Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Recycling at a Preschool Concert

My younger son Punky recently sang at his preschool's Thanksgiving concert--the theme was "diversity", of course--and afterwards, I was recruited as a food server at the fund-raising luncheon. Hardly anyone showed up during the latter part of my shift, so I went into the back and began recycling the used aluminum serving trays that were left over from the previous shifts.

From my experience last year, I knew that many of the trays would not get recycled and those that did would still be very dirty and not ready for the recycle bin.

Sure enough, the serving staff staff had stuffed about 25 used aluminum trays into a so-called recycle bag, and just as many into garbage cans in the serving area. Most of them were covered with various sauces, grease or crumbs. I took them out of the bag and garbage cans and began hand-washing them in the school's kitchen. It took about 30 minutes to clean them all. Afterwards, I piled them neatly into a 2-foot stack and took them home to be recycled. For cash, of course.

It's all about the money! Ten dollars and fifty-five cents, to be exact.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Bottle of Shampoo

Readers of the pseudo-No Impact Man Blog love to brag that they use things like baking powder or mint leaves to wash their hair. Not me. I use Head & Shoulders because I've got dandruff.

But I will brag about the fact that it took me six (6) years to use a single bottle (super-size) of shampoo. During the last 2-3 months, I extended my use of the nearly-empty shampoo by adding water to the bottle in order to dissolve the shampoo sludge at the bottom. Now that's Low Impact, Man!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thirty Years of Warmer Temperatures Go Poof

Alternate title: Global Warming Washes Out

by Lorne Gunter

In early September, I began noticing a string of news stories about scientists rejecting the orthodoxy on global warming. Actually, it was more like a string of guest columns and long letters to the editor since it is hard for skeptical scientists to get published in the cabal of climate journals now controlled by the Great Sanhedrin of the environmental movement.

Still, the number of climate change skeptics is growing rapidly. Because a funny thing is happening to global temperatures -- they're going down, not up.

On the same day (Sept. 5) that areas of southern Brazil were recording one of their latest winter snowfalls ever and entering what turned out to be their coldest September in a century, Brazilian meteorologist Eugenio Hackbart explained that extreme cold or snowfall events in his country have always been tied to "a negative PDO" or Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Positive PDOs -- El Ninos -- produce above-average temperatures in South America while negative ones -- La Ninas -- produce below average ones.

Dr. Hackbart also pointed out that periods of solar inactivity known as "solar minimums" magnify cold spells on his continent. So, given that August was the first month since 1913 in which no sunspot activity was recorded -- none -- and during which solar winds were at a 50-year low, he was not surprised that Brazilians were suffering (for them) a brutal cold snap. "This is no coincidence," he said as he scoffed at the notion that manmade carbon emissions had more impact than the sun and oceans on global climate.

Also in September, American Craig Loehle, a scientist who conducts computer modelling on global climate change, confirmed his earlier findings that the so-called Medieval Warm Period (MWP) of about 1,000 years ago did in fact exist and was even warmer than 20th-century temperatures.

Prior to the past decade of climate hysteria and Kyoto hype, the MWP was a given in the scientific community. Several hundred studies of tree rings, lake and ocean floor sediment, ice cores and early written records of weather -- even harvest totals and censuses --confirmed that the period from 800 AD to 1300 AD was unusually warm, particularly in Northern Europe.
But in order to prove the climate scaremongers' claim that 20th-century warming had been dangerous and unprecedented -- a result of human, not natural factors -- the MWP had to be made to disappear. So studies such as Michael Mann's "hockey stick," in which there is no MWP and global temperatures rise gradually until they jump up in the industrial age, have been adopted by the UN as proof that recent climate change necessitates a reordering of human economies and societies.

Dr. Loehle's work helps end this deception.

Don Easterbrook, a geologist at Western Washington University, says, "It's practically a slam dunk that we are in for about 30 years of global cooling," as the sun enters a particularly inactive phase. His examination of warming and cooling trends over the past four centuries shows an "almost exact correlation" between climate fluctuations and solar energy received on Earth, while showing almost "no correlation at all with CO2."

An analytical chemist who works in spectroscopy and atmospheric sensing, Michael J. Myers of Hilton Head, S. C., declared, "Man-made global warming is junk science," explaining that worldwide manmade CO2 emission each year "equals about 0.0168% of the atmosphere's CO2 concentration ... This results in a 0.00064% increase in the absorption of the sun's radiation. This is an insignificantly small number."

Other international scientists have called the manmade warming theory a "hoax," a "fraud" and simply "not credible."

While not stooping to such name-calling, weather-satellite scientists David Douglass of the University of Rochester and John Christy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville nonetheless dealt the True Believers a devastating blow last month.

For nearly 30 years, Professor Christy has been in charge of NASA's eight weather satellites that take more than 300,000 temperature readings daily around the globe. In a paper co-written with Dr. Douglass, he concludes that while manmade emissions may be having a slight impact, "variations in global temperatures since 1978 ... cannot be attributed to carbon dioxide."

Moreover, while the chart below was not produced by Douglass and Christy, it was produced using their data and it clearly shows that in the past four years -- the period corresponding to reduced solar activity -- all of the rise in global temperatures since 1979 has disappeared.
It may be that more global warming doubters are surfacing because there just isn't any global warming.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Dave Chameides Gets It

This guy gets it:

For the past 9 months, Dave Chameides has been filling his basement with every single thing he would ordinarily recycle or toss into the trash. For his scientific/social experiment Chameides keeps a running tally of his waste and documents it for all the world to see courtesy of his blog.

The steps he takes to conserve are practical measures that save money, he noted. Coffee shops often give him a discount for using his own cup, for instance, and never buying bottled water saves him an estimated $600 a year. Another thing he’s eliminated from his waste stream is single-use plastic bags, which are clogging landfills and contaminating the ocean and its marine life.
Yes, Dave. It's all about saving money! Check it out: http://365daysoftrash.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Water Usage Report: July-August 2008

We just received our water bill for the two-month period ending in August 2008, and I am pleased to announce that we have reduced our water usage by 25% versus the prior year. Due to a drought, the local water utility (EBMUD) had imposed voluntary water restrictions whose primary effect would be to impose heavy fines on households not cutting back on their water usage by at least 20%.

For the record, our water usage during the period went from 400 gallons per day, down to 300. We achieved this in the following manner:

1) I reduced the watering of our lawn from 8 minutes down to 6 minutes per day, and completely eliminated watering the left-hand side of our backyard.

2) I only flush the toilet after Russell, Punky and I all pee in sequence.

3) I run the dishwasher only once a month.

4) I bathe only every other day (yeah, I know its gross). This now applies to everyone in our family.

5) Jenny no longer leaves the faucet running when she brushes her teeth.

6) I no longer wash the cars.

My thanks to everyone in our household for their cooperation.

I Bought A "New" TV (for $20)

We've been a one TV family since the beginning. Our TV is a 20-inch Mitsubishi that I bought back in 1989. I still have the original remote control, although the only numbers that still work are 0, 1, 4, 7 and 9. Luckily, the volume and channel up/down buttons still work.

On weeknights, Jenny can usually be found in the living room watching her favorite Chinese and Korean soap operas. With only one TV, this leaves Russell and Punky with the option of watching their favorite videos on either my computer or on the portable DVD player with a 7-inch screen. I'm in no mood to see the Brewster Boys break another computer or ruin their eyes staring at a 7-inch screen, so I broke down this weekend and bought a used 13-inch Panasonic TV/VCR combo.

Originally, I went to WalMart to see what they had on sale, and the lowest priced TV they offered was $250, an LCD model. They no longer sell CRT-type TVs. So I went shopping on Craigslist and found a nice used model for sale. Now, I need to buy a used Nintendo 64 and Pokemon Stadium game for the boys.

Cross-posted at my "Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio" blog.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Recycling Bags Is Tough

I'm posting some thoughts on recycling bags because the same thing happens to us every week. Namely, we go shoppng and either forget to bring bags or do not have enough on hand. It is difficult to remember to bring shopping bags with us every time we go out shopping, especially when we take the kids out. I estimate that we bring enough bags with us about 80% of the time we go shopping.

As a result of our forgetfulness, we still acquire some 3-4 plastic bags every week. Although I use about 1 plastic bag a week for garbage, this means we have a net accumulation of about 100-150 plastic bags per year. Not good.

My favorite strategy to combat this bag shortage is to store a set of bags in each car at all times. Typically, this means checking once every few weeks to see that the bag supply in the car is ample. But the payoff is two-fold:

1) I get 3 to 10 cents off at the supermarket for every bag I recycle

2) Our house does not drown in shopping bags

Thursday, July 3, 2008

How To Save $4.00

In the refrigerator at work, I found about 100 single serving packets of butter (about 500 grams) that are still fresh. These are leftovers from meetings over the past 6 months. I'm going to bring them home and use them. Otherwise, they would probably sit here for months unused.

Progress on Water and Gas Consumption

We just received our water and gas bills. For the 2 month period ending in June, we reduced our water consumption by 8% over last year. Good, but not great. Our water company has targeted a 20% reduction for every single family. We've cut back by quite a but, so I am actually suspicious that we may have a water leak somewhere. When we renovate our bathroom, I'll have the plumber check it out.

As for our gas bill, we cut it by 10%--down to $27 for the last month. Again, not bad, but I want to save even more money. It's all about saving money!

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Importance of Being Earnest

When we rented a car from the Oakland Airport Hertz a couple of weeks ago, I faced the dilemna of dropping off the car and getting home without having Jenny follow me and then driving me home. I wanted to be able to let Jenny stay at home with the kids while minimizing the time and cost of a trip home. A taxi ride home from Oakland Airport, for instance, would have set me back around $20 plus tip.

I decided to take only mass transit to get home. Here is what transpired (times are approximate):

0) Drop off Rental Car - 8:30PM
1) Rental Shuttle to Airport Terminal - 8:40PM (free)
2) AIR BART Bus to Coliseum Bart Station - 9:00PM ($3)
3) BART from Coliseum to Fruitvale Station - 9:15PM ($1.50)
4) AC Transit Bus from Fruitvale to High Street - 9:30PM ($1.75)
5) Walk home - 9:35PM (free)

Thus, I was able to get home using mass transit at a cost of only $6.25 in a little over an hour without havng Jenny or a taxi drive me home.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Al Gore Uses 100 Times More Electricity Than Me

According to the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (a conservative think-tank), Al Gore's average household electric bill is 17,768 KWH per month at an annual cost of $16,533. To add insult to injury, the Gore household's electric usage actually increased by 10% after they "went green". The details:

In the year since Al Gore took steps to make his home more energy-efficient, the former Vice President’s home energy use surged more than 10%, according to the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.

“A man’s commitment to his beliefs is best measured by what he does behind the closed doors of his own home,” said Drew Johnson, President of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. “Al Gore is a hypocrite and a fraud when it comes to his commitment to the environment, judging by his home energy consumption.”

In the past year, Gore’s home burned through 213,210 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, enough to power 232 average American households for a month. In February 2007, An Inconvenient Truth, a film based on a climate change speech developed by Gore, won an Academy Award for best documentary feature. The next day, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research uncovered that Gore’s Nashville home guzzled 20 times more electricity than the average American household.

After the Tennessee Center for Policy Research exposed Gore’s massive home energy use, the former Vice President scurried to make his home more energy-efficient. Despite adding solar panels, installing a geothermal system, replacing existing light bulbs with more efficient models, and overhauling the home’s windows and ductwork, Gore now consumes more electricity than before the “green” overhaul.

Since taking steps to make his home more environmentally-friendly last June, Gore devours an average of 17,768 kWh per month –1,638 kWh more energy per month than before the renovations – at a cost of $16,533. By comparison, the average American household consumes 11,040 kWh in an entire year, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Al Gore is quite the energy hog. His Tennessee home uses at least 100 times more electricity than my modest home. Now that's a hypocrite!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My Electric Bill is $17.18, What's Yours?

I am pleased to announce that our electric bill has gone below $20 last month. Not including taxes, it is barely over $13. It would appear that we are well on the way towards a $10 monthly electric bill, which we've been able to reach the past 3 years during the summer months. All this was accomplished without the use of CFC light bulbs or purchases of new appliances. Just good 'ol fashioned frugality.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Old Book and Toy Giveaway

My kids don't have a lot of toys and books--everything they've had the past 5 years fits into 4 or 5 legal-size file boxes--but I've been struggling to find a good place to send them. I've thought about giving then to the Salvation Army, but at their local thrift store, I noticed that they don't sell too many of these items. And I haven't really gotten into the Alameda Freecycle swing of things.

Luckily, Russell and Punky's some-time baby-sitter is starting up her own daycare business. So she recently asked us to donate our old toys and books to her for the kids to play with. I'm really happy that these toys and books--many of which are 2nd and 3rd generation hand-me-downs--will be put to good use. Our baby-sitter is a good person and I hope that her business succeeds. Let me know if you need a good daycare provider with a lot of good books and educational toys (like puzzles and building sets).

Monday, June 2, 2008

Saving Money on Our Electric and Natural Gas Bills

I'm pleased to announce that our electricity and natural gas bills have arrived and that we're on target to reducing our energy bill to about $50 a month for combined usage. The electric bill is about $20, which I am hoping to reduce down to $10 during the summer months. The natural gas bill is much harder to cut back because it's mostly based on our use of the stove to cook our meals. It runs us about $1 a day. I suppose that if we switched to eating salads more often, that would save us on our natural gas bill, so I'll make that suggestion to Jenny.

For our electric bill, we have not converted to the government-mandated (expensive and mercury-laden) CFC light bulbs. Instead, I've stocked up on the older, American-made incandescent light bulbs at Wal-Mart, where they sell for less than 50 cents a bulb--about one-fifth the cost of the CFC bulbs that are all made in China. I'm going to continue regular purchases of the older bulbs until I get around a 5-7 year supply of them. Hopefully, Congress will come to its senses and reverse the ban on these light bulbs.

In order to save money, we 've continued to simplify our lifestyle and not purchase expensive, energy-intensive appliances such as big-screen TVs and surround-sound systems. Recently, I donated a brand-new Krups coffee maker--still in its original box, unopened--to the Salvation Army. Previously, I donated a brand-new electric hot water heater (also in an unopened box) that we received as a wedding present to Goodwill Industries.

On a related note, whenever we go over to friends' and family's houses, I've noticed that everyone has those large, newfangled rice cookers with built-in handles. We continue to use the original 4-cup Panasonic rice cooker that I bought 20 years ago when I went to graduate school. It still works perfectly. Eight years ago, I lost the power cord when moving to our Oakland house, but rather than purchase a new rice cooker, I ordered a new power cord for $5 from Panasonic.

It's still all about saving money!


The Real No-Impact Man

Thursday, May 29, 2008

It's All About Saving Money

I've now shifted to taking AC Transit (bus) into San Francisco 4 days a week in order to save money on gas as well as wear-and-tear on our 2nd car. In the past 3 years, I've driven my car less than 3,000 miles. So the net impact of high gasoline prices for me personally is about an extra $10-15 per month, since I fill up the gas tank about once every 6 weeks now.

Based on these facts, I called an auto insurance agent to get a quote for insuring the second car. I'm paying nearly $1000 a year to insure my car, which means that my car insurance costs more than all of the other combined costs (gasoline, and maintenance) for operating my car!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Lee's Deli Does the Right Thing

Whenever I don't bring lunch from home, I make it a point to go to Lee's Deli in San Francisco for two reasons:

1) They're cheap - I can usually get lunch for under $5

2) They "pay" me for using reusable containers
a) Soup - I bring in a SF Soup company reusable soup bowl, and they give me 50 cent discount every time I use it.
b) Salad - I bring in a Quizno's take-out salad container, and they round down to the nearest dollar, which averages to a 50 cent discount per lunch.

Also, I never accept either a paper bag or plastic utensil from the cashier.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Water, Water Everywhere

We recently received notice from our water company, East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) that our water rates will be headed higher, thanks to a drought. Naturally, my response is to cut back on our water usage, which averages about 16,000 gallons (55,000 liters) per month year round. Here's what we're doing:

1) Lawn Sprinklers - Roughly half of our water usage during the summer months comes from watering our lawn and garden. Last night, I cut the number of sprinkler minutes from 10 down to 9, and set the timer to go off one hour earlier (which will mean less evaporation). Every week, I will check the lawn/garden, and reduce sprinkler time by 1 minute as long as our plants stay in good shape.

2) Bath - I've cut the amount of water I use during my nightly bath by 50%. This means no more soaking in the tub.

3) Toilet - Last month, our upstairs toilet broke. In order to flush it, I have to manually open the water valve at the base of the toilet. Due to the time it takes to fill the tank, I now flush the toilet only after Russell. Punky and I pee into the toilet, both in the morning and at night.

4) Dishwasher - I only run the dishwasher once a month, down from once every 2 weeks (it's an energy hog!). When I wash the dishes by hand, I now use a reduced flow of water.

5) Car Wash - I no longer wash the cars. I never did, anyway.

6) Laundry - I used to do my laundry without mixing my clothes with the rest of the family. Now I mix my clothes with the others, which I think means the washing machine is full most of the time.

I'll let you know what happens to our water usage in a couple of months.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Plastic Forks and Bags

Last night we had our monthly dinner to Sam Won's Korean Restaurant in Oakland. At the conclusion of our meal, I took the unused plastic forks that the waitresses place on our dinner table (for the kids) back into the take-out utensils container. The waitresses smiled at me and thanked me.

Today at Quiznos, I ordered a chicken sandwich (I ran out of bread at home) to go. When my order was ready, the clerk offered me both a paper bag and a napkin, which I politely declined. The owner of the store, Howard, came up to me and thanked me.


The Real No Impact Man (a.k.a. Low Impact Man)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ziploc Bags and Straws

We use a lot of Ziploc bags, so it makes sense for me to wash them out after using them. I'm happy to say that we reuse each bag about 10-20 times before it wears out. And even Jenny has started to wash and reuse them!

The kids also drink using straws, so I wash them out every time they use them. Again, I can make a bag of 100 straws last about 2 years, so that saves us money, too.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Top 10: What I've Noticed

During this holiday season, we've visited quite a number of people's homes. Here's what I've noticed:

1) Television - Everyone has 2 or more flat-screen televisions - From what I've read, the newer TVs use quite a bit more electicity than older CRT TVs. My household is the only one I've seen that has only 1 TV. And ours is about 20 years old. The remote control barely functions.

2) Lights - Most people like to keep the lights on throughout the house. We rarely keep more than 2 sets of room lights going at once. That;s one reason why our electric bill averages $20 per month year-round.

3) Heating - We set our thermostat to no more than 65F during the day, and 63F at night. I usually see 68F in most houses.

4) Electronics - Ours is virtually the only house without a video game console. And the only one without a high-end stereo/video system. One family we know doesn't have a video game console (they have girls).

5) Cars - Most families we know have minivans or large SUVs, and more than 2 cars. We don't have a minivan, and could probably drop our 2nd car (see communting strategy below).

6) Toys - Most families we know have a huge amount of toys. Our boys have relatively little.

7) Wal-Mart - Few people we know will admit to shopping at Wal-Mart as we do. Instead, most people seem to prefer Costco. I prefer Wal-Mart because I don't like buying huge amounts of stuff that we don't need. Plus Jenny tends to cook our meals from scratch, rather than heat-and-serve dishes so common at Costco.

8) Computers - Most people we know have more than one up-to-date computer. I usually buy a computer once every 5 years, the cheapest model from either Dell or HP.

9) Home Office - Ours is the only home without a separate home/office room. Our desk sits in the living room, with the laptop in a drawer. We don't have WiFi, or wireless internet.

10) Blog - I'm the only one with a blog. Three of them, in all!

UPDATE - Did I mention that we are the only ones I know without an Ipod in the house?

Take Out Containers

I've finally got Jenny hooked on those GLAD reusable food containers. For the past 3 restaurant visits, I've brought these plastic food containers for our leftovers (along with a plastic bag). I'm all for the upcoming ban on take-out styrofoam containers.

From the Alameda Journal:

Soon, restaurant owners in Alameda may not have a choice about what kind of containers they use for their food. The city is considering a ban on polystyrene food containers, and it may happen as early as next month.

A meeting to discuss the proposed ban and get public input will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Ave. Prohibited items would include take-out food containers, bowls, plates, trays, cartons and cups, according to a press release the city issued last week.

In addition, restaurants, food vendors and city facilities will be required to use containers that can break down in nature, unless an affordable alternative is not available. The city has suggested that restaurants and food vendors could charge a "take-out fee" to customers to cover the cost difference for purchasing the alternative product.
I do wish they would also consider giving people like me a 10 or 25 cent credit for bringing in my own containers.