Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: green living (page 1 of 2)


I write with a pencil
that used to be blue jeans,
a pen that once, was

Coiled light bulbs everywhere
whitewash coal,
fluoresce the dim glow
of self-satisfaction.

Is there any way to go
green? To be clean
and live lightly?

To go past saving money
(the only green that
gets anyone talking)?

This is a response to Robert Lee Brewer’s NaPoWriMo Earth Day prompt at Poetic Asides.

I think increasing awareness of our collective footprint and impact on the planet is a good thing, and I think it’s good for us to do our part and think about the impact of our actions (and our plastic and toxic junk) on the planet, but I often wish there was more concern for environmental protection beyond the ways in which we can now possibly profit from it. I don’t need to be able to cash in on something to make it worth saving. Maybe I’m funny that way.

You know what else is funny? The word bulb. I never really thought about it until I started working on this poem. I don’t know why, but the word makes me smile.

Monday Movie Roundup

Two tales of terror…

Saw III (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2006)

Crap. Pure crap. I didn’t see the “twist” coming and I didn’t care. This was a real shame since Saw was such a fine example of the no-budget psych thriller.

Saw II was good, but Saw III was a waste of time. Its point is to make the audience cringe in disgust, but the fear never gets inside you. We went to bed laughing, but not in the same way that the brilliant Scream films make a person laugh while gettin’ skeert.

Saw should have been cut off (ouch!) after the second one. Oh, well. Ch-Ching.

An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim, 2006)

Al Gore should have been our president. The sad thing is that had he been the man who narrates An Inconvenient Truth, – passionate and funny – he might have.

I read the book a few months ago (here’s the link to that post), and most of my thoughts about the subject haven’t changed and since the movie hews pretty close to the book, there’s not much point in reiterating except to say that this is something we should all be concerned about.

The film version is gripping and disturbing, at times both heartbreaking and wickedly funny. Everything a good horror flick should be. Watching it, I couldn’t help but think about the Saw films in which “Jigsaw” places his victims in traps designed to make them face their own sins and crimes, each victim forced to face his or her own inconvenient truth. Escape is meant to be excruciatingly painful, but always possible. His victims, however, are rarely able to muster the strength of will to inflict the necessary pain on themselves to escape before it’s too late.

An Inconvenient Truth explains the workings of the trap we’re in and offers a way to escape, though Gore is much for comforting than “Jigsaw’s” mechanical puppet head. The question is, do we want to save ourselves badly enough?

Jigsaw’s infamous question, “Do you want to play a game?” has already been asked.

Final Carbon Numbers

According to the Official Records Division of the Slate/Treehugger Green Challenge my final score is 8399, which means I’ve promised to take the annual equivalent of 0.86 cars off the road.

I have reduced 45.95% of the carbon emissions I reported at the start of the challenge, and I’ve actually reduced 343% of the emissions I pledged to cut over the last eight weeks.

To reward myself, I think I’ll have me an organic beer.

Good Air

And so all things must end including the Slate/Treehugger Green Challenge carbon diet. In this final action quiz I pledged to reduce my carbon load by 617 lbs or .06 cars.

This brings my total reduction to 8498 lbs (~.89 cars) off of my original footprint of 18274 lbs (~1.83 cars), a 47% reduction to a new total footprint of 9776 lbs, which appears to be less than the equivalent of one car so I’m assuming that the statistical cars used for these calculations must be gas guzzlers because I can’t seen how my footprint could be less than a car since I do, in fact, own a car, and did not plan to purchase any carbon offsets.

Regardless of imaginary cars, though, the final quiz focused on home and office issues, and I pledged to use recycled paper, avoid printing emails whenever possible, reduce my garbage by 25% and replace the monitor with an Energystar model.

I’d already done these things, except the garbage which – based on unscientific calculations – has been reduced by at least 50% just by recycling all paper. I’m basing this on the fact that it now takes three weeks to fill my garbage can instead of one.

If I could recycle the dog shit in the backyard, I’d probably be able to save the world myself. But I scoop it up so that I can use the unpowered hand mower that I’ve had for a few years now, which was another item on the action quiz that I’ve already got covered.

My action quiz results included the following information:

  • Switching to 100 percent recycled paper for your home office can save about 75 pounds of CO2 per person per year.
  • Reducing your garbage by 25 percent saves about 500 pounds of CO2 per person per year.
  • Replacing your home fax machine with an Energy Star-rated one saves about 82 pounds of CO2 per person per year.

Overall, this whole thing hasn’t really opened my eyes to anything I didn’t already know. In most cases, I was already doing the things that they are encouraging.

I guess that bottom line is that climate change is one of those issues in which anyone can make simple, easy changes that when combined with others doing the same can ripple outwards and have effects far greater than we might initially imagine.

Not everyone can do everything, but I think anyone can make some changes. All it requires is changing a few habits.

A Tale of Two Molecules

Week seven of the Slate/Treehugger Green Challenge has arrived and this week’s topic is water. Specifically hot water since water don’t heat itself. Once again, the quiz reveals we’re already pretty green regarding the relationship between CO2 and H2O.

Short showers? Already doing it. It’s really simple. Short shower = longer sleep. ‘Nuff said. Low flow shower head? No. Here’s where I’ll play the hey-I-have-a-hybrid-card. Boil only the water I need for my tea? Check. Run dishes when the dishwasher is full? check. Keep the water heater at 120F or less? Probably. Mine has low-med-high with little hash marks in between. It’s set one hash above med as near as I can tell. It’s hard to get to and checking it would require backing the car out, which would require starting it and adding needlessly to the CO2 in the atmo.

For extra credit, I pledged to do things I was intending to do anyway: replace the water heater with a tankless model when it needs replacing and replace our current Energystar dishwasher with another Energystar when it dies.

The results page says this:

  • Installing a low-flow shower head saves an average of 507 pounds of CO2 per person per year.
  • Running the dishwasher only when it’s full saves about 50 pounds of CO2 per person per year.
  • Setting your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit saves about 275 pounds of CO2 emissions per person per year.
  • Insulating your hot water heater saves about 500 pounds of CO2 per person per year.
  • Installing a solar water heating system reduces your CO2 emissions by about 360 pounds annually per person.

The last two I won’t be doing at this time.

So, this week we shed some water weight and reduced our carbon load by 911 lbs or .09 cars. This brings the total reduction to 7881 lbs or 43% of my original total of 18274 lbs.

Saving cold water also helps as well, which reminds me of my grandmother’s admonition: ‘If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown flush it down.’ She lived her whole life in the deserts of Arizona. We won’t go that far.

Notsogreener Scrooge

This week’s edition of the Slate/Treehugger Green Challenge focuses on the holidays. Keeping in mind that no one actually diets during the holidays, I figured that carbon diets would be no different, and as it turns out I was right.

There was nothing I was willing to pledge to do to reduce my footprint other than recycle my holiday waste, which I was going to do anyway. That saves a statistically insignificant 15 lbs. I could have agreed to purchase various kinds of carbon offsets for the people on my list, but I’m thinking that would go over as well as, well, a lump of coal.

Speaking of lumps of coal, though, in an effort to reduce my carbon footprint in ways that aren’t recognized by Slate and Treehugger, I will no longer be giving lumps of coal to all the bad kids on my list. Instead they will recieve broken shards of solar panels and pieces of old windmills. That’ll teach ’em.

And so, this week I take no cars off the road and hold fast at the 32% reduction in my original footprint that I hit last week.

Electric Green

Last week’s quiz in the Slate/Treehugger Green Challenge focused on electricity. There was nothing in the quiz that we’re not doing already. Flourescent bulbs – check. Energy Star appliances (either already owned or we’ll get them when we replace things) – check. Unplugging electronics when not in use – check.

There were a few other items that I’ve forgotten, but there was nothing I could pledge to do that I’m not already doing, but while we were in Orange we got flourescent bulbs for my wife’s parents’ house and her grandmother’s house. Her grandmother seemed pleased that we were helping her do what Al Gore said we should.

Here are some other things you can do, according to the results page on my quiz:

  • Exchanging three frequently used incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs saves about 150 pounds of CO2 a year per person.
  • Unplugging your electronics when they’re not in use or using a power strip to shut them down saves about 500 pounds of CO2 a year per person.
  • Unplugging external battery chargers for MP3 players, cell phones, and the like saves 213 pounds of CO2 a year per person.
  • Replacing a conventional cordless phone with an Energy Star model saves 13 pounds of CO2 a year per person.
  • Replacing a refrigerator that is more than 13 years old saves about 50 pounds of CO2 a year per person, and an average of 650 pounds of CO2 per person over the life of the appliance. Energy Star-rated refrigerators use about half as much energy as models manufactured before 1993. Each year, that comes to about the energy it takes to light the average household for nearly five months. So, if you’re leaving on an old fridge in your basement to store extra food from time to time, you’re adding to your carbon waistline.

So, this week we spread the gospel and reduced our carbon load by 1178 lbs or .12 cars. This brings the total reduction to 6970 lbs or 38% of my original total of 18274 lbs.

Fortunately, I Look Good in Green

This week, the Slate/Treehugger Green Challenge focuses on clothing, and I’ve pledged to do things I’m already doing such as donate instead of throwing away unwanted clothes, line dry half my clothes, wash only full loads, and use warm or cold water to wash.

I’ll also purchase an Energy Star front-loading machine when the one we have now wears out. I was going to do that anyway.

Allegedly, by doing these things that I’m already doing, I can remove the equivalent of .08 cars from the road, but since I’m already doing them, I think it’s more a matter of keeping .08 cars off the road.

According to my reduction quiz page:

  • The average American disposes of about 66 pounds of clothing and shoes each year, according to the Gaia Movement Trust. Donating instead of tossing saves about 165 pounds of CO2 emissions per person per year.
  • Using only cold or warm water to wash your clothes saves energy and about 150 pounds of CO2 per person per year.
  • Swapping the dryer for the clothes line saves 350 pounds of CO2 per person per year.
  • Purchasing an Energy Star washing machine saves an average of 257 pounds of CO2 emissions per person per year.

So, for purposes of this carbon diet challenge, I’ve now reduced my initial carbon footprint by an additional 787 lbs, which brings my total reduction to 5792 lbs or 32% of my original total of 18274 lbs.

I’m just glad I don’t have to wear a hemp cloak to be green. Although, cloaks are cool.

Greenin’ Up the Country

It’s week three of the Slate/Treehugger Green Challenge. I’m workin’ out, pumpin’ iron at the carbon gym, shedding that carbon flab and getting myself leaner and greener.

This week’s focus area is food. I eat a mostly organic mostly vegetarian diet, and I readily admit that I eat this way because the food tastes better, and I just don’t trust the chemicals that are put into so much food. Call it enlightened self-interest. Anyway, there’s not much else I can do here except change a few shopping habits.

The first topic was beef. I hardly eat any beef as it is, only the occasional hamburger three or four times a year. I have pledged to cut my beef consumption in half, which means I’ll just get a single when I get those burgers.

I could have pledged to buy only local apples, and I try for local when available, but this isn’t really apple country so most of mine come from elsewhere.

Letting hot food cool before putting it in the fridge is smart. I’ve always done that, so I can’t change my ways there.

I’m already in the habit of buying products with less or reusable packaging so I’ll continue with that.

I’ve been meaning to start using reusable bags at the grocery store or at least reuse the ones I have. But I always forget to bring bags. Maybe this week. I mean, with the fate of the world hanging on this, you’d think I could remember. Perhaps it is some consolation, though, that I usually refuse to have my purchases bagged when I’m only buying a small amount of things. Cashiers look at me funny when I ask them not to bag a book or CD, but you have to live with that when you’re a terrorist-loving America-hating liberal moderate anyway.

According to the results page on my pledge/quiz thing:

  • Cutting beef out of your diet saves approximately 1,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per year.
  • Bringing your own bags to the grocery store saves about 17 pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions a year.
  • Buying food and other products with minimal packaging saves about 230 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
  • Becoming a vegetarian saves 3,000 pounds of CO2 a year.

If I keep my pledges on food, such that they are, I will reduce my carbon footprint by 637 lbs or .07 cars. This brings my total reduction to 4995 lbs, which is a 27% decrease in my original carbon footprint.

I’m practically wasting away.

On another note, I just learned that Montana’s new senator, Jon Tester, is an organic farmer. How cool is that?

Man, I Sure Could Go for a Lump of Coal Right Now

Well, it’s week two of the Treehugger/Slate carbon diet challenge and so far I’m not jonesing for carbon yet. Looking back on last week’s assignment, I’ve done everything I pledged to do.

This week’s focus area is home heating. Ironically, I can’t really do much about this one. I live in central Texas where home heating isn’t really a big issue. You know, what with global warming and all.

There were good ideas for shedding carbon if you live in colder climes, but I could only manage to shed .18 cars worth of carbon by making small adjustments with the thermostat, which will be hard since we don’t really run the heat much anyway unless it gets really cold. Which it doesn’t. This is Texas. It’s like Hell, but with BBQ.

Since we live in a new house, I know the insulation is good which means I don’t need to add any, nor do I need to caulk the windows or do any of the other suggested things. The thermostat however, nets these benefits according to my results page:

  • Turning down the thermostat 2 degrees in winter during the day saves about 800 pounds of CO2 per year.
  • Turning down the thermostat 8 degrees more at night in winter saves about 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

So by doing these things, I can reduce my carbon load by 1800 lbs, which is about 9% of my initial total of 18,274 lbs. Combined with last week’s 14%, I’m now at a 23% reduction of carbon.

You can thank me when it’s still snowing on Earth in a few years.

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