Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 56: The Week of Eating In, Sunday, Roundup

We decided to continue the "Week" of Eating In for a while longer than a week, but this will be our last post on it. Back to regular postings tomorrow.

Tony managed to go NEARLY the entire trip to DC/Maryland without eating at restaurants. He did order some coffees from a certain coffee mega-chain and he ordered one sandwich. I think the rest of the trip he did with only hotel kitchenette cooking. I'm impressed with that! He also brought home his recyclables instead of throwing them away at the hotel, which is like a super gold star on top of all the rest of it.

Overall it was a good week, maybe not quite as meaningful for us since we eat at home so much anyway.

so far...

Pocket: 7, Planet: 12, Win-win: 36

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 55: The Week of Eating In, Saturday

This was a lonely day! Still working through those leftovers. I walked to the store but didn't really buy anything but half-and-half and cat food. I must have looked like some kind of crazy cat lady, stuffing a bag of cat food into my backpack!

Saw 4 bluebirds on my walk. That was nice.

Pocket: 7, Planet: 12, Win-win: 35

Friday, February 26, 2010

Day 54: The Week of Eating In, Friday

Today Tony's going up to DC to see Max and Zoe, Claire is at her dad's, and I begin one of my too-frequent bachelorette weekends. (I'd go with him, but I have work commitments on Friday, so... not this time.)

With respect to The Week of Eating In, this weekend's main challenge will be that Tony is traveling and feeding kids while traveling, a possible recipe for disaster when you're trying NOT to eat out. He's purchased a ton of food to take with him, and the hotel has a kitchenette, so maybe this will work out. I'll get the report from him as he goes.

My challenge should be somewhat easier. Tony will have the car, so I had to arrange transportation for the two rock climbing and running club events I've scheduled for myself. Other than that, I'll be staying at home, so meals should be easy.

I am, however, out of coffee, so I think this might motivate me to get to the grocery store, at the very least...

UPDATE: found coffee. But we are out of cat food...

Pocket: 7, Planet: 12, Win-win: 34

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day 53: The Week of Eating In, Thursday

Well, this is the most boring post ever. Today we're having leftovers from the dinner we had yesterday. Yawn.

Pocket: 7, Planet: 12, Win-win: 33

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 52: The Week of Eating In, Wednesday

Tonight we hosted a small dinner for some friends from Company Shops Market. I made whole wheat pasta with colored peppers, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and feta. I also made a huge salad with all the usual stuff in it, and roasted some potatoes and sweet potatoes, and we had some carrots and hummus too.

Tony was an excellent host; he cleaned the house and did the shopping and served the local beer, local dessert (ice cream from Homeland Creamery), and other delicious snacks.

A very successful homemade meal...

Pocket: 7, Planet: 12, Win-win: 32

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 51: The Week of Eating In, Tuesday

Damn, I love coffee. That is all.

Ok, seriously, coffee is the miracle drink. Comforting, inspiring, delicious. Today's was organic and fairly traded (whatever that's worth, a book I'm reading now says that fair trade is a bunch of lies and we need to go way further).

We'll have the usual for lunches and snacks, and I'm planning a dinner of homemade pizza with peppers and mushrooms for this evening for when Tony comes home from class.

Pocket: 7, Planet: 12, Win-win: 31

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 50: The Week of Eating In, Monday

Breakfast: Claire and Tony had Cheerios with milk^. Megan has coffee* with half-and-half* and yogurt+^ with granola*+.

Lunch: Claire has a banana* for snack, and a dill pickle, goldfish crackers, applesauce, fruit thingies, and cheese and pepperoni bites for lunch. Not my best effort here, but in my defense it was all home-packaged in reusable containers.

Megan has a hardboiled egg*, apple, orange, whole wheat bagel, and banana* for lunch and snacks.

Tony has an orange, and two leftover black bean enchiladas*+.

* = organic
^ = local
+ = homemade

Dinner: Well, we blew it already. Tony went to an after-work talk with a guest speaker, and the group hosting the talk invited us to the speaker dinner afterwards. So much for the week of Eating In.... unless Simply Thai counts as "eating in" because it was free. Don't think so. Oh well, it was good.

We'll try again tomorrow. No score for today.

so far...
Pocket: 6 7, Planet: 12, Win-win: 30

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day 49: The Week of Eating in, Sunday

Today we started the Week of Eating In, a challenge from Huffington Post after Cathy Erway's new book The Art of Eating In, in which she chronicles two years of "eating in" in New York City.

I'm not really sure this challenge is really quite a challenge for us - one week?!? - but we'll play along. You're supposed to write down all your delicious homemade meals and calculate the cost savings. I've taken some pictures too, as that is also part of the challenge.

Breakfast: Claire and Tony had Cheerios with milk^, I had coffee* with half-n-half* and whole wheat bread+ with butter*.

Lunch: natural peanut butter*, all-fruit jelly, on whole wheat+. Bananas*.

Snack: chips (Claire and Tony), Girl Scout cookie (Megan)

Dinner: wild rice and white bean soup+. I used the broth I made last week, and added some bay leaves*, carrots*, parsnips, celery, turnips*, wild rice*, garlic, tomatoes, cannellini beans and onions*.

* = organic
^ = local
+ = homemade

Here's the proto-soup, the celery and root veggies getting all soft in the olive oil*.

Getting ready for soup

And here's the soup with everything in it, simmering on the stove.


Dessert: We tried a new grocery store today (posting on that to come later) so we bought a bottle of their $2.99 bargain wine and a bar of chocolate. Splurge! (This erases all the planet benefits from the previous postings.)

so far...
Pocket: 6, Planet: 12, Win-win: 30

Sunday Roundup: Days 43-48

With my work week being a little more hectic than normal, Megan wrote all of this week's postings on Green v. Green. In the kitchen, she saved money making her own chicken broth and spent that money buying organic half-and-half. She biked with friends at the gym (I'm not really sure why this is called "spinning") and triked to the grocery store. At work, she saved paper towels using her own bandana and energy by adjusting the settings on her laptop.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day 48: Do a spin class

If you have to exercise indoors (where "have to" is defined as "want to because it's been so cold this winter that you feel like you're going to die each time you put a toe outdoors but you are also simultaneously repulsed by your own slug-like visage in the mirror") and you know that I've already dissed the treadmill in terms of planet green-ness, what are you going to do? Hey, how about spinning?

Spin class, also known as riding a stationary bike while an instructor yells at you to go faster and increase your resistance, uses no electricity (other than the lights and sound system). It's pretty fun too.

I think it's still not as great for the planet as cycling outdoors, but some days, you need to sweat, it's freezing out, and yoga just isn't going to cut it. Spin class is a very planet-green and pocket-green option (using all of Tony's arguments in favor of indoor exercise presented in the treadmill post).

I am also wondering, just because I'm crazy, if it would be possible to hook up a generator to the back of the spin bike to capture the energy created by the spinning. Why yes, crazy lady, someone has done this. I smell a physics project. Tony?

so far...
Pocket: 6, Planet: 12, Win-win: 29

Friday, February 19, 2010

Day 47: Organic half-n-half

Since I'm stuck with a coffee addiction because I'm too much of a baby to give it up (so much asceticism, so little time), I might as well green it up. We've discussed this at length before on this blog (Megan's addiction and Tony's addiction), but I've not considered the pocket/planet question of the half-and-half.

Regular half-and-half costs about $1.89 per quart at the store. Organic Valley (the only organic brand in our grocery store) half-and-half costs $3.99 and I've never seen it on sale. The local dairy we like so much does not have half-and-half or cream in this grocery store. I joined Organic Valley's email club and got one coupon for $1 off two items. Not exactly huge savings.

That's quite a difference in price. No way to skew this for pocket, since I'd use the same amount no matter whether it's organic or conventional. Planet wins this round.

so far...
Pocket: 6, Planet: 12, Win-win: 28

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day 46: Reduce paper towel waste at work

I find that if I carry a bandana in my pocket I will use it rather than paper towels or hand dryers in public bathrooms, such as at work. It turns out that it really is useful to carry a towel; they're the most "massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have".

I'll code this as a planet win.

Pocket: 6, Planet: 11, Win-win: 28

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Jamie Oliver's TED Talk

Jamie Oliver had a good talk at TED about obesity and changing the way America eats.

Day 45: Use energy saving settings on laptop

I hate to do this one, because it means that after a certain amount of time, my laptop will go to sleep, and consequently I will be disconnected from IRC and other "always on" networking features. However, it's time to make some changes.

I've set my laptop to power down the display after 15 minutes of inactivity, and to power down the whole computer after 1 hour of inactivity.

Apple says that its laptops are Energy Star compliant, so that helps. I'll also try very hard to turn my work computers off when they're idle, such as over a weekend when they're not doing any jobs.

Pocket: 6, Planet: 10, Win-win: 28

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The economic impact of eating locally

Saw this statistic in an article about local eating on Huffington Post Green:
...where I live in Johnson County, Iowa, there are about 50,000 households. If each of them redirected just $10 of their existing weekly food budget toward getting something locally -- from a farmers market, a CSA, a local brewery, or eggs from the farmer down the road, it would keep $26 million in our economy every year.

Alamance County has the same number of households. 51,584 to be exact.

Get Ready: The Week of Eating In

Huffington Post is sponsoring The Week of Eating In. Of course we'll be participating here on Green V. Green.

Starts next week on Feb 22. If you participate, you can blog about it here in the comments... we'd love to hear from you!

Day 44: Use human power to get groceries

This one might not be an "every time" thing but it can certainly be a "sometimes" thing.

I took the trike to the grocery store today. It was heavy and the "hills" (would be called "pitifully small inclines" on any other vehicle) were difficult. To avoid the hills and to avoid traffic, I took a circuitous route (3.2m), shown below with the elevation profile:

map to the store

Sadly, the elevation profile at the end of the trip is made worse by the fact that the groceries were also in the trike at that point, which increased its weight. (Gallon milk, half-and-half, 5 lb bag of flour, 3 kinds of sugar, bag of apples, etc.)

Downsides: The multi-use path was broken at 3 points, necessitating a dismount, and I had to navigate going up and over 2 sets of curbs (no ramps), 3 very busy streets with no sidewalks, 3 stoplights (2 with curbs), and 30 pounds of cargo. (Still not as heavy as Claire and those Girl Scout cookies though!)

Upsides: Combined workout with errands. Burned no fossil fuels. Enjoyed a sunny cool day.

Pocket: 6, Planet: 10, Win-win: 27

Monday, February 15, 2010

Day 43: Make our own broth

Vegetable and chicken broth is really easy to make, and very inexpensive compared to storebought broth.

To make vegetable broth, just throw veggies in a pot with water and spices, and boil for a while until you get a nice consistency. Let's say you made a stir fry or some sort of veggie-intensive meal one night, but instead of composting your veggie scraps, you put them in a bowl and save them in the fridge. You can take these veggie scraps and make broth with them and THEN compost them.

Here are some good veggies to use: turnip caps, carrot nubs and peels, celery bits, onion peels, potatoes.

Put all this in a pot with water and a bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, or whatever sort of herbs taste good to you. Heat to a low boil, then turn to low and keep cooking until all the good stuff is out of the veggies and into the broth. Use a sieve to strain out the veggie junk and compost that.

For chicken broth, do that same basic thing, except you can use a chicken carcass, such as one of from a grocery store rotisserie chicken. Tony bought one of those while I was gone in California for the week, and I refuse to waste the carcass in addition to all that wasteful plastic packaging and who-knows-what kind of treatment for that factory chicken.

I threw the carcass in a tall pot with water and half a leftover onion (I was making a frittata and used only half the onion) and some bay leaves. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer it for an hour or so.

It made about four 32-ounce yogurt containers full of broth. At the store one aseptic 32-ounce container of chicken broth costs upwards of $3.99 for organic or around $2 for non-organic. The homemade version was essentially free, and there were no aseptic (juice box style) containers or cans to throw out. You do have to throw away the chicken pieces and bones since they can't be composted, and you have to throw out the chicken's own container that it came in.

Anyway, when you're done, just remember to strain the broth and store for up to a week in the fridge.

You can use this for soups, sauces, or whatever you normally need broth for.

Pocket: 6, Planet: 10, Win-win: 26

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday Roundup: Days 36-42

This week, Megan traveled out to California and spent the week thinking about "green travel." When I joked that the flight itself would undo most of the environmental conservation she had done so far this year, she responded by buying carbon offsets for the flight (Day 36) and reducing the total fuel spent by packing light (Day 39). At the hotel (her favorite chain, Fairmont), she re-used her cups (Day 40) and bath towels (Day 41). Here in Elon, I upgraded our free over-the-air HDTV reception (Day 37) in time for the Olympics. I also made room for Megan's new grocery-shopping/kid-hauling tricycle (Day 38) in the garage and picked up some safety gear for it as a Valentine's Day present (Day 42).

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Day 42: Be My (Green) Valentine!

Megan: Please don't get me roses or other useless things like that for Valentine's Day.  That stuff is so wasteful!

Tony: That's why I married you! (Mental Note: What the **** am I going to do for Megan for Valentine's Day?)

I'm sure that a lot of men out their today are buying (1) cards, (2) candy, (3) cards, or perhaps (4) small teddy bears dressed as Cupid.  Most of your wives will certainly appreciate these tokens of affection.  A green wife like mine sees these as (1) deforestation , (2) junk food, (3) a deflowering of the Earth, and (4) a product of child labor in China.

What do you get the woman that wants practically nothing?

Well, back on Day 38, Megan got herself an industrial-strength tricycle.  I stopped up at J&L Bicycle Shop to get her $50 worth of safety gear for riding it: a mirror, some lights, a reflective shirt, and a flag.  (Incidentally, this also helped her out for the month since J&L Bicycle Shop is one of her 3/50 Project stores.)

On the downside for pocket and planet, I actually had to buy these things new.  On the upside, I spent money on things that actually have some utility and won't end up in the trash next week.  To make it seem just a bit more "Valentine-y", I used scraps of construction paper I found in Claire's room to make little hearts to decorate them.

Pocket: 6, Planet: 10, Win-win: 25

Friday, February 12, 2010

Day 41: Re-use my hotel towel

Seems pretty obvious, but how about I try the simple green act of trying to re-use my towels while traveling? Some hotels have a reminder sign about this, but the nicer ones don't seem to do that whole "leaving notes" thing. The rule seems to be that if you hang your towel up, it will get replaced on the shelf with a new one, but they'll leave the old one too. Same with the toiletries. But if you use a washcloth, they take it. Same with the glassware (see yesterday's posting.) And I'm fine with that!

It's a magical feeling to have your room reset each day when you get back to it. But it does seem wasteful with things like towels. This compromise (take my washcloths, but I'll keep my towel) seems to be working out so far. Doesn't really affect the pocket equation, so I'll put this in the 'planet' column.

Pocket: 6, Planet: 10, Win-Win: 23

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day 40: Use the Hotel's Glasses

Yes, my recommendation today will be of earth-shattering importance, ha ha: use the hotel's glassware when provided.

Hotel glasses for reuse

You'll cut down on one more plastic bottle going into the landfill (because, really... you're on travel, are you really going to be able to recycle that?) and I know we've all seen that 20/20 special on germs, but.... Let's live a little. Drink from the glass. Win-win.

Pocket: 6, Planet: 9, Win-Win: 23

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day 39: Pack light when traveling

I'm on business travel to Southern California this week, and I was initially excited about the possibility of bringing back some fruit or other "local" delights from California to supplement our winter mostly-local diet. However, ever the realist, Tony reminded me that the food would still be getting to NC by air travel, no matter whether I bring it or whether I let the grocery store handle delivery. There's a carbon footprint either way due to the heavier weight of the airplane. Darn! Logic is logic though, and he's right.

So, I decided to spin this into a win-win posting about packing light. Now, I'm a light packer by nature. I once went to Italy with a single laptop bag and all my clothes folded inside. It helps that the conferences I'm going to don't seem to mind if I wear Chuck Taylors and jeans.

My only downfall with the whole light packing thing is that one of the few pleasures I get from traveling is running outdoors in different faraway places. But this means packing several days worth of workout clothes, shoes, socks, etc. This time, my conference is at a Fairmont Hotel, and I recalled from a stay two years ago that Fairmont gives its President's Club members complimentary workout clothes and shoes from Adidas. You can trade in the clothes as many times as you want during your stay, and everything's waiting for you upon arrival. This time, I called to request this service, and it appears that there is now a small charge for this service: it's now $10 per stay. Still well worth it, in my opinion. They also provide yoga mats and mp3 players for that same $10.

Workout clothes and shoes waiting

When I got to the airport I realized that there was the additional benefit of packing light. If you can fit everything into a carry-on, you can avoid the luggage charge. So, in a nod to "pocket", I'll use my $15 luggage charge to pay for the $10 fee at the hotel, and still be $5 ahead. Win-win for pocket and planet.

so far...
Pocket: 6, Planet: 9, Win-Win: 22

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Books: Plenty

Plenty by Alisa Smith and JB Mackinnon is sort of the original 100-mile diet/eating locally/book/blog/Green channel series. I found it extremely well-written, and inspiring, but for some reason I did not identify with their quest in the same deep way that I identified with No Impact Man, even though they're just as sincere and just as soul-searching. Their prose is beautiful and in addition to explaining their quest for local food, they liberally sprinkle their story with history and geography of their part of western Canada. Plenty is a great advertisement for eating real food, and I couldn't help but feel like I should do a better job of recognizing mushrooms or scavenging for chestnuts after reading it.

Day 38: Find a used cargo trike

Sunday we found a used industrial trike on Craigslist. We bought it, stuffed it in the back of the truck, and as soon as we got home we immediately tried out our new tricycle -- we went on a mission to fetch Claire's 52 boxes of Girl Scout cookies from the next neighborhood over. Verdict: great, except, man... those hills are brutal in this thing! Yeah, the "hills" that I wouldn't even notice while running were absolutely terrifying on this trike. The previous owner warned me, but I had figured "how bad could it be?" with only one gear, the infamous "granny gear" on my mountain bike, who needs it?

Reality check!! It was very hard at times, the bike is just so much heavier than my regular bike. We think the trike definitely weighs more than I do, and with a 50-pound kid and a load of cookies in the back, well, let's just say I need to build up my quads a bit.

I wouldn't say this is necessarily a win-win since it did take money to buy the trike. Tony wants to buy a neon safety triangle for the back of it, and we'll probably end up spending a few more dollars to get a few more safety things (lights, etc). But since it was used, that was a plus. I'll put this one in the planet column.

so far....
Pocket: 6, Planet: 9, Win-Win: 21

Monday, February 8, 2010

Day 37: Giving Up Cable 2: The New Antenna and Amplifier

Megan: I don't watch much TV but I really want to be able to watch The Office. Since we dropped cable, NBC doesn't come in, though. Can't you fix it?

Tony: Yes. Maybe. I think so. Maybe if I put the antenna on the roof or got a bigger antenna.

Back on Day 2, I dropped cable and got a DB2 Multi Directional HDTV Antenna. To save myself a little money, I decided to make a stand for it out of PVC instead of buying one for $20. The problem was that the antenna didn't pick up NBC very well or PBS at all. I decided to use the existing cable lines to run the antenna's signal from outside into the house. I tried placing the antenna on the roof (no easy feat), but the trees in the 40-acre wood next to our house are tall enough that this didn't improve the strength of the signal at all. (Later, I would figure out that the signal lost along the extra length of cable negated any benefit from being outdoors.)

Going back to Amazon, I decided to buy the DB8 Multidirectional HDTV Antenna. This was essentially four of the DB2 antennas wired together. While it goes for $75 new, I was able to get a used one on Amazon for $35. This antenna worked great indoors when it was close to the TV. Needless to say, Megan was not happy having a giant antenna on a PVC stand in the middle of our living room.

The TV and the Cable

The problem is, placing it outside resulted in a very weak signal. What I needed to do was amplify the signal before sending it along the cable back into the house. I picked up a Motorola Signal Booster Bi-Directional RF Amplifier and tucked it inside the cable weather box just outside this house. This worked perfectly! Some people online had complained that an amplifier had no effect, but I am convinced that they were installing it in the wrong place. Putting the amplifier right next to the antenna, I amplify a strong signal with little noise. If you mistakenly put the amplifier at the end of the long cable line (which would have made it easier to find a power source), you amplify the weak signal and the noise. Fortunately, my cable box was right next to the crawl space entrance, so I could run the power cable through a crack in the door.

HDTV Antenna

I was worried it would be a bit of an eyesore, but it blends in pretty well with the existing "cable company" junk near that spot.

Where's the Antenna?

Larger antenna: $35. New amplifier, $35. The little smile I every time I watch a crystal-clear HD show and know that I'm getting it for free: priceless.

Pocket: 6 Planet: 8 Win-win: 21

I Love Saving Money

Sunday, February 7, 2010

On less-is-more: transportation

One of the fundamental questions I have in this Green v. Green experiment is whether it is possible to have a happy life - a good life - with less "stuff". Less metal, less plastic, less technology, less clothing, and maybe even less variety, less cost, less overhead.

The average American commute is 25 minutes per day, and 2.8 million Americans have commutes of 90 minutes or longer. I was reading about Dave Givens, the winner of the "longest commute" award. He drives 372 miles to work and back each day, about 7 hours in the car. Leaves at 4:30am, gets home at 8:30am.

I can not imagine it. Our commute is 2.4 miles, and we're now doing that with one car. We also have between 0-3 kids in the car, depending on what day it is. Granted, it's North Carolina, and sometimes the weather is not great, so that can be frustrating, but all in all, I wouldn't trade it.

Day 36: Buy Offsets for Airline Travel

I have unavoidable airline business travel next week. I decided to buy carbon offsets for my trip: I'll be flying 6,000 miles roundtrip from NC to southern California for a conference.

Carbon Offsets are a way for an individual or a business to try to mitigate some of their unavoidable carbon production by paying a third party to supporting carbon sequestration efforts. The idea is that you would go on an airline trip, but then you would plant trees that would help offset your carbon dioxide in return. (We wrote about offsets before in our posting about wine.)

I bought a "6,000 mile airline package" of offsets from ("Reduce what you can, offset what you can't") today for $11.33 which is supposed to help offset my 1.133 tons of CO2 that I'll produce by flying there. I chose "reforestation" as the offset method, but there were also choices for "energy efficiency" or "renewable energy".

Some people might complain about offsets as a form of "buying indulgences" (wikipedia link to the indulgence controversy) but most studies have shown that people who actually buy the offsets are not living all that large. They're people like me who are living consciously and mindfully, but who have one or two unavoidable carbon "biggies" that they'd like to offset.

In any case, I can't really make a "pocket" argument to turn this into a win-win, so, for the second day in a row, planet has to take the points.

So far...
Pocket: 5, Planet: 8, Win-Win: 21

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Day 29-35 Roundup

On Day 29, Tony found a local bank.
On Day 30, Megan stopped using toxic nail polish.
On Day 31, Megan tried to find a greener pharmacy.
On Day 32, Megan explains the cost and environmental savings of lentils as a protein source.
On Day 33, they become a one-car family.
On Day 34, Tony enlightens us a bit more on the never-ending freezer experiment. Ah, science.
On Day 35, Megan and Claire investigate greener dishwashing detergents.

Day 35: Use Greener Automatic Dishwashing Detergent

Megan: I love those little individually wrapped automatic dishwasher detergent tablets. But how many ways can these be wrong for the environment? Argh. And expensive! Those phosphate-free brands with the retro-looking labels look so old-fashioned and fun.

Tony: But which is cheaper, tablets, powder, or gel? And are any of those greenwashed "eco" versions of the regular brands any good? This is going to take some number collection and some background investigation.

Megan: Also, isn't using the dishwasher itself pretty wasteful? Is it really better to handwash? I almost don't want to hear the answer to that question...

Claire and I set out today to the grocery store, determined to find an answer to the green dishwasher problem. Here's what we found.

Green Attempt #1: Palmolive Eco. This is corporate greenwashing at its finest: just slap eco on the label, color the bottle white, and call it a day. Costs about $4 and contains no phosphates but does contain chlorine bleach. Not exactly "eco".

Green Attempt #2: Mrs Meyers Clean Day automatic dishwasher soap. We found this on sale at TJ Maxx for $4.99 but it was lavender scented and made all our plastic items (think: reusable coffee mugs) smell like lavender. Nothing like a little sickening lavender scent in your coffee! Blech. No phosphates, no bleach, but the whole aromatherapy thing isn't really working when it's dishes/food that are involved.

Green Attempt #3: Seventh Generation automatic dishwashing tablets sounded great but they don't exist in our regular shopping routes, so I'll have to remember to look for them the next time I drive to Harris Teeter. I did go ahead and join the Seventh Generation Nation for the coupons...

Green Attempt #4: Handwashing using Seventh Generation dish soap versus using the dishwasher. Turns out that the answer to which is greener is not so easy. Treehugger helps me understand the issues, but in general it's more green to use a dishwasher, as long as it's full and as long as the detergents are eco-friendly, and as long as we don't use the heated drying.

One final note: all these options require plastic containers for the liquid or cardboard for the box and plastic for the tablets. It would be cool if there were a place where we could use our own glass mason jars to get bulk soap, sort of like using the bulk bins for grains and stuff at Weaver Street Market. Vanessa talked about this in Sleeping Naked is Green but she lived in Toronto. I've never heard of this around here.

I'll put this down for a win in the Planet column. None of these options are as cheap as buying regular detergent.

so far...
Pocket: 5, Planet: 7, Win-Win: 21

Friday, February 5, 2010

Day 34: The Freezer Experiment, Trial 1 - FAIL!!!

Megan: How's that freezer experiment coming, Tony?

Tony: Grrr...

After plugging the Kill-A-Watt power meter into the fridge, I thought we could easily figure out an answer to the question "Do water jugs in the freezer save energy?" I was wrong. For starters, the 10 milk jugs of water that I squeezed into the freezer expanded after freezing, and this was just enough expansion to crack the freezer door open a centimeter. Of course, not using the freezer a lot, we did not notice this for two days! Then, while we were visiting Washington, DC over the weekend, a power outage reset the meter.

While I hate throwing out data, I know that the power spikes from the start of the experiment (when I had the door open again and again to get the jugs in), and the spikes from the door being wedged open were anomalous. So I threw this data out. I also threw out the readings just after these events, since I wasn't sure if the fridge was back to its steady-state operation. (Incidentally, this made me empathize with the experimentalists that had to throw out some climate change data when they worried that someone might use corrupt data to "prove" climate change isn't real.)

As the spreadsheet of my freezer data shows, even with these data thrown out, the power consumption of the freezer changes a lot. The uncertainties in my "0 jug days" vs. my "8 jug days" is large enough that I can't really conclude anything. I am convinced that I am under-sampling the process of it cycling between idle and running states. I can either set a timer over the weekend to check the freezer every five minutes *or* try using one of Vernier's Watt's Up modules to log this for me.

Once Trial 2 is complete, I'll let you know.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day 33: Goodbye Car

As of today we are officially a one-car family. Here was our original posting about whether we should have one car or two. It's still taking some getting used to, and we will have to be very flexible in our scheduling and in our needs.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day 32: Cook with Lentils

Cheap, high in protein, tasty, and fast-cooking, lentils are one of the heavy-lifting heroes of the green pantry. (Anyone remember The Young Ones on MTV? My first exposure to lentils was watching Neil, one of the characters on that show, reviled for his love of lentils.)

Organic lentils are about $1.50 per pound, give or take. Conventional lentils are easier to find at the local market and are even cheaper than that.

26% of the calories in a lentil are from protein. So for 100g of lentils, there are 101 calories, and 26g protein. 100g of lentils is about a half-cup, cooked.

There are 453 grams in a pound, so at $1.50 per pound, lentils cost about 1/3 of one cent per gram. So for 100 grams, you will pay about $0.33.

For 100g of 85% lean ground beef, there are 256 calories, and 26g of protein. For beef, 100g is a little less than a quarter pound. So if you started off with a 1/4 lb burger patty, 100g is probably what would be left when it was cooked and the fat drained off (maybe a little less).

Beef prices vary a great deal, depending on the quality of the meat, the amount of fat in the meat, etc. But in order for your meat to be comparable in protein content and cost to lentils, you'd need to get your meat for $1.50 per pound.

Now, I don't know of anywhere in Alamance County that you can get decent quality meat for $1.50 per pound. Yuck. If you're looking at organic or locally grass-pastured beef, you're not even going to be able to drive into the parking lot for $1.50. Forget it. And that's the way it should be. Cheap meat is not worth the other costs.

Here is a page that discusses the various environmental claims about how much it costs environmentally to produce beef. Here is a page that disputes some of the numbers. Regardless of how many gallons of water or pounds of CO2 are being debated, it is very clear that lentils beat beef on price, protein, and environmental cost.

My recommendation is to eat lentils or other low-cost plant-based protein on a daily basis, save up for really good meat, and eat that on a special occasion when you can really enjoy it and feel good about your choice.

so far...
Pocket: 5, Planet: 6, Win-Win: 21

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day 31: Find a Greener Pharmacy

Megan: I hate all the waste and junk paper that comes with refilling a prescription.

Tony: can you try a local or online pharmacy? Or are they just as bad? For costs, can you go generic or try to split your pills so you only have to buy them half as often?

For some reason, Target will not take back the prescription bottles and refill them or put a new sticker on an existing bottle. They also will not print less paper, and the prescriptions come in a bag that is hand-written on. That means that every 30 days, I was getting a stack of trash that looks like this:

So I decided to try an online option through our health insurance company. When pressed to reduce costs and waste, my doctor wrote my prescription for a generic, and then for double the dose I need, and he said I could split the pills in half to save money. (TONY! You listening?) I figured the pill-splitting part of this would be good for cutting down on trash too. Double-win.

However, here's the mailing package and waste that came with the prescription from online:

I wouldn't say that this is less packaging OR less paper. However, there are two things in the online company's favor: (1) the paper is pretty much all recyclable (unlike Target's paper which is all waxed) (2) the package will only come every other month. The bottle is not recyclable.

The two companies are equal in their bottle replacement policies (namely, they don't, and the bottles are not recyclable), and someone is going to burn carbon (either the mailman to bring me the package or me to drive to Target).

Based on the amount of trash produced either way, I don't feel like this is a very good win for planet, but I do feel like the online/generic/splitting option is a win for pocket.

so far...

Pocket: 5, Planet: 6, Win-Win: 20

Monday, February 1, 2010

No Impact Man, the documentary

We watched No Impact Man documentary last night. We bought it on iTunes. (I'd read the book twice (Kindle) and Tony's making his way through it on the iPhone.) It is really worth watching, although the book is so much better. The movie is a nice thing to watch if you want to put a face with a name, or get a better sense of what some of the locations were like that were mentioned in the book. For getting a handle on the internal struggles that go along with this kind of project, however, the book is miles ahead of the movie.

Day 30: Stop Wearing Toxic Nail Polish

Megan: Tony, this should be an easy one for you.

Tony: Ha. Way to choose a real hard-hitting topic here. I'll humor you. Winter is one thing, but I can't believe you're going to make this last until summer. You love having painted toes at the pool.

It's true. I love painted toes. Nail polish covers a multitude of sins, including runner's toe. (I'll spare you a link to a picture of that one.)

However, nail polish is essentially layer upon layer of gross toxic chemicals. I've never had a real salon manicure, which is - I would guess - even more planet-unfriendly than do-it-yourself variety. Anyway, I'll be doing without polish until I can find a toxic-free, reasonably priced, locally available alternative.

This will be an easy win-win.

so far...
Pocket: 4, Planet: 6, Win-Win: 20