Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Open letter to Dane and Emily

I was recently sent the following with the instruction to share it with everyone on my email list. It is from "Emily" and "Dane" (I have changed the names to protect the... ). Of course, I couldn't leave it alone, so, my comments are in Green below. I do hope that Emily and Dane get a copy of this, but alas, they are not in my address book. Please read this with an open mind and a sense of humor (it is long).

Read at your own RISK!

Hi Everyone:

If you get a chance, pick up the Sept. 2007 issue of Packpacker (I think you meant "Backpacker") magazine.This months issue is devoted to the effects of Global Warming on our national parks, etc.. Very sad, but very real, it really brings home the problems and the effects. It is alarming!

The issue also gives info on what you can do to reduce your personal carbon impact on the environment.

I challenge you to send out an e-mail to your e-mail list with a list of what YOU are doing to reduce your carbon impact! Here is a list of things that Dane and I are already doing:

1) Changed light bulbs in the house to Compact Fluorescents.(we only have 2 light fixtures in the house that cannot take this type of bulb. Also, when I replaced the light fixtures in the bathroom last year, I made sure to choose fixtures that could use CFL bulbs).
Did you know that ALL fluorescent lamps contain MERCURY (Hg)?
Mercury mining (taking it out of the ground) is extremely destructive to the Enviro. The majority of Mercury is mined in China. Then it is SHIPPED to where it is used (more fuel used). Speaking of China, did you know that almost all CFLs are made in Asia? That means that they are then SHIPPED to the store you buy them in here in the USA! I wonder if overall CFL are any better for the environment than the standard A19 light bulb with a tungsten filament, clear glass (silica), and brass base. These pesky details just get in the way though, so buy CFLs, don't ask questions and feel good about yourself!

2) Using power strips for our computer, printer, TV and stereo equipment. When we leave for the day or go to bed at night, we turn everything off by turning off the power strip. (this is something new we started doing last month, and our power bill went down $10.00
This one really gets me! Why waste the money on power strips when you can just go outside and flip off a circuit breaker. No need to buy a dozen or so power strips. The best breaker to shut off is marked "MAIN". This will shut off all of the power to your domicile. Don't worry, your food should stay fine for the 12 or so hours that you have cut the power off. (This will also make certain that the pesky Refrigerator light is not running with the door closed!) Most power strips are made in China too. Then they are SHIPPED to the USA to the store you purchase them from. Now let's look at the manufacturing process of a "power strip". The outer case is made of either metal or plastic. Have I mentioned that plastic is made from petrochemicals? It is! There is plastic coating on the wire for insulation too. Then there is the copper conductors. Have you ever seen how Copper (Cu) is mined? They use strip mining, or open pit mining to get the copper out of the ground. They use millions of gallons of water and several caustic chemicals to extract the product. HUGE machinery (that uses petrochemicals) are used to haul the ore from the site. Then it is refined (after being SHIPPED) at a huge power consuming plant. It is hauled to the assembly plant which uses "slave laborers" in "sweat shop" conditions. Once the assembly is completed, the power strip is SHIPPED out to a warehouse, then to a store that you drive to and you transport it to your home. Of course power strips are great sources of guilt and fear. Now when you leave home, not only will you wonder if you "left the Iron on", you will also feel bad when you remember you didn't turn off all power strips! That is why I recommend turning off the Main circuit breaker!

3) Cancel junk mail and catalogs. And recycle all office paper, mail, etc.. I keep a recycle bin by my desk and one downstairs, every piece of paper that enter this house is either filed or recycled!
Do you know what happens to most of this recycled stuff? It gets SHIPPED to a holding area and then it is basically ignored! Some of it even gets hauled off to the regular landfill. It is e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e to reuse paper products. Starting fresh is much cheaper and cleaner. BTW, I was thinking about hiring an Attorney, but then I discovered that it is possible to buy "recycled legal pads" and I have found that this is much cheaper than an attorney!

4) Use a laptop and not a desk top. Dane uses a lap top, and the next time I update my computer system it will be a lap top :) (Laptops use up to 80% less energy than a desk top) Where did you come up with this 80% figure? If you are talking about the "good old days" when an essential part of a computer was a CRT based monitor, you might be close. Most monitors now are LCD for either laptop or desktop. Heck it is hard to find a Television that is not LCD now. Be sure you recycle that old computer because it has GOLD and COPPER components in it. Actually if you really want to help the Enviro, just upgrade what you already have. That way you will not be causing more plastic to be used (remember plastic comes from petrochemicals).

5) Turn off the lights! When we leave a room or the house we do not leave the lights, TV or stereo on. We don't leave a porch light on at night!
Gosh aren't you an unfriendly person. What if someone is lost and your light saves them from being a victim of a crime. Why not put a CFL in your porch light? We put one in our post light and have not changed it in 4 years. Of course, I will have to decide how to recycle the Mercury in the darn thing when it DOES burn out. Maybe I will ship it to China!

Maybe we should start doing what used to do in the "old days". Go te bed when it gets dark and get up when it gets light. That way you won't be using power consuming items just to try to stay awake!

6) Recycle! We recycle everything possible. (The actual garbage that we throw out each week is less than a paper grocery bag).
That is pretty good. Why do you have that much junk? There are 4 people in our house and we generate just a little more than you say you do. In fact we coop our trash with our neighbor and rarely fill a small trash can between the two households. Of course we do pay someone to pick up the garbage.

7) Compost Kitchen Waste. I have used a composter for the past 12 years and I love it! I have it set up in the yard and I use a small covered container that I keep under the sink to put my kitchen waste in. When it is full, I empty it into the composter. I have only had to empty the composter twice in 12 years! And the soil it create is wonderful!
It depends on where you live. We did this at one house and the neighbor across the street called the health department on us. It was a real hassle and we eventually had to quit. Now we feed most of the vegetable matter to the goats (no, not the neighbors) who do most of the composting for us. We then use their "product" to fertilize the garden (this saves having vegetable shipped to the market). I seriously wonder what your neighbors think of your composting. If you have only "had to empty the composter twice in 12 years", you are doing it WRONG! You need to do some research on composting!

8) Pay bills online. We have been doing this for a few years now, it is easy and saves paper and postage. Also, we have our utilities send us an e-statement instead of a paper one!
Isn't this using the internet to "buy" things? (see further down) Okay, I am just yanking your chain, As long as you know that your info cannot be lifted (look for the "httpS" the "S" means secure) before entering personal info on the 'net! Make sure you can have access to the records for your record keeping.

9) Use reusable bags. I have had my reusable bags for 17 years now and I love them. They wash up in the washing machine and last forever!
I challenge your use of "forever". I have had bags wear out from use. The only bags that I know of that will "last forever" are the plastic bags that are so ubiquitous in this culture. Of course this is another source of guilt. Just think how bad you will feel when you forget your bag and have to use one of those nasty "plastic or paper" bags. If you really want to do the Enviro good, make your bag out of old clothes using a treadle sewing machine. Now we are talking!!

10) Read the newspaper online, it's paperless!
Better yet, DON'T read the newspaper. It will fill your head with foolish thoughts. I hate online newspapers because then there is nothing to put in the bottom of the bird cage or to wrap the fish guts in after cleaning them. Painting with a computer to cover the floor for a drop cloth is futile! Think about the kids who won't learn the lessons taught by having a paper route. There has to be a middle ground here. Coupons are non-existent with the online newspapers. I like to look at all of the junk I don't need that some retailer thinks I should buy!

11) Use recycled paper products. look for the post-consumer waste % listed on the package.
As with all products, make sure of where the "post-consumer waste" has come from. After reading how often you process your compost, I don't want any of your "post-consumer waste". There really should be truth in selling on these items!

12) Drink tap water. We will buy bottled water for camping, but at home we drink good old tap water. When leaving for the day, I fill up a bottle from the tap to keep in the car.
This is a rather evian consideration. Most bottled water is just tap water! We reuse the bottles that bottled water comes in with our own filtered water. It tastes better than what came in it originally. The water bottles are good for a variety of uses. Just be creative!

13) Buy local produced products When I shop, I choose items that have been grown locally or within the State of California.
I prefer to buy items that are grown in our garden. Things grown in CA are SHIPPED over 1200 miles to our home market. Grow your own (as they used to say in the 1960s).

14) Buy energy efficient appliances. We have replaced our washer, dryer and refrigerator with "Energy Star" appliances.
Ummm, hello, ALL appliances are "Energy Star" rated. "Energy Star" is a rating system that helps you compare the efficiency of appliances. There is always a trade off between cost of purchase and cost to operate. Be smart for yourself! (I always admire people who leave the Energy Star rating on their appliances even after they move in!)
When it is time to replace the water heater, I am going with the "instant hot water" type, no more tank! And we keep our current water heater at 120 F, no higher, and it has a think (did you mean "tank"?) blanket on it.
Be careful here, some of those things are real junk and you could get burned in more than one way! Be sure you have some factual way to compare the energy consumption of the Instant and traditional means of heating water and how it correlates to your lifestyle. If that is confusing, you could always heat water on the stove… or… use a solar camp water heater. There are solar water heating systems that will provide MORE hot water than you can ever use. Even in the Winter time.

15) Drive fuel efficient vehicles! Dane has the longest commute of the two of us. He drives a hybrid vehicle. My commute is very short, but my car still averages 30 mpg.
Okay, I hope you feel r-e-a-l good about the hybrid vehicle. Did you check into where each part was made? The battery was made in China (because they don't care about polluting) the components are made all around the globe, the SHIPPED to an assembly plant so you can feel good about driving a car that saves the planet. Hmmm… the auto manufacturers are shrewd aren't they?

Our grown children both drive second hand Saturns that get over 40mpg. That is better than most hybrid vehicles.
BTW, I have a 1984 Ford Mustang SVO that gets 29mpg on the highway (when I keep out of the turbo). It also has enough "go" to keep up with a corvette, AND I don't have to plug it in at night. I am the 3rd owner, so I am actually recycling in a fuel efficient manner! If you rode a horse, you would be really reducing your impact on the Enviro AND you could use the "byproducts" to help your garden!

16) Replace single-pane widows with double-pane. We replace our old double-pane windows with new double-pane windows this last year. The old windows seals had broken and they were very hard to open and close.
What did you do with the old windows? Hopefully you made sure that they were recycled. Actually with a little bit of work you could have upgraded with existing windows by replacing seals and freeing them up with a little elbow grease (which is not petroleum based!).

17) No carpet The downstairs of our house is tiled, upstairs is carpet.
Do we think that tile is "native"? Check to see where the tile was SHIPPED from. Often it is from a foreign country, not the neighborhood. I asked my wife to help me with this one. She said it must be because of not having to vacuum non carpeted floors. Okay, I am all for not having to run that noisy beast! Carpets are a form of insulation and hard surfaces are not. They transmit cold, and heat so indoor climate control devices will have to work harder. They look great too!

18) Donate items we no longer use to the Goodwill. I am always amazed at the things people just throw into the trash. We either re-sell or donate!
We buy at the Goodwill (or other second hand) store. That is the real essence of recycling. You are a primary user, I am a secondary user. Truthfully that makes me the real Enviro friendly consumer. I also save money because you pay "retail", I pay "second hand", and I feel good about it!

19) Use cloth napkins.
This one is great! Don't use Kleenex either. Cloth hankies are much better. Don't use the white ones though, they stain (don't ask me how I know). While we are on the subject, use CLOTH diapers too. Those disposable diapers are made with plastic (which is made or petrochemicals) and then hauled to the landfill as RAW sewage! Just imagine what the archeologists will think 1,000 years from now when they find that we have carefully preserved… BABY POOP!

Dane and I each have a cloth napkin and placemat that we use many times before washing. I do not allow paper towels in the house, we only use them when camping :)

The burning question I have is, "Do you use only ONE square of TP?" Maybe you use leaves… just be careful that they don't have red on them or are in groups of three!

Things Dane and I are planning to do soon:
1) Remove the roof rack from Dan's car to improve gas mileage.
Great! Those things are as ugly as sin. Just for the aesthetics, please remove that abomination! If you get better gas mileage, that is great too! (With a Prius, you will probably save 1 to 2 gallons of gas per year.) I was also wondering why you don't use the bike to go to work. For recreation, QUIT DRIVING to camping and bicycling sites, just ride your bikes around the neighborhood. You might be surprised at what you can learn by being out where you live. We walk AND pick up trash along the roads here. It is cheap and we get money back on the cans we collect!

2) Continue to replace household appliances and lights with more efficient ones.
This one is a "catch 22" because what do you do with the old items? Have you allowed them the old item to run out it's life? Are you just being a consumer to be vogue? Most "trash" or replaced items become Enviro unfriendly because there is no means to actually recycle them (ever seen a recycled light bulb?).

3) Buy less packaging and buy local.
This is a great idea! The problem is that most packaging is designed to thwart thieves. The other reason for so much packaging is that we are attracted to shiny things (just like magpies or crows). Buying local is a great idea, as long as you don't need much. People used to be content with what they could get locally. Now people are shallow and greedy and want to have what "everyone else" has, so they demand that the multi-national stores feed their need... er... umm... greed.

4) Continue to check tire pressure and keep air filters clean.
You might get dizzy doing this while you are driving. If you stop every mile or so to perform these minor maintained items, you will be really doing the Enviro good. Your friends will admire you and it will keep you off of the road more. Be sure to shut off the engine each time because idling engines are real fuel wasters. Actually checking tire pressure once a month is sufficient. If you are OCD, you might do it weekly, but anymore than that is really not going to tell you much.

5) Buy less from the internet.
This one is just silly (on face value), the internet is not a seller, it is a medium of communication and commerce. Now I assume that you are saying that items purchased over the internet are delivered by a carrier. So are things that are delivered to a store. UPS and FedEX are in the neighborhood anyway so their delivery route makes them only about a mile away from most locations. They only deliver what you order and not stuff to fill a whole store.
Q: What happens to all of the stuff that doesn't sell in a store?
A: It gets shipped to another location.) You only order what you plan to use!

6) Bike or walk to work.
I like this one. Everyone should live closer to work and stop wasting time driving. Relationships would be better. There would be less frustration and anger in society and people might even know their neighbors!

7) Replace carpeting with bamboo flooring.
I seriously doubt that these are raised in California. They have to be cut down, shipped out of the forest, shipped (literally) across the ocean, trucked to the store, then hauled to your location. The adhesive used to keep these on the floor is petroleum based.

Most carpet is made of RECYCLED plastic like soda bottles and other recyclable plastic.

8) Plant water saving landscaping and plant trees!
Better yet, don't landscape. It takes fuel to haul the plants from place to place. It takes special greenhouses to grow them. If you have to mow or trim you are wasting fuel (or electricity).

9) In the winter, heat the house only when needed, turn off the heat at night and when not home.
Reality does not bear this out. It takes more fuel to recover from a cold condition than to maintain a steady temperature. Just try it with a cup of tea. If you start with COLD water it takes longer to heat than if you start with warm water. REALLY, try it!

10) Only run the washer, dryer and dishwasher with full loads.
This one makes good sense. Better yet wash clothes after you have worn them for a MINIMUM of three days. This will really cut down on your need to use a washer. DON'T use a dryer it is a waste of resources. The sun does a great job of drying things out. If you don't believe me, just try to beat the sun while you are washing the car. Sand works well for washing dishes, so just replace your dishwasher with a sand box (your cat will appreciate it too!).

NOTE: If you want real information on how to cut costs and cut your pollution, email me and I will give you some real ways to accomplish what you say you want to do. Warning though, it might take some work on your part. Not just sending an email to everyone in your address book! ;-)

Communism does not work, because people like to own stuff.
Frank Zappa

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