Posts tagged ‘eco’

Solar Panels Are Up and Coming

I follow grist.org on twitter, and last week they kept mentioning this article: “Why you’ll soon have solar panels, in 3 easy graphs.”  So I finally decided to see what all the hype was about.  The graphs are very easy to understand and quite convincing!  If you don’t feel like clicking over yourself, they show:

  1. prices are falling
  2. production is rising
  3. solar will be cheaper than coal in less than 6 years, but a new coal plant takes 6-8 years to start generating electricity

 

Three cheers for solar!  Now if we could just get this information out to everyone so they can get to work on this and stop pretending clean coal exists.
If I had a house I’d be researching solar panels right away, but sadly I’m still renting so I just focus on using less electricity (which is certainly easier to do in a smaller space, I paid $11 for my 100% renewable electricity last month!).  Have you looked into solar panels?  When is the tipping point for you in terms of affordability?  If you’re qualms have more to do with aesthetics, Grist has another article on the pretty colors solar panels now come in, so no excuses there!

 

June 16, 2011 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Activism: Knit/Crochet in Public

Around here Thursdays are devoted to green tips.  Usually this takes the form of a discussion on using fewer chemicals, greenwashing, modes of transportation, etc.  This week we’re going to talk about activism.  Saturday (June 11) is knit/crochet in public day.  At first glance this event sounds neither green nor activist, surely it’s just an excuse to take your crafting outside and maybe meet up with fellow crafters.  But the intention of the day is to increase awareness and educate some bystanders that crafters are alive and well.  Hopefully this will inspire others to create something themselves that they could have purchased mass produced, or to buy handmade.

Activism really can be as simple as modeling something in public.  Last week I started losing my voice in class, so I grabbed my water.  I have one of these:

Vapu Anti-Bottle

My students asked a couple questions, I shared about my choices (easy to carry, light weight, reusable) and we moved on.  Yesterday one of my students arrived to class and told me all about how she and her friend had been at the store and her friend bought one of the bottles!  They showed it off to their friends (she even got the same color as I have) and talked about how it was reusable, BPA-free (I hadn’t mentioned that fact) and totally worth the $10 she spent on it.  It was a great experience to see the immediate results of a simple action.  And I thought all I was teaching them was geometry!

So, if you knit or crochet, get outside this weekend and share your projects.  If not, take a walk around town and see if you can find anyone knitting or crocheting in public!  (If you want to make the scavenger hunt a bit easier, check out this website of meet ups.)  I’d love to hear what you find!

June 9, 2011 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Cleaning with Baking Soda

Back at the beginning of May I saw a blog post about a non-toxic way to clean stainless steel pans, but I didn’t get a chance to try it until the other day.  I had a pan full of stuck on onion and perogies, so I tossed in the salt, baking soda and foil, covered it with boiling water and proceded to forget about the mess for a while.  When I returned to the kitchen everything looked about the same as when I started, but when I applied my scraper (i.e. broken spatula upcycled to scraper status) everything came right off.  I wasn’t convinced that this result was any different than just regular soaking though.  So to continue the experiment I tried the concoction again with a pan that had burnt on oil around the edges (sometime I pretend I have cast iron and call that seasoning… I confess doing dishes is one of my least favorite chores).  This time, nothing happened and scraping did nothing.  I tried scraping with the foil which worked while there was some baking soda still clumped on the top of the foil.  Then I gave up and pulled out my trusty copper scrubby.  I know that the author of the post which inspired all of this said that she doesn’t like her copper scrubby, but mine is great.  My pans all came from my grandmother (along with the majority of my kitchen) and they’ve survived this long so I think they can handle some scraping from the copper.  All in all, I wasn’t particularly impressed with this method of cleaning and will stick with my soaking and scraping.

After cleaning the pans though, I approached my stove- the surface is easy to get clean, but the plastic panel with all the buttons/display doesn’t wipe off so easily.  There was some grease splatter (quite possibly from those same onions and perogies) that just wouldn’t wipe off with a dishcloth and soap.  Copper scrubby isn’t an option on the plastic and my other backup – bar keeper’s friend – also scratches plastic.  In the back of my closet I have some chemical cleaners that I bought before I was thinking about using non-toxic ingredients.  I pulled out the fantastic, sprayed it on and wiped – nothing happened!  I sprayed it directly on the cloth and scrubbed a bit, still nothing.  So, since I’ve heard so much about baking soda I thought I’d give it another chance.  I sprinkled a bit on my dishcloth, wiped and magically the grease is gone!  Maybe there is something to this baking soda hype.  In fact, thinking back to the pots, the best solution was scrubbing with that bit of baking soda left over.

In conclusion, baking soda works (better than the chemical cleaner specific for this purpose!) but there’s no need to do the fancy concoction with foil.

June 2, 2011 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

May is Bike Month!

Last Friday (May 20) was Bike to Work Day.  The high school I work at rewarded students who biked or walked to school (and arrived on time!) with breakfast.  Since Friday was just like every other day last week, it was raining and generally icky out, so we celebrated again on Monday!

Grist.org shares a great video about biking to work.

I have walked to work every day this school year except for a few times when I had to drive somewhere during or after school and once when I was running late and wasn’t up to facing the ice rink the sidewalks had become.  Even when I plan to go out with co-workers at the end of the day I get a ride from someone else and usually we all pile into one car.  Back in September, my students were surprised to see me walking, my parents didn’t think I’d make it through the winter (and we had a doozy of a snow season this year!) and co-workers felt badly when they drove past.  But I just keep telling everyone- I like walking, it wakes me up and I get to actually experience the outdoors for a few moments.  I pay attention to the weather now, but even if it suddenly changes I have galoshes and a poncho stashed in the closet so I’m prepared for anything.

When I want to go somewhere a little bit further away I’d love to tell you that I bike there, but since moving to Salem that’s only happened once.  I hope that once allergy season ends I’ll start taking short rides and hopefully by the end of the summer I’ll be biking all around town!

The one time I did bike somewhere was to the train.  I love taking the train!  For the three summers that I worked on my masters at BU I took the train every day.  I had to leave 2 hours before lecture began, but I would have spent all that time in traffic if I’d been driving and the train is so much better.  I enjoy crocheting on the train- I feel doubly productive traveling and creating at once, plus people often ask about what I’m making.  My favorite moment remains the day that a woman asked if she could watch me, then sat mesmerized by the hook and yarn dancing together.

What’s your favorite mode of transportation?

May 26, 2011 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Hemp

I’m a little bit late, but I’m celebrating the 2nd Annual Hemp History Week (it was May 2nd-8th). I was one of those young girls fascinated with friendship bracelets, lanyard/gimp/boondoggle (depending on location? or just who taught you?) and macrame.  So hemp was something I used to make necklaces/bracelets.  I liked the natural color better than the dyed hemp because it was softer and easier to work with (which I’m sure has a lot more to do with how the hemp was processed, not the dyeing). As with most crafts I picked up, the hemp, beads and clasps were all packed away in a storage bin that lived under my bed.  I didn’t think about hemp much at all, except on the occasion that someone would mention hemp clothing as ec0-friendly or how silly it was that the FDA couldn’t tell the difference between hemp and marijuana so growing it is banned in the US. Then a few weeks ago I was browsing my favorite online yarn shop which specializes in eco-friendly yarn.  They had hemp yarn and so I figured I should try it out (you should too – it’s on sale for the month of May!).  It’s a bit stiffer than other yarns, but not nearly as bad as that ‘dyed stuff’ I used as a kid.  I decided it would make a nice sturdy bowl/basket and set to work.

        

When I finished the basket I had some yarn left over, and decided to see how rusty my macrame skills were.  I dug into that bin under my bed, and there was my set of hemp, beads and clasps.  I don’t know if it makes me really organized or a pack rat, but either way I had everything I needed and knew exactly where it was 2 moves later!  Turns out my macrame skills come back as easily as a riding a bike does.

    

For more information about hemp check out this fact list.  I had no idea that Turkey has grown hemp for 2,800 years for rope, caulking, birdseed, paper and fuel!

May 19, 2011 at 12:01 am Leave a comment

Rewarding Good Behavior

When I’m not crafting I work as a teacher, so I understand the need to reward good behavior. Even my high schoolers love getting gold stars on A papers, respond well to bribery (if you finish your work we can watch that hilarious video about the lizard walking on water) and nearly always do work because I’m grading it and they want to pass (no matter how interesting the lesson it’s still more work/thinking than napping!). This isn’t isolated to high schoolers: I let myself watch ridiculous television as long as I’m crocheting while I watch, I don’t get to go home until my classroom is organized and I can’t check twitter/facebook until I’ve finished grading this stack of papers. Rewards motivate us to do the things we know we should do anyway. However, I’m concerned about some of the reward systems cropping up for environmentalists.

Today I received an email recommending www.recyclebank.com. They start off well enough giving you points for recycling at home and for learning about the real meaning behind different labels. But then you look further and find that you can earn points for recycling ziploc bags, sponsored by ziploc. Don’t we want to re-use the ziplocs we have, followed by not buying more? You get points for every 50 recycled, which seems to encourage you to use them up faster. That’s good for ziploc, but not for the environment.

Last year I joined a facebook group with the tagline: ‘serving up the hottest climate news’ so ever so boldly I assumed they would be a ‘green’ organization. In 4 months I won: a t-shirt, a license plate frame and a bookmark. Why is a group whose sole purpose is reporting on the environment distributing stuff all over the country? (or maybe even world?) I tried to explain this concern to customer service and suggested that instead of sending me more ‘stuff’ they could just donate the money they would have spent to an organization dedicated to combatting climate change.

The response:
“Thanks for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, the t-shirts, license frames, and bookmarks were preordered in bulk, so we can’t recoup the cost. However, I will try to find another user who’s interested in them! Thanks for being committed to reducing your stuff.”

At least she appreciated my efforts, but that wasn’t really the point.

Have you found a good site for environmentalists to track their efforts and get encouragement without the result being more waste? I’m sure they exist but I haven’t found any yet since they’re buried under all the greenwashing!

May 12, 2011 at 4:34 pm Leave a comment


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