Saturday, March 31

Something to be grateful for: common currency

One of the books I started reading during my illness this week is Bill McKibben's new book Deep Economy. The introductory material is about establishing the need to think about the world in a radically new way... the "why you need this book" part of the book. The picture is pretty bleak:

  • If the resources of the world were spread out equally, my life would look like the average Pakistani's, rather than mine (especially discouraging when Fox's new talking head is so informed about the lives of Pakistanis)
  • Global Warming is the result of extracting vast reserves of energy stored in carbon from under the ground, removing the energy, and putting the carbon in the air
  • We are less than 25 years from a radical change in our lifestyles, forced by any combination of peak oil, the gap between the haves and have-nots, rising temperatures, massive trauma to the biological mono-culture we've become used to eating
  • and so on.
Of course, for people paying attention at any cycle rate, this isn't particularly new stuff. But ingesting a big dose of it at once can be a huge bummer.

Using the spirit of Pronoia -- challenge despair -- I have this balancing thought:
The Industrial Revolution hasn't just been about extracting what we want from the earth at higher efficiencies... it has also been about establishing a common currency for the world. It is monetary and linguistic, but it is also energetic. The Industrial Revolution has largely resulted in a world where everything we care about--heat, clean water, transportation, communication, health, food production and storage, community, entertainment, education--can be powered by electricity. And the beauty of electricity as a currency is that electricity doesn't care where it comes from.

Today the wind blows by my house, the sun beats down on the shingles of my roof, and my bikes stand largely unused in my garage. This post is powered by wind-power if you ask the accounting niceties of the power company... but the reality is 90% of the electricity came from coal.

We are stuck in Industrial Revolution ways of producing power. We are long past the time when it's made sense. (Add the cost of resource wars fought since 1950 into your gas, oil, and electrical bill.) But a new world is already living breath-by-breath with the one we're in now. I imagine we are not so far away from a day when we sign up for spinning classes not just for the exercise and the community-building, but because the power is donated to the local health clinic.


A wonderful book I've been reading while exploring these changes in my life is Rob Brezsney's Pronoia. Or, as the full title says: "Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings".

In the book, Rob tells the story of having been challenged at Burning Man one year. Like so many voices, Vox Feminista is one I'm familiar with, Rob was on the "the world is going to hell in a handbasket and we really need to change" bandwagon. He's basically a funny, community-oriented, good-natured guy, so these new friends challenged him to bring that to his message of change.

The resulting book is one of crazed, rejuvenating playfulness. Exercises about looking at things backwards and inside out; turning expectations and paradigms on their heads; connecting with people in surprising, loving, intimate ways.

I am finding this book a great leavening agent for my perspective and life as I go through this project of thinking deeply about my life and its impacts. I will be using the Pronoia tag for posts on observations about what's working, what's fun, and what's positive in this process of change.

Friday, March 30

Driving Journal: Week Four

Miles driven this week: 57
Total miles: 475
(8000 miles/52 weeks = 153 mi/week)
(3 x 153 = 612)

And that, my friends, is what a week with the flu looks like. I'm not going to break this up into categories... I commuted for two days, spent two days in bed, and finally got up to go see the chiropractor and visit the grocery store this afternoon.

I did notice that I packed as many errands as possible around the trip to the chiropractor: the greenhouse, the hardware store, dropping a bike off at the totally cool Community Cycles project, scooter shopping, a new tag for the cat, dinner, the grocery store, and then finally, home. All in a trip that was the same number of miles as my usual chiropractor run.

Related Posts: Driving Journal Week 3, Driving Journal Week 2, Driving Journal Week 1, Driving Journal Intro

Monday, March 26

More stories of transformation

A Nevada City woman transformed her life by trading in her SUV for a motorcycle, replacing all the lightbulbs in her house with energy-efficient bulbs, taking in a roommate, cutting down on meat consumption and saying goodbye to her cell phone.

"These are really easy, manageable changes that make a difference. That's all we ask of people," Reinette Senum said as she talked from the steps of Nevada City's United Methodist Church at the top of Broad Street.
The Nevada City Union (registration required)

Her group's website is, not the address given in the article.

A Wyoming couple tells the story of their efforts in 2007

The Carbon Coach

A Vancouver journalist's family meet with a carbon coach about their goal of cutting their carbon by 33%.

Part one, Part two

Changing with others

The New York Times last week ran an article on this guy. The hook for their article was "The Year Without Toilet Paper", which did what good headlines do... got a lot of people worked up and interested. The toilet paper issue aside, I think the article's main point is what it looks like when a couple of New Yorkers try to hang on to what's essential about their lives and put the rest up for re-evaluation.

One of the things that's obviously essential to this couple is their relationship. But in the article, and more so in the blog, we hear the voice of one part of that couple. I wonder how you create such radical change without everyone having exactly the same values.

I've been wondering about this in my own home. There are three adults living here and I am dating. We all come to this place on the planet for different reasons, but there's something in each of us that makes this place a good place to be. Saturday morning we decided to go out for breakfast, and spontaneously decided we should take the recycling too. We got into a conversation about why we recycle. I'm motivated by global warming and reducing the impact of humans on the other species of the planet. Roommate #1 is motivated by a sense of duty. This is just what you do. Roommate #2 is new to recycling, but she knows it's important to us, so she participates as well. So we have different values that lead to the same end result. We all sort and look for times to take the recycling over to the recycling yard.

I have been changing the incandescents for CFLs unilaterally. This is not a value we all share, so in fixtures that take multiple bulbs, I've only changed half the bulbs for CFLs. This means there are still 8 high-use bulbs that could be changed out... and I could go there, but it is a higher value to me to have the house full of people than to use the minimum amount of electricity.

Similarly, Roommate #1 uses an electric blanket and Roommate #2 uses a space heater. Are these the most efficient ways to heat the areas that are most essential for comfort? Perhaps so. But I guess that's another of the areas where I'm not going to make decisions for others.

I'm also seriously researching my garden options, and both roommates have been very upfront in saying that I can't rely on them to help. That's good to know.

So the thing that intrigues me most about No Impact Man is this: how do they communicate about these things? What values do they each bring to the project?

Friday, March 23

Driving Journal: Week Three

Miles driven this week: 131
Total miles: 418
(8000 miles/52 weeks = 153 mi/week)
(3 x 153 = 459)

Commuting: 61 (40% - 4 full days, two days the return trip was combined with errands)
Fun: 27 (18%)
Church: 0
Classes: 5 (3%)
Errands: 22 (14%)
Health: 16 (11%)
Other: 0

Kind of a blah week this week. I didn't try to avoid driving, but I also didn't skip surprise activities that added more miles. I did go for a bike ride last weekend instead of driving to ice cream. I am intrigued by the idea of blending my travel options so that I exceed an average of 40 miles per gallon of gas while keeping my current 22 mpg car.

Update: I filled my tank on Sunday and I got 23.8 mpg over this two-week period. My changes were to look for places to avoid idling, like approaching red lights slowly so they'd change; to drive modestly (my mantra on my commute has been "no need to speed"); and to be aware of taking excess weight out of the car as soon as possible (like that bag of compost). That's all inspired by this article in Mother Jones. I'm considering removing the cross-braces on my roof rack and taking out my spare tire when I'm driving less than 30 miles from home... since that's how far my auto club will tow me. ;-)

Related Post: Driving Journal Week 2, Driving Journal Week 1, Driving Journal Intro

Wednesday, March 21


EPA carbon calculator
Small House Society

No Impact Man - a family in New York City chronicles trying to live without a carbon footprint.
Space heater in a ceiling fan (available at HD and Lowe's)

David Suzuki interview at Treehugger
Worldchanging articles and resources for greener living world-wide.

Transportation Alternatives advocates for walking, cycling and environmentally sustainable transportation
Installing a ceiling fan (Includes installing a junction box)

Hotel with not-so-big rooms: Hotel Oregon
Bill McKibben interview on the kinds of communities we need to build (New book:Deep Economy)
Carbon Diet - Lifestyle calculator and a 30-day plan to cut your emissions by 5,000 lbs.

Tuesday, March 20

Not so big!

"The average size of new single-family homes in the US increased from 1,500 square feet to 2,266 square feet between 1970 and 2000."
My townhome is 1260 sq ft, not including the basement.

"The Census Bureau also reports that the average household size declined over the past 30 years, from 3.1 people per household in 1970 to 2.6 people per household in 2002. Thus, the square feet per person have nearly doubled in thirty years, from 483 to 872."
With three adults living here, we have 420 sq ft each, again, not including the basement.

An interesting article on historical homes and neighborhoods in Denver by a local real-estate agent.

A selection of homes currently for sale in one of the historical neighborhoods in Denver:

Note that the average for the ten homes in the screen shot is 2828 sq ft. (The image links to a larger version.) I think this is likely a representative sample of homes scraped off the lot and replaced with larger homes, homes with the tops popped, classic homes, and I see one condo conversion of an apartment building in there.

The scrapers are particularly depressing for me. I understand the motivation... in June of 1965 a flood hit the Platte river, which runs through the heart of Denver. Since the Platte is used for drainage, the flood forced water into the basements of thousands of homes in the area resulting in foundation cracks. So, at some point, those houses will have to be replaced.

But frequently the houses are being replaced with mansion-like houses with large garages. The minimum-required open space on a lot is filled by paving -- sidewalks, patios, and parking. And the result is a 6,000 square-foot home in a classic, tree-lined residential neighborhood. But the character of the neighborhood comes from lawns and mature trees, which the new home has no space for. Additionally, as the article I quoted from above argues, a 4,000+ sq ft home can never be made green enough to offset the costs to build it.

The challenge of living smaller and lighter is acurately, though ironically summed up in the first three comments to this article announcing a Global Warming campaign in Pensacola, FL. As suthernboy writes:

the only global warming we need to be worried about is all the hot air that is coming out of these politician's mouths that are heading this Global Warming Campaign. They are polluting the airwaves with all their enviromentalist crap trying to tell people how they should run their lives.
Living closer to other people means inevitably we must change our behavior to accommodate them. Of course, we are simultaneously asking them to change for us, but perhaps those requests seem so practical to us that we don't notice.

So, I think one of the challenges of living greener, of living not so big, is trying to remember -- culturally -- how to live with other people.

Adding a scooter?

I've wondered how many miles I'd have to go on a scooter to get my average mpg up over 40 mpg. I haven't taken calculus, so here's my hand-cranked answer (Thanks to Excel).

Total miles: 150
Gas Used

car mpg scoot mpg

Car miles scoot miles 20 60 carbon car carbon scoot total gas Cost of gas Total MPG Total Carbon

150.00 0.00 7.50 0.00 146.73 0.00 7.50 $ 22.50 20.00 146.73
10% 135.00 15.00 6.75 0.25 132.06 4.89 7.00 $ 21.00 21.43 136.95
20% 108.00 42.00 5.40 0.70 105.65 13.69 6.10 $ 18.30 24.59 119.34
30% 75.60 74.40 3.78 1.24 73.95 24.26 5.02 $ 15.06 29.88 98.21
40% 45.36 104.64 2.27 1.74 44.37 34.12 4.01 $ 12.04 37.39 78.49
50% 22.68 127.32 1.13 2.12 22.19 41.51 3.26 $ 9.77 46.07 63.70
60% 9.07 140.93 0.45 2.35 8.87 45.95 2.80 $ 8.41 53.53 54.83
70% 2.72 147.28 0.14 2.45 2.66 48.02 2.59 $ 7.77 57.90 50.68
80% 0.54 149.46 0.03 2.49 0.53 48.73 2.52 $ 7.55 59.57 49.26
90% 0.05 149.95 0.00 2.50 0.05 48.89 2.50 $ 7.51 59.96 48.95
100% 0.00 150.00 0.00 2.50 0.00 48.91 2.50 $ 7.50 60.00 48.91

Scoot to work 3 * a week, save $40 a month.

The Green Triangle

About 10 years ago, I viewed my life through the lens of recovering from overspending. One of the important books to me at that time was Living Cheaply with Style by Ernest Callenbach. I recently found my copy in a box and flipped through it to see what it might offer at this stage in my life. I was entertained by the comment about how CFLs might evolve into pleasant home lighting in the future. But I was struck by the sensibility of Callenbach's Green Triangle.

The concept is that our health, our finances, and the ecosystem are three points on a triangle. Whenever we act for the health of one of these, the other two are also benefitted. So now, although I'm looking at my life through the lens of living more gently on the earth, my actions are very much in line with my friends who are trying to improve their health naturally or who are looking for ways to save money.

From another perspective, the green triangle might be seen as the legs of a three-legged stool. Sensible decisions are informed by all three elements. It doesn't make sense for me to drink corn-syrup sweetened drinks even through they might be cheaper than bottled water, because they are worse for my health and for the environment.

From a third perspective, the green triangle might describe three phases in a cycle of a spiral. By making choices that move toward the greener end of the spectrum, we can offset choices in the other direction. I can drive my car to a gym to work out on a treadmill in the air conditioning, or I can take a walk. I actually do both, but considering the weight of various options, maybe I can make a greener choice today.


Globe and Mail article on carbon offset programs
Environmental Health News news feed
Living on Earth radio program
The Omnivore's Dilemma nominated for a 2007 James Beard Foundation award

Al Gore is speaking to Congress on March 21st about global warming. He is asking for postcards with messages asking Congress to take action to reduce global warming. Fill out a postcard here.

Monday, March 19


Urban gardening:
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture City Farmer's page
Intensive Gardening information and supplies at Bountiful Gardens
Kitchen Gardeners International
Gardens in Cuba's urban core: MetropolisMag, BBC
Dave's Garden
PlantTalk Colorado
Organic supplies for gardening: Gardens Alive!
Mother Earth News Organic Gardening articles

Growing grapes:
wine grower's article in Front Range Living
CSU extension booklet

Hardware for raised beds:

Saturday, March 17

Green Energy and Carbon Credits

This is a bit of a rant. I believe in green energy. I believe in public utilities doing electricity production using renewable means. But the truth is, once the electricity goes on the grid it becomes part of one huge, indistinguishable pool of electricity. In other words, even if I subscribe to Windsource (and I did as soon as it became available) 90% of my electricity still comes from coal. This is because in Colorado, 90% of all electricity generation comes from coal.

Similarly, I like programs like TerraPass, NativeEnergy, and CarbonFund. I like places that collect dollars and oversee investing those dollars in programs that will reduce carbon. But even though I participate in one of those programs, I don't think that absolves me from concern. And no, I'm neither Catholic, Jewish, nor Scotch, I didn't grow up in a single-parent home, or a hippy home, or the child of Great Depression survivors.

What I did grow up as is the daughter of an inventor with a passion for R&D. I signed up for Windsource not so I could put a sticker on my window, but so that more wind generators could be built. I signed up for my carbon program not so I could feel less guilty, but so that we would have a better understanding of what we can do to sequester carbon. So I like these programs.

Here's the thing though... why are the prices so low? I mean, $50 to offset all the carbon emitted by generating electricity and burning natural gas for my house for a year? That's peanuts. I do know there's a limit to what these programs can put to use at any one time, but I also know that those of us who can should be putting more money into the fight.

  • What about creating a fund that installs solar panels on low income houses? Say something like the Habitat for Humanity program for solar?
  • What about microlending programs that allow people to borrow money to replace inefficient appliances to be paid back by the savings on their electric bills?
  • What about paying the neighborhood can collector to pick up other recyclables as well?
  • What about building programs at the local non-profit for installing solar?

Okay. End rant. ;-)

Efficiency & Renewable Energy

I commented earlier this week that I didn't know what it was going to take -- really -- for us to put the brakes on global warming. Turns out the American Solar Energy Society has been asking that same question. In this report (pdf) from their 2006 SOLAR conference, they conclude that it will take a combination of energy efficiency in transportation and buildings, plus renewable energy to avoid the next 1 degree centigrade rise in global temperatures.

Driving Journal: Week Two

Miles driven this week: 152
Total miles: 287
(8000 miles/52 weeks = 153 mi/week)

Commuting: 72 (47% - 5 days)
Fun: 49 (32%)
Church: 0
Classes: 7 (5%)
Errands: 8 (5%)
Health: 16 (11%)
Other: 0

Less avoiding driving this week. This is a more normal week for me. But I think as the week wore on, I started getting more creative about replacing some of the miles. That's why the posts about the bus and the bike.

I had a bit of a shock when I filled up my gas tank last Sunday. I got 22.3 mpg on the last tank. I used to drive a car that got 33 to 40 mpg, and I thought when I got this one the mileage wouldn't be all that different. But 34% less is a lot. Of course, as noted in this post, I used to drive a whole lot more. But I think the reality is, I used a gallon of gas a day in each car.

Still, my goal is to cut my driving to less than 8000 miles this year, without unduly imposing on others to do it, so that I can get my carbon footprint down to smaller than average. So far I'm on pace for that.

Related Post: Driving Journal Week 1, Driving Journal Intro

Friday, March 16


Build your own bike trailer
Workbike bikes at work
US 36 bike links
Rhodes car - side-by-side multi-passenger recumbent bikes and work bikes
Bike Nashbar

Introducing the bike

One thing I have automatically gone to when thinking about simplifying my life, reducing my driving, losing weight, or just recovering more of the physical playfulness that characterized my youth is, "I should ride my bike more!" And I should. But the truth is I'm the kind of person who needs a concrete destination and purpose before I'll get on the bike. I have to imagine the enjoyable breeze off the lake as I ride around it to be able to get myself to go over there.

I've been looking in my driving journal for trips I can make on my bike. I actually used to do this quite a bit in my 20's when I was recovering from Overspending. But I got out of it after living in a couple places where things weren't quite as conducive to biking.

But I'm back in a very bike-able neighborhood. As I wrote earlier today, there's a Park n Ride two miles from me that's along a side street. And I pass the neighborhood gardens and three friends' houses on the way. The Asian market, natural foods store, and electronics shop is a little closer along another route. I can either take the broad sidewalk or ride along the path that follows the creek to get there.

The recycling center, 7 coffee shops, two grocery stores, two tea shops, and my currently favorite restaurant are all within a mile. There are also two bike shops in that distance. And one of my drives this week was a well-lighted, rolling route to and from the personal growth classes I do. It makes the trip 4 miles instead of two, but perhaps I will get more out of the classes.

So all of this has me itching to ride.

How about that Halogen?

I have 5 halogen lamps in my life. A torchaire in my bedroom, a torchaire in my office, 2 desk lamps--one at work and one at home--and then a torchaire in the utility room in the basement. Halogen bulbs aren't the standard Edison bulb that's pictured when I see something on CFLs, so these have been a question-mark in my head.

The Energy-star site doesn't talk about halogens.
One Billion Bulbs doesn't have anything on halogens.
Mr. Electricity doesn't talk about halogens on his lighting page.

I did a search early this morning on Halogen bulbs and CFLs, and I got a whole bunch of links to places that sell both. Which was mostly worthless for my question, except for this page. And since that's a page that's dedicated to selling a product, I have to discount the info on it. But which info?

This target on Wikipedia's page on incandescents provided some guidance.

  • Halogens are more efficient than incandescents, at 9% of energy converted to light.
However with a torchaire bulb being 300 watts, verses the 60 watts for an incandescent lamp, that's a whole lot more electricity for a little bit of efficiency.

I also found this formula on the Mr. Electricity page:

((Watts x Hours Used)/1000) x Cost per kilowatt-hour = Total Cost

So I can figure that the halogen costs:

((300 watts x 1 hour)/1000) x $.10 = $.03 per hour (3 cents)

Verses the 27 watt CFL in the wall sconce:

((27 watts x 1 hour)/1000) x $.10 = $.0027 per hour (a third of one cent)

Over on the OneBillionBulbs site, I pretended I changed three 100 watt bulbs for three 28 watt bulbs and estimated I was using them for 2 hrs a day. Results:

Annual savings: $14.26
Annual CO2 reduction: 225 lbs

Okay. So my answer is: whatever the specific numbers, the halogens need to go. Or be used a whole lot less.

Is it cheaper to ride the bus?

My first two years of college, I walked everywhere and rode the bus when I needed to. The last two years I owned a car. I remember trying to figure out which was cheaper. One way to determine that is to apply the IRS Standard Mileage rate.

This is the number that is intended to be a reasonable estimate of all the costs of driving a vehicle for one mile, including gas, oil, taxes, insurance, wear and tear, and repairs.

The press release for the 2007 rate is here. (To find the rate for other years, type the year and "Standard Mileage Rate" into the search box.) It's 48.5 cents per mile for 2007.

This means the cost for my commute is $7.20 a day. It costs $3.00 to take the bus to and from work.

That's the money part. But time equals money too. Let's look at that.

    Time to drive: 20 minutes each way = 40 minutes.
    Time to take the bus (from home): 1 hour each way = 2 hours
    Difference in time = 80 minutes
    Difference in cost = $4.20
    $4.20/80min = .0525 $/min * 60 min/hr = $3.15/hr

Well. I'd have to say at this point that my time is worth more than $3.15 an hour. Of course, there are other things to factor in. Perhaps that's time I could be entertained. Perhaps it's time I could use twice... say for reading and for commuting.

But looking at the trip planner, I realize there's another option. I could drive two miles to a park and ride and eliminate one of the buses. Let's look at that.

    Four miles of driving: 4 * .485 = $1.94
    Bus = $3.00
    Time to drive: 5 min each way for 10 minutes.
    Time on the bus: 21 minutes each way for 42 minutes.
    Total cost: $4.94
    Total time: 52 min.
    $7.20 - $4.94 = $2.26
    52 min - 20 min = 32 min
    2.26/32 = $0.07/min * 60 min/hr = $4.20 / hr.

$4.20 an hour starts to get interesting. I mean, if you take my take-home pay and divide it by all the hours in a year, $4.20 looks pretty good. Especially if I fit in other things... like riding my bike for those 4 miles and getting exercise. Or riding my bike past the community garden, watering my plot, and then doing grocery shopping at the Asian market on the way home.

Maybe it's not literally cheaper, but perhaps it makes sense a couple times a week.

Thursday, March 15

Carbon Diet

Another way to think of what I'm doing... the carbon diet.

Had the U.S. signed the Kyoto Protocol, it would have required us to cut CO2 emissions by about 3100 pounds per person annually. That's about a tenth as much as many climate scientists say is necessary to limit global warming, but I am going to use it as my personal goal for 2007 and see how fast I can reach it.
I'm not sure who the author is on that, but it's on The Green Guide.

3100 pounds to meet Kyoto. I'm not sure what my emissions were when Kyoto was drafted, but I think it's a more than reasonable goal to remove 3100 lbs, or a ton and a half, from my life.

Some ways I can think of to do this:

  • Drive less. 1000 miles = .45 tons in my car.
  • Change incandescent lights to fluorescent lights (According to my account at One Billion Bulbs I've already cut 1000 lbs of carbon this year.)
  • Conserve electricity at home -- according to this government report every kWh I use at home produces 2 lbs of carbon dioxide. In Feb. we used 892 kWhs of electricity, for 1784 lbs, or .89 tons. That's 10 tons a year right there. But then again, that's winter use. Ideas on saving electricity here.
But the scary number in that quote is the one that says we have to do ten times that to halt global warming. I can't even fathom what changes would have to happen in my life to reduce my carbon impact by 15 tons. Every carbon calculator I use says my current carbon footprint is about 7.5 tons... the US average.

Cutting my emissions by 15 tons means there are things that have to fundamentally change about my life ... I imagine recycling drives and owning one car per family and the carpool to work has four people in it... like Dagwood Bumstead's. I imagine riding my bike to the store and harvesting vegetables out of my victory garden, and learning to sew pockets on my karate gi's so I can use them for work clothes. In fact, I imagine the US on war footing in WWII, when we went all out to beat an enemy that was out to take away our freedom.

I think of those things and wonder why we are fighting a war against an ideology that has a problem with our lifestyle, instead of fighting the war against Global Warming, which will impact not just our lifestyle, not just our economic freedom, but our access to food and shelter.

Driving Journal Update

I recorded my initial thinking about a driving journal here. My basic conclusion was that, on average, over the time I've owned my car, I've driven an average of 267 miles per week.

Last night I found an oil change sticker in my car. It said that my next oil change was due on 9/15/06, or at 10,338 miles.

Which means that on 6/15/06, my mileage in the car was 7338.

Today is 3/15/07, 9 months later, and my odometer is at 15800. So I've actually driven 8492 miles in the last 9 months, or 907 miles per month and 213 miles per week (using 4.25 weeks/month). That's a pace that leads to 11000 miles per year. Not outstanding, but hey, better than the 15000 miles per year I thought I was driving.

Speaking of which, I did some poking around on the carbon footprint calculator at and my car emits .45 tons of carbon for every 1000 miles I drive.


Rocky Mountain News Article on green homes
HGTV article on Spring Cleaning for HVAC
Climate Action Days at the Colorado School of Mines
Ask Mr. Electricity on saving electricity
Energy Diet blog at National Geographic
Track CFL changes and see the difference you're making
NPR story on CAFE standards and US fuel economy
NYT story on a carbon diet
Energy Diet 1 -- the green guide
Energy Diet 2 -- the green guide
Energy Diet 3 -- the green guide
Energy Diet 4 -- the green guide
Energy Diet 5 -- the green guide
Mother Jones article on Hypermileing (Jan/Feb 2007)
Tips on car efficiency from the Canadian Office of Energy Efficiency
Calculate your car's carbon footprint based on your mileage (Or multiply the gallons of gas you used by 19.564 pounds)

Friday, March 9

Driving Journal: Week One

Miles driven this week: 135
Total miles: 135
(8000 miles/52 weeks = 153 mi/week)

Commuting miles: 57 (42% - 4 days)
Fun: 22
Church: 52
Other miles: 4

Score one for the effort of paying attention. I know if I hadn't been writing down miles I would have driven more this week. I think I skipped four trips:

  1. A friend was picking me up from work for Tuesday dinner and I knew we'd end up at my house. That either meant we'd have to handle two cars or I could get a ride to work. So I got a ride to work.
  2. A grocery-shopping trip I planned to make after I stopped at the house. Instead I stopped at a store along the way home.
  3. One day I left my packed lunch on the counter at home. Instead of running out for something to eat, I got the okay to work from home for the afternoon. Yay! Hot minestrone soup and cheesy bread!
  4. I felt the impulse to go get a pizza or something for dinner on Thursday, but when I thought about writing the trip down, I looked in the fridge and got creative out of what was there.
There were two trips where I pushed my driving expenses onto someone else; the drive to dinner Tuesday, and I rode into Boulder to see my chiropractor with my roommate who sees the same chiropractor. No biggie, unless I get in the habit of always asking others to drive (which I won't! ;-) )

Related Post: Driving Journal Intro


David Suzuki Foundation
EcoBusinessLinks Carbon Offsetters
Native Energy: Lifestyle Carbon Calculator
CarbonFund Non-profit organization for carbon offsets

The Acadamy Awards Green page
National Resources Defense Council Oscar page

Green-e Green energy alternatives for home and business

House Dream List

I want to do the following items to green my townhouse:

  • Replace incandescent bulbs with flourescents and/or LEDs
  • Install a tankless water heater
  • Improve heating efficiency
    • Zone Heating
        NG space heater in basement?
      Ceiling Fans
      Window Quilts
  • Install PV solar panels
  • Install light tubes from roof to main floor and basement
  • Increase window opening size on upper floor for cross-ventilation
  • Look at non-AC cooling options (attic vent, swamp cooler, attic fan)

News on the solar front

I have a south-facing, steep-pitch roof section on my townhouse. I long to install solar, but I've hesitated because I assumed my HOA would have problems with stuff installed on the roof. Last night I found one of my copies of the current HOA regs and there isn't anything that prohibits modifications to the roof... I just have to get HOA approval. I know that "just" isn't small, I can do all kinds of research and make a beautiful presentation and still have them say, "no", but it gives me enough of an opening to move ahead.

Wednesday, March 7


NYT article on small homes:
NYT: Tiny Homes

Small home plans:
Tumbleweed Houses

Boat/Cabin heaters:

Evangelical Christian Pastor preaching about (And Living) conservation:

Why Not-So-Big Living?

I love Sarah Susanka's books. I ran across The Not So Big House many years ago while I lived in an apartment and I've carried it with me through many moves. It occupies a prominent place in my current home.

I like the idea of living small. I don't do it very well. I grew up in a large home in an urban neighborhood and over time our three stories filled up with books and paper and art and projects and clothes and furniture. There's an amount of stuff that makes my life feel grown-up. There's a period of time that I feel I have to go shopping, even if I have 5 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs of khakis, 4 pairs of dress slacks, enough dress shirts to go for two weeks without a repeat and enough underwear to go the same time without washing anything. In short, I have too much stuff to make living small easy.

I like the idea of living small, but I am not a hermit. The cabin in the forest isn't my style. I want a comfortable but urban life. I don't throw parties often, but I like having people around. I like my space to feel like they are welcome. I also have significant people in my life for periods of time. None have "taken" yet, but I haven't given up hope.

What appeals to me most about living small is the idea of not adding my footprint to the millions of careless footprints trampling the ecosystem. I believe there is an amount of space one needs, and more than that is wasteful, frankly. I love the concept of "enoughness" as presented in Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez. I currently have more than enough stuff, I am spending more than enough money. I'm restless about my impact on the world and I want to explore lessening it.

For a time in my childhood, a Mennonite family lived across from us and the mother, Karen, was our primary babysitter. I remember helping in the huge garden, washing dishes by hand, eating everything I took, cleaning up after myself, and never, ever pretending anything was a gun. I also remember being appreciated. There was little stuff in their home, but there was always room for friends... and for a rambunctious, odd little girl to explore a different world. Here's to making a little more of that world real.

Friday, March 2

The Driving Journal

I was playing with the carbon-footprint calculator at and I discovered that I can go from Average to Lower than Average by driving 8000 miles a year (in the car I own) instead of the 15000 US average. So I did some "ciperin'":

15500 miles on odometer
/ 58 weeks I've owned and driven the car (bought new)
=267 miles of driving per week on average

Whenever you read tips on how to reduce your impact, the first one is always "carpool". So I used the Google Pedometer site to figure out how long my commute to work is.

15 mile commute
x 5 work days per week
= 75 miles of commuting

Which means that 28% of my driving is to and from work daily... and 72% of my driving is ???

One of the first things you read when you're trying to get your money under control is "keep a spending journal." (Your Money or Your Life, How to Get out of debt, Stay out of debt, and live prosperously) This journal is described as some kind of paper on which you track every penny you spend. I'm not compulsive enough to enjoy doing this for long, but I have found it helpful in bringing mindfulness to my spending.

So, in that spirit, I am now keeping a Driving Journal -- Every mile I drive with the purpose next to it.

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NotSoBigLiving is the story of a woman inspired by Sarah Susanka, Bill McKibben, Airstreams, Tumbleweed houses, Mennonites, Jimmy Carter, hippies, survivalists, Anasazi, Pema Chodron and Joko Beck, Scott Peck, Buckminster Fuller, and Al Gore to see what she can do to reduce her carbon footprint in her mid-80's suburban townhome. Strategies include roommates, alternative travel, organic eating, planting a victory garden, mindfulness, and a belly full of laughter.