It’s one thing to know that human beings have to change the way we live on this planet, it is another thing to put a new lifestyle in place.
Here’s what we are doing to live in a more just and sustainable manner.
1. The easiest change: Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs every where we can. How many people does it take to change a light bulb? Can we really have any impact on the global climate problems through what we do in our own lives? Isnt it just too big? Well, the light bulb going on above your head can really work for the planet if the bulb is a compact fluorescent, and especially if it replaces an incandescent bulb.Why? Can that really matter? Yes, it can. The compact fluorescent (CF) bulb generally uses 13 watts to produce the same amount of light that an incandescent produces using 60 watts of power.
Think about the possibility of cutting the need for new power plants by simply pulling all the incandescent bulbs in the country and replacing them with compact fluorescents. Plus the CF bulbs last much longer than incandescent bulb so you get to save a little energy yourself and there is really is no question that CF bulbs are cheaper over the life of the bulb if you are just cheap and could care less about global warming.
So how much difference could this really make? Here are the numbers courtesy the Union of Concerned Scientists:
2. Park your car. Ride your bike, take a bus. If you are purchasing a car, buy a car that gets great gas mileage or otherwise emits lower amounts of greenhouse gases. If you buy a large Hybrid SUV and most of its miles are single occupant commuter miles, it’s really a questionable green purchase compared to a smaller, higher mpg vehicle. We are driving vehicles that have been converted to run on propane. It’s a bit of work, but it’s the cleanest fuel that we can use for auto transportation today. Here’s more information on converting a car to run on propane.
3. Give up the lawn, give away the lawnmower. The chemical, water, and energy demands of lawn are ridiculous. In the end what you have is an ecosystem that is constantly under attack from dandelions and a maintenance system that creates a whole lot more greenhouse gas than a well-tuned
vehicle going down the road. I realize that we may love our lawns, but it is also possible to love your yard and have little or no lawn if you choose to convert the lawn into an urban garden instead.
I think those three suggestions constitute the low-hanging fruit when you have decided to start making changes. Here are some other things that we have done:
4. Hot water is a great luxury and also a big source of fuel consumption in most of our homes. It’s also a place where you can make some gains in converting to a sustainable lifestyle. This is what we have done: We have a natural gas fired boiler that supplies the hot water heat to the house. In 2007 we tapped into the boiler and added a convection loop, a heat exchanger, and a second hot water tank to allow the boiler to transfer heat into the hot water tank as a pre-heater. There is no electricity in use in that system anywhere. The convection loop and heat exchanger do a really good job of warming the water in the tank. There are no heating elements turned on in the pre-heater tank. The pre-heated water supply allowed us to turn off one of the electrical elements in the regular electric hot water tank and we don’t notice any change in hot water supply.
In 2008 we were able to buy two Cornell passive solar hot water collectors in Portland when a nice little house near Lake Oswego was being torn down to build a mcmansion on the lake. These Cornell collectors each hold about 40 gallons of water. Now we are bringing our cold water supply to these tanks first, picking up as much solar hot water as possible, and feeding that preheated water to our boiler pre-heater. So, now we are up to about 120 gallons of pre-heated water without any use of power or fuel. We will have to turn off the boiler pre-heater during the summer months and then we will just be using the Cornell panels to preheat water. So far, so good. Very few problems, no moving parts and lots of hot water. We have spent about $2K on all of these upgrades which includes a really nice (and stout) grape trellis that has the Cornell panels up on top. We planted the grapes in Spring 2009, I think grape-picking is a way off, but the plan is coming together. That’s a cherry tree in the foreground with limbs drooping from weight of fruit. It was another good year for this cherry tree and we have cherry syrup and jelly to show for it.