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Thread: Going Green

  1. #1
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Going Green

    I know there have been several threads regarding many of us becoming greener in our lives. Here is my latest effort.

    My old car gave up it's life in late July, the company was kind enough to subsidize a rental car for me for the remainder of the summer. Now that my work schedule has been shifted to part time-two days per week I have decided after much calculation to turn in the rental and not buy a new car.

    I have joined ZipCar which I plan to use for my two days in the far away office and take the train to my other office for which I get a discounted pass for because I am a student. Seeing that gas, insurance, and maintenance are covered in the ZipCar fees and I will be studying abroad in the spring this was a no brainer for me money wise. By my calculations I will save around $4K a year ditching a car payment, insurance policy, GAS, and maintenance costs.

    What sorts of things have all of you done to become "greener"?
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  2. #2
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by kjelsadek View post
    What sorts of things have all of you done to become "greener"?
    I'm working to be more envious of others...

    Seriously, though, I would like to say I am motivated by the bigger picture, but while I am an enthusiastic supporter of things green, my personal motivation is more driven by the pocketbook. Perhaps if I had more money, I would be doing these things because they are "right," but we'll never really know until I hit the jackpot...

    Here are some of what we do:

    We moved to the downtown area of Albuquerque earlier this year and so now I walk to work and my kids also walk a block and a half to their school. We drive for food shopping once, maybe twice a week. Our gas use is a fraction of what it was (which was why we moved - that and the time spent in the car alone is annoying). We have two cars, but are planning to go down to one (the challenge being finding one that serves our various needs for around town driving and long family road trips with two dogs).

    We catch rainwater of our roof to use for landscaping and our property is xeriscaped with low water use plants and an automated drip irrigation system. We use rainwater when we have it and use the drip system when we don't. It takes more effort, but its cheap as hell!

    We have a composting toilet in the guest house (which doubles as the music room, so it gets a fair amount of use).

    We compost all yard and kitchen waste. Thanks to the Throbbing Brain, I am going to start adding dryer lint as well!

    We use a lot of low-tech passive solar techniques in the house - exposing south facing windows during the day and covering them and especially north facing windows at night. We have roman blinds on the north and east side of the house which we close and open at various times of the day. It makes a big difference. The house is also heated with two localized heaters, so we don't have to heat the entire building when we are not using it.

    I am hoping in the future to install a passive solar hot water heater on the roof to replace the gas heated hot water system, but I may end up getting an on demand hot water heater instead.

    The previous owner also rigged up passive solar heater boxes on the roof of the outbuilding where my wife has her office. He took the boxes, but left the infrastructure, including reversable fan vents, so its just a matter of getting a box for the roof. These things work great during winter days around here - its really just a 6 inch deep metal box with glazing and painted black inside. A vent in the back leads into the house and a fan draws in the hot air when you want it.

    We have a small back addition that is poorly insulated and I have considered a green roof (using pre-planted modular panels on top of the existing singled roof) to improve insulation and as an experiment. Its a small enough space (maybe 400 sf) that the cost is not too prohibitive.

    I am interested also in solar panels, but the cost is way too much for us now. I would tie it into the grid (no batteries) so we can start small and build it from there.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  3. #3
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    I haven't done it yet but next year I am planning on embarking on the 100 mile diet. I'll start a thread on it at that time, but in a nutshell the idea is to try to eat/drink only those food items that were grown within 100 miles of your home. As it is a vast majority of the food we eat is shipped from thousands of miles away and an enormous amount of energy/cost/pollution goes into transporting it.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I haven't done it yet but next year I am planning on embarking on the 100 mile diet. I'll start a thread on it at that time, but in a nutshell the idea is to try to eat/drink only those food items that were grown within 100 miles of your home. As it is a vast majority of the food we eat is shipped from thousands of miles away and an enormous amount of energy/cost/pollution goes into transporting it.
    I've heard of people doing this. Interesting concept but I'm not sure how practical it is. It wouldn't be hard as far as fruits and vegetables go during the summer months but what about the winter? I'd imagine you would have to can/freeze enough to hold you over. And what about sugar? I'm pretty sure there are no sugar plantations in the midwest. Grain is another thing. Are you really going to be able to find grain grown that close by? I'd imagine most commercial flour is mixed with grain from all over the country (or world, perhaps). It seems like you'd pretty much have to cut out most manufactured products as even if they are made nearby chances are ingredients come from all over. I hope I'm not being too critical of your plan but I was just curious as how one would realistically achieve this.

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jsk1983 View post
    I've heard of people doing this. Interesting concept but I'm not sure how practical it is. It wouldn't be hard as far as fruits and vegetables go during the summer months but what about the winter? I'd imagine you would have to can/freeze enough to hold you over. And what about sugar? I'm pretty sure there are no sugar plantations in the midwest. Grain is another thing. Are you really going to be able to find grain grown that close by? I'd imagine most commercial flour is mixed with grain from all over the country (or world, perhaps). It seems like you'd pretty much have to cut out most manufactured products as even if they are made nearby chances are ingredients come from all over. I hope I'm not being too critical of your plan but I was just curious as how one would realistically achieve this.
    Fruits and veggies? You can can em from the summer harvest, Miester is on the edge of the fruit belt.

    Sugar?
    Michigan is a major producer of Sugar Beets and has several processing plants; with the largest beet area being in Bay City.

    Grains?
    Corn is plentiful around here. There is a reason why Kelloggs, Post, and General Mills all have a long history in Battle Creek.

    I'd say it is do-able, but I know I would like to have a better selection of foods that can't be grown around me (for example orange juice).
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  6. #6
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Fruits and veggies? You can can em from the summer harvest, Miester is on the edge of the fruit belt.

    Sugar?
    Michigan is a major producer of Sugar Beets and has several processing plants; with the largest beet area being in Bay City.

    Grains?
    Corn is plentiful around here. There is a reason why Kelloggs, Post, and General Mills all have a long history in Battle Creek.

    I'd say it is do-able, but I know I would like to have a better selection of foods that can't be grown around me (for example orange juice).
    Okay, but how do you turn sugar beets into actual sugar that you would use for cooking/baking? Corn may be plentiful but what about wheat? Personally I could only stand eating corn meal for so long. I don't doubt the fact that it is doable, it just seems difficult without significantly changing your diet.

    As far as the OJ goes didn't you know Florida's Natural is grown behind your local supermarket?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jsk1983 View post
    Okay, but how do you turn sugar beets into actual sugar that you would use for cooking/baking? Corn may be plentiful but what about wheat? Personally I could only stand eating corn meal for so long. I don't doubt the fact that it is doable, it just seems difficult without significantly changing your diet.

    As far as the OJ goes didn't you know Florida's Natural is grown behind your local supermarket?
    Here is a link to Michigan's exciting sugar beet industry.

    Besides, sugar is bad for you! Have an apple or cherries instead. Just don't ask for a bannana!
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  8. #8
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Here is a link to Michigan's exciting sugar beet industry.

    Besides, sugar is bad for you! Have an apple or cherries instead. Just don't ask for a bannana!
    Interesting. I assumed sugar came from sugar cane grown in the Carribean. Is this sold as regular granulated sugar? Or is this a speciality product.

  9. #9
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jsk1983 View post
    I've heard of people doing this. Interesting concept but I'm not sure how practical it is. It wouldn't be hard as far as fruits and vegetables go during the summer months but what about the winter? I'd imagine you would have to can/freeze enough to hold you over. And what about sugar? I'm pretty sure there are no sugar plantations in the midwest. Grain is another thing. Are you really going to be able to find grain grown that close by? I'd imagine most commercial flour is mixed with grain from all over the country (or world, perhaps). It seems like you'd pretty much have to cut out most manufactured products as even if they are made nearby chances are ingredients come from all over. I hope I'm not being too critical of your plan but I was just curious as how one would realistically achieve this.
    You bring up a number good points and valid criticisms. The short answer is, yes it is achievable, however a great deal of research is first required. That's the primary reason we aren't going to embark on this venture until next year - we need to identify as many alternate food sources as possible beforehand. We have not completely agreed upon the 100 mile range yet and have considered going with a 150 mile range instead (e.g. grain could be dealt with easily if we went with a 150 mile radius). You bring up a good point with sugar as well and it was one of the fist hurdles we encountered. During the course of research, however, we learned that michigan is a leading producer of beet sugar. In addition, we have a fair to middling maple sugar industry here which may help in finding alternate sweeteners. We're also very fortunate in living in an area that is rich in locally grown fuits thanks in large part to the 'fruit belt' along Lake Michigan. Lots of blueberries, apples, peaches, cherries, grapes and other fruits are widely available that might otherwise not be available in the region due to the general climate conditions.

    It's becoming obvious at this point that a couple special dispensations will have to be issued, however, our goal is to limit these to things you could count a handful of times throughout the entire year. At this point, the endeavor is regarded as somewhat more of a stunt aimed at personal education/awareness than something we intend to sustain for any long period of time. I don't doubt that such an undertaking would probably be almost impossible without considerable privation in many parts of the country. I intend to use this as an opportunity to raise awareness of this issue and expect it will eventually assume greater importance for nearly everyone in the not too distant future as fuel costs continue to rise and many food items we now take for granted (e.g. tropical fruits) start becoming expensive luxuries.

    Even if you think the notion silly or unattainable, I encourage you or anyone else to do a little googling and read a few stories from folks who have done this sort of thing - kind of a combination of fun, frustration, and enlightenment.


    Edit: looks like Detroit planner beat me to it with the beet sugar while I was composing my response, but in answer to your question, jsk1983, it's looks and tastes just like regular sugar (and in fact C12H22O11 is exactly what it is!) You've probably had it dozens of times and not even known it - it's popularly marketed as Pioneer Sugar.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jsk1983 View post
    Interesting. I assumed sugar came from sugar cane grown in the Carribean. Is this sold as regular granulated sugar? Or is this a speciality product.
    And where do I find that sugar beet rum for my mojito's? Talkin' to Cap'n Jack Beet Farmer just won't be the same. I know they grow sugar beets in N. Dakota and Colorado too and I'd be really surprised if somebody hasn't converted them in some kind of alcohol for personal consumption.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

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    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    Changed jobs and reduced my commute by three-fold - thus saving lots of gas.

    We are talking with a plumber right now about converting our bathroom sinks and bath tub/shower water to a grey-water system to use in the toilet. My water bill is not that high, but with our drought this year, I've never seen the lakes down this low...so it's a start and I can use it as an example for contractors and plumbers.
    "Whatever beer I'm drinking, is better than the one I'm not." DMLW
    "Budweiser sells a product they reflectively insist on calling beer." John Oliver

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Stay off Michigan roads during the beet harvest. The haulers never cover their loads (overloaded) and those things seem to bounce all over the roadway causing busted windshields. Since the haulers go right out into the fields they are usually caked in mud as well leaving a snail trail.

    On a better note, I would not be surprised if we have an ethanol plant somewhere that cooks beets.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    I flip the bird to Hummer, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini and Ferrari drivers every chance I get. I figure those are the people with the largest carbon footprints.

    But seriously, when it came time to replace the hydronic boiler for my old house, I found a German-made system by Buderus that includes a highly insulated tank for the hot water that is supposed to be able to maintain water at the same temperature for 24 hours. It uses heat from the boiler, rather than its own heat source, to heat the water. The system literally cut my gas use by 1/2. No unusual technology, just a very efficient boiler and tank. All off-the-shelf components. Imagine if just half of the houses in the US were to cut their gas use by half. That would be...a lot of gas.
    Before then I spent many sweaty, dirty hours insulating my attic and then insulating walls as I rebuilt portions of the house.
    Right now I'm planning on moving closer to work to shorten my commute.
    Here in the middle of the Mojave, I think the 100 mile diet would be impossible. People to grow stuff in backyard gardens here, but nothing on a large scale. Pretty much all of the food in the supermarkets is trucked in.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

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    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    We just put in solar hot water. Come on, state rebates and federal tax credits! Actually, it was more of a money-saving/self-sufficiency thing for me. Along with the stand-by generator - which is why we have a big crane in the front yard right now - which was delivered today! I'd post a pic but I guess we can't do that today.

    I recycle everything the county will take; altho' RJ tells me it all ends up in the landfill anyway...

    This weekend I gave a used tennis ball to a dog guest to play with, instead of throwing it away....

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    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Let's see, we've:

    Done the CFL thing in all fixtures
    Energy Star thermostat with better than standard settings
    Backyard composting (bin method)
    Been slowly replacing appliances with Energy Star as they die
    Make our own bathroom/kitchen cleansers
    Despite age, house has good passive solar design
    Some rain harvesting for deck plants (rest is au naturale)
    We do a ton of recycling
    Grow some veggies (working on getting more time to invest in this)
    Combine trips; often carpool with others for non-work trips

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

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    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by kjelsadek View post

    I have joined ZipCar which I plan to use for my two days in the far away office and take the train to my other office for which I get a discounted pass for because I am a student. Seeing that gas, insurance, and maintenance are covered in the ZipCar fees and I will be studying abroad in the spring this was a no brainer for me money wise. By my calculations I will save around $4K a year ditching a car payment, insurance policy, GAS, and maintenance costs.
    I'm trying to figure out the economics of this. It seems like its $8-9 an hour plus a fee other annual fees. Either that or $60 or so a day. Seems a bit steep for regular use. I'd imagine it would be useful for either short trips where you only drive because your destination is inconvineant or impossible by other means (and perhaps you have something heavy) or else a day out in the countryside or other short road trips. To use the car for commutting seems like it would be dreadfully costly. I like the overall concept and find it an excellent option for the urban dweller who only has the occasional need to drive, but in many situations it seems like a taxi may be just as cheap.

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    Cyburbian
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    the 100 mile diet

    I live in Sweden, about 59 degrees north. (Think Yellowknife). We have considered the 100 mile diet and found it far more complicated in fact than it sounds. Since many vegetables grown within 100 miles of us must be grown in green houses, it is actually more environmentally friendly to import some types than buy the local ones. Some fruit from New Zealand have lower total environmental footprints (per unit weight) and fruit from other parts of Europe, because they are transported by ship rather than truck. We have been advised that buy flowers grown in Kenya is more eco-friendly that buying those grown in the Netherlands (for a wide variety of reasons). And so it goes.

    Even some calculations on the use of ethanol (depending on source) show it to be pretty environmentally unfriendly. It's all too easy to get caught in the "idea trap" if you don't think through all the details in your own particular situation.

    But by pointing this out, I do not mean to support the status quo. Absolutely not. Lets apply concepts like the 100 mile diet, while looking closely at which parts of the concept actually achieve the goals and which don't.

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    Cyburbian vagaplanner's avatar
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    Holy cow, wahday! I thought I was doing pretty good with recycling, riding the motorcycle to work everyday instead of the car (weather permitting) and turning off lights in the house. Keep it up!
    ...my lifestyle determines my death style!
    - Metallica

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    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    As I look back on my youth in the 50's & 60's, my parents were pretty 'green' in the way that we lived. We always had a fairly large garden and what we didn't eat fresh was canned or frozen for the rest of the year. Things that didn't freeze or can well were only eaten when they were in season locally. We raised some livestock for our own consumption and bought some (usually a half or quarter beef) which was also frozen. My mother sewed some of our new clothes and everything got patched or darned to keep them usable and then they became rags or quilts. Grocery shopping was a weekly event, not a daily trip for one or two items. Our house was the only credit purchase, all else was cash or no purchase. The only area that I can think of that wasn't green was in the use of pesticides for our garden but that changed once we became more aware of the dangers of "better living through chemistry".

    While my wife and I aren't in a position to grow most of our own food, we do tend to only eat foods that are locally in season because shippable foods have had most of the taste bred out of them. We recycle glass & plastics and re-use or donate almost everything else. One area where I'm like my father is that I keep almost all odds & ends from home projects. I always look to see if I already have a part or something that can be adapted to fit before making a trip to the hardware store. My oldest son also carries on this practice.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  20. #20
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ofos View post
    As I look back on my youth in the 50's & 60's, my parents were pretty 'green' in the way that we lived. We always had a fairly large garden and what we didn't eat fresh was canned or frozen for the rest of the year. Things that didn't freeze or can well were only eaten when they were in season locally. We raised some livestock for our own consumption and bought some (usually a half or quarter beef) which was also frozen. My mother sewed some of our new clothes and everything got patched or darned to keep them usable and then they became rags or quilts. Grocery shopping was a weekly event, not a daily trip for one or two items. Our house was the only credit purchase, all else was cash or no purchase. The only area that I can think of that wasn't green was in the use of pesticides for our garden but that changed once we became more aware of the dangers of "better living through chemistry".
    Pretty similar to how my grandparent's lived. My mom used to say they "lived off the land". They were old school country people who basically grew, hunted, raised, or caught whatever was eaten. My grandmother was an expert at sewing both clothes, quilts, etc. They had a cow, some laying hens, a huge garden, and fruit trees. They canned everything that could be canned. The few things that I remember them buying were fabric, flour, sugar, oil, and small electric goods which my grandpa would fix when they broke. He made much of the furniture in the house since he was a pretty good carpenter.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  21. #21
    Cyburbian sisterceleste's avatar
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    1. Bought a Honda Civic Hybrid
    2. Recycle
    3. Became a Shaklee distributor because I knew they had a green line for household products. Use them in laundry, dishwasher and general cleaning.
    4. Have ground cover in parts of yard instead of sod.
    Guess that's about it.
    You darn tootin', I like fig newtons!

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    Let's see, we've:

    Done the CFL thing in all fixtures
    Energy Star thermostat with better than standard settings

    Grow some veggies (working on getting more time to invest in this)
    Combine trips; often carpool with others for non-work trips
    you reminded me...

    I brought a supply of energy efficient light bulbs to RJ's... I'll be replacing the old ones as they crap out. I got a land line phone so we can have the energy monitoring/setting of our pool pump and a/c.

    We will grow peppers and tomatoes in the spring.

    And boy do I combine trips!

  23. #23
          Downtown's avatar
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    The good thing about living green is that it usually means living more inexpensively.

    - veggie garden in the summer handles our voracious tomato, cucumber and pepper consumption in the summer
    - we belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture -
    http://www.denisonfarm.com/
    that runs 22 weeks each year.
    - we get home delivery of local, horomone and antibiotic free milk that isn't ultra-pasteurized and is in glass bottles, and local free-range, organic eggs
    - we've CFL-ed all the fixures in our house that will take them
    - we buy almost all of our kids' clothes at a bi-annual "pass it on" consignement sale
    - we compost in the summer, and it only took me 6 months to talk DH into: http://www.composters.com/vermiculture-worms.php
    - We use re-fillable, dishwasher safe nalgene bottles instead of disposal plastic water bottles

    Maister - In Albany, there is a local group that did the challenge for the month of September - http://www.100milechallenge.com/
    you may be able to find a similar group in your area that has already done some leg work on local sources for food. If you haven't already - check out Barbara Kingsolver's book - Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. From amazon:
    Novelist Kingsolver recounts a year spent eating home-grown food and, if not that, local. Accomplished gardeners, the Kingsolver clan grow a large garden in southern Appalachia and spend summers "putting food by," as the classic kitchen title goes. They make pickles, chutney and mozzarella; they jar tomatoes, braid garlic and stuff turkey sausage. Nine-year-old Lily runs a heritage poultry business, selling eggs and meat. What they don't raise (lamb, beef, apples) comes from local farms. Come winter, they feast on root crops and canned goods, menus slouching toward asparagus. Along the way, the Kingsolver family, having given up industrial meat years before, abandons its vegetarian ways and discovers the pleasures of conscientious carnivory.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian ruralplanner's avatar
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    Going Green--- What we’ve done.

    For the past five years (3-kids) we have used cloth diapers.

    Ditched the clothes dryer when it broke. After two years of hanging clothes in the house in the winter we rotted our roof out from condensation and had to replace it completely this summer—I don’t recommend this drying method in cold climates. Now we have a new front load washer and dryer (tier 3) which are the most energy efficient.

    Installed a wood stove, which heats a 1400 sq. foot house on even the coldest day. Last two years have heated exclusively with wood and dumpster dived scraps from a local prefab home builder.

    Grow most of our veggies in a 40 foot by 60 foot garden and freeze or can for the winter months. Eat no meat unless its local—as in hunted.

    Replaced most lights with CFLs but converting back to incandescent due to mercury concerns.

    I suppose we can feel good about these things, but in reality it’s negated by the fact that we do not live in an urban area close to my job or anything for that matter. A gas guzzling mini-van with the closest grocery store being 20 miles and a 50-mile commute one-way to my job is definitely not green. But I do carpool part of the way.

    We also try to do our own carbon offsets with tree planting. I found a website that calculated how many trees have to be planted to offset carbon inputs for each year and our family came in at about 30 trees per year in our climate. The website then suggested a donation to their tree planting program. Instead, we just plant our own. So I suppose, that despite our excessive gas consumption, we are somewhat carbon neutral. Or at least we can feel a little better about ourselves.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I am going to bump this thread!

    As one of the things that I have been looking for in a house is the green technology and products or the potential to include green products. It is amazing how simple it is to reduce the energy consumption and waste within a house, if it is at the right stages.

    For example, if we buy the house that is down to the studs, I would install a little extra insulation here and there, sealing up the window joins and gaps, including weather stripping around the doors, and installing a high efficiency heater/ac/air exchanger. I could have heating that would be less than half the same size house down the road that has a heater that is 10 to 20 years old and has not insulated the house. It sounds simple, but it is amazing how many homes have no insulation on the exterior walls!

    I have also looked into other things such as a rain gutter collection tank for watering plants, low VOC paints, bamboo flooring, tankless water heaters, and energy star appliances, recycled wood products (that would be painted), looking for old (used) wood moldings and interior doors, and using other environmentally friendly products.

    As green as this all sounds, it is more for energy cost savings (aka, keeping money in my pocket) and using products that are healthy for my family. Once again, sometimes its not the reasons that you do something, it is that you do it..

    Do you have a green home? What have you done to make your home green? (besides paining it a nice shade of green)

    Also here are a few links
    Greenhome.com
    US Green Building Council (Click on Green Home Guide at bottom)
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

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