December 17, 2007
August 08, 2007
Hey Mr. Green,
My whole family had embraced the concept of compact fluorescent bulbs (because they are so efficient), but a negative report from Fox News about their mercury hazards has us a little confused. Can you respond to our concern?
--Carl in Center Moriches, New York
Hey Carl,Thank you for
calling my attention to this hatchet job, which I never would have noticed because I try to avoid the right-wing contrivances that Fox peddles as fair and balanced. The people at Fox News are either brain-damaged from huffing mercury (they do seem to have a fondness for the highly toxic) or they have unscrupulously cherry-picked their facts. (In their sniping about the rules to replace incandescents with compact fluorescents [CFLs] "either adopted or being considered in California, Canada, the European Union and Australia," it's surprising that they overlooked the bulb-replacement programs in Cuba and Venezuela. That would've given them a fine opportunity to present compact fluorescent bulbs as part of a communist takeover.)
This classic example of enviro-bashing is full of flaws. First, the Fox writer trots out one report of one environmental bureaucrat's overreaction to a bulb breakage to make it sound like a busted CFL will turn a house into a Superfund site. The fact is, CFLs do contain mercury, but nowhere near enough to provoke panic or evacuation. If you break a bulb, you can do the cleanup yourself, without renting a moon suit or contacting authorities.
The EPA advises the following treatment:
Open a window and leave the room for at least 15 minutes (to let the mercury vaporize). Remove all materials (i.e., the pieces of the broken bulb) without using a vacuum cleaner. You don't want even a small amount of mercury lurking in your vacuum.
To do so:
1. Wear disposable rubber gloves, if available. (Never touch the bulb pieces with your bare hands.)
2. Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard (you don't want the stuff to get on your broom or dustpan either).
3. Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe. Sticky tape, such as duct tape (yet another use for the versatile material!), can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.
4. Place all cleanup materials in a plastic bag and seal it. If your state permits you to put used or broken CFLs in the garbage, seal the CFL in two plastic bags and put into the outside trash (if no other disposal or recycling options are available). If your state doesn't allow this, consult the local hazardous-waste authority for safe-recycling information. Some hardware stores will also accept old bulbs; to find a recycler near you, try Earth 911, or (800) CLEAN-UP, for a location near you.
5. Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.
6. The first time you vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag once done cleaning the area (or empty and wipe the canister) and put the bag and/or vacuum debris, as well as the cleaning materials, in two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor trash or protected outdoor location for normal disposal.
So much for that part of Fox's story, but I'm not quite done with calling them on their hokum. So read on, if you wish. The Fox piece chides environmentalists for contradicting themselves by promoting fluorescent lightbulbs while having "whipped up so much fear of mercury among the public that many local governments have even launched mercury thermometer exchange programs" and going "berserk at the thought of mercury being emitted from power plants."
Yes, as Fox notes, a fluorescent bulb contains around 5 milligrams of mercury (although some brands, such as Philips Lighting, claim their bulbs have as little as 1.23 to 3 milligrams). What Fox conveniently doesn't bother to mention is that a thermometer can contain 140 times as much mercury as a fluorescent lightbulb, making concern about these instruments eminently reasonable. Nor is it exactly going "berserk" to worry about mercury from power plants. Coal-burning
power plants emit 50 tons of the stuff every year, around 40 percent of the total
mercury emissions in the United States.
Since residential lighting accounts for about 5.7 percent of our total national electricity consumption--about half of which is generated by coal--creating power for home lighting releases about 1.4 tons of mercury every year. And since incandescent bulbs account for about 88 percent of all bulbs, they are responsible for emitting around 1.2 tons of mercury a year.
Let's imagine for a moment that all 4 billion residential lightbulbs have become CFLs, each one with an average life span of 5.5 years (the minimum for EPA-approved bulbs). That means we'd have to change about 727 million fluorescent bulbs a year. At 5 grams of mercury per bulb, that adds up to about 4 tons of mercury. Since fluorescents use only 25 percent as much energy as incandescents, installing them in all houses would decrease mercury emissions from power plants by 0.9 tons a year.
So even in the incredibly unlikely scenario that every single dead bulb were smashed, and its contents released into the environment, switching to CFLs would yield a maximum 3.1 tons of mercury each year--the 4 tons in them minus the 0.9 tons of emissions they offset. (If all bulbs used were the longer-lived models, with a life span of nine years, the net emission would drop to 1.9 tons annually even if not a single bulb got recycled. And as lower-mercury bulbs came online, the net release would drop even more.)
Fox simply ignores the fact that people don't have to throw away all those burned-out fluorescents in the first place. About 25 percent are already being recycled, just because the government requires businesses to do so. If consumers were better educated about compact fluorescents, they would recycle more of them, as they have learned to do with other materials. If we created an economic incentive--a stiff deposit on CFLs, for example--recycling rates would vastly increase, just as they have with cans and bottles in states where container deposits are required.
Of course, by focusing on mercury, Fox also fails to note that even the shorter-lived fluorescents would eliminate about 100 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants alone, and an equivalent amount of other pollutants. That's something to weigh heavily even against the heavy metal mercury.
This article concisely refutes some of the major issues against CFL's. I encourage you to continue educating yourself!
July 30, 2007
You are an Idealist
As an IDEALIST, you are distinctive for your integration of confidence, imagination, willingness to explore, and desire for competence over style.
You have a strong capacity to comprehend the inner workings of things, finding new ideas and innovative insights to feed your curious nature.
You are quite comfortable in the realm of abstract thought. You don't need a practical solution to every one of life's questions.
You are comfortable with the decisions you make in life. You don't need to second-guess yourself, or seek a lot of opinions before you make up your mind.
You enjoy the routines that you have created in your life, and don't feel the need to shake things up just for the sake of change.
You generally succeed at what you do, and others would describe you as successful.
It is important to you that products be efficient – looking good has to come second to working well.
You aren't the kind of person who needs to collect stylish items in an attempt to create an attractive environment – you know that what matters most is function, not style.
You're not afraid to let your emotions guide you, and you're generally considerate of others' feelings as well.
If you want to be different:
You take time to explore your own thoughts and ideas, but this experience would only be heightened if you opened yourself up even more to others' ideas.
Your faith in yourself and your lifestyle is well-founded, but the occasional foray into the unknown might broaden your perspective and help you see things differently.
How you relate to others:
You are Considerate
You trust others, care about them, and are slow to judge them, making you CONSIDERATE.
You value your close relationships very much, and are more likely to spend time in small, tightly-knit groups of friends than in large crowds.
You enjoy exploring the world through observation, quietly watching others.
Relating to others so well, and understanding their emotions, leads you to trust people in general, even though you're somewhat shy and reserved at times.
Your belief that people are generally well-intentioned contributes to your sympathy regarding their problems.
Although you may not vocalize it often, you have an awareness of how society affects individuals, and you understand complex causes of people's behavior.
You like to look at all sides of a situation before making a judgment, particularly when that situation involves important things in other people's lives.
Your close friends know you as a good listener.
If you want to be different:
Because other people would benefit immensely from your understanding and insight, you should try to be more outgoing in social situations, even when they make you uncomfortable. Others will want to hear what you have to say!
July 28, 2007
Then I tried again with a yarn that's made from hemp, cotton and modal. It's called Hempathy. I used the same pattern, but knitted it holding two strands (one of each color):
Then, I altered the pattern a little bit, starting it smaller, still using Hempathy and this is what I came up with:
If you know anyone who's expecting and would like me to knit a hat for them, just comment on here, and we'll work out the details. Prices will vary depending on the yarn! :) I can also do baby blankets, "car seat" blankets (smaller blankets for travel), and other various items.
July 07, 2007
Our electric bill went up last month - as expected, since our A/C has been on more and more since our summer is heating up so nicely. My hope is to get back to the point where we were turning it off at night and opening up the house since it was getting down into the 60's, and then closing the house up in the morning before the heat really kicked in. That seemed to keep the A/C from running constantly, and seemed to actually keep the house cooler at night. The problem really is the humidity, but we can deal with that as long as the air is moving.
On a completely alternate thought path - I woke up this morning with a very fresh feeling, and a very high determination to start minimizing the amount of stuff in our house (I know, I've said this before). We walked through a house in Wilmore this past week that we really liked, and it's really gotten me to think about how much we have, and how much we could stand to get rid of. Not too mention the hope that at some point (hopefully sooner than later) we'll be downsizing our living arrangement and will need to get rid of a lot of the clutter. Cross your fingers!
June 04, 2007
So - my resolve is being tested today. I haven't exactly been 100% compact friendly these past couple months - between travelling for work and needing a suitcase, to preparing for vacation and realizing that I have VERY few summer clothes. But I re-resolve myself. I will not go to B&BW today. I will not buy shower gels, and wall flowers, and body sprays - OH MY! :) Instead, I will concentrate on weeding those things out of my house and replacing them with good for me, all natural, REAL smelling alternatives!
Deep (all natural) breaths - this too shall pass....
May 25, 2007
05/17/2007 - 343 KWH
04/17/2007 - 513 KWH
03/17/2007 - 556 KWH
02/17/2007 - 752 KWH
01/17/2007 - 645 KWH
12/17/2006 - 518 KWH
11/17/2006 - 558 KWH
10/17/2006 - 414 KWH
09/17/2006 - 440 KWH
08/17/2006 - 918 KWH
07/17/2006 - 686 KWH
06/17/2006 - 443 KWH
05/17/2006 - 517 KWH
04/17/2006 - 586 KWH
03/17/2006 - 565 KWH
02/17/2006 - 647 KWH
01/17/2006 - 751 KWH
12/17/2005 - 539 KWH
Now - I'm hoping this trend will continue. We've switched out 90% of our lights to CFLs. I'm line drying as much of our laundry as I can without the DH protesting, and the stuff I can't line dry I'm combining into one load, using dryer balls instead of dryer sheets, and have lowered the temp from high to medium. Suprisingly the drying time is about the same, even at a lower heat level.
Obviously we haven't switched the air on yet, and we've had the fans running at night, so next month may see a jump again- but I was super excited to see this decrease!
May 24, 2007
The rub with all this is that I’m really torn between getting something like a Prius – well known for it’s mileage, etc. – and a Saturn hybrid. The indecision lies in the whole mess of not wanting our car payment to go up. If we go with a GM or Ford hybrid we’ll get some kind of discount because of where Tom works. Which is awesome – add that to the tax credit for buying a hybrid, and it sounds great. Here’s where it gets sticky – the Saturn hybrid I like is an SUV. Having a hybrid SUV seems like an oxymoron. Especially when the whole premise behind getting a hybrid is to get better mileage, but having the hybrid Vue keeps me at about the mileage we have now with the Ion.
Which brings me right back to being interested in the Prius because it has SUCH high gas mileage… oh the indecision.
I’m trying to set an appointment for Friday to talk with someone at Saturn. We’ll see how that goes.
March 20, 2007
February 21, 2007
Ok - so I haven't been exactly perfect Compact wise. Here's the run down of purchases this year:
- 2 new litter boxes (chronicled before)
- 2 new cat food containers (see above)
- Refurbished Cuisinart rice cooker
- Used Braun Electric Water Kettle (which I'm in love with by the way!)
- 1 New pair Lane Bryant jeans (I went down a size!!)
- Pre-Ordered new Lindsey Davis book to be released in May 2007
- Pre-Ordered new Harry Potter book to be released this summer
- Arm band for my iPod shuffle - it was on clearance since they're not making
the style I have anymore
- New Maxtor 160gb external hard drive to back up our computer (We've
been considering this purchase for a long time)
So all in all - I think we're doing ok....not great....but ok. I am more committed to buckling down and not buying anything else, especially seeing as it's almost March and I'm proving more and more to myself that there are very few things I need. Now if we can only stop eating out so much!!!
I'm not sure how long this link will work, but here's the link to the article:
Additionally - I just read that Ireland is increasing it's tax on plastic bags from 15 euro cents to 22 euro cents. The tax is being raised in an effort to stem the rising apathy and continue it's success as a litter deterrent. The article is here:
Now - if only the mass American population would grab on to these ideas and run with them!!!
January 24, 2007
It's unfortunate that our culture has gotten to the point where dispensable clothing is something that we are proud of, excited about, and willing to buy into. Personally, I know for a fact that I have clothes that are as old as or older than my little sister (she's 14). I'm not particularly rough on clothing (minus my never ending battle to get food into my mouth and not on my shirt), but I would like to think that purchases I make are going to be sound decisions, eco-friendly, and long lasting. That is, when/if I start purchasing new again....
Oh yea - Compact update - still haven't bought anything. But going to the grocery store has turned into quite the exciting event!
January 13, 2007
Each year the world consumes approximately 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags, over 380 billion of which are consumed annually here in the US (http://www.reusuablebags.com/facts.php ). While the convenience level is high, the detrimental rate at which these bags are consumed poses a big problem environmentally.
California state assemblyman Lloyd Levine has recently introduced a bill that was signed in to law requiring supermarkets and large stores to implement not only a recycling/take-back program, but to launch an educational campaign about the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling. Additionally, stores are to offer sturdy reusable bags (for sale) to help curb this ever growing trend. The text of the bill can be found at: http://www.legislature.ca.gov/cgi-bin/waisgate?WAISdocID=70127420860+1+0+0&WAISaction=retrieve.
In light of the new political atmosphere that has enveloped Ohio, I wanted to encourage you, my representatives, to research this law that has been passed in California. Please look at the problematic usage of plastic bags, the over abundance of garbage streaming into our already over-taxed landfills, and the severe lack of community recycling programs in Ohio. Curbside recycling programs are one of the most effective tools to help consumers curb the amount of waste their families are producing.
Additionally - another sensible approach to this problem is to model a tax (I know, a dirty word), after Ireland's extremely successful PlasTax. In cooperation with retailers, the Irish government introduced PlasTax last year that has slashed consumption over 90% and raised $9.6 million for environmental and waste management projects. Another benefit is that stores save money on bag purchases and improve their public image. For example, Superquinn, one of the largest Irish grocery chains, says the number of bags it distributes for free has dropped by 97.5%
Thank you for your time and your consideration of this issue. I realize it may seem trivial in the grand scheme of Government today, but if we have no planet to live on, there's nothing to govern.
January 08, 2007
There's not much I can do about our house right now - other than continue to make energy efficient changes. BTW - if every household replaced one regular light bulb with a CFL bulb, it would eliminate 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gases, the same as taking 7.5 million cars off the road! (Information from- http://simplereduce.blogspot.com/2007/01/light-bulbs-and-more.html) So I'm going to take steps to replace our regular bulbs with CFL bulbs, and am considering adding insulation to our attic.
We can, however, do a lot about the Goods/Services, and particularly food. I want to try and reduce the amount of meat we eat to one meal a week, and limit the amount of eggs/dairy we consume as well. I never realized how much energy, etc. go in to raising animals in a commercial manner. I'm sure the reading I've done is just the tip of the ice berg as far as this is concerned, but it's enough to make me want to make some changes in our food choices. I also want to pay closer attention to how much we're paying for produce - how much can a farmer really be making off those oranges that are 8 for $1.00?? Especially considering they've been trucked in from Florida - or worse - California! But that's more research for another day.
**Compact update - I passed up purchasing a pair of my favorite jeans that were on sale for cheaper than I can get them on my discount from my part-time job. You know I'm serious about something when I can pass up that kind of bargain! On a spending note - I did purchase 2 containers for our cats food, and 2 new litter boxes. The old ones will be cleaned and either recycled, or donated to a shelter.
January 06, 2007
Ok - I'm borrowing from my friends post about her Compact. We're hoping to support each other, so I'm going to use her format to help me outline my rules.
My goals in doing my Compact will be to:
- Eliminate unnecessary purchases with the goals of saving money, reducing clutter, and being satisfied with what I already have. (Thanks RW for the perfect wording)
- Reduce (or eliminate) the amount of new goods I consume, thus reducing the amount of negative impact on the world in terms of the environment as well as not contributing to companies that use sweatshop labor to make millions (or billions). (Thanks again RW!)
- Learn patience by waiting to see if I truly need an item by taking the time to look for a used item first.
- To enrich my life with something other than buying things. I tend to shop out of emotional strife, boredom or frustration, so I hope to learn to deal with these things in a healthier fashion.
- Begin to utilize "homemade" cleaning products, and substitute all cleaning/household products with earth-friendly products.
My guidelines for my Compact will be:
- Don't buy stuff - Borrow, barter, trade, beg, etc. for things :o)
- If there is something that needs to be purchased, I will first buy a used, local, sustainable, "green," or fair-trade item.
- Eating out will be limited, and not a regular occurrence (which ought to help with the weight loss goals too!).
- Food and health-related items.
- Books and other necessary items for the DH's school
- Items for a friends wedding that I'm going to be in (will minimize the damage as much as possible!)
- Pictures - I'm going to *finally* put together our wedding album, and our Tahoe scrapbook and will need to order prints for those.
- Items that are necessary for the house. **Now, I realize that this could be a VERY slippery slope to be on, but the point of this exception is that in the midst of this Compact we may find ourselves in a position to try and sell our house (again), which means repairs, etc. will need to be made. I will attempt to do this within the "confines" of the Compact, but there will most likely be purchases that need to be made. Additionally, organization, etc. has been a great point of stress for myself and my DH, so if something needs to be purchased to allow us to get more organized, the guidelines above will be followed, but if something has to be purchased it will be.
The guidelines and goals section of this are flexible - if there are more constraints or more reasons to do this, I will add them as appropriate. I do not want to add to any of the exceptions though. There is not a thing in this world that I am truly in want or in need of, and there is no reason to keep spending, spending, spending just for the fun of it.
I have been contemplating this for quite some time and feel fully capable of doing this. My every hope is that within this year, I will learn more about myself, more about this world, and more about the impact I have on it. I truly want to do this, not as a statement, but as a study. I want to use the "extra time" to do the things I've been saying I'm going to do and don't, to be with the people I need to spend time with, and to alter my ecological foot print.
I'm 6 days in, and so far so good.
January 04, 2007
January 02, 2007
1 - Eat More Vegetables - This is more than just the commitment to eating my 5-9 recommended servings a day. This is about substituting vegetables for meat in my meals. I'm not going to commit to becoming a vegetarian. I am, however, going to modify my eating and cooking habits to allow for a greater variety of vegetation in our diets, and to (hopefully) limit the amount of meats we eat to 1-2 meals per week. Along with this goes my intense passion for purchasing organic, locally grown, in season produce, and watching (carefully) all other products we purchse.
2 - Compact- I've been thinking about it and talking about it, and I'm going to have a stab at it. I am committing to not purchasing anything new, within reason, for a year. Things like socks and underwear don't count - but the binge bra-buying sprees are over! :o) I am going to do everything within my power to borrow, barter or buy used whenever we need something. So those of you who are close enough to me to get birthday presents, etc. – get ready for gift cards, or homemade things! There truly is not one single thing I can think of that I need. So for a year, I’m going to live with what I have, be thankful for it’s abundance, oh, and get rid of everything that is just laying around collecting dust!
3 – Loose Weight (finally!) - The plan is in place, the motivation is lined up, and now all that’s left to do is apply all the things that I’ve known for so long and actually get this body in shape! I realized the other day that I’m past the weight I swore I’d never get to, a good friend is getting married in Oct. and wants us to wear strapless dresses (maybe), and I want to have a healthy and happy pregnancy some day - all of these motivators are the driving force. Drinking more water, exercising and eating appropriately are wrapped up in this one. So long apathy!
4 – Off With Debts Head - We have one credit card left right now with a balance. I commit to having that card paid off by July of this year. It’s going to be a stretch to get that done, and it’s a lot of money a month to do it, but between not eating out as much and not buying anything unnecessary (see #2), it should be doable. Or at least we’ll be able to get very close to paying it off. The next step will be doubling up payments for one of the cars and starting to pay back the DH’s parents.
5 - 26 out of 24 hours – I have stepped down the amount of time that I’m going to be working my part time job. With my “extra” time – I want to reconnect with my DH, work on reading my Bible daily (as well as reading the whole thing this year), finish reading the Lindsey Davis Falco series (I’ve only been working on this since high school), and clean something in our house daily (a room, a load of laundry, you get the idea…).
Ok – so this isn’t quite as in depth as I’d hoped, but it’s the best I can do on my lunch hour at work! :o)