antiquities Act, designated “America’s Galapagos” a national monument.

This protection for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands surpasses Bush’s original plan to use the National Marine Sanctuaries Act to shelter the area. A designation under that act would have been open to challenges from lawmakers and subject to possible elimination by future U.S. Presidents.

Another advantage is that the protection is immediate, ensuring preservation of the string of islands and coral reefs. The recent effort to shield this ecological treasure has taken more than five years – while still in office, former President Clinton had declared the area an “ecosystem reserve.”

Sharks and other large fish are common on most reefs throughout the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, one of the few marine ecosystems remaining on the planet still dominated by apex predators.

Photos Courtesy Jim Watt

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Big Yellow Taxi

Or Big Yellow Schoolbus, in this case.

From NPR:

Morning Edition June 6, 2006 · Exhaust from school buses can be harmful to students' health. Old diesel buses generate fumes that can trigger asthma attacks and other harmful health conditions. In Texas, environmentalists want the state to help pay for new low-exhaust equipment for the state's buses. It costs as much as $7,000 per bus, and school districts say they don't have the money. [For at least a little while you can listen to the whole story here ]

It’s clear that this isn’t exactly what Joni Mitchell had in mind when she wrote the song, but this Veggie Van School Bus movement sounds pretty cool. Of course, it features my favorite – BIODIESEL!! --- though not the reclaimed-cooking-oil-type of biodiesel that gets me all giddy. (Oh, the aroma of Munchkins from Dunks ....what a great tailpipe contribution to the neighborhood! My mouth waters just thinking about it.)

So, one can invite the Veggie Van to do a presentation at their school, as well as encourage their own school district to consider biodiesel for their entire yellow fleet. There are a ton of those old stinkpots on the road hauling around their precious cargo. There are newer models that burn cleaner and use a new type of diesel and, of course, the low-exhaust equipment discussed in the NPR story referenced above. Both changes, however, would seem to be a much more expensive conversion than the switch to biodiesel, which apparently doesn’t require any engine modification.

Imagine the difference that one person could make by introducing the idea to a school system. It would have a significantly bigger impact on the environment than just modifying their own car. And, there is a handy form on that Veggie Van site, too.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Running on Empty

My Reasonable Green (RG) to-do list is literally 38 pages long, so there are a number of projects on my mind. Numero Uno by far, though, has got to be making a decision on a more responsible “ride.”

Former Jackson Browne gal pal Daryl Hannah's early adoption of and commitment to biodiesel has been an inspiration, but options abound.

(BTW Hannah is totally off-grid, which I think is a pretty cool, if not quite RG for most of us.)

The alternative-fuel options’ reasonableness (for me) ranges from totally (!) doable to “maybe someday” – but none on the list have been eliminated as a possibility.

At this point I am most intrigued by the plug-in hybrids . It bums me out that they’re so difficult to get. They seem to combine the best of the most mainstream options. They have hybrid motors with batteries so you can plug them in at home and still run them on gas (or my preference E85).

The most easily achievable (and 100% RG) would be to get a vehicle that runs on E85. There are a number of mainstream vehicles sold in the U.S. that can run on both regular gasoline and mixtures up to 85% Ethanol. In the DC area, we have a few refueling options in the Arlington area, but I’m sure that more will become available and I keep checking here.

Oh, beautiful biodiesel! Its siren song beckons. I dream of driving a car with reclaimed waste oil and having my exhaust smell of donuts or French fries , I really do! You can run pretty much any diesel vehicle engine on biodiesel…but this is probably an option for the more distant future for me personally. If I already OWNED a diesel.....but I digress.

The least palatable option to me are the Hybrids on the road today. I mean, they’re fine. Sure, they’re cute and they’re better than gas-guzzlers and you get a tax break and you can use the carpool lanes, but if I’m going to switch to an entirely new vehicle, I want to reduce my petroleum consumption more than that. Less dependence on oil overall is one of my RG goals!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Is there anybody out there?

As the Navy Brat and mainly California-raised daughter of a couple of relatively conservative New Englanders I have had my share of culturally confusing moments. My political proclivities have generally fallen to the right end of the spectrum. Others have sometimes pegged me as a "total libertarian." (My 80s-era CA self responds, "Totally! Dude?") But, the time for some self-reflection and clarification is nigh.

Acquaintances seem shocked (SHOCKED, I tell you!) to learn of my green-leaning. Closer friends have typically responded with a variation of "I always knew you were a tree-hugger." Of course, their tone of voice and the level of disgust varies. They can be forgiven for their surprise and/or disappointment: as a former card-carrying College Republican, I'm not your average "environmentalist." (I've learned that this term can be delivered as an intended insult, as well. Though my favorite "insult" -- and the one I have reclaimed as a badge of honor is "closet recycling-zealot.")

The surprise (to me) has been the number of pals who have been delighted! Or who have confessed their own unease with wastefulness and shoddy Earth stewardship.

It is for those friends -- and others like them who are more comfortable self-identifying as "concerned about" or "committed" to improving things one decision at a time -- that I write. This blog is for these Nader-intrigued Alex P. Keatons; and for those feeling-so-guilty-because-I-still-drive-an-SUV-because-it's-paid-for-and-isn't-it-more-wasteful-to-dispose-of-it-than-to-just-carpool-with-it Earth-In-the-Balance readers; and for the "I'd like to recycle more, but my town has abandoned the program"-folks who feel slightly nauseated every time they throw away an aluminum can. With you I can identify and I hope that you will find the information posted and discovered helpful and liberating.

Please! Let me know you're out there. Share your experiences and make yourselves known. I know that my friends and I are NOT alone. I believe that we CAN make a difference and still shop at the Gap (or Banana....depends on your job, I guess.)You're not a hypocrite if you do the best you can and keep striving to be better at living an environmentally responsible life. I think you're human and that you're.....REASONABLE.