How to Get Rid of Ants: These little pests get into your home through the tiniest of holes. This article provides tips for how you can stop their intrusion without using toxic pesticides.
Boston the 1st City to Approve Ford Transit Connect Taxi: Wahoo! Our hometown is paving the way for a new taxi cab generation. This new cab has a 30% improvement in fuel economy and still has the room and comfort of a traditional car.
We think this Greenpeace video is absolutely beautiful and slightly haunting but has a great message. At least this video isn’t as frightening as their other ones…
New and Cool Pick:
Preserve Products has started a dental revolution! They have created a dentist approved toothbrush that is made with recycled plastic. The best part? You can mail it back to Preserve to be recycled again once it is time for a new one. Genius.
Here’s a great question from a Practically Green Facebook fan. Our expert, guest blogger Margie McNally, provides an illuminating answer.
Q. Please tell me about light bulbs…. how to dispose of new-fangled ones (mercury) and how to figure out what to buy. Some don’t work on dimmer switches… some take a while to heat up and are bad for places like garage. There are so many choices at Home Depot my head will explode. Want to go green on lighting but still can’t get the hang of it. How do you figure out what to buy??
A. There is so much information out there on energy efficient lighting sources that it’s easy to become confused. The technology is changing rapidly — no wonder it’s hard to keep up. Ten years ago the compact fluorescent screw base bulbs were bulky, too big for enclosed ceiling domes and table-lamp harps, and they took an annoying amount of time to come to full brightness. This has all changed with newer and better technology.
First, start with the lights that are used most often and left on for long periods of time. This is where you will get the most bang for your buck in energy savings and life expectancy. CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) use one-third the energy of typical incandescent bulbs and last up to ten times longer, some up to 10,000 hours. Next, check limitations on the fixture you are substituting the bulb in. Is it on a dimmer? Many CFLs are not suitable for use with conventional dimming controls and will not work properly; they may even pose a fire hazard. Dimmable cfls are available. Is the table lamp on a three-way switch?… Yes, there are three-way CFLs available as well. Will the fixture be exposed to low outside temperatures? Choose one that is suited for outdoor use.
When you find the appropriate lamp, make sure that it carries the ENERGY STAR label www.energystar.gov to insure quality, color and guarantee. The ENERGY STAR site has lots of useful information, including several FAQs… it’s a great place to research and get information. ENERGY STAR-rated CFLs must meet strict standards set by the Department of Energy for instant starting time, color temperature of the light, minimum life expectancy and two year money-back guarantee, among other criteria. ENERGY STAR also certifies hard-wired fixtures with pin-based lamps. Unattractive fluorescent fixtures are a thing of the past with the latest in styles and finishes to blend with any décor.
Compact fluorescent lamps must be disposed of properly, but not to worry! There are many facilities that will recycle your lamp at the end of its useful life and the amount of mercury in each lamp is only about the size of the tip of a ball-point pen. Just follow instructions for disposal, and if accidental breakage should occur: http://www.lamprecycle.org
As the laws change you will see incandescent lamps be phased out. As early as 2012, your typical 100 watt A lamp will be replaced with more efficient halogen, fluorescent, and LED technology. This is because a typical incandescent lamp gives off 90% of its energy as heat. LED technology (light emitting diode) is new to the residential and commercial markets. We have seen it used in electronics but now it is being used to light both interior and exterior spaces. You will find under-cabinet lighting, recessed down lighting, table lamps and cove and rope lighting available to suit any application.
LED innovation and design is developing rapidly. This technology is extremely efficient—more so than CFLs—and there is no mercury to be concerned about. Life expectancy……. Some manufacturers claim up to 100,000 hours! That’s decades of light! However: the technology is not inexpensive today. There is a premium for this highly specialized light source.
Philips has interesting choices, and you can see some of these on the Home Depot website. At $50.00 per bulb, the Philips 15-watt (which shines more like a 75-watt incandescent) is expected to last for 25,000 hours. That’s 20 cents per hour for great light, no worries on mercury, and infrequent replacement.
Please be careful with home-store LEDs. They vary greatly in quality and lumen output. Look for quality and ENERGY STAR-rated products.
You know the saying, “A diamond is a girl’s best friend”?… Well, I think CHOCOLATE is a good green replacement. I love chocolate. Chocolate bars, chocolate chips, chocolate drink, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate! So you can bet that I didn’t pass up the chance to taste-test organic, handcrafted chocolates yesterday with Sarah.
The lovely person who supplied the chocolate was Penelope Finnie, a close relative of Sarah’s. Penelope owns Bittersweet Chocolate Cafe in San Francisco. Bittersweet sells a wide variety of specialty chocolate products by different chocolate brands, and they also recently have been making and selling their own Bittersweet Origins line. Their Origins line is made with beans from Bali and the Dominican Republic and are full of authentic flavors. Penny says that since the plantations are remotely located, they are difficult to become certified organic. However, cacao beans don’t even grow when pesticides are used, because the cacao plant relies on midges (a little bug), the only known pollinators of cultivated cacao. So basically, this chocolate is as good as organic because the bean batches don’t use pesticides and the beans are responsibly grown. Good enough for me!
Now onto the taste-testing guidelines. With our bundle of testing chocolates, we were given a very thorough description as to how to properly taste each of the 5 products we were given. The important thing to take away is that each tester should taste the chocolates with the highest percentage of cacao mass and work your way down and drink room temperature water between each product to cleanse the palate.
Penny also mentioned to us that the higher the cacao content or mass, the better the chocolate is for your health. A cacao mass of 75% is the minimum needed for good health effects like antioxidants and flavanols which lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Yes, chocolate is good for you! In moderation of course….
Now the best part! The chocolates we tasted from highest cacao percentage to lowest:
Puerto Plata (Bean origin: Dominican Republic) 75% Cacao Mass
- Sarah: “It has a real authentic flavor. It is earthy, cacao nutty, bitter. Definitely not a Hersey’s bar!”
Singaraja (Bean origin: Bali) 75% Cacao Mass
- Sarah: “It smells a little sweeter. It is nuttier, almost with an almond accent to it.:
Puerto Plata (Bean origin: Dominican Republic) 65% Cacao Mass
- Sarah: “Spicy-sweet, that 10% made a big difference. It has an easy aftertaste.”
Singaraja (Bean origin: Bali) 65% Cacao Mass
- Sarah: “Different…it has a fragrant taste.”
- Sarah: “Very creamy, sweet. My favorite by far.”
- Me: “It is milkier, and sweet, but not as rich a flavor.”
Well, I certainly got my chocolate fill and I even got to bring some pieces home to my roommate who was thrilled. Her favorite? The Singaraja 65%. My favorite? Singaraja 75%. I guess we should look into studying abroad in Bali instead of Florence and Barcelona….
I never knew there was such an art to tasting chocolate! I usually just gobble it up. I also learned from Penny that there is a unique art to creating the chocolates. It all depends on the beans. When you make chocolates in micro-batches like she does in her shop, the beans get more attention and the chocolate doesn’t get burned or under-cooked, and therefore it doesn’t become waxy. In big batches, the beans lose their individual nature.
On Bittersweet’s website, they compare the chocolate process to making wine. Bittersweet purchases their beans from small, single locations because they believe the single-bean origin retains the flavor and quality of the bean. And, throughout the year, you can taste the seasonal differences in the chocolate batches.
How green are they? Bittersweet is one of the only chocolatiers in the San Francisco Bay area that creates chocolate from bean-to-bar. They also uses organic ingredients, don’t use plastics because of the off-gassing, use foil that is recyclable, and each bar is hand wrapped which only used man-power!
Did I make your taste buds tingle and your stomach grumble? I’m sorry… But good news! Bittersweet chocolates are available to order online! So now you can enjoy the same chocolaty goodness!
Have you tried Bittersweet’s products? Or any other organic chocolate products? What is your favorite?
As a young, unmarried woman in her 20’s, I currently have a boyfriend who I met last year at Northeastern University where I am a student.
As the saying goes, opposites attract and, oh boy, are we opposites. I am a Communications & Business major, he aspires to be a Marine Biologist. I like public speaking and being in large groups of people, he’d rather get bitten by a shark (literally, I think he would enjoy it). I love Coldplay, he loves Set Your Goals (this music will give you a headache, trust me). I hate eating fish, he devours them (ironic? Yes). I’d rather watch Love Actually, he wants to watch Scarface. However, one area where we have something in common is our interest in green living. We both try to recycle, eat healthy foods, and we snarl at people who litter on the street. (This past weekend, he almost yelled at a Valet worker who stuck paper in a street gutter. Jerk.)
We are in college and don’t have much money, but every once in a while, we like going on a date. We try to keep the date under $30 for the two of us and we can usually get a meal and a movie for that. This past weekend, in the spirit of Earth Day and the end of the semester, we went on a Green Date.
On Friday night we met up at the boloco on campus which is within walking distance to both our apartments. We each ordered a burrito and people-watched on Huntington Ave. I personally love boloco food, but the real thing to love is that they are actually pretty green. Not only is boloco (standing for boston local company) Certified Green, but the chain uses corn cups and bamboo bowls, composts and recycles, and cooks naturally-raised meats and organic tofu.
Next, we hopped on Boston’s subway system and took a ride to Boston Commons (think NYC’s Central Park). We took a romantic stroll through the park and enjoyed the scenic views. Lucky for us, a Loew’s movie theater sits right at the edge of the park, which was our next stop.
I am a planner, so I had pre-bought movie tickets to the new Disney Nature film, Oceans. Quite appropriately, Disney has been releasing big nature films on Earth Day; last year was the release of Earth, this year Oceans, and next year, African Cats. As a future Marine Biologist, my boyfriend loves anything about the sea, so I knew he would love Oceans. I have to admit that one of my favorite things about going to the movies is snacking on sweets throughout the film. But we chose to pass up the soggy, calorie and preservative filled popcorn. Eww. And the $11 little box of semi-melted candy. Double eww. Instead I had put together a snack bag of (practically) homemade trail mix. Okay, okay, I didn’t MAKE it, I just bought our favorite dried fruits and nuts from Whole Foods put them in a baggie and added banana chips and organic chocolate chips. Voila. Healthy, organic movie sweets.
The movie was wonderful, beautiful, inspiring. The film footage was absolutely AMAZING and I am pretty sure my mouth was agape the entire time. How do the divers get so close to a wild mother sea lion and her pup? How do they get a perfect view of a Mantis Shrimp beating up a crab?? And who the heck knew there was a fish as ugly as the Asian Sheepshead Wrasse? (seriously, look it up) I was in awe the entire time. My boyfriend was impressed and I think it just made him itch more to go scuba diving this coming fall.
The theater we attended is not particularly green; I hope yours is better. Many theaters are becoming LEED-certified and installing green power systems like solar. Some use biodegradable snack bags and recycle 3-D glasses. To learn more about what theaters are doing to be environmentally friendly, click here. For us, our movie experience was made more green by Disney. Disney has promised to make a donation in honor of every movie-goer who sees the film within the first week of its release. We made our contribution, and now its your turn: you have until Friday!
After the film, we walked through the park again and headed back to campus. We finished off the night by sharing a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream. I love Ben and Jerry’s flavors but I also love that they support sustainable agricultural practices, use green freezers, invest in wind energy and have creative ways of managing their waste. And I cannot forget, before we finished the date, we recycled the movie tickets, of course :)
What a wonderful date! It proves that anyone, even a broke college student, can have a great time and be green. I would like to hear about your next green date. Remember, you can get a little fancier than me if you’d like! Where did you go? What did you do? What did you eat? In what ways were you and your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/partner green?
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdlouhy/4028750097/
I spent the majority of my summer after college sitting in traffic on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles and vowed never, ever again. I only sort of like driving and I truly hate traffic. When I moved to New York City that fall, I gave up my car and became part of the 4.5% of America that relies on public transportation to get around. With the exception of the dog days in August when it really did smell, it wasn’t bad. Most days I could get a seat on the bus and read the paper. The train home was crowded but reliable. It ran 24×7. And no sitting in traffic.
Then I moved to Boston. Boston boasts the United States’ oldest trolley system, an extensive bus network, a commuter rail and even a commuter boat. I lived in the city and just assumed I would still take public transportation. I found a bus to my job in Dorchester and other than a few rainy days when I got covered head to toe in mud puddle on Morrissey, the morning commute wasn’t bad. The problem was getting home. The bus didn’t seem to adhere to the schedule and at times I would be left sitting for over 45 minutes in a very dark, not particularly safe area. All to cover a distance I could drive in 8 minutes door to door. When my son was born, I realized I would get a sum total of 3 waking hours a weekday with him. Was I willing to give up 30% of those dealing with the randomness that was that bus line? Nope. We bought a second car and I started driving to work. And became another statistic–part of the 50% of America who has access to public transport, but doesn’t use it.
We moved a few years later and my list of musts included being able to walk to coffee and a train station. My transportation fantasy involved a short walk to the train, sitting and reading the paper, and arriving at work informed and refreshed. After moving to a house that fit the criteria perfectly, I took the train exactly once to work. That first day it took me an hour and a half (vs 30 minutes driving) and I knew I wouldn’t get home before my son was ready for bed. Sure it was greener, but when framed against time with my son? No way green would win. So much for my public transportation fantasy and rejoining that 4.5%.
When I left that job to start Practically Green, I celebrated that I could finally take the train to work. Yeah! That first day I was so happy to be on the train, even if it WAS packed and I didn’t get a seat. I got to work and realized my wallet had been stolen on the train. Not a great start. The next day, I was on the train home and noticed we hadn’t moved much. Instead of the expected 30 minutes, it took an hour. Some disabled train or something. If my son had been in daycare, I would have been fined and he would have been sitting there for 30 minutes with a rather annoyed teacher.
Over the next few months, train unpredictability made me late to work and home a lot–and put me in a generally foul mood over the train. When it works, it’s great. But it’s brutally slow in the morning and my line does seem to have a disproportionate number of disabled cars, delays, and other problems.
When my line was shut down and rerouted to a bus recently due to flooding, I decided to try a local bus to an express bus connection I found on Google Transit. The stop was one block from my house. I got a seat. It took 5 minutes to get to the express bus which ran every 10-15 minutes straight to the Back Bay in about 12 minutes. Now this was great. Or so I thought. Two weeks ago my Facebook post was “I want an iPhone app that tells me, right now, where my %^&* bus is!! I’ve been standing here for 40 minutes!!” Turns out that if I miss the 8:36 bus, the next one isn’t until 9:25?!! What kind of schedule is that?! And oh yes, all of this framed against the reality that I could drive to my office in under 20 minutes. Which, sadly enough, I find many of my friends who live outside the city do despite outrageous parking costs. I am sticking it out, but now my transportation fantasy involves working a block from my house.
As a result of nearly 15 years on and off of public transport, I’ve been watching the debate about investing in public transportation with interest. I’m a HUGE fan of public transportation conceptually and definitely hope that we begin to embrace it more as a country for the environmental benefits as well as the smart growth benefits. I also know the cost savings to a family are substantial. But I have also experienced first hand why people struggle: trip time, reliability, and frequency. So if I could sit in these debates and bring in the “voice of the customer”, here is what I would say.
1. If public transportation costs a whole lot more TIME than driving from Point A to Point B, most people will drive even if it’s more expensive and less green. How much more? Everyone has a different thresh hold, but for me, I start giving up when it takes an extra 15 minutes each way because losing thirty minutes in my day starts to be a big deal. That’s cooking dinner or reading a bunch of bedtime stories or a meeting. For example, I CAN get to Somerville by taking the green line to the red line or a bus to a bus. In over an hour. Or I can drive the 20 minutes it takes. If I could get there in ~30 minutes? No brainer. The only way to address this is to create a train infrastructure that looks more like a web than the standard hub and spoke OR you have to have more frequent train/bus connections and more express options….which gets me to Point #2.
2. You just can’t have a schedule with only one train/bus every 45 minutes and expect loads of people to switch to it. I don’t HAVE 45 minutes to be “flexible”. I’ve got, maybe, 15 minutes, to wait for a bus or train once I’ve dropped my son at school or gotten out of work and neither of those institutions really cares about the bus schedule. I would bet that if there aren’t at least four departures an hour for a bus or train from say 7AM to 8PM, you will struggle to convince significantly more people who are time-constrained and who have a financial choice to take it. And if it doesn’t come frequently enough, forget about those spontaneous “short trips” like the grocery store or the Y or the park. Too much work to figure out when it’s arriving and too hard to schedule around. Driving wins. I can already hear the transportation execs screaming that this will bankrupt us so I wish someone would fund a test for a year in a city with a decent, but not perfect bus/train system of guaranteed every 15 minute departures during the majority of the day with no need to plan, look at a schedule, etc— and measure what happens to ridership. Maybe it offsets a good portion of the expense?
3. You NEED phone apps that tell people where their *&&^ bus or train is and you have to get those “Next departure in X minutes” signs working and in more places. There’s nothing worse than sitting at a stop wondering if you’ve missed it—especially when it only comes every 45 minutes and your son is sitting at daycare or you are supposed to be meeting with your boss. When I’m driving I at least feel in control. If you give me information, we gain back some of that control that we all crave. (By the way, go to every 15 minutes reliably and you don’t need this…)
4. You have to be reliable and predictable the VAST majority of the time as opposed to regularly having problems. I would estimate I have a problem that delays my expected arrival by >15 minutes at least two times a week on the train. That drives people off the system and into their cars because at least traffic is relatively predictable and you aren’t constantly calling bosses/schools/daycares to apologize. Get that number to less than one delay a month. Then get down to one a year.
In my humble opinion, these are the “musts” that will convince significantly more people to get out of their cars (with safety the other). The “good experience things” come next. I would like a seat at least some of the time (frequency would help that), would like the A/C to work when it’s 90 degrees in August, clean stations & cars are good, and I would really like my iPhone to work between Arlington & Fenway because then on that mythical one day a year when the system isn’t working, at least I can call.
This post is for the Green Moms Carnival on Transportation hosted this month by Diane at Big Green Purse. Be sure to check out the stories and conversations from other green moms who have something unique to say about transportation.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/10037058@N08/3320393955/
Earth Day Fun:
A super cute video that shows that ANYONE (or anything!) can be green…Thanks for sending it to us Sheila Hollender from Seventh Generation!
Earth Day Viewpoints: Treehugger round up some of the most well-known green bloggers and asked them whether Earth Day really matters. There were some interesting responses…
Green Your Parents: Kids all over are taking it upon themselves to green their families in BIG ways. A new movement hopes to join kids together to help save the planet and their families $100 million over the next year.
On April 9th we told you about how “behavior placement” techniques were starting to be used by television networks to make viewers go green. Well, in honor of Earth Day, NBC really went all out. Here is a clip that shows the best moments on the network:
New and Cool Pick:
Major companies are really starting to catch on to the whole green movement and are starting to make changes. For Earth Day, companies like Frito Lay and Target set some standards for innovative ways to bring green to the corporate world.
I grew up in a family that was shabby chic before such a term existed. The men wore their dress shirts until the collars frayed, and then they had the collars turned to the other side so they could be worn for another ten years. My mother used gift wrapping paper again and again, year after year: the same sheets, creased and stuck with tape remnants. She was into re-gifting and vintage before any of this was fashionable. She might put a sparkly hair ornament from dear dead Aunt Pauline’s boudoir into a Tiffany box, say, tie it up in chubby hot pink yarn, and that would be my birthday present.
In those days Tiffany was exclusive. You’d be surprised if the lady behind the deli counter wore a Tiffany necklace, and anyway, Tiffany didn’t make necklaces with their name stamped on them. Tiffany stood for understatement, decorum, luxury – and those baby-blue boxes drew gasps at our family birthday parties even if the corners were coming down to the bare cardboard beneath.
Another of my inherited habits, and I do consider it a luxury, is the daily New York Times: the hard copy, newsprint, hold-it-in-your-hands, snip-and-save, recycle-when-it’s-done version. I can take almost any bad news if it’s delivered in those comforting inky paragraphs, arranged in their familiar orderly columns, with the occasional photograph or blaring headline. Page One, Page Two, Op-Ed, Business, Crossword, Obituaries, Quote of the Day: same way every day. Predictability in an unpredictable world. And always, without fail, a Tiffany ad at the upper right corner on Page Three.
Of all the qualities I’d ascribe to Tiffany & Co., Green would not be one of them. But there they were on Earth Day touting their Sustainability sensitivity in the ad. I clicked to the link, http://www.tiffany.com/sustainability to see what they had in mind.
Surprise, surprise: here’s a wealth of information about Tiffany’s Green mission – responsible mining practices, rules on environmental impact, statements on diamond sourcing and manufacturing in Africa, and Tiffany’s promotion of the No Dirty Gold campaign among them.
- Over 95% of Tiffany’s catalogue paper is certified to the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and the goal is to make certain that 100% of the paper used in packaging materials and catalogues is FSC-certified by 2010.
- Tiffany & Co. has pledged to reduce U.S. GHG emissions by 10 percent per square foot by 2011.
- Since 2006, Tiffany has been a responding company to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), which gathers information on the business risks and opportunities presented by climate change as well as greenhouse gas emissions data from the world’s largest companies.
Mere green-washing? You tell me.
I’m going to give Tiffany the benefit of the doubt. Any company whose box is used and re-used as much as this one is (in some households) has got to be at least Fairly Green. Don’t you think?
The following inquiry comes from a patient, pent-up, stylish Connecticut gardener who looks forward to her bucolic outdoor living spaces all winter long. Environmental design consultant Margie McNally replies.
Q. What’s the “green” way to clean outdoor furniture so as not to kill the budding flora and grass? It has to be effective in removing all that lovely moldy, mildewy junk that lurks in the webbing. That would be most appreciated and timely!
A. Valid question indeed. A couple of remedies come to mind. Depending on the material of the furniture you could simply use baking soda and white vinegar. Keep in mind white vinegar kills weeds if used full strength so it may harm other plantings. Move furniture to a paved surface then clean. You may also use a mildly abrasive Scotch Brite pad with a little Seventh Generation All Surface cleaner. I have tried this and it takes the mildew right off with little effort.
If it is wicker furniture I would advise differently.
All-weather wicker may be left outside year round. If wicker is treated or sealed with lacquer, varnish or shellac, then coated with liquid furniture wax, it should need only regular dusting. Untreated wicker should be kept inside during inclement weather. Routine cleaning includes the use of the upholstery attachment of a vacuum cleaner. If the wicker has no wooden parts it can be washed with a mild detergent such as castile soap and water solution. It must be dried throughly before use by leaving in the sun or using a hair dryer or floor fan (not as green!). If mold and mildew are apparent, appearing as tiny black spots, a cup of household bleach can be added to the solution or use TSP (trisodium phosphate). For more environmentally friendly cleaners, use household vinegar, tea tree oil or borax. Leave the solution on the mildew for a while & then rinse.
Check out The Naturally Clean Home, by Karyn Siegel-Maier and her recipe for Weekend Warrior Wicker Wash.
Guess what most women will use 11,000 of during their lives? Hint: it’s unmentionable.
Every once in a while an innovation emerges that makes me slam on the brakes and change, right then and there. How could I possibly have been doing it the old way? This no-brainer is from Sheila Hollender of Seventh Generation, whose bright idea is for women to stop putting chemicals and pesticides inside their bodies and choose organic and natural instead.
Sheila sent a reporter to Times Square to see if women are informed on this issue. Answer? A shocking NO. Here’s the video:
LetsTalkPeriod.com tells the story:
“Many women are surprised to learn that foods aren’t the only important organic choice they can make. Organic tampons are also available, and just like organic foods, they’re an important option to consider. Why? Because conventional tampons are commonly made from a blend of cotton and rayon. Rayon is typically treated with chlorine dioxide, which can result in dangerous chlorinated toxins being released into the environment. And conventional cotton is typically grown using pesticides.”
- Traditional tampons are made with a combination of Cotton and Rayon.
- Cotton is usually grown with pesticides. In fact, cotton is the most pesticide-heavy material grown in the world. Bad for women, bad for workers in the field. Bad for the field itself.
- Rayon is processed through chlorine dioxide – and it’s possible that dioxin residue is created and left in the rayon. Bad: dioxins are exceedingly toxic.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a report that stated that dioxins are known to cause cancer in animals, and probably cause cancer in people, as well as endometriosis, damaged immune system, and reduced fertility.
Why take a chance?
We’ll have more on Sheila and her smart green crusade soon. For now, here’s a coupon for Seventh Generation organic cotton tampons.
Big excitement as Green City Growers came last week to set up our 4×8 foot container garden!
This second installment in our How to Grow a Garden video series documents the process of mixing the soil, installing drip irrigation on a timer, but also has a great explanation of something I had never heard of before: intensive growing methods. This method basically covers how a 4×8 foot vegetable garden (which looks TEENY) has a shot of providing veggies for a family of 4. The video is also a reinforcement that kids, particularly boys, LOVE dirt. If you missed the first one, go here.
Sunscreen Could Cause Cancer? With warmer weather on its way, this article warns sun bathers that some sunscreen ingredients can be hormone disrupting or could cause cancer.
5 Ways to Green Your Fitness Routine: Eco-workout tips help us break a sweat without hurting the earth.
Harmful Residue Routinely Found In Meat Supply: Tainted meat in our hamburgers and school lunches? Eww! Grist reports a startling admission from the USDA Inspector General.
Catherine Mohr’s funny and informative speech about how she began her journey of building a green house, presented at a TED conference. (Thanks for posting this on our Facebook page, Peggy!)
New and Cool Pick:
ChicoBag Reusable Produce Bags: Did you know that more produce bags are given out in grocery stores than regular carry out bags? Neither did we! These cute bags will help us save some plastic.
Spring into Local Food
The number one option for fresh food here and now is Community Supported Agriculture (or CSA), which allows individuals or families to buy a share of farm produce for a given season. Usually, CSAs distribute their shares on a weekly basis. Many CSAs have pick-up locations in urban centers, and some will deliver to your doorstep. The farm usually sets the contents of the share, although there are occasionally options.
Every year, there are new CSAs. Some memberships require a commitment of hours working on the farm or facilitating share distribution; others are solely fee-based.
Check out LocalHarvest.org’s CSA page. They have an unbelievable database that includes reviews of most of the programs. I love my CSA – Land’s Sake Farm in Weston, MA is one of the best ones out there.
If picking up a CSA share isn’t doable for you, there are alternatives. This past weekend, I walked around down:2:earth, Boston’s sustainable living expo, and was happily greeted by a number of new businesses designed to help you get fresh vegetables from the farm to your home.
If you’re in the Boston area, check out the new farmer’s market produce delivery service offered by Greenologist – I met with their founder yesterday at the expo. Unlike CSAs, Greenologist gives you the opportunity to pick and choose what you want from the farm and you pay every time you order.
What’s your favorite way to eat local? Leave a comment. If you have questions, please ask! No matter how you do it, making the choice to source your food from nearby farms and food brands will leave you, your family — AND your neighborhood’s economy — healthier.
P.S. Have some extra kale? Using local ingredients doesn’t have to mean lots of salads – check out this recipe for baked kale chips.
About today’s Guest blogger: Matt Gregory is the founder of EatWithMe.com, a community food blog. He works at The Harvard Common Press, an industry-leading cookbook publisher in Boston. Matt is passionate about food entrepreneurship and is a member of The International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). Contact Matt at email@example.com
(Second in an irregular series in which I try to sell my house and move across the state as greenly as practical. Previously: Should I do a green retrofit if I’m moving soon.)
The move is happening — a year sooner than expected. Yikes.
I want to be more green, and this seems to be a good opportunity to apply some of the things I’m learning. I also want to make as much money as possible when I sell the house. I’m happy to be green; but in the end, cash will win out.
First step: Listen to the experts and clear out the house to prepare it for market. I’m lucky that my Realtor is also my father. I can trust what he says. He said “Get rid of half your stuff, then get rid of half of what’s left.” That’s excellent advice, and like all his previous excellent advice (Viz. school, girls and money), maddeningly difficult to follow.
I like my stuff. I collect books; I buy a lot of them and never get rid of any of them.
Since I moved into this house, I have also collected two children, who seem to be buried in their own stuff.
So, how to purge, in a way that’s most practically green?
1. Friends and Neighbors
I started by working the network — blogging, tweeting, pinging, facebooking, buzzing and even chatting in real life to get the word out that my stuff was up for grabs.
And the magic started.
I went to my next-door neighbor, who has two college-age boys. It turns out that one of them is moving to an off-campus apartment in a couple of months. I was able to pull together four plates, four bowls, four cups, silverware, spatulas, a good frying pan, a saucepan, a spaghetti pan and a baking dish. You’d be surprised how eager college kids are to have good stuff. And, we didn’t have to deal with this in the yard sale or on the scrap heap.
My sister’s friend just had her first grandchild. My nephew came over and grabbed the freshly-outgrown climber from the backyard and brought it over to her house.
My brothers-in-law came over to look over the books and take away some of my darlings.
We were making progress. On to Step Two.
Donating clothes is remarkably easy. Here in Holliston, we have an organization called PlanetAid that will take donations of clothes and shoes. My wife and I bagged them up and dropped them off. We also donated some clothes to our church drive.
I was very lucky that right next to the PlanetAid station was one that collected Books, CDs and DVDs. I’m going through each of the bookcases in my house and ruthlessly purging. If I haven’t read it in five years: out. If I am unlikely to ever read it again: out. If it’s depressing beyond words (I’m looking at you, The Road): out. I’m up to 35 boxes of books donated so far, with a couple of rooms still to go.
I also brought all the CDs from the past few years along with me as I was dropping off the books. A sixteen-year-old boy was there with his mother, looking every bit as excited as you’d imagine. I asked him if he liked Punk. I gave him a couple of my Rhino collections and my worn copy of Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death. It feels good to improve the general taste level of the next generation as I’m improving the salability of my house. He liked my DVDs, too; I was able to twist his arm to take seasons one to seven of Buffy, one to five of Angel, and one to five of Alias. It turns out that teenaged boys like Jennifer Garner.
Clothes? Check! Books, CDs, DVDs? Done! Hmm. What about this giant crib sitting disassembled in my basement?
I can’t put it out on the street. It’s far to nice to turn into kindling. What to do?
I’m lucky that this very blog talked about Freecycle a couple of months ago. So, I checked them out. And I ripped my hair out at the interface. And I called it names. And I tweeted how annoyed I was.
Then, I finally signed up and got through, and I started seeing all the ways people here in Holliston were helping each other. I lurked for a couple of days, then I put a note out saying that the crib was available to anyone who wanted it. Within a couple of hours, I got a few responses. The first person to respond came out the next morning and made it disappear. She was happy; I was happy; all was well with the world.
Freecyle: The interface is awful, but the people are good. Here’s the activity on my freecycle list in just the past day or so:
4. Town Recycling/Dump
What about the town? First thing was to check what the town would happily take. Holliston will accept televisions and computer monitors at the dump, and practically nothing else. Grr. But, at least I was able to finally get rid of my 1982 Sony Trinitron that’s been haunting me all these years. It’s finally joining its companion Atari 2600 in the sky.
I’ll also need to work with the town to get rid of the paint that I have in my garage. They have a couple of special “hazardous waste” days every year where you can drop stuff off. It’s worth waiting for those days, so that you can ensure that it’s being disposed of correctly.
But, what about everything else? The old porch furniture? The broken fan? The 500-pound metal file cabinet I’ve been lugging around since Nevermind?
5. The Junk Man
I found a service called 1-800-Got-Junk. This is what I was expecting:
It was actually a far more pleasant experience than I dreaded. The guys came and made the stuff disappear. No fuss, no muss. And, they hit the perfect price from a business perspective: just high enough that I had to gulp a little bit, but not so high that I would consider bailing.
That said, I don’t know if this is the greenest way to handle it. They “do their best to recycle as much junk as [they] can” and that was about as good as I was going to get. I probably could have gone item-by-item through all the stuff that was disappearing and found its optimal grave, but I have a life to lead. (Maybe this is a business opportunity for some aspiring green entrepreneur.)
I hope that the cleaning, purging and other stuff we did makes our life better. I’ll be satisfied if it helps our house sell a little faster and for a little more. I’m thrilled that I made a few other people’s lives a little better. That’s what we really want.
So, here’s my checklist:
1. Family, Friends and Neighbors
2. Donate to worthy causes
4. Town Dump
What am I missing? Are there better ways to do what I did? Please let me know in the comments, or on Practically Green’s Facebook page.
PS: One other item that is cluttering our home is wine corks. We know they are renewable and recyclable but we never know what to do with them! However, Whole Foods recently announced that cork recycling drop boxes will be available in all 292 store locations in partnership with Cork ReHarvest. Whew! Now we feel a little better about celebrating Wine Wednesday…
Many years ago when my husband was courting me from a far-away land, he sent me first a bouquet of flowers. Next, a ticket to Tuscany. Wow! I was pretty excited on the third day when a huge brown box arrived at my front door! I eagerly ripped the box to shreds and imagine my face when I saw… a… compost bin, some assembly required… And this was just the beginning. Next time I’ll tell you about the box of red wrigglers he sent me — after we were officially engaged. Do you have a compost story to share? Please go to http://www.facebook.com/practicallygreen and post it, or comment at the bottom of this post!
One of the first realizations of a beginning gardener is something mysterious called Compost. The beginner is quickly aware that compost is essential, not optional; that it’s got something to do with food, and dirt, and rot. In the words of Dr. Eric Sideman of the Maine Organic Framers and Gardeners Association: “Composting is a natural, biological process in which microorganisms use organic materials as food and leave a residue of digested organic matter that is almost completely decomposed. Composting is the same as the decomposition that happens to all living things when they die, except that you control composting in order to provide optimum conditions for the microbes, and the process takes place in a specific location so that you can collect the product.”
Ok, so what does it look like? Here’s a picture of star-quality British compost in Winter taken by my friend Dominique, who knows a thing or two about gardening. (She sent it to me with the subject line: compost porn.)
I suppose it’s possible to garden without compost, but you wouldn’t want to: not only might your veggies be limpid and your flowers stunted, you’d be missing the whole point, which is that gardening is all about conditioning the soil. And conditioning the soil is all about COMPOST.
Simply put, compost is the black gold that makes your garden grow. Compost is a substance that improves the garden soil with key nutrients. It is ideally composed of a balanced combination of wet-and-dry, airy-and-heavy, with a carbon:nitrogen ration of 15:1. Sound way too complicated? It really isn’t.
Most household composters I know collect their kitchen scraps as they go through the day, and dump them into their outdoor bin when the kitchen container is full. Food scraps begin to decompose in the outdoor bin when compatible ingredients such as leaves, manure, seaweed, grass clippings, or sawdust, are added.
You need two containers: one on your kitchen counter to collect scraps, and one outside near your garden. Both need secure lids. Gardeners Supply Company sells lots of decent buckets and bins, as well as accessories, such as the BioBags I’m using this year (see photo at top).
Note: as you shop for compost gear, you’ll begin to notice bizarre-sounding items such as “Super Hot Compost Starter” and “Red Wiggler Worms.” Yes, a $20 sack of blood meal and bone char to heat up your compost hot. Yes, live worms arriving at your door. You see, you want your compost to process, to break down, to cook, to heat up. Worms speed the process. Turning the mixture helps; you’ll need a dedicated long-handled shovel (or pitch-fork, or aerator, depending who you talk to).
You’ll discover that experienced composters are quite opinionated. This one swears by worms, that one relies on chicken poop. This one poo-poos meat scraps, that one flings entire lasagnas and chicken carcasses into the bin. Intervale Compost in Burlington, Vermont — a leader in the space for years — tends toward the inclusive end of the range. Got flies? My local compost guru says to throw in a few shovels of dirt. (Gardeners Supply sells fly traps.)
Investigate a few of the excellent online resources (a smattering is listed below), talk with your favorite local gardening experts, and dig in!
- The Intervale’s reading list on Composting: http://www.intervalecompost.org/articles.htm
- Organic Gardening offers a rich resource on composting ingredients, and on how to achieve the optimal balance of carbon and nitrogen.
- The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s web site is teeming with information; downloadable Fact sheet #5, “Composting in the Back Yard or on a Small Farm” is an especially invaluable backgrounder. Amid the sometimes clattering advice on composting, MOGFA is a kindly neighbor in faded overalls; they’ve been at it for years. Who but MOFGA would have this post-war quote on their home page: “The soil is, as a matter of fact, full of live organisms. It is essential to conceive of it as something pulsating with life, not as a dead or inert mass.” — Albert Howard, The Soil and Health, 1947
- As I write, the Gardener’s Supply website has eighteen articles on composting.
Do you have a favorite compost ingredient? Technique? Have you given up on composting? Just started? Let us know how it’s going, and if you have questions, we’ll do our best to answer them.
On Friday evening, I went to opening of the Down2Earth Sustainable Living Expo at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center. It was a true carnival of green, and because I went to the opening, there was a whole lot of tasty natural & organic food to boot! If you haven’t tried Boloco’s Buffalo Chicken wrap, I highly recommend it (and they are DineGreen certified). I also chowed on Taza chocolate, some tasty Chipotle guacamole & chips, and some amazing gnocchi from the Centre Street Cafe in Jamaica Plain. I do think my favorite part of living green is the food. It’s just so darn good!
The rest of the exhibitors were all over the spectrum of green—from gardening & landscape purveyors to window/solar/deep energy retrofit providers to diaper services, electric bikes & Zipcars. It was extremely educational, whether you are just interested in learning a little more about the whole green thing or Super Green. Here are three things I walked away thinking, ”GREAT IDEA”.
1. Seventh Generation’s new partnership with Clean Well for botanical disinfecting sprays & wipes. We switched to Clean Well for hand sanitizing/flu season as soon as I read about the dangers of Triclosan, a main ingredient in many anti-bacterial products, back in 2007 as well as the concerns about overuse of anti-bacterials causing greater drug resistant bacteria. Just last week, the FDA has decided to review the safety of the use of triclosan in consumer products. Clean Well uses thyme oil—and now, so do the multi-purpose cleaners for Seventh Generation.
2. If there is anyone in my family who has been neglected (or escaped scott free) my efforts to “go green”, it’s our dog. That’s why I was very happy to stumble upon Lucky Dog Organics. Whether it’s a Zogoflex toy made of recycled and completely safe materials or organic treats, they offer lots of options to create an eco-friendly life for your four-legged friends and an online store so anyone, anywhere can go green for their pets.
3. Diaper Lab. OK, admittedly, I am still in the target market as our 2 1/2 year old shows absolutely no inclination to leave behind her “g” diapers and start using the toilet. But I decided at a bare minimum that we were switching to pull ups. But gDiapers doesn’t make pull ups. OH NO…now what?! Well, fortunately, the DiaperLab people have a big selection of training pants/pull ups and— as I was totally undecided at the show–an online store. Now I am just facing the reality that we caved last week into Dora pull-ups—and there is no Dora on the cloth version. I can already hear the howls of protest….
So all this seems great, right? Interestingly, I ran into one vendor that I’m torn on and if anyone has any ideas—let me know. Canus Goatmilk skincare. I decided the other day that I’m ditching my bottle of organic bodywash and going back to a bar of soap. Less plastic, hopefully cheaper, and maybe some interesting new shapes & smells. But what to get? I was not anticipating a cute goat to capture my attention, but they were giving away free bars so I took one. I have used it for 3 days. I love it. (Well, mostly. I definitely need the fragrance free option next time. It is a very, umm, aromatic, fabulous soap). There is something to that goat and it’s milk—my skin is softer and smoother than it’s been in months. They have a line for kid’s and dogs too. All products are paraben-free, phosphate-free, and biodegradable and it scores a 9.5/10 in health from the Good Guide. I thought all was good. Then I went to write this and checked in this time with the SkinDeep Cosmetic Database. Uh Oh. It’s not so great. A 4/10 or moderate hazard. I think it’s due to the DMDM Hydantoin, a preservative in the formaldehyde family, that is considered an “ingredient of concern”. As a result, I think I’m ditching it. But if anyone knows more than I do, I’m all ears….
And the moral of that part of the review is that even at an expo on green living—you still can’t assume that everything meets your definition of “green”….
Photo Credit: John Stammers
Harmful Ingredient In Antibacterial Soaps: Triclosan, an antimicrobial chemical found in many common items such as antibacterial soaps is found to be a hormone-disruptor.
The Greenest Way to Wash Your Car: Forbes reveals reasons why it may be greener to go to a car wash than to wash your car at home.
Target Launches Nationwide Community Recycling Campaign: In honor of Earth Day, Target is providing storefront recycling stations where you can drop off everything from glass bottles to MP3 players.
Is TV Really Going Green Too?: We found this interesting interview about how TV networks are inserting green trends and behaviors in their TV shows. We hope the “behavior placement” works!
New and Cool Pick:
DBA Biodegradable Pen: Made with 98% biodegradable materials, this sleek pen has non-toxic ink and is compostable!
Photo Credit: http://www.dba-co.com/pen#
I’ve loosely defined an eco-freakout as an incident when one throws research and fact-based caution and practicality out the window in a decision involve some facet of eco-living. It usually involves spending too much money. It often involves one’s kids. And the lack of time to figure out the right decision is also a significant contributor.
One of my biggest eco-freakouts involved buying a big boy bed. Which was the reward for my son having ten “dry nights”. We celebrated the victory (months in the making) by taking a trip to Jordan’s Furniture which is the Framingham, Mass equivalent of Disneyworld. He pushed his little taxi at racing speeds through the children’s section, got ice cream, and proceeded to jump on nearly every bed in the place to test them out. Honestly, FSC wood, low VOC paint or buying previously owned never even crossed my mind at the time.
We picked the simplest and one of the cheapest wood slat beds, the guy asked about a mattress and we said to just give us a standard kids one. We scheduled delivery and in 40 minutes were back watching the Blues Brother show.
It was on the drive home that the fact I hadn’t done a lick of research on this decision began to gnaw. I remembered reading something about mattresses being on the bad end for VOCs and I hadn’t even asked whether they had a frame made out of FSC wood. I hadn’t perused my favorite eco-stores for options first. Nothing. I had done a complete eco-180.
At which point, with 5 days between purchase and delivery, I began to read. I had remembered correctly on the off-gassing. To quote the Green Guide, “Conventional mattresses are often made of petroleum-based polyester, nylon and polyurethane (PU) foam that, especially when new, may give off harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) associated with upper respiratory problems. Some mattresses are also pretreated with formaldehyde-emitting stain- and water-repellants whose manufacture releases perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a likely human carcinogen according to an EPA advisory panel.”
But I had also totally forgotten the dust-mite issue. My son had tested positive to a dust-mite allergy and mattresses can be breeding grounds for the little buggers. We had been fighting them using mattress covers, but his mite-induced snores still reverberated through the house. Lots of allergy websites offered “healthy” mattress alternatives, usually latex, for allergy sufferers, but delivery would be weeks not days.
By day 2, I had called Jordan’s and returned the mattress over the phone. On day 3, I headed back to Jordan’s to find a mattress that could be delivered the same day as the bed. Ideally latex AND organic. And I had a sum total of 24 minutes to buy it before being late home for the nanny. All these factors contributed to my son becoming the unsuspecting owner of a Nature’s Rest luxury latex/super green mattress and my wallet, and practicality, feeling very under assault.
This next point may just be eco-justification, but my son did stop snoring almost instantly. I’m not convinced he needed “the world’s best latex mattress” for that to happen, but we are not complaining. This eco-freakout, which is in my all-time top 10, was also a really good reminder that a) it’s very easy to slip back into old habits and that b) being green AND being practical does require some work and very often more than 2 days for delivery. Incidently, Natures Rest has a manufacturing plant in Chelsea, MA. I’m holding out hope that my mattress was made locally for point #2 of my eco-justification list.
My mother and her three sisters are known as The Aunties in our (large, close-knit) Italian family. This summer two of my cousins are getting married, and trust me it’s a big deal. Last weekend I went home for their double-couple’s wedding shower. Two grooms (my cousins), two brides, four families, and numerous close friends joined together in a beautiful celebration of love.
The Aunties hosted and directed everything and (of course!) the party was gorgeous. It was actually pretty green, too. The Aunties had a budget and two different wedding themes to keep in mind, and being eco-friendly was probably not #1 on their “To Do” lists. What I learned, however, is that often the most cost-effective, easiest, and practical ways to plan a party are the greenest, too.
Here are some lessons learned from The Aunties…
- It was a double wedding shower requiring only one set of invitations to send out and one trip for family members to make, which made it conveniently green!
- The Aunties asked each family to bring their own plates and wine glasses which looked cute and saved the party from being a disposable tableware mess. We all then chipped in at the end to wash and dry the dishes together which was fun and also saved energy.
- The Aunties set up trash cans AND recycling bins and enforced separation!
- The centerpieces and main decorations were beautiful potted hydrangeas and daffodils, which were then given as favors for guests to take home and plant.
- Each Auntie was in charge of making certain menu items, which saved the event from being catered (which uses extra energy because of the large vans and food reheating). Also, all of the food on the menu except one dish was served cold. It was delicious! Chicken salad, Mediterranean salad, shrimp cocktail, fresh fruit, and coleslaw. This saved them from using an oven to heat things up and subsequently saved energy.
- The Aunties used decorations that they either already had or bought and intend to use for all future wedding showers and other future family gatherings, which reduced the amount of waste leftover from the event.
Here are a few more ideas I came up with…
- Everyone loves opening gifts, so wrapping the gifts is usually expected. Instead of buying wrapping paper, how about make your own? I found a bridal magazine and cut out cute pictures and taped them together on the box. Note: it is important to tape the pictures to one another and not the box or else the brides will spend 15 minutes peeling away pictures! I then used a leftover holiday ribbon to add decoration to the top. The result is a charming package, and the bride will know how much thought you put into it. Here is my wrapped present:
- Save some electricity and hold the shower during the day. Open the shades and let natural sunlight come in and leave the lamps to rest.
- Forget paper invitations. Use Paperless Post, a great website that allows you to design and send fine stationary over the internet. Guests receive the invitation in an email that allows them to “open” an envelope and RSVP online. If they must, there is a ‘print’ option, although we think an email is good enough.
- Use a standard theme for the party and ask guests to wear only clothes they already have. You could say, “We are following the tradition of ‘Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue’. Please contribute something old or borrowed by wearing an outfit you already have, borrowed from a friend or found pre-owned in a store.” You never know, it could be the beginning of a fun, quirky, green family tradition!
The shower was a hit and every guest had something to take home. By the time the guests left and cleanup was done, my Aunties smiled, elevated their swollen feet and agreed that although it was a lot of work and planning, being cheap, creative, and practical was the (green) way to go. Good job Aunties!
Have you been to a “green” shower? Was anything done differently? Did my Aunties and I forget any tips? We would love to know!
We were already envisioning a standing-seam metal roof on our new barn, inspired by the soaring examples at Shelburne Farms in Vermont. Our decision to go with a thin-film PV material made sense, because it can easily be integrated into that type of roof. I had no idea how easily: one morning last week a white van pulled up, out hopped five guys, and by lunchtime they were done.
The entire process reminded me of lining bureau drawers with contact paper. Glenn, the leader, commandeered the troop: two men up on the roof, and the other two guys on the ground near the barn. The ground team laid each 26’ x 16” metal “pan” across a simple trestle table and cleaned it with rubbing alcohol. Then they placed a roll of flexible photovoltaic material at one end of the pan. One of them picked at the corner of the white adhesive backing and zipped it off as four hands guided the shiny black-and-blue material onto and into the pan. Using purple hand-held rollers, Glenn and his men began rubbing, hard, to adhere the material to the metal. Once Glenn gave the okay, (after five minutes, tops), the ground crew carried the metal length to the barn, passed it up to the guys on the roof. They attached it to the previous length, clamping it all the way down. This process repeated itself twenty-four times. It was a remarkably quiet, smooth process, verging on meditative. And the roof is, to my eye, gorgeous: indigo rectangles along a black strip, and all of it slightly sparkly. “Better than a new necklace,” my friend Dominique remarked when she came over to check it out.
I’m told that the system design for our barn generates 3.5 KW, which means it will produce 3.5 kilowatts when conditions are ideal, e.g. on a full-sun day. There is some reduction of this total capacity in the process of converting the DC power to AC (usable) power…maybe a 10-15% loss. It’s bears repeating that the system is grid-connected with a net metering arrangement with National Grid so that your meter will be turning backwards when we’re not there (or there but not using much electricity). This is the financial “overjoy” described in a comment on our previous Solar post: “I heart solar energy!” Just imagine how much power could be generated if the folks up at Shelburne Farms decided to install thin-film!
For more on our roofing manufacturer, including thin-film installation, go here: http://www.englertinc.com/ThinfilmSolar_info.aspx?Page=1
Solar power is a basic, simple energy source that makes my jaw drop. I flung a string of solar twinkle lights around our little glass greenhouse for the holidays, went away for a week and forgot about them. On my return, as sunset approached, I was entranced by the emergence of a constellation of glowing, bluish pin-dots out there in the cold enclosure. Magic! The solar collector panel for these lights is no bigger than a pack of cards. But oh how it works — even on a cloudy day. As the sun goes down, those lights go on.
Imagine using solar power for your entire house. Maybe you already have thought about it, and maybe you’re starting to investigate the idea: what kind of Photo-Voltaic (PV) collectors make sense, how do they work, what’s it all going to cost, are there any incentives or tax credits, who’s going to install it, what’s involved with the maintenance, and what happens if it breaks, yadda yadda yadda.
The basic idea is that the sun shines on the PV cells, which convert the solar radiation into Direct Current, or DC. This is turned into Alternating Current (AC) — the type we use in most buildings — by an inverter nearby. This powers your home. Now things get interesting: If your utility offers net-metering, then any extra power gets pushed onto the utility grid and you earn credits to your electric bill. This two-minute video gives a great first lesson. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFDn6eTV0jQ&feature=related
There’s a lot of information to absorb and sift through, granted. But if you have a south-facing roof, it’s doable. You can consider adding PV cells in panels, on tiles, or installed in the roofing material. I suggest you get a copy of a guide like Solar Living Sourcebook (30th anniversary edition), The Homeowner’s Guide to Renewable Energy or Solar Power Your Home For Dummies.
To find out about rebates and tax incentives, go here: http://www.dsireusa.org/
Or, explore a website like one of these:
This is just the first of many Practically Green pieces on solar energy – next time, I’ll tell you about installing the system on the roof of our barn last week. Meanwhile, please do post your questions and comments here, and we’ll do our best to answer them.