Thursday, December 31, 2009

One more "green" project.

After a far too long absence, I have returned. Now is there anyone still here? We shall see.

My patio project was put on hold, but I've just completed a new green project:

I needed a trash can for my work van and I wanted a cup holder, so here it is. Ok, my phone is not ringing off the hook from Target, Macy's or Sears, but it works.

The "parts": a 5 gal bucket that until a week ago held commercial floor finish, a 1 gallon jug emptied of it's floor cleaning chemical, a used floor buffing pad, a couple of screws I had from disassembling an old console TV, a left over can of black spray paint and some Elmers Glue (the only item that was actually purchased for the project.

An hour of work with items that would otherwise have been landfill residents, a few minutes with a spay can of paint and I have a stylish...ok, functional trash can/cup holder.

If any of you have any examples of re-using items, please feel free to share them.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A green project

We all recognize this. A cool retreat from the summer heat right on our own patio. You can purchase various shapes, sizes, and colors for your patio cover. You can buy free standing, four post, spartan or luxurious canopies. The sky is the limit.

I live in a town home with a decent size patio and I want something to keep the hot sun off my head when I sit outside to read. My first instinct to was to drive on over to Wal-Mart, or Lowe's or Home Depot and pick me up a ready to assemble collection of newly created canvas, aluminum poles and various nuts and bolts. But then the idea of making my own canopy, one that would incorporate reused items took hold and I ran with it.

Here are some of my ideas:
1). Follow The site is great for finding things that are still usable, but free

2). Make the frame from PVC pipes, anchoring it to the ground by securing the PVC in a used 5 gal pail filled with rocks/soil

3). Make the main part of the frame with tree branches. No, I'm not thinking about ripping into the oak tree in the planter. I have a friend that has a wood burning hot water heating system and he gathers loads of tree limbs. Secure the limbs in the same 5 gal pails with rocks and soil, using the buckets as planters as well.

4) An old painters drop cloth, canvas cover or used sail would be great to cover the canopy,

This is as far as I've gotten on the planning stage. I'm still working out the design, but I am excited and eager to get this project started.

If you have any ideas or suggestions....or materials:D, let me know.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

One person can make a difference.

In the past, I have talked about how one person can change things or at least start the change. I have used myself as an example. I wanted to give an update on that.

At the town home community in Spartanburg that I manage, I have a resident that brings me her bottles and cans to recycle becasue we don't have a convenient recycling system here. It started with 1 or 2 plastic grocery bags a week. Last week, she brought me enough to fill up 2 of the curbside recycling bins I use in Greenville. I asked her why she had so many bottles and cans. She explained that at first, she was just bringing me the items she and her family used, but now, everywhere she goes she collects empties. She works at a church day camp and collects recyclables there. When she goes to the pool, she gets all she can collect there. She picks them up whenever she sees them. She even has her children and nieces and nephews thinking about recycling before trashing their empties.

Here is one good example of one person making a difference. There are 54 units at my Greenville town home community and 74 units at the Spartanburg unit. We have 25% of the residents at Addison in Greenville recycling regularly, if I can get a program started in Spartanburg, I know we would have 25% there as well. If my zealous collector in Spartanburg is an example, we will be saving tons from the landfill.

So, what are you doing today to make a small difference?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cap and Trade

"CAP and TRADE WON"T WORK!" or so I hear everyday from the opponents of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 currently making it's way around Capital Hill.

Those who want to defeat this bill proclaim as fact, that the bill will result in the destruction of small business, will send millions of jobs overseas as these "struggling" energy behemoths will not be able to afford to meet the harsh standards the government will heartlessly impose. They alarm the citizens of our fair land with predictions of uncontrollable skyrocketing prices on everything we consume. According to the detractors of the energy bill, these same innocent corporations will have no choice but to burden the American people with the unbearable costs associated with their valiant attempt to comply with their federal masters' demands. The same voices lauding free enterprise, praising the ingenuity of the American businessman, extolling the virtues of the market economy shout that there is no way that the energy industry will be able to meet even the initial demands which would not be imposed for 2-3 years.

But something keeps nagging me from the recesses of my mind. That phrase dripping with ill omens seems familiar. Cap and Trade, have we seen that phrase before? Yes, the 1990 Clean Air act included a cap and trade program to combat acid rain, by reducing sulfur dioxide and later nitrous oxide emissions. The market-based system was designed to incentives compliance rather than simply fine and tax companies into compliance. The program aimed to reduce SO2 emissions to 10 million tons below 1980 levels. In order to achieve this goal, industry was forced to upgrade power plants, add scrubbers, build new plants, etc. The EPA estimated that the cost of the program at $6 billion, industry predicted higher costs.

And what happened? It worked! We achieved 100% compliance in reducing sulfur dioxide emissions in the 1990s but industry did not stop at reaching the Fed's goal. Power plants took advantage of the allowance banking provision to reduce SO2 emissions 22% below mandated levels. What about the cost? OMB estimates that the actual cost was between $1 and $2 billion, far below both government and industry predictions.

Is the current bill before Congress the right bill? I don't know. What I do know is that history and my belief in American business says the awful predictions being spewed by those determined to stop this bill are not guaranteed and are very possibly wrong. Just read my last post to see how one major corporation found a way to comply before compliance was even demanded. I say instead of spreading fear, let's sit down and honestly evaluate the FACTS and do something that America seems to have never done, establish a comprehensive energy policy. Using the tools of private enterprise and the government, there is no challenge we can not face with hope.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Building cars with trash


is making this

using this

Partnering with Waste Management and Ameresco in 2003, BMW Manufacturing in Spartanburg, SC found a way to make use of the decomposing trash in a local landfill. They laid over 9 miles of pipes and tapped into the methane gas being created at the Palmetto Landfill in Wellford, SC. Combining electricity and hot water creation, over 60% of all of the Spartanburg plant's energy needs are provided by the methane gas. The company has saved nearly $5,000,000 in energy costs annually since this program was started.

This year, BMW is upgrading the system, replacing four old turbines with two new, more efficient ones. These new turbines will improve output from 14% to 30% while using the same amount of methane. The company estimates an additional savings in energy costs of $2,000,000 a year from this upgrade while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 92,000 tons each year.

Looks like at least one company isn't waiting for Congress to pass a "Cap and Trade" bill to start reducing harmful pollutions. In spite of the worries of some on the results of reducing greenhouse gases, BMW appears to be able to reduce pollutants while expanding its manufacturing facilities at the Spartanburg location bringing more jobs to the US rather than being forced to send them elsewhere.

It's nice to see that some good can from a landfill.

I'm back

Sorry about the lack of posts recently. I'm back and will try to be more consistent with posting. Much is happening in the world when it comes to environmental issues, and we will be discussing much of what is happening.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Green Observations from the Road

When capitalism gets behind environmentalism, changes happen more quickly.
Two examples of this from The Great American Green Road Trip were hotels and baseball stadiums.

There is still plenty of waste in the hotel industry, mini shampoo bottles and tiny bars of soap to name just two, but there were signs of responsible living. At most of the hotels, the lighting in the room was either fluorescent or compact fluorescent lights or a combination of the two. This increases energy efficiency, reduces waste and saves money. At a number of the hotels, there were signs encouraging guests to use towels more than one day. The hotels had placards describing how much water is used washing towels and they described how to inform their maid staff of a guests desire to use the towels more than once.

Major League Baseball was another example of capitalism encouraging people to live responsibly. Every baseball park we visited on this trip had recycling containers for plastic, glass, and aluminum. The containers were highly visible and numerous. Some of the parks went beyond the recycling bins. Whether it was solar powered sign boards, re-usable shopping bag give-aways, highlighting hybrid cars in fan drawings or serving some food in reusable containers, MLB was showing it's green side. Of course, baseball, like the rest of us has many areas that they can improve to live more responsibly, but they are taking steps in the right direction and we need to applaud that.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Great American Road Trip ends

The Great American Green Road Trip

Day #15

Day #15 brings the Great American Green Road Trip to an end.
(Actually, we pulled in the home drive at 5:00am of Day #16, but close enough

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library was our main stop today, as we drove the 16 hrs home. This was my first presidential museum and it was fantastic.

With the trip over, how did the Prius do?

We traveled 8,539 miles, driving in cities like Denver, Seattle, and Milwaukee and small towns like Selma, AL Greensburg, KS, and West Yellowstone, Wy. We crossed the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains twice, reaching 9,000' above sea level at one point. We cruised passed cattle ranches, corn, wheat, alfalfa and soy bean fields in the flat lands of our nation's breadbasket. All this driving took only 175 gallons for a overall average of 48.79 mpg., not a bad result.

Our 15 day road trip with hours spent behind the wheel disproved two of the criticisms of hybrids. The Prius handled like a dream and even after hours of continual driving, it was comfortable to drive.

There are many options for responsible auto selections out there and a hybrid is not the only choice. Electric, clean diesel, and flex fuel are just a some of the options. Even some of our regular gas vehicles get high mileage. Pick the vehicle that fits your personal taste and wallet, just add fuel efficiency and emission control as part of your criteria.

More green observations from the road tomorrow.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Great American Road Trip continues

The Great American Green Road Trip

Day #14

Wisconsin helped us raise the mileage to 43 mpg. Even the city driving in Milwaukee came in at 43 mpg.

Like all the other stadiums we visited on this road trip, Miller Park had recycling containers for plastic, aluminum and glass. In looking back over the 4 stadiums we visited, I would say that Coors Field and Safeco Field led the way in green options for baseball fans. They went beyond the minimum of a few recycling bins.

Here are a few photos from today:

Lake Michigan

The Milwaukee River

The Fonz!

Cheese, glorious cheese!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Great American Road Trip continues

The Great American Green Road Trip

Day #13

We drove for 12 hrs today, visiting 6 states and having a 42.8 mpg from the Prius. I think one of the reasons for the slightly lower mileage is that the speed limit for most of the last 10 states has been 75 mph. As we get back to 65 mph, I think the mileage will go up.

Some folks have wondered if wind turbines will overwhelm the land they are on. From what we have seen across the country, the answer is a resounding NO. Farmers can still grow crops, like below or graze their cattle under the calmly turning turbine arms. In fact, in many places, farmers make extra money from leasing the land for the turbines.

Near Preston, MN, we saw the largest collection of wind turbines yet. There were hundreds of them. Their massive arms sweep leisurely and generate much energy, while leaving the land they stand on available for other uses. I must say that I see a majesty when I look at them.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Great American Road Trip continues

The Great American Green Road Trip

Day #12

Today, the Prius carried us up to Mount Rushmore and across the entire state of South Dakota with stops at Wall Drug and the Corn Palace with a 42.7 mpg average.

In my last post, I mentioned all the green changes Yellowstone is making. I was reminded of one of the changes when we visited Mount Rushmore.

The "wooden" steps and boardwalk are not actually wood. They are plastic lumber made from discarded plastic containers. At Old Faithful, the 30,000 square foot boardwalk uses the equivalent of 4 million discarded milk jugs.

Here's another example that our recycling efforts do make a difference.

Here's an example of re-using, every year the city of Mitchell, SD rebuild the facade of the Corn Palace with fresh corn cobs, stalks, husks, etc. Ok, so it really isn't reusing, but it is a pretty cool use of corn.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Great American Road Trip continues

The Great American Green Road Trip

Day #11

We crossed the Rockies, reaching the height of 8500ft above sea level. We drove around Yellowstone National Park and across the entire state of Wyoming at 42.7 mpg, another good day

This is Yellowstone National Park:

Old Faithful



Lots of Bison

This also is Yellowstone:

All over the park are recycling containers like these for glass, plastic and aluminum, but Yellowstone hasn't stopped at adding a few recycling bin. In 2008, Yellowstone recycled:
119 tons of newspapers, office paper and magazines
22 tons of aluminum and steel
318 tons of glass
44 tons of plastic containers
278 tons of cardboard
13,000 small propane cylinders, using a machine developed by a Yellowstone park employee and
funded by Yellowstone Park Foundation
150 tons of tires

They have added 17 hybrids to their fleet of vehicles. All of their diesel powered vehicles run on a 20% blend of industrial grade vegtable oil and deisel and 40 employees participate in a Ride-Share program.

They have installed solar panels and are using greener techniques in the building of the new Visitors center.

It is great to see our nation's first national park leading the way in responsible green living.

The Great American Road Trip continues

The Great American Green Road Trip

Day #10

Crossing the Cascade Mountains and driving across most of Montana and the Prius still got 42.4 mpg. I was talking to the clerk at our hotel in West Yellowstone, MT and she told me that her parents get 60 mpg on average there. I think if I were used to driving in the mountains, I might be getting better mileage, but 42.5 mpg is still good.

Here are a few photos to demonstrate what we are trying to protect.

This is just a glimpse of the wonderful country we have and what we need to protect. Even the smallest actions count.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Great American Road Trip continues

The Great American Green Road Trip

Day # 9

We are holding fast at 42.5 mpg while driving around the hilly area around and in Seattle. Still good numbers

36% of Seattle residents ride their bicycles for recreational and 4,000-8,000 residents ride daily. Seattle is making a concerted effort to promote biking. Below you see one of the bike stands the city is placing around the city. Seattle has about 28 miles of shared use paths, 22 miles of on-street, striped bike lanes, and about 90 miles of signed bike routes. The folks that do the biking in this city are truly dedicated because it is extremely hilly, so I take my hat off to Seattle and it's bike friendly ways

The Seattle Mariners, like the other major league parks we have visited on this trip have their fan friendly plastic bottle recycling bins that you see below.

But leave it to Seattle to take the idea of recycling further. Below is a photo of a recycling garage that accepts plastic, paper, aluminum, and compost items

Seattle seems to be one of the greenest cities we have visited so far.

Day 8 photos

The Hood River

Public transportation in Portland

At the Portland Saturday Market:

Jen gets a henna tatto
Eric gets cheesecake on a stick!

The Great American Road Trip continues

The Great American Green Road Trip

Day #8

Crossing the Cascade Mountains had similar results that the Rockies produced for the Prius, 42.4 mpg. I like having this car, esp. since gas prices here in Wash. are around $2.90.

The Hood River that runs along the WA/OR border is a strong river and the area seems to have strong winds, which is probably why there were hundreds of wind turbines on the hills on either side of the river. These pictures are not the clearest, but you get the idea.

Day 7 photos

Breakfast plates at the Iron Skillet
Laramie, Wy

Prairie dogs are fun

Wyoming is awesome!

The Great Salt Lake, Utah