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Becoming less wasteful/more socially responsible
Old 04-19-2008, 01:55 PM   #1
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Becoming less wasteful/more socially responsible

I'm just wondering how others are making an effort to monitor their carbon footprint or be less wasteful.

I know we are guilty of being wasteful, we throw so much out of the fridge every week because it is bought with best intentions but the days get away and it ends up being hurled out because it has gone off. We are also guilty of eating out too much. Today I tried to start a new program, whereby I only buy what is on my grocery list. Those things that are on my list are because I have planned out my menu for the next three days based on what I already have in the way of kitchen supplies.

I am trying to use less electricity by making sure things are turned off. However, how far should one go in going without? For example, I very rarely buy flowers but today at Trader Joe's they had some nice orchids. These are my favourites because they last for a long time unlike most other store bought flowers. However they come from Thailand so I did not buy them as I figured the carbon footprint of these flowers must be enormous.

So how do you balance your wants against the whole environmental thing?
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Old 04-19-2008, 02:02 PM   #2
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I use the paper grocery bags as our waste bags for the kitchen. We walk to the store frequently when we need food rather than driving. Things of that nature. I do not bother with not buying something because of its carbon foot print though.
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Old 04-19-2008, 02:19 PM   #3
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I discovered a show called "wasted" on Discovery Home and it inspired me to become less wasteful and more aware of my footprint on the environment. I don't necessarily want to go crazy with it but they have some good ideas on that show. Apparently, being green can save you money too, so what's not to like? I changed almost all the incandescent bulbs in our house with those new energy efficient ones. I try to unplug appliances that are not in use (computers, chargers, printers, etc...). We installed a programmable thermostat and a more energy-efficient A/C system. We grow trees around the house: in the summer they provide shade (and reduce our cooling bill) and in the winter, when they lose their leaves, they let the sun in to warm the house (and reduce our heating bill). We installed low-flow shower heads and we try to use the grey water we can collect to water the shrubs. But of course in the mean time we bought a large screen TV which probably uses more electricity than our smaller CRT TV... But overall our electric and water bill has been reduced significantly already so it looks like a net positive. We rarely throw any food out because we buy just what we are going to eat that day or in the next few days. But I am thinking about buying a compost bin or worm farm to take care of table scraps. And off course we recycle whatever can be recycled. As far as transportation goes, we have 2 smaller cars with very good gas mileage. The one thing we are not doing at all is buying only locally produced food. I am sure we could do better by driving hybrids, installing solar panels and stop traveling too... Hybrids and solar panels could be an option down the road when prices become more attractive, but travel will remain our sin...
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Old 04-19-2008, 02:21 PM   #4
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I'm not worried about my carbon footprint - not that I'm really sure I know exactly what that means. But I don't like being wasteful because it is expensive, foolish and disrespectful to the bounty we have been given.

I do my best to cut down on energy use because it is expensive. Weekly meal planning and a shopping list make sure that we don't get stuck eating out or eating poorly (unless we planned for it) and that we don't waste food or money. Much, but not all, biodegradable stuff goes into the wife's compost pile.
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Old 04-19-2008, 02:30 PM   #5
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I'm not worried about my carbon footprint - not that I'm really sure I know exactly what that means. But I don't like being wasteful because it is expensive, foolish and disrespectful to the bounty we have been given.

I do my best to cut down on energy use because it is expensive. Weekly meal planning and a shopping list make sure that we don't get stuck eating out or eating poorly (unless we planned for it) and that we don't waste food or money. Much, but not all, biodegradable stuff goes into the wife's compost pile.
Somewhere, don't remember where, I saw something called the environmental triangle.

The point that it was trying to make is that many things that can be done to benefit our environment also have financial and health benefits.

One example is bicycling rather than driving. It saves money, improves your health and also benefits the environment.

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Old 04-19-2008, 03:43 PM   #6
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Ditto the earlier posters on minding small things. They add up quickly.

I take the bus to work, keep the thermostat generally low, don't buy new clothes, and bring my own grocery bags to stores. Since we live in a Mexican district, I even learned to say, "I don't need a bag" in Spanish.

The things I'm not doing too well at are 1) buy locally produced food (I don't think it's possible most of the year here in the northern land), and 2) minimize long-distance travel. I love traveling.

I also bought a bouquet of flowers from Trader Joes a couple of weeks ago. They were peach blossoms from Oregon. It was a snowy, depressing week, and the flowers really cheered me up. I displayed it for a day then decided that I should share the joy. So I gifted it to a friend. (I hope I don't evoke the rage of the anti-re-gifting crowd , but I sense the sentiment is weak here)

I have considered buying carbon off-set credits for my travels (and non-locally produced goods?), but I need to be convinced that the people getting my money are putting it to good use first.
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Old 04-19-2008, 04:58 PM   #7
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Somewhere, don't remember where, I saw something called the environmental triangle.

The point that it was trying to make is that many things that can be done to benefit our environment also have financial and health benefits.

One example is bicycling rather than driving. It saves money, improves your health and also benefits the environment.

MB
Cool point. Eating a plant-based diet instead of animal foods would be another example, especially if you eat mostly plants grown locally when possible.
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Old 04-19-2008, 05:32 PM   #8
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I'm curious - do vegetarians only eat plants because they love animals, or cause they hate plants?
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Old 04-19-2008, 06:39 PM   #9
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Frugality and being less wasteful, thus reducing one's carbon footprint, all sort of go together don't they?
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Old 04-19-2008, 06:44 PM   #10
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IFor example, I very rarely buy flowers but today at Trader Joe's they had some nice orchids. These are my favourites because they last for a long time unlike most other store bought flowers. However they come from Thailand so I did not buy them as I figured the carbon footprint of these flowers must be enormous.
The carbon required to bring them here is the same whether you buy them or they throw them out. Should they be enjoyed?
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Old 04-19-2008, 06:50 PM   #11
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Frugality and being less wasteful, thus reducing one's carbon footprint, all sort of go together don't they?
Indeed.

Cheap and lazy go a long way to reducing consumption/pollution.

I'm already pretty low on the consumption end (by USA standards).
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Old 04-19-2008, 08:56 PM   #12
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Firedreamer hit on two things

worm composting of food waste

Worm Composting

I haven't been able to convince my wife yet but..........

Then the CFL's use like 25% of the regular bulb.

We are switching as they burn out. The outdoor lights are perfect. We like to leave the outdoor lights on all night. And we have some walkway lights that turn on with a sensor. Those are perfect for CFLs. Light quality doesn't matter.
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Old 04-19-2008, 11:10 PM   #13
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Even Oprah has joined the "waste not, want not" world

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Old 04-20-2008, 06:44 AM   #14
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Goes with LBYM as others have pointed out. I think DW and I get better and better all the time, but we're far from perfect and we have no interest in judging others. She bought a hybrid, gets 37-38mpg average. Ride my bike to work (18 miles RT), but not as often as I should. We replaced all our lights with CFL's this year, they're not that much more expensive these days. We bought those permanent grocery bags this year, 6 in her trunk and 6 in mine so we never forget. We've done high/summer and low/winter thermostats for years. Very conscious of water usage. We put out far less trash each week than most of our neighbors. Hot water heater is set as low as possible. Never thought bottled water made sense, but stopped drinking it altogether about 18 months ago. Refuse bags at stores unless there's just so much we can't carry it. Have recycled for years. Set printers at work to default to double-sided. Our house is a lot smaller than we could afford, and the next one will be even smaller. The irony of course, we feel good about it all, not deprived at all...

Only failure so far, we joined a CSA last year to go local-organic. More than willing to pay a premium (double would have been acceptable), but it turned out to be orders of magnitude more expensive with lower quality fruits/veggies. And the lack of variety made it wasteful (ie, we can't eat 10 cucumbers for several weeks running, or 8 pounds of green beans a week, etc.) - you get a lot of a few things each week. So we didn't join again this year, but we feel bad about it.
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Old 04-20-2008, 07:33 AM   #15
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We installed a solar electric system when we built our house...it is a large system, but to avoid using more than it makes, we use CFLs in most fixtures as well as outside, we cool the house with a whole house fan in the early morning in summer when the ouside temp is in the mid to high 60s, then shut the windows and doors...the wrap around porch and heavy insulation keeps us cool until very late afternoon most days, when our neighbors are running their A/C from 9-10am. We use a tankless water heater. All of this is at our home in the US...but our carbon footprint is huge because we have to fly back and forth several times a year.

Plan to compost when we get back, hopefully get a Prius or other highly efficient car, will drive efficiently...but may have a toy or two eventually (want an RV). We heat with a woodstove in winter when we are there, fired from locally grown fruitwoods. Planning a large garden and some coldframes for winter gardening to grow much of our food, as organically as possible.

We like to be environmentally friendly, but don't mind splurging once in a while.

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Old 04-20-2008, 09:49 AM   #16
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What I wouldn't give for a summer temperature anywhere near 60. Here in hell Texas it's usually around 85-90 in the morning, headed for 100+.
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Old 04-20-2008, 11:06 AM   #17
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Little by little, over the last decade it's grown into a lifestyle.

When I was working I'd try to commute more miles by bicycle than by car, which became a struggle over a 25-mile round trip through 450 feet of altitude. I haven't had my bike on the road in months but our kid bicycles almost daily (weather permitting) to school.

Oahu is piloting a dedicated curbside recycling/green waste program and taking it island-wide. We recycle about 30 gallons biweekly of cardboard/glass/plastic. We put out nearly 200 gallons of green waste biweekly in three cans, which we eventually pick up as free mulch and spread everywhere to cut down on watering/weeding.

Our trash for a family of three is down to less than a 13-gallon bag a week, which could probably be better if we shredded/composted our paper waste. Our trash is mostly burned by HPOWER to generate about 10% of Oahu's electricity.

Every plastic bag in the house gets re-used at least once for food storage. We don't bother rinsing/drying them, just once or twice and then in the trash (which is then burned for electricity). If we need more bags (usually not a problem) then we pick them up from Wal-Mart's recycling bag drop.

We use paper grocery bags for months (the grocery store will bag our groceries in them). Some are several years old. The really gnarly ones are carried around for weeding and end up in the green waste for mulching. We'll eventually be out of the paper-bag business because just about every trade show hands out a plastic/canvas sack for your free stuff. Over the years we've built up a supply that will replace our paper bags.

Vermiposting, including Sheryl's book recommendation:
Amazon.com: Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up & Maintain a Worm Composting System: Mary Appelhof: Books
Over the last 15 months we've stepped up to the big can:
Waikiki Worm Co.: Can-O-Worms

Composting everything that the worms don't care for, like citrus rinds and papaya seeds.

We grow a surprising amount of our own fruit-- lemons, tangerines, mango, banana, and lychee. What we can't use we donate.

We use solar water heating and a 3300-watt grid-tied photovoltaic array. We're producing about 275 KWHr/month. Our electric bills have consistently been under $40/month for the last year and last month's was under $20. Among tax credits, used/blemished panels from eBay/Craigslist, and doing most of our own work we'll pay back the investment in 2010 and pay back the opportunity cost in 2020.

We've overhauled the house's electrical appliances. We're almost 100% CFLs and any lagging incandescents will go CFL when they burn out. (We're keeping an eye on LEDs for the next lighting renovation in 5-10 years.) Our fridge, dishwasher, and washing machine are EnergyStar rated. We rarely use the oven in favor of a convection microwave.

We have six ceiling fans (no A/C) and 19-year-old windows. We've replaced the living room ceiling fan with an expensive EnergyStar model that's already paid for itself and we'll probably do the master bedroom fans next. As we renovate we'll replace the sliding/casement windows with jalousie models that let more air through, and we'll tint the south/east ones to cut down the heat load.

We've added radiant foil insulation to our attics, some walls, and the back of our west-facing garage door-- huge improvement. Next we have to figure a way to insulate the house's south wall. When we replace the roof (renovations) we're going to add more radiant foil & foam insulation.

A student at last year's high-school science fair put wind-monitoring equipment up on the high school's roof (it's at the highest elevation in the neighborhood). She was able to analyze the data to show that we're not a good wind-power neighborhood.

We use Oxygenics shower heads-- best ones I've ever had and hypthetically non-clogging. Oxygenics®- Super Charge Your Shower It's expensive but I'm hoping its design will outlast two or three cheaper shower heads.

Boiling water is easier/faster with a solar water heater. We run a gallon of water in the kitchen sink (which is saved to water the plants) and then the 140-degree water goes on the stove for the final 72 degrees. If there was an easier way to cook pasta in the convection microwave then we'd do that too.

Spouse refuses to use a clothesline but our front-loading washer spins the clothes almost dry. We get away with a drying rack for a lot of the rest and only run the (electric) dryer 3-4 times a week. When our teen leaves the house that'll drop to 1-2 times/week.

We've been gradually cutting down on watering the yard. We've planted yellow oleanders on the back slope, which are crowding out the ugly haole koa weeds trees and gradually crowding out the grass. The oleanders don't need any irrigation and they seem to control erosion just as well as the grass. As the oleanders work their way uphill I've been shutting off sprinklers and we'll eventually xeriscape the nooks & crannies with a native drought-tolerant plant like `akulikuli (~pickleweed/iceplant). This should also cut down on a lot of pruning (especially bougainvillea & mango). I think it'll be fully established in about five years.

The upper part of the yard is getting a lot less grass, a lot more mulch, and a lot more ground cover. Spouse is getting tired of having to mow/weedwhack the grass two or three times a year...

Spouse refuses to buy a new LCD/plasma TV ("pearls before swine"). She gets at least five years out of a CRT model and replaces them from Craigslist.

We no longer buy a daily newspaper (although we get 3x/week free newspapers in the mail). We've hit the do not mail list pretty hard and only get a dozen pieces of mail a week.

Re-using the other side of printer paper. Most of the mail becomes scrap printer paper.

We've cut way down on snail mail with e-mail and electronic bill-paying. I re-use what envelopes we get in the mail and I haven't bought business-size envelopes since the 1980s.

Hawaii has a recycling law for aluminum/glass containers. We pay six cents extra at the store and can get a nickel for returning them, which pays our kid about $75/year. Most of that comes from picking up containers during walks or at social events.

We've enjoyed watching Ed Begley's show. His testosterone-poisoned competitive feud with Bill Nye (The Science Guy) is like watching two geeks in a face-slapping contest but the results are saving a lot of money.

In June we're going to buy a 2004-2007 Prius (off Craigslist). If it works out then I'm eventually going to try to boost the battery pack, hack the software to reduce the engine use, and convert it to a plug-in model. (The 100-mile range is perfect for island driving.) Of course any serious use would probably need another photovoltaic array and a second grid-tied inverter. Someday I'm hoping to erect a cheap house-shading PV pergola from these guys: Solar Suspension Systems

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What I wouldn't give for a summer temperature anywhere near 60. Here in hell Texas it's usually around 85-90 in the morning, headed for 100+.
Dude, we just survived the winter without freezing to death. I don't need to see the 60s again for at least eight months!
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Old 04-20-2008, 02:08 PM   #18
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Assuming that totally eliminating all store plastic and paper bags would help...

We find that using our own tote bags is much better than using the store's plastic bags. Our bags are easy to carry, and unpack easier than plastic. Most people just haven't tried it, or forget to put their bags in the car/take them into the store. Easy solution:

1. Outlaw plastic bags
2. All Stores sell reusable tote bags for $1 each

Wasting $5 a few times when you forget your bags will cure your forgetfulness. The three cent credit that you get at Safeway for using your own is meaningless.
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Old 04-20-2008, 08:20 PM   #19
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I'm just wondering how others are making an effort to monitor their carbon footprint or be less wasteful.
i didn't produce the pitter-patter of having any kids. anyone wanna buy some carbon credits?
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Old 04-20-2008, 08:31 PM   #20
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i didn't produce the pitter-patter of having any kids. anyone wanna buy some carbon credits?

Ha! I never thought about it that way. Good one.
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