Sunday, February 10, 2008

New Year, New Changes

OK, so it isn't really a New Years Resolution, but like Shawn, I am trying to be a little more green in 2008. To that end, we've changed a few things in our life:
  • Last year we stopped buying bottled water for the house. I try not to buy it on the road, but that seems a near impossibility at times. Of course, research suggests that using a Nalgene bottle may expose me to Bisphenol A. I may have to buy a few of the Sigg bottles instead.
  • I've started recycling more. After spending some time to determine what we can recycle in Atlanta, I have added more printed junk mail and cardboard to the outbound collection of recyclables. We already were very good about recycling plastic, glass and some paper products, so this is more of a tweak to our normal routine.
  • Bye, bye printed catalogs! They fill up our mailbox every day. Catalogs from places like REI (which I want) and L.L. Bean (which I don't want). So I have used Catalog Choice to stem the flow. So far, no difference.
  • "Free" newspapers that come in the mail aren't free to print, distribute and then haul to a recycling center. I called our local free newspaper and politely asked them to stop distributing to our home.
  • Low flow toilets are great (well, sometimes) but they still account for a lot of our water usage. New motto: "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down." A little urine in the toilet isn't going to kill anyone, but it will save a lot of water.
  • Low flow showerheads are next on the list. I bought one already from Bricor, a 1.5 gallon per minute (GPM) model designed to save 1 GPM over my current showerhead, but I am disappointed with the results. The water pressure in my house may be part of the problem, but increasing the water pressure will cause more waste elsewhere. This one is going back to the manufacturer while I search for other solutions. (On this note, my water bill averages $35/mo. Another couple who are neighbors of ours have an average bill of $85/mo and some neighbors run $300+ bills in the summer. We're already pretty light users of water, it seems.)
  • I am trying to get better at turning off the monitor, printer and other peripherals when they are not in use. Steph's machine automatically turns off when not in use. Since I'm almost always online I haven't yet gone down that route for my machines.
There are a few things we've done for years, too:
  • Telecommute. I've been doing it for 3 years, full time. My car gets about 5000 miles/year traveling mostly to the airport and the gym. I figure this saves us 10 - 20k miles/year.
  • Use automated thermostats and moderate the HVAC. Sure, I'd like it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, but that gets expensive quickly. The difficult part is when I work from home, I can't just heat or cool my office easily. I've looked into thermostats that automatically circulate air through the house even when the heat or AC are not needed, just to keep the temperatures even and air circulating. This may be a future change
  • CFLs. Need I say more?
And then there are the things I can't or won't change. Admittedly, I could buy carbon credits, but I'm just not there yet:
  • Air travel. I flew ~70k miles last year. Its my job and we love to travel.
  • Inefficient cars. Sure, together we only drive ~25k miles/year, but neither car is particularly fuel efficient, at best we get 26 MPG in the Passat on a road trip. Considering that we drive an about average amount of miles in average fuel efficiency cars, this isn't all bad news. But it could be better if we had reasonable public transportation...
  • Plastic grocery bags. They make good dog-poop bags. Two uses and I don't need to buy dog-specific bags.
What are you doing to reduce your ecological impact, if anything?


yakov said...

I'm curious find out about your results with catalogs and newspapers. I was on the brink of using one of the services to stop catalog delivery, but amount of personal information I needed to provide to them made me feel uneasy. Also, how do you deal with weekly shopper's newsletters and coupons that get dropped in the mailbox?
I've been buying CFLs for all new fixtures and opportunistically replacing incandescents for about six months. Other than not being able to use dimmer I have to say that I even prefer the light of CFL.
We've been buying a lot of bottled water in the past until I convinced my wife to use filtered water. We also buy RO water from Whole Foods. In the end it ends costing us a lot less.

dhs said...

The local free newspaper was easy to get rid of. I cannot find a way to stop the flow of the coupon filled trash we get.

I had no problem with Catalog Choice, they didn't require an excessive amount of information to start requesting catalogs stop sending their wares to me.

On the CFL front, you need a dimmable CFL. They are out there, look at HomeDepot or Lowes or online.

Anonymous said...

I've been working on a similar post for my blog on the same topic. I have been doing the same as you with the toilet mantra and although it requires more frequent cleaning, it's a huge saver.

I've been looking at the indoor composters to try and save on food waste and I purchased a Brita filter for my office rather than use bottled water (water here is unfortunately very chlorine-tasting otherwise).

I find a lot of travelers are more sensitive to these issues. Standing around Vietnam while old ladies burn plastic bags or seeing how the ravines in India are used as trash dumps made me appreciate that we have the ability to do something about the situation.

dhs said...

I was thinking about the Brita/Pur filters. We reduce the amount of gas used to transport items and the plastic waste associated with bottles. But what about the plastic cartridge that holds the filter medium? Is that thing even recyclabled?

*sigh* No easy answers I'm afraid.

Let me know how it goes with the indoor composting. I'm not quite there yet...

Unknown said...

Speaking of catalogs, the previous owners of our house were huge shoppers I think. We still get sometimes up to 10 catalogs a week and they've been out of the place for 3 1/2 years.