Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Day 9 of our Green Year: Milk Jug Flower Pots

Nearly every home buys milk, and many often buy them in the 4 Liter milk jug size. However, these milk jugs are often not recycled. Sadly, they often end up in landfills, or simply thrown away to sit for decades as they slowly decay. It does not have to be this way, and Layla and I have already committed to recycling our milk jugs. However, we thought we would also go one step further and starting turning our milk jugs into something useful.
There are really countless things that you can use a milk jug for if you don't recycle it, but here are a fraction of the ones Layla and I have initiated in our house.
  1. You can poke holes in them and turn them into a great watering can for the garden. Leave them sitting outside (securely so they don't blow away) and let rain water fall in them. This then gives a double-whammy for the environment because you are using rain water and recycling a jug.
  2. You can cut them in half and use them as flowers pots. As you can see, we have done this with three of our milk jugs already. You may be asking about the tops, well you can even use those as flower pots if you keep the lid on them, or you can use them as funnels.
  3. The tops of the milk can also be turned into bird feeders and watering sieves, simply by poking holes in the top.
  4. They also make great mini-compost containers. You can use them to transport compost from dinner or other meals to the compost bin. Just remember to keep it clean, and it will work great sitting under the sink for you until you can go out to your compost bin.
We are using three of our jugs to grow some flowers, one for watering the garden and one for composting transportation. Layla is also working on a great set of birdhouses and flower pots made from milk jugs that will be decorated and look wonderful, which will be available through our blog.

Waste Reduced: Several milk jugs worth and growing.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Day 8 of our Green Year: Lighting Up The House Efficiently

Yay, one week ago today this blog was created and already we are getting a lot of feedback on it and a lot of visits. Both Layla and I are excited about where this blog will go in the coming weeks, and months.

For Day 8, we decided that the time was right to switch our house over to Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) from the standard incandescent lights. We are doing this to not only save energy, which means less fossil fuels, but also to save money on our electric bill. These lights will replace the rest of the old fashioned lights in our house, and while they cost more, they are better in the long run.

A full 25 percent of the energy bill in a typical home is from the lighting and the price to light an incandescent bulb over its life is as much as 10 times what the bulb cost originally. The CFLs we are purchasing will last 10 times as long as the old bulbs, use 50 to 80 percent less energy and are four times more efficient.

Surprisingly, one of the easiest and best things you can do for the environment is to install these bulbs, which is why our house is now a Compact Fluorescent Light house. If everyone in the U.S.A used these bulbs, it would mean 90 power plants could shut down; reducing CO2 pollutants and nuclear waste.

CO2 Removed from atmosphere after replacing incandescent bulbs with CFL bulbs (five rooms) over life of bulbs: 2.5 tons.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Day 7 of our Green Year: Volunteering The Green Way

The Green Party of British Columbia is a quickly rising provincial party that may get a seat or two in the next election, coming in the fall. In our second day of our Green Year, we joined the Green Party because they fit the green ideals that we hold dear. Well, Day 7 began with Layla taking on a position as the official Secretary of the BC Green Party. It is a pretty prominent position to hit only a few days after joining the party, and now she will be busy organizing meetings, the AGM, as well as taking notes during conference calls. We hope to inspire a few people within the party to start their own goal of going green every day.

It is a big step for both Layla and I to get so involved in a provincial party, but we both feel that the BC Green Party is a provincial party on the right track who are poised for a breakthrough in our area of British Columbia. Now, with Layla helping out in her position, I feel they just got a pretty significant boost on their road to provincial election success.

Here are some quick facts about the Green Party:
In 2005, the Green Party of BC ran in all 79 ridings and finished with nine percent of the total vote, down slightly from the 12 percent they had in the 2001 election. So far, across the world, Green Party members have been elected in over 60 nations around the world, including Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico and New Zealand.
These countries use a proportional voting system, which BC and Canada does not, if they did, the Green Party would have had several members in both provincial and federal levels of government.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Day 6 of our Green Year: Improving the Air with Saplings

For Day 6 of our Green Year, we decided to make things a bit greener in our area. As a result, we have acquired seven saplings that we are going to be planting later this week to help improve the air, take some CO2 out of the atmosphere and make things a bit easier on the planet.
These trees will be planted later this week near some of the trails that hikers use around our town. However, we may put one or two in our yard.

You may be asking the question of how planting trees can help the environment, so here are some bits of information about trees and all they do for the environment, and us.
  1. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, remove the carbon and release oxygen back into the air. This means, no trees, no oxygen, we all die. In fact, one acre of mature trees absorb the same amount of CO2 in one year, that a car being driven for 26,000 miles produces.
  2. Trees placed around a home in a strategic manner keep it cool and cut summer air conditioning needs by up to 50 percent.
  3. Trees reduce runoff by breaking rainfall, which allows the water to flow down the trunk and into the earth below the tree. This prevents stormwater from carrying pollutants into the ocean.
  4. Trees shield people from UV rays. The most common form of cancer in North America is skin cancer, and trees reduce UV-B exposure by 50 percent.
  5. Studies have found that patients in hospitals with views of trees at their window heal faster. Children with ADHD have fewer symptoms when able to see trees, and mental fatigue is reduced on individuals who have trees outside their windows.
  6. Homes and neighborhoods with trees in front of them have been shown to lower the violence of an area near the home.
  7. Trees increase property values by up to 15 percent when planted in strategic locations around the yard.
Carbon Removed Each Year By Seven Full-Grown Trees: 182 Pounds
Amount of Oxygen Provided by Seven Full-Grown Trees: Enough for 21 People

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Day 5 of our Green Year: Ground Squirrel Patrol

We finally had a nice day, the first in weeks, to welcome us on a Saturday and it could not come any sooner for these two green activists.
Today was the day when we would be doing a tour of a park and cemetery to look for ground squirrel burrows. We are doing this on a Saturday because Layla and I are directors of a local environmental group, a group which has kept our local city from using poison to kill ground squirrels since it causes havoc to the eco-system of the area, and causes raptors to starve to death.
So, today we journeyed to these parks, where we are taking an inventory of the ground squirrel burrows so we can manage them and move them away from the grave sites and baseball diamonds, and into areas where they will not be in danger from humans. To do this, we use sonic repellers, and other non-lethal methods. We do not trap them, but simply help convince them to move to another area of the park or cemetery.
So, for our fifth day of our Green Year, we spent two hours walking around, finding the ground squirrel holes, putting the location on a map, and then putting dirt over it. We put the dirt over it to see if it is still an active hole. If it is, then the ground squirrels will easily get through the loose dirt, and we will know what areas to concentrate on for repelling ground squirrels.

Total Ground Squirrel Burrows Found: Over 100. Birds saved by taking over the program for the city from pest controllers; dozens if not hundreds.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Day 4 of our Green Year: Storing Snow

We are just about one week into our Green Year, and today we took the advice of someone who has read the blog and began storing snow.
Yes, it may seem odd that we are storing snow, but the truth is that it is an excellent way to save water for the summer.
When people water their lawns, they can waste between 50 and 500 gallons of water. Some water in the afternoons, when most of the water evaporates, while others water their lawn too much. Typically, your lawn needs only one inch of water per week. This means that if you have a rectangle lawn (for simplicity's sake) that is 15 by 35 feet, you will need 271 gallons of water per week to water it. However, your lawn can survive on less, so watering your lawn as little as 100 gallons of water per week should be fine.
To that end, we have begun gathering up snow, which we will store in a 71 gallon rain barrel that can be bought from Canadian Tire for about $70 to $90. While we fill the barrel with snow, rain will also keep it full. This means that if we can maintain the barrel with enough rain water so that it is full twice a month, that is 142 less gallons of water we will be using on the lawn each month.
We have not bought the barrel yet, and are just using some containers we have around the house instead. They may be small, but every single drop of water helps and it is another drop less that we use from the watersheds in the area.

It should be noted that when we store our water, we will be purchasing a mosquito net so that no mosquito can get to the water to lay its larvae. You should never let still water exist in your yard, unless it is covered or protected from mosquitoes, who will use it as a breeding ground.

A Shout Out!
Thank you to everyone who has read the blog and sent us e-mails. In particular, Min, Jay and Sue have all told us they will be implementing some of the ten things you can do to save the environment. Every big change starts small, but overtime it grows larger and larger until it cannot be denied. We look forward to receiving more comments and feedback in the future.

Water Saved With Two Small Containers: 5.3 Gallons (small but a start)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Day 3 of our Green Year: Going From Plastic to Cloth

We are beginning our third day of our Green Year by scrapping buying plastic bags, and instead using cloth bags. These bags (modeled by our dog Niko) were bought (we have four) for .99 cents each from a local store, except for the big one which we got for free from our local city.
We calculated today that we use about eight plastic bags per week in our weekly shopping (food and otherwise), and that amounts to 32 plastic bags per month, or 384 plastic bags per year. We are a family of two, so a family of four will use 768 plastic bags per year on average.

The cloth bags we have can not only hold more, they have longer usage lives and they cause no ill effects to the environment. Sadly, even though these bags can last a decade or so for use, plastic bags will exist in our landfills and elsewhere for about 500 to 1,000 years, despite being used for five minutes on average. Many of the plastic bags used actually end up in oceans, where they get in the stomachs of marine animals and slowly kill them horribly.

Thankfully, there will now be 384 less plastic bags in the landfills and oceans because of four cloth bags that cost us three dollars.

Reduction on our Carbon Footprint: 384 Plastic Bags in Landfills From Our House (.0029 tonnes or 6.4 pounds of waste)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Day 2 of Our Green Year: Snow and the Green Party

Well, we are onto Day 2 of our Green Year and we begin it by waking up to more snow. Yes, that is right, it is snowing on April 23. In fact, our yard still has snow in it, making this the longest period of time we have ever had continuous snow in the yard; November to April (and at least May).

Obviously, this means that things are out of whack for the environment. Scientists predict that places that are traditionally wet (where we are in the Pacific Northwest) and places that are dry, will get wetter and drier.
Temperatures have been below normal for at least 2 months, and they don't appear to be going up anytime soon.
Spring Snow and No Flowers, not a nice combination.

Layla and I joined the Green Party today as part of our Green Year. We thought that a good start to this year would be joining the most environmentally friendly political party in Canada.

The Journey Continues.....

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ten Ways To Save The World

The world is in trouble and it is up to all of us to work hard to reduce our carbon footprint and take the strain off the environment. Thankfully, many of the things we can do will not only help the environment, they will save us money as well.

  1. Turn down the thermostat: This is easy to do and it saves energy and time. When you are sleeping or out, you can turn down the thermostat by 10 degrees and use 25 percent less energy. Even when you have people over, reduce the thermostat because the amount of body heat in the room will keep the temperature of the house high.
  2. Wash clothes in cold water and dry outside: A total of 90 percent of the energy used by the washer is actually used just to heat the water up. By washing with cold water and using cold water detergent, you can use a lot less energy. Dry your clothes outside on the line if you can, that will eliminate the need for the dryer in the Spring and Summer.
  3. Wash your dishes by hand, not in the dishwasher: Like the washer, 80 percent of the power used by the dishwasher is just to heat the water. Fill up a sink, fill up a rinse sink as well, and wash dishes that way.
  4. Turn off faucet while brushing teeth: This is easy to do but few do it. When you turn off the water while you brush your teeth you save eight gallons of water per day, that is 3,000 gallons A YEAR!
  5. Turn off the lights: Turning off the lights in the house when you are not using them saves a lot of energy. Turning one light off, for one hour a day saves 20,000 Watts per year, and that is only one light for one hour! Also, use high-efficiency light bulbs if you can, because they last longer and use less energy.
  6. When you are not using something, unplug it: You may think that when you turn something off, then it is not running anymore and no more power is used. The truth is power is still being used and by unplugging the microwave, television, coffee maker and more, will save you $10 to $20 on your power bill each month.
  7. Use cloth bags: Canadians use 55 million plastic bags per week, we use them for five minutes and they last 1,000 years, so using cloth bags will help the environment immensely!
  8. Use Energy Efficient batteries: There are 15 billion batteries put in the landfills each year. Rather than throw out batteries, use rechargeable batteries that can be used 500 times before they are useless.
  9. Close doors when you leave a room: Your house has to heat up the entire space indoors, so close doors to trap heat in and use less energy to heat up your home.
  10. Limit showering time: Baths take 200 liters of water, and 15 minute showers use 300 liters, so have five minute showers and you will only use 75 liters of water per day on showering.
Saving the environment isn't hard, it is very easy and all it takes is a bit of change.