Archive for ‘Environmental Bites’

September 15th, 2008

White Paint: It’s Not Just For Apartments Anymore

by Venomous Kate

Looking to lower your cooling costs and help save the planet? The answer may lie in a few buckets of white paint.

According to a Lawrence Berkeley Labs study, painting roofs white may not only help cool the planet but may also reverse “global warming”. It works for t-shirts, after all. And there’s no doubt a reason why Mediterranean homes are primarily painted in light colors. Painting your roof white could work the same way, too.

Hashem Akbari, a physicist at the Lawrence Berkeley lab, just released a study showing that the average American 1,000-square-foot white roof could offset 10 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

According to his data, roofs constitute 20 to 25 percent of urban surfaces, while pavement is about 40 percent. Therefore, if all of those surfaces were switched to a reflective material (or color) in the 100 largest urban areas in America, his calculations show, this would offset 44 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide. That’s more than all countries emit in a single year. Further, that’s worth about $1.1 trillion at current carbon trading rates.

Of course, first we’d need a study to find out whether painted roofs leak toxic emissions into the air when subjected to high summer temperatures, particularly once the paint begins to decay.

July 31st, 2008

Seattle’s “Car-Free” Sundays

by Venomous Kate

Seattle seems determined to convince everyone that it’s nickname “The Emerald City” really means it’s greener than thou. They’ve already switched to hybrid-powered public transportation and free curbside compost recycling, and now the city plans to implement car-free Sundays starting next month.

One problem: the news came as a bit of a surprise to businesses and residents of those “select” areas who had no idea their roads would be closed to cars from noon to 6 p.m. Restaurant owners were quick to point out that summer Sundays tend to be high-earning days, but the timing of the road closings might cost them business. Residents are of mixed opinion, with many wondering how they’d travel in the event of an emergency.

That’s not going to be a problem, according to the city’s mayor. Residents in the closed areas will be allowed to travel to/from their homes, and emergency travel will still be permitted. In the meantime he’s reminding everyone to “It’s just for one day, just chill. Get out of the car and walk.”

Initially, I read the news and felt my blood pressure jumping. How dare the government close down roads??? But then it dawned on me, well, why not? They’re the ones that put them there in the first place. Yes, residents pay taxes that get used to fund those roads but if you read the story you’ll realize the residents aren’t being deprived of the use of those roads. Those living in the neighborhood can continue to go about their regular day, while those who don’t live nearby will have to park and walk.

Big deal.

Personally, I’m an advocate of rethinking this sprawl-based culture we have. The culture that leads us to live far from where we work. The culture that places grocery stores, pharmacies and coffee shops miles away from residential clusters. The culture that moved schools out of neighborhoods, enlarging and weakening them in the process, and forced many parents to drive their kids to school. The culture that killed the corner bar.

I’ve long believed that sprawl is one of the primary reasons America is so overweight, and not just adults: sprawl is one of the reasons our kids are fat, too.

Yes, my first reaction to learning about Seattle’s green-y, tree-hugging idea to close certain city streets for a day was the typical knee-jerk reaction of any person who dislikes government interference. But then it dawned on me that for many of us, the only real exercise we get in our car-oriented lives comes from engaging in knee-jerk reactions to eco-friendly initiatives.

So what’s wrong with a city closing down a neighborhood for a day if it doesn’t deprive the area’s residents of their autonomy? Is that really a bad thing, or is it a sign that cities are beginning to realize, because their planning initiatives contributed to the problem of sprawl in the first place, it’s also their responsibility to do something to ameliorate its effects?

July 23rd, 2008

A Tacky Environmentalist

by Venomous Kate

Green activist Dan Glass attempted to Super Glue himself to Gordin Brown, the U.K.’s Prime Minister, last night. After smuggling 5 pouches of the glue in his underwear to get past security at 10 Downing Street, Glass poured the stuff over his hand during Browns’ speech. Then, at the awards ceremony, he fastened his hand to Brown’s sleeve.

“I just glued myself to him and after 20 seconds he tore my hand off – it really hurt. He had to give it a couple of tugs before it came away.

“He was just grinning about it. He didn’t seem to take me seriously.”

Afterwards, Glass was allowed to remain for the ceremony while Brown continued chuckling over the stunt. Undeterred, Glass tried to attach himself to the gates at Downing Street but was detached by a police officer. “I didn’t have much glue left”, he noted.

Sheesh. Doesn’t that crazy environmentalist know how many eco-damaging chemicals are in Super Glue?

April 27th, 2008

Stop Yer Bitching About Gas Prices And Change!

by Venomous Kate

Earlier this week I had to fill up my gas tank. The grand total came to $50, after which I did the now-obligatory muttering. That didn’t last long, though: it is, after all, the only time during the month of April that I’ve bought gas. That’s right: I use less than one tank per month. VH had to fill up, too. His gas tank holds less than mine so his total came to $36. That’s the second time he’s had to fill up in April, but he felt obligated to grumble, too.

Because, you see, that’s the ‘mericun thing to do these days: bitch about gas prices, even when you know you don’t necessarily have a right to bitch.

Granted, we live in a small town where most of the places we need to go — grocery store, doctor’s office, hair salon, various establishments catering to grown-ups for me; work and the golf course for VH — are within 5 miles of my home.

What really galls me, though, are the people who live in this small town along with me who still wind up spending hundreds of dollars on gas every month. And why? Because they drive into the big city (which, for us, is Kansas City) so they can go to the latest, trendiest restaurants or attend entertainment events.

In my book if you’re spending big money on gas because you’re driving places for the fun of it then you’ve got no right to bitch.

One of my neighbors pulled in to their driveway while I was in the garage vacuuming my van this evening. They’d just returned from a quick dash from home to McDonald’s and walked over to talk about an upcoming homeowners’ association meeting. As we stood there talking, my neighbor remarked that earlier in the day he’d gone to fill up his gas tank. He spent $58 (he drives an SUV) for the second time this week.

The kicker: he works in the same building that VH does… which is only 5 miles away!

I asked why he didn’t pick up McDonald’s while he was out earlier… why make two separate trips. His answer: “Well, we didn’t decide until dinner time that we felt like McDonald’s.”

This, my fellow ‘mericuns, is precisely why OPEC has us all by the nuts. We have a culture in which our fun happens at the spur of the moment. Our convenience, our leisure and recreation, and our seemingly endless need for fun is at the very heart of our problem. We want it all, and we want it now, but we also think we are entitled to have it all cheap.

We sit around our houses and decide we don’t feel like cooking, so why not hop in our cars and drive to McD’s? (It’s no coincidence that McDonald’s is the icon of our American way of life.)

We choose to live in suburbs away from inner city crime, bad schools and urban blight rather than placing ourselves (and our money) in the heart of things were we actually stand a chance of fixing them, if only by our presence and the efforts we put in to our own property. As a result we live far away from where we work yet bitch about long commutes. Then we find it too inconvenient to stop at the grocery store on the way home from work (because, after all, it’s a long commute already) so we demand 24-hour grocery stores that allow us to shop when we feel like it.

We feel like going to the movies, going shopping, going out for a drink and… we go. We don’t walk there — mostly because we felt at some point like building a progressive town or city meant establishing “entertainment districts” far away from residential areas — so we drive.

Feel like Chinese food or pizza for dinner rather than, say, spending a half-hour cooking from whatever’s on hand? Why, order it in! Never mind that your whim means someone else has to do the driving. By God, you’ll get out of cooking, won’t you?

Feel like a movie tonight because there’s nothing good on TV? Go rent one! Why should you have to pass one evening reading a book, right?

Feel like you need to exercise more? Drive to the gym. God forbid you, well, walk out of your front door and keep going for an hour or so.

We feel like doing all sorts of things… and that is our problem. We’re also feel like we should be able to do what we want, when we want it, assuming we can afford it (or can charge it to our credit cards).

And therein lies our problem: our sense of entitlement. Oh, I’m not talking about the “entitlements” like welfare, free medical coverage and all that other quasi-socialist crap. I’m talking about the sense of entitlement that even right-leaning, conservative-thinking folk have: “This is America, for God’s sake, the land of the free.”

Which means, ultimately, that we feel we ought to — as one airline puts it — feel free to roam about the country. Whenever we want. Wherever we want.

But we don’t want to pay for that freedom.

I’ll posit this to you Venomites who love to slam the liberal left for the way they feel like they’re entitled to live off the fat of our taxes: we’re no different. We’re no better. We simply have different priorities: rather than living off the money of our fellow ‘mericans’ tax dollars, we believe we’re entitled to live off the lower profits of foreign oil companies.

Since when was it American and conservative to demand ANY corporation reduce its profits, eh?

Want to save money at the gas pump? Learn to do less of what you feel like doing and more of what you know you should. Even if it’s inconvenient. Even if it sucks.

  • Walk.
  • Schedule. For those places you can’t get by walking, go there when you’re already out and about.
  • Just say no. Once you’re home for the evening, stay home for the evening. Don’t run to McDonald’s because you feel like it.
  • Plan ahead. If you need groceries, ake your grocery list with you to the office and make time on the way home from work.
  • Postpone liberally. If you forgot to run an errand don’t rush out and do it. Add in extra time the next day to do it on your way to- or from the office.
  • Slow the hell down. Sure, the speed limit sign just 20 yards past the green light says you can drive 70. Since when did free-thinking individuals pay attention to signs? Stop trying to max it out and your gas will last a lot longer. And in case you’re one of those afraid to piss (stupid) people off, get in the right lane and drive 55.
  • Put out for upkeep. With gas prices what they are it’s tempting to cheap out on other automotive maintenance like getting your oil and air-filters changed and having someone inflate your tires while calibrating the psi. Stop it already. Keeping your auto in tip-top shape — particularly your tire pressure — will help save on gas. So knock it off with the “guesstimating”.
  • Be an early bird at the pump. We all hate mornings. We’re all in a hurry to get to work. But filling your tank after the day is warm means you’re buying fumes that will eventually condense and settle into less liquid than what you actually paid for at the pump. Fill up first thing in the morning even if you don’t feel like it.
  • Schedule your refills. Gas costs more on the weekends, especially right before a long weekend. The cheapest days to fill up are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Stop trying to fight it.
  • Sell short if you must. Sure, you might be “upside down” in your gas-guzzling SUV, but depending on how much you owe and how much you drive it might be worth it to get out of that gas-guzzler and into a more fuel-efficient vehicle… even if it means looking like a nerd. After all, who’s going to look stupid in about three years: the nerds who drive fuel-efficient vehicles, or the people who can’t pay their mortgage because they spend so much money on gas just getting to and from work?
  • Shop online and combine. No, I mean it! I bought an Amazon Prime membership for $79 a couple of years ago. With that, I get free shipping to any address in the U.S., which means I don’t have to run around all over the place shopping for gifts. With their grocery service I can often order in bulk at prices cheaper than my PX, Sam’s Club or Wal-Mart. And, thanks to their subscription service, I can have many regularly-used products sent on a periodic basis which means, for instance, that right about the time I’m running out of tampons there’s a new box arriving via UPS. Now, there’s some argument to be made that it’s not saving gas if UPS delivers. My response: (1) it’s not my gas that’s being used; and (2) the more people in your neighborhood you turn on to this, the more environmentally-friendly it becomes.
  • Look for other online alternatives. “Feel” like a movie? Rent via Hell, if you’ve got a good enough computer you can even watch movies when you feel like it via their immediate downloads that are free for subscribers.
  • Garden. Yes, I know this one’s bordering on tree-hugging, but there’s a lot of fun to be had in gardening. When you grow your own veggies you don’t have to think about driving to McD’s or worry about what’s for dinner: just step out back and pick something. You’d be amazed at what you can grow in a 3×6 bed or even in patio containers. I didn’t shell out one red penny for vegetables last summer. Heck, you can even grow vegetables from your apartment balcony without sacrificing floor space. And after a day spent gardening you’ll be too tired to want to go anywhere, anyway.
  • Carpool. Now, as someone who hates my fellow humans by default, this is a hard one for me. I don’t like mornings. I don’t like people who expect me to talk to them in the mornings unless I gave birth to them (and even then, they’re trained not to expect a whole lot out of me besides breakfast.) But, hey, if you can’t/won’t homeschool like we do then suck it up and make carpool friends, people.
  • Have more sex. Let’s face it: the majority of times we drive somewhere other than work or the grocery store can be attributed to sheer boredom. Bars? They’re the best solution to having nothing to talk about with your spouse. Shopping? There’s a reason why married women do that for “recreation”. And don’t get me started on the subject of why men go to strip bars or Hooter’s (where they just see stuff like this. It’s boredom, baby. And it’s nothing personal. But, hey, if you learn to last (or endure) more than 3 minutes chances are that urge to drive somewhere else (besides towards the headboard) will pass.

Sure, these things all seem counter-intuitive to our “follow your freaking rainbow” culture, but that exact way of thinking is what got us in this predicament in the first place. The very best way to keep OPEC from strangling you by reaching through your anus is to pull your head out of it so you can see what they’re up to, and how you can avoid it.

No, it might not be the “free to be you and me” way of thinking to which we’ve all become entitled… but since when did being conservative mean thinking such socialist thoughts? After all, aren’t we the political party who knows that demand drives supply? Stop demanding so freaking much and watch those prices plummet.

Do your part: inconvenience yourself and piss off the towel heads.

And realize that, until you’re willing to do so, you might as well grab some petroleum-based jelly and lube up while bending over an oil barrel, folks.

July 13th, 2007

Eco-Friendly Fashion

by Venomous Kate

Although we on the right aren’t necessarily known for our stance on the environment, sometimes that’s simply because we don’t bleat loudly about what we’ve been doing long before Al Gore decided he needed an Oscar. I, for instance, seldom drive more than 5 miles round trip during the day. I “daylight” my house the instant the sun no longer shines directly into the windows. I leave the A/C off in the morning and throw the windows open to bring cool air inside, and most evenings if the temps dip below 75 I do it again.

I also try purchasing environmentally-friendly items, as long as they aren’t the fashion equivalent of an oil slick. Oh, I know what you’re thinking: environmentally-friendly fashion amounts to grubby Birkenstocks and clothes made of gunny sacks. You’re wrong.

Take this mini-evening bag, for instance. It’s got the metal hardware that’s all the rage right now along with Swarovski crystals for added bling. It also features a faux leather lining and interior light system so you can actually see what’s inside your bag.

To look at it, you’d never know it’s made from recycled truck inner tubes.

This handbag’s summery colors come from a material you’d never suspect. Designed by the Columbian artist Francisco Botero, the bag itself is made from candy wrappers. Yes, candy wrappers! Now, I tried weaving those together in summer camp when I was a kid and, I assure you, my creations never came out looking this good.

This open tote is perfect for art and pop culture fans. Made from recycled art banners, the lined interior has a cell phone pocket. Roomy handles make it suitable for both shoulder-wearing and carrying by hand.

See, you really can look good while doing good, too!